Straining Toward What Is Ahead

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I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”  (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV 1984).

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.”  (Philippians 3:12–14).

My Musings – “I consider everything a loss” and “I have lost all things” may sound like hyperbole to some, but not to Paul.  Upon his dramatic conversion he did lose a lot of what may be considered of great value in this world – power, postion, privilege, to name just a few.  And it takes a mature spiritual perspective to consider such things as “rubbish” that they “may gain Christ and be found in him,” and have a “righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”  If you doubt Paul’s sincerity in saying this, consider the following:

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.” (2 Corinthians 11:23–28, NIV 1984).

How would you like that on your spiritual resume?  From persecutor to persecuted.  But “forgetting what [was] behind and straining toward what [was] ahead, [he] press[ed] on toward the goal to win the prize for which God [had] called [him] heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  And when he got that final call (imprisoned in Rome and ordered beheaded by Emperor Nero) he finally obtained all that he had “strained” for all those years and claimed his “prize.

My Advice – What are you pursuing in your live?  When all is said and done, will it be considered “rubbish” and “loss?”  Have you heeded Christ’s Heavenward call?  If so, are you pressing on?

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Want to become a Christian (that Heavenward call)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

Want a closer walk with Christ (the pressing on)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

Do Not Turn From It

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Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Thanks Dad, for the Godly training that you provided.  I hope I am a good reflection of you, and the Lord you served.  I’ll do my best to not turn from it.

In memory of my Dad, who would have been 88 years old today.  I miss you.

Odds Are

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Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  (Luke 12:6–7, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Chance. Something that happens unpredictably without discernible intention or observable cause.  Coincidence. A remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.  Random. Made, done, happening, or chosen without method or conscious decision.  Odds. The probability that one thing is so or will happen rather than another.

I heard the muffled pop as I turned onto the entrance ramp to the interstate highway.  The thought immediately occurred to me that I had blown a tire.  But then nothing happened.  So I thought nothing of it and continued on my way to work, driving “every bit” the 70 mph speed limit.  It wasn’t until I was about fifteen miles on my way that the warning light flashed on indicating low pressure in my rear left tire. Pulling off the interstate and into a service station I exited the car and saw the screw protruding form the tire.  Yep, that’s it in the picture above.  Still being closer to home than I was to work, I re-inflated the tire, turned around and headed back to my car dealership, stopping once more to re-inflate the tire before reaching the dealership safely.

Well, that’s how my day started yesterday.  So what do you think the odds are that my great big  car would find that little bitty screw on that wide road?  Chance?  Coincidence?  Random?  Not likely.  Inconvenient?  For sure.  Late for work, putting me behind.  Costly?  You bet.  That little bitty screw will cost me over $170 to replace the tire. End of the world?  Not even close.  But if even the very hairs on my head are numbered, why didn’t my tire miss the screw?  I haven’t a clue.  Could God have prevented it?  Certainly.  Why didn’t he?  Again, I haven’t a clue.  What I am pretty sure of is that it wasn’t chance, coincidence or random.  Odds had nothing to do with it.  There was a reason for it.  Was it a test of how I would respond?  Maybe.  How we respond to little things, and believe me this was a little thing, prepares us to respond to bigger things.

My Advice – Take things in stride and trust God in the little things.  There are bound to be bigger things that we will need to be trained to respond to.

Serving God’s Purpose in Our Generation

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Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid.” (Genesis 50:19–21, NIV 1984).

For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you [Pharaoh] and your people [Egyptians] with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:15–16, NIV 1984).

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:13–14, NIV 1984).

For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36, NIV 1984).

Musings of Others – “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – President John F. Kennedy.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here so nobly advanced.” – President Abraham Lincoln.

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” – Sir Winston Churchill

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela.

My Musings – A few among the great people of history who made their mark on the world. And whether they knew it or acknowledged it, they served God’s purpose in “his [or her] own generation.”  But it is not just the great that serve God’s purposes.  God has called us to a specific time and place to serve His purposes too.  The world may take “little note, nor long remember ” what we do, but God will.  We may never fully “know what results come of [our] actions,” but God will.  The “significance of the life we lead” may seem insignificant to others, but not to God. Each of us can serve God’s purpose in “our own” generation and “for a time such as this” and then pass the torch to a “new generation.”

My Advice – Only the purposes of God will count for eternity.  Isn’t that the kind of mark you’d like to make?  “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”  (Acts 17:26–27, NIV 1984).  Seek Him.  Reach out for Him.  Find Him.  He is not far from you.  This is your generation.  This is your time.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

What He Said Was Important

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28–30, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How does one move from “weary and burdened” to “easy and light?”  By being “gentle and humble.”  By being imitators of Christ.  In Jesus’ day, the Jews were looking for a political or militant solution to their years of bondage.  Their early excitement over Jesus (“could this be the Messiah“) gave way to disillusionment and hostility, as gentleness and humility did not quite meet their expectations of a deliverer.   They preferred ruthless and pompous.

They failed to understand just what kind of bondage the Messiah came to deliver us from.  They were seeking “peace in our time.”  Christ came to offer peace for all time.  They were seeking deliverance “at all costs.”  Jesus offered peace that demanded the greatest cost.  They were seeking liberty in the land.  Jesus was offering liberation of the heart.  They wanted vengeance.  Jesus offered forgiveness.  They wanted unconditional surrender.  Jesus offered unmerited grace.  They wanted independence.  Jesus offered relationship.  They wanted a manifesto.  Jesus offered their names written in the Lamb’s book of life.   They wanted rebellion, Jesus required surrender.

My Advice – So what have we learned in 2000 years?  Will we as the Church advance the Kingdom of God through pollical activism or by proclamation of the Gospel?  Through force or faith?  Harshness or gentleness?  Arrogance or humility?  By becoming 21st century Pharisees or by modeling ourselves after 1st century believers?  By engaging in crusades or by taking up our cross?  Let’s learn from Him.  “You have heard it said, but I say to you …”  Our country’s and the world’s problems will not be solved from the outside in, only from the inside out.  It’s the heart not the head.  It’s the eternal, not the temporal.  It’s the narrow path, not the broad path.  It’s the Great Commission, not the great omission.  The time is short.  The harvest is great.  The workers are few.  Let’s get on with it.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Mind Control

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My Musings – No matter how “good” we were before we accepted Christ, there were certain things about that life that we need to leave behind.  A walk that we used to walk that we must rid ourselves of.  To do that we must set our mind on things “above,” on what the Spirit desires, not on what our sin nature desired in our past.  If we do not allow the Spirit to control our minds we will not be able to live an abundant Christian life, and our lives will lack peace.

It is interesting to note that the sin nature spills over into shameful outward acts, while the “Son” nature overflows with admirable inner qualities.  The former is characterized by the things we do, the latter is characterized by who we are.  The former may satisfy for a season, but the latter will last into the next life.

My Advice – The victorious Christian life is not about balancing the sin nature against the Son nature.  It is not enough that the scales tip more on the side of the Son.  We cannot continue to serve our sinful nature and expect to bear abundant fruit.  We cannot serve two masters.  Let’s make sure we are clinging to the Son by allowing the Spirit to control our minds and our hearts.

Adding To Your Faith

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My Musings – Yesterday’s musings, referencing the Apostle Paul, stood for the doctrine that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  Any effort (on our part) to add to this would be futile.  In today’s text, the Apostle Peter is saying that we should make every effort (work) to add to our faith the listed qualities.  That these efforts (on our part) would be effective and productive.

Surely this is a huge contradiction between these two giants of Christianity?  Not at all.  Paul was speaking about what results in salvation (grace).  Peter was speaking about what results from salvation (good works/qualities).  Grace is the cause of salvation, good works/qualities are the effect of salvation.  Salvation is an event, developing these qualities is a process (in increasing measure).  One can have good works/qualities without being saved, but no one can be saved without developing good works/qualities.  There is no effort of our own that can gain us salvation.  But once we have gained it, we should make every effort to add to it. And yet, here’s the deal.  Even though you are putting effort into it to grow your faith, it is the work of the Holy Spirit transforming you into Christ-likeness that gives the increase.

My Advice – You cannot grow it, if you don’t got it.  Get it today.  It’s free.  By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.