Lifelines April 24, 2022

Fling a stone of condemnation.  Judge the sinner.  Reject the fallen.  Avoid the sinful.  Withdraw into self-righteous smugness with a condescending smirk.  We see all of these traits among the people of God in the Bible.  That’s when we reach for a verbal rock and toss it.  If we are wise, we will catch ourselves, drop it and thank God for His grace.

We are the sinner.  As unpleasant as it is to admit that, it is the truth.  The vast gulf between us and the holy God is impossible to measure, and His grace is the only hope we have of spanning the distance.  Jesus brought that grace and extended the offer of salvation to all people.  Until we come to grips with the true horror of sin and the absolute perfection of our Creator, we will never view grace as we should.  It is genuinely amazing.

Grace came in the form of a common, ordinary human.  No, neither of those adjectives are anywhere near the reality of who Jesus was, but he sure appeared that way.  We read nothing of superior height or a handsome face.  His physical appearance is never mentioned.  His uncommon manner is.  He was grace in action.

He was not naive.  He knew what kind of people He attracted: sinners.  The assumption among the self-righteous was that Jesus was simply ignorant of who was coming to Him (Luke 7:39).  He wasn’t.  He was fully aware that the woman showing such respectful love for Him had a shady history (Luke 7:47).  He knows our histories, too. 

Grace in a man’s body stepped into the world of sin to look for people exactly like that, just like you and me.  Sin distort thoughts, hardens hearts and blinds eyes.  People are lost and don’t realize it.  He came to offer liberation from that bondage through a forgiveness that is beyond our understanding, and He brought it for everybody (Titus 2:11-14).  A bridge of grace spans the chasm between the sinful and the Sinless.  Amazing?  That doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Grace includes instructions that will keep us from falling into the same self-destructive lifestyle that severed our connection with a benevolent Creator.  It teaches us how to live in the here-and-now.  It is not some pie-in-the-sky formula but real-world directions.  It strengthens human relationships and heals broken ones.  It is sensible, righteous wisdom from above.  We are absolutely saved by grace, not only from the eternal consequences but also from its stranglehold on us right now.  Amazing?  You bet.

Jesus gave His life for His people, and we look with anticipation for His return.  For those who have embraced that grace, it will be an unbelievable moment when the sky is filled with fire, angels and the Son of God coming to get us.  He bought us.  We are His.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” will echo forever.     

Lifelines April 10, 2022

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  That was the tagline of a commercial in the 1970’s that should be the slogan of every church and Christian.  Our thinking triggers emotions that result in actions which have consequences.  A better life begins in our minds.  How carefully do we monitor the information that we feed our them? 

The word of God makes it clear that it will have a powerful impact on our minds if we believe it.  It works in those who do (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  It is just so many words for those who reject it.  Transformation comes through the input of new information for our thinking process (Romans 12:2).  The world will have its way with our thoughts if we allow it, and that will be reflected in our behavior.  Better feelings and conduct come from improved thinking which the Scriptures can provide.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…(Philippians 2:5).”  It is a surprising thought progression.  Our culture is still clinging to the self-centered 60’s slogan of “Looking out for number one,” and it will stamp that focus on our brains, too, if we permit it.  Jesus was the total opposite, and the spiritual attitude will be like His.  He relinquished all of the privileges of being equal with God to serve and sacrifice.  That isn’t a human formula for joy, but it is the Lord’s.  Our choice.  Either we believe or we don’t.

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).”  It is revolutionary to shift our primary emphasis from the temporary things of this world to the eternal things of heaven.  Christ is there.  He has opened the door for us to join Him.  Yes, we must deal with the mundane details of this life, but they are no longer of primary importance.  All of this is temporary.  Heaven is far better and will last forever.  It is a simple decision if we believe it.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace…(Romans 8:6).”  We have the freedom to set our minds on whichever we want; flesh or spirit but we must realize what is at stake.  One is life and peace, and the other is death.  Choices have been part of the human experience from the beginning, and it has always been a life and death decision.  Choose wisely.

Every day is filled with choices.  Some are relatively insignificant.  Others are not.  How we use our minds is as important as any decision we will ever make, because it sets off a chain reaction of emotions and behavior.  Events happen which we process through our beliefs and thoughts which produce feelings that prompt actions with consequences.  Better thinking always leads to better living.    

Lifelines April 03, 2022

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8).” Faith sends us on an amazing journey into the unpredictable, an adventure into the unknown that few will choose.  Total confidence in the ways and promises of God are all that Abraham had to go on.  That was all he needed.

It takes us out of our comfortable, familiar environment into the uncomfortable and unfamiliar world of the unseen.  It takes great, Abraham-type faith to take such a leap.  We live within the boundaries of our minds and understanding, but the Lord is much greater than that. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

We like to see every step, and that restricts our willingness to venture very far from “common sense”.  The entire mission of Jesus defies human calculations.  He was equal with God and relinquished that to take on flesh and blood with all of its limitations, headaches and heartaches.  He did not come as the supernatural royalty that He is but as a servant.  The Scriptures never mention a possession.  If He had any, they were irrelevant.  Common sense?  Hardly.  Death on a cross?  Not a path we would choose, and who could ever envision an empty tomb?

The Son of God makes clear the unpredictability of what’s ahead, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).”  Everything about the Lord exceeds our mind’s ability to comprehend.  His thoughts and ways are far above ours.  “Common sense” is an anchor for a life created to sail.

We hinder ourselves by imposing limitations on God which do not exist.  He parted a sea, fulfilled the promise of a child to an elderly couple, brought a Savior into the world through a virgin, raised that Savior from the dead, evangelized the world through a hostile enemy-of-the-church-turned-apostle and now what?  He has lost neither His love nor His power.  He is still the same eternal, holy God who spoke everything into existence.  He is limitless.

Are we ready to take that step into the unknown with nothing more to go on than the promises of God?  How deep is our faith?  Abraham had the promises and faith in the One who made the promises.  We have the history from which we learn of the faithfulness of the Lord and the frailty of humanity.  Are we ready to walk by faith and not by sight?                       

Lifelines March 27, 2022

The death of a loved one sends chills down our spines and tears from our eyes.  There is no other experience like it.  It leaves a void where love once lived.  The sharp pain fades through time but the vacancy remains.  It is a sobering reminder that this life will end.  Limitations exist.  Modern medicine has made giant strides against many diseases, but the fact remains.  We will all die.

It scares us.  Mystifies us.  Yet, it looms.  We never know when or how it will come, and then there is judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  There are no exclusions and no sidesteps.  We cannot evade an appearance before the judge and an eternal destination.  Life or death?  Blessing or curse?  Heaven or hell?  Whichever it is, it will never end.  With God or forever separated?  Another sobering thought.

Jesus came to provide a way to the Father (John 14:6).  There is not another option, and it is up to each of us whether we accept or reject His offer.  The decision is a personal one which we cannot hand off to someone else.  The Son of God came that we might have life in abundance (John 10:10).  The love of God prompted such a proposal (John 3:16).  Just about everyone knows the verse and all will make a choice.  To believe or not; that is the question.  Belief is much more than just a mental exercise. It is a choice with eternal implications.

The Bible provides all we need to know about God, humanity and the sin which severs the relationship between the two.  The problem is unveiled in the Garden of Eden and ultimately resolved at the cross.  Two extremes: one of earthly paradise and the other of a brutal execution.  The former is of the loss of innocence and the other is the recapturing of it.  Guilt demands a penalty, and Jesus paid it.  God’s love and justice collided on a cross.  Death appeared victorious.  It was only a momentary illusion.

A force more powerful than death reversed the appearance to show the reality.  The Lord Is supreme over everything, even death.  The back was lashed.  Thorns crowned the head.  The nails were driven.  The heart stopped and side pierced.  He was dead and buried, but the story doesn’t end there.  Almighty God flexed His conquering muscles, and death was defeated once and for all.

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15).”  Liberated from yet another phobia, we can live expectantly if we believe.  We make our choice, and it affects all we do and where we go for our eternal home.  Choose wisely. 

Lifelines February 27, 2022

If all goes according to plan, our mission team will be in the “bush” of Suriname today.  These trips are always an adventure, because every human plan is subject to immediate and unexpected twists and turns.  Itineraries are best written in pencil with a big eraser. The little village of Powakka is our target, but Covid stipulations within the country may delay our journey for a day or two.  Maybe more.  Even getting off the ground in the states is a challenge.

We must present proof that we have had our vaccines for Covid and a test taken not more than twenty-four hours before the plane takes off in Miami.  That has proven to be the challenge.  Now, the authorities also demand documentation for a Yellow Fever shot.  The powers-that-be are ultra-careful about who they allow into their country.  That is wise, even if it is a pain in the neck.  Wouldn’t we be wise to be just as careful about what we allow into our brains?

“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”  Those are the words of Jesus in response to a question about the greatest command in the law (Matthew 22:37).  Do we?  Our minds will be devoted to someone or something.  Think of all that He has done for us.  His thoughts are centered on us.  Are ours focused on Him?  Love the Lord your God with ALL your mind. Guard what occupies that whole space.  It belongs to Him.

Peter was asked on the day of Pentecost what the Jews who instigated the crucifixion of the Son of God should do (Acts 2:37).  Their heart had been touched by the reality of what they had done.  The very first action that Peter called for was repentance (Acts 2:38), which means a change of mind.  It was not the only thing, but it led the list that day.  They believed in the one true God but needed to change their minds about Jesus. 

Our mind can be a fertile field for anxiety.  We worry.  It is one of our areas of great vulnerability, so the word of God provides directions for Christians about that, too.  Our God is ready to stand guard over our hearts and minds with His incomprehensible peace and even explains how to secure it (Philippians 4:6-9).  The secret is to have enough faith to trust Him and use His formula.

It begins in our minds.  We devote them to Him.  We change them as we gather more information.  The wondrous peace of God guards them as we utilize His word.  Nearly everyone is guarding against Covid.  We will be tested going and coming on our mission trip to Suriname.  We should be as careful with what we allow into our minds.  Covid might destroy our body.  Wrong thinking will destroy our soul.

Lifelines February 20, 2022

The war is endless.  The rush of excitement at our conversion fades.  The devil’s assaults go on and on.  Temptations never go away.  We try and fail far too often, stumbling over those same old weaknesses and wonder about our own progress.  Then Sunday rolls around and we put on our best clothes and plaster on a smile.  “Fine,” we say when they ask.  Really, we aren’t.  The last week was rough.

We forget about the halting steps of Moses, raised royalty and banished for fisticuffs.  Then came that conversation with a burning bush and a commission that overwhelmed him.  He debated a shrub, and the shrub won.  Talk about “beating around the bush.”  He went with lots of uncertainties about how he could possibly do what God told him to.  Whenever our palms are sweaty, our mouth is dry and our steps are really shaky, remember Moses.

David was a man after God’s heart.  He was the writer of one of the most beloved portions of Scriptures in the Good Book, “The Lord is my shepherd…”  Yet, he made one of the biggest blunders in the book, too.  Adultery and conspiracy to murder would have landed him in a twenty-first century prison cell.  The next time we collapse under a heap of our own sin, remember David.

We speak brave words.  We will never stumble.  Never back down.  We will never shy away from a confrontation with the opposition.  Never, never, never.  Everyone else might, but not us.  Then we do.  We wilted in the heat of battle.  The emotional intensity crushed us.  We distanced ourselves from our Savior.  Our guilt-ridden rationalizations?  In our moments of failure, remember Peter.

Saul was determined to wipe out the latest challenge to his beloved Judaism.  He cheered the execution of an outspoken follower of Christ, persecuted the neighborhood Christians, then headed on the road to shut them down and lock them up.  His design wasn’t simply to hinder the new movement; it was to destroy it.  The Lord, who had a different plan for him, stopped him in his tracks and turned his life around.  God’s words flowed through him to benefit Christians during his time and down to ours.  When we find ourselves on the wrong road intending to do the wrong thing, remember Paul. God’s people have never been flawless.  We try to dodge our own burning bush moments. We have an opportunity and freeze.  We commit an unimaginable sin.  We talk big and act little.  We join in with the opposition.  We head down a road of miscues and church damaging intentions.  Then we stop.  What are we doing?  Being human; painfully, sinfully, guilt-inducingly sinful.  It is one battle after another, and sometimes we lose.  That’s when we need to remember that the ultimate war was won on a cross 2000 years ago for imperfect people just like us