To A “T”

Last week I wrote about something fitting “to a T.” I was curious about that phrase, so I did a little research. (This happens all the time … I start looking things up and suddenly hours have gone by. It’s a wonder I get anything written.) The phrase “to a T” refers to something that fits precisely. It apparently comes from one of two sources according to https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/to-a-t.html:

  • ‘T-square’ has something going for it, in that a T-square is a precise drawing instrument, but also lacks any other evidence to link it to the phrase.
  • The letter ‘T’ itself, as the initial of a word. If this is the derivation then the word in question is very likely to be ‘tittle’. A tittle is a small stroke or point in writing or printing and is now best remembered via the term jot or tittle. The best reason for believing that this is the source of the ‘T’ is that the phrase ‘to a tittle’ existed in English well before ‘to a T’, with the same meaning; for example, in Francis Beaumont’s Jacobean comedy drama The Woman Hater, 1607.

In the last month I have counseled two people who are having doubts about the existence of God. I reassured them that doubt is part of the process and advised them to keep seeking and searching for God. I know that they will find him, as God is not offended or put off by our doubts. Whenever he is sought, God is always found.

So, to push the metaphor a little bit, I think “Doubting Thomas” might bring a new meaning to “to a T” … we often fit precisely like Thomas when it comes to being unsure of things of faith. Has your faith ever fit “to a Thomas”? Mine has.

John 20 (Common English Bible)

19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”

24 Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”

26 After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

2Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

2Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

30 Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.

So here is the good news. Unlike Thomas, we probably won’t encounter the resurrected Jesus on earth in this lifetime. But we certainly can see God all around us. The troubled teenager I spoke with could easily recount times when she saw God’s activity, as he delivered her from foster care to a stable home of a relative. The gentlemen who expressed doubt could easily see God’s work in the care ministries of the church.

Where do you see God at work today? Can you recall a time when you knew God had prompted someone to help you? Do you see God in creation, the sweetness of a newborn, or the casserole that showed up when you were sick?

It’s okay to doubt. Just keep looking … God is there.

Seeker’s Path by Kathy Schumacher

No Favorites

A Bible study teacher asked her new class an “ice-breaker” question designed to put people at ease and encourage them to interact with each other. She asked about a favorite food, one that you might request if you knew you were in your last hours of living. The answers were as diverse as the participants, but pizza seemed to be a favorite choice among the students. They agreed to have a pizza party together on the last day of class.

We all have favorite foods, movies, books, travel destinations, etc. But did you ever consider that God has no favorites? Imagine that. God loves all of his creation equally. The reprobate sinner, the cheating spouse, the strong, committed believer, the enthusiastic worshipper, the poor refugee, the faithful disciple, the gay son … he loves them all with equal passion.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. God’s door is always open to you. This is such good news that Peter fairly explodes!

Acts 10 (The Message)

34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.

This passage is a good choice for the week after Easter. The celebrations are over, the trumpeter has packed up and gone home, and the egg baskets are stored away. So what’s next?

What is next is the commissioning we all have received to BEAR WITNESS to our faith. We are challenged to share the good news as those who are fairly EXPLODING with joy! God is calling us to go and tell.

39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

So how about this: find someone this week and tell them about the resurrection. Invite your neighbor to church next Sunday. Take a co-worker for coffee and share your faith. Let everyone know that God doesn’t play favorites and his door is always open! We are an Easter People.

Thanks be to God.

All the Favorites by Kathy Schumacher

P.E.D.

I have a clergy friend who used to dread the week after Easter. He works primarily in music and drama ministries and has coined the phrase P.E.D. He feels that the worst part of Easter is the Post Easter Depression that falls on church folks. All the preparation and excitement of musicals, dramas, Easter egg hunts, special children’s sermons, the rush of Holy Week activities, etc. amp us up into a high frenzy of spiritual energy. When it is finally all over, a kind of confetti-scattered, chocolate-smeared, post-party-clean-up lethargy comes over us and we just want to sit still for a moment.

But when we catch our breath, we realize that Easter isn’t just a day. Indeed, Easter is a state of mind. It is an attitude. It is a lifestyle. 

How interesting it is, then, to look back at the people who were present at the Resurrection. What effect did the Resurrection have on the culture of their time? How did Jesus’ followers react? What happened to them?

In the 4th chapter of Acts, Luke describes a radical, new Easter People:

Acts 4 (The Message)

32-33 The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.

If Easter is meant to do one thing, it is to unite believers. Easter calls us to be of one heart and one mind. Even more challenging, Easter calls us to share what we have with those who have not. That is our witness to the power of the resurrection. Easter People realize that it’s not about them, but rather it is about grace poured out unconditionally to everyone.

34-35 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.

Are you one of the Easter People? Where is God calling you to sacrifice and share with someone who is needy? What exactly does the resurrection mean to you? Are there people in your community who would experience grace through your generosity?

Let us strive to celebrate Easter all year by being the one-heart, one-mind kind of believers. Maybe this year we can turn our Post Easter Depression into People Eastering Deliberately.

Read about this beautiful window here:

We Are Easter People by Kathy Schumacher

Is it I?

As you read today’s passage, think about how Judas was used as a pawn:

John 13 (Common English Bible)

21 After he said these things, Jesus was deeply disturbed and testified, “I assure you, one of you will betray me.” 22 His disciples looked at each other, confused about which of them he was talking about. 23 One of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side. 24 Simon Peter nodded at him to get him to ask Jesus who he was talking about.25 Leaning back toward Jesus, this disciple asked, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It’s the one to whom I will give this piece of bread once I have dipped into the bowl.” Then he dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27 After Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 No one sitting at the table understood why Jesus said this to him.29 Some thought that, since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus told him, “Go, buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So when Judas took the bread, he left immediately. And it was night.

 The Scripture makes what happened that night in the upper room very clear. Satan entered Judas. It was a demonic possession. This was done to fulfill all of the prophecies about the Messiah that foretold that Jesus would suffer and die so that everyone might be raised up with him into eternal life.

But it still makes us wonder how Judas could have done such a terrible thing to his close friend. Did Judas see that things were going against Jesus, and turned “state’s evidence” against him to save his own skin? Was he just terribly disillusioned with Jesus because Jesus hadn’t taken over Israel in a military coup, as messiahs were thought to do? Did he think that forcing an arrest would spur Jesus into action? Or was he just a terrible person? We will never know the answer. All we know is that Judas got up from the warmth and light of a cozy, intimate supper with his closest friends and walked out into the night.

But who used who? Certainly, God’s purpose and plan was met by what Judas did. God had the ultimate authority over Satan’s futile attempt to derail and undermine the power of Jesus. Jesus’ power only grew stronger through the crucifixion and resurrection. In this way, Judas was only a pawn … not of Satan, but of God.

Understanding God’s power in this moment of deep betrayal is a great comfort. We know that even then, God was in control. This is a great reminder to us when we face hardships, obstacles, tragedies, and heartache. Even when it appears that evil is winning, God is still God.

If you are dealing with a situation that has gotten completely out of your control, take heart. God is your mighty and powerful ally and he walks beside you every step of the way. Thanks be to God!

Dark Before Dawn by Michelle Robertson


Children of Light

Have you ever been truly alone? There are situations in life that can isolate us. Illness, divorce, incarceration, grief, addiction, cancer treatments, etc. can put us in a place of complete estrangement from others. I experienced that in a very small way several years ago when a highly contagious stomach virus isolated me to my room for almost five days. My husband left Gatorade and toast at the door so that he wouldn’t catch it. Laying there in the bed for long days and nights without human contact was disorienting.

As Jesus made his journey through “Holy Week” to the cross, he was mentally and spiritually preparing himself for the crucifixion. It surely was a walk in a lonesome valley, as the old gospel song says. Nobody around him could know the terror that awaited him. Nobody around him could know the glory that was about to be revealed. Nobody expected the resurrection. Nobody understood.

He was truly all alone.

John 12 (The Message)

20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”

22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

27-28 “Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”

29 The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”

Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

30-33 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.

34 Voices from the crowd answered, “We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever. How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

Who is this ‘Son of Man’? Nobody understood.

Who is this child on the spectrum? Who is this soccer mom who has to get her fix before breakfast? Who is this former CEO in the nursing home? Who is this woman trying to just function after her husband left her? Who is this brave widow sitting alone in church trying to smile? Nobody understands.

35-36 Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”

As we journey with Jesus through the lonesome valley today, let us bring light to those who sit in the darkness of loneliness. Let us remember that the light of Christ is within us for a reason … to illuminate someone’s valley. As you go about your day, be a child of light to someone on their own dark journey.

Be the Light by Michelle Robertson

In an Alien Land

“It is confusing to be in a world without her … a world I have never known.”

These words were posted by a friend who just lost her mother. They spoke directly to my heart, as I felt exactly the same way when my mother died. Your mother is the one who has been with you since conception. When she leaves, the world becomes an alien landscape until your mind and heart accept the reality of the new world that her passing creates.

This is often how we feel when a loved one dies. Losing a spouse, a child, a dear friend, a sibling, etc. can make you look around and not recognize your surroundings for a while.

We can also feel this way right after moving to a new town, losing a job, getting a divorce, watching a child go off to college, or when there is a sudden change at work. Time, support, prayers, and patience will help you adjust, but in the interim, where can you go to ground yourself?

You can go to the One who created all things.

Psalm 118 describes the joy the psalmist (possibly King David) felt when he walked through the gates of the city of Jerusalem. He had passed through an ever-changing landscape as he traveled in foreign lands during his pilgrimage. He was comforted by the unchanging nature of Jerusalem. He recounted the many things God had done for him, thanking God for answering him and for being his “saving help”:

Psalm 118 (Common English Bible)

1Open the gates of righteousness for me
    so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord!
20 This is the Lord’s gate;
    those who are righteous enter through it.

21 I thank you because you answered me,
    because you were my saving help.

The passage takes an interesting twist here. This is the Psalm that Jesus quoted in Matthew 21:42 just after he, too, had made his way into Jerusalem. It happened on the day after “Palm Sunday,” which was Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city as the Messiah. Like Jacob, Joseph, and David before him, Jesus is the “stone rejected by the builders” that has now become the “main foundation stone.”

22 The stone rejected by the builders
    is now the main foundation stone!
23 This has happened because of the Lord;
    it is astounding in our sight!
24 This is the day the Lord acted;
    we will rejoice and celebrate in it!

While offering God his praises and accolades, the psalmist suddenly shifts gears and cries out to be saved and asks for God to ensure success:

25 Lord, please save us!
    Lord, please let us succeed!

That is how loss feels at times. We are aware of our blessings, but we can suddenly become acutely aware of our loss, often without warning. That is the time to stop, breathe, and call out to God to come save you from your sorrow.

26 The one who enters in the Lord’s name is blessed;
    we bless all of you from the Lord’s house.
27 The Lord is God!
    He has shined a light on us!
So lead the festival offering with ropes
    all the way to the horns of the altar.

So when you find yourself in a foreign land, take heart. You can enter the Lord’s house in the Lord’s name and you will be blessed. There you will find comfort, familiarity, consistency, and hope. God will shine a light on your confusion and hold you until you feel better.

28 You are my God—I will give thanks to you!
    You are my God—I will lift you up high!
29 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
    because his faithful love lasts forever.

Amen, and amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord by Michelle Robertson

Triumph

One of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me is they could see ”word pictures” when I read Scripture aloud. This was a tremendous blessing to me because I actually see word pictures when I read a passage. Today’s Scripture is especially good for seeing a visual as you read the words.

Our task today is to read through the ”Palm Sunday” passage and just SEE it. See the young colt. See its owner’s confusion. See the coats, the crowds, the joy, and the innocence.

See yourself standing among the revelers:

Luke 19 (Common English Bible)

28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Procession into Jerusalem

29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.

33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.

3As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen.38 They said,

“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”

As we move toward Holy Week, it is good to imagine Jesus’ triumphal entry. All too soon we will experience his death. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today, Jesus is king and the people rejoice! Well, most of the people:

3Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”

40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”

I love Jesus’ response. YOU CAN’T STOP THIS. YOU CAN’T STOP THE JOY OF WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN SEVEN DAYS. Even the stones will shout for joy when the big one is rolled away.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. We are called to ride along with Jesus on that colt and rejoice.

Can you picture it?

Joyful Stone by Ania Flis

New Things Spring

Spring has finally sprung on the Outer Banks. March came in like a lion and went out like a lion. We were still being treated to overnight freeze watches just a few weeks ago. But the presence of daffodils, osprey, and Canadian Geese traveling in pairs is a sure sign that a new season has begun and the cold grey skies are behind us at last.

The grey skies of Lent end this week as well. Today marks the first day of Holy Week as we accelerate toward Easter Sunday. I hope this Lent has brought about new things in your life, especially a practice of daily scripture study and meditation. Lenten disciplines are designed to bring about new things: new habits, new understandings, new growth, and a new relationship with God. It is my prayer that we would observe Lent all year long, always seeking to know God more fully as we continue in our devotions together.

Today we look at the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who wrote beautiful words of hope during a time when Israel needed a deliverer. When we read his words through the lens of the Gospel, it is easy to find Jesus here:

Isaiah 42 (New International Version)

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This certainly fits our Lord to a t. He carries God’s spirit and brings justice to the earth. When he comes again, he will reign in that justice. He was bruised for our transgressions and remained silent at his trial before Pilate. They attempted to snuff out his fire but he smoldered for three days until he flamed again. He was chosen by God to bring salvation to the world.

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
    who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
    who gives breath to its people,
    and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

God sent his only son to offer a covenant to all people, including the Gentiles. Indeed, Jesus came to save EVERYONE . He came to give sight to the blind and to release us all from our chains. When he arose from the dead on Easter morning, the final chain of death was snapped. We are invited to participate in his resurrection by simply believing in his name.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
    I will not yield my glory to another
    or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
    and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
    I announce them to you.”

A lot of our journey toward the cross this year has focused on leaving the past in the past and striving toward the new thing God is creating. Is God calling you to let go of something in your past? Do you need to be released? Can you see the bright future he has created for you once you do?

God is declaring a NEW thing for you today. The former things have passed away! It is time to move ahead.

New Day Sunshine by Michelle Robertson

A Well-Taught Tongue

Compassion has gone out of style. Maybe not with you, or your small group, but as a society, we are less compassionate toward the marginalized and more focused on a “Me First” mentality. This attitude prevails from the schoolyard to the seats of government. Bullying is common at all levels of society and often goes unchecked. People say and post things aimed to mock others. Nations turn their backs on struggling nations so that their own resources aren’t compromised.

Thank God for Poland, who has graciously received over two million Ukrainian refugees. England agreed to take 10,000. America will receive 100,000. Frankly, we all can do better. Who will stand up for the tired people?

Isaiah reminds us that God has given us a “well-taught” tongue and we are called to use it as we offer COMPASSION to people who are struggling.

Isaiah 50 (The Message)

The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
    and I didn’t go back to sleep,
    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.

All of us have opportunities every day to alleviate someone’s suffering. A kind word, a smile, a card, or casserole delivered to someone who is sick or isolated can go a long way toward easing someone’s burden for even a brief moment. God is trying to open our ears to the people around us whom we can encourage and lift up.

Isaiah found himself being ridiculed and mocked for his prophetic warnings to the people of Israel. Sometimes doing God’s work entails taking on someone’s anger and rejection. In those cases, Isaiah reminds us to set our faces like flint:

I followed orders,
    stood there and took it while they beat me,
    held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
    faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
    so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
    confident that I’ll never regret this.

Have you ever been ridiculed or rejected for doing something good for someone? Never mind. God is our only audience when we walk in his instruction and offer compassion to others.

My champion is right here.
    Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
    Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
    Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
    socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

Look, the Master is RIGHT HERE. Are you being called to serve God by serving others? Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. They soon will flit away to discourage someone else. We are called to serve the Master, God. And when we do, WE receive the blessing.

Sunrise Colors by Michelle Robertson




Street Cred

What are your goals? Do you ever sit and ponder that question? This is a question I ask married couples who come to me for counseling. I try to ascertain the depth of their commitment to each other and to the counseling process. The question often reveals things that forecast the potential outcome of the process.

Many times we get complacent in some of the aspects of our life and stop working toward certain goals. If retirement is your goal, what will you do when you get there? If a promotion is your goal, what will be your next aspiration when you’ve gotten it? We encourage our kids to have goals in sports and schools, but I wonder how many of us encourage them set goals for their married lives and their spiritual lives?

Do you have spiritual goals?

Paul did.

In the third chapter of Philippians, Paul wrote to his friends about his process of becoming a Christ-follower. He began with a long litany of how he got to where he was at that moment. This is an interesting look at Paul’s “street cred,” or street credentials if you will. It almost seems a tad braggadocios, but truly Paul has earned that right!

Philippians 3 (Common English Bible)

though I have good reason to have this kind of confidence. If anyone else has reason to put their confidence in physical advantages, I have even more:

I was circumcised on the eighth day.

I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin.

I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews.

With respect to observing the Law, I’m a Pharisee.

With respect to devotion to the faith, I harassed the church.

With respect to righteousness under the Law, I’m blameless.

Now Paul shifts his list to a more theological exploration of what the past became in light of his present reality. All of the things he lost in order to follow Christ are now considered “sewer trash,” and all the things he gained have led him to pursuing the goal of the resurrection:

These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.

Here is the kicker. Paul had completely given his life to Christ, but he still had goals. He still pursued Christ. He still pursued the prize of God’s upward call. He was reaching, learning, growing, and striving to put the past behind him and reach for the things ahead of him:

12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.

Are you letting things in your past hold you back? Is God telling you to let go?

Do you continue to have spiritual goals, or has a complacent attitude taken over?

It is never too late to reach for Christ. It is never too late to change. It is never too late to walk away from the old things and vigorously pursue a new life.

So sign up for that Bible study! Get sober! Go on the mission trip! Grow your bangs out! Volunteer to help with the youth! You are never too young or too old, and as long as you’re still breathing, it’s never too late.

Morning Clouds by Vic Miles