One Thing

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2

Some days it is really hard to focus. We live in a very distracting world.

This is not altogether a bad thing. We can get distracted by wonder and beauty, and those are God’s blessings. I have a beautiful view of a crabapple tree out my office window, a home to robins and turtledoves, shelter for squirrels and rabbits alike. I can lose track of time taking in this beauty. I have a playlist of podcasts to which I want to listen, all edifying Biblical teaching that will do my soul good. These are wonderful things, but they can suck up my time, my attention, and keep me from what needs to be done.

There are, at the same time, many unhealthy distractions: games on the phone, YouTube channels that lead one to another, television shows that draw you in and make you want to binge the entire season.

There are so many voices clamoring for our attention today, it is so difficult to stay focused. I read an article which says that we’re actually re-wiring our brains with modern technology – with devastating effect. We’re accustomed now to a constant barrage of media input, but we never really absorb any of it. We’ve become well-informed idiots.

Even writing this article today, I’ve become acutely aware of how distracted I am. I’ve got so many things running through my mind, so many irons in the fire, so many conversations/texts I’m trying to maintain… so much to say that nothing was coming out. I sat staring at a blank page for 45 minutes. It’s not writers block, but rather the opposite. So much is running through the mind that I can’t even find a place to begin. I’ve started about 20 different posts, all to end up going nowhere, or morphing into something completely incoherent. Again, well-informed idiocy.

I know this isn’t what Paul was talking about when he wrote above verse in his letter to the Corinthians – maybe it was. The Corinthians were really taken in by the philosophers and orators of the day. They were impressed with impressive speakers, swayed by dazzling intellect. But Paul reminded them that when he was among them, he came not with great eloquence or intellect, but only knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified.

There were, and are, tremendous depths of theological profundity into which we may plunge ourselves as we grow in our knowledge and love of God. There are far reaching political, cultural, and even economic ramifications of our faith that must be explored. All of these things are worthy of pursuing, but none of them take precedence over the one thing: knowing Christ and him crucified.

Here’s thread of consciousness: Knowing Christ and him crucified: Christ, the 2nd person of the godhead, fully God, full of glory, wonder, power and majesty; one with God from all eternity; who, in accordance with God’s perfect and sovereign plan, did come to us, being born of a virgin, taking on the form of man though never ceasing to be God, fully God – fully man, he suffered in our place, lived in complete obedience to the Father, perfectly keeping His righteous law; but, in demonstrating the love of God, died upon the cross to take the full punishment of our sins, my sins, and was raised on the third day for the justification of all who put their faith in him.

Christ and Him crucified. Once I focus on this, all other things seem to lose their attraction. Dwelling on the beauty of who He is, the wonder of what He has done takes preeminence, drowns out all the lesser, insignificant, and trivial distractions.

Christ and Him crucified. It makes me want to delete a few apps. Makes me want to put my phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Makes me want to “be still and know.”

Christ and Him crucified. This is my one thing.

Is He yours?

One Thing

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”

(Psalm 27:4)

In case you haven’t noticed, I have taken a bit of a hiatus from this Midweek Message. I guess it has been over a month since I last posted a message.  As you may already know, there’s been a lot going on in my life: a transfer to a new denomination (from the PCUSA to PCA), finishing one pastoral call and beginning another, selling and buying a home, helping shepherd my family through the emotional roller coaster of moving, and – oh yeah – leading the church through the observance of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I didn’t intend to take four weeks off from writing this post, it just got lost in the shuffle.

It feels a little odd here in the office this week, my books are all packed, the desk is cleared off, and there only a couple days remaining before I will have officially left the PCUCA for a new call. What then do I say?

I want to say that I have been truly blessed to serve as the pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cherokee.  Over the past 9 years, this congregation has walked along side of me, helping me to become a better pastor, a more effective communicator (the last few weeks notwithstanding), and showing tremendous patience and love along the way. You have heard some sermons that would have been better had they never been preached, some prayers that went a little too long, and some jokes that forgot to be funny. My hope and prayer is that you were ultimately blessed by faithful preaching and teaching, that you will remember my time here as one of encouragement and growth, and that God would be pleased in His Church.

There is one last thing I want to leave you with.  For some reason, as I write this, I keep hearing Jack Palance as Curly saying – “Just One Thing!”

one thing

Well… in the movie, Curly tells Mitch that everyone has to figure out what that “one thing” is for themselves.  I get that, but if we take that to its logical end, we end up with chaos as everyone pursues that thing that makes them happy regardless of what that means to anyone else.

No, there is “One Thing” that is the greatest thing for each and every one of us, the “One Thing” we must pursue, the “One Thing” we must know.  This “One Thing” is the source of our greatest joy and happiness, the foundation of our peace and security.  This “One Thing” brings meaning to life, hope in the midst of despair, comfort in times of trouble.  This “One Thing” is the same “One Thing” for you and for me, and has been the “One and Only Thing” yesterday, today, and forever.  Have I given it away?

Here’s the One Thing – “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead… as preached in my gospel” (2 Tim 2:8). I hope that in time I will be remembered at Memorial Presbyterian as a good preacher and pastor and a loving and devoted father. I hope that my activity in the Cherokee Community Theater will be remembered well. I would like to think that I have made a lasting impression here, and that I will be remembered after I am gone.

More than all of that, though, I hope and pray that you will remember Christ, our risen Lord. I have labored to make Him known, to proclaim His Gospel, to make His grace and mercy known, to magnify His goodness, to draw all people to Him. Even if I am forgotten, even if my exploits and endeavors fade into oblivion, remember Jesus Christ.

Remember Christ.  When discouraged because life is difficult and the burden is heavy: remember Christ whose “yoke is easy, and whose burden is light.” When pressured to compromise on your faith and your values in order to fit in with the world: remember Christ who has come to “bring salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” as we await His appearing (Titus 2:11-13). When you stand for your faith and feel alone in this world: remember Christ, who has promised that He would be with us, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

I am truly grateful for the time that I have had at Memorial Presbyterian as your pastor. I pray that God will continue to strengthen and encourage this congregation. And I hope and pray that in everything you will continue to hold fast to this One Thing – Remember Jesus Christ, Risen from the Dead!