Wisdom’s Buddies

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 10:13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning…

Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight.

Men understand the concept of buddies. Women have friends; men have buddies. The difference is simply in how they share intimacy.

  • Friends sit down and have a heart to heart talk: buddies share a recreational moment and wrestle each other with their words.
  • Friends consider their words carefully so they have the greatest impact with the least amount of pain: buddies expect pain.
  • Friends would never throw jabs: buddies throw jabs, hooks, and uppercuts.

I’m glad I have buddies. They challenge me. They sharpen me. They teach me lessons I must learn so I become better. They are not afraid of a fight that they know will result in growth.

It may seem shallow to those who have friends with whom they can have heart to heart talks, but I guarantee you the intimacy level of a buddy’s confrontation is no less significant. We need each other. We would not be the men we are today if it were not for incredible buddies who spoke the truth in love.

Wisdom has buddies – four of them. They form a band of brothers that are inseparable. They challenge each other. They sharpen each other. They bring out the best in each other. Before I introduce you to them, let’s review our working definition of wisdom from yesterday.

Wisdom is the ability to assess a situation accurately and develop a workable plan to accomplish a desired goal.

Here are wisdom’s buddies:

  1. Knowledge – Wisdom would have no foundation if not for his buddy knowledge. Knowledge of God is essential to the ability to accurately assess any situation in life.
  2. Understanding – Wisdom must have understanding or the only thing available to us are facts. Understanding brings an emotional connection to the facts as well as the ability to assess any situation.
  3. Discernment – Wisdom needs discernment, or the wrong facts would be applied to the wrong situations. When facts and emotions are buddied up with discernment, then wisdom is able to develop a workable
  4. Insight – Wisdom’s plans have no outcomes of real value if they are developed without insight. Insight is essential to the eternal worth of the desired

If we were to remove any one of these buddies from this band of brothers, wisdom would cease to function. It is possible we are not considered as wise people because one of the buddies has been eliminated from the brotherhood in our lives. We must ask ourselves these heart-searching questions:

  1. Is my knowledge of the Holy One growing every day so that His Presence captivates my heart?
  2. Is my mind being transformed every day so that I understand the connection between the knowledge of God and the situations of life? Am I seeking to turn the facts into workable principles for life?
  3. Am I prayerfully discerning the truth of the situations in which I am involved, seeking to develop a workable plan that accurately applies the principles I understand to be true?
  4. Am I prayerfully considering the long-term spiritual impact of the plan I have developed, seeking God’s insight into His desired purpose?

When wisdom gets together with his four buddies, watch out – they’re going to make noise, and something will probably get broken – the power of the enemy!

Pastor John

What is Wisdom?

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

James 3:13  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom…

How would you define wisdom? Many people define it in a limited way as knowledge based on experience. To these people, experience is a wonderful thing. It enables them to recognize a mistake when they make it again.

Unfortunately, this also defines a fool, who keeps doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.

According to James 3:13, wisdom involves both understanding and action. Our human dictionary agrees. It states that wisdom is both a quality and an action. Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Wisdom also determines the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

Here’s my attempt to write good working definition of wisdom:

Wisdom is the ability to assess a situation accurately and develop a workable plan to accomplish a desired goal.

Two words help me to distinguish between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom – accurately and desired.  An accurate assessment of any situation depends upon humble spiritual insight that only comes through a Christ-centered mindset. Desired goals that are not dictated by the purpose of God will end up in disorder and ultimately fail. True wisdom develops workable plans based on an understanding of God’s purpose. Such plans are always God glorifying.

Many times, we forget one or both of those vital elements of decision-making. We usually take into consideration the plan of God, but we forget to include God in the outcome. We may study our Bibles and find truths and principles that apply to our situation so we can develop a plan that honors God, but then we may forget to designate God as the beneficiary of any results of the plan. We tend to get so wrapped up in the process that we forget to honor the One responsible for the product. Let me illustrate.

A young ensign, after nearly completing his first overseas cruise, was given an opportunity to display his capabilities at getting the ship under way. He wanted to display his ability to assess the situation accurately and implement a workable plan to accomplish the desired goal. With a stream of commands, he had the decks buzzing with men, and soon the ship was steaming out the channel on route to the United States.

His efficiency established a new record for getting a destroyer under way, and he was not surprised when a seaman approached him with a message from the captain. He was a bit surprised, though, to find it a radio message and even more surprised to read: “My personal congratulations upon completing your underway preparation exercise according to the book and with amazing speed. In your haste, however, you have overlooked one of the unwritten rules—make sure the captain is aboard before getting under way.”

Principle number one of being wise – make sure the outcome of every workable plan not only includes the Captain of our souls but also honors Him.

Pastor John

Becoming Godly

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 14, 2019

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…

1 Timothy 4:8 … godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 Timothy 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

The three Scripture passages above are a great conclusion to our study of being strong and wearing the armor God has provided us. The total pursuit of God’s glory is to be reflected in every aspect of our lives. The power of the indwelling presence of Jesus produces the work of godliness, and in our commitment to wearing the armor godliness is accomplished.

In my files I found this anonymous prayer that encourages and challenges me.

The Warrior’s Prayer

Heavenly Father,

your warrior prepares for battle.

Today I claim victory over Satan by putting on

the whole armor of God.

I put on the Belt of Truth!

May I stand firm in the truth of Your Word

so I will not be a victim of Satan’s lies.

I put on the Breastplate of Righteousness!

May it guard my heart from evil

so I will remain pure and holy,

protected under the blood of Jesus Christ.

I put on the Shoes of Peace!

May I stand firm in the Good News of the Gospel

so Your peace will shine through me

and be a light to all I encounter.

I take the Shield of Faith!

May I be ready for Satan’s fiery darts of

doubt, denial, and deceit

so I will not be vulnerable to spiritual defeat.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation!

May I keep my mind focused on You

so Satan will not have a stronghold on my thoughts.

I take the Sword of the Spirit!

May the two-edged sword of Your Word

be ready in my hands

so I can expose the tempting words of Satan.

By faith your warrior has put on

the whole armor of God.

I am prepared to live this day in spiritual victory!

Amen

May I suggest that we read that prayer every morning as a part of our routine to start the day.  I have found that it changes my perspective and gives me strength for what is ahead. Especially on Monday.

Pastor John

Overcome Fear

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 11, 2019

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Fear kept me from being very good at sports when I was a youngster. I remember the very first time I ever tried out for little league baseball. Playing baseball was my dream. My grandfather used to play catch with me and taught me how to throw the ball straight and with a curve. My mom used to tell me stories of the days she would watch the Cleveland Indians at the old stadium on the shores of Lake Erie. She even took me there for a game. I remember my boyhood hero – Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers – and in my office I still have a baseball hat he autographed. I dreamed of playing baseball like Mr. Kaline.

But when I took the field that first day of tryouts, I was scared silly. I had a baseball glove that was ok, but when I saw the gloves the other boys had I knew I would not be able to compete.

Some of them wore baseball shoes, and I only had tennis shoes on. I knew I would not be able to compete.

Most of them had been playing organized ball for a couple of years already, and I was the outsider and didn’t fit into their group. I knew I would not be able to compete.

I saw the way they caught the ball and threw the ball and stood with confidence at the plate swinging hard at the fastballs the coach threw at them. I knew I would not be able to compete.

I was afraid because I had decided that my value and acceptance as a person came from my performance on the baseball diamond, and that performance was about to be sub-standard, meaning that’s what I was. I thought I was not worthy to compete.

I was living in a spirit of fear – fear of what others would think of me, fear of not measuring up to someone else’s standard, and fear of having to face the reality of my poor performance. My dream became a nightmare.

But then something happened – I made the team. I was assigned the position of second baseman. I found out later that everyone made a team, and that second base was the best position to put a poor player because other players who could cover for him surrounded him. But none of that mattered – I was on the team.

I still had lots of fear. What if I miss a ball and blow the game? What if I strike out and blow the game? Every thought I had was from the negative perspective. I knew I could not compete.

I hated that first year, but my dream did not die. I played every year after that and fell more deeply in love with the game. I began to play with confidence, and the day came when I fulfilled my dream (to a degree) and played outfield, just like Al Kaline, on several Amateur Baseball League teams in North and South Dakota. We made it to the state championship game several times.

To accomplish all of that, I had to conquer my fears. I did that by discovering my value and acceptance in Christ and not in people’s opinions or standards. To remind me of that every day, there is a trophy in my office from 1967, the second year I played baseball, and my team won the city championship. Not because I was so good, but because I was learning to not live in fear. I was learning to live in the power of a sound mind. That didn’t come from wearing a batting helmet but by wearing the helmet of salvation. In Christ I am complete, and that removes the obstacle of fear.

Pastor John

Trials Make Us Strong

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January10, 2019

1 Peter 1:5-7through faith [we] 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.

Through my study the armor of God in Ephesians 6 I have discovered three distinct ways in which the armor accomplishes God’s purpose to make us strong.

  • It helps us survive trials;
  • It helps us overcome obstacles;
  • It nurtures Godliness

For the next three days let’s look at each one through the lens of other Scripture passages. 

There are three pieces of armor that specifically protect us from the attack of Satan – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shield of faith.

  • Truth is the foundation of all our beliefs;
  • The righteousness of Christ protects our hearts so that the life-giving blood of Jesus can flow continuously through our whole body;
  • Our faith in the presence, power, and promises of God protects us from the attacks of Satan against our personal worth and purpose.

With these three pieces of armor in place we are able to survive anything this sinful world throws at us and rejoice in Christ while doing it.

Here’s an analogy that has deep meaning:

Look at that vessel in the midst of the storm; see how the wild waves show their white teeth as if laughing at all the efforts of the sailors to keep it from sinking. It will weather the storm, say the sailors, if the mast will only hold out. Why should they have such confidence in the mast? Where did it grow? On the very heights of the stormy hills. That mast will weather the storm, for it is itself the child of storms.

That’s how God prepares His heroes on the heights, among storms and winter, and in much suffering. But they have grown strong and resistant as the result of it, and they will never fail, however fierce the fight. They have endured hardness in the beginning and shall now prove they are “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.

Today’s Scripture passage from First Peter is one of my favorites because of the hope and joy that it gives. The hope is found in the statement that the trials will most assuredly prove the genuineness of our faith which will result in praise, honor, and glory to Jesus. The joy is experienced even during the trials because we are assured of the outcome. Every trial and test makes us stronger to stand against the storms yet to come.

Li Cha Mi, a Chinese preacher, was nearly killed in 1872 by robbers during the violence against foreigners. At a subsequent conference, he said: “You have all heard of my sufferings during the past few months. I wish to say that these sufferings were very slight. It was easy to endure pain when I could feel that I bore it for Christ. It is wonderful—I cannot explain it. When attacked by the robbers and beaten almost to death, I felt no pain. Their blows did not seem to hurt me at all. Everything was bright and glorious. Heaven seemed to open, and I thought I saw Jesus waiting to receive me. It was beautiful. I have no words to describe it. Since that time I seem to be a new man. I now know what it is to ‘love not the world.’ My affections are set on things above. Persecutions trouble me not. I forget all my sorrows when I think of Jesus. I call nothing on earth my own. I find that times of trial are best for me. When all is quiet and prosperous, I grow careless and yield to temptation, but when persecutions come, then I fly to Christ. The fiercer the trial, the better it is for my soul.”

When our perspective is correctly focused on the hope of glory, the joy of the Lord is our strength and we will not only survive trials, but they will make us stronger. Rejoice in the Lord – you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Pastor John

Put It On!

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ephesians 6:11 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 

I apologize to all of you who are not football fans, but the football analogy will be used again today. Yesterday we discovered that it is foolish to think that the equipment makes the man. It is equally foolish to believe that the man doesn’t need the equipment.

Imagine this scenario – two teams take to the field for the opening kick-off. In a prideful attempt to prove their strength and skill, the team set to receive the kick-off is wearing no football equipment. Instead, to show off their muscles they are wearing spandex shorts, no shirts, and no helmets. They take their positions, all the while pumping up their chests and flexing their biceps.

The opposing team is not impressed, and when the kicker boots the ball to the goal line they rush to engage their foolish opponents. Helmets and shoulder pads smash into unprotected muscle and bodies are strewn across the field. Some of the players get up and prepare for the first offensive play, but they are already in pain. By the time a few more plays have been run, it is obvious that this is going to be a massacre that will probably end in forfeit, as the unprotected players will not be able to continue.

That is exactly the spiritual scenario when we do not put on the full armor of God. We are completely unprepared to take any kind of a stand against the forces of evil if we do not wear our spiritual pads and helmet. The enemy is not willing to weaken himself simply because we are weak. The opponent does not call time out to give us time to go back to the locker room and get prepared. The war is on, and the opening kick-off has already taken place. Put on your armor.

Notice three important truths from verse 11 in today’s Scripture reading:

  1. It is our responsibility to put on the armor. In His grace God has given us the equipment, but we must choose to wear it. Everything we need to be protected in the war is in our locker, but we must dress ourselves.
  2. The equipment is provided to make us able to stand. When we are wearing the armor we CAN. Don’t go into the war with doubt. We do not need to learn to stand, nor are we just trying to stand stronger; we CAN stand.
  3. The stand we take is a personal stand – so that you can take your stand. God has called us and equipped us to be warriors in a war that is already won, but we must be committed to the battle.  When we truly believe in the King we will adopt His goals as our own and we will accept our privilege of taking our stand.

One more thing from verse 13 – Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Notice the guaranteed outcome. After we have taken our stand, and done everything God has asked us to do, we will still be standing!

What a great team we are on. We win and everyone on the team is still standing – if they wore their armor. Is yours on right now?

Pastor John

Be Strong!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ephesians 6:10 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

This is one of my favorite times of the year when it comes to watching sports on television. The college football bowl games were so much fun. NFL playoff games now capture my attention. Teams have prepared all year for these games, ready to put on all their equipment and take a stand against an opponent that is seeking to knock them down and run over them.

There’s something interesting I’ve noticed about all of the protective equipment that they wear: with the exception of some specialized pads to protect specific injuries, they all wear the same things – helmets, shoulder pads, hip pads, and thigh pads. Yet in any given game, with all the same equipment, one team beats the other. It must not be the equipment that wins games.

Inside all that equipment is a person, and it is the strength, skill and preparation of the player that makes the difference in the game. The equipment is to protect him, not equip him. Having the equipment on makes the player less vulnerable to injury, so the fear factor is diminished, giving the player the opportunity to push himself to his physical limits. But all the energy and execution are the responsibility of the player and not the equipment.

As Christians we are also in a battle against an opponent, but this is no game. It is a war. The opposition will not extend a hand and help us up after they have knocked us down. They are coached to maim and destroy. They will not meet us at the 50-yard line to shake hands and kneel in prayer when it is over. They are an intimidating team. But before we run and hide and forfeit the “game” out of fear, let’s hear a motivational speech from our Coach.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. You are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (From 1 John, John’s Gospel, and Luke)

We have two huge advantages over the opponent: Our Coach has already beaten their coach, and our Coach actually lives inside us. When the opponent puts on their equipment they simply take orders from their coach. But when we put on God’s armor, the Holy Spirit is in it with us, and since he has already beaten the enemy once and for all, we are guaranteed of victory.

The point of all of this is to get our focus on the right thing – our strength is not in the armor, but in the power of God abiding in us.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 

The armor protects us from injury, but it is Jesus Christ who equips us from within to push ourselves to our physical and spiritual limits. It is His power in us that wins the war. Our preparation for battle starts before we put any armor on – it starts in our hearts where Jesus Christ the Coach comes to live and reign. Once we are strong in Him, then we can put on the armor and fight the war.

More on the armor tomorrow. Be Strong!

Pastor John