Lifelines May 20, 2018

Henry David Thoreau once observed, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That nineteenth century sentiment sounds incredibly contemporary. It illustrates the feelings of futility that have run through civilizations from the beginning of time and characterize our age as well. We are among the richest countries on earth, yet financial prosperity has not proven to be the answer. What is?

“These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).” Reflect on the brief biographical information that is available about Jesus, and we find nothing about His possessions. By His own admission, foxes and birds had what he did not (Matthew 8:20). Yet, in His closing conversation with the apostles before His crucifixion He spoke of His joy and of theirs being made full. He obviously knew something.

We must not miss the amazing timing of His words. The cross waited. The sins of all people of all times would soon be heaped on His shoulders. The back-lashing, crown of thorns, humiliation, ridicule and nails through the flesh were gruesome; but they were not the worst. No, the dreadful punishment for all of history’s sins made that seem like a hangnail by comparison. It wrecked His eternally perfect relationship with His Father. All of that was imminent, and He took time to converse about joy?

It is a byproduct of an intimate bond with Jesus Christ. We search in vain for joy when we should be pursuing the joy giver in a relationship so close that He compares it to a vine and branches. Abide is the word He uses multiple times to describe it. That is where we live. It is our life. It took just four verses of His gospel for John to get to the topic of life. It permeates His work. Jesus offers an abundant life (John 10:10), and that has nothing to do with material possessions. An insect can eat those. A thief can steal them. Time will destroy them (Matthew 6:19-21). The Lord offers something much more permanent than that. We focus on tomorrow. He looks at eternity.

It is that continual relationship with Jesus and His word that maintains a vital connection and results in a fruitful life (John 15:5). It is neither sporadic nor marginal. No, the harvest comes when we surrender every breath we take to His control. It is then that our home address is within His love. It is a rich and rewarding relationship known as discipleship. That is job one for those who truly want the joy filled life that only God can give.

God the Father is glorified, and we perpetually stay within the love of Jesus. The lines of communication between earth and heaven are opened. Jesus lived joyfully, explained it and then died. Are we looking and listening?

Lifelines May 11, 2018

“What is truth (John 18:38)?”  One of history’s most notorious characters posed that question to the Savior of the world.  It was a critical time.  It usually is when we are in the search for truth.  The forces of evil seemed to have all the momentum.  Pilate felt the squeeze of it.  Pressure mounted. Public opinion was hostile toward the Messiah.  It is an interesting question, one with never ending implications.

The word of the Lord is truth (John 17:17).  Every syllable that He ever uttered is trustworthy.  Our response to it may vary widely, but we cannot change it.  We can burn it.  Reject it.  Accept it.  Deny it.  But we cannot alter it.  The serpent tried.  He sought to undermine the validity of God’s command.  He succeeded in convincing Eve.  The word did not change, but the world did.  Our individual reality is distorted when truth is rejected.  We do not see things as they really are, and that will inevitably lead us into a death chamber.

Postmodern thinking rejects the notion that there is absolute truth.  The original liar (John 8:44) is still busy with a new way of warping minds.  Common sense outweighs Divine revelation in contemporary culture.  Feelings override intellect.  Majority opinion is favored over God’s.  The resulting chaos is as predictable as the sunrise.  The internal confusion that uncertainty generates turns into actions which fill our homes and spill into the streets.  America seeks political solutions to spiritual problems.  They fail, yielding a bumper crop of frustration.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22).”  It dresses up in the fanciest academic cap and gown imaginable.  Nothing exploded and became a bunch of stars and planets.  Quite coincidentally they arranged themselves, unaided, in orbits.  From the sludge life popped into being.  With no musicians, instruments or director; a symphony began.  What a silly, antiquated notion is this God thing.  And truth?  That’s a quaint concept consigned to the uneducated.  The environment is ripe for a big bite of forbidden fruit.

Twenty centuries ago Jesus spoke of knowing the truth (John 8:31-32).  It is a knowledge that is obtainable, and it is much more than simply facts crammed into our cranium.  Yes, there is information to learn, but we must translate those facts into a lifestyle.  It takes an ongoing application of God’s principles to get to the ultimate truth.  It is more than we thought.  Much more.

“I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).”  The word of God (Truth) guides us into a knowledge of the Son of God (The living Truth).  The word (John 17:17) leads us to the Word (John 1:1). That is our only hope of being liberated from the bondage of sin (John 8:36) and seeing us safely home to our Father.  There is no other way.  Take it or leave it, but we cannot change it.

Lifelines 5/06/2018

The human mind is amazing.  It has the capacity to take us to mountain tops of joy or the deepest valleys of sadness without moving a muscle.  The blues live just around the mental corner from happiness.  Our stockpile of memories can take us around the world in an instant.  We hear songs while in absolute silence.  They have the power to lift or lower our spirits.  The thoughts that occupy our minds will go a long way in determining what kind of day we will have.

King David knew the ups and downs of life as well as anyone.  He was God’s handpicked man to rule the Lord’s holy people.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  He is the same man that lusted and leaped for the lady next door then conspired to have her husband killed.  Those thoughts saturated his brain.  He could think of little else (Psalm 51:3), and that’s about as low as anyone could go.  Through it all, he remained a man after God’s heart, but he still rode that intellectual and emotional roller coaster.  He has saved us a seat.

In the first Psalm, He explored the pathway of blessing.  The company we keep is influential in who we become.  Pick your associates carefully.  Choose your fields of contemplation with the same caution.  A mind that ponders the massive truths of God is of great profit.  The blessed person has come to recognize the infinite value of the Lord’s message and makes it a daily practice to meditate on it.  Bible study is no burden.  It is a great joy for those who choose to be blessed.

It is clear that our Creator does not want us to live a life consumed by anxiety.  Jesus cautioned His apostles against having troubled hearts as He Himself prepared to bear the punishment for the sins of the world (John 14:1).  He spoke of peace (John 14:27; 16:33) in the growing shadow of the cross.  God sent His Son to make peace (Ephesians 2:14-18).  Yet, we often live anxiety riddled days.  Why?  It’s all in our thinking.

Paul addressed the anxiety issue (Philippians 4:6-9).  He simply said not to be and gave us directions as to how we can find relief.  Talk to God.  Jesus opened those lines of communication, so let’s use them.  Spill your heart’s deepest concerns.  Hold nothing back.  He knows anyway, so, say it.  And be sure to add a large helping of thanksgiving with it.  See what that does?  It gets our thoughts on to our blessings.  Pretty clever, huh?  And he is not finished.

Meditate on good things.  Whatever is praise-worthy is contemplation-worthy.  Fill our minds with them and our lives with Christian practices.  God has given us an incredible tool.  Satan knows it’s amazing, too.  It is powerful in the hands of one of them.  We get to choose which one.

Lifelines April 29, 2018

In a world that seems characterized by anger and division, the church stands out like a candle in a dark room.  The Lord has gathered together in a single body His people whose primary trait is love (John 13:35).  We follow His footsteps, and they have left a challenging trail through the turmoil of our times.  They lead to the cross of self-sacrifice.

Jesus demonstrated through example what it means to love.  It is a remarkable journey that began for Him in eternity past.  He sat in equality with God (Philippians 2:6).  We, too, have what we view as our position in life, but none of us has anywhere near the status that He had.  Yet, He gave that up.  Will we?  Does something stand in our way?  Is there anything that we are unwilling to let go of to demonstrate our love?

Pride is often the culprit.  Jesus was humble, even to the obedient point of death.  On the way to that brutal sacrifice, He served.  The King of kings had every right to demand to be served, but he did not.  He washed feet (John 13:3-17).  Fed the hungry.  Dined with the sinners.  Ultimately, He gave His life to cleanse us from sin.  Such a love exceeds our mental capacities without the help of God (Ephesians 3:19-20).  Now, He says to do it as He did (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Love God.  Love your fellow-man.  Perhaps, we want it to be more complicated than that.  It isn’t.  The word of God reveals to us not only the how but also the why.  That, too, is not complicated.  We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Motivation comes from a closer look at the baby in the manger, the footprints He left, the agonizing prayer in Gethsemane and the death that He died for us.  But that was not the end.

That tomb is empty.  The trail He blazed did not stop in a cemetery but in the presence of God, right where it began.  That is where love always starts and stops.  God the Father initiated it, God the Son embodied it and God the Spirit produces it in our lives as we follow His lead.  It is the defining quality of disciples, and the world desperately needs it.

Yes, it is likely to be met with the same welcome that Jesus received.  Self-sacrifice is rarely admired.  It seems so weak from a human perspective.  Love gives, and people take advantage.  Expect it.  It will happen.  Remember their response to the Lord as He reached out to sinners and became a condemned man.  It is a complicated road filled with heartache and disappointment.  He who led the way experienced it as well.  We must never forget where His journey ended.  He is in the Father’s presence forever.  Never lose sight of that.  Following His footprints will take us there, too.

Lifelines 04/22/2018

What has happened to our nation?  There was a time in which we proudly stood for God and country.  Now, those concepts are ridiculed and scorned.  The latest evidence is Chick-fil-A’s entry into the New York market.  They were welcomed by one area magazine with the headline, “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.”  Why?  The reason is eye-opening.

In the article, the author cites their pervasive Christian traditionalism as a real problem.  Huh?  You mean this sneaky business operates on Christian principles?  Now, that really is scary.  Everybody knows how subversive a chicken sandwich is, and now this.  The article also points out an even more frightening reality of this company.  Their headquarters in Atlanta has actual Bible verses on display.  Why, the nerve of such a company infiltrating the Big Apple!

The magazine has sounded a warning for all New Yorkers to be on the alert.  Why, that evil company also has the audacity to have a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet in their home office.  And imagine what a terrible influence it is on that big city to have a restaurant that closes on Sunday.  All of that rolled into one business is clearly a threat to the fabric of America.

As if that were not enough, the writer reminds his readers that the restaurant’s corporate purpose still begins with…you may want to sit down for this…“To glorify God.”  That certainly sounds threatening.  He even criticizes Chick-fil-A for the cows in their commercials.  They are clearly evangelistic.  That man obviously has a cholesterol clog somewhere near his brain.  Certainly in his soul.

His article reads like a stand-up comedian’s routine. It sounds like a joke, but it is not.  It reflects a growing sentiment within our country.  Every public display of biblical references is met with a separation-of-church-and-state challenge.  Atheists are militant and more evangelistic than evangelists.  While many Christians are watering down the message to suit the culture; opponents are standing up, speaking up and winning converts.

Their influence is assisted through the media.  Television, magazines like the one in which this article appeared and movies are powerful tools in the hands of their messengers.  Add to that the almost instantaneous around-the-world communication of social media and we see the impact of a few swaying many.  Their numbers swell.  Their voices grow louder.  Now, what was unimaginable a decade ago has become the norm as Christians grow numb.

“You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).”  The Lord has us here for a reason, and it is not to sit idly by as the evil one overruns the world.  Christians have the responsibility to be His influence on our culture.  Too often, it is the other way around.  We witness the ongoing decay all around us, and we are the only line of defense.  If we cease to be salty we are good for nothing.