Lifelines October 24, 2021

The love of God is on full display throughout the Bible. Virtually everyone knows, “For God so loved the world…” That notion has warmed hearts and lifted spirits for centuries. The world will always be in need of knowing of the Creator’s passion for His creation. It is an inspiring fact, but we must not cling to a distorted picture of Him. To be sure, He is love but He is so much more.

It is evident from the opening chapters of His book. He gives us options and facts. He placed two special trees in the garden. It may seem like nothing more than a story from long ago, but its relevance has never faded. We have choices to make and consequences to take. He does not keep secrets. There is a self-destructive way that we are free to choose. It was true in Eden, and it is still true. We decide our path but not the consequences of that decision. Thankfully, He provides both explanations and illustrations.

“…In the day you eat from it you will surely die (Genesis 2:17).” Clear, isn’t it? Yet, we know the choice that was made. She chomped down, passed it on to her hubby and the world has suffered ever since. There was a garden full of trees appealing to both the eyes and the tastebuds but the evil one tempted her to sample the forbidden one. The Lord made it crystal clear what would happen if she did. He still does.

We have a God-inspired book filled with information that will enable us to make wise decisions. Within those pages are the realities with which we must all deal. The Lord is the ultimate reality. What will we do with Him? There will never be a more consequential decision in our lives. It will shape our thoughts, actions and relationships. It will determine how much time we spend in prayer and Bible study. Most importantly, it will determine our eternal destination. How we view God touches every aspect of our life. Choose wisely.

That same book will expose us to our own sin. It opens our eyes to human behavior and tendencies that damage us. It plumbs the depths of our hearts. It shines a light into our dark places. Our faults are revealed and the road to correction and forgiveness. We learn right and wrong as well as the consequences of both. It all became clear twenty centuries ago on a hill far away.

Sin is awful. We minimize it. God is love. We underestimate it. He is also just. We ignore it. His justice and grace intersected on two slabs of wood. His Son hung there with our guilt squarely on His shoulders and the entire creation shuddered. In the midday darkness a spiritual light shone brightly on the human dilemma and the Lord’s solution. He made His decision. Now, we make ours.

Lifelines October 17, 2021

The tongue is a restless rascal.  Words seem to jump out of our mouth without ever crossing through our mind.  Once out, they are irretrievable.  As much as we may regret them, they are out there forever.  They build up and tear down.  They encourage and discourage.  They carry a punch that lingers for a very long time.  Words.  Potent weapons however they are used.

They originate deep down in our most inner self.  We call it the heart (Matthew 15:18), and the thoughts that spill out of our lips start way down there.  We communicate our genuine selves in consonants and vowels that form words which express ideas.  We seldom give them a lot of thought, and that is a mistake.  They are capable of healing hurts or causing them.  They slash and burn or comfort and console.  They are unforgettable.

God told us long ago of their power and how poorly we handle them (James 3:1-12).  It’s as if our tongue has a mind of its own.  Like a windblown ship that goes wherever its pilot guides it with a small rudder or a horse controlled by a tiny bit.  The tongue is relatively insignificant but seems to control us more than we control it.  Sound familiar?  Have you ever felt sorry for your choice of words?  They sting the hearer and haunt the speaker.  Neither forgets.  A single match can set a great forest ablaze. 

We have been able to tame all sorts of critters, but the tongue still seems beyond our control.  We praise our God and curse those who are created in His image.  James fills a paragraph with an assortment of images (Using words, by the way!) to open our eyes to the need to watch our mouths.  Blessings and curses come from the same vocal cords. That is not the way it should be.

Christians should be different.  No, Christians MUST be different. Every word is significant.  There is no place for indecent or obscene language.  In the middle of his discussion about our speech, Paul mentions the possibility of grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:32).  Imagine how we would guard our language if we could see the Spirit of God flinch with disappointment and sadness every time we spoke inappropriately.  Every sentence is a fresh opportunity to encourage and edify, to glorify and honor our Savior.  Let’s not waste them.

We are children of God and that brings both blessings and responsibilities.  We represent Him wherever we go and whatever we say.  Speech is not just words but also the manner in which they are spoken.  “…But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…(Ephesians 4:15).”  It is our Lord’s design and desire that our speech be uniquely Christian.  His ears are everywhere.  It matters.  Let’s not let Him down.

Lifelines October 10, 2021

We come to the Lord with broken, ragged lives.  Some have ventured from the depths of the darkness and others out of the dubious shadows of respectability from a worldly perspective.  All have the same need: God.  There are a variety of histories, and each of us has a unique story.  All have sinned just in different ways.  Satan is as clever as ever and traps us all in our weakness and often in our pride.  He dictates, we obey and another soul is lost.

Time passes and we forget how we were.  Scripture consistently reminds us to remember, not to dwell but just to recall where we have come from.  It prevents a prideful condescending attitude of judgment.  We were dead.  The lethal effects of sin left us in the hands of the enemy, and he used every weapon in his arsenal to manipulate us as mere puppets on a string (Ephesians 2:1-3).  We have all been there, and then God stepped in (Verse 4).

It is humbling to realize our total dependence on God in this matter, but dead people can do nothing to revive themselves.  He grants life where there was none.  We came in pitiful condition: foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved.  Our actions of malice, envy and hate demonstrated our wickedness (Titus 3:3).  The ugly list includes moral sins of all kinds (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  We find ourselves repulsed by what we once embraced, but we must not reject those who come with that kind of a resume (Titus 3:2).  They need the Lord’s resurrecting power and life-changing Spirit, just like we did and still do.

Jesus came under harsh criticism from the religious establishment for the people with whom He associated.  They steered clear of those sinful types and tax collectors while the Lord sat right among them.  His reasoning was, as always, impeccable.  They are the ones who need Him.  Sick people need a doctor.  Their illness was sin.  He was the cure.  Well people (Of which, without God’s healing there are none!) need no physician.  He came down to earth to be among the people who needed Him.  And what about us?

Where would we be in that picture?  Criticizing or seeking to share the healing power of the Lord?  Or in the case of the prodigal son, who would we be most like?  The lost boy who came home (That is who we are!), the Father who welcomed him (Like God welcomes us) or the huffy older brother who resented the grace-filled celebration?  It is easy to forget our own past and take on the role of the critic. Sundays bring us face-to-face with the reminder of how we became children of God.  It wasn’t a bright, shiny, sin-free lifestyle but a crucified Savior.  We were dead but God…two powerful, hope-filled words…but God…resurrected us (Ephesians 2:4-5).  He is rich in mercy.  Shouldn’t we be?

Lifelines October 03, 2021

The spotlight falls squarely on the Son of God.  He is the focus.  Without Him, we would have no hope.  His journey began in the eternal realm on equal footing with God.  He was God.  All of creation came into being through Him, whether visible or invisible.  Life is meaningless apart from Him.  He lights the way for all who choose to follow.  That is the pathway for both spiritual healing and sense of purpose.  He is our everything.

His arrival was angelically announced to shepherds.  He found His first dwelling among animals.  He was almighty God in an infant’s body totally dependent on the humans He created.  His adolescent years were scarcely noticed.  History records very little until His thirtieth birthday.  Then for three brief years, He turned the world upside down. 

He embraced the rejects and the marginal.  Many of the sinners found Him irresistible, and the religious aristocrats saw Him as an irritant.  He ate with objectionable riff raff; you know those people from the wrong side of the tracks.  He rubbed elbows with Samaritans and butted heads with the spiritual hypocrites.  His footsteps rattled the world and angered the establishment.  Ultimately, they could take it no more and formed a conspiracy to do away with Him.  Or so they thought.  They played right into God’s hands.

His own countrymen, who should have recognized Him, didn’t.  The civil authorities joined the party spearheaded by the Jewish leadership and the entire bunch was whipped into a frenzy.  They beat Him.  Spit on Him.  Slapped Him around.  Mocked Him.  And eventually nailed Him to a cross.  They accomplished what they wanted.  God did, too.  All the sins of history went to that cross with Him.  He hoisted the load and took it away.  What a Savior!

It would have appeared that it was over.  The messianic wannabe had been dealt with once and for all.  They failed to see the events from the eternal perspective.  Human eyes cannot see the total plan and power of the Lord.  Focus on the crucified Jesus, and we don’t see the whole picture.  Yes, He died.  He was buried.  It is a partial view until we add the empty tomb.  Only then do we begin to have the full concept. 

The gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ takes us beyond the death and burial to the never-ending hope of resurrection.  Even that is not the end.  Ascension to heaven is.  It is a trail that leads to God.  Jesus went through it all to take us to the Father.  There is no other way.  He leads.  We follow.

This weekend we turn the spotlight on Jesus, where it belongs.  He lived, died, rose and ascended for us.  It is a wonderful, hope-filled story of redemption and salvation.  It is His story and ours to tell.  Now is a great time to “Share the Son.”