Lifelines November 28, 2021

It did not take the evil one very long to invade God’s perfect creation.  The garden did not provide a safe haven from his wiles, and the first couple soon fell for his lies.  The world has suffered the consequences ever since.  The Son of God was engaged in the battle with temptation soon after His baptism.  He succeeded in resisting through the use of the Scripture, and deliverance became a possibility.  The devil is a formidable foe, and we make a terrible miscalculation when we underestimate his strategy and power. 

Humanity is vulnerable to deception.  Shiny objects attract our attention, and no one polishes them better than Satan.  He convinced Eve who persuaded her husband, and they both learned quickly that he delivers empty delusions.  Disregarding the command of the Lord only led to shame and a desire to hide from their benevolent Creator, a far cry from his promise.  He still packages destruction in glittering boxes with nothing but heartaches inside. 

The devious one is intimately acquainted with our wants and wishes, guaranteeing fulfillment if we will simply give him God’s place in our lives.  It was one of his traps for Jesus (Matthew 4:8-10) and surely will be for us, too.  He dangles before us the achievement of our biggest dreams if we will bow before him.  Sacrificing the Lord on the altar of success is a fatal mistake.

We retreat to the safety of the church only to find that he is there, too.  He puts on his disguise of “righteousness” and slips into the sacred family.  He is angelically appealing (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), and so are his workers.  He is so clever that he convinces us that no one could possibly be that evil, but they are.  They look good, righteous, in fact.  They are anything but.  They are fakes, and their fate is sealed.  Ours will be, too, if we follow them.

Satan attacks homes, families, friends, churches and anyplace else where he can get his foot in the door.  He doesn’t require much of an opening.  Unresolved anger is one of his favorite tools (Ephesians 4:26-27).  He magnifies the hurt in our minds which eventually turns into a regrettable word.  The contents of our heart will eventually escape through the mouth.  We explode.  He smiles.  Another Christian grieves the Holy Spirit.  He is clever and damaging.  Cain committed the unimaginable sin of murdering his own brother. The Lord had warned him prior to that homicide that sin was waiting just outside his door but that he must master it.  He didn’t (Genesis 4:7-8).  Sin is still lingering, hiding every day with a plan specifically tailored for each of us.  We either defeat it, or it conquers us.  We dare not underestimate the schemes and skills of the devil.  He lies and kills, and is looking for his next victim.  Will it be one of us?

Lifelines November 21, 2021

Whatever happened to gratitude?  We live in a time and place where we are prospering more than ever.  Yet, it seems that the combustible tension in the air is increasing.  Media stirs the pot of anger between various groups.  Road rage rages.  Heads are face down staring at phones, and conversation is a lost art.  Relationships have been replaced by virtual “reality.”  We have never had so many gadgets and such empty hearts.

Simpler times apparently produced greater satisfaction.  It’s been said that we are spending money we don’t have to buy things we don’t want to impress people we don’t like.  Silly, isn’t it?  But not uncommon.  It reveals an itch within that we don’t know how to scratch.  There is a fulfilment available for everyone, if we will simply seek it.

The Son of God entered the human arena with the most amazing proposition.  He fought off every temptation to make good on His offer.  He is the perfect satisfaction for our most basic needs.  Sin wrecks us.  Our thinking is twisted, and our lives reflect it.  Once shameful behavior has been mainstreamed.  Jesus came to open the way for something better, more satisfying.  It is a quality of life much higher than we could have any other way.  He changes everything about us including our thinking.

The values of the world are distorted.  The highest priority is given to material objects.  Gratitude seems to rise and fall with how much stuff a person possesses.  It’s not fair if you have more than I do or if your stuff is nicer than my stuff.  Satisfaction remains elusive as our physical eyes dictate whether we are “blessed” or not.  Thanksgiving is ruined because your turkey is two pounds bigger than mine.  That is incredibly superficial but there is a better, more substantive way.

The Lord offers every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).  He tells us where they are (In Christ), and how to get them (By grace through Faith).  We are free to respond to that anyway we choose, but He has made it available.  There is no way to tabulate the reward.  It includes adoption into His family, forgiveness of our sins, redemption through the blood of Jesus, reconciliation to God and that is just the beginning.  All of that is in this lifetime with the best yet to come. 

Jesus will return for His people someday, and we will go to be with Him forever.  There will never again be the pain and sorrow of death.  In fact, nothing will ever hurt us again.  All of that will be left behind as we experience eternity in the presence of the Lord.  Now, that is something to be thankful for.

Thursday is our day for food, family, football and maybe a nap thrown in for good measure; but the best possible blessing is to be a child of God.  Happy Thanksgiving!      

Lifelines November 14, 2021

“Where are you (Genesis 3:9)?”  It was the voice of God in what had been the perfect environment.  It is hard to imagine what must have run through the minds of Adam and Eve.  They had enjoyed a flawless relationship with the Lord.  He had given them life, a beautiful setting and one restriction: Do not eat of that tree.  They had violated that singular command, and now they realized that the results were nothing like the serpent promised.

God had made it perfectly clear that the consequences of ignoring Him would have serious consequences.  They tried to hide (Genesis 3:8).  Do we?  It is a temptation to avoid eye contact with the one we must ultimately face.  “Where are you,” is a haunting question.  Surely, their Creator knew where they were, but did they?  It is a challenge to sit down and honestly evaluate where we are in our spiritual journey.

How easily we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are fine.  We read our Bibles and worship on a regular basis.  We faithfully contribute to the work of the church and take the Lord’s Supper most Sundays.  We check those boxes and are on our way, but do we really know where we are and where we are going?  If the word of God is not translated into a lifestyle, we are just kidding ourselves (James 1:22).  “Where are you,” still echoes.

The journey had taken the Israelites from Egyptian slavery to freedom then to the brink of the Promised Land.  They faltered.  Their fear of the opposition outweighed their faith in the God of deliverance.  They knew exactly where they were.  It was within view but beyond their grasp.  It was a spiritual short-circuit that kept them from taking what the Lord was giving them. 

It is repeated all-too-often.  The word of God makes a direct link between actions and consequences.  Faith trusts in that connection.  It is a belief that our Father knows us, what our necessities are and the best way to meet those needs.  It is all right here in our hands to guide our steps, but we must walk.  We cannot linger beyond our own Jordan River and peer into the Promised Land.  We have to go.

The Son of God gave up glory with the Father to search for those who had lost their way.  He provides an escape from our own Egypt, also known as sin, to gain freedom.  If He were to ask us where we are, what would our answer be?  The first couple attempted a cover-up.  It didn’t work.  It never does.  The Lord extended His helping hand to lift us out of that life of shame and replaces it with a blessed life if we will seize it.  Are you still enslaved?  Freed but faltering?  Gazing at unclaimed promises?  The question lingers: Where are you?

Lifelines November 7, 2021

Reggie became part of my routine several months ago.  He was a timid type who took a little coaxing to engage, but after several faltering attempts we began to bond.  I ran into him on my early morning walk.  At first, he was distant but that began to change as he slowly drew closer.  Finally, he would be in his yard waiting for a little interaction in the early hours and occasionally even in the evening.  I looked forward to seeing him during my walks.  Then he was gone.  No warning, just gone.

It made me sad but also made me realize how very transient our world is.  We find and lose friends.  People come and go.  Really, everything will eventually go except God.  He is the one constant in our lives.  He promised that (Hebrews 13:5).  He is an ever-present reality with His children every step of the way.  So, wisdom dictates that we not fix our hopes on anything of this creation, because it all has a limited lifespan…even friendships.

Our Lord, in His infinite wisdom, warned us about the temporary nature of things that we can see and touch (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Think of all that includes.  We generally consider material possessions like houses, cars and money; but it is much broader than that.  It is every visible thing.  Everything!  And even some invisible things like oxygen.  It is all destined to be left behind someday, except God.  That should rearrange our priorities.

Focus on unseen realities.  They are the lasting ones.  How much of our time, attention and talents are sacrificed on the altar of the momentary?  Even our bodies have an expiration date, but great attention is given to their maintenance.  Physical workouts are never a bad thing, but the benefits are limited to this world.  Spiritual exercise profits us not only in this realm but also the next (1 Timothy 4:8).  It is a much more profitable endeavor to build spiritual muscles.

Do not love the world.  That is a straightforward statement from heaven itself (1 John 2:15-17). Lust for things, prestige and power will squeeze out our devotion to God.  It is a constant threat.  They look so appealing. They consume our attention.  They occupy our minds.  They drive our days.  Then…poof…they’re gone.  They may last for a lifetime but no longer.  Obsession over worldly things equates to an accumulation of wasted days and nothing more. So, I can mourn over my lost buddy, Reggie.  He simply disappeared, and I was left a little sad.  By the way, did I mention he was a cat?  A white feline that sat curbside each morning and we shared a few friendly strokes, a rub against the leg and then went our separate ways.  That’s the way it is.  Temporary things fill our days.  One day, the only thing that will matter is what we did with the Lord.

Lifelines October 31, 2021

It’s that time again when ghosts and goblins invade our streets.  Little people, and some not so little, go door-to-door asking for treats.  They dress up like something (or someone) that they are not to fill up their bags with goodies.  It is Halloween, and the masquerade is on.

We all put on a mask sometime to hide who we really are and what we are feeling.  Especially on Sunday.  We wear a smile to cover our sadness.  We dress in our Sunday best, grab our Bibles and join the congregation in singing the songs and breaking the bread.  Meanwhile, Monday will find us back in the ways of the world.  Scripture has a word for that: Hypocrite!

The first day of the week is a time to put away our masks for good.  God sees right through them.  We can fool each other, but the truth will eventually emerge.  It might not be until the day of judgment, but it will happen.  The Lord knows what is going on in our lives.  He reads our hearts, knows our thoughts, hears our words (Even the unspoken ones!) and knows the real us.  There is no Halloween with Him.

Hypocrisy has always haunted God’s people.  It even nudged its way into the Savior’s inner circle and the influence spread (Galatians 2:11-14).  Peter was among the most prominent leaders in the early church, but he was guilty.  Barnabas was Paul’s first missionary partner and was caught up in it.  Other Jews joined in.  The dominoes fell.  If one of the twelve and a missionary could be victimized by the temptation to put on a costume, aren’t we all in danger?  Even more, are we susceptible to being fooled?

The devil is highly skilled at deception.  It was a successful tool in the beginning, and it still is.  He is a master recruiter, and his foot-soldiers follow his lead.  They are hard to spot because they appear so angelic (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).  So, does he, and his servants mimic his behavior and apparel.  They come in disguise and lead people astray.  They present themselves as workers sent from the Lord, but they lie.  They look good but aren’t.  They are con-artists, hypocrites who have put on a mask of righteousness.

The Jews had their share, too.  They had the externals just right.  They engaged in all of the right actions, but underneath it all beat a heart of hypocrisy (Matthew 23:25-28).  Looks can be deceiving.  They were benevolent, praying and fasting frauds who were exposed by Jesus (Matthew 6:1-14).  All they wanted was attention.  They got it and nothing more.

The devil wields his influence everywhere, and his costumes are very convincing to everyone except God.  His vision looks within, behind the mask.  We may not be able to identify them, but we can see to it that we are not one of them.