Lifelines September 26, 2021

It is a frequently repeated story.  This man (Call him George.  No one here has ever met him.) had been in a fully controlled environment for almost a decade.  He was in and out of bed at prescribed times.  He ate when he was told, exercised when directed, worked when ordered and

then returned to his cell and locked down for the night.  Prison life allows very little freedom, and it was in that structure that the message of Jesus pierced his heart.  He was on fire for the Lord, and then he was released.

He quickly landed a good job and associated with a church.  He married and fathered a child.  Then the world stuck its nose into their little home, and the marriage hit some major bumps.  It began to crumble and eventually failed.  Divorce sent George and His young son to another state. He settled into a new job in his old home town.  The world beckoned.  He looked and listened.  There was no mention of a new congregation.  His fire flickered.

The drift is very subtle.  He did not simply leap into anything really bad or illegal.  It isn’t like he went back to his old drug-running days.  Nothing like that.  Golf became his passion.  That is innocent enough, but Sunday mornings became his favorite time to play.  Eighteen holes took precedence over gathering with the Lord’s church.  He takes his son along.  He’s learning.  This is not an incident from history, nor is it a fictional account.  This is happening right this minute as a once-dedicated man loses his way.  His influence will echo forever. 

The next step was into the nightlife.  No longer just driving, chipping and putting; he has a lady and they hit the bars together.  Golf.  Girls.  Neither is bad unless they drive a wedge between us and the Lord.  They have with George.  Nobody knows who influenced whom, but both are on the broad road to destruction.  It is sad to watch, especially in view of who he once was and who he is now. 

It wasn’t a sudden leap.  It was a gradually drift.  Scripture warns us about the potential (Hebrews 2:1-4) and the consequences of returning to that which we have escaped (2 Peter 2:20-22).  It is horrible to have known and obeyed the truth that delivered us from the world and then go back.  Peter uses grotesque language to describe such a fall.  It is a trade of salvation for slavery.

He was special, a real dynamo for the Lord, and then the world got him.  It is scary to think that it could happen to a man like him, and then we realize that we are all vulnerable.  It was a choice for George: Golf, good times or God?  He has set his priorities.  The Lord came in third.  Perhaps, he will repent.  He could, but what if he doesn’t?             

Lifelines September 19, 2021

We step hesitantly.  He is a holy God.  We are unholy people.  Sin has a way of working on our minds.  The eternally perfect Creator is approachable.  That seems unlikely, maybe even far-fetched.  His Son made that not only possible but encouraged, even mandated.  It is a walkway bathed in pure, sinless blood.  Jesus goes before us to open the way.

He took on the full human experience so that He could meet the devil on his turf and destroy his power.  The fear of death had a stranglehold on everyone.  The Son of God came to break those bonds by dying and rising.  The devil is a powerful foe but no match for the Lord.  Death is finally seen for the fraud that it is.  It is a comma not a period.  There is life beyond the tomb, and Jesus proved it (Hebrews 2:14-15).

His humanity was a prerequisite for His eternal role.  He is a high priest serving at the right hand of God in a merciful and faithful way (Hebrews 2:16-18).  It is a relationship that even the angels do not have but only the Lord’s faithful people.  His brief stay on earth exposed Him to the temptations and struggles that we have.  No one understands our needs better than He does.  He paid the debt we owed and stands ready to assist us along our journey.  His message?  Draw near to God. 

The grave could not hold Him, and earth could not contain Him.  He ascended to His role as high priest in heaven (Hebrews 4:14-16).  His journey enabled Him to sympathize with the human condition.  He endured every kind of temptation, just like we do.  Although He never gave in, He understands our weaknesses.  We are not as resistant as we might think.  The evil one is incredibly clever and will snatch us away in the valley of temptation.  Jesus knows.  He has made the trip and is always there on our behalf.

It is in those moments of failure that He serves us the most.  We stumble and fall.  Guilt sets in.  We feel ashamed to face our God at the time when we need Him the most.  Instead, we hide at a distance.  He urges us to come to the throne of grace, not a throne of judgment and condemnation, but of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Draw near.  Grace and mercy are awaiting us there.  Jesus sees to that.        

We may enter into the very presence of almighty God because of who our high priest is.  We approach Him with openness and kindness.  The entry price has been paid.  We have access through the blood of the Son of God to draw near.  We bring a sincere heart and total trust before the throne.  It seems improbable, but it isn’t.  He came to us, so that we can go to Him.  We must not squander the privilege. 

Lifelines September 12, 2021

Lost souls are everywhere.  They occupy the dark alleys and back streets.  They are the violent and criminal.  They are the outcasts of society.  These are the ones who are easy to spot.  Their lifestyle is front and center, but some are not so obvious.  They are the reputable who live in the nice houses, drive the fancy cars and work at the prestigious companies.  They are just as dead.  They simply live in fancier coffins.

The Lord has redeemed His church for a mission.  Good works characterize His people, and there is no better task than seeking those who are trapped in sin.  We may have difficulty identifying them because they look like everybody else, maybe even better.  Their darkness is usually covered over with the veneer of success.  Inside, they are empty. 

They may be in the pew next to us.  Maybe, it is us.  That deep darkness is within.  Our Sunday best has nothing to do with the kind of person we really are.  A fancy chandelier shines no light on that internal problem.  Jesus warned of the danger that consumes us when our focus is wrong (Matthew 6:22-23).  It grows in intensity as it permeates every aspect of life.  These people are all around us.  Do we see them?  Are we looking?

Several men knew that their friend’s condition was beyond their ability (Mark 2:1-12).  He needed help above and beyond their skills, and there was only one place to look.  Jesus was in the neighborhood, and they were convinced that He was the solution.  So, they sought Him and were stymied by a crowd.  There always seem to be people between the needy and the Lord.  It was time for an unorthodox approach.  Faith will do that.  It will find some kind of way to get people to Jesus.

So, up on the roof they went ripping the tiles apart and lowering their friend to the great physician.  It was then and there that the picture froze.  Jesus did not immediately heal the visible problem.  Paralysis is horrible but sin is worse.  He declared the cure for the worst.  Huh?  Who can do that but God alone?  The implications are enormous.

God in human form?  Forgiving sins?  What about that physical matter?  Yes, He took care of that but the more important issue was the sins, and the healing of the body proved His authority to heal the soul.  The Lord cares about both.  We should, too.  The four roof-snatchers had faith in Christ which He saw and honored. 

Does our faith drive us like that?  To go to extremes to get the spiritually lame to the only hope they have?  They are everywhere in deep need.  He is the great healer of both body and soul, but the crowd still stands in the way.  Will we help them get beyond it?  Will our faith rip off the roof?            

Lifelines September 05, 2021

Labor Day has rolled around once again and a time to tip our national hats to those who clock in everyday to keep the country running.  This became a national holiday in 1894 and has been celebrated ever since.  In an age when dependable workers are increasingly hard to find, appreciation for those who take the jobs that must be done (Especially the yucky ones!) has grown.  A single day each year seems inadequate, but it is a time to thank those who labor.

It is easy to take them for granted, especially the ones who work behind the scenes and those who do the unpleasant tasks.  Let’s face it, there are some nasty jobs that very few of us are anxious to do.  Among them is cleaning up other people’s garbage.  It’s not my trash; why should I pick it up?  Imagine what it would be like if everyone had that attitude.  I didn’t break it, so I’m not going to fix it.  Thanks to those we never see who tidy up our messes, especially the spiritual ones.

We all had a mess that we could not resolve: sin.  There is not a soap in the world that could wash away the consequences of our own transgressions.  We are left with the grit and grime of Satan’s fingerprints which are not simply external.  That’s only part of the picture.  Yes, we leave a trail of wreckage, but that’s not all.  We have the internal damage of distorted values and twisted logic.  We seek to hide but cannot.  Guilt sets in.  We search for an anesthetic (What is ours? Sex? Pornography? Illegal drugs? Legal drugs like alcohol? Food?) but there is none.  We are desperate for a deep cleansing and realize we cannot do it, but who can?

Jesus, the Son of God, came for just that reason.  He entered into flesh and blood to bring grace and truth.  His mission was one of salvation and deliverance.  He had every right to bring a sentence of condemnation but chose not to.  Instead, He battled with the self-righteous and extended mercy to the sinful.  He did not minimize sins.  He would never do that because of its devastation that he experienced firsthand.  Nails punctuated the sentence.  Sin is brutal, and sinners need to be cleaned up.  Only His blood can do that.

His mission did not end that day on the cross, nor did it stop at the empty tomb. He ascended to the right hand of God to continue.  He is still on the job for His family.  He is our advocate with the Father when we stumble and fall (1 John 2:1).  He remains in the presence of God on behalf of Christians (Hebrews 9:24).  He came two thousand years ago to clean up the mess of sin and has never stopped.  Today and every Sunday, we remember.  Happy Labor Day!

Lifelines August 29, 2021

The prayer of the apostle is bold, powerful and exemplary for us (Ephesians 3:14-21).  We approach the One who shaped us in our mother’s womb, knows everything about our words and deeds, is fully acquainted with the length of our days and has infinite love for each of us.  This powerful God with whom we converse has capabilities beyond our limited understanding.  He can raise the dead, and He stands ready to put that power to work within His people.

It is impossible to fully grasp the significance of prayer as we approach the God of creation.  He is Lord of heaven and earth, and Christians approach Him as their Father.  This brief prayer (It takes less than a minute to read!) takes us into the spiritual stratosphere of being filled to the fullness of God.  That seems impossible, but we are also reminded that He can do more than we can even imagine.  This remarkable Being is waiting to hear from us.

The plea goes straight to the inner person; seeking strength from the Spirit that we might be a totally Christ-centered people.  We are not pursuing a casual association with the One born in Bethlehem.  We do not join the world with a nod at Easter and Christmas then put Him back on the shelf for the rest of the year.  We long to have Him take up residence in our very heart, and that will only happen through faith.  That is the foundation.

We will never be pleasing children without faith (Hebrews 11:6).  We might go through the motions; sing the songs, break the bread, contribute to the work and hear the Scriptures read and preached on a weekly basis but we will fall short until we put unflinching trust in our Creator.  That leads us to the higher ground of Christ occupying our hearts.  That is when we really begin to transform into the church for which He died.

Love grows where Christ lives, and that is the pinnacle (1 Corinthians 13:13).  It secures us in His church with deep roots and a firm foundation.  Christians won’t waver with such a base.  They become dependable and trustworthy because their confidence is not in a mortal person but in an immortal Savior.  He lives in us, and we grow in our comprehension of His love for us and begin to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1-2).  God’s fullness becomes a reality. That concept stretches our minds beyond human capacity. “Filled to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).” And that brings us back to Him who can do the impossible.  He is able (Ephesians 3:20).  It is a simple statement pulsating with potential.  He is able.  He delivered the Israelites through the Red Sea, Daniel through the lion’s den and Jesus through the cross and tomb.  That is our God, too.  And He is our Father waiting for us to ask.  He is able.