Keep your eye on the ball

Paul teaches us that our true life is in heaven, despite what is apparent to us in day-to-day living.  “. . even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, . .”         Ephesians 2:5-6

After he states the same glorious news in Colossians 2:12-13, he goes on to apply that reality to our everyday living:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”     Colossians 3:1-3

golfAs the golfer must “keep his eye on the ball,” to hit accurately, so must we keep our spiritual goal in front of us.  The focus of our mind’s eye has everything to do with accomplishing our goals in life.  As Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye.  If then the eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.

This can take enormous concentration to shut out other distractions competing for our attention.  biathalonA biathlon athlete must ignore lungs that are screaming for oxygen, a rapid heartbeat that makes his trigger finger and whole body shake, and the distraction of other athletes firing around him.  But to hit his target, he must ignore them and focus on the target.  He even waits until between heartbeats and breaths to pull the trigger.  Similarly, we must fight to keep the earthly concerns of our life in proper perspective, such as job, health, family, friends, entertainment, and hobbies.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”      Colossians 3:13-14

Help me, Lord, to fix the eyes of my mind on my true life, which is hidden with Christ in You, putting in proper perspective the fluctuating details of my earthly existence.

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Cleansing, for Fruitfulness

We want badly to be useful to our Master, to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”         2 Timothy 2:20-22
What fuel we feed the engine of our heart will determine how well it will run.  coal on trainHow blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”                    Psalm 1:1-3

Jesus cleanses us with His Word, for the purpose of usefulness for His kingdom.

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”    John 15:3-5

. . . Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. . .”     Ephesians 5:25-26

Cleanse us, O Lord, as we abide in You, fixing the eyes of our hearts on You, through the medium of Your Word.  Restore us to usefulness for Your kingdom purposes!

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God forbid that we should trample the spring!

We are ambassadors for Christ, God’s representatives on earth.  (2 Corinthians 5:20)  Like earthly ambassadors of states, we are to represent our country and Leader in the very best light possible.

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”                               1 Peter 2:12

fountainAlthough this our assignment and goal, we often fail to represent our Master’s beauty clearly.  We can distort His image.   “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”        Proverbs 25:26

If our hearts are misdirected to the visible world and the satisfaction our own selfish ends, we will be poor ambassadors of our King.  It is a heart issue.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil;  for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”      Luke 6:45       For this reason, we are to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”      Proverbs 4:23

How are we to do this, to watch over our hearts?  One strategy is to guard what goes into our hearts.  We should keep a “doorman” at the gateway to our minds and hearts, only allowing entrance to edifying thought-guests, those who have His invitation to enter, and out-going passage to word-guests and actions which honor our King.  eyesThe eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”        Matthew 6:22-23          

Guarding of the door of our hearts goes far to cleanse our innermost being, that we will not pollute the well or trample the spring of God’s reputation on earth. 

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God works through you

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”        Ephesians 2:10      NASB
wedding-dresses-fashion-character-bride-157757.jpeg“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.   It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.     Revelation 19:8
Although believers dress for their marriage to their Savior the Lamb in clothes composed of the righteous acts they have performed in life, these clothes were given to them by Another.  In Ephesians, Paul might have said that it is God who makes appropriate “clothes” for us to wear.
I realize I can never please God in my own strength, never correct my own faults by self-improvement.  So I rest in Him, and He works His will through me.  He does perfectly what I have never been able to successfully do all my life.  He empowers me for holy living, but it is still I who have to execute it, as I rest in Him.  He lives His righteous life through me.
pexels-photo-274026.jpegI am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”       John 15:5
 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who livebut Christ lives in me;  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”   Galatians 2:20
gloved handUsing a hand-in-glove analogy, God is the hand doing the good works He intended us to do, and we are the glove through which He does good things in His world.  Our job is to let Him do that.
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He pursues us

As I grieve over family and friends who have not yet found a nourishing relationship with the Almighty, I am comforted by this love story:  In an unlikely but wonderful way, the Creator of the Universe courts us.  Unbelievably, He pursues us in creative ways.  He longs to date us!  He is eager for us to respond to Him.  Through the prophet Hosea, the Almighty God likens himself to a kindly, forgiving husband, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her. . . And she will sing there as in the days of her youth. . . And I will betroth you to Me forever;  yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.  Then you will know the Lord.”       Hosea 2:14, 15, 19, 20

Can you hear Him crying out to you, beckoning for you to come to Him?  “Ho!  Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat.  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.   Isaiah 55:1

Half Dome at SunsetOne way He woos us to Himself is through the overwhelming beauty and complexity of Creation.  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God;  and the firmament is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”   Psalm 19:1-2

And the heavens will praise Thy wonders, O Lord; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.  For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord?”   Psalm 89:5-6

praying over BibleA second way God extends His heart to us is in His word.  “How sweet are Thy words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! . . . Thy for is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. . . The unfolding of Thy words gives light;  it gives understanding to the simple.  I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments.”     Psalm 119:103, 105, 130-131    (See also Jeremiah 15:16.)

A third way God calls us to Himself is showing us Himself in Christian character.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, ads they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”     1 Peter 2:12

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”   Acts 4:13

As I pray for my friends who have not yet formed a friendship with God, these are three windows I pray will open for them, that they might see their Heavenly Lover and invite Him in.

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In our society, strength (or imagined strength) is applauded, and weakness is thought of as a defect — that you have missed the best in life.

So observes J.I. Packer in an introductory interview regarding his small book Weakness Is the Way.  In this book, Packer expounds helpfully Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.  He goes on,

God does not allow us to stay with the idea that we are strong. . . . and it will be good for us and will give glory to Him as He does so.

Packer shares how hindering thoughts of weakness weighed upon him throughout his life, now increasingly as he ages.  He refers extensively to apostle Paul’s classic conclusion in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This right-side-up thinking is refreshing.  It liberates me from fear and self-pity.  It harmonizes with the spirit of what Jesus taught:

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.             Matthew 20:26-27

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth. . . .
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.            
 Matthew 5:3-5, 10

Lord, help me to learn to relish my weakness, as a needed reminder of my constant need for You.  Help me to cling tightly to you through the storms of life and to find joy in that position of dependence.

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How I want to love my wife — Part II


It is an honor to be called to love whom God gave to us as His most precious human gift.  It is a natural response that we should cherish her.  “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. . . . nourishes and cherishes [her].”  Josh McDowell unpacked this command for us helpfully:

True, unconditional love is evident when the happiness, health, and spiritual growth of another person are as important to you as your own. . . .  True love means to nourish and cherish another just as we naturally do for ourselves.
To nourish means to nurture toward growth and maturity. For example, to nurture a plant or flower in your garden, you provide all the sun, water, and plant food it needs to grow tall and become fruitful. In a similar way, nurturing that special someone in your life means to provide for his or her growth and maturity by meeting needs, just as you make sure your own needs are met.
To cherish means to protect from harm. Picture a mother bird spreading her wings over her babies to shield them from bad weather or danger. Cherishing your special friend means protecting him or her from all harm, just as you take precautions to protect yourself from dangers of any kind.            [Josh McDowell, Unshakable Truth]
Peter adds two more love qualities for me to pray about, as I seek daily to love my wife as Christ did the church.  He says to “. . . live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman.”  1 Peter 3:7   This could be done best if I am a daily student of my wife, always seeking to know her deepest needs, fears, joys, and sadness.  This is the quality of empathy recommended in, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15         
Peter goes on, “. . . and grant her honor as a fellow-heir in the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  This circles around again to the command in Ephesians we spoke of earlier in the week to love our wives as Christ did the church,  . . . who gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her.”   I need to seek paths which will help her realize her greatest potential in life and God’s Kingdom, not just my own.  We are equal members of the Home Team.  Paul said, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”    Romans 12:3  This is honoring her.
Is this a helpful checklist, men, for loving our wives properly?  As we start each day, let us ask God to help us do what we cannot do on our own:
1.  give ourselves up for her
2.  sanctify her
3.  wash her with the water of Your Word
4.  defer to her, prefer her needs
5.  nourish her
6.  cherish her
7.  understand her
8.  honor her
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