ADMIT MISTAKES

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, June 23, 2022

King Saul had bound the military personnel of Israel with an oath that they could not eat any food until after the daily battles with Philistines. They were only allowed to eat after sundown each night. Disobedience was punishable by death. Saul had impulsively issued an order that was both unwise and unjust.  

Saul’s son Jonathon had not been informed of the oath, nor had he been a part of swearing to it. As he and the army entered the woods they came across a large flow of honey from what is presumed to be a large bee’s nest in the ground. Jonathon dipped his staff in the honey and ate some. At that point the soldiers told him about the oath. Jonathon declares the oath of the king to be foolish, stating that his father was trouble for the country by his order. Later that day, the king finds out what had happened, and to defend the integrity of his reign he orders his son put to death, claiming that it is the right thing to do before God.

1 Samuel 14:44-45  “Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.”

There is a huge lesson in this story about what to do when we’ve made a poor decision. We all make poor decisions at times. Sometimes the decisions are small ones and don’t affect many people other than us. We may impulsively choose to buy something we didn’t really need and then regret it later when an unexpected bill arrives. But many times our decisions dramatically affect others. We may impulsively say the wrong thing at the wrong time and deeply offended or hurt someone. I know there were times when raising our children that in the emotional heat of discipline consequences were enforced that didn’t really fit the offense. We’ve all probably worked for employers at times who had what we considered to be stupid rules in the workplace. Maybe we were the boss who made those rules.

When we make a poor decision, we have two choices. One choice is that we can stay the course. Pride says this is the best option. It’s the option Saul initially chose. Even if it meant the death of his son, he believed his integrity as king was at stake. He thought the only way to be respected was to prove he could stand by his decisions. How wrong he was. What it revealed was a huge level of insecurity in his life. It’s the same for us. When we feel we must earn respect and protect image by following up bad decisions with more bad decisions, we are exposing the sin of pride manifested in the character flaw of insecurity.

The other choice we have when we make a bad decision is to admit it, change it, and make it right. This requires humility. Sometimes it requires someone standing up to us. That’s what happened in our story. After Saul’s initial response to what Jonathon did, the rest of the army stood up for what was right and opposed the king. They reminded the king that what Jonathon did saved Israel, implying that what Saul had ordered had hurt the country. They corrected Saul’s perspective on who was following God. The king thought he was because he felt he had an obligation to enforce an oath. But if that oath was made outside of the will of God, which it was, then repentance is necessary, not enforcement.

There are two simple yet profound lessons for us in this story. First, be humble enough to admit when you’ve made a bad decision or committed a sin and make it right. Second, be strong enough to stand up for others when you know they are in the right. The soldiers of Israel made a difference in Jonathon’s life because they stood up for him and opposed the king. Every day we are confronted with situations of injustice, and we must take a stand for righteousness. Our culture is filled with wrongs. The love of God will give us compassionate hearts for those who are suffering unjustly. Jesus Himself described one aspect of His mission when He read from the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let our lives reflect the same mission. Stand up for righteousness by reaching down to those who have fallen. We will be lifted up by lifting others. We will be filled when we empty ourselves into others. We will be blessed when we become a blessing to others. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and He wants to do His work in you.

Pastor John

WHEN GOD IS SILENT

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The park ranger was leading a group of hikers to a lookout tower in Yellowstone National Park. Along the way he pointed out some of the famous sites in the park. He was so intent on the stories he was telling that he paid no attention when his two-way radio received a message. He turned it down. Later they stopped to look at some flowers and view some of the birds in nearby trees. Once again, his radio distracted the ranger, so this time he turned it off. As the group neared the lookout tower, they were met by a nearly breathless ranger who asked why the guide hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. From their viewpoint, high in the tower, some other rangers had observed a large grizzly bear stalking the group. They had been trying desperately to warn the hikers.

Many times we are so involved in personal activities and pursuits in this life, we don’t pay attention to the voice of God trying to get through to us. Sometimes we turn down the volume. Sometimes we are distracted by other things and don’t hear Him. Sometimes we even turn Him off. But we must know this – God is always paying attention even when we aren’t, and He is trying to get through to us.

But what about those times when we are waiting to hear from Him and He is silent? If God were like me, I could understand His silence – he is paying me back for all the times I chose not to listen. I am so thankful that He is not like me. His silence is never payback for inattentiveness. But His silence does have a purpose.

Today’s story of King Saul relates one of the reasons for God’s silence when we seek Him – SIN.

1 Samuel 14:37  “So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.”

In preparation for battle, the army of Israel had been directed by the King to not eat until after the fighting was over each day. The king’s own son, Jonathon, disobeyed that order. Even though the King’s order was poorly thought out and harmful to the soldiers, he was still the king, and God requires respect for authority. God wanted the sin exposed.  So when Saul came to the Lord to inquire about the next move the army should make, God was silent. Saul knew immediately that the primary reason God removes Himself from any situation is because He will not work where sin is honored.

Sin is not the only reason for the silence of God, but it should be the first place we look in our lives if He is silent. Here are some other examples from Scripture.

  • King David said in Psalm 66:18, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;”
  • The Lord spoke to Ezekiel the prophet about Israel’s sin and said, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?”
  • Elihu, the friend of Job, said, “He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked.”
  • As Solomon begins the book of Proverbs, he warns his readers that there will be a consequence to rejecting the truth and living according to the desires of the flesh. He says, “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.”
  • Jesus, while on the cross and at the moment the sin of the world was placed upon Him, quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 which says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The next verse says, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.”

When the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, God became silent. When we allow sin to remain unrepentant in our hearts, God will be silent when we seek Him. Again, there are other reasons He is silent at times, but this must be our first point of spiritual assessment when He is. Today, do an assessment of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the sin in your life. Be ready to be honest and humbled. Then confess it, repent of it, and accept His forgiveness. You will hear from God again.

Pastor John

QUIT TRYING SO HARD

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Dr. Richard Swenson made a difference in my life. I heard him speak at a Pastor’s Retreat several years ago. He spoke on the relationship between the Sovereignty of God and the pace of life. He loaded our minds with information and challenged our thinking about faith in God. He painted a scientific picture of our infinite God – a picture we had not seen before. Then, at just the right time, the Holy Spirit asked me a specific question – “If you really believe I’m that great and totally sovereign, why do you work so hard to make sure everything turns out right?”

There are only two possible responses to that question. One is that I don’t really believe that He’s that great and sovereign, and that somehow life depends upon my wisdom and strength. The other response is one of repentance, leading to complete trust in our Sovereign God. I chose the second response.

Life has gotten far too intense to live safely, securely, and satisfactorily. But the intensity of life is of our own choosing. Our faith has been placed in our own abilities to manage life rather than in God’s sovereignty. We have adopted the progress mindset of our culture and have buried contentment in the grave of greed. The pursuit of our dreams and desires has intensified the demands on our bodies. It has caused an increase in depression, irritability, anger, and frustration. We have become disorganized, fatigued, and are on the verge of burnout. Because we seek some form of release from the pressure, we turn to self-medication through alcohol, drugs, or sex, bringing moral failure into our lives. We suffer health issues like abnormal sleeping patterns, or intestinal and cardiovascular problems. All this because we have chosen to live at a pace we were never designed to live because we believe progress and prosperity are fulfilling. We have chosen that pace because we don’t really trust God to work all things out for His glory according to His purpose. We have decided we need to be in control.

As a result, the body of Christ suffers right along with our physical body. Come on, admit it. When we get busy and tired and overwhelmed with life, what’s the first activity that gets put aside? Church, right? Relationship with God is replaced with the lie that working harder at life will bring a better life. Now we are caught in the vicious downward spiral that brings cheering to the armies of Satan. We are too busy to pray or serve. We are too exhausted for relationships. Our joy is gone. We have become addicted to making life better by working harder at life, and we are in denial of our addiction.

But God wants to set us free. The truth is that He is in control of all life, and that when we sacrifice life for His sake, He will give us abundant life. When we admit our weakness, His power is released. The problem is that we really don’t understand or trust the God we claim to serve. If we really believed, then we would act like it. We serve a God who spoke the universe into existence. Nothingness obeys His voice.  He controls time, space, matter, and light. He monitors the position of every elementary particle. He is sufficient unto Himself.  He does not need anybody or anything to accomplish His purposes. He answers to no one.  He obeys only His own counsel.  He works on infinite levels all at the same time. He is God, and He is our friend. He is in control, and He can be trusted.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God’s grace is sufficient for you, and His power is made perfect in your weakness. Quit trying so hard!

Pastor John

GIVE THANKS

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, June 20, 2022

I’m currently on a fishing trip with my brother and a good friend. I might even get to play golf. I am in my place of worship. The splendor of God’s creation is the perfect place for me to build an altar of thanksgiving. I have a profound appreciation for the beauty of creation and that we can use it for our enjoyment and sustenance. I sincerely experience moments of worship on the lake and in the woods. I verbally thank God and praise Him. These are powerful moments of personal perspective about God’s provision.  

1 Samuel 14:35  “Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.”

When I read about King Saul, I am challenged to spend more time in thankful worship. Saul had gone over two years as God’s chosen leader of His people and he had not yet built an altar to the LORD. Not once in that first phase of his reign did he set aside a moment or memory to honor God. Not once had he publicly been thankful for God’s provision. It’s no wonder the kingdom was about to be taken away from him.

My short challenge to you today is this – take the time to build some altars of thanksgiving in your life. Every day God provides everything we need. Every moment God guides us. Every circumstance of our lives is under His control and being used for His glory. He is building and shaping us to reflect the life of His Son Jesus. If our hearts are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we would see the hand of God on every aspect of our lives, and we would be thankful.

So slow down today. Stop every once in a while and be thankful. Soon you will discover that every moment of your life can be a moment of worship. You see, God is God always. He never leaves you. He will never forsake you. We just need to pay more attention to His presence.

Pastor John

WATCH YOUR WORDS

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, June 17, 2022

According to Greek mythology the Phrygian king Midas asked a favor of the gods, and they agreed to grant him anything that he desired. The king decided to make the best of their offer. He asked that whatever he touched in the future be turned into gold. The wish was granted, but the consequences were severe! He placed his hand upon a rock, and immediately it became a huge chunk of priceless gold. He laid his hand on his staff, and it, too, became a rod of precious gold. At first the king was overcome with joy, and he returned to his palace as one of the most favored kings. He sat at his dinner-table, and every item of food that he touched turned into solid gold. Then he realized that this foolish wish would cause him to die in the midst of his newly found riches, and he fearfully remembered these ominous words: “The gods cannot take back their gifts.” He then begged the gods to restore him and deliver him from the curse of greed.

This was the scenario for King Saul. He was mad at his enemies. He took seriously his position as their leader. He understood his responsibility to protect and defend. But he was foolish. 

1 Samuel 14:24   “Now the men of Israel were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.”

There was a disconnect between Saul’s intentions and his actions. His intentions were to emphasize to his army the seriousness of their duty and to keep them focused on their mission. His actions deterred the soldiers from that mission. To build the resolve of the men, he minimized their resources. He told them they could not eat until they had put in a full day of service. He forgot that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As a result of his foolish action, the soldiers grew weak and unable to fulfill their duties. Saul would later have to deal with the regret of what he said when he discovered that his own son Jonathon had broken the oath and should be put to death.  

Let’s think about the things we say that we wish we had never said. I’m sure we all live with regret over words spoken in haste or anger. Some of us are just plain foolish and don’t think about what we say before we say it. Remember the old saying – “Think twice, speak once.” That’s not normal for me, but it is inexcusable because it is foolishness. We have all said and done things that we thought were going to turn out for good and they turned out badly. We have all had our motives brought into question based on the decisions we made because we foolishly failed to think through the options. We even excuse some of those words and choices by saying we have a unique learning style that requires us to think out loud. But Proverbs says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Or listen to these words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes – “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and the fool multiplies words. No one knows what is coming…” We must all learn to make sure the motor of our mind is running before we attempt to put the tongue in gear.

But what about all the hurts we have already caused? Can we ever overcome the damage that’s already been done? Our enemy the Devil certainly has a great ability to improve our memory when it comes to failures, doesn’t he? Regret can eat us up. But that regret is the product of faithless forgiveness. We may claim that we understand the forgiveness of God, but regret proves otherwise. If we really believe that the forgiveness of God is really real, then we will act like it.

Let me illustrate. Marjorie Holmes tells this story in an article entitled “Heart to Heart” in an issue of Today’s Christian Woman. “One day, while I was grieving over some past failures, I received a letter from a friend who told me how she and her granddaughter had been watching a plane skywrite. The little girl was puzzled when the words began disappearing, but suddenly piped up, “Maybe Jesus has an eraser!” In her innocent wisdom I realized that just as skywriting disappears, Jesus wipes away all things I so bitterly regret. No matter how much we mature as Christians, and try desperately to compensate, memories of our own failures can rise up and haunt us. But, with God’s forgiveness, they will fade away—Jesus does have an eraser.”

As we make the changes necessary to stop the foolishness, God will eliminate the regrets of the past. Watch your words – trust His forgiveness – and move on.

Pastor John

WHO’S YOUR HERO?

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Ten-year old boys ask a lot of questions. Many times the questions are deep in their mind, and they find their answers in a variety of places.  They have questions about identity and value. “Why do I look this way? Why do I act this way? What can I do to make other kids like me? Who do I want to be like when I grow up? Who is my hero?”

One such boy was fortunate to grow up in a family that loved Jesus. He had lots of influence from Godly role models. He was protected from the influence of evil through media because he grew up in a time when television shows were wholesome, and movies were family-oriented. He was given a great opportunity to find the answers to his questions in the right places.

One day, while at school, he decided who his hero was. He knew who he wanted to imitate with his life. He knew what kind of a man he wanted to become, and what kind of a friend he wanted to be to others. He was so enamored by this “hero” that he actually changed his own name. His name was already related to this new hero, so it seemed like an easy transition. He started signing his school papers with the new name. His teacher wondered what was going on. She thought he was having a major identity crisis, when in reality he was determining values that would last the rest of his life. She called his parents. They met at the school and asked the boy what he was doing. He told them that he had been listening to his Sunday School teacher tell the story of this hero from the Bible. Every part of his life fascinated the boy. He admitted that he wanted to be just like him and have those same values and qualities. His parents were very proud of him but refused to let him continue to use the wrong name. They had specifically chosen his name after another Bible character and a relative. To honor his family, the boy agreed. He decided that the name wasn’t as important as the characteristics, and it wouldn’t stop him from being like his hero even if he wasn’t named the same. So he went back to being John instead of Jonathon.

The story of Jonathon still fascinates me, and the story of his life really did influence me. Especially the one we read in today’s Scripture in 1 Samuel 14.

1 Samuel 14:6-7   “Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

The nation of Israel is being threatened by their enemy the Philistines. They are severely outnumbered. In fact, the only two people in the entire army that have swords are King Saul and his son Jonathon. The nation is hiding in terror. The army scatters, looking for caves, thickets, or even cisterns in which to hide. The soldiers have no weapons and no clear leadership, even from their King.

It’s easy to get discouraged when we look outnumbered and overpowered. It’s typical to withdraw and go into hiding. Our first impulse is to protect what we have left. Not my hero. Not Jonathon. Hopefully not me either. Ever. Jonathon calls his armor-bearer from the rocks, and they alone proceed up the mountain to the Philistine outpost. In the face of overwhelming odds, certain ridicule, and possible death, they step out in faith. WOW!

Do you understand the incredible statement that Jonathon makes, and the equally incredible one his armor-bearer makes? Jonathon knows the LORD and what He stands for. He has identified the enemy. He has made his choice to stand for the LORD. He has full confidence in what the LORD can and will do. He says, “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” Oh how we need this lesson today. The many may be against us, but the few win when God is with them. Especially when those few have the faith of Jonathon and the commitment of the armor-bearer, who said, “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Those of you who know me well now have an explanation for my “bull-in-the-china-shop” leadership style. I rarely look at odds. I see the Bible filled with courageous men and women who stepped out in faith and took on a whole outpost of soldiers with only one weapon. I see giant-slayers. I see faith in the LORD when others see fear of the world. I still wish my name was Jonathon. But more than that, I still want to have his courage and his faith. I want to be a friend like he was to King David. I want my life to be remembered for one thing – no matter what the odds, I not only stood for God, but advanced when others went into hiding. Who is with me heart and soul?

Pastor John

WHO IS YOUR LEADER?

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The people of Israel had become unsettled and dissatisfied with life. Samuel had been their ruler as a Judge from an early age. When he grew old, he appointed his sons Joel and Abijah to serve as judges. They were corrupt. They accepted bribes and sought dishonest gain, and they perverted justice. The people became disillusioned with their leadership. They asked Samuel to appoint a king over them so they could be like the other nations of the world.

At first Samuel took this personally. He thought the people were rejecting him. But God spoke to him and told him the truth.

The people were rejecting God. They were turning away from the One who had rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians, the Philistines, and all other enemies. They would rather live according to the standards of the world than under the supervision of the LORD. God would allow them to make such a choice, but not without fair warning of the consequences.

Through Samuel, God warned the people that a king will be committed to his own agenda and not the plan of God. A king will believe he is not accountable to anyone except himself and would dedicate himself to his own security and prosperity rather than the good of the people. He will take their sons and force them to be his servants to manage his own affairs. He will take their daughters and make them his servants to provide his own household with all the luxuries of life. He will tax the people excessively, taking the best of their crops to give to his attendants. He will take the best of their own servants, and along with the best of their cattle and flocks, he will make them his own. They will become so burdened under the taxation and demands of the king that they themselves will have to become his slaves just to survive. No longer will they be free to own land or build personal financial stability. They will instead totally become dependent upon their government to provide for them.

When the people heard this, they refused to believe it. They were convinced that they had made the right choice to desire a king, and they were going to save face at all costs by continuing to pursue one even though it was not what was best for them. So God directed Samuel to give them the desire of their heart. The people would have to learn the hard way. God led Samuel to a man named Saul. He would appeal to the people. He was a man of great physical stature – a head taller than any other person in the nation. He was without equal when compared to other people. God told Samuel that he would be the man that would deliver the nation from the bondage of the Philistines. For a time, Saul would listen to the LORD and would accomplish His purpose.

When Samuel meets Saul, he makes this statement to him, “And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?”(1 Samuel 9:20) 

Imagine how hard that must have been for Samuel to say. He was announcing to Saul that the people had decided that a mere man could lead them better than the LORD. The desire of the people was no longer for the heavenly King but for an earthly king. They had become totally enamored with the idea that a man could provide them with the cultural, social, and financial benefits they longed for. They had become so blinded by the desires of the flesh that they were willing to sacrifice their trust in God for trust in a man.

When Samuel gives his farewell speech to the people after Saul has been anointed as king, he makes this statement – “Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” God then gave them a sign that they had not done his will when they asked for a king, and the people finally admitted they had sinned. They were afraid. But Samuel assured them that if they and their king served the LORD, He would continue to bless them even though they had made the wrong choice. Then Samuel promised to pray for them.

The story of Israel and Saul is being lived out today. The desire of many Americans is turned to political leaders whom they believe will provide them with cultural, social, and financial benefits. Those desires have overwhelmed their desire to be faithful to God and His non-negotiable values. They have turned to trust in man and sacrificed their trust in God. Human leadership is not the answer. Our hope is not in government. Our hope is in the LORD. Our answer is in Jesus Christ.  

Pastor John

YOUR GREATEST LOVE

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

What do you love more than God? From the average Christian there would be a popular response – “Nothing.”  It is possibly a lie. If it was so easy to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, then God wouldn’t have made His first command to us to “have no other gods before Him.” We live in a country that calls itself Christian yet denies the very values that prove an acknowledgement of God, let alone a love for Him. Our choices and our actions tend to be determined by our own preferences and plans rather than the purpose of God. If given the choice between surrendering to the control of God or sacrificing God’s standards for the sake of self, we are too easily drawn to choose the latter. It is far too convenient in our culture to pursue the gratification of the immediate at the expense of God’s holiness. And every time we choose self-fulfillment, self-gratification, or secular prosperity over the moral truths of Jesus Christ, we deny that God is who we say we believe He is.

Samuel 3:18  “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.” 

I challenge you to go through the story of Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel 2. You will discover that Eli, the chosen priest of God, had two sons that treated with contempt the sacrificial system God had ordained for that day. Rather than uphold God’s holiness, Eli chose to favor his sons and not correct their actions. As a result, God declared through a prophet that Eli’s family would be removed from their ministry, and that there would be a physical curse placed on all of them and their descendants that they would never live to an old age. They would all die in the prime of their lives. In addition, Eli’s two sons would be killed on the same day, an event God called a sign that His justice would be enforced. The prophet who was given this message told Eli directly what God had said.

Now, in Chapter three, Samuel hears from the Lord for the first time, and God tests his commitment. He told him personally the same things the prophet had told Eli. When Eli asked Samuel what the Lord had said, Samuel was scared to tell him. But he knew he must tell the truth. He confirmed the message of the prophet to Eli. Imagine what Eli must have been thinking. As a result of the sin of his sons, and his choice to honor his sons over God, there would be ramifications and consequences placed upon his entire family tree from that day forward. I’m sure he struggled with the temptation to rebel against God, as we all would. He probably thought about complaining to God. He probably wondered if throwing a fit would help. He certainly struggled with the choice to turn to his own abilities to provide for himself and pursue alternate possibilities. But what does he say? It’s pretty revealing about his heart, isn’t it? He said, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

My friends, every day we are confronted with choices that test the true love of our heart. Every day we can choose to surrender to the Sovereignty of God and His holiness or to pursue the pleasures and prosperity of this world. Every day we demonstrate what we really love by building up treasures for ourselves on this earth or in eternity. Every day we testify to whom we really love when we strive for the security of self, or we serve the Savior. Even when it meant personal loss – great loss – Eli acknowledged the sovereignty and holiness of God. I wonder how we would respond in the same situation.

Are we willing to suffer loss for the sake of serving the Lord? Are we willing to stand on the holiness of God. Is there any issue in life for which we should deny our love for God? Is there any loss – financial or physical – that demands that we sacrifice the spiritual? Do we really believe that what we believe about God is really real? I pray that our choices every day will reveal that we love God more than we love self.

Pastor John

PASS IT ON

LifeLink  Devotions

Monday, June 13, 2022

Fourteen years ago I wrote a poem. It was based on a song. You will recognize it.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With antlers a-clashin’ and white tails flashin’ I’m out with the deer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Obviously this was written in the Fall when deer hunting started. However, I love being outdoors in every season. When I was a young boy in fifth grade, our church had a program called Christian Service Brigade. It was my first real introduction to enjoying and surviving in the great outdoors. The head Brigadier was a man named Virgil Oldham, and he made a real difference in my life. He taught us all about living the adventure of wilderness life. We went on camping trips, canoe trips, fishing trips, and we learned the skills necessary to survive. Mr. Oldham was a great role model. He was patient. He was consistent. He was fair. He taught with words and by example. I’m sure every boy in that ministry would tell you that they felt like they were his favorite, because that’s how he treated us. Even though he never personally took me hunting, I know the love he gave me for the woods and the skills he taught me were the foundation of my love for pursuing big game.

I learned something else important from Mr. Oldham – that God can use each and every one of us to impact someone else’s life if we will just let Him.

2 Timothy 3:14-15  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 

Touching someone’s life for Jesus isn’t confined to those who preach or write. Leading people to Jesus for salvation isn’t limited to Sunday School teachers or missionaries. Giving someone value and purpose isn’t limited to professional counselors. One man, a heating contractor named Virgil, invested his love for Jesus in ministry to young boys by teaching them outdoor skills, and he changed their lives. He certainly changed mine.

Each one of us has skills. We all have areas of personal interest. What’s needed is for us to invest in the lives of others – especially our youth. The most important lesson I have learned from all of this is that the subject matter isn’t nearly as important as the connection. Young people need to know that they are worth investing in. The connection you make with them is far more important than the skill you can teach them. Someday, after a real connection has been made, maybe 60 years later, the real value of what you gave will be made known.

Thank you, Mr. Oldham, for making such a connection with me.

Pastor John

SEARCH FOR PENNIES

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, June 10, 2022

 Of all the stories sent to me about people who made a difference in someone’s life, I’ve discovered a glaring omission. I haven’t received a single story yet of someone who came to saving faith in Jesus Christ because of the influence of another person. Now I’m convinced that there are many such stories, and you probably have one. You may even be the subject of someone else’s story of salvation because you showed them the way to Jesus. But I am concerned about something. Why, when we think of the people who made a difference in our lives, don’t we immediately think of the person who was responsible for telling us about Jesus? Isn’t our salvation the greatest gift we have ever received, and didn’t it make the biggest difference in our lives?

We seem to have become people who move about in life with very little concern for the lost people around us. We are so enamored by the blessings of our own lives, filled with pleasures and possessions, that we are blinded to the spiritual condition of those around us who are still in the bondage of sin. We would do anything and make any sacrifice to accomplish our own goals but find it difficult to influence another life for Christ. We make plans to see a Packer game, go on a trip, buy a new car or boat or camper, or invest in other things that will perish with this world, and yet we will let lost people around us perish with it. What does that say about our personal value system?

Roger Storms, pastor of First Christian Church in Chandler, Arizona, tells this story: “One Sunday, a car had broken down in the alley behind our facilities, and the driver had jacked up the car and crawled underneath to work on the problem. Suddenly, we heard him scream for help. The jack had slipped, and the car had come down on top of him. Someone shouted, ‘Call 9-1-1!’ and a couple of people ran for the phone. Several of our men gathered around the large car and strained to lift it off the trapped man. Nurses from our congregation were rounded up and brought to the scene. Somehow the men were able to ease the car’s weight off the man and he was pulled free. Our nurses checked him over. He was scratched up and shaken, but otherwise okay. When this man was in peril, people did all they could to help—risking themselves, inconveniencing themselves. Whatever was necessary to save this man, they were ready to try. How we need this same attitude when it comes to rescuing those in greatest peril—the danger of losing life eternally!”

C.S. Lewis said, “The glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.” The real business of life! I have a suggestion to help us all get back to the real business of life. Every day, at the close of every prayer, whether it’s at meals or in your devotions, ask God to use your life to win one soul to Christ today. How can we claim to pray in Jesus’ Name if we aren’t praying for His number one priority for our lives? We must get serious about bringing people to Jesus, and the best place for that to start is in our prayers.

Steve Sjogren is the pastor of a church in Cincinnati, Ohio. One Monday morning he was feeling particularly discouraged and announced to his wife Janie, “I’m quitting the ministry! And this time I mean it.” Janie had heard this kind of talk before so she suggested, “Why don’t you go for a drive and think things through? Usually that helps when you’re stressed out. And while you’re out, could you be a sweetheart and pick me up a burrito?” Steve drove around for about an hour, complaining to the Lord the whole time. Finally, he was in the fast-food drive-thru to pick up Janie’s burrito when he sensed the Lord speaking to him. In a subtle, quiet way he sensed the Lord impressing this message on his heart, “If you open your door I will give you a gift.” Even though he felt silly, Steve figured he had nothing to lose, so he opened the car door, looked down and saw embedded in the asphalt, a tarnished penny. This is what he says about the experience: “I reached down to pry out the coin and held it in my hand feeling less than thankful for this ‘gift.’ The Lord spoke to me again: ‘Many people in this city feel about as valuable as discarded pennies. I’ve given you the gift of gathering people who seem valueless. Though these are the people that the world casts off, they have great value to me. If you will open your heart, I will bring you more pennies than you know what to do with.”

So start praying for pennies. Spiritual pennies. Ask God to use your life to make a difference in the life of someone else by showing them the love of Jesus and leading them to salvation. Be intentional about it. Make it a part of every prayer you pray. Before you say “in Jesus Name, Amen” you should always say “Jesus, save someone today, and use me to do it.”

Pastor John