CHECK INSIDE

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Prejudice is a sin. But I would be wrong to assume that none of us are prejudiced. We may not be prejudiced in certain areas, like race, but we may be prejudiced about other things – like disabilities.

Leviticus 19 :15  “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

We all need someone in our lives who will help us conquer prejudicial tendencies. People with enough courage to speak truthfully to us can make a difference. My friend Dudley Donaldson discovered such a friend, and it’s made a huge difference in his life. Here’s his story…

“My first year in the dorms at UW-Madison, I kept noticing a guy in a wheelchair in the cafeteria.  He was very small, his body contorted and hunched over.  He struggled to feed himself and depended on others to get him around from place to place.  But I noticed he always had a group of fellow students around him.  They were always laughing and talking together and this guy in the wheelchair was obviously an important part of the group.  Coming from a very sheltered home life, I felt very uncomfortable around people different from me.  This guy made me very uncomfortable, so I made it my practice to always avoid him.  I’m ashamed to admit that whenever I saw him, I would go the other way.  My second year, as I moved into my new dorm room, I noticed that the door right across the hall from me had a little handicapped symbol on it.  I thought, “Oh no.”  But it couldn’t be, could it?  It could, and it was!  That same guy in the wheelchair lived right across the hall from me!  I tried to ignore him, but it was impossible.  Impossible because he came knocking on my door, introducing himself.  His name was Bob. I soon came to learn that he loved Jesus with all his heart.  The people I always saw with him in the cafeteria were Christian friends, involved with the Navigators.  Soon I was pulled into that same group and for the first time I experienced the love of Christian friends my age.  Bob and I became very close friends.  He was truly an inspiration to me.  Everyone could see how difficult everyday life was for him.  His twisted little body was difficult to look at, even after getting to know him.  But the love of Jesus shown in his eyes and through his life.  On the back of his wheelchair he had a bumper sticker that read, “I’m eternally grateful to Jesus!”  Wow, talk about a testimony!  I always assumed Bob was content to be in that chair and accepted it as just the way it was, but one day he told me that he often had a dream where he was walking on a beach with a girl, holding her hand.  As we talked, I realized that the joy Bob expressed in his life wasn’t because he was naturally a joyful person.  It was because of his relationship with Jesus Christ.  His daily life was a horrible struggle, but still Jesus was his joy.  Bob taught me so much about “walking” with Christ.  He taught me to be eternally grateful to Jesus.  And I’m eternally grateful to God for leading me to my good friend, Bob.

In Christ, sin and its consequences have been abolished. In Christ, we are spiritually healed from all sin’s disabilities. In Christ, the inside is made holy, so the outside is acceptable. Hallelujah! Bob is living proof. Dudley now understands. Prejudice is being conquered.

We must guard against making decisions about people until we know who they are on the inside. We can all be thankful Jesus did that with us.

Pastor John

HUGS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

When our children were little, we did something at the conclusion of their conflict with a sibling – and they hated it. We made them hug each other. But we knew that while forced affection during times of animosity is repulsive, it’s also healing. 

One of the churches the Apostle Paul planted was filled with dissention and animosity. It is the church that Paul wrote to the most. We have two of at least four letters he wrote in our New Testament. It was the church at Corinth. After addressing each of their issues, Paul concludes his letter with this phrase – Greet one another with a holy kiss. 

1 Corinthians 16:19-20  “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

Forced affection. No conflict was to ever destroy the unity of brotherly love and affection. No personal disputes were to ever overwhelm the reality of acceptance in the Body of Christ. No disagreement was to ever become more important than the spirit of a person. Caring for people is always more important than caring about issues.

We live in a world that is filled with people longing for acceptance and significance. To quote Gary Chapman, “Their love tanks are empty.” Something so simple as a hug can begin the filling process. Here’s a story from a devotional reader who shares that a hug made a difference in her life.

“Even at 8 or 9 years of age, I knew this woman was different and I respected and admired her.  She was my third grade teacher, Esther Lindgren.  She began every school day by reading to us from the Bible!!!  Even in 1964 this was not a common practice.  She stood out in our small community as a very caring and loving woman of God.  Later in my teen years this lady had a major impact in my salvation, and with such a small and seemingly insignificant action.  I knew she was a woman that had a strong faith, but it was her smile and hugs that brought me that last step into Jesus’ arms.  I was searching and I went to her church.  Every time that she saw me, she would grab me and hug me and say, “I’m so glad that you are here today!”  I felt so loved.  Somebody cared. I wanted what she had.  What a simple thing that we all can do!  On this side of heaven we can never know how all those seemingly insignificant actions and words will affect someone. God can use anything and anyone.”

That young girl grew up to be my wife, and is now filling the love tanks of countless people. She’s making a difference in others because someone made a difference in hers. And she’s not the only one who’s been impacted by honest and sincere gestures of love and acceptance. A former member of our church who moved away many years ago, Marian, writes this,

“I want to thank the Pastoral staff and church family of Calvary Baptist Church of Eau Claire, WI for being the first to show me what true acceptance into the body of believers really meant by fostering a  “walking into a hug” fellowship. I got a lot of hugs! I love and appreciate you both. You…have made a profound impact on my life. The church family accepted me and loved me (hat included) as I was. I didn’t have to conform to fit in. You as a church used what I had to offer and made me feel loved and wanted and part of the family. Do you know how rare that is? I do! In my previous 55 years, Calvary was the first to do it.”

I love what Marian said about having a “walking into a hug” fellowship. What a great word picture. Unfortunately for her, and for many others, it took her a long time to discover it. How many people do we meet every day who are longing – craving – for fellowship that feels like walking into a hug. We who have walked into the eternal hug of Jesus are the ones who have hugs to share. Even if you must force it for now, learn to put aside your personal agenda, anxiety, and animosity, and show the affection of Jesus to someone longing for acceptance. Let the love of Christ dwell richly in you and love each other deeply with a sincere love. Greet one another with a holy kiss (HUG).

Pastor John

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

It was late in the summer of 1977. Our first child was only seven weeks old. I had moved my small family from North Dakota to Iowa to take a new position in management with my company. We immediately got involved in a wonderful church in town. The pastor happened to be a lifelong acquaintance of my mother. After attending for several weeks, Pastor Garl Brand, whom our daughter would later call “Pastor Grandpa”, invited me to his office. He said something to me that changed the direction of my life. He said that God had impressed upon his heart that I was in the wrong profession. My business experience would be useful in the future, but that I was called to be a pastor and I needed to get back on track. He committed to training me in all the aspects of church life and pastoral responsibility. As a result, two years later, I began a bi-vocational ministry to two small churches in South Dakota that eventually led to full time ministry here in Wisconsin. Garl made a difference in my life.

Today we begin a devotional series about people who made a difference. I’m sure we all have stories of people who made a difference in our lives. I would love to hear yours. In fact, over the next few weeks, we are going to be looking at people who made a difference. If you send me your story of someone who made a difference in your life, maybe I’ll use it in one of these devotionals.

As we start, let me remind you that you are a person who can make a difference in someone’s life. In the little book of Philemon in the New Testament, Paul makes a difference in the life of a slave named Onesimus who had stolen from his master, Philemon, and then run away. Somehow, by God’s grace, Onesimus met Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome. Paul shared Christ with him, and Onesimus became a repentant follower of Jesus. Onesimus had gone from being useless to his former master, to being useful both to Paul and Philemon. Paul made a difference in his life.

Philemon 1:10-11  “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”

There are questions that plague many of us. “What difference does my life make?” “What use am I in the world?” “Would anything be appreciably different if I were not here?” I’m sure we have all thought about such things from time to time. I found something written by Keith Robinson, who says,

“There is an old saying about putting your hand in a pail of water and withdrawing it: the hole that remains is how much you will be missed when you are gone! I am not pessimistic, depressed, or tired of living, but in reality, I have to recognize that my life has not made much of an impact on the world, certainly nothing like I had intended when I was 18 years old. But I am encouraged by the fact that human worth is not measured only in terms of fame, fortune, and sociopolitical influence. Perhaps the greatest measure of our value is how much we are needed by some other human being. The once useless Onesimus became ‘useful’ to Paul and to Philemon. When the final books are balanced and closed, the greatest tribute anyone could receive would be: They were useful! Someone needed them! And what greater ambition could a person entertain than to be needed, to be useful. If there is someone who needs my love, if there is someone who looks forward to my presence, even if I can be nothing much more than just the object to someone’s love, then I am not worthless. My life is not in vain. My existence is not futile. I may not be much, but I can love someone and make them feel needed. I can be the object of someone else’s love and thus fill their needs and mine. No one is useless unless they give up on life and love.

 Your life does make a difference. God planned it that way. You will have an impact on someone today whether you recognize it or not. Whether that impact will be negative or positive is up to you, but your life will make a difference.  

Pastor John

PEACE AND LOVE WITH FAITH

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ephesians 6:23-24  “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Ephesus with a standard benediction, but I believe that even things that seem standard have divine importance for our lives. In fact, I find several very important truths in the closing two verses. Here are a couple of thought stimulators for your day.

First, I see a distinction between verse 23 and 24. Verse 23 challenges us in our attitudes and behaviors towards those within the body of Christ. Verse 24 challenges us with our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 23 is about the horizontal life we live, and verse 24 is about the vertical life we live. The life we live with others is to be lived as a product of the love we have for Jesus.  

It is an old and maybe overused analogy, but it is still very true – input determines output. Garbage in – garbage out. “Bad company corrupts good character,” says Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. But when we input the peace and love of God into our lives, that’s what will flow out of us towards others.

Second, we are to be personally characterized by two attributes – peace and love. Paul sends peace to the brothers. Remember, he is in prison while he writes this. The people of the church are worried about him. They are deeply impacted by his condition because as members of the same body they hurt when he hurts. Paul understands the depth of personal emotions when people are connected at the heart of Jesus. He knows they are hurting for him, so he says, “Peace to you.” He wants them to rest and be quiet in the truth that God is in control. He doesn’t want his current circumstances to contribute to their conflict, but rather to be a connecting point of confidence in Christ. He wants them to be one with each other.  

Then Paul says he wants us to have love with faith. Rather than separate these two into separate characteristics, I want to suggest that Paul may have had something else in mind. One simple possibility is that he was referring to love being the natural outflow of our faith. But there’s more. The source of our love with faith is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. How did they model love with faith for us? Well, if we take the primary meaning of faith to be the moral conviction of truth, then it doesn’t apply to God. He does not have faith – He is the object of our faith. Jesus does not have a moral conviction of truth, He is the truth. But there is a secondary meaning to the word faith – constancy. It is that meaning that describes the nature and character of God. He is faithful. He is consistent. His love was carried to its completion on the cross of Christ. His love never fails.

I believe Paul is telling us to have that kind of love – love that is constant and consistent. Love that does not waver with circumstances. Love that doesn’t demand response. Love that proves our faith. This is critical as we witness to the grace of God. If we say that we know the truth, and our faith is in the One True God who never changes, and that love is the product of our faith, the love will be consistently seen in us. If the product of faith doesn’t validate the faith, then the faith is of no value.

Paul concludes his letter with one more challenge – to love the Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. The word undying means incorruptible and perpetual. It’s how we are to love Christ, and how we are to love one another. As I get older I realize how love gets stronger. I love the Lord more than ever, and it’s the deepest and darkest trials that strengthen it the most, because I get to experience the faithfulness of His love for me. I love my wife more than ever, and it’s the grace I get from her every day that makes me love her more.

My friends, there is no stronger anchor to hold you in the hurricanes of life than the love of God. There is no more secure place to ride out the storms of life than in the grip of God. Love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. His grace will be sufficient for you every day.

Pastor John

TRUE FRIENDSHIP

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, May 13, 2022

We got the first call at around 7:30 in the morning. I was already at the office when Denise called me. Our son Josh was on his way home from work to take his wife Brittany to the hospital. It was the day of the birth of our sixth grandchild. (We now have eleven.) All day long we checked in for updates, and when the time was getting close, we went up to the hospital to wait for the big moment. Twelve hours after the first phone call Josh came out to the waiting room with a picture and announced that he had another son. His name is Liam Chandler, and all eight pounds twelve ounces of him are perfect.

As we waited at the hospital, one of Brittany’s best friends, who is also a nurse and also pregnant, became the messenger of news during the delivery process. That’s kind of interesting when I think of it, because it makes her the “soon to deliver delivery delivery person”. Anyway, each time there was a development in the delivery, she would depart the delivery room and deliver the news to us. She became our conduit of connection to our children. She told us how Brittany was doing, how Josh was doing, and how much time was left. She was such an encouragement to us. She was such a servant.

Ephesians 6:21-22  “Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.” 

Tychicus was such a person. Paul calls him a dear brother and faithful servant. Tychicus had accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey, and delivered two of his letters to churches – this one to Ephesus and the letter to the Colossians. But he was much more than a delivery man. Tychicus was the personal representative of Paul to the people of the churches. When Tychicus spoke, he shared more than information – he shared the heart of Paul. When Tychicus spoke, people became emotionally attached to Paul because he was so deeply connected to Paul.

Paul told the people at Ephesus that when Tychicus shared everything that was going on in Paul’s life, they would know not only what he was doing but also how he was. In fact, Paul said the very purpose he was sending Tychicus was so that the people would know how he was. This is so important. True friendship and intimacy is based on intimate knowledge of a person not on just the knowledge of what they are doing. Most of our conversations with people are pretty shallow and focus on activity. Deep relationships focus on the heart, and relationships like that are the most meaningful and fulfilling.

The reason I emphasized the word know in the last paragraph is because it is the key to the whole point I am making. Jesus used the same word when He described His relationship with us in John 15:5 – “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Twice he uses the word in this verse. Once to describe the lack of knowledge of a servant, and once to describe the depth of knowledge of a friend. The contrast is significant. The servant doesn’t even know the master’s business, but the friend has had everything revealed to Him. We are the friends of Jesus, and everything that He learned from the Father has been made known to us. Not just through the passing on of information, but through the experience of the life of Christ. In the prayer of Jesus in John 17, Jesus says, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” WOW! The same love that God has for His Son is found in us because the Son lives in us. Hallelujah!

It’s not the knowledge of what someone is doing that determines the depth of friendship, it’s the experience of who the person is. That’s what Tychicus brought to the people at Ephesus – the experience of Paul’s life. That’s what Brittany’s friend brought to us at the hospital 12 years ago. That’s what each one of us has the opportunity to do with others. It’s what true fellowship in the body of Christ is all about. So ask yourself, “Am I that kind of a friend, or am I just a delivery person?” Delivery people, in the scope of relationship information, are usually called gossips. Friends bring others into the experience of the people they love and encourage them. Let’s choose to be friends like Tychicus.

Pastor  John

BE FEARLESS

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Some things never change. Human nature is the biggest proof of that. From mankind’s beginnings in the garden of Eden until today, we have not really changed. We have advanced technologically and culturally, but not behaviorally. We have the same dreams of personal fulfillment and the same fears of inadequacy. No matter how advanced we believe we have become on the outside, inside, the nature of man is still the same. We strive for acceptance, and we fear rejection.

This applies to our spiritual lives as well. No matter how strong we think we have become in our faith, we still battle the tendencies of the flesh. No matter how spiritually mature we may claim to be, we still battle the desire to be accepted and the fear of rejection. Satan loves to take our feelings of failure and magnify them in our minds to the point that we become convinced we are worthless. The pride of life convinces us that we should have no weakness. When one is revealed, we are shattered. When will we learn to just be honest and transparent, and trust the grace of God for all of our approval?

Ephesians 6:19-20  “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

I’m encouraged by these verses because I see that the Apostle Paul also battled fear. He knew that he needed the warriors of the faith to stand with him in prayer against the enemy of fear so he could accomplish God’s mission. If he didn’t battle with fear, then he wouldn’t have asked for prayer to be fearless – twice! I think the biggest arena of fear in our spiritual lives is witnessing, and in that stadium, we need to take a stronger stand, because Satan is whipping us. Paul knew it was the bottom line of spiritual warfare, for if the Gospel is not shared, then people are not saved, and the Kingdom of God ceases to grow.

Leighton Ford, an evangelist with the Billy Graham Association from 1955 to 1985, wrote a book in 1977 called Good News is for Sharing. In his book he writes the following:

“In preparing for this book, I have talked to a lot of people, and the fear issue comes up front again and again. What makes people hesitate to share their faith? Here are some of the fears that have been mentioned to me:”

  • “I am afraid I might do more harm than good.”
  • “I don’t know what to say.”
  • “I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions.”
  • “I may seem bigoted.”
  • “I may invade someone’s privacy.”
  • “I am afraid I might fail.”
  • “I am afraid I might be a hypocrite.”

We can all relate to some of those questions, and have thought them ourselves. But there is an even greater fear than any of these. Dr. Ford continues…

“Perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected. A survey was given to those attending training sessions for the Billy Graham crusade in Detroit. One question asked, “What is your greatest hindrance to witnessing?” Fifty-one percent answered that they feared how the other person would react! None of us likes to be rejected, ridiculed, or regarded as an oddball.

The fear of rejection is powerful. But notice something about Paul’s request that people pray for him to speak fearlessly about Christ. Do you remember where Paul was when he wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus? He was in jail in Rome. He had already been arrested and imprisoned for witnessing. It would be logical to assume that he had conquered his fears. But he knew that in any situation, the power of the flesh can rise up and defeat the desire to please the Lord, and Paul wanted every piece of the armor in place so he could stand strong, no matter what the consequences. That final piece of God’s armor is this – the army of the Lord standing together in prayer that we would be fearless in carrying out the command of the King to share the Gospel with the whole world.

Paul closes this passage with three important words – as I should. Here’s a test for you. Be careful – it’s going to cut deep. When you are in public, and have an opportunity to include Jesus Christ in your conversation, or to share a biblical principle or truth as a part of a conversation, do you do it or do your fears overwhelm you and keep you silent? If your fears win out, then the reality is that your desire to satisfy self is more powerful than your love for God. OUCH! But it’s true. We will do the things we really want to do. May the joy of your salvation and the hope of eternal glory so overwhelm you that your desire is to please the Lord who saved you. I will be praying that whenever you open your mouth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be heard, and that you will do it fearlessly.

Pastor John

PRAYER TRANSFORMS OUR MINDS

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Years ago I rode motorcycle. One morning as I rode to the office, I noticed a difference in my attitude towards other drivers. When I’m in my car, I’m fairly arrogant about my rights and my skills. I look ahead and know what’s happening several cars in front of me, and I’m usually prepared for any emergency. Unfortunately, I tend to think poorly about other drivers who obviously are not really paying attention. I’m embarrassed by those prideful thoughts, but I’m even more ashamed of the actions that follow those thoughts.

For example, when I’m in my car, and I’m on a four lane road that will soon become only two lanes, I know which lane is the one that ends and which lane has the right of way to proceed. (By the way, the sign tells you which lane that is.) I plan ahead and make sure I’m in the correct lane well before the point of change. You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Suddenly, there’s a person coming up beside me as I approach the point where the lanes merge. One of us has to slow down and let the other one go ahead. Since I’m in the correct lane that is not ending, I refuse to slow down. If they hit me, it will be their fault. I’m not proud of that attitude.

The mind that is controlled by the flesh is a dangerous thing. It convinces us that being right is more important than even personal safety. Something has to happen to our minds so they are controlled by something other than our pride and personal ambitions to get ahead. That something for me is the reality of my vulnerability on the motorcycle. As I was riding home one day, the same thing I just described happened to me. I had to make a choice. I could hold to my rights or I could back off and let the other person proceed. I chose the latter. I had a different perspective of the situation because I was on a motorcycle that would not only lose any conflict with a car, but would cause me to be seriously injured. With that in mind, I made a different choice. It’s the choice I need to make all the time, no matter what I’m driving.

I remember some words of Scripture that I have not applied very well in the daily activity of driving – “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…Be kind and compassionate to others…Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Before I get too diverted from the original point I wanted to make, let me get to it – whatever we have in our mind will determine our actions. Whatever we choose to focus on in our thinking will become the primary motivation for our choices. When the thought of my rights is foremost in my mind, I make a different choice than when the thought of my safety is on my mind. When thoughts of the needs of others is on my mind, I will choose differently than when thoughts of my needs are on my mind.

Ephesians 6:18  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” 

So when Paul tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and use it as the basis for our prayer life, he then says those all important words, “with this in mind.” He is reminding us that something new has become the priority of our thinking and that it will result in different behavior. As our minds are renewed, so that the flesh has less and less influence and the Spirit of God has more and more control, we are to be alert to what’s going on around us. We are to see the other person approaching in the rear-view mirror, and then respond in such a way that confirms the presence of God in our lives. We are to respond to one another’s needs and issues with prayers of all kinds based on the promises of God.  

Paul says it this way in his second letter to the church at Corinth, as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in The Message. “God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”

Keep that in mind!

Pastor John

PRAY THE PROMISES

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

(Warning: what I am about to read is laced with huge generalizations and is meant only to make a point.)  

Men are prone to the“open the box – attempt to assemble – get frustrated – read the instructions” format of life. Women, on the other hand, don’t attempt anything until they have everything organized for the job, including reading the instructions. When asked to bake a cake, a man may be able to read the recipe, but will most certainly get out a bowl, crack a couple of eggs, mix in some flour, and then discover that he doesn’t have enough of the other ingredients to finish. So he runs to the store, leaving the eggs on the counter to develop salmonella while he’s gone. Then, while at the store, he calls his wife at home to be reminded of what he’s at the store to buy, because he didn’t make a list. As she reads what he needs from the recipe, she checks the cupboard and discovers that all the ingredients are there and proceeds to tell him that he needs to open his eyes when he looks for things. He responds by saying he’ll try harder next time, knowing in his heart that it will never happen. He leaves the grocery store, and on the way home forgets that he is making a cake when he sees a collector’s car show at a local parking lot and stops in to check out the muscle cars.

In contrast, women will get out the recipe, read it thoroughly and check the cupboards for every ingredient before even getting out the mixer.

I can only image that men and women use the same approaches to reading about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Men get to the end of verse seventeen and shout, “Woo-hoo, I have a sword. Let’s get the war started.” Women get to verse seventeen and read on, hoping to find some instructions on what to do with the sword. Men miss out on one of the most significant teachings about spiritual warfare and will run off in a lot of directions with a sword that is dull and ineffective. Women will discover an incredible truth about being successful in standing against the wiles of the devil.

Ephesians 6:18  :”And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Granted, not all men do things the way I described, and not all women are organizational gurus. My point is this – if we don’t read verse eighteen as a part of the armor of God, we will never be able to truly stand strong and be protected by that armor. Paul tells us that after we have taken up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, we are to pray in the Spirit. When Paul tells us to pray in the Spirit, he is giving us the instruction manual for how to use the sword of the Spirit, and to receive our marching orders from the Commander-in-Chief.

Our spiritual victory over the influence of evil hinges on this point – we are to use the sword to pray. The Sword of the Spirit is to be used to pray in the Spirit. Our authority in prayer comes from our confidence in the truth of God’s Word and in speaking it in our conversations with God.

I know a man who spends much time every day in prayer. He uses a variety of prayer techniques that cover every occasion of his life. But one technique that he uses consistently is to pray the Scriptures. He will take a Psalm, and replace every pronoun with his own name, or the name of the person for whom he is praying and pray the truths of God’s Word on their behalf. He will take the promises of God from His Word and insert his name or another person’s name into them and pray them to God. He is doing two things – he is affirming his faith in God’s Word, and he is asking God to fulfill His Word.

We would do well to imitate this man’s practice. We can start affirming our faith in God’s Word by speaking it back to Him and then acting upon it. One of the techniques used by parents in training their children is to ask them questions. They may ask, “What has daddy told you about this?” They are hoping to have the child affirm their understanding of the rules, expectations, and promises by repeating it back to them. Then they may ask, “And what has daddy promised you if you do it?” Again, the parent is hoping the child will affirm their understanding of the consequences or rewards of their choice. That is what we do when we use His word to communicate with Him. We are affirming our understanding of His rules, expectations, and promises, and our understanding of the consequences and rewards of our choices. That is what builds our faith and makes our shield against the enemy stronger.

So grab hold of a promise today and start praying it back to God. Use His Word as the foundation of every request, so you know you are asking in His will. Let your minds be renewed and transformed by putting every thought and idea into the context of God’s Word. Use the sword of the Spirit on yourself to build your relationship with Jesus, and He will handle the enemy. Then you will be able to stand strong. Then you will have done all there is to do, and you will still be standing.

Pastor John

PROCLAIM THE TRUTH

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, May 9, 2022

 Roger Williams, who lived from 1603 to 1683, was a religious leader and one of the founders of Rhode Island.  He sailed from England for Massachusetts in 1630. He had a particularly strong view of religious freedom and of the rights of people. He questioned the right of the colonists to take the Indians’ land from them merely on the legal basis of the royal charter. His views brought trouble upon him from the oligarchy that was ruling Massachusetts. In 1635 he was found guilty of teaching that the civil power of a state could properly have no jurisdiction over the consciences of men and was ordered to be banished from the colony. He lived briefly with friendly Indians and then, in 1636, founded Providence in what was to be the colony of Rhode Island.

His most famous of all writings, The Bloody Tenant of Persecution (1644), was written from England while he was applying for the charter for his colony in America. Williams addressed England’s state-run church and its attempts to enforce religious uniformity through persecution and punishment. He states, “It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son, the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries: and they are only to be fought against with … the sword of God’s Spirit, the Word of God.”

Williams was appalled at the history of church-sanctioned wars against opposing religions. He understood a fundamental truth of God’s created order for humanity – man cannot be truly conquered unless his soul and spirit are surrendered. Forced obedience is not to be confused with religious freedom or righteousness. The only successful strategy for the transformation of the world and the salvation of people is to impale them with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The only power able to conquer the false teachings and beliefs of all the religions of the world is the truth of God’s Word. People in those belief systems are not to be persecuted and forced to change their views through war. They are to be transformed by the “Word of God, which is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Ephesians 6:17b  “…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The direct implication of that truth is this – you and I are to pick up the only weapon we have been given and go to war with it. We have been given our marching orders by our Commander-in-Chief, and the orders are clear – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This command from Jesus is for all who claim Him as Lord and Savior. It is not just for pastors or missionaries. It is not just for the eloquent. It is not just for those with type A personalities. It is not for the handsome or beautiful or talented or trained. It is for all of us, because the message we spread is not based on human experience or ability, but on the power of the Word of God. We do not proclaim our story, but His, and His story will change history. Those who know His story, will strive with all their might to pick up the Sword of the Spirit and proclaim it. They will overcome any obstacle in their path. They will cast aside any sin and correct any thoughts that hinder them from accomplishing the mission they have been given. They will stand before anyone at any time and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

When Demosthenes, the famed Greek orator, first spoke in public, he was hissed off the platform. His voice was harsh and weak and his appearance unimpressive. He determined that his fellow citizens would someday appreciate his words, so he practiced day and night. He shaved half his head so no one would want to invite him to social events. To overcome a stammer, he recited with pebbles in his mouth and yelled against the thunders of the Aegean Sea so his voice would get louder. He stood beneath a suspended sword to train himself not to favor a shoulder that kept hitching. He practiced facial expressions in front of a mirror. It’s not surprising that when he next appeared in public, he moved the Greek nation. He and another orator spoke on a matter of national concern. When his companion concluded his speech, the crowd said, “What marvelous oratory!” But when Demosthenes finished, they cried with one voice, “Let us go and fight Philip!”

The Word of God will move people to join the army of heaven. We do not move them with our words – God moves them with His Word. We simply proclaim it. Let His Word move you to action!

Pastor John

PROTECT INTEGRITY

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, May 6, 2022

The way I live my life, I should wear a helmet all the time. I am constantly bumping my head on stuff. I can’t believe that God chose to combine impulsiveness and baldness into one man. I’ve gotten better, mainly because I’m tired of the scars. Some of the scars are the result of serious head injuries. I have a permanent bump on the back of my head from a bicycle accident when I was seven. I have a big scar left by the teeth of a friend when we collided in a softball game. Both of those injuries resulted in concussions. A concussion occurs when the brain slams against the inside of the skull as it moves as in response to an outside force. Newton’s third law of motion hurts. I’ve spent nights in the hospital as a result. Most of you would agree that I have suffered some form of brain damage.

Helmets protect the head from serious injury in most cases. You see, when a concussion occurs, thinking is impaired. I can recall the stories my wife tells about my behavior in the hospital after my last one. I don’t remember a thing about it, but she says it was hilarious. Obviously, I was out of my mind, because I am not normally hilarious. Injury to the brain can cause impaired judgment, loss of memory, and maybe even reduced intelligence capabilities. When the memory and rational thinking process are impaired, actions can become quite embarrassing.

Ephesians 6:17a  “Take the helmet of salvation…

It’s the same in the spiritual world. If our brains are not being protected by the helmet of salvation, our actions can become quite embarrassing, both to the Lord Jesus and to other Christians. No one in their right mind wants to be an embarrassment. No one wants to be shamed. No one wants to feel insignificant and rejected. No one wants to live a life questioning their worth and value. Yet all those things will be the result of leaving our minds unprotected against the attacks of an enemy who knows how to get into our heads. Our defense is the helmet of salvation. With the knowledge of God’s grace and our unconditional acceptance into His eternal family we are protected from spiritual concussions.

The helmet of salvation protects us from attacks against our righteousness and integrity. From the files of Leadership magazine comes this story written by Bob Welch called A Father for All Seasons.  

“My son Jason’s successes have come mainly in baseball, the most notable of which occurred in a single moment last summer. In the last three years, I doubt Jason has ever taken the field when he wasn’t the smallest player on either team. Last summer, his lack of height was all the more noticeable because he was a seventh grader playing in a seventh/eighth-grade league.

“A fire-armed pitcher—more than a foot taller than my 4-foot-9 son—blazed a fastball right down the pike. I’m not sure Jason even saw the ball. Strike one. The second pitch scorched across the plate for a called strike two. The third pitch, unintentionally I’m sure, came right at Jason. He turned to avoid being hit and fell to the ground. His bat went flying. His helmet bounced off. The ball seemed to have skimmed his shoulder.

“Take your base,” said the umpire.

Standing in the third-base coach’s box, I was happy just seeing Jason alive, much less getting a free base. But now he was saying something to the umpire. What was going on?

“It didn’t hit me,” Jason said to the ump.

“Take your base, son,” said the ump.

Our fans were most likely thinking the same thing I was thinking: Take your base, son.

“But honest, it didn’t hit me,” Jason pleaded.

The umpire looked at Jason and out to the infield ump, who just shrugged. “OK,” said the ump, “the count is one-and-two.”

Should I intervene? Make him take his base? Jason was already digging in his cleats in the batter’s box. I mentally shrugged and headed back to the coach’s box.

The towering pitcher rocked and fired. A bullet right down the middle—the kind of pitch that would send the kid to the dugout. Instead, Jason ripped the ball into left-center for a stand-up double. Our crowd roared. The manager of the team in the field was standing a few feet behind me. He had no idea that the kid on second base was my son. He spit out his sunflower seeds and slowly shook his head.

“Man,” he said, “you gotta love that.”

 That’s exactly right – you gotta love it when honesty and integrity reign supreme in anyone’s life. It should be how we choose leaders for our churches and for our nation. It should be how we all live our lives. And it’s possible when we wear the helmet of salvation!

Pastor John