Lifelines May 22, 2022

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…(John 1:14).”  What an astounding reality.  The Word, which had existed with God and in fact was God (John 1:1), entered the world of humanity.  Love prompted it, and sin required it.  Guilt demanded a resolution, and it came to a feed trough in Bethlehem.  A baby.  A crying, needy, dependent infant who relied on human parents for everything.  This was the Lord of the universe who came to save the world.  Absolutely remarkable.

It is a skin and bones revelation of the unending love of God for His creation.  It speaks, no it screams of a Creator who desperately wants to share Himself with a sinful world.  He desires our company forever.  The Word made that possible.  The Son of God had always been on a par with God.  He relinquished that status to become flesh and dwell among us.  The glory of God was on full display in an unlikely package.  Grace and truth in the son of man lit the darkness.  It was not what anyone expected.  Divine love reached out to people fit for a trash pile.

Sin is dreadful.  It totally destroys people from the inside out.  Our own lust drives the pursuit.  We want what we want, and nothing gets in the way.  That passion will steal our sense and take us places we never intended to go.  Eve wanted the fruit and took it.  She also got expulsion from paradise.  Indulging our fleshly desires is a costly proposition.  Death is always at the end of the road (James 1:14-16).  It is a tempting and devastating deception.  Our Father knew and sent His Son to save us.  Amazing grace.  Astounding love.  The Word became flesh…

It is easy to relegate that fact to the dust bins of history.  It is a neat story but irrelevant in a twenty-first century world.  The risen Lord is forgotten in the midst of life’s hectic demands.  We remember for a moment on the first day of the week…maybe…then it’s back to life as usual.  It is a mistake that robs life of its potential.  He is risen.  That matters.

The Word became flesh.  He lived as a human.  He really was a man.  He served and suffered.  He cried.  He hungered.  He was tempted.  He knows how it is.  He experienced what we go through.  Now, He is at the right hand of God interceding on behalf of His family.  He is our high priest right now.  He brings His own blood sacrifice for us to the heavenly altar.  He is neither dead nor retired.    

We sing about serving a risen Savior.  Let’s not forget that a risen Savior is serving us.  He walked the dusty roads of earth, successfully endured the temptations and gave His life on the old rugged cross for us, you and me.  The Word became flesh.  Hallelujah, what a Savior.       

Lifelines May 15, 2022

It is a beautiful time of the year as the flowers begin to bloom and gardens are planted.  It is also the season when “weed” turns into a verb.  We weed our gardens so that the ground is ready to produce the vegetables or flowers that we want.  Serious gardeners are hard at work removing every hindrance to growth.  Get rid of the bad to make room for the good. 

Our spiritual development depends on us being just as meticulous about our hearts.  Those pesky weeds come from every direction.  We grew up with some, allowed others to overrun our garden and a few just snuck in.  We all have them.  Weeds that impede the progress of the implanted seed.  If left unattended, the ground becomes useless.

So, what are they?  Some are obvious and others aren’t.  Jesus identified a few in His parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18-23).  The biggest are the worries of the world.  It throws an assortment of distractions on the precious soil.  We become obsessed about our jobs.  Careers are important, but they are not God.  They put food on the table, a roof over our head and clothes on our back but they will not save us.  To allow them to squeeze Jesus out is an eternal mistake.

Believing that money is the ultimate pursuit will choke out our crop of righteousness as well.  There is nothing wrong with money, but pursuing it to the exclusion of seeking the Lord will inevitably disappoint.  If we’ve checked the stock market lately, we know how uncertain finances can be.  It is very tempting to trust in our money when we have a big bankroll.  Don’t.  It can be gone in a flash and then what?  It will leave us unfruitful in all that really matters, and then we will leave it behind.

Weeding our spiritual garden is never easy.  Those roots sometimes run deep.  Lingering attitudes that we have never faced and removed are some of the thorniest weeds.  Malicious intent for a perceived wrong can blind our eyes and harden our hearts.  We must remove it.  There is no place for deception and hypocrisy in our sacred ground.  We may wink at envy and gossip but God doesn’t.  We have to get rid of them all (1 Peter 2:1).

Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Matthew 22:37).  It is not a duplex with two occupants.  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  It is a matter of priorities and housecleaning.  It is not a peripheral pursuit but our most important one.  What kind of weeds fight for space in our hearts?

We must weed our own gardens.  It may be painful, but we have to look deep inside and be honest with ourselves.  The ugly weeds have to go to make room for the harvest of the Lord and His attractive fruit.      

Lifelines May 08, 2022

There is nobody in our life quite like mom.  She soothes the pain of our childhood scrapes and the heartaches of young love gone bad.  We look to her for the compassion that we need more often than we care to admit.  Even into adulthood, there is a special mom compartment in our hearts.  She is irreplaceable.

Family seems to be under attack in our society and the consequences are obvious.  The love and respect that is learned at home first are often absent.  Nations collapse when those qualities are missing.  We see it in our polarized country which often explodes into violence.  The divides are deep and angry.  The Lord has been expelled from our schools and divorced from far too many families.  Moms and dads are important. 

The time has come for our nation to tip our collective caps to mothers.  Flowers and candy with a special meal will mark the day for some.  For others it will be just another day.  Have we lost the sense of how important they are in the development of their children?  God has placed young souls into their hands, and they play a central role in shaping their beliefs which determine how they cope with life and prepare for eternity.  That’s the most important assignment anyone could have.

Remember Lois?  Maybe not.  She is mentioned just one time in the whole Bible.  Not exactly a prominent character, but she had an influence that still resonates twenty centuries later.  Her example shaped the faith of her daughter Eunice.  Remember her?  Maybe not.  She, too, is mentioned but once in the Bible but had an equally enduring influence.  You and I have been affected by their faith and so have millions of others.  Eunice had a son named Timothy, and quite likely we remember him. 

Timothy was a remarkable young man.  He drew Paul’s attention (Acts 16:1-3), and grew in the eyes of the apostle to the point that he left him to teach and preach in Ephesus, one of the most prominent churches of the New Testament.  Paul wrote two letters to him that have shaped our understanding of the household of God to this day.  He was an impressive man with deep faith.  Where did that impressive faith come from?  Grandma and mom, each is mentioned but once and that in just one verse (2 Timothy 1:5).

Timothy joined Paul on the road to strengthen the churches that they visited before he landed in Ephesus to stay (Acts 16:4-5).  The faith of a solitary lady was passed down through the generations and continues to have a significant effect on Christians around the world to this day.  One solitary lady.  A mom.      

Will any of our mothers have such an influential child?  Maybe.  We never know, but there is one fact that is beyond question:  Mothers will affect a child’s eternity.  Happy Mother’s Day! 

Lifelines May 01, 2022

Jesus tells us.  He makes it clear that the road He traveled was a tough one.  He came to His own people, and they rejected Him.  He brought grace and truth but neither was enough to deter them.  God’s plan in motion is hard to figure sometimes.  God is love.  Jesus is God.  He brought the perfect expression of what the deity is all about, and the world killed Him.  He came to save and was met with hostility. 

No, not by everyone.  The religious aristocrats led the charge.  The poor and those on the margins of society welcomed Him.  They listened while the “spiritual” leaders grumbled (Luke 15:1-2).  He shared a feast with the rejects and undesirables while the “righteous” criticized His choice of companions (Luke 5:29-32).  It was their estimation that He was keeping company with the wrong kinds of folks.  He disagreed.  The Great Physician came to heal the sin-sick.  His call was for repentance.  That is the right medicine for the wrong-headed.

It is a high calling to rearrange our thoughts.  It has been the continual call of those who share the message of Christ.  It led the way through John the Baptist before the Son of God ever stepped into the public arena (Matthew 3:1-2).  Jesus echoed the exact same sentiment (Matthew 4:17).  It was Peter’s immediate response on the Day of Pentecost when asked by the Jews what they should do in light of their horrible sin (Acts 2:38).  Paul brought his proclamation in Athens to a close with the mandate that repentance was essential for everyone.  Why?  There was a judgment day coming and the judge had been raised from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

The resurrection of Jesus validates the certainty of life after death.  We will not cease to exist but will continue in a different realm.  The word of God describes it in blissful terms for those who have brought their thinking into harmony with His.  It could not possibly be more gruesome for those who refuse.  It is no secret.  Jesus tells us.  A day is coming in which everyone will appear before the king and judgment will be pronounced.  Time will end and eternity will begin.

Judgment day.  It will be a time of great joy for some and unspeakable misery for others.  The Good Shepherd will take His flock into a kingdom that has been years in-the-making.  Those who have chosen to reject the Son of Man and His invitation will be herded into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  No more choices.  Just one endless existence in God’s presence or away from it. Today we get to decide.  Who knows about tomorrow, if there is one?  The Lord may come at any minute, and then what?  This moment may the determining factor of that.  It will either be joyful or miserable.  Now is the time to Repent. 

Lifelines April 17, 2022

Bunnies and baskets decorate the landscape as Easter arrives.  The world nods to the cross and the empty tomb for a few days, and then it will be back to business as usual.  It is a welcome break for many from the routines of school and work as they enjoy a long weekend.  It seems that the crucifixion and resurrection have taken a backseat to colorful eggs and days off. 

If people looked deeply at the cross and its significance, they would come away changed.  The Son of God hung there nailed to a cross.  The earth trembled.  Darkness descended.  It was a startling event which will never be repeated.  Sin was exposed for the imposter that it is and the door to God was opened.  The love of the Lord was in full view for all the world to see.  It was, and continues to be, incomprehensible.  Not only that, the dead man did not stay dead.

It would be impossible to draw a more dramatic portrait of the combination of love and power than we see in that three-day span.  Jesus did not come in search of the perfect.  In fact, He was searching for the sin-sick (Luke 5:29-32).  They would ultimately cost Him His life.   Such is the love of God that is openly demonstrated on the old rugged cross.  His Son dying for the undeserving.  That’s you and me. 

There was plenty of doubt as they put His body in the tomb.  Burial is awfully final unless God intervenes.  That Saturday must have been a depressing time for His apostles.  Imagine how Peter must have felt about his denial and the rest of the twelve for their failure.  They had all deserted Him at His most critical moment (Matthew 26:56), even though He had told them ahead of time what would happen.  They were not convinced.  He died for them anyway.  A resurrection?  They were skeptical (Luke 24:1-11).

Everything rides on the validity of this single fact.  The Christian faith rises and falls with the resurrection.  Either the tomb or our faith is empty.  Our preaching is meaningless, the apostles are liars, the Bible is an unreliable fantasy and we deserve nothing but pity for believing a fraud if Jesus is still dead (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).  It all hinges on the truth of the risen Lord.  Thankfully, there were plenty of witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Amid all of the celebration of Easter, don’t forget what it’s all about.  We must not squeeze the most significant news in history into a single weekend with bunny rabbits and chocolate candy.  Every Sunday is a time to remember with the Lord’s Supper, and as we reflect on the cross include the empty tomb in the picture.  Hope lives because the Son of God lives (1 Peter 1:3-5).  It is God’s work.  He raised Jesus and still resurrects those dead in sin.  Happy Easter.