The old Roman road next to the remains of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Living for a day that may never come

Creative people are easily distracted. I’m speaking from personal experience. I can have every intention of focusing on one particular thing, and then I see something else (something shiny) and my whole focus goes out the window. And before I know it, I’m off on some rabbit trail that leads me around in circles, and I can’t even remember what I had intended to finish in the first place. Some people are born with focus in their DNA (like engineers), but for others, focus has to be learned and practiced.

The old Roman road next to the remains of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

The old Roman road next to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Proverbs 4:25-27.

Look straight ahead,
    and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
    stay on the safe path.
Don’t get sidetracked;
    keep your feet from following evil.

The practicality of the Bible always amazes me. It shouldn’t by now, but I think I’m just awed that God cares about our daily lives so much that He would include things like this. It’s good advice.

How often do we get sidetracked? How often do we wander off the obvious road to try to make it down a path we think is better? How often does our gaze deviate from where we should be looking? I hate to admit it, but for me, the answer is frequently.

I don’t have much trouble with looking back, honestly. I try not to live with regrets, but when it comes to looking forward, I tend to look sideways. I focus on what’s way out in front of me rather than what’s straight ahead. I focus on what I think is coming ten years down the road instead of what’s coming tomorrow. And that’s not necessarily bad, but when you live your life planning for ten years from now, the things that are happening today don’t get done.

We all have opportunities in our lives. I’m sure all of us will have opportunities in our lives ten years from now too, but opportunities ten years from now will be shaped by how you handle the opportunities at your feet today. You can’t plan for what’s coming on the other side of the hill because you can’t see it yet.

Instead, focus on what’s right at your feet. Focus on what you can do today. Maybe it’s not as much fun. Maybe it’s not as glamorous. But if it’s in your path, it’s for you to accomplish, and you’ll learn something from it. Make the choice to deal with what’s in front of you before you start daydreaming about ten years down the road.

I’m not saying to forget about the future. That’s foolish. Planning for the future is wise. But there’s a big difference between planning for what might happen and living your life as though you know what will happen. The future matters, but today matters more because today is the foundation of tomorrow.

So stay on the road. Walk straight. Keep moving forward. Don’t get distracted. You’ll get over the hill to the other side eventually, but when you first see the hill you’re not ready for it. You’ve got to deal with the obstacles in your path first. Then, you’ll be ready to face what’s on the other side.

None of us know the future. We can assume certain things will happen, and we can dream, for sure. But living for the future doesn’t help you with today. And if you live for a day that may never come, what has your life been about?

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Mulberry tree and yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Truly valuable

What do you value? I think many times we place value on things that don’t matter, and as a result we are often unhappy. Because what you place value on is what you will seek, and if you value something that won’t last or something that doesn’t satisfy, then of course you’ll be unhappy.

There are many different kinds of things we can value, that even people who don’t follow Christ would see as worthy, but what is it that should matter to us the most? As Christ followers, what are we supposed to value above all else?

Mulberry tree and yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Mulberry tree and yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:7-11.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

What Paul is talking about at the beginning of this passage is his heritage, basically. Paul was everything the religious experts of the time could have ever wanted to be. A pharisee’s pharisee, I guess you could say. He was the best. He was the smartest. He was at the top of the food chain. He had it made. At least, he did until Jesus thumped him off his horse and had a one-on-one chat with him on the road to Damascus one evening. Then, everything changed.

All those things that Paul had placed value on before evaporated because he had learned what really mattered. All those past accomplishments did were to make him proud of what he had achieved, of what his family had achieved, of what his social and political status provided him with. Those things didn’t matter.

He was proud of keeping the law. He was proud of living according to the law. He was proud of doing everything according to the law. So he considered that he was a better person than everyone else around him because he knew and kept and did the law. But how empty was that life?

How empty is a life of being better than everyone else? I mean, it sounds good, but even if you’re better than everyone else, you’re still not perfect. You’re just isolated because your attitude has made you that way.

So many times, we value what the world says is important. Or we value what religion tells us is important. But do those things truly matter? Or are there merely complications for a life that was designed to be simple from the beginning? How complicated is it to know the law? How complicated is it to depend on your own knowledge and your own work and your own righteousness to be made right with God?

It’s beyond complicated. It’s impossible. because none of us are perfect, and that’s what’s required.

What makes us right with God is faith. It’s nothing we do. It’s nothing we wear. It’s nothing we achieve. Just believing that Christ paid the price for us. And though it’s not easy, it is simple. And whether we will admit it or not, there is joy in simple things.

So what do you value today? Are they temporary things that add further complication to your life? Or are they simple things that we allow to add further complication to our lives? Life is complicated, don’t get me wrong, but the things that matter are simple. So don’t get bogged down by the complications of life. Don’t let the things that don’t matter and don’t add value to your life weigh you down.

Don’t let the heaviness of your own righteousness convince you that it’s worth something. It’s not. Not in comparison to what Christ did for us.

Christ is all we need. The rest will fall into place. And even though it’s a choice that can be difficult to make a times, faith is truly simple. And in a world that grows more and more complex and complicated by the moment, a little simplicity is a nice change of pace.