Lifelines April 21, 2019

“Do this is remembrance of Me (1 Corinthians 11:24).”  How easily we forget.  The Lord knew.  We get wrapped up in the events of the day and it slips our minds.  From the first to the twenty-first century, distractions abound.  Satan sees to that.  He dangles the fruit of temptation before us and captures our attention.  It shines, allures and deceives.  Our senses are drawn.  We are fooled.  We bite.  It addicts.  We forget.

It is more likely to be subtle than sudden.  We do not wake up one morning intent on shoving the Lord out of our minds.  Life just gets busy.  Packed schedules crowd Jesus out.  We hustle from one assignment to another.  How can we possibly fit Him in?  So, we don’t.  Daily demands replace devotional time.  Sunday finds us in an exhausted heap.  “Do this in remembrance of Me” takes a backseat to forty extra winks.  Sorry Lord, maybe next week.

The drift sets in.  It is nearly impossible to detect as it is happening (Hebrews 2:1-4).  It comes in tiny steps.  We occasionally miss our personal private time with God.  Bibles begin to collect dust.  Our prayer life becomes sporadic.  Worldly ways that used to bother us don’t seem so bad anymore.  Our language reflects it.  Slowly our hearts are affected.  Sin does that (Hebrews 3:13).  We harden from the inside out. 

Forgetting takes an awful toll on us (2 Peter 1:5-11).  Shoving the forgiveness of our sins into the dark closet of our minds turns our priorities upside down.  How could anything be in its rightful place when the most important reality in all eternity has been demoted to second class status?  It demonstrates that we have lost our sense of the significant and everything is out of order. 

Our footing is unsteady.  We find ourselves stumbling.  The promise of entering the Lord’s eternal kingdom becomes uncertain.  Maybe: Maybe not.  Our concentration is broken.  We chase the corrupting effects of our sinful passions.  “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  Remember the cleansing of our sins?  He did that.  Remember Him?  Forgetting sets off a chain reaction that results in doubt and self-destruction.

We come together on the first day of the week to remember Him (1 Corinthians 11:23-31).  It is the crucified One who made it possible for us to escape sin’s clutches who we memorialize with simple elements.  They are not impressive; grape juice and unleavened bread, but they remind us of Him.  His body hanging in the midday darkness.  His holy blood dripping from wounds that take our guilt away.  Remember Him?  He never forgets us.  He is not an afterthought.  He is the centerpiece.  Our minds focus on Him.  The downward spiral that begins with forgetting the Lord has been replicated through history (Psalm 106:13 & 21), and it has never ended well.  It still won’t.

Lifelines April 07, 2019

Life was cruel to Job.  All of his goodness did not shield him from the waves of bad news.  Just when it seemed that it could not get worse, it did.  He was under attack in a battle that exceeded his vision and understanding.  Spiritual forces had gathered at the throne of God for a conversation.  He had become a target.  The artillery was earth shattering. 

Destruction came from every direction.  One messenger after another brought the news.  Servants, dead.  Animals, dead.  Children, dead.  It was more than the human mind could comprehend.  Where was the Lord?  How could He let this happen to such a righteous man?  Allow it?  He gave permission.  That stretches us beyond our understanding of a gracious God.  How did Job respond to such devastation?  He fell to the ground and worshiped (Job 1:20-21).

David knew loss.  He was a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22), but he had his less-than-admirable moments.  Adultery and a murder scheme were among his most glaring sins.  Those horrible miscalculations resulted in the death of his innocent son.  In spite of his devotion to the Lord and intense prayer, he still suffered the consequences of his actions.  How could God allow such heartbreak in the life of his handpicked king?  He did not simply permit it to happen, He caused it (2 Samuel 12:15).  The child died, and David worshiped (verse 20).

World powers threatened the people of God (Revelation).  The Lord’s assessment of the churches revealed very little to build optimism.  Most had problems, and the handful that were faithful were small and weak.  The odds seemed to favor the bad guys.  They had numbers, resources and lots of weight to throw around.  It looked like an unfair fight until we get a glimpse behind heaven’s door (Revelation 4). 

There sits the eternal God.  All revolves around Him.  He is unlike anything we have ever seen.  He created it all.  He reigns supreme over it all.  His power is unchallenged and harnessed in ways that we could never understand.  He always has been and always will be.  He both created the world and destroyed it by flood.  He allowed Satan to unleash all of his fury against Job.  He took David’s child.  He is God.  We are not.  The elders in heaven fall before Him and worship.

Worship is the natural response when we begin to grasp who He is.  We will never fully comprehend Him.  His ways and thoughts are vastly different from ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Isaiah realized his sin when he caught a glimpse of the Lord in the temple (Isaiah 6:1-4).  John collapsed at the feet of the Son when He saw Him (Revelation 1:12-17).  Whenever our eyes are truly opened to see the Lamb in all of His glory we will join the heavenly elders in worship (Revelation 5:14).         

Lifelines March 31, 2019

Jesus had a way of cutting through issues to get to the very heart of the matter.  The religious establishment was forever trying to corner Him with trick questions.  They were not seeking information.  They simply wanted to trap Him.  So, their question about the greatest command dripped with suspicious motives (Matthew 22:34-40).  His answer was sincere, simple and worthy of a second look. 

No advanced degrees are required to understand His response.  It is summed up in a single word: Love.  Directed simultaneously toward God and our neighbor, it is the ultimate life changer.  We will never be the same whenever we commit to this simple principle.  Our relationship with God will deepen dramatically when that is both motive and goal.  The same is true of our human associations.

Love for God alters our approach to Bible study.  He is the source of all of that information.  It explains the nature of our invisible Creator.  It is His self-revelation.  This is what He wants us to know about Him.  Thankfully, guesswork is eliminated.  A lifetime of study will never uncover all that He has told us.  Every time we think that we have figured Him out, His word shows us another side.  Getting to know about someone we love is a delight, especially someone as amazing as our God.

Love takes His word seriously.  Our utmost desire is to bring joy and pleasure to the one we wholeheartedly love, and His message explains how to do that.  Each new day brings us countless opportunities to show Him and our neighbors how much he means to us.  Jesus had clear intent in what He wanted the world to know about Him and how to accomplish it (John 14:31).  Are we as focused?

Our love for the unseen God takes on very visible and practical expression in our interactions with people.  Jesus said to love them.  He did.  We should, too.  It is a quality that permeates the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1 John 4:8).  It exists wherever they are and shows through the steps that we take. 

It is the one quality of disciples that distinguishes them from the masses (John 13:34-35).  Their relationship with one another stands out and communicates to their community that there is something different about them.  Their way of life is unique.  It is attractive.  The fingerprints of the clay’s potter are revealed in the appearance of the vessel.  Christians are Christlike and Spirit produced (Galatians 5:22), the product of our loving Father.

It is the pinnacle.  There is nothing higher, nobler or more desirable.  It was intended to be the bull’s eye for the preacher’s arrows (1 Timothy 1:5).  Miss this, and we miss excellence.  Love God.  Love our neighbor.  A Christian’s life is directed by faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).                          

Lifelines March 24, 2019

It is hard to imagine that one of the dominant characteristics of the early Christian church was its unity.  As we look around, we see a denomination on every corner.  Beliefs are diverse, and worship services are tailored to meet personal preferences.  Everyone can find a church to suit their fancy.  Sermons are molded more by culture than the word of God.  Divisions are inevitable, in stark contrast to the wishes of our Lord.

He would soon suffer a brutal death, but Jesus first prayed with His disciples.  He prayed for us (John 17:20-21).  There is no question that such a moment would reveal the depths of His heart, and His plea was that we would all be one.  Convincing the world to believe in Him has been entrusted into our hands, and our relationships with each other would be among our most powerful arguments.  We must not let Him down.

He gave His life to unite us (Ephesians 2:14-16).  All of the barriers that split people apart have been nailed to the cross.  Every Christian is part of the one body of believers who have been reconciled to God.  Jesus promised that there would be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16).  Maybe, the reason there is division is because some sheep have ceased to follow the Good Shepherd.  They are still sheep.  They just aren’t His sheep anymore.  They have relinquished their place in His flock.

We must get to work to preserve the unity that the Spirit established (Ephesians 4:1-3).  It will never come easily.  Self gets in the way.  It calls for humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance which all butt heads with our fleshly side.  Check the list of the unique qualities of the Lord’s people (Eph. 4:4-6), and we find the body at the very top.  It is not a matter of secondary importance.  There is no “attend the church of your choice.” There is only one.

The early church presents a beautiful picture of the Lord’s intentions for His people.  It was no ordinary time as anticipated stays in Jerusalem were extended, and needs began to grow.  Christians stepped up in a significant way to help (Acts 2:44-45).  They dug deep into their resources, and sacrificed to meet those pressing needs.  They even sold property and houses.  Their unity and concern for one another attracted the attention of their neighbors (Acts 2:47).

The church finds itself in decline.  In a broader sense, the worldwide Christian community is divided into hundreds of subgroups.  Their very existence flies in the face of the biblical teaching about unity (Ephesians 4:4-6).  The world is skeptical, and that skepticism is fed by the divisions.  We must be diligent at working on oneness. The Lord died for it.  Our neighbors are listening and watching.  Do we give them reason to believe?