focus

Running Partners

When my wife and I were in our twenties, we were focused on staying fit and in shape, so we jogged.  It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but it was effective and brought the results I wanted.  There were many occasions I would have to jog on my own and I noticed that I seemed to struggle more when I was by myself.  When Kristen ran with me and we reached the point of quitting but we knew we needed to push ourselves and go a little further, we used eachother to go further.  Instead of running beside each other, one of us would get behind the other and the one in the rear would focus on the feet of the one in front.  That focus gave us the endurance to press on for a much greater distance.

God’s word encourages running partners who keep us focused and pressing on especially when we feel like stopping.  The disciple’s life is like a race that requires running partners.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares [us,] and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

So many times when I was running alone and my side started hurting me, I just stopped.  But every time I had my running partner with me, I found the strength to go a little bit further.  Perhaps you feel like quitting today and completely forget about your goals and why you started the faith-run to begin with.   Let this be an encouragement to you, give to God what’s weighing so heavy on you, get into a place where you can focus on the feet of Jesus, and run with endurance.  He will supply what you need to keep on going.

You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses of your faith-run.  Many of those witnesses are mentioned in Hebrews 11, but you also have those that live with you or those who are near you watching to see if you will quit or keep on going.  Keep going, because at the end of this race the prize is extraordinarily glorious!

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Keep Moving Forward

Sometimes we stand in line with other people and get busy talking or looking at our phones and the line has moved, but we haven’t.  It’s that way in lines or at traffic lights and it’s that way in life.  The horn blowing behind us makes us look up and take off again, or the person behind us may bump us to get us going again.  The thing is, you need to keep moving in your faith and walk with God.  Yes, there are things that get our attention and cause us to stop and spiritually pause longer than we should.  There are other things that we just need to put down because it’s not helping us move on.  Every follower of Christ should learn to repeatedly lay things to the side that are not helping us follow Christ.  We find that practice in Hebrews 12.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares [us,] and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.“

John Piper was the preacher who said, “The lowest question a person can ask when determining to continue a specific action is, “What’s wrong with it?”  He said the greater question to ask is, “Does it help me run?”  So, is there anything in your life that’s hindering your walk/run with God, and if so, don’t you think you should lay it aside?

You will continue to be handed things in life, and the Bible teaches us to evaluate each thing and to faithfully practice laying things aside.  Many things we have to lay aside are good things, not harmful or hurtful or even sinful, they are just not spiritual catalysts.  Your faith in God as a follower of Christ means you must keep moving forward.  Since Jesus is constantly moving forward, following means moving forward.

Change

It seems like things never change, but the reality is, things are always changing.  On a personal level and on a global level you need to know and prepare yourself for the change that is coming.  Our hope is that life will always change for the better, but we have learned from our own experiences and the life of other people, that that is not always the case.  God takes us through a variety of spiritual landscapes meant to mold and shape us and draw us closer to Him.  There are changes in our families, health, jobs, and places where we live, again some incredibly good changes, and others we would rather skip.  What you see now, you will not always be able to see.  Who you are with now may not always be with you, so you and I should live not in suspense of life changing, but always clinging to the only One who does not change.

Whatever you do, don’t stop preparing your heart and mind for the radical change that is coming on this world.  It will be a global change and it will directly change your life and the way you live.  Our great God and King is coming, but before He gets here, the landscape is going to change.  Don’t be like the one who says, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:4. Those are the words of a mocker who does not understand the tender mercies of God.  Change is coming and you should feel it in your heart, and it’s nothing to be afraid of, but certainly something to prepare for.  But how do you prepare for change?  Whether it’s personal change or much bigger, train yourself to keep your eyes on Jesus, the unchanging One.

Faith and Focus

When you are in a battle, you can’t afford any distractions.  When David went out to fight against Goliath, he was extremely focused so that nothing, not even the belligerent and belittling words of Goliath, drew his mind away.  David could have been distracted by the armor bearer walking in front of Goliath or by the Philistine army standing behind him glaring at him.  David could have been distracted by the noise of Israel’s army supporting him from behind. David could have been caught up in the moment emotionally, but instead he drew near in this epic battle the same way we should, with faith and focus.  Faith and focus are the key ingredients for victory when you are in a battle.

SCRIPTURES

“So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung [it] and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.“                          I Samuel 17:48-49

More than likely you are in some kind of a battle right now.  The battle may be for your highest affections or your unwavering devotion to God.  The battle may be concerning your health or something happening at your work place.  Your battle may be concerning your marriage or a relationship with your child.  Many times we forget that the battlefields are not only on foreign soil, but they come to where we live and raise our families.  We battle with temptations meant to take us captive.

No one was telling David, “You’re taking this thing too serious,” or “Just relax, because it’s all going to work out.”  You can just imagine that the chant from Israel’s army was the same, “Focus, focus, focus!”  No doubt, David’s eyes were on Goliath and every move he made, but his faith was on God who gave him strength and courage to get the victory.  Remember this, a truly victorious life is lived by those who recognize their battlefields and bring their faith and focus together.  Because of David’s faith and focus, God gave him the power to hit Goliath in the forehead with a stone and the giant fell down.  Giants still fall when they face those who have faith and focus!

Fear Stops Here!

In the epic story of David and Goliath, there is a very important lesson for every child of God to learn and live by.  The lesson is that what makes everyone else fearful and afraid, doesn’t have to effect you the same way.  David teaches us that fear should stop here, with you and me.  It should not transfer from us to those around us.  While the hearts of the men in Israel’s army melted at the presence of Goliath, and fear was passed from one man to the next like a viral disease, hear what David said,

“Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”  I Samuel 17:32   

While fear spread through Israel’s ranks for 40 straight days, when fear came to David, it didn’t phase him nor pass through him.  Goliath was a monster of a man, but David knew about the greatness of the living God.  David’s courage was not out of ignorance or self-determined arrogance, but it was out of complete reliance on the power and presence of Almighty God.  When you know God is with you, you have the power to stop fear in its tracks.  When you walk with God in a daily walk and experience Him in your life, you are much more able to keep your focus on God when fear comes knocking.

This may be exactly what you need in your life right now, to declare in faith and by the power of God, “Fear stops here!”  It should, you don’t have to receive it or spread it no matter what the source of that fear happens to be.  This only happens when you keep your focus on who God is, just like David did.  This only happens when you right-size what is coming against you with the living God who walks with you.  Fear stops here for those who are anointed by God to live different and to believe different than the rest of the world.  That means you believe God can win any battle and stop any opponent.  David believed God could stop Goliath because he had already experienced God in his encounters with the lion and the bear.  God is ready to be victorious in your life if you will keep your focus on Him and keep believing in Him.  Don’t transfer fear onto those around you, but transfer courage and faith in the living God.

Learn this Prayer 3

Learn this prayer, “Lord, save me!” But when he saw that the wind [was] boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” —Matthew 14:30 The apostle Peter along with the other apostles saw Jesus walking on water on the Sea of Galilee, and instead of waiting for the Lord to come get in the boat, Peter asked that he might come to Jesus walking on water. There will always be people like Peter who are never content to stay in the safety and comfort of their boat and courageous enough to ask great things of God. When Peter asked, Jesus responded with one word, “Come.” That word gave more than permission, but it was filled with glorious power to the point that Peter miraculously walked on water. But then like many do today, he took his eyes off of Jesus in a most critical moment—and when he did, he began to sink in the sea. When you start to sink in life, pray this prayer, “Lord, save me!” When you take a step of faith and then take your eyes off God, this is the prayer to pray.

Obviously Peter couldn’t save himself and he knew it, so he cried out to Jesus and it says in verse 31, “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” We begin to doubt the power and love of God when we take our eyes off of Him. When Peter cried out, Jesus didn’t hesitate to save him, and not only did Peter need it, but those left in the boat needed to see it too. God wants us to walk on water and do those things that require courageous faith and unwavering focus on Him. And if we get to a point where we are sinking, we have a simple but powerful prayer to pray, “Lord, save me!”

Smart Dog

I saw this and thought, “That’s a smart dog!” It really is amazing what dogs can do. Instinctively when Rascal sees another animal on the television, he runs toward it barking and growling. Now that’s not that smart, but he can tell the difference between an animal and a human. He can do the normal smart dog performance such as a hand shake, speak/bark on command. He can high-five, turn around and even give a hug. But on this particular morning, as shown in the picture, Rascal inspired me. Hopefully you can see this, but he is laying down in a rectangle of light shining through our living room skylight. Is that a coincidence or did Rascal intentionally lay down in that spot? It was intentional, and not only was he laying down in the light, but he was facing and looking towards the one he loves the most in the world, my wife.

Be inspired today to get in the light and by faith look towards your Savior. How do you get in the light and look towards Jesus? The best way is to open up God’s Word and ask God to shine His light on you. Feel the warmth of His love as you read those eternal words. Stay there for a while to demonstrate your devotion to Him. Jesus’ light is still shining even in a dark world.

John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

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