Focus Determines Your Outcome

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Daniel Grant:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

What are you focusing on? What is it that holds your attention? There are a great many things that demand our attention and some of them may be worthy of great consideration! However, beloved, we need to keep the most important thing in focus, and that is Jesus.

Colossians 3 is my favorite chapter of Scripture, hands down. It starts with this fantastic admonition to set our minds on Christ and to seek the things above (kingdom ways). Then it goes on to remind us of all the other things that we need to think and put into practice! IF we have our focus right, then the rest of the instructions find their rightful place. Paul urges us to put off the old ways of the flesh and to put on the new kingdom clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. What is the lynch-pin that holds these precious virtues together? Paul artfully lands that final stroke with the admonition to love and forgive one another just as Christ has forgiven us. This is not another “To-do” list, but it is our new kingdom identity in Christ. Beloved, keep looking up, because our Savior is coming back for us! The darker things get in our culture, contrasts with the beautiful, stunning, and eternal light that comes only from Jesus. So, keep your eyes and mind set on Jesus. May God help us to do it!!

The Fixer

What’s wrong with this world?  There seems to be so many broken things all around us.  We see such destruction in the natural world with hurricanes and earthquakes. We see savagery in the animal kingdom when that wolf hunts the defenseless lamb and tears it to pieces.  In the world of humanity, we see great evil in wars, sexual assault, child abuse, disease, and suffering.

Some people look at these things and wonder, “Where is God in all of this?”  They will say, “If there is a God, then why doesn’t He stop all of this?”

Much of the pain we see in the world can be traced back to mankind’s own rebellion against God. Adam’s sin in the garden “broke” the perfection in Eden, and the entire planet has gone downhill ever since. Doesn’t God even care?

God does indeed care.  He sent His Son to deal with the root of the problem, our sin. God is patiently giving people a chance to turn to Him to find the healing from brokenness that only He can give. Best of all, Jesus will one day return and fix all this mess.  Isaiah described what a “fixed” world would look like: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Do you need the “Fixer”?

Quenching the Fire of Lust

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

These last couple of months, California has been rocked by fires. The Mendocino fire was the largest complex fire in CA history. Watching the firefighters put out these flames, we become very aware how hard it is to get a fire under control. Whether outside or in the kitchen, our methods for controlling the fire depend on the fire. For example, we can’t pour water on a grease fire, it only gets worse!

How many times do we feel like we are trying to contain the wildfire of lust in our life? Does trying to contain it make it grow or splatter into other areas?

Paul’s encouragement was “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16)

Paul didn’t say “Try harder! Be stronger!” In fact, it isn’t about using our strength at all. Instead of focusing on what not to do… Paul focuses on what we ought to do. The way I defeat the desires of the flesh is not to try control them, which leads to frustration, exhaustion, and failure. Trying not to do something makes me want to do it even more.

The secret, Paul tells us, is that when we are walking and fulfilling the desires of the Spirit, it defuses and diminishes the desires of my flesh. Let the Word of God be the “spiritual sonogram” that reminds us that the extra heartbeat in us is the presence, power and promise of His Spirit! We are not alone! His Love and not the law will quench the fire of Lust!

Weak

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It is the strangest of paradoxes.  How could something that makes you weak give you strength?  How could something that is difficult be good?

For Paul, one of the issues in his life involved pride.  There came a time in his life when God allowed something painful into his life to cultivate humility.  Paul never tells us what it was.  He left it vague.  He called it a “thorn in the flesh”, even a “messenger of Satan”.  I’m kind of glad that Paul didn’t give us any more details, other than it made him “weak”.  Weakness is something I identify with.

I’ve never preferred being “weak”.  Weakness makes me vulnerable and needy.  I’d rather be “strong”, so I can fight the battles that I think need to be fought.  Ironically, being “weak” makes me lean more on Jesus to fight the battles for me.

Do I like being “weak”?  Not really.  On the other hand, there is nothing in life that tastes better than grace. So maybe my times of “weakness” should be something to embrace rather than shun.  If weakness leads to grace, then bring it on.

Such a Deal!

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Advertisers are constantly trying to get our attention by floating some new “deal of the century” before our eyes.  “Brand new big screen TV for $299!”  “Trade in your old electronics for a deal on a new phone!” “Sell us your old clunker and buy a new Tessla!”

Some of these deals are probably too good to be true.  Other deals are just what they promise, an amazing offer you just can’t pass up.

God has made us such a deal.  It’s so incredible, that some folks think it’s too good to be true.  God promises to take all our sin and exchange it for the righteousness of Christ.  This deal has already been made, so all you have to do is accept it.  God gets all your guilt, shame, and sin, and you are credited for all the good things that Jesus has ever done.  Could you pass up such a deal?

When I come across one of those amazing deals that are just as good as they promise, I find myself calling, texting, or emailing some of my friends to get them in on the deal while it lasts.  The great offer that God has made us is that kind of “deal”.  Whether it’s bringing the offer straight to our friends, inviting them to church, or bringing them to the Harvest Crusade, share the goodness!

Part of the Whole, a Holy Part

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant:

First Corinthians 12 encourages us that we are all essential parts of the body of Christ. You might not see yourself as such, but you are one of the essential puzzle pieces that makes the body of Christ whole. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

You are an essential member of the family of God. We meet together regularly in order to stay connected to God’s family and to what God is actively doing. We meet to encourage, exhort, protect and pray for one another. That is why Paul in 1 Corinthians calls us ‘a body’, not many bodies.

Paul goes on to make the point that even though we are all part of the same body, we have a variety of essential giftings and roles to play within that body. He says that if every part of the body was an eye, then how would we hear, and if every part was an ear how would be able to smell?

Are you engaged in using your spiritual gifts for the body of Christ? I hope so, and I further hope that you are connected to the body. An ear cannot do much by itself, on the ground – ask Malchus – a lonely ear makes one irritable. What did Jesus do with a disembodied ear, he reconnected it to the body. Don’t disconnect from the body of Christ but stay connected to Jesus as the head of the church and stay connected to the body – that we all may bear much fruit for our Lord and King.

Married or Single

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

1 Cor 7:7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.

To be, or not to be” Shakespeare famously penned in Hamlet. Many today are struggling to find contentment in their lives. The “singles” contemplate marriage, the “married” at times envy the singles. It is easy to look at others and think, “I wish my life was more like (fill in the blank).”

Paul makes a powerful point that helps anchor our hearts from drifting into envy. Paul says that each has his “own gift.”

Are you looking at your marriage today as a gift from the Lord? Do we recognize the call of being that gift to our spouse and that our spouse is a blessing and gift, too?

Are you looking at your singleness as a gift from the Lord? People often feel like singleness is a curse and not a blessing. Paul challenges us to see our singleness as an opportunity, not for self-enjoyment, but for fulfillment in Christ.

The key point to Paul’s exhortation in chapter 7 is that whether married or single our primary goal is to point people to Jesus. If God’s design for my life is about holiness and not happiness, then whether single or married, Jesus must be the object of my heart’s affections.

May we seek today to cherish the gift we have been given and use it to honor the giver.

The Strength of Joy

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

The people had returned from their years of Babylonian exile, and the work of rebuilding the Temple and the walls around Jerusalem was finished.  As they gathered in a courtyard near the Gihon spring, Ezra the priest began to read and teach from the word of God.  When the people heard God’s word, a strange thing happened.  Many began to weep.  It’s hard to know exactly why. Perhaps they were reminded of the sins that had resulted in the great Babylonian destruction.

My friends, I would imagine that there are things all around us that can give us cause for weeping.  Perhaps you’re in a health crisis.  Perhaps there’s tension in the family.  Maybe the future seems uncertain.

Let me remind you as Nehemiah did to the people.  Learning to find joy in the Lord is your best source of strength.  If you’re wondering how you could be joyful in days like this, it’s only because you’re ignoring the finished work all around you.  Jesus died for you.  Your sins are paid for. God is for you. God is good. Rejoice.

Joy and Weeping

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. (Ezra 3:12–13)

It had been seventy years since Solomon’s temple had been destroyed.  The people had finally been allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple.  They had only gotten as far as laying the foundation when they decided to stop and celebrate what was happening.  It was a milestone on the road to change.

It’s not hard to understand why the younger people were shouting for joy.  This was a great moment in the history of the Jewish people.  God had kept His word and the work had restarted.

Perhaps the old men were weeping for the same reason the younger men were rejoicing.  But to tell you the truth, some of them were weeping because the new temple wasn’t anything like the glory of the old.  Sometimes “old men” get stuck in the past.

Change is inevitable.  Time marches on and stops for no one.  It might seem appropriate to mourn the past, but don’t neglect the joy of what the future may bring.  Don’t be that weeping old man.

The Danger of Pride

Uzziah was one of the good guys.  He was one of those rare kings who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord”.  He had a sharp military mind, equipping his army with the best equipment, enhancing the walls of Jerusalem, and designing unique devices that shot arrows and threw stones.  He had a mind for economics and agriculture, investing in livestock and vineyards.  He cared for his country.  He had a long, stabilizing rule over the nation of Judah, so much so that when he died, Isaiah the prophet said his whole world was shook up. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction (2 Chronicles 26:16)

It seems there’s a flaw in many of us, whereby we stay closer to the Lord when times are difficult.  We trust in the Lord, God helps us, and life improves.  It’s at that time that we face the very human temptation of pride.  We start to think that we are, in fact, awesome.  Like Nebuchadnezzar of old, we say to ourselves, “Is this not a great city that I have build with my power and for my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30)

Uzziah’s pride led him to overstep the boundaries of being a king and take on the role of a priest.  He went into the Temple itself thinking there was nothing he couldn’t do.  God had to humble Uzziah with leprosy.  Humility is not a thing we learn when times are tough.  Humility is something we cultivate our entire lives.