Tag: focus

Running Our Race Acceptably– By Matt Miller

This has been a full week for many of you.  We are in a season when many are experiencing dramatic shifts in life, with big decisions on your horizons and new experiences before you.  Such is often the case in the season of Spring with the end of the school year and the shifting of weather.  Our daily routines get changed a bit, the things that we need to do around our homes changes.  The clocks have moved, and the sun comes up a lot earlier than it had been only a few weeks ago.

As we contemplate all the changes, and the decisions that are set before us, let us reflect on some scriptures to maybe help us be grounded in this season and hopefully a few words that will help us along the way.

The Hebrew writer gives us the accounting of those faithful men and women of ancient days even as he wrote the words in chapter 11.  He testifies of the fact that those who we think of as giants of faith, were not made perfect apart from us, but we all look forward to the same hope and perfection that is only available in Jesus Christ. (Heb 11:39-40).  This thought is the launchpad then for what he writes next.

[Heb 12:1-3 NKJV] 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares [us], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We often strive through the changes in our seasons of life through pain, tears, and strife.  The changes to our routines hurt, even the smallest ones – have you ever suffered from jetlag?  Maybe that’s why he cautioned us to put aside the things that are dragging us down.  Put aside your affection for how yesterday made you feel comfortable.  Embrace today for it is the only day before you (Jas 4:14).  Work through today and the challenges that it places.  Plan for tomorrow, but don’t be disappointed if it comes in a form and with challenges that you hadn’t planned to encounter.

In the Lord, we have a perfect example of running the race to completion as He is the first to have completed the race and has been exalted because of that perfection and place of honor which is rightly His. His blood atoning for us and His enduring all the worst of humanity, He has purchased you, and He has purchased me so He has earned (even by our own reasoning) the exalted place on which He stands. We then should look to that example and emulate Him in this life with an eye on that prize – His glory, His presence.

With  this in mind, let us not become weary, discouraged, or give up on our race.  Wherever you find yourself along the way, don’t stop putting one foot before the other.  Don’t give up on what you have set out to accomplish – eternal life in His presence. Notice that as we progress down the page in Hebrews 12, the writer tells us we aren’t done yet:

[Heb 12:4-8 NKJV] 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

When we encounter struggles in this life, there are a few perspectives on them that can help us in dealing with them.  Remember that the greatest hardships are in our lives because of sin. 

Because of the sin of others, the evil that sin is, our own sins.  Sin brought the curse upon creation.  That is maybe the loudest declaration that sin in all its forms has huge consequences.  These things serve as a reminder in a temporal kind of way. Toils, Pain, Sickness, and Death – all are a result of sin. All these remind us that God has judged against us because of Sin.  They also should remind those who are in Christ Jesus, that we are not bound to these things.  He has freed us of the bondage of such and we know that this is true, because of an empty grave.

That empty grave represents the accomplishment in Him that we look forward to.  That eternal existence in His Glory and in His presence where tears and pain and suffering will be no more.  The Hebrew writer compares the two mountains – Mt. Zion to where we go with Mt. Saini where the law was given and where Israel shuddered in fear at the sight and the terror of the Almighty.

We are going to the mountain on which God’s mercy and deliverance rests, but let us not lose hope, grow weary, or give up.  Let us run patiently with endurance and let us help one another along the way.

Lift the fainting and stir one another as we seek to honor Him whom we serve.  Let us remember that He is worthy and accept His correction because we are made sons and heirs through Jesus.

[Heb 12:28-29 NKJV] 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God [is] a consuming fire.

We shall not be moved not by the fearful things of this world, nor by difficulty.  We have hope, and not despair, and so we press on along the way.  In prayer, in diligence, in faith.

Measuring Success– By Matt Miller

Paul wrote in [Col 2:6-10 NKJV] 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

I have highlighted the verse 8 in this reading, as I want us to consider the ways which Paul says men cheat one another and ultimately God. Philosophy is the first way which is mentioned. Men will reason within themselves, deceiving and being deceived by the lies that they tell themselves, the yearnings of their own hearts, and a selfishness which is man’s to own. It is a self-serving desire which makes us so susceptible to temptations. In fact, it is philosophy which spawned all manner of idols. Notice [Rom 1:22-23 NKJV] 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. In our modern
age, men have made gods of their science and reasoning leaving no room for the concept of the true God. Men have reasoned their way to disbelief and self-service, and then wonder why the world is so evil, why it seams to be consuming its inhabitants, why we can’t get along. Notice that it was because this was man’s desire and God gave us free will so we have been allowed to be overtaken in our own perversions. Paul explains this in the next few verses of the Roman letter, [Rom 1:24-25, 28-32 NKJV] 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. … 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

In addition to being given over to own philosophy, men have been given over to holding to traditions which are not God’s way. Traditions today which have resulted in man’s worship worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. How can men claim our worship is to Him when we do what we want instead of worshipping God as He prescribed? Jesus warned the Pharisees of His day and chastised them for their traditions which had made God’s law to be stricter than God had prescribed (Matt 15:3-9). These very traditions were at the heart of Paul’s own zeal in persecuting the early church (Gal 1:14).

So, it is with all that man does. We measure by our own devices; we determine good according to our standard. When we do such, we would do well to examine Israel in the days of the judges. [Jdg 21:25 NKJV] 25 In those days [there was] no king in Israel; everyone did [what was] right in his own eyes. Isn’t that the very definition of anarchy? We need to look at things how God sees them. Measure by God’s standard, look for what He wants rather than what we want. He represents perfection. It is in Christ that the fulness of God was manifested, and in Him then we have received salvation.

Go back and read our text in Col 2:7-10. Being in Christ is the way to heaven. He is the narrow gate that we have frequently discussed lately. The world would tell you that there is no God, the world would tell you to live however makes you happy, the world would tell you to live your own truth.

The Bible though, tells you that there is a better way; a right way.

[Psa 14:1 NKJV] 1 To the Chief Musician. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, “[There is] no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

[Jer 10:23 NKJV] 23 O LORD, I know the way of man [is] not in himself; [It is] not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

[Act 4:12 NKJV] 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

If we want to have success that has staying power, it’s beginning and ending is the Eternal God. We must then consider all that we do by the illumination of His Word. We must measure how God measures and submit our own ways to His ways. As a Christian, it is incumbent upon each of us who wear that name to put Him and and be rooted and grounded in Him and in our faith in Him to borrow from Paul’s language.

How are you measuring success? By the numbers in your bank account? Your identity in your profession, your family, your carnal citizenship? Do you measure success in material things or spiritual? Which success are you seeking.

Jesus instructed in the sermon on the mount that each of us should seek to find him (Matt 7:7-8) and that if we want to obtain that eternal home, He is the way, truth and life (Jhn 14:6). In fact, he also said in the sermon on the mount that where the things you value are located, there you heart is also focused (Matt 6:33). Let us then measure all that we do by our standing in Christ, our relationship to God by the measure of His Son. Are we living lives which say we are focused on an eternal Home?

Coveting Time

Before I put this into the universe, let me disclaim what follows.  I am in no way judging those who choose to fight, who choose to undergo radiation therapy, chemotherapy, homeopathic/natural therapies to fight and treat cancer. I pray that you will not find it in any way critical of those enduring cancer for that is not the intention with which I write it.  I have nothing but love and respect for the cancer survivors (especially those close to me in my life).  This is simply a contemplation that struck me as I meditated on scripture, who we are and who we should be, what our focus and desire should look like.

In my life, I have seen so many from family members to friends, to mere acquaintances who have suffered from cancer. 

Certainly, it is one of those ominous words in our vocabulary. When a doctor comes in and shares their opinion with you that you have cancer.  The “C” word. When they proclaim that great pall over your head that it is a terminal condition. They give you a professional estimate of how many months or years they would expect you to remain in this mortal flesh.

I have observed at times in these patients that they will talk to all the experts and gather up all of the opinions and then comes nothing but bad choices.  They must choose to take care that is made up of poisons and toxins which are documented to kill at a cellular level.  These compounds are administered to the patient stealing their hair, their clarity of thought, their strength, energy, and zest for life.  They steal away appetites for food, company, and are a kind of suffering at least as equally terrible as the disease they are purported to fight. 

The alternative choice given by the experts is to go and enjoy the few days, weeks, or months that you have left.  The experts paint a bleak picture as though we were meant to roam here indefinitely and should seek to stay bound up here at any and all costs.

Everyone who fights against this disease regardless of treatments that they choose does so for their own reasons.  They know the people and the causes for which they fight. They fight so bravely and hold onto their loved ones and this life with all they have. Again, I have nothing but respect for these and the situation in life that they face.  It is a reminder of the darkness of this world and was brought upon mankind because of sin.

But there is another outlook on all of this.

We, in human flesh are all terminal.  We suffer from a terminal condition which is bound to this earth and brought on by sin. We can none of us know the ending, yet we all understand that before us lies an end. We scratch and claw and fight to remain fastened here.  We long for so much of our lives to prevent change and keep ourselves rooted to this existence.  So much is done in our ignorance of what we have been created for. 

God made us in HIS image.  HE breathed into us the breath of life. HE molded and formed us.  We were made for HIM.  To honor Him; To serve Him; to glorify Him.  He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten to redeem us from sin (Jhn 3:16).  Redeem us and restore us to His own (1Jo 3:1).  He made a way to escape sin and overcome death.

He provided to us the test case and the testimony is real and true.  Jesus of Nazareth, the first fruit of the grave to never die (1Co 15:20-22). The sacrificial lamb (1Co 5:7) who’s death overcame sin and the temptations of this life (1Jo 3:16). The Son presented in glory overcoming both sin and death is our way to overcome these ourselves.  These shackles and weights of sin.

So we should cease to covet time here. Prolonging and increasing our suffering by accepting the poisons of this sinful world.  Rather, we should as Paul says, redeem the time (Eph 5:15-21). Make the most of the minutes and moments of our walk on this earth.  Live life to its fullest knowing that we are dying here and in faith knowing that we will live eternally with Him.

The Apostle Peter, in his letters, gives us these perspectives:

[1Pe 4:1-6, 11-18 NKJV] 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of [his] time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we [have spent] enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with [them] in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of [you]. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. … 11 If anyone speaks, [let him speak] as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, [let him do it] as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [are you], for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time [has come] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what will [be] the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

[2Pe 1:5-11 NKJV] 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, [you] will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So let us not covet the time here along with its suffering here; let us seek our entrance into everlasting life and the reward of the crown of life by dying daily to sin and this present age; putting on Christ and His perfection.