S is for Steadfastness

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:58

The last letter for the word focus is the letter ‘s’ standing for one possessing steadfastness. The one who possesses this does not change, is fixed in place, and is firm in belief. For the believer, these definitions must be engrained in the belief system of following Jesus.  

When one decides to enter into an exercise program, the mind has to be fixed in being a willing participant. Firmly grasping the desire to exercise and get in shape is their one and only reason for doing it in the first place. Therefore, commitment is key for this process to be effective, and understanding that time and effort is needed on a daily basis will make the person successful. The same holds true for the believer on the faith path.  

Just as work is needed for the exercise plan, work is needed for being steadfast in the faith.  Being unmoveable doesn’t necessarily mean being immobile. It does that mean that the faith level has to be constant in what God says and directs, causing the one who believes to determine that there will be no mental “tossing to and fro’, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” as stated in Ephesians 4:14. Like the one who has a plan for exercising, the believer must determine that no matter what, they must know in whom they believe, relying on faith to carry them through, whatever the challenge. The movement, then, is the mobility to read God’s word, pray for help, with the immobility of being firmly fixed in believing God will supply the strength for victory.

Whether it is the results from exercising and eating healthy, or more importantly the decision to follow Christ in the faith journey, when all is said and done, the work (labor) it takes to accomplish the goal will not be in vain. The results of both will be amazing when one believes it to be so by embracing the essence of the word FOCUS… 

U is to Understand

Continuing on the word focus is the letter ‘U’, and the word used is understand.

Have you ever purchased something that had to be put together? Did you choose to read the instructions that was in the box, or did you choose to rely on your ingenuity and put it together? If using the first method, chances are you will not have any pieces not utilized. There may some screws not used that should have been if you used the second method. I like to put together chairs, tables and the like. I may look at the picture first, then read the instructions, and lay out all the parts before making the attempt to put it together, being proud of myself when finished (and not having any pieces left over I am happy to say).

Do you tend to live life without reading any instructions? There is an instructional book we can all use, that is chock full of answers and situations, including the results of what happened when the person(s) followed what God instructed vs. what the person did instead; you guessed it. It’s the bible.

Understanding something means to have a grasp on its meaning, to grab hold of the reasonableness of it to the point of being able to interpret it and perhaps share with others. But if one never reads it (like the instructions of putting something together), how can you know what is the right thing to do? I suppose that is why Proverbs 3:5,6 was written:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

Many of us have trouble with the ‘lean not on your own understanding’ part, as we are so accustomed to doing things our own way, even when we know going down a particular path will not work. The trust is in ourselves, putting God by the wayside, like those pieces not included in the thing you were trying to put together.

But what would happen if we switched our trust to what God says? What if after hitting our head against a brick wall we decide to read what God says and follow his path? Could things be different?

I would say yes, and I am speaking from experience. Perhaps like you, I chose not to read the instructions, trying to live life according to my unfounded wisdom. But after much frustration and seeing myself in a continual endless cycle, I have learned what it is like to develop faith in the one that can move my mountains, give me peace that I can’t explain (especially in troubled times), and have the pressure of coming up with answers taken off me and casted upon him. He encouraged me to do so:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

So you can continue to refuse to read the instructions and have the pieces of your life not put together, or you can put your trust in God by reading his instructions and be whole, getting a better understanding on how to successfully live life. Be strengthenized…

C is for Commitment

How many times have we thought about this word commitment? It means (according to the Merrian-Webster dictionary) to pledge to do something in the future, being obligated to something, or the attitude of someone who works very hard to do something.

All these definitions can help us to lead to Proverbs 16. In essence, the first few verses say to commit your way to the Lord and He will establish your plans. First you commit your way to Him, and He will establish your plans. Now being committed takes patience, as there is a good chance things will not happen immediately. If you allow it, God may have to make changes, but He will establish them if you allow that to take place. Oftentimes, it is because of the lack of patience that causes the lack of God’s establishment of the plans He wants you to implement. God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that he know the plans he has for you, and included in those plans are words like prosper, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. If we are honest, we may have plans that we commit to, but do they provide hope and the future God wants? At first it may seem that is the case, only further down the line those plans tend to fall by the wayside.

So consider this: in our word focus is the letter “c”; commit thy way, your plans, your focus to God, for Him to establish your path, for He knows the path you should take, full of hope and a future. And wouldn’t it be better to wait and receive God’s plan, than develop and implement your own, only to realize it wasn’t the best way to go? Commit to God, allowing Him to establish you while you are being strengthenized…

Going To Your One and Only

The second letter of the word FOCUS, the O stands for only.

Many say “if only I could do this,” or “if only this would happen,” as a plea for help in a situation. And while we all need to act in those situations, sometimes it is when we act that we wish we hadn’t, as we realize we travelled down the wrong road and made the wrong decision. But what would happen if, before making the decision, we first went to One who I’d like to call ‘the One and Only’? Here’s what I mean:

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. ” Psalm 25:15

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” Luke 4:8

In each of these verses, there is a emphasis that needs further attention. The first verse speaks of the direction of eye. As our eyes look on Someone, our body will follow suit. Once that happens our feet (since they are attached to the rest of our body) will be taken out of the snare of going down a wrong path, associating with the wrong people, making bad decisions, and so on. How many times we have erred by doing our own thing, when the focus is to turn our eyes only on the One who steer us clear from such negative forces?

There are also times when we need to stand still, and let God fight for us. We may want to handle the situation ourselves, but as God told persons like Samuel (I Samuel 12:16) and Jahaziel (II Chronicles 20:14-17), the same holds true for us today. If we are honest, due to the busyness of our hectic schedules, we don’t always hear, or we do hear and chose to put our focus on our version of the one and only: ourselves. Then we discover we are back in the familiar territory of our own choosing, a place that yields the same dismal results. But what if we are patient enough to do nothing, and instead wait for the best solution to our dilemma that causes us to stand in awe of what God did for us? Some food for thought…

The last verse is where the rubber meets the road, where the essence of the our topic hinges on: worshipping God and Him only. When the point of our focus is not on making the most money, making our children more important than they should be, not on our efforts in making things right, and instead focusing on God, we have won the battle of linking to the One and Only. No longer do we take the responsibility of the decision, it is relinquished over to God. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. It does mean listening to God through prayer, reading the bible, getting wise counsel, and not carrying the world’s weight on our shoulders. When we give the ‘its’ of our lives over to God, He will truly be our One and Only for everything we need in life.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

Be strengthenized…

FOCUS Series: Give Yourself an “F”!

This is the beginning of a series called Focus; each letter represents a topic I’d like to further present to you. But first I want to give a background on why I think God provided this idea.

Year 2020 has been full of surprises, loaded with frustrations, and it has us wondering what will happen next. If you were like me, I was glued to or fixated on CNN, to get the latest on the presidential election results. A friend of mine put a statement on Facebook that stayed with me; it made me chuckle, but there was a ring of truth in it. She wrote of how we need to put more emphasis on God’s Word than on continually looking at election results, and I had to agree, particularly since I was guilty of all the hours I put into watching it. This begs the question of what we put our focus on. Is it on what the latest fashion pieces we feel we need to purchase, making time to binge on tv shows, or just sitting and doing nothing? Is the focus worrying about what we don’t have, or is it on being thankful for what we do have in our possession? What are you fixed on?

When we feel like we are in a battle for our lives, where is the focus? What would happen if there was a focus shift to a fixation that provides peace instead of inner conflict, that replaces depression with joy, and living life in a realm of contentment when war is breaking out all around us?

Let’s start with the first letter of Focus: F is for Fixed

Here’s an example. You may have finances, which is a good thing. You also have bills to pay, and there is not enough funds to cover them all; not so good a place to be in. So there is a decision to be made (and yes, there is a choice you can make); either a) fix your emotion on the negativity of not having enough (and going through all the unfounded scenarios of what could happen if this or that doesn’t get paid), or b) make a shift to a more firm, stable and stationary realm of what the bible says. Here is what could be applied to this situation:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Ephesians 3:20

Now there is an exchange, an application has been input into the problem. Yes, the problem is real and does exist. But when that problem is given over, the person is now saying, I have this issue, but I am allowing my faith to take over. Not my fear, not my trying to handle it and solve it. God, you have said I will not have need of anything, and You will supply my every need, according to the riches You have! When we focus on God, and exercise our faith in Him, the peace that mental understanding cannot explain enters our brain, and the conflict dies down. I can only write this because I have given this a try, and I can vouch for the conclusion: It works!

I suggest to you to give this a try. Here are some suggestions:

  • choose a verse that applies to your situation, like the ones listed above, though there are many others that will suffice.
    • rewrite the verse, not changing the meaning, but written in a way that you can understand. For example, Psalm 23:1 could be rewritten as Because the Lord is my Guide, I have want of nothing.
      • What does this verse mean further for your situation?
      • Meditate on this verse throughout the next few days meaning, reflect on it, shift your thoughts on it in such a way that you no longer worry about the issue of paying bills (or whatever the problem may be), but instead reflect on what you read: because of God, you will have no want of anything.

When the focus is shifted or fixed elsewhere to what is deemed enriching, when the concentration is on One who welcomes problems, there is a freeness that will help us on our everyday journey. Be strengthenized, and give yourself an F!

Next: Going to Your Only…

Spiritual Drano

Have you ever tried to fix something yourself, and while you think you have the solution, you discover it isn’t working? At the same time, there is an avenue that will definitely solve the issue, yet it is not adhered to? Time goes by, and you continue to do the same thing that doesn’t work. In fact, the problem worsens, until you decide to go down another road, the road that has the solution. And that solution is done quickly, and in comparison to the long time you took to solve the problem, you conclude that the issue could have been solved so much sooner, if only you used the solution that would solve the problem.

God has answers for our problems. Why do we not go to Him? Perhaps it is our ego that tells us we have the answer. Perhaps it is because we are so used to providing the answer, even when it is only a temporary solution. And, to be honest, while the answer may work, there could have been a much better solution if we had presented it to God. Let me give you an example.

I discovered my kitchen sink kept stopping up. I invested in bottles of Drano to unstop it, and for a while it worked. but it wasn’t long before the water again kept being stuck, and wouldn’t go down the drain. This went on for months, me pouring the thick liquid down the drain, hoping the problem would be solved, but the problem got worse.

Finally, I called the office for the repairman to come and investigate. I thought the garbage disposal was on the fritz, but that was not the problem. It was the drain that was clogged, causing water to back up in the dish washer, which I didn’t consider. Once the dish washer was turned on to eliminate the water, the drain was unclogged, and my faucet was also fixed, so the water could shut off. The repairman had to find some parts, but the total of time to repair everything took less than an hour.

My solution took months and the problem was not resolved. The repairman’s solution took less than an hour, and all is well with my kitchen sink.

Consider this:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matthew 7: 7,8

  • Be encouraged to ask God for solutions to problems you can’t resolve.
  • His solutions are permanent, while yours may be temporary
  • He has your best interest at heart, and when He gives you an answer, it is a solution that lasts.

So reach out and ask God for the true answer to life’s problems. When life get a bit clogged, allow God, who is rich in grace and mercy, to be your spiritual Drano. You’ll get declogged a lot sooner…

Sometimes It’s Just the Simple Things

For years I have attempted to roll an Italian r. I just couldn’t do it. I thought it was the way my mouth was formed that was preventing me from doing it. I suppose you could say I blamed myself for it.

Years ago I took voice lessons and the instructor gave me an Italian song to learn. He tried and tried to teach me how to roll an r, and the more I tried the more frustrated I became. I felt the song I was singing wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t give this one consonant the Italian justice it deserved.

Fast forward to today. I decided to no longer be attached to not doing something, but to at least do some research on how to roll an r. YouTube has just about everything on how-to do stuff, and sure enough, I found plenty of videos of how to do this. Many of the presenters said it took them years to learn how to do it. Well, I didn’t have years to learn, as my current voice instructor gave me an Italian song that was full of this letter. I wanted to experience how it sounds to include this in the music, and honor the language.

Today was my voice lesson, and I asked her (who has a lovely soprano operatic voice, and one who is used to singing opera) how to do it. The good news is what she told me was similar to what the YouTube video presenters said (where to position your tongue and where the sound should come from). As we went through the song piece by piece and came across a word with an r, I practiced it, and much to my surprise we both heard me roll an r. Sure, it was a fraction of a second, but my instructor confirmed I had done it! Needless to say, I was over the moon! But I had to quickly come back to the moment and finish the song. (But I wanted to jump up and spin around in pure happiness!)

Later this evening I replayed that moment in time, and it brought a broad smile to my face. Sometimes God will provide times, no matter how quickly they come and go, that lets one know that what seems impossible is indeed just the opposite. It undergirds a notion that perhaps if that can happen, it can be so again, even in a song that is full of Italian rolled r’s.

What blesses the soul is the little simple things that make the impossible seem doable…and that’s my strengthenize moment of the day.

A Cure for the Stuffed Head

If you are like me, many allergy sufferers have to deal with a stuffy nose. Our sinuses become full of mucus, which can make it challenging to sleep at night, as it becomes hard to breathe.

My head is also pretty stuffy, but for different reasons. Though I try to stay away, I look at the news from CNN to the local news. Covid-19 is usually at the forefront, especially when our leaders contract the disease. There’s the constant news of people getting killed, shot, and many of all ages are missing. The election is soon to come, and I must make a choice of who will receive my vote. I want to travel, but am afraid to do so. I feel distanced from everyone, and on and on it goes. All this and more is causing my head to become stuffy from the mucus of this world, not to mention my own personal issues. There has to be a prescription that I can take to open up my brain passages for my mind to function more like God created it to be: one of peace and tranquility.

The 88th Psalm was written by Herman the Ezrahite, and it is full of what he was experiencing at the time. Here are a few descriptions:

  • without strength (verse 4)
  • feels like one in the lowest part of Sheol, the pit (verse 3)
  • friends are far from him, making him feel shut in and can’t go out (verse 8; sound familiar with what is going on with the pandemic?)
  • constant crying (verse 9)
  • feels rejected by God (verse14)
  • feels like darkness is his only friend (verse 18)

Yet, with all this stuffing up Herman’s head, he continues to say this:

  • “I cry out to you day and night…mMay my prayer reach your presence; listen to my cry.” (verse 1, 2)
  • I call to you for help Lord; in the morning my prayer meets you.” (verse 13)

Herman the Ezrahite does not forget to cry out to God. He verbalizes what he inwardly is experiencing, what he is feeling, what is causing his head to become stuffed up. Intertwined between all types of despair, he cries out to God day and night, and when a new day dawns, he prays again, hoping that the prayer will reach God’s presence.

Herman the Ezrahite encouraged me. I can identify with what he is going through. Herman’s prescription for an unstuffed head is to pray to God, asking for help when he is in a dark place. Asking for relief early in the morning, and like taking medicine for an ailment, we can take a cue from this man and pray as well. It may take a while, but when we give our issues to God, telling him what we are going through, let us cling onto hope, like Herman did, that our prayers will reach his presence and he will listen to our cry.

God promises to unstuff our heads…

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29: 11, 12

Be strengthenized…

God Buts

Recently I received some information I had been waiting for. I anticipated it, but when I got it I was very disappointed. The inner war began inside me:

  • the struggle of continuing vs. giving up
  • hearing lies of the enemy of continuing

This week has been a physical struggle as well. Not feeling well and going through some health issues had me feeling down.

However, there were God buts that kept popping up in my mind (italics mine):

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6 (NIV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

The more I read the scriptures, the better I became inwardly. If I continued being stuck in the negativity of my mind, based on the news I heard, the way I physically felt, I would downwardly spiral into an abyss I could not get out of. But God, who is rich in mercy, and full of compassion and love towards me, let me know my only recourse is to continue on. And when I do, He will be there, continuing to encourage and strengthen me.

And so I encourage you to watch out for God buts. Read them and tuck them away in your heart. And when you feel like life is taking you down a negative thought pattern, remember your buts from God, and be strengthenized.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” Psalm 85:15 (NIV)

Behold

I started watching the latest season of a favorite tv show, which got me thinking some things. It was like God was talking to me, assuring me of something, that I’d like to share.

As is usually the case, the show’s writers create the script that is full of confusion, chaos within family relationships, even chaos from within. In this episode, the matriarch used one of my favorite verses in her sermon: Isaiah 43:19:

“Behold, I will do a new thing; shall ye not know it?”

Within my mind came a thought: When you wait for the chaos to settle, the answer will come.

At that instant, tears came down my cheek. I started breathing hard, I felt like God gave me a word. I can’t explain it anymore than that. I worshipped the Lord, just thanking Him for the ‘heads up’. Now I don’t what is about to happen, or who it will happen to. I only know that God saw to it that through whatever means necessary, He gave me something I needed to know. I prayed that when chaos comes, to remind me of this moment.

In the tv show, though the family suffered a loss, the chaos calmed down, answers came and decisions were made. And even though I know the episode was created from the minds of the show’s writers, I know God can use any vehicle to get His word across.

Behold…