Fix our gaze

“So don’t look at the troubles we can see now: rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Just like in archery, if we are distracted by the action going on around us, we’re going to miss hitting our target. Pictured above is my daughter, who is trying to focus through the rain — a problem beyond her control. She knows concentration and keeping her eyes fixed on the middle of the target is key to hitting a bullseye.

An archer follows her training: Tune out the distractions. Be still. Focus. Breathe. Release. Impact.

And … repeat.

Our spiritual life is much the same. What’s your ultimate focus? Is it God and eternity? If not, what is your priority?

No other name

There is no other name

This impressive ceiling is from The Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois. It’s magnificent. Look at the details and see how together they form a beautiful human creation. It’s creative and expressive. God, after all, designed us to be creative, like him. Although, none of us can create the beauty of this life — us, our world, the universe, we can add to the splendor.

The more we explore and discover this world and the universe, the more we realize how creative and wonderful God is. The details fascinate us, and our thirst for discovery grows. And that’s OK. God is not afraid of the question “Why?” These are all gifts God has given us.

So explore your own creativity. Pursue knowledge. Talk to God and use the gifts he gave you. Just don’t be surprised that in your creative quest you find God in the details.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Fruits of the spirit.jpgIn Galatians 5: 22-23, the fruit of the Spirit is listed. If we are following Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will lead us to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

What is against the law is found in the paragraph before: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The Scripture goes on to say that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

May we all be led by and be in step with the Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Words matter

mountains

I took this photo on a trip to Seattle, Washington. The mountains and clouds leave me in awe of creation. God is great and reigns over all of creation. Everything.

He created it for us because he loves us.

He also forgives us when we ask. Why? Because he wants a relationship with us. God is also just. So when we draw our last breath, all that matters in that moment is that relationship with God. Do you acknowledge Christ? Jesus’ words are clear. If you have not acknowledged Christ, he will not acknowledge you.

Just before the pictured verse above, in Luke 12:4-5, Jesus is talking to his disciples about the Pharisees and says, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

Can’t you hear Jesus’ punctuated words? “Yes, I tell you, fear him.” It brings shivers. However, he follows that with an unwritten “But …” that leads into the pictured verse. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Sparrows were cheap sacrifices — of very little worth. However, God doesn’t forget even one. So how much more is his love for us that he even knows how many hairs are on our heads? And he follows it with the beginning of a promise of his love, “Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.

“I tell you, whoever acknowledge me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.”

Jesus is going to stand up and claim you as one of his own. It’s a promise. You are sealed as his.

“But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.”

Your words and choices matter in this life. If you proclaim Jesus, he will proclaim you. If you don’t, you should fear the one who will throw you into hell.

And even if you have denied Jesus and spoken against him in your life but then acknowledge him, you will be forgiven. “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven …”

And then there is the “but …,” the hitch. “… but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

That’s heavy. That’s real. I like this explanation from Focus on the Family about what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is: “The sin of ‘blaspheming the Holy Spirit,’ then, is essentially the sin of rejecting Christ.

“What’s more, the ‘unpardonable’ nature of this sin has less to do with punishment than it does with the hardening effect of the sin itself. ”

Here is the link if you want to read more: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-q-and-a/faith/blasphemy-of-the-holy-spirit-and-the-unforgivable-sin

In this life, words matter. Choose wisely.

 

I accept that challenge!

I like a challenge.
So when our women’s group at church developed a 40-day challenge to help us improve our personal discipline and relationship with God, I was in.
Each week has its own set of challenges.
This is the first week and we have been tasked with:
1 — Giving up sweets for a week, except for a one-time indulgence.
2 — Giving up TV and movies for the week.
3 — Playing children’s games for 20 minutes twice during the week.
4 — Memorizing a few verses out of Ephesians.
5 — Reading a Proverb a day.
6 — Writing a letter of support to someone on our pastoral staff.
Those are the biggies.
They don’t sound like much, do they? But try it.
What I feel in control about:
I’m not having a problem keeping my sweet tooth under control. Although I could seriously use a breath mint after eating most days.
And TV is not a big deal for me to give up either. However, I’m catching incidentals. I haven’t made my family give up TV, so while I’m busy doing other things in the house, I’m catching unintentional snippets.
I also really wanted to go see “Olympus Has Fallen” this week, but I’m (crossing my fingers) sure it will be in the theaters once this part of the challenge is finished.
Difficult but not impossible
Playing children’s games is my downfall. I have an 8-year-old daughter and she’s ready to play with me, but we’ve had a lot on our plates this week. We did math drills tonight, does that count?
I don’t think taking Grandma to the funeral home for a viewing counts either.
I’ll figure it out. It’s 20 minutes out of my day — a challenge NOT an impossibility.
Help! I’ve failed again!
I’m a slacker on reading my Bible, doing devotions and praying. I admit it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy that part of my spiritual life, I’m just lazy sometimes.
My You Version reminder to read my Bible at 9 p.m. pops up on my iPad and I think, “In just a little bit. First I need to check out Pinterest.”
Seriously?! What am I doing? “Uh, sorry God, pinning styles from New York Fashion Week is more important right now.” Come on!
Again these are small things, but they need to be done daily to build consistency and self-discipline.
So that’s why I’m doing this challenge. I need to kick myself in the butt and put God first.
If I can succeed in that discipline, I can succeed in others.
God bless.

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28 NIV)