Keep Your Focus on God

2 Corinthians 4:18: So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Apostle Paul encourages the believers at Corinth to focus their eyes on that which is unseen. Throughout the Bible, we are told to focus our eyes and ultimately our faith on the eternal, unseen world. In our everyday lives, we are mostly concerned with those things that are visible to us. We place our trust in things that we can see, hear or touch. Our focus is on the visible things of this world rather than on the spiritual growth that is obtainable to us if we would only shift our focus towards God.

In order to focus on the unseen we have to make ourselves aware that the invisible spiritual world is always present. Do you ever take into account the role that the unseen spiritual world plays in the decisions that you make? Because the world that we live in seems to make sense to us most of the time, we end up relying on those noticeable things rather than looking towards the unseen world for spiritual direction or meaning.

Paul urged the Colossian church to live in the reality of the unseen: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”. (Colossians 3:1-4).

The words of Jesus to the disciple Thomas, who doubted the Resurrection and demanded physical proof of it, emphasizes the fact that spiritual reality overshadows physical reality. Jesus reminded Thomas that, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Where are you in your faith journey with God? Are you able to look beyond this physical world, and with eyes of faith, believe that God is much closer to you than you think? Pray for God to shift your focus from the visible things of this world to the vast realm of God’s unseen spiritual world.

 

Unplug From the World

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night.[1]

We live in a world where there is constant noise and very little silence. We are constantly bombarded with noise and distractions that compete for our attention. We have the internet, television, television and movies on our computers, tablets or smart phones. And oh yes, our smart phones. How many mobile phones does your family own? Do you ever notice how often you or another member of your family is engrossed in their smart phone? I must admit that I have been guilty of this myself and it has been pointed out to me by my teenage daughter.

I read an interesting article this morning as I was doing some writing. The article examines how the use of smartphones are taking over our lives. Bob Sullivan, a columnist for NBC News, writes that “our ability to unplug and relax is under assault.”  The columnist is writing about how the technology of the smart phone has done serious damage to the three-day weekend. Sullivan goes on to write that “The average smartphone user checks his or her device 150 times per day, or about once every six minutes.” [2] That is a staggering statistic and I believe that it is a fairly accurate number.

God is being pushed out of our lives by the devices and the technology that is created by this carnal world that we live in. The internet, like most other technology, has its dark side as well as its useful and educational aspect. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not against technological innovations, rather the overuse and misuse of these devices that keep us busy and tuned in to them and not God. We allow many different electronic devices to allow us to lose focus on God as well as our family and loved ones.

Have you ever sat down for a meal and noticed that several people at the table are checking their phone for email, stock quotes, or Facebook status updates?  Many of us are so plugged into our smartphones that we fail to grasp opportunities to communicate with those that we love and find out what is going on in their lives, especially those of us who have children. Even saying the blessing before our meal is sometimes “forgotten” because we are checking something on our phones. We can’t seem to resist the urge to unplug from this world, even for a family mealtime or fellowship time together.

I am aware of this temptation in my own life, especially in my morning quiet time with God. I manage to get up early to spend at least thirty minutes alone in quiet meditation with God and I turn on the TV to check the news headlines or my favorite sports channel for overnight scores. Then I log onto my computer and check several local newspaper websites to find out what’s going on in my community. I then quickly want to check my email to see if anyone has contacted me since I went to bed last night. And before I realize it, my thirty minutes alone with God had ended over fifteen minutes ago!

Now, a time that had been set aside for God to communicate with me has passed and I begin the day without having that quiet time to discern God’s direction for my day. Of course, I can still pray and talk to God while I am in the shower or on my way to work but it’s not the same for me. I need that quiet, still time where I can be silent and still and listen for God. After I leave the house and begin my day, my mind goes off in a thousand different directions and I don’t have the focus on God that I did in that quiet, early morning time. I also notice that on the days when I don’t have that quiet time with God, I experience more stress and I struggle more with just getting through that particular day. Beginning my day in the presence of God is essential to preparing me for the day ahead.

So I urge you to unplug from this world that we live in and plug into God! God is present and He wants to communicate with you if you will only allow Him the opportunity to do so. Begin your day by seeking God and God will respond. God has an amazing way of using the Bible to communicate and minister to us. Sadly, many professing Christians do not begin the day by reading God’s word. They are plugged into this world that we live in and disconnected from God. Many people wonder why God is silent when the problem lies not with God but in our own personal choice to be more connected with this visible world rather than the invisible reality of God.



[1] Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

[2]   http://redtape.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/24/18463775-how-the-smartphone-killed-the-three-day-weekend?lite

 

When God is Silent – Updated

Psalm 102: 1-2 (NIV): Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

Psalm 62:5 (ESV): For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

Lamentations 3:26 (ESV): It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Silence from God. It was only a few years ago that I began to realize the extent and the enormity of people that wrestle with silence from God. Like many of you, I was inclined to believe that the struggle with silence from God was somehow unique to me. This “silence from God” was something that I could not remember being discussed or dealt with in my many years of attending church. There are many people, from all walks of life around the world that are in a constant struggle with what they perceive as silence from God. Sadly, many Christians are reluctant to admit that they wrestle with God’s silence from time to time.

In January of 2011, I decided to start writing a blog that was based on my daily walk with God. My intention when I started writing was to better understand and strengthen my daily walk with God. By putting my thoughts into words, I believed that I could grow and develop a stronger relationship with God and become more aware of how God was moving in my life. I figured that a few close friends and members of my church would occasionally read my blog, but I didn’t think that my writings would have an impact on very many people outside of my community.

          Over the course of my life I have been made aware of the fact that many times God is working in the background of our lives, preparing us to accomplish things that we would have never thought possible. I would not consider myself a very smart person and that’s fine because scripture reminds me that God prefers to use ordinary people to carry out His mission so that all glory and praise will be given to God. 2 Corinthians 4:7: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. The “Gospel” is most certainly this “treasure” that Paul speaks of and the Holy Spirit can use each of us to carry it to the “ends of the earth.”

            Now back to the story of my blog. In June of 2011 I wrote a devotional entitled, “When God is Silent.” This was written out of my own personal struggles with silence from God. I was trying to understand why God was not “communicating” with me as he had in the past. The response to this post was overwhelming. From this one post, God has used me to touch the lives of people across the United States, Canada, Belgium, England, Holland, many countries in Africa, and even a few people living in island nations from the Caribbean to the South Pacific. And these are just the people who have taken the time to write me. To this day, I continue to receive emails from believers and those who want to believe. And they are all to some extent, experiencing silence from God. Make no mistake that all of the glory belongs to God, I am just his instrument.

          Over the last several years, as I have experienced silence from God in my own life, several doors have closed for me. It seems that what I desire to do in ministry and what God has called me to do is different. I almost wanted to write that my calling has changed but I believe that my path so far has been God’s perfect plan all along. A few days ago I experienced a sort of breakthrough in my battle with silence from God. I decided to pay attention to all of the signs that he has placed in my life and I recommitted myself to doing what God has called me to do.

          This supposed “silence from God” has begun to fade after I decided to change some habits in my own life and in my walk with God. God has been attempting to communicate to me over the past several years but could not get through because I had been asking, praying, and even demanding that my will be done instead of God’s perfect will. Making the decision to let go of what I expect out of my calling and allowing God to lead me into a new direction has lifted a huge burden from my soul. God is calling me in a new and different direction, at least for now, and I have decided to be “still” and to know that God is God and He is in control of everything.

 Psalm 46:10 (ESV): Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”


           

           


 

 

Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22:30(NIV): I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

The prophet Ezekiel lived during a time of worldwide upheaval and crisis. Babylon had regained strength and power and was in the process of conquering the Assyrian empire. In 597 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sent a strong military force to conquer Jerusalem. The prophet Ezekiel and approximately ten thousand other Jews were exiled to Babylon, where they joined previous exiles. Nebuchadnezzar and his successors ruled over this region until their empire was defeated by the Persians in 539 B.C.

The sovereignty of God over the entire world and throughout the course of history is the main theme of the book of Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel emphasizes that God is in control and continues to direct and shape His created people. Israel had established alliances with other forms of earthly powers and had grown less reliant upon God. Israel had defiled its worship of God and in turn, judgment from God was coming.

God divinely called Ezekiel to pronounce His judgment upon God’s covenant people of Israel. At this point there was nothing that the prophet could do to stop the impending disaster. The only hope the prophet was permitted to offer to his people was that of living at peace with themselves and with God during their exile.[1] God’s plan could not be changed but there was hope – if only the people would return to God and give Him their proper attention and worship.

In Ezekiel 22:30, we read that God had been searching for someone who would intercede, or stand in the gap, and offer up Holy prayer for God’s chosen people. We know from reading this passage, that although God looked for someone to perform this sacred task, that no one was found willing to “stand before God in the gap.” I believe that God is looking for the same in our country and in our churches today. Prayer is what is needed to bring God’s people closer to Him and less dependent on this fallen, sinful world.

Churches today should work together to be united in the common goal of winning others for Christ. As followers of Christ we should take seriously the outline that Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 25 and give food and drink to the hungry, give comfort to strangers, clothes the naked, attend to the sick and visit those in prison. God is searching among His people for someone who will “stand in the gap” and intercede before God.

There is division and strife in many churches today. People who profess to worship Christ are bogged down in unimportant matters that completely bring to a halt any work of ministry that was once present. This is simply the work of Satan in our churches today because the evil one wants to destroy our Lord’s church. It will take strong men and women of faith that are willing to “stand in the gap” and pray for God’s will to overcome the evil and manipulative attacks of Satan.

The problem is that many Christians today do not want to acknowledge the damage that Satan inflicts upon our churches. They think that to focus upon him or to mention his name is something that should not be addressed. As Christians, we must be aware of what the evil one is doing in our churches today so that we can effectively pray for guidance and wisdom from God to get back to the true mission of the church.

Churches that believe in Jesus Christ must lay aside minor doctrinal differences and join forces to further the work of God in our cities and in our country. If we will “stand in the gap” and pray for God’s will to be done and His presence to be made know, then God will answer and will bring about a much needed revival in the church and in our country. It will take courageous men and women who will stand up for what we believe in and ask God to use us to bring about healing and peace through Christ. 

 Are you willing to “stand in the gap” and pray that God will use you to further the work of the Church in our country and in our world? God is searching for those of us willing to do this – how will you respond?



[1] NIV Study Bible, Introduction to Ezekiel, P. 1244