Let God Use You

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Deuteronomy 8:3man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

I want to tell you a story of a church that impressed me with their faith. They modeled the great truth of Deuteronomy 8:3 which says that, “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”  They learned to fully and completely trust God for their future ministry needs while obeying the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit to meet the needs of others.

This church was in need of renovation because of its inaccessibility to older people and the handicapped. It had asbestos in it, and it did not meet any of the current building codes for people with disabilities. The congregation of this church had grown to the point where the facility no longer had enough room for all the Christian Education ministries in place. The sanctuary reached the 80% full level which became a discouragement to new people attending. Because of their landlocked location, they had no room for expansion on their current site without the purchase and removal of additional homes in the neighborhood.

To alleviate these problems, the church started a major fund-raising effort based on a foundation of prayer.  The people of this church were praying for God to show them how much they could sacrifice of their current resources for the building of a new building that would become a ministry center to their city. On a scheduled day of discovery they were to give their generous gifts so that as a congregation they could determine a direction to proceed in their building plans. The expectation was for a miraculous amount that was far beyond anyone’s expectations.

God interrupted this church’s plans with a word from His heart. This church had seen the terrible destruction in the south from Hurricane Katrina and had realized that the Body of Christ in that area was suffering and unable to function as it should to meet the needs of its own community. So, this upper Midwestern church adopted a sister church in the storm-ravaged area,  and decided to surrender to God as much of their building fund offering as necessary to bring new life to that hurting congregation.

Wouldn’t you love to be a part of a church that not only listens to the voice of God but also obeys the word of the Lord no matter what kind of an inconvenience or hardship it seemingly creates? Isn’t it refreshing to know that there are people who have learned to live in total dependence on the Word of God and not on the material benefits of a worldly system? Of course, we would all say yes to those two questions, but are we willing to really live that kind of life of faith?

The people of that church discovered the incredible preserving power of the presence of God. Just like the Israelites whose clothing did not wear out or their feet swell from all the wandering because of the sustaining power of the presence of God, this congregation in Wisconsin knew that when they followed God’s heart and obeyed His word by sacrificing their own goals for God’s good, God would sustain them, preserve them, and provide for them.

That is how we are to live our lives individually and as a church – by faith in the presence and purpose of God. He will not fail to accomplish His glory no matter how big the sacrifice seems to be from our perspective. This church in the north understood that. But please don’t think they are special. They don’t think they are. They are just obedient, and filled with the joy that comes from knowing and doing God’s will. The pastor and leadership want no recognition other than to be called faithful.

So, use their example to motivate your faith, but give all the glory for it to God. Just be thankful that God has chosen to use you.

Pastor John

Be Separate

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

We have all heard about hurricanes. We have seen the devastation they cause when they come in full force upon man’s constructed world. Some of us may have even been in an area as it was being battered by such a storm. I have not been in a hurricane, but I have been in a serious category F5 tornado in Algona, Iowa in 1979. Whether you have been in the middle of such destruction or just seen pictures and videos of the damage, we all should have a healthy fear of such storms and take life-saving precautions when we are warned of their approach.

This same principle applies to other areas of life as well where healthy fear brings wisdom to decision-making. My thoughts were stimulated by something Chuck Swindoll wrote in his book Growing Strong In The Seasons Of Life:

No family I know is interested in vacationing in a houseboat twenty feet above Niagara Falls. Or swimming in the Amazon near a school of piranhas…Or building a new home that straddles the San Andreas fault.

There’s not a dad in America who’d let his daughter date a convicted murderer.

I mean, some things make no sense at all. Like lighting a match to see if your gas tank is empty. Or stroking a rhino to see if he’s tame. Man, that’s lethal! They’ve got a name for nuts who try such stunts. Victims.

I’m sure we could make a huge list of all the things we would never do because it would be just plain stupid to try them. I will never jump out of an airplane without a parachute, and even if I had one I probably wouldn’t do it. I will never put my hands inside an open electrical panel and grab a hold of the feed wires. I will never douse myself with lighter fluid and jump into a roaring campfire.

There is a reason I would never do any of these things: I know what the consequences are. And yet every day people take little steps in the direction of destruction with no fear of the consequences. They choose to rewrite the Bible’s commands so that they can justify their life-style choices. They choose to not separate themselves from all that is sinful and believe that they will not suffer.

Deuteronomy 7:16, 25-26 You must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you. The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the LORD your God. Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Utterly abhor and detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.

God’s command is clear – “Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Utterly abhor and detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.” God brought this command into the context of our New Testament faith when He said in Galatians 6:7-8a, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” 

Just look around at the risky behaviors of some Christians. They have seen the hopeless situation of homeless men and women who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs and yet they believe they can drink and use recreational drugs without any consequences. They have seen the devastating effect of sexual promiscuity on both the sanctity of marriage and in the transmission of incurable diseases, and yet they choose to pursue the pleasures of sexuality outside of marriage. These people not only do not fear the consequences of their choices, but they try to justify them with statements like these:

  • God wants me to be happy. Why can’t I divorce and remarry based on my feelings alone?
  • Maybe this was considered immoral in your generation, but times have changed. I believe the Lord gives us all things to enjoy.
  • Look, nobody’s perfect. At least my sinful choices are not really hurting anyone else. God’s grace will cover me.

My dear Christian friend – stop playing with sin because sin isn’t playing with you. The consequences of sin are never compromised, so don’t compromise with sin. Maybe not all your choices are directly sinful, but I bet if you analyzed the motive for that choice it might be, because selfish desires are sin.

God has called us to destroy not only anything sinful in our lives, but to also not touch anything that would lead us into sin. The gold and silver that covered the idols of Moses’ day was not sinful, but it could ensnare the people in a life of materialism and idolatry. Why would we as God’s chosen children want to allow anything detestable and destructive to come into our lives? We know in our hearts we are saved and don’t really enjoy sin, yet we enjoy sin too much to really experience the wonder of being saved.

It is time to come out from among the sinful behaviors of the world and be separate. Let the world really see the deliverance from sin and the deliverance from anything that leads to sin. Let them see the victory that is possible in the Name of Jesus.

Pastor John

QUALIFIED!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

I struggle with insecurities. It started as a natural part of the early teen years. When the hormones of adolescence kick in and we begin to determine our own values and belief system, this becomes a very real issue for us. How do other people see us? How much can other people really like us? Do we have what it takes to be accepted and included? Am I able to ever accomplish anything of significance? Is my life really worth anything?

For us to become emotionally healthy people these questions must find their answers in God. But for so many people the answers are found in personality, appearance, and performance. Measuring up to someone else’s standard in one or more of these areas becomes the driving force of our existence, because acceptance and personal worth is the driving force of our souls. The world cannot adequately supply what we need, but that is the only source that people have unless they are told about Jesus. He alone can fulfill all the acceptance and self-worth needs of people’s hearts. He can include us into the eternal family of God and give us an inheritance that is equally shared with all the saints in glory. He alone can qualify us. (See Colossians 1:12).

Moses teaches the Israelites this incredible truth in Deuteronomy 7:7.

Deuteronomy7:7-8 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you…

Moses tells the people to avoid contact with all of the polytheistic (many gods) people of the world. He knows that all the nations that worship more than one god do so because the basic needs of acceptance and self-worth cannot be met by any human personality or performance. These lost people believe that through multiple gods they could eventually meet all of the needs of mankind. If a need was discovered, then there must be another god created to meet that need. Moses knew that all people are need oriented, and that the Israelites would quickly fall into this fleshly system if exposed to it for any length of time.

Instead of falling prey to the world’s psycho-babble of self-esteem, Moses tells the people the truth about acceptance and personal worth – it comes from knowing that God chose them.

It is the same for us today. All the answers to the enduring teenage questions of our lives are found in this truth – God has chosen us to be His people. That choice was not based on personality, appearance, or performance. The choice God made to love the people of the world was made based on His nature and not ours. The choice was made before the world even existed, so it cannot be based on fleshly qualifications. Paul writes this in Ephesians 1.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. 

God’s choice was based on His choice to love us. Imagine that. It had nothing to do with who I am or would be, but on who He is!

Why do we continue to seek the qualification of the world and worldly people, when in Christ we are fully qualified already? There is nothing the world can offer that can add to what we already have in Christ. It is time to let go of the adolescent pursuits of value and self-worth, and submit to the fullness of Christ in us. Our value is found in Him. May His worth and glory be found in us.

Pastor John

Soft Hearts

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 3, 2019

I have a serious question to ask; one which I’m not sure I can adequately answer for myself without strong conviction of guilt.

When did our self-absorption with personal prosperity cause our heart to become so  hard that it cannot be touched by human suffering?

Pretty heavy for a Monday morning, isn’t it? Please read on.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

I am convicted by the words of Moses when he warns the Israelites that prosperity and luxury could cause them to forget the Lord and forget their own tragic situation from which He rescued them. How sad it is when our own needs and wants so dominate our thoughts and ambitions that we cannot be touched by human suffering. How deeply have we sunk into self-absorption that we carry on with our own lives as if nothing has happened?

I was first struck with my own guilt of this about fourteen years ago, right after two hurricanes devasted the southern parts of Mississippi and Louisiana. At the time, gas prices were increasing, and I was more concerned about what that would cost me than I was for the people who had lost everything. I was deeply disappointed in my attitude.

We may not always be able to do much to relieve the suffering of others, but we certainly can open our hearts to feeling what they must be feeling and open our minds to whatever God would ask us to do in response to their need. At the very least, it is time for us to prepare for the loss of all things by living a life of true faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” The Apostle John said, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”  And James, the brother of Jesus, warns all of us who are caught up in our prosperity that “the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”  He goes on and says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Another pressing question I had to answer at that time in my life was this: “How would I be responding if this tragedy had happened to me?” I wondered if my faith in God and my focus on His Kingdom would be sufficiently strong to agree with the prophet Habakkuk when he said,

   “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

    though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

    though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

     yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

    he enables me to go on the heights.”

God has blessed us with prosperity, but as we have seen from the past, it can be taken away in an instant. What would that do to your faith?

And when it happens to someone else, is your heart able to be touched with their pain?

Pastor John

A Godly Heritage

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 31, 2019

What will be the legacy of your life? With no intention of sounding morbid, when all your friends and family gather around your casket someday to say goodbye, what will they say to commemorate how you lived? What will the next three to four generations of your family be like because of how you lived your life?

Now wait a minute, preacher – we are not to blame for the personal choices of our children and grandchildren, are we? Maybe we are not to blame, but we certainly are responsible for the influence we have on them.

Deuteronomy 4:36-40  From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.

God makes it very clear to the Israelites that the heritage of faith they were to cherish as they entered the Promised Land would be responsible for the long-term fulfillment and faithfulness of the next generations. He also made it clear that the loss of faith and turning to self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction would result in the punishment of the next generations. Look at what God says in Exodus 20:5-6, right in the middle of the giving of the Ten Commandments. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

As a parent, and now a grandparent, I have come to realize my incredible privilege and responsibility to be the originator of a Godly heritage for the coming generations of little Gorks. I am blessed to already be the fourth generation of faithful followers of God in my family, and I am blessed to see that the promise of God is extending beyond me to the future.

Maybe you are the first in your family to break the chains of the bondage to sin and begin a heritage of faith to the future generations. Your life is vitally significant in creating either a Godly or a godless legacy for your descendants.

In today’s Scripture reading Moses says there are several things that will be true of parents and grandparents who are passing on a Godly heritage:

  1. They allow God’s voice from heaven to discipline them. They are humble and understand that without the teaching and training and testing of God they are destined to live lives of futility and failure according to the standards of a world’s system that is doomed to failure because of sin.
  2. They have a healthy fear and respect for the holiness and power of God. They have seen His fire of purity and judgment and it is a vital part of every decision they make and action they take.
  3. They recognize their own weakness and the liberating power of God over sin. They understand that they are incapable of conquering the bondages that result from sinful choices. They have surrendered to the power of God to drive out the enemy and to give them the promised inheritance of peace.
  4. They acknowledge that the LORD alone is God and have determined to be obedient to all of God’s commands.

Knowing that there would be human failures of disobedience, Moses challenges the people to “take to heart” the acknowledgement of God. The phrase “take to heart” is the Hebrew word for “turn back”, or repentance. A Godly heritage begins with turning away from sin and self and turning towards God. It’s never too late for that turn. Maybe today is the day you will make that turn, and this will be the beginning of your Godly legacy of faith.

Pastor John

There Is No God Like Jehovah

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The older I get the more I realize that in regard to the earthly portion of my life there is more to look back on then there is to look ahead to. That is a scary thought for me. I have lived more than two-thirds of my life already. I also realize that every backward look takes on a new perspective. Looking back used to involve regret as I looked at the failures and the hardships. It was not pleasant, and it was to be avoided at all cost. Now I look back with respect as I see the hand of God bringing me to this point of my relationship with Him. Looking back at self creates insecurity. Looking back at God builds my faith.

Deuteronomy 4:32-35 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

God has given each of us a physical and a spiritual history. The people of Israel had the tendency to look at their physical history, and when the present got tough they ignored the spiritual and desired the temporary and inconsistent benefits of the physical. They were willing to sacrifice the future on the altar of the flesh.

We sometimes do the same. We have been guilty of impatience. We have not waited long enough to experience the blessings of our faith and instead have turned back to the seemingly satisfying offerings of the world. Now looking back, we realize that despite our turning back, our selfish ambitions, and our human timetables, God has been faithful to fulfill His promise to us as His children and has brought us to the edge of the Promised Land. There is no other god like our God. The LORD JEHOVAH is His Name!

Spend some time today reflecting on the past, specifically asking God to show you the great and awesome deeds He has done to guide you on your spiritual journey. Has anything ever happened that has been so great as God’s personal invitation to join Him on an incredible adventure with eternal objectives?  Can anything compare with His personal involvement in our lives to guarantee the long-term success of that adventure? I think not! May our minds be transformed from looking at the physical to experiencing the spiritual. In all the history of the world, nothing can compare to what God has done in our lives, and He has more to do.

Pastor John

Great Are The Works Of God

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The older I get the more I realize that in regard to the earthly portion of my life there is more to look back on then there is to look ahead to. That is a scary thought for me. I have lived more than two-thirds of my life already. I also realize that every backward look takes on a new perspective. Looking back used to involve regret as I looked at the failures and the hardships. It was not pleasant, and it was to be avoided at all cost. Now I look back with respect as I see the hand of God bringing me to this point of my relationship with Him. Looking back at self creates insecurity. Looking back at God builds my faith.

Deuteronomy 4:32-35 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

God has given each of us a physical and a spiritual history. The people of Israel had the tendency to look at their physical history, and when the present got tough they ignored the spiritual and desired the temporary and inconsistent benefits of the physical. They were willing to sacrifice the future on the altar of the flesh.

We sometimes do the same. We have been guilty of impatience. We have not waited long enough to experience the blessings of our faith and instead have turned back to the seemingly satisfying offerings of the world. Now looking back, we realize that despite our turning back, our selfish ambitions, and our human timetables, God has been faithful to fulfill His promise to us as His children and has brought us to the edge of the Promised Land. There is no other god like our God. The LORD JEHOVAH is His Name!

Spend some time today reflecting on the past, specifically asking God to show you the great and awesome deeds He has done to guide you on your spiritual journey. Has anything ever happened that has been so great as God’s personal invitation to join Him on an incredible adventure with eternal objectives?  Can anything compare with His personal involvement in our lives to guarantee the long-term success of that adventure? I think not! May our minds be transformed from looking at the physical to experiencing the spiritual. In all the history of the world, nothing can compare to what God has done in our lives, and He has more to do.

Pastor John