Lifelines September 26, 2021

It is a frequently repeated story.  This man (Call him George.  No one here has ever met him.) had been in a fully controlled environment for almost a decade.  He was in and out of bed at prescribed times.  He ate when he was told, exercised when directed, worked when ordered and

then returned to his cell and locked down for the night.  Prison life allows very little freedom, and it was in that structure that the message of Jesus pierced his heart.  He was on fire for the Lord, and then he was released.

He quickly landed a good job and associated with a church.  He married and fathered a child.  Then the world stuck its nose into their little home, and the marriage hit some major bumps.  It began to crumble and eventually failed.  Divorce sent George and His young son to another state. He settled into a new job in his old home town.  The world beckoned.  He looked and listened.  There was no mention of a new congregation.  His fire flickered.

The drift is very subtle.  He did not simply leap into anything really bad or illegal.  It isn’t like he went back to his old drug-running days.  Nothing like that.  Golf became his passion.  That is innocent enough, but Sunday mornings became his favorite time to play.  Eighteen holes took precedence over gathering with the Lord’s church.  He takes his son along.  He’s learning.  This is not an incident from history, nor is it a fictional account.  This is happening right this minute as a once-dedicated man loses his way.  His influence will echo forever. 

The next step was into the nightlife.  No longer just driving, chipping and putting; he has a lady and they hit the bars together.  Golf.  Girls.  Neither is bad unless they drive a wedge between us and the Lord.  They have with George.  Nobody knows who influenced whom, but both are on the broad road to destruction.  It is sad to watch, especially in view of who he once was and who he is now. 

It wasn’t a sudden leap.  It was a gradually drift.  Scripture warns us about the potential (Hebrews 2:1-4) and the consequences of returning to that which we have escaped (2 Peter 2:20-22).  It is horrible to have known and obeyed the truth that delivered us from the world and then go back.  Peter uses grotesque language to describe such a fall.  It is a trade of salvation for slavery.

He was special, a real dynamo for the Lord, and then the world got him.  It is scary to think that it could happen to a man like him, and then we realize that we are all vulnerable.  It was a choice for George: Golf, good times or God?  He has set his priorities.  The Lord came in third.  Perhaps, he will repent.  He could, but what if he doesn’t?             

Lifelines December 15, 2019

His entry into this world was hardly remarkable.  No headlines greeted Him, just a string of “No Vacancy” signs.  Oh yes, there was that place over with the animals.  Let His expectant mom find a space there.  Noteworthy?  Not exactly, at least not from a human perspective.  But this was no ordinary baby.  This was the Son of God on a most extraordinary mission.

There were few clues along the way that this kid was anyone special.  How significant could a carpenter’s son possibly be?  He tipped His hand a little when He was twelve (Luke 2:41-51), but no one really understood.  His parents experienced some anxiety, and He hinted at His bigger purpose.  Life was apparently typical otherwise, and His mom cherished it all.  It would become clear to everyone in years to come.         

He stepped onto the public stage at age thirty and was nothing like the experts expected.  He was baptized by the eccentric John and was immediately in a face-to-face fight with the devil.  The tempter assaulted Him in multiple attacks but failed.  The enemy was not finished.  Rejection was swift from the covenant people of God.  It was a hostile environment for the Prince of Peace, and He persisted.  He never wavered.  He came to seek and save the lost.  The world, as unwelcoming as it may have been, needed Him.

He spoke in the language of the people, and they were amazed.  His simple lessons carried profound meaning.  Parables left the disinterested masses unimpressed and the disciples thirsty to learn more.  Commoners, sinners, tax-collectors and the rejects of “proper society” gravitated to Him to listen.  That same “proper society” criticized Him for the company that He kept.  His footprints lead in a unique direction.  A cross was on the horizon.

He ruffled the feathers of the elite.  Well, maybe that is an understatement.  The desire to kill the Son of God might be a bit more than ruffled feathers.  They joined hands with the civil establishment of the day and anger turned into action.  Mobs gathered around Him and dragged Him before the authorities.  Apostles abandoned Him.  One betrayed Him.  Another denied Him.  None stuck with Him.  Death closed in. 

He was whipped.  Mocked.  Spit upon.  Blindfolded and beaten.  A crown of thorns adorned His head.  The once-innocent baby born among the animals was now being treated like a common criminal.  Nails were driven through His flesh, and He was suffering the worst possible end to His life.  “It is finished,” was His simple declaration as He drew His last breath (John 19:30).  Mission accomplished. 

That scene is not the end of the drama.  Three days later the tomb was deserted.  No need to seek the living among the dead.  We should always remember that combination of love and power.  Love to send His Son to die for our sins.  Power to raise Him.  Amazing grace.  Awesome God.                 

Lifelines June 10, 2018

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”  The circumstances that surrounded that plea make it virtually incomprehensible.  Darkness would soon descend.  Actually, it had already enveloped the hearts of men.  Satanic hatred controlled them from within.  Their hands simply carried out their deeply distorted desires.  The devil had them, or did he?

Blood mixed with spit stained His holy face.  The ridicule of the adversaries echoed in His ears.  Even the crooks hanging next to Him mocked Him.  The pain of nails tearing at His flesh grew to unbearable proportions.  Every breath was a labor.  Suffocation threatened.  Life drained from His wounds.  He gasped for air.  His back was raw from the brutal beating He had taken.  Human sins were heaped onto His divine shoulders.  The spiritual burden was immense.  The physical suffering was indescribable.  “Father, forgive them…”

It was His mission, start to finish.  As He approached its completion, he uttered words that would reveal the point with amazing clarity.  It was all about forgiveness.  Sin wrecked the human relationship with God from the very beginning which immediately took its toll on humanity.  The descent was breathtaking, from paradise to murder in one generation.  He came to deal with the root cause of that problem.  “Father, forgive them…”

Peter stood among the perpetrators.  He had traveled and talked with the Lord.  He had seen miracles that defied explanation.  He saw storms calmed, the lame healed, the sick cured and the dead raised.  He himself had walked on water, if only for a step or two.  He also saw Jesus crucified.  He confronted the instigators with their sin.  They had killed the savior.  Surely, this was an unforgivable sin, right?

“What shall we do (Acts 2:37)?”  If ever there seemed like a dilemma with no solution, this was it.  The message hit them right in the heart, but how could they fix it?  It may have appeared hopeless, but there is always hope with the Lord.  Peter’s response?  “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…Acts 2:38)”

Forgiveness?  Even for murdering the Son of God?  Yep, God promised it (Acts 2:39).

The cross reveals the horror of sin.  It took the most dramatic demonstration of the love of God in history to show the lengths to which He would go to solve the estrangement that sin causes.  It severs our ties to our Creator.  He is love.  No God, no love.  He is light.  Separation means eternal darkness.  Without Him there is no life.  We get the point.  Sin separates us from Him and all that is good (James 1:17).

“Father, forgive them…” It epitomizes the Lord’s intentions.  It captures the mission of Jesus.  He endured the torturous death of crucifixion so that we might be forgiven.  It is His heart’s desire for all of us.