Lifelines May 22, 2022

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…(John 1:14).”  What an astounding reality.  The Word, which had existed with God and in fact was God (John 1:1), entered the world of humanity.  Love prompted it, and sin required it.  Guilt demanded a resolution, and it came to a feed trough in Bethlehem.  A baby.  A crying, needy, dependent infant who relied on human parents for everything.  This was the Lord of the universe who came to save the world.  Absolutely remarkable.

It is a skin and bones revelation of the unending love of God for His creation.  It speaks, no it screams of a Creator who desperately wants to share Himself with a sinful world.  He desires our company forever.  The Word made that possible.  The Son of God had always been on a par with God.  He relinquished that status to become flesh and dwell among us.  The glory of God was on full display in an unlikely package.  Grace and truth in the son of man lit the darkness.  It was not what anyone expected.  Divine love reached out to people fit for a trash pile.

Sin is dreadful.  It totally destroys people from the inside out.  Our own lust drives the pursuit.  We want what we want, and nothing gets in the way.  That passion will steal our sense and take us places we never intended to go.  Eve wanted the fruit and took it.  She also got expulsion from paradise.  Indulging our fleshly desires is a costly proposition.  Death is always at the end of the road (James 1:14-16).  It is a tempting and devastating deception.  Our Father knew and sent His Son to save us.  Amazing grace.  Astounding love.  The Word became flesh…

It is easy to relegate that fact to the dust bins of history.  It is a neat story but irrelevant in a twenty-first century world.  The risen Lord is forgotten in the midst of life’s hectic demands.  We remember for a moment on the first day of the week…maybe…then it’s back to life as usual.  It is a mistake that robs life of its potential.  He is risen.  That matters.

The Word became flesh.  He lived as a human.  He really was a man.  He served and suffered.  He cried.  He hungered.  He was tempted.  He knows how it is.  He experienced what we go through.  Now, He is at the right hand of God interceding on behalf of His family.  He is our high priest right now.  He brings His own blood sacrifice for us to the heavenly altar.  He is neither dead nor retired.    

We sing about serving a risen Savior.  Let’s not forget that a risen Savior is serving us.  He walked the dusty roads of earth, successfully endured the temptations and gave His life on the old rugged cross for us, you and me.  The Word became flesh.  Hallelujah, what a Savior.       

Lifelines May 15, 2022

It is a beautiful time of the year as the flowers begin to bloom and gardens are planted.  It is also the season when “weed” turns into a verb.  We weed our gardens so that the ground is ready to produce the vegetables or flowers that we want.  Serious gardeners are hard at work removing every hindrance to growth.  Get rid of the bad to make room for the good. 

Our spiritual development depends on us being just as meticulous about our hearts.  Those pesky weeds come from every direction.  We grew up with some, allowed others to overrun our garden and a few just snuck in.  We all have them.  Weeds that impede the progress of the implanted seed.  If left unattended, the ground becomes useless.

So, what are they?  Some are obvious and others aren’t.  Jesus identified a few in His parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18-23).  The biggest are the worries of the world.  It throws an assortment of distractions on the precious soil.  We become obsessed about our jobs.  Careers are important, but they are not God.  They put food on the table, a roof over our head and clothes on our back but they will not save us.  To allow them to squeeze Jesus out is an eternal mistake.

Believing that money is the ultimate pursuit will choke out our crop of righteousness as well.  There is nothing wrong with money, but pursuing it to the exclusion of seeking the Lord will inevitably disappoint.  If we’ve checked the stock market lately, we know how uncertain finances can be.  It is very tempting to trust in our money when we have a big bankroll.  Don’t.  It can be gone in a flash and then what?  It will leave us unfruitful in all that really matters, and then we will leave it behind.

Weeding our spiritual garden is never easy.  Those roots sometimes run deep.  Lingering attitudes that we have never faced and removed are some of the thorniest weeds.  Malicious intent for a perceived wrong can blind our eyes and harden our hearts.  We must remove it.  There is no place for deception and hypocrisy in our sacred ground.  We may wink at envy and gossip but God doesn’t.  We have to get rid of them all (1 Peter 2:1).

Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Matthew 22:37).  It is not a duplex with two occupants.  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  It is a matter of priorities and housecleaning.  It is not a peripheral pursuit but our most important one.  What kind of weeds fight for space in our hearts?

We must weed our own gardens.  It may be painful, but we have to look deep inside and be honest with ourselves.  The ugly weeds have to go to make room for the harvest of the Lord and His attractive fruit.      

Lifelines May 08, 2022

There is nobody in our life quite like mom.  She soothes the pain of our childhood scrapes and the heartaches of young love gone bad.  We look to her for the compassion that we need more often than we care to admit.  Even into adulthood, there is a special mom compartment in our hearts.  She is irreplaceable.

Family seems to be under attack in our society and the consequences are obvious.  The love and respect that is learned at home first are often absent.  Nations collapse when those qualities are missing.  We see it in our polarized country which often explodes into violence.  The divides are deep and angry.  The Lord has been expelled from our schools and divorced from far too many families.  Moms and dads are important. 

The time has come for our nation to tip our collective caps to mothers.  Flowers and candy with a special meal will mark the day for some.  For others it will be just another day.  Have we lost the sense of how important they are in the development of their children?  God has placed young souls into their hands, and they play a central role in shaping their beliefs which determine how they cope with life and prepare for eternity.  That’s the most important assignment anyone could have.

Remember Lois?  Maybe not.  She is mentioned just one time in the whole Bible.  Not exactly a prominent character, but she had an influence that still resonates twenty centuries later.  Her example shaped the faith of her daughter Eunice.  Remember her?  Maybe not.  She, too, is mentioned but once in the Bible but had an equally enduring influence.  You and I have been affected by their faith and so have millions of others.  Eunice had a son named Timothy, and quite likely we remember him. 

Timothy was a remarkable young man.  He drew Paul’s attention (Acts 16:1-3), and grew in the eyes of the apostle to the point that he left him to teach and preach in Ephesus, one of the most prominent churches of the New Testament.  Paul wrote two letters to him that have shaped our understanding of the household of God to this day.  He was an impressive man with deep faith.  Where did that impressive faith come from?  Grandma and mom, each is mentioned but once and that in just one verse (2 Timothy 1:5).

Timothy joined Paul on the road to strengthen the churches that they visited before he landed in Ephesus to stay (Acts 16:4-5).  The faith of a solitary lady was passed down through the generations and continues to have a significant effect on Christians around the world to this day.  One solitary lady.  A mom.      

Will any of our mothers have such an influential child?  Maybe.  We never know, but there is one fact that is beyond question:  Mothers will affect a child’s eternity.  Happy Mother’s Day! 

Lifelines May 01, 2022

Jesus tells us.  He makes it clear that the road He traveled was a tough one.  He came to His own people, and they rejected Him.  He brought grace and truth but neither was enough to deter them.  God’s plan in motion is hard to figure sometimes.  God is love.  Jesus is God.  He brought the perfect expression of what the deity is all about, and the world killed Him.  He came to save and was met with hostility. 

No, not by everyone.  The religious aristocrats led the charge.  The poor and those on the margins of society welcomed Him.  They listened while the “spiritual” leaders grumbled (Luke 15:1-2).  He shared a feast with the rejects and undesirables while the “righteous” criticized His choice of companions (Luke 5:29-32).  It was their estimation that He was keeping company with the wrong kinds of folks.  He disagreed.  The Great Physician came to heal the sin-sick.  His call was for repentance.  That is the right medicine for the wrong-headed.

It is a high calling to rearrange our thoughts.  It has been the continual call of those who share the message of Christ.  It led the way through John the Baptist before the Son of God ever stepped into the public arena (Matthew 3:1-2).  Jesus echoed the exact same sentiment (Matthew 4:17).  It was Peter’s immediate response on the Day of Pentecost when asked by the Jews what they should do in light of their horrible sin (Acts 2:38).  Paul brought his proclamation in Athens to a close with the mandate that repentance was essential for everyone.  Why?  There was a judgment day coming and the judge had been raised from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

The resurrection of Jesus validates the certainty of life after death.  We will not cease to exist but will continue in a different realm.  The word of God describes it in blissful terms for those who have brought their thinking into harmony with His.  It could not possibly be more gruesome for those who refuse.  It is no secret.  Jesus tells us.  A day is coming in which everyone will appear before the king and judgment will be pronounced.  Time will end and eternity will begin.

Judgment day.  It will be a time of great joy for some and unspeakable misery for others.  The Good Shepherd will take His flock into a kingdom that has been years in-the-making.  Those who have chosen to reject the Son of Man and His invitation will be herded into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  No more choices.  Just one endless existence in God’s presence or away from it. Today we get to decide.  Who knows about tomorrow, if there is one?  The Lord may come at any minute, and then what?  This moment may the determining factor of that.  It will either be joyful or miserable.  Now is the time to Repent. 

Lifelines April 24, 2022

Fling a stone of condemnation.  Judge the sinner.  Reject the fallen.  Avoid the sinful.  Withdraw into self-righteous smugness with a condescending smirk.  We see all of these traits among the people of God in the Bible.  That’s when we reach for a verbal rock and toss it.  If we are wise, we will catch ourselves, drop it and thank God for His grace.

We are the sinner.  As unpleasant as it is to admit that, it is the truth.  The vast gulf between us and the holy God is impossible to measure, and His grace is the only hope we have of spanning the distance.  Jesus brought that grace and extended the offer of salvation to all people.  Until we come to grips with the true horror of sin and the absolute perfection of our Creator, we will never view grace as we should.  It is genuinely amazing.

Grace came in the form of a common, ordinary human.  No, neither of those adjectives are anywhere near the reality of who Jesus was, but he sure appeared that way.  We read nothing of superior height or a handsome face.  His physical appearance is never mentioned.  His uncommon manner is.  He was grace in action.

He was not naive.  He knew what kind of people He attracted: sinners.  The assumption among the self-righteous was that Jesus was simply ignorant of who was coming to Him (Luke 7:39).  He wasn’t.  He was fully aware that the woman showing such respectful love for Him had a shady history (Luke 7:47).  He knows our histories, too. 

Grace in a man’s body stepped into the world of sin to look for people exactly like that, just like you and me.  Sin distort thoughts, hardens hearts and blinds eyes.  People are lost and don’t realize it.  He came to offer liberation from that bondage through a forgiveness that is beyond our understanding, and He brought it for everybody (Titus 2:11-14).  A bridge of grace spans the chasm between the sinful and the Sinless.  Amazing?  That doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Grace includes instructions that will keep us from falling into the same self-destructive lifestyle that severed our connection with a benevolent Creator.  It teaches us how to live in the here-and-now.  It is not some pie-in-the-sky formula but real-world directions.  It strengthens human relationships and heals broken ones.  It is sensible, righteous wisdom from above.  We are absolutely saved by grace, not only from the eternal consequences but also from its stranglehold on us right now.  Amazing?  You bet.

Jesus gave His life for His people, and we look with anticipation for His return.  For those who have embraced that grace, it will be an unbelievable moment when the sky is filled with fire, angels and the Son of God coming to get us.  He bought us.  We are His.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” will echo forever.     

Lifelines April 17, 2022

Bunnies and baskets decorate the landscape as Easter arrives.  The world nods to the cross and the empty tomb for a few days, and then it will be back to business as usual.  It is a welcome break for many from the routines of school and work as they enjoy a long weekend.  It seems that the crucifixion and resurrection have taken a backseat to colorful eggs and days off. 

If people looked deeply at the cross and its significance, they would come away changed.  The Son of God hung there nailed to a cross.  The earth trembled.  Darkness descended.  It was a startling event which will never be repeated.  Sin was exposed for the imposter that it is and the door to God was opened.  The love of the Lord was in full view for all the world to see.  It was, and continues to be, incomprehensible.  Not only that, the dead man did not stay dead.

It would be impossible to draw a more dramatic portrait of the combination of love and power than we see in that three-day span.  Jesus did not come in search of the perfect.  In fact, He was searching for the sin-sick (Luke 5:29-32).  They would ultimately cost Him His life.   Such is the love of God that is openly demonstrated on the old rugged cross.  His Son dying for the undeserving.  That’s you and me. 

There was plenty of doubt as they put His body in the tomb.  Burial is awfully final unless God intervenes.  That Saturday must have been a depressing time for His apostles.  Imagine how Peter must have felt about his denial and the rest of the twelve for their failure.  They had all deserted Him at His most critical moment (Matthew 26:56), even though He had told them ahead of time what would happen.  They were not convinced.  He died for them anyway.  A resurrection?  They were skeptical (Luke 24:1-11).

Everything rides on the validity of this single fact.  The Christian faith rises and falls with the resurrection.  Either the tomb or our faith is empty.  Our preaching is meaningless, the apostles are liars, the Bible is an unreliable fantasy and we deserve nothing but pity for believing a fraud if Jesus is still dead (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).  It all hinges on the truth of the risen Lord.  Thankfully, there were plenty of witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Amid all of the celebration of Easter, don’t forget what it’s all about.  We must not squeeze the most significant news in history into a single weekend with bunny rabbits and chocolate candy.  Every Sunday is a time to remember with the Lord’s Supper, and as we reflect on the cross include the empty tomb in the picture.  Hope lives because the Son of God lives (1 Peter 1:3-5).  It is God’s work.  He raised Jesus and still resurrects those dead in sin.  Happy Easter.      

Lifelines April 10, 2022

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  That was the tagline of a commercial in the 1970’s that should be the slogan of every church and Christian.  Our thinking triggers emotions that result in actions which have consequences.  A better life begins in our minds.  How carefully do we monitor the information that we feed our them? 

The word of God makes it clear that it will have a powerful impact on our minds if we believe it.  It works in those who do (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  It is just so many words for those who reject it.  Transformation comes through the input of new information for our thinking process (Romans 12:2).  The world will have its way with our thoughts if we allow it, and that will be reflected in our behavior.  Better feelings and conduct come from improved thinking which the Scriptures can provide.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…(Philippians 2:5).”  It is a surprising thought progression.  Our culture is still clinging to the self-centered 60’s slogan of “Looking out for number one,” and it will stamp that focus on our brains, too, if we permit it.  Jesus was the total opposite, and the spiritual attitude will be like His.  He relinquished all of the privileges of being equal with God to serve and sacrifice.  That isn’t a human formula for joy, but it is the Lord’s.  Our choice.  Either we believe or we don’t.

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).”  It is revolutionary to shift our primary emphasis from the temporary things of this world to the eternal things of heaven.  Christ is there.  He has opened the door for us to join Him.  Yes, we must deal with the mundane details of this life, but they are no longer of primary importance.  All of this is temporary.  Heaven is far better and will last forever.  It is a simple decision if we believe it.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace…(Romans 8:6).”  We have the freedom to set our minds on whichever we want; flesh or spirit but we must realize what is at stake.  One is life and peace, and the other is death.  Choices have been part of the human experience from the beginning, and it has always been a life and death decision.  Choose wisely.

Every day is filled with choices.  Some are relatively insignificant.  Others are not.  How we use our minds is as important as any decision we will ever make, because it sets off a chain reaction of emotions and behavior.  Events happen which we process through our beliefs and thoughts which produce feelings that prompt actions with consequences.  Better thinking always leads to better living.    

Lifelines April 03, 2022

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8).” Faith sends us on an amazing journey into the unpredictable, an adventure into the unknown that few will choose.  Total confidence in the ways and promises of God are all that Abraham had to go on.  That was all he needed.

It takes us out of our comfortable, familiar environment into the uncomfortable and unfamiliar world of the unseen.  It takes great, Abraham-type faith to take such a leap.  We live within the boundaries of our minds and understanding, but the Lord is much greater than that. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

We like to see every step, and that restricts our willingness to venture very far from “common sense”.  The entire mission of Jesus defies human calculations.  He was equal with God and relinquished that to take on flesh and blood with all of its limitations, headaches and heartaches.  He did not come as the supernatural royalty that He is but as a servant.  The Scriptures never mention a possession.  If He had any, they were irrelevant.  Common sense?  Hardly.  Death on a cross?  Not a path we would choose, and who could ever envision an empty tomb?

The Son of God makes clear the unpredictability of what’s ahead, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).”  Everything about the Lord exceeds our mind’s ability to comprehend.  His thoughts and ways are far above ours.  “Common sense” is an anchor for a life created to sail.

We hinder ourselves by imposing limitations on God which do not exist.  He parted a sea, fulfilled the promise of a child to an elderly couple, brought a Savior into the world through a virgin, raised that Savior from the dead, evangelized the world through a hostile enemy-of-the-church-turned-apostle and now what?  He has lost neither His love nor His power.  He is still the same eternal, holy God who spoke everything into existence.  He is limitless.

Are we ready to take that step into the unknown with nothing more to go on than the promises of God?  How deep is our faith?  Abraham had the promises and faith in the One who made the promises.  We have the history from which we learn of the faithfulness of the Lord and the frailty of humanity.  Are we ready to walk by faith and not by sight?                       

Lifelines March 27, 2022

The death of a loved one sends chills down our spines and tears from our eyes.  There is no other experience like it.  It leaves a void where love once lived.  The sharp pain fades through time but the vacancy remains.  It is a sobering reminder that this life will end.  Limitations exist.  Modern medicine has made giant strides against many diseases, but the fact remains.  We will all die.

It scares us.  Mystifies us.  Yet, it looms.  We never know when or how it will come, and then there is judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  There are no exclusions and no sidesteps.  We cannot evade an appearance before the judge and an eternal destination.  Life or death?  Blessing or curse?  Heaven or hell?  Whichever it is, it will never end.  With God or forever separated?  Another sobering thought.

Jesus came to provide a way to the Father (John 14:6).  There is not another option, and it is up to each of us whether we accept or reject His offer.  The decision is a personal one which we cannot hand off to someone else.  The Son of God came that we might have life in abundance (John 10:10).  The love of God prompted such a proposal (John 3:16).  Just about everyone knows the verse and all will make a choice.  To believe or not; that is the question.  Belief is much more than just a mental exercise. It is a choice with eternal implications.

The Bible provides all we need to know about God, humanity and the sin which severs the relationship between the two.  The problem is unveiled in the Garden of Eden and ultimately resolved at the cross.  Two extremes: one of earthly paradise and the other of a brutal execution.  The former is of the loss of innocence and the other is the recapturing of it.  Guilt demands a penalty, and Jesus paid it.  God’s love and justice collided on a cross.  Death appeared victorious.  It was only a momentary illusion.

A force more powerful than death reversed the appearance to show the reality.  The Lord Is supreme over everything, even death.  The back was lashed.  Thorns crowned the head.  The nails were driven.  The heart stopped and side pierced.  He was dead and buried, but the story doesn’t end there.  Almighty God flexed His conquering muscles, and death was defeated once and for all.

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15).”  Liberated from yet another phobia, we can live expectantly if we believe.  We make our choice, and it affects all we do and where we go for our eternal home.  Choose wisely. 

Lifelines February 27, 2022

If all goes according to plan, our mission team will be in the “bush” of Suriname today.  These trips are always an adventure, because every human plan is subject to immediate and unexpected twists and turns.  Itineraries are best written in pencil with a big eraser. The little village of Powakka is our target, but Covid stipulations within the country may delay our journey for a day or two.  Maybe more.  Even getting off the ground in the states is a challenge.

We must present proof that we have had our vaccines for Covid and a test taken not more than twenty-four hours before the plane takes off in Miami.  That has proven to be the challenge.  Now, the authorities also demand documentation for a Yellow Fever shot.  The powers-that-be are ultra-careful about who they allow into their country.  That is wise, even if it is a pain in the neck.  Wouldn’t we be wise to be just as careful about what we allow into our brains?

“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”  Those are the words of Jesus in response to a question about the greatest command in the law (Matthew 22:37).  Do we?  Our minds will be devoted to someone or something.  Think of all that He has done for us.  His thoughts are centered on us.  Are ours focused on Him?  Love the Lord your God with ALL your mind. Guard what occupies that whole space.  It belongs to Him.

Peter was asked on the day of Pentecost what the Jews who instigated the crucifixion of the Son of God should do (Acts 2:37).  Their heart had been touched by the reality of what they had done.  The very first action that Peter called for was repentance (Acts 2:38), which means a change of mind.  It was not the only thing, but it led the list that day.  They believed in the one true God but needed to change their minds about Jesus. 

Our mind can be a fertile field for anxiety.  We worry.  It is one of our areas of great vulnerability, so the word of God provides directions for Christians about that, too.  Our God is ready to stand guard over our hearts and minds with His incomprehensible peace and even explains how to secure it (Philippians 4:6-9).  The secret is to have enough faith to trust Him and use His formula.

It begins in our minds.  We devote them to Him.  We change them as we gather more information.  The wondrous peace of God guards them as we utilize His word.  Nearly everyone is guarding against Covid.  We will be tested going and coming on our mission trip to Suriname.  We should be as careful with what we allow into our minds.  Covid might destroy our body.  Wrong thinking will destroy our soul.