A Journey – Not a Guided Tour by Greg Albrecht

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Friend and Partner Letter from January 2018

On or just before January 1, fresh calendars are opened with almost as much anticipation as unwrapping a Christmas present. We page through a new calendar, admiring its twelve uncluttered months and 365 unplanned days. And we experience the liberation of setting aside the year that has just ended, with all of the days and events we are all too happy to put behind us. The New Year is a time of a new beginning and a fresh start. The fresh start of a New Year reminds me of the wisdom Paul shares with us about our ongoing life in Christ, on the Jesus Way: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13).

Remember our school days? For students, each new school year offers new challenges, new experiences and new opportunities – new teachers, friends, classes and textbooks. School life is a continually unfolding new frontier – for that matter, no matter what your age might be and what challenges you battle and confront, life is always an unfolding new frontier. Fresh starts are woven into the fabric of our lives.

Jesus is always and forever on our journey with us – when we stumble and fall, as we will invariably do, he is always there, extending his hand, always offering us a new beginning and a fresh start. He is always embracing and helping us as we continue to move forward with him. He is our focus, our strength, our all in all. For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

For Christ-followers, life in Christ is a journey, not a guided tour. We are not seated on a luxurious tour bus looking out the windows as Jesus, our tour guide, tells us what is happening outside of the bus. We are walking with Jesus. Walking with
Jesus means we are on a path toward something. We have a goal, and we are moving forward. Jesus is the path and the road upon which we walk.

Jesus rescued us from the darkness that once enveloped us so that now we walk in and with him – in his Light. He is our Energy and our Inspiration. He is our Destination. He is the Path. He is our ALL IN ALL.

Of course, physical surroundings and external circumstances change each New Year on The Jesus Way. Each New Year some of our fellow pilgrims on The Jesus Way are still with us, while other former fellow travelers have passed into eternity. We all
change – we age – we grow weary – but one thing never changes. Jesus is always and forever with us – he remains – always and forever.

Each New Year is an opportune time to take stock of our life in and with Jesus. This is a great time to remember that we run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus… (Hebrews 12:1-2). As a New Year begins, we are well
served to remember Jesus’ invitation to Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Here’s a New Year’s question we all can ask (call it a resolution if you wish): Am I truly resting in Christ? Am I fully persuaded that I can trust God and fully embrace his grace?

It is so easy to be burdened with anxieties and stress. The sheer amount of pressure and stress and the accelerating pace of change can be breathtaking and bewildering. It is so easy to be sucked into the “hurry up and get where you need to be going” syndrome that surrounds and defines life in North America. You may remember some of the lyrics from “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” by Alabama:

I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why

My family moved to Southern California in 1956 when I was a young boy of nine years-of-age. For me, moving from a small town in southeast Texas to Southern California was almost like moving to another country. So much was different. One of the differences was the pace of life in general, accented and illustrated by what they called “freeways” in California. Freeways were (and are) non-stop – no traffic signals or stop signs.

I remember the 1956 California freeways as busy, but I also remember a distinct time of day called rush “hour.” Rush “hour” was literally defined as one hour in the morning before 8:00 am (or 9:00 am in some cases) and then, in the afternoon, the hour just following the time the work day ended – normally 5-6 pm.

Within a few years of living in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, by the time I reached my teenage years, rush “hour” had expanded to at least two hours at the beginning and ending of each day. Over the last five decades, rush “hour” on Southern California freeways has gradually expanded, inexorably slowing down and suffocating travel, so that now, in these early decades of the 21st century, it seems rush “hour” is all the time – perhaps with the exception of 1-4 am.

This New Year is an opportunity for each of us to consider whether we have become caught up in either a physical or spiritual “rush hour” – or both! This New Year is a superb time to take stock and ask ourselves if we are too busy to savor the grace
of resting in Christ.

We might ask what forces or desires or motivations are driving us to live our lives frantically – who or what is trying to persuade us that busier and faster is better? Jesus invites us to rest in him, not rush with him!

Resting in Christ, as a Christ-follower, means of course following him, in the direction he takes us and the pace he chooses. If we are in a rush and pass him, then we are not following him but instead we are blazing a different trail, effectively telling him to hurry up and follow us!

Take a deep breath – pause for a moment – take a break from any “rush hour” you might be caught up in. Disengage for a moment and consider who you are and where you are going. Take a long bubble bath in God’s grace.

We are Christ-followers. We are God’s own children. And we are, as his children, always and at once a new creation. God is not finished with us – he is working on us, in us and through us, so that though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). God washes us, day by day, of all the dirt and debris that we pick up along the way.

We are who we are, in Christ. Our identity is neither selfproclaimed nor is it earned or deserved by our performance. We are God’s very own children, born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:13). All that we are and all that we are becoming is by and through the grace of God, lived in us by the life of our risen Lord.

Each New Year fresh challenges and new concerns become part of the landscape through which we will move forward, following Jesus. As we move forward, we are confronted with changes. Changes become more difficult as we age – it seems that time and the speed of change is increasing – ever more reason to rest in Christ and give him your cares.

In his book, The Pendulum Years: Britain and the Sixties, Bernard Levin described the incredible changes that happened in the United Kingdom during the decade of the 1960’s.

Fashions changed, changed again, changed faster and still faster: fashions in politics, political style, in causes, in music, in popular culture, in myths, in education, in beauty,
in heroes and idols, in attitudes, in response, in work, in love and friendship, in food, in newspapers, in entertainment… What had lasted a generation now lasted a year, what had lasted a year lasted a month, a week, a day.

In his twilight years, George Keenan (1904-2005), an American diplomat and historian, observed:

A life is too long a span today for the pace of change. If a man lives more than half a century, his familiar world, the world of his youth fails him like a horse dying under its
rider, and he finds himself dealing with a new one which is not really his…. We old people are guests of this age, permitted to haunt its strange and sometimes terrifying halls – in a way part of its life, like the guests in a summer hotel, yet in a similar way detached from it…we shall be leaving it; the personnel who will remain are its youth

Always and forever, as we make our fresh start, as we put one foot in front of the other, walking with Jesus day by day, Jesus is with us. He is assisting us as we experience changes, and many of the changes as we age are not altogether pleasant! But with Jesus we can and we will meet the bewildering changes and
the unwelcome challenges of a New Year – as we rest in him and embrace the grace of God.

Linus, one of the characters in the ever popular Peanuts comic strip, once shared this wisdom: “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we have never used.” So if you find yourself shifting gears, please make sure your focus is on Jesus. Make sure you are resting in him and embracing the grace of God!

Together we will move forward in this New Year!

Your fellow pilgrim and your brother in Christ,

Greg Albrecht

Letters to My Friends

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