Lifelines:

They came from the four corners of the world to worship, but they never expected anything like this. They heard. They saw. They were simultaneous amazed and perplexed. What they saw and heard prepared their ears to listen for more. When the words struck their hearts they asked, “What do we do?” Pentecost ushered in a new era. It took diverse parts and harmonized them into a solitary cohesive unit. Those Jews from all over became one. The church in its incredible diversity became a single body.

They gathered from an array (Acts 2:8-11) of cultures to be forged into a solitary group. It gives us our first look at the church of Christ. Cultural differences are a potential obstruction to unity as are the various languages which they spoke, but neither proved to be insurmountable. God cleared those hurdles with the miraculous gift of tongues, enabling all of them to turn their attention to the crucified and resurrected Christ. He is the balm that heals divisions among people (Galatians 3:28).

It was an unlikely collection of Jews that formed that first congregation. God rarely does it the way that we think He will. Who would ever choose such an improbable group as the apostles? Jesus took a few fishermen, a despised tax collector, a thief and a few other unknowns and gave them the most important job in history. He drafted a violent antagonist (1 Timothy 1:12-13) to go to a group (Acts 26:17-18, Galatians 2:7-10) whom he would have found repulsive. Predictability is not one of the traits that we find very often when we analyze the ways of God.

The diversity of the first church did not stop them from uniting. It was the prayer of our Lord that His followers come together (John 17:20-23), and He gave everything that is needed to accomplish that goal. The Holy Spirit delivered the essentials (Ephesians 4:3), and in the Pentecost event we see it in plain sight. Diverse parts were knit together into a single entity (Acts 2:43). It truly is amazing what the Lord can do.

The church is on display so that everyone can see what the plan of the Lord is. We are a demonstration of what is possible. Isolation devastates. The church offers an alternative, a place to belong. Everyone with respect for the Lord and a submissive, obedient spirit is welcome (Acts 10:34-35). Everyone! That means the meek and the mean, the crude and rude, the nice and the ugly all find a home in the church. That includes even you and me, no matter where we have come from. He will reject no one who comes to Him on His terms. In His hands, an unlikely collection of sinners are knit together into a single beautiful tapestry of the saved.

Call to Praise Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:14-15

His word on it: John 17:17

Sermon: “A Family of Truth”

Lifelines:

We live in times of perpetual conflict. Divisions are as deep as they have ever been. It makes us wonder how united these states are. This group fights with that one. Battle lines are drawn, and the war is waged. And right in the middle of it all is the church. What do people see when they see us?

With the deepening darkness, there has never been a better opportunity for us to shine. Every one of us has a little illumination to contribute to the collective radiance. When even one of us is missing we are not quite as bright. Opportunities abound for us to flip the switch that will light up the world in such a way that our Father is glorified by what people see. Working in harmony, we will really shine.

The fellowship of the early church was remarkable. Their togetherness impressed the locals from the very beginning (Acts 2:46-47). The results were daily additions to the body of Christ. They were united in heart with a willingness to sacrifice that made it clear that this was something very special (Acts 4:32-35). The relationship that disciples share with one another is among the most powerful evangelistic tools available. It sends a clear message of who we are (John 13:35).

The Bible consistently addresses the issue of unity and the things that disrupt it. Humans divided and isolated become easy prey for the enemy. A straying sheep is cause for concern and its reclamation is reason for rejoicing (Luke 15:4-7). It is a dangerous world out there. Too many wolves and too few shepherds make for a treacherous journey. A divided house has a limited life expectancy (Mark 3:25), and it is our responsibility to stick together.

We are now less than two weeks away from “Share the Son,” our annual gospel meeting. We have very few special occasions in our church family, but this is one of them. Three days for us to unite and to truly shine. We participate in the fellowship of a common devotion to the Lord. We will share refreshments nightly and a meal together on Sunday. Simply put, we will just be together. It is an ideal occasion to grow closer to one another and to demonstrate to a fractured world that we have something special to offer: We are family. We look forward to a great weekend October 1-3. Please, come as often as you can and help us shine our brightest.

Call to Praise Scripture: Acts 11:22-24

His word on it: Hebrews 3:13

Sermon: “The Difference Makers”

Lifelines:

9/11…It has been nine years, and yet it still brings a chill. Memories of that day echo in our minds. We recall the first plane. It appeared to be a terrible accident. Then the second and all America began to awaken to the possibility that we were under attack. Evidence mounted and the conclusion was obvious: this was by design. A terrorist plan to kill and destroy was underway. Yet, there is something much bigger at work than just the destruction of property and the taking of innocent lives.

The real aim was to invade our minds. That is where the ultimate enemy always does his work. How successful he is varies from individual to individual. Some live under constant fear of the next attack, and others do not. Christians have no reason to be afraid. Armed with an eternal perspective, we know that no external enemy can ever touch anything important.

That day in 2001 saw the loss of nothing but temporal things. Fabulous structures were wiped out in no time. Madmen flew the best jets money can buy into the best constructed buildings and all of it was destroyed, gone in an instant. Does that not teach us something? The best we can build is destined to destruction. Putting our hopes into anything that our hands can make is guaranteed to disappoint. Of course, with an eternal perspective we already knew that.

Love your enemy (Matthew 5:44). Have we had a more hostile adversary? Never take your own revenge (Romans 12:19). Has there been a more justifiable time to get even? Do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27). Has anyone ever hated us more? Our concern is not the response of the government but of the disciple. The events of 9/11 sure test our discipleship. It is in such trying times that we most clearly demonstrate our conviction that the Lord’s ways are the best ways. They may not be easy, but discipleship is never about what is easy. It is about what is right, and it takes an eternal perspective to follow through with the earthly commands.

We have had nine years to reflect. One of the most vivid lessons from the attack was the temporary nature of everything on earth. Fortunately, the Lord informed us of this long before that fateful day so that we could prepare ourselves. He has given us the information to equip us with a long term point of view that enables us to see the fleeting nature of the material world. Even our bodies are destined to return to the dust. Nothing here lasts. Everything in heaven will. And that is an eternal perspective.

Call to Praise Scripture: Colossians 3:1-4

His word on it: Isaiah 26:3

Sermon: “Mind Your Mind”

Lifelines:

Joseph was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19). What a wonderful legacy that is to leave behind. He did not receive a lot of ink in the Scriptures. He remains relatively unknown except for the few episodes that are recorded. We know that his mate bore the most important figure in history. Outside of that we have little information except the assessment of God: He was righteous.

In an extremely awkward situation, he acted honorably. He apparently had every right to embarrass his bride-to-be. She was with child. It was biologically impossible for it to be his, and that would certainly have been humiliating for him. Why not retaliate and disgrace her? Yet, he chose not to. Why? Because that is not what righteous people do. Intentionally inflicting harm, even when it seems to be deserved, is not the way of righteousness.

An angel opened Joseph’s eyes to what was really going on (Matt 1:20-23). What a stretch it must have been for his carpenter’s mind. The child was conceived of the Holy Spirit. The prophet had written about it. The virgin was carrying the Savior of the world. She was his intended. Marriage plans were to proceed as planned. How is that for a communiqué by means of a dream? It was a message from God. Joseph believed it and acted accordingly. Why? That is what righteous people do.

It was not the last message from the Lord that Joseph would receive. Hostilities escalated in the land, and the king was on a homicide mission. Warned to get out of the country, he went (Matt. 2:13-14). Told it was time to go home, he obeyed (Matt. 2:19-22). Instructed to go again, he did (Matt. 2:22-23). The Lord sent word and Joseph complied. It was all part of the unfolding plan of God, and he was right in the middle of it. That is where righteous people are found.

Joseph disappears early. Just a few episodes here and there expose us to this righteous man. He did not seek to inflict pain even when it seemed justifiable. He believed the message from the Lord when it seemed incredible. When he received instructions from God, he followed them. In so doing, prophecies were fulfilled and the case was made: This child is the Messiah. Righteous people always seem to be making that case.

Call to Praise Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

His word on it: 1 John 3:16

Sermon: “The Love of Christ”

Lifelines:

We all seek those memorable moments, the ones we call mountaintop experiences. They are the times when we see things differently. It may be a moment of clarity, a well-presented lesson or an insight that really opens our eyes. Minds are changed and lifestyles follow. We spend most of our time in the valley. It is monotonous there, uninspired and mundane. But every once in a while we break the clouds and peek at the peak.

Sinai was the one for Moses (Exodus 19:20ff). Any journey that includes hand-delivered instructions from the Lord is more than special. Peter, James and John joined very exclusive company in their trip to the top. They saw and heard what no one else ever had (Matthew 17:1-8). Men from antiquity accompanied by a declaration from heaven about their contemporary must have etched a permanent place in their memory.

Jesus took the masses into a unique classroom when He strolled up the mountain to preach His most famous sermon (Matthew 5-7). He turned their world upside down and set disciples on a road that altered history. The concept of what it means to be in the kingdom of heaven took a dramatic turn. The Lord taught. The crowds were wowed. Perceptions were changed (Matt. 7:28-29). It is rare air up on that mountain.

We trudge upward in anticipation. We sense a life-changing event is just around the bend. We may be pushed, led or voluntarily make that upward march. In any case, be careful. Altitude alters attitude. The world looks different. Ambitions are affected. When we arrive, we need to remember that the Lord is not the only one who occupies that ground. The devil knows about that special place, too, with his world full of trinkets to offer (Matthew 4:8-9). He sure has a way of making terrible choices appealing.

Kingdoms, glory, affection and devotion are all at stake up on that mountain. God gave His 10 commandments up on one. He issued the order to listen to His Son over and above anyone else at the summit of another. That very same Son, to Whom we are to give exclusive attention, taught from a similar location. The words of God have been changing reality from the very beginning, and they were given on the mountain. Listen carefully, and remember that there are two voices that echo from the mountaintop. We must be sure that we hear the right one.

Call to Praise Scripture: John 4:21-24

His word on it: Matthew 2:2

Sermon: “Worship Fit For a King”

Lifelines:

Death hovered. A small band of men listened to the one who would soon die an unspeakably miserable death. In plans shrouded in darkness, the groundwork was being laid. The conspiracy was nearly complete. Indescribable brutality was hours away. Whips, thorns, hammers and nails were waiting as Jesus shared words that hardly fit the circumstances.

As He prepared to take on the sins of the world, the Lord spoke of peace. The immediate future could not have been any more turbulent. There would be a disruption in the Godhead unlike any in history. The world would shake. The elements would experience the aftershocks of unbridled evil. Yet, in the face of it all, He offered comforting conversation. He obviously knows something we do not.

What we do know is that He wants His disciples to be at peace within. There is no need to allow external turmoil to disrupt our internal serenity. “Do not let your heart be troubled (John 14:1).” Easy for you to say, but how? Faith. That is the key that unlocks the inner capacity for tranquility. “Believe in God, Believe also in Me.” Remember the one who said it.

Our vision is hazy. Through blurry eyes we look for a worldly concept of peace and miss His. It is not like that (John 14:27). There is a counterfeit that is offered in this realm, but it lacks the substance that His has. He is the source of it, and it is incomprehensible (Philippians 4:7). It will come to us if we will follow His directions (Try Philippians 4:4-9).

We live in troubled times. Wars persist. There is a perpetual stream of depressing news from floods to earthquakes and tornadoes to oil spills. A mother kills her children and a radical blows himself up. If those headlines shock us then we have not been paying attention. “In the world you have tribulation (John 16:33).” He called it 2000 years ago, and we are shocked when it occurs.

Yet, we have never faced what He did. The weight of the world was waiting for His shoulders, and He spoke of peace. Has there ever been a more unpeaceful time? Good and evil were on a collision course ready to intersect at His heart, and He talked of tranquility. Jesus was fully aware that miserable times were ahead for His disciples, but He was conscious of something else, too. For every Friday there is a Sunday. The mourning is temporary. He knew, and we can, too: Beyond every cross there is an empty tomb. And that is permanent.

Call to Praise Scripture: Galatians 5:13-14

His word on it: Galatians 5:6

Sermon: “Grasping Greatness”