What you focus on is where you go. I learned this with great intensity when I took a lesson for downhill mountain bike riding. In a particularly harrowing part of the trail, our instructor kept yelling, “LOOK PAST THE CURVE!!!” A few of my classmates didn’t listen to the instructor & they hardcore crashed, flipping over the handlebars. What the instructor was yelling didn’t make sense to me, but I decided to do what he said, nonetheless. When I followed the instructions, my bike followed my focus.
Lots of times, it’s easy to focus on emergencies, crises, worries, etc. When we obsess with struggles & uncertainties, it’s easy to crash in the curve because our focus gets off of Jesus. Let’s be sure that we keep our focus & thoughts on Jesus, the author & perfectos of our faith – Hebrews 12:2!
“Control” is a loaded word. It can evoke a visceral reaction in various individuals, in negative or positive ways. And as Americans, we cherish our freedom sometimes to the point of demonizing any form of control. We don’t want people to infringe on our rights, we want to speak freely without consequences and we want to the freedom to make decisions often without the complementary responsibilities.
If we are followers of Jesus, however, there’s an alarming verse that recently arrested my attention: 2Cor 5:14a, “For the love of Christ controls us, . . . ” When I read this, I tried to find some wiggle room in the Greek for the word “control”. But alas, I had no luck. I’m supposed to be controlled by Jesus’ love.
So if we identify as a follower of Jesus, this means that His love:
influences my conversations to make them edifying rather than snarky
priorities my resources to be less selfish & to consider others
applauds those random acts of kindness that run contrary to my fleshy instincts
filters my thoughts & emotions to remove unforgivness, judgment, condescension, etc
Let’s allow Jesus’ love to be the controlling & defining essential in our lives!
Because Jesus was a Jew when He lived on earth, I firmly believe that bacon wasn’t in His eating repertoire. However, bacon seems to be more than a little popular for the 21st century palate. Our appetites & eating habits have dramatically changed, some for the good & some not so much.
Which brings me to the question related to our appetites. What tastes good & what do you like to eat? Some of the things we like to eat aren’t good for our bodies just as much as some of the desires that we have aren’t good for our souls.
Let’s be sure to cultivate not only healthy appetites for our bodies but let’s also feed our souls sturdy, life-giving sustenance found through daily Bible & prayer time! Since we’re on the cusp of turning the calendar, let’s not wait for a New Year’s resolution to foster these appetites. Start now & you’ll likely keep a better routine going into the New Year than depending on a date change to facilitate a change in routines.
Some helpful tips could include:
set your alarm & get up rather than snooze it endlessly;
find a friend that can encourage & partner with some accountability;
keep track of the positives from staying disciplined;
I woke up this morning to -7degree temperature. Thankfully our heater works well but my body definitely felt the chill, which compelled me to keep my heart warm. Sometimes it’s easy in the hustle & bustle of this season to get cold hearted, detached & insensitive. Regardless of the external temperature or the demands that we have, let’s endeavor to remain warm hearted.
As for our brains, part of my Bible reading this morning was in Colossians 3:2 where Paul tells us to set our minds above. To me, this means that i keep my thoughts out of the low things & stuff that’s fleshy.
I want to actively chose to set my mind in things above & keep my heart warm regardless of what’s happening around me. Who’s on board with that plan??
Sometimes we think that forgetting something is bad, but sometimes being forgetful is good. It’s bad to forget the grocery list when I go shopping and it’s bad to forget my driver’s license when I try to catch a flight to another city. But it’s good to forget a rude comment that someone said to you or forget a hurtful thing that happened in the past. Indeed, sometimes it’s a divine gift to forget some things or to remember things in a selective way.
I can chose to remember the positive things from experiences and conversations, while letting the negative stuff fade into the background. Or I can chose to keep rehearsing the negative stuff from past conversations or experiences and let them overshadow the good stuff.
Seems like Paul had some good wisdom when he said in Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting what lies behind, I press forward for what lies ahead, . . . “
Goliath was scary, to be sure. More than tall, he had armor, weapons & enough confidence for his entire army. No Israelite wanted to fight him & die, or be the reason that Israel would become servants to the Philistines. Enter David, the harp-player & sheep-tender. Of all the valiant warriors with Saul, no one stepped up to defy Goliath, except this upstart teenager whose confidence was grounded firmly in Jehovah, the God of Israel.
The same rings true for us today. There’s always giants, intimidation, opposition & scary reasons to run, hide & blend in with everyone else. Let’s be David & stand on God’s side rather than align with fear, what’s popular & paralyzed insecurity. Never forget:
perfect love casts out fear
greater is He who is in you than any Goliath, roaring lion or lying devil!
Yesterday, I was in a prayer meeting and this lady prayed, “Father, please help us not to get lost in the words of the enemy.” This prayer totally arrested my attention & echoed in my thoughts for the rest of the day.
How many times have I gotten lost in the accusing, degrading, deceptive & condemning words of the enemy? Even worse, how many times have I let the enemy influence a conversation with someone when I’ve been snarky, judgmental, sarcastic & condescending?
Talk about a wake up call!!!
Let’s be certain that our thoughts stay centered on Jesus & that we allow the Holy Spirit to pour God’s love into our hearts. Making these choices will help us not to get so lost in the words of the enemy of our soul!
Have you been through difficult seasons when your thoughts turn dark? Lately, it seems like this has been my lot. It’s certainly not as bad as Job in the Bible, but it’s not a smoothy groovy season for me at this time. A few of the challenges that have popped up lately include: a car meltdown, lost my credit card, my husband had a stroke, one of my kids had a crisis at school, some friend challenges and discouraging news from work.
As I’ve been navigating these difficulties, the Holy Spirit spoke to me this morning about how my thoughts were getting dark. It’s like I’ve started to see things in a warped way and I find myself thinking negatively and with grim expectations. This is one of the reasons I so deeply love the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus also calls the Spirit of Truth. In my prayer time today, the Holy Spirit reminded me about Phil 4:8 where Paul tells us to dwell on / think about what is: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good repute, excellent and worthy of praise.
So with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’m re-directing my thoughts away from the dark stuff & onto things that are THRPLGR: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good repute! Anyone care to join me???
Yesterday, I listened to one of my kids rant about their school, the wicked teachers, awful students & deplorable work. I don’t mind listening and sometimes I’m good at listening, which is good because my kid needed a listening ear. After about 30-45min of this content, I felt it was time for some objectivity so we had an interesting chat. I applauded their willingness to acknowledge a few of their shortfalls, but I also pointed out that from this child’s perspective, the lion’s share of the problems belonged to everyone else. This kind of thinking was allowing my kid to frame themselves as the victim & that’s no bueno. Being a victim often leaves us powerless & inert, wallowing in self pity. Seems to me that this kind of thinking runs contrary to how God has designed us, back in the Garden of Eden with power & dominion.
At the minimum, we have authority & power over our attitude & the choices we make about our perspective. Let’s be careful about how we think because our thoughts affect our words, attitudes & actions!
Sometimes I think these terms get mixed up in our lives & we don’t realize it. Insulation is to keep out unwanted things, like cold weather or extreme heat. We can also insulate ourselves from painful experiences or uncomfortable feelings. But without being careful, insulation can become isolation when we chose to withdraw & not engage.
I could easily justify insulating myself from seeing & hearing someone’s pain or struggles that I find repugnant. But when I do this, I isolate myself & restrict the Holy Spirit from moving through me, to touch & heal the world around me. Let’s be careful not to insulate ourselves with our wealth & ability to chose our focus from the suffering around us. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t insulate Himself when He lives among us.
Sometimes my thoughts are poisonous. For example, I’m currently writing a book & from time to time I think that what I’m writing is a garbled mess & worthless. There are times when I get in a group of people & I get frozen with insecurity. Occasionally, fear creeps around my thoughts leaving little whispers of doubt.
All of these things are poison. If I let these thoughts run lose in my mind, I turn into a shriveled little person, ineffective & irrelevant.
I would speculate that you might have your own versions of poisonous thoughts so let’s help each other out & agree to pass on the poison. How can we do this? Here are a few suggestions:
Take captive every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God – refuse to let these poisonous thoughts run amuck in your mind
Replace the poison with probiotic verses – Gods word is alive & effective so let’s allow it to firmly root & flourish in our thoughts!
Take a walk – sometimes it helps to clear the cobwebs when we get some physical exercise.
No matter what, let’s actively choose to pass on the poison!
Sometimes when I get to the end of a week, I can get cranky because I’m worn out. For example, I had a chat this morning with a friend who was trying to express some struggles they’re trying to navigate. Unfortunately, I was impatient & insensitive so I took a pause & circled back to apologize & listen better. Sometimes the disappointing events from a week can seem to stockpile on Fridays & I can be cranky from this accumulation. And sometimes there seems to be more work than week, making Friday’s potentially frustrating.
But I’m choosing to exhale & be friendly. Thankfully, I get to choose my attitude because I’m not merely a porcupine byproduct of various challenges or frustrations. It also helps me to be thankful about specific things: having an enjoyable lunch with my husband, the beautiful weather, the nice birthday lunch with my friend yesterday & tasty family dinner last night.
So let’s be friendly on this Friday & thankful because today is truly a gift from God!
Lice, fleas, chiggers, parasites, viruses & mosquitos are a few examples of little bugs that can range from annoying to lethal. I know about many of these pests from first hand experience & I don’t recommend engaging with these critters in any way except in all efforts to kill them. When I think about these little bugs, it baffles me how something so small & even unseen can fell thousands of people, creating deadly epidemics that can elude our highest technologies & savy immunization strategies.
Sin can be similar to these little bugs. A little sin can poison an entire lifetime, to say nothing of the contagious quality of sin. With the help of the Holy Spirit, ever vigilant to convict the world of sin, may we never tolerate the sins that can so easily beset us. Let’s not allow sin in any form to reside in nor influence our hearts, emotions, thoughts or conversations. No little bugs!
Lice, fleas, chiggers, parasites, viruses & mosquitos are a few examples of little bugs that can range from annoying to lethal. I know about many of these pests from first hand experience & I don’t recommend engaging with these critters in any way except in all efforts to kill them. When I think about these little bugs, it baffles me how something so small & even unseen can fell thousands of people, creating deadly epidemics that can elude the our highest technologies & savy immunization strategies.
Sin can be similar to these little bugs. A little sin can poison an entire lifetime, to say nothing of the contagious quality of sin. With the help of the Holy Spirit, ever vigilant to convict the world of sin, may we never tolerate the sins that can so easily beset us. Let’s not allow sin in any form to reside nor influence our hearts, emotions, thoughts or conversations. No little bugs!
Our world can get complicated super fast – technically continues to evolve at warp speed, our schedules get increasingly dense & we are encouraged to be strategic in our thinking & planning. These things aren’t bad but they can add layers of complexity to our daily living. So for me, it’s a breath of fresh air to stop the proverbial roller coaster & refocus on my essential priorities.
It helps to take a deep breath, close one’s eyes, sit in the car for a few minutes & be still. Our brains can of course make this challenging but let’s keep our essentials as the bull’s eye for our living:
This picture is from a pretty shady neighborhood in Phnom Penh Cambodia. When you go into this apartment complex, it can be super creepy & intimidating. But it’s full of people & this is why it’s great because Jesus loves people!
Doing love well is an essential ingredient to following Jesus based on John 13:35. But it’s not easy, sometimes. It’s not easy to love a drug addict mom who neglects her kids to feed her addiction. It’s not easy to love when your body doesn’t feel well. It’s not easy to love someone who can be prickly & cantankerous. It’s not always easy to love.
But this is what Jesus says is the defining mark of those who follow Him – that we will be recognized by our love for one another. Let’s choose to love & let God love others through us, even when it’s not easy 🙂
Don’t be afraid to fail, but do be afraid to stop trying.
Sometimes, I think we don’t try to do things because we don’t want to fail or we’re afraid we won’t do well. I’ve come to conclusion that failure is an essential ingredient for training and ultimately for success. It’s seems to me that the road to success is littered with a fair amount of both failure and persistence.
I say this thinking about Joseph in the book of Genesis & his success in keeping nations from literally starving to death. When you consider his leadership work in Egypt during an epic famine, it’s more than just a little impressive. But consider that Joseph had lots of practice & failure along the journey to get him to a place where he could be so outrageously successful. I would suggest that he was training and practicing in leadership with his family during the dreams and many colored coat thing. Furthermore, he was training with his administrative & leadership skills in Potipher’s house & prison. And all of this was for the ultimate purpose of rescuing thousands & possibly millions from starving when he became second in command in Egypt under Pharaoh.
So when we fail, let’s replace any potential shame with applause, that we tried to do something new or different and we can only get better from here! The other side of failure could mean life for lots of people around you! Be sure to let the Holy Spirit continue to help you practice and get better 🙂
I was talking with a friend this weekend about being mature. He made a comment that settled into my mind for lots of thinking. He made the statement that being an “older Christian” was the same as being a “mature Christian”. This is where I paused to think. I started to think about what it means to be a mature Christian and I thought about this in light of knowing lots of folk who have been Christians for multiple decades. Does time equal maturity?
If time and age don’t equal mature, what does it mean to be a mature follower of Jesus? Here’s a short answer: a person who is more & more Christlike is an increasingly mature follower of Jesus. If you’d like to ruminate on some sturdy ruffage on this topic, consider taking some time to read & digest Hebrew 5:11-6:8 🙂
Let’s endeavor to be not only aged followers of Jesus, but more importantly mature believers, full of Christlike fruit in our daily living 🙂
Springtime always seems to ramp up the activity level. There’s fresh air outside that’s not too cold, the trees bloom with fragrant life, the hibernation of winter dissipates and of course there are all of the activities that go with school, Easter, graduations, weddings, showers, etc.
More often than not, Springtime wears me out with the hustle and bustle of demanding activities. So this Sping, I’m endeavoring to strike a better balance, integrating some rest into the mix. Here are some ideas that might help you with finding rest in a busy Spring:
be careful not to fall in the “value in achievement” trap – you’re valuable because God loves you, full stop
consider Spring cleaning your calendar / schedule and not just your house
be sure the way you use your time accurately reflects your priorities
don’t ditch church 🙂
Of course I’m always keen to recommend reading a good book as a form of relaxing & a great book to read in preparation for Pentecost in a few weeks is Heavenly Help
This morning I read how Joseph resisted the invitations of Potipher’s wife. Potipher was Joseph’s employer & Joseph didn’t want to dishonor his employer nor sin against God by giving into the wife’s seductions. In some respects, it might have been easy for Joseph to cave: Joseph was away from his family, he was a slave, maybe they could’ve kept their trist a secret & maybe there was some appeal to his flesh, on the most basic level. Nonetheless, Joseph kept his integrity & consistently rejected the wife’s efforts.
In my thinking, Joseph should have been rewarded for holding the high ground but instead, he was lied about & then thrown into prison. So now he’s not a slave but maybe worse, he’s a “convict”. God rewarded Joseph in prison & previously under Potipher by giving Joseph favor & leadership positions.
But the immediate imprisonment result wasn’t the optimum outcome for maintaining a high level of integrity.
Here are a few things to consider:
Do the right thing even if the immediate results seem to backfire
Keep pure motives to serve & be a blessing
Make sure your forgiveness stays fresh
I think all of this was practice for the real work of keeping a nation from being eradicated from a severe 7 years famine along with rescuing his entire family from starving to death 🙂