Look Up!

“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.”
(Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

I’ve started running again.  After a brief hiatus (weather, schedule, laziness – whatever), I’ve gone back to the streets for my early morning run.  I’ve forgotten how much I love that time.

Sure, I know it sounds crazy, and maybe it is.  It’s early.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  Still, there is something beautiful about the morning run.  Sometimes it’s easy to overlook.  Sometimes you can get so preoccupied with watching your steps, figuring the pace per mile, avoiding skunks, calculating how much time you’ve got before you have to turn around and get back home to get the kids going for school – you can sometimes forget to even look up.

This morning I looked up, and what a blessing.  I came to the top of the hill, to a clearing of trees, and there, sitting on the horizon of the lightening sky was the moon, golden and full.  If my arm were just a little longer, I swear I could have reached out and touched it.  Was I watching it, or was it watching me, as I ran my course this morning, I couldn’t tell.  Then, in the light of the moon, five deer ran in front of me, gracefully clearing the snow drifts and tall grass as they made their way to the frozen creek.

Something like that doesn’t happen on every run, but I can tuck that picture away for quite a while.  All I had to do was drag these sorry old bones out of bed, hit the trail, and look up.

I think this is why the letter to the Hebrews tells us that we are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  We can get so caught up in all the “busyness” of the Christian life, i.e. small groups, reading programs, mission trips, worship services, Bible studies, all of which are good and valuable practices, but sometimes we can miss the forest for all the trees.

As we read through the Bible, we can get so preoccupied with just getting the reading done that we fail to actually hear what the word says.  We plan and prepare for the program, find the right verses to support the lesson, and pretty soon the Bible becomes nothing more than a book of fragmented quotations to help defend a position.  We come to the Holy Days in the life of the Church (Christmas, Holy Week, Easter), and adding church into the “holiday” just seems like one more thing we have to do.  The church gets so busy doing, serving, caring; we forget the main purpose of the church is to proclaim the gospel, to call the world before the cross and the empty tomb.

Hear the word again: “fix your eyes on Jesus.”  Fix your eyes on Him, regardless of where you might be.  Are you preparing a Sunday school lesson or sermon?  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  How does that passage you are reading today show you your need for a Savior, point you to Christ, establish your hopes in Him?  Are you swamped by the busyness of work, family, and everything else you’ve got to do – you feel like you are sinking and cannot swim?  Fix your eyes on Him, cry out to Him, and He will save!  Are you overwhelmed by the weight of the world, wondering how we came to such a time and place as this – where if someone pulled the right string the whole thing would simply fall apart?  Fix your eyes on Him.  Jesus has overcome the world!  The grave could not hold Him, the kingdoms of this world rise and fall for His glory, and one day all things will be placed under His sovereign reign.

Calvin had an adaptation of the Sursum Corda, the prayer that is offered before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  Not wanting the congregation to be preoccupied with the elements of bread and wine, as though they had been transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ, Calvin urged believers to look up, where Christ is now interceding for us before the throne of God, and where the true communion of Christ exists.  He writes:

With this in mind, let us raise our hearts and minds on high, where Jesus Christ is, in the glory of his Father, and from whence we look for him at our redemption. Let us not be bemused by these earthly and corruptible elements which we see with the eye, and touch with the hand, in order to seek him there, as if he were enclosed in the bread or wine. Our souls will only then be disposed to be nourished and vivified by his substance, when they are thus raised above all earthly things, and carried as high as heaven, to enter the kingdom of God where he dwells. Let us therefore be content to have the bread and the wine as signs and evidences, spiritually seeking the reality where the word of God promises that we shall find it.

Today, whatever you are doing, look up.  Find yourself at the foot of the cross, the cross that was meant for you, the cross that symbolizes your sin, your guilt, your offence before God.  Look up to the cross and find that it has been carried for you, it has been occupied for you, it has been emptied for you.  Don’t get so caught up in everything else that you miss this one thing.  Christ has died for your sins, and was raised for your justification.

Look up!  There is more to see than just the trees.  Look up!  There is glory all around you.  Look up!  Fix your eyes on Christ.  Look up!

SDG

Keep Calm and Glorify God

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
(1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV))

I hope you have enjoyed the Olympics these past two weeks as much as my family has.  It is such a joy to be able to watch these athletes compete at the top of their sport – from Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated athlete ever, to the Women’s Gymnastics team getting gold and Gabby Douglas winning the All-Around, Usain Bolt winning the both 100 and 200 for the second time, and even the inspiring stories of Oscar Pistorius (the double amputee running in the 400m) and Kirani James (the 18 year old who won the 400m, giving Granada their first Olympic medal).

One of the things that I have really enjoyed is hearing the athletes give glory and praise to God when they are interviewed.  Athlete after athlete would begin their response with, “I just want to give God the glory…” or “I am so thankful to God for the opportunity…”  It has become so common that it is more noticeable when a person does not give praise to God during their interview.  Particularly interesting was the celebration of Will Claye after winning the bronze medal in the Long Jump, holding the American flag behind him, as is popular today, with his Bible in his right hand.  That made me sit up and take notice.

One thing I would like to see, however, is something that doesn’t happen too often.  What would it say if those who came in 4th, or finished dead last in their field, also gave glory to God?  Were they not also blessed by God just to be there, grateful for the opportunity to compete.  Would they not have an even more compelling witness if in the midst of defeat they could testify that God is good and deserves all the glory?  Or is God only glorified when we are successful and winning the praise of millions of spectators?

Friends, you may never be on the kind of stage that these Olympic competitors are on this week, you may never win the spotlight and have the opportunity to say to Bob Costas, “I just want to give God all the glory…”  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still give God the glory.  No one saw me (thankfully) on my run this morning, so there were no crowds to cheer me on, but during my run I was laying before God the cares of my day and seeking His mercy and grace to give me strength; may God be glorified in my run.  Today at work you may not have closed the big deal for the company or accomplished every goal you set for the week, but if you served the Lord with all your heart and put in a honest day’s work, God is glorified in your labor.  If you’ve found yourself at home with piles of laundry and layers of dust but have shown your love for the Lord in providing for your spouse and children a loving and grace-filled home, then God is glorified in what you have done.

What would the conversations around the dinner table be like if when someone asked, “Honey, how was your day?” you responded by saying, “You know, I just give glory to God for the opportunity to do what I do.”  Whether your first, last, or somewhere in the middle, let us do all things for the glory of God!

SDG