Where’s Our Focus? By Beth Smith

 

where's our focus magnify GraphicMama-team via pixabay

What occupies our thoughts? How much time do we spend looking back on the unpleasant things that have happened to us? We have a choice!

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NIV). If a person who’s plowing a field keeps looking back instead of looking ahead, he’s sure to plow some awfully crooked rows. If we’ve accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, but are forever looking backward into the past, we’re plowing crooked rows too.

When we focus on our pasts, our trials, our troubles and our pain, we often make them bigger and more important than they really are. We magnify them. How do we stop exaggerating our troubles? They’re real, but they don’t need to define us. Here’s how we change. We focus on Christ and his Word. This isn’t easily done, because neither the Devil nor our sinful selves tend to want us to live that way. We have a fight on our hands. But that battle has already been won for us through the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross, and he will help us.

Focusing requires us to concentrate our thoughts and efforts. When we focus on God and his Word, we’re seeking a clear, distinct picture of what God has done for us. We want—we need—to magnify all of the great things God has provided for us. For starters:

  • He loves us.
  • He died that we might live.
  • He has taken our sin and given us his righteousness.

Take a look at Psalm 34:1-3 (AMP). The questions in parenthesis are mine. Keep in mind that when David wrote this passage, King Saul was trying to catch and kill him.

I will bless the Lord (When?) at all times;

His praise will (How often?) continually be in my mouth.

My life makes its boast (In whom?) in the Lord;

Let the humble and the afflicted (Do what?) hear and be glad.

Oh magnify (Who?) the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.”

We can’t let our thanksgiving be based on our feelings (which can change more quickly than the weather) or on our circumstances (which are never dependable). Once we learn to focus on God, there’s always a reason to give thanks. We can begin to look away from the things that bother us or bring us pain and turn instead to eternal things, the truths that will matter forever. So, where should we focus? What shall we magnify? Let me leave you with this verse.

“May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’” (Psalm 70:4 NIV).

Photo by GraphicMama-team via pixabay

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If God Never Did One More Thing…or Are You Tired of Manna?

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Every time I re-read portions of the Old Testament, I’m astounded by the way the Israelites got caught in this loop:

  1. Cry out for help. (For example, “Let us out of Egypt!”)
  2. Experience God’s miraculous provision. (Like parted seas.)
  3. Find a reason to complain. (“We’re thirsty!”)

REPEAT:

  1. Cry out for help. (“Give us food!”)
  2. Experience God’s miraculous provision. (Like manna from heaven.)
  3. Find a reason to complain. (“We’re so sick of eating the same old thing!”)

REPEAT…REPEAT…REPEAT…

But I have grumpy days, don’t you? I feel sorry for myself or evaluate my lot in life and decide it doesn’t measure up to someone else’s. I long for something I don’t have and forget all God has done and all I’ve been given. I’ve seen miraculous provision in my own life, so how am I any different from those Israelites? I’m ashamed to admit that I can get tired of manna too.

I was knocked upside the head by this quote not long ago: “If God never did one more thing for you, you ought to be the happiest person in the world.” (I heard it in a TV sermon, but don’t remember who was preaching.) Oh my, yes! When I step back from my doldrums and recount the miracles in my own life and in those of my loved ones, I quickly realize that any one of those gifts from God should be enough to keep me rejoicing until eternity. How quickly I can forget!

So, today, I want to leave you with this verse, Psalm 42:6, from The Message:

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you.”

Has God ever done anything for you? Then, next time you find yourself grumpy or dissatisfied, refresh your memory! I plan to do the same.

‘Love to read your comments here.

Photo from pixabay.com

The Happiest People on Earth

happiest people sherrillHappy New Year!

If you’re looking for a book to add to your reading list this year, I’d like to recommend “The Happiest People on Earth” by Elizabeth and John Sherrill. It’s the story of Demos Shakarian, and it will bolster your faith. (It’s right here on Amazon)

Let me challenge you with just one quote (from page 186, in case you’re curious.) “The important thing is that He tells each of us to go. Go with whatever gift He has given—knowing that when we find that gift and use it, no matter what the condition of the world around us, we will be the happiest people on earth.”

When I was a kid, I learned to sing a song that started with these words:
“Serve Him, Serve Him, all ye little children. God is love. God is love.”

My prayer for you, as this year begins, is that you’ll find the very best way to serve our Lord, the way that he has prepared for you, and that you will join the ranks of the happiest people on earth.

The Wow Factor

 

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I was loading clothes into the car when I heard, “Nana! Hi, Nana!” With his mom’s permission, Nick ran for me, unable to hug me because his hands were too full of little cars. I hoisted him up to eye level, and then he saw it—a newly assembled fort awaiting him in his backyard, complete with a rock wall (of sorts) and a wavy slide.

“Oh, my house! My house!” he cried, hardly able to contain himself as we made our way through the fence and over to the gift his mom had found and his dad and “Pop” had worked on most of the day.

You’ve all seen moments like that, times when a child responds to life with unbridled glee. When do we begin to lose that enthusiastic voice of youth coupled with an untarnished gratitude for the good gifts of life? Nick didn’t pause to decide whether or not the green and yellow canvas tenting on his fort were the colors he would have chosen. He was unfazed by the fact that the swings were not yet attached. He was excited about the gift as it was.

Are we? Do we approach our days ready to be excited about what God provides—when, where and how he provides it? Do we say “Oh, wow!” enough? Or has our richly blessed western culture caused us to be jaded, no longer noticing life’s daily blessings?

Let me challenge you to begin anew today to be wowed by God, to open your eyes in a fresh way and proclaim your joy, whether silently or aloud, over the many good gifts, large and small, that will come your way. And won’t you let me know what you discover?

Thanks be to our Father from whom all good gifts come!

*Photo (not my grandson, by the way) by Ben White on Unsplash.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Saying Goes…

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Steve loves those quirky signs we all see in gift shops and coffee shops. They’re usually made out of a slat of wood or a square of canvas and sport short sayings fit for coffee mugs and fortune cookies (and the little paper squares attached to Yogi tea bags.) Every once in a while he’ll take a snapshot of one and text it around to family members, or maybe post it on Facebook. A few days ago I saw one that said,

“If anything can go well it will.”

  • Murphy’s Law in reverse!
  • Romans 8:28 in slang!
  • And, sadly, something you’ll almost never hear anyone say.

But why not? Isn’t it just as likely that the toast will fall jelly side up? Isn’t it possible that getting lost will lead to a new adventure? Really, now, don’t things go well a lot of the time?

It all depends on how we approach life. Yes, there are plenty of hard times to face, plenty of bugs and bugaboos waiting to spoil our plans. But I have to land, every time, on God is in control. The Bible is full of verses commanding us to approach our days with singing and rejoicing. We rejoice

because God is in control.

because he loves us.

because we await eternity.

One of my favorite verses talks about singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Isn’t that how we almost always can—and should—start our days? It all starts when the alarm goes off. I went to school where a favorite phrase was “Expect a miracle.” Expectations are everything when it comes to attitude. And why not expect a miracle? In fact, we begin each day with a miracle—the miracle of Christ in us, with us, going before us. And today, like every day, things can and will go well.

Sing!

Trust!

Begin with the end in mind—a day spent in the company of our Lord.

And let me know how your day goes!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

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This week, I’d like to share a few favorites with you.

 

 

 

 

Recent sermon:

“Guardrails of the Heart” Ky Faciane, Bannockburn Baptist Church 2/18/18. Listen here.  (If you’re short on time, start at minute 15.)

Recent Movie:

Wonder. Read about it here.

Older Movie:

The Kid. (The Bruce Willis one, no offense to Christ Pratt, who stars in a movie with the same title.)

Recent Book:

Skirting Tradition by Kay Moser (Fun fiction available here.)

Older Book:

All things written by Hannah Whitall Smith.  Here are a few of her wonderful words:

  • The presence of God is the fortress of his people.
  • What is within us makes or unmakes our joy.
  • Pay no attention to your feelings as a test of your relationship with God, but simply attend to the state of your will and of your faith
  • Never, under any circumstances, give way for one single moment to doubt or discouragement.

New Habit: At least 20 minutes of sunshine every day possible.

Old Recipe: Don’t Knock It ‘Til You’ve Tried It Breakfast Smoothie (For the first time in my life, I don’t get hungry until lunch.)

Into a blender add:

  • 1 ½ cups almond or soy milk
  • 3-4 cups of loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1 banana (unfrozen)
  • 2 T baking cocoa
  • 1-2 T ground flaxseed or chia
  • 2 pitted dates or 1 T honey
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 ½ –2 cups frozen blueberries

Blend thoroughly. Serves 2.

Tip: Blend together everything except the berries in the evening and refrigerate. Add the berries the next morning and blend again.

Okay, your turn! What are some of your favorites?