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Hopeless Travelers

Luke 24:13-35

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAThey had pinned their hopes on him leading them to success. They weren’t sure what would happen along the way, but they knew he would protect them. Long days and ominous night were their lot, but they assumed that was part of the deal. Even as the enemy lurked behind them, shadowing their every move, he was aware and knew that somehow evil was part of plan. And in the face of an unspeakable terror, he stood between it and them as their protector. But when Gandalf fell from the bridge at Khazad Dum, in the mines or Moria, all seemed lost. Once out of harm’s way, they were overtaken by their grief. Tears of anguish and despair flowed from those of the Fellowship as their leader, guide, and friend fell into Shadow.

Great imagery. Watching (or reading) of the Fellowship’s reaction to the loss of their leader paints a vivid picture of how the disciples may have felt at the crucifixion of their Messiah and friend. Cleopas and his companion may have been through those raw emotions since Good Friday was only a couple of days prior and still fresh on their minds (vv.13-14). I can picture their seven mile walk to Emmaus; painful, unmotivated, stepping slowly, sorrowful, disillusioned, and worst of all, hopeless (v.21).

Hopelessness is a terrible thing. One translation of Prov 13:12 is “When hope is crushed the heart is crushed” (GNT). All those who looked to Jesus, whether it was for the right or wrong reasons, had their hopes dashed to pieces as Jesus hung dying on the cross. Their hearts were crushed as the hopes of a new nation steadily disappeared with each drop of Jesus’ blood. Cleopas says it best when he states, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v.21). He was going to make it right. He would put us back on top. Israel would be free from occupation and it was Jesus who would accomplish it. That’s a lot to hope for.

Where do your hopes lie? Are they in a person? A program? A government? What is that thing that gives your life meaning? The disciples were right to look to Jesus for their hope; the problem is they looked to him for the wrong reasons. So he comes to the downtrodden and Emmaus bound, unrecognizable, and points them to the Scriptures which teach that everything that has happened was according to plan (vv.25-27). Miraculously, during their table fellowship, Jesus allows himself to be known and is gone; thus validating everything they have witnessed and most recently heard on the road.

I can be so slow to believe the things I have read in the Bible. I read and believe, but there are times it is only an intellectual belief. My head says amen, but my heart is crushed. At times, it seems as if I have pinned my hope on a straw Jesus; one that would bless my efforts because they were so godly. I should say I convinced myself that my desires were godly. I can be the loudest cheerleader when things appear to be going my way, but as soon as it looks as if I’ve been mistaken, I drag my knuckles back to Emmaus wondering where it all went wrong.

I am reminded of Doubting Thomas who would not believe that Jesus rose from the dead until he saw him with his own eyes (John 20:24-29). Upon visual proof of the resurrection, and Thomas’ declaration, Jesus responds, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me” (v.29 GNT)! Somehow, in the back of my mind, I would believe like Thomas and Cleopas if I could see Jesus too, in the flesh. How about you? Would meeting Jesus in the flesh make more of an impact upon your discipleship than reading your Bible? We probably say yes, but why?

Biblical exposition happened on that road. Jesus accomplished what the prophets said he would do. And when the two men realized at the table who was with them, they headed back to Jerusalem, pronto. They had good news to share. The women who went to the tomb had good news to share, and they shared it. We should be so bold. It’s the recipients decision to heed or reject the news, we must present it because we believe it to be true. The glory of Easter overshadowed the despair of Friday, and it was now time to tell people. It was their responsibillity then and it’s ours now.

How happy are those who believe without seeing me. I have not seen Jesus and yet I believe. You have not seen and yet some of you believe. Let’s not let the crushed hope of _________ be the reason our hearts are crushed and we are no good for the kingdom of God. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world” (John 16:33b GNT)!

Jesus is infinitely greater than Gandalf and no connection between the two is implied. There is not a wizard, Hobbit, Fellowship, elf, Gollum, or ring/s that saves mankind from the domain of sin and darkness. There is only one and he is the Christ, the Son of the living God!

Solus Christus,
Rich

He’s Not Here!

Luke 24:1-12 (Matt 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6; John 20:1-18)

He is risen

I was talking to my neighbor the other day in front of the open hood of his V-8 mustang. He began to point out all the newer parts that he had to replace after the car was stolen. This happened years ago, but he still remembers the disbelief of walking out of his apartment and not seeing his car. He looked in other areas of the parking lot where he never parked, because it must certainly be there, right? Wrong. I was able to reply with my own sad tale of woe when my 1991 GSX-R 1100 went missing back in early 90s. The shock of walking out of a bar and seeing a station wagon parked where my bike once stood was enough to stop me in my tracks. Dazed, I stood there, then walked behind the car and eventually looked under it, not wanting to believe that it was gone.

Imagine the women coming to see someone worth infinitely more than a bike or car, and find that he’s not where they left him. There is going to be shock, confusion, fear, and a host of other emotions that come flooding in all at once. After all, it was a corpse that they were going to anoint, it’s not like they were hoping to catch him while he was in. So there they stand, at the opening of the tomb, wondering, alarmed, and afraid because their Lord’s body is gone.

Reports fabricated by the chief priests and elders, and corroborated by the guards at the scene, led people to believe that the disciples came and stole the body (Matt 28:11-15). An elaborate hoax is much easier to blow off, and excuse away, than the actual resurrection of a publicly murdered Messiah. Isn’t that the case with people both then and now? They believe the most reasonable, easily explained, and obvious answer must be the truth (see Occam’s razor).

But, who ever said the Gospel made sense? God is separated from sinners (Isa 59:2; 1 John 3:4). All of us have sinned and death is the penalty of sin (Rom 3:10-12, 23, 6:23). And yet, while enemies of God, He extends grace by giving Himself to save those who cannot save themselves (Rom 5:8; Eph 2:8-9). Those who believe that Jesus paid their sin debt, now have peace with God (Luke 5:20; John 3:16; Rom 8:1-4; 1 Cor 15:1-4; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 John 2:2). If you were to write a plan, or a scheme that maps out how God and man can be reconciled, would it look like that written above? Probably not. The Gospel is crazy-talk to those whom the Bible says are perishing (1 Cor 1:17-25).

Yet the angels say, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’ ” (vv.6-7). Crazy? To most maybe, but the women remembered that’s what Jesus said and ran to tell the disciples the wonderful news (Luke 24:8-10).

The rebuke from the angels challenged the women’s actions. They came to see a dead man, and were told to recall when the “dead man” said in Galilee that the he would be turned over to sinful men, killed, and then raised three days later (v.7). Jesus made the same claim two other times concerning his death and resurrection, after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ and after the Transfiguration (Mark 9:31-32; Luke 9:22; Matt 16:21, 17:22-23). Jesus told his disciples what would happen to him, multiple times, but it was their fault they didn’t grasp the reality of his words.

I am like that, and I bet some of you are too. Of course we aren’t walking and talking with Jesus, enjoying his physical, personal dialogue with us, but we do have his Word. And I wonder if that somehow seems less important. We read what we like and bypass that which we do not like. We may be quick to slam the disciples for their fear and faithlessness, but how do we fare? Do we assume that since we can’t have Jesus in the flesh, then we’ll settle for miracles, and Lord while you’re at it, make them whoppers. The rich man with five brothers in Jesus’ parable wanted a supernatural event to warn his brothers about Hell, but they did not get one since they had Moses and the Prophets (Luke 16:19-31).

Hear that. They had Moses and the Prophets. Today, our equivalent is the Bible, God’s Word. His holy, inspired, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word. We have the words of life, and a dying world needs to hear them. And why should they listen to us? Because the grave is empty. That’s right. An empty grave means my Savior lives, and because of my faith in him, I’ll live too. And those who believe in Jesus, yep, they’ll live too. Now that is Good News.

Cars and bikes get stolen. After the initial shock, their owners get upset and move on with life. But the empty grave that Jesus once occupied is an eternal testimony to the grace of God toward sinful man. “Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow, Because he lives, All fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He Lives.”

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Matt 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-40

triumphal-entry-jesusofnazarethAnd the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Many a king has come throughout the ages to establish his kingdom, and though these kingdoms have lasted for varying lengths of time, none has been perpetual. The pomp stops; the celebrations dwindle and time takes either the king or his kingdom off the scene, only to be replaced by another.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the message it conveyed, went exactly the way Jesus wanted it to go saying exactly what he meant it to say; I am the Messiah and I am arriving the way the prophet said I would over 500 years ago (Zech 9:9; Matt 21:4-5). By today’s standards, the donkey is not a remarkable creature, bred for brute labor, but in its history (King David and before), the donkey was considered a royal animal.

Jesus’ place upon a donkey, trotting toward Jerusalem, was not lost on the crowds. As the throng went along, perhaps catching a glimpse of Jerusalem in the distance, meeting other travelers as they walked, they began to shout Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord (Luke 19:38, cf. Ps 118:26). Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Matt 21:9). Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! (Mark 11:9-10). Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel! (John 12:13).

Jesus was proclaiming his position as king, and also a servant. Zechariah prophesied that the king would be gentle, lowly, humble (Zech 9:9). Kent Hughes gives us the idea that Jesus’ borrowing of the donkey blends both his dignity and poverty; his position as king and character as servant (Luke Commentary p. 240). Thanks Kent. The symbolism was purposeful, powerful, and prophetic.

And as he rides to Jerusalem, the praise of the crowd infuriates the Pharisees. They tell Jesus to silence the crowds and rebuke them from saying such things, but Jesus says the rocks will glorify him if no one else will (Luke 19:39-40). I love that. Jesus knows that God is the only One worthy of worship, and yet he accepts the praise from the people without hesitation. Jesus is the King the people need. He is the Deliverer the people need. He is the Messiah the people need. He is a poor, lowly servant who identifies with common rabble like you and me, but he is NOT the one they were looking for.

They were looking for a savior to alleviate their political struggles; someone to restore the Nation back to its former glory. Jesus was the Savior and worthy of the shout Hosanna (which means save or save us), but he would not save them in the way that they thought. A week that starts off Triumphantly will descend to Tragedy by week’s end, and the palm waving, coat laying-down hypocrites that are drunk with victory in our scene today, will scream for Jesus’ life in a few day’s time.

Who are you looking for?

For me, that can be a scary thought. I’d hold a palm frond all day long as long as my imagined messiah comes to grant my every wish. And when he doesn’t come through, well, crucify him too.

Thankfully, the Gospel isn’t about a genie, or strict adherence to a set of rules to please a capricious Deity, or, dare I say it, my ultimate happiness. The Gospel is about a God who is separated from His creation because of sin, and selflessly gives of Himself to pay the price required to cancel our debt to Him. Throughout the ages, there have been voices declaring that One is coming to set things aright. And on a day when the City was bustling with visitors, a Galilean carpenter on top of a donkey, born to die on behalf of sinful man, strode toward his destiny; purposefully, powerfully, and prophetically.

My Savior didn’t come to grant me wishes, he died to set me free, and for that I rejoice. His humiliation is my gain and it can be yours too. Triumph to Tragedy . . . to Triumph; oh what a wonderful week this will be.

Grace and Peace,
Rich

Luke 6:46-49

not-listening

Years ago, I remember hearing D. James Kennedy on a tape (yes a cassette tape) explain a conversation he had with someone while he was evangelizing. In the course of the conversation, I recall the exchange went something like this:
MAS (Man on the street): So all I have to do is say Jesus is Lord and I’ll be saved.
DJK: That’s not what I said.
MAS: Then what did you say.
DJK: I said if you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess that with your mouth, you’ll be saved.
MAS: There, you said it again. I just have to say that Jesus is Lord and I’ll be saved.
DJK: I never said that. I never have nor will I ever say that.
MAS: Then say what you said.
DJK: I said if you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess that with your mouth, you’ll be saved.
MAS: See, you did it again. . .

Did you pick up on the difference between what was said and what was heard? People hear us say, just say Jesus is Lord and Heaven is yours; when what we are really saying is BELIEVE that Jesus is Lord, and then say it. Big difference. Huge difference. The difference between the two is as far as Heaven is from Hell. To some, believing is as easy as believing in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny; it’s something one does if it will serve his or her purposes. However, Jesus will not tolerate belief that is void of true faith and sincerity.

That’s why he asks a rhetorical question in verse 46, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” He was setting up the parable to show what true discipleship looks like, while letting all the wannabe disciples know that you cannot just stumble into Heaven. You cannot call Jesus Lord and not be a doer of the Word (Matt 7:21-23; Jas 1:22). Imagine SAYING I Love You to someone and not truly loving that person. Or SAYING I’m sorry to someone for _______ and not being truly remorseful. Maybe SAYING to someone, trust me, while continuing to be an untrustworthy person. How about SAYING Jesus is the Lord of your life, and not doing what he says. These declarations, and many others like them, are examples that require follow-up actions to prove their validity. Words are hollow and meaningless unless followed by action.

And action is the key. Notice the three verbs used in verse 47? They are Come, Hear, and Do. The true disciple of Christ does something.

We Come to Jesus in faith for salvation, to be sure, but once we’re in, so to speak, we must continue to come to him. We continue to hear biblical truths. We learn more and deeper things about Jesus and the Gospel as we gather together weekly for public worship. If you are already a believer in Jesus, congratulations on completing your first step of true discipleship. It is the next two steps that are the hardest.

Hearing here is Listening, and how hard is it to listen in our culture? Hard. We are not a people who listen well, let alone to public speakers. Everything can be just right; the speaker is awesome, the music is perfect, and whatever it is that makes for a great church service is all there, but, not all will listen to that which is most important. There will always be present those who will not listen to sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3-4). Listening infers comprehending what was said and applying to you what is necessary for change. A little harder than Coming, isn’t it?

And finally, there is the Doing part of discipleship, the hardest part of all. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” As an authentic disciple, are you putting into practice the principles found in Scripture? Without being legalistic, have you gone to that person who is in need of an apology? Maybe share the Gospel more as you feel led. What character adjustments need to be made? I don’t mean Do something to please God, but because God is already pleased with you, in Christ, then go and Do because that’s what true disciples do.

And how does it go for those who Come, Listen, and Obey? He is like the man who built his house on a rock (v.48). He weathers life’s storms and ultimately, he survives the final judgment. The Comers who Hear without Listening and will not Obey, well, life will chew them up and spit them out since they are as stable as a man who built his house on a sand dune (v.49). Oh yeah, he won’t do so well in the judgment either (Matt 7:21-23).

So you say to Jesus Lord, Lord, and then what? Believing that Jesus is not just the Lord, but your Lord should cause you to heed his commands and prohibitions with due diligence. Coming to him in faith and Listening to what he says, followed by Action is not what the Lord wants, but what he expects. And when, not if, you blow it, 1 John 1:9 is waiting there for you to start waltzing all over again.

Grace and Peace,
Rich

Do Not Judge

Luke 6:37-38

dont-judgeOne does not need to be a Christian to know this phrase and have it memorized. It appears that this statement, when taken out of context, states that there should be no judgment whatsoever; because the thought is, who are we to judge? God is love, and the loving thing to do is accept and affirm all people and their actions, right? Wrong! Christian’s have a bad reputation as a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. People have been hurt by those in the church because they felt unfairly judged and condemned. Unfortunately, that’s true. There are way too many people in our communities who will never set foot in a church because we have shown ourselves to be no different than they are. Actually, we have shown the unchurched that we believe that we are better than they are. We will let them know our pecking order in no uncertain terms through our looks, jabs, condescension, and air of moral superiority. For these and other attitudes, we must repent.

When the look on someone’s face, the arms crossed over the chest, or the tattoo says Don’t Judge Me, does that mean hands off, no opinions or judging allowed? I don’t think so and I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant either.

In context, Jesus is talking about loving one’s enemies (vv.27-36), and that the attitude of a Christian should be one of mercy, because our Father in Heaven is merciful. In verses 43-45, we are to discern the people we are dealing with based on their fruits; whether good or bad. And in between these verses (vv.37-42) we are told not to judge. That means we are not to feel superior or have a judgmental or condemning attitude.

Some people love to judge for the sake of judging. I’ve heard this saying many times, though in different forms, “you spot it, you got it.” One will judge in others what is deficient in them. Judgers love to point the finger at someone else. They love to get the spotlight off of them and lessen their own guilt by tearing others down. My wife reminds me that the other drivers on the road are exhibiting idiotic behavior, and are not idiots. If they all drove like me, I imagine, the road would be a safer place; shame on me. There is no mercy in that type of attitude. Why? Because the judger places motive on the judgee, seeing him or her in the worst light possible. Ultimately, it’s not what they do it’s who they are. And it’s that judgmental spirit that God will hold against a person and judge (v.38).

God’s Word tells us that we must judge, only we’re not to be THE judge (Matt 7:1-5, Luke 6:37, John 7:24, 8:7; James 4:11-12, Rom 2:1-3, et al.).

A thought to ponder: Before you decide that a person is worthy of your derision, look first at yourself and examine your own life to see if you are seeing clearly. The disciple or follower of Jesus should be constantly submitting himself to the Word of God. A right understanding of our own depravity, sin, arrogance, and helplessness to live godly lives should humble us when dealing with others. Can you imagine walking up to someone to dab a speck of dirt out of their eye only to hit them with the 2X4 sticking out of yours? It’s a funny picture, but as we think about it, and discipleship, the picture can be profound.

What if, as a disciple of Jesus, I always perceive myself as having a huge log coming out of my eye, and all others as having only a speck? I would treat others differently and that would/should keep my judging in check. And, if all other disciples of Jesus had that same perception of themselves, they with the plank and me with the speck, how much better would we all get along? Pretty well I would imagine.

But, and hear me well, we must not let that vision of humility remove the responsibility of calling sin, sin and error, error. Remove the plank, repent of your sin, attack the error and not the person, go to your brother and seek restoration instead of condemnation. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (v.36).

Show mercy, be kind, and love those you deem unlovable. There will be times to stand boldly against the brood of vipers that seek to subvert God’s people, however, that won’t be every time and with everyone.

Grace and Peace,
Rich

Luke 5:27-39

lie_with_dogs_get_fleas-300x253I have heard this proverb while growing up, and maybe you have too. Typically, it concerned our choice of friends or those whom we have chosen to hang around. The meaning was simple enough; you should be careful of the company you keep. Hang around with the ne’er-do-wells and eventually, you too will reap the effects of that association. Even if you do not hang with the crowd, or fall under its influence, we all know too well that one is guilty by association. Paul quotes the Greek poet Menander when he writes to the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor 15:33). Even those strong in their faith or convictions can become weak if they allow a steady flow of lies and corruption to permeate their lives.

Luke paints us a picture of the incorruptible One gettin’ down with the dogs of society and liking it. He didn’t have to steel himself to be on mission for the sake of these people, because it was for these people he came (Luke 5:30-32). The party was thrown because Levi (Matthew) became a follower of Jesus and he wanted all of his friends to meet his new master. All of his friends happened to be, you guessed it, other tax collectors and flea-ridden members of the dog pound. This is what gets under the skin of the religious and self-righteous, they keep the law outwardly, but inwardly they chafe at those who don’t appear to take God as seriously as they do. Scoundrels, and those who associate with them, are not welcome in religions holy huddle. I think Jesus looked for sincerity and character in others instead of performance.

And here is where I start to chafe. As a former fleabag myself, I have almost forgotten what it was like to wake up with the dogs. I hear and read the anti-Christian rhetoric that is so pervasive in our culture and relegate that kind of talk to those people. I find that if I cannot change the climate of tolerance (or intolerance) in the culture, then I will inwardly rejoice that those who hate God will be hated right back; in Hell. For this attitude I must repent. I must repent of my un-Christ like attitude for those who are created in God’s image, albeit far from Him. Are they not worthy of God’s grace too? Who am I to dole out condemnation so easily?

Levi (Matthew) was a recipient of God’s grace just like I was. A scoundrel, a traitor to his own people, and a man not looking for God was found by God. That’s grace. God gives; God initiates; God calls, and if you are a lover and follower of Jesus, it’s because He first loved you. I love and follow him because he called out to me, and I came a runnin’. Rich, Levi (Matthew), John, Frank, Sue, Jean, Gerald, mom, dad, and any other person who has ever said yes to Jesus Christ’s call to come and follow him, was offered that gift despite any good in them; that’s grace.

So why not party hardy? It’s time to celebrate (vv.33-35). The Bridegroom and his guests are together and there is joy.

Life is like that. Jesus used the wedding feast metaphor to show the uptight Pharisees that there are times to rejoice and there are times to be sad, and weddings are not sad occasions. People were hearing the call of the Lord and following him. Lives were being changed. God’s forgiveness had come to an unsuspecting people and some were hearing and believing the good news; it was definitely time to celebrate.

Like the older brother in the parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15: 11-31), the Pharisees were blind to the grace and mercy of God. Notice the similarities of the Pharisees in Luke 5 and 15:

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:28-31).

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
(Luke 5:27-35).

Whether one is received as if back from the dead or standing in the presence of the Bridegroom, there must a celebration.

It is hard for me to extend grace to those with whom I disagree, but it is not impossible for me to change; and change I must. I am not talking about giving up my beliefs and convictions for the sake of relationship, but I am talking about showing love and compassion to those who are in need of a disciple of Christ to act like his master. Does love equal acceptance of sin? No, but I struggle with knowing how to do it [love] gracefully.

As a former member of the dog pound, I realize that my freedom does not wholly rest in distancing myself from my old fleabag friends, or society, but from willingly getting up with fleas because of my closeness to them.

Jesus didn’t care what people thought about his acquaintances, he came to save them. By God’s grace, may I lose my prejudices and use my voice to tell people that Jesus wants to save them too.

Grace and Peace,
Rich

Phil 3:12-16

the pastThe past can teach us, nurture us, but it cannot sustain us. The essence of life is change, and we must move ever forward or the soul will wither and die. Susanna Kearsley, Mariana.

There are a lot of withering souls out there. People stuck in ruts that they are unable, or unwilling, from which to remove themselves. Ruts created by themselves, or created by others, in which they reside because it seems to be easier to be complacent than it does to fight the fierce fight of faith. The race for them, it would seem, is over. They signed-up for a walk or a stroll, but not a marathon.

Paul was not that type of Christian. His analogy of a race and running toward the finish line with all the gumption he had is the antithesis of a lazy or complacent Christian. He not only wants to run the race of faith all by himself, but he also wants the Philippians to join him in running so as to win the race and receive the prize (v.14).

However, you cannot go forward, reaching and grasping after the prize if you are consumed with looking behind you. Whether failure or victory; despair or triumph; getting the shaft or giving it; the past is the past and you won’t get far driving with your eyes glued to the rearview mirror.

Harry S. Truman is credited with saying “Men who live in the past remind me of a toy I’m sure all of you have seen. The toy is a small wooden bird called the Floogie Bird. Around the Floogie Bird’s neck is a label reading, ‘I fly backwards, I don’t care where I’m going. I just want to see where I’ve been.’”

Floogie Christians unite! Gather in your fleet, flock, flight, bevy, brood, or charm and pine for the good-ole-days. Remember back when all churches did things one way? Be oblivious to the idea that God may be doing a new thing in a new way for a new generation. Forget the future and focus on the past and you too will be as effective as an ejection seat on a helicopter.

Paul says that he is forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (v.13b). Paul does not mean that he didn’t remember his past; how could he forget that? He did not let his past discourage, defeat, or sidetrack him. He persevered and kept running the race with abandon. We need that. We need to be like that. Our churches are filled with broken people who are backbiters, gossips, grudge-holders, and purveyors of a number of other sins. Others appear to have it made and are successful by our standards; living as if success is the be-all and end-all of life. Good or bad, our pasts can be anchors that prevent us from moving forward. Breaking with the past and having a single-minded focus on eternity, and eternal things, is worth all of our efforts here on earth.

Paul’s vision and mission were clear. He was pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [him] heavenward in Christ Jesus (v.14).

Paul was focused and we should be just as focused (15a).

Paul’s eyes were focused on eternity. His gaze looked forward and not behind so as to be distracted from his course. Paul did not obtain his goal in this life, and neither will we. However, are you as resolute in your pursuit of those things that bring glory to God? Is life so hard that you cannot break free from ____________? What will it take to put to rest the good, the bad, and the ugly so you may be free to move forward? Perhaps Scripture says it best through the pen of the apostle:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (Phil 3:12-16 The Message).

Grace and Peace,
Rich