Time To Re-Focus?

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“As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”  (John 9:4, NIV 1984).

“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “They were disappointed but believed they could solve the problem.  So they started earlier, stayed longer, and worked harder.  They kept doing the same things over and over again and wondered why things didn’t get better.  They were beginning to realize the difference between activity and productivity.”  (Adapted from “Who Moved My Cheese?” By Spencer Johnson, M.D.).

Activity or productivity? Start earlier, stay longer and work harder.  Doing the same (unproductive) things over and over, but things don’t get better.  Sound familiar?  Jesus knew there was much work to be done, and that His “night” was coming.  But He never confused the important with the urgent.  As a result, with merely three years of ministry, He completed the work that the Father gave Him to do.

How are we doing?  We are called to follow in His steps.  Are we starting earlier, staying longer, and working harder, but getting nowhere?  Maybe it’s because we are doing things in our own strength and wisdom?  Striking out on our own?  Straying from the path?  Losing sight of our calling?

My Advice – How can we follow in His steps if we are not keeping our eyes on the path He followed?  Maybe it’s time to refocus

What Keeps You Up At Night?

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“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?”  (Job 38:8–11, NIV 1984).

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”   (2 Samuel 24:15–16, NIV 1984).

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Matthew 6:25–27, NIV 1984).

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthews 10:27–28, NIV 1984).

My Musings – So what does keep you up at night?  What are the things that you worry and fret about?  Have they added “a single hour to his life?”  These are troubled times for sure.  Not as troubled as they will become as Christ’s return grows close, but troubled nonetheless.  But one thing we should never lose sight of is that God is still on His throne, He is still sovereign.  Troubled times come and go throughout history, a consequence of the fall.  But just like the “proud waves” God can say, and often has, “this far you may come and no farther!”  Or like the He commanded the angel afflicting Israel, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.

We may never know why certain troubled times come into our world.  And like Frodo, we may “wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkien).

So what do we do with the time that is given us, especially in such troubled times?  We need not fear the times or the trouble.  Concern yes, but fear, no.  For such things can only “kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

My Advice – Remember, no matter what we face, God is Sovereign.  If you know Jesus Christ you have nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

See No Shadow, Fear No Evil

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, NIV 1984).

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.   Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:51–57, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Groundhog Day is a popular tradition celebrated in Canada and the United States on February 2nd. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation [you think?] between a groundhog seeing its shadow or not and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather. (Wikipedia).  This year, March 20th is the Spring (Northern Hemisphere) equinox.  Shadow or no, that’s seven weeks (and I apologize for dragging our Northern neighbors into this).

Shadow or no, uncertain days lay ahead.  In the U.S., it’s a looming contentious election in the wake of an impeachment and acquittal (presumably).  In the U.K., good or bad, Brexit has arrived at long last.  In China (and now other countries), fears about the coronavirus continue to increase.  Global warming is a leading concern of most nations (except maybe the U.S., at least officially?).  And how long before a rogue nation or group unleashes a dirty bomb or something even worse?  All combined, merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. No matter how you spin it, the shadows are lengthening.  Perhaps, like the groundhog, we’d all like to crawl back into some burrow and forget about it until “spring” arrives.

We need not fear these uncertainties or evils.  If we are in Christ, one of these days (seems like its getting sooner and sooner), we’re “outa here.” Either by walking “through the valley of the shadow of death,” or “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet!”  If we are in Christ, we have more to look forward to than we have to dread.

My Advice – Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1–4, NIV 1984).  Have you trusted in Him?  There is no fearing the shadows when you do.  Do you want to know the way?

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Want to know the way? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.

Our Needs, His Riches

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You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  (John 15:16, NIV 1984).

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:25, 32–34, NIV 1984).

[For] my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19, NIV 1984).

Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”  (Psalm 50:10, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Followers of Christ are chosen and appointed by Him.  So we need not worry about the things that the rest of the world worries about.  He knows our needs, and whatever we need for our appointed tasks will be provided.  So we need not seek after these things.  Rather we should seek after the things of God and God will take care of adding the other things as well.  According to His riches.  This should tell you why we need not worry.  His riches (“cattle on a thousand hills“) are abundant.

My Advice – So let’s not get greedy by asking God to meet our wants instead of our needs.  Let’s make sure that “whatever [we] ask in [His] name” are needs not wants.

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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?”

 

I’m Not Alone

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My Musings – Although our troubles are temporary, while we are in them, we all have a tendency to be consumed by them.  We fix our eyes on them.  We can hardly focus on anything else.  Yet because we are in Christ, if we fix our eyes on Him, things can be different.  Hard pressed but not crushed.  Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned.  Struck down but not destroyed.  Wasting away but being renewed.  With the proper focus we can see the all sufficient grace of God while still in the midst of what is pressing against us, perplexing us, persecuting us, or striking us down.

My Advice – In the less than memorable movie Noah’s Ark, starring Russel Crowe, there is one brief exchange between Noah and Tubal-Cain that I do remember quite well.

Tubal-Cain (menacingly):  “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”

Noah (matter-of-factly):  “I’m not alone.”

Remember, no matter how desperate the situation, if you are in Christ you are never alone.  Fix your eyes on Him, not the situation.

High Anxiety

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My Musings – Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or that might (or might not) happen.  Anxiety can rob us of happiness, because happiness is usually dependent on circumstances. When difficulties arise, happiness fades away.  But these difficulties need not rob us of joy, because joy often happens despite circumstances.  If that joy is in the Lord, we need not be anxious about anything.  In everything (all circumstances), we can petition God to drive out the anxiety and replace it with peace. When this happens, it surpasses understanding because having peace and joy in the midst of all kinds of adversity (in everything) is incomprehensible.

My Advice – When faced with oppressive anxiety, pray.  When faced with oppressive anxiety, rejoice (count your blessings) in the Lord.  When faced with anxiety, focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV 1984).  Put this “into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, NIV 1984).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 17, 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.

 

 

In Everything

Philippians 4:6-7Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We do not have to live in anxiety, no matter what perilous things we may be going through.   We need only pray. We may not always get what we pray for, but we can always find peace.

My Advice – Don’t let anxiety overwhelm you. You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control how they affect your heart and your mind. Just pray. God will grant you peace in the storm.