Lifelines March 17, 2019

An eighty-year-old man, a bunch of slaves and a burning bush hardly seem the ingredients for one of the Lord’s most amazing deliverances.  It had been a long, painful experience for the Israelites.  Joseph was long forgotten.  Generations under bondage had come and gone.  Had the years stolen their hope?  These scarcely appeared to be chosen people for a special purpose.  Salvation coming from slaves?  Not likely.

Moses is an equally improbable man to lead such an exodus.  He had tried to step up at age forty and failed.  He figured his Israelite brothers would understand his good intentions.  They didn’t, word spread, and he fled (Acts 7:23-29).  We may want a leader in the prime of life, but God’s ways are not ours.  We expect a spotless record not a homicidal history.  He spent the next four decades as an alien tending flocks.  The Lord’s classroom is a different kind of education for a unique assignment.

Moses was eighty when the Lord caught his attention.  The first half of his life had been spent in royalty; the second half in obscurity.  Then came that bush.  An aging man with a sketchy history stood trembling before a curiously burning shrub.  He was God’s choice to lead his people out of slavery.  He unsuccessfully objected.  He was the man.  It was his assignment.  No side-stepping allowed.

It may seem an odd selection to us.  His credentials were virtually nonexistent.  His resume was mostly blank.  Yet, he was the answer to their prayers.  God is neither blind, deaf, nor unaware.  He saw them, heard them and knew the details of their situation.  It was time for Him to step in, and His specially chosen vessel to direct the mission was this guy (Exodus 3:7-8)?  Deliverance comes in the Lord’s way, not ours.  It is by His hand that freedom comes.

If we wrote the script, it would be totally different.  After debating with God about his task, he went as directed and life got even harder for the slaves.  The work load was increased (Exodus 5:6-9), and Moses caught the blame (Ex. 5:21).  That isn’t exactly the way we think it ought to go when we immerse ourselves in the Lord’s work.  Discouragement deafened their ears to the message of hope, and it spread all the way to the top (Ex. 6:9-12). 

There is nothing in this remarkable event that would go according to human plans.  An eighty-year-old, hundreds of thousands of slaves and a bush on fire do not offer much promise until we remember the one unseen actor in the scene: God.  He is intimately acquainted with everything about us.  He knows what enslaves us, and He alone can free us.  Deliverance might come through unlikely sources, but He is forever a liberating Lord.  

Lifelines March 10, 2019

The empty tomb of Jesus validates everything that Christians stand for.  There is a vast array of religious beliefs in our world.  Islam is a system that is on the move worldwide.  Muhammed’s faith is aggressive and spreading.  He died and is still in the tomb.  No resurrection means no hope beyond this world.  He is simply one example.  Movements come and go, but only one will remain standing beyond the grave.  Our trust is in that one.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…(1 Peter 1:3).”  Peter knew first hand about disappointment.  He was totally confident that he could stand up to the stiffest challenge.  He couldn’t.  He vowed that he would never deny the Lord.  He did.  Any self-confidence had crumbled long before he wrote these words.  His associates?  They were no more dependable than he was.  He had to look beyond himself for hope. 

God is almighty, and it is to Him that we shift our attention.  He towers over everything this creation can throw at us, and that is plenty.  Even death suffered a death blow when face-to-face with the Lord (Hebrews 2:14).  Combine His capacity to raise the dead with His incomprehensible mercy and it is an offer of hope that is out of this world.  It is alive, and always will be.  The tomb of hopelessness is empty. 

He has brought us into a new realm of existence.  “Born again.”  He caused that.  He has made Christians brand new.  We stumbled around in sin, not knowing where we were or where we were going.  We joined the prodigal son among the living dead (Luke 15:32).  We had become pawns in the hands of influences without and evil desires within, both of which were tools under the devil’s control. We were corpse with a heartbeat (Ephesians 2:1-3), until God stepped in and emptied that tomb, too (Ephesians 2:4-7). 

Vision becomes blurry in the rigors of day-to-day existence.  Up early, rushing for work or school, a full day’s hustle, bills to pay, chores at home, collapse into bed; who has time in an overflowing schedule to contemplate hope? So, it easily drifts into the remote recesses of our minds.  Surely, it is another satanic ploy leading to discouragement and despair.  It was high on Paul’s prayer list (Ephesians 1:18).  It must be important.

The word of God has given us a great formula for the maintenance of hope: information and persistence (Romans 15:4).  History teaches us of the greatness of the Lord who delivers on his promises, even when there seems to be no possible way.  Never give up.  He is a God of hope (Romans 15:13).       

Lifelines March 03, 2019

It is a simple matter to speak of the Lord.  File away a few verses in our memory banks, and we can explain baptism with the best of them.  We can lead a discussion about His love and compassion or His judgment.  We can even teach a class on the unique nature of the church, but do we know Him?  Really know Him, in a life changing way? 

It will never happen by accident.  We do not suddenly wake up one morning and have a relational knowledge of God.  It takes time and effort.  We have a book filled with information that reveals Him to us.  From the opening words, it provides insight into this amazing Being.  He speaks, and all of creation jumps.  Humanity has a special place.  We are handmade in His image.  We botched it.  He fixed it.  Do we know the Fixer?       

King David recognized the great value of knowing the character and nature of the Lord (Psalm 9:10).  It totally reorients our faith.  It is one thing to believe that God exists.  Most people do, but to place absolute trust in Him is a different matter.  That removes any hesitation in praying for His will to be done, because we will know with certainty that it is best.  Bible study becomes an exciting quest to quench our spiritual thirst.  Obedience is as natural as breathing.  Total trust is the result of a genuine knowledge of Him.

Those who know the Lord are people of action (Daniel 11:32).  In our days of increased individual autonomy, there is a growing disregard for the covenant that Jesus gave His life to establish.  Christians come together each Sunday to recognize that covenant in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:25).  It brings both blessings and responsibilities.  To know God is to appreciate the former, live up to the latter and stand firm for both in the face of challenges. 

Our relationship with God will reflect in our attitude towards other.  We come to have a deeper understanding of His indescribable love for us.  It exceeds words and understanding, but we increasingly grasp it. We dive into its significance, learn of its implications and strive to imitate it (Ephesians 5:1-2).  We have benefited from it.  Now, it is our turn to pass it on.  As we do, our knowledge increases.  We know Him better and trust Him more.  Relational growth results.

It has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  Do we know the Lord well enough to model our lives after His?  It is a life of love (1 John 4:7-8) sacrificing self for the welfare of others.  Even when the others don’t care? Yes, even then.  Knowing God will change both our daily life and eternal destination.  The Lord is coming one day, and He will gather those who know God (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).   Are we one of them?        

Lifelines February 24, 2019

He was a man who appeared to have it all (Luke 18:18-27).  He had political clout.  It is a very difficult thing to see beyond the authority that a person possesses.  It is hard to imagine a need when we can summon a subordinate to grant our every wish in the blink of an eye.  The blinding effects of power are evident on both sides of the aisle in our nation’s capital.  Even local officials can fall victim to their own limited success.  Yet, all of this man’s power did not blunt his investigation into life’s most important question. 

He had achieved success in his youth (Matthew 19:22) and it makes this encounter even more surprising.  Such concerns of eternity often do not enter a person’s thinking until death is more of a reality.  That is a concern for the elderly.  Younger years are generally reserved for career planning and romance seeking.  Jobs, families and fun take center stage.  Obviously, this man had few job concerns but was certainly subject to other distractions of a young life.  Clearly, something had stirred his awareness of an issue that stretched beyond this lifetime.

Not only did he have age and power on his side, but he also had possessions which pose an unexpected threat.  They give a faulty sense of security about which the Lord warned the Israelites on their way to the promised Land (Deuteronomy 8).  Paul instructed Timothy to teach about the dangers of prosperity (1 Timothy 6:17-19).  Money is never the problem; attitude is.  This young ruler was very rich, and that would prove to be his undoing.

He had a life that most of us could only imagine, but he had a single deficiency that would cost him the only thing that matters.  His age would become irrelevant, as would his power and riches.  Jesus exposed that flaw because He loved him (Mark 10:21).  The Lord knew what held him back from fully following Him, and told him.  Call it tough love.  It was more than the man was willing to do.  It grieved him (Mark 10:22).  The bank account meant more to him than eternal life.  He left.    

It is an unholy trinity: the sense of invincibility that comes with youth, the intoxication of worldly power, and the distorted sense of self-confidence that worldly prosperity brings.  The man who seemed to have it all wound up with nothing because he was unwilling to totally place himself in the hands of the Lord.  His trust was misplaced.  Is ours?

Youth will give way to wrinkles and sags.  Power comes and goes.  Thieves, time or nature will ultimately take our precious possessions.  All that truly matters is our relationship with the Lord.  Are we willing to trust Him unconditionally and totally?  Or are we like that rich young ruler who lacked one thing?  He swapped eternal life for just one thing.  One!  Will we?          

Lifelines February 17, 2019

Jericho was locked up tight as a drum (Joshua 6).  The Lord said that He had given the city into their hands, but there was that wall.  It stood in between the promise and the reality.  What were they to do about that seemingly insurmountable object?  Should they call the army corps of engineers?  Consult a political subcommittee?  Take up battering rams?  The God of the promise was also the God of the means.  Follow His instructions, the wall will fall and the city would be theirs.

A human demolition professional did not draw up the plans for leveling that wall.  Neither did an efficiency expert.  Nothing happened on the first day of implementing the Lord’s plan.  Ditto day two, three, four, five and six.  Surely, questions popped into their collective minds about the leadership that had produced no success after a half-dozen days.  In our microwave world, impatience would certainly have rippled through the ranks.  Day seven began just as uneventfully.  It looked like certain failure.  Round-and-round they went.  Results: Zero, except maybe a little ridicule from observers.  Just be quiet and march were their directions, and so they did.

Day seven did not end the way that it began.  As they completed their seventh lap around the city walls, they shouted, the priests blasted the trumpets and the wall collapsed.  God had given them the city.  He had provided the way in which they would receive it.  The only question to be answered was whether they trusted the Lord enough to obey His commands so that they would receive His gift.  That is still the question.

Hebrews 11:30 reveals the key.  Their accomplishment was not due to the fact that they marched better than anyone else.  Nor was it because the priests were superbly skilled at blowing those horns.  No, it was faith in God that knocked that barrier down.  Faith in Him, His gift, and the way to receive it.  It is an early portrait of the interaction of grace (The gift) and faith (The way to receive the gift). 

Salvation comes by means of that same grace and faith (Ephesians 2:8).  It is a gift, but an obstacle stands in the way.  Sin looms menacing and apparently impenetrable with the Lord and salvation on the other side.  How can we possibly get that wall to fall?  What composes ours?  The next party?  Anger?  Immorality?  Doubt?  Fear?  Jealousy?  Apathy?  The bricks stack up.  Nothing but the blood of Jesus can knock them down.  All of the blessings of God both now and eternally await us on the other side of that wall.  Belief strong enough in the Giver and the gift to follow His directions will clear the way.  When that faith meets God’s grace, we march right through walls into heaven.