BEWARE!

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 21, 2020

This is our last week of study on the Last Days, and it our focus will be on the words of Jesus as He speaks to His disciples about His return to earth at the end of the age. In Matthew 24, the disciples sit down with Jesus in private and ask Him, ”What will be the signs of your coming and of the end of the age?”

As Jesus explains to them some of the things that will happen, He turns His attention on the disciples to challenge them to be faithful. Jesus says,

 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” Matthew 24:45-47

On the surface, this may not seem like a “WOW!” moment. But that’s exactly what it is to me. The Scriptures constantly call each one of us to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ and wise messengers of the Gospel. Some of us have been specifically called to be in charge of feeding Christ’s household, the church. The reward for faithfully feeding the church with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a place of continuing service in the coming Kingdom of Christ.

I am one of those servants, and it’s feeding time. Here’s your Monday meal of spiritual nourishment. These words come from Jesus as a contrast between faithful and wicked servants. It serves as a warning to us that there are false teachers who are abusing their positions of spiritual leadership for personal gain.

Matthew 24:48-51 “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

As one of Christ’s servants, charged with feeding His household, I want to warn you to beware of false teachers who will seek to lead you astray. The Apostle Peter says that they will be identified by their denial of Jesus as Christ, by their sensuality, and by their greed.

2 Peter 2:1-3 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

My fellow servants of Jesus Christ, beware of preachers, teachers, pastors, and spiritual leaders who disguise the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in humanistic, self-serving, and self-gratifying promises. Do not be led astray by teaching that satisfies emotional and material needs. Be on the alert for subtle ways that the Gospel is twisted to gratify the need for self-worth and self-fulfillment. BEWARE! Jesus said there is destruction coming for all who teach a false Gospel and also for all who follow such teachers.

My prayer is that you will have the discernment of the Holy Spirit to recognize false teaching, and the strength of the Holy Spirit to endure in the Gospel until Jesus returns.

Pastor John

I’m Okay Because…

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 18, 2020

Later today I have the honor of officiating at a wedding. As my wife and I went through Calvary’s marriage mentoring program with the couple, we gave them a two-week assignment we give to every couple. “Every time you say ‘I LOVE YOU’ there has to be a ‘because’ attached to it, and the because can never be an action but a character trait. AND, you can never repeat one in the two week period.”

Some couples find this very difficult. The words I love you can lose their significance through over-use unless a reason for saying them is attached. Try it with your wife or husband. “I love you because you are so kind” means a whole lot more than “I love you because you’re cute.”

Now, take that principle and apply it to our spiritual lives with Christ. What if we started giving reasons for why we are okay every time we are asked? How would you finish this statement when someone asks you how you are?

“I’m okay because…”

If the way you fill in the blank is based on circumstances, then you won’t be okay for long. However, if you finished the statement with something that has to do with the character and activity of Christ in you, then you will always be okay.

In First Thessalonians chapter five the Apostle Paul reminds us why we are okay.

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

Here is a list from the rest of that passage to help you get started on your list of reasons you are okay.

  1. We are children of Light, and do not have to be affected by the darkness
  2. We are awake. We are alert to what is happening and aware of Christ’s sovereignty over it all.
  3. We are sober, under the influence of the Holy Spirit alone, so we can rationally understand what is happening around us and respond appropriately.
  4. We are protected by faith and love. Our hearts remain strong so that we can endure all things because:
    1. We have faith in Christ’s saving power; and
    2. We know the love of God for us and we are growing in our love for God.
  5. Our minds are filled with hope of the glory to come, so the world does not discourage us.

May the Lord strengthen you as you daily remember that you are okay because…

Pastor John

Not Surprised

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, September 16, 2020

Have you ever been surprised by something you expected?  I’m sure someone has a story, but for the most part, when we expect something, we look for it, and because we are looking for it we are not surprised when it arrives. We even sign up with delivery companies to get alerts on our phones so we know when a package is arriving. When we expect something, we look for it, and we are not surprised when it arrives.

That is to be the reality for disciples of Jesus as we wait for His return. We expect it. We look for it. We will not be surprised when He arrives.

When Jesus returns it will not surprise those who are looking for it.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

There is one HUGE principle that determines how true this is for your life.

Do we expect more from this world than we do from Christ’s return?

OUCH! That stings. We tend to expect the world’s system of politics, finances, recreation, employment, status, sports, friendships, sexual passions, and multiple other things to solve our identity crisis and give us value. But they never seem to fulfill us. We always need and want more.

But when we expect Jesus Christ to completely meet our need for identity, acceptance, and value, we turn from looking at the world and we gaze intently into the face of Christ, hoping to see it physically at any moment.

When we expect to find completeness in Christ, we will not be surprised that we find it.

Pastor John

SURPRISE!

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I have mixed feelings about surprises. I like surprises that benefit me. I hate surprises that scare me. One thing I know for sure…everyone of God’s surprises is for my benefit. The same cannot be said for people who are disciples of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

When Jesus returns it will surprise the unsaved, and it will not be a good surprise.

There is a big difference between the perspective of a person saved by the grace of God, and the person who ignores their need to be saved by the grace of God. Saved people desire the return of Jesus. Unsaved people don’t want it to happen. Saved people keep the hope of the Lord’s return on their mind constantly as they live this life in anticipation of eternity. Unsaved people choose to forget that Jesus is coming and live only for the benefits of today hoping that eternity isn’t real.

SURPRISE! Eternity is real, and it will be spent in one of two places – either in the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ, or forever separated from His presence condemned to Hell. There is nothing that can separate the saved from eternity with Jesus. There is nothing except faith in Jesus that can rescue the unsaved from punishment.

Everyone is conceived in sin and deserves eternal judgment. Jesus died on the cross to suffer God’s judgment for us. Those who confess their belief in Jesus as the Savior of their souls is rescued from judgment. There will be no surprises for the saved. There is certain destruction for the unsaved.

If you are saved, let your rejoicing surprise others.

If you are unsaved, you now know the truth. What will you do?

Pastor John

Face to Face

 LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

As a teenager I developed a love for Bible prophecy. I remember taking an interest in the return of Jesus Christ. I even remember thinking about the ideal place to be when Jesus returns. For me, the best location to be taking up into the presence of Jesus would be in a cemetery, where I could witness the resurrection of those who have died in Christ and join them as we all go to meet the Lord.

You may not have ever thought about that, but you must take some time to think about this…

There will be a resurrection of all who have ever been saved.

One of the greatest hopes we have as disciples of Jesus Christ is that someday, whether we are alive or our body is in a temporary resting place, we will rise to see Jesus. Here’s how that event is described by the Apostle Paul.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Someday, maybe today, we who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ will meet Him face to face. We will see Jesus. We will be forever in the presence of Jesus. Our bodies will be transformed from perishable to imperishable. We will be rescued from corruption and made incorruptible. We will be eternally free from sin, death, pain, tears, and sorrow, and we will be filled with inexpressible joy as we enter the glorious presence of God.

I don’t know about you, but when I keep that imminent hope in my mind, it puts everything else going on in the world in it’s proper perspective. Nothing in this world can change what Jesus has promised.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  John 14:3

Pastor John

 

 

The Power of Grace

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, September 14, 2020

This week in our study of the Last Days I want to encourage us with what the Lord Jesus gave us during the worship service yesterday. There were four principles from four passages of Scripture dealing with the last days, all from the writings of the Apostle Paul. As I reflect on the first principle from Paul’s letter to Titus, there are some things that are having a powerful impact on my heart and mind. Here’s what the Holy Spirit has to say through the pen of Paul.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

The principle we introduced yesterday was this:

Everything in the world is progressing according to God’s purpose to reveal the glory of His Son Jesus.

But surrounding this principle in the text are some serious challenges to how we should be living while we wait for the glory of Jesus to be revealed.

  1. The grace of God that saves us also trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. It has become increasingly obvious to me that many people who claim to have been saved by the grace of God are ignoring the transforming power of God in their lives. They claim to have the knowledge of God, but they presume it can coexist alongside the self-serving activities of ungodliness and worldly passion. This is not possible where God’s grace is understood. Remember the words of Paul to Timothy from our study last week? “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
  2. The grace of God that saves us also trains us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. That’s a tall order and getting increasingly difficult to accomplish. How can we be successful at being self-controlled, upright, and godly is an age where evil is growing exponentially? We can’t, except for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit producing the character of Christ in us. The grace of God has both saved us and equipped us with everything we need for life and godliness. Here’s what the Apostle Peter said.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

WOW!  That is so encouraging. The power of God’s grace, delivered to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Go ahead, read that again, and let the truth of it transform the way you think about life. You do not have to be the victim of sinful desires, but the victor over them.

HALLELUJAH!

Pastor John

 

The Source of Survival

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Friday, September 11, 2020

Yesterday we looked into the first three principles the Apostle Paul gave Timothy for how to endure the Last Days.  Today, let’s discover the rest from this passage.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17

  1. The Bible is to be the basis for how we interpret and respond to the things that are happening in the world.
  2. The Bible is sacred. It is the inspired word of God. It has no errors. It needs no improvement. And the same Holy Spirit who breathed it out dwells in the redeemed so we can breathe it in.
  3. The Bible makes us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and the joy of our salvation is to be the water that quenches every thirst we have. The prophet Isaiah said, “With joy you will draw water from the well of salvation.” (Is. 12:3)
  4. When we view the world through the lens of the Bible, four things will happen that are profitable for our endurance and survival:
    1. We will be taught to look at life from God’s perspective, which includes knowing God’s will, participating in God’s work, and learning how to be an effective witness. The Word of God teaches us how to interpret and respond to every circumstance of life in a way that honors Jesus Christ.
    2. God’s Word will convict us of the things in our lives that are dishonoring to God. The Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to rend our hearts so sin can be exposed and confessed. This is critical if we are to live pure lives and be separated from evil.
    3. God’s Word will correct us. It’s not enough for us to simply recognize that sin exists. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit when He initiates a process of correction. We don’t like to be corrected because it conflicts with our goals and agenda. When we switch our agenda to Christ’s agenda, we will gladly participate in the correction necessary so we may participate in Christ’s goals.
    4. God’s Word will train us in righteousness. Embrace the correction of the Holy Spirit as He produces the character of Christ in you. Learn from God’s Word how to live righteously, then make it happen.

When we do these things, using God’s Word as the source of truth, we will be equipped to endure the Last Days.

Pastor John

God’s Survival Plan

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, September 10, 2020

In our study of the Last Days we are focusing on the contrast between those who are in rebellion against God and those who have been redeemed by God. According to the Apostle Paul, evil is going to increase as people go from bad to worse.

2 Timothy 3:13  …while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

How are we to endure such times as these? The advice God gives the redeemed for how to live faithfully in the Last Days has not changed for two-thousand years. The Apostle Paul reiterates God’s survival plan when he writes the following to Timothy.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17

I want to dig into these verses today and tomorrow so we can find the strength we need to stand strong as evil increases. Here are a couple of points for us to ponder today.

  1. But as for you… Notice that Christ expects that we will be different from those who are going from bad to worse. By grace we have gone from bad to blessed, and Jesus encourages us to continue in the faith. Don’t be tempted or deceived into going back to sin. Keep moving towards the ultimate blessing of eternal glory with Christ.
  2. …continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed… By the grace of God the redeemed have been given the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s Word and to make application in our lives through obedience. This would be a good time to check how firmly we believe what the Scripture says by how well we trust it and obey it.
  3. …knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings… I praise God for a family heritage of faith and that I learned the Scriptures from an early age. Some of you may not have that same heritage. Begin today to establish your family in the Gospel so that future generations, if Christ’s return allows for them, will be able to praise God for their heritage of faith as well. Family strength based on faith in Jesus Christ will be a crucial part of enduring the evil of the Last Days.

Tomorrow we will look at more, but spend some time reflecting on these three things today, and rejoice that God has provided everything we need to remain faithful to Him through His Living Word.

Pastor John

 

Grow in Character

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Yesterday was probably painful if you did the exercise I gave you.  None of us likes to dig that deep into our hearts. We’ve spent years putting on masks and clothing that cover the dirt we don’t want exposed. But exposing it is the only way to eliminate it. I hope you have a testimony of the incredible healing power of God’s grace you experienced as you humbled yourself before the the Lord.

Once we have confessed the sin that affects our intimacy with Christ and our witness to the world, we can focus on what makes us strong. Read the words of Paul as he encourages Timothy to represent the Gospel with his life.

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”  2 Timothy 3:10-11 ESV

Here’s a quick list of the characteristics of a person who is devoted to Jesus.

  • Follow the teachings of Scripture
  • Follow the example of others who faithfully follow Jesus
  • Set life goals that accomplish the gospel mission of redemption
  • Learn from the faith of others
  • Learn to be patient and wait on the Lord to reveal His will
  • Learn to love others with the love of Jesus
  • Stay strong and keep serving the Lord even when it’s hard
  • Endure persecution and suffering knowing that the Lord will give you strength and deliver you.

Now, review the list, and do two things. First, give praise to God for the grace He gave you to be growing in the character of Christ. Then second, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in the areas where you may not be growing. Believe me when I tell you, because Jesus said it first, the time is coming, and is already here, when we will need each of these characteristics to stand against the evil of the day.

Pastor John

 

Redraw the Line

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The devotional this week are going to be tough. They are going to dig into our hearts if we let them, and let them we must. It is time for the disciples of Jesus to get real before our Lord and give the Holy Spirit access to every part of our hearts, our minds, our attitudes, and our activities. As we learned on Sunday from the prophet Joel, it is time for us to “rend our hearts, not our garments.”

Most of us have spent most of our lives trying to fit in. We learn at an early age to imitate people who appear to be liked by others. We learn quickly what kinds of behaviors earn acceptance with others and which ones cause others to withdraw from us. It seems that we have adopted the philosophy that the highest pursuit in life is to live in peace with as many people as possible by being tolerant of everything. Unfortunately, seeking peace by being tolerant of people has turned into being tolerant of behaviors that are antagonistic to God.

Jesus taught us that His followers would be persecuted by the people living under the authority of the Enemy of Jesus, the Prince of Darkness. But instead of embracing the suffering, like Jesus did, we have embraced the tolerance of sin and invited it into our lives so we can feel accepted by the world. Christ’s desire for a clear line of delineation to exist between His followers and those who follow sin does not seem to match our desire to be accepted by everyone. God’s intended clear line of distinction has been blurred and almost buried by the very people He saved to make the line visible. The visibility of the line is essential to the Gospel. The clear distinction between sinner and saint is the evidence God uses so the world can see the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives.

My challenge for us you today is a tough one. I want you to slowly read and meditate on the words of Paul below, and ask yourself if even the slightest tolerance of even one of these sins exists in your life. Then humbly repent before the Lord, receive His forgiveness, and commit to being intolerant to them in the future. Let’s redraw the line.

2 Timothy 3:2-7  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Pastor John