Lifelines July 09, 2017

7/9/17

God started with family. Humans do not thrive in isolation. Alone is not the best way to be, so He made an appropriate helper. His design is one man and one woman in a cooperative effort. Children come after that commitment. That is the divine design, and all of the social engineering in the world cannot improve on it. But, sometimes, and for a variety of reasons, it does not work. The family unit crumbles. Thankfully, our Lord gives us another chance, an opportunity to be part of the most sacred marriage in all eternity.

God describes the relationship between Christ and His church in multiple ways, but none brings out the intimate connection between them as clearly as that of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). To truly appreciate the church, she must be seen through the eyes of the Lord. He instituted marriage for a particular reason. It is not good for humans to be by themselves. So, He made the right partner. The church fills that role with the Lord.

That holy creation hardly appears fit for such an assignment. We see humans with all our flaws and weaknesses. He sees His bride. Yes, individually, we are substantially less than perfect but collectively we are exactly what the Lord made us to be, a co-worker suitable for our task. He has but one bride, and we are her.

The bride is beautiful in the eyes of the groom. He looks through the lens of love, and that filters out the blemishes. She prepares herself for His approval. The Lord’s bride adorns herself with only the best. The groom awaits, and she does not want to disappoint. So, she dresses in the brightest and finest (Revelation 19:7-8). Wedding arrangements have been made, and she is ready. Her righteousness shines.

The love of this groom for His bride is beyond words. It defies description or understanding. It exceeds words. It is so deep and expansive that it led Him to sacrifice His life for her. He gave up eternal glory and equality with the Father to pursue her. His promises to her are out of this world, and His actions speak even louder. How much does He love her? Nails through the flesh. A crown of thorns on His head. Deep gashes on His back. A final thrust of the sword through His side. All because of His love for her, a love that dripped from His wounds.

His desire for her is that she be holy. The world is corrupt, and she has escaped that corruption. He has ironed out the wrinkles and cleansed the stains of sin. He cherishes her as His mate. The two become one. Christ and His church; Him loving her and her respecting Him. It is a match for the ages.

Lifelines June 25, 2017

6/25/17

 

A motorist takes aim at pedestrians and drives into the crowd.  Passengers with knives jump out and begin stabbing innocent people whose only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Why?  Religious motives?  It makes no sense to rational minds.  Legislators gather in the early morning hours to practice for an upcoming baseball game.  Nearby, a gunman levels his rifle and fires.  Terror invades the quiet as he hits his mark a time or two.  Why?  A political motive?  Only he knows for sure, and he is dead.  Oh yes, there is another who knows and they shall meet face-to-face.

 

The “why” question is not a new one.  It stretches all the way back to the original family and was first asked by God (Genesis 4:6).  His regard for Abel’s offering and disregard for Cain’s had infuriated the older brother.  Maybe it was the first case of sibling rivalry, but the Lord’s reaction had triggered an intense anger in the first son that culminated in murder.  Why?  Sin is always lurking just outside our door.  Anger unlocks that door and opens it up just wide enough for the devil to do his damage (Ephesians 4:26-27).

 

There are time when the world seems God-forsaken.  At least our little corner of it seems to be totally abandoned by our Creator.  We pile prayer upon prayer and no recognizable answer comes.  Nothing changes.  Sleep eludes us as troubles hound us.  We hit rock bottom and the Lord is a million miles away.  Why?  That is exactly what king David, the psalmist, wanted to know (Psalm 22).  The company of those who ask the “why” question is elite.

 

The sense that God is gone is a miserable one.  It was once accompanied by a miraculous midday darkness.  The sun was nowhere to be seen.  Close friends had fled the scene.  Those upon whom He should have been able to depend had disappeared in the heat of the moment.  The piercing agony of nails driven through human flesh slowly gave way to death.  In the most dramatic demonstration of the love of God and the horror of sin in history, the all-too-familiar words rang out, “My God, My God, why…(Matthew 27:46)?”  Soon, the heart of the Son of God would beat for the last time.

 

We live in a creation that has been miserably distorted by sin.  The father of all lies has saturated it with deadly deceptions that never end well (John 8:44).  The alluring fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil along with the persuasive words of the evil one have captured the imagination of far too many.  It may dress itself up in religious garb or political costumes, but the source will always remain the same.  Why?  Because he never rests.  Never.

Lifelines June 18, 2017

Pessimism lurks around every corner.  News reports drag us down.  The whole globe seems to be engulfed in turmoil.  Terrorism.  Militant atheism.  Political upheaval.  The very fabric of our nation seems to be torn to pieces.  We are still states but are hardly united.  As darkness descends, it is more important than ever that the Lord’s church present a united front of light.

The world has never been a welcoming place for the light of the Lord (John 3:19-20).  Evil prefers the obscurity that darkness provides.  Criminals operate at night.  Thieves plunder in dark shadows.  Light exposes, and that is the last thing the wicked want.  Hostility is their natural response.  It is the task of a Christian to shine anyway.

Nothing illuminates quite like optimism.  Ours is a God of hope (Romans 15:13).  In times of negativity, positivity stands out and questions arise. There is simply something about an optimist that opens the door for a conversation about the reason that our future has been transformed from bleak to bright (1 Peter 3:15).  A lifestyle that reflects the hope of heaven is very inviting for those who want to escape the depressing darkness of a sinful world.

The promise of an eternity in the presence of the Lord changes everything.  We have a fresh new attitude toward Christ and our fellow Christians that is brought about by an awareness of our eternal destination (Colossians 1:4-5).  Faith in Jesus becomes the principle by which we live.  We cultivate a trust in Him that recognizes that He has paid the price for ours sins, and we are homeward bound.  Arrival time is unknown.  Today?  Maybe.  Tomorrow?  Possibly.  Someday?  Absolutely.  This world is not our home.  We’re just passing through.

We learn from His love for us.  If Jesus can love me with all my sinfulness, then I must learn to love my brothers and sisters.  Yes, we all display the scars of sin sometime and act in unbecoming ways.  Love anyway. He does.  We seek to embrace His love and pass it on.   It is tough to be sacrificial and self-giving, but it is His character and should become ours (Ephesians 5:1-2).

God fills His faithful children with joy and peace (Romans 15:13).  Joy is one of those indescribable qualities that comes when we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  Words cannot explain it, but we sure know it when we feel it.  It is a consequence of self-denial not self-indulgence.  Likewise, the peace of the Lord not only defies description but also exceeds comprehension (Philippians 4:6-7).

If we know nothing else, we can be sure that God wants us to have hope, joy and peace.  Those three are qualities that make life much different.  We will awaken each day in the light of the Lord’s love for us and our anticipation of heaven.  We will shine.  People will ask.  We can share.

Lifelines June 11, 2017

We live in self-absorbed times, but that is nothing new.  It has been that way ever since the serpent’s prompting of Eve to be God-like (Genesis 3:5).  That thought along with her own sensory overload of looking and lusting for that fruit and its potential (But deceptive!) benefits were more than she could bear.  She bought the lie and bit the fruit.  The world has been in a self-destructive mode ever since.

 

The sixties brought us “looking out for number one” and “do your own thing.”  They were just a couple of different twists on the devil’s have-a-bite philosophy.  He has peddled his self-indulgent lifestyle to the ruination of many generations.  This came as no surprise to God.  Paul’s very last letter warned the preacher that tough times would be coming (2 Timothy 3:1-5).  Indeed, they have come perpetually throughout history.

 

Today, we face hypersensitivity.  Everyone is offended by something.  To suggest that someone’s religion is unacceptable to God is greeted with howls of “narrow-minded,” “bigot,” or (And this is their favorite) “Judge not.”  Confrontation is never comfortable, but errors must be exposed to be corrected.  People cannot fix what they do not know is broken.

 

Our culture has become convinced that all truth is relative.  What may be true for you might not be true for someone else.  The reality of Jesus, His existence, crucifixion and even the resurrection are seen in such light.  That is a mistake.  All truth is not equal.  A favorite color is a truth that varies from person to person.  God does not fit that category.  He simply is.  Our perceptions may be right or wrong, but He is the same for all people.  It is our task to discover what He is like.  That is why He gave us a book.

 

The same can be said for the Lord’s church.  He determines its nature and mission.  We do not.  He explains who is in and who is not.  The loudest voices on earth cannot change what He has revealed.  Truth will stand after all else has crumbled (1 Peter 1:24-25).  Powerful personalities and popular movements will come and go.  His word will not.  It is as eternal as He is.

 

His church has a tremendous responsibility to uphold His truth (1 Timothy 3:15).  There is a right way and a wrong way to conduct ourselves within His household.  God does not approve of just anything that is offered up to Him.  It infuriated Cain that his sacrifice was unacceptable.  The Lord confronted him and the very first murder in history soon followed (Genesis 4:1-8).

 

The mere suggestion that there is absolute truth sends shock waves through our society.  Accusations begin to fly of intolerance, but that does not change reality.  The opposition will eventually fall but God’s truth will stand forever, and that is the only thing that will set us free.