Lifelines November 29, 2020

Seek and you will find.  It is a profound truth in easily understood words.  If we are looking for the bad in people, we will find it.  Ditto with the good in them.  Days are that way.  Life is, too.  It makes the decision of what our target will be extremely important.  Our thoughts, actions, time and talents will all be affected by it.  What are we seeking?

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).”  The Lord offered these words immediately after He discussed the misdirected emphasis that those who have no relationship with God have.  They are so busy fretting about food and clothes that they miss the reassurance of a loving Father who promises to provide our necessities.  Of course, Christians would never make such a mistake, would they? 

Seek first means it is a top priority.  His kingdom and His righteousness take precedence over everything.  It is primary, not secondary.  God, who takes care of birds and flowers, is our Father.  He knows exactly what we need, and that is revealed in every syllable that is contained in His word.  We sometimes get so wrapped up in our worldly worries that we lose sight of the great promises and directions given in His word.  Seek and you will find.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  He knew the extraordinary victory of taking down a giant with a slingshot, a handful of rocks and the Lord.  He also experienced the devastating moral failure that comes when he took his eyes off of God and put them on the girl next door.  The king sought the wrong object.  The Lord let him.  He got what he wanted but never expected the consequences.  Seek and you will find.  Lust led to adultery which resulted in murder and the death of an innocent child.  Be careful what you want. 

Jonah ran away from God.  He sought distance because he didn’t want to do as he was told.  He wanted to get away from the Lord.  Storms came as a result.  So did a huge fish, a big gulp and Jonah got exactly what he wanted.  Life from the inside of a fish’s stomach was not exactly what he expected, but he received his wish.  The Lord seemed a long way away.  When he got what he wanted, he didn’t want what he got.  Seek and you will find.

We seek and we will find.  Will the discovery be what we expected?  That depends on whether it is consistent with His kingdom and His righteousness or our own “kingdom.”  Are we seeking to be the king of our own lives?  If so, we may find ourselves eating forbidden fruit like Eve and attempting to be like God, knowing good and evil.  Or David and Jonah.  Seek and you will find.  Simple yet profound, and it never fails.  Choose carefully.          

Lifelines November 22, 2020

The Lord endured the agonizing death of a crucifixion, spent time in a tomb and rose the third day.  All authority had been placed in His hands, and He gave directives to His small band of followers.  Go make disciples.  It did not matter who they were or where they were from.  Their history was unimportant.  Make students who will follow Me, and teach them of their responsibility to cling tenaciously to my commands.  Their life should always be decided by His guidelines.  He promised to always accompany them and sent them on their way.  Disciples making disciples. 

Has the church lost sight of her mission?  Buildings are built and programs are implemented.  Do they form committed followers of Jesus Christ?  It was once observed that preaching should feed the sheep not entertain the goats.  Discipleship is the exact opposite of worldliness, but we find methods being adopted which minimize self-denial and maximize self-indulgence.  Would the Lord recognize the people who claim to be His?  Even more importantly, will He recognize them on the last day?  Or will they hear, “I never knew you, depart from me…(Matthew 7:23)?”  Are we disciples?

Every life has those back burners.  They are for the secondary issues in our lives.  We make our own choices about what to put back there.  Seldom do we choose self.  Yet, Jesus put that at the head of the line when it came to following Him (Luke 9:23).  There are no exclusions or exceptions.  That begins with the decision to go His way rather than our own, “If anyone wishes to come after Me…” If that is what we want to do, He leads and we follow.  Self gets in the way of that and must be pushed onto the back burner.

Selfies capture the essence of our times.  People want to be in the picture, right up front.  Look at me!  The word of God teaches us to recede into the background.  We are expected to help the poor, pray passionately and regularly, and exercise spiritual self-discipline but not for human praise (Matthew 6:1-17).  God sees, hears, knows and rewards.  That is enough.

Following the pathway of Jesus always involves a cross.  It is individual and awaits us every single day.  No two crosses are exactly alike, and we choose to pick it up.  We think of our cross as burdens, and that may be a part of it, but the cross is an instrument of death through which we are crucified to the world and the world to us (Galatians 6:14).  The cross changed everything in our decision making. Discipleship is not an easy road.  We are perpetually bombarded with what seems to be attractive options.  Self-fulfillment and gratification are promised by a culture that is under the influence of the evil one.  He used the same deception in the Garden of Eden, and we see how that turned out.

Lifelines November 15, 2020

The life of a Christian is consistently described in the Bible in terms of walking.  It is not God’s design to give us new life in Christ so that we will complacently sit.  It is not a single step but a walk, a journey that is unlike any other.  It is through a narrow gate onto the road less traveled.  It is on that path that we find life. 

Conversion brings us into a new relationship with the Lord.  We look to Him for the direction that is best.  Our flesh continues to exert pressure on us to do as it demands, but we must not.  Our initial steps are uncertain and shaky like a newborn colt.  We stagger and fall, disappointed that we have not mastered our own actions.  We rise again to try another day.  Failure is not permanent but a temporary setback.  We are still children of God, and we’ll do better tomorrow.

Growing up is never easy.  Whether we are describing physical development or spiritual maturity, we struggle.  The Lord understands.  He made us, and He knows our weaknesses.  He also knows our potential and has expectations expressed through His prophet, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).” 

Humility does not come naturally.  Our inclination is to strut our independence and hide our shortcomings.  It seems inconsistent with maturity to acknowledge weakness, so we try to keep it secret.  Yet, it is essential to face up to our need if we want to walk with God.  Our self-determined steps will inevitably put us on the wrong track because His ways and ours lead in opposite directions (Isaiah 55:8-9).

A humble submission to Jesus Christ as our Lord will reveal itself in a lifestyle.  Christians are no longer slaves to emotions.  Yes, those feelings still exist but they are no longer master over us.  It involves a conscientious choice to reject that course of action for one dictated by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Giving the reins of our life to the Lord requires faith that Father knows best.  The outcome of that decision produces a fruit so unique that it could only come from the Spirit as we walk with Him.

God has a great love for His children and desires the best for us, both in this life and the next.  His word provides His thoughts on how to accomplish that.  Now, it is up to us.  It involves our decision that we trust Him enough to thrust ourselves completely into His hands, recognizing that we do not know how to go.  Total surrender is the only way.  Our part is to humble ourselves under His all-powerful hand, and He will take care of the rest (1 Peter 5:6-7).  He always has.     

Lifelines November 8, 2020

In a world characterized by perpetual change and uncertainty, the Lord’s church offers the welcoming embrace of stability and assurance.  Conditions on planet earth can be altered in a moment, but our Father is steadfast and dependable.  Relationships within the family of humanity disintegrate, but our Savior is a promised presence forever.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is never snatched away when we aren’t looking.  Our God is amazingly consistent, and His church will stand into eternity.

The Lord is both architect and builder.  It is designed for permanence.  It is invincible and eternal.  The promise was made through Nathan to David that the Lord had a plan.  There would be an everlasting kingdom and throne that would come through his descendants (2 Samuel 7:16).  Centuries passed before the Son of God came through a sometimes-sketchy family tree to fulfill that promise (Luke 1:31-32).  The indestructible kingdom of heaven was at hand.

Jesus first brought up the topic of His church with a direct question for His apostles (Matthew 16:13-20).  We might ask it this way, “What is the word on the street about me?”  The street always has lots to say about controversial people, and this was no different.  Opinions were all over the spectrum, and then He hit them with THE question, “What about you, who do you say that I am?”  It is a fundamental issue.  What do we say?  Our answer will determine a lot about our view of His church.

In that conversation, the Lord made it clear that the church was His to build based upon His true identity.  Peter answered the question correctly because His source of information was the only true and accurate one.  It was not gathered from human intellects or a board of directors but from God Himself.  That is always the right place to go for answers to any questions about the eternal kingdom.  What does the word of the Lord have to say about it?

Years later, Saul sought to eradicate the upstart religious group.  Bad mistake.  The Lord’s kingdom cannot be conquered by anyone, and the living Savior struck him blind so that he might see more clearly.  It turned his life around, and he became the conduit for God’s message about this extraordinary church.  He reminded the Ephesian elders that the church was bought with divine blood and required vigilant care by leaders selected by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28-30).     The church of Christ is unlike anything else in the world.  God planned it from eternity, and it will stand into eternity.  Christians have been part of the Lord’s plan forever.  Jesus endured nails piercing His hands and feet to make it His own.  Yet, there seems to be minimal respect for it today.  It is seen as unimportant.  It has never been that way in the eyes of God, and His are the ones that really matter.

Lifelines November 01, 2020

It is doubtful that anyone will be sorry to see 2020 go.  We enter November with grateful hearts that this weird year is almost over.  The pandemic has been a thorn in the worldwide side, hurricanes have bashed our nation’s gulf coast, fires have ravaged the west coast and racial tensions have boiled over from border-to-border.  Add to all of that the upcoming election, and it has been a totally forgettable leap year.  Then our eyes (Remember, 2020 is our year for improved vision) come across a passage in the word of God that stops us in our tracks.

There it is staring us right in the face, “…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).”   A few simple words that challenge our perspective.  Our collective world is in a state of chaos.  Half of us seem to be perpetually angry at the other half.  Those who aren’t mad are sick.  Those who aren’t sick have been devastated by a natural disaster, and there’s that verse telling us to be thankful in everything.  How?

God is still God.  He has not relinquished His throne.  In the midst of all of the confusion in this world, He will reign forever (Psalm 29:10).  The upcoming presidential election will not change that, no matter who wins.  The very one who created everything from nothing has it all in His hands.  Our limited vision can never see that except through the eyes of faith.  We may be confused, befuddled and bewildered, but He is not. 

As the mob seized the Son, all appeared to be lost.  It seemed hopeless as the legal proceedings unfolded that night in all of their illegalities.  The balance of power was leaning heavily in the wrong direction, and the outcome grew increasingly obvious.  The sun rose with the verdict in:  He would die that day.  Death is brutally permanent, or is it?  The nails were driven.  Blood poured.  The promised Messiah drew His final breath.  If ever there was a time in which gratitude would be hard to figure and in short supply, that was it. 

Twenty centuries removed from that gruesome execution, we can see clearly.  It was a sad event but one for which we are eternally thankful.  From this distance, we can see not only the cross but also the empty tomb.  That Friday, they saw only the cross.  We know the full story.  The love of God sent a Savior to die for our sins.  The power of that same God raised Him from the grave.  That is the full gospel picture.

Believing in God’s love and power changes our perspective.  We know with the utmost confidence that the Lord has His children in the palm of His hand, and that is an eternally safe place to be (John 10:27-30).  For that, we can always be thankful.