Category Archives: Where Are You Headed?

The First and the Last, the Beginning and the End

images[3]“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (the Before all and the End of all)” [Amplified Edition].  We are all familiar with this verse from Revelation 22:13.   However, we typically think of the beginning as something we leave behind and the end as a point where we stop.  The beginning is the place where we take our first step in a journey, and the end is our goal — the finish line.   One of my favorite Scriptures about this aspect of the beginning and the end is Hebrews 12:1-3:

“Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.” [Amplified Edition]

These verses have always motivated me to focus on Jesus as my goal, my finish line, the one to whom I am running.

A recent trip to San Francisco expanded my thinking about the race we are running toward our Savior.   Our daughter-in-law used a panoramic setting on my camera to take a picture of our son at the Golden Gate Bridge.   Timothy initially stood at the left side of the photograph, then ran around to stand at the right.   Even though he couldn’t possibly be in two places at the same time, he actually does appear in two places of the same still shot.  As I contemplated this phenomenon, the Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus is our Source AND our Goal — the Beginning AND the End, the Author AND Finisher of our faith, the First AND the Last, the Alpha AND the Omega.  He also is with us every step of the way on this grand and glorious race we are running — up and down mountains, in and out of tunnels, over bridges and (sometimes) under water, slowly and rapidly, on rough terrain and on smooth pavement, in fair and foul weather.   His empowering Presence NEVER leaves us, no matter how we are running.    Praise God for His faithfulness to launch us, strengthen us, and beckon us to Himself, our Creator and the End of all things! 10680040_10152891664472953_6506291108140053399_o

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The Power in the Process — Part Two

IMG8680-L[1]In discussing the lessons to be learned in the throes of a process (as opposed to the quick-fix solution to a problem), it occurred to me WHY I was more than willing, as a child, to endure the rigors of a multiple-day car trip from Massachusetts to Colorado in the heat of summer.   The motivation was the prize at the end of the journey:  time spent playing along the mountain stream near the cabin where we stayed, the chance to ride horses up the mountainside, the fresh smell of pine and fir in the crisp morning air, the sounds of wind and water as I lay in bed at night, the afternoon rain showers, and, best of all, time spent playing cards with my grandmother. 

Years later, in our microwave world, I realize I have lost some of my ability to savor the process for the sake of the goal — yet persevering through the process is a skill that is vital for our spiritual growth and development.   The prize is definitely worth it!  Paul encourages us in  Hebrews 12: 1-2:  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God..”  When we face earthly challenges that require perseverance, it is all too easy to complain about the rocky path, how steep it is, how slippery, or how difficult or long the race proves to be.  Before we know it, we are focusing our eyes downward on our difficulties.  However, if we determine to look up and fix our eyes on the goal — Jesus Himself! — we will have what it takes to run the race and endure the process, regardless of how hazardous the path might seem.    The promise of His presence is both the goal of the race and the experience of it, as He never leaves us alone on the track!  

 

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Hitting the Target

ImageAs anyone involved in archery will tell you, hitting the target is all about proper aim.  From the archer’s perspective, the point of aim may be above or below the actual target, depending on the distance to the target.  In fact, the ability to aim accurately at one’s target is vital to nearly every sport; football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and bowling are only a few examples of sports that require a player to aim well.

Unfortunately, as a child, my athletic skills were nearly non-existent.  I was extremely nearsighted and wore thick glasses that limited my freedom in playing sports.   Sadly, I doubt my athletic performance would have improved with perfect vision, as I was truly not well-coordinated.  One year I made the mistake of signing up for a bowling league.  My friend’s father was an excellent bowler, and he kindly took it upon himself to coach me in the effort to help me improve my score.  He made the erroneous assumption that simply understanding HOW to aim the ball would solve my problem.   However, I could probably have explained to someone else all the details of his instructions on throwing the ball; I understood them perfectly.   Alas — I simply was unable to make my body cooperate with what I knew it should do!  At the end of the bowling season, to my chagrin, I was selected as the most improved bowler in our league.   I was given a patch for my jacket; despite my embarrassment, I dutifully sewed the patch on my jacket.  Upon seeing the words “most improved bowler,” other people I met would often ask me with admiration what my scores had been.   Humiliated, I was compelled to confess my average score had improved from 63 to 95 — abysmal at best!

Most of us are all too conscious of how often we fail to hit the target in other areas of our lives as well.  In spite of constant practice, study, and even understanding what we should do and how we should do it, we miss the mark so often, at least in our own eyes.   Life is replete with challenges, and we cannot possibly meet every challenge perfectly.  I have often disappointed myself as well as others.   I have found it impossible to be the athlete, student, musician, wife, sister, mother, and even the friend I would like to be.   When it comes to my spiritual walk, I also often fall short.   However, there IS good news!   By living a flawless life and dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus already hit the target on my behalf.  He completely paid for the times my aim was too low, too high, or way off the mark.  What’s even better is that He empowers me to do the things I am patently unable to do in my own strength.   All I need to do is fix my sights on Him and keep my focus on His face while I run.  His strength and power sustain me and more than compensate for my weaknesses (His strength is made perfect in my weakness! — 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Of late, Hebrews 12:1-2 has become one of my favorite passages:  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Jesus is my goal; He is my target.  He is my focus, no matter how bumpy or rocky, uneven, slippery, or muddy the path might be.   His glory and goodness sustain me!  He delights to draw me to Himself, and my success does not depend on me, but rather on Him!  All I need to do is be willing to run to Him.

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