Lifelines September 13, 2020

What thoughts must have swirled through Abraham’s mind as he trudged up the mountain?  It had been many years, several decades in fact, since God summoned him to a new life.  It was one that took him away from his homeland and people to an undesignated location.  It involved not only sacrifice, but also promises.  He had enough faith in the promiser to trust Him to follow through, but this was an entirely different matter.    

Faith moved his feet.  The command to sacrifice his child had been clear.  God knew of Abraham’s affection for this boy.  He said so.  He also was aware of the unique position that this son held in His eternal plan.  He mentioned that, too.  Yet, He tested the depths of Abraham’s faith.  The time would come when this same God would offer His own beloved unique Son in sacrifice, but today it was Abraham’s turn.  He passed with flying colors.

It is an open door into the life of this extraordinary man of faith.  He believed God, not just in God, but also His promises.  It led Him into a dramatically different life with an unknown destination.  He didn’t demand answers when the Lord called him away from home and eventually up the mountain of sacrifice.  He held on to the hand of the One he trusted with his life and that of his beloved son.  He believed that God could raise the dead, and that changed everything (Hebrews 11:19).

We all have an old life that holds us back from fully following the Lord.  It is people, places and things that have our attention.  The old crowd is difficult to leave.  Surely, just a few visits won’t hurt anything.  They mock, and we join in.  Habits are hard to break.  Temptations are strong.  Sin seduces, and the world wins one more for Satan.

Abraham was called to a blessed new life, one which would bring blessings to the entire world.  So have we.  Blessed to be a blessing.  Our role may not be as dramatic as his, but we have a place in the Lord’s eternal plan.  It awaits us as we step away from the broad path onto the narrow road, but we have to take that step.   

There are many delays on that journey.  Many years passed between the call of Abraham and the fulfillment.  We are puzzled and confused at times.  We stumble, dust ourselves off and travel on.  Then we encounter our own mountaintop experience, but it is rarely as popularly advertised.  Ask Abraham.  His trip up the mountain was in response to the Lord’s command that he sacrifice the most important object in his life, his beloved unique son.

Faith, pure and simple, led him to obey.  He didn’t have all the answers.  Neither will we.  It wasn’t without cost.  Ours won’t be, either.  But the benefits are out of this world.                                                          

ANNOUNCEMENT

Starting Sunday September 20, 2020 we will begin meeting in the building for Sunday morning Bible Class and Worship. The Bible Class will be from 9am until 945am and Worship Services will start at 10 am. We hope to see all of you there, however, we realize that some are not comfortable yet meeting inside and we do not want you to come if you are uncomfortable with it. There is speakers in the Library, the Fellowship Room and the Nursery if you want to utilize these. We are still working on the specific details based on guidelines and rules. Let us know if you have any questions.

The Elders

Lifelines September 06, 2020

It was a day like no other (Acts 2).  Never before nor since has there been such a display of divine power.  The religious faithful had gathered for the Day of Pentecost, but they never expected this.  It sounded like a tornado.  Humans looked like candles.  Uneducated men spoke in foreign languages.  Heads spun and accusations flew.  Too much wine!  Wrong, it was not about tongues, sounds or sights; nor were they drunk.  This was God in action.  It was all to attract attention to one individual.

Peter seized upon the opportunity, but it wasn’t about him either.  This was much bigger than a converted fisherman.  Joel wrote about it centuries before this day.  David did, too.  The voice of God through the pens of men had told of this unfolding story.  The audience had unknowingly been part of the ultimate chapter, and now they felt the piercing pain of truth.  They had killed the Lord and Christ. 

This was reality.  It was true as the conspiracy to destroy Jesus was formed, and Satan squeezed the heart of Judas.  It was a fact as they mocked and beat Jesus.  As the crown of thorns was thrust upon His head and the blood dripped down His face.  As the sweaty hands pounded the crucifying nails through the hands and feet of the Son of God.  When the sword sliced into His side. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”  “It is finished.” A divine plan of redemption carried out in unsuspecting hatred.  This was the One.  He is the reason for the extraordinary demonstration of the Day of Pentecost.  Not Peter.  Not the miraculous, but Jesus Christ the Savior.

Everything changed that day.  Actually, it was already different.  They just didn’t know.  The real turning point for thousands of lost believers was when they heard.  They knew what had recently happened in their city and were certainly familiar with the messages of their Scriptures.  Peter connected all of the right dots and it hit home when they finally listened.  Hearing it set off a chain reaction that began with a simple question, “What shall we do? (Verse 37)”

They heard before they asked.  The message had been a mixture of an eternal strategy, their guilt and God’s power.  It prompted the most important quest for information that we will ever undertake.  It was triggered by Peter’s presentation which they heard.  It gives greater significance to spreading the gospel, for the unlimited power of God to save stands behind it.  He can raise the spiritually dead just as He resurrected His Son. We live among a lost people, and it may seem that it is beyond repair.  It isn’t.  Remember the limitless ability of God and the power of His message.  It even reached the hearts of the wicked Corinthians when they heard it (Acts 18:8).  It is our assignment to speak it.

Lifelines August 30, 2020

Christians are children of God.  It is a magnificent concept.  The unique Son came into the world to enable us to become part of the family.  His sacrifice to make that a possibility was extraordinary.  It brings the greatest possible blessings to enter into a parent-child relationship with the almighty, eternal Creator.  It is who we are and should shape every thought as we seek to look like we belong.

This is no retreat into the shadows but rather a call to action.  We have been placed on the front lines of the war with evil, and we must prepare our minds for such an assignment (1 Peter 1:13).  There is no ducking the issue and failure to recognize the ferocity of the battle is a grave danger.  Let us be warned, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).”  The conflict is often the most ferocious within our own thoughts. 

Hope is ever present on the horizon.  The Son embodied grace and truth (John 1:14) when He came to bring salvation, and that same grace awaits us at the end of the journey.  It is the source of our hope, and that is where we fix our attention.  The battle between good and evil rages within.  The world jars us.  Tempts us.  Occasionally it defeats us, but we gather ourselves and again set our eyes on the finish line where Jesus and His grace await us.  And we take one more step.

Once upon a time we didn’t know any better (1 Peter 1:14).  We behaved poorly because we lacked information about the higher calling.  We were content to live a second-class life and fit right in with the culture around us, slaves to our lowest emotional desires.  But not anymore.  We have been born again for greater things than that.  We have seen something nobler in our Lord.  Now, that is how we want to be.  That is who we are, no longer content to live a bargain-basement lifestyle but one that is befitting the children of highest royalty.  We have been adopted into the family of God.

The Lord calls us to a higher standard, “…like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY (1 Peter 1:15-16).’”  All of the mental preparation, focusing our hope on the grace of our Lord and putting our sinful past behind us has a purpose.  Our Father expects us to be like Him and His Son, to share the family likeness.  It is an exciting possibility and a challenging expectation.  God created us in His image in the beginning, so it is not a total absurdity.  Holy is the word.  Distinct.  Unlike the ways of the wayward.  Just like Him.  His word says so, and He ought to know.

Lifelines August 23, 2020

Our Savior stood on the mountaintop surrounded by the masses when He declared to His disciples, “You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).”  They were, indeed, the blessed but those blessings would come in most unexpected ways.  It was not the spiritual supermen but the spiritually poverty stricken, not the comfortable but the mourning, not the assertive but the gentle, not the satisfied but the starving souls, not the sternly strict but the merciful, not the hard-hearted but the pure-hearted, not the troublemakers but the peacemakers that comprise this illuminating force. 

Jerry Taylor, the founding director of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action at Abilene Christian University described the current state of our country as one of “spiritual disorientation and social disintegration.”  The latter is visible, a result of the former which we cannot see.  Internal darkness produces a life of confusion and frustration which will find expression in actions.  The urgency of the Christian mission to be light-bearers has never been greater. 

In the beginning the world was without organization, content or light.  Before He ever gathered the land, sea and atmosphere; prior to animals, birds, fish and humans; God spoke light into existence.  His word does that.  It creates.  It enlightens.  It shapes and molds.  It reveals.  Without it we would forever bump into furniture.  Or sin.  We would be disoriented.  No God.  No word.  No direction or understanding.  Confusion frustrates.  Boom.  Social disintegration. 

God saw the light was good.  Oh yes, He sees and He saw the goodness that His word had produced.  A quick glance through the creation account tells us that it was all good.  Bad didn’t slip in until His word was discarded.  It took the light with it and left a black hole.  Darkness went from external to internal.  Murder in the family followed.  Evil spread.  A flood came.  A handful survived.  Much more than a handful did not.  They had rejected the light and their hopes went with it.

Despair.  It captures the essence of the darkness.  The appearance masquerades the loneliness.  It is painted over with bright colors of money, fame, success, immorality, drugs and fun, but when the party ends the picture changes.  The mask is removed.  It is a charade.  Inside, there is only emptiness…deep, dark emptiness.  Life without the light is ultimately very sad and lonely.  Alone without God, and nothing but more of the same in the future.  Is it any wonder that social disintegration follows spiritual disorientation?            

God separated the day from the night and named it.  He was pleased.  His word still speaks to us and we either accept or reject it.  Those who receive it find a new spiritual orientation and become light in the dark sea of those who do not.  The world needs that.  Light was the Lord’s first act in organizing His creation.  That should tell us something.   

Lifelines August 16, 2020

It seems that the whole world is poised, rocks in hand, searching for an offender to stone into oblivion.  A target is not hard to find.  Wrongdoers are everywhere, including among the stone throwers.  There are no innocents.  Jesus knew.  Only the sin-free are qualified (John 8:7).  One-by-one their stones hit the ground as they wandered away.  None were thrown. 

Criticism is easy and provides justification for that fast ball, or rock, as the case may be.  “Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1-5).”  The self-appointed judges set standards that they themselves failed to meet.  The Lord had a word for them: hypocrites.  Their potential victims had a speck of what they were blinded by.  It would be best to hold fast to that condemnation until they did a self-assessment.  Someday that same measuring stick will be used on them.

There is a never-ending barrage of both literal and verbal stones hurled around our nation these days, each intended to condemn and damage someone.  It is awfully easy to get swept up in the emotions of the moment and grab a rock.  As we reach for one that really sends a message; let’s stop, drop the rock and think about what our actions will say about us.  What purpose does it serve?  What do we hope to accomplish?

God saw the state of the world.  His chosen people had strayed far from their purpose.  They had His law, His house, His priesthood but they just didn’t have His heart.  The externals were in order and their words had a religious ring to them, but they stood at an internal distance.  They emphasized the insignificant and ignored the important.  If anyone ever had a right to fling a rock in disappointment, it was God.  He didn’t.  He sent His Son. 

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).”  The Creator has an immense love for His creation demonstrated in the gift that He gave to retrieve us from the ravages of sin.  His first response was not stoning but saving. 

The Son came on a mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Sin leads us down a path that we cannot begin to comprehend.   It will cause us to do extensive damage not only to ourselves but to those around us.  Relationships are wrecked, beginning first with our heavenly Father.  Others follow.  Jesus came to save us from our wayward wanderings.  There were no rocks in His hands, only nails. The time for judgment will come.  Eventually this world will end for all of us, and eternity will begin.  The Lord’s perception is beyond this world.  Ours should be, too, for ourselves and our neighbors.  They don’t need stoning.  They need salvation.  We follow His steps and throw lifelines not rocks