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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pressing Toward The Goal

"Pressing Toward The Goal"

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"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13,14).

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all

Journey bangleThe other day we were walking through the Park City Mall in Lancaster and Brooksyne showed me a piece of jewelry which stated, "It's all about the journey Not the destination". She handed it to me and observed, "Isn't this the way so many live their lives?" Indeed so many live their lives giving little to no thought about their final destination. In fact a purely secular viewpoint would be, "You live, then you die, that's all there is."

Yesterday I read a comment by a committed atheist who asserted his faith with absolute certainty. "There IS NO argument. I don't have to ever wrestle with myself if I'm following "the right path" by believing in science. I know that when I die I will go back to the void from which I came, and I'm not worried about it in the least." Hmm, I didn't know science answered the question about an afterlife!

Today let us consider the Biblical truth which is of first importance. Preparing for the afterlife is our final but never-ending destination.

MapNow Brooksyne and I like taking trips, though she would say I like it more. When we travel we want to enjoy the journey along the way. I try to find places that would interest both of us to break up the monotony of a long drive. We may even encounter some detours along the way and we do well to make the best of them. I recall a church sign we saw many years ago that stated, "Contentment is enjoying the scenery while on a detour." *

We may very well enjoy this journey we call the Christian life. Perhaps that's what Jesus meant, in part, when He spoke of His coming to the earth that we might have an abundant life. But viewing our journey through the lens of an eternal gps will greatly affect the perspective of our life's journey that leads to our final destination.  Buzz Lightyear would say, "to infinity and beyond" (on a lighter note to Toy Story fans).

The Christian life is like a long journey and today's Scripture portion teaches several key components to living this spiritual journey. The apostle Paul is writing to the Philippians (and through the Scriptures to each of us). He begins the verse,
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it." In the context he has just stated his desire to attain to the resurrection of the dead (v.11). It seems he is focusing on a destination outlook. Notice later in the daily text, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

This spiritual journey begins when we receive Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and place our faith in Him and His plan for our lives. The earthly journey concludes at our death (or at the rapture for those living at the time of Christ's return). Our spiritual journey continues and is no longer conflicted with the darkness that rules the earth. It's a long, sometimes grueling, journey here below since the cloud of sin affects the entire human race, even those who are the redeemed. As the old hymn expresses and many of us have experienced, we will go "through many dangers, toils and snares".

Philippians 3:13,14"But one thing I do." This describes Paul's singular focus. He breaks down this singular focus to several components.

"Forgetting what is behind." Now certainly we remember our past, memories that are both pleasant and pain-filled. As people age most experience short term memory loss but for the most part, apart from a serious disease or brain injury, they remember longterm. The Expositor's Bible Commentary notes that, "Forgetting did not mean obliterating the memory of the past (Paul has just recalled some of these things in 3:5,6,7), but a conscious refusal to let them absorb his attention and impede his progress."

Runner pressing on"And straining toward what is ahead." "Straining" conveys the intensity required in running this race. Visualize a runner seeking to lengthen his stride and thrusting his body forward with each step.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." "Press on" powerfully communicates the perseverance and steadfastness required for staying faithful and finishing well in this lifelong journey which is reaching the goal.

Fellow followers of Christ, today we do well to memorize these words of the great Apostle. How are you doing in your journey? Do you have the focused attention that Paul is describing in your spiritual journey? Or to ask it another way - What is your primary focus in life? What drives you? Where do you invest your time, energy, and talent? Paul said, "This one thing I do."

One day we can say as Paul did late in life in his final letter, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). Keep faithful in your journey today!

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we find life's journey to be enjoyable and entertaining in the straight stretches of life where we travel most of the time. Other times we learn to navigate life's twists and turns, and must exercise steady endurance as we drive through the cavernous potholes that usually appear without notice. Through it all we keep our eyes on the goal of our faith, straining toward what lies ahead, the prize for which You have called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. We can press on, even when circumstances are grim, because our strength comes from You. As the Apostle Paul wrote, When I am weak, then I am strong. In our weakness You become our strength. You are the light that breaks through our gloom and guides our every footstep. We will fight the good fight, we will finish the race, and we will keep the faith as we remain faithful in our walk with You. It is in Jesus' name that we pray. Amen.

"Many dangers, toils and snares": Each day we consider those who are facing great hardships. Some deal with situations making international news such as the downing of an airplane, or victims such as last week's shootings at Fort Hood. Others are more localized such as events that happen in our region, although we may not personally know the people involved. But sometimes it may affect us or we can sympathize in a very special way

A week ago Sunday we had inclement weather throughout our county. Joseph and Rose Ann Kuhns, along with their four children, lost control of their vehicle and had a terrible crash. An 11 year old daughter was killed and another is presently on life support. The mother broke her back and sustained other serious injuries. We read it in the paper and began to pray for this family as I'm sure other believers did as well. Not long afterward we got a prayer request from our church regarding this need since John, who attends our church, is an uncle to this woman. The daughter's funeral was yesterday and I (Brooksyne) called Florence, John's wife, to lend support and encouragement to them in the afternoon. She said the hospital escorted the mother to the funeral in her hospital bed. Can you imagine how heartbreaking this funeral service was! We've been praying that their faith will be strengthened through this time of extreme loss and hardship. I was encouraged as Florence said the husband is believing God for his wife's full recovery and looking to Him for all they're enduring presently. Their other daughter remains very critical and still on life support in Hershey while t
he mother, Rose Ann, is being treated in a Lancaster Hospital. Please remember this needy family in your prayers.

For several days we've been sharing old farm photos taken from old items in a friend's barn here in Lancaster County. Yesterday's photo was a hay hook, which was used by attaching it by a rope to a rail in the barn rafters to move loose hay from the wagon to the hay loft. A number of readers used a term I don't recall hearing for the "hay loft". They used the term "hay mow" (rhymes with cow). Either way it takes me back to some old memories such as when we first got married in 1976 and I had a job with a hay crew and when I was a child playing in my Uncle Gentry's barn in Southern Missouri. I just can't imagine how piddlin' around with a video game could compare with playing in that big old barn and the other fun we had on the country farm!

Steincross farm, Harwood Missouri (click to enlarge)
Here's an aerial photo of the farm. Last summer we visited this area and some more photos of how that generally abandoned rural area looks today. By the way the barn sure seemed a lot bigger when I was a kid!

Tractor with sled
Here's an old photo of my Uncle Gentry showing some of us cousins a good time on the farm one winter day. My cousin Steve is driving the tractor and my sister and I and other cousins are on the makeshift sled.

Milk can and strainer
Since we've been showing old farm photos we'll share this one we saw last week in our Amish friend's farm kitchen. (I took it outside for the photo). Most readers will recognize the old milk can and probably deduce that's a strainer over it. I don't think they still use it but with the Amish you never know!

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

Brooksyne's note: This Sunday I will have the privilege of leading our congregation in worship and prepared a dramatic Palm Sunday Scripture reading that we share with our readers who may be able to use it. (pdf)  We will also be singing the song, "The Power of The Cross"  Video   Kristyn Getty.
  This version includes the moving lyrics that  tell of the crucifixion story and the tremendous sacrifice Christ made on our behalf to provide for us His glorious redemption. Well worth your listen (at least once)!

"Press On"  Video  Selah  (This is the song quoted in the message)

"I Can Only Imagine"  Video  MercyMe

"There Will Be A Day"  Video  Jeremy Camp

"Finally Home"  Video  MercyMe

"The Motions"  Video  Matthew West

"Vrednic Esti Tu" (Revelation Song)  Video  Romanian Youth Choir
English version by Phillips, Craig and Dean and Kari Jobe  Video

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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