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Archive for the tag “Jesus is the answer”

The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

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The Big Picture

When I worked in the corporate world, one of the things that always came up on my review was the fact I couldn’t always see the big picture. I would get bogged down in details. I am a details kind of person so I couldn’t ever make headway on this weakness. However, I am a great helper. If someone else has the big picture, I am great to help meet those big picture goals. As long as someone else can see, I will be the one to go to in order to get it done. That’s the corporate world, however. In the spiritual world, I can see clearly. Well, most of the time.

One of the things I keep asking God is for more wisdom. These days, it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth. You can’t just go to the internet or the local news channel or read the newspaper unless you know the ones who are behind the scenes writing the information. Everybody has a perspective that may not be coming from the True Source. We all need more discernment in this day and age. I am sorry to say it’s not going to get much better. I hope it will – by God’s grace maybe He will allow another graceful period. I pray for it; however, so far I don’t see it coming. God’s hands may have been taken off of us for good and given over to the “depraved” mind foretold in Scripture.

So what’s the big picture here? One of the most important things I see is the attack made on the family in these last few years. Family is important to me. I love my family as you could probably guess from previous postings. Family is also important to God. God instigated the family concept from the very beginning. The concept of family portrays His family. God created a nation out of one man Abraham; He set forth this concept of His family blessing the earth through Abraham’s ultimate offspring, Jesus. Through Jesus we are adopted into His family when we believe Jesus is God’s Son.

The other day, I heard it said this way by Rice Broocks: “Jesus became a man to live the life we should have lived; who died the death we should have died; three days later He rose from the dead proving He is God’s Son.” If we believe this and have turned back to God (repented) and trust Him daily, we are part of His family. Robert Morris said recently “sinners don’t go to hell. Unbelievers go to hell.” We all sin and fall short of God’s standards. It’s the belief in Jesus that allows us into heaven.

Hell was not made for man; it was made for God’s enemy Satan and his demons. However, Satan has been active in making sure he doesn’t go alone. He distorts the truth and makes us doubt God. He turns our attention to the wrong things and makes us desire the wrong way and lies about the consequences. And we believe him instead of the truth found through Jesus – His way is the best way to an abundant life – everything else leads to death.

Most think it’s an exclusive club – however, God made it inclusive – whosoever will believe – anyone can believe. There is no condemnation for our sins – Jesus came to forgive our sins – Satan condemns us. If we will turn away from our sinful life, through Jesus we can live a life devoted to Him. But Satan makes everything else seem better. Why? Satan’s goal is to become like God; he wants to be worshipped and have his own throne. And right now, he is having a field day. One of Satan’s goals is to go after the heart of the family. If the family falls, everything else is easy pickings.

I watched an interview with Pastor Tony Evans’ children – Priscilla Shirer led the interview with her siblings. It was an interesting conversation. They had their issues with sin, but today they are stronger together because of the battles they faced. My own family had our issues too. And today, we are stronger too. Our family unit is solid because of our deep bound with each other and also of the belief we have in Jesus. He is our rock and our fortress. He holds us together.

When families don’t have this anchor, it’s no wonder they are tossed about like a ship on the wildest ocean. They believe Satan’s lies and families are destroyed because of it. Whatever the person is considering today, if it is not found in Jesus; it’s a lie that will have consequences. Killing the family, having an affair; molesting a child; whatever that lie spoken in the dark will have devastating consequences.

Only Jesus will bring forth life – abundant life. He promised it through His death and resurrection. He paid for sin in full by His blood – His sacrifice so that we could live differently. This is the Good News we need today – as Rice Broocks recently said – it’s Good News because it’s True News. We’re getting so used to fake news when we need to be reminded there really is True News we can count on. Jesus is the Big Picture we need today to bring hope to this worn out and weary world. Know your source of Truth.

Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 (TPT)

For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life. Romans 8:13 (TPT)

What is Today?

Have you ever lost track of what day it is? I work three days a week. If the boss calls off one of those days, it gets me off track. When I wake up, my first thought is “am I supposed to get ready for work today?” I have had one of those weeks. I didn’t work on Monday so Wednesday felt like Monday. Then Friday didn’t feel like Friday. This is Saturday, right? If you are retired, you may not be able to answer that question either.

I get a little overwhelmed with all the chaos in the world today. I am weary with all the fighting and hatred that seems to flow through every channel – whether it’s political or not. I get discouraged to think we could never pull through this strife. Maybe we will, but sometimes I don’t ever think we’ll get back on track. I think “Pandora ’s Box” has been opened and it can never be shut again. But then I remember what day it is. Scripture told us this would happen. We are close to the end if not at the very end of the times as we know them. These are the last days and it would be well to remember it.

This week’s reading was the book 1984 by George Orwell. It is a very negative book of a world gone off kilter. I don’t think I have ever read it before. There was a quote read recently which made me pick up the book at the library. It was an interesting vision of the future. Written in the 1940’s during the German campaign to rule the world, the time was dark anyway and the author projected that darkness into word. What’s worse is some of the concepts in his book may be seen in this world we live in today. Sometimes, I would forget this was just pure fiction in 1940’s Europe.

The famous line in the book is “Big Brother is watching you.” Big Brother was the governmental entity of his fictional country Oceania. In his fictional account, there were only three countries – established by the major superpowers – US, Russia and China. All the other countries had been conquered or surrendered to these three powers. And these three were always at war with one another. There was no peace. I am glad it was fiction – but it was a little too real for me and left me feeling this great divide of where we are and where we should be with no hope of crossing the gap.

I know this post seems to be a little down. However, when I picked up my Bible this morning I read a passage which reminded me this is not all there is. Yes, the world has gone crazy. I believe demons have been released for a frontal assault. But this is not the last word, God has it. Things may seem crazy, but God is just putting things into place.

I see this by the way of Israel. Israel is our time clock. All eyes should be on Israel. And God protects His people. He always has and He always will. Look to Israel. They still exist today because of God’s grace and mercy. However, the enemy never gives up either.

Russia, Iran and Turkey are aligning against Israel, just as the Prophets foretold it. The world hates Israel. Why? It’s a tiny country. What have they done to deserve this hatred? They exist. That’s the only reason. Satan has been trying to destroy Israel since God promised Abraham that his nation would bless all others by the way of Jesus.

Jesus was hated by the world system. The world system has continued to hate Israel. This will never change. Jesus said because He was hated, His people would be hated as well. We have seen this in the past, but today it is so more pronounced. Hatred seems to be flowing more freely than ever before. Or maybe we have greater access through many channels.

In George Orwell’s account, they had two minutes of hate speech every week broadcasted throughout the land by the telescreens located everywhere. Two minutes – wouldn’t that be a great relief than the 24 hours we get every day. I know – it’s not that bad – yet. One day, it’s all going to come to a moment of decision which will change the world for good. I don’t know who’s going to make the critical decision, but all I know it’s within God’s timetable and His plans.

Before that point in time, we have an opportunity to remind those around us, “God loves you.” At no other time in history is that message more needed. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Let us make the most of this day and be the light in this dark world. Someone needs us today.

Dear Lord, help us to make the most of this time before it’s too late. Give us the blessings of grace and mercy to love those around us for the sake of the Kingdom. Let us be the people who You have chosen for this hour. Grant us the wisdom to discern the time and the opportunities that are before us. Help us to choose to live for You and die to ourselves today. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

Psalm 3:1-3

The Covering

On this pleasant summer morning, I went for my daily walk around the neighborhood. There was a nice breeze, low humidity – which could be seen as a miracle for a North Carolina day – just a pleasant walk around the circle through my neighborhood and the newly developed one adjacent to ours. No real thoughts were circulating through my mind while I was traversing the roads. However, I began to notice the weeds in a few yards.

For our neighborhood that’s nothing new. It’s an older neighborhood. But in the newly developed one, it was thought-provoking. Weeds are opportunistic. They will always come up when things are left untended. In new lawns, it’s easy to spot those little weeds popping up. In the older yards, weeds just begin to creep in little by little. For the people who are diligent in their lawn care procedures, weeds do not have the chance to grow. I would have thought in the new development, the people would have been more diligent in their care. After all, they just spent a lot of money putting in their new lawns.

As I considered these things after my walk, I thought about weeds in general – physical and spiritual. In the physical world, weeds are a natural covering for the earth. Barrenness is actually a wound to the earth and the weeds come because the earth wants to heal – to fill in those barren places. We think of weeds as a nuisance. But most weeds are really beneficial to the earth and actually to our bodies. Dandelions are quite good for us. I once heard God did not create barren places. He created the Garden of Eden. It was paradise – lush and beautiful. It was the fall of man who brought the barrenness – the desert places.

Maybe the physical barrenness is actually a physical representation of our own barrenness of soul. We too have fallen into that barren place through the fall of man. Our physical bodies are set on destruction. It’s the way of our fall. We see the decay every day when we look in the mirror. A couple of more wrinkles – a few more gray hairs. Well, if you’re my age. If you are still young with your whole future ahead of you, you might not see it for a few more years. However, it’s a given. It’s going to happen.

But like the earth, the body wants to heal. It has an innate ability to cover over the hurt areas in order for the body to heal. Cholesterol can be seen as such. It covers over the damage in an artery. It’s unfortunate that too much of it can cause blockages and the doctors want to reduce the cholesterol circulating through the veins. However, the root of the problem is not cholesterol, but the damage in the arteries. What caused the damage in the first place?

What is the root cause of the barrenness in our souls? What created the damage in the first place? If the person has never known Jesus as Lord and Savior, then the root cause of barrenness for that person is the fall of man – the natural fallen state. For the person who knows Jesus, then it might be a lack of attention to the weeds that creeps in when left untended. Weeds are an indication, like cholesterol, something needs to be addressed.

Through Scripture, we are told one day we will have a new body at the resurrection. We have to live with what we have for now. We intentionally need to care for our bodies now, but it still will end up in the dust one day. But behold the new body and the new earth one day! What a beautiful day that will be. Right? No more destruction or decay. No more tears from pain. No more heartache or headaches. No more brokenness. Total healing. Today, we don’t have total healing. Today, we have problems to address. We have to be intentional in dealing with the weeds if we want a better today.

The lush lawns are a perfect example of fertilizing and lawn maintenance of trimming and weeding. If left untended, it will go back to its natural state. Our natural state is the way of fallen man. Let’s be diligent today of staying fertilized in God’s Word with the proper pruning to keep our hearts clean and ready for Jesus’ presence. One day, Jesus will return. Let’s make sure our lives are lush and beautiful for that day! Let’s get busy trimming and cover what’s barren through the presence of Jesus so we can be fruitful for God’s Kingdom. It’s time to address those roots. Dig it out before it ruins your Garden.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:12-16

Keep it Hot!

What better message to send on a hot summer day than to fan the flames to make us even hotter. What? Okay, this morning I read the passage about the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3. That passage always checks my spirit. The church was considered to be lukewarm – neither cold nor hot. Laodicea was known for their lukewarm waters – it was disgusting and people would spit it out. Jesus said He wanted to do the same with their attitude toward God.

My spirit does a check to see if my attitude has shifted into indifference or stagnation – being lukewarm toward God. I don’t want it to go there, but oftentimes, I find myself easing back into patterns that allow this unholy attitude toward God. It doesn’t take much for my eyes to shift away from Jesus into worldly patterns. I spend less time with Him in the mornings because I want just a few more minutes of sleep. Or watch television at night taking me away from more godly pursuits.

I have heard it said the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Indifference can stop any movement of God. I have found myself in those indifference moments because a social problem doesn’t concern me. However, our attitude toward social issues can become extreme. Tony Evans made the remark in a recent message “we are more concerned about what’s going on in the White House than what’s going on in God’s house.” That was a jolt to my spirit. We’re fanning the flames in the wrong place.

As Christians, our involvement in political things should be for the right reason. As Christians, we need to make sure we elect people who have godly values so that the government will be kept in check. However, as Christians are priority is saving lives – spreading the message of hope and restoration. We are to reflect Jesus to those around us. Many times though, we go through these seasons of dryness where nothing is happening in our spiritual lives to keep us on fire for the Lord. Our faith seems to have diminished and our hope seems to have fizzled when more and more of the world’s problems creep into our spirits.

It’s hard not to let those issues turn our heads into wrong actions and wrong words when our spirits have not been thoroughly cleansed by the presence of Jesus. My heart hurts when I hear words spewing out of person’s mouth that do not glorify God and these things are said by a supposed Christian. I also have to check my spirit when I want to judge that person. I don’t know what’s going on in that person’s heart to cause words to flow that are not edifying anyone. I am not to judge but to love. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.

I want to see God move again. It’s time for the spirit to be checked. A lack of faith or an attitude of indifference can keep God from moving. Maybe we’re not in a good place to hear or see God. Maybe we’re in a place where there is only lukewarm water flowing. Maybe we need to move to where the living water is flowing sweet and clear. Maybe we have lost our first love.

When the first church began, it was through the Holy Spirit’s tongues of fire resting on the people. The people had gathered together in prayer and worship before the Holy Spirit came down. They fasted as well. They were anticipating something to happen – Jesus told them to wait for it. They prepared for it; and when it happened, lives were changed dramatically.

I believe we can have that again. I believe God wants hearts turned toward Him again like it was in the beginning. He is waiting. Jesus is standing at the door waiting for the door to open to Him. There is no handle on His side of the door – the door has to be opened by us. Are we preparing and anticipating His knock? It could mean a world of difference – not only for us as God’s people, but the world is looking to us for the answers.

Our attitudes have to change. God is waiting on us to fan the flames into a holy fire. Indifference – no. Passion for Jesus – yes, please. Faith – white-hot. Jesus could do nothing when there is a lack of faith. I believe Jesus is waiting on us to remove the indifferent attitude toward Him and toward others. God is ready to move mightily among us. I’m ready for it. Are you? Fling open the door and say yes, Lord Jesus, come.

I know all that you do, and I know that you are neither frozen in apathy nor fervent with passion. How I wish you were either one or the other! But because you are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, I am about to spit you from my mouth. For you claim, “I’m rich and getting richer—I don’t need a thing.” Yet you are clueless that you’re miserable, poor, blind, barren, and naked! So I counsel you to purchase gold perfected by fire, so that you can be truly rich. Purchase a white garment to cover and clothe your shameful Adam-nakedness. Purchase eye salve to be placed over your eyes so that you can truly see. All those I dearly love I unmask and train. So repent and be eager to pursue what is right. Behold, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If your heart is open to hear my voice and you open the door within, I will come in to you and feast with you, and you will feast with me. Revelation 3:15-20 (TPT)

The Only Answer

Can I be honest with you? The things going on in this country hurts my heart. I don’t know what the answer is, except Jesus. I don’t know how to fix all the strife, but Jesus does. Why doesn’t He do it? Why has God given us this free will when it drives us so far from Him? Why doesn’t everyone love Jesus?

Mark Lowry has written a new song about Jesus called What’s not to Love? “Jesus took my place. My sins have been erased. It’s about amazing grace.” Yet, in this world, Jesus’ name is a curse. People would have you talk about anything else than mention the name of Jesus. Why? I just don’t understand.

Over the last few weeks, I have been researching my family tree. I recently connected with a long distant cousin through a DNA test. The company I used for the test links DNA relatives and gives us the option to connect. One of the DNA relatives contacted me to share ancestry information. She was high on the list as far as segments matched, so I thought why not?

After connecting with her, she put me in touch with her mom who had been researching the family for years. The mother had a nugget or two that I did not have that has led me to my family roots from the turn of the 18th century. I found the link all the way back to England.

What’s really fascinating about all this (in my opinion) is that after coming to America, my family line lived in the south. Every part of the south – from Virginia to Texas. I know my Dad’s family was all southerners too. Now, I know I have southern blood through and through. I’m sure with the southern roots, someone in my family fought in the Civil War. Maybe. I don’t have any proof that they didn’t; I assume some son had to go and probably died. I don’t know what they were thinking if they did, or even if they even had a choice.

I now know my maternal side of the family comes from farmers who had lots of children. They weren’t rich. They kept moving south every couple of generations or so. I don’t know what they were searching for – maybe free land. I do believe most of the people in my family line were Christians. There seems to be evidence of it. It’s probably why the first family came over from England to escape the “state run” religion. That’s speculation. They were good, hard-working people. Again, speculation.

But this I do know, they were not perfect. They had their sins as I have my own. Sins run in my family line – both sides. Yours too. We are an imperfect, sinful people. And nothing will change that fact. We all need Jesus, whether we like to admit it or not. He is the only One who can change hearts, even now in this mess we have going on today.

Jesus said though, that He did not come to bring peace but division (Luke 12:51-53). Families will be split because of Him. Every person will have to choose for themselves whom they will serve. There are only two options. If they do not opt for Jesus, then the default is the other. Most people will not agree with that statement. They think there are many roads to heaven. I wish that were true. But if it was true, Jesus gave His life for nothing. If it’s true, He died a horrible death, not only that, but was beaten until He was unrecognizable. Jesus could have sent for angels to come and rescue Him from all the suffering. But He didn’t because He knew the truth. He is the only way to our Father in heaven. And we are only saved from our sins when we believe in Him.

Unfortunately, the ones who do not opt for Jesus will keep this world in chaos, and even more so as the day approaches when Jesus will return for His church. The signs are getting closer together to demonstrate that time is short. It might take another twenty years, but I don’t think so. I think we are about to run out of the grace period, which is what we have been living in since Jesus left us the first time. Jesus will fulfill the prophecies of His return. Count on it. Make sure of your election to serve Him as the One and Only worthy of serving. What’s not to love? Good question.

So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

Pursuing the best life

I got a notice a couple of weeks ago that AT&T will be coming through my neighborhood to install a fiber optic line. A couple of days later, there were multiple colored lines spray painted in my yard and on the street. Then the real work began yesterday. Men were digging and drilling holes across the front of my yard. As I was watching them (for at least a few minutes at a time), I noticed there was a particular hard place for them to dig and drill. The place was near another hard place that I found a year or two after I moved into my house. The hard place was really a very large rock that extends from the front of my house to the back of the house; I assume the same rock. I didn’t know though that the rock extended to where they were digging. And apparently under my driveway. They were having a tough time making a trench under the driveway. They had to stop and readjust multiple times. They eventually got around the obstacle, but it took a couple of hours in the hot sun to get the job done.

All this was happening while I was preparing to write this blog. Before the men showed up, I had all the best intentions to write all day. I had several things to get done, but I got very distracted. I get easily distracted when it comes to my writing times. Over the last few months, it’s been a real struggle to sit down and write. It’s been very discouraging. Usually the words would flow before I sat down to write, but it’s not like that right now. However, when I sit down to write and focus on what God puts before me, the words come. The trouble isn’t writing, it’s sitting down to write.

My pastor spoke about focus this past Sunday. We are bombarded with distractions all around us. Everything can get us off track. The enemy uses the world to get our attention. The worldly things draw us away from God. Dr. Tony Evans said in a message last month that God doesn’t want us to love the world because it’s run by Satan. The world leaves God out. God will not compete with Satan. When we focus on worldly things, we worry. We place too much emphasis on things that do not matter; they are temporary and unimportant in the long run. We should look at things through an eternal lens. Will this thing matter to us in 100 years? We are after all eternal beings and will be somewhere in 100 years.

It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit. Martha was upset that Mary wasn’t helping in the kitchen. Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus, but Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was needed in the kitchen. But Jesus said, My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT) Mary was focused on the most important thing in that moment – Jesus. Martha was distracted by her work, and she failed to see the things that truly mattered.

Jesus is the solution for our worry. When we focus on Him, He gives us a different perspective on our circumstances. Only Jesus is bigger than our worries. We should focus on the One who can fix our circumstances; who controls all things.

Jesus told us through Scripture that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (Deut 6:5). In other words, seek Him first and everything else falls into place. The Israelites were instructed to repeat this commandment over and over; to tell their children, to tie this commandment to their wrists and foreheads, and to write the commandment on their doorposts. This commandment was essential to keep God’s people focused on what mattered. When Israel forgot, they were lost and exiled. There were removed from their Promised Land because they chose idols instead of God. They lost their focus on what really mattered.

When our lives are centered on Jesus, He will lead us to the Promised Land; the best place. He doesn’t remove our circumstances, but He gives us peace in it. Jesus is our Shepherd who protects us against the enemy. He leads us to the green pastures and the cool living water to refresh our souls. Jesus said there’s only one thing worth being concerned about. Like Mary, have you found it? Sit with Jesus for a while before you do anything else and let Him be your guiding light. Find eternal value that will matter in the long run.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

There’s a Difference

I have been told that I am different. My tastes are unique. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease eleven years ago, I eat differently than most people. The first Easter after my change to a healthier lifestyle was the first time I experienced the reality that I was totally different. My Mom was still alive and well at that point. The family was together as was the tradition for holidays. As usual, Mom fixed everyone’s favorite food, except I couldn’t eat any of it.

Mom forgot that I could no longer eat like the rest of the family. I had to have a different menu. Not because I wanted to be different, but because I had chosen to treat my disease with a food-based approach and not a medical prescription approach. My Mom didn’t get it. My family didn’t get it. And on that Easter Sunday, I had to come to terms with hard reality of being different.

I don’t think many people really like to be different, especially young people. We like our friends to be similar to us. Even our church life has the same mentality. We want to be like our neighbors – nice car, nice house, perfect lifestyle with perfect kids. And sometimes that comes with a hefty price tag. We go into debt to finance our desires. I heard Dave Ramsey say recently on a show that we need to be different. Normal is to be in debt. Different is to have a healthy bank account without the burden of debt. The Bible tells us debt is our master; we are a servant to it (Proverbs 22:7). Possessions possess us.

We all need a hard reality check. Jesus didn’t come to burden us but to free us from our burdens. No matter what we struggle with – health issues, debt, unhealthy habits, etc. – Jesus is the answer. How you say? If we are followers of Jesus, we should have a different mentality. We should have a different focus. Pastor Tony Evans has a teaching series on eternal focus. We should be living in the light of eternity. Possessions shouldn’t possess us – sell it. Move into something that is affordable. Free up the bank account so that it allows for Kingdom purpose – to help those in need at a moment’s notice.

Living a healthy lifestyle has changed me in more ways than just my eating habits. It has freed me from the burden of feeling sick and tired all the time. I have the freedom with a clear mind and satisfied heart. Living well is a choice. It may have a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it to be different. Finding the right people to encourage us along the way is important. We don’t all have to be alike. It’s healthy to have a diverse friendship base. They can teach us many things. However, there always has to be a true foundation of belief in Jesus so that no one can move us from Jesus’ rock of truth.

Jesus promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we receive His gift of salvation. The Holy Spirit is our guide to living a different life. The Spirit will give us a check in our spending habits, in our eating habits and in choosing a different path. However, we have to be sensitive to His promptings. If we continue to ignore the promptings, we will no longer feel His leading away from the things that will entangle us in an unhealthy life. There’s a difference in the way we live when the Spirit is in control. It’s not easy living differently, but it’s very rewarding when the Spirit gives us a nudge in the right direction. There’s always a blessing when we do the right thing.

As followers of Jesus, the world cannot give us what we desire. When we look to worldly things, we leave God out of the equation. When God is in the picture, everything is seen in a different light. I had a conversation last week with a fellow at the gym about marriage. He said marriage was overrated. I said, God has to be in the marriage too in order for it to be a good marriage. God has to be in the middle of our lives in order for it to be a good life. We have to live differently. It’s the only way to live a truly joyful, peaceful life. Jesus is the answer. Choose to be different!

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NLT)

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