Tag Archives: Focus

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

In our convenience-driven, consumer-dominated society, patience is often in short supply.  This is especially true when we are tested.  The Bible tells us that we are to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3).  Notice that these trials are not one’s that you seek out.  In other words, don’t go looking for trouble and then decide that God is testing you for your spiritual development.  Secondly, “meeting” a trial indicates an encounter, not an avoidance.  Yet we often buy in to the lie that just because something is difficult, it must not be God’s will, or must not be worth the effort.  When God appoints a trial to greet you, according to Scripture, it is with the intention that you will confront it, learn something from it, and the result will be steadfastness.  To be steady is to be constant, solid, strong, and certain.  Verse four says that when steadfastness has its “full effect,” you will be complete and lacking nothing.  It is not speaking of material wealth, but intangibles that are beyond value.  In fact, the next few verses speak directly about wisdom – an intangible that applies to every other area of your life.  Who possesses it? God does.  Is He stingy?  Never.  He “gives generously to all.”  Notice that full steadfastness lacks nothing – that includes wisdom.  The number one obstacle to becoming steadfast and managing trials is often a lack of wisdom.  The one condition for receiving wisdom?  Believe and do not doubt (verses 6-8).  Keep your eyes focused on Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Don’t get distracted.  Remain steadfast and the ultimate reward is a crown of life.  Is it a physical crown?  No.  The crown is not of gold or silver, but of “life.” What does it look like to be crowned with life?  Doesn’t that sound awesome!?  Rather than simply envisioning a fragrant garland of flowers, I imagine a legacy of bringing life to others, hope, compassion, and the love of Jesus.  I picture Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, and more recently Gary Sinise.  What an incredible legacy – to have so many lives touched in potent and eternal ways.  That is the kind of crown that far exceeds anything created by precious metals and stones.  So how do we sum up this loaded short passage of Scripture?  Be joyful – content and at peace, with thankfulness – when you are tested.  Ask the Lord for wisdom as you confront the challenge, and remember the lessons learned from it.  Over time, you will become more steady, patient, confident and complete.  This transformation is not going to happen overnight, but it will happen if you keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

 

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Mountaintops

 

Mount Snowdon.jpg

Mount Snowdon

Back in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a student ambassador trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  While traveling through Wales, one of our excursions was a trek up the highest mountain in the country, Mount Snowdon.  At 3,560 feet, it was the first time I had ever made an attempt to climb a mountain, but I made it to the top only slightly winded and the view was amazing!  I even went after a mountain goat and caught a small tuft of wool from its backside!  Several years later I attended a family reunion at Yosemite National Park, and had the opportunity to climb Mt. Yosemite with some of my cousins.  For context, I should explain that I live in Texas.  It’s mostly flat here, and much closer to sea level than the base of Mt. Yosemite, let alone it’s peak.  My cousins, however, live in Washington state and spend a lot more time climbing than I do.  My only previous experience was that of being in Wales, so I enthusiastically agreed to go.  It wasn’t long before they had to leave me behind, but I was determined to finish what I’d started, so I continued on.  Mount Yosemite is quite a bit steeper of a climb, and at 13,061 feet, I was in way over my head.

Yosemite Falls.jpg

Yosemite Falls

By the time I’m three-quarters of the way to the top, my whole body is shaking, and I begin to cry out of sheer exhaustion.  I sit for a moment, wishing that there is some way a helicopter can retrieve me, because I really don’t believe myself capable of going any farther.  A few other hikers begin to pass me coming down the mountain, and seeing my condition, they offer several words of encouragement.  While it is nice of them to say so, “You can do it” just is not believable.  What is the most encouraging is one woman who says, “You’re only 5 minutes away.  It’s just over that ridge.”  My problem is that I am focusing on my lack of physical strength, instead of the summit.  True to her word, the peak is just over that ridge and I am able to rest my feet in a clear pool of water and lay on the sun-baked rocks to restore my energy.

At church this morning, we were singing about God’s ability to move mountains, and I started thinking back to these two previous experiences.  Right now, reflecting on 2017 and looking forward to 2018, it feels somewhat like the Yosemite climb five minutes from the top, but there’s so much farther to go!  So maybe this is more like the Everest base-camp?  I looked that one up too, and base-camp sits at 17,600 feet!  I wouldn’t even make it to base-camp on my own strength, but this metaphorical climb has a summit worth reaching for… I’m not referring to wealth or fame, but the face of Jesus himself!  If I knew God were waiting at the top, I would do whatever necessary to make it because focusing on the knowledge of what is at the summit would be motivation enough.  I’ve been far too short-sighted, making things too complicated, trying to just balance the needs of today and feeling like tomorrow’s goals are always beyond reach…

2018 will have its own challenges, maybe you are struggling with a Mount Snowdon, or maybe you share my sentiments that 2017 got you to the base-camp of Everest and you’re staring up at the summit but focusing on your own failures, weaknesses, or limitations.  Let me share with you what God reminded me of this morning – one week in to the New Year – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I haven’t reached the summit yet, so I can’t tell you that you only have five minutes to go or that rest is just beyond the next ridge.  I can tell you that God has been with me, and often carried me, through an awful lot of very difficult times, and His strength is more than enough to carry you too.  He is here – in the middle of our weaknesses – cheering us on to the summit.  The climb is worth it.  He is worth it.  Don’t give up.

Path to Mount Everest.jpg

Mount Everest (near base-camp)

I Am a Dumb Bass

smallmouth-bass-picture

I began this year contemplating the word “honor.”  What does it mean to honor your father and mother?  What does it mean to be honored?  How does this abstract term manifest itself in our culture as opposed to another?  In contemplating all the different ways this concept could be broken down, I had difficulty determining which aspect to start with…and time passed…and I got distracted…

I am drawn back now to this topic, and to writing in general, because of the last few sermons given at our church.  A few weeks back, our Senior Pastor made an example out of fish.  Apparently, it is far easier to catch a bass than it is to catch a trout.  The way he tells it, trout are very discerning and test the bait to make sure it isn’t fake, while the bass will be fooled by anything shiny.  This comparative caught my attention, because I realized that I’m the dumb bass!  I have a tendency to be distracted by just about everything, and with a large family, it’s extra easy to fall into a cycle where you can’t tell what a distraction is from where you’re supposed to be focused at the moment!  I sometimes feel like the dog in the movie “Up,” who was distracted every time he saw a squirrel.  The louder, more sparkly, and more time consuming the venture is, the more likely that I am drawn into it!  My prayer lately has been, “Lord, help me to focus…on the right stuff!  Help me to say ‘no’ when I need to say ‘no.’  Help me to identify and then promptly ignore everything that keeps me from your purpose for me today, tomorrow and beyond.  Help me to remember who I am, and to act accordingly.”  I encourage you to read with me in the Book of James, Chapter 1…just read the whole book.  It’s not long, and it is intense!  The verse that I am clinging to at the moment is James 1:25,

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.”

I hope that you are able to be still, know that He is God, that He has a perfect plan, and that you and I are part of it!  We need to honor God with our focus!  What are you focusing on?  Let’s, together, remember that we are His ambassadors, armed and sent out with a message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love – like no other love on earth.  Dwell, meditate, recite, remember the words the God has left with us – they are more valuable than gold.  Do you want true freedom?  James 1:25 is the first step, your first clue, to a life you have only imagined and more.  Pray for my focus and I will pray for yours – Be more like the Trout! Let’s do this!