Focus

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Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 16:8

I was in my bedroom one afternoon, looking out at the backyard through the sliding glass doors.  The doors have old, cracked, and peeling window tint to help keep out the heat from the hot Florida sun.  The sun beats down on this second story room for most of the day, and the window tint helps significantly.

I watched the branches of the tall palm trees in the backyard as they swayed with the breeze.  It was so beautiful, and so peaceful.  After awhile I began talking with the Lord, thanking Him for His provision and the many blessings in my life.  Soon I began pouring my heart out to Him about the challenges I was facing. This was such a difficult season of my life.  It’s hard to admit, but at times I even questioned whether I would make it through.

As I continued gazing at the branches, the Lord opened my eyes to something right in front of me that had somehow gone unnoticed.  He showed me that when I focused on the peeling window tint, the beautiful palm trees faded into the background, just a blur, and barely noticeable.  When I focused on the palm trees, the cracked window tint faded and I saw the splendor and magnificence of the stately palms.

His lesson that day?  What we focus on can completely change our perspective.

So what are we focusing on?  And Whom are we focusing on?

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:8

My mother is an amazing woman.  When she turned 50 years old, this quiet homemaker decided that she was no longer content riding on the back of my father’s motorcycle, so she enrolled herself in a motorcycle course and learned how to drive one herself.  After successfully passing the course, my father rewarded her with a Harley Davidson motorcycle of her own.  We were all so proud of her!

During the course, one of the points the instructor kept drilling into his students was WYLIWYG – Where You Look Is Where You Go.  He reminded them to keep their eyes on the road ahead, and not be distracted by the things around them.  After a few mishaps, they learned the lesson well.

That lesson is for us who are Christ followers as well.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Yet the problems of life loom large at times, blocking our view of everything else.  We lose sleep, we lose our peace, and the problem in front of us seems to grow bigger with each passing day.  We know the Lord could step in and fix it, remove it at any time, and we question His goodness in letting it remain.

What if we were able to see past the problem, and focus on the presence of God instead?  And what if we stopped worrying about the worst that could happen and instead focused on His promises?  His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  His promise to never give us more than we can bear.  His promise to provide what He knows we need to eat, drink and wear.  His promise to work all things together for our good.  God is not a man, that He should lie, and He can be trusted.  He truly can.  He is faithful, day in, day out, and always, always keeps His promises.

Abram believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

None of our lives are perfect.  We are all works in progress, and the process is messy at times!  Sometimes things in our lives may look pretty rough – cracked and peeling even, but that can’t be our focus.  We can and should do some clean up work, but the Lord helps us with it.  He instructs us what to do and how to do it, and brings along the tools to complete the work.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Lord, remind us, over and over if necessary, that You are our ever present help in times of trouble, and that You are with us always.  When we have a tendency to look at what is wrong, or broken, remind us that You are a miracle working God with a master plan, and that You are working in the background and will bring deliverance at just the right moment. Help us to trust You even when it looks hopeless, because with You, there is always hope.  Help us to look beyond the cracks and see the beauty in our lives.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

He is Enough

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Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I so long for the simpler, easier days.  I long for the days when my house didn’t need repairing.  I long for the days when the floors were easier to keep clean (though we love them all, we had fewer pets).  I long for the days before my youngest son went to live with his father in another country.  I long for the days when I was debt-free.

Those days were good.  After the emotional roller coaster of divorce and the slow but steady re-building of our lives, it was good…peaceful…and as I clung to the Lord, our relationship grew deeper and sweeter.

I look around me now, still in the midst of a house renovation that seems to be taking forever, missing my son more than I ever thought possible, and I have to wonder…what happened to my peace, and my joy, and my contentment?  When did they leave, and how had I not noticed their absence before?

Pondering this, I cry out to the Lord, “When did You stop being enough?”

The answer comes swiftly.  It was when my focus shifted from Him to my circumstances.

Ouch.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Peter went from walking on the water…walking on the water…to looking at his surroundings.  He saw Jesus, Yeshua, walking on the water, and he did the same…until he looked away, and his eyes told him that what he was doing wasn’t possible under those conditions.

Did you catch what happened next?  When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began sinking, and when he called out for help, Jesus immediately reached out for him.  Immediately.

Isn’t that so reassuring?  What He did for Peter, He will surely do for us.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

The Lord fills our lives with good things.  Family, friends, pets, jobs, and homes are good.  We enjoy these gifts, and thank Him for them. If we’re not careful, though, we can allow them to become idols without even realizing it.

You don’t think that can happen?  I didn’t, either, until the word divorce came up and I was suddenly faced with the possibility of separation from my youngest child.  The Lord was so gracious to me.  He showed me my heart, and it wasn’t pretty, even though it already belonged to Him.  I had to give my son completely to the Lord, even if it meant separation from him.  It wasn’t easy, and I cried many tears, but I felt such freedom afterwards, and peace like I had never known before.  In His mercy and kindness, the Lord allowed my son to live with me for the next five years.

When we allow anything to take the place of our Savior, when we hold on to anything tighter than we hold on to Him, we err.

The Lord allows it, too.  He allows us to fret and fuss and become miserable until one day we reach the end of ourselves and know we cannot continue down this path any longer.  And so we repent.  We return to the lover of our souls, no matter what we have to let go of in the process.  His peace, joy, and contentment then return.

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131:2

Is there anything you’re holding onto tighter than you should?  Is your focus on your surroundings or someone other than the Lord?  May I encourage you to let it go, and readjust your focus?

Jesus, Yeshua, is enough.  He is more than enough.  He is truly all we need, and in the end, our relationship with Him is what will matter.  Truly.  Call out to Him, and He will come, immediately, and stretch out His hand to you and rescue you.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Lord, thank You for Your patience with us.  Please keep a tight grip on us so that we won’t wander, but when we do, thank You for bringing us back and reminding us how deeply loved we are, and how freely You forgive us when we ask.  Help us to let go of the things that hinder us, or keep us from fully following You.  Help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You, for You are more than enough.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Just Love Each Other

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I had my first ever dream about Jesus, Yeshua, a few months ago.  I have thought of it often.  To be quite honest, it was a bit convicting.

In the dream, I saw a hallway with several white doors.  The doors opened and a person came out from behind each door.  We all then entered a common room where Yeshua was.  The group was made up of both men and women, probably in their 20s and 30s.  Yeshua looked around the room and said, in an exasperated yet pleading voice, “Just love each other!”  I immediately awoke.

Confession time.  I have not always been a loving person, and I still struggle with this at times.  Even as a Christian.

Isn’t love the trait that sets believers in Jesus apart from others?

By this, all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:35

Isn’t that one of the greatest commandments that Jesus spoke of?

Love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

So how can someone say they are a Christian and not love people?

Well, different reasons, I suppose.  We all come to Jesus with baggage.  We have all walked through life and picked up scars along the way.  Rejection from peers, the painful end of a close friendship, verbal or physical abuse from parents or a spouse, harsh or embarrassing comments from a teacher or supervisor, the heartbreaking end of a relationship or marriage, just to name a few.

None of us are immune.

In my case, there was fear of being hurt by people.  It was safer to make my heart a kind of fortress, where only a few select people were allowed in.  I didn’t do much outside of time spent with those select few because it was safe there.

What I didn’t understand was that what I thought was a sanctuary was actually a prison.

Thank God, He loves us baggage and all, and He bids us come to Him and leave the baggage at His feet.  Letting go is a process, though, because we’re often not even aware of the baggage we’re carrying.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Slowly, as we spend more and more time in God’s presence, praying and reading the Bible, He shows us what we’ve been carrying, and then He enables us to give it to Him. That thing is then no longer a weight to carry, but becomes the very thing the Lord uses to help set someone else free.

I’m so thankful that the Lord doesn’t leave us the way He finds us.

The more time we spend with Him, the more we become like Him, and He is love.  He fills us with love for others.

But how do we really love in a practical way, day to day?  I’m still learning, but one of the things that has helped me is a question I heard somewhere that really stuck with me:  why do we assume a person’s worst intentions when they hurt us, but expect them to assume our best intentions when we hurt them?

Can’t we assume that their actions were never to hurt us?  Can’t we believe the best, and look for the best?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Can’t we forgive when necessary and not get offended every time our toes get stepped on?

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

It’s not easy, is it?  But it is possible.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Looking at His love, at His sacrifice, and seeing our own sinfulness…knowing that even when we were in our filthiness, our unloveliness, recognizing how truly wretched we were, how can we, who have been loved and forgiven much, not do the same?

There are so many ways to love others.  We can encourage people when we see them struggling.  We can pray for them.  We can offer physical assistance if needed.  We can help them financially.  Whatever gifts the Lord has placed in us are to be used in serving each other, and by doing this, God is pleased and honored.

I have found myself crying out to the Lord, more and more, to help me love people with His love.  To help me see people the way He sees them.  To be filled with his compassion.  I believe these are prayers that are dear to His heart, and He is answering.  He is transforming me with His love.  I know He will do the same for you if you ask Him.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Lord, help us to love others the way that you do.  So fill us with your love and compassion that it overflows and touches everyone we meet.  Give us eyes to really see the people around us, and give us the empathy to want to relieve their pain.  Lord, Your Word says that he who waters will himself be watered.  You water us continually with your love.  Help us to do the same.