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

 

There’s Trouble Ahead

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 7, 2020

“You’re going to get in trouble!”

Do you remember hearing that when you were contemplating doing something that pushed the limits of acceptable behavior? I heard it often, and sometimes I took it as a challenge. I got in trouble sometimes. I should have gotten in trouble every time.

No one likes to be told that trouble is coming. Even when we deserve it, we don’t like it. We do everything we can to avoid it. Most often we lie so that the trouble can’t find us.

There’s another saying that is used in a sarcastically humorous way when we see someone approaching us.

“Here comes trouble.”

It’s really a terrible thing to say to anyone. We should never personify trouble and label people that way, even jokingly.

But the Bible says trouble is coming. Here’s a challenging verse for us today from the Apostle Paul.

2 Timothy 3:1  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

As we will see this week in our study of the Last Days, the trouble will be rooted in the confrontation of righteousness and evil. The trouble will be the product of the increase in evil, and will magnify when those who are righteous are called out for not supporting evil. The trouble will be felt most by the righteous as they are rejected by society and are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Here’s how Paul describes the pervasiveness of evil.

2 Timothy 3:2-7 2  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Now, contrast that with Paul’s challenge to the righteous.

2 Timothy 3:10-17 10  You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11  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. 12  Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13  while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15  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. 16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Which one of those two passages describes you?

Pastor John

Return to the Lord

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Friday, September 04, 2020

In the middle of the Prophet Joel’s description of the Day of the Lord, and the judgements that will accompany the return of Jesus, we find this invitation to people:

Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; (Joel 2:13)

This weekend – a long one with a Monday holiday – spend some time contemplating these aspects of God’s nature. They are an open invitation for us to stop laboring so hard to fix everything, including our attempts to fix ourselves, and turn to the One who has everything under control.

  1. We are invited to return to the Lord, which indicates that we have turned away from Him. Reflect on the areas of your life where you have pushed God aside.
  2. We are motivated to return to God because it is safe to do so. The characteristics of God in this verse indicate that no matter what we have done, or how great the sin we have committed, God is ready to receive us and restore us.
  3. God is gracious – giving us what we do not deserve and could never earn. We are not required to work our way back into His favor. Simply repent and turn back to Him and receive His forgiveness.
  4. God is merciful – not giving us what we deserve. He is not contemplating the degree of punishment to enforce upon us. That was all done in Christ on the cross. There is no judgment awaiting those who come to Christ.
  5. God is slow to anger – HALLELUJAH, because we do plenty to justify His anger. He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish in sin. He calmly and caringly waits with open arms to receive you.
  6. God abounds in steadfast love – even while we were separated from Him, His love was faithfully expressed to us. He sent Jesus while we were still in rebellion in our sin. He seeks reconciliation with His children when they wander away in sin. He pursues us with an everlasting love that is not a conditional response to our behavior, but a steadfast expression of His nature. God’s love can be trusted explicitly.

WOW! What a way to start the weekend. May you be encouraged, and find opportunities to encourage others with these truths.

Pastor John

Stand Up For Love

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, September 3, 2020

If you have been studying what the Bible has to say about the Last Days, then you recognize that the main focus of the New Testament teaching is on the contrast that is to exist between the disciples of Jesus and those who chose not to believe in Him. In my understanding, the biggest sign we will see of the approaching return of Jesus is the sharp increase in spiritual warfare. The Enemy of God, Satan, will do more and more works of power to seek to deceive as many as possible, even those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The war Satan wages against God is much more significant than any wars and rumors of wars amongst the nations of the world.

The most effective way to recognize a counterfeit is to completely study the original. So before we begin to study what the counterfeits of faith will look like in the Last Days, let’s do some investigation of what faithful followers of Jesus look like.

On Sunday we are going to look at a passage of Scripture from the prophet Joel. Here is one verse from that passage for us to digest today. The context here is that Joel is proclaiming the great and awesome day of the Lord that is coming, when He judges the nations for their sin. Right in the middle of Joel’s description of the disasters that will come upon the world, he gives us this admonition –

Joel 2:13 Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;

As we consider how we should live in the Last Days, let us use this description of the character of God as the model for our own character. God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. In the midst of His judgement of sin, God desires more people to come to Christ for salvation. While millions are rejecting Him and rebelling against Him, and He is preparing to implement His judgement, He is calling out to people to return to Him.

I am overwhelmed at the thought of God because His thoughts for me are so unlike my natural thoughts towards other people caught in sin. I am not naturally gracious. I am not very merciful. I am not so slow to anger. I do not abound in love. I am not alone, for you are the same.

Yet God calls us, in these last days, to be gracious and merciful. We are to be slow to get angry at people, at politics, and at injustice. We are not the messengers and enforcers of God’s justice. We are the ministers of God’s steadfast love.

As the world plunges towards the great and terrible Day of the Lord, when Jesus will judge the sin of everyone who does not believe in Him, there is still an opportunity for people to be saved.  They will not be saved by arguments. They will not be saved by us correcting injustice. They will not be saved by political leaders. They will only be saved by confronting the steadfast love of God that forgives sin in Jesus Christ.

Who will stand and represent God’s love so people can return to the Lord?

Pastor John

On Mission with the Holy Spirit

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

For the last two days we have laid the foundation for our study of the Last Days as revealed to us in Scripture.  We learned that we are already in the last days, and that as we live through them we are to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and His mission of redemption.  We are not to be distracted by searching for signs, but rather we are to be faithful and intentional witnesses of God’s grace to the lost world while we wait for the return of Jesus. If we can remember to keep those foundational principles in front of us, we are prepared to use them to help us understand the things that will be happening as Christ’s return approaches and how we should be living while we wait.

The first time the actual words “last days” are used in the New Testament is in Acts chapter 2 when Peter the Apostle preaches on the day of a Pentecost.

“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”  Acts 2:16-21

Before we get focused on what the prophet Joel said in the middle of this passage, let’s remember our first principle – keep the focus on Jesus and His mission. While there will be signs to observe, the focus of the last days is on the pouring out of the Spirit of God on all flesh so that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Everything that happens in the last days has one purpose ordained by the Father – to get people saved from their sin.

On Sunday we are going to dig into Joel’s prophecy and discover that the prophet has a lot to say directly from the Lord about how we are to live during the last days. But for today, please consider this:

Since God’s desire during the last days is that people get saved, and the Holy Spirit has been poured out to draw people to Christ for salvation, does it not follow that we should join the Holy Spirit in the mission of redemption and be the witnesses of Jesus Christ to the lost people of the world? 

I totally understand people’s curiosity about the last days. But I challenge you to consider this: while we are trying to figure out the signs of the last days and when Jesus will return, people around us are spending their last days preparing for eternal separation from God, and most don’t even know it. Of what value is it for us to know all about the last days while those without hope are plummeting towards their last day?

Won’t you join the Holy Spirit in the mission of redemption and become a bold and vocal witness of the grace of God found in Jesus Christ, so that people begin calling on the name of the Lord to be saved?

Pastor John

 

 

 

Be Ready

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In my 67+ years I have lived through several uprisings of interest in Bible prophecy. When natural catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, tornadoes, and fires seem to increase in frequency, people take notice and begin to ask, “Could this be the time of Christ’s return?” When territorial tension increases around the world, especially in the Middle East, people take notice and begin to ask, “Could this be the time of Christ’s return?” When political leaders rise to positions of power and international influence, people take notice and begin to ask, “Could this be the time of Christ’s return?” When people with spiritual influence claim to have discovered a new understanding of the Bible and predict the dates and times when prophecy will be fulfilled, people take notice and begin to ask, “Could this be the time of Christ’s return?”

I have experienced numerous such times of people taking an increased interest in Bible prophecy. But here we are, still waiting and wondering, “Could this be the time of Christ’s return?”

As we discussed yesterday, we are living in the Last Days as described in the Bible.  The Last Days officially began when Jesus came to earth some 2,000 years ago (See Hebrew 1:1-3). That’s a long time for the Last Days to last. There is a natural curiosity that comes with long waits. We want to know when it will happen.  We look for evidence and seek understanding.  Somewhere in the Bible there must be a clue that has been missed. Somewhere in the world something is happening that is a sign. We have a need to know.

But therein lies the problem. We have the need to know what Jesus has declared can’t be known. We desire evidence when Jesus requires faith. Jesus said, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Then a few verses later He said, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:36, 44)

I remember when a few of my childhood friends and I heard the pastor teach on those verses, and in a selfish way we twisted the words to fit our own desires.  We were preparing for an important Little League baseball game, and we were worried that Jesus would come back before we could play. I remember saying to my friends, “So if I expect Jesus to return before the game He won’t.” Obviously that was not the application Jesus hoped I would make.

We are to constantly look for His return, but we are not to be overly invested in seeking to pinpoint the time. Instead, we are to focus on being ready. We will discuss the details o being ready in the next few days. But for today, let me tell you simply how to be ready: BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BE SAVED. You cannot be ready for the return of a Christ if you have not been saved by Christ. Repent of your sin. Turn to Jesus by faith and receive His forgiveness for sin. He will cleanse you and make you His child forever so you are ready to meet Him when He returns.

Pastor John

 

 

 

The Last Day(s)

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, August 31, 2020

For the next few weeks we are going to take a scenic route through Scripture on a subject of great interest to many people right now. I have had several inquiries about how the current events in the world are related to the events described in the Bible during the last days. In John 6, Jesus mentioned that He would be the final judge of a person’s eternal state when they are raised up on the last day.

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.””  John 6:39-40

 In addition to stating that He is the One Way to God, Jesus is declaring that time as we know it will come to an end. Eternity is a certainty, and for eternity to begin, there has to be a last day. It seems to me that the average person operates in life as if it will never come to an end. But there will be a last day.

It makes sense, then, that the days prior to the last day will be known as the last days. The period of time known as the last days actually began some two-thousand years ago when the writer of Hebrews in the New Testament revealed this truth:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4

Clearly we are to understand that the last days began when Jesus Christ came to earth the first time to provide for our redemption from sin.

Of course, the New Testament has many other things to say about the last days, and over the next few weeks we are going to study them. But ponder this for today…the focus of the last is Jesus Christ. The only way to endure and survive the last days is through Jesus Christ.  The only thing we should be talking about is the glory of Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh, the radiance of His glory, the One who upholds the universe by the power of His word, and the One who reigns on the throne of heaven and is worthy of our worship.

Check your focus today. Is it on the last days and how to survive them, or is it on the Last Day, when we all get to heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all see Jesus.

Pastor John

Who Are You Following?

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, August 27, 2020

People are natural born followers. Even those who profess to be leaders are driven by their nature to follow. It is human nature to first follow self, and then to follow those who are also following self. Just look around. The predominate philosophy of people is to pursue self-enhancement, self-benefit, self-approval, and self-gratification. The people of the world are following self, and following people who are also following self.

The activity of following self is sin. The Scripture declares this truth in Isaiah 53 verse 6.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

We all desire to follow someone. We all need someone whom we believe provides us with the answers we are seeking to life’s serious questions. We are skilled at jumping onto bandwagons.

Jesus understood this fact of human nature. Thousands of people followed Him because they thought He could satisfy their personal needs. After explaining to them the deeper spiritual needs that He would meet for them, this is what happened.

John 6:66-69 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

People left because they wanted to follow someone who was also following self. But Jesus had earlier stated that He was following the Father, not self. People understood that to mean that He would not meet their need to gratify self, so they walked away.

Then Jesus asked His chosen disciples what they would do. I love the response of Peter.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Peter realized that he was tired of following the pursuits of self-fulfillment. He recognized that there is a much greater human need than food and shelter. Peter declared that He was ready to seek spiritual fulfillment ahead of all other human needs. He had discovered that there was only one true source of fulfillment, only one way to spiritual life, and only one Person worthy of being followed.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Who are you following that you hope will lead you to fulfillment? Is it a political leader? Is it a financial advisor? Is it a social justice movement or cause? What are you passionately pursuing so that your life can finally have meaning and purpose?

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Peter answers His own question.

“You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

I hope you can say the same.

Pastor John