Stay Focused

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!

Hot Topic: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, et al.

Clearly, this year’s presidential race has generated heaps of attention, angst, journalism opportunities and raised eyebrows.  The tumultuous run-offs between Ted Cruz versus Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders have encouraged me to pray more than I ever have for this year’s election.

Regardless of your political persuasions, let’s be sure that we keep our prayer level higher than our worry level.  Let’s remember that God is in control more than any man or woman.  Let’s be certain that we do three things that mark us as followers of Jesus, based on John 13:35:

  • love God
  • love people
  • love ourselves

Loving well is letting the Holy Spirit pour God’s love into our hearts, moment by moment & day by day 🙂

Waiting in the Flood

Noah waited in the ark 150 days during the flood cataclysm. When I read that recently, it caught my attention & I began to imagine what that was like for him, surrounded with his family & the animal hordes traveling with him in the ark. I would suspect there was heaps of panic initially, probably fear, anxiety, uncertainty & likely some worry to boot. Being “trapped” in the ark while the earth was deluged from above & below, water thundering on the ark with animals & humans pitching back & forth – this doesn’t sound very appealing. But the other option, drowning in the deluge, wasn’t such a whippy alternative. So the people in the ark could chose, initially between living or dying. Clearly, they chose to stay alive. From that decision, then they needed to manage their fear, uncertainty & anxiety, pausing 150 days in the ark. 
Sometimes we find ourselves in “pause” mode & maybe see / hear disasters happening all around us. In these situations, I find my salvation alone in keeping my focus on Jesus & my mind set on the Holy Spirit – Rom 8:5. Listening to & watching the circumstances around us can be debilitating. Make the long term decision to keep your thoughts & focus on Jesus, no matter what 🙂

Hot Topic: Donald Trump & the 2016 Election

Politics is a hot spot for many people. Everyone seems to get really lit up about who to vote for, what the candidates say or don’t say, the future of our country, moral underpinnings & HEAPS more. For his part, Donald Trump, has certainly escalated the emotional tone & conflict potential for our upcoming national election. 
My concern for those of us who follow Jesus has many facets:

  • I’m concerned that we will watch & listen to the candidates more than we pray for the election
  • I’m concerned that we allow politics to divide us more than we allow Jesus’ love to unite us
  • I’m concerned that we are deceived to think that human politics can resolve the broken & fallen nature of the human heart

Whether you like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Bernie or whoever, let’s make the commitment to pray for our country & its leadership more than we worry or complain 🙂

Heating Up or Chilling Out??

  
   Since we talked yesterday about Jesus putting out fires in our lives, it seems fitting today that we would talk about staying chilled & frosty. Various times of the year seem to have lots of stress & pressure – December frequently far exceeding my red zone capacity. So seeing Jesus chillin’ in a freezer by a gallon of ice cream helps me to remember to offload some steam & it reminds me to make choices about stress & worry. 

Some helpful things to remember that Jesus said:

“Come to Me all you who are heavy laden & I will give you rest”

“My peace I leave you, not as the world gives”

“In this world you will have tribulations but I have overcome the world”

Heating Up or Chilling Out??

  
   Since we talked yesterday about Jesus putting out fires in our lives, it seems fitting today that we would talk about staying chilled & frosty. Various times of the year seem to have lots of stress & pressure – December frequently far exceeding my red zone capacity. So seeing Jesus chillin’ in a freezer by a gallon of ice cream helps me to remember to offload some steam & it reminds me to make choices about stress & worry. 

Some helpful things to remember that Jesus said:

“Come to Me all you who are heavy laden & I will give you rest”

“My peace I leave you, not as the world gives”

“In this world you will have tribulations but I have overcome the world”

More trust, less worry

  

Easier said than done, to be sure!! But nonetheless, the decision to trust God more & worry less is both healthy & essential. All of us have uncertainties, impossibilities & varying degrees of stresses. What we do with this stuff is the important decision. It’s easy to let stress get under the skin & seep into the bloodstream, elevating our blood pressure & distorting our perceptions. When this happens, our decision making ability gets shady & we can make poor choices. 
But let’s do that “taking captive” thing that Paul talks about in 2Cor 10:5. Let’s not allow worry to have a free run & unlimited access in our minds. When we start to worry & have troublesome thoughts, let’s pray first & ask the Holy Spirit to help us take those thoughts captive & not let them under our skin nor into our bloodstream! Dear friends, let’s worry less & trust God more 🙂

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I Got My Mind Set on You 

I really like the hit music from the 80s & this song by George Harrison “I Got My Mind Set on You” might be in my top 10. It’s perky, fun, upbeat & reminds me something really important – my mindset. 

In Col 3:2, Paul says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  This verse is always a good grounding verse for me, particularly when my mind want to float into toxic areas, worry quagmires, destructive habits or other hazmat zones. This verse anchors my thoughts onto God stuff, reminding to focus my attention & thoughts on stuff that’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely & a good report (Phil 4:8). 
Let’s set our minds on God & revel in Gods continuous love & presence with us in every moment of this day 🙂

What about the future?

It seems that this question often lurks in the back of our minds. Thankfully, God has the future already well-scooped. Think about how God developed Moses to be the deliverer of God’s people from being slaves in Egypt. Basically, God spent 80 years getting Moses ready for 40years of liberation work. Furthermore, consider that God put lots of investment in Joshua to be Moses’ successor, the man who would lead the Israelites to possess the promised land.
In the grand scheme of things, let’s trust & rest in the truth that God knows the future & is working in our world today, for tomorrow’s needs & opportunities 🙂

dealing with concerns

I totally get that Jesus says not to worry about what we eat, wear or what’s going to happen tomorrow and I totally want to align myself with His instructions.  And I’d also venture to say that from time to time, we both have a little bit of a challenge in the “concern” area.  Here are some ideas / thoughts that may be useful:

  • break big issues into smaller pieces or components and they might not seems as overwhelming
  • memorize some verses from the Bible that you can lean into when you feel like you’re drowning in the “worry” zone – Ps 55:22 is a great resource, as a starter
  • health upkeep – here’s the normal nagging of drinking lots of water & maintaining an consistent exercise routine
  • worship tunes that lift up Jesus always help me to put any problems or worries into a better perspective
  • It always helps me to remember to put my trust in God & to lift up my soul to God (Ps 25:1)

These are a few ideas that have been useful to me.  What helps you?  Please share 🙂

some help for worry

Lately, I’ve had some struggles with worry & if you give me the line that I’m not supposed to worry, I’ll hit you ,)

With that being said, I had a nice chat with God about this & I received some great help that you might also find useful, if not today, maybe for the future.  I learned that when I worry, I make an attention decision that can undermine the closeness of my walk with God (not that God moved, but rather that I’ve compromised my trust in God).  When I worry, I choose to give my attention to challenges, problems & difficulties that I’m unable to resolve.  When I worry, I neglect to include God in these struggles and therefore become increasingly absorbed in them, to the point of being all consumed.  And clearly, being all consumed with worry is no place I want to live.  So that counter-point to worry is choosing to trust God and while this can be difficult, this decision is much better than going down the worry path.  But I’m also learning that trusting God is often a continuously active decision.  So let’s encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus and to make healthy choices to strengthen our hearts by trusting God 🙂

Some antidotes for worry

Worry seems to be a common ailment. Lots of people worry about lots of things- the economy, health issues, family challenges, school frustrations & lots more! Some worries seem to be justified & some are almost nonsense. Worry is common, but there are a few things you can do to overcome worry:
*pray the answer (God’s Word) more than the problem
*worship – exalting Jesus always makes my problems look smaller & smaller
*be careful about your conversations – complaining can be fuel for worry
*read a Psalm at breakfast, lunch, dinner & bedtime

Don’t let worry be bigger than Jesus in your life!!

This is a good mistake to avoid!

I’ve been thinking lately about Adam & Eve with the whole Garden fiasco. That was really a bad day for humanity & despite our Father’s magnificent redemption of humanity, there have been several occasions when I wish Eve would have made some different choices.
I think that one of her big mistakes was to have a conversation w the serpent / devil. And yet I think that sometimes we make her same mistake without realizing it. Here are some ways that we talk with or entertain the devil, his lies & deceptions:
*insecurity – we listen far too often to his accusations & utter nonsense about who we are rather than basing our identity on what God says about us
*ego / pride – “all of that & a bag of chips!”. Really??? It is only through Christ that we are truly invaluable, priceless & supremely desirable
*worry / fear – I don’t think that the devil sets the “worry or fear trap” about things on which we are strong. However, wherever there is a weakspot, that’s where he will plant worry, uncertainty, concern & even fretful thoughts or anxieties, be that about the future, health, relationships, etc
Can you think of other “conversation traps” that the devil lays for you???

Fear: friend or foe?

Fear is interesting – in the right amounts & toward the right things, it can be really beneficial. On the other hand, fear with the wrong amounts & directed toward the wrong things can be thoroughly toxic & destructive.
Consider this: fear can immunize us from disrespect & irreverence. Fear can keep us from doing dumb things & the Bible speaks of a boat load of benefits from having a fear, respect & reverence for God.

On the negative scale, fear can hinder us from some amazing experiences, adventures & accomplishments. It can also keep us from learning some important lessons. Fear can keep us trapped in the past & cripple us from moving forward. Fear can suffocate healthy relationships & even debilitate constructive growth.
So here’s my conclusion: I don’t want to be afraid of life but I do want to have a healthy reverence for the Creator of life – love life & honor it’s Creator.

change

Change can be frustrating, exhilarating, empowering, difficult & fun – all at the same time 🙂

Lots of things are in a state of flux right now, with uncertain outcomes.  This morning in my prayer time, i found myself thinking about a variety of things that are really bothering me at the present – areas needing & undergoing changes.  Unfortunately, these things seemed to get more of my attention than praying.  Now of course i brought these various issues to God & asked for His help, but i found myself still dwelling on these things & trying to figure out ways to fix & improve various situations.  When we’re in the middle of change (in small or big ways), its really easy to fixate on problems, needs, frustrations, etc. 

The truth is that we desperately need to focus on God, especially in seasons of change.  Lately, i’ve been reading about Paul & the shipwreck he endured in Acts 27.  Paul was in a tremendous season of stress & change – but if you watch his words & behavior, he was totally aware of his circumstances, but kept his eyes on God.  Truthfully, i don’t think he had any alternative. 

So here’s my bottom line – in the middle of change, we’ve got to keep our eyes, attention & heart set on God.  What are some things, actions, ways that help you do this???

an idea to combat worry

i did a message Wed night on worry & it fit EXTREMELY well into what i’ve been going through lately.  To add onto it, i’ve also been studying Philip 4:6-8 where Paul talks about some good strategies to combat worry.  He starts off in vs 6 telling us not to be anxious but to offer our requests to God w prayer & supplication with thanksgiving.

Here’s my take away on this:  whatever we’re worried about, we need to take to God ALONG WITH at least one thanksgiving, something for which you’re thankful.  I think this is an interesting dynamic to keep the proper balance between requests & gratitude.  So all that being said, here are a few things I’m thankful to God for:

  • His grace – overwhelms my brokenness
  • His patience – again
  • His love – boundless & without condition
  • a fresh hair cut
  • nitrate free hot dogs
  • God’s invitations to me, throughout the day, to be with Him
  • His tenderness & willingness to help me grow
  • His immensity with gentleness

Got anything to be thankful for??? 🙂

worry & solutions

Worry is a big deal – everyone has struggled w worry to varying degrees.  If you are presently in a good frame of mind, its easy to say, “don’t worry, just have faith.”  However, if you’re having any struggles w life issues, then it doesn’t seem to be quite so simple, at least not for me.  Something that I’ve found helpful is in Matthew 6:25-32 when Jesus talks about not worrying.  In these verses, Jesus singles out worrying about clothing, food, drink & time – but I think that His main thought in these verses deals with us not worrying.  When Jesus tells us not to worry, He points our focus to God’s creation (birds & lillies) – thereby taking our attention off of the thing(s) we worry about.  But even better, in verse 33, He tells us to focus our attention on God. 

Personally, I find this to be really helpful when there are worry issues that try to plague me.  While I think its really important to not bury my head in the sand & ignore problems, I also know that if various problems make me worry, this isn’t good either.    It is very important that my thoughts are surrendered to Jesus’ Lordship – 2 Cor 10:5.  So if you’re struggling w sorry, consider memorizing Philip 4:6-8 to help immunize you against the worry disease.  🙂

ever worry about anything???

Today, these are some of the things I worried about:

  • Isabell having a sore throat
  • David’s bday party this weekend
  • my message on worry that i’ve been working on (now that’s funny!)
  • work & people issues
  • getting my schedule mixed up (i was trying to remember what day of the week it was at 530pm – that’s sad)
  • the baked chicken being raw (long story)
  • finances

Most of us have our list of “concerns”, worries, uncertainties, etc.  Here’s something interesting to consider, of the things that we worry about:

40% — are things that will never happen

30% — are things about the past that can’t be changed

12% — are things about criticism by others, mostly untrue

10% — are about health, which gets worse with stress

8% — are about real problems that will be faced

 

There are many places in the Bible where we’re told not to worry but to trust God.  So with this directive, what are some things that you’ve found helpful in learning not to worry?  I understand that we’re all growing & not so many of us have achieved “worry-free” living – but if you could share some of your ideas, they could probably help others who read this blog – just leave a comment above.  Thanks!! 🙂