Wendy asked me right before the Super Bowl started who we were rooting for, and I had to think for a minute. Yes, Carolina was probably going to win, and yes, half of the team was formerly associated with my Bears -- but I’ve always had a fondness for Denver, and it was going to be Peyton Manning’s last game in the NFL, so I told her that I guess we’re rooting for Denver.
Man, was that a good choice (and a good game)! Not only was it a fun game to watch, since both teams were so motivated and intense, but it was also just a fun, fellowship time for us as a church family. Any time that we can come together and connect -- whether that’s over the Word of God, or over a roof that needs mending, or over a pot of Pastor Kevin’s famous chili while we watch football together -- it’s a time to grow closer and deeper with one another. I’d encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that life affords you to connect with your brothers and sisters in Christ in any meaningful ways that you can.
That includes things like this upcoming Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Dinner. Yes, it’s a way to support our Youth Group, and yes, the food is going to be amazing (as always -- and even moreso since my daughter is stepping up to working the kitchen this year), but the real blessing is to be able to spend quality time with the person you love, surrounded (discretely) by people you love. If you can’t join us, please do make sure to pray that the evening runs well, and that everyone involved is blessed by it.
In our message this week, we finished off the “Lettuce Patch” of Hebrews, looking at the “let us” commands in chapter 12.
Our nameless writer preaches to us (because the Book of Hebrews is written as a sermon, not a letter) about a “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before and shown us how to live out our Christian lives in ways that honor God and demonstrate that we mean what we say... and then gives us three “let us” commands about that.
First off, “let us” strip off all of the stuff in our lives that’s holding us back from really giving Christ our all. If there’s any sin, or pride, or fear, or whatever that’s making it hard to do what God sculpted you to do, or that keeps tripping you up in life, then get rid of it and strip down to your running gear.
Because the second command is “let us” run the race that God has set out for us to run. It’s not a sprint, as if life were a series of crises, followed by being able to rest or coast for a while -- it’s a long-distance endurance race, and you get through it by pacing yourself and keeping your eyes focused ahead of you.
But the third “let us” may not be what you might think it is, reading the chapter in your translation. In some translations, the writer says, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus,” as if that were a third command. But in the original, that’s just how you do the first two commands. I don’t say that to diminish it, but rather to say that it needs to be the foundation of everything we’re doing in our race. How do you even know what’s tripping you up? By fixing your eyes on Jesus, and letting everything else that pulls your gaze from that direction fall off of you. How do you run that endurance race with perseverance? By fixing your eyes on Jesus, and reminding yourself of His example in the past and His preparation for the future. Everything in life makes so much more sense when we focus on fixing your eyes on Jesus, instead of getting cross-eyed losing our focus by fixing our eyes on the thousand petty priorities of a given day. Those things may even be important from time to time, but only insofar as they make sense within the frame of fixing your eyes on Jesus.
The last “let us” tells us to be thankful -- thankful for His leading, thankful for His great example and sacrifice that brought us into His family, thankful for His discipline that keeps us pointed in the right direction, and thankful for where we know that we’re going.
So what are you thankful for today? How do you need to pace yourself in the race you’re running today? What do you need to strip off of your life in order to run better? How can you work to fix your eyes on Jesus just a little bit more clearly?