MISSING THE MARK

Apr
2018
07

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“Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:3)

On April 6, 1909, American explorer Robert Peary, assistant Matthew Henson, and four Eskimos reached what they determined to be the North Pole. Peary, a U.S. Navy civil engineer, made his first trip to the interior of Greenland in 1886. In 1891, Henson, a young African-American sailor, joined him on his second arctic expedition. In 1893, the explorers began working toward the North Pole, and in 1906, during their second attempt, they came within 150 miles of their objective. In 1909 they crossed hundreds of miles of ice to reach what they calculated as latitude 90 degrees north, believing they had reached the long elusive dream. Although their achievement was widely praised – Dr. Frederick A. Cook (a former associate of Peary) challenged their distinction of being the first to reach the North Pole, claiming he had arrived there by dogsled the previous year. A major controversy followed, and in 1911 the U.S. Congress formally recognized Peary’s entitlement. Decades after Peary’s death, however, navigational errors in his travel log surfaced, placing the expedition in all probability 30 miles short of its goal. In 1997, Robert M. Bryce released a book entitled, The Polar Controversy, Resolved, in which he used newly uncovered documentation from diary entries, ship logs, and newspaper transcripts. He believed that these were further evidence to settle the epic debate about the claim by Frederick A. Cook that in he was the first to reach the North Pole in 1908, a year ahead of rival explorer Robert E. Peary.

Peary’s destiny is not all that different from our own at times when we diligently try but somehow miss the mark in life. And like his, there is frequently someone in the wings who is quick to point out our blunder. For those who walk with Christ, we realize that it is impossible to be perfectly on target and, in the case of our spiritual journey, without sin. We are fortunate, however, to worship a God who is filled with grace which He extends to each of us. He is indeed the ‘God of second chances’ (and more). Some criticize this phrase, saying that it deceives folks into believing that they just need to try harder, trusting in their own works as being necessary to achieve righteousness, and thereby missing the point of His grace entirely. In reality, we find that scripture is full of second chances. After he had disobeyed God once, “Then the LORD spoke to Jonah a second time: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and deliver the message I have given you’ ” (Jonah 3:1-2). As Jesus healed the invalid by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15) as well as when He refused to condemn a woman who was caught up in adultery (John 8:3-11), He told them both to “go and sin no more.” In saying this, Jesus was not speaking of sinless perfection. He was warning against returning to sinful lifestyle choices. His words both extended mercy and demanded holiness. Jesus was always the perfect balance of “grace and truth” (John 1:14).

With God’s forgiveness comes the expectation that we will not continue along the same path of rebelliousness. If you ever had the opportunity to experience parental discipline either through a child’s eyes or as a parent yourself, you know that it is not uncommon to repeat the phrase, “How many times do I have to tell you?” That same is true in our relationship with God. In the acceptance of His grace, we are expected to make a heartfelt change, try harder, and hopefully do better. The Apostle Paul stated it this way: “Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:9-10). We quickly learn in life that we can offer second chances to others until a healthy relationship is no longer realistic. So it is with God. He does everything possible to draw us into becoming more like Him, offering forgiveness and second chances. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  At some point, however, if sin becomes our god, we find that we have not only missed the mark but instead may lose our way for all of eternity.

REFLECTION: When you examine your own life, in what ways do you fall short of becoming more like Jesus?  How can you avoid falling into the trap of thinking that because you have received God’s grace that you can do as you please? In what ways might you help others see both His grace and His truth?

A NEW LOOKUP  DEVOTION IS UPLOADED EACH WEEK. THE NEXT WEEKLY POSTING WILL BE ON SAT. APRIL 14, 2018.  COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

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