Watch Out for Dogs!

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Philippians 3:2 – 3  Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

 Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

Many years ago, I was on a two-day canoe trip with a friend. We packed all the necessary supplies – food, tent, sleeping bags, etc. – and headed for the destination to drop off one of the cars before taking the other one to our launch site. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so we had left a map with our wives that gave our approximate locations during the day and our camping site at night.

The first day went great as we enjoyed the scenery and the fellowship. But we woke up early the next morning to pouring rain. We packed up camp and got back on the river, but by 10:00 a.m. we were so drenched and cold and tired that we decided to end the trip. The problem was that we were miles from our car and had no phone to call anyone. We pulled the canoe up under an overpass and I walked up to the farmhouse that was near the road. That’s when trouble started.

As I walked up onto the porch of the house and knocked on the door, two things happened. First, a loud growl came from the doghouse on the porch. I had noticed it was there but had not seen the large Blue Heeler dog inside. Then I heard vicious barking and turned to see a very large Boxer coming racing across the farmyard towards me, with his short hair standing straight up down the middle of his back. I quickly checked the door of the house and found it locked – no one was home. I squeezed between the screen door and the door and pulled it as tight as I could for protection. I was much thinner then.

The Blue Heeler remained in his doghouse, but the Boxer came up onto the porch and stood at the top of the steps, blocking my escape. He growled and snarled loudly. What was I going to do? I was immediately calmed by the Holy Spirit and He reminded me of God’s power through the Name of Jesus and that we have been given dominion over all of creation. Now I don’t carry that to any extreme of believing that we can intentionally put ourselves in harm’s way and then claim the authority to not get hurt. But in emergency situations I know that God provides for our every need. So, I prayed, and asked Jesus to give me authority over the dogs at that moment. I slowly opened the screen door and stepped out from behind it. The Boxer growled louder and took a step towards me. I firmly shouted, “Sit!”, and the Boxer sat down. I then shouted, “Stay!”, and took another step toward the dog. The dog stayed. I walked right past him and down the steps, made my way around the corner of the house, and then ran as fast as I could back to the river where my friend was waiting. We paddled to the next bridge and found a house where people were at home and had no dogs, and we made our phone call.

Not only has God given us authority over dogs, but He has given us spiritual authority over unspiritual dogs as well. Paul reminds the people of God at Philippi to beware of the vicious dogs that teach false doctrine. The false doctrine he is specifically referring to is the teaching of certain Jews that the Greek Christians had to be circumcised according to Jewish law or they could not be saved. We can apply the principle of Paul’s warning to any religious activity that the church or a preacher requires in addition to faith to bring a person to salvation. The church or preacher may even try to disguise their false teaching by saying the activity is simply an expression of your faith, but if it is required for you to be considered saved, then it is the teaching of unspiritual dogs.

Paul says that as true believers in Christ, saved by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone, we have two responses to such false teachers:

  1. We must recognize them. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the ability to discern truth from error. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the downward spiraling whirlpool of false teaching by giving in to popular trends or emotional highs. Recognize false teaching by thoroughly studying the truth of God’s Word.
  2. We must resist them. We remain true to God’s truth by remembering the effects of the truth on us. Paul says that no matter what the false teachers were requiring, we who have been truly saved have experienced a spiritual circumcision of our hearts, and that’s all that is necessary. When false teachers are discovered, remind them of God’s truth: we are the true circumcision and we have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Put no confidence in the flesh, and resist them.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must take authority over the dogs and not stand in fear of them. We are the true followers of Jesus. Get out from behind your closed doors, tell the dogs to sit down, and walk right past them into the fellowship of your true family of believers.

Pastor John

Repetition Encourages Remembrance

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Philippians 3:1   To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Men are worse than women, at least in one area. We don’t seem to learn our lesson the first time. Things must be repeated over and over again before we finally get it. It starts when we are little, and mom has to tell us time and time again to stay out of the mud puddles. Even today, when I’m driving a car, I must make the biggest splash possible by driving fast through any puddles on the road after a rain. I also know my wife’s frustration level when she has to repeat herself to get me to listen or to finally comprehend and commit to what is being said. But that is still no guarantee that tomorrow she won’t have to tell me again.

Sometimes I get mad at her for repeating herself. But I must admit that I am really mad at myself because I still haven’t learned. Sometimes we get mad at God because we seem to keep hearing the same lesson time and time again and we wonder why we can’t move on to something else. God knows we still haven’t learned what He wants us to know.

Paul admits that he is repeating himself as he writes to the church in Philippi. The application is clear – repetition encourages remembrance. Peter does the same thing in  his second letter.

2 Peter 1:12 – 15 12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  13I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,  14because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  15And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

When those who influence our lives are no longer around to influence us, we will be glad for the repetition. We will be able to fully enjoy the lasting benefits of what they taught, and we will find that we have become repeaters of truth to others.

Here’s a quick list of the things Paul and Peter repeated (See 2 Peter 1:1-11). It would be good for all of us to repeat these things to ourselves every day.

 

  1. Rejoice! And again I say rejoice! God is always able to be praised as God, no matter what your circumstance.
  2. Our faith is precious. We have received salvation through faith because of the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
  3. Grace and peace are ours in abundance because we have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  4. Through His power God has given us everything we need to live godly lives in this present world.
  5. His promises never fail, and when we live by them we participate in the Divine nature of God and escape the corruption of the world.
  6. Through our knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ, we can grow up to full maturity, having these spiritual qualities in increasing measure:
    1. Faith
    2. Goodness
    3. Knowledge
    4. Self-control
    5. Perseverance
    6. Godliness
    7. Brotherly kindness
    8. Love
  7. When we grow up according to that pattern, we will never fall, and we will receive a rich welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Don’t get mad at God when the Holy Spirit seems to be repeating Himself to you. Be glad that God’s love is so strong that He wants to make sure you understand the truth and grow by it. He’s doing it as a safeguard for you.

Pastor John

No Doubt…Rejoice

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!

Have you ever doubted the reality of your salvation? Do you find yourself questioning your faith? Think about the times that has happened, and it is likely that at the time of your doubt you were experiencing some kind of stress, emotional hurt, or physical pain. It is when the circumstances of life don’t seem to be turning out to our satisfaction that we doubt our security in Christ.

Why is that? I believe it’s because we still don’t have an adequate understanding of the nature of God. The factors that determine the security of our relationships with people tend to become the same factors with which we measure our security with God. That is an error on our part. We feel secure in relationships when we receive emotional and physical benefits, with the added bonus of warm, fuzzy feelings. When conflicts arise and tensions mount, we feel less secure. Only rarely do we find that person who so completely loves us that our trust in their love overcomes any conflicts and tensions so that we always feel secure. But that is how our relationship with God is to be.

Times of doubt will arise. Doubt is a natural part of the human thought process. It is how we respond to doubt that matters. Doubt is the product of one of three things: emotional distress, intellectual ignorance, or human experience. Following the resurrection of Jesus, we saw all three modeled in different people. Mary doubted because she was emotionally distressed. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were ignorant of the Old Testament prophecies and had not intellectually put all the pieces together. Thomas had heard all the prophecies and had even heard Jesus declare that He would rise on the third day, but he chose to remain in the box of human logic and experience until it was proven to him otherwise. But Jesus met all these people at the point of their doubt and convinced them that there was something far greater than experience, emotion, or intellect upon which to base our relationship with Him – faith in who He is.

When times of doubt about our relationship with God arise, I believe our faith is being misdirected away from God and onto ourselves. At the core of our thought process is the false belief that we have to keep ourselves secure in Christ. We determine our success at keeping ourselves saved by examining our emotions, our actions, and our circumstances. If we wake up and find that we don’t feel in love, then we must not be. If we find that our friend or spouse has not called us or been close to us for a certain period of time, then our relationship must be falling apart. If our actions don’t produce the desired response in the life of our friend or spouse, then our relationship is questioned.

We do all those things with God as well. If we don’t feel spiritual, get positive responses to our spiritual activity, or experience negative circumstances, we doubt our relationship with Christ. We don’t believe we have done enough to make Him keep loving us. But in reality, what we doubt is the very nature of God and His promises.

 

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to be able to rejoice in the relationship we have with the Lord even when all circumstances and emotions are standing opposed to it? Yes, it is! I purposefully stated that in the present tense because that is my humble condition of faith right now. No matter what the circumstance or emotion, God is my God, and great is His faithfulness. Let the rain fall. Let the storms of life blow their hardest. Let evil abound and injustice flourish. Let the economy fail and let wars increase. Let persecution grow and let death knock at the door. All this will be only for a time, and then God, my God, will send the Son. The storms will cease. Evil will be destroyed. Justice will reign. Peace and prosperity will govern. Pain, tears, and death will be wiped away forever. All because God is God and He cannot and will not fail.

Doubt is the enemy of faith because it attacks the character of God. But remember these words of Peter – read them carefully and thoroughly, and let them be the basis of your faith which will result in rejoicing.

1 Peter 1:3 – 9 (NIV) 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,  5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Pastor John

Be A Minister

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 14, 2018

Philippians 2:25  But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus…whom you sent to take care of my needs.

There is one more step in the process of reaching full maturity in Christ, as it relates to our relationship with people. Using Paul’s description in Philippians 2 of Epaphroditus, we see that we start out as brothers in Christ; then we become workers for Christ; then we become soldiers of Christ; then we become messengers of the Gospel. The final step is to become ministers to people.

Epaphroditus was sent by his church in Philippi to deliver gifts to Paul so that his needs would be met. The phrase “whom you sent to take care of my needs” is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as “he that ministered to my wants.” The word “ministered” has deep and significant meaning. It goes far beyond simply delivering what someone else has provided. A minister is someone who works for the betterment of a group of people. We approach maturity in Christ when our primary work for Christ is to minister to people’s needs. It is the outward expression of love through involvement in people’s lives that fulfills the purpose of Christ in us.

James, the brother of Jesus, said it this way: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27).

Faith reaches full maturity when we go from being a messenger of the gospel to being a minister that meets people’s needs. The people of the church at Philippi were ministers to Paul by sending gifts to provide for his needs. This is commendable and highly spoken of by Paul. But it still goes deeper. Epaphroditus, in addition to delivering the gifts, ministered personally to Paul’s other needs that could not be met by the gifts. In Philippians 2:29 – 30 Paul says, “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” The gifts did not meet all of Paul’s needs, but Epaphroditus did.

What did he do? We are not specifically told what needs of Paul’s were met by Epaphroditus, but we can use good logic to come to some probable conclusions.

  1. Gifts are great, but nothing beats face-to-face time with a trusted friend. Paul could not go to his friends, so a friend went to him. This friend sacrificed all personal priorities for the sake of investing his life into Paul. In the 1960’s there was a hit rock-and-roll song that went like this: If you need me, call me, No matter where you are, No matter how far, Just call my name, I’ll be there in a hurry, You don’t have to worry, ’cause baby, There ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough, To keep me from getting to you. That’s what Epaphroditus did. That’s what mature ministers do. No matter what the obstacle or inconvenience, they invest their lives sacrificially into the lives of others.
  2. Epaphroditus got involved in doing the work that Paul was no longer able to do. Paul was under house arrest and probably chained to a guard, unable to go out to the community and preach the gospel and minister to the needs of the church there in Rome. We know there was a strong church there, but Paul was not able to attend or preach. My conclusion is that Epaphroditus got involved in doing the work that Paul wanted to do. Sometimes we have to step up to the plate and pinch hit for someone who has been placed on the disabled list. It may be way out of our comfort zones to do it, but being a mature minister is not about our comfort but is about meeting the needs of people.

I’m glad that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m excited about the work God has given us to do together. I’m proud to serve the King shoulder to shoulder with you as soldiers in His army. I’m thrilled to hear how the messengers are spreading the message of the Savior. But I am most satisfied and fulfilled when I know that we have reached full maturity in Christ by becoming the ministers of grace and love to people in need no matter what the cost to us.

Intentional and intimate intervention into the lives of people is the greatest gift we can give them, and allows them to see the reality of Jesus in us.

Thank you for being such a minister.

Pastor John

Be a Messenger

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 11, 2018

Proverbs 25:13 Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.

John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Years ago, as my mother battled pancreatic cancer, a messenger delivered some news to my mom that at the time seemed incredible. She had undergone some additional tests to determine the extent and growth of her cancer. The doctor had been surprised when he saw how strong she was. He asked her if she wanted to know what was happening and the prognosis. She said yes, and a CT scan of the liver and pancreas along with blood tests were all done. When he called her the next day he informed her that there was no longer any evidence of a tumor in the pancreas, that the liver enzymes were normal, and the swelling of the liver had diminished. He was not ready to call it a miracle, but we were!

We were obviously excited about the news, and we thanked the doctor who had delivered it to us. At the time, we knew God was the Author of the message, for He had orchestrated the healing without any medical intervention. The Doctor was simply the messenger of what Someone else had done.

Messengers don’t create the message: they only deliver what the Master has already stated. When the Apostle Paul describes Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30, he called him a messenger. Epaphroditus started out as a brother in Christ sharing a love for Jesus with Paul. He then became a faithful worker, serving Christ alongside of Paul with a mutual goal of spreading the gospel of Jesus. His faithful service qualified him to become a soldier who could follow orders and advance the cause of Christ into enemy territory without the fear of him going AWOL or becoming an enemy sympathizer. Now, because he was a loyal soldier, he could be trusted to become a messenger to deliver the good news of freedom to those trapped behind enemy lines. Paul and the people of the church at Philippi recognized that Epaphroditus could be trusted to carry out his orders and deliver his message.

It is interesting that the Greek word for messenger used by Paul is the word apostolos, which is translated apostle. Now Epaphroditus was not an official Apostle of the New Testament because he had not been a personal witness of the resurrected Savior prior to His ascension into glory. But it is significant that all faithful disciples of Jesus have been given the same responsibility as the original Apostles – “Go and deliver a message of good news.” We are all called to be messengers of the Gospel. In fact, when Jesus said to His Father, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world,” the word He used for “sent” was apostellō, of the same origin as Apostle.

The Master has sent us to the world as messengers of the good news. The question now is, how faithful and trustworthy are we as His messengers? When the doctor delivered the news of my mom’s test results, he was apprehensive and cautious. I can understand his guarded optimism because he is a messenger of medical science. Had the news been the result of medical technology his enthusiasm would have been enhanced and medical science would have received the honor and glory. But my parents and I, who heard the same news, reacted totally differently. We did not hear a message from medicine, but a message from God. The messenger may not have known it, but he was delivering a message from the Master not from medicine. The message was the same, but the recognition of the creator of the message was different. We responded with praise and thanksgiving and overwhelming joy. We responded with glory to God. The messenger received no honor, but only the creator of the message.

That’s what a trustworthy messenger does – he makes sure the message is more important than the messenger, and that the Master of the message gets all of the credit for the message. When we draw attention to ourselves as we deliver God’s message, the Holy Spirit of God is stifled and the message loses its impact and power. Even Jesus Christ, the ultimate messenger, made sure all the credit for what He said went to the Father.

  • For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49 – 50).

So as you go out into your life today and every day, recognize the incredible privilege you have to be a messenger of God, and recognize the awesome nature of the message you have been sent to deliver – JESUS SAVES AND WILL SET YOU FREE! Be a trustworthy messenger. Go and deliver the message.

Pastor John

BONUS POINT: Later on we discovered the Doctor’s message was wrong, and mom’s pancreatic cancer was still there, and it eventually took her life. NOT SO WITH GOD”S MESSAGE. We can proclaim it loudly and boldly, for it is absolute truth.

Be a Soldier

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2 Timothy 2:1 – 4  You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

After three surgeries, Spc. Christopher Taffoya still had three pieces of shrapnel in his legs from a grenade blast. But his commitment to service kept him fighting in Iraq. One evening, in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Taffoya and two other soldiers were on a neighborhood patrol only a few hundred meters from their unit’s safe house. The trio was talking to a woman who was warning them to keep an eye on her neighbor, who was a member of Saddam Hussein’s regime before it fell. This warning would be an eerie forecast of what was to come. Not five minutes later, that neighbor’s son threw a grenade from the rooftop, landing about three feet behind Taffoya.

Taffoya recalls the event. “After it blew up and I realized what happened, I made sure my two buddies were ahead of me and we started heading back to the safe house.” When it happened, my adrenaline was pumping at full speed. I kept my wits about me and was fully alert. Everything that we usually do in training just came as instinct. I knew I got hit, but I didn’t know the extent of it. Nothing hurt, but I saw some blood and was walking funny so I knew something had happened.”

The injured soldiers hobbled the short distance back to the safe house. Taffoya was evacuated to Kuwait and then to Landstuhl, Germany. While in Germany, he was presented the Purple Heart. Taffoya had nine shrapnel wounds to his feet and ankles and spent the summer recovering in Vicenza, Italy.

He’s just returned to Iraq and is finishing out his unit’s rotation with his comrades.

As the Apostle Paul describes the personal and spiritual characteristics of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30, he calls him first a brother, then a fellow worker, and now a fellow soldier. There is a natural progression of maturity expressed in these descriptive terms. Brothers become co-workers, and co-workers become soldiers. Brotherly love matures into a servant heart, which matures into a sacrificial spirit. Soldiers are willing to make any sacrifice to accomplish the mission.

In the Scripture passage above, Paul used the soldier analogy to challenge Timothy’s commitment to Christ. He brought out three truths that will help us.

  1. A good soldier believes in his commanding officer, and wants to please him. He trusts him. He knows his commander has been trained and has experienced the hardships of battle. He knows that what he will be asked to do comes from a heart of understanding and strength. Jesus Christ has been through the battle, and has experienced every hardship, trial, and temptation known to man. His orders can be trusted.
  2. A good soldier is faithful to his commanding officer. He doesn’t get sidetracked into civilian affairs, but remains true to his mission and his orders. As good soldiers of Jesus Christ we wear his uniform proudly and continuously, never taking on the appearance of the enemy.
  3. A good soldier believes that the cause is greater than the cost. He will endure any hardship to accomplish the mission. No matter how much it hurts us or those we love, good soldiers of Jesus Christ never hurt the cause by going AWOL. Even after being wounded, we get back to our battalion and finish the mission. And even if we die while serving, we know that a greater cause than our lives has been served – FREEDOM. Freedom from sin and its consequences for all who will surrender to our Commander.

So be a good soldier. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

It’s time to stand up and fight for the cause of Christ.

Pastor John

Be a Worker

Life Link Devotional

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

1 Corinthians 15:58  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

My brother Paul and I were very close in age – only 15 months apart – but we were never really close in relationship until the summer after I graduated from high school. Paul and I decided to become partners in a painting business to paint barns, farm buildings, and houses in rural North Dakota. I think we even painted a fence or two. It was hot work, and it was scary work because of the height of some of the barns, and I don’t like being up high on a shaky ladder.

Prior to that summer, I knew that my brother Paul was always there to help me if I needed it and that I would do the same for him; but it was as we worked together for a common goal that things changed in our relationship. In fact, the following year, when he graduated from high school, he called me at college to ask if he could be my roommate for the following year. That was really cool! Being a brother is one thing, but working together as brothers adds a new and more fulfilling dimension to the relationship.

This week we are studying the life of Epaphroditus based on the Apostle Paul’s description of him in Philippians 2:25-30. Yesterday we described his life as a brother to the believers and especially to Paul. To be a brother is the beginning step in becoming a complete follower of Jesus Christ. The next step is to become a worker, and Paul describes Epaphroditus as his “fellow worker”, which is the translation of a single Greek word meaning “to labor together for a common goal.”  Paul’s relationship with Epaphroditus was more than just brothers who would respond to a need; it was a relationship of shared work motivated by a spiritual objective and solidified by mutual trust and respect. They had grown beyond friendship and had become interdependent upon one another for the accomplishment of God’s purpose.

Our relationships within the body of Christ need to grow to this point of maturity. So many of our friendships with other Christians are just surface acquaintances, but lack the depth of trust and respect because we have not come together to accomplish a common goal. As followers of Jesus and fellow workers with other Christians, we are to band together to accomplish God’s purpose. We are motivated by our love Jesus, our love for each other, and the knowledge that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Years ago we had young couple in our church going through a very difficult time because of some serious medical issues with their 6-day-old baby. Another couple in our church sent me an email to deliver to the hurting parents as they watched over their baby at the Mayo hospital in Rochester, MN. The names have been changed to protect their humble spirits, but you can clearly see the hearts of two people who have grown beyond being just “brothers” and have become “fellow workers.”

Hey, thanks so much, Pastor, for the sending out the update on Ben and Helen and baby Mary. Listen, would you do me a huge favor? This whole thing has been very difficult on my wife as she and Helen have become close over the last months, and Ben and I have been developing a close friendship as well.

Would you just take a big hug and our thoughts to them when you go over there today? Tell them we love them so much and we are praying for them and the baby. Tell them that we would like to come out and see them soon but know that they need to be with each other and family right now. Also, tell them that if they need anything….meals, money, someone to come over and do laundry or clean their house, we are there for them. Thanks so much PJ. I know this would mean a lot to my wife and it does me as well. 

We Love you Ben and Helen. Give Mary a big kiss from us when you can. 

Lovingly, The Andersons

That’s what Epaphroditus was to Paul. That’s what we all should be to one another. Move beyond being a brother, and become a fellow worker. Get involved in living out the love of Jesus by laboring with and for one another as fellow workers.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,  equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20 – 21)

Pastor John

Be a Brother

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Philippians 2:25  I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,

 The second chapter of Philippians has already taught us so much about being a true servant of Jesus Christ. We heard two challenges to live in unity and harmony with one another, and we have already learned those principles by seeing two examples people who successfully did it –  Jesus Christ and Timothy. Now Paul gives us a third example in the life of Epaphroditus.

Based on his name, Epaphroditus (from the Greek goddess Aphrodite) was of Greek descent, probably born and raised in Philippi. Because of the outreach ministries of the church Paul planted in that city, Epaphroditus became a disciple of Jesus Christ. He became a very well-respected member of the church. He must have given up whatever secular employment he had to accept an appointment from the church to leave Philippi and make the forty-day trip to Rome to be with Paul and care for him while he was in prison. Paul was so impressed with the faith and commitment of Epaphroditus that he uses him as an example of a dedicated servant of Jesus. Paul tells us five things that were true of his life.

  1. He was a brother
  2. He was a fellow worker
  3. He was a fellow soldier
  4. He was a messenger
  5. He was a minister

In his commentary on Philippians, John MacArthur writes this about Epaphroditus:

“His level of sacrificial service to the Lord is especially instructive and encouraging for the believer, for whom the examples of great preachers and pastors such as Paul and Timothy may seem beyond reach. He exemplifies the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of Christ that involves no public acclaim, no prominence, no high office, no great talents or gifts. He was not a noted preacher, teacher, or leader; therefore his example seems to be more relevant and attainable.”

We can all relate to him because he was average, and yet we can all learn from him because he excelled at serving Jesus.

The first thing he did well was to be a brother to Paul. The body of Christ is built on brotherhood with Jesus. At the moment of our salvation we were made to be sons of God (See John 1:12) (see note below on use of the masculine term, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ of all eternal rewards (See Romans 8:17 and Galatians 4:7). Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus called His disciples brothers, and since we are His brothers we are also brothers with one another. So what does true Christian brotherhood look like?

First, we bring strength to one another. No man an island unto himself. If we try to be, we soon discover we are much weaker going solo than if we are in a band of brothers. Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Second, as brothers we are to serve one another in love. Paul tells the churches in Galatia, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Epaphroditus modeled this kind of servant heart for us when he left his family, home, and career to serve Paul in prison.

Third, brothers support and encourage one another even when they fail. Again, writing to the Galatians, Paul says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Brothers don’t jump on family members who are down, or condemn those who have failed, but rather they hold out a hand to lift and support.

And fourth, brothers sacrifice for one another. They are willing to not only lay down their lives for one another but also to lay down their wallets. The Apostle John tells us what this kind of sacrificial love should look like in 1 John 3:16-17. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” Epaphroditus almost died in serving Jesus Christ by ministering to Paul. He was willing to give his life to deliver the sacrificial monetary gifts the Philippian people had given. He and the people of the church loved sacrificially.

Epaphroditus showed us how to be a brother. Now, go and do likewise.

Pastor John

NOTE: The Scriptures call all men and women “sons of God” for the purpose of establishing rights of inheritance. In Christ we are all equal and inherit all of God’s spiritual blessings equally, regardless of gender, race, or color. When the Scriptures use the term “brothers” to describe the body of Christ, it includes “sisters”.

Be A Servant

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 7, 2018

Philippians 2:22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

 One of the greatest joys in my life is to be able to spend time with my children and grandchildren. Whenever I have some time off from the busyness of ministry and I’m able to go do something I enjoy doing, my first option is to call one or both of my sons and see if they are free to join me. As much as I love to hunt, fish, and golf, I get the most pleasure when I can do those things with my kids. It is getting harder because their families are growing and they have the same longings to be with their children. I’m thrilled that they are that committed to their families, but it’s hard that I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like to. But the grandkids seem to always be available for fishing or hunting, so that helps. Now if just one of them would learn to golf.

In Paul’s day, sons usually became apprentices in their father’s business, and they spent every day together pursuing a common interest and skill. The father was honored to pass on his heritage and legacy to the son and watch him become successful. I have had that privilege with my sons as we have worked together so they could learn the skills needed to be well-rounded husbands and fathers. The relational bonding that takes place during all those times is far more significant than any of the skills that are learned. The love and friendship that are shared while in the boat fishing are far more significant than the number or size of fish caught (which is a good thing because I’m not that good of a fisherman).

That’s how Paul felt about Timothy. Paul had spiritually adopted Timothy as his son. Timothy had come along side of Paul and become his apprentice in the ministry. Timothy served with him in the work of the gospel just as a son serves with his father in their family business. This has important lessons for us.

First, Timothy was commended for being a son. A healthy father-son relationship involves respect, honor, and submission on the part of the son and confidence, patience, and encouragement on the part of the father. When we find ourselves in the humble position of an apprentice, be like Timothy who treated his mentor with respect, honor, and submission. When we find ourselves in the privileged position of a mentor, be like Paul who trained his apprentice with confidence, patience, and encouragement. The goal of an apprentice is to learn all the skills necessary to carry on the work after the mentor is gone, and the goal of the mentor is to train the apprentice to be more successful than themselves.

Second, Timothy was commended for being a servant. Servants are obedient to their masters. Our first thought is that Timothy was obedient to Paul, but Paul was not his master. Paul says that Timothy served with him, so that means Paul was a servant also. Jesus Christ was their Master, and they both obeyed Him. No matter how we advance to be leaders of people, remember that we are still servants of Jesus.

Third, Timothy was commended for being similar. Timothy had excelled at his training to the point that Paul could send him to the churches to be the model of Paul’s teachings. Paul said, “He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” As much as it hurt Paul to be separated from Timothy, his confidence in Timothy’s faith and character allowed him to send him to complete the work that had been started; not because he was similar to Paul, but because both Paul and Timothy were similar to Christ.

When I call my sons and they are not able to join me for a round of golf because of their obligations to their families, I am disappointed for myself but thrilled for their wives and children, because I am confident of their faith and their character. I know they will be representing Jesus Christ to their families because I trained them to do it. They may not do it perfectly yet, but neither do I. But I am proud of my sons and my daughter. As a mentor, this is the culmination of ministry and the fulfillment of joy. As an apprentice, this is your goal.

So, whether you are a mentor or an apprentice, be faithful and excel at what you do, knowing that you do it as a servant of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Proven Character

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 4, 2018

Philippians 2:22 But you know that Timothy has proven himself…

I wonder what motivated Timothy to sign on to Paul’s second missionary journey. Like many of us, the excitement of traveling to far off lands could have captivated him. Like so many young people, he may have been bored with his home town and been stifled with the limited number of opportunities for career advancement. Maybe he was a natural risk-taker and he was looking for the next emotional high. Maybe he was ready to finally get out from under his parent’s wings. So many of us make choices based on these types of criteria. However, I don’t think that’s what Timothy did.

The fourth identifying mark of a spiritual role model is that he has proven himself to have a true servant spirit.

When Paul arrived in Lystra and began to minister there, the men of the church spoke highly of a young man named Timothy. They saw the working of the Holy Spirit in Timothy’s life. His consistent commitment to Jesus Christ was evident to them all. When Paul met Timothy, he confirmed all that was being said about him. He decided that Timothy would be of great value to his church planting efforts. He asked Timothy to join him in the adventure of the gospel.

I’m reasonably sure that these men talked about where they would go and the difficulties they would encounter. I’m sure Timothy had a realistic understanding of the hardships that were ahead. But none of that mattered because in his heart and spirit he had heard the call of God to this ministry. Apart from all the personal reasons he could have considered to either go or stay at home, he had only one criteria for what he would decide – what God was telling him to do.

Years ago, God revealed to me that a young man in our church was being called to future leadership in the church. I remember well the day that I called him up and asked him to go to lunch with me. As I shared with him what I knew God was doing in his life, and how he was highly regarded for his consistent commitment to Jesus Christ, a tear came to his eye, which of course brought tears to mine. As we talked, this young man’s humble spirit became the spirit of a servant, and he accepted the challenge to take whatever steps were necessary to eventually become an elder in our church. For twelve years he humbly served in various positions and proved himself faithful in each one. He is well respected by the body of Christ, and today, even though it is not at Calvary, he is an Elder in his church. It is outside his natural comfort zones, but he heard the call of God and made his choice based on that alone.

It is obvious that Timothy made his choice for the same reason. His first assignment as a missionary was to submit to the painful procedure of circumcision. God tested his commitment right from the start, and Timothy proved himself faithful. I wonder how many times we have backed down from a commitment because it turned out to be tougher than we expected. In Romans 5:3-4, Paul writes, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

The test of commitment is the first step in the process of maturity. Far too many people have dropped out before they experience any blessing because they can’t pass the first test. But look at what happens if you persevere – you develop character. That word character in Romans 5:4 is the same word used to describe Timothy in Philippians 2:22 when Paul says he has proven himself. That is significant. Timothy’s commitment to the cause of Christ, no matter what the test, trial, hardship, or suffering, gave him character. He had proven himself faithful.

What is being said about us by the people around us? Do they see consistent commitment to God’s call? Can they say honestly that we have proven ourselves faithful? Beyond that, regardless of what people say, what does God see?

My friends, after all has been considered, listen to God’s call alone, and be faithful to it. It is only when we have been proven to have character that we experience hope.

Pastor John