Find The One Thing

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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.

 

 

 

 

Just Come

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My Musings – The first thing that catches my attention is the word “come.”  Jesus has completed His work.  He came to earth and suffered an excruciating death on the cross.  The old saying “I’ll meet you half way” holds no comparison to the lengths that Christ went to on our behalf.  It is now up to us.  We must come to Him.  Just as we are.  While we are still sinners.  What more could we possibly expect from Him that He has not already done.

The second thing that catches my eye is the word “all.”  We all have sinned.  We all have fallen short.  Nevertheless, we all may come.  Again, just as we are, while we are still sinners.  No fine print.  No “some exclusions may apply.”  “Ya’ll come.”

Third is “weary and burdened.”  Burdened by the load of sin we bear.  Weary of trying to earn our salvation on our own.  Both troubled and afraid by the realization that we cannot.

Fourth, “I will give you rest,” and “you will find rest for your souls.”  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27, NIV 1984).  Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Fifth is the word “learn.”  Once we come to Him there is so much to learn from Him.  He wants to transform us, and to renew our minds now that He has renewed our hearts and we have been made right with Him.

Sixth, “for I am gentle and humble of heart.” What a contrast to the way of the world!  What a contrast to our old self.  “Gentle,” having or showing a mild, kind, or tender temperament or character.  “Humble,” not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.  After all, think of what we were and where we were headed before the “touch of the Master’s hand.”  “Of heart,”one’s innermost character, feelings, or inclinations.  Changed forever by Christ’s redeeming grace.

Finally, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Jesus bore our sins for us.  That load has been lifted from us.  Forever.  Final.  No forfeiture.  All we need to is “come.”  What could be easier.  This is the only real exception to “if it sounds to good to be true, it isn’t.”  Because, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” – Dwight L. Moody.

My Advice – Just come.  It’s that easy.  He carried the cross on His back for you.  He did the heavy lifting.

 

 

Carried On To Completion

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My Musings – “I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Really?  Well, family  certainly.  Friends, possibly.  Partners in the Gospel?  Well, maybe not every time.  But you see they don’t always share equally in the partnership.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”  With joy?  All, all, always?  Well maybe not all my  prayers.  Maybe not all of them.  Maybe not always with joy.  But you, know, some times they disappoint me.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  Confident?  But you don’t know them like I do.  They’ve wandered.  They’re inconsistent. They’re far from complete.

Always Thankful – We have the family, friends and partners in the Gospel that God put in our lives.  And He put us in theirs.  If we are not thanking God every time we remember them, maybe it is us who are not sharing equally?

Always Pray With Joy – In all our prayers, if we don’t pray for them with joy, maybe we aren’t as thankful as we should be.  If we were, wouldn’t we always be joyful when we prayed for them?

Confident of Completion – If God did begin the good work, He will bring it to completion.  If we lack confidence in this we are focusing too much on the wandering and inconsistency and not enough on the “author and perfecter of our faith.

My Advice – Always thank God when you remember the people in your life.  They are a gift to you and you are a gift to them.  Pray with joy in all your prayers for all the people in your life.  They may not always make you happy.  Don’t let those periodic lapses and disappointments rob you of your joy because of them.  Place your confidence in God. That He will complete what He started in their lives.  Don’t let their temporary detours cause you to lose confidence in their ultimate destination.  Be encouraged.

Read the text again.  Wouldn’t you like to have people in your life that are like Paul?  Then why not “do unto others what you would have them do unto you?”  What would our family, friends and Gospel partnership relationships be like if we did?  Talk about thankfulness. Talk about joyfulness.  Talk about confidence.  All wrapped up in a passion for Christlikeness.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Relationships” on September 8, 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)

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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.”

 

Not All That Glitters

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My Musings – Wow!  Talk about being intolerant, insensitive, and lacking political correctness.  Paul goes on to say, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:1-5).  In other words, it is grace alone through faith in Christ alone.  Any variation from this is a perversion of the Gospel.  It is, in fact, no gospel at all.  This message was not an invention of Paul.  Jesus Himself said that He was the only way.  Other “gospels” and religions may seem attractive, “shiny” and have a form of Godliness, but in the end lead to eternal death.  “Not all that glitters is gold.”

But why would Paul, or any other Christian be so harsh.  Notice that Paul is not expressing these sentiments to people who hear and reject the Gospel of Christ.  For them he has pity and sorrow.   But to those who try to lead others astray, he has no such feelings.  It is one thing to be responsible for our own poor choices and decisions that affect only our soul, it is quite another to lead other souls astray.  Paul allows no quarter for them.

My Advice – I know this post will not be popular with a great many.  They might even make the same claims against Christianity.  But if Paul was right, if Jesus was right, the stakes are high.  If they were wrong, there are no stakes at all.  Those are the only two possibilities – they were either right or they were wrong.  You owe it to yourself to investigate the claims for yourself and make your own judgment.  In the end, the decision is yours.  But let it be an informed decision.