Archives For Focus

Marvel

January 13, 2017 — Leave a comment

Marvel.

What did you picture when you read that word? It is a powerful word. One that we do not tend to use lightly.

As a verb, its definition is “to be filled with wonder or astonishment”.

What have you been “marveled” by in your life? I, personally, can only think of a handful of things and/or times in my life when I have stood truly marveled.

There is a place in the Bible that uses this term where seems almost out of place and we find it in the book of Luke.

Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph bring him to the Temple and we read in the second chapter of Luke that Simeon, who was told he would see Christ before his death spoke over the baby.  Then in verse 33:

And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which we spoken of Him.

Think about that for a second. Don’t rush past the depth of that statement. We are talking about Mary and Joseph whom each had their own unique angelic encounter about the birth of Jesus. Each saw and heard the amazing things that happened the night of His birth like the shepherds in the field who were joined by a host of heavenly angels singing.

They knew exactly who Jesus was to become. They had encounters leading up to His birth that would rock most people to their core. Truly, I don’t think if I were in their shoes, anything would shock me after that, much less bring me to “marvel”.

But yet, there was a new level of greatness of the Savior being revealed to them each and every day. Such greatness that it caused them to marvel.

That verse causes me to repent.

To repent of simply taking Him for granted. To repent of getting too comfortable with my Savior that when I look to Him, I fail to marvel at His greatness. That when I speak of Jesus, I fail to fathom the power that rests in His name.

When we get too comfortable with something, that is exactly what we do – we take it for granted. We can easily forget what life was like before we had it. We treat it as if it is something that will simply be there, no matter what. We diminish its value.

We can never fathom the fullness and greatness that is Jesus.

There is something new that He desires to reveal to you every day – but we have to abide in Him. We have to press in, we have to ask questions and we have to make ourselves vulnerable.

Open yourself up to the idea that you just might not know everything. That maybe the Jesus you knew yesterday, isn’t all there is. He is better. He is more. He is worth marvel!

I recently heard the song, Praise the Lord by Crowder and he sums this thought up really well by saying:

I know less as I’ve come to know you more.  You’re not who I thought you were before. Praise the Lord!

Don’t put God in a box. There is no box that could fit. Open yourself up to the idea that maybe, just maybe, each day should start with marvel of Him.

Question: How do you maintain your marvel in Him?

Squirrel!

December 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

Once! Only one time have I posted in this blog this year.  Shame on me.  Something I set out to be diligent about and here we are concluding 2016 and I have simply 1 post. I am looking back and this year and am truly confused on how it went so fast!

The end of any year is always a great time to take stock of things and begin to plan out the path for the upcoming year; and for me, this year is no different.  It is hard for me to sum up 2016 in a word much less a sentence.  Heck, I don’t think I could write a book explaining this year.  From difficult closures of one season to the new beginnings of another 2016 has been scattered with so many different experiences.  When you sum them all up together, this has been one crazy year.

One thing that has become more and more obvious to me, even as I logged on to my blog to post and noticed I have only 1 entire post this year, is how easily distracted we can become.

My life sometimes looks just like the silly dog in the movie “Up”.  I can be so easily distracted by a squirrel.  Ok, for all of you who have no idea what I am talking about:

But in all seriousness, there is a great quote from C.S. Lewis that really brings it home:

“We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”

If you were to be completely honest with yourself, I am certain you can think of a time or two in your life when you have used those infamous words “the time is just not right yet for me to do _________ (fill in the blank)”

Yet, just as the wise Mr. Lewis points out, favorable conditions never come. You simply have to decide and execute.

Take going to the gym for example. I don’t care who you are, there is never a “favorable time” to go there. If I have an open hour to spare in my day, I would much rather do something I would enjoy, like drink a nice cup of coffee and perhaps eat a donut – but that will never achieve the same results.  In fact that would achieve the complete opposite result.

It has become an almost cliché saying but you have to be intentional in all areas of your life.

It starts with your focus. Be intentional about where you focus. Jesus sums it up pretty simply in Matthew 6:31-34

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.”

That set of verses is probably one of the most encouraging and also the most discouraging verses in all of the Bible.  In one sentence, Jesus is saying “hey guys, I got this covered – just focus on me” and then he ends it up with “today is going to have enough troubles of its own…”

Another way of saying it might be something like this: Today will have troubles. Tomorrow will have troubles. In fact, next week is filled with various troubles. BUT don’t focus on those, in fact don’t even focus on trying to solve them, just focus on God and He will take care of it all for you.

That to me is the hard part. Honestly, I feel like I am trying to not “bug” God with the little stuff. I know He is busy, so I figure I will take care of the little things and maybe He will appreciate that I freed up some time for Him.

Ridiculous, right? But so many of us our guilty of that. And the problem amplifies as we continue to focus on all the little things that turn into one big distraction which takes our eyes off of Him.

This world is full of distractions. Add on my 3-year-old and 1-year-old and the idea of quiet time seems about as likely as winning the lottery while never buying a ticket.

Yet, I strive to be intentional.  Do I win that battle daily…no way!  But, I wake up and try again.

It is easy to focus on Him at Christmas. It is easy to pause and realize that He is the reason for the season but in a matter of days, life picks right back up to its normal pace and it is in that moment that you need to stop and decide to be intentional about your focus, keeping it all on Him.

Here is my prayer for 2017: Lord, may I never cease to be intentional about priority number one – you. May my focus be first on the Kingdom of God and Your Righteousness. Lord, help me to discern quickly what a distraction is and know when to push it aside and recalibrate my focus.

That is my prayer for you as well; for anyone reading this, that God will be your center, your guiding light and your focus.

Together, let us make 2017 the year of Intentional Focus!

Question: What is your secret to being intentional with your time?

Don’t Blink

June 11, 2016 — Leave a comment

Businessman pulling a clock hand backwards

Don’t blink. You will miss it.

Honestly, that is how I feel right now. Time has a sneaky way of moving so fast that it is not until you pause to look back that you realize just how much of it has passed. Looking back could be filled with regret over lost time, or filled with excitement over what has been accomplished.

Today it is hitting me differently.  Today we celebrate my first born’s 3rd Birthday, but four years ago…he was simply a prayer (and quite frankly, a prayer that we felt was never going to be answered).  Four years ago, we were finalizing our final round of torture (otherwise known as fertility treatments) and we had began our shift to adoption.

Just a few months later…but God…

Then, I blinked and here we are celebrating this little man’s 3rd Birthday with a little 7 month old brother at his side. This is not how I envisioned it all to pan out many many years ago – but yet – God’s timing is so much more perfect that my timing. His plan is so much more perfect than my plan.

That, however, is not the point of this post. The thing that seems most striking to me is that we can get so caught up in “our season” that we lose sight of the purpose. To make matters worse, when we finally escape one season and jump into the next – we turn around to realize we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do during that season.

I have talked with so many people, fellow wanderers, who have let precious years slip by only to say “I blinked…where am I”?

Each day is an opportunity for a new beginning.

I love Isaiah 43:9

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Do you see what God is saying there? Don’t miss it. He says he is doing a new thing…not that He plans to, or only if you do something for Him first…He has already done it! The question He asks is, “don’t you see it”? It is accomplished. It is a finished work. You just have to look up!

Look up every once and awhile while you walk the road you are on. Look around, lift your eyes to Jesus and gaze upon the wonder of what He is doing. The Kingdom of God is here now; Are you paying attention enough to actually see it?

My encouragement to you (as well as myself) – don’t look down; look up. Don’t let a “season” distract you from the new thing that God is doing in your life.

Question: How do you stay focused on the new thing?

Self Control in the Storm

March 15, 2015 — 1 Comment

Fold Hands Self ControlThere is nothing I love more than being a father. The journey has been amazing. What continues to baffle me, however, is the amount of lessons my little toddler has taught me during his not even two years on this Earth. He can barely speak a sentence, yet some things he has shown me have forever impacted my way of living. Quite often he teaches me these “lessons” when I am trying to instill something in him – it seems to always work both ways.

For example, my wife read about this particular concept in a book. Essentially, when my son gets overwhelmed, frustrated or if it seems that a tantrum might ensue we simply tell him to “fold your hands and get some self control.” Much to my surprise – this method works like magic! Each and every time he quickly stops what he is doing, folds his hand and calms down. Swiftly he returns to his happy place.

I understand why this works; it gives him something to focus on other than what it is that has frustrated him.

How does this relate to our walk with God?

So many times we can become overwhelmed by the world around us – the situations, the failures, the defeats and we enter into a time of anxiety, stress or doubt. Just as I say it to my son, I believe God says it to us “Fold your hands, and get some self control.”

Prayer solves everything.

Everything.

If things are in dismay and we try to solve it ourselves, I promise, we will only create more dismay and chaos. On the contrary, if we pause, fold our hands and give it all to Him – how quickly things will change.

I love the reaction that Jesus gave to the storm in Mark 4:35-41.  We read that the disciples and Jesus were all in a boat as a furious storm invaded. As the disciples go into panic mode, they find Jesus asleep in the boat. They wake him with an accusation saying “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus then turns to the wind and waves rebuking it and everything went calm.  He then responds to his disciples in verse 40: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith.”

Jesus demonstrated how we should behave during the storms. Controlled and at peace. We should know that God is always in control – no matter what is happening outside the boat.

Today, let me encourage you with the same words I share with my son: fold your hands and get some self control. Focus on the one who IS peace and I promise that peace will ensue in your life.

Question: How do you get self control through a storm?

 

A New Thing

January 1, 2015 — 1 Comment
341332497_d31cd15622_z

Photo Copyright: Amodiovalerio Verde

 

Each year on December 31st, people from every corner of the Earth gather together to watch the clock strike midnight as we roll into a new year. We awake the next morning with freshly made goals, vows and promises.

We are determined and we are resolute.

We resolve to lose weight, get organized, get on a budget and on and on and on. There is nothing wrong with this. I believe it is all well and good to make resolutions. Nothing bad comes from outlining your goals in life.

In fact, a recent study at University of Scranton showed that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. If you are easily discouraged, don’t read too much into their study, because you will also see that they found only 8% of people are successful in reaching their resolution.

So what does this mean to you and I? To me, it means that most people will not succeed. Most will fail. However, it also means we put way too much stock in this magical date switch from December 31 to January 1.

I like starting over and love new beginnings just as much as the next guy. The beauty of walking with Christ is that each morning I awake, it is a new beginning. A new chance. Another day for a new victory.

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19 NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he  is  a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Come January 20th (a likely timeframe when most people fall off the resolution bandwagon), go back to those verses and declare – “He is doing a new thing in me”. Let 2015 be a year of “New Things”.

Step out of your comfort zones for the Kingdom. Walk in the destiny He has called you to.

There is something exhilarating about releasing your desire to control everything and allowing God to do something new. I know, change is not fun, but it is always needed to move to the next level.

One year from now, I do not want to be sitting here looking back at 2015 and not be able reflect on the amazing new things that God has done. I am determined that my blog post in 2016 will reflect that.

Will you join me in that determination this year? Will you join me in allowing God to do that “new thing” in our lives, our families, and our churches? Let us all desire that above all else.

From my family to yours, I wish you a blessed 2015! May the God who is ever able, start a new thing in your life today.

Question: What new thing did you experience in 2014?

Consistently Thankful

December 2, 2014 — 1 Comment
Photo Credit: https://openclipart.org/detail/204505/thanksgiving-dinner-family-by-j4p4n-204505

Photo Credit: Link

Thanksgiving has come and gone. All that remains are the leftovers sitting in the fridge (and the added weight from all the desserts).  I am sure that many of you spent time reflecting over the weekend about what you are thankful for.

My list is extensive. I am thankful for my amazing family. I am thankful for my wife who constantly supports and encourages me. I am thankful for our beautiful Son – a proof that God does do miracles! And, I am particularly grateful for all of the hard seasons in my life that have led me to where I am.

That last statement might sound absurd to some. Why on earth would I be thankful for hardships? Simply put, they have developed my faith and strengthened my resolve allowing me to constantly focus on the fact that God is in control – my life, after all, is His story, not mine.

This concept of rejoicing in our sufferings is one that was all too familiar to the apostles. I have read the book of Acts countless times, and somehow I always breeze past the verses like that of Acts 5:41 “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

This was not their first time being arrested and threatened.  A chapter earlier, Peter and John were arrested and released being strictly forbidden to ever speak the name of Jesus. Most people would either take heed the stern warning and follow instructions or flee from this persecution and go elsewhere. They however, pray for boldness and go about their mission. Shortly after, they are back in the temple preaching and subsequently were arrested again – although freed by an Angel in the night, they were again back in the temple teaching the next morning. They were a persistent group of people!

Acts 5 tells us of their trial and how at the conclusion they were beaten, threatened and released. We read in Acts 5:41-42

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ

Persecution did not immobilize the apostles – it fueled them. Their version of a “bad day” was one that I hope many of us never have to endure – yet they chose to rejoice amidst their suffering. They chose Jesus over self-pity, they chose the greater story over their own story.

The realization of what Jesus has done for you should change not just your perception but your behavior. You walk away from troubles unscathed and motivated to turn any issues into testimonies for Him.

He is our All in All – He is our peace, provision, joy, strength, healing – our Everything.

So take some time to be Thankful this season for all He has brought you through – reflect on what you have become because of His greatness.

Let the trials be fuel to the burning fire inside of you to tell the story of Him this Season.

Question: How have you turned trials into rejoicing? 

photo-2
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6 NKJV)

The Christmas story is so simple, yet so completely divine. Our salvation and our redemption enters the world not with pomp and circumstance but as a helpless baby, born in a barn and surrounded by livestock. You could look at this from the outside and ponder the reasoning for such an entrance. After all, He is the King, the creator of Heaven and Earth, He existed before time began and His entrance to Earth is lacking showmanship.

It is in that beautiful simple story that we see the true intentions of our God. He did not come to “rule” or “dominate” over us, but rather to be with us and form relationship with us. Jesus started on this Earth just like you and I and dwelt among us.

Holidays can always bring a mix of emotions; we miss the loved ones that are no longer with us, we reflect back on the year’s success’ or failures and we look ahead to the hope of a new year.

This Christmas, pause and look at the names that He was given in Isaiah 9:6 – Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Who do you need Jesus to be for you this season? Do you need Him as a counselor or perhaps as a father? Or maybe you need the Prince of Peace this Season?

Whatever it is you need this Christmas, I know we serve a God who simply desires to have relationship with you. Take a much needed break to reflect on what He has done for you this year. Enjoy some time with the One who simply desires relationship with you.

May the Love of God bless you this Christmas in a new and profound way!

Question: What is your family tradition to keep Jesus as the meaning of Christmas?

Who is Holding You?

September 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

IMG_20130903_105947_759

This past week we took our first out of state trip (which included a 3+ hour plane ride) with our almost 3-month old. As we approached our trip, I spent countless hours canvasing through blog after blog digesting the wisdom of brave parents who have traveled before with an infant. I will admit, I had some fear about this task (ok veteran parents, now is your time to laugh at me for dreading travel with just 1 baby).

Needless to say, everything went even smoother than I could hope for. It was on this trip that a concept my wife discussed with me weeks ago came to light.

On this trip we submitted our little one to numerous new encounters; planes, hotels, car rides, museums, and the worst of them all, a carnival midway. And along the way, it never mattered to him where he was – but rather, who he was with.  Anytime the situation would become questionable, he would look to me or my wife for stability and then he would simply relax for the journey. Commotion, change, weather, and even carnies – nothing shook him as long as we were holding him.

What a lesson for us. Just as he was confident in our arms, so should we be in the arms of our God.

It never matters what is going on around you, as long as you know who has you.

In Hebrews 13:5 you will see that the Lord declares that He will never leave us or forsake us.  That is a good truth to cling to.

Life will always bring challenges and struggles. Change is a guarantee. There might be dark seasons in your life when challenges seem insurmountable. None of that should matter when you take into account who is holding you in His arms every step of the way.

The One who made the Heavens and the Earth cares deeply about you and your every need. He has you in the palm of His hand.

My 3-month old taught me a valuable lesson this week. No longer can I let situations around me dictate my emotions. It brought 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 to light:

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Let me challenge you this week to also look to what is unseen – keep your eyes affixed on Him who is carrying you.

Question: What do you do to maintain your focus on Him despite the situations around you?

By Charles Cook [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There always seems to be a million things going on in our lives. We are always being pulled in so many directions with so many distractions. It simply becomes hard to maintain focus. And worse yet, when we feel the call to take a step of action or step of faith, it seems that all logic and reason comes against our plan. Take a look at Ecclesiastes 11:4:

He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

The Bible spends a lot of time discussing the idea of sowing and reaping. You definitely do not need to be a farmer to understand the analogy and the foundational truth that if you never plant anything, you will never receive anything.

With that in mind, I think this verse speaks to the idea that there will always be an excuse of “why not” to do something – they are countless. If God is calling you to action, I guarantee you will suddenly be flooded with a dozen reasons why you should not proceed. Even to the point of doubting God’s call itself!

Sure, you can accept Jesus as your savior and go on to live the “safe life” but I would encourage you to fight the safe life and chose instead to make a stand for Him!

If you look to the surrounding circumstances, you will always have at least one reason not to proceed. Yes, we are to use wisdom and take all things into account – but, if God has called you and placed the burden in you, then today is the day.

Stop letting the wind and clouds get in the way of your harvest! Take charge over the circumstance and speak to the giant that is getting in the way!

Question: How do you quiet the many distractions coming against your calling?

 

© Copyright 2005-2010 by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and Multi-Language Publications.

Image is © Copyright 2005-2010 by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and Multi-Language Publications.

A few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Preparing From Where You Are” and in it we spoke about the idea of seeing your season as a time of preparation. I briefly mentioned Joseph in there, but this week I spoke to a group specifically about his story and the items we can take from it. Sometimes it is easy to brush over this familiar story, but I believe there are four very important truths that we can pull from it. Today, I will share the first two and I will post the other two on Sunday.

The story starts in Genesis 37 where we see Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers following his proclamation of the dream he had. No one can disagree, this is not an ideal place to be. However, immediately we see the first truth come to life:

1. It does not matter where you find yourself, God will show you favor!

This is seen time and time again throughout Joseph’s life, God’s favor followed him in all seasons. Let’s fast forward to Genesis 39:

1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.

Pay special attention to the verses 5 and 6. God provided so much favor, that even those that Joseph served were blessed. This is our next truth:

2. When you are favored, everyone around you will benefit!

When you walk in favor and God’s light, others around you will be drawn to that! His purpose of blessing you is so that you will be a blessing to others. That concept is even shown out in Psalm 67:7

God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall reverently fear Him.

Your blessing will be so much, that others will take notice and fear God because of it.

God desires to bless you today and show you favor! Don’t let the lie that you must not be favored due to a season you are in take hold – God will provide and show His favor in all areas if you surrender to Him.

There is a lot more on this topic, including the final two truths, so come back Sunday to finish the story!

Question: When has God shown you favor and others took notice?