Lifelines October 02, 2022

The world is on edge. Every newscast highlights all that is wrong around the globe. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has been in the headlines for months, and the images are heartbreaking. Thousands have been displaced or killed. Homes have been destroyed, reminding us that earthly possessions can be lost in the drop of a bomb. Our own streets offer up more dreadful pictures. From looting, to drug use, to senseless attacks in broad daylight; everyplace appears to be a warzone. No wonder tensions are high.

We should not be surprised. Societies are sure to degenerate when the spiritual component is neglected. Unfortunately, America is a prime example. Belief in God and country were once admirable traits. Now, they are the objects of late-night comedians and ridicule. Scripture exposes the downward trajectory that elimination of the Creator inevitably brings. It is a pitiful picture that we see developing every day (Romans 1:18-32). If we look around, we will witness the wrath of God on full display.

He will let people go however they choose, and that never works out well. Jesus never begged anyone to follow Him. He set forth the conditions and allowed them to select. A rich ruler refused (Luke 18:18-27). A hated tax-collector accepted (Mark 2:14). The Prodigal Son was given more than he deserved and squandered it (Luke 15:11-32). There is nothing quite as sad as God’s children throwing away their eternal blessings for a temporary, decadent lifestyle. It was his choice. So was going home. The pigpen experience has a way of opening our eyes. At least, it should.

America is in the ugliest of pigpens, and that’s why it is a country on edge. Rejecting God is a dead-end decision. Yet, the Lord gives us the option. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, no matter what we decide. He has not abdicated His throne and never will. We can discard His authority but can never escape it.  We will come face-to-face with Him as judge.

The word of the Lord is filled with examples of the futility of losing sight of our Creator. Humans might think that they have marched off into wisdom but it is actually foolishness. He has shown us, warned us and explained to us how devastating it is to forget Him. Yet, we find ourselves in the uneasy world of godlessness. Nerves are frayed. People are angry. Divisions are widening. The world needs the Lord.

 “You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).” The description of the kingdom in the preceding beatitudes doesn’t appear very impressive (Matthew 5:3-12). Yet, it is to the poor-in-spirit that Jesus made this statement. Disciples feel weak. We aren’t. We are part of an indestructible kingdom, not because of our strength but because of His. Through us, He can stop the cultural decay if we will deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

Lifelines September 25, 2022

Questions abound relating to baptism. Is it absolutely essential? Is it for infants? What is its significance? What if a person is killed on the way to be baptized? Are they eternally lost? Each of these concerns (And there are probably many others!) deserves an answer, and the word of the Lord is the place to find them.

Jesus gathered His skeptical disciples (Mark 16) to give them their marching orders for the upcoming mission. He gave them their assignment to preach the gospel all over the world (verse 15) and made this statement, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned (verse 16).” Peter, who was an eyewitness when that comment was made, wrote that “baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:15).” Does that sound essential?

That same apostle was the first to preach after the Son of God ascended before their eyes. It was the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the Holy Spirit put on quite a show. The Jewish witnesses were confused about the events of the day when Peter spoke up. It was all a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (verses 14-21), and he preached Jesus to them. His message penetrated their hearts prompting a “what do we do” question (verses 22-37). His response was to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. That would result in the forgiveness of their horrendous sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (verse 38). Was it important?

His answer also dealt with another issue: infant baptism. So did Jesus when He said that baptism was for those who believe. Peter said that it was necessary to repent (i.e., change the mind) prior to baptism. Infants are capable of neither believing nor of repenting. It appears that even Jesus was thirty-years-old when He was baptized (Luke 3:21-23). The biblical record seems to address that question, too.

What if a person desiring to be baptized loses his/her life before they can get to the baptistry? Consider this: God created the world in a week and rested one of those days. He totally flooded the world. He parted the Red Sea. He raised the dead. He can surely keep people alive until they can get to water. What if He chooses not to preserve them until the deed is done, then what? The Lord is the judge and is all-knowing and perfectly just. He will not make a mistake. Have you ever heard of someone dying on the way to be baptized?

The Bible is the place to search for answers. The Lord and baptism are inseparably at the heart of the apostolic mission (Acts). It washes sins away and unites a believer to Christ in burial and resurrection (Romans 6). We must always take God at His word. Adam and Eve didn’t. How did that work out?

Lifelines September 18, 2022

Summer vacations are behind us, and the holiday season is in sight. September means classrooms, football games and a more structured schedule for all of us even if we aren’t in school. We settle back into routines. What is ours? What do we do on a regular basis, especially as it relates to the Lord? What do people learn about us by what we habitually do?

Many of our practices are done anonymously or in secret. Hands of benevolence are intended to be hidden from all eyes except God’s. Likewise, prayer and spiritual self-discipline are personal and private. That is the way that it is designed to be. We are not on stage performing for an Oscar. We do have an audience. It just isn’t human, and He rewards those who do what is right without calling attention to it (Matthew 6:1-18).

There are other habits we develop that are very obvious. The Sunday assembly is one of them. This is not a human innovation but a divine command never to be abandoned. Children of God come together on the first day of every week. It is a hard world. Temptation lurks. Our personal failures generate doubts in our minds. Discouragement drags us down. Christians need each other, to encourage and be encouraged (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We live in a culture that ridicules our beliefs. The Bible is forbidden in many places. There is no fear of the Lord, and it is reflected in every corner of our country.  Belief in a benevolent Creator fades as crime rises. Evolution has replaced creation, and people have no sense of dignity for themselves or anyone else. To say we are created in God’s image is meaningless where He is rejected. Do people get a different impression from watching us? They should. We come together to encourage each other to love and good deeds. That stands out in a self-centered world.

Jesus went about doing good and healing the devil-oppressed people (Acts 10:38). His miraculous powers are beyond our abilities, but we can go about doing good and sharing the gospel message that will save their souls from the evil one. No fanfare needed, just simple acts of love. A sandwich for the hungry. A drink for the thirsty. A listening ear for the lonely. And the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the hope that every hopeless soul longs for. We have what they need. Let’s make it our habit to share it.

We habitually come together because we need the fellowship. It strengthens us in our fight against discouragement, evil and all that we will face in the new week. The world needs us to demonstrate a better way. We have learned it. Now, let’s live it quietly with kindness and love for the lost. We are the salt of the earth, and salt is useless if it stays in the shaker.              

Lifelines September 11, 2022

It is one of those “where were you” days in American history. It is right along side December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. There are others, but these stand out vividly in our memory.  The attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy will be events that will never be forgotten.  We recall where we were if we are old enough to have lived through those disasters. Likewise, we experience an emotional surge when we remember the Twin Towers being terrorized. The entire population was shaken.

Terrorism is a horror. It infects our thinking. It alters our lives. Security is suddenly undermined. We look over our shoulder and watch our step. It is mind-altering, and that is the point. For a brief moment following the 9/11 attack twenty-one years ago, America pulled together. Prayer was acceptable, and we were unified regardless of superficial differences. The shock gradually faded and the unity began to crumble. Now, we’re arguing over pronouns.

Remembering is important, especially when it comes to terrorism. The ultimate terrorist invaded paradise, and the first lady fell for the deception. It was the bite that shook the world. Men and women have been suffering the consequences ever since. So has the earth. Terrorists can do that. Success for them is ruination for the rest of us. The world is never the same again.

Our minds are distorted when we are victimized. His tool chest is filled with virtually irresistible temptations. He attracts our attention and stirs up a lust that will carry us into a lifestyle that will destroy us. Spiritual death is the result (James 1:14-16). Don’t miss that last verse. Deception is the devil’s weapon of choice, and it works. Ask Eve.

Expulsion from the garden. Loss of the perfect environment in which to live. The rapid decline of the first family led to murder. The downward spiral continued until God had seen enough. He was grieved. It is the perfect picture of where that terrorist will take us. It started with just one and the ripples spread until it took a flood and an ark to clean up the mess. Do we remember?

If we think that the flood was a dramatic event, imagine judgment. We are eyewitnesses of the current chaos. God is disregarded and His word is dismissed, often even ridiculed. It is a culture ripe for the terrorist to do his work. It should be perfect. He created it. Society does not exist in a spiritual vacuum. The Lord has been shoved out and Satan has stepped in. Evidence surrounds us.

It is important to remember our Savior regularly. A simple piece of unleavened bread and a cup of grape juice serve that purpose. Jesus gave His life to defeat the terrorist. We are reminded every week. Never forget Him. The Twin Towers were tragic. Lost souls are much worse.       

Lifelines September 04, 2022

Tom Brokaw published a book in the late 1990’s about the World War II generation in which he shared many of their inspirational stories.  They were committed to a cause and made great sacrifices in their pursuit of victory.  Lives and limbs were lost in the heat of battle. Even those who did not suffer physical injuries brought home mental scars. No one could witness what they saw and be unaffected by it. Their commitment continues to impress us. No wonder Brokaw described them as the greatest generation.

We open the pages of Scripture and discover men and women involved in the immense story of God’s plan of redemption. Some were volunteers, but most were drafted. Moses debated a bush. Gideon offered up a series of reasons why he was not the man for the job. Jeremiah tried to dodge his mission pleading inexperience. Saul/Paul was knocked flat on the road to Damascus in pursuit of those who were what he would soon become. The Lord used them all; men with feet of clay who were integral cogs in an eternal wheel.

We lift our eyes beyond the pages of Scripture to a God of unlimited power and supreme knowledge. He loves us enough to offer up His unique Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He watched as the sin-stained world distorted His chosen people into murderers. It was His plan to save the very ones who wielded the hammers. They carried out His purpose and then the omnipotent One raised Him from the grave. Death had been defeated. Jesus had more courage than any human has ever had. It was wrapped in meekness. He was greatness in an unlikely package.

He was committed to His Father and the world that had been alienated by sin. World War II was a blood bath, but it cannot compare to the devastation of sin. Deceit, distortion and death have come to billions of people through it, and there was only one way to resolve it. It demanded a perfect sacrifice, and the Son of God came on that mission. Every sin that would ever be committed were going to be placed squarely on His shoulders. And He came.

No one had ever seen or heard anyone like Him. We are blessed to have all of the information that we do, so that we can know about Him. We see His conflicts with those who were supposedly God’s people. He experienced the stress of facing an agonizing death. His closest associates would all abandon Him. He felt what we feel. He traveled our road.

He is our Savior. Without His life, death and resurrection; we would have no hope. His was an eternally important mission, bringing life to the dead and a way to the lost. He provides freedom in the most profound way. He is unquestionably the greatest Man who ever lived.