Lifelines:

Joseph was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19). What a wonderful legacy that is to leave behind. He did not receive a lot of ink in the Scriptures. He remains relatively unknown except for the few episodes that are recorded. We know that his mate bore the most important figure in history. Outside of that we have little information except the assessment of God: He was righteous.

In an extremely awkward situation, he acted honorably. He apparently had every right to embarrass his bride-to-be. She was with child. It was biologically impossible for it to be his, and that would certainly have been humiliating for him. Why not retaliate and disgrace her? Yet, he chose not to. Why? Because that is not what righteous people do. Intentionally inflicting harm, even when it seems to be deserved, is not the way of righteousness.

An angel opened Joseph’s eyes to what was really going on (Matt 1:20-23). What a stretch it must have been for his carpenter’s mind. The child was conceived of the Holy Spirit. The prophet had written about it. The virgin was carrying the Savior of the world. She was his intended. Marriage plans were to proceed as planned. How is that for a communiqué by means of a dream? It was a message from God. Joseph believed it and acted accordingly. Why? That is what righteous people do.

It was not the last message from the Lord that Joseph would receive. Hostilities escalated in the land, and the king was on a homicide mission. Warned to get out of the country, he went (Matt. 2:13-14). Told it was time to go home, he obeyed (Matt. 2:19-22). Instructed to go again, he did (Matt. 2:22-23). The Lord sent word and Joseph complied. It was all part of the unfolding plan of God, and he was right in the middle of it. That is where righteous people are found.

Joseph disappears early. Just a few episodes here and there expose us to this righteous man. He did not seek to inflict pain even when it seemed justifiable. He believed the message from the Lord when it seemed incredible. When he received instructions from God, he followed them. In so doing, prophecies were fulfilled and the case was made: This child is the Messiah. Righteous people always seem to be making that case.

Call to Praise Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

His word on it: 1 John 3:16

Sermon: “The Love of Christ”

Lifelines:

We all seek those memorable moments, the ones we call mountaintop experiences. They are the times when we see things differently. It may be a moment of clarity, a well-presented lesson or an insight that really opens our eyes. Minds are changed and lifestyles follow. We spend most of our time in the valley. It is monotonous there, uninspired and mundane. But every once in a while we break the clouds and peek at the peak.

Sinai was the one for Moses (Exodus 19:20ff). Any journey that includes hand-delivered instructions from the Lord is more than special. Peter, James and John joined very exclusive company in their trip to the top. They saw and heard what no one else ever had (Matthew 17:1-8). Men from antiquity accompanied by a declaration from heaven about their contemporary must have etched a permanent place in their memory.

Jesus took the masses into a unique classroom when He strolled up the mountain to preach His most famous sermon (Matthew 5-7). He turned their world upside down and set disciples on a road that altered history. The concept of what it means to be in the kingdom of heaven took a dramatic turn. The Lord taught. The crowds were wowed. Perceptions were changed (Matt. 7:28-29). It is rare air up on that mountain.

We trudge upward in anticipation. We sense a life-changing event is just around the bend. We may be pushed, led or voluntarily make that upward march. In any case, be careful. Altitude alters attitude. The world looks different. Ambitions are affected. When we arrive, we need to remember that the Lord is not the only one who occupies that ground. The devil knows about that special place, too, with his world full of trinkets to offer (Matthew 4:8-9). He sure has a way of making terrible choices appealing.

Kingdoms, glory, affection and devotion are all at stake up on that mountain. God gave His 10 commandments up on one. He issued the order to listen to His Son over and above anyone else at the summit of another. That very same Son, to Whom we are to give exclusive attention, taught from a similar location. The words of God have been changing reality from the very beginning, and they were given on the mountain. Listen carefully, and remember that there are two voices that echo from the mountaintop. We must be sure that we hear the right one.

Call to Praise Scripture: John 4:21-24

His word on it: Matthew 2:2

Sermon: “Worship Fit For a King”

Lifelines:

Death hovered. A small band of men listened to the one who would soon die an unspeakably miserable death. In plans shrouded in darkness, the groundwork was being laid. The conspiracy was nearly complete. Indescribable brutality was hours away. Whips, thorns, hammers and nails were waiting as Jesus shared words that hardly fit the circumstances.

As He prepared to take on the sins of the world, the Lord spoke of peace. The immediate future could not have been any more turbulent. There would be a disruption in the Godhead unlike any in history. The world would shake. The elements would experience the aftershocks of unbridled evil. Yet, in the face of it all, He offered comforting conversation. He obviously knows something we do not.

What we do know is that He wants His disciples to be at peace within. There is no need to allow external turmoil to disrupt our internal serenity. “Do not let your heart be troubled (John 14:1).” Easy for you to say, but how? Faith. That is the key that unlocks the inner capacity for tranquility. “Believe in God, Believe also in Me.” Remember the one who said it.

Our vision is hazy. Through blurry eyes we look for a worldly concept of peace and miss His. It is not like that (John 14:27). There is a counterfeit that is offered in this realm, but it lacks the substance that His has. He is the source of it, and it is incomprehensible (Philippians 4:7). It will come to us if we will follow His directions (Try Philippians 4:4-9).

We live in troubled times. Wars persist. There is a perpetual stream of depressing news from floods to earthquakes and tornadoes to oil spills. A mother kills her children and a radical blows himself up. If those headlines shock us then we have not been paying attention. “In the world you have tribulation (John 16:33).” He called it 2000 years ago, and we are shocked when it occurs.

Yet, we have never faced what He did. The weight of the world was waiting for His shoulders, and He spoke of peace. Has there ever been a more unpeaceful time? Good and evil were on a collision course ready to intersect at His heart, and He talked of tranquility. Jesus was fully aware that miserable times were ahead for His disciples, but He was conscious of something else, too. For every Friday there is a Sunday. The mourning is temporary. He knew, and we can, too: Beyond every cross there is an empty tomb. And that is permanent.

Call to Praise Scripture: Galatians 5:13-14

His word on it: Galatians 5:6

Sermon: “Grasping Greatness”

Lifelines:

Does our life line up well with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? Will someone who reads that list think of us? It is the kind of life that many dream of having but few find. Flesh and Spirit battle for dominance. One makes those attributes impossible, and the other makes them inevitable. These qualities come as a result of responding to the right stimulus.

There is a conflict within each of us. Flesh or Spirit? Which one will be the overriding principle for our decision making and action taking. It all starts in our mind. We tend to pass the buck. I acted as I did because of circumstances. It is the Eve excuse. That serpent made me do it. The Adam excuse. That woman made me do it. No, the truth is that we choose. Things happen. We react. Either flesh or Spirit will determine how. Each has its own set of outcomes.

Deception always lingers on the edge of our thoughts. Someone (Wonder who?) is always telling us that it is okay to act in unspiritual ways. It is not. There is a harvest that comes with that sowing (Galatians 6:7-8). Seeds of carnality bring a crop of corruption. The Lord rescued us from that, but poor choices will take us right back to it. Spiritual seeds germinate and grow into a harvest of eternal life. It is our choice which we want but not how to achieve it.

The fruit is attractive. The process is grueling. Shrugging off those longings that are prompted by our human side wears us down. Fatigue weakens our resistance to acting on impulse. “Pray,” Jesus said (Mark 14:38). It is a tough war. One side of us is committed and ready. Another is feeble and fumbling. We pick which one will control us. Temptation is everywhere. We sidestep one and run into another. Look for the escape route. God promised that there will always be one (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we have to find it.

We must set our minds to it. A half-hearted commitment will eventually be no commitment. A spiritual journey is filled with continuous self-denial, daily cross-bearing and absolute devotion to re-enacting His way, not ours. It is also filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). A bumper crop of the fruit of the Spirit awaits those who sow spiritual seeds. We cannot have one without the other. How is your harvest?

Call to Praise Scripture: John 13:34-35

His word on it: 1 John 3:18

Sermon: “Aim High”

Lifelines:

Many thanks to all of those who helped to make Vacation Bible School a hit for the young people (And some of us who are not quite as young). It takes a cooperative effort to make any endeavor successful. There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we work together, and we look for every pair of hands we can find to make Westside all that we can be. There was plenty of encouragement offered to “Rise and Shine for Jesus,” and there is a lot of shining that we need to do.

Responsibility falls on all of our shoulders to shine for the Lord. Light is a common metaphor for Christian lives, and we cannot look to anyone else to take care of this task. Being a disciple makes us what we need to be to do what we need to do. The purpose of light is to shine, and that is exactly what we will do if we follow in His steps (Matt. 5:14-16). Darkness is merely the absence of light, and we have the joy of filling that vacuum.

We live in the midst of those who have twisted their lives and lost their way (Philippians 2:15). God is being shoved further and further out of the public consciousness, and that is a sure formula for disaster. Ingratitude and disregard for the Lord are among the first steps of a journey into the darkness that eventually consumes and destroys us (Romans 1:21-32). Most of our neighbors are at various places on that road. More than anything, they need for us to shine as never before.

Shining is tough work. Light has its residue (Ephesians 5:9), but it is hard to cling to that which is good when evil seems to be so profitable. Righteousness is portrayed as intolerance and narrow-mindedness. It is much easier just to follow the crowd. A lie stands in the way of every truth that we attempt to share. Goodness, righteousness and truth are rays of light that the darkness resists. We must shine anyway.

“Share the Son” is coming the first three days of October, and we will continue with the same theme. The weekend will be dedicated to “Life in the Light,” and we need everyone’s support to make it all it can be. Please mark your calendars now. It is inevitable that it will be inconvenient for some, but let’s plan around that weekend if we possibly can. A quick getaway can wait a week. The church family needs our support at every service. We have shining to do!

Call to Praise Scripture: John 21:15-17

His word on it: John 14:15

Sermon: “Do You Love Jesus?”