Lifelines February 16, 2020

“What are you doing right now that requires faith?”  It was a question posed in a college classroom that shook the young man’s lifestyle.  As he reflected, he realized that the answer was, “Nothing.”  Compared to the scriptural picture of those who are examples of faith, his life was virtually unaffected by his beliefs.  Sure, he believed in God and Christ.  He “went to church.”  He prayed.  He read his Bible.  And then he retreated into his own comfort zone, unchallenged in actual practice.  What about us?

God summoned Abram from his comfort (Genesis 12:1-4).  Leaving familiar surroundings is tough.  Venturing out on our own is unsettling, especially when we don’t know what our address is going to be.  The promise was blessing, not only for him but also for the entire world.  The destination was a mystery.  All Abram had to go on was the assurance of God, and that was enough.  He went.  Would we?    

The first steps on the journey into the unknown were not the only test of Abram’s faith.  The delay between the promise and the fulfillment was agonizingly long.  The promise had been that he would be made into a great nation, and more than a decade passed without even a single child.  Abram decided to help the Lord out.  Faith is not dependent upon the natural course of things, and that turned out to be a mistake that still reverberates.  The child of blessing would not come in an ordinary way or time.  Starting a family at age 100 is not exactly a human idea of family planning.

God raised the bar of faith even higher when He demanded that the child be given as a burnt offering (Genesis 22).  How could Abraham (As he was known by then. Even his name was changed!) possibly comply with such a command after the excruciatingly long wait for Isaac’s birth and him being the child of promise?  We do not know the thoughts of Abraham, but we do know of his obedience because of his faith (Hebrews 11:17-19).  The Lord provided a substitute sacrifice that day and a beautiful portrait of the salvation that would one day come through that family.     

Abraham’s faith led him away from a familiar, comfortable environment into an unknown future.  Home and country were left behind.  All he had to hold on to was the hand of the unseen God, but he learned that was all he needed.  And so, he teaches us.   

Abraham’s world was turned upside down and ours could be, too.  Faith changes everything, including our eternal destination.  Some parts of our life will be left behind.  Plans will be changed, and our journey will be guided by a wiser mind than ours. “What are you doing right now that requires faith?”  It is a probing question that is not comfortably answered, but growth seldom occurs where we are comfortable.   

Lifelines February 09, 2020

We come together on the first day of each week to express how much the Lord means to us.  How we choose to spend our Sundays reflects our opinion of Him.  The weekly reminder of the death and resurrection of our Savior sets the tone for the rest of the week.  It is also a brief period of time set apart to encourage one another.  The basis of it all is Jesus who charts the course for our entire lives.

“…the love of Christ controls us…(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)”  This is a powerful, all-consuming reality whose dimensions are infinite.  It exceeds our mental capacities to take it in, so we seek the One who does the impossible to help us understand (Ephesians 3:18-20).  The fullness of God hangs in the balance.  Our lives will never be all that they can be with a minimal comprehension of that love.  Expanding our knowledge is the only way to deepen its impact on us. 

Mere information won’t get us to the fullness of God.  Conviction will.  As we allow that remarkable fact, the death of Jesus, to really saturate our hearts we will be transformed by it.  That is the fullest expression of His love.  He gave His life for us.  The Son of God and all that He endured was done for me.  Individualize it.  Personalize it.  Only a heart of stone would remain untouched by such an amazing reality.  Unless, we simply refused to be convinced of it.

“…Having concluded this….(2 Cor. 5:14.)”

“One died for all…”  There is no discrimination with the Lord.  What He did for one, He did for all.  As we look at our most hated enemies, we remember that the Savior gave His life for them, too.  True, not all will receive the benefits of that death, but it is open for all.  Those who choose to accept it can receive the cleansing that only His blood can bring.  If the crucifying hands of Pentecost can be forgiven, so can we. “He died for all…”

“So that…”  There was a reason.  Yes, forgiveness came through that sacrifice, but there is more.

Selfishness consumes us.  It is our god.  It dictates and manipulates.  “Not Thy will but mine,” becomes our prayer.  Our joint participation in that death delivers us from such a brutal, destructive dictator.  Nothing will ruin us more quickly than biting the fruit of the evil one when he convinces us that our eyes will be opened if we just forget God’s commandments (Genesis 3:5).

“…they who live might no longer live for themselves…”  Nothing is more liberating than a life totally given to the Lord.  No one could ever love us more.  Freed from the inhibiting boundaries of selfishness, we begin to be filled to God’s fullness.  Jesus demonstrated them, and we can begin to share in them. God’s fullness.  Can you imagine?                  

Lifeline February 02, 2020

The whole world was rocked by the recent death of one of basketball’s greatest players.  Kobe Bryant, his young daughter and several others whose names will never be remembered died in a helicopter accident near Los Angeles on a foggy morning.  It was a tragic end for a superstar.  We noticed.  It dominated news cycles and personal conversations.  It touched fans and non-fans alike.  Those emotions will soon fade except for those with whom he had a personal relationship. 

Two thousand years ago there was another headline death.  It darkened the sky and literally shook the world.  Witnesses saw deep beyond His Jewish skin to One with divine roots.  This was no ordinary man.  He had calmed storms, healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead.  He touched the untouchables, embraced the sinful, challenged the establishment and angered the aristocrats.  He was nothing the experts expected and everything they needed.  He was the long-awaited Messiah, and He was dead. 

Everything changed that day.  It was the focal point of a plan devised in heaven to solve the biggest problem that any person could possibly face: sin.  The devastation it brings is impossible to exaggerate.  Its first recorded consequence was murder among kin folks.  God’s plan of man and woman as husband and wife has suffered ever since.  Family shredded and discarded by sin.  If we doubt it, look at the cross and the death of the Savior.

It was a wretched way to die.  He knew it was coming as He agonized in the garden.  It would all soon be heaped on His solitary shoulders.  There was no other way, “The wages of sin…” It was payday.  He alone could reconcile guilty sinners to a just God.  It would be brutal.  Beating.  Mocking.  Spitting.  Crowning.  Nailing.  Suffering.  Darkness.  Trembling.  Temple veil torn.  The last labored breath. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  First hand evidence of what sin can do to a relationship. “Father, forgive them…”  “It is finished.”   

It was no accident, nor was it homicide or a miscarriage of justice.  The crucifixion, as gory and horrible as it was, had been the plan all along.  It offers an insight into the way that God sees sin.  Each act drives the nails a little deeper and pains our Lord more.  He suffers again.  He hurts for the damage it does to His once-good creation.  It distorts His image in which we were all created.  There was only one remedy.  Ungodly hands carried out a godly strategy to give us a way home. We gather on the first day of every week to remember.  Simple grape juice and unleavened bread remind us.  An intentional design to forgive us.  Kobe’s death was a tragedy.  This was not.  Sin is.  The death of our Savior is the solution.  The memory fades except for those who have a personal relationship with Him.