Press On!

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Philippians 3:10–16I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.   All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it is all we can do to just “live up to what we have already attained.” Or is it?  Maybe we just need to want it a little more?  Paul wanted it, but he also recognized that he had not yet obtained it.  Think about all that he endured for the sake of the Gospel.

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Corinthians 11:23–29, NIV 1984)

If anyone had a excuse to throw up his hands in defeat and say “no more,” it was him. And yet he pressed on.  He persisted in his pursuit to be more like Christ.  He did not do it alone.  He did it by yielding to the Spirit that lived in him, not by yielding to the spirit of this world.  That spirit that might have said things like:  Haven’t you done enough?  Let someone else do it for a change.  Why beat yourself up?  No one really appreciates what you have gone through, so why risk going through more?  Paul recognized how much His Savior had done for him that he persisted in his pursuit of holiness.

President Calvin Coolidge was one of the “accidental” presidents.  As Vice President he succeeded Warren G. Harding, who died in office.  He was nick-named “silent Cal,” because he rarely said more than was necessary under the circumstances.  It is reported that once at a social event a lady informed him that she had made a wager that she could get more than two words out of him.  His reply was, “you lose.”  Yet his quote on persistence still resonates today, we could use a bit more of it.  “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Although I believe he misrepresented the word omnipotent, I think you get the point.  Paul got it long before silent Cal did.  And so should we.

My Advice – Is Paul’s advice.   “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”  So press on.

Small Hands

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1 Corinthians 1:26-29Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Not many were wise, influential, or of noble birth.  Many were considered fools, weak and lowly.  Yet God chose shepherd boys, fishermen, tax collectors, harlots and the least of their clan for some of His greatest tasks. His Son’s birth was less than noble, His profession was “blue collar” at first, then an itinerant preacher with no home or place to lay His head.  He was so influential that they crucified Him, because they could not accept His wisdom.

We tend to think of the wise, influential and noble as the movers and the shakers.  But God can use even the foolish, weak and lowly.  Billy Graham perhaps led more people to the Lord than anyone else in all of history.  We admire him for this, as we should.  Yet just as important was the man who led Billy Graham to the Lord. One “man” influenced twelve “no accounts,” whose small hands moved the wheels of the world turning it upside down.  The eyes of the great were on Rome.  The eyes of the Greatest were on His Son and the ones He chose to carry out His task when He was gone.

“This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (The Council of Elrond, from The Lord of the Rings).

My Advice – Do not think because you are not the wisest person, or the most influential person or a person of noble birth that you cannot be used by God for wise, influential and noble tasks.  It may seem little to you and little to others.  But if it came from God it means a great deal.  It may seem little more than the gentle puff caused by a butterfly’s wings here and now, but it just might be this “butterfly effect” that figuratively “moves the wheels of the world.”  God may not call all of us to do great things, but He will call us to do essential things, that He Himself prepared in advance for us (just for us) to do.  We are not called to be famous (although we might be), but we are called to be faithful.  “Small hands do them because they must.”

The Deeper Magic

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1 Samuel 15:22 – “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – In the Garden (Eden) there was disobedience. God covered Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness, presumably from animals that were sacrificed.  The blood that was shed also covered their sin.

On the mountain (Moriah), Abraham was prepared to obey and sacrifice his son, but God prevented Him from doing so.  To obey is better, because it requires no sacrifice.

In the Garden (Mt. of Olives) Jesus prayed that if there was any other way, that He be spared from sacrificing His life.  Yet in obedience, He said “not my will but yours.”  In this instance, obedience (His) would necessarily lead to sacrifice because of disobedience (ours).

On the mountain (Golgotha), Jesus was sacrificed to atone for our disobedience.  There was no staying of the hand as in the case of Abraham, because there was no other way.  Christ’s obedience was more than sufficient to remove (not merely cover) the stain of our disobedience.

In the garden, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, as death (the “deep magic”) turned into life (the “deeper magic”).  The fall of mankind in one garden comes full circle with the redemption of mankind in another.

My Advice – We have victory over sin, death and judgement because of Christ’s obedience.  And while no further sacrifice is required, we nevertheless should still live a life of obedience.  If we confess our sins, He will forgive them.  But why go there in the first place?  Let’s show our appreciation for God’s “deeper magic” that overcame the curse of “deep magic.”

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

(From “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)

Secrets of My Success

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1 Chronicles 22:11-13Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. (NIV 1984)

Colin Powell – There are no secrets to success: Don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.

My Musings – Success without these milestones on the way is really no success at all. It is merely a destination, not an achievement.  But neither the destination nor the achievement will be worth it in the end if the LORD is not with you.  He will be if you are careful to observe His Word.

My Advice – There is no easy road to success. But if you conduct yourself in your job, as you have thus far, you will succeed.  So “be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

Stand The Test

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James 1:12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (NIV 1984)

Michael Jordan – “When I got cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high school, I learned something. I knew I never wanted to feel that bad again. I never wanted to have that taste in my mouth, that hole in my stomach. So I set a goal of becoming a starter on varsity.”

My Musings – Set backs can defeat us, or inspire us to overcome.

My Advice – Do not let “failures” defeat you. Learn from them and use them to motivate you to do better next time.

It’s A Onederful Life

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1 Timothy 2:5-7For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – In a 2016 Gallup survey of Americans, when asked whether or not they believe in God, 89% answered yes, 10% answered no, and 1% had no opinion.  In a separate Gallup survey that same year, when given a third option to yes or no (unsure), 79% answered yes, 10% were unsure and 11% answered no.

In a 2008 Pew Research survey, 52% of all American Christians believe that some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life, while only 49% of evangelical Christians believe theirs is the one true faith.

Of course surveys only reveal what people believe to be true, they do not determine what is in fact true.  The same is true with respect to various religions – they define people’s beliefs, which may or may not be truth.  I can only speak for myself and why I believe that Christianity is the truth.

One God For Christians and Jews (perhaps Muslims?), this is the God of the Old Testament.  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV 1984).  Logic tells us that there can only be one “supreme” (superior to all others) being.

One Mediator between God and men – The Christian faith, and as far as I know none other,  believes that the “one” (exclusive) mediator is Jesus Christ.  Why must Christians (despite what the polls might say) believe this.  Because Jesus said it Himself.  “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.‘” (John 14:6, NIV 1984).  He was either telling the truth, lying or deranged.  If He was not telling the truth, He cannot be a path to God.  But His resurrection testifies that He was telling the truth.

One true faith – Is the Christian faith the one true (exclusive) religion?  If you believe the Gospels, then yes it is.  “[Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.‘” (Matthew 26:39, NIV 1984).  If Jesus was indeed the “only begotten Son of God,” then you would have to believe that if there was another way (another path – one or many), God would not have allowed His only Son to be crucified.  But Jesus was crucified.  There was, and is, no other way or path.

My Advice – Only we can choose what to believe.  But what we choose to believe cannot change the truth.  The stakes are high, so we must consider carefully what the truth is.  One cannot blame Christians for asserting that Jesus is the only path to God. because Jesus claimed it Himself. And God ratified it by allowing His death and raising Him from the dead.  In this sense, yes, Christianity is exclusive – it is the only path to God.   But in another sense, Christianity is all-inclusive. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12, NIV 1984).  It is a path that is open to all.  The choice is ours.  Only we can make sure we “earn” our wings by believing and receiving.

 

 

 

 

Heavenly Wisdom is…

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James 3:17Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Worldly wisdom counts for nothing if we do not have heavenly wisdom.

My Advice – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). I could not give better advice than this.