March 21, 2020

Occidental Community Church family,

I am currently in the process of applying for a California REAL ID drivers license.  Not wanting to get caught waiting for hours in the notoriously long lines at the DMV office, I made an appointment.  The first open appointment . . . 3 months from now!  But for me, anything to avoid waiting in a long line, a pet peeve of mine, so I took the date and time offered.  This new REAL ID license not only allows me to drive lawfully, but also qualifies as valid ID for domestic airline flights among other benefits.

In studying the driver's manual in preparation for the written test, one sample question asks, "When driving your vehicle, you should be looking how far down the road for maximum safety?"
(a) 500 ft. (b) 1000 ft. (c) 1/4 - 1/2 mile.  I guessed (b) 1000 ft.  I was wrong.  It was (c) 1/4 - 1/2 mile.  That seemed unreasonable to me, so I did further reading on this.  One veteran driving instructor commented, "One of the first things I'd teach my driving students is to look further ahead while driving.  People don't mean to, but it's natural human instinct to look directly at the vehicle in front of us or right at the pavement lines."

Why am I boring you with this story?  As I thought about this fundamental principle for responsible and safe driving, I was reminded of a valuable faith lesson.  When travelling through life we need to keep our eyes fixed, not on what's right in front of us or around us, but on what is far ahead, the eternal goal that Christ secured for us through His death and resurrection.  I have often used the phrase, "Think eternally."  By this I mean that we should always evaluate what is happening in the here-and-now in light of God's eternal plan revealed through Jesus Christ, leading us to heaven one day.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is that of Peter walking on the water.  The disciples were in a small boat at night on the Sea of Galilee without Jesus who had stayed behind.  A violent storm came up and threatened to sink their boat.  They were all terrified.  Suddenly, Jesus appeared walking on the sea towards them, assuring them that they need not be afraid.  Matthew records Peter's response in 14:28-31 - 28."Lord, if it is you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29."Come," He said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30.But when he saw the  wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"  31.Immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.  "You of little faith," He said, "why did you doubt?"

The lesson is clear and obvious.  AS LONG AS PETER KEPT HIS EYES ON JESUS, HE WAS SAFE.  BUT WHEN HE "SAW THE WIND" HE BEGAN TO SINK.  What is it right now that is causing you to live in fear, anxiety, or doubt?  Certainly, the coronavirus threat faces all of us.  We need to look beyond the threats, way beyond, to the eternal plan God has for us.  One day we will look back on the fears, anxieties, and doubts which seem to be monumental, maybe even impossible to resolve.  In that eternal day these things will seem of no consequence and not even worth worrying about.  

The author of the book of Hebrews offers this bit of exhortation.  Hebrews 12:2-3 - 2."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. 3.Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  Rich Mullins, a Christian singer and guitarist once said, "Faith is not a denial of facts. . .it is a broadening of focus.  It does not deny the hardness of the guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound."

Trusting in Him,
Pastor Rick

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