Lifelines:

Baptism immerses a believer into the most remarkable fellowship possible. It marks a point in life when biblical information shapes our beliefs, changes our thoughts, determines our words and transforms our lives. Sins are washed away ushering in a new relationship with our Creator. The Lord adds us to His precious church of the saved. That is who we are. May we never lose our sense of identity.

The church has been chosen for the most noble of purposes. We are not simply a collection of people who gather together on Sunday to socialize. We are blood bought disciples with a commitment to live out our new existence. Before there was ever a world, there was a plan (Ephesians 1:4) for the church. The Lord has blessed His body with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), and it is both privilege and responsibility to conduct ourselves like the blessed people that we are.

We have been adopted into His family. Each Sunday is the greatest of family reunions with brothers and sisters who share our common faith. Ethnicity is irrelevant. History is, too. We come from a wide range of backgrounds to comprise one marvelous collection of kin folks. We bring our hopes and dreams, doubts and fears, ups and downs into the assembly of the forgiven. In the Lord’s Supper, we remember what He has done to make us that way: Guilty but forgiven (Eph. 1:7). Yes, that is who we are.

There is but one body (Eph. 4:4). Not everyone can or will accept that, but no one can change it. This is the business of God, not humans. Christ is the unchallenged head of the church (Eph. 5:23). That is not open for debate, but some do anyway. They set up elaborate earthly organizations and fancy power structures. It does not alter in any way this one simple fact: He has all authority (Matthew 28:18). His church respectfully acknowledges and submits to that. That is who we are.

We come with bended knee and bowed head. He is Lord. He is Savior. We are subservient and dependent. As much as anything, those two ideals form our identity. Lives surrendered to His direction along with a realization that without Him we have no hope. With Him, we have everything. We are reminded of that today, so that we will go through this brand new week with a true sense of identity. Our lives will reflect it, and people will see it. Our lights will shine like never before as we walk worthy of our calling to be His holy family, and we will, unless we forget who we are.

Call to Praise Scripture: 1 Peter 4:10-11

His word on it: 2 Corinthians 6:1

Sermon: “Don’t Waste the Grace”

Lifelines:

It is easy to miss the point. The Jews in the first century did. It is much easier to sidestep the challenges of justice, mercy and faithfulness in favor of dropping a little something in the collection plate (Matt. 23:23). The heavyweight matters are tougher. Giving is noble, but there is more to it than material contributions. Spiritual matters take more discipline and call for greater sacrifice. If ease is what we seek, this is not it.

Love is the goal (1 Timothy 1:5). That sounds simple enough until we delve into the ramifications of what it truly means. It is a self-sacrificing lifestyle that always pursues the higher good. Love drove Jesus to relinquish His place of equality with God, become human, serve and die (Philippians 2:5-8). That is the mindset that we are to adopt. Hardly simple! It calls for intense focus and undiluted devotion.

Love comes from a pure heart. That is the type of loyalty that promises the blessing of seeing God (Matt. 5:8). Everyone has that internal mechanism that motivates their actions and determines their words and deeds. We all act out of some type of commitment. Compromise is impossible (Matt. 6:24). Our master will dictate the terms under which we live. Dual thrones is not an option.

Love demands a good conscience. What a wonderful gift is the conscience. It sounds its alarm within us about right and wrong. We all have that sense of what we should and should not do. The problem comes when our conscience is uninformed or ill-informed. Paul had a clear conscience before God in spite of his misguided persecution of Christians (Acts 23:1). When he had the right standard, his conscience became a good one.

Add sincere faith to the mix, and we have the ingredients that produce biblical love. The word of God offers all of the facts that we need to build healthy faith. Learning and believing it all is a matter for each of us to work out. Our faith will grow in relation to what we know about the Lord. From the days of Timothy to the June 6, 2010; Christians have faced the threat of bogus arguments masquerading as knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20). When we buy into that we drift away from the faith.

God could hardly have made it clearer. Love is way up on the priorities list. It is the goal to which we aspire, and it makes demands on our heart, conscience and faith. Those three must be pure, good and sincere. Divided loyalties will not get it done. A faulty sense of right and wrong will surely fail. A shallow, inconsistent, hypocritical faith will not sustain us to the high calling of love. That is our target. How is our aim?

Call to Praise Scripture: 1 John 4:7-14

His word on it: 1 John 4:16

Sermon: “God’s Incomprehensible Love”

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”