Lifelines:

The Proverbs of Solomon provide us with a glimpse into the wisdom with which the Lord blessed him. They are a compass that will aim us in the right direction and teach us of the important issues. We will find the true meaning of life and the futilities that await us without proper guidance. If we will learn, they will instruct.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).” There is a well deep within each of us from which we draw hopes and dreams, desires and ambitions. They give rise to individual actions which eventually become habits that mold character and determine destinies. There is much at stake when it comes to the matters of the heart. We must guard it carefully.

Jesus knew. Values decide devotion (Matthew 6:21). We will be dedicated and loyal to that which we calculate to be of worth. Whatever we deem to be important will seize our heart and consume our time, effort and emotions. Choices surround us. Everything is not of equal value, so we must decide a list of priorities. Make no mistake about it, we all have that list, and something is number one on it. What is it? That is what has our heart. Choose wisely.

Satan wants your heart. He is putting thoughts and notions into it as he did to Judas (John 13:2). His was a case in which that internal influence led him to betray Jesus. We will do the same when the devil’s desires become ours. Dishonesty fills the thoughts of those who give in to his advances and they leave a wake of destruction wherever they go (John 8:44). Ananias and Sapphira could advise us of the consequences when we relinquish control to him (Acts 5:1-11).

We venture into the exclusive territory of God when we examine our hearts. Purity is demanded if we want to experience His blessings (Matt. 5:8). Divided loyalties will not do. We reach the pinnacle when we love the Lord with all of it (Matt. 22:36-37). Rare is the man or woman who has yielded totally to Him. We will meet very few. But if we do not give Him 100% of our heart, to whom have we given the rest?

Lifelines:

In a newly published book about religions of the world, the author observes that Muslims are controlling the public conversation. What they say stands and what they believe spreads. He also notes that the reason that they are such a growing influence is because of their unconditional commitment. Christianity is seen through his eyes as involving one morning a week, whereas, Islam is a total way of life. Converts are not attracted to those with a shallow commitment. The lack of loyalty of those who call themselves Christians is puzzling.

The Lord is devoted to His people. He has worked throughout history to carry out His eternal plan. Through enslavement and freedom, migration and settlement, unity and division, strength and weakness, faithfulness and rejection; He has remained true to His purpose of saving mankind. The prophets wrote of it and the nation anticipated it. When the Messiah finally arrived to fulfill it, they missed Him. No, they killed Him.

The uprising has been perpetual. The Lord came on a mission of love and met with rejection, abandonment, denial, betrayal and crucifixion. His personal delivery of grace was greeted with all of the fury that hell could muster. It all seems brutally unfair, and it is. Yet, none of it caught God off guard. In fact, the opposition played right into His hands to accomplish His plan (Acts 2:23). Such is the loyalty of God to His people.

So, Islam has the reputation of being more committed to Allah than Christians do to our God. Their lives reflect more of an influence than ours. How can this be? Do we really squeeze the Lord into an hour or two a week and then go our own way? That is certainly the impression that is being given by someone. In all fairness, many say they are Christians who really are not, and that is doing great damage to the cause of Christ. People making the claim but not living the life leave a faulty notion of what it means to be a Christian. So, what does it mean?

Christians are disciples (Acts 11:26), and Jesus said that disciples continue in His word (John 8:31). It is not a sometime thing or an occasional practice but a continuous, consistent submission to the actions that His word demands. It involves the totality of our lives not just an hour or two a week. It is always applying biblical principles to every human experience. With His commitment to us, how can we offer anything less? Disciples light up the world (Matthew 5:14), and no one in the darkness can miss it or ignore it.

Call to Praise Scripture: 2 Peter 1:5-9

His word on it: Hebrews 2:1

Sermon: “Don’t Forget”

Lifelines:

It all begins with God. We stare in amazement at the wonder of a beautiful sunrise and see His handiwork. This time of year brings an explosion of colors that scream of His glory. The earth is filled with it (Isaiah 6:3). Atheism is inexcusable (Romans 1:20) and demands a total ignoring of the evidence around us. Either it came from someone or from nothing. There are no other options. It all testifies of the extraordinary being who we call God.

He reigns as King forever (1 Timothy 1:17). Everything in this world is temporary. If we can see it, it will not last (2 Corinthians 4:18). The Lord spoke to David in terms of a never ending throne (2 Samuel 7:13) and to Daniel of an everlasting dominion (Daniel 7:13-14). There is no end to what Jesus came to do (Luke 1 32-33). Elections come and go. Power switches hands. First it’s one party then another. Not so in the eternal realm. All authority is safely in one set of hands.

The one in whom all that power resides is never going away. No need for separation anxiety with Him. He, like His Kingship, will go on forever (1 Timothy 1:17). It is hard, perhaps impossible for us to grasp such a notion. Our sense of permanence is subject to the limitations that our transient existence imposes on it. “Permanent press” has distorted our sense of the notion. “Forever” has limited meaning in such a fleeting world. Loved ones die. Homes burn. People go away. God is here for the duration of eternity. We are not accustomed to that.

No one has seen Him (John 1: 18), ever! Jesus put a face on Him, but what people actually saw was that human component. In the Christ, God and man merged into one. The Father is invisible, and it is hard to conceive of that. What do we picture? Worshiping a Spirit challenges us, but that is what we do each Sunday. Perhaps that is the reason for the many images and idols that some people use. We must resist the temptation to reproduce God in our image and according to our thoughts.

There is but one true God (Ephesians 4:6). He sits on the throne of history and always will. Neither he nor His kingdom will ever come to an end. We have not seen Him, but He is there over all, through all and in all. There is no one like Him, not even close. Our minds can not grasp Him and our hands cannot touch Him, but He is as real as the paper that you are holding. And we can add one more fact to the list; He is our Father. That is pretty amazing!

Call to Praise Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

His word on it: Colossians 3:12

Sermon: “The Patience of Love”

Lifelines:

Accept Jesus as your personal Savior. Invite Jesus into your heart. Pray the sinner’s prayer. Any and all of those options have been presented as the way of salvation. Curiously, there is not a single instance of any of those being on the lips of the Lord or His messengers. Where those ideas originated and how they were popularized is anybody’s guess. One thing that we do know is that they did not come from any biblical example or command.

Jesus commissioned His apostles to go everywhere and preach to everybody (Mark 16:15). In the Lord’s own words (That would seem to be a pretty reliable source for such information!), “He who has believed and has been baptized will be saved (vs.16).” Who did Jesus say would be saved? There is no confusion here, simply a very clear statement of fact from the one who has all authority in all places (Matthew 28:18).

Peter preached the gospel to a gathering of Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 2. When it reached its climax, the message stung their hearts (Verse 37). Their concerns were urgent and their question direct, “Brethren, what shall we do?” The apostle’s answer involved neither accepting, inviting nor praying. It is unmistakably clear, “Repent and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Verse 38).” How has the world drifted from the simplicity of that?

Throughout the book of conversions (Acts), they all share a common thread. The instructions are not exactly the same because converts start at different levels, but they all lead to the same response. From the Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Gentiles with Cornelius (Acts 10), their road to heaven led through the waters of baptism. Even Saul, whom the Lord talked to directly, was not exempt (Acts 22:16). It happened in unlikely places (Acts 8:26-39) and at inconvenient times (Acts 16:25-34), but it always happened. Peter preached it then wrote of it, “Baptism now saves you…(1 Peter 3:21).” It certainly impressed his mind.

It marks the transition from out to in, lost to saved, sin-stained to cleansed. We have both biblical commands and examples of the crucial role that baptism plays in the Divine plan of salvation. The Lord desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). That is evidenced by the brutal execution of the Messiah which was part of the plan, and we join in that death at baptism (Romans 6:3). It may be unimpressive and perhaps even illogical to our human minds. Maybe that is why people seek alternative plans, all of which have one shared deficiency: they do not work.

Call to Praise Scripture: Philippians 2:14-16

His word on it: John 14:31

Sermon: “That the World May Know”

Lifelines:

Jude had his pen prepared and thoughts together when the interruption came. He fully intended to write about their common salvation when a more pressing matter disrupted his plan (Jude 3). The faith was under assault. If its purity was lost the whole plan would begin to teeter and eventually fall. It must be protected.

There had never been anything like it before, and its equal would never be seen again. It was complete and final. It was a once-for-all delivered body of beliefs that must be defended at any cost. There is no need to look for more, and that which we have is deserving of vigorous protection. Christians are to contend for the faith, and it was being undermined.

They were a secretive bunch (Jude 4). They snuck into the church with a plan to destroy her foundations. Their future condemnation was certain, but their immediate impact could be devastating. They were ungodly people who intended to upset the whole apparatus. Left unchecked, they would accomplish their mission. They still will.

They attacked the church from within on at least two fronts; ethical and doctrinal. They took the amazing grace of God and turned it into a license to sin. More sin equals more grace, right? It was a problem that Paul sniffed in the Roman air (Romans 6:1), and addressed. Unwelcome restraints were cast aside. Whatever they wanted to do, they did and taught others to do as well. They were influential and unidentified. No one noticed. Like termites in the basement, the damage was being done undetected.

These stealth missionaries of Satan propagated their destruction with false teachings, too. They denied the Lord. It opens a door that must be kept locked when authority is rejected. The last verse of the book of Judges captures it, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Solomon was exactly right; there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The same adversaries that threatened the once-for-all delivered faith in the first century still exist. Proponents of new morals and teachers of human doctrines will overthrow any congregation of the Lord’s church if they are not identified and corrected. We must keep both our eyes and our Bibles open to recognize that which endangers the faith that Jesus died for and we live for. Does the faith mean enough to us for us to fight for it?

Call to Praise Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

His word on it: Acts 20:35

Sermon: “Living a Life that God Loves”