Lifelines March 08, 2020

It was an unlikely meeting; a Jewish man approaching a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-42).  That was far from the norm for several reasons, but that was the way of Jesus.  He broke down barriers and strayed from the conventional paths throughout His brief stay on earth.  It left the woman in wonder and the disciples scratching their heads. 

It began simply enough.  He was thirsty, and she had water.  He asked for a drink, and she was surprised.  She was a Samaritan, and good Jews would not stoop to such levels as to talk with the likes of her.  Her heritage was contaminated by folks from the wrong side of the tracks, and that might be contagious.  Distance was best lest they be soiled by the commoners.  The Savior disregarded such concerns.  The door wasn’t just being cracked; it was being bulldozed open.  If only she knew.

The circumstances that drove this woman to the well at that day and time are not known but there are suspicions.  Her domestic history was not exactly storybook.  A handful of marriages had not worked out.  There were an equal number of failures.  The latest relationship never made it to the alter.  Had she given up on the institution?  We are not told, but she and the new guy had not even tried.  Jesus knew, and she knew that He knew.   

Her eyes gradually opened.  She had asked about worship.  Her concern was geography.  He addressed the deeper issues of spirit and truth.  God desires worshipers and is searching for a particular kind of heart.  The externals are important but matter only when the internals get right.  It is not either/or but a both/and.  The “where” is not the emphasis.  She begins to figure this thirsty guy out.  A prophet?  She is starting to see.  Could this possibly be the Messiah?

This improbable conversation amazed the disciples.  Venturing onto the dark side for conversations with the dubious were more than enough to raise apostolic eyebrows, and add to that she was…well…a she.  Men and women didn’t mix like that.  So, there was the Lord talking to a five-time-divorced Samaritan woman.  One, two, three strikes against her.  None of them presented a hurdle too high for the Son of God to clear.  After all, He came to seek and save the lost and she was about as lost as you can get. 

Who would have ever picked such a missionary?  And an effective one, at that (Verse 39).  Crossing traditional boundaries was the Lord’s specialty, and when we get in step with Him, we’ll cross them too.  There are people with all kinds of shady histories who need the Lord.  Rich, poor, black, white, young, old, men and women come with sinful baggage that needs to be emptied.  Jesus is the only answer.  Start a conversation.  Lead them to the Lord.  It’s amazing what He can do. 

Lifelines March 01, 2020

The world can be an awfully gloomy place.  Deadly viruses from distant shores threaten our health.  The political landscape is filled with negativity, and headlines lead us to believe that we are truly on the verge of total collapse.  It is easy to let the pessimism seep into our minds and cast a long shadow on the Lord’s church.  Jesus knows.  He has walked those dusty roads, too.

“In the world you have tribulation…(John 16:33).”  The hours were dwindling.  He would soon shoulder all the sins of all mankind throughout history in a violent collision between God’s love and justice.  He had encountered the most intense rejection and hatred that people could dish out and soon He would submit to a brutal execution.  But first He would comfort His apostles.  Then He would give His life.

Tribulation?  Who could possibly know more about tribulation?  He left the glory of heaven to step into the human experience.  It was His mission to seek and save the lost.  The demands were extraordinary.  His was the life of a servant.  The Lord of the universe came to serve.  Imagine that.  And it did not stop there.  He came to die.  To save sinners.  Oh yes, He knows.  This world is a hard place.

“…take courage; I have overcome the world.”  It hardly looked that way as they swept Him away and condemned Him to death.  The human perspective is so limited.  Our eyes cannot see very far down the road.  The apostles would soon distance themselves from Him.  Hostility has a way of doing that.  Even the stout-hearted withered.  Self-confident Peter denied Him.  They all ran away.  Overcome?  It sure looked like the troublesome world was winning the war.  Soon, His heart would stop.

Appearances can be deceiving, but dead is…well…unfixable.  True, without an almighty God working behind the scenes (or inside the tomb in this case) it would have been hopeless.  No person on earth can reverse death, but there is a force that can.  He is able.  He did.  Three days later there was no corpse.  The One who said that He had overcome the world had conquered even death.  He took its heaviest shot and prevailed.  “Take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Christians have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection.  Peter (Yes, the very one who had collapsed at a critical moment!) wrote about that, but sometimes our surroundings are so dark that we lose sight of that.  So, the Lord had the old fisherman write it down.  We don’t just have hope; it is alive and it is ours.  The empty tomb verifies it. 

Paul prayed for God to open up the spiritual eyes of the Ephesian Christians to know certain facts (Ephesians 1:18-23), and hope was at the top of the list.  It is a never-ending, undying hope.  Jesus lives, and hope lives with Him. 

Lifelines February 23, 2020

Americans must be the busiest people on earth.  We rush from one task to another with very little time to stop and enjoy the great prosperity that we have.  Calendars are packed from pre-dawn to midnight.  It is a “Martha” world with very little opportunity for “Mary” moments.  Perhaps, it is time to build a pause into our hectic schedules.

Martha was always in the middle of doing something, and the Lord’s visit was a tremendous motivator (Luke 10:38-42).  After all, there would surely have been much to do.  Putting ourselves in her shoes helps us understand.  We would want the house to be spotless, dinner to be perfect and only the finest china would do.  Hustle, hustle, hustle.  Make sure it is all flawless, and that sister!  All she’s doing is just sitting there.

Well, that and listening, giving quiet attention to what her Lord was saying.  His words meant more to her than anything else.  And us?  Where are we in this picture?  Distracted by serving?  Too busy to give full attention to the word of the Lord?  Martha or Mary?  This should not be an either/or situation.  A balanced life makes time for both.

Mary is frequently found at the feet of Jesus.  It is a beautiful portrait of one who adores and respects Him.  Were there other things to do?  Of course.  She could have been helping Martha with the preparations, but she chose not to.  Instead, she stopped.  How often do we simply cease from all the activities that tug at us to spend time in adoration of the Lord?  To hear Him, to really hear Him?

We probably won’t receive a lot of encouragement to do so.  Martha was critical.  She even complained to Jesus about it, accusing Him of not caring about her workload.  She let a lot of things interfere with her devotion.  Mary was different.  Deeply devoted people always are.  They often appear to be inactive.  The truth is, according to Jesus, that Mary had chosen the good part.  That would never be taken away.

If ever there was a person with the potential to be too busy for quiet times, it was Jesus.  Healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, butting heads with the religious establishment and loving the unlovable tend to draw crowds.  Everyone needs something, and His compassion combined with His miraculous powers attracted people…lots and lots of people.  And they wanted to enthrone Him.  He would indeed ascend to a throne, but not that way.  In the midst of His eternal mission, with all there was to do, He pursued a quiet time (John 6:15).

Times come when we are forced to be busy, but we must also squeeze in quiet moments at the feet of Jesus.  A “Mary” moment in a “Martha” world that we might listen and contemplate the wonder of the Lord.  Come let us adore Him.                          

Lifelines February 16, 2020

“What are you doing right now that requires faith?”  It was a question posed in a college classroom that shook the young man’s lifestyle.  As he reflected, he realized that the answer was, “Nothing.”  Compared to the scriptural picture of those who are examples of faith, his life was virtually unaffected by his beliefs.  Sure, he believed in God and Christ.  He “went to church.”  He prayed.  He read his Bible.  And then he retreated into his own comfort zone, unchallenged in actual practice.  What about us?

God summoned Abram from his comfort (Genesis 12:1-4).  Leaving familiar surroundings is tough.  Venturing out on our own is unsettling, especially when we don’t know what our address is going to be.  The promise was blessing, not only for him but also for the entire world.  The destination was a mystery.  All Abram had to go on was the assurance of God, and that was enough.  He went.  Would we?    

The first steps on the journey into the unknown were not the only test of Abram’s faith.  The delay between the promise and the fulfillment was agonizingly long.  The promise had been that he would be made into a great nation, and more than a decade passed without even a single child.  Abram decided to help the Lord out.  Faith is not dependent upon the natural course of things, and that turned out to be a mistake that still reverberates.  The child of blessing would not come in an ordinary way or time.  Starting a family at age 100 is not exactly a human idea of family planning.

God raised the bar of faith even higher when He demanded that the child be given as a burnt offering (Genesis 22).  How could Abraham (As he was known by then. Even his name was changed!) possibly comply with such a command after the excruciatingly long wait for Isaac’s birth and him being the child of promise?  We do not know the thoughts of Abraham, but we do know of his obedience because of his faith (Hebrews 11:17-19).  The Lord provided a substitute sacrifice that day and a beautiful portrait of the salvation that would one day come through that family.     

Abraham’s faith led him away from a familiar, comfortable environment into an unknown future.  Home and country were left behind.  All he had to hold on to was the hand of the unseen God, but he learned that was all he needed.  And so, he teaches us.   

Abraham’s world was turned upside down and ours could be, too.  Faith changes everything, including our eternal destination.  Some parts of our life will be left behind.  Plans will be changed, and our journey will be guided by a wiser mind than ours. “What are you doing right now that requires faith?”  It is a probing question that is not comfortably answered, but growth seldom occurs where we are comfortable.   

Lifelines February 09, 2020

We come together on the first day of each week to express how much the Lord means to us.  How we choose to spend our Sundays reflects our opinion of Him.  The weekly reminder of the death and resurrection of our Savior sets the tone for the rest of the week.  It is also a brief period of time set apart to encourage one another.  The basis of it all is Jesus who charts the course for our entire lives.

“…the love of Christ controls us…(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)”  This is a powerful, all-consuming reality whose dimensions are infinite.  It exceeds our mental capacities to take it in, so we seek the One who does the impossible to help us understand (Ephesians 3:18-20).  The fullness of God hangs in the balance.  Our lives will never be all that they can be with a minimal comprehension of that love.  Expanding our knowledge is the only way to deepen its impact on us. 

Mere information won’t get us to the fullness of God.  Conviction will.  As we allow that remarkable fact, the death of Jesus, to really saturate our hearts we will be transformed by it.  That is the fullest expression of His love.  He gave His life for us.  The Son of God and all that He endured was done for me.  Individualize it.  Personalize it.  Only a heart of stone would remain untouched by such an amazing reality.  Unless, we simply refused to be convinced of it.

“…Having concluded this….(2 Cor. 5:14.)”

“One died for all…”  There is no discrimination with the Lord.  What He did for one, He did for all.  As we look at our most hated enemies, we remember that the Savior gave His life for them, too.  True, not all will receive the benefits of that death, but it is open for all.  Those who choose to accept it can receive the cleansing that only His blood can bring.  If the crucifying hands of Pentecost can be forgiven, so can we. “He died for all…”

“So that…”  There was a reason.  Yes, forgiveness came through that sacrifice, but there is more.

Selfishness consumes us.  It is our god.  It dictates and manipulates.  “Not Thy will but mine,” becomes our prayer.  Our joint participation in that death delivers us from such a brutal, destructive dictator.  Nothing will ruin us more quickly than biting the fruit of the evil one when he convinces us that our eyes will be opened if we just forget God’s commandments (Genesis 3:5).

“…they who live might no longer live for themselves…”  Nothing is more liberating than a life totally given to the Lord.  No one could ever love us more.  Freed from the inhibiting boundaries of selfishness, we begin to be filled to God’s fullness.  Jesus demonstrated them, and we can begin to share in them. God’s fullness.  Can you imagine?