Find The One Thing

Screenshot (820)

My Musings – “Do you know what the secret of life is? One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean %@$&*!.” This quote is known as Curly’s Law, from the movie “City Slickers.”  Curly is a hardened and grizzled cowboy leading a trail drive for urban “city slicker” cowboys on vacation.  When asked what that one thing is, Curly smiles (probably the only time he smiled in the movie – I don’t remember for sure) and says, ” That’s what you have to find out.”

Paul found out. “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 3:13-14).  What was behind?  Originally, a life obsessed with persecuting Christians.   What lay a head?  His reward.  Such a prize, such a reward for faithful service to Christ that Paul considered that “to die is gain.

In between “what is behind” that Paul was forgetting and the prize that Paul was “straining toward” lay another obsession of “fruitful labor.”  But it came with a cost. “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).  Ahead of all this was chains and martyrdom.

But He stuck to his obsession with “the one thing,” because he considered everything else “a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:8, NIV 1984).  All of these things (imprisonment, floggings, beatings, stonings…) could have been “stopping stones.”  Instead, Paul used each one as a “stepping stone” “of sharing in [Christ’s] sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11).

All of these things that happened to Paul “served to advance the Gospel” and encouraged many others “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” from the first century until now.

My Advice – Your “one thing” can only be found in “one person.”  “That’s what you have to find out.”  Be obsessed until you find Him, and once you find Him, be obsessed with serving to advance the Gospel more courageously and fearlessly.  The cost of these obsessions might seem too high, but Paul also said, “therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles [yes, he really said light and momentary] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV 1984).

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV 1984).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Relationships” on September 15, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

 

 

 

 

The Fellowship of the King (of kings)

Screenshot (661)

My Musing – “The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost. For [few] now live who remember it.  Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.”  (Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring. J. R. R. Tolkien).

It exploded in the first century in the face of great persecution.  Later, persecution gave way to proclamation as Christianity was became the official religion of the Roman Empire. There have been times of retreat (the dark ages) and resurgence (the great awakening), but the “gates of hell” have never fully prevailed.

Yet in my lifetime, “the world has changed.”  I feel it and smell it. History, is now largely regarded as myth.  The age of “reason” has relegated Christianity to no more than a crutch to the superstitious.  Even those within the Church are abandoning the faith and “sound doctrine” in favor of whatever their “itching ears” want to hear.  Things that should never have been forgotten have been lost.  The “breaking of the fellowship” is well underway.  The “Return of the King” is near.  Yet much evil is yet to come.  Which also reminds me of these quotes from “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Frodo – “I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf – “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

My Advice – What will you decide “to do with the time that is given to you?”  Be a beacon of light in an increasingly dark world?  Be a herald of truth in an age of deception and lies?  Be the salt that gives flavor to what is becoming more and more unsavory?  Be faithful to the end?  We’ve been given a commission to be the “ring-bearer” of the greatest story ever told.  Will you be part of the “fellowship?”

Stay-tuned for tomorrow’s blog – “The Two Powers.”

 

Garage Sale Fellowship

Screenshot (632)

My Musings – Spent time these past few days with my two older brothers as we helped our 85 year old mother with a garage sale (selling many items that she and my dad had accumulated over 66 years together).  We had many visitors to the sale.  Some were neighbors, some were dear friends, some were mere acquaintances, most were strangers.  They represented different ethnicities and social “classes.”  We exchanged pleasantries with all, joked with a few (which garage sale had the best “junk”), had warm conversations with many and prayed with a few.  At one point I remarked to one of my brothers “if more people went to garage sales, the word just might be a better place.”  What a great time of fellowship with those we knew and those we did not.

As a world becomes more and more polarized, we sometimes lose sight of the fact we all have one Father and Creator – who loves us all.  We have one Savior who did not just die for certain ethnicities, social classes or the “deserving” – He died one for all.  He will save all who believe and receive.

My Advice –  Forgive as He has forgiven you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Give to those in need.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Entertain strangers. Do not oppress or mistreat the alien among you (ouch!).  Love your enemies (say what?). For “[w]hatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or did not do] for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1978).  Finally, have a garage sale – just for the fellowship of it all.

The Elephant In The Room

Screenshot (611)

My Musings – “People primarily respond not to what we do but how we’re being.  It’s not that we do the wrong thing necessarily, but that we do what we do – maybe even if it is the ‘right’ thing – the wrong way.” (Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute).

My great fear for the Church today is that a lot of us spend a lot of time and energy “doing” Christianity, while failing to “be” Christ-like.  We pride ourselves with saying, supporting and doing the right things (the modern-day equivalent of a tenth of our mint, dill and cumin), but neglect to be those things (the all-time equivalent of, “justice, mercy and sacrifice“).  In the process, we are well on our way to alienating an entire generation from “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  Given the appropriate “salt and light” there are many who would love to “be” like Christ, but are afraid of “doing” like “Christians.”  But unfortunately, the “salt” in many of us leaves a bad taste, and the “light” shining from us artificial and not a true reflection of its Source.

My Advice – There is nothing wrong with saying, supporting and doing the right things.  But we must practice these without neglecting “justice, mercy and sacrifice.”  Otherwise, we are merely a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  Distracting noise and “fake news” in a world searching for the truth.  Woe to us, the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge.

Don’t just do, be.  People still might not acknowledge the truth, but what they are rejecting will be plain.

Prepared for Gentle Respect

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – In a world with little hope, Christians should stand out because of their hope. This is likely to raise questions. Questions we should be able to answer (although many are unprepared). We should not be arrogant or condescending in our replies. The lost deserve our pity and compassion, not a “holier-than-thou” response.

My Advice – Be gentle in your responses. Respect their right to choose for themselves. Do not lose your gentleness if they do not choose Christ. There may be another time and how you respond to them now may make some difference later.

Study 6 – All Christians Believe In Evangelism?

Screenshot (187)Ephesians 2:1-5 – As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings (lusts, passions) of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive (quickened us) with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV 1984)

Divine Initiative – 1st step of salvation brought to pass unilaterally and exclusively by the power of God.

Total Depravity – 1st of the five “Tulip” points of Calvinism (T – Total Depravity of Man; U – Unconditional Election; L – Limited Atonement; I – Irresistible Grace; P – Perseverance of the Saints). Does not mean utter depravity (man is as bad as he can be). Better term is radical (root, core of existence) corruption (sin affects the whole man – mind, body, will, soul, spirit). All of us walk or follow the ways of this world gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.

But GodBut God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT).

The point is: But God, not but man, made us alive even though we were dead (not sick, not dying) because of our sins. Divine initiative – 1st step is accomplished by God not man.

Once made alive, man can choose, believe and repent because we are alive to God. Before we are made alive one cannot do any of this. Dead men don’t choose. Dead men cannot choose.

The question is: why do evangelism?

Pre-Destined – If some are chosen (pre-destined) from the creation of the world, and some are not, with or without anyone bearing witness, why do evangelism. Because Jesus commands it!

The question is: why command something that is not necessary?

God has not only sovereignly decreed the end (elected), but He has also sovereignly decreed the means (evangelism) of bringing man to salvation. He did not need us to accomplish His unconditional election, but He chose to include us as the means.

Evangelism – Both a duty and a privilege.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Show and Tell

Philemon 6I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Witnessing is more than just how we “show” our faith by how we live our lives. It is also about how we “share” our faith in words. People need evidence (show) and testimony (share) in order to reach a verdict about accepting Christ.

My Advice – Don’t be afraid to share your faith with others. Some will reject, some will ridicule, some will hate. But none of this is directed at you. And remember, some will accept Christ, and that is a great thing to be a part of.