Lifelines July 14, 2019

“It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).”  The Lord declared it so.  Solo flights do not gain the altitude that joint efforts do.  He did not just observe that to be so, He addressed the issue.  It is easy to identify and talk about a problem.  Solving it is a different matter, and God had a plan.  He made a partner, someone who could assist the man.  He knows His creation and what it needs. 

Husband and wife originated in the mind of God.  It is a sacred relationship to maximize the lives of both.  Humans were created to be a representation of their Creator, “Let Us make man in Our image…(Genesis 1:26).”  They were the crowning piece of a creation that the Lord described as being very good.  Then came the observation of that which is not good, solitude. 

Logic dictates that the One who initiated marriage would know best how it works.  Among His first directives was for the man to leave his father and mother and unite with the woman (Genesis 2:14).  His parents are no longer the primary relationship in his life.  Yes, they are still important, but his wife becomes his top priority.  He has a huge responsibility to her.

His role is modeled on the sacrificial example of Jesus in relation to the church (Ephesians 5:25ff).  He gave Himself up for her that she might be holy and ultimately saved.  The actions of a husband are to replicate that kind of self-sacrificing love, giving up personal interests for the spiritual advancement of his wife. 

Wives are willing partners in such an effort.  They follow the lead of their husbands.  When it is obvious that he is making every effort, no matter the personal cost, to lead them to higher spiritual ground it is easy to join hands on the journey.  The eternal destination makes every earthly step valuable.    

Not all knots stay tied, but those who do realize that it is a cooperative effort not a competitive one.  It is a union striving for a common goal.  Husband and wife assume roles determined and defined by God.  The man assessing his part, and the woman hers.  Each focusing on his or her personal responsibility. 

Not everyone is blessed with a successful marriage.  They fail at alarming rates for a variety of reasons.  Some give up, while others never try.  They simply move from one superficial relationship to another.  Still, it is not good for people to live in isolation.  So, the Lord gives us another chance.   

The very One who designed the first marriage gave us an additional one which is more permanent.  The church is the bride of Christ.  Jesus gave His life for her.  He is intensely interested in her, and anyone who chooses can be in the wedding.  It is still not good for man to be alone.        

Lifelines July 07, 2019

Christians have been entrusted with the most valuable information imaginable.  Yet, we find it difficult to share.  It is a life or death mission in which we have a twenty-first century role.  Our roots in Jerusalem shed light on the work of the infant church which turned that ancient city upside down.  Perhaps a lesson or two from them could help us create a ripple in our city, too.

“And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42).”  It was not an occasional effort or a once a week gathering.  They were busy every day.  Granted, they were in a unique situation, but we can still learn from their perpetual involvement in spreading their faith.  It is an all-the-time mission.

It is also a wherever-you-go assignment.  “In the temple and house-to-house” takes us into all types of environments, from very public to totally private.  The temple would obviously take them into a setting with people who believed in God.  However, their beliefs were incomplete.  Filling in the final chapter of the plan of God may have ruffled a few feathers, but they felt compelled.  Eternal destinations were at stake, and who knows what kind of reception would meet them behind a door.  Nevertheless, they took it everywhere.

Their message was clear.  Jesus is the Christ.  No frills and no fluff.  He had come on His own mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  It was an angelic pronouncement to Joseph (Matthew 1:21).  Shepherds got the word in dramatic fashion on a seemingly ordinary night (Luke 2:8-13).  The Son of God and self-proclaimed Son of Man gave Himself to remedy the sickening sin problem that was wrecking the planet.  People needed a Savior.  There is no other.  They were passionate to tell it everywhere and all the time.

Paul’s reflections with the elders from Ephesus reveal his uncommon commitment: “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).”  Such dedication would surely communicate in a way that no words could. 

Of course, the words didn’t hurt either and he had much to say, “…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).”  He held nothing back (Acts 20:27).  He went everywhere, told everybody and said everything.  He made converts and served jail time.  The road may be a hard one, but it is ours to travel.  People need Jesus.  If we don’t tell them, who will?

Lifelines June 30, 2019

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” How we cherish the notion of salvation.  Eternity separated from God is a fate worse than our imagination can conceive.  No love.  No light.  No hope stretching far beyond the horizons of our mind.  There would be no way back.  Just an endless night of indescribable misery.  But for the grace of God…

Jesus embodied that grace (John 1:14).  It was not a human initiative but a divine love that set the plan in motion.  People had swapped paradise for a bite of forbidden fruit.  The relationship was shattered and deterioration set in.  Murder followed.  Sin awaited just outside the door and within the mind.  The situation went from bad to worse, and the creation had a dire need for cleansing.  The Lord grieved and humanity died.  The fresh start did not last long.

Sin continued to distort thoughts and plans.  God knew.  He had a strategy to deal with it from the beginning.  It was engineered by grace.  Salvation extended to every corner of the globe (Titus 2:11).  Every soul had the option.  They always would.  Make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).  Preach the gospel everywhere to everyone (Mark 16:15).  Take it to the weak, worthless and rebellious.  God’s deepest desire is that they all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Amazing grace, indeed.

It does not stop there.  He has a much bigger agenda in mind.  Grace doesn’t just pluck us from the cesspool of sin and leave us alone.  It teaches us (Titus 2:12).  The environment that destroyed us will not rebuild us.  Christians need a new direction, away from the destructive forces of the evil one.  We are tugged and tempted with those same old desires that captivated us.  Grace freed us.  Now, it guides us away from a return to slavery and into a liberated life.

The here-and-now can be a strong influence, and grace teaches us to look beyond this moment (Titus 2:13).  Jesus is coming again.  Eternity waits, and who knows how close it is?  It may be a thousand years or half a second.  His grace enables us to look with hope and expectation to His appearing.  Great glory is there.  He is there.  That exciting, thrilling moment is closer than ever.

Delivering that grace was the costliest transaction in all of eternity.  He gave Himself (Titus 2:14).  That is how bad the problem of sin is and how deep His love runs.  He salvaged us, cleaned us up and took possession of us.  We belong to Him now, and He has purpose for us while we are still here.  There is work to be done, and His grace has prepared us to do it.  We weren’t left to sit and watch but to engage in good deeds.  It is what He did.  Now it is our turn.

Lifelines June 23, 2019

The pathway to blessing was clearly marked out for Abram (Genesis 12:1-3).  It began with giving up all that was comfortable and familiar.  Old surroundings and the same old environment would not take him there.  He had to walk away for parts unknown.  It was surely a challenging decision to make.  It is for everyone.  Blessings are just beyond our grasp unless we change, and that is never easy.  Comfort zones hold us back from the best that the Lord has to offer.

The promises were remarkable.  He would be made into a great nation that extends far beyond biological connections.  It is family and then some.  Numbers exceeding our ability to count would be included.  It all began with one man, a solitary individual with nothing more than the word of God and faith in the Lord who spoke it.  All the faithful ever since, regardless of genealogy, are citizens of that great nation.

Obey the instruction and be blessed.  It was a simple statement, but one which required great trust.  There was no indication where he was to go.  Simply, go where you are told.  He did.  It was a bumpy road at times.  Occasionally, there were doubts.  Years of waiting came between the call and any indication of fulfillment.  Ishmael testifies of his impatient doubting.  It called for a willingness to sacrifice.  He did.  He sacrificed the familiar and nearly his son of promise.  He was not perfect, but he was willing.

Through the centuries his name has been synonymous with faith.  He is the father of the faithful.  God promised to make his name great, and He did.  We still look with admiration at Abram, whom we know better as Abraham.  He carved out a life through which the greatest of all blessings came.  In so doing, he was not only blessed but became a blessing.  Those who follow his lead will share the experience.

His descendent and our Savior came to bless us (Acts 3:26).  Jesus came to change the course of our lives so that we might be blessed.  He gave up the glory of heaven which He shared with His Father to show us a different way.  But then, change is difficult.  The Son of God could vouch for that.  So could Abraham.  Both gave up their homes, and we are called to do the same.  Blessings are waiting, and His word tells us how to get them.

What holds us back? “This is how we have always been.”  “This is what I have always done.”  Doubts?  There are no guarantees, except that the Lord only wants the best for us.  It may call for leaving some people, places and things behind.  There could be long delays with no apparent results.  It might demand sacrifice…like the Son of God.  He sacrificed His life for us that we might be among the blessed, and we follow in those steps.                    

Lifelines June 16, 2019

“Our Father… (Matthew 6:9).”  Those are the opening words of the exemplary prayer that Jesus taught His disciples.  It expresses the relationship between a genuine believer and our eternal Creator.  We do not approach a stranger or someone who is disinterested in us.  No one will ever care more for us than our God.  Yet, modern culture has essentially stripped the concept of fatherhood of any significant meaning.  The consequences are evident.

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand (Isaiah 64:7).”  One of the unfortunate consequences of the breakdown of the family is the loss of the fundamental concept of authority and submission.  That is a lesson initially taught at home.  Example is a great teacher and a marriage based on biblical principles will educate a child in ways that nothing else will.  Without such a foundation, the Fatherhood of God is distorted.  He is the potter.  We are not.  We are the product of His hands.  The influence of a father never ends, not even at death.  Our view of God will be influenced by our human dad.

He is a role model.  We find ourselves morphing into our parents whether we intend to or not.  Their words come out of our mouths.  Their thoughts fill our brains.  Their interests become ours.  That makes a father’s example extraordinarily important as his habits are passed on to the next generation.  There are exceptions.  Cain and Abel grew up in the exact same environment and we know the outcome of their story.  Unfortunately, we do not know anything of Adam’s parenting skills.  Still, fathers will generally have a great deal to do with a child’s development.

Scripture puts a special responsibility on fathers (Ephesians 6:4).  He is the spiritual leader of the family, and it falls to him to instruct the children in the ways of the Lord.  This must be done in a realistic and compassionate manner that does not dishearten the child (Colossians 3:21).  His influence will extend far beyond his lifetime as he teaches and shows respect for the Lord and His word (Psalm 78:5-8).  Being a dad is an important job.       

Joshua was God’s chosen man to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.  His commitment was unquestioned (Numbers 32:12), and he was a successful leader of the Lord’s nation.  Yet, he failed in one regard.  He did not prepare the next generation (Judges 2:10), and that began a downward spiral that became an oft-repeated pattern.  A father’s impact will reverberate far beyond their lifetime. 

We have no choice about our earthly father.  They are good and bad, but men do have a choice about what kind of father to be.  Be a good one.  Our heavenly Father is the best.  Learn from Him, and have a Happy Father’s Day.