About Pastor John van Gorkom

Pastor John is the lead pastor of the Calvary Ministry Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

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

FAITH IN ACTION

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Ken Davis, author and speaker, tells the story of an experiment he led in one of his college classes. The title of his talk was, “The Law of the Pendulum.” He spent 20 minutes carefully teaching the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum states that a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all forces acting on the pendulum are equal.

To demonstrate, he attached a 3-foot string to a child’s toy top and secured it to the top of the blackboard with a thumbtack. He pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the blackboard where he let it go. Each time it swung back he made a new mark. It took less than a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When he finished the demonstration, the markings on the blackboard proved his thesis. He then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All his classmates raised their hands, and so did the professor. Ken then pointed the steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room where a large, crude pendulum weighing 250 pounds hung from 500-pound parachute cord.

Ken invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head against a cement wall. Using a hoist and crank, he brought the 250 pounds of metal up to the professor’s nose. Holding the huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face, he once again explained the law of the pendulum the class had applauded only moments before. “If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger.” After that final restatement of this law, Ken looked the professor in the eye and asked, “Sir, do you believe this law is true?”

There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed on his upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, “Yes.”

The pendulum was released. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its swing, it paused momentarily and started back. You’ve never seen a man move so fast in your life. The professor literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, Ken asked the class, “Does he really believe in the law of the pendulum?” The students unanimously answered, “NO!”

Ephesians 6:16  “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Faith is only valid if it’s acted upon. In Paul’s teaching about the armor of God, he states that as a covering for all the other pieces of armor, we must take up the shield of faith. Did you notice the words take up? It is not sufficient for us to say that we believe in a shield that can protect us from the attacks of the enemy – we must personally take up that shield or it will do us no good. It is vitally important in taking up the shield of faith that we know what our faith has been placed in. Our faith is not in our protection or deliverance. Our faith is not in our newfound spiritual ability to defend ourselves. Our faith is not in the activity of God. None of those things can be the direct object of our faith. If our faith is in any of them, our lives will be tossed to and fro like a boat left untied during a hurricane. We will be influenced by sight rather than by trust. We will be scared by every swinging pendulum of life.

The only direct object of our faith that will protect us in any circumstance of life is God. Not His actions. Not His promises. Just God. Our faith is to be in His existence, His nature, and His character. Once we have that solidified, no attack of the enemy can harm us. We will be able to extinguish every flaming arrow shot at us. Oswald Chambers said it this way – “Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love.”

Faith in God is the basis for all other aspects of faith. Faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is only possible if we first have faith that there is a God of perfect love and justice who provided the way for salvation. Faith in the promises of God is only possible if we first have faith that there is a God who can fulfill those promises. It is faith in God that becomes our shield against all else.

But faith is only valid if it is put into action. It is only real faith if you stay in the chair as the pendulum approaches. It is only real faith if you can continue to trust the love of the Father when all of life seems to be collapsing around you. Real faith continues to trust even when all seems hopeless. So whatever your current circumstances, remember this – “…through faith you are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These 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. Though 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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:5-9)

Pastor John

PROTECT YOUR TOES

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Ephesians 6:15 “…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

I don’t like to go barefoot. I never have. I admit it – I’m a tenderfoot. Walking on rocks and gravel and sticks hurts. Even when I go into the river to baptize people, you will notice I always wear sandals. Walking around the house without shoes on bothers me. When I try to work without shoes on, my legs get tired more quickly. I want my feet protected so I can be more active for longer periods of time.

There’s a reason why we don’t see barefoot NBA players or NFL players. Shoes are vital to the safety, strength, and endurance of athletes. They are just as vital for me every day. And my spiritual shoes are equally important. Think back to the days of the Roman soldier, when marching was the only means of moving from one battlefield to the next. Think of the topography of the land, and the lack of infrastructure like paved bike paths. Marching was tough work, and it would have been impossible without the underbinding of their feet. (The word translated “fitted” in our verse today literally means “to underbind”.) Efficiency and endurance were of high priority to the soldiers and their commanders. No matter how well equipped they may have been with the rest of their armor, they would have been miserable without their sandals. They would have marched more slowly, stood less firmly, and been injured more quickly.

There are several analogies we can make to our spiritual lives from this word picture. First, we are prepared to march when we hear and accept the Gospel of peace. We are to be ready to move out into the fields of spiritual battle at the Lord’s command. I remember the morning a fire destroyed the home in Augusta, WI, a community only 20 miles from where I live. Nobody was home at the time of the fire, but several pets didn’t make it out of the house. As the four fire departments fought the blaze, assistance arrived from a group of people who populate our area of Wisconsin. They are known as the Amish. They have no phones, no motor vehicles, no electricity. They travel by horseback and by horse-drawn buggy. According to a story on the web site for WEAU TV, “if there’s smoke in the sky or sirens rushing by Amish men don’t waste any time heading in that direction.”

Here’s what the Fire Chief said about their presence at the fire. “They won’t say how they dispatch, but if they’re in the area, they’re coming. They just appear! It’s great. They’ll drop everything and come. Even in the middle of the night, they’re coming across the field.”

What a great example for those of us who follow Jesus Christ as our Commander-in-Chief. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings peace prepares us to march into the field of conflict and disaster and bring the Good News of a Savior’s help.

Second, With our Gospel shoes of peace on, we will be able to stand and fight more firmly and with greater endurance. I can’t imagine what it must be like to feel the despair of living in this lost world without the peace of God. In Christ, we are at peace with God, which guarantees our eternity, and we experience the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. The one thing a true soldier doesn’t want to have to worry about is whether the next stone or stick on the path is going to so injure his foot that he won’t be able to stand and fight. And the one thing we don’t have to worry about is that the next tragedy, loss, or hardship in our lives is going to destroy the foundation upon which we stand, because we stand on the truth of the Gospel of peace.

The third and final point came to me this morning because of a misreading of a word. As I was reading one of the commentators on this subject, and he was saying that the shoes were part of the soldier’s defense against their foes, I read the word toes. My mind instantly went into high gear, thinking about how shoes protect my toes from injury. Some jobs even require steel-toed shoes for greater protection. Then I thought of how often the army of Jesus Christ is slowed and even stopped because someone’s toes were stepped on. When we are not adequately prepared with the Gospel of peace, people will be able to step on our toes. We will get offended by what they say, even if there is truth in it. We will build defenses. We will alienate ourselves from people. We will walk away from our church. We will carry a grudge. We will live in a state of conflict rather than in peace. And it’s all because we weren’t properly fitted with the Gospel of peace.

Many times we make the choice to focus on self rather than service. We make the choice to satisfy the flesh rather than the Father. We make the choice to be takers rather than givers in our relationships. We allow the personal to overwhelm the spiritual, and we have no peace. If this sounds like I’m stepping on your toes, then you’re exactly the one to whom I’m speaking. In the words of my grandfather, “I’m sorry if I stepped on your toes – I was aiming for your heart.”

My friends, the church of Jesus Christ must not be slowed down in its mission by people who are easily offended because they are not properly equipped with good shoes to protect their toes. If that’s you, then put your shoes on. The peace of God that comes from the security of your salvation and produces unchangeable worth will conquer your need to find value in others or in performance. That will resolve the issue of stubbed toes.

So let’s get ready to march with great endurance and focus on the mission of God. Get prepared with the Gospel of peace. His shoes always fit.

Pastor John

INTEGRITY

LifeLink  Devotions

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

We ended yesterday’s devotional with a thought about integrity. I would like to continue that thought today as we consider the breastplate of righteousness.

Ephesians 6:14  “Stand firm then, … with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

For many, righteousness would be defined as doing the right thing. However, most of those people would reserve the right to define right. The standard for right has become self-generated. Many of the standards are based solely on one’s own personal opinion, preferences, and desires. Some of the standards are modeled after other people. Few of the standards for right today are modeled after absolute right, which is found only in God the Father and are possible to achieve only through His Son Jesus Christ.

The relationship between righteousness and integrity is significant. First, in its broadest sense, righteousness means to be in a state that one ought to be. People who live according to their own passions like this definition because they can convince themselves that they are as they ought to be. But when defined from the spiritual perspective, according to Scripture, the definition deepens. Spiritually, righteousness means to be in a state that God accepts. Paul declares the possibility of this when he says, “God made him (Christ Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Jesus we have been given the gift of God’s righteousness so we are acceptable to Him. Hallelujah! In Romans Paul says it this way: “The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life. Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God’s sight.”

But there is yet a deeper meaning to righteousness that brings integrity into play. Once we know we have been declared righteous by God from His perspective, we must then become righteous from our perspective so that we know we are in the state we ought to be. This is integrity. I was telling a group of young men that the most frustrating part of a Christian’s life – at least it is for me – is to be fighting to overcome fleshly desires that contradict God’s righteousness. The seventh chapter of Romans is all about this conflict within us. In a nutshell, it frustrates me to know what is the right thing to do, but then to have to fight against other desires in my heart that contradict that right thing. On the outside I may make the right choice, but on the inside I wish I could have done something else. For those who are in Christ Jesus, this battle can become so frustrating that we would join Paul in saying, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  

The reason that we are frustrated is this – we have been born of the Spirit of God into His family, and the Holy Spirit is working to create the activity of righteousness that stems from our heart of righteousness so we will be people of integrity. But the transformation of our mind takes time and effort. So there is tension. But the goal of the work of the Holy Spirit in us is this – to bring us into the likeness of Christ. Jesus didn’t do the right things because He had to, but because it was His nature to. The Holy Spirit is working to bring that nature to the throne of each one of our lives so that who we are results in what we do. As we go through the process of renewing our mind (Romans 12:2), we obey because we have a goal of righteousness. The more we put on this breastplate and obey, the more our hearts will be transformed by our choices so that the flesh and its desires are overwhelmed by the nature and character of Christ already in us. Then we will be people of integrity, because our hearts and our actions will be in agreement. We will know that we are in the state we ought to be.

For encouragement, read Romans 8:1-17, where Paul gives his answer to the question “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Pastor John

THE BELT OF TRUTH

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, May 2, 2022

Since we are called to be prepared to accomplish the mission of Jesus Christ, we should consider the equipment that God has provided for our use.

Ephesians 6:14 “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…”

To fully understand the symbolism of the belt, we must go back and think in terms of the Roman soldiers of Paul’s day. Their armor was heavy. They wore all the pieces described in Ephesians, plus some that aren’t described. But the first piece they put on was their belt. Remember, the belt back then didn’t hold up the pants as it does for us. They didn’t wear pants. The belt had three functions. First, it was designed to support a short metal skirt that protected the groin area of the soldier. Second, it had areas on it for hanging things, like the sword or a knife or a water skin. And third, it was large enough that the breastplate would rest on it. Imagine how hard it would have been to fight if the breastplate – that solid piece of formed metal that slipped over the head and covered the chest and back of the soldier – had to rest on his shoulders. He would have limited flexibility in his arms, and he would tire quickly from the weight. Instead, the breastplate was designed to fit into the belt and ride an inch or two above the shoulders, allowing for freedom of arm movement and putting the weight of the armor onto the strongest muscles in the body, the upper legs.

The belt was the foundation piece of the armor. It allowed the soldier to stand under the weight of the armor. It allowed him to move freely and fight efficiently and effectively. It’s no wonder then that Paul calls the foundation of our spiritual armor the belt of truth. Unfortunately, that’s where Satan’s biggest attack has been – against the truth. In fact, his first attack ever was against the truth in the Garden of Eden when he asked Eve, “Did God really say…” Truth is still under attack today. Truth has been redefined by our culture as “the reality of one’s experiences.” It makes truth relative to anyone’s situation. It seeks to abolish absolutes. But we who are in Christ know that there is a truth that endures for all time, because we know the One who is the Truth, Jesus.

But just knowing the truth is as useless as carrying a fanny pack filled with supplies that never get put to use. When I go hunting, I carry all my supplies in a small, camouflaged bag. I used to put them in a fanny pack. My son would laugh at me. Did that matter to me? Of course it did. Ridicule matters to all of us. But did it change me? NO! I don’t care how he carries his supplies, and I don’t need to change how I carry mine. The point is that we both carry the things we need to accomplish our mission. We are prepared.

How about you? Are you prepared with the truth of Jesus Christ? Are those truths carried with you into every part of your life? Are they easily accessible so you can use them whenever the situation requires them? The truth is of no value if it isn’t applied. The truth is not the product of your experience. The truth determines your experience. And in this passage, and nine others like it in the New Testament, the truth is a verb, and must be spoken.

That leads to one more point in the analogy. Integrity. Do your actions and your speech match? And are you satisfied that the life you are living on the outside is the true expression of who you are on the inside? Integrity. It’s part of wearing the belt of truth. It’s essential to being able to stand firm. 

Pastor John

BE PREPARED

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, April 29, 2022

 When I was a junior in high school, well before computers, I had to write a 15-page research paper for an American History class. Of course, it had to be typed. I didn’t know the first thing about typing, so I asked my dad to type it for me. I can still remember the old black Regal typewriter he used. I did all of my research at the public library and made all my notes on 3” x 5” index cards and catalogued them by topic in a recipe box. We were required to use a minimum of twelve sources, all referenced and properly footnoted in the paper. It was a huge project, but I am so thankful for the training it gave me. It’s so much easier today with the Internet and the cut and paste features of computers.

My topic for the paper was the Pony Express. The year was 1860. Three men had a vision for starting a fast mail delivery system across the United States. They bought 400 horses and hired a bunch of men to ride them. This hearty, hard-nosed group of riders fascinated me. These guys, in relay fashion, rode on horseback from St. Joseph, Missouri to the west coast, and reduced the delivery time for mail from twenty-five days to ten days. When considering being on the alert and ready at any moment to do the job, it’s hard to beat the Pony Express. These guys knew what preparation and readiness were all about. I admire these riders. They were committed to their task. They did whatever it took to be prepared.

That’s what Paul reminds us to do in our lives in today’s Scripture passage.

Ephesians 6:13  “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.”

My friends, the days are evil. We are to be prepared every day for the evil that surrounds us and affects us. Our preparation is vital to our endurance. The only way we will be able to stand for Jesus in the midst of a world that doesn’t is if we are fully equipped and prepared. It’s time for us as Christians to realize that there’s a weight limit that we can effectively and efficiently carry through this life if we are going to stand. Just as the Pony Express rider had to strip down to the bare essentials so he could maximize effectiveness, so must we. Our mission for Christ demands the proper equipment without any of the extras we think we need. Everything we add to our lives in the forms of priorities, possessions, and pleasure hinder us from accomplishing the purpose of God. How many of us find that we are so busy with our jobs, our families, our friends, our recreation, and our relaxation, that we put the mission of Jesus Christ on the bottom of the “to do” list? How many of our resources are prioritized based on personal goals rather than spiritual ones? How much of our day is lived for self rather than for our Savior?

I think we have fallen prey to the deception of the devil who wants us to believe that our security and hope is found in what the world has to offer us. We want a bigger house for a smaller mortgage and the elimination of all other debt so we can have financial peace. We want to perform with excellence in our career so we have job security. We want all the latest toys, from bikes to boats, from campers to cruises, and from Play Stations to Park Avenues, so we can enjoy the finer things in life. After all, if it’s available, aren’t we entitled to it? Then, once we have it, we must use it and take care of it, which demands more and more of our time, leaving less and less time for serving Jesus. Then, when the day of evil arrives, and our career plans are shattered by a corporate meltdown, or our financial goals are crushed by a falling stock market, or our toys get old and break down, or our health is taken from us, we wonder why we fall flat on our faces in despair. I know why. We weren’t really prepared. We had wrongly prioritized our lives. We were carrying more weight than God intended.

My friends, it’s time to re-evaluate our priorities. It’s time to put on the full armor of God, specifically designed by Him to be exactly the right weight for His mission. We are allowed some personal items, but my advice is that we take along only those things that enhance our ability to accomplish our mission. Everything else is baggage that weighs us down and hinders us. Let us lay aside all such weights, and run the race God has laid out for us. (Heb. 12:1) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus alone, and with dogged determination to persevere at all cost, let us stand for Jesus Christ! Let’s get prepared!

Pastor John

MORE SPIRITUAL WARFARE

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ephesians 6:12  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.  

Just so we don’t get confused, let me make sure we all understand this issue of spiritual warfare. First, there is a spiritual war going on. It is being fought in the spiritual realm, and we are under the influence of that war. We are participants in that war. We are constantly wrestling with the enemy. The issues of finances, family, and even faith are constant points of attack to distract us from Christ and destroy our impact for Christ. In our own strength we are powerless to resist. But according to James, when we submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from us. Notice that submission to God – “in the power of His might” – is the key to standing against the enemy.

Second, the real battle is not against finances, health, or status. If we keep those things as the focus, we are losing the war. We will surrender to discouragement and will end up in the defeat of depression. We cannot change flesh and blood. We have no power over it. The priority of the power of God at work in us is not to heal the flesh, but to restore the spirit. When the spirit of a person is at peace with God, the flesh of a person loses its power to dampen the spirit. Hope is found not in the solution to fleshly ailments, but in the security of the Father’s arms. God’s power in us assures us of victory over the rulers, the authorities, the powers of the dark side, and the spiritual forces of evil. Jesus has already defeated them. Hallelujah! When we stand strong in the power of the Lord in the right arena, we win! The flesh is the wrong arena.

Imagine how ridiculous it would be for a member of the United States swim team to show up for competition at the Olympic arena for fencing. Not only are they not trained, but they’re also not properly equipped. They would be seriously injured because they have no skills and no armor. Yet that is how many Christians attempt to compete in the spiritual war. They fight it in the wrong arena. They learn more and more skills for conquering the problems of the flesh, and don’t understand why the battle never gets any better. More books are bought. More programs are subscribed to. More counsel is sought. More techniques are applied. More frustration develops. Why?  Because they are fighting in the wrong arena. The key to enduring life’s problems is to engage the Spirit of God. When we stand strong in the spiritual power of the Savior, we will be able to stand against all of the schemes of the devil. Those schemes may continue to have fleshly effects on us, but they cannot change our spiritual status.  

You see, Satan’s only arena is the flesh. The only way he can attempt to manifest any power is in the flesh. He has already been defeated in the spiritual realm. He has no authority over the spirit of a Christian. All he can do is hope to keep us fighting in the wrong arena.

The Bible does not describe a life of freedom from hardship. Nor does it describe a life that is free from the flesh. We are not promised that we can be perfect, prosperous, or healed. However, the Bible does tell us that we can be strong, enduring anything in the flesh, and filled with hope, because we stand in the power of God by faith. The power of our spiritual position in Christ always overwhelms the condition of our flesh. Regardless of the fleshly flaws, we are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. Hallelujah!

So stand strong in the power of God’s might. Commit every fleshly battle to the spiritual King. Put every issue of your physical life into the perspective of your position in Christ. Then you will be able to stand.

Pastor John

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

As we begin to understand the power of God that we have, and the ability it provides us to take a stand for Christ, we must further understand what it means to stand against the devil’s scheme’s. There is a lot of confusion out there in religious circles about the subject of spiritual warfare. Very briefly, I want to challenge the increasingly popular viewpoint that it is our responsibility as Christians to do battle with the devil and his demons.

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

First, we cannot use today’s scripture verse as a call to arms against the devil. We can, however, properly interpret it as a call to take a stand for Christ against the tactics of the devil. There is a huge difference. As followers of Jesus, we are called to stand for Him in the face of any trial or hardship. The armor of God that has been provided does not equip us to enter the enemy’s territory for the sake of destroying the enemy – Jesus has already accomplished that. The armor of God equips us to march into the enemy’s territory for the sole purpose of standing for Jesus and presenting His love and grace to those still in the bondage of the devil’s schemes. The idea that flows generously from the Christian church today that we have the authority to directly confront the devil and rebuke him is not supported by accurate biblical interpretation.

I think the desire to satisfy the pride of life motivates people to address the devil and his demons directly. People may add the phrase, “In the Name of Jesus” to whatever attack they are involved in at the time, but the fact that they begin their statement with the word “I”, such as “I rebuke you in the Name of Jesus,” indicates a bondage to self that exists in them. The slanderous words against the devil and the demons that I hear coming from the mouths of preachers and people concerns me. We do not have any authority or right to address the devil and the demons in any manner. The only exception is in the direct confrontation of a demon when it has possessed the body of a person. Then, by the authority of Jesus our Lord, we can be used by Him to expel that demon. But even then, we are acting as the representative of Christ and not out of any degree of spiritual pride or the pursuit of spiritual value.

Direct confrontation of the devil and the demons was forbidden even for the angels. Look carefully at this passage from the book of Jude. It describes a spiritual battle that took place between Michael the archangel and the devil over the body of Moses and where it would rest after he died. Imagine that scene. The devil and Michael, in a spiritual war, over the body of the great prophet and leader of Israel. God had sent Michael to bring the body to Him. Michael was given full authority to accomplish God’s purpose, and as an archangel he certainly had the power to fight that war. He was equipped to stand. But the devil was an archangel also, with similar power. The only difference was that Michael was acting under the authority of the all-powerful and Sovereign God. So how did he use his authority? We read this – “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” We don’t see Michael saying, “I rebuke you in the Name of the Lord” do we? He gives all authority to the One and Only who has the power to rebuke Satan.

 You may be wondering why I think this is such a big deal. Here’s why. Attempting to satisfy human worth and stroke human pride, many Christians have chosen to view spiritual warfare as their badge of honor. In doing so, they have allowed pride to destroy the effects of grace. They may claim that Jesus is getting the glory, but the attention is being drawn to themselves. They spend so much time trying to figure out the enemy and attack him, that they spend little or no time simply taking a stand for the Gospel. The power of salvation is not found in our attacks of the enemy. The power of salvation is found in the Word of God.

Here’s a simple way to understand what I am trying to say. Most of us are probably already sick of political campaigns that spew attack after attack on the opponent. I refuse to watch them. I do the typical male thing and hold the remote in my hand and flip the channel every time one comes on. I do not want to hear about what the other guy is doing wrong. I want to hear what the candidates believe and stand for. Spiritual warfare is not…I repeat NOT… slinging attacks at the enemy. Spiritual warfare is the battle Christians fight to take a stand for what they know to be true and to speak it no matter what the enemy is doing. No matter what schemes the devil devises to hinder us, we are strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might to take a stand and remain standing to the end.

So next time you’re tempted to rebuke Satan, try this. Take the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and follow the instructions of Ephesians 6:18 and pray.  Take a stand for God, not against the devil. Focus your energy on the power of God to equip you to stand no matter what the enemy does. And when you stand, trust Jesus to take care of the enemy. Yes, our struggle is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, but the accurate interpretation of that verse is that our struggle is against, not with. Jesus is the only one authorized by God to struggle with the enemy. We simply struggle with the fallout of that battle. And the way we win is not to attack, but to stand in the truth of God’s Word and be strong advocates for Jesus.

 Pastor John

STAND STRONG

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

In Ephesians 6:10 we learn that we are to be strong in the Lord. But being strong just for the sake of strength is not sufficient motivation for us to do what is necessary to become strong. We must be shown what we will be able to do with our strength. The Apostle Paul goes on to tell us why we should be strong. He says, “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” I highlighted and underlined a phrase in that sentence for a very important reason. In several other translations of that verse it reads, “so you will be able.” That phrase is the translation of a Greek word that is the root word for “strong” in verse ten. In other words, being strong in the Lord has a purpose – to make us able to stand against the devil’s schemes. It is not enough for us to simply be strong. We are to be strong for a purpose, and that purpose is to stand strong, faithful, and true for the Lord no matter what the enemy does to us.

One of the most tragic events during the Reagan Presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. Many of us can still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble. A few days after the tragedy, Marine Corps Commandant Paul X Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors in a Frankfurt, Germany, hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man; yet he survived. As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words—“Semper Fi”- the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.”

If patriotism and the cause of national freedom can produce such strength to stand in the midst of the horrors of war, how much more will the power of God give us strength to stand against the schemes of the devil? It is imperative that we make the connection between being strong in the Lord and being able to take our stand for the Lord. We are not called to be strong for the sake of strength. We are not called to be strong so we can stand in front of a spiritual mirror and admire our spiritual muscles. We are called to be strong so that we can take a stand for Christ and remain standing no matter what evil does.

Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities and commitment. He had two Ph.D.s, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. He could have chosen to do anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940s, he founded a farm in Americus, Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. It was a community for poor whites and poor blacks. As you might guess, such an idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the ’40s. Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who followed the laws of segregation as much as the other folk in town. The town people tried everything to stop Clarence. They tried boycotting him, and slashing workers’ tires when they came to town. Over and over, for fourteen years, they tried to stop him.

Finally, in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had enough of Clarence Jordan, so they decided to get rid of him once and for all. They came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia Farm except Clarence’s home, which they riddled with bullets. They chased off all the families except one black family which refused to leave. Clarence recognized the voices of many of the Klansmen, and, as you might guess, some of them were church people. Another was a local newspaper reporter. The next day, the reporter came out to see what remained of the farm. The rubble still smoldered, and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting.

“I heard the awful news,” he called to Clarence, “and I came out to do a story on the tragedy of your farm closing.” Clarence just kept on hoeing and planting. The reporter kept prodding, kept poking, trying to get a rise from this quietly determined man who seemed to be planting instead of packing his bags. So, finally, the reporter said in a haughty voice, “Well, Dr. Jordan, you got two of them Ph.D.s and you’ve put fourteen years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?”  Clarence stopped hoeing, turned toward the reporter with his penetrating blue eyes, and said quietly but firmly, “About as successful as the cross. Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day.” Beginning that day, Clarence and his companions rebuilt Koinonia.

The power to stand. It is God’s power, and it produces the ability for us to be faithful. God promises that His strength will carry us through to the very end. You’ll find that promise in the book of Jude, verses 24-25 where we read that God is strong so that He is able. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present youbefore his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Be strong for a reason – stand strong for Jesus.

Pastor John

BE STRONG

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, April 25, 2022

We come to the concluding remarks of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus.  I remember as a little boy in Sunday School having to memorize this entire passage from Ephesians 6 starting in verse 10. Today, as I read it again, I got hung up on the third word. I asked myself, “What does it mean to be strong?”

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

One of my favorite methods of personal devotions is to explore how a particular word is used throughout the Bible and try to capture the richness and depth of its meaning. For the last hour I have been doing that with the word “strong”. I wanted to see how the Greek word for strong, which in this instance means “to endue with strength”, could apply to my life. After all, the root of the word here is the word from which we get our English word “dynamite”, so I would like to know how my life could be explosively strong.

There are 10 occurrences of this word in the New Testament, and 5 of them specifically relate to areas of our spiritual lives where we can be strong. I was encouraged as I looked at them, and I hope you will be also. First, let’s make sure we understand that the strength in which we are to live is God’s strength, not ours. To fully realize the potential to stand strong in this life we must realize and accept our weakness and our need for the strength of the Lord. We have no power to overcome the trials, tests, and temptations of this world. Our strength has limited endurance against the storms of life. It is only in the strength of Jesus Christ, who suffered and endured all things without failing, that we will be able to also stand. This requires humility. We must not seek to defend what strength we can muster but must instead relinquish the control of every situation to the power of God. Then we will be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power!

Here are the five things I learned about strength today, and how they apply to our lives. I have emphasized the identical word we are studying in each passage.

  1. My faith will be strengthened by believing that God has the power to fulfill His promises, no matter how contrary to present circumstances those promises appear. In Romans 4:18-21 we read about Abraham, and Paul says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”
  2. I will be strong enough to serve others who are undeserving when I consider how Jesus served me when I was undeserving. It’s called grace, and Paul tells his protégé Timothy, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”  (2 Timothy 2:1)
  3. When I trust the promises of God, and dwell in His grace, I will be strong enough to be content with whatever situation in which God places me. Paul tells the people at Philippi, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13
  4. I know that whatever weakness I have, God can turn it into a strength when my heart is intent on obeying Him, serving Him, and fulfilling His purpose. Read carefully about these heroes of the faith from Hebrews 11:32-34.  “…whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” WOW! Our weaknesses are turned to strength so we can do great things for God’s glory.
  5. And finally, I can and will be strong because I know that I am never alone, and Jesus is always at my side. Paul tells Timothy, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:16-18)

Now we know what Paul means when he says “ be strong in the Lord.” It’s up to us to apply these promises and actually be strong. Why not start today!

Pastor John