New Construction

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Here’s a question that is equally rhetorical and dumb. How many of us enjoy paying for the mistakes of others?

I remember an incident that illustrated this to me. I was talking to a friend who was having problems with his house. He had bought the house several years previously, but issues were showing up. The latest problem was that when the house was moved to its current location and the addition put on, the rafters in the roof were not framed properly. The roof was collapsing. The living room ceiling was falling in. Thousands of dollars of repairs were needed because of a builder’s mistake made without their knowledge when they bought it.

That stinks! Paying for repairs that aren’t our fault is painful. We rebel against it. We get really bummed about it. It ruins the whole day, or maybe even the whole weekend. Why should we have to pay for someone else’s mistake?

Suddenly the Lord spoke to my heart. Someone else paid for my mistakes once. My house had also been moved from its original location by a counterfeit carpenter and additional space for self was added on. The construction of that space looked good on the outside, but it was not done according to the original Designers specifications. But I continued to live in it and embrace it as my own. It was collapsing all around me and I didn’t even see it.

Then I realized that someone else had already paid for the repairs. His payment would ultimately drive the counterfeit carpenter out of business. Until then all houses that he had remodeled were made available to the Benefactor for complete restoration if the owner would allow it. I chose to have my house restored.

Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.”

The Benefactor replaced everything. The renovation began with a new Foundation, followed by the replacement of all the rotting parts with eternal ones that can never rust or rot. Every room I asked the Real Carpenter to restore was instantly invaded by His Co-Worker and completely transformed into a living space that reflected the nature and character of the Benefactor.

It is a joy to live in such a house. There’s no more shame from living in a collapsing house, but complete joy in knowing that my house has been replaced with one of eternal value. I will rejoice and give thanks to the Benefactor who paid the price for my sin – a price He did not owe but graciously paid – by sending His own Carpenter to do all the work. My house has been replaced, and my hope has been firmly placed in the One who did it for me.

Pastor John

Beauty from Ashes

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Drunk driver kills father of four. Family home and possessions destroyed by fire. Babysitter accused of rape. Financial markets crash. Four students die in car crash. Government overthrown: everyone taken captive.

Headlines from world events. Heartbreak is our reality.

Grieving may be the most underestimated of the emotions. It may be the one we deny the most. Of course we grieve a little when we read headlines like the ones above. We would have to have awfully cold hearts to not feel some compassion for the people affected by these tragedies. But grief hurts, so in most cases we skip right over it and move on to thinking about something else – something more positive and uplifting. We deny that anything hurts us because we don’t want to appear weak. We certainly don’t want the circumstance to affect us so deeply that it causes any long-term depression. So we deny that it is there, and hope we never really have to deal with it.

There is a popular theory of grief, introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book entitled On Death and Dying, that proposes five stages to the grieving process.

  1. Denial – “Everything’s fine…I’ll be all right…This can’t be happening to me.”
  2. Anger – “It’s not fair…Why is this happening to me…Who’s fault is this?”
  3. Bargaining – “I’ll do anything to change this.”
  4. Depression – “Why bother…What’s the point…Why go on?”
  5. Acceptance – “It’s really going to be okay.”

This is the secular view of the grieving process, and for a long time we may have believed it is the only process available. That’s just not the case. You see, there is a stage prior to the denial stage that has been omitted from the DABDA model. It is the stage of mourning. It is the very first thing that happens in all of us after a tragedy or loss.  Many of us pass through this stage quickly because it hurts the most. It is the stage of helplessness, and that is in direct contradiction to our humanistic thinking. We cannot be found helpless, so let’s skip that part and move into the self-help realm.

Yet it is in the stage of mourning that Jesus comes and offers healing. He offers the intimacy of His presence that ultimately moves us to restoration and skips all the in-between steps found in the human model. The crown of beauty is bestowed upon those who grieve, and gladness pours over the soul of the mourner. In the depths of despair the garment of praise is given.

Isaiah 61:3 “…and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

Look at this picture.There is a crocus growing out of the ashes of a fire. If the humanistic model is true, this could never happen. The anger and bargaining stages would have removed the burned log, tilled up the soil, put in some landscaping rocks, so that by our efforts we were prepared for what could grow. But nothing we do can match what God does to bring beauty from the ashes.

God will heal any grief. Jesus Christ mourned over the death of Lazarus, and with no denial, anger, bargaining, or depression, He simply resurrected him from the grave. Don’t let the world get into your head. Let God heal your heart. He who can grow crocuses out of ashes can bring joy to you in the darkest of days.

Pastor John

Start Leading

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, February 3, 2020

We are a culture of followers. We sit and wait for someone else to take the first step. We live in a consistent state of fear of stepping out into the unknown. We’ve put a considerable amount of emphasis on the failures we have seen others suffer, while minimizing the faith we can have in the power of God. This concerns me.

Several years ago I asked a missionary friend to give me his spontaneous response to this question: Why have we become a culture of followers rather than leaders? Here is his response:

We don’t have many leaders today because we are a generation who do not want to take risks, make waves, or stand out based on our beliefs. We are much more comfortable fitting in. Our level of importance is based on acceptance by those around us. To lead means to risk such mass acceptance. It is much more comfortable to follow like all the others and complain along the way.

He sees it too. We have put the emphasis on fitting in and earning acceptance and approval from those around us, rather than on the fact that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon us.

Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me.”

In one of my discipleship times with several men, we were studying the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I raised these questions to the men.

  • Why do we have such a hard time believing that God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit?
  • Why do we doubt what we hear?
  • Why do we not act like we believe He really spoke?

There were a variety of answers, but every one of them boiled down to this – we don’t have faith that the Holy Spirit is God, one of the three Persons of the Trinity. We have no trouble listening to a friend across a Starbucks table, but we doubt our True Friend living inside us when He speaks to our heart and mind. This is a serious problem, and it has created a church population of followers rather than leaders.

We have all, as followers of Christ, been given marching orders. We know what we have been commissioned to do. We know in our hearts how we have been equipped to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yet we wallow and wander aimlessly in the culture around us, not convinced that God really said that to us and certainly not trusting that He will provide for us and care for us if we do what He said.

My friends, the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon us, and He has commanded us to go and bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom in Christ for those captivated by sin, and proclaim the grace of God that is available to all.

What are we waiting for?

Take the lead.

Pastor John

Attitudes

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 31, 2020

It’s Friday, and our mood is typically up.

Come Monday morning we are frequently down.

Those are the bookends of an average roller coaster work week for most of us. Up and down emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. Some of us run that cycle several times a day as circumstances and people play games with our attitudes. How many of these bumps could be resolved if we would just recognize the truth that no person or event has any power over our attitudes? Attitudes are completely and exclusively our choice.

Here’s a blessing I received from the Lord recently. I awoke at 4:15 AM and did my very best to go back to sleep. I couldn’t. So I thought about things and prayed.

I thought about the message I had preached on Sunday, and how people still listen through filters. I prayed for them.

I thought about how busy I have been, and how I probably wouldn’t have time to go home until after the meetings I had that night. I prayed for strength and good time-management skills to get everything done.

I thought about the ministry vision God has given me, and how to bring others into that vision to accomplish Christ’s redemptive purpose. I prayed for wisdom and gentleness to lead people in paths of righteousness.

I thought about my emotional responses to the aforementioned items, and realized that I had allowed my attitudes to be adjusted by those circumstances and people, both up and down. The down part bothered me. I finally got out of bed.

When I went to the couch and sat down with my laptop, I opened my Bible program and went to Isaiah 60 and read the whole chapter again. When I got to verses 19 and 20 I stopped. God spoke truth into my mind and heart. He worked the truth deep into my soul and spirit.

Isaiah 60:19-20 “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”

God spoke clearly.

“When you trust me, there are no more ups and downs. Your life right now is like the rising and setting of the sun and the waning of the moon. Trust me, and the ups and downs will be replaced with the consistency of My eternal light. Stop looking to people or circumstances to validate or determine your feelings and attitudes. Let me be your glory.”

That’s what I need every day. I hope it helps you too.

Pastor John

Prepare to Move

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 30, 2020

It appeared to be a dead end. Dead was the operative word in their minds. In front of them was a great body of water. According to their human wisdom it was not crossable. Behind them they could see the dust of thousands of chariots as the army of Egypt bore down on them. They cried out to their leader in anger and said, “What have you done to us?”  Standing still meant certain death at the hands of the warriors. Moving meant drowning. It seemed hopeless.

Does this describe your life right now – a dead end? Standing still doesn’t change anything. Moving ahead is way too scary. Maybe if we just close our eyes it will all go away.

Well, I have some interesting news for you – standing still does change things and moving ahead is worth the risk, so long as God has directed you to take such action. No matter how it appears on the surface, God is working on your behalf. If He says stand firm, then do it. In His time He will act. If He says move, don’t look back and don’t fear what’s ahead. He has already been there, done that, and has everything all worked out, so move with Him no matter how swiftly you must move.

The hardest part of moving after standing still is accelerating to God-speed in a short period of time. The only thing that makes it possible is that during the standstill, we remain active, preparing to move. All the groundwork for moving can be put in place so that when God’s time to act arrives, we are ready.

Standstills are never meant to be times of complacency. Want proof? What happens at a stoplight when you are driving? You check your phone, right? You quickly throw together a text to someone, or listen to a voicemail, or read an email. Standstills are times of productivity. So instead of complaining about not moving, be productive, and be prepared to move when the light turns green again.

Isaiah 60:22b  “I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

When God puts all the pieces into place, then move. Swiftly. Hang on tight. It’s going to be an awesome ride filled with opportunities to see God’s power and provision. It will require stepping out in faith and moving into uncharted territory. But God knows we are ready. No looking back. No looking around. With eyes straight ahead fixed firmly on where God is moving, we will follow, and we will follow at His speed.

So what happened to the people at the dead end? Here’s what it says about them in Exodus 14.

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

Stand firm on the promises of God. Move when God says move. Then we will all see the glory of God.

Pastor John

 

 

Let the Light Shine

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Do you remember this?

Gloom, despair, and agony on me;

Deep dark depression, excessive misery;

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;

Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

 Maybe if you watched it you would remember – https://youtu.be/ZAAKPJEq1Ew

Too many of us live this way. Darkness covers us like the dust cloud around Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Everywhere we go we find something wrong with what’s there. Every piece of news we read or hear pushes us deeper into the chasm of cynicism. Every day the darkness gets darker as the light gets dimmer because we have run out of batteries.

The natural response of our hearts to increasing darkness is to draw up closer to ourselves. We pull everything tighter to our chests and protect what little we think we have left. We quickly turn from a giving person to a tightwad when it starts to get dark. We do the same things with our lives that we do with our homes when the sun goes down – we lock the doors behind us, finish some inside tasks, turn off all the lights, and snuggle up with the false security of a blankie, hoping no one breaks in while we sleep.

We have become dependent upon the world. The proof is in our response to crisis.

  • Do we respond by protecting ourselves from the darkness, or do we become brighter shiners of God’s light by walking in faith?
  • Do we withdraw into the security of our homes and turn off the light of influence to our neighbors?
  • Do we shut down the outreach ministries of our church and focus only on the increase of knowledge so we can survive the onslaught of culture’s rebellion against God, or do we fling the doors open wider than ever to rescue as many as possible before Jesus returns and sets it all straight?
  • Do we hedge our personal and church funds for the predicted doom or by faith do we give more than ever to shine the light of the Gospel more brightly?

I think the reason the Hee Haw quartet is so funny is that we relate to it so well. In Isaiah 60, verses 1 and 2, the prophet wrote,  “darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” But he also wrote that “the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” He challenges us to “arise, shine, for your light has come.”

Then Isaiah gives us the promises of God for those who ignore the darkness and let the light of the glory of God shine in and through them. These promises, given to the nation of Israel for the day the Lord returns and redeems their land, are for people like you and me as well who let His light shine.

  • You will be radiant – verse 5
  • Your heart will throb and swell with joy – verse 5
  • You will be blessed with prosperity – verses 5-7 (No, I am not teaching the false prosperity gospel, but rather affirming what the Lord said that whatever we sow we will reap.)
  • God’s glory will fill the church – verse 7
  • Your enemies will become your friends and serve you – verses 10-11
  • Respect will return to you – verses 14-15
  • Peace will come to you – verses 17-18
  • Complete dependence upon God will be the norm – verses 19-20
  • Righteousness and justice will rule your life – verse 21

All that can be ours if we choose to let the Light of God shine through us instead of succumbing to the darkness around us. No more gloom, despair, and agony on us. The glory of the Lord has come upon us. Arise, and let His light shine.

Pastor John

You Can Be Saved

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

To follow up on what we shared yesterday, it’s easy for many of us to just go along with the flow. We follow the crowd. Without any real attempt to be educated with facts, we move in the direction of popular opinion. We may even compromise known truths for the sake of appearances. We do so with the hope that we will arrive safely at the port of acceptance and approval.

This is not a new issue. The nation of Israel suffered from the same malady.

Isaiah 59:20-21  “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. 21“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.

Israel was riding the wave of national identity thinking they could surf right into an eternal relationship with God based on their heritage. Many still do that today, placing their faith and hope in their religious, political, or social affiliations. The Israelites of the Old Testament thought that their identity as children of Abraham gave them automatic access to God.

Things were about to change. The groundwork for the change had always been in place, but it had been overshadowed by traditions. From the beginning of man’s existence on the earth when He created Adam and Eve on the sixth day, God’s eternal plan was to make each of us of us personally responsible for our relationship with our Creator. There would be no exceptions – no loopholes. Family ties mean nothing. Race, creed, or color offers no benefits. Political views provide no eternal hope. Religion cannot accomplish redemption. No connection of man can earn favor from God.

The fifty-ninth chapter of Isaiah is about change – changing the traditional way of depending on human connections to being personally responsible to God no matter what the rest of the world says and does. For most of the chapter, Isaiah deplores the condition of a culture that was supposedly based on faith in God. When God saw that there was no one going against the flow, He sent Himself to work salvation on our behalf. (verses 16-17)

Then, in an amazing moment of change, the Lord declares an eternal truth – the Redeemer (Jesus Christ) will come to a nation but not for national renewal, but for individual salvation! Only those who repent will be saved. A New Covenant will be established that abolishes any possibility that a person’s human affiliations will have any value in determining their eternal destiny.

The New Covenant of the Redeemer’s blood poured out on the cross of Calvary removes all national identity. It removes all racial discrimination. It eliminates all religious sacraments. It destroys any and all works of man as an attempt to earn the favor of God. Family background cannot be used as either a pass or an excuse. Each one of us is responsible for our sin before God. The greatest discover any one of us can make is that we begin to perceive that there are but two beings in the whole universe—two only supreme and luminously self- evident beings—our own soul, and the God who made it. (from the Biblical Illustrator)

The New Covenant offers the same promise of eternal life to every person based on these truths – the sinful nature of all of us and the payment for that sin that was fully paid on the cross by God Himself. The covenant of cleansing from sin is for those that repent, and once that is stated in verse 21, every pronoun in the rest of the verse is singular, not plural. You as an individual are responsible to repent of your sin so that every benefit of the covenant can be experienced personally.

This is incredible news. It’s hard to change from our traditions, but in this case, change has eternal value. Regardless of your past, your sin, your connections, your politics, or your religion, you can repent of your sin and be saved for all eternity. Jesus died and rose again so that you can be forgiven and live. That’s incredible news.

The Redeemer has come for you.

Pastor John