Focused On What Matters!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But 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 heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. Philippians 3:13-17 NIV

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bombarded with the weight of all the negative things that are reported in the news. Part of the problem is–I’m listening to far more newscasts than I should. Normally, I see the early morning newscasts because I need to be aware of weather and traffic and in listening to this–I can’t ignore the sad events that are repeatedly reported.

Knowing as I do, how the enemy deceives people and confuses their minds, I should not be surprised at the number of people who commit random crimes and kill others with no thought as to how their acts will affect others. I don’t just mean how the killings affect immediate family and friends–I mean everyone who has a heart. And the killers–people who kill older people in their homes–are heartless; people who hit people with their cars and then dump the body–heartless; people who randomly shoot at others not caring who gets hit in the crossfire–heartless.

Sensitivity to all the negativity reminds me that I do indeed have a heart, but if I focus on all the negative stuff, my heart will too heavy to continue doing what may make a difference in the lives of others.

At some point, I’m sure others have felt the same way. How do we keep moving forward with all the tragedy that is constantly bombarding us? We stay focused on the things that matter. We cannot control people any more than God will–He gives us all freewill to make our own choices. Some choices people make are not good and some are even worse, but the choices we make–keeping our focus on hearing God and being obedient, can and will make a difference.

We must continue to encourage all to live according to God’s Word. We must continue spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ–no matter how heavy our hearts are and we must continue to love–even those who hate us because of our obedience to God. Our focus on doing the will of God is what matters and for that reason, we have to filter what we hear and deliberately choose to ignore all that will distract us from our purposes.

There is absolutely nothing we can do to change those things which have already happened, but we may make a difference in our present and future–for us and others. Let’s focus on the things of God and encourage others to live for Him.

Are We Willing To Listen To God?

Are We Willing To Listen To God?

Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly. Psalm 85:4-8 NIV

How many times must we ask God to restore us, revive us, renew us, and when He does, we turn away from hearing Him and do what we want to do–time after time?

Every time people repented–turned away from living in opposition to God–they called upon God and He responded to their cries. And every time He granted them restoration, revival and renewal of their spirits, they soon forgot and turned away from Him again, refusing to listen to Him.

Most people recognize the syndrome recorded in the Old Testament and even in the letters penned by those God called to preach the Good News. More than 2000 years ago, He proved how much He loved us and is yet responding to our pleas, but are we listening to Him in order to stop back-peddling, falling into the same traps from which we were delivered?

From what I’ve observed in others and in myself, we’re falling short of acting in wisdom in all things. If we seek His wisdom before we do anything we would not have to keep requesting the same thing–restore us, revive us, renew us–over and over again. We complain about what’s going on in the world, but have we paid attention to what’s going on within each of us? If we’re not willing to pay attention to what we do, how can we expect the world to change? If we’re not listening to God–seeking solutions for all the problems we see–why should people listen to us–those who say we Believe?

Until Believers–no matter the denominational banner upheld–begin to seek God and hear Him when He speaks and obey, we’re going to remain in this quagmire of sin–stinking up the heavens without disobedience–and we’ll have no one to blame, but us.

It’s past time, Saints for us to listen to what God is saying to us and obey. He sees, He hears, He knows and He is yet speaking to our hearts, but are we willing to listen?

What God Has Prepared!

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”–the things God has prepared for those who love him–these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:6-10 NIV)

Every time I get discouraged (and I do–momentarily) about the things I see, I ask God to speak to my heart and show me the way I should go. For those who understand hearing Holy Spirit and understand that Holy Spirit will only speak those things that God speaks, we know–no matter what things look like--God has prepared something great for those who love Him. 

What has He prepared for you? Only Holy Spirit can reveal God’s truth and wisdom to those willing to hear and obey.

And when we are in the midst of doing things and challenges arise, we must be mindful–at all times–of the wisdom we have with access through Holy Spirit. We do not have to know how to do all things, but if we are willing to listen, He can guide us in all things. When others attempt to advise us with their limited “human wisdom” we can go straight to the throne of God, and get wisdom from above–and sit back and watch how amazed others are or will be by the things God accomplishes through us.

Knowing that it is He who accomplishes our success is key. Without God, I could do nothing–worthwhile–for I am totally dependent upon Him. When I need answers and cannot rely upon others to provide them, I ask God and He shows me what to do. Through His wisdom, I have achieved success in areas that amazed me and left others shaking their heads. But when God speaks to us and we see the end results of our obedience, we must not allow our accomplishments to go to our heads, thinking we know anything. I freely admit–I know nothing but God’s love and I know His love will see me through anything and because I am willing to hear Him, I can say with confidence–“I can do all things through Him who loves me” and I know, “Nothing is impossible with God”. Having this mindset–keeps me moving forward–with great expectation–ready to see and receive what He has prepared for me.

Though the naysayers and doubters would rather complain than believe and trust in God, I will stand firmly, immovable, in my faith in God and my willingness to hear Him. We must be careful when we must interact with others because their lack of faith can creep into our spirits and cause us to miss what God has prepared for us, when we are distracted by the “noise” of unbelief and doubt.

Human wisdom is totally lacking when it comes to understanding the things of the Spirit. Those without benefit of Holy Spirit’s guidance will never understand those who operate with Holy Spirit guiding them–every step of the way. Remember, no one has heard or seen nor can they imagine all the good things God has prepared for those who love Him!

Don’t Just Listen–Do!

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:19-22 NIV)

We know from reading The Word that faith comes by hearing and hearing by The Word of God–says, Paul to us. Now, James tells us, don’t just listen to The Word, do it! If our faith in God is going to be sustained, then we must do what we hear and read from The Word–and not just people.

The Messengers of God are worth hearing when they are speaking God’s message. When they veer off into their own imaginations and opinions that are based on nothing–especially not The Word–no one is obligated to hear or do what they say, yet so many people do.

I’m thinking particularly about a pastor–somewhere–who poured bleach over the heads of his congregants to “wash them clean” because of erroneous understanding of The Word. The Word tells us that the blood Jesus shed on the cross is what washes us clean–not bleach or anything else we attempt to do. The psalmist mentions being washed by The Word–not the literal word–but as representing what Jesus would accomplish since He is The Word.

Getting back to hearing and not doing–many people claim to listen to their pastor on a Sunday morning and praise their messages, but when asked what they said–they develop amnesia. “I don’t know, but it sure was good.” Apparently, they were not the good ground into which The Word was supposed to be sown.

Then there are those who wouldn’t miss church for the world–uh uh–no siree, they’re not missing church. They are there every time the doors open and listen intently to every word heard, but then their lives don’t demonstrate what they heard (unless they heard a message that opposes God’s Word). From their actions, one can tell, they didn’t hear about loving one’s neighbor as themselves because the minute they got into the parking lot, they started cussing out everyone in their way. They get home and talk about everyone who attended church–they talk about the pastor and his wife; they talk about the noisy children; they talk about the ushers who are too slow; they talk about the soloist and how they could see better than they did; they talk about the choir director who, “couldn’t direct traffic.” They talk about everyone and since they “saw” so much going on, how on earth did they hear any Word?

We can hear without listening and when we pretend to listen the only person we fool is us. God is not mocked. He knows our hearts and He knows when we’re pretending to pay attention and so does everyone else when we are not doing The Word.

We “do The Word” when we obey The Word and people know we have either read with understanding or at listened to God’s messengers because they see it in our conduct. We who “do” The Word don’t live in opposition to The Word, but strive to obey God in all things and that obedience starts with knowing how to love others and God.

Today would be a good day to start–not just listening, but in doing The Word–loving all we meet and greet and making the devil cringe because we even woke up–with desire in our hearts to please God!

Keep On, Keeping On!

“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have show hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13: 1-3 NIV)

How simple are these instructions? Keep on loving, keep showing hospitality to strangers, keep remembering those in prison and keep remembering those who are mistreated! Who are our brothers and sisters? Who are the strangers we should be nice to? Who do we know in prisons? Who is being mistreated?

Our brothers and sisters are everyone in the Body of Christ–no matter what denominationalism is recognized and honored, all Believers–are joint-heirs with Christ, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham, and children of the Most High God. If then, we are all children then we are all brothers and sisters in The Lord! I love meeting my brothers and sisters who I’ve never met–at car rentals (had a great time of fellowship at Enterprise once with two brothers in The Lord upon our first meeting), in supermarkets, at the park, in parking lots, at phone stores, online, in restaurants–everywhere I venture, I meet a new brother or sister and we just rejoice like we’ve known each for all our lives. In the spirit–we have–which is why we have no problem loving one another.

Showing hospitality to strangers should never be a problem for those of us who Believe since we never know who it is we’re treating right. And it shouldn’t matter. If we treat all we know the way we would be want to be treated, they will know who we are. And I don’t mean we should treat people who are celebrities or politicians with more respect than any other person with whom we have no relationship. The beggar on the street deserves our respect just as much as any other person of any type of status. I’m not advocating being foolish, but in exercising the wisdom God has so abundantly given us, in all things. I realize that sometimes, we can not, avoiding certain people is an exercise of using wisdom rather than putting ourselves in danger. We must be wise as a serpent, but gentle as a dove–not being hateful, but mindful of our safety and staying out of harm’s way. The enemy is a master of deception and some of his demons will try to use this instruction to worm their way into our lives and destroy everything we’ve worked to accomplish.

Remembering those in prison means so much more than just empathizing with those locked behind bars a prison cell. Some people are prisoners of their mind because they don’t have the mind of Christ are constantly at odds with themselves. Some people are prisoners of their addictions and don’t know how to break loose. And some are prisoners of spouses, parents, or children–locked into situations they cannot escape. We must continue to pray for them and those who are locked up in prisons–for standing for justice and holiness.

There are so many people who are mistreated that this space is not room enough to enumerate them. But there are people who are persecuted for their faith in God; parents are mistreating children, and children are mistreating parents and grandparents; spouses are mistreating each other, governments are mistreating the people and total strangers are abusing and mistreating those they encounter. Lord help us all to seek You for wisdom in all situations! For anyone who mistreats someone else, they demonstrate they have not received the love of God, are incapable of loving themselves and therefore, cannot love others. We cannot give or demonstrate what we do not have!

Lord, help us to keep looking to You to know how we are to do all You have asked us to do. Help us to keep on keeping on, doing all that pleases You, mindful of the fact that You know our hearts and see all we do.

Hearing and Practicing!

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:47-49 NIV) [For context–read the entire chapter]

When Jesus was teaching those who followed Him, He wanted them to understand clearly how they were to respond to what they were being taught. In verse 39, He asks them how “the blind could lead the blind” and what could happen to them (both falling into a pit). If there are those who are hearing the Word, but are not practicing it as a model for others to see, they are doomed!

Church leaders–any and all in a position of authority–must take heed to The Word and know that when we are not doing what we have heard, we will be responsible for the demise of those we lead. We cannot turn God’s Word around and say that “it does not mean what it says.” We cannot say God has changed His mind about anything that He said. And more importantly, if we do not have proficient reading comprehension skills in which we have developed the ability to understand “inference” we should not be teaching anyone, anything. We become “the blind, leading the blind.”

We–the corporate Body of Christ–need to spend time not only reading The Word, but studying what it means with resources available to us and in seeking God for understanding. Then when we understand The Word, we must practice doing The Word on a daily basis. Our role is the bring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people–not the perverted word of those who scorn and mock God’s Word. Know when the enemy has influenced people against The Word. Don’t be deceived by those who “mention the name of Jesus” and yet have no knowledge of who He really is or His purpose while here on earth. He has said, not everyone calling Him Lord will be allowed to enter in the Father’s presence because in all actuality, they were hypocrites.

We cannot fool God with a superficial Christianity–in name only–and we don’t fool people who are able to discern which spirits are influencing people. When we know The Word, we know which spirits are working in people and we should know how to combat them and cause all to be victorious in the name of Jesus.

Let us not be just hearers (or readers) only, but let’s practice what we know we have learned in The Word. We should endeavor to do all things that please God–showing mercy because He is merciful, loving all because He is love, and obeying Him in all things rather than man because He is the Master Teacher.

Lord, help us to be better at hearing You and doing what You say, not man. Help us to stay focused on You, not man’s inability to receive what You have said. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen!