Guaranteed Harvest

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, October 10, 2019

For the first time in many years we did not have a garden this summer. I removed all the old, rotting boards that surrounded it and spread out the dirt to create a new water flow  pattern in my back yard. Two factors that determined this outcome were the need to keep water from flowing towards my house, and the disappointing harvest from the previous year. Other than the best tomato plant ever, the beans were a bust, the peas were pathetic, and the zucchini were literally squashed. I had the biggest zucchini plants ever and they bloomed profusely, but only one out of every twenty blooms produced a fruit.

As I reflected on what went wrong, I was stumped. I prepared the soil properly. It was very fertile, made from compost. Maybe it was too fertile and is just producing top growth – I don’t know. I planted in the right places. There was plenty of rain. What went wrong?  I came to the conclusion that the tress in my yard had grown sufficiently to be blocking the sun for too many hours of the day. The garden had to go.

During the evaluation process, I remember asking myself a question. How can we seemingly do everything right and still not get blessed with a bountiful harvest?

That question applies to more than just gardens. It teaches us an eternal principle that God wants us to know. Here it is – Our plans and preparations are meaningless and unproductive unless God is our priority.

Isaiah 17:10-11  You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines,  though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain.

Unless we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and building our lives on the Solid Rock, everything we do will ultimately fail and be destroyed. It doesn’t matter how technologically advanced we become. It doesn’t help that we do all the scientific research to increase productivity. It makes absolutely no difference that we have all the administrative and organizational skills to plan for every possible contingency. If our lives aren’t centered on Jesus Christ, and if our hope and strength aren’t in Him alone, all we are doing is feeding futility.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in the book of Hosea. It says,

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

So get out your spiritual roto-tiller (some of us might need roto-rooters), dig up the hard ground of your heart, and plant the seeds of his productive priorities. When you do, the harvest is guaranteed.

Pastor John

Every Need Satisfied

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I have a hard time imagining life back in the days of the early church. There’s no way we can really relate to what it must have been like almost 2,000 years ago. At least from a lifestyle argument this is true. But it is not true from a faith or philosophical view. The same beliefs that exist today in people’s hearts and minds were prominent back then. People’s thinking has not changed. Culture may have changed, and technology has certainly changed, but the heart of man has not.

Around the year 90 A.D., when the apostle John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, Greek philosophers abounded throughout the Roman Empire. They attempted to do what philosophers and scientists attempt to do today – explain life without recognizing the existence of God. One such philosopher was named Epictetus.

To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, so we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. As individuals, however, we are responsible for our own actions, which we must examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.

This philosophy is not much different than the humanistic philosophy of today. Man has not changed his thinking. Under the power of sin, man still thinks he can control his actions so that they produce good. People still believe that through self-discipline and self-affirmation they can produce their own happiness. How wrong they are!

Epictetus was convinced that attitude and perspective were the keys to managing the problems of life. He wrote, “It isn’t your problems that are bothering you. It is the way you are looking at them.” He was partially right. His problem was that he taught that we needed to look at our problems through the eyes of fate and human ability, rather than through the eyes of God and His Sovereign control of all things.

That’s what God was trying to tell the people of the world through the mouth of Isaiah the prophet. Chapter after chapter come warnings to nations and people about the consequences of not looking at life through from God’s perspective. In chapter 17, the people of Damascus are told about what will happen to all their hard work that has been done only by looking to man’s ability – it will be obliterated. When it is, then they will finally turn their eyes back to the Lord.

Isaiah 17:7-8  In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made.

Look carefully at these verses. In the past, the people of Damascus had their eyes wrongly focused on three things – religion (the altars), work, and pleasure (Asherah poles, representing the sexual focus of their culture under the false worship of the goddess Asherah). Everything they did in life was motivated by the pursuit of one of these things. They sought to find some kind of peace through a religious experience; they sought to find some kind of worth through the work they accomplished; and they sought to find an escape from the troubles of life through pleasure.

Man has not changed. We still look to these three things to fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. It is only after we suffer the consequences of looking to these things four our value, that we finally turn and look to our Maker who knows how to satisfy our every need from the inside out.

So what are you looking at? Is it the things of the earth, or the things of God? But even looking at the things of God is not sufficient. Look to God Himself. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Pastor John

 

The Return of Joy

LIFE LINK DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

In my humble opinion it has been a gorgeous autumn season so far.  The weather has provided opportunities for outdoor activities and work to be done. Landscaping projects, fishing, golfing, deer hunting, lawn mowing, garage cleaning, Cranberry Fest, all have been more enjoyable when the weather is this nice.

Sometimes I wonder why, with so much to do and so many opportunities to do it, I am satisfied to sit and do nothing. There are days when life seems so mundane. Why do the things that used to bring joy seem simply average and at times even meaningless?

At first, I attributed it up to old age and tiredness. But then this verse was in my devotions this morning. In context, Isaiah is writing about the nation of Moab, but in application he writes about me…and you.

Isaiah 16:9  The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit and over your harvests have been stilled.  Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards; no one sings or shouts in the vineyards; no one treads out wine at the presses, for I have put an end to the shouting.

The more the Moabites became comfortable and proud of their position, the less they depended upon God. They had not yet learned that joy comes only from the Lord. It is a fruit of the Spirit of God abiding within us. It can only be experienced if the Holy Spirit is filling us. He cannot fill us if we are filled with ourselves. So the loss of joy is the direct result of the choice we make to focus on self.

OUCH!

But I needed that ouch. You may have also needed it. Take some time right now and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the parts of your life where He is not in control, or where His involvement is being restricted by your self-involvement. Then repent of those things and invite Him to fill you. The Joy of the Lord will return and you will be strong again.

Pastor John

Hope in Despair

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, October 7, 2019

The truth is, God is awesome and His timing is always perfect. A conflicting truth is that I forget truth #1 far too easily. But God, who is faithful and loving, gently reminds me to trust Him.

Nine years ago I wrote the following devotional, and entitled it “HOPE IN THE MIDDLE OF DESPAIR.” I was overwhelmed moments later with the awesomeness of God and His timing. I had no sooner completed writing the title when the phone rang. It was friend who drives truck and calls me occasionally from the road. Usually we jab each other about our favorite football teams (he hates the Vikings), and talk about everyday stuff.

Today’s call was different. There was despair in his voice. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that his mother-in-law, who has been homebound on oxygen for the last three years, was being transported to the hospital in Fargo with serious breathing difficulties and was probably not going to make it. Meanwhile, he was in Grand Island, Nebraska, 500 miles away.

As I listened to him my eyes were glued to the title and the Bible verse for today.

Isaiah 16:5  In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.

After he was done sharing what was going on, I told him about God’s timing, and that I had just finished writing the title. I read it to him. He listened tenderly. I read the verse to him. He listened quietly except for the occasional sniffle. I told him about the King who is coming, and that He is our only true hope. Sniffle. I asked him to put his hope in the Lord.

Every day we are surrounded with despair. It overwhelms us at times and it feels like there’s nothing we can do. We begin to believe that all hope is gone. It is at that moment that the Holy Spirit comes with the love of God and says, Put your hope in God. If you listen carefully, He is speaking to you right now. Maybe these words from the Psalms will help you hear Him.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.   My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?   My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”   These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving    among the festive throng.   Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and   my God. You are God my stronghold.  Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (Psalm 42)

Jesus Christ is our hope in the middle of despair.

Pastor John

Thank You for Tomorrow

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, October 4, 2019

So, what are your plans for the day? It’s amazing how proficient we have become with planning out our days. We have days planned weeks in advance. We have calendars on the fridge, in our purses and on our cell phones. We lock in dates for activities and trips and kid’s events and even church events. We get downright discouraged and sometimes frustrated when our plans don’t work out.  Plans can be self-centered and self-fulfilling. We make them because of the benefit we will receive. It is possible that planning has become our idol.

It is very easy for us to run our lives for our own benefit. What appears on the surface to be a kind gesture or an act of service may actually be an attempt to satisfy some fleshly desire. I suspect that much of what we have on our calendars are plans that are so significant to the building of our own little kingdoms that we would be upset if God interrupted them with His plan.

Here’s a test for you. For tomorrow, clear your calendar of ALL items that aren’t absolutely necessary for work. Take every personal item off. As soon as you’ve done that, close your eyes and pray this prayer – “God, thank you for tomorrow because I know the plans you have for me will be good.” Can you do it? Can you really be thankful for tomorrow when you have no idea what is going to happen?

Isaiah 14:24  The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.”

Here’s a story that may help us evaluate our attitudes towards our planning.

He was just a little fellow. His mother died when he was just a child. His father, in trying to be both mommy and daddy, had planned a picnic. The little boy had never been on a picnic, so they made their plans, fixed the lunch, and packed the car. Then it was time to go to bed, for the picnic was the next day. He just couldn’t sleep. He tossed and he turned, but the excitement got to him. Finally, he got out of bed, ran into the room where his father had already fallen asleep, and shook him. His father woke up and saw his son. He said to him, “What are you doing up? What’s the matter?”

The boy said, “I can’t sleep.”

The father asked, “Why can’t you sleep?”

In answering, the boy said, “Daddy, I’m excited about tomorrow.”

His father replied, “Well, Son, I’m sure you are, and it’s going to be a great day, but it won’t be great if we don’t get some sleep. So why don’t you just run down the hall, get back in bed, and get a good night’s rest.”

So the boy trudged off down the hall to his room and got in bed. Before long, sleep came—to the father, that is. It wasn’t long thereafter that the little boy was back. He was pushing and shoving his father, and his father opened his eyes. Harsh words almost blurted out until he saw the expression on the boy’s face. The father asked, “What’s the matter now?”

The boy said, “Daddy, I just want to thank you for tomorrow.”

When I think of my past, I remember that a loving Father would not let me go, and He reached down in his divine providence and lifted me out of a life of sin. And when I think of my future, I realize that my heavenly Father is planning new adventures for me that will surpass the past. So let the record show that on this day and in this place I will say, “Father, I want to thank you for tomorrow!”

Pastor John

Prideful Thoughts

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 3, 2019

One-hundred-thirty years after the resurrection of Jesus, a stoic philosopher named Marcus Aurelius came to power in Rome as emperor. He brought a degree of civility to the people, and allowed the citizens to speak freely without fear of retribution. It was a time of peace for the nation, and people began to thrive.

In less than three hundred years the nation would collapse. Much has been written about the fall of the Roman Empire, and many reasons are given, including one that blames Christianity. But in all humility, recognizing that I am not an historian, there is one thing that guarantees the collapse of all man’s efforts – pride.

When we attempt to create empires of any kind – from family to financial, from political to personal – and then maintain them according to our own standards, we have set ourselves up against the very nature and heart of Almighty God. Then, to seek to remove the potential consequences of our actions, we deny the existence of God. But it doesn’t change the outcome. Our pride will end in destruction.

Just look at the prophecy that is spoken by God through Isaiah to the nation of Babylon. Its ruler will join all the previous rulers of pompous political powers in the hopelessness of the grave. They will have to face the fact and admit the truth that their pride ended in destruction.

Isaiah 13:11 and 14:10-11  I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. They will all respond, they will say to you, “You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us. All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you.

The same is true in our personal lives. The things that we do for self will cause us to ultimately suffer. The things we do for the Savior bring us security. The treasures we build on earth will all be lost. The treasures we build in heaven are safe – eternally safe.

The key is to be humble, and submit to the will of God not the will of man. It all starts in our minds. The Apostle Paul said,

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. (Romans 12:1-2 New Living Translation)

If only the people of the Roman Empire had held on to this truth. They had the truth. They had Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. They were also challenged by the words of their emperor, Marcus Aurelius, to be humble and guard their minds and thought life from pride. He wrote,

‎”You are what you think – not what you think you are…….Think as a man who acts, and act as a man who thinks. The most important things in life are the thoughts you choose to frame.”

So how’s your thought life? Maybe you think it’s irrelevant to your life. Maybe you have just accepted all the thoughts that speed across the back of your eyes as a part of the human experience. We must understand that according to God we are responsible for every thought. The Apostle Paul made it clear that we are responsible when he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

It is our pride that makes us pretentious and sets us up in opposition to God. We must take responsibility for our thoughts and bring them under the control of the Holy Spirit. When we do, we will be able to experience the perfect peace of God because we are living in the perfect will of God.

Pastor John

Listen for the Trumpet

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Years ago I heard a song on the radio that captivated my heart. It was sung by David Robertson. Here are the lyrics:

I hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind
and it’s closer now than it’s ever been

I can almost hear the trumpet as Gabriel sounds the chord
at the midnight cry we’ll be going home.

I look around me, I see prophecies fulfilled
the signs of the times they’re appearing everywhere

I can almost see the father as he says “Son go get my children”
at the midnight cry, the bride of Christ will rise.

When Jesus steps out on a cloud to call his children
the dead in Christ shall rise to meet him in the air

Then those that remain shall be quickly changed
at the midnight cry we’ll be going home.

The thought that at any time of any day now we who know Jesus will hear the sound of the trumpet of Jesus as He returns to the earth to take His children home to glory. Hallelujah! Let it be today!

Soon – very soon – we will hear the sound of a mighty army of saints and angels led by Jesus Christ himself as He calls us up to meet Him in the air. Then we will become a part of a mighty army that will one day return to earth – people from every land, nation, tribe, and tongue – and we will watch as Jesus conquers the world with His spoken Word. The Day of the LORD is coming, and those who know Jesus as Savior will be on the winning side of the war.

But wait. If you listen carefully you can already hear the sounds of God’s activity.

Isaiah 13:4-6, 9   Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The LORD Almighty is mustering an army for war.   They come from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens—the LORD and the weapons of his wrath—to destroy the whole country.   Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty…See, the day of the LORD is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.

In your heart you can already hear the trumpet of Jesus. You are already under the influence of a new song. You already march to a new drummer with a new beat. As followers of Jesus we are already listening to the trumpet of Jesus, just like my favorite old contemporary group the Imperials sang years ago…

I listen to the Trumpet of Jesus, while the world hears a different sound
I march to the drumbeat of God Almighty while the others just wander around
I’m a member of the Holy Ghost traveling band, we’re moving on up to a better land
I hear the voice of a Supernatural Singer like only those who know Him can

So march today to the drumbeat of God Almighty. You are a member of the Holy Ghost traveling band. And as you march…keep listening for the final trumpet call.

Pastor John