Lifelines June 17, 2018

What is life all about?  It is a question begging for an answer.  Throughout the ages, philosophers have offered up their thoughts.  Theologians have tossed in their two cents worth.  Contemporary culture has added their twist.  The voices grow louder, and the confusion multiplies.  There are innumerable theories, but is there really anyone who has drawn a trustworthy conclusion?

Solomon faced a monumental task, one for which he felt ill-equipped.  He had been designated to rule over the kingdom.  It was not your run-of-the-mill throne that he was to occupy but one that would direct the affairs of God’s chosen people.  Understandably, when the Lord asked what he wanted, he jumped at the opportunity (2 Chronicles 1:7ff).  Wisdom and knowledge were at the top of his list.  The job was overwhelming.  He needed supernatural help.  He got that and then some.

Solomon had lots of options.  We all do.  It is hard to imagine what our answer might be if the Lord asked us what we really want.  Money?  Fame?  Revenge against those who had wronged us?  What would we want?  The Lord obviously approved of his request, because He granted him wisdom plus fame and fortune.  His story spread far and wide, and the curious came calling.  Even royalty heard about him, investigated and found that the truth far exceeded the rumors (2 Kings 9:1ff).  His wisdom and wealth impressed even the rich and famous.  There was no equal.

So, is that what it’s all about?  Wisdom?  Knowledge?  Playthings and trinkets?  Solomon, the man who had it all, explored every bit of it.  He had power.  He headed up the kingdom of God’s special people.  He had wisdom beyond human limits, and it had been given by the Lord.  He tried all the trappings that money can buy and found them lacking.  He had a collection of houses, gardens, orchards, animals, even humans to entertain him in every imaginable way.  His conclusion?  They’re all worthless, like grabbing a handful of air.

They were all so unsatisfying that he wrote about it.  We can save ourselves a whole lot of frustration and time by reading Ecclesiastes.  He did not leave a single stone unturned in his pursuits and found them all meaningless except…and there is that one exception.  He did discover what gives life genuine meaning, but it was not before he had exhausted virtually every other possibility.  It should be obvious but apparently isn’t.  People are still stuffing their lives with all of the same type vanities and coming away disillusioned and empty.  Solomon learned it and shared it.  We’ll know, too, if we read all the way to the 2 closing verses of the book.

It does not come in the accumulation of possessions.  Exploiting people isn’t it.  A fulfilled life comes from a proper view of God and respect for His word, and that’s within grasp for everyone.

Lifelines June 10, 2018

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”  The circumstances that surrounded that plea make it virtually incomprehensible.  Darkness would soon descend.  Actually, it had already enveloped the hearts of men.  Satanic hatred controlled them from within.  Their hands simply carried out their deeply distorted desires.  The devil had them, or did he?

Blood mixed with spit stained His holy face.  The ridicule of the adversaries echoed in His ears.  Even the crooks hanging next to Him mocked Him.  The pain of nails tearing at His flesh grew to unbearable proportions.  Every breath was a labor.  Suffocation threatened.  Life drained from His wounds.  He gasped for air.  His back was raw from the brutal beating He had taken.  Human sins were heaped onto His divine shoulders.  The spiritual burden was immense.  The physical suffering was indescribable.  “Father, forgive them…”

It was His mission, start to finish.  As He approached its completion, he uttered words that would reveal the point with amazing clarity.  It was all about forgiveness.  Sin wrecked the human relationship with God from the very beginning which immediately took its toll on humanity.  The descent was breathtaking, from paradise to murder in one generation.  He came to deal with the root cause of that problem.  “Father, forgive them…”

Peter stood among the perpetrators.  He had traveled and talked with the Lord.  He had seen miracles that defied explanation.  He saw storms calmed, the lame healed, the sick cured and the dead raised.  He himself had walked on water, if only for a step or two.  He also saw Jesus crucified.  He confronted the instigators with their sin.  They had killed the savior.  Surely, this was an unforgivable sin, right?

“What shall we do (Acts 2:37)?”  If ever there seemed like a dilemma with no solution, this was it.  The message hit them right in the heart, but how could they fix it?  It may have appeared hopeless, but there is always hope with the Lord.  Peter’s response?  “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…Acts 2:38)”

Forgiveness?  Even for murdering the Son of God?  Yep, God promised it (Acts 2:39).

The cross reveals the horror of sin.  It took the most dramatic demonstration of the love of God in history to show the lengths to which He would go to solve the estrangement that sin causes.  It severs our ties to our Creator.  He is love.  No God, no love.  He is light.  Separation means eternal darkness.  Without Him there is no life.  We get the point.  Sin separates us from Him and all that is good (James 1:17).

“Father, forgive them…” It epitomizes the Lord’s intentions.  It captures the mission of Jesus.  He endured the torturous death of crucifixion so that we might be forgiven.  It is His heart’s desire for all of us.

Lifelines June 03, 2018

Circumstances!  We give them credit or blame for almost everything.  We fail and immediately look for a scapegoat.  There is nothing new about that.  Take a look at Adam and Eve, and we see that strategy at work from the beginning of time.  Success?  Must have been a perfect situation, right?  God sees things differently, and Paul learned to look at the world through His eyes.

He prayed joyfully while in confinement (Philippians 1).  That takes a different perspective.  His chains could have robbed him of all joy, but he refused to let them.  Instead, he focused on the Christians in Philippi.  They had chosen to embrace the gospel from the very beginning.  That truth was totally unaffected by his conditions, and he rejoiced.  He was also confident that the Lord was at work within them and would continue until His return.

There is no love like that of the true Christian community.  The grace of God ties a knot tighter than any genetics ever could.  Paul had a deep affection for that branch of his spiritual family that no hardship could diminish.  The flame within his heart far exceeded the chill of his surroundings.  His distance was purely geographic.

He was convinced that his situation in no way hindered the spread of the gospel.  In fact, it opened up new doors of opportunity.  The guards knew why he was there, and that served a positive purpose.  The gospel could march into new territory.  There were soldiers who would never have heard it any other way.  The script may have been a bit unusual, but it did offer a field for planting the seed.  So, he sowed.

His circumstances even served to inspire his brothers.  They were emboldened by their enhanced trust in God and spoke with greater courage.  In this, the apostle found reason to rejoice even though some did not have the purest of motives.  Some preached to stress him; others to love him  He celebrated in either case because the word of the Lord was proclaimed, and that was all that mattered to him.

The Holy Spirit guided Paul’s pen to tell the Roman Saints that God would always bring about a positive outcome for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  That was addressed to the individual Christians, but the principle is the same.  He used ungodly hands to carry out His plan through His Son (Acts 2:23-24).  A grave is as hopeless as it can get, until God steps in.

It was an amazing view from that prison cell.  He found reason to be thankful for his beloved brothers and sisters.  He had great confidence in the Lord who worked within those Christians that He would continue to perfect them until time was no more.  And he saw benefit in those undesirable circumstances.  Even from there, he could say, “Rejoice in the Lord; Again I will say rejoice (Philippians 4:4).”

Lifelines May 27, 2018

It was the day that royalty united with a commoner in the wedding for the ages.  All eyes watched.  It seemed as if the attention of heaven was focused on the bride and groom.  She came from ordinary stock.  His pedigree was considerably more impressive.  He was regal.  It was the ultimate mixed marriage.  The two had grown up an ocean apart.  Now, they would become one.

Marriage is of God’s design.  He looked at the solitary man in the garden and acknowledged that it was not good for him to be alone.  It is hard to imagine life as the only person on earth, even if home was a paradise.  Our Creator knew that was not ideal so He made a partner, a helper.  They were not to be in competition but collaboration.  Each had a role in the plan of the Lord.  It is at the very foundation of His humanity.  One man.  One woman.  One union to maximize both.  The royal couple spanned the huge gulf of cultural differences to unite in marriage.

It is a unique union.  The promise is to exclusivity.  Forsaking all others.  No one else has the right to intrude on this intimate relationship.  And neither of them has permission to have wandering eyes.  King David was a good man, but His roving glance led to generations of troubles.  Eve started it with a longing look at forbidden fruit.  It never ends well.  Faithfulness is the cornerstone of marriage.  He to her and her to him.  Forsaking ALL others.

Each supports the other.  Sin has gashed every human.  Husbands and wives are no different.  The effects sometimes run very deep and leave lasting scars.  Weaknesses bring a vulnerability.  We need each other.  The objective of the good marriage is to be holy, and that is no easy goal.  It takes teamwork with each contributing to the task.  When a spouse withdraws that assistance, the partnership is weakened.  Both promised to support each other in the marriage of the ages.  It will remain a strong union as long as both remain committed to their vows.

There is a third party involved in marriage who is often overlooked.  “What God has joined together…(Matthew 19:6)”  Humans make vows, but it is a heavenly hand that turns the two into one.  He has done something that is not visible but is more real than that which is.  Both have left their earthly parents to step into a new relationship, one designed and defined by God.  The royal and the regular have been divinely united.

The husband left His home in search of a bride.  Jesus Christ gave up heaven and proposed marriage on a cross in the most stunning of ceremonies.  There has never been a more unlikely union.  Royalty became a commoner so that the commoner could become royalty.  The two became one forever, united by God.