Lifelines March 29, 2020

It is a book like no other.  Bible sales are measured in the billions, being far and away the best seller of all time.  We see it in cars, on pews, in homes and in virtually every place where books are found.  It is a library within itself.  Sixty-six different volumes gathered into one that offers information available no place else.  It is remarkable, to say the least.  Even more amazing, considering its extraordinary circulation and almost universal availability, is the lack of time spent considering what it says.  As if simply owning one is enough.

“In the beginning God…”  It all starts with Him.  These are His words.  If we knew nothing else of its contents, this fact alone should generate the greatest of respect for the words it contains.  Through it we gain access to the mind of our Creator.  We stand in awe of our universe and beyond.  The countless planets and stars, the marvel of the changing seasons, the wonder of the human body, birth and death all touch our hearts.  How much more should we stand amazed at the One who created it all.  We have His message in our hands.

We are educated about the nature of this unseen God.  Nature bears witness that He exists but not of His character.  We can only learn that through what He has told us.  It began in perfection but quickly degenerated through the rejection of His word.  He is Lord, and what He says stands.  He means it.  He is a God of truth and justice, love and jealousy, grace and wrath.  He floods and saves.  He forgives and disciplines.  God is far from one dimensional, and there is no way to see His fullness through purely human sources.  He is spirit and not like us. 

Its pages expose human tendencies.  From the very first stumble in a perfect environment, weakness to temptation is clear.  Sin spreads worse than the coronavirus.  It is more contagious and with worse consequences.  It is eternally deadly every time.  Society tells us that it is inconsequential.  The word of God tells us otherwise.  The evidence validates His warnings.  Every one of us is vulnerable.  History’s lessons in the biblical accounts prove the reality of sin’s devastation. 

We sin.  Each of us.  All of us.  The Bible tells us so.  God is a God of justice.  His word tells us that, too.  It also reveals His love which prompted the only possible solution: One who would take our punishment.  So, the perfect sacrifice stepped into the world offering Himself in our place.  Our guilt and His love collided at the heart of God, the creation shuddered and salvation became possible. The Bible reveals both His nature and our problem.  Jesus came into the world and was rejected by many but not all.  What about us?  We have His word.  The question is: Does His word have us?

Lifelines March 22, 2020

Where is God?  The question hangs in the air as the world has been turned upside by a microscopic virus that has taken the lives of some and scared billions more nearly to death.  Schools are closed, gatherings are discouraged, events are cancelled and people have retreated behind closed doors.  The economy has suffered as much as the people.  If the Lord exists and is so loving, why is this happening?

We long for an answer.  Surely, there is one.  Medical experts frantically search for a vaccine.  Sickness and death circle the globe, and we realize our helplessness.  We are unable to stop it, but God could if He is really all-powerful.  If only He would explain Himself.  He doesn’t.  Silence.  And we wonder.

We have been put in our place.  We wear masks, buy toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and scrub down as if we were going into surgery.  The virus spreads in spite of it all.  We’ve been to the moon and back but cannot halt this marching sickness.  Eventually, we probably will but not now.  We are no match for something we cannot even see.  That which brings us to our knees is pretty humbling, isn’t it?

Where is God?  He’s the same place He’s always been.  People have ignored Him, opposed Him, rejected Him, ridiculed Him and even killed His Son but they cannot change Him.  He is still God.  We will never know the reason for this pandemic, but we can learn from it.

Our lives are in hands bigger than ours.  Before we were visible God was at work within our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16).  Each person is fearfully and wonderfully handcrafted by Him in His image.  We are all reflections of our maker even though it may be deeply tarnished, and our days are known to Him.  Every breath we take and each beat of our heart are totally dependent on Him (Acts 17:25).  

Life is temporary.  We all have the same appointment with death.  It may not be the result of some worldwide virus, but it will come to everyone someday and then there will be judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  That is a certainty, but the date and time is not.  Neither is the how.  Foolish is the person who does not prepare for a meeting that could come at any moment.

Where is the Lord?  He is on the throne of judgment.  It is before Him that we must all appear (2 Corinthians 5:10).  That can be a frightening prospect, but it does not have to be.  His own cross on history’s horizon makes it possible for us to live a life unshackled from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).  The ultimate problem is sin, and our judge bears the scars of suffering the penalty you and I deserved.  We will stand before Him some day as either friend or foe.  Which will it be? 

Important Notice for All

In order to adhere to the recommendations of government officials concerning COVID-19 and out of an abundance of care for the safety and health of our Westside family and the general public, the Elders at Westside have prayerfully decided to cancel all worship services, Bible studies, and any other group functions that take place at the church building through the end of March. We will continue to follow this situation and be in touch with the congregation to communicate plans by April 3, 2020.

The building will be shut down for morning and evening services on March 22 & 29,2020, and for Wednesday night dinners and Bible study on March 25 and April 1, 2020.  Movie night for March 20 will be rescheduled and the fellowship dinner scheduled for April 5, 2020 has been cancelled. 

Please, continue to follow our church website: churchofchristwestside.com, and our Facebook page. We encourage you all to stay in communication with other members to encourage and build each other up during this difficult time.  Pray for the Westside members, our leaders of the congregation and the leaders of our nation and world.  Trust that our God is good, and know that He is still in control. 

There are numerous churches of Christ that will be live streaming sermons and studies if you want to use that avenue.

We love you all and look forward to being back together soon!  Stay safe. 

Lifelines March 15, 2020

Priorities.  We determine them every day.  First things first.  God has His list, as well, and it provides heavenly wisdom for our earthly lives.  Without them, we will spin our wheels and spend our time on the irrelevant rather than the important.  “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”  Sadly, “these things” often replace our pursuit of His things, and the world claims another victim.

Fret will consume us when our list of priorities is upside down.  Nature itself teaches us of the provisions of the Lord.  Birds don’t punch a time clock, but they eat.  Flowers don’t spend time at the sewing machine, but they are beautifully attired.  Besides, what does worry accomplish?  It changes nothing.  It is a worthless expenditure of time and energy, so don’t do it.  Those are the words of the Son of God, and He should know.  Depend on our Father.  He will take care of us.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…(1 Corinthians 15:3-4).”  The source is significant.  It did not begin with Paul, nor did it come from a collection of men gathered in a room in Jerusalem.  It came directly from the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12).  As we develop our individual lists of what merits our immediate attention, the word of the Lord is the place to begin.  Any other source will send us in the wrong direction.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” The cross was not an unexpected uprising by angry sinners.  God planned it from antiquity.  He foresaw the devastation of sin and made provision to deal with it.  It wrecked paradise, and it has been a destructive force ever since.  The demands of a holy God were met through the sacrificial blood of His holy Son.  Any other life was inadequate to pay the ultimate price for our sins.  Jesus did what we could not. 

“and that He was buried.”  He was dead.  No heartbeat.  No brainwaves.  Nothing.  The attempts of the opposition seemed to have succeeded.  Plans to kill Jesus had been growing in intensity.  Hatred boiled over.  It came from all sides and every segment of society.  Mob mentality carried the day.  He was beaten, spit upon, mocked, crowned and ultimately nailed to a cross.  Finally, it was finished.  His holy heart stopped, and they put Him in the ground…dead.

“and He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.”  Biographies always end at death, but not this one.  God flexed His omnipotent muscles and the Son of Man came back to life, and lives to this day at the right hand of His Father.  He is there on the behalf of believers, pleading our case.  Resurrection gives us a living hope, and that’s forever. 

Clearly, we are God’s priority.  Is He ours?

Lifelines March 08, 2020

It was an unlikely meeting; a Jewish man approaching a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-42).  That was far from the norm for several reasons, but that was the way of Jesus.  He broke down barriers and strayed from the conventional paths throughout His brief stay on earth.  It left the woman in wonder and the disciples scratching their heads. 

It began simply enough.  He was thirsty, and she had water.  He asked for a drink, and she was surprised.  She was a Samaritan, and good Jews would not stoop to such levels as to talk with the likes of her.  Her heritage was contaminated by folks from the wrong side of the tracks, and that might be contagious.  Distance was best lest they be soiled by the commoners.  The Savior disregarded such concerns.  The door wasn’t just being cracked; it was being bulldozed open.  If only she knew.

The circumstances that drove this woman to the well at that day and time are not known but there are suspicions.  Her domestic history was not exactly storybook.  A handful of marriages had not worked out.  There were an equal number of failures.  The latest relationship never made it to the alter.  Had she given up on the institution?  We are not told, but she and the new guy had not even tried.  Jesus knew, and she knew that He knew.   

Her eyes gradually opened.  She had asked about worship.  Her concern was geography.  He addressed the deeper issues of spirit and truth.  God desires worshipers and is searching for a particular kind of heart.  The externals are important but matter only when the internals get right.  It is not either/or but a both/and.  The “where” is not the emphasis.  She begins to figure this thirsty guy out.  A prophet?  She is starting to see.  Could this possibly be the Messiah?

This improbable conversation amazed the disciples.  Venturing onto the dark side for conversations with the dubious were more than enough to raise apostolic eyebrows, and add to that she was…well…a she.  Men and women didn’t mix like that.  So, there was the Lord talking to a five-time-divorced Samaritan woman.  One, two, three strikes against her.  None of them presented a hurdle too high for the Son of God to clear.  After all, He came to seek and save the lost and she was about as lost as you can get. 

Who would have ever picked such a missionary?  And an effective one, at that (Verse 39).  Crossing traditional boundaries was the Lord’s specialty, and when we get in step with Him, we’ll cross them too.  There are people with all kinds of shady histories who need the Lord.  Rich, poor, black, white, young, old, men and women come with sinful baggage that needs to be emptied.  Jesus is the only answer.  Start a conversation.  Lead them to the Lord.  It’s amazing what He can do. 

Lifelines March 01, 2020

The world can be an awfully gloomy place.  Deadly viruses from distant shores threaten our health.  The political landscape is filled with negativity, and headlines lead us to believe that we are truly on the verge of total collapse.  It is easy to let the pessimism seep into our minds and cast a long shadow on the Lord’s church.  Jesus knows.  He has walked those dusty roads, too.

“In the world you have tribulation…(John 16:33).”  The hours were dwindling.  He would soon shoulder all the sins of all mankind throughout history in a violent collision between God’s love and justice.  He had encountered the most intense rejection and hatred that people could dish out and soon He would submit to a brutal execution.  But first He would comfort His apostles.  Then He would give His life.

Tribulation?  Who could possibly know more about tribulation?  He left the glory of heaven to step into the human experience.  It was His mission to seek and save the lost.  The demands were extraordinary.  His was the life of a servant.  The Lord of the universe came to serve.  Imagine that.  And it did not stop there.  He came to die.  To save sinners.  Oh yes, He knows.  This world is a hard place.

“…take courage; I have overcome the world.”  It hardly looked that way as they swept Him away and condemned Him to death.  The human perspective is so limited.  Our eyes cannot see very far down the road.  The apostles would soon distance themselves from Him.  Hostility has a way of doing that.  Even the stout-hearted withered.  Self-confident Peter denied Him.  They all ran away.  Overcome?  It sure looked like the troublesome world was winning the war.  Soon, His heart would stop.

Appearances can be deceiving, but dead is…well…unfixable.  True, without an almighty God working behind the scenes (or inside the tomb in this case) it would have been hopeless.  No person on earth can reverse death, but there is a force that can.  He is able.  He did.  Three days later there was no corpse.  The One who said that He had overcome the world had conquered even death.  He took its heaviest shot and prevailed.  “Take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Christians have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection.  Peter (Yes, the very one who had collapsed at a critical moment!) wrote about that, but sometimes our surroundings are so dark that we lose sight of that.  So, the Lord had the old fisherman write it down.  We don’t just have hope; it is alive and it is ours.  The empty tomb verifies it. 

Paul prayed for God to open up the spiritual eyes of the Ephesian Christians to know certain facts (Ephesians 1:18-23), and hope was at the top of the list.  It is a never-ending, undying hope.  Jesus lives, and hope lives with Him.