Lifelines February 28, 2021

It was a fall that defies description or understanding.  It was not hearsay or secondhand information.  He had actually been there to hear the warning from the Lord Himself.  “Deny Me and I will deny you.”  Yet, he did the unthinkable and not just once but three times.  How could he?  Fear?  Intimidation?  Surely, he was disqualified for any future service in the work of an apostle relegated to be a mere footnote of forgotten history.  He had violated a fundamental principle.    

Jesus was not caught off guard.  He warned him.  Conditions had soured long before this moment as the storm clouds gathered on all sides.  Religious leaders and world powers collaborated to carry out their plan.  The odds were overwhelming from a human perspective.  The Lord knew better.  The eternal plan of redemption was unfolding, and the ultimate collision was on the horizon.  The old fisherman was about to get swept away in the tidal wave that he was confident he could conquer. 

It was misplaced confidence.  Uncomfortable questions were fired at him.  He had walked with Jesus.  He was educated at the feet of the master teacher.  He saw the lame walk, demons cast out and storms stilled.  He had even taken a few steps on water, but nothing had prepared him for his own wobbly knees.  He thought he could withstand any storm.  He was wrong.  The laboratory of life will surely expose our hidden weaknesses. 

He failed.  There is no way to sidestep that truth.  He denied his relationship with Jesus with increasing volume.  He sat at a distance with the enemy as they beat, mocked and spit on his Lord.  Peter had wilted at the most critical time.  Circumstances had led him to the point of surrender.  Now, what?  Where does he fit in now that he has shown that he has a breaking point and had greatly overestimated his own strength of commitment?  Where, indeed?

We have the benefit of knowing the rest of his story.  Jesus confronted him three times with the ultimate question (John 21:15-17), and three times he answered in the affirmative.  Peter went on to preach one of the most famous sermons ever (Acts 2), to be an elder in the church and to write two books of the New Testament; impressive work for such a failure.

Everyone’s resume includes victories and defeats, successes and failures.  Blood was shed to wash away the failures and defeats.  Peter was right in the middle of the strategy to make that possible.  It was a combination of insiders and outsiders, those who loved Jesus and those who hated Him.  Some probably didn’t even know who He was.  They joined forces to carry out God’s plan.  Unimaginable grace in action crucifying the lamb of God to take away our sins; yours, mine and all the failures of the world.  Peter still had a place. So, do you and I.     

Lifelines February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day!  It is a day made for expressions of love for those who are most special in our lives.  It is a time of giving.  Flower orders and candy sales boom in celebration of love, but no one ever showed it like our God.  He sent a gift far beyond all comparison.

It is a dramatic picture that is drawn through His word.  Divine hands took ordinary dust and fashioned something totally different than the cows and the birds.  It was a human made in the image of the Creator.  A perfect partner was provided, and they shared paradise until they were swayed by an evil influencer.  The crash was dramatic.  Murder within the family soon followed.  Lingering behind the scenes of the deteriorating civilization was a God who never stopped loving them even in their darkest moments. 

History reveals that His powerful arm of love expresses itself in puzzling ways.  A worldwide flood doesn’t fit neatly into our human concept.  Four hundred years of slavery seem inconsistent with an all-powerful benevolent Lord.  His chosen people being ravaged by foreign military powers, not just once but on multiple occasions, can raise a lot of doubts.  Is He truly a God of love?

Yes, He is (1 John 4:8).  It is His essence and beyond our capacity to comprehend.  Occasionally, we catch a glimpse of its greatness but fully understanding it is beyond us.  It spans the entire globe and covers every soul throughout all the ages.  At the perfect moment, He sent His most special gift.  It staggers our minds to conceive of such a move.  The deep darkness of the world was in need, and love acted.  It was like nothing ever seen before.

Angels proclaimed it to…shepherds?  Surely, this child should have been announced to the kings and dignitaries first.  The press agent certainly blew this one.  And to be born in that little village among the animals?  How common.  As an adult He rubbed elbows with the sleazy tax-collectors and the unsavory sinners.  This kind of love sure was strange.  He even talked with Samaritans and divorced ones, at that. 

It is quite a demonstration of the Lord’s love.  He stepped down from the throne of heaven to mix and mingle with His lost and crumbling creation.  He walked into the darkness with His everlasting light and was largely rejected.  He did it anyway.  Love is unconcerned with high hurdles and social barriers as it extends a hand to the drowning.    Jesus dropped all the privileges of equality with God to become a servant for the needy and a sacrifice for the lost.  Love simply gives whatever it has to whoever needs it.  Prompted by His love, God gave His Son, and His Son gave His life.  Now, it’s our turn to embrace that love and share it with a world deeply in need.  Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Lifelines February 07, 2021

The world seems to be filled with negativity.  New strains of the Corona virus are stalking the earth.  Protests of various social issues are filling our cities from coast to coast.  Violence follows in their footsteps.  Ferocious winter storms sweep across the nation burying regions under near-historic levels of snow.  The country races further and further away from God and suffers uncontrollable problems.  There has never been a better time to take the Lord’s light into a dark, cold world.

We are nearing the end of our forty days of prayer, and it is time to turn it into actions.  We have listened to the word of God and spent time expressing ourselves to Him.  We do not want to stop either of those practices, and now we want to take our rays out into the darkness.  The Lord is the true light, and the closer we follow in His steps the brighter we will shine.  We can, and we must.  There is a deep need.

It’s a call or a card for someone who is hurting.  The virus has attacked just about everyone in some way through friends, relatives or possibly personally.  A word of encouragement would lift their sagging spirits.  The economy has suffered tremendous setbacks during the pandemic, and many of our neighbors are facing financial hardships.  The opportunities are everywhere, and our blessing is to brighten their darkness so that our Father will be glorified.

We often think in big terms when it comes to working for the Lord, but Jesus spoke of feeding the hungry and quenching the thirsty.  Individual rays of light may not seem like much but if each of us focuses on looking for and seizing those openings, we can light up our town with thirty or forty rays every day.  Add an almighty God to our seemingly insignificant efforts, and there is no limit to what can happen.

We have been given a rebirth into this world and at this time.  We are joined together by the Lord Himself who has created us again for this specific moment.  None of us is here by accident nor without purpose.  Good works were in His mind when He generated a new you.  No one can take your place nor do what He designed you to do.  It is a great blessing to know that we are God’s handiwork and part of His eternal plan. Jesus came into the world not because people were perfect, but because we weren’t.  We desperately needed salvation from the destructive lives of sin that had robbed us of our dignity as the crown jewel of His creation.  He offers us a second chance, a new birth.  He resurrects us from a spiritual death in order to send us back into a dead world.  It is gloomy and dark.  They need the light that no one else can offer.

Lifelines January 31, 2021

The dream came crashing down.  The enemy forces had encircled the Messiah, and the noose was tightening.  He knew.  He had warned His little band of followers that treacherous times were just ahead.  A few of them shared an intimate and agonizing trek into the garden to pray.  They could hardly stay awake as He suffered through the mental aspects of what He was about to suffer.  It would be brutal. 

Sin originally cost humans a place in paradise, and through the ages it had activated a plan by the loving Creator to repair the immense damage.  The ultimate cost was being realized.  Death is not easily fixed.  It took the Son of God arriving at this point to undo the destruction.  Mankind had separated itself from the Lord and turned on each another.  Unity had been replaced by animosity.  Violence and immorality were the norm.  God was grieved.  Time to cleanse the once-pristine creation.  Build a boat Noah. 

The ark saved a few, but sin soon began to spread.  History shows the same pattern over-and-over.  Our compassionate Creator went to extraordinary lengths in demonstrating His love through strategies intended to benefit His most prized creatures, the ones He described as very good.  They were formed that way, but it did not last.  Wayward souls in search of meaning filled the earth.  Satan roams seeking victims.

Jesus entered the fray to offer a different, hope-filled alternative.  The conflict reached its pinnacle on a cross.  There is no way to overstate the collision that occurred on those ragged slabs of wood.  It shook heaven and earth.  It disrupted the eternal union between God the Father and God the Son.  Evil unloaded every bit of the most violent hostility imaginable. Words can never capture the truth of it.  The disciples watched at a distance as their Lord died.  Sin is brutal.

It was the darkest moment in history.  It is hard to imagine how the apostles felt for those hours between that horrible execution and their encounter with the risen Christ.  It was a bleak time, no doubt.  It scarcely seems the script for the most dramatic rescue operation ever undertaken.  Mission accomplished?  It sure didn’t look like it.

Those dark days don’t seem to fit in our preconceived notions of the God of light and His strategy to save us.  Yet, there they are right in the middle of the whole plan.  Sin continues to cast a long, dark shadow over the land in which we live.  The Lord’s church follows the steps that lead up a hill to a cross.  Who is on ours?

Crucifixion is a daunting thought without seeing the whole picture.  It was not the end of the story for Jesus, and it won’t be for us either.  Resurrection and ascension complete the story.  Without them, life is awfully gloomy.  With them, there is endless hope.  Always remember: 

The tomb is empty.

Lifelines January 24, 2021

The events of the recent history in our land have been pretty gloomy.  Too much attention given to the news of these times can lead us into a defeatist attitude and rob us of our joy.  We easily forget who we are and what we have.  The events of the world cannot touch our true identity nor our eternal reward. 

The Christians of Peter’s day had been scattered across the globe, and his first letter began by directing their attention beyond this world.  God had given them a fresh start, “born again.”  Too many yesterdays with their multitude of failures can crush us.  Sin won too many battles.  Guilt wears us down.  The Lord provides us with a much needed “do-over.”  The very One who brought us into this world makes us new.  Twice-born humanity has an extraordinary journey awaiting them with an indescribable inheritance at the finish line.

There will always be hardships.  That is an unfortunate part of living on this planet.  Tribulations come to all, and Christians experience a double dose.  The ordinary daily headaches will continue, and our holy principles will set us at odds with the culture.  They experienced the conflicts in the first century, and so will we.  It may raise questions in our minds about whether it is worth it or not. 

Our faith secures the protection of an omnipotent God over our souls (1 Peter 1:5).  Our bodies may ache.  Our minds might suffer the slings and arrows of ridicule, but the One who can raise the dead has us in the palm of His hand.  He knows who we are and what we are going through.  No one can snatch us out of His grip.  We may hurt for a moment, but the joy of heaven will never end.

Our salvation is secure as long as we maintain our trust in Him as we go through the trials.  Our faith will be tested.  Opposition will come.  We must not be naïve about the challenges that are before us.  The evil one has had a strangle-hold on the world since the Garden of Eden, and temptations perpetually bombard us.  Both pleasure and pain sway us.  Response to either leads away from the Lord and into the devil’s trap, and the surest way to defeat it is to look to God during the times of temptation.  There is always a way out…always (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Christians, having been born again into the spiritual family of God, are the richest people in the world.  No security firm on earth can protect us or our eternal reward as well as our Father does.  We might experience some hardships in our bodies, but our souls are untouchable as long as we entrust them to the Lord.  We love Him, rejoicing in the relationship that we have.  This world is not our home.  We’re just passing through.