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Tuesday Thoughts 7-3-18

One of my closest friends has a passion for slot car racing.  Wherever he has lived, the track has gone with him.  When Diana and I go to visit, there’s likely to be some time when we’re in the basement watching the cars zoom around the track – well, actually, my car flies off the track…often!  It’s a mystery that something having a pin that fits into a slot can still go so easily off-course.  It’s hard to stay on track in life too.  Just ask a post-dieter, a former exercising couch-potato, or a relapsed ex-smoker.  Actually, all you have to do is ask that person in the mirror.  We all have gotten off track.  Because I am track-challenged too, I’m inspired when I come across a story of someone who has kept on course.  Today’s inspiration (which came from my Friday Bible reading) comes from the life of someone that regular readers know as my biggest (other than Jesus) hero, Paul. I won’t list the many things that make this servant of God worthy of being called hero.  Instead, I commend to your attention these three verses written in the New Testament book called Acts (full title: “The Acts of the Apostles” – they were doing stuff!), “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22–24 (NIV84). These words are what you would call the long good bye.  Paul was saying his permanent farewell to people among whom he had brought the radiance of the glory of God in Jesus.  Previously, they had spent 3 ½ years together developing relationships between each other and the Father.  Here by the seashore, everyone in the group knew about the peril Paul was heading toward, and they were trying to talk him out of this journey. And then, he makes his powerful declaration of track-keeping!  Isn’t this challenging?  We are so used to reacting to warnings by changing course, putting our defenses up, and retreating as far as we can from the danger.  But Paul discounted the human cautions to stay far from harm in favor of the Holy Spirit’s counsel, intended for preparation, rather than self-preservation.  Here is a truth that presses in upon us – safety, as we often define it, is not the measure of God’s call.  Neither is comfort, or easy.  If you’re anything like me, you have played both sides of this issue, dodging danger from a warning shared, or urging a course change after passing along a caution.  And there is a right time to flee and protect yourself and your family, but not when the dangers are part of the call of God on your life.  It is tragic when someone abandons the Lord’s leadership plan because it got hard, people didn’t understand, and it drained emotional & spiritual energy (after all, God wants us to be happy, right?).  Just as centrifugal force acts to pull a slot car off a track, this broken world contains forces and dangers that are trying to pull us away from following the path set out for us by the One who knows and affects all things.  For Paul, the “prisons and hardships” awaiting him were vehicles of the grace of Jesus. He told the story of God’s love before crowds, governors, kings and the Emperor. Jailers, guards, and government officials came to know the Savior!  And even though Nero eventually cut off Paul’s head, none of this kingdom growth could have happened without the danger.  So don’t give up when things get tough.  Instead, double down, remembering His call upon you.  Are you sensing danger in someone else’s journey?  Instead of urging avoidance, links arms and head right toward it knowing Jesus is already there!

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