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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

We end this week where we began. The passage from Hebrews details how we need to remove obstacles that keep us from following Jesus. Some of those obstacles are obviously harmful. Others, however, are not so clear. The author focuses on two areas:

  • Let us throw off: (1) Everything that hinders and (2) The sin that so easily entangles.

“The sin that so easily entangles” is part of the obviously harmful. However, the “Everything that hinders” can be negative, but not necessarily so. There can be good things that we need to give up in order to follow Jesus.

Finally, the author of Hebrews admonishes us to “Fix our eyes on Jesus.” If we maintain a proper focus, it makes following so much easier.

How do you stay focused on Jesus? What potentially blocks your view?

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Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to the antarctic took a turn for the worse when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice. As the saying went, “What the ice gets, the ice keeps.” The party knew that their ship was doomed and they needed to abandon ship. They removed the lifeboats and supplies they would need. They would need to drag these lifeboats over several miles of ice to reach open water.

“The planned march required the men to drag with them basic supplies as well as two of the three lifeboats. [They eventually sent a party back for the third.] Every hand had been issued new winter gear and a pound of tobacco. Beyond this, each was limited to two pounds of person possessions. A few exceptions were made. Shackleton allowed Hussey to take his banjo, on the premise that it would supply the men with vital mental tonic.”
“By way of example, before the assembled men, Shackleton discarded a handful of gold sovereigns and his gold watch on the ice, followed by his silver brushes and dressing cases. He then took the Bible that had been presented to the ship before departure by Queen Alexander. Ripping out the flyleaf and a few other pages, he lay the Bible on the ice. The pages retained were those of the Twenty-third Psalm and these verses from Job:
Out of whose womb came the ice?
And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it?
The waters are hid as with a stone
And the face of the deep is frozen.”
– Caroline Alexander, The Endurance.

If your house was on fire and you had only moments to choose, what would you save? What has special value in your life?

There comes a time when we cast off all lines and remove the anchor from the water. It’s time for us to set sail. An anchor can be a good and useful thing. However, you don’t typically sail while dragging the anchor.

The author of Hebrews shares a similar idea with a race as the analogy. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

We need to release in order to move on. What is it that you need to let go of in order to move on? What are you holding onto? What has a hold on you? How can you find release?

Just as sailors consult their charts before they head out on the water and even as they’re on their journey, so we also have charts to consult. Scripture provides a guide for us as we engage the world. It is easy to get caught up in the way we think the world works. It is easy to fool ourselves into the best ways to get ahead. However, the Bible provides us with an alternative, even contrarian view, of how the world works.

We don’t always see God in action all around us. But Scripture confirms that he is. We don’t always see him in our own lives. But the Bible emphasizes that he cares for us.

The Bible also sets our mission: we’re on a rescue operation. Jesus came in order to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). We take up Jesus’ mission as the church. We become his hands and feet, arms and legs, mouth and ears as we take the Gospel to the world.

The Bible details how we engage the enemy: we wage war not as the world does (2 Cor. 10:3). Our enemies are not flesh and blood. We don’t eliminate those who might oppose us. We’re told to pray for those who persecute us. We’re admonished to serve those who would take advantage of us. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

What else does the Bible teach us about our way on the journey?

Sir Ernest Shackleton had escaped the dangers of the open water and ice flows to land on Elephant Island. However, Elephant Island was not on the typical routes of the whaling ships. They did not know if they would be discovered there. They did not know if rescue would come.

“It was perhaps no coincidence that Shackleton chose the following day, April 20, to gather his company to make a momentous announcement: A party of men under his command would shortly set out in the James Caird and make for the whaling stations of South Georgia. The stupendous difficulties of this journey required no elaboration to the men who had just arrived on Elephant Island. The island of South Georgia was 800 miles away—more than ten times the distance they had just traveled.”

“To reach it, a twenty-two-and-a-half-foot long open boat would have to cross the most formidable ocean on the planet, in the winter. They could expect winds up to 80 miles an hour, and heaving waves—the notorious Cape Horn Rollers—measuring from trough to crest as much as sixty feet in height; if unlucky, they would encounter worse. They would be navigating towards a small island, with no points of land in between, using a sextant and chronometer—under brooding skies that might not permit a single navigational sighting. The task was not merely formidable; it was, as every sailing man of the company knew, impossible.”
– Caroline Alexander, The Endurance.

They were physically safe where they were. They had food. It wasn’t particularly good or nourishing, but they wouldn’t starve. They needed to risk their lives if they were to be truly rescued.

How does God call us to risk our lives in order to be truly saved?

A ship is safe in the harbor. But a ship is not made to stay in the harbor. A ship is made for the open water. Being in the open water can be dangerous. Being in the open water can be exciting. Being in the open water can be unnerving.

It helps to have a map, a chart. It helps to have someone who has gone before and marked out the way. It helps to have someone who knows where the dangers are and has set down warnings. It helps to have someone who knows the better ways and marked the paths that are beneficial.

A nautical chart does those things. It marks out dangerous areas. It marks safe passage ways. It is filled out by those who have traveled the ways before and communicate their knowledge to others.

When have you benefited from the use of a map? When have you suffered because you didn’t consult one?

There are some beliefs that are foundational to our faith. There are some things we need to know with certainty. We need to remind one another on a regular basis what our faith is really about. Wayne shared, during our communion meditation, that the Gospel–the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus–is foundational to our faith. I shared three others:

God is Love
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
– 1 John 4:7-8

Love God, Love Others
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:37-40

Love Your Neighbor
“The commandments, ‘you shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
– Romans 13:9

Are there other foundational beliefs that you would list?

You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
Remember the Sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony.
You shall not covet.
(Exodus 20).

On Sunday I said that these commandments were foundational for Israel. God used them to help shape his people. What kind of community is God forming by giving this instruction? What would it look like? What would it value? What do we take away from this instruction?

There are somethings you want to know and know well before you head for open water. There won’t necessarily be time to learn these things adequately in the midst of trial. For sailing, one thing a person would want to know is his or her knots. You can’t be wondering is this knot is right when you’re in a hurry. It needs to be instinctive. It needs to be second nature. It needs to be automatic.

What are some things you’ve needed to learn: at work, at home, in your personal life? How have you made them automatic? What difference does that make?

As we began this series, Catch the Spirit, the idea was for us to raise our sails so that we catch the movements of the Holy Spirit and allow the Spirit to move us along. In order to do that, we must pay attention to the direction and movements of the Spirit. We closed with these questions:

Where do you see the Spirit moving:

  • in your life?
  • in your family?
  • in this church?
  • in the world?

Anyone care to share?