Are We There Yet?

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My Musings – As a youngster, I remember the long road trips to visit my grandparents.  Without fail, either I or one of my two brothers would eventually ask “how much further?”  This question was usually asked a number of times before we reached our destination.  Five hours is considered a long trip when you are young.  In many respects, our walk with Christ is the same.  As long as “we are here,” means we are not there yet.  Just drifting through life will take us further away, because the “headwinds” of this world keep pushing us away from our “goal.”

For most of my childhood, our trips to my grandparents took us down two-lane roads.  No four-lane interstates went our way.  Road construction meant more than mere delays.  It meant long detours that took us miles out of our way before we could return to the designated route.  Life has its detours as well.  Many (but not all) are of our own making, requiring constant re-routing to return to our original course.

My Advice – To make forward progress we need to press on. We must forget what is behind and press on toward the goal to win the prize (reach our destination). If we are not looking forward (keeping our eyes on the prize), we are more likely than not to drift off course.  We must keep in mind that no matter how long, winding or hard the journey is, the destination (prize) that God has for us will be worth it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 10, 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.

It’s Getting Late Early

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My Musings – “It gets late early out there” – Yogi Berra.  Another profound quote from that baseball sage.  It’s getting late, indeed.  It may seem early, but in the fullness of time, Christ will return. How do we want Him to find us?  Living Godly lives or living ungodly lives?  Sometimes it seems like we are living like its getting late later. Kind of like the Hebrews acted when Moses delayed coming back down from the mountain. How we live shouldn’t matter whether it’s sooner or later.

My Advice – Let’s live like we should whether its earlier or later.

Breaking The Bonds Of Fellowship

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My Musings – Let there be no mistake about this.  The Day is rapidly approaching.  “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:33-34, NIV 1984).  Read Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, and pay attention to current events.  Are we not at least beginning to see “all these things” happen?

And yet, are we not also seeing an increase in forsaking the meeting together?  The habit of some is becoming the habit of more and more?  It has always been important that we not give up meeting together, but the urgency today is more so, because the day is approaching.   And yet the congregations in many places are dwindling.  Maybe their “itching ears” are not hearing what they want to hear?  Perhaps they are following another gospel that  “is no gospel at all?”  It could be that other priorities have displaced their “first love?”  How many have simply decided to “abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons?

God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5, NIV 1984).  So why are so many forsaking Him?  Because Jesus said they would (Matthew 24:10).

My Advice – “A day may come when we forsake our [Lord] and break all bonds of fellowship! [Let it] not [be] this day!  By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand!”  My paraphrase of Aragorn’s speech before the black gate in “The Return of the King.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Disappointment

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My Musings – There’s a lot packed into these few verses.  Today, I want to focus on the linkage between peace and suffering.  How is it that some people can be subjected to so much suffering and yet still experience a “peace that surpasses all understanding?

Like a good mystery novel, you need to unravel the clues.  Follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads.

Faith – We gain access to faith through God’s good graces.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, and yet we only have it because He gives (a gift) it to us.

Justification – Only by exercising the faith that God has given us, through His grace (also given), can we be justified (by grace we are saved – justified – through faith).  While exercising our faith is an action, it is not a work, because we know we are not saved by works.  It (salvation) is a gift.  Yet we do not have the gift just because it is offered.  We have to accept it.

Peace – We can only have peace (not as the world gives peace) if we have been justified (reconciled to God).  Genuine peace with God can only happen through reconciliation, which means eliminating the differences that separate us.  These differences would otherwise be irreconcilable if Jesus had not died to satisfy (eliminate) what caused the differences in the first place.  Caused by us (our action), eliminated by the cross (God’s action through HIs Son), offered to us as a free gift (God’s grace), and accepted through faith (our action).

Hope – Hope in the hereafter, where “we shall be like Him,” (“of the glory of God“).  Hope is desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.  Just like peace is not as the world give peace, hope is likewise not as the world experiences hope.  For the world, hope is a desire for something but no assurance.  For the believer, there is belief and expectation (assurance) because of Him who made the promise.  A “hope that does not disappoint us” because of Him who pours it out in love.

Suffering – Curiously linked to both peace and hope.  For the world, peace and suffering rarely coexist.  And hope seems almost futile.  For the Christian, suffering need not destroy hope.  If often magnifies it.  And while suffering does not bring peace, the Christian can experience peace while suffering.  That is what we can rejoice about.  Not that we are experiencing it, but that it magnifies hope and need not rob us of our peace.  Something that truly surpassing understanding.

And All The Rest – A Christian’s hope and peace are not merely intangible feelings.   They have tangible results – perseverance, character and (more) hope.

Another Gift – The Holy Spirit, who lives (and so much more) within us.

And where does the trail of evidence lead? To God. The faith we have is from God.  It is His grace that justifies us through the gift of HIs Son’s death and resurrection.  It is Him who gives us peace and backs up our hope.  The trail of evidence clearly points to Him.

My Advice – Don’t give up hope.

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.

 

 

 

 

Take Heart and Overcome

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My Musings – To overcome is from the Greek NIKAO, which means to overpower, or to be victorious over. When we accept Christ, though we remain in the world, we are no longer of the world.  As a result, we are able to overcome (gain victory over) the world.  If He had not overcome the world (evidenced by His resurrection), then neither could we.

Because we remain in the world, the world will hate us.  Because they hate Him.  And this hate grows stronger very day.  But we do not lose heart, rather we take heart because He did overcome the world.

In this world you will have trouble . . .

For Doing What’s Right – “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13-17, NIV 1978).

For Being A Christian – “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16, NIV 1978).

. . . but take heart! I have overcome the world.

My Advice – How then should we respond to suffering imposed on us by the world?  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12;21, NIV 1984).

 

Don’t Get Cocky Kid!

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My Musings – Going to battle requires preparation.  Being properly prepared involves at least three key elements:  knowing your enemy, surveying the battlefield, and choosing your weapons.

Knowing Your Enemy – “So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Ephesians 6:11, NIV 1984).  In the movie “Patton,” on the eve of battle, actor George C. Scott who portrays General Patton is seen reading Field Marshal Rommel’s book “The Tank in Battle” (actually “Infantry Attacks”), a book on battle tactics.  In a following scene, Patton has Rommel on the retreat and as he gleefully exclaims “Rommel…you magnificent %@$&*!, I read your book!”  I don’t know how historically accurate this is, but it nicely illustrates how knowing your enemy can help you defeat him.  This is especially important in Spiritual warfare “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11–12, NIV 1984).

Surveying The Battlefield – “So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1984).  An army would not willingly go into battle without knowing a little about the “lay of the land.”  Choosing the “high ground,” would provide a definite advantage.  Avoiding positions that would make your army vulnerable, is another example.  When Adam and Eve were tempted, they were in the worst position they could be in to avoid temptation.  They were hanging around the forbidden tree.  At the time of the year that kings go to war, David stayed behind.  His first mistake.  Then he “found” himself where he should not have been, watching Bathsheba bathe and inciting lust.

Choosing Your Weapons – “Therefore put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1984). Spiritual battles require Spiritual weapons.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4, NIV 1984). In a classic fight scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones had just fought a fast-paced battle against a dozen attackers.  Already weary, he is confronted by one final ninja-type adversary wielding a samurai sword. Somewhat nonchalantly, Jones draws his gun and shoots the warrior. Moral of the story: don’t bring a sword to a gunfight.  Corollary: don’t bring worldly weapons to a Spiritual battle.

My Advice – Know your enemy, survey the battlefield and choose your weapons wisely.  Lest you think these make you invincible, one final movie quip from Han Solo to Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” – “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky”   To avoid this “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10, NIV 1984).