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Walking the Walk – What are the big rocks in your life?

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

In Philippians 3:14 Paul says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus …”

He introduced that statement in v.13 with “but this one thing I do.” Obviously Paul did more than one thing!   He made tents … He preached sermons. He planted churches … He wrote books … Paul did a lot of things! But what he is telling us is that his top priority in life was to “press toward the mark of the upward call…”Paul is saying, “I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, Paul’s number one priority was the Kingdom of Heaven! He was running straight toward that goal; he wasn’t going to let anything distract him from it!

What is your focus/priorities for the coming year?  Let’s learn from a pickled egg jar!

 A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students!    After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a two-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen tennis-ball-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

 Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”  “Really?” he said.

 Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of small gravel.

 He dumped some gravel into the jar and shook it , causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

 By this time the class was starting to catch on … “Probably not,” one of them said. “Good!” he replied. * Then he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?”

 “No!” the class shouted. * Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

 Then he looked back at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

 One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really heard, you can always fit something more in!”

 “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point…The truth is illustration teaches us is this:  IF YOU DON’T PUT THE BIG ROCKS IN FIRST, YOU’LL NEVER GET THEM IN AT ALL.”

 What are the big rocks in your life?  As you look ahead over this year, what are your priorities?

Jesus had a lot to say about our priorities.

 Jesus said in Matthew 6:33

33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 Matthew 22:37-39  – Great Commandment

37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 28:19-20 – Great Commission

19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 Are you living at the intersection of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?

Are your big rocks Christ centered and kingdom focused? Worship, prayer, Bible reading and study, family, fellowship, missions, ministry, evangelism. These should be among the big rocks in your jar.

It’s  heartbreaking, but a true fact, that many Christians do not make God’s Kingdom a priority in life!   Where do you find yourself at the beginning of this New Year?   Won’t you make this year a time for reigniting your walk with God and reaffirm or re-establish your priorities in a manner pleasing to God as Jesus commands – be Christ-centered and kingdom focused.  Amen.

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Moments of Decision – Longing for the Good Old Days

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Ecclesiastes 7:10
10    Do not say,     “Why were the former days better than these?”     For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

We often find ourselves reflecting back and saying, “I really long for the good old days when..”.  It seems that this thinking often comes in times of nostalgia, difficult trials, or when things around us seem hopeless.  Are the “good ole days” really better than today and our hope for the future?

According to Solomon, the preacher in Ecclesiastes, the answer to this question is; not really.  In fact this saying, while very common, indicates there is no biblical truth in our attachment to this notion about former days.  In fact, when we reflect on the former days we often are using it to excuse current circumstances around us and even our own behavior.  We might say that in former times, men were more religious, have a deeper sense and longing for God, experience more self-denial, lived holier lives, and were more exemplary in all their conduct in the world.  This is false thinking.

In former times men were wicked as they are now, and religion just as mixed with its share of hypocrisy, saintly saints, and lostness.  God is the same now as He was then; as loving, as just, as merciful, as ready to save, as ready to help.  So you may say that we live in a corrupt age – and you would be right even as prior ages where corrupt.  The thought here is that it is not the age that is corrupt, but the men of the age.    We only have to look at ourselves; our hearts, our attitudes/motives, and our obedience to determine the why and how our thoughts may race to the “good old days”.

Solomon proclaims in Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse nine that there is “nothing new under the sun”.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
9    That which has been is what will be,      That which is done is what will be done,     And there is nothing new under the sun.

Man continues in his sinful fallen state and God continues in His goodness and has ordained the means through His Son to redeem a lost world from its fallen condition and restore a right relationship with Him.  This has not changed since the garden and each generation experiences the grace, mercy and love of God, His offer of salvation, and the hope of eternity.

I will acknowledge that nostalgia plays a role in our feelings about the good old days.  Memories are often found there to refresh the soul and give peace in our hearts.  Past times seem to have their medicinal qualities to refresh by their positive and comfortable thoughts like hot chocolate on a cold winter night remembered.   Praise God we are creatures with a memory and can enjoy these thoughts.

We, however, need to be cautious to check our motives for reflecting on prior days that they are not fueling ungodly attitudes and behaviors.  This could be discontent, anger, bitterness, grudges, acting on ungodly memories of many sorts.  The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and needs to be checked at all times for its motives.  This is true for individuals and applies equally as well to churches.

Husbands, wives, families are often “historical” in their relating to current events of life.  This can bring up many hurts, frustrations, unforgiveness, bitterness, and put a wet blanket on God’s current work in their lives.  My wife and I have an agreement that we cannot bring anything up which is greater than thirty days past.  This has worked wonders for keeping focused on God’s activity in our lives today seeking His will and being thankful for all He has and is providing.  Never looking back in an attitude of ungratefulness with the ” would of, should of, could of” syndrome should be our heart attitude.  Paul gave an admonition to the believers in Philippi which reflects an attitude of forward thinking and not looking back.

Philippians 3:13-14
13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The truth of these verses might be summarized as follows – In Jesus, your days ahead are greater than your days gone by.  Hands down, without doubt, with hope and expectation the future in Christ promises to bring you deeper and closer in your relationship with Him and the resulting joy and abundant life only He can give.

Paul says to forget those things which are behind (don’t dwell on past failures, poor decisions, sinful behavior no matter how grievous, disappointments, bitterness, hurts, should of’s, etc.).  He could speak with authority given the weight of his past which included broad persecution of Christs’ church and being complicit in murder.  Paul knew that it was not wise to dwell on the past but to keep his priorities focused on the prize of the higher calling in Christ Jesus.   Oh, how we need to take these words in and embrace them in our daily walk giving our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ and allowing Him to direct our hearts and minds toward the upward call.  There is no greater source of peace, fulfillment, and contentment in life.  You will never have to look over your shoulder if you keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thoughts of the past and yearning for the “good old days” in itself is not the issue Solomon is addressing; it is the foolishness in making the distinction, because in truth every age (stages of life) has its bright and its dark sides.  It is for us to look forward with thanksgiving and anticipation at what God is doing today in our lives and strive to seek His will as we progress toward spiritual maturity.  Our aim is not to be detoured reflecting on the past but be purposed in Christ Jesus toward the future.  It is a high calling. A calling requiring intentionality, forward momentum, and the acknowledgement of an  eternal purpose which is greater than ourselves.

In the end it is foolish to complain about present times and longing for the good old days when the real issue much of the time is dealing with the current state of our own hearts.  When our hearts are right with God our lives are right with Him and others.  This provides the spiritual state of mind which equips us for coping with the world around us which seems to relentlessly tempt us, discourage us, and give us a sense of defeat.  This often draws us back to times we perceive were more in keeping with a better state than what we are experiencing at the present.  That is exactly what the enemy wants us to think.  To discourage, deceive, and derail what God has in store for us up the road.   It is our task to recognize our need to stay focused on our highest priority, as Paul exhorts us to do, the goal of our upward calling.

The chief subject of the book of Ecclesiastes is the folly of all man’s efforts in seeking happiness here below, and that the wisdom which judges all this only renders man still unhappy.   One way man seeks to reconcile his state is to look backward and long for perceived better times, which we are told is unwise.   What then are we to do?  The preacher of Ecclesiastes gives us the conclusion of the whole matter.

Ecclesiastes 12:13
13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:      Fear God and keep His commandments,     For this is man’s all.

Moments of Decision – longing for the good old days:  Reflect on the good old days without comparison, enjoy the thoughts of pleasant times, enjoy  the memory of fond smells and bright sunny days, while making the decision of always being steadfastly focused on the prize of the upward calling, being content and grateful for where God has you today, fearing God with reverence and awe and obeying all His commandments while resting in the blessed hope of glory and eternity to come.