Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Beautiful heather in Scotland
     Wearing contact lenses has been a blessing for me over the years.  Because I am at the age where bifocals help with reading, my contacts are fit using a method called mono vision.  My right eye does the reading and my left eye sees things at a distance.  This doesn't work for everyone but for me, it has been the answer.  It is amazing how the brain makes the eyes work together so that I shift from one task to another.  The only time I notice the difference is when I have to close one eye.  Without my contact lenses or glasses, I cannot see well at all.  It is a blurry world out there, and I certainly could not read a thing.  That's why I am exceedingly grateful for the science behind optics.
     In the same way, the Bible helps me find my focus on matters of daily living.  Take for example "worry".  90% of the things we worry about never happen, but we often spend time dwelling on issues over which we have no control.  This is something most of us have experienced at one time or another.
     During my homeschool years, I frequently "worried" about whether I was doing a good job at teaching our children.  Have I covered all the bases?  Am I a good mother?  I wasted a lot of time being concerned when, in fact, God had it all under control.  The outcome of our time with them in the home has proven a rich treasure I store in my heart.  So why do we worry?
     In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples how we are to walk in this world.  When it comes to being anxious, He addresses this clearly in Matthew 6:25-34:  "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which
of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles see after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  This is such an important passage to read and re-read.
     Our security and provision are in God's hands.  Jesus is not saying here that we are to sit back and do nothing.  Rather, He is pointing out that our Sovereign God makes a way for us when there seems to be no way.  He always comes through for us and often, in ways we least expected.  Worry reveals a lack of trust in God's ability to provide for His creation.  Yet, all around us we see God's handiwork in the plants and animals He has created.  As Jesus, reminds us, "Are you not of more value than they?"
     Indeed, the Bible brings into focus what we are supposed to be looking at...namely, the Kingdom of God.  We are to seek the Lord and His righteousness.  He will add those things we have need of on a daily basis.  We are not to live a life of worry, but instead, a life of faith in Him.  Since we cannot add one day more to our earthly life by being anxious, I think these are wise words from our Lord.
     Whenever life seems to get out of focus, we need to be quick to go to God's Word.  It is like putting on spiritual glasses with which to see life from our Creator's point of view.  Worry does not need to be in our vocabulary.  Seeking His kingdom first will bring the blessings we need in this life and the next.  Selah!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Finding the Positive in a Negative World

     Picking up the newspaper is one of the most discouraging things we can do any more.  There are usually a few good stories about how someone helped a neighbor out but for the most part, most of the features deal with murder, political turmoil, drug arrests and other heartbreaking accounts.  If you weren't depressed before you read it, you almost certainly will be after.  Watching television is not much better.  Today, there was another school shooting with wall to wall coverage.  Not only were the students traumatized but so are those who watch this happening on the screens in our homes.  Often we do not realize the impact that such negative news has on our psyche.  News stations do not report it just once, but they continue to beat the same drum over and over again.
     On top of newspapers and T.V., we also have social media.  I enjoy my time on Facebook to reconnect with friends, but there can also be negatives with this as well.  Arguments, debates, unfriending and all the rest can happen in a heartbeat leaving you to wonder what you said that caused the problem.  However, the Bible offers us a simple remedy for our information overload.
A beautiful Florida spring
     In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul offers the believers words of encouragement.  He tells them to rejoice in the Lord on a regular basis and reminds them that the Lord could return at any moment.  Then, he tells them not to be worried about anything but to turn it all over in prayer to the Lord who gives us peace.  This peace will guard both our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:4-7).  With this in mind, the Apostle then gives us wisdom on how to stay positive in a world filled with bad news:  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).  We have not seen the Apostle Paul as these believers did but we can read in God's Word what he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit so as to be guided in our conduct.  Do we really follow what God's Word tells us to do in order to avoid negative thinking?
     John MacArthur has some good insight in these verses.  He says that we are to meditate on what is true...."What is true is found in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit and the Word."  Then, he goes on to discuss the word honorable.  "The Greek term means 'worthy of respect.'  Believers are to meditate on whatever is worthy of awe and adoration, i.e., the sacred as opposed to the profane."  Furthermore, he goes on to say that we are to think morally pure and clean thoughts (MacArthur Study Bible pg. 1780).  The only way we can do this is to spend more time in prayer and the Word.  What we set before our eyes has an effect on the way we live.  Likewise, we need to remember that we are just passing through this world.  Our citizenship is in heaven.  Therefore, we need to evaluate how we use our time and what we choose to watch or read.
     Paul is not suggesting in this passage that we become a recluse and stay out of all the things going on around us.  We need information, but we do not need to spend our days absorbed in every political debate, every negative newscast, or the latest violent movie that has come out.  If we want peace in our hearts and minds, we need to feed them both with truth that comes from spending time in God's Word.  What we put in our minds will eventually come out in our lives in action or in words.  May we be found faithful to pursuing a closer walk with our Lord and filling our thoughts with His truth!  Selah!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Never, Never, Never!!!

     Recently, my dear husband and I went to view the movie about Sir Winston Churchill entitled "Darkest Hour".  It was an excellent representation of the crisis which the British faced as France was being invaded by Germany.  As Churchill took the reigns of the country as Prime Minister, there were some hoping he would fail to be an adequate leader so they could remove him and take over the government.  The story of the challenges he faced when he took over in May of 1940 was riveting, and the speeches he gave roused the people to action.  He was the man for the job though some did not care for him.
Buckingham Palace in London
     One of his speeches given to his former school (Harrow) in October of 1940 is perhaps the most famously quoted message of all time.  It came in the middle of his address and goes like this:  " "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."  This is what he believed and what he acted on, and propelled him to success in defending his nation.  
     As a Christian, I think it is easy for us to become so discouraged that we want to give up in the struggles we face.  Whether illness, circumstances or relationships, there will always be challenges as long as we walk in the fallen world.  Certainly Sir Winston Churchill did not have an easy life or an easy leadership position.  He faced opposition from his political foes, and he was confronted by the possibility that England would be the next country to be invaded by Germany.  What a weight he carried on his shoulders!  Yet in the fire, he came out as the right man at the right time for his country.  God had a plan all along.
      Isaiah 40:28-31 reminds us that we have a resource that can keep us going when we feel weak:  "
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.
These are words of hope for all who believe in Christ.  When we cannot go on, He is there to pick us up.  We have all seen the strength in the flight of the eagle, but did you know that an eagle also catches its young on their outstretched wings when they are teaching them to fly?  God likens Himself to an eagle (Exodus 19:4) and He is there to catch us when we think we cannot go on.
     An article in the Sunday paper about the Winter Olympics caught my attention.  They interviewed Scott Hamilton on how he won a gold medal in figure skating many years ago.  He stated that he fell 41,600 times and got up 41,600 times.  That is how you never give up.  I was touched by that as Scott Hamilton has also had to do battle with cancer.  He has never given up, and we must not either.  
     No matter what comes our way, no matter the odds we face, we must trust in the Lord for He is sovereign and has promised to never leave nor forsake us.  He is our eagle who will bear us up when we start to fall.  As Winston Churchill famously told those students, we must never, never, never give up!  To God be the glory as we walk in His strength!  Selah!