How many times my thoughts stray from focus during the day! I find myself going over and over conversations or actions, thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said or done. Or sometimes I’m planning what I’ll do if such and such happens or if so and so does this or that.
But I have hope. Since I’m in Christ, old things have passed away (died), and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have received the Holy Spirit who gives me power to put off the old and put on the new. When I catch myself thinking the old way, I can say to myself,
“No, self. Focus on the task at hand. If it doesn’t take much thought (comb hair, vacuum), think about the Scripture you meditated on this morning or heaven or Jesus or God’s attributes or other wonderful things.”
Then as I begin to focus on the good things and let go of the scattered thoughts, I will be obeying God’s Word by renewing my mind. (See Romans 12:2 and James 1:22.)
(Photo by Paula Satijn, “Mirror.” Found in Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulasatijn/79850464800/)
Advertisers love to proclaim Christmas in July so we’ll buy more stuff. Now how about Thanksgiving in August? The official Thanksgiving holiday is over 3 months away, but I’ve decided to celebrate God’s goodness a few months early. After all, giving thanks to the Lord is always in season.
Let me share one of the things God has used to help me escape and stay out of the pit of a negative outlook on life. About a year and a half ago, our pastor challenged us to write down at least one thing we were thankful for each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I accepted the challenge, and wrote a few items down daily for which I was thankful. I decided not to stop at Christmas and have been keeping up my “thanksgiving journal” ever since. I’ve experienced much more of the Lord’s joy since starting this practice.
I hope you have never fallen into ugly habits like whining, complaining and self-pit-y, but they have been too much a part of my personal past. I do praise and thank God and also thank my pastor for helping me start this one simple thing that has made such a difference in my life.
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, New Living Translation)
A learning handicap hindered my educational growth for a long time. No one recognized it. I didn’t see its devastating effects until just recently. I actually did quite well in school. I also did very well in Sunday School classes and Bible studies. Who would have thought I had any kind of learning problem?
Ah, but I did have a problem. In my education, I learned very little of how to use information I was given. Yes, I learned the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic, good grammar, and other things). I gained some practical skills such as how to drive a car and how to type. In the church world, I caught on quickly to the Christian lingo, came to know much Scripture, and figured out how to come up with the “right” answers to the questions that were asked.
This “coming up with the right answers” idea hints at my “learning disability.” My problem was that many times I got what I aimed for, but I shot at the wrong target. Often my aim wasn’t to learn, but rather to get the right answers, to get a good grade, to prove my intelligence, get someone’s approval, etc. Therefore, although I reached these goals, I didn’t learn to apply or go beyond what I learned in school. In church, my knowledge of God’s Word was mostly “head knowledge” rather than “heart knowledge” that would have helped me mature in Christ-likeness.
Even after I saw what I was doing, I had trouble changing. Little by little, though, God has changed me. I find that now when I do Bible study or even just read my Bible, I’m listening for what the Holy Spirit wants to point out, and I’m seeking to really learn from God.
I’m truly grateful to God for helping me grow in Christ in spite of my too-often off-target aim. And I’m even more grateful that He gradually delivers me from the binding chains of my unworthy goals so I can progress more rapidly in His school.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 1 Peter 2:2 “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” ( Both New King James Version)
Looking back over my Christian life so far, it looks like too much of it has been spent serving myself. I believed I served Christ. I knew all the right words and all the right Scriptures. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, strength—most important. Love others as self—2nd. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.” “Walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh.” I could quote more.
But did I actually do those things? Many times, I was a hearer only. I didn’t ask, “How can I serve You, Lord, in this situation?” or “What do you want me to know and/or do and/or learn?” More often I asked (or said), “How can I get out of this difficulty?” “Please get me out of here!” “Help me through this.” “Please fix this, fix me, guide me, heal me, protect me” and on and on (or please do those things for friends or loved ones). It’s not that God doesn’t want to help with those things, but my focus was off. It appears that perhaps I thought Jesus should serve me instead of the other way around.
Lord Jesus, I want to truly love and serve You. Lord God, You alone are God. I repent of the many times I’ve served me instead of You. Holy Spirit, please work in me and change me as I yield to you and set the sail of my will to be an obedient servant of the Lord. Thank You, Lord for being so patient with me. Thank You for forgiveness for all of our sins because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 17:7-10 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘ Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘ Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘ We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” New King James Version
“Lead us not into temptation….”
Lord, please lead me always away from self-focus. There regrets, blaming, anger, pride, and self-pity lurk. These funnel into a slippery slide that winds ever downward into depression.
Teach me to walk on the solid path of humility and gratitude. Peace and joy flourish like flowers at the edges of this road. In this place of thankfulness, my focus turns to You, Lord, and seeking Your glory and honor. There my heart desires that others experience Your love also. I turn my eyes away from what I can do, what I look like to others, my past poor choices, and what I think will make me happy. [Psalm 119:37—“Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.” (New Living Translation)]
When I’m tempted to stray onto the me-focus trail, please open my ears to hear Your voice warning, “Wrong way! Come back to Me.” Amen.
Why do I waste time and emotional energy upsetting myself over things I have no control over? Instead of letting myself get irritated, frustrated, or angry, I could be meditating on God’s Word. After all, I claim that’s where my delight is (Psalm 1:2). Or I could be singing some of the church hymns and gospel songs I grew up with and love.
It’s time I set my mind on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:2). I need to think on the good things of Philippians 4:8 (whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or if there is any virtue or anything praiseworthy).
“Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself — it tends only to evildoing.” Psalm 37:8 (Amplified Bible)
God has allowed these moments and days for me on this earth, and I want to use them for His glory. I can do that better if I keep my focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). Each day, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to God, my Rock and Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
“And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” –Psalm 139:16 New King James Version
My days were planned
Before I began,
Each one prepared for me.
So let me walk
In my todays,
Living life, Lord, for Thee.