Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Maintaining Focus

            The Apostle Paul traveled widely, but he never lost his sense of direction. Paul knew at all times where he came from and where he was going. He held his objective in focus at all times, giving us a model that suggests we need never lose our passion for people, whatever pressures we face.
            Like Paul, it is sometimes necessary that we “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold” of us. That passion to share Christ’s love led Saul to become Paul, the colorful Christian Apostle who included anything within reach, in order to convey the customs, history, and language that shaped his rich heritage (Acts 13:14-43; 22:2; 23:6-9). Not the least of Paul's doctrines was the resurrection.
            Stephen Carter argues that as Christians we need this kind of focus, but he insists it calls for a forthright personal demonstration that is more than mere public relations and the purposeful slanting that form much of our national habit. Carter insists we need simple terms for telling others what we mean (Integrity/NY/ Basic Books/ 1996/37).
            Like Paul, one of the issues we frequently face is the resurrection. Did it happen? Was Jesus fact, fiction, or fraud? Without Paul’s doctrine of the resurrected Savior, our Bible doctrines mean little, and offer no more than a hope chest full of empty drawers (I Corinthians 15:13). I find encouragement in Paul’s doctrine, however, when I turn to the biographies of great Christians and read their testimonies.
            Helping me maintain focus, along with Paul, is John Jasper, who lived fifty years as a Virginia slave, including twenty-five years as a gospel preacher. Jasper died March 28, 1901, following thirty-five years of shepherding Sixth Mount Zion church of Richmond, Virginia. His biographer describes that first Sunday of March, when the eighty-eight year-old slowly mounted his pulpit (Richard Ellsworth Day/ Rhapsody in Black, the Life Story of John Jasper/Valley Forge, PA/The Judson Press, 1953/141-142).
            After reading from the book of Revelation, Jasper removed his glasses, delivered his valedictory sermon, and concluded with a dramatized conversation with an unnamed angel, recorded in the dialect of that day.
            “Now, Mr. Jasper, you can see all de folks you’se preached ‘bout. Want ter see Moses?”
            Yes, “I wan’ ter see dem,” The conversation gently rocked back and forth throughout the Old Testament honor roll. Finally Jasper agreed “but, not now.” He did not even want to see his mother!
            The exasperated angel fairly shouts, “Well, John Jasper, who does you wan’ ter see, anyhow?”
            Standing tall, the preacher and former slave, stretched forth his long arms with whited palms heavenward, and cried “O Angel! Jes’ lead me befo’ de Great White Throne and let me gaze a thousan’ years inter de face uf my Jesus!”
            Jasper completed that sermon but fell ill before the following Sunday. He rallied on March 28, long enough to whisper “I have finished my work. I am waiting at the River, looking across for further orders.”
            His departure epitomized a mindset reflecting the focus of the Apostle Paul. It adds perspective to what we as believers must never forget, as we transition from one difficult assignment to another: 
      Time is filled with swift transition,
      Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
      Build your hopes on things eternal,
      Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

I am walkingwithwarner,blogspot.com

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