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Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Decisions and Destiny

February 10th, 2015

“Keeping your eyes on Jesus, on whom your faith depends.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT.

Focus directs desire; desire decides direction; direction determines destiny.

My thoughts and comments today are about “decisions and destiny.”

After near mishaps, my wife, Gayle, and I agreed on a simple practice: “An automobile should never be moving in a direction the driver is not looking.” The simple principle of focus eliminates so much regret. Breaking my own rule one day, when I was distracted and in a hurry, left a clear reminder on the back bumper of my car. I backed into the concrete base of a light pole in a parking lot. Rest assured; too late, I looked in the direction of my abrupt stop. But the damage was already done.

That seems a good lesson for life as well. You need never finish where you did not intend to be. First, determine which direction you ought to go, and then direct your focus and energies there. You will be drawn in the direction you are looking. Focus directs desires; desire decides direction; direction determines destiny. Destiny does not happen by random chance; destiny is achieved according to God’s will and your confirmed choice. “In [Christ] . . being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Read Ephesians 1:11-12.

On more than one occasion, my friend, Campbell, reminded me, “The heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” Determine your focus and you will govern your desires, ambitions, and even your achievements. When you fail to do so, life does not work as well. Avoid distractions that misdirect your heart away from your goal. As David determined, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” Psalm 57:7 NIV. Read Psalm 112:1-9 NIV.

People whose focus is on what is positive and possible are encouraged in those directions. Focus on what is negative and difficult and you are inextricably drawn that direction. My advice is that your life be forward looking and progressing onward; keep looking, expecting, reaching. Let nothing of yesterday keep you from anticipating today.

The Apostle Paul reduced your path to progress to just one simple thing. “One thing I do: forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.” Philippians 3:13 NIV. Three activities combine as though one goal – forgetting, reaching toward, and pressing forward to a Godly objective. David understood the same principle. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek . .” See Psalm 27:4.

There is a qualifier for your success in life. It takes more than just focus; first, you have to have the right goal and then keep a fixed focus. Anything less than, “the high calling of Jesus Christ,” is just a misleading distraction. Life’s success comes by, “keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom your faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT. Look around for encouragement; lay aside what encumbers your progress; be rid of all that entangles your advancement.

This is God’s wondrous promise, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. Now that is something in which you can trust and believe.

Today, my prayer for you is to understand that tomorrow is built on the foundations of this day.

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Be Exemplary

June 24th, 2014

“In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” Titus 2:7 NIV.

Be exemplary; follow Christ fully and consistently.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “be exemplary.”

Mistakes. Everyone makes them. You can learn from mistakes, yours and others. In fact, you should learn from your mistakes; if you don’t, you are destined to repeat them. It’s best if you learn to minimize the number of mistakes you make, especially the ones you seem to repeat. However, there is a better way. You can and should learn from the example and instruction of others. The example of others can teach you what to do right, as well as what to avoid.

The Apostle Paul was bold to say, “Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.” Philippians 3:17-18 NLT. There are plenty of opportunities if you are willing to look, listen, and learn from the example and experience of others – valuing their successes while avoiding their failures. Read 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 NIV.

I count myself as fortunate. Across my lifetime, God has sovereignly placed Godly examples in my life. I still have plenty of room for improvement but I am far better than I would have been without them. Regrettably, I have not always lived up to their standard, but I steadfastly value their experience and example. My goal is as Paul’s focus, “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me to be.”  Read Philippians 3:12-14 NLT.

From my Dad and Mom, I learned a lot about life and integrity in relationships and ministry. From spiritual fathers, I continue to learn about personal and spiritual disciplines and the sacred priority of marriage and family. From friends, I am learning about the importance and responsibilities of meaningful friendships. From pastoring those who entrusted their souls to my care, I continue to learn the sanctity and sacrifice of ministry.

I have a great debt to repay, which suggests another side to consider in this matter. Are you helping others learn from your experiences? Read 2 Thessalonians 3:7 NIV. Be exemplary. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV. Those certainly were not intended as an exhaustive list you can check off and be done with it. Those are the elemental and essential qualities of spiritual life, upon which all other Godly behavior rests.

Spiritual growth rests solidly upon the fundamentals of practical, spiritual life. Without those you may work diligently on correct conduct apart from the underlying strength of Godly character that sustains such behavior. “God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory . . so that we may present everyone perfect in [their relationship with] Christ.” Colossians 1:27-28 NIV/NLT.

Apart from “Christ in you,” there can be no “hope of glory,” in the lives we live. Jesus left you a sure path to follow, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. Be exemplary; follow Christ fully and consistently. Paul got it right, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is to be sure whose example you follow and who is following yours.

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A Preferred Future

November 20th, 2013

“Focusing all my energies on this one thing . . looking forward.” Phil 3:13 NLT.

In God, your preferred future is unencumbered by your history.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a preferred future.”

I have a common sense rule about driving. Your car should not move in a direction other than where you are presently looking. Failure to do so can result in an accident you did not intend. I remember a time I ignored my common sense rule. I assumed I did not need to be looking the direction I was going; I was very wrong. In the middle of an empty parking lot, I backed into the concrete base of a light pole. Those serious scuffs remained on my bumper as a practical reminder.

Life is also like that. Life does not work the way it should, unless you are looking where you intend to go. Painful experiences of the past distract attention from your future. Unsuccessfully, many people attempt progress while weighed down emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually from past choices and foolish mistakes. Your past can become your prison, diminishing present possibilities and pushing potential further from your achievement. Bring your history to Jesus in humility and sincerity.

Who does not have regrets? Moses regretted his anger and impetuous action, requiring he flee from Pharaoh. David regretted his deceit and adultery. Paul sorely regretted his pursuit and persecution of Christ-followers, later writing, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” See 1 Timothy 1:12-17 NKJV. Peter regretted his shameful denial of Jesus; in repentance, Peter found forgiveness. In remorse for his betrayal of Jesus, Judas destroyed himself. The effect of your history – for better or worse – depends on whether you will trust God with all of it.

Every day and with every attitude, action, and choice you are defining your future. Is it the future you prefer or one crafted by random occurrence? God has a preferred future for you. Don’t let your history prevent you from experiencing God’s best today and tomorrow.

Certainly, acknowledge your past – both failures and successes, mistakes and accomplishments, hurts and happinesses – but don’t dwell there. Dwelling on what is unchangeable results in undesirable symptoms, such as unrelenting discouragement, regrets, guilt, inconsolable grief, or diminished confidence. In God, your preferred future can be unencumbered by your history.

From his personal example, Paul gave wise, practical counsel, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ is calling us up to Heaven.” Phil 3:13-14 NLT. Read those words again, thoughtfully. In them, I see simple but practical requirements for successful progress: singular focus, relinquishment of the unprofitable, anticipation of a preferred future, diligence and unrestrained effort, and Godly objective. Does your life demonstrate those traits?

Progress requires focus. Forward is the wise direction for your focus, if you plan to go somewhere more than where you have already been. Forward momentum is diminished by lack of focus and loss of direction. Denying reality doesn’t work so well; learn from the past but then move forward. Ask God’s forgiveness and accept His redemption, and press forward in grace. God’s future for you is preferred, every time. See Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will trust God with both your history and future.

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Excelling

May 13th, 2013

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV.

Christ is duly exalted in your life when you seek to excel in all you do.

My thoughts and comments today are about “excelling.”

Today’s popular culture espouses an egocentric philosophy that, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” The intention itself is not wrong. You were created with an inner sense of destiny to achieve and succeed, but your reason for doing so and the means of accomplishing that may unknowingly misdirect your course in life. People may buy into a wrong philosophy without considering the price paid, compromises made, or the disregard of loss to others.

But the spirit of Kingdom culture is higher and purer. The character and currency of every Kingdom accomplishment are these: clear objectives, right focus, pure motives, sure directions, and best efforts. Paul often used athletic analogies to describe aspects of our spiritual journey. See 2 Timothy 2:5 NKJV. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes on the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly . .” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NIV.

Let nothing or no one distract you from your singular goal of winning the eternal prize. Read Philippians 3:10-14 NKJV. Mediocrity is not an option. You will truly excel when your perspiration exceeds your inspiration to do so. In Paul’s analogy, he contrasts the casual contestant with the serious competitor who has trained diligently and prepared to give their best effort to compete successfully.  Paul also contrasts those who will train, sacrifice, and expend every effort merely for a temporal achievement and reward, unlike those whose training regimen and personal sacrifice are with the sole purpose of achieving Christ’s reward, eternal and incomparable. “I have fought a good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV.

Christ is duly exalted in your life when you seek to excel in all you do. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV. Listen to Paul’s prayer, “I pray, that your love may abound more and more and extend to its fullest development . . so that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and best, and distinguishing the moral differences].” Philippians 1:9-10 AMP. Life deserves your best because God deserves your best – because on the cross, He gave you His best. Half efforts are unworthy.

An application of Paul’s words – “Run in such a way as to get the prize” – could be this simple; what you do in your pursuit of God’s service should be done with every intention to succeed, sparing no effort to fully achieve God’s will for your life. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23 NIV. My Dad’s reminder to me was, “Allen, good enough is not good enough.” Your best effort and the Spirit’s empowering and blessing are always good enough.

My prayer for you today is that you will expect God’s best and give Him yours.

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Thankfulness

February 8th, 2013

“Oh, that men would give thanks to God for His goodness.” Psalm 107:8 NKJV.

Even the misfortune of circumstance or mistreatment of others is redeemed in God’s hands.

Much more good fills one’s life than bad, though it doesn’t always feel that way in a particular moment. Occasionally, the good can be overshadowed by the other, if not overlooked altogether. Much of life results from your focus and choice. You will see what you’re looking for, whether the best or worst. I suggest you should always look for what you hope to find. Choosing to look for the good, you will not focus on the other.

You may be surprised how often you will find good around you, as well as in yourself and others. Read Psalm 33:5 NKJV. You will be happier, while lesser things will seem increasingly extraneous or mere distractions. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! . . He fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:8-9 NKJV. Goodness is both God’s character and His specialty. David’s admonition becomes a recurring refrain in this Psalm. (See Vs. 8/15/21/31). Such clear repetition is a spiritual emphasis not to overlook.

This Psalm is King David’s joyful rehearsal of God’s love, and David’s thankfulness for, “[God’s] goodness and wonderful works.” Read the Psalm deliberately; meditate on God’s faithfulness; rehearse your history in a better light; see and celebrate the goodness of God in every circumstance. David was also certain of this: “You crown the year with goodness; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Psalm 65:11 NKJV/NLT. It is still early enough in this New Year to choose faith for goodness to crown yourself, family, and finances.

Your pain, as well as your own plans, can blind you to the sovereign goodness of God over your life. You cannot give thanks for goodness you fail to recognize as such. Learn to see the benevolence of God in situations. Who could have struggled more with unfairness and subsequent suffering than Old Testament Joseph? Joseph suffered his brothers’ jealousy, imposed slavery, years of separation, false accusation, unjust imprisonment, then overlooked by those he helped – yet Joseph could still see the goodness of God upon his life.

In his later years, Joseph summed up his appraisal of life this way, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 NIV. Man’s best or worst intentions neither pre-empt nor prevent the benevolent intentions of your God. Read Psalm 34:8 NLT/1 Peter 2:3 NIV.

Even the misfortune of circumstance and the mischief or mistreatment of others can be redeemed in God’s love and purpose. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them . . to become like his Son.” Romans 8:28-29 NLT. Love God with all your heart; trust Him in all times. You will experience difficult situations along the way; everyone does. Read Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV.

In such moments, God has not changed. His nature and character are steadfast. God is good all the time. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV. Thankfulness is appreciation for goodness today and anticipation for tomorrow. Be thankful! Thankfulness is the appropriate response of one’s heart to the goodness of God.

My prayer for you today is that you will live assured that God is good, all the time.

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