Lifelines June 13, 2021

I wonder what it would have been like to hear Jesus pray.  His eternal harmonious relationship was different.  He had taken on flesh.  He knew the temptations, frustrations and disappointments that come along in this world.  He was simultaneously deity and humanity with facts in His head that we do not possess.  His prayers had captured the attention of the disciples (Luke 11:1-13).  They had watched and heard Him, had shared heartaches and headaches with the One sent to save the world and they wanted to learn. 

His first words reverberate with relationship, “Our Father…” Some versions simply say, “Father.”  Imagine that!  He was instructing His followers in the art of prayer, and He begins with that relational word: Father.  How rich.  How intimate.  How amazing to be able to come into the presence of the almighty Creator and address Him as our Father. 

The concept has been so watered down that it has all but lost its meaning.  What should we have in mind that originally started in His? Is He like our dad?  If so, how?  While human fathers will always fall short of the ideal, they often shape our thoughts about our heavenly one.  He is different.  He has no flaws and presents the perfect execution of the concept.

He knows exactly what we need before we ever utter a word (Matthew 6:4).  We do not have to explain.  That not only alleviates our worries about physical necessities but also sheds new light on our approach to Bible study.  How often do we approach it with the understanding that our Father knows what we need, and the Scriptures provide it?  Both facts and directions, what we need to know and what we need to do are in there. 

Even though He has such intimate awareness of us, He still wants us to talk to Him.  He knows but doesn’t command us to be speechless before Him.  His word consistently directs us to His throne of grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  He is our Father and waits to hear from us in good times and bad, in joy and in sorrow (James 5:13).

God lovingly disciples His children.  It is never a pleasant process, but He is shaping our character and bringing it into conformity with His (Hebrews 12:4-11).  That can be painful at times but essential.  He is holy.  It is the family trait that He is working into us.  We will slowly begin to look like our Father.  It is an exciting prospect in which He is involved.  We yield.  He does His work.  Righteousness is the outcome.

The first words that Jesus taught about prayer direct attention to the relationship that we have with the God of the universe.  What a notion!  Happy Father’s Day to all you dads, and never forget the One is out of sight but never out of reach.              

Lifelines June 06, 2021

The mere mention of the Holy Spirit leaves many of us scratching our heads.  He is a mystery.  We have come to somewhat of an understanding about God the Father.  The Bible reveals much of His character, and although our comprehension of an unlimited Being is indeed very limited we gain a notion of what He is like.  Jesus put flesh on the infinite.  God in a person became a visible representation of deity.  We gain insight from the One who came searching for the lost in order to save them.  The Holy Spirit still lingers in the shadows of our minds.

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus.  The Spirit-inspired prophets had set the table, and the time was right for the introduction of the Savior.  John stepped onto the stage to perform his task but before he did, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the filling occurred before he was even born (Luke 1:15).  Clearly, the Spirit had a central role in God’s plans.

The Holy Spirit was the means by which the Son of God was produced in Mary (Luke 1:35) and descended in a visible form like a dove at the baptism of Jesus as a voice from heaven announced the unique nature of the One who was being baptized (Luke 3:21-22).  It was the same Spirit that soon led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-2).  He is an active yet mysterious being. That confrontation with the schemes of the evil one was essential. 

Jesus paid an incredible price to save us from our sins, and the Holy Spirit has always been a part of that.  We may not understand Him, but He is integral to the process.  The encounter with the devil was a prerequisite to being a merciful and faithful High priest, a role that He occupies to this day.  He sympathizes with our temptations because He has been through them.  The Spirit saw to that.

Jesus told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem after His ascension until the Holy Spirit empowered them for their expanding mission.  Sounds and sights unlike any ever seen.  Uneducated men began to speak in foreign languages, and crowds from around the world were totally confused.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were behind all that was seen and heard that day, and the church took shape.  Peter’s answer to the question of the Jews about their guilt in crucifying the Lord and Christ was twofold:  Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.  That would bring about forgiveness, even of their grievous sin, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a promise from God that has extended from that day to this one (Acts 2:38-39).  He may mystify us, but He remains vital and worthy of careful study.

Lifelines May 30, 2021

Jesus led His disciples up the mountain and crowds followed.  He shared with them a profound exposition of what it means to be a disciple (Matthew 5, 6 & 7).  The notion of blessing was turned on its head.  The true depths of the Old Covenant law were exposed as heart issues.  He taught of secretly helping the needy, privately praying and not flaunting personal acts of self-discipline.  God sees in secret.  Even His closing remarks opened up the reality of the challenges of true discipleship that few will meet.  It is a matter of taking the Lord at His word and living it out.  Any other lifestyle will ultimately crumble.  It was a true mountain-top experience, and the people were amazed.

The mountains have been special places throughout biblical history.  Noah’s ark came to rest on a mountain following the flood (Genesis 8:4).  The ten commandments were delivered in a remarkable demonstration of the power of the Lord on a mountain (Exodus 19:18-20:18).  Moses gave instructions for both blessings and curses to be proclaimed from mountains (Deuteronomy 27:12-13), and Joshua carried out those orders exactly as they had been written (Joshua 8:30-35).  The mountain-top has always been a special place.

Jesus led Peter, James and John to a mountain for an experience that they would never forget (Matthew 17:1-8).  They saw the Lord in dazzling splendor with Moses and Elijah who had lived so long before.   Peter was so taken by what he saw that he wanted to build something to mark the occasion.  That is when the voice from heaven spoke.  The message was clear and surely etched indelibly in their minds. Listen to my Son.  Then comes verse 9: They came down the mountain. 

Life is not lived on the mountain-top.  It is lived in the valley where sin resides.  They came down to find a father in despair over the pitiful condition of his son, and the disciples had been powerless to help.  It was a faith problem (Verses 19-20).  It took enough faith to pray for the problem to be solved and the boy to be cured.  Faith, or lack of it, was the issue in the valley of despair.  It still is.

Occasionally we have our own mountain-top experiences.  It is not a miraculous time but one of keener insight and a feeling of being closer to God, alone with our Creator and it lifts our sagging spirits and fortifies our souls.  But then comes the trudge down that mountain and into the sin-ravaged world in which we feel powerless.  It is a genuine test of our faith.  The Lord is the only hope for the hopeless and the only cure for the sick.  Jesus posed the question when talking about prayer, “…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)?”  Well, will He?  Faith enough to pray? 

Lifelines May 23, 2021

We expend a lot of energy on matters that mean very little in the grand scheme of things.  As we progress through life, our attention is drawn to worldly concerns, shiny objects and frivolous worries that distract us from that which is truly important.  Martha was that way.  Mary was not.  We all have the tendency to be like one or the other.  Balance is a challenge.

It takes a powerful imagination to step into the picture (Luke 10:38-42).  Jesus was coming to their house.  How does a person prepare for the Savior, God-in-the-flesh coming for a visit?  It would certainly send us scurrying to make sure all was in order.  Dust the shelves, wash the dishes, straighten up the living room and a dozen other chores to see that everything is just right.  The Lord is coming.

Martha was hustling when He arrived.  Mary was sitting.  Listening.  Her sister was busy, and she simply sat at His feet hanging on every word.  Martha was grouchy doing all of the “important” stuff without help.  That was not fair.  Didn’t He care?  Shouldn’t He command the “lazy” one to help her?  It is a bit of a distorted view of things to chastise the Lord and ask if He cares.  Does He care?  Really?  It is amazing what well-intentioned distractions will do to us. 

Jesus set the record straight.  There is no doubt that Martha’s labors were good, but there was something better that Mary had chosen.  Stop.  Sit.  Listen.  His are words of eternal life (John 6:63).  What could be more important than that?  A voice from heaven proclaimed the very same thing on the Mount of Transfiguration: Listen to My Son.  The good will sometimes interfere with the better which will never be taken away.

There are certainly tasks at hand and responsibilities that demand our attention, but they must not take us away from the most important thing in any life: our relationship with the Lord.  In fact, they provide an opportunity to put our Christian principles on display.  Worldly circumstances arise that test us, and we often blame them for our actions.  They don’t cause our behavior but reveal how real our commitment to Jesus is and that determines our actions.  The real issue is far deeper that a word or deed.    

Christians strive for that which is excellent.  That’s a cut above good.  We aren’t content with mediocrity.  The Lord created us for greater things, and the pathway to that is through knowledge and discernment (Philippians 1:9-11).  In other words, quietly sitting at the Lord’s feet to listen.  Each time we expose our minds to His words we are choosing the better part.  Let’s put ourselves in the house with Martha and Mary.  Who would we be?  The grumpy, complaining one who was just too busy to listen or the one who made the better choice? 

Lifelines May 16, 2021

Life didn’t start out well for Patti Wilson.  She was diagnosed in her early years with epilepsy.  Her dad was a jogger, and she really wanted to jog with him but feared a seizure.  He assured her that he knew what to do if that happened and persuaded her to run with him.  She fought through the fear, strapped on her running shoes and changed the world.

She loved it and had no complications.  She enjoyed it so much that she began setting goals.  Her first goal was getting out of her front door, but once she began running there was no stopping her.  She set her sights on running further than any woman ever had.  The record was 80 miles.  It was an ambitious goal but not too big for Patti.

As a high school freshman, she determined to run from her home in Orange County, California to San Francisco and she did.  That’s 400 miles!  Her sophomore goal: Portland, Oregon more than 1500 miles and she did it.  As a junior, she headed to St. Louis about 2000 miles.  Again, she succeeded.  Finally, as a senior she planned to run to the White House more than 3000 miles away.  It took more than four months and she accomplished that one, too, where she shook hands with the president. 

How could an epileptic accomplish so much?  We might say grit and determination, goal setting and focus.  A desire that pushed her, and an attitude that helped her.  As far as her physical condition is concerned, she said that epilepsy was simply “an inconvenience.” She refused to be held back, and ultimately raised enough money to build 19 multi-million-dollar epileptic centers across the country.  Quite an accomplishment for someone who faced such a substantial challenge from the beginning.

Hers is a remarkable story.  Is ours?  We have placed ourselves in the Lord’s hands, and there are “inconveniences” in our lives, too.  What do we do with them?  We have options.  We can view them as reasons to quit or challenges to overcome. The Israelites came to the edge of the Promised Land and refused to claim the promise because they were afraid.  Fear drove the disciples behind closed doors (John 20:19).  Patti could have allowed her concerns about having a seizure to keep her indoors, but she listened to her father and has inspired epileptics ever since. Listening to our Father will open our eyes to amazing possibilities. 

Paul experienced extraordinary ups-and-downs in his life.  Through it all, he learned that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him (Philippians 4:13).  So can we.  Imagine what great things we can do with the Lord.  The message of her upcoming virgin birth stunned young Mary, and the angel assured her, “Nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37).”  It still isn’t.  It’s time to strap on our running shoes.