Keep Looking at Jesus

Last post we talked about the importance of being changed by the Holy Spirit. In order to be a part of God’s Will we must be transformed from the inside out.

As we are being transformed so much of life can feel like it is in complete chaos. Anxiety may build up. In turn it is important to have a focal point that we can turn to in these moments. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, our focal point, the chaos becomes white noise and the anxiety is replaced with peace. 

Jesus stands with us through all the changes. When temptations arise to return to our old selves we look to Jesus to remind us where we are going. We are able to take that next step God has for us.

Any journey a person embarks on the final destination remains in the forefront. Decisions of what route to take are made based on where one is going. You remember where you are going as you are getting there. Destinations arise but fall to the wayside because we remain focused on Jesus. So we may see a roadside attraction and want to stop at it for a little while.  But when we get back on the road we remember our ultimate destination and focus on it exclusively. 

It is possible to become self-absorbed as we are being transformed from the inside out. We can stop and look back and be proud of how far we have come. A sense of “Look at me. Aren’t I great?” This temptation causes us to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we continue to pursue humility.  We are not detoured from becoming aligned with God’s Will. 

To avoid the distractions and temptations we keep looking to Jesus. As Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and walked on water so too we ‘glide’ while keeping our eyes on Him. Storms still arise but we do not need to worry. Jesus calms our fears as we ride out the storm together.

As we keep looking at Jesus we see how God is moving in the world. We see His Word going out and returning fruitful. We watch the Holy Spirit working through others to spread the Gospel. We get a glimpse of how God is using us as well to make disciples.

Here’s another way to visualize it.  A figure skater finds a focal point before going into a spin.  This is to help cut down on feeling dizzy coming out of the spin. As s/he rotates they turn their head quickly around to focus on the point. We keep Jesus as our focal point to cut out the noise of this world so we can continue to be transformed by Him.

It’s all part of the wonderful journey with God as we grow closer to Him. As we grow closer to God we become more a part of God’s Will in the world. 

This Week’s Challenge

This week decide on a phrase/sentence you will say to yourself to bring your eyes back to Jesus. Note how it helps you in those times of distractions.

9th Case Study of Philippians 4:8-9 — Think on These Things

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9)

What’s running through your mind right now?

You know those mental tapes that play inside your head that only you can hear. The ones that shape how you see yourself.

These mental tapes can be harsh critics. Pointing out all our perceived faults. Lying to us that we are not valuable, or loved.

They can also be healthy recordings inside our heads. Being the loving encouragement of the Holy Spirit constantly reminding how dearly loved we truly are by God.

Paul tells his readers in the passage what we are to surround ourselves with so that we hear the Holy Spirit clearly. To think about the right things; to see the brighter side of faith; to seek how God is moving.

When we surround ourselves with these things we are better equipped to resist the lies of the adversary. Then there is space, a quietness, to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. We are not distracted but rather free to be the child of God we are meant to be.

So the question posed to you is what do your mental tapes say to you? Are they lies from the enemy or are they encouragements from the Holy Spirit?

Do you “feed” your mind with healthy media? Things that teach you how you are a child of God. Friends who lovingly hold you accountable. Scripture reading so you hear directly from God.

It is these things that Paul tells his readers and ourselves today to think on. Thinking on them the mental tapes inside our heads will become healthy. When they are healthy we are more open to be used by God to expand His Kingdom.

This week I challenge each of us to begin changing the negative mental tapes to healthy ones. It will be a slow, long transition but we will get there. Keep listening to the Holy Spirit.

Let’s each begin by looking at the media we consume. Music, TV, Movies, Podcasts, Websites, Apps, Blogs/Vlogs, Youtube, Books, Magazines. 

Today sit down and make a list dividing each of the media you consume into 2 columns.  One Healthy. One Negative.  What ones need to change?  What ones are good to keep?

Follow Paul’s words and think on whatever is good, pure, right, noble, true, pure, lovely and admirable.  And see the God of peace will fill each of us with His unconditional, perfect love. 

This Week’s Challenge

Look over what you fill your mind with during the day and week.

Make the list suggested above.

Commit to exchanging 1 on the Negative side of the List with a new 1 for the Healthy side.

Note in your journal or prayers the difference you are beginning to see in this exchange.  What is God teaching in this change?

Is It Okay to Ask God a Question?

There is a misperception floating around that one is not able to ask God questions.  The thinking goes that true faith means that one blindly trusts God without thinking or questioning.  Almost like a robot who simply obeys without free will.

I’m here to tell you this is false.  God welcomes questions from us with open arms.  He loves them.

So have no fear to ask questions. Go for it.  Rest assured you are not alone.  Others have questions just like you.

Read through the Bible and one will find faithful man after faithful woman asking God questions and waiting for His response.

Here are just a couple of examples: 

David – Psalm 22
David is crying out to God in this psalm during a time of distress in his life.  Through the psalm he knows God is still with him and caring for him.  He doesn’t lose hope.

Habbakkuk – The whole book (Don’t worry it’s only 3 chapters long)
Habakkuk was an Old Testament prophet who sought to understanding God’s purpose in His actions towards His people.  Habakkuk may not fully understand the why but he remains resolute in giving God praise and worship.

Mary – Luke 1: 26-38
Mary is visited by an angel to learn that she is to given birth to the Promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.  She asks her question as to how it will come to be only to be reassured by the angel that it is God’s doing not her own.  Her response, faithful obedience and trust that nothing is impossible with God.

The mere act of having questions demonstrates a willingness by the believer to grow deeper in one’s relationship with God.  The person is processing what God is teaching her.  She internalizes the experience so her trust in God is strengthen by God’s doing. The questions asked are examples of faith development.

Now when I say question God I am not referring to challenging God in order to discredit Him.  I mean asking questions of clarification for the purpose of learning.  To challenge one’s presuppositions and gain a clarifying understanding of God’s love, grace and mercy.  

What areas of your walk with Jesus Christ do you have questions?

Be confident that you can bring them to God and ask away.  You will find He answers them in many and various ways: through the Bible, in conversations with fellow believers, prayer time with Him.  As God is showing you these lessons remain in community with fellow disciples so together you all can best understand what God is teaching all of you.

Remain patient.  God has His own timing in answering questions.  Some He may have you to wait to fully understand.  When He does continue to trust as the Holy Spirit leads you.  The waiting is part of the learning process.

As you go about your day feel free to ask away to God.  Then wait and see how He is answering them.  He just may surprise you.

This Week’s Challenge:

Write down 3 questions you have about faith. Go to the Bible and see how God has answers for them. You can use the search feature on Bible apps to help you find the topic in the Bible. Or try a concordance/index in your paper Bible to help you.  Note what God is teaching you in your devotional time this week. 

What does a Sabbath Really Look Like?

I love the Minnesota State Fair!  It is twelve days of fun, work and funny stories with friends.  We have a lot of fun together each night at work.  We look forward to it every year with great excitement.  By the end of the twelve days we are exhausted and ready to be done until next year. 

Needless to say the last night is rather bittersweet for us. Relief for it being the final night of work.  Sadness that it will be a few months before we are all together again. 

It can be very tiring to work most nights at the Fair late into the night and then get up early the next morning to go to one’s day job.  There are not many hours of sleep for any of us. 

Each year this is a great reminder to me the importance of keeping a sabbath day in my regular rhythm to the week. 

Our bodies require a period of time to rest and recover.  Not only is it physically healthy to have a rest day but God directs us to remember the sabbath.   

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
(Exodus 20:8) 

He directs each of us to keep the sabbath holy by setting aside one day each week to put the work aside and rest. 

Rest does not necessarily mean sleeping in and binge watch the latest popular TV show.  It can be going out for a day hike with a loved one or friend.  Or doing yard work. Or perhaps spending time on your favorite hobby.  The specific activity is not limited to a select few things.  Do what gives you life and renews your spirit.  

It can look different each week. Or be the different day of the week depending on the week’s schedule which is why it is important to schedule your sabbath on the calendar as you would any other event in your life.  

Don’t feel guilty for taking the day for yourself. The world will try to distract you and convince you that you will always need to be working.  Taking a day off is not a ‘sign of weakness’.  Taking a day off is actually a sign of strength and understanding what you need to be healthy.

As you prepare for your sabbath set some expectations or guidelines to help you. 

Before the day arrives decide how you will handle technology. Does the cell phone go on Do Not Disturb for the whole day?  Will you watch television?

Who will you spend time with that day?  Would you prefer to be alone?  Would you rather be with friends?

What does true rest look like for you? Will you get some chores done?  Maybe you want to go out on an adventure. 

Give yourself permission to have your sabbath look different as often or as much as you want it to have. Do not put too high expectations on the day. Whatever it is you do or don’t do be content during the day.  Have the mindset of being and not doing.  Be intentional to remind yourself of who you are and Who’s you are.  

This is a healthy rhythm to life and ministry.  Don’t try to be formulaic with it.  Allow each Sabbath to unfold itself to you as a present.  Enjoy the quiet adventure days as much as the daring adventure days.

Enjoy your sabbath day. Whatever it is you do have fun.  I pray you have a smile on your face and in your heart throughout the day. 

This Week’s Challenge

Schedule of Sabbath on your calendar for the next 3 weeks.  Write it on the calendar and plan the remainder of your week accordingly.

Next, think about what gives you life and inspiration.  Write down what does not.  Set boundaries for your sabbath so that it is the rest-filled, life-giving day as God designed it to be from the beginning.  

Lastly, have fun!

My Favorite Bible Verse

Ecclesiastes 12:13.  This is my favorite Bible verse.  I love it so much I had it tattooed on my right wrist.  

I know who has a favorite verse from Ecclesiastes that isn’t from Chapter 3?  Right? Me.  That’s who.  I may be in a minority of people who studied the entire book but I live my life by that verse.

It all started when I was first reading “40 Days of Purpose” by Rick Warren.  It is a great resource for any person looking to reevaluate their life and hit the reset button.  I highly recommend it if you have not read it yet.

The structure of the text is broken down by days instead of chapters per se.  At the end of the last day Rick Warren challenges the reader to write his/her life purpose statement.  Think of it as a mission statement for yourself.  

Interestingly enough and in God’s perfect timing I was studying Ecclesiastes at the same time.  Ecclesiastes is a book written by King Solomon, David’s son.  He is considered to be the wisest man in all of human history.  He had it all, wealth, leadership, wisdom, wives (and mistresses).  Ecclesiastes was his treatise for all the wisdom he gained in his life. 

Throughout the text he examines life and what is the point of it all.  He states how there is a time for everything (Chapter 3 and a Beatles song).  He goes through life and what he’s learn and what does it really mean in the end.  At the conclusion he summarizes it all with chapter 12, especially in verse 13:  

“Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind”

See when I first read this verse was immediately after reading the last chapter of “Purpose Driven Life”.  Rick just gave the directive to write your own purpose statement and I had no clue what to put down. In some ways once I read verse 13 I thought copped out of the homework assignment thinking I was set with using God’s words for my life purpose statement. But as the verse sat with me I realized the verse was perfect for me. 

After all is said and done the only thing we truly need to do with our lives to love God with all our hearts and do what He tells us to do.  Nothing more complicated then that.  We are created to be in relationship with God and serve Him with our whole lives. 

Each day I strive to love God with my whole heart and be obedient to the calling on my heart.  Some days are easier then others. But still as a whole this is the purpose of my life.  As I contemplate new job or ministry opportunities or general life decisions I run them through Ecc. 12:13.  Am I loving God with my whole heart with this decision?  How I am remaining obedient to Him with this decision?

It serves an anchor point for my life.  If I start to wander I look at my right wrist and return to my anchor point.  If I question life I glance at the ink and find all the answers I am looking for at that moment.  Ecc. 12:13 is my favorite verse because it helps me remain resolved in my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s why it’s tattooed on my wrist so I will never forget it.

So what is your favorite Bible verse?  

What verse helps you remain resolved in your journey with Jesus Christ?

It’s okay if you don’t have one right now.  As you are reading the Bible note any verse that jumps out at you causing you to say, “That’s how I’m to live my life!”  Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you to your favorite verse.  Be open to what God is teaching you.  See what gifts He has to share with you each day.

Hey if you need a place to start try your birthday.  Take the number for your birth month (January = 1, February = 2 etc.) and birth date (1st = verse 1, 2nd = verse 2).  So if your birthday is April 6th you look at the 4th chapter 6th verse and see what that verse has to say.  Don’t be overwhelmed.  Some books of the Bible only have 1 or 2 chapters in it.  So if you are born in November you will have far less books to check then if you were born in February.

My prayer for you is that you grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ you discover His purpose for you and you remain resolved in that purpose.  One day your favorite verse may just become your own life purpose statement.

This Week’s Challenge Begin searching for your favorite verse of the Bible.  Once you find one, either starting now or you already have one, journal why you love this verse and what the Holy Spirit is teaching you through it.  Pray to live your life as this verse teaches so that others may see you and give glory to your Father in Heaven.