Category Archives: Spiritual Focus

Daily Bread

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Matthew 6:31-34

Awhile back, I was worrying about finances. So on Sunday I rose early and took my worries to my heavenly Father. I realized that I needed to choose to trust (to have faith) in God’s promises in dealing with worry. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7 Then God reminded me of Matthew 6:33.

Through the years I have had to make choices about whether to put God first or to try to pursue meeting my needs. When I first decided to follow Christ, I travelled around the country after college pursuing my desires, but had a hard time finding a good job. God told me to go back to Rhode Island and get back involved with the people who had introduced me to Christ so I could grow deeper in my relationship with God. I had been looking for a job for months and had never had trouble finding work before, but had no success finding work. As soon as I moved back to Rhode Island, I had two job offers in two weeks.

Years later when Lynn and I got married, we choose to put our children first by having Lynn stay home and not work. We understood that loving our children and raising them in a caring, stable family environment was very important to God. A month after we made that decision God gave me a new job increasing my salary 50%. Lynn has been able to stay home with the children for the last ten years.

When we followed God’s calling for me to quit my full time job and move to Canada to get my Master’s of Divinity, we had enough from the sale of our house to buy a house in Canada and pay for half of the cost of going to seminary. But when we finished seminary, the house we bought went up 40% in three years and we were able to clear all debts and had almost as much in the bank as we had when we went to seminary.

When I talked to God about my worries, God spoke to me through Matthew 6:34. Do not focus on tomorrow, but focus on helping the people around you today. I spend much of my time trying to figure out what I am going to be doing in the future or how I am going to get work in the future. But God wants me to focus on what He is doing through me today to help other people. When I am focused on trying to figure things out and what I want, I miss out of what God is doing in other people’s lives and the opportunities to help them.

When we focus on serving others and doing God’s will one day at a time, He will take care of providing what we need tomorrow. When we know God will take care of what we need, it frees us up to give ourselves away to others to meet their needs. Each day we do God’s will and he gives us our daily bread (what we need for that day).

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Be Christlike or Comfortable?

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

A few years ago, I toke a Spiritual Leadership class with Richard Blackaby and he made the following observation. Success often develops pride in our lives whereas failure and trials drive us to our knees and humble us. If God wants to keep us walking closely with him, which would he send into our lives?

We want God to do great things in our lives and take us to the next level, yet whenever God brings a cross of adversity into our lives the first thing we cry out is, “God take this out of my life!” We have to decide if we want to be more like Christ or be comfortable.

Richards comment was that it is not safe to follow Jesus. The world needs courageous men and women, who are willing to die to do what is right, not legions of complacent followers asking for God to bless them and keep them safe. When followers of Jesus actively do things that establish justice (or righteousness; making things right), peace, and joy in our world … many self-serving agendas will be threatened. People who pursue their own desires for power, pleasure, and riches often do so at the expense of those they oppress, abuse, and steal from. People who are on fire with God’s passion for justice will be attacked in order to protect the status quo. Consider Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the most recent martyrs for opposing the status quo of racial oppression and injustice.

This brings me to my reflections on Romans 5. Paul starts out saying Jesus Christ brought us peace with God. I did a study on the Hebrew term for peace; shalom. It’s meaning is far deeper than simply an absence of conflict or some inner tranquility. It has the meaning of completeness of life, experiencing the fullness of life, or wholeness (like a stone that never has been marred or cut… it is perfectly whole). This is God’s desire for us. We have lost the full and abundant life He originally intended for us. Sin has entered our experience and now we experience pain and suffering as people oppress, steal, deceive, abuse, use, hurt and attack each other. Jesus came as a King to reestablish a world order where selfish living is overthrown and people begin to obey God’s commands to love others and do what’s right. As people follow Jesus Christ as their King, obeying his commands and doing his work will bring them in to conflict with the established social order. Suffering is inevitable even for those committed to peaceful reform.

Affliction and suffering produces the opportunity to either give up or turn to God to call out for help. God has a long documented track record of delivering people who call on him for help. When people persevere into doing what is right when the pressure of affliction comes, it develops a strong character. A weak character gives up when pain comes because all that person wants is personal comfort and gratification. So they retreat from the suffering until the pain goes away. But the person of conviction will endure pain and loss to stand for what is right. They will also call on God in the midst of suffering and trust that God will help them to have strength to get through the suffering or to deliver them from the suffering.

I have noticed in my own life that when persistent afflictions come, it often initially causes me to be angry at God because he does not seem to be answering my initial prayers. My initial prayers are often for God to fix the suffering (make it go away). But then I remember the faithfulness of God through the past twenty three years and all that I know of Gods love and desire for our good. So I do not stay angry, instead the fire of my anger moves me to seek God with a fiercer sense of urgency. It is in those times that I meet with God in a deeper way than I would have in times of comfort and ease.

Freedom

So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11

God opened my eyes to this in a way that I never understood before. For awhile now I have been understanding that there is incredible potential for the Christian to do anything because of who God made us to be. To be a Christian is to be indwelt by the Spirit of the God (John 14:17, Rom. 8:9). Literally that means that God is living in the Christian and the Christian’s body becomes the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). If God has taken up resident in our lives as Christians then God can do through us anything that He did through Jesus and greater things (John 14:12).

I have been learning that to walk in the Spirit is simply a choice by faith to allow the Spirit to fill us and lead us. When we are lead by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the old sinful life (Gal. 5:16). I have been realizing that the Christian life is impossible to live by our own effort, it must be the life and living presence of God flowing and working through our life. This is what I believe Jesus meant when he talked about our need to abide in him (John 15:5).

But it hit me in a way today that I had never grasped before. If Jesus is living in me by the Spirit and his life is at work in me, then I am dead to sin when I am walking in the Spirit. It has no hold on me. There is nothing that can hinder Jesus living in me. He is greater than everything, nothing can hold him back. I am completely free from sins hold… it has no power to control me or influence me unless I choose to give it the opportunity. This is what Paul was trying to say in Romans 6.

The mistake we often make is to interpret scripture based on our experience and reduce it to what we experience. We think that it is impossible to be completely free from sins grip in this life because we have never experienced life without the war of conflicting inner desires. But Paul was saying that we can be completely free because Jesus is living in us with all his power. It is no longer me living but Christ living in me (Gal 2:20).

This is the path to revival. Understanding who lives in us and all that He is able to do. When we choose not to hinder His working through us by choosing to sin, then He can begin to move in power through our lives and do anything He wants. Do not believe the lies of the enemy who will say that this cannot be so. Do not reduce the power of God to the limits of your previous experiences. Do not choose to love the pleasures and comforts of this life and quench the working of Gods mighty power through your life. Cast off the sins and things that so easily entangle us, and release your life to be used by God to accomplish incredible things for eternity in the years ahead. Reckon yourself dead to sin. Jesus has freed you by coming to live in you. Choose now to surrender all to him and let him guide you.

For more insight into how to practically release your life; www.transferableconcepts.com.

Not letting God’s Word fall to the ground

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  1 Sam 3:19 ESV

I am learning not to let God’€™s words fall to the ground (like Samuel).

God is showing me what it took for Evan Roberts to impact a 100,000 people. I watched a video about the Welsh Revival in 1904-5. When you watch the video, you begin to realize that Evan Roberts was seeking God with such intensity that people thought he was losing his mind. He was up long hours in the night and everything else was being neglected as he cried out after God; even his studying to prepare for the ministry. There was a hunger for God that would not be distracted by anything. Once he had a word from God about what to do, he went to his hometown, had a special service, and began to help others understand how to be filled with the Spirit. It was not enough to have a great meeting, and then go back to business as usual until next week’s meeting. No! Night after night he kept calling people to drop everything to meet with the Lord. This continued week in and week out until 100,000 people were saved in six months time.

There was the same kind of hunger that led Jesus into the desert. The Spirit brought Jesus to a place where there were no distractions and busyness. There Jesus and the Father settled on the front end of his ministry that he would obey the Father’s will. Satan tempted Jesus with everything he had to offer, but Jesus resolved to obey the Fathers will. Jesus would not be distracted by anything the world had to offer.

This is the kind of desire for God we need.  Revival in our lives is wholehearted love for God and being undistracted. Praying, reading God’s Word earnestly to hear a word from God and not getting distracted in following through with doing what God says. I see in our lives that often when we get a glimpse of God’s leading and working, we start to do what God says but then usually let it fall to the ground as we get distracted by other things. God’s word does not come to fruition because what God said does not get acted upon. Personal revival will soon come when we turn from sin, put aside all distractions that consume our time and keep us from prayer and doing God’s will, obey the Spirit promptly in everything he says to us in the Word of God, and boldly bear witness to Jesus.

This is what Jesus spoke of in the Parable of the Sower…

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and  bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:14-15 ESV

What will help us be undistracted?

  1. Scheduling an unhurried time with God everyday.
  2. Reading a chapter of the Bible a day to hear what God wants to say to us
  3. Writing down the insights and convictions of what we should do as we hear God’s word (a Spiritual Journal)
  4. Doing what God reveals to us in our daily time with Him
  5. Setting aside a couple of hours every few months to review our spiritual journal to make sure we are following through with what God has said to us
  6. Being part of a discipleship group or small group that will encourage us and keep us accountable to follow through

Seeing God

I went on a mission trip to South Africa and Mozambique in August of 2007. On that trip God taught me a significant lesson about seeing Him at work around me everyday. It was my desire to see what God was doing and I was frustrated by the realization that I was not seeing God at work everyday. I expressed this struggle to God.

Then God spoke to me from Matthew 6:22-23. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” That entire day I had been focusing on and thinking about things that I wanted or that I thought would make me happy. Because I was focusing on myself, I was blind to and missing the things that God was doing.

I was also looking for God to do big miraculous things and God reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. The Corinthian church was caught up in wanting God to do spectacular things. But in 1 Cor. 12:31 Paul says I will show you the most excellent way… and he proceeds to talk about loving others as being even more important than speaking in tongues of angels, having all knowledge, being able to move mountains, and dying as a martyr. 1 John 4:12 says “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” So whenever we see the Spirit of God moving his people to love and serve others, we are seeing God at work around us.

This is how God most often works in the world, through His people. God is not concerned about doing lots of splashy miracles to impress and amaze people. He is concerned as a Father patiently teaching His children to love each other. Where ever we see the Spirit of God working in peoples lives, He will be moving people to love and serve others with their lives.

With that word from God, I realized I was seeing God working around me everyday as I saw members of the mission team loving the children of Mozambique through Bible clubs and making meals for the poor. Through encouraging a poor pastor by helping him build his house. I saw God working powerfully through a missionary woman, Sally, who had dedicated her life to organizing an entire town to help five thousand orphans of AIDS grow up with hope.

But we can miss all that God is doing when we focus on our selfish desires and then we are in darkness. When our hearts love the things of this world that darkness is very dark indeed. God desires that we focus each day first on enjoying walking with Him. As we walk with Him, He will show us opportunities to help and serve people. Then we will be the light of the World and people will see God through us.