Lifelines December 13, 2020

It is the journey of a lifetime.  Strategies are formed, and steps are taken toward this goal and then the next.  Missions are accomplished and targets are hit.  A driver’s license.  High school and college.  A job with a future.  Romance and marriage.  Success.  A house, maybe a second one for vacations.  Retirement.  Then what?  As attractive as this world may appear to be, it is only home for a moment.  Then we move on.  To where?

There are two roads, both with clearly defined destinations.  We choose and travel.  One is much easier than the other.  The entry is broad and inviting.  Virtually anything is permitted and baggage is unlimited.  There are few sacrifices and lots of company.  It is perpetually marked with signs declaring the fun of the trip, forget the destination.  Enjoy the party.

The other road is much more rigorous.  Even the onramp is demanding.  It requires a change of clothes and leaving the old dirty ones behind, even our favorite sweatshirt that we’ve worn for years.  There are perpetual challenges that demand continual references to the directions.  Take this turn and avoid that one.  Do this not that.  We notice very little company along the way.  We stretch our eyes to see a solitary figure far ahead of us.  We quicken our pace to follow the leader.

As we close the distance, we see scars.  The hands that gesture for us to join Him on the journey bear remnants of ugly wounds.  The marching feet do, too.  His back is marred by stripes that testify of a brutal beating, and His brow shows evidence of a different kind of crown.  It is clear that this is a path unlike any other.  It is little wonder that very few will choose it. 

The choice is not an easy one.  It should be but isn’t.  Humans are so near-sighted that we don’t see beyond the horizon where our destination lies.  The devil knows exactly how to tempt us with the here and now.  He immediately attacked the hunger that Jesus surely felt.  He dangled worldly power and prestige before the Son of God.  He taunted Him with the sensational.  His bag of tricks isn’t empty now, either.  His deceptions make the destructive way look awfully attractive. We never know when the road will end, only that it will.  The word of God makes it clear that we all have an appointment with death that is unavoidable. Both roads take us there and then judgment.  Eternity begins and never ends.  Never.  That makes this decision the only one that will ever matter.  Shall we take the narrow, challenging way or the broad, easy way.  We’ll have brief diversions along the way and then one final stop that will last forever.  Our choice is determined by where we want to spend eternity.  Only one road leads to life.  Choose wisely.

Lifelines December 06, 2020

There can never be a compromise between sworn enemies.  One of them must be utterly defeated, which is exactly why the Son of God entered the fray.  The Lord watched as the battle raged, and all-too-often the evil one had been victorious.  His persuasive deceptions had proven to be nearly impossible to resist, and another prison-of-war had fallen under his spell. 

Keeping God at arm’s length will never work because the enemy exploits even the slightest opening.  It is a losing strategy.  We will never outsmart nor outmaneuver the devil.  His slick packaging took fruit that was guaranteed to be fatal and made it appear to be an irresistible life enhancer.  He has never lost his skills at peddling lethal products disguised as health food.  Don’t let him fool you.  They are still terminal, even in small doses.  Compromise kills.

Make no mistake about it, we are in life-and-death combat.  We yield to one of two field generals, and they will guide us to either victory or defeat.  The only way to win is unconditional surrender to the ultimate source of truth who is Himself the truth (John 14:6).  There are many imposters in the world who seek our devotion, but we must resist them no matter how attractive they appear.  They are losers, always have been and always will be.  So are his followers. 

The Son of God stepped into the arena to defeat sin and death once and for all.  He did not choose to watch at a distance.  He could have tossed a war manual down and left the fighting up to us.  He didn’t.  Instead, He chose to meet the devil on his turf and show us how to fight.  We still have our individual battles but the war is already over.  The world was in the relentless grip of the father of all lies.  He had even infiltrated the covenant people of God.  Then came the Savior.

Satan and his soldiers threw all of their heaviest artillery at God the Son.  Their troops included the religious and civil authorities.  Kings and commoners closed ranks in opposition to the Messiah.  Hostilities increased in spite of incomparable compassion and miraculous demonstrations that should have answered all of their questions but didn’t.  Hatred knows no reason nor compromise.  Evil will not be appeased.  Whips tore flesh, thorns adorned the holy brow and ungodly hands nailed divine hands and feet to the cross.  He was dead…till Sunday.

The exceeding wickedness of evil was on full display that day.  There was no pursuit of middle ground.  No compromise.  It sought to destroy a perfect man.  He had to die.  Such is the strategy of the serpent of old, and he is the enemy of the Lord.  Each day we awaken to an empty cross, and we choose who will be put on it.  Someone is going to die today.  Who will it be?                    

Lifelines November 29, 2020

Seek and you will find.  It is a profound truth in easily understood words.  If we are looking for the bad in people, we will find it.  Ditto with the good in them.  Days are that way.  Life is, too.  It makes the decision of what our target will be extremely important.  Our thoughts, actions, time and talents will all be affected by it.  What are we seeking?

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).”  The Lord offered these words immediately after He discussed the misdirected emphasis that those who have no relationship with God have.  They are so busy fretting about food and clothes that they miss the reassurance of a loving Father who promises to provide our necessities.  Of course, Christians would never make such a mistake, would they? 

Seek first means it is a top priority.  His kingdom and His righteousness take precedence over everything.  It is primary, not secondary.  God, who takes care of birds and flowers, is our Father.  He knows exactly what we need, and that is revealed in every syllable that is contained in His word.  We sometimes get so wrapped up in our worldly worries that we lose sight of the great promises and directions given in His word.  Seek and you will find.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  He knew the extraordinary victory of taking down a giant with a slingshot, a handful of rocks and the Lord.  He also experienced the devastating moral failure that comes when he took his eyes off of God and put them on the girl next door.  The king sought the wrong object.  The Lord let him.  He got what he wanted but never expected the consequences.  Seek and you will find.  Lust led to adultery which resulted in murder and the death of an innocent child.  Be careful what you want. 

Jonah ran away from God.  He sought distance because he didn’t want to do as he was told.  He wanted to get away from the Lord.  Storms came as a result.  So did a huge fish, a big gulp and Jonah got exactly what he wanted.  Life from the inside of a fish’s stomach was not exactly what he expected, but he received his wish.  The Lord seemed a long way away.  When he got what he wanted, he didn’t want what he got.  Seek and you will find.

We seek and we will find.  Will the discovery be what we expected?  That depends on whether it is consistent with His kingdom and His righteousness or our own “kingdom.”  Are we seeking to be the king of our own lives?  If so, we may find ourselves eating forbidden fruit like Eve and attempting to be like God, knowing good and evil.  Or David and Jonah.  Seek and you will find.  Simple yet profound, and it never fails.  Choose carefully.          

Lifelines November 22, 2020

The Lord endured the agonizing death of a crucifixion, spent time in a tomb and rose the third day.  All authority had been placed in His hands, and He gave directives to His small band of followers.  Go make disciples.  It did not matter who they were or where they were from.  Their history was unimportant.  Make students who will follow Me, and teach them of their responsibility to cling tenaciously to my commands.  Their life should always be decided by His guidelines.  He promised to always accompany them and sent them on their way.  Disciples making disciples. 

Has the church lost sight of her mission?  Buildings are built and programs are implemented.  Do they form committed followers of Jesus Christ?  It was once observed that preaching should feed the sheep not entertain the goats.  Discipleship is the exact opposite of worldliness, but we find methods being adopted which minimize self-denial and maximize self-indulgence.  Would the Lord recognize the people who claim to be His?  Even more importantly, will He recognize them on the last day?  Or will they hear, “I never knew you, depart from me…(Matthew 7:23)?”  Are we disciples?

Every life has those back burners.  They are for the secondary issues in our lives.  We make our own choices about what to put back there.  Seldom do we choose self.  Yet, Jesus put that at the head of the line when it came to following Him (Luke 9:23).  There are no exclusions or exceptions.  That begins with the decision to go His way rather than our own, “If anyone wishes to come after Me…” If that is what we want to do, He leads and we follow.  Self gets in the way of that and must be pushed onto the back burner.

Selfies capture the essence of our times.  People want to be in the picture, right up front.  Look at me!  The word of God teaches us to recede into the background.  We are expected to help the poor, pray passionately and regularly, and exercise spiritual self-discipline but not for human praise (Matthew 6:1-17).  God sees, hears, knows and rewards.  That is enough.

Following the pathway of Jesus always involves a cross.  It is individual and awaits us every single day.  No two crosses are exactly alike, and we choose to pick it up.  We think of our cross as burdens, and that may be a part of it, but the cross is an instrument of death through which we are crucified to the world and the world to us (Galatians 6:14).  The cross changed everything in our decision making. Discipleship is not an easy road.  We are perpetually bombarded with what seems to be attractive options.  Self-fulfillment and gratification are promised by a culture that is under the influence of the evil one.  He used the same deception in the Garden of Eden, and we see how that turned out.

Lifelines November 15, 2020

The life of a Christian is consistently described in the Bible in terms of walking.  It is not God’s design to give us new life in Christ so that we will complacently sit.  It is not a single step but a walk, a journey that is unlike any other.  It is through a narrow gate onto the road less traveled.  It is on that path that we find life. 

Conversion brings us into a new relationship with the Lord.  We look to Him for the direction that is best.  Our flesh continues to exert pressure on us to do as it demands, but we must not.  Our initial steps are uncertain and shaky like a newborn colt.  We stagger and fall, disappointed that we have not mastered our own actions.  We rise again to try another day.  Failure is not permanent but a temporary setback.  We are still children of God, and we’ll do better tomorrow.

Growing up is never easy.  Whether we are describing physical development or spiritual maturity, we struggle.  The Lord understands.  He made us, and He knows our weaknesses.  He also knows our potential and has expectations expressed through His prophet, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).” 

Humility does not come naturally.  Our inclination is to strut our independence and hide our shortcomings.  It seems inconsistent with maturity to acknowledge weakness, so we try to keep it secret.  Yet, it is essential to face up to our need if we want to walk with God.  Our self-determined steps will inevitably put us on the wrong track because His ways and ours lead in opposite directions (Isaiah 55:8-9).

A humble submission to Jesus Christ as our Lord will reveal itself in a lifestyle.  Christians are no longer slaves to emotions.  Yes, those feelings still exist but they are no longer master over us.  It involves a conscientious choice to reject that course of action for one dictated by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Giving the reins of our life to the Lord requires faith that Father knows best.  The outcome of that decision produces a fruit so unique that it could only come from the Spirit as we walk with Him.

God has a great love for His children and desires the best for us, both in this life and the next.  His word provides His thoughts on how to accomplish that.  Now, it is up to us.  It involves our decision that we trust Him enough to thrust ourselves completely into His hands, recognizing that we do not know how to go.  Total surrender is the only way.  Our part is to humble ourselves under His all-powerful hand, and He will take care of the rest (1 Peter 5:6-7).  He always has.