Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ready Without Worry

Trust, obey, love seem too simple sometimes.  Trust God with all of your heart.  Obey what he has told us to do which comes mostly in his wordcommands and decrees and a guide for holy living given to us for our own good—but also at the prompting of his Holy Spirit that lives inside of us.  Love him above anyone or anything else that we love.  Most of this love for God is manifested in loving others.

Follow Jesus.  He said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  He said, learn from him.  Learn from him!  The instructions are simple but not simplistic.

We have been on a course of delving into God’s word concerning love, love and action, and now we come to rest and peace. 

Jesus said, learn from him.  When we take his yoke, we as his disciples have committed to learning from him.  Here is something that we are well served to learn.

Do not worry.

Do not worry about food or clothing or shelter or other provision.  God provides.

For people, much of that provision comes in work.  If you can labor, you labor.  It you can make something of value, you make it.  If you provide a service, then you serve, but most of us are provisioned to provide for our basic needs and the needs of our family.

If you think about the Parable of the Talents, trusted servants became managers and investors and produced a return that pleased their master

Don’t worry doesn’t mean sit on the curb and wait for God to send you three squares a day and a limo to take you to the Embassy Suites each night.  It means do what you know to do and don’t worry that you won’t have enough to meet your needs.

Let’s pause for a brief provocation that I will provide in the interrogative.  Who needs more to meet their basic needs, the Christian or the person without God?  I am not talking about the need for God but for all of those other things in life.  Who needs more, Christian or non-Christian?

I will proffer that the Christian needs more.  The Christian has more needs.  He needs food and water, clothing and shelter, and general provision for his family.  Well, so does the pagan.

But the Christian also needs something more through which he can bless others.  Part of who we are as Christians is that we are people to be known by our love.  We are now wired to bless othersWe are not complete unless we love others.  We must bless others to be complete.

The person who only knows the world, craves the things of the world even though the world can never satisfy their cravings.  It is a vicious cycle that can never be satisfied.  The person without God thinks that they need more but they truly only crave more.  Meeting basic needs is not enough.  They have selfish cravings to satisfy.

Meeting basic needs is never enough for the Christian either.  We have unselfish needs to satisfy as well.   God meets those needs!

Jesus used the birds of the air as an example.  Where are their barns and storehouses?  What have they done to provide for their tomorrow?  Have you ever seen a bird with an IRA or 401K?

God provides for them.

Even the fields are adorned with flowers and grass. What splendor and these are just plants that are here for a short time.

How much more are you who are made in God’s image worth to God?  Will he leave you naked and hungry?  No!

We sing, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he cares for me.”

We are told to seek God’s kingdom.  Pursue the things of God.  Paul would later write that whatever you do, do it as if you were working directly for the Lord and not for human masters.  It is the Lord, Christ whom we serve!

Seek God’s kingdom and don’t worry about the things of this world.  The godless spend their lives in pursuit of temporal things.  You who are of God seek eternal things.

Here is the paradox.  You who worship and serve the one true God and seek after his kingdom and his righteousness will be given so many things of this world that the godless have made into their gods.

You will not do without because Jesus is your Lord.  You will do great things with what the Lord has provided. 

It gets under my skin every time that I hear a Christian must be poor to be a real Christian or a preacher must be poor if he is following Jesus and living what he preaches.

But the Bible said that Jesus became poor.  Yes, it does.  He stepped out of heaven and lived a human life.  There is a difference in the standard of living.  The King of kings became a servant for our sake.

But there are no scriptures that note once he arrived, he was begging on the side of the road or had to line up each night for the homeless shelter.  The disciples had a treasurer and bought food when they needed it.  They were not on food stamps or sent to beg on a regular basis.

Jesus sent out his disciples telling them to take minimal provisions as they proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand.  He told them they would be provisioned wherever they went.  If they were rejected, move on.

In fact, Jesus had food that his own followers did not know about.  It was to do the will of his Father who sent him.  Other than 40 days when he fasted in preparation for a three-year trek to the cross, Jesus did not do without unless it was by his choice or in obedience to his Father, and those two are really one.

But Jesus said, foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.  Jesus had provision wherever he went.  He didn’t seem to spend much time at home because the house he had on this earth was not his home.  He would not truly rest until he was once again at his Father’s side.  He was on a mission.  He was not homeless or poor.  He was on a mission!

He already knew what the Kingdom of God was like.  That was home and Jesus said that his Father was pleased to give you this vey kingdom. 

It’s not about what you own.  It’s about what owns you.  What to you have that owns you?  Jesus said give it to the poor or sell it and give the money to the poor.  Don’t spend too much making an eternal home in a temporary place.

Jesus is the King of kings; yet, he lived not to acquire that which was already his.  He lived to do the will of his Father.  By worldly standards, you might say he was poor because he did not store up treasures on earth. He came with purpose and was not weighed down by the things of this world, but when he need a boat, he had a boat.  When he needed a place to stay, he had a place to stay.  When he needed a young donkey to ride into town, there was one waiting for him.  When he needed a meal, he was given a meal.  Jesus was focused on doing his Father’s will and not on storing up treasures on earth.

Must we be poor?  No, we must be purposeful.  What we have is already God’s, but what will we do with it?  Sometimes we give to him sacrificially.  Most times we give out of our abundance.

Your home is in the Kingdom of God.  Your treasure is in the Kingdom of God.  Your future is in the Kingdom of God.

Seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness and God will provide more than enough for you while you journey through this life. 

What is it to seek God’s kingdom?  Trust him, obey him, and love him; and Jesus tells us to do it without worry. 


What is the return on investment for worry?  Can you add an extra day or even an hour to your life?  The answer to those questions is that worry provides nothing good.  That should be the end of the discussion, right?

But I worry by natureWorry is not part of the new creation that we have become.  This is not the nature of the born again believer—of one born of the SpiritOK. What can I do instead?  If you can put forth effort to worry, you can put forth effort to pray. You can serve and be ready instead of worrying. 

You can live a life of trusting God with all of your heart.  You can obey his commands. You can love him by loving others.  If you are focused on these things, you have neither the time nor the inclination to worry.

You will be ready for your Master’s return.  Every day is a day of trust, obedience, and love and you will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ when he comes to claim you.

We know that our salvation is a gift.  Our hearts long to do something in response to this gift.  That’s our discipleship.  Our response to the gift of life eternal is our discipleship, and we want our discipleship to be pleasing to God.

We don’t want to spend our lives worrying that we were not good enough for God.  Thus, we need to understand two things.

First, we need to understand that we could never do anything to be good enough for God.  That’s why Jesus offered his blood as a divine sacrifice.  God himself provided the sacrifice for our sins.

Second, we must not spend one second in worry but invest all of our life in loving God.  We trust him, obey him, and love him mostly by loving others.  When we do that, we are pleasing to him.  Our very lives are an offering to him.  Because of the divine blood shed for our sins, our lives are now a pleasant aroma to him.  We are truly a living sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

We become poor in our desire for the things of this temporary world and rich in our desire to live fully in his kingdom.  In the pericope that precedes today’s scriptures, we find a parable that prompts the question:  Are we rich towards God?

When we become poor in our desire for the things of this world, don’t expect to be signing up for welfare.  Don’t expect that you will miss out on the good stuff in life.  God will meet our needs according to his limited resources…

No! God meets our needs according to his glorious riches.  God will bless us as his children that he loves very much, and we will take that with which he has blessed us and bless others.  We will do it without worry.  We will do it in pursuit of God’s kingdom which he has opened to us.

We will still contend with trouble in the world, but we take courage that Jesus has overcome the world.  This world was not his home.  It is not our home.  It is the place where we learn to grow in God’s grace.

We are ready for Christ’s return because we live each day to the full as a day of trusting God with all of our heart, a day where obey his commands are not burdens, and a day full of loving God by loving each otherWe are living our God-given purpose and that makes us ready for his return.

Sometimes our human nature—the old nature—chooses to complicate the simple.  We must live as people of the Spirit, as people of the truth.

We are ready and we live without worry.  None of us know the day nor the hour when Christ will return for us, but we should all know that in this day and this hour—in each day and each hour—we are ready and we are not worried.  In fact, we know God’s peace.

Does this assurance make us complacent?  On the contrary!  It energizes us to live to the full!

We are not spending too much time making an eternal home in this temporary place.  Our investment is in the Kingdom of God.  We invest daily with trust, obedience, and love.

We live without worry.  We are ready for Christ’s return. We are ready and without worry.

Do not worry!


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not Void, but Accomplished!

Read Isaiah 55

Israel received some of its most encouraging prophecies while it was at its worst as far as worshiping the Lord goes.  Yes, there were plenty of warnings delivered to God’s Chosen People, but there were also words of eternal assurance.

While God stood back and let the world have its way with his own chosen people for a time; he concurrently and continually is proclaiming their restoration.  Judah was taken into exile for decades; yet God knew he would deliver them from Babylon even as he had delivered them from Egypt.

God’s ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts. His thinking and his operation is so far above our comprehension that it often does not make sense to us.  We say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” and it seems to carry us through most of our week. 

Sometimes, it seems that there is not much distance between trusting God and our own understanding.  Then something hits us.  We lose a job.  We lose a loved one.  Bills are piling up. The kids won’t listen.  The car won’t start.  The car somehow drives too fast and there is a $300 ticket or two that were not in the budget.

The family vacation was a bust and nobody is rested or renewed.  We’re in a tornado watch again.  No, wait, it’s a warning, again.  Now it’s a watch.  I made it to work and discovered that my shoes don’t match.  The ice cream truck is getting close and I don’t have any money to give the kids.

If you try to keep up with everything in this world—you are like a jugular trying to keep too many balls in the air—then you will feel like you have been ripped to shreds.   If you try to solve every problem that comes your way, you will be exhausted every day and wonder if you accomplished anything.

The logistics of life love to leave you lifeless.  Yes, you may check the alliteration block for today’s message.

Sometimes it seems that nothing that you do produces any tangible results.  We are on a treadmill.  We are the hamster on a wheel.  We are jogging in quicksand.  We just need to know that our efforts are for something.

If my metaphor mania had not gone far enough already, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Have you ever seen it rain—I thought I might have to show a video to remind you what rain was but we had a couple reminders this past week.  Have you ever seen it rain for 10 minutes and then the rain goes right back up in the heavens?  Rain comes down.  Rain goes back up.

Of course not.  Well, unless you live in Florida.  The rain comes down, stops, and then starts rising as steam a couple minutes later.  Rain comes down and soaks into the earth, runs off into gullies, ponds, and rivers. 

It brings life to the earth.  What was brown turns green.  What seemed lifeless now blooms with life and beauty.  Rain accomplishes its purpose.  Eventually, it makes its way back to the atmosphere.

This is how the prophet Isaiah explains God’s word.  God’s word does not go out and return void.  God’s word accomplishes its purpose.  Because of God’s word, the insanity will turn to peace for us.  The insanity is still out there  You may have rest in the midst of turmoil.

Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees.  We get so fixed on what we are doing and what we are accomplishing and what we have left undone, we forget that God is at work in our lives.  We overlook that God’s word is effective.  We forget to trust God and we lean on our own understanding.

God’s word promises us life, abundant life, eternal life, peace, hope, rest, and a future—a prosperous future.  We are charged to keep God’s word fixed in our hearts and minds.  Yes, we will have trouble in the world, but we are to take courage because Christ told us that he has overcome the world.

We must trust that God’s word is always at work, even when we can’t see it.  Perhaps, especially when we can’t see it.

We are to trust in the Lord with all of our heart.  To do that, when trusting God and our own understanding are miles apart, we must first trust that God’s word never returns void.  It always accomplishes its purpose.

Even if the bills seem insurmountable; even if the kids seem uncontrollable; even if all of the beer cans in Burns Flat continue to blow into my yard; God’s word accomplishes its purpose.  The circumstances of the world do not dictate the will of God.

God’s word will accomplish what it was sent to do.  In fact, God’s word has answers that precede our questions and requests. 

Before they call I will answer;
    while they are still speaking I will hear.

Every 3 or 4 years I find I reason to tell this story.  It is very much a true story.  It comes from a missionary sent from England to Zaire many decades ago.  Her name is Dr. Helen Rosevere.  She died at the age of 91 in 2016.  I have read most of her books and can say without equivocation, that the things that she went through in God’s service would make most Marines feel like a bunch of wimps. 

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Sometimes we know exactly what we need.  All the time God knows exactly what we need.  It’s nice when the two coincide.  It’s a blessing and an affirmation when it all plays out before our eyes, but sometimes we can only see the trees.

All things considered, I would rather trust God that he knows what I need.  Sometimes, we get wrapped up on the little things and miss the big things.  Sometimes, as in Helen Rosevere’s testimony, the little things are the big things.

Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees.  We see so many individual obstacles and problems and things to be worked out before we can have peace when God has already given us peace.

Jesus, only hours before he would be apprehended and dragged from one kangaroo court to another until arriving at the cross, gave his followers these words, that we too should remember.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.  I doubt that I will ever be the Christian servant that Helen Rosevere was, and she was amazed at the faith of a young child who prayed so boldly, not for herself but for two others who had much greater need.

God’s word does not return void.  Before we call, God answers.

In 2012, my niece was beginning her final year of a 3-year assignment in Nairobi, Kenya.  Rick Ellis and I would visit her the following year after our first mission together in western Kenya.  Months before, I had put a care package together for her.  I had done this before.  I had red Twizzlers and some other items that she craved but could not get while she was there.  There was $65 worth of goodies for which I paid $165 in shipping. 

I packed the box as full as I could and there was one little spot left.  It was just the right size for a Gospel of John.  My niece already had a Bible, but I wasn’t going to leave the space empty.

It took over two months for the box to reach her.  Most of that time it set in customs.  It just sat there.

Meanwhile, my niece had been talking to a Muslim student about Jesus.  The student said that she could not bring a Bible into her house, so my niece said that the next trip home, she would pick up a Gospel of John for her.  That same day, my care package finally arrived.  On the very top was the Gospel of John that I had placed in at the last moment. 

Months later, I got to meet this young girl during my visit.  That was a treat.  We don’t always get to see what God is doing through us.  We do need to trust that Spirit of God that lives inside of us.

We need to trust that God’s word does not return void.  We need to trust in the Lord over our own understanding.

We need to trust that before we call, God has already answered.

We need to trust that God’s got this whole thing figured out and just trust him, obey him, and love him by loving others.

There is a peace that comes from trusting God in everything we do.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Fixed in our hearts and minds

I want you to make a list of reasons for missing a free throw.  Just limit it the top 5 reasons.

Now scratch out everything but the good reasons for missing a free throw.  Whatever you put on your list, now you can scratch it out.  It’s a free throw!

Nobody is guarding you.  Nobody erected a wall between you and the goal.  It’s a free throw.  The best players make 90% or more of them. 

The worst free throw shooters are the ones that you foul near the end of the game.

I have an announcement to make.  I think that I have carried a little too much weight for the past decade.  I did some research and found out that I weigh as much as I do on purpose.

No, it’s not so I don’t blow away in the Oklahoma wind.  That’s a good euphemistic attempt at an excuse, but it doesn’t work.   I discovered that everything I have eaten over the past few decades, I ate I on purpose.  Not once was I walking home when a slice of apple pie flew into my mouth and I accidentally swallowed it.  No.  Everything that I ate, I ate on purpose.

Sometimes, I have eaten things that I wished that I hadn’t.  A few years ago, Sharman had baked some Christmas cookies and left them out on the counter.  I tried one and it was terrible.  I didn’t want to say anything, but I didn’t want someone else to have to eat one, so I told her how bad they were.

She wasn’t upset.  She just said, “Thomas, those were Christmas ornaments.”

I think that I kind of knew that before she told me but after I ate the second one, but I mentioned it anyway.

But, I ate them on purpose.  Those terrible tasting cookies that weren’t really cookies didn’t just fly into my mouth while I was sleeping.

When the clear tip of the front sight post is halfway up and centered from left to right in the rear sight aperture…     I know how to hit a target.  Those words seem ancient now that there are all kinds of high-speed, low-drag optics for shooting.  Once upon a time, sight alignment and sight picture were necessary to hit the target, even with old iron sights.

I have been invited to speak to the teachers at the beginning and end of the school year on a few occasions.  I always ask the same question of the person who invites me.  What topic?  What do you want me to speak about?

I get the same answer every time.  “Oh, talk about whatever you want.”  You have to love it.  The teachers either want to be in their classrooms getting them ready for the school year or getting things wrapped up for the summer, and someone invites me to speak about anything that I want.

Here’s the thing.  I know that I will hit my target.  I don’t know if I will hit the target of those who have to sit there and listen to me, but I know that I will talk about exactly what I decided to talk about.

I know how to hit the target.

The author of Hebrews tells believers to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus—the pioneer and perfecter of their faith.  He says don’t get distracted or entangled by all the other stuff.

Paul writing to believers in Galatia, chastised them saying, “You were running a good race.  Who cut you off?”  These believers were living in the truth and then for some reason had started adding to the truth.

The proverb says to train up a child in the way he should go and later on he will not depart from it.  That doesn’t mean that along the way there won’t be distractions, pitfalls, and an occasional wrong turn.

But, what is the way he should go?

These are the laws and decrees of the Lord.  These are the directions that God gave his people for their own good.  These are the very things that parents are to talk with their children about in the morning and before they go to bed and when they are walking together.

There should be visible reminders of these things in the home, even as you would enter the home.  All of these things begin with love the Lord—he is your God—love him with everything that you are.

How do we love him?

We trust him.  We obey him.  We love him by loving others.

It’s a good list, well, if you remember it.  So we do things that help us remember.

GOD LOVES YOU – LOVE ONE ANOTHER is a good message that we put on wristbands and I hope is written on our hearts. It’s a good message and it produces good results when we are focused upon it.  We even warm up for worship now by saying this.

In baseball, pitchers put all sorts of preliminary movements into their delivery motion in hopes of distracting the batter so that the fastball seems faster than it is, or the curveball is harder to detect.

The batter is only concerned about the ball, picking it up as soon as possible from its release point.  Everything else is distraction.  When the batter has eyes to see, he is gong to have a good day.

When we have eyes to see what God wants us to focus upon, we to have good days.  But staying focused means that we have God’s word, especially as it pertains to trust, obey, and love, in our hearts and minds.

It is fixed in our hearts and in our minds.

In the original promise to God’s Chosen People, if they would keep these commands and decrees in their hearts and obey them, God would drive out the pagan nations that were in the land he had promised them long ago.  He would send rain in season.

If the people remembered their journey and the mighty acts of God that brought them to this Promised Land, they would remain in awe of their mighty God.  They would obey him and love him and be blessed again and again by him.

God tells his people through Moses that they still have free will.  There is one way that is blessed by the Lord.  Everything else is a different story.

Remember my short summary of the Proverbs:  There is God’s way and there is everything else.

That everything else included wickedness, laziness, foolishness, selfishness, and anything apart from God’s way.  In Deuteronomy, we see God through Moses setting forth this simple dichotomy.

God declared that he was setting before his people a blessing and a curse.  Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry that I could not travel both, and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could…

Unlike Robert Frost’s poem, God has given his people two distinct courses with an obvious choice to be made if you want to be blessed.  There are two choices here.  There is a fork in the road but in the case of God’s Chosen People, God has placed a sign that says, “Go this way!”

On the other road is a sign that reads, “Trouble for sure!!!”

How many times have you heard people say, “I just need God to give me a sign?”  He has.  This way is blessed.  The other way is cursed.

So how could people take the road marked trouble?  They lost their focus.  They saw things of interest and some were enticing.  It’s not a new story.

Remember the only command that God gave to Adam—see that tree right there—the one right in the middle, well, don’t eat from it.  ‘Nuff said.

Adam obviously passed on these instructions to Eve.  And then there was this conversation with a serpent, but Eve made her own decision.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

They both knew of God’s prohibition about this one tree; yet what they knew in their minds was not fixed in their hearts.  There was dissonance between heart and mind.  Did somebody say Proverbs 3:5-6?

The commands and decrees from God, which he told his people he gave them for their own good, would keep them on the path of blessings and fullness. 

He put this dichotomy into simple terms.  This way is blessed.  That way is cursed.  How could they not choose the way that is blessed?

Sometimes they did.  Sometimes we do.  Sometimes we are distracted or lose our focus.  Sometimes it seems that we couldn’t even hit a free throw or a fast ball right down the middle of the plate.  Sometimes we lose our focus.

God told his people, fix these words of mine on your hearts and in your minds.  Heart and mind must be in agreement with God’s directions to us, directions that he gave them for their own good.

Today, we are told to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith.  To do that, we must know in our hearts and minds that he is the way, the truth, and the life.

We must know that not only salvation and eternal life come through him, but life abundant in this age comes through him.

We must understand that distractions are just that—attempts to pull us off course.  We must stay the course, press on towards the goal, walk in the light, and be known as his disciples because of our love.

We are still on this course and discourse of love, and now love in action.  For us to stay the course of love in a world of so many distractions, we must have these three things fixed in our hearts and minds.

Trust God
Obey God
Love God by loving others.

Trust-Obey-Love must be fixed in our hearts and minds, for our own understanding is always competing against what God told us was for our own good.

How do we fix what we need in our hearts and minds?  There are some ways that you know.

By what we sing
By what we memorize
By what we post as reminders in our homes, and today I would add on our phones.
By the things that we talk about.

Salvation is a gift entirely from God.  Discipleship is our part and it takes effort.  Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light, so we might surmise that it is not extraordinary effort.  It is focused effort.

The guy or girl who make the most free throws isn’t always the strongest.  She is the most focused.  He sets his sights on the target and hits it again and again and again.  Focused effort produces the ability to stay the course without succumbing to distraction.

Following Jesus is not back-breaking work.  It is focused work.  Jesus said to take his yoke and learn from him.  When we learn from him, we write those lessons on our heart and keep them foremost in our minds.  Heart and mind are in agreement in God’s word.

James talks about our struggles and uses the term double-minded.  We can be conflicted in just our mind.  Our hearts can be uncertain.  Blessing lies in making our thoughts obedient to Christ and trusting in the Lord with all of our hearts.

Our hearts and minds must be fixed on the things of God, his ways, his decrees.  Do we not understand that he gave them for our own good?

In the course of this message, we have touched on the first two parts of the Hebrew Shema.  The Shema is a declaration or affirmation of their faith.  It has a general affinity with a confession of faith.  The first part is the affirmation.  The second part is the witness—the acceptance of what God has commanded.  The third part is the reminder.

The Lord said to Moses,  “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.  You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.  Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’”

God’s Chosen people affirmed what they believed, accepted God’s commands in their lives, and made reminders for themselves not to chase after the desires of their own hearts but to be consecrated to the Lord.

We today affirm our belief, witness to taking the yoke of Jesus, and have reminders that we are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith.

God’s words are on our hearts.  His will is becoming the will of our hearts.  We are becoming love as he is love.

It begins by bringing our hearts and minds into one accord with God’s word and his will.  It continues with his words becoming fixed in our hearts and minds.  It continues with us choosing the path marked blessed again and again.

The more we do things God’s way, the easier it is to trust him and obey him.  And when we trust and obey, we are so much more inclined to love.

Trust – Obey – Love.