What is your “focus”?

As I believe I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I will soon be getting brain surgery. (July 26th to be exact…prayers appreciated!) We are hoping to find the “focus” of where my seizures are starting from and remove it to stop seizures.

So, trying to learn something from this, I was thinking how everybody is different. Not everyone has epilepsy. Not everyone who has epilepsy has a “focus”–a part of the brain that if removed can prevent seizures.

It reminded me of how everybody is different and what may be a problem for one may not be for another. For example, some things may be fine or even good for one, while for another that same thing may cause them to fall into sin, lead them away from Christ, or both.

We all sin. No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t be perfect. However, we can and should run from sin and towards Christ. Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t inherently bad, but are unhealthy or even toxic for us as an individual.

With my surgery/hospital stay, most of the time will be spent carefully analyzing seizures to find where exactly they’re starting—the surgery itself will only be a small fraction of the hospital stay. Similarly, where our problems are coming from can be quite a precarious task, and often times harder than actually taking care of the problem itself, but it is quite critical that we are doing this.

Many times we look for a quick fix–try taking out one thing, that doesn’t work, try something else, etc.–and that can easily make things even more complicated. One thing we can be sure of, and that’s that God knows exactly what our problems are. So guess who we need to go to if we want to find the root of our problems? Yep. You guessed it. God doesn’t hide these things from us, but if we’re not careful, our natural human tendency is to ask with our hands over our ears because we’re not so sure we’re going to like the answer.

Something I want to be sure to communicate is that no one is a perfect listener. It’s something that we can mature in, but as long as we are in our earthly bodies we aren’t going to have perfect ears. There’s been more times than one where I thought there was something I needed taken out of my life that I later realized I was wrong. But that’s ok. It is better to risk being overly-careful than being neglectful.

So, we need to take our hands off our ears and listen. Is there something that perhaps may be having a negative impact on your life that God may be asking you to take away, either for a time or permanently?

Is Christianity Decreasing?

As I’ve heard more and more of the percentage of the American population that claim to be Christians decreasing, it has really got me to wondering how many truly know what Christianity is. Perhaps I am seeing this wrong, but what I am seeing is less people claiming to be Christians who weren’t truly Christians in the first place. Not all, but a huge part of what America considers “Christianity”, has become very shallow and insincere. I think a lot of it is because much of the modern-day church has become very fact-based.

When I look around me and see the amazing detail of the creation of the world and how we can’t make a single blade of grass I wonder how people could even doubt God’s existence. The way so many things function—where if one single detail were off it wouldn’t work at all…can this really be a coincidence?

But I am slowly beginning to see that as I grew up in a Christian home, I had faith in Christ first—before all the details. And that’s where real Christianity starts—with faith.

God didn’t go to the Pharisees and perform a miracle to prove Himself. He went to the sick, the hurting, the hungry…those who were seeking and willing to step out in faith. God then reveals Himself to those who put their faith in Him.

A lot of the Christian church has been trying to prove themselves with facts—but to no avail because many non-believers already have their own “faith”. They already have something they believe, that they’ve grown up being taught and you simply can’t replace faith with facts. There’s nothing wrong with having facts, to be sure. I’ve been very fascinated by the history of the Church and all the details of God’s creation, but it’s not where my faith is based.

There’s something I have to give agnostics a credit for, and ironically, it’s their faith. Their strong belief that there is no God. It’s not really something they can prove, but nonetheless, they believe it.

A religion that stands is going to be one that is based on faith. It’s where your heart is set, what no words any man can say will convince you otherwise. Sadly, a lot of Christianity is no longer faith-based. What I’ve been seeing is as there have been so many discoveries and the world has learned new things, a lot of sincere Christians with a faith-based religion mistakenly have been raising up a generation of fact-based religion…which does not stand very long.

And this generation I am speaking of is not our current generation, but previous generations. There was a period in time where many families were growing up saying, “Well, the Bible says it, so it must be true.”, and “good people” keep the Ten Commandments and go to church. This is hardly “faith” that is being passed down, but facts.

I believe the decline of people who claim to be “Christians” is people who never had a faith-based relationship with Christ in the first place. Many grew up in “Christian” homes that literally had no faith…just facts. And then as they grew up, became more independent and were out in the world they were quickly surrounded by a “faith”, but not a faith in Christ…a faith that there is no God.

We need to realize that Christianity takes faith…without it, it won’t stand. Don’t build your life and family on facts, but faith in God and His Word to us. True faith won’t decline, but will grow.

Facing Our Problems

We’ve all got problems. Who doesn’t? It’s a part of life. Where it becomes a BIG problem is when it’s not taken care of. The roots of the problem grow deeper, and it becomes a lot more to deal with…more than we can deal with on our own.

Identify
Before a problem can be worked out, we have to know that it’s there, and what exactly the problem is. We can usually tell when something isn’t right, though sometimes if we’ve been ignoring it for a long time or have put our hands over our ears to God it becomes as though it isn’t even there. Sometimes it takes some digging to find out what exactly it is, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, God will help us see what needs healed or removed from our lives. Until we find out what it is, we can hardly do anything about it.

God is Bigger
Thankfully, our God is able to handle ANY problem, no matter how big. But in order for that to happen we have to lay it down at His feet and give Him control.

The Roots
Once God reveals to us what it is that needs healing or removed, we need to find the ROOT of the problem—what has caused it, where it is from, and what can be done to prevent it from happening/being there again. Sometimes there are things that we need taken away or something we are used to doing that needs to stop. It’s not always easy to do, but without being willing to remove the root of the problem, the problem will likely grow back.

Healing and Restoration
As children of God, He is our Protector, our Healer, our Guide, and so much more. It is in Him that our trust should be found. No matter how much it may hurt to take away things that need taken away, God is able to heal, restore, and bring things into our lives that are MUCH better. He brings a satisfaction that nothing and no one else can bring.

So let’s not ignore our problems any longer, but rather face up to them allowing God to heal and restore. We’ll be glad we did.

Is God Our Focus?

What should our life be like if we are keeping our focus on God?

1. Praising Him
You may wonder why I began with praising Him. Well, it is easy to praise God in the rare situations that everything is perfect and things just seem to be falling into place…but what about when we’ve lost a loved one, we feel like we’re failing, or just have no idea what in the world we should be doing? It is these times that it can be the hardest to praise God—but it’s these times where it is most needed, for our own sake.

By praising Him anyway, it helps us remind ourselves of our priceless blessings of eternal life, God’s love, mercy, and grace that are way more than anyone else can give. It helps us shift from regret, fear, anxiety, and sadness, to contentment, faith, peace, and joy.

“My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.”
Psalm 71:23

2. Following Him
Especially since I lost my license, (due to my epilepsy) I can TOTALLY be a backseat driver. I probably don’t have to get into too much detail to say that it’s not typically something that brings good results, and neither does trying to tell God where we need to go. There’s many times I need God to tell me something like, “Will you just let me drive?”

He can see far down the road while we can only see what’s right in front of us. We need to give Him control. If our focus is on God, then He is in front of us doing the steering.

3. Listen, talk, listen, talk…
Obviously, if we are a Christ-follower we need to have good communication with Him, commonly known as prayer. It’s easy to put our communication with God in a box–a certain timeframe of the day only, giving Him no attention the rest of the day. But what kind of relationship is that? He’s always with you, and doesn’t only speak through words.

Watch out for situations where there is someone in front of you in need and listen to see if God is asking you to help that person. When someone gives you encouraging words, don’t only thank them, but thank God who likely was speaking through them. Look for situations where He may do the same through you.

5. Relying on Him
We should be desperately seeking God for help, not placing our trust in the world or ourselves. While He many times helps us through others, we need to understand that it is still from Him. He alone should be our source of strength, wisdom, love, patience, and many other attributes that are critical to living our lives as a true follower.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

I started to add a sixth thing on sharing the gospel but then stopped myself as I thought of something. (It’s amazing what you can learn from blogging! 😉) I felt like that would indicate it being something we should take the lead in when it’s not. If we are in constant communication with God, relying on Him, letting Him take the lead with a desire for His will, then His will will come about, including the spreading of the gospel. We need to focus on following Him, and let Him take care of the rest.

(Okay, just curious who noticed I skipped four? 😜)

 

God’s Seed

Hearts are hardened as stone and you ask why the seed does not grow?
The seed is planted among thorns and you wonder why when sprouted the plants are choked up?
It is no use to plant where the ground is not prepared to receive it;
time is wasted when you plant where nothing will survive to harvest.
Search for ground that has been prepared;
look for land that has not been swallowed up.
Plant where it will be well-tended and fed;
if there is no water and sun it will whither away.
Be sure the roots go deep so that a storm only makes it stronger;
plant among others so that it may bear fruit.
Do not keep the seed to yourselves or hide it away, for if you do when the Master returns it will be taken away.

 

 

Days of thought

1496375180351Once a month or so I find myself in deep thought for hours-sometimes for an entire day-so much so that having conversations, reading, studying, or getting anything that seems useful done is pretty much hopeless. For awhile it was pretty annoying, but then I got to thinking: (again, haha) perhaps this will cause me to make better use of the rest of my time.

I soon realized I needed to take this opportunity to re-evaluate what in the world I am called to do, if I’m where I’m supposed to be, and if I’m headed the right direction. Because if I don’t stop, think, and earnestly pray to God asking if I’m where I should be, I could be off track for days, months, or even years…so busy and engrossed in what I’m doing that I don’t realize that something is seriously wrong, and I’m wasting away a whole lot more than a day.

For me, these times of deep thought usually begin when I’m very moved by a person in need, hear of Christians that are killed for their faith, or see the way the church in America has become so weak and watered down. It’s almost like I’m seeing these things for the first time, or seeing them from a different perspective. It’s a very humbling and sobering experience, for sure. Though in a way it can seem kind of depressing, at the same time it stirs up something inside me to help, to do something about it, to make a difference…to really live my life to the fullest potential as a Christ-follower.

Though everyday I try to ask God to shape me into the person He wants me to be and offer my life as a sacrifice to Him, it really helps to have these hours of really digging deep to remember why I’m doing that, to see what exactly that should look like…and I want to encourage you to do the same.

Take some time to evaluate, refocus, and prioritize. God will likely place something totally different on your heart as we are all unique…perhaps it’ll be coworkers that you know are living in anger and don’t have the love of Christ in them that you may have the opportunity to witness to. Maybe He will give you a desire to help the homeless. Perhaps your very own children are straying away from Christ and simply need a good relationship to support and guide them in their faith.

It helps to remember what our goals are and how we are going to reach them so we can better prepare ourselves for the journey…the Way God has called us to. The Way God has called YOU to.

Examination

IMG_5548Nobody likes being tested. But, like it or not, it is a good thing and is something we need. By seeing where we are at, we can see where we need to grow.

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” (2Cor.13:5)

So how do we know if our faith is genuine? Well, there’s the fruit of the Holy Spirit that should be seen if He is inside us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal.5:22-23)

But, this is the fruit of the Spirit. Being what seems like a loving, kind, and gentle person doesn’t necessarily mean the Holy Spirit is inside us. To see whether we are in the faith, we have to go deeper than that, to the roots: our mind.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; (Isaiah55:6-7)

Where is your mind “set”?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
(‭‭Phil.‭4:6-8‬)

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
(‭‭Col.3:2)

We are human. And to put it simply, our desires and thoughts as an earthly human aren’t always that great. But we have a choice. We don’t have to be of this world. It takes continuous earnest seeking, surrendering, and faith, but we can have the mind of Christ!

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Rom.8:5)

As long as we are here on earth our mind will not be perfect just like everything we say and do cannot be perfect. What we can do, however, is surrender to God’s perfect will. Allow Him to work us and shape us into a vessel fit to glorify Him.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”(Rom.12:2)

Now, this isn’t to see if you’re “good enough” or if you “measure up” but to see if you have genuinely put your faith in Christ, are no longer relying on yourself, and are truly surrendering and seeking God with all your heart, mind, and strength.

A scripture that has been special to me and I read/pray everyday is Psalm 51:10.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  I think one of the reasons why it has stuck out to me is because it starts with “create in me a clean heart”. Part of having the mind of Christ, is getting rid of the old mind, making room for something much better, and MUCH stronger.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1John4:4)

So, take some time humbly before the Lord and do a check-up. See whether you are in the faith, and remember, God looks at the heart.

Galatians 1:10

Who’s pleasure am I seeking?
Am I workin’ for my own?
Do I think I have control,
That I’m takin up a loan?

Is this my life or another’s?
For me or for my brothers?

Did I give it to my God when I was born again?
Or was I just speakin’ words, hey, I’m just sayin’…

…if I’s a dyin’ to my self, an’ takin up my cross,
Puttin’ my old life on the the shelf, though it may seem like I have lost,

Can I take parts of it back,
Did I really lay it down?
Is the old body still intact,
And just covered with a gown?

If I gave it up to God,
Then it’s His pleasure that I am after.
The King who offers life,
the One who rules forever. 

So, I follow the True Leader,
not the world or my best friends,
Not the popular crowds or preachers,
For it’s God who comprehends,

The big picture, He can see,
What is better, who we should be. 

He will speak through us all, in the ways that He sees fit,
He will teach through His servants, as we all are closely knit. 

He will be revealed in situations, 
in His time and perfect plan.
Not our carefully laid out schedules,
If it’s all in our God’s hands.