Friday, June 26, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Gifts

The Butler County Fair is going on in our town this week. It has been fun to go up to the fairgrounds and watch many of the events. Our church has a booth where people can pick a duck from a tank full of water and win a prize. Most people can be convinced to stop when we just say, "Would you like to pick a duck?" Of course, many of them look at you like you're crazy until you explain how easy it is to win a prize. Every duck is a winner! The interesting thing has been seeing how many people refuse to pick a duck. They seem suspicious and they give their head a little shake and move right along to the next booth. They give up a sure prize because they don't trust our intentions. Our church just wants to offer people a free gift and put a smile on people's faces as they visit the booths at the fair.

As I saw quite a few people react that way to our free gift offer, I thought about how many people reject God's free gift because they are also suspicious. God offers us eternal life if we just believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that His death means eternal life for us. 

They would rather keep going along in life just trying to do the best they can, not relying on anyone else for anything. They reject the gift because they think there are strings attached. God's grace is free, but we have to make the decision to accept it and live in it. We can't ignore it and keep walking along in life trying to do things on our own.

Would you like to pick a duck?

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

Are you suspicious of God's free gift offer? How can focusing on God help you to accept that gift and look forward to eternal life?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Building

     I taught story time for the preschoolers at VBS this week. On Tuesday morning the last small group of children came to me for story time. First, I reminded them that we had talked about the foundation on Monday. I patted the floor and repeated that we needed a solid foundation to build on. "Jesus is powerful and we can trust Him. We need to build our lives on Jesus." I took a breath and got ready to move on to the next lesson, but one precious little girl suddenly asked, "How do we build our lives on Jesus?"
     Her question threw me for a few seconds. I looked at the helpers in the room with my eyes wide and we all kind of laughed. I regret that now. Her question was so honest, so sincere, I'd hate for her to think that it was a silly question. It wasn't silly at all. It needs to be something all of us are asking daily.
     I told her what a good question that was and then I tried to answer the best I could. "Well, we don't actually build on Him like if we tried to build something on Connor. (Connor laughed) It means we try to live like the Bible says and try to love Him and love others." My mind whirled as I tried to explain something that I understood but seldom tried to put into words.
     That little girl's question has haunted me ever since that day. I keep hearing her clear, soft little voice asking "How do we build our lives on Jesus?" I've asked myself why it was so hard to answer her. As a Christian, I've been building my life on Jesus my whole life. So, why did I laugh and struggle to put it into words?
     Why didn't I look back into her eyes, smile, and say, "Wow! What a great question! We build our lives on Jesus when we trust Him completely. We build our lives on Jesus when we read His word, the Bible, and try the best we can to obey it every day. We build our lives on Jesus when we talk to Him about every decision we make, every problem we have, and every good thing He gives us. We build our lives on Jesus when we say no to Satan and all of the lies he tries to tell us and we believe what God says in the Bible instead. We build our lives on Jesus when we love others like He loves them. We build our lives on Jesus when we love Him and believe that He loves us, too. That's how we build our lives on Jesus."     

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone [Jesus] for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed." 
                                             (Isaiah 28:16 NIV)

Are you building your life on Jesus? How can focusing on God help to make sure you're on that strong, sure foundation? 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Goals

I set a couple of goals for myself in the last month or so, and I'm happy to report that I achieved them. I finished one project tonight, but I found myself thinking about that goal quite a few times today and I had a strange feeling about it.

I felt excited because I knew I was going to achieve my goal before the day was over, but I felt like the Holy Spirit was pointing something out to me even as I looked forward to my success. It seemed like He was telling me to make sure I wasn't making that achievement too important. 

I had this feeling that if something had happened to keep me from reaching the goal I had set for myself, I would have gotten extremely frustrated and my day would have been "ruined." God pointed out to me, gently, that His plans are more important than mine.

It's fine for us to set goals and make plans, but we must always be willing to let those goals and plans change if God shows us a different way, a better way. Truth be told, His way may not seem better until we get quite a bit farther down the road of life, but hindsight usually shows us that what we feared or struggled with was actually for our good.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the LORD's purpose prevails." (Proverbs 19:21 NIV) 

Do you like to set goals and make lots of plans? How can focusing on God and His plans help you to keep things in perspective as you work toward achieving your goals?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Weeds

I've been noticing weeds this week. My daughter Allison and I have been taking long walks almost every morning lately. After a few walks I finally noticed these pretty plants blooming in someone's yard.
They were so bright and red...and there was a whole row of them. However, I also noticed one poor plant that didn't look like the others.
This one had a little clump of blooms, but it seemed that most of the plant had been choked out by the grass and weeds that had grown around it. I thought it was interesting and took some pictures with my phone because my sanctified imagination was already making some comparisons with how we think.

I've been studying the Bible with a group of ladies on Monday nights using the book The Search For Significance by Robert S. McGee. This past week we talked about ways that Satan deceives us and tried to start recognizing the lies that he tells us. He tells us things like: "You're not good enough," "You're too fat," "Noone likes you," "You're such a failure!" "________" (fill in the blank with whatever lies he tells you)

As I think about those lies and the weeds I saw, I think there's a strong link between the two. When we believe Satan's lies, we let them grow in our heads and our hearts and they choke out whatever emotional or spiritual growth we hope to see. 

Oh, we might see some good things in our lives, like the plant above with its little cluster of red blooms, but if we allow those "weedy" thoughts to take over, we miss out on the brilliant, beautiful display that we could be enjoying and sharing with those around us.

I thought even more about this concept when the mood finally struck me to weed my strawberry patch. I had been letting it go for weeks and weeks, but Gary still keeps bringing in a few berries every once in a while. We thought maybe we'd just let it go and mow over it since the grass and clover were really overtaking it. Here's a pic in case you think I'm exaggerating (and this is after I spent a little time pulling some of the weeds!).

As I grabbed at clumps of weeds and pulled them out, I wavered between feeling "This is hopeless" and "I think if I keep this up my strawberries will be able to grow!" It was hard to pull just the weeds, but I was encouraged as I saw lots of strawberry vines still going strong. I even saw quite a few berries growing down under the clover. I comforted myself with the fact that maybe I had saved some from getting eaten by the birds by letting the weeds grow like that. (I had to do something so I didn't feel quite so lazy, didn't I?) I plucked several that were nicely ripe and took them inside to enjoy later.
I'm going to spend some more time plucking the many weeds out of that patch and see if my plants produce a little more while they can. As I do, I'm going to think about the weeds I may be allowing to grow in my head and in my heart and I'm going to do my best to get rid of those, too.

With Satan's lies gone, my head and heart will be free to focus on God's truth instead. I can't wait to see what will bloom as a result.

"And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man [or woman] who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (from the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 - New American Standard Bible, italics mine)

Are there any lies that are choking out God's truth in your mind or heart? How can focusing on God's truth get rid of those lies so that you can bloom in whatever ways God has planned for you?