Lifelines June 14, 2020

Has the church lost her way?  Has the world influenced her more than the word?  We live in a most challenging time, and the need for disciples to shine has never been needed more.  The decay of sin summons us to be salty.  The beatitudes make it evident that fulfilling our function as salt and light demands us to be different, directed by a greater principle than our human reaction.  

The Lord has called us to a higher road.  It is uncomfortable, nonconformist and puts us out of step with the majority.  Love is not even a consideration when darkness grips the heart expressing itself in behavior.  There is no love of God or neighbor in that place.  Disciples are different.  Loving God is the top priority, and that prompts love for neighbor.  Our Creator made it clear that we cannot do one without the other (1 John 4:20).  It truly is the road less traveled, and there is never congested traffic.

“For God so loved the world…” Virtually everyone knows that famous verse, or do we?  God’s love is beyond our understanding.  We try to imagine how He could care so much for anyone, much less everyone, to take such an extraordinary step as to give His Son.  He wants every person to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), and provided the way for that to be accomplished.  The church is comprised of all who share the blessings of His abundant grace.  We also share the scars of a sinful past.

What we see all around us exposes what we also once were.  It is a mirror of our own past.  We may not share in the specifics, but we have all been subject to the whims of foolishness (Titus 3:3).  Reminders are scattered throughout the New Testament of who we were and how the mercy of God saved us.  His grace should lead us to be gracious.  His love is a model for us.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children…(Ephesians 5:1).”  It is a sobering and humbling reality when we realize that we have not been saved because we are irresistibly lovable.  No, it was an act of grace and mercy because God loves us.  Now, our charge is to pass it on following the example of His Son, “…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:2).”  We have been adopted into the family of God, and the ultimate expression of that is the family resemblance. God is love.  His Son demonstrated that love in service and sacrifice.  The fruit of the Spirit is love.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”  Now, more than ever, we must shine.  The darkness desperately needs it.

Lifelines June 7, 2020

All of the ugliness that this world has to offer has been on display in the last couple of weeks.  Millions of good people have watched in disbelief as innocent people suffered at the hands of the ungodly.  It has invaded every segment of society.  Pick a group and they have had both victimizers and victims.  It is a sad time.

Evil does not have a color scheme, nor does it discriminate by occupation.  It is in every neighborhood and job place.  It is not confined to the young or old, rich or poor, black or white.  It simply is and has been since Adam and Eve.  Murder was only a generation away.  Brother killed brother and the war between good and evil has raged ever since.  This is not new.  It is as old as mankind.

Not respecting but rejecting God sets off a chain reaction with inevitable consequences.  Death is the inescapable end.  The wages of sin are consistent.  Removing an almighty and impartial Judge from our thinking leads down a destructive road along which people leave much heartache and sorrow (Romans 3:9-18).  Blessed with wisdom from above, Solomon observed that all of life revolves around a proper attitude toward the Lord and His commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).  These have eternal implications and immediate impact.

The warning of Peter (1 Peter 5:8) takes on deeper meaning as we watch the devil stalk through our country turning one human against another.  It is easy to get swept up in the moment and lose our focus.  Christians are children of the living God and have been lifted out of the domain of darkness and put into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-14).  Forgiveness is there, both to be received and given.  We rejoice at the former and grimace at the latter. 

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34),” the words of a perfectly innocent man.  He had been slapped and spit upon.  His back had been shredded by a vicious beating.  An ugly crown of thorns had been jammed onto His head.  Nails were driven through His hands and feet.  He hung on a cross and asked for the forgiveness of His torturers.  They had acted in ignorance.  It is a brutally ugly picture of sin and an astonishingly accurate blood-stained portrait of the love of God.

The world can be an awfully discouraging place.  The evil one wanders around looking for his next victim.  Volunteers seem plentiful, and the darkness intensifies.  It transitions from external to internal (Matthew 6:23) and Satan claims another weapon in his arsenal.  The church appears to be outmanned and outgunned. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”  Those, too, are the words of the innocent One.  We decide: Follow the losers to eternal defeat or follow the winner and share victory in Jesus.

Lifelines May 31, 2020

It seems almost absurd; the repetitive “do not worry” directives in the word of God.  Jesus said it.  Paul did, too.  Worry is a natural response to unmanageable circumstances, isn’t it?  If so, then how can we possibly avoid it?  Situations nag at us, and there is nothing we can do to change them.  So, they find a nesting place in our thoughts.  Sleep becomes scarce.  Appetites either disappear or take over.  We become mental hostages, and our heavenly Father created us and our minds for greater things than that.

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8).”  The instructive words about prayer the Lord gives should serve to reassure us in the hard times.  We were each individually handcrafted by God long before we exited mom and entered the visible world.  There is nothing about us that He does not know, including life’s necessities.  He is intimately acquainted with it all. 

Jesus comforted His apostles as He prepared to shoulder the sins of all mankind for all of history, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…(John 14:1).”  It appears an unrealistic statement.  The pressure on Him was enormous, and the stress knocked Him to His knees in the garden of Gethsemane.  He sought His Father.  He pleaded, and His tear-soaked pleas were heard (Hebrews 5:7).  Submission to another plan still remained uppermost in His mind.  Even then, He consoled the eleven. 

“Believe.”  Such a simple yet profound word.  It totally changes our lives.  It transcends the visible to take our minds into an eternal dimension.  Once we get our attention off of what we can see and on to that which we cannot, we are transformed.  We take different steps.  Our drummer is different.  Our marching orders come from our Creator, “…not my will but thine…”

It thrusts us into a confident trust in the eternal God and His Son.  Death is no longer the final answer.  Resurrection is.

“…believe in God, believe also in Me.”  We all believe in something.  That is not at issue, but the question is “what?”  What is our default position?  It just automatically comes without thought.  Oh, I have a big problem and I need…what or whom fills in that blank?  Where do we turn when we don’t know where to turn?  Jesus directed the thoughts of the apostles heavenward.  Indeed, we were made for greater things that this world with its worries and concerns.  Yes, much greater.

The cross reveals the brutality of sin and the love of God.  It bears witness of the tribulation that this world guarantees.  Jesus faced it and overcame it.  His footsteps will lead us to that same victory.  Indeed, this is a troublesome place.  He never pretended that it wasn’t, and we can’t either.  Covid-19 just adds one more headache to it.  Faith does not change that fact, but it does guide us victoriously through it.

Lifelines May 24, 2020

The journey is an extraordinary one.  Every Christian has been rescued from a life distorted, dominated and ultimately destroyed by sin.  Satan played us like puppets on a string.  He dangled glitzy temptations before us, and we bit.  Slavery followed, and the evil master took control.  It disguises itself in egocentric colors difficult to resist.  One bite and we become our own god, or so we think.  It is a mistaken notion that draws us into a death trap, our own individual Egypt.  That is where the journey begins.

God knows, even when we fail to realize our own entrapment.  We are in a mess that we are powerless to defeat.  The world, our flesh, the devil; they all work in unison to dictate our actions.  Eve could verify the catastrophic consequences.  A clever salesman appealed to her worldly inclinations, and the entire creation has suffered ever since.  She never saw it coming, but it came.  The Lord had warned them.  The serpent tempted them.  Turning a deaf ear to the commands of our Creator never works out well.  Still, there was a hint that rescue was on the way.

Sin disrupted paradise and sent it on a terrible downward spiral.  God stepped in with both a penalty and a possibility.  A great worldwide cleansing was on the way, and lives would be lost (So much for “Surely, a loving God would not…”).  There would also be a way of salvation (That IS what a loving God will do…).  Precise directions were given for the means of survival, and Noah followed them to the letter.  Eight people survived.  EIGHT!  There never has been a great deal of interest in forsaking immediate gratification for ultimate salvation.

What saved Noah?  A boat?  His work?  A hammer, nails (Or pegs) and wood?  A divine blueprint?  His faith?  A bit of logic would tell us.  If he did not believe the Lord and His warning, he would never have built the ark.  If he had great intellectual belief in God but never picked up a hammer, he would have drowned. If he had the Lord’s plans for the ark and all the materials but never built it, he would have perished.  Salvation hung in the balance.  It was a matter of life and death. 

So, what saved Noah?  Hebrews 11:7 lays it out clearly.  It was a matter of faith that translated into action.  It was an extraordinary experience that led a rare righteous man on the path of salvation.  Life and death now have eternal implications. There are still warnings and instructions.  Judgment day is coming, and the judge came to make a way for us to be prepared.  He gave His life to open the door to heaven and a book to direct us.  Noah had adequate faith to believe the warning and follow the instructions to be saved.  Do we? 

Lifelines April 19, 2020

It is a different kind of tired, fatigue that goes way beyond the muscles.  It isn’t even just a worn-out mind from heavy thinking.  No, it is something else that is hard to put our finger on.  It is deep down inside, and a good night’s sleep doesn’t resolve it.  It is buried far beneath the surface and affects us in the worst ways.  It is a weary soul. 

We drag from one assignment to the next.  Or to no assignments.  Thoughts of the Lord aren’t just on the back burner; they’ve been taken off the stove.  Jobs are in limbo.  Economic concerns hover everywhere.  That stupid virus has the entire planet turned upside down.  Worries about the family.  Our friends.  Our responsibilities.  We hide behind masks and locked doors.  Locked down, weighed down and worn out.  Relief?  Maybe tomorrow or next week or next month or… The uncertainty frays the stoutest nerves.  And we find ourselves just plain tired.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”  An invitation from a compassionate and insightful Savior that bypassed the religious establishment.  “Come to Me.”  The power-brokers had piled up responsibilities.  Jesus offers not additional burdens but rest.  It is a response to Him.  He knows better than anyone that this world is a troublesome place.  He has massive shoulders and endless resources.  Seek Him.  That is where we find rest.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29).”  The Son of God wants to share our burdens.  He will teach us if we will just learn.  He had a different manner that originated in a unique heart.  The stresses and strains that wear us out find resolution through a transformation within, where only He can reach.  It isn’t a cessation from manual labor.  Not exhaustion of the body and mind.  It is much more significant than that.  It is rest at our very core.  You will find rest for your SOULS. 

“Learn from Me…” Welcome to the Lord’s classroom.  He experienced more than any of us ever will.  We are in a worldly catastrophe with the pandemic.  He was in an eternal spiritual confrontation.  The virus runs rampant. Sin makes the corona mess look like a hiccup.  Our temporary bodies are threatened by illness.  Our eternal souls are destroyed by sin.  Crisis?  Yes, He knows crisis and offers rest.     Centuries ago, the Israelites were liberated from Egypt as you and I have been freed from sin.  God had a place of rest for them, and most of them missed it.  Hundreds of thousands fell on the journey.  Why?  Read Hebrews 3:7-4:7, and you’ll see it.  Disobedience prompted by deficient faith which originated in a heart issue.  The Lord told us for a reason.  “Learn from Me…”

Lifelines April 12, 2020

All across the world people are celebrating Easter.  Baskets, bunnies and colorful eggs usually mark the holiday, but this is no ordinary year.  Church buildings are empty.  So is the tomb, and that changes everything.

Imagine the emotions that must have surged through the disciples that weekend.  It had been a whirlwind of events.  In spite of their self-confidence, every apostle had abandoned Jesus at the most critical of times.  They stood at a distance as the brutality and the blood flowed.  God’s plan sure looked like the devil’s workshop.  Conflicting strategies at their most gruesome exposed all sides of the issue: God’s love, Satan’s evil and sin’s savagery.  That Friday tells us that wickedness wields a powerful hammer.

Saturday had to be depressing.  Their Lord was dead.  So was their hope.  It had been nailed to the cross with the One who offered it.  They had traveled the dusty roads with Him for three years, and now He was gone.  He showed them His unique way.  They were often confused by Him.  He talked to outcasts and fussed at insiders.  He loved the unlovable and touched the untouchables.  He was hard to figure.  The power structure never accepted Him. They had believed all along that He was the Messiah, wasn’t He?  But now…

Sunday was different.  It was a day that would change the world.  The women discovered it.  A moved stone and a question from a stranger, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? (Luke 24:5)” opened their eyes as wide as the grave.  And with seven more words, Satan’s absolute defeat was announced, “He is not here; He has risen (Verse 6)!”  Death has been fully engaged and conquered.  Sin has been dealt with once and for all.  Hope sprang to life again, and an empty grave proves it.

Death, burial and resurrection.  It is the message that echoes through the centuries and around the world.  It shook the establishment and still does.  It is not a back-page issue: It is the headline.  It is of first importance; a top priority (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  It is the most significant fact of all-time, which brings us to Easter.

People all across the globe acknowledge this eternally significant event once a year.  Once a year?  Then, they put away their Bibles, baskets and bunnies for twelve more months.  Doesn’t the Lord’s sacrifice and resurrection deserve better than that?  God sacrificed His one Son and the world offers one weekend? 

“Do this in remembrance of Me (1 Corinthians 11:23ff).”  History tells us that disciples originally came together on Sunday to break that bread (Acts 20:7), to remember regularly.  Should Christians today do anything less?  Let’s move that stone, too; the one that confines it to once a year.  It’s much too important to keep in the closet the other fifty-one weeks. 

A reminder about your contribution.

Just a reminder that during the period of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has caused the temporary suspension of church services at Westside Church of Christ , we still need to pay normal operating expenses, bills and salaries. Some people have reached out to inquire how they can give their normal contributions during this.

Currently, our members contribute weekly in a variety of ways. Some write checks, some place cash in the collection plate, some have their bank send a check.

If you would like to send a check, they can be mailed to the church address:

Westside Church of Christ
2551 Benvenue Road
Rocky Mount, NC 27804

Note: Please do not mail cash. Mike will check the mailbox daily.

You can also choose to just hold your contribution until such time as we can once again assemble together.

We appreciate all of our members.

If you need assistance to help you through all of this, please let Mike or one of the elders know.

Lifelines March 29, 2020

It is a book like no other.  Bible sales are measured in the billions, being far and away the best seller of all time.  We see it in cars, on pews, in homes and in virtually every place where books are found.  It is a library within itself.  Sixty-six different volumes gathered into one that offers information available no place else.  It is remarkable, to say the least.  Even more amazing, considering its extraordinary circulation and almost universal availability, is the lack of time spent considering what it says.  As if simply owning one is enough.

“In the beginning God…”  It all starts with Him.  These are His words.  If we knew nothing else of its contents, this fact alone should generate the greatest of respect for the words it contains.  Through it we gain access to the mind of our Creator.  We stand in awe of our universe and beyond.  The countless planets and stars, the marvel of the changing seasons, the wonder of the human body, birth and death all touch our hearts.  How much more should we stand amazed at the One who created it all.  We have His message in our hands.

We are educated about the nature of this unseen God.  Nature bears witness that He exists but not of His character.  We can only learn that through what He has told us.  It began in perfection but quickly degenerated through the rejection of His word.  He is Lord, and what He says stands.  He means it.  He is a God of truth and justice, love and jealousy, grace and wrath.  He floods and saves.  He forgives and disciplines.  God is far from one dimensional, and there is no way to see His fullness through purely human sources.  He is spirit and not like us. 

Its pages expose human tendencies.  From the very first stumble in a perfect environment, weakness to temptation is clear.  Sin spreads worse than the coronavirus.  It is more contagious and with worse consequences.  It is eternally deadly every time.  Society tells us that it is inconsequential.  The word of God tells us otherwise.  The evidence validates His warnings.  Every one of us is vulnerable.  History’s lessons in the biblical accounts prove the reality of sin’s devastation. 

We sin.  Each of us.  All of us.  The Bible tells us so.  God is a God of justice.  His word tells us that, too.  It also reveals His love which prompted the only possible solution: One who would take our punishment.  So, the perfect sacrifice stepped into the world offering Himself in our place.  Our guilt and His love collided at the heart of God, the creation shuddered and salvation became possible. The Bible reveals both His nature and our problem.  Jesus came into the world and was rejected by many but not all.  What about us?  We have His word.  The question is: Does His word have us?