Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gently, Gently

                I tend to be a cautious woodworker. I try not to make mistakes that ruin a good piece of wood. So when my jointer began taking a divot out of the end of my wood, I tried to discover the problem. It boiled down to dull blades. (A jointer is a machine that smoothes the edge of a piece of wood.) After a frustrating search, I found a new set of blades and installed them. Not being too confident that I had installed the blades correctly, I ran a piece of scrap wood through to check things out. It came through perfectly, much to my relief.

                I moved on to the piece of Black Walnut that I was working on. I made a couple of passes without incident. Then something went wrong. The blade splinted a chuck of wood from the piece, which lodged in the blade and stopped the machine. I quickly turned the machine off and tried to remove the offending splinter. After I had cleared the obstruction, I tried to re-smooth the piece I was working on. Instead, I took an even bigger chunk out of my wood and stopped the machine again!

                At this point, my frustration level was escalating. I began to take the machine apart and discovered several things that had been jarred out of line. After a thorough cleaning, I put everything back together and cautiously tried again. This time it worked perfectly.

                This little incident reminded me of how I often approach problems. My first reaction is to jump in and “fix the problem.” The problem is that I often make it worse. Instead of taking the time to really understand the issues, I go for the quick fix. This often causes further problems that I have to deal with. By this time, I am brought to a complete halt and I have to do some major repair work.

                Paul talked about this in Galatians 6. If I may summarize what he is saying in a couple of words, it would be “act gently.” Here is what Paul says.

                Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Galatians 6:1-5 (NIV)

                Paul lays out some principles for us in dealing with the problems that we face in life.

                When you are faced with an issue, be cautious. Most of us rush into things, looking for the quick fix. In most cases, this only makes things worse. Instead, seek to fully understand the situation first. Paul tells us to be careful, because we can unwittingly fall into a trap set by Satan.

                When we are faced with an issue, we need to support the other person. To truly carry the other person’s burden we need to put ourselves in their place. I’m guilty of addressing issues from my context, instead of the other person’s context. Also, as Paul implies, I need to care more about the other person than being right. Genuine love says, let’s work on this together, rather than, I can fix that.

                When we are faced with an issue, look in the mirror. There is something within us that wants to be the hero. We want to be seen as competent and confident. This tends to puff us up. We see ourselves in a more positive light than is reality.

                Jesus addressed that in Matthew 7:3-5. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

                Paul affirms this when he tells us to test ourselves first. Once we have a realistic understanding of who we are, then we can attempt to help someone else.

                In woodworking it is important to be cautious. When you act rashly, you risk ruining the piece of wood that you are working on, and even worse, you risk losing fingers. Spiritually, we need to support one another gently. As James says, be slow to speak, slow to get angry and quick to listen. 

Friday, January 25, 2013


                I have been studying Matthew 4:18-22 this week. In that passage, Jesus called his first disciples. The heart of the matter is found in verses 19 &20. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  At once they left their nets and followed him.

                Reading that passage, following Jesus seemed so simple then. First, it was very literal. He was asking them to actually travel with him. Second, it was very tangible. Jesus was standing before them in bodily form. Third, it was accepted. One of the greatest aspirations of most Jewish young men was to become the disciple of a Rabbi. For the next three years, those men spent time in the presence of Jesus. They listened to him preach. They saw him do miracles. They received private instruction from him. There was little doubt in their minds what it meant to follow Jesus. Granted, they did not understand the full, spiritual implications of it, but they intertwined their lives with Jesus’ life.

                I understand what it means to follow Jesus on a spiritual level. I need to put my faith and trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I need to let him guide my life. I need to listen to his teaching. I can spend time with him through prayer and Bible study. These things are real and important.

                Where the problem comes in is what does that look like in practical terms? Jesus is not physically present today. I cannot literally follow him around like the disciples did. Am I supposed to spend every waking hour of my life in prayer and Bible study? Am I supposed to quit my job and roam around the countryside talking to random groups of people? What does it look like to follow Jesus in the 21st century?

                I have many questions about the practical application of my faith to my everyday life, but there are a few things that I am pretty sure are included in following Jesus.

                I need to learn as much about Jesus as I can. I am not just talking about facts, but about how Jesus reacts to life, what are his values and principles for living. This does come from studying the Bible and spending time in prayer. I am continually amazed at how God speaks to me through His word. I can read a passage over and over, and then one day a light goes on and Jesus applies it directly to me.

                As I grow in my knowledge of Christ, I need to apply it to my everyday life. I need to learn to make decisions based on Jesus’ values and priorities. I don’t do this perfectly by any means. In fact, I am constantly working to correct, reshape and redirect the inner me.

                True spiritual transformation begins in our soul and is reflected in our character. Before we can start acting differently in our world, we need to be different on the inside. Paul stressed the connection between the outward us and the inward us in Romans 12:1-2.

                Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

                Let me try to get practical. Here are a few (just a few) things that we can do to reflect the inner transformation of our soul.
- Worship regularly. Worship of God is not an optional activity for the follower of Jesus. It is essential. This should be done both corporately and individually. Jesus said that the highest priority of our life is to love God. Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' Matthew 22:37 (NIV)

- Connect with other believers. More and more people today are living isolated lives. Technology allows us to live in our own artificial world. Satan rejoices in this. In our world today, we need to work hard at staying connected with others. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

- Love others in practical ways. Genuine Christian love is generous, responsive and tangible. There are a multitude of ways that we can show love everyday to the people we encounter. Small acts of kindness make an enormous difference in our world. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

- Invite others to join you. Many Christians get nervous when we start talking about evangelism. We feel guilty because we are not out knocking on doors trying to save our neighbors. In reality, we need to first develop genuine relationships with people, and then invite them to join us in our journey of faith. Jesus said, come follow me. We can say with Paul, follow me as I follow Christ. I will walk with you. Let’s do it together.

                I guess following Jesus in the 21st century is not all that different from the 1st century. We need to be committed to Jesus and love those that he puts into our path. We can still trust Him to lead the way. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


                I sat across the table from my friend, as we conversed over our breakfast. We meet every week at the same spot, on the same day. It has become a regular part of my routine. Directly behind my friend, at a little distance, is a large, flat-screen TV. It pumps out vivid images of sporting events. The screen is always in motion. Usually, sometime during our breakfast, the screen displays the top ten sports moments of the week. I know this because, even though my purpose in being in that place is to meet with my friend, I cannot help but be distracted by enticing images flashing on the screen just over his right shoulder.

                We have all encountered this attack on our senses. It is hard to find a restaurant today that does not have a TV mounted high on the wall, demanding our attention. For some reason, we have accepted this assault as normal. Yet, most of the time, it distracts us from focusing on the people with whom we came to spend time. I had a friend who struggled with depression. When we would meet for lunch, he would position himself in such a way as to not be able to see the TV. The distraction was just too much for him. Often, when we have gone to dinner as a family, I have found myself captured by the silent picture show emanating from the ever present TV screen. I have to work very hard to remain present with those around the table. I am not alone. The other day, I excused myself from the table to visit the restroom. On my way, I passed a young man sitting at another table. He was intently gazing upward, mouth slightly open, oblivious to all that was going on around him.

                Life is filled with distractions. Not just TV screens in restaurants. We are distracted by our iPads, iPods, video games, fantasy football leagues, basketball pools, and the list can go on. In themselves, these things are not bad, but they tend to grab our attention and distract us from what is really important. There is a commercial for a new smart phone that shows a woman at work marveling over her ability to text and watch movies at the same time. Her coworker reminds her that the phone was intended to help her do her work better.

                Using seemingly harmless things to distract us is a favorite tactic of Satan’s. He will do anything that he can to keep us from taking our faith seriously. We have just begun a Bible reading program at our church. The goal is to read the entire New Testament in eight weeks. In order to accomplish this, we just need to read for about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That is the time it takes to watch one sitcom on TV. Ironically, we struggle to carve out 30 minutes to read the Bible, when we willing spend several hours in the evening watching the latest reality shows.

                The Bible warns us that we need to be alert to Satan’s attempts to distract us from what is really important. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us about being distracted by the enticements of the material world. It is very easy for us to put too much importance on material possessions and forget about serving Christ and others. We live in a world that tells us to grab as much as we can, and hold onto it as tightly as possible. Jesus tells us that we need to be generous with what we have and hold onto it loosely.

                        "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.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

                One of the ways Satan distracts us is by convincing us that we have nothing to be concerned about. We just need to take life as it comes, live for the day, and don’t worry about tomorrow. Although the Bible also tells us not to worry about tomorrow, it also tells us to be realistic about how we live our lives today. Satan wants us to waste the time we have. God wants us to make the most of the time we have.

                        Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 (NIV)

                Satan will do anything that he can to steal your attention away from the things that really matter. Don’t give in. Distractions are just that, distractions. In the end, they have little value. Keep your focus in the right place.

                Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

Thursday, January 10, 2013


                I would like to be more like the Apostle Paul. Paul begins his letter to the Philippians with these words. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV) I really love those words. They are encouraging and inspiring. I wish that I could genuinely speak those words to my congregation, but I cannot. It is not that I don’t appreciate them or value their partnership in the gospel. It is that I don’t always communicate my feelings well. Let me try to explain.

                Paul was a great encourager. Even when he was about to blast someone for a serious spiritual failure, he would begin with some word of encouragement. Paul could be very blunt at times, but he understood the power and value of speaking an encouraging word. He was a master at it, and it was a pattern of his life.

                I am a poor encourager. When I see an issue that needs to be dealt with, I tend to plunge right in. Even when I see things that I should praise, I tend to remain silent. It is not intentional neglect; I just don’t think about it regularly. It doesn’t routinely pop up on my radar screen. Paul was always looking for some way to encourage others.

                Paul was also a great communicator. He wrote letters often, far more than we have preserved in the New Testament. His letters were personal, powerful and packed a punch. He had the ability to communicate deep truth in ways people could understand. He also could correct others without destroying the relationship that he had established with them. He was a master communicator.

                You would think that being a pastor who preaches 45 Sundays a year would be a good communicator. Maybe not. I do a good job in a public setting, but when it comes to a more personal approach, I am found wanting. I have been known to offend people without ever realizing it. I have failed to encourage others, not because I haven’t thought about them or even prayed for them, but because I never told them! I can think something one minute and then move on and totally forget it.

                I will never be a great interpersonal communicator, but I am making definite strides to improve my track record. I am being much more intentional about writing personal thank-you notes to people. If someone asks me to pray for them, I 5make it a point to pray for them right then, if possible. I am also working hard at recognizing when people need or deserve a word of encouragement or praise and then acting on it.

                Being an encourager is an important part of being a follower of Christ. There are so many things that discourage us. Satan is constantly throwing obstacles in our way. I know that I am susceptible to his attempts to steal away my joy. I can have several positive things happen and then let one negative thing overshadow them all.

                At least 14 times in the New Testament we are challenged to encourage one another. Hebrews 10:25 probably sums it up best. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) One of Satan’s most effective tactics against us is to isolate us and get us believing that we are alone. We start to think that no one understands what we are going through. Satan whispers in our ears that no one really cares about us. We start to feel sorry for ourselves and soon we are in a deep, dark hole of our own making. That is why, over and over again, the Bible tells us to encourage one another.

                There are many ways that we can be better at encouraging one another. Send a hand written note to someone. Invite someone out for coffee and pay the bill. Give small, thoughtful gifts that show the other person that you were really thinking about them and what they like. Those generic, pre-wrapped gifts that you can buy at Christmas speak volumes; and the message is not positive. Pray with someone about their issues. Take the time to really listen to others. The key is to actually do it. It is not enough to have good intentions; we need to follow through with specific actions.

                I have a long way to go to become a Paul-like communicator. I am committed to heading in that direction. Will you join me?

                 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


                I had the opportunity to take a walk in the woods today, along some snow covered paths. It was a beautiful winter day, with temperatures in the upper 30’s. It was a perfect day for a walk in the woods. I followed a narrow trail that took me along the banks of a frozen lake. The trail ascended and descended according to the terrain. I was soon breathing hard and became warm enough to partially unzip my heavy winter jacket. The sun was shining and there was no breeze, so the conditions were ideal. Walking through the woods it was quiet, except for the sound of scurrying squirrels and birds flitting in the tree tops.
                The trail that I followed was obviously well used, although most of the tracks were old and softened by the melting snow. There were only a few places where I momentarily lost the path. As I trudged along, occasionally slipping in the wet snow, I noticed something interesting. The freshest tracks along the path were not made by pack boots, but by deer. Even though there were occasional places where the deer diverged from the path, it seemed like they preferred the well-worn trail to the deep snow.

                As I walked along, I thought of how the Bible tells us that we don’t have to blaze our own trail through life. Although we often are convinced that going our own way is the best way, it is tiring at best and it holds hidden dangers that are not always evident. Along the sides of the trail that I followed there were hollows in the ground and fallen branches, both hidden by the snow. Even the extent of the slope was obscured by the way the snow had drifted in places. To try to cut my own path along that embankment would have been treacherous.

                Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. God invites us to trust Him to lay out the trail that we should take through life. We can be confident that it will be the best path, although not without challenges. The good news is that we don’t have to walk that path along. Jesus has promised to be our guide. When Jesus called his first disciples, he gave a simple invitation; come follow me. He offers the same invitation to us. Having a map is very useful, but having a guide who intimately knows the trail is even better,

                There was another observation I made as I walked along. The path I was following encircled the lake. The path on the one side of the lake was a narrow footpath, only used by hikers. The path on the other side of the lake was a broad, paved path, used by bikers in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter. Once I had joined the broad path I noticed that there were fewer deer tracks. There were still many human footprints, along with the distinct marks of snowmobile skies and tracks. Without giving too much credit to the deer (they do routinely get hit by cars), it seems like they recognized that the broad path was not as safe for them to travel on. There was more of a chance of them encountering humans and machines driven by humans.

                In life, we often believe that the broad path is the safe path. If everyone is following a certain path, then it must be safe. But that is not always the case. In fact, many times the broad path is extremely dangerous. Have you ever driven on a four-lane highway in a snowstorm, with people who think 80-miles-an-hour is a safe speed?

                The Bible tells us that spiritually there are two paths that we can follow in life. One of those paths is broad, with room for any different views and approaches to life. The other path is narrow, with limited flexibility. By in large, people today choose the broad path. They don’t want to be restricted in what they believe. Instead, they want to leave all of their options open. That is a dangerous choice to make. It will ultimately lead to a person’s destruction.

                In Matthew 7, Jesus warns us to not be fooled by the spiritual open road. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

                What makes the broad way broad is that you can choose whatever faith system you desire. We are told constantly that it really doesn’t matter, as long as you have faith in something. All paths ultimately lead to the same destination. That is a true statement, except the destination is destruction and not life. Jesus made it clear that the pathway to a right relationship with God the Father is exclusive and narrow. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (NIV) Anyone who wants to can enter the narrow gate, but it can only be entered through Jesus. There is no other way.

                The next time you see deer tracks in the snow, ask yourself the question, what path am I following? 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


                It is not uncommon for people to look at their lives and think; if only my circumstances were better, I would have a better life. People often blame “bad luck” for lack of success in life. Yet, there are other people who face similar circumstances, but their lives seem to be doing just fine. How can this be?

                Jim Collins, in his book Great by Choice, addresses the issue of “bad luck.” He studied a number of companies who faced the same circumstances, but produced very different outcomes. He determined that the real issue is not whether or not a company or a person has “bad luck.” The real issue is what a person or company does with their “bad luck.” The way a person chooses to respond to their circumstances spells the difference between success and failure.

                In Genesis 37, we read the story of Joseph. If anyone had “bad luck” it was Joseph. He was a gifted young man, loved by his father and hated by his brothers. When the opportunity arose for his brothers to do something about Joseph, they grabbed it. They sold Joseph into slavery and tricked their father into believing that a wild animal had killed him. Joseph was hauled off to Egypt where he was bought by a wealthy man to be a house servant. Joseph chose to honor God even in his negative circumstances, and so he succeeded in everything that he did. His master saw this and promoted him to the highest level. You would think that maybe Joseph’s fortunes had turned around, but you would be wrong.

                The wife of Joseph’s master began to desire Joseph. She tried to entice Joseph to have sex with her, but Joseph refused. He remained true to his values and to God. In anger, she turned against Joseph and unjustly accused him of seeking to seduce her. Potiphar, his master, had Joseph thrown into the king’s prison. There Joseph continued to honor God and he again prospered. Soon Joseph was put in charge of all of the other prisoners, yet he was still not free.

                Then God orchestrated a series of events that brought Joseph to the attention of Pharaoh himself. Joseph was able to interpret a dream for Pharaoh that no one else could understand. This led to still another promotion for Joseph, which put him in the position of second in command of all of Egypt. From this position he was eventually able to save his father and brothers in a time of great crisis. Joseph summarized his whole life experience in Genesis 50:20.  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

                Most of us will never face the extreme negative circumstances that Joseph faced. We will face our share of “bad luck”; circumstances that are less than desirable. The question for each of us is how we will respond. Joseph could have sunk into self-pity and depression, but he chose to trust God instead. We can choose to focus on the negative circumstances or we can choose to focus on the God who can redeem them.

                Paul addressed our “bad luck” in Colossians 3. First he laid down the foundation upon which we can build a positive approach to life. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)

                Paul tells us to find our sense of wholeness and well-being in Christ. Our sense of well-being does not have to be dictated by our circumstances. He tells us to listen to Christ above all the other voices that seek to influence us. And he tells us to act in ways that reflect Christ in our world.

                Then Paul gets very practical. He applies these principles to the specific circumstances of life. Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24 (NIV)

                All of us will face our share of “bad luck” in life. What we do with those situations is up to us. We can give in to them and be defeated, or we can turn them over to Christ and redeem them. Who knows what amazing things God may want to accomplish through your “bad luck.” Just ask Joseph.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


                We have turned the page on the calendar and entered a new year. There is really nothing magical about the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It is just the way that we have chosen to mark time. In fact, not everyone marks the New Year at the same time. Chinese New Year will be celebrated on February 10 this year. It is the year of the snake. Iran will celebrate the Persian New Year of March 20. The Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashanah, will be celebrated from sundown September 4 through sundown September 6.

                Whatever the date of the New Year, it is a good time to stop and reflect. Although making New Year’s resolutions may be nothing more than an exercise in wishful thinking, genuine reflection and evaluation can be very profitable. As we end one year and begin another, we are reminded that time marches on. The clock is ticking for each one of us and our personal expiration date draws ever closer. Just as we mark the seasons of the year by the calendar, we also mark the seasons of our life with each passing year. During each season of our life we face new challenges and new opportunities. Some of these are limited and, once passed, will not come again. Others will present themselves again, but in different forms.

                The Psalmist encourages us to pay attention to the seasons of our lives. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12 (NIV) We can rush our way through life, only to look back upon a trail of missed opportunities. Or we can reflect upon life and embrace the opportunities that come our way. True wisdom is being able to recognize the opportunities before us, and then respond to them in a positive way.

                The most important thing for us to grasp is the fleeting nature of life. Again the Psalmist calls upon God to open our eyes to this reality. "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.” Selah Psalm 39:4-5 (NIV)
When we are young, we think life will go on forever. As we enter middle age, we become more aware of the unstoppable movement of time. In our later years, we face the reality that our days are numbered.

                In light of the passage of time, how should we face the future? We should face it with positive confidence and enthusiastic anticipation. For the believer in Christ, the future always holds the potential for greater things. Our best days are not behind us, they are before us. Each day is a gift from God, which we can redeem in a positive way for eternity. Paul reminds us that even though our physical bodies are wearing down, our spirit and our soul continue to grow.

                        But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
                Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18 (NIV)

                Life can either be lived in cycles, like the cycles of the seasons, or lived intentionally moving forward toward an eternal goal. I don’t want 2013 to be a recycle of 2012. Instead, I want it to be a positive step forward in service for Christ. How about you?

                Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)