Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Change is Coming

Scripture: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Thought for Today: “Welcoming the Crucible”

God knows the secrets of the heart (Ps 44:21). In fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves. Yet we still feel a bit vulnerable yielding our lives to change. We ask God to use us and we know changes are coming, but being in the crucible of spiritual discipline can feel uncomfortable even to the most mature Christian.

Our Resistance:

When God tests and tries our heart, there are always things that firmly resist, because they have become our safety net. We have relied upon ourselves and trusted in own strength at times when we could not see clearly. The Apostle Paul tells us that many have exchanged the Truth of God for lies by serving and the worship of things that offer no real peace (Rom 1:25). He reminds us that we have all gone astray and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). These issues represent the baggage of idolatry and must be rooted out for us to enjoy the freedom found in Christ.

Real Transformation:

As much as we would like to believe we can change, transformation is not really something we can do for ourselves. It takes the power of the One who knows us best. We can change habits and shift our focus, but it is God who changes the human heart. When we step into the crucible of prayer and fasting, we make the most important move toward God’s best for our lives. The refining process frees us from sinful behavior, renews our thinking and enables us to discern the will of God more clearly (Rom 12:1-2).

God Loves and Receives Us:

Transformation happens in the safe place of His Presence, where the Holy Spirit gains access to those things that hinder our progress. God knows what is best for us and He always acts in our best interest by treating us as sons and daughters (Heb 12:4-11). We are reminded that when we are chastened by God, it is because He loves us and receives us as a father cherishes and loves his child. Remind yourself today that God loves and receives you as His very own son or daughter.

“Why do you spend money on what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me and eat what is good and let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isa 55:2)

God Shaped

“…but now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our Potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isa. 64:8)

According to the experts, clay has to be in the exact center of the potter’s wheel. If not, then the clay will eventually tear apart and become marred in the potter’s hands. The desired result will not be achieved and the beauty in the potter’s imagination cannot be released.

I find it helpful to remind myself often that I, as a believer must stay centered. We are as clay, and God (the ultimate Potter) shapes us into the masterpiece best suited for His purpose. “For we are His workmanship (His masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) We must be in the middle of the Master Potter’s wheel, if we want to become suited for Kingdom success. Our anointing, the touch of God upon our lives and the flow of spiritual influence; is hinged to staying focused on Christ. At the very center of the Potter’s Wheel is the most vulnerable place, and the most wonderful place; to live your life!

Needing a Savior:

The first step of being in the middle of God’s will is to recognize we need a Savior. We have fallen short of God’s original intent and we need someone to lift us up onto the “Potter’s wheel” again (Rom. 3:23-24). That position is where something significant can begin to take place. Being centered in Christ means we live a life of full surrender to what God, the Master Potter, wants to do in our lives. Surrendering to Christ allows Him to remove the most significant barrier – sin, and restore our originally designed relationship between the Potter and His clay. When we accept the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, He becomes our Savior and everything becomes new… our hearts, our focus and our future (2 Cor. 5:17).

Trusting His Lordship:

The second step is allowing Him to become “lord” and follow Him as His disciple. In order to see the kind of spiritual transformation we need, we have to submit our lives to Him. The Greek word for “lord” is kurios, pronounced koo-rios. In Ephesians  it says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2). Note that the Apostle Paul recognizes Jesus as our Lord and God as our Father. When Christ is truly Lord in a person’s heart, He becomes supreme in authority and is allowed to govern the heart and mind by grace. Something to remind ourselves, is that grace is a favor that the Holy Spirit opens up to us (2 Cor. 3:17-18) as we learn to walk in humble obedience to the Father’s will and purpose for our lives (Jms. 4:6-10). Through the practices of prayer of reading God’s Word, (the Bible) we are awakened on the inside (our spirit) to the force of God’s shaping hands. This is the power of the Holy Spirit at work transforming and renewing our minds to follow His will for our life.

The Master Potter:

God is the ultimate craftsmen, shaping us with His hands and perfecting us for His Glory. We trust Him to mold us, to shape us into a vessel fit for Kingdom use. It requires faith to believe in something you haven’t seen, but as you process all that God does within you spiritually; there is an assurance that grows and shapes even the way you think. The Bible tells us that there is a renewal of strength (Isa. 40:29-31) and a restoration of heart (Psa. 63:3-7) that comes as we position ourselves before the Father. This is because He loves us with an everlasting and unconditional love. He sees in us something beautiful, something we cannot see, something that He alone will cause to emerge. And emerge it will… to display His pleasure, power and passion!

Remind yourself today that you are: “His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9-10)

Real Witness

“But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.” (Micah 3:8-10)

Your real Christian witness flows from somewhere deeper than your voice. The Prophet Micah attributed the power of his ministry to the Spirit of the Lord. Our power comes from the same source! Out of the belly of a man; filled with the Holy Spirit, rises a testimony of truth and power (Jn. 7:37-39).

You are more than your story – You are His-story!

We cannot stand on our own righteousness… it is Christ in us that speaks of better things than what people see or hear. Indeed, were we to find ourselves reliant upon our strength, our wisdom or our charm, we would find no hope against the onslaught of this world’s trouble. But we are not at all in the clutches of impending doom… for we are not our own. We live as Christ’s Ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). We have been purchased by a blood as pure and holy as the whitest snow (Eph 1:7). We have been offered freedom’s highest position (Eph. 2:6). And we have a voice within ourselves that comes streaming forth like a rushing waterfall (Phil. 4:13). Christ has become our strength, our wisdom and our witness, because He is our peace… our focus and our joy. He is our Righteousness!

The Mystery: Its “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27)

Jesus told His followers they would receive power to witness about Him when the Holy Spirit came on them (Acts. 1:8). You can’t witness effectively by relying on your own strength, because fear will keep you from speaking out for God. You can’t witness effectively by choosing the best sermons or knowing the right words to say. You are not smart enough to outwit the devil. You cannot witness effectively by creating the best atmosphere or offering the most attractive invitation. Only by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit can you live and witness for Him! But with that power comes the promise that signs and wonders will follow those who believe (Mk. 16:17).

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:6-8)

This is the witness we have in Christ: “That if God be for us, who can stand against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

Priority for Prayer

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” (Mk. 1:35-38)

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He experiences great success. His fame is spreading through Galilee as He casts out demons and heals many sick people. After one particularly busy day of healing, Jesus pulls Himself away. I want to highlight this moment, because I believe its a key that unlocks the doors we so often find frustrating in the ministry.

Three Observations:

1. Jesus prioritized prayer as the way to effectively minister to people.

He didn’t use busy-ness or success with people as an excuse for neglecting prayer and solitude with God the Father. He realized that in order to meet people’s needs, He personally needed time alone with God. I need this reminder often in the ministry! If we neglect prayer for the sake of ministering to people a breakdown will eventually come. I find my words becoming idle and even critical when prayer is not my highest priority. I hear of pastors and leaders suffering from burn out, or becoming proud of  “success”. True spiritual power, the kind that brings hope and spiritual transformation must come to us as God’s resource. Somewhere along the way we must pull ourselves into a quiet place and find prayer and fellowship with the Holy Spirit to be our refuge in the midst of life.

2. Jesus’ prayer was done in solitude, away from distractions.

Jesus needed to focus on the voice of His Father and seperate Himself from outside voices veying for His attention. This is why Jesus woke up very early in the morning, while it was still dark. He knew everyone else would be asleep and He could be alone. Jesus tells us that when we pray, we should shut the door behind us and meet with the God who hears in private (Mt. 6:6). That is so valuable… we must shut the devil out and shut our hearts in with the Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus’ time of solitude and prayer with the Father enabled Him to stay focused on His calling… to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

While everyone was looking for Him and while He had experienced amazing acceptance and success; He left that comfort to focus on His calling to the Gospel of the Kingdom. Maintaining a “vision” requires nothing less than our undivided attention to the highest priorities. Through prayer, Jesus was able to stay focused instead of being enamored by success. Human success and Kingdom success are not the same thing. The only way to discern the difference is to find our identity in the prayer closet. Valuing our time with the Father will help us stay on track with a passion for the Kingdom rather than a desire for popularity. Powerful things are accomplished for those who stay loyal to the heart of God. In prayer the Holy Spirit reveals a Kingdom heartbeat and renews our mind with dreams that resonate in heaven (1 Cor. 2:9-16).

“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.” (Phil. 4:6)

Real Grace

The word “grace” has significant meaning for our relationship with God, ourselves and one another. Grace is God’s love offered. As a gift is freely given, so grace must be received to be appreciated. God offers us something beyond ourselves, yet within our reach. The power of this gift called grace, grows when we truly understand how it works in connection with faith and trust.

Grace is a Person:

God so loved the world that He gave us the gift of His only Son (Jn 3:16-17). Jesus is the gift of grace to all mankind. He is the way, the truth, and the life of God, given as the full representative of grace. Through Jesus, God comes to us and reveals Himself to us, because we cannot by ourselves find God. Jesus as our advocate with the Father comes to help us know Him and believe in Him as He really is. We cannot do this by our human limitation, because we get so blinded by carnal perception. We need God’s grace.

Religious Perceptions:

Religion can be negative to our perception, as it creates a way of seeing through boxes of morality, judgment and expectations. In fact, so many people are bound to religion that Christianity is often defined more by what it rejects than what it believes.

If we are sinful (and we all are), we may not want to come to God, thinking that God is unapproachable and will punish us for our sins. We may get the idea that we must be “good enough” to be acceptable to God. But this is where grace becomes so significant. Its the gift of God!

Understanding Mercy:

All sinners experience guilt, brokenness and emotional pain. But faith is our humble belief in God’s mercy. Mercy is simply God not giving us what we deserve so that grace can become visible. When we understand mercy, we naturally turn toward the one showing us that mercy. This turning is an act of humility, because we recognize the favor (grace) being shown us is undeserved and it causes us to feel like a burden is lifted from our shoulders. There are all kinds of burdens that mercy lifts when someone favors us.

Clarifying Our Focus:

It is important that we reject sinful behavior, but never reject ourselves or the person we see sinning. Unfortunately, in real life, many of us have the tendency to blend the two into one: we often associate the behavior with the person. In this way, we become condemning and judgmental, hypocritical and proud.

This is where God’s grace becomes visible. Jesus is not a policeman, but an advocate. An advocate is somebody who pleads the case for mercy and stands on behalf of the guilty before the accuser or the judge.

Restoration and Hope:

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father is not judgemental and condemning, but a restorer of broken relationship. Jesus tells us, he throws his arms around the returning son and kisses him, while his servant is commanded to prepare the house for a party.

Consistent with Grace:

Jesus would have us see God as the waiting Father, who runs to embrace the son at the first sign of his turning toward home. “This son was lost, but now has come home! Bring out the robe, the ring and the sandals, for my son was dead and is alive again. Prepare the fatted calf… tonight we feast!” (Lk 15:20-24)

Walking in Real Grace:

The other son is caught up in the epic battle with religious seeing and self-righteous attitudes. Jesus does not approve of that moralistic attitude, because it is hypocritical. In offering grace to others, Jesus wants us to embrace people at the first sign of turning toward home. Its not that we condone what they have done as much as we embrace who they really are. He wants us to know that grace is God’s unconditional love revealed at the first sign of humility. The Apostle Peter said “…be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 4:5).

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