Lifelines September 15, 2019

“Jesus loves me! this I know…”  Do we?  His love is one that is beyond our capacity to comprehend (Ephesians 3:19).  We can search for a lifetime and never find one to compare (John 15:13).  Knowing such a love is transformative.  Once we capture a sense of its magnitude, we will never be the same again.  It motivates us to respond (1 John 4:19).  If His love has never left its mark on our lives, can we really say that we know it?

It is so profound that it led Him to sacrifice an eternal equality with God to take on flesh and blood.  He entered the world in a lowly way to endure the hardships of being human.  He knew hunger and thirst.  He experienced fatigue and pain.  He stepped away from glory to live an uncommon life in a very common world.  The everyday headaches and heartaches plagued Him just as they do us. 

He was no stranger to the sadness of death.  Even when He knew the ultimate purpose of the illness of Lazarus, He felt the deepest pain for His dear friends Mary and Martha.  Jesus wept (John 11:35).  Think of what a profound demonstration of His love that is.  The Lord of the universe shedding tears for an ordinary man.  He feels.  He cares.  Our hurts hurt Him.  There has never been anything like His love for you.  Never. 

Satan launched all of his heaviest artillery at Jesus at His weakest moments.  Forty days of fasting would have left Him weakened and vulnerable to temptation.  He resisted.  The evil one hit the Lord with His heaviest punches but failed to knock Him off His feet.  He knows first hand about the things that tempt us.  He has been through them all.  He understands our struggles.  He did not have to go through all of this.  It was His choice, because of His great love for us. 

It finds its most profound demonstration at the cross.  God described through Isaiah this climactic act hundreds of years before it came to pass on earth (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).  He made it clear that it was through no fault of His own that He ended up on that cross.  He bore our sins that day.  The sun failed.  The earth shook.  The tombs blew open.  The love of the Son was on full display, and access to the Father was opened.  “Jesus love me! This I know…”  It is generally regarded as a children’s song, and that is a pity.  It is the essence of the best news in all eternity.  The Son of God in all His wonder loves us; weak and guilty sinners.  He came to solve all the mess that we created.  The debt has been paid by a Savior who loves us.  It is worth singing about at any age.

Lifelines September 08, 2019

We look with horror as our world spins out of control.  Brutality sweeps across the countryside.  Big cities turn into war zones every weekend. A frustrated motorist literally shoots down an interstate.  Drug infestation destroys lives at catastrophic rates.  Sex is recreational.  Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies inevitably follow.  Termination becomes an acceptable option.  How has life become so cheap, disposable and hopeless?

“There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18).”  Worldly chaos is rooted in a spiritual problem.  Respect for an almighty Creator has been lost, and the evidence is obvious.  After a relentless campaign that has gone on for decades, the forces of darkness have convinced the nation that He is no longer relevant if He exists at all.  Throughout history, such an attitude has never failed to produce an increasingly violent and immoral society. 

Scripture outlines the evidence that a culture has lost respect for God (Romans 3:10-18).  Righteousness becomes a lost concept.  No one is hungering and thirsting for it.  Pursuit of the eternally significant gives way to the temporarily satisfying.  The Lord and his goodness are shoved into the dark corner of forgotten antiquities.  “Created in His image” is seen as an empty phrase in an outdated book.

It is apparent in our national conversation that the country has lost reverence for God.  Dishonesty becomes commonplace, and lying is acceptable.  Politicians are not even expected to tell the truth, and it doesn’t stop there.  It seeps into every corner of the culture leaving us disillusioned and doubting.  Who can we trust?

Words are used to slash and burn anyone who dares to cross our paths.  Locker room talk is mainstream as coarseness floods the vocabulary.  Civilized discourse is virtually unknown as competing voices yell louder and curse more.  The results are increased tensions.  It is the way of a world without the Lord.  Lie.  Turn up the volume.  Throw in some profanities.  Spread the bitterness.  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The trail they leave behind is long and bloody.  It may not be literal, but the misery certainly is.  Skepticism and cynicism.  After all, how many times can people lie to us before we become suspicious of everyone?  Hearts pierced with angry, hateful words.  They can never be un-said or forgotten.  Memories linger.  The damage is widespread.  Dismissing our Creator as unimportant or nonexistent brings dreadful consequences.  It always has.  It still does. Having the proper perspective of God is the whole purpose of life.  If we miss that, we have missed the point (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).  Yet, we live in the age of the forgotten God.  It has been an intense campaign to remove Him from the public awareness. The enemy may have succeeded in that effort, but the Lord hasn’t gone anywhere.  He is still on His throne, and He is still all-powerful.  He is God whether people want to acknowledge Him or not

Lifelines September 01, 2019

“Our Father…(Matthew 6:9).”  What a remarkable relationship.  The basis of His paternity is discipleship, those who choose to live within the framework of His word (John 8:31).  It is a choice that demands the utmost of self-disciple and denial (Luke 14:26).  It is a price that few are willing to pay but the dividends are extraordinary for those who do.  Inclusion in the family of God being among its greatest benefits.

Satan has always had a bag of glittering tricks to attract our attention.  He opened them up in the old garden and has been dangling them in front of us ever since.  He used the same temptations on the Son of God offering Him fleshly gratification, sensationalism and worldly success if He would just submit to him (Matthew 4:1-11).  Thankfully, Jesus stood firm.  Following His steps will enable us to resist, too.  It is the family way.

Establishing such a relationship includes blessings beyond our understanding.  God is no longer a distant, detached deity but our Father.  He has an intimate interest in each of His children which brings security.  When addressing anxieties about life’s basic necessities, Jesus described those worries as totally unnecessary.  Why?  A disciple’s Heavenly Father knows their needs.  He feeds the birds and clothes the flowers.  He will do the same for them (Matthew 6:25-34).

The disciples of Jesus were on the brink of the most traumatic event of their lives.  Jesus would be crucified within hours.  Judas would betray Him.  Peter would deny Him.  They would all fail Him in His darkest hour.  Their whole world was about to be turned upside down on a cross, and He comforted them.  He knew exactly what was coming and offered words of consolation, “Do not let your heart be troubled…(John 14:1).”  Worry never solved anything.  Trust our Father.  He can raise the dead.  Trust Me.  I will take care of you forever.

That relationship includes accountability, as well (1 Peter 1:14-16).  Christians have the blessing of entering into that precious relationship, and it brings the responsibility of taking on the family resemblance.  His word to us consistently tells us to imitate what we see in the only begotten Son (Ephesians 5:1-2).  Our Father loves us, and Jesus put a face on that love.  His sacrificial demonstration left us an example to follow.  It is anything but typical of what we see all around us.  It is holy.      Our Father is actively involved in our development (Hebrews 12:4-11).  He takes a hands-on approach that is not always comfortable or easy as He shapes and molds us into His image.  That is what He had in mind to begin with.  Now, He is bringing out that likeness again.  It has been tarnished by sin.  That has been forgiven, but the scars remain.  His hands are polishing us once again, and eventually we will be like Him (1 John 3:1-3).

Lifelines August 25, 2019

Speculation was swirling (Matthew 16:13-20).  Who was He?  John the Baptist?  One of the old-time prophets?  The disciples were not deaf.  They had heard the rumor mill churning.  Then came the pointed question: What about you?  What do you believe about the Son of Man?  It would come to be the most important fact in all eternity.  It is the foundational issue for God’s new society, a kingdom unlike any other. 

The dust bin of history teaches of the limited lifespan of the most impressive of nations.  They had come and gone, risen and fallen, emerged and faded since the beginning of time.  Egypt, Assyria and Babylon had all gone from front page news to the obituary column through the ages.  This was something different.  It would last, not just for a decade or two, but forever.  He called it “Church,” and He promised to build it.

This would not be some manmade organization.  No, those are unavoidably flimsy and temporary.  Each has its vulnerabilities.  His would be invincible and unstoppable.  No one would be able to destroy it, no matter how they attacked it and halting its progress would prove to be mission impossible.  The Lord made it clear long before His discussion with His disciples that He would accomplish what He desires within His kingdom (Isaiah 9:7).  The Savior offers an eternal lifetime guarantee.

Human eyes look at the cross as a moment of defeat.  Satan and his troops won that battle, or so it seemed.  The powerful joined forces to eradicate the so-called king of the Jews.  In reality, they served God’s purposes.  They were His instruments to deal with sin.  Forgiveness flowed from the wounds they inflicted by His design.  Simultaneously, the Son of God was buying the church (Acts 20:28).  It became His possession through that transaction. 

Modern mindsets place minimal value on the church.  They treat it as if it were unimportant.  They fill up their schedules with work, school, entertainment, hobbies and if there is any time left, they gather with Christians.  Sunday worship is seen as optional.  We can be sure of this: If we only give God our leftovers, something will eventually eat those crumbs, too. 

Christians come together on Sunday to express how much we value the Lord.  It is a direct statement to Him of His worth to us.  We should always have a conversation with Him when we are not going to worship about why.  It will help us maintain our proper focus if we simply pause and say, “Lord, I know that you gave your life for me but I am not going to worship you today because….”    

Jesus spoke of the church two thousand years ago.  His death followed those words.  His resurrection proved the unstoppable nature of the plan of God.  The church is that plan.  He bought it.  He builds it.  It cannot fail, ever.              

Lifelines August 18, 2019

Violence struck our nation recently in El Paso and Dayton.  Armed madmen took innocent lives.  Immediately the debate began about gun control and laws to govern their use.  It has been an ongoing debate for years.  How can our nation be the home of such senseless killings?  It is a puzzle that has yet to be solved.

The question has polarized our country into increasingly angry voices.  Two sides yelling at each other seldom result in a reasonable conclusion.  As tempers flare and the temperature rises, a door is opened for the peacemaking calm of Christians.  We may not have the answer on a national scale, but we can affect the lives we touch if…and it is a big IF…we have ourselves under control.

We must not let circumstances take control of us.  It is easy to do.  Stress mounts, and words come out that never should have been said.  Their impact is immediate and never forgotten.  They cannot be un-said.  They make an indelible impression on all who hear them.  Nearly everyone has memories of verbal assaults that left deep scars. 

What has control of us?  That is a decision that must not fluctuate from situation to situation.  If it does, then our surroundings are in charge and we are puppets of our environment.  If everything around us is to our liking we’ll behave appropriately.  If it doesn’t suit us, we won’t.  That is an unhealthy, erratic way to live.  There has to be a way to rise above that.

“For the Love of Christ controls us…(2 Corinthians 5:14-15).”  There has never been another totally selfless love of His type.  It was not dependent on the response of the people to whom He offered it.  He died for everyone.  He indiscriminately brought His love into a world that neither desired nor appreciated it.  It was met with rejection and hostility, and He brought it anyway. 

He did so in order to deliver humanity from the dictatorial enslavement of selfishness.  Self is a relentless master that is never gratified.  The “successful” may have all that this world offers, but when the lights go out they feel an indescribable emptiness. It is an itch that they cannot scratch. Those who pursue contentment in such a way will always have an inner hunger and thirst that they cannot satisfy.

A focus on Christ and His love will lead us to yield our lives to His control.  Violent outbursts will never be in our picture.  Peacemaking will be.  We will walk by His Spirit, and the fruit of that lifestyle is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Our steps will be different in a world that desperately needs them to be.  Answers about gun control may be beyond our area of expertise, but self-control is not.  Give ourselves to the Lord.  Follow His path.  It will make us and our nation better, one life at a time.