Lifelines: Singing

Singing is one of the integral parts of our assembly. It is obvious to visitors of the church of Christ that our approach to it is different. Ours is purely vocal. There is neither instrument nor choir. Every person is an equal participant in the song service. Some are highly skilled, and others are not. Talent on display is not the purpose, and music critics are not our concern. Pleasing God is.

We tend to listen rather superficially to the talent of a singer, but God hears something different. The quality of the heart is what catches His ear. He is not shallow like we are, and the melody that originates from within is more important than sounds from without. Hitting the high notes does not impress Him much. Engaging our minds and spirits does (1 Corinthians 14:15). Like every aspect of worship, it demands our full attention.

There is much more going on when we sing than meets the ear. It involves not only our hearts and lips but also the Lord. It is the first evidence mentioned by Paul in being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18-19). It is not just a pleasant way to punctuate the other elements of our worship. There is a transforming quality about it that those with wandering minds will never experience. It is our way of inviting God to put His imprint on us, and the evidence is unmistakable. It is called fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and singing nurtures the heart that produces it.

It is also one of the ways that Scripture authorizes us to teach and admonish each other (Col. 3:16). All things are to be done in the name of the Lord (Col. 3:17), and this is one that has His approval. Emphasis shifts from melody to message when we remember that it is part of the educational process. Doctrine is critically important, and the songs that we sing influence us in immeasurable ways. Those words make impressions on the minds of others. Sing them thoughtfully and carefully.

To underestimate the significance of singing is a tragic error. There are consequences of participating in the song service that cannot be achieved any other way. It involves not only the singer, but also the Lord, the Spirit and our fellow Christians. Surely, that is why the Lord arranged it so that everyone could take part, whether we are a soprano or a bass, or do not know the difference between the two. Off key is not a problem. Closed mouths are. God gave us the voices that we have. We must use them.

Lifelines: Cast Your Cares Upon Him

We have been praying for increased opportunities to spread the gospel during our summer of evangelism. We are emphasizing the spread of the word of God, particularly in our own backyard. We frequently look to foreign mission fields and fail to do the job at home. We want to avoid that mistake. Wherever we are is our mission field, whether it’s Apoera, Suriname in South America or here in Rocky Mount. We must keep our eyes open for the chances the Lord gives us but in our concern for those outside, let’s not neglect those at 2551 Benvenue.

Their Sunday best hides a heart of hurt. Smiles on the outside conceal tears on the inside. They have engaged in the hand-to-hand combat of temptation and lost. The fall is a hard one, and the pain is virtually unbearable. A joke and a laugh cover the invisible tears. A close walk with the Lord seems out of their reach. It is not, but they resist. Adam and Eve tried to hide (Genesis 3:8). So do they.

The good news of hope is proclaimed but falls on deaf ears. It has happen before (Exodus 6:9). Moses took a marvelous message of deliverance to the slaves in Egypt, but they could not listen. Discouragement has a deadening effect, and they are prime examples. The invitation to cast all of our anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) is greeted with a blank stare. They hear the words but miss the meaning and shuffle back to their dens of despair. He wants to lift their burdens. They refuse the offer.

The Son of God came to relieve the pain and suffering that sin inflicts. It is not just an eternal problem, it is an immediate one. Christians do not just gaze wistfully into heavenly bliss. Biblical principles help us cope with the here-and-now. The good news that we proclaim has both immediate and ultimate implications. The load gets heavy when we feel that there is no help.

The muddled masses touched the Lord’s heart (Matt. 9:36). He knew that they required what He supplied. We tend to steer clear of sin-sick people, but they are the ones who need us and Him the most (Matt. 9:12). We will find them on other continents, down the street and right by us on the pew. Today someone’s load is heavy, and they are desperate. Let’s not overlook them, wherever they are.

Lifelines: Freedom

Freedom is precious. Many lives have been sacrificed throughout our history to gain and maintain our liberty, and Saturday we will remember. It is a great blessing to live in such a land where we can gather on Sunday to worship the true and living God without concerns for our safety. May the Lord continue to bless us with that opportunity as He extends to mankind the offer for the greatest freedom possible.

What a tremendous price He paid to set us free. Sin entangled the human race like a spider’s web. It clings to us, strangles the life out of us, and drags us into sinful arenas that obliterate the image in which we were created. It takes a careful search to discern even hints of divinity in the lifestyles of humanity these days. Freeing ourselves from such an entanglement is beyond our means. Fortunately the One who started it all has made arrangements. It was a bloody mess, but He did it.

Jesus took the full brunt of what we deserved to liberate us from Satan’s stranglehold. Our Father put it all on His Son. Our shoulders were not nearly broad enough to bear the load, so the Savior bore it for us. We choose to sin, and He chose to suffer. The high cost of freedom can be seen through the brutality of the cross. Without that sacrifice we would be forever enslaved by sin.

His life and death were all about deliverance. He came looking for the wayward (Luke 19:10). His heart ached for the confused, the helpless and the hopeless (Matt. 9:36). He wept over the ignorant (Luke 19:41). His blood was poured out to forgive (Matt. 26:28). He desperately wants to set us free yet meets resistance. The road is not easy. Liberation mandates submission. Most are reluctant, so they remain bound. His death begs for a response that most are unwilling to make.

On Saturday our country will celebrate its liberty, but today we commemorate a much more significant freedom. We have been liberated from sin and its consequences. We are blessed to be able to participate in the memory of that every week. May we never take it for granted. The cost of delivering us from that evil dictator was much too high for us ever to forget.

Lifelines: Fathers Day Thoughts

Today is the day to honor dear ole dad. All across our land children of all ages will acknowledge their fathers for all that they have done through the years. He has sacrificed to provide the necessities of life. At least, he is supposed to. Mostly, they do. As essential as food, shelter and clothing are, they do not top the list of contributions that he makes to the family’s welfare. No, there is something much more important.

The Israelites lost sight of the significant. They neglected their covenant relationship with God, and the consequences were severe (2 Kings 17:38-41). They had been warned, but the warning fell on deaf ears. Forgetting is always disastrous, and they forgot. It is no wonder that the Lord put the memorial supper at the heart of Christian worship. “Do this in remembrance of Me (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).” We tend to forget. They did and paid a price for generations. We will, too.

Do not put anything on a par with God. He is unique and deserves to be treated as such. Anytime that people demote Him to just another deity, they make a bad miscalculation. The Israelites did just that. Their children watched. They saw the way that He had been ignored, and they learned. The Lord was not treated with the awe and reverence of which He is worthy, and the generations to come were little carbon copies.

Imagine all that God had done for them. He had freed them from Egyptian captivity, sustained them through four decades in the wilderness and brought them into the Promised Land. Yet, after all of that, they ignored Him. They continued on their own merry way doing what they had always done. They refused to change. They had the promises. They knew the history. It did not matter.

They did not totally reject God. They simply reduced Him in size to match their idols. One religion is as good as another. This God is like all the rest. Call it compromise. The children watched. They learned from those who went before them. Those little eyes are always watching and learning, as much from what we do as what we say. They will likely replicate our faithfulness. Dads have a huge responsibility. Have a great day. Enjoy the presents. Just do not forget the influence that you wield. That will produce your real legacy.

Lifelines: Perfect Security

Security is elusive. If Americans have learned nothing else during this economic downturn, we have learned that. Fortunes evaporate almost overnight. The very best human plan is subject to unpredictable twists and turns that leave us broke and frustrated. Let the finger pointing begin. It is his fault, her fault, their fault. No one takes responsibility, and everyone suffers. We could avoid a lot of heartache if we just paid more attention to the Lord. Jesus warned of the futility of trusting in worldly treasure.

Christians live in perfect security. We have nothing to fret about. Are we worried about wealth? We are the richest people on earth, and we can never lose it. A tumble in the stock market will not diminish our fortune. In fact, a total crash has no effect on the immeasurable riches that we have, and they are securely held in His hands (1 Peter 1:4). No stock broker or financial adviser needed, He will take care of our future.

Health inevitably deteriorates. These old bodies just begin to wear out. Health spas pop up. Gyms are packed. Yuppies jog until their knees wear out, and it still happens. No formula or magic potion can stop the passage of time and its consequences. We may succeed in postponing it, but we cannot evade it. Eventually the heart will stop, and our days in this world will be forever over. Then what? Christians rest secure in the knowledge of a new, immortal body that will never wear out (1 Corinthians 15:42). How is that for a touch of reassurance in an unreliable world?

Even now, we know Who holds us in the palm of His hand (John 10:27-29). His grip is steady. He does not grow weary and never dozes. No one can touch us without first going through our Father. His fingers wrap around our souls, and no one can snatch us out of them. Our bodies may suffer. Our earthly wealth may disappear. They can beat us, kill us, steal our money, but they cannot lay a finger on our souls. No, those are in His grasp, and that is as safe as it gets.

The nightly news consistently reminds us: The world is not a safe place, neither financially nor physically. Security is what everyone seeks and no one finds, at least not in this world. We must look elsewhere. The word of God has been telling us how to find it all along, if we will listen. It is not in possessions. Their lifespan is limited. So is ours, no health guarantees are offered. The only dependable promises we have are from God, and those are absolutely trustworthy. When we have them, we have found perfect security.

Lifelines: Baptism of Importance

Baptism is not very striking to the human eye. In fact, it is so unimpressive that most religious organizations relegate it to the “nice but unnecessary” category. A truckload of rationalizations and justifications have argued it off of the essentials list. Could such a simple act really be all THAT important?

God has a different way of seeing things, and we must seek to look at everything through His eyes. John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3), and the crowds responded in large numbers. Jesus introduced a new authority and another element. Peter pronounced as much on the Day of Pentecost. Not only was there forgiveness but also the gift of the Holy Spirit was part of the package. How did one receive such a precious gift? Repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ were the instructions that day (Acts 2:38), and no one has changed the formula. That does not seem so insignificant.

John’s baptism intruded in the early days at Ephesus (Acts 18:24-28). Apollos was an educated man who knew the Scriptures and the way of the Lord, presenting them convincingly. He just had one flaw in his presentation. He was familiar only with the baptism of John. When quizzed, the Ephesians admitted to being unfamiliar with whether there was a Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). They were baptized again. Hmmm, unimportant? It hardly seems so.

History records people being baptized in unexpected places (Acts 8:26-39) and at inconvenient times (Acts 16: 25; :33). There is a sense of urgency attached to this simple act that magnifies its significance. Jesus joined belief and baptism in His plan of salvation (Mark 16:16). Dare any human change His words? Anyone who dismisses the practice must take up the issue with the risen Lord.

Repentance is almost universally accepted as essential to salvation. Faith is logical, as well. But baptism? It seems so…what…illogical? Perhaps it is a wrinkle that God included to see if we really trust what He has to say rather than how we feel. Naaman might fill in some details for us right here (2 Kings 5:1-14). When Biblical teaching clashes with our common sense, which will we believe?

Lifelines: "Church"

There has never been a word more misused and abused than the word “church.” We say that we are going to church. It is used to describe a place of bricks, boards, stained glass, and if we are lucky, padded pews. We visualize a pulpit up front on a raised platform. It is a theatrical arrangement, and we wonder why people expect entertainment? The reality of “church” is an entirely different matter.

Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18). Whatever this thing called “church” was to be, it would be constructed by the Christ, the Son of the living God. It was to be based upon God-given information, and it was His to erect. The divine carpenter would oversee this project. A building was not what he had in mind. No, He had something more enduring planned that even death can never conquer.

Not only is Jesus the builder, He is the buyer. There can be no question about ownership, because He settled that issue once and for all. As we gaze at the cross, we see the cost. The crown of thorns gashed His scalp. Nails were driven through His hands and feet. All of this came after they had pulverized His back by scourging, and before they stabbed His side. It was a blood bath and more. It was a purchase. The church is His, and the transaction was made on a cross (Acts 20:28).

His great love for the church is communicated through the imagery of husband and wife (Eph. 5:22-32). It is more appropriate to describe the church as “her” than “it.” She has a unique relationship with the risen Christ, and He has tremendous loyalty and devotion to her. His concerns run deep for her holiness and He has done everything conceivable to make that possible. We may live in the moment, but the Lord has a view to eternity when it comes to His church.

She is unique. There may be imitations, but there is a single genuine church. It is described as His body (Eph 1:22-23), and there is only one (Ephesians 4:4). He is her head, and she is subject to Him being comprised of those whom the Lord added when they are saved (Acts 2:47). Indeed, Jesus builds His church (1 Peter 2:4-5). It is a spiritual house not a physical one and saved souls are His building blocks. That ought always to permeate our thinking and meaning when we use the word, “church.” We assemble in a building. We ARE the church.

Lifelines: John the Baptist

He may have been considered eccentric by modern standards, in fact his contemporaries probably saw him as such, but he was a man for the moment. John the Baptist was sent by God to pave the way for the long anticipated Messiah. The Lord did not send a politician or a philosopher. He sent a preacher. He wasted little breath on the insignificant. His message was kingdom rattling. Repent and live like you have. Something new is at hand, and you had better rearrange your minds and lives to match. The world braced for the kingdom of God.

The Son of God arrived on a mission trip. He left His home in glory to seek and save the lost. His proclamation echoed John’s. Repent. A different way is imminent which brings a unique approach. He came to live it and to preach it. He explained through parables that which would be distinctive. It transcended human thought and visible expectations. The new kingdom demanded elaboration, and He showed up to provide it. God had but one Son, and He was a missionary.

The crucifixion and resurrection punctuated the uniqueness of this kingdom. Thoughts were flung beyond the boundaries of the visible. He rose from the dead and commissioned a small band of followers with a worldwide task. Preach! They did it with zeal. That tiny group evangelized the world. They were threatened, beaten, stoned, chased and imprisoned. They never stopped. Death only inspired the living. The opposition could lock them up and chop off their heads, but they could not stop them.

Now the message is in our hands, and mission fields beckon. This morning we welcome Jerry Hogg and Larry York to share news of the work in Africa. They will help us kick off our summer of evangelism. Memorial Day has always been the unofficial beginning of the season, and we join in with new enthusiasm to seek the lost. We will close out the summer with a trip to Guyana and Suriname, South America right after Labor Day with the same purpose. It is our season of evangelism.

Exotic journeys to Africa and South America are exciting, but our main responsibility is right here. Not everyone can go to a foreign field, but we can all do something locally. Rocky Mount, Nashville and the surrounding areas just outside our door are filled with the lost and lonely. Now is the time to reach out to them. Pray. Talk. Focus. Share what you believe. A heart without Jesus is a mission field, and a heart with Jesus is a missionary. Let’s make this our summer to change someone’s eternity.

Mike Hinrichs

Guest Speaker: Brother Jerry Hogg

Sunday, May 24th

Brother Jerry Hogg will be teaching our Bible Study at 9:00 am, and bringing the lesson during worship. He has been a missionary in South Africa for over 40 years. Traveling with him is brother Larry York, from the West End congregation in Knoxville, TN, one of the congregations that supported Jerry in his missionary work for over 10 years. Larry is a retired insurance executive who helps support mission work overseas. We welcome them both to Westside this Sunday.

Lifelines: Casting Stones

How easily we slip into our judicial roles as we act as judge and jury of the wicked. We see the sin, condemn the sinner, grab a rock and toss it. Another lost soul is stoned into eternity and the self-righteous move on without a thought of their own guilt. Maybe that is why we do it. It is much more difficult to introspectively analyze than it is to criticize.

Jesus exposed the fraudulent. The woman was as guilty as…well…sin (John 8:1-11). She had been caught in the act, so there could be no denial, and it was dreadful. Adultery! There is very little that humans deem worse than that, and the law had spoken. Stoning was the sentence, and they were more than ready to start throwing. A few minutes with the Lord changed all of that.

They left with their proverbial tails between their legs. Why? No one, not a single solitary one of them was qualified to hurl that first rock. Jesus invited a look, not at everyone else, but at themselves. That ripped the mask off of their charade. Sinlessness is the only qualification, and none of them met that requirement. Confrontation with that fact eliminated every potential stone thrower. It always will.

The question remains unanswered as to where the other guilty party was. Adultery takes two. Where was he? The Law said that both should die (Leviticus 20:10). Why did the accusers not drag him in as well? That mystery lingers, but Jesus made His point. He sent the woman on her way with clear instructions to cease the foolishness. He did not minimize her sin nor did He condemn her. He simply told her to stop it.

Jesus signed His own death sentence with that declaration. If no one had ever sinned before, that one would have sent Him to His grave. Someone had to die for that one. He would. How intensely God wants to forgive rather than condemn. A life was demanded and provided. The just is the justifier (Romans 3:26).

Now, back to us. Where do we fit into this picture? The adulterous woman? The condemning scribes and Pharisees? The Lord who refused to join in the condemnation? Jesus came to be light. The very next verse says so. Our steps are shady without Him. Our judgments are faulty. Our hearts and minds remain unexposed. He reveals to each of us all that is within us. We will see ourselves as we really are, sinners in need of forgiveness. We should think about that the next time we reach for a rock.

Mike Hinrichs