Lifelines April 15, 2018

The Bible brings us face-to-face with reality.  There are stars and planets, birds, animals and fish.  Where did they come from?  How did they get here?  Questions begin to fill our minds that we cannot begin to answer.  The scholars tell us of evolution, of a big bang.  Really?  Where did the stuff that “banged” come from.  Where was it and who put it there?  Atheists say there is no God, and we are still left to wonder: So, where did it all come from?  And those are the simple questions.

Answers do not come, not if we exclude an all-powerful Creator.  Explaining the origins of such a massive creation without considering that someone had to make it is impossible.  Modern thinking scurries from one theory to another to explain it.  They give it their best effort but fail in the final analysis.  The extraordinary complexity simply could not just happen, the result of a random sequence of coincidences.  That is when we run into God, the ultimate reality.

No rational person would look at an ink pen, as simple as it is, and believe that no one made it.  How then could we come to the conclusion that there was no master mind nor a designer behind the human body?  Of course, recognizing the existence of a Creator brings us to another great reality: We were made on purpose.  Humans are not an accident of nature but the handcrafted product of a purposeful God.  That gives us a reason to be here.  It also makes us responsible.

The word of God put the world in a functional form and filled it with His creatures.  Humans were different.  They were a specially handcrafted part of the creation, made to reflect the essence of their Creator.  They were positioned above the rest.  The Lord gave him a special place, a perfect partner, a choice and a warning.  Reality.  We face decisions which have consequences.

Satan wasted no time in dealing out deception and death.  He is another undeniable reality.  His cleverly packaged lies succeeded then, and they will now.  We see our nation being torn apart at the seams and wonder why.  The answer could be found lingering under the wrong tree in the garden.  He is still peddling fruit that blinds human eyes and destroys human souls.  He is wicked, and he prowls the earth looking for one more victim.

The tug-o-war goes on, conflicts between good and evil.  God did not hide it.  We see the broad spectrum of humanity in His word.  There is no whitewashing of the main characters.  Weakness is not covered over with a veneer of bogus perfection.  Heroes are real, because the world is, and they live in it.  Satan is real, too, and sometimes he wins a round.  Maybe even claims some casualties.  But the ultimate reality is God, and real victory will eventually be His.

Lifelines April 1, 2018

He was a little guy, and there was such a crowd between him and the Lord that he just couldn’t see (Luke 19:1-10).  He only wanted a glimpse, and even that proved impossible.  People do that.  They’ll get in the way of our look at Jesus.  They obscure our view.  His physical stature hindered him.  More likely, it will not be a matter of feet and inches but of focus.  Later.  Tomorrow.  Next week.  We will, promise, just not right now.  Too many people in the way.

He was a man of means.  He had been an insider, a top level manager in the bureaucracy of exploitation.  That meant money in his pocket, and he had plenty but that did nothing to solve this issue.  His big pile of money did not help one bit when it came to seeing Jesus.  Our relationship with Him is not a cash transaction.  He may have had an important position and a big bank account, but he did not have Jesus.  Something drove him.  Dissatisfaction?  Maybe.

He figured a way around that hurdle.  He climbed a tree.  He was determined to look for himself.  Who knows what he had heard or what motivated him, but something did.  He was dead set on laying his eyes on the one they called Jesus.  Forget pride.  Never mind a tiny bit of embarrassment.  He had to do something.  It was a bit unconventional, but it worked.  His life was about to change for all eternity.  The Lord does notice those who are struggling to see Him.

Jesus sees in trees.  He looked up and invited the little rich man to come down.  Hurry up.  We’re going to your house.  It is hard to imagine the thoughts that must have run through his mind as he flew out of that tree.  He hit the ground to the sound of self-righteous indignation.  Jesus was keeping company with a sinner like that?  Critics seemed always to be nipping at the heels of the Son of God.  And they thought the man in the tree was small.  They were the truly little ones.

He may have been short in stature but he was large on repentance.  He was ready to distribute half his fortune to the needy and make restitution at the rate of four-to-one for all of his questionable taxing practices.  It is amazing what a clear look at Jesus will do to a person.  Salvation came home with him that day and everything was different, especially him.

Salvation seized him.  It grabbed hold of his possessions and his pocketbook.  They were suddenly insignificant.  What Jesus brought him was all that mattered.  The Son of Man came searching for the lost.  Don’t we feel that way sometime?  Totally bewildered and lost in the crowd?  Cheer up and climb up.  He came looking for people just like us.

Lifelines 3/18/2018

These are remarkable times in which the unthinkable of a decade ago has become common.  It has existed all along but remained hidden under a cloak of secrecy.  The recent revelations that emerged out of Hollywood provide daily headlines of the smut that found a home in the entertainment industry.  The clues were there but ignored.  Young gymnasts, children really, suffered under the “care” of a doctor.  Little boys were “coached” in football by a man of perversion.  Authorities looked the other way while tiny lives were ruined before they started.  Strange times, indeed.

How did we ever reach such a state?  A student of cultural change observed that we once loved people and used things, but now we love things and use people.  That is certainly true in some of the cases that have recently drawn the spotlight.  Values have been turned upside down, but that is nothing new.  Human judgment has been out of balance ever since the first bite of the forbidden fruit.

There has been an ebb and flow to Satan’s attacks throughout history.  Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.  It picks up intensity from time-to-time, but whenever we think it’s the worst that it’s ever been we should remember the wickedness that consumed humanity in the days of Noah.  Yes, evil is on the prowl now, but it always has been.  Whenever it gets a stranglehold on culture as a whole, the consequences are grave.  God takes a hands-off approach.  When people insist that they want to go their own way the Lord will let them (Romans 1:18-32).  The outcome is always ugly.

The symptoms are shocking, and society is totally confused.  Anatomical males insist that they are women trapped in the wrong body.  Up is said to be down and wrong is hailed as right.  Sin is celebrated.  Same sex marriage is debated and legalized in many states.  All of those are just clues of a much deeper problem.  It is a God problem.  He has been rejected, and our nation is reflecting the outcome of such a decision.  He has let us go our own way, and the results are inevitably a mess.

The prodigal son could vouch for that.  He decided that he didn’t want to be bothered with his father (Luke 15:11-32).  He got exactly what he wanted.  In fact, his father helped him do precisely what he wanted to do.  There is no indication that his father begged him in any way not to leave.  Life in the far country was far less than he thought it would be.  Leaving our Father behind will always lead to a pigpen.  Thankfully, the same road that took us away will also take us home.  He is forgiving when we finally come to our senses.  He is always waiting with a celebratory banquet when we come home.

Lifelines March 11, 2018

What comes to mind when we hear the word church?  Probably, we think of a building with pews and classrooms.  Yet, the word of God presents a very different picture.  Jesus told His disciples that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).  Obviously, He was not suggesting that he would soon put His carpentry skills to work and construct a building.  The church of the New Testament has indeed fallen into disrepair, but that has nothing to do with the conditions of a structure.

Most congregations that gather on Sunday morning bear little resemblance to the biblical model.  Their reason for assembling is unclear.  Focus might be placed on music.  Drums pound out the rhythm as guitars and pianos offer up the melody.  Somewhere buried beneath the noise are the words.  The message becomes secondary to the entertainment value.  Is that really what the Lord has in mind?

For others, the spotlight falls on the collection plate.  No one ever forgets to take up the money.  After all, maintaining a comfortable building takes a lot of bucks.  All those musical instruments aren’t free.  The staff has to be paid.  Overhead is high, and there is no other source of income except an occasional bake sale.  It doesn’t take long for the emphasis on money to consume the work.  1 Timothy 6:10 gets lost in the hustle of the wallet ministry.

Of course, the preacher steps out in his impressive suit or robe.  He is the star of some shows.  He shares his thoughts about how God wants us all to be rich.  He digs deep to find an appropriate verse or two as supporting evidence.  He speaks well.  Crowds gather.  They are convinced.  He rarely mentions holiness, discipleship or self-denial.  Those things do not attract an audience.  Health and wealth do, and he is an expert.  Just look.  He is both healthy and wealthy.  Afterwards, he retreats to his million dollar mansion in his chauffeur driven limo.

“I will build My church.”  Really, is this it?  Exciting music that leaves them emotionally charged but spiritually empty?  Nonstop pressure to give more and more?  A slick salesman luring starving souls with promises of prosperity?  Is all of this what the Lord intended for His church?  It does belong to Him.  It came at an astronomically high price (Acts 20:28).  As He hung on the cross, was He thinking, “I hope they have a good band?”

Joining Paul on the missionary road offers an idea of what mattered in the beginning (Acts 20:7).  Disciples gathered on the first day of the week for a specific reason.   He would write about that (1 Corinthians 11:23ff), and His source of information was impeccable.  The center piece of their assembly was the Lord’s Supper.  Remembering a crucified Savior occupied their thoughts and touched their hearts.  He made all the difference.  What could possibly mean more?