Monday, May 27, 2013

Short Term, Long Term, and Eternal

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. Eccl. 3:11

About 15 months ago I started on a journey.  I started exercising at a higher level of intensity than I had been previously.  I also started making more significant changes to my diet, eating healthier and cutting out the processed foods.  I had two reasons for doing this, first, I was tired of being overweight and out of shape.  Second, I needed to start treating my body like the temple of the God it is (2 Cor. 6:16).  After just a few months I had lost some weight and was pleased with the short term results.  I also gained another reason to continue, training for the Spartan Race I mentioned a couple weeks ago.

A couple days ago I had my annual physical and was able to see more of the benefits of my efforts over this last year.  Improvements in the numbers related to the testing my doctor wanted done and the continued weight loss.  My doctor was very pleased and I was glad to see the results myself.  I could tell on the outside that things were changing; clothes fitting better, more energy, complements from friends and co-workers on what they could see.  The results of the testing showed me what was going on inside, showed me what I could not see. 

This has motivated me to keep doing what I have been doing and got me to thinking about the long term effects of continuing to lose more weight and getting into better shape.  This in turn has me thinking about life from a long term perspective.

Success coaches tell us we need a vision for our life and to set goals that will help us achieve that vision.  They say we need short, medium and long term goals.  So as we travel through life we go about setting these goals.  We achieve some of these goals, some we have to reset, and some we give up on for one reason or another.  But of greater importance is do we have a vision for our spiritual life? 

Scripture tells us we should.  Proverbs 29:18 tells us those without a vision will perish, and in Habakkuk 2:2 we are told to write the vision in tablets of stone.  That makes it pretty definite.  It looks like having a vision is important, especially in our walk with God.

But it goes beyond just setting goals for what we intend to accomplish while we are here on earth.  We need to have an eternal perspective.  Life is short but we should make the most of it because the things we accomplish here for God will be translated over to heaven and the roles and responsibilities we will have there, and we will be there a long, long time.  Like forever!

God have given each of us tasks to perform and He has equipped us to be able to accomplish these tasks.  As you approach the tasks God has laid out before you remember to keep an eternal perspective.  Jesus tells us the right perspective keeps our heart right. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-21)

Will we always see the results of our efforts?  No, some of these things we will not see.  Like some of the results of eating right and exercising were not revealed until certain tests were performed.  But we will see results.  As we are doing what God has laid out for us to do, and keeping an eternal perspective, fruit of our efforts will spill over from the unseen to the seen.  The good news is it will be even better than we can possibly imagine when we are standing before our God and we see the eternal fruit of following and serving Him.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finding God by Standing Still

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Ps46:10

     Have you ever felt the need to just take a break from your day?  Not a long one, just a few minutes to re-orient yourself.  And not one of the, “It’s been a hectic day and I need a break” kind of breaks.  I’m talking about something you need to do and you can feel it at the very core of your being.  I took one of these breaks today and had a brief encounter with God.
     I had been restless, sitting at my desk after finishing teaching a class and felt like I needed to disengage for a few minutes.  So with some worship music on my iPod, I grabbed my sunglasses and went outside behind the building where I knew I could be alone for a few minutes.  While there I just leaned against the building and opened my heart up to God.  I didn’t pray, I just let the music wash over me and waited.  In just that few minutes I felt cares and concerns melt away as I felt God’s presence.  Such a peaceful, welcome feeling, a private moment with my Lord and Savior. 
     Now I know why I was feeling restless.  God wanted me to stop what I was doing and spend a few minutes with Him.  The Spirit was calling my heart and I am so glad I responded.   Part of what makes this so amazing to me is that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe wanted to spend time with me.  Just because!  That’s more than amazing, that’s Awesome!
     The first part of Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still, and know I am God.”  A very simple command really.  Stop what you are doing.  Then take the time to acknowledge Him and who He is.  This is definitely something to do as part of your daily prayer/quiet time with God but it is more than just that.  Life is bombarding us with all manner of distractions, demands, and responsibilities but within all that we need to take the time to give credit where credit is due.  To God, the one who is actually in charge and actually in control.
     I have taken time to do this before, gone off somewhere to be alone, but not in such a spontaneous manner.  Having listened to the Spirit today makes me wonder how many times I have ignored His call and not responded.  I look forward to the next time He calls.
     But what about the second part of verse 10, the part you don’t hear as often, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  God is telling us that eventually the entire world will acknowledge Him.  That makes this a promise of something we can look forward to.  When we look at verse 10 in its entirety we see that even as we are now acknowledging Him, we can rest assured that one day everyone will do the same.
     While we are waiting for that day to come, the next time you are feeling restless, take a break.  It may be God calling to your heart because he wants to share a special moment with you.  Open your heart to Him and enjoy what He shares with you.  You won’t regret it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Finishing Strong

I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Paul wrote this late in his life, telling Timothy that despite the struggles, he is finishing his race and he is finishing strong. Finishing strong, I like the sound of that. 

Paul had his share of challenges: multiple beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks and other perils he mentions in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. By any standards you want to use, just experiencing a couple of these things would be hard to handle but Paul experienced them all. When you look at Paul’s attitude toward all he had experienced, he refers to them as “light afflictions” and that they are temporary. He also tells us that the glory we will experience in the Lord outweighs the suffering we will experience in this life. (2 Cor. 4:17)

How was he able to look at it from this perspective? How did he hold up to all these things and not surrender to the weariness, pain, or to the devil’s attacks? The key is in his heart’s desire. Paul had a driving motivation to hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant” and to know in hearing this he had finished his race well. Paul accepted the path that was laid out before him and accepted it with his whole heart, come what may, because he knew it would bring glory to God. He did not look at it from the perspective of “what kind of trials do I have to experience today?” He looked at what he was trying to accomplish for God’s Kingdom. By looking at it that way it took on a different meaning for him.

I had the opportunity to finish a different kind of race yesterday. I ran in the Spartan Race Military Sprint on Ft Carson Army Base. An approximately 4.5 miles cross country run with 27 different physical challenges to perform along the way, some easier than expected and some harder, but I worked my way through. Aside from the sore muscles and the assorted cuts and scrapes on my arms and legs I acquired during the race, at the end of the race I received a T-shirt and a finishers medal, and like they say on their website, bragging rights. But the thing that meant more to me than any of that was being greeted by my brother at the finish line, getting a hug, and hearing him say “Good Job!” It has had me thinking about what it will be like when I reach the end of my life’s race and I am able to hear Jesus tell me “Well done good and faithful servant.”

In my devotional reading the other day the following question was posed: When you stand before Jesus there will be one thing He will want to know, “Did you do what I asked you to do, or did you get distracted and let the cares of life stop you from fulfilling your assignment?”  

We need to remember that the problems in life really are temporary and that they will pass. The thing that isn’t temporary is our obedience to God, there really isn’t anything more important than doing what God has called us to do. Keeping this in perspective will help us live a more balanced and committed life. So, even if we earn “bragging rights” for accomplishing something like the race I ran in yesterday, it really doesn’t mean anything. On the other hand, the things we do to advance God’s Kingdom by following His call in our lives, these are the things that mean something. These are the things that are eternal.  

There is definitely an abundance of pain and suffering going on in the world today, and we all have examples we can give of our own experiences, but how are we looking at the trials we are going through? Are we letting them distract us from the path that has been laid out before us? Or are we facing them head on, overcoming them in the power and strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? We are called to fight, not to just sit there and let life run us over. 
Despite the struggles we face, if we keep our focus on God we can finish strong as well.