Where Should Our Focus Be?

Do you ever wonder why so many of the kings of Judah and Israel had so much trouble doing what was right?

Reading through Chronicles, I was struck by some of the statements talking about the kings and the points at which they turned away from God.

Take Rehoboam for instance, who was the son of Solomon. Solomon, who was the wisest man to ever live, who built the Temple of God, and who served God, yet only one generation later, this is what is said about his son, Rehoboam:
2 Chronicles 12:1 “When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong, he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the LORD. And it came about in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem…” (NASB)

Do you see the cause and effect?

man is established and strong
man forsakes God

man is unfaithful to God
man is attacked by enemy

We think we’ve got life handled and that we can now do whatever we want, but the enemy then strikes because God isn’t front and center in our lives.

We thought we were capable of holding our own ground. But, the reality we need to accept is, we’re not the ones who win the battle, God is the one who wins the battle. If we fight alone, we fail, physically and spiritually.

Rehoboam ended up humbling himself briefly to beg God for help, and God saved him from total destruction. Overall though Rehoboam was unfaithful to the Lord and did much evil. Why? Why would a king who had experienced the cause and effect of his choices, whose father obviously had a clear understanding of God, not do what was right?

Well, here is what 2 Chronicles 12:14 says.
He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD.” (NASB)

This is kind of a scary statement, because notice it does not say, Rehoboam sought evil. No, what this says is, because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD, he did evil. His intentions, his desires, his goals were not to pursue the LORD.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment. He did not seek God, therefore he did evil.

What are we focusing on?
Are we focusing on not being evil? On avoiding sinning? On us?
Are we focusing on God and what He desires?

Because what I’m seeing in this passages is:
It isn’t about focusing on avoiding evil.
It’s about focusing on and going after God!

Why does focusing on God accomplish this goal?

Tit 3:3 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

2Co 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Challenge: Where is your focus?

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“How Did I Get Here?”

When starting a new season of our Christianity, the path ahead can appear so straightforward. Like a train track, the way looks easy and smooth. Life is beautiful! God’s path for our life is so clear! We are doing well and filled with joy! We’re trekking along, full speed ahead, worries to the wind.

In these moments, its like we are cutting right through the valleys, headed straight for the mountain tops, and won’t have any trouble getting there. We feel like there is no way will we can get off track or loose our perspective or view of God.

Steaming along like this, its easy to see other people, who are stuck on these side tracks, and think to ourselves, I’m so glad I’ve got this figured out and am moving forward.

But then…somewhere down the tracks, a ways into life, a thin fog rolls in: a little discouragement, a few unkind words, a diminishing of excitement. Our crystal clear view of where we are headed, isn’t so clear anymore. But that’s okay, we’ve still got our track in front of us with God’s plan for our life. So we lurch that throttle back into forward, and we chug forward, hoping somewhere down the line things will clear up.

But the sun isn’t out any more, and more fog rolls in, thicker and heavier. We’ve got this handled, though. The track will get us there. We’ve just got to stick to our plan. We’ve just got to hang onto our godly goals.

Months go by, and instead of pressing through, we’re even more discouraged, because none of those plans seem to be happening. But we’re still determined to keep moving forward, because we have a track. Clearly, if we just keep going, we’ll eventually make it to what He has for us. Because, of course, that’s what a good Christian does, right? Just grin and bear it and keep going.

Worn down and utterly discouraged, finally we stop to ask Him where we are, because through the fog we are starting to get the very scary feeling we are not at all where we are supposed to be. Our beautiful, clear track is nowhere in sight. Somewhere in the fog, in our blind forward motion, we got side tracked. The rails changed underneath of us, and we didn’t even realize it.

We no longer have any idea where we are, but we know we’re not on the right track. Despite our best intentions, we lost our way.

What went wrong?

Tracks don’t get trains where they are supposed to go. Trains get where they are supposed to go, because they are being directed by a Conductor.

In the same way, Godly plans, don’t get Christians where they are supposed to go. Christian’s get where they are supposed to go, because they hand over the control’s of their life to God.

We get off course when we trust in the tracks instead of looking to and listening to the Conductor of our lives to lead us the right way.

Its very easy to end up in the fog, and fog will come no matter what, so the question is, who or what is directing your train? Is your train being directed by tracks that could steer you wrong? Or is your train being directed by an All-Knowing Conductor, who will always direct you well, no matter how much fog there is in your life?

Remember, even if you’ve made the mistake of following the tracks for a time, the Conductor hasn’t bailed on you. He’s still riding with you in the train, patiently waiting for you to realize your lost. In other words, we have a great and merciful God, who does not consider us a lost cause when we get lost. Rather He waits for the moment when we’re willing to look to Him and hand back over the controls. He then willingly and happily directs us back to His way. Don’t beat yourself up, simply rejoice in His grace and realize that more often than not those incredible seasons of beautiful, glorious, clear-track, excitement come as a result of us realizing how badly we want to get out of the fog and us handing back over the controls of our train to the Conductor, who is then able to direct us once more into the sunshine!

Psa 86:5 “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”

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What is the Gift of Tongues?

1Co 12:1-14 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Who gave the gift of tongues and why?

Mar 16:17-20 Jesus says, “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

1Co 12:7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

1Co 14:12 “…for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.”

Not everyone is going to speak in tongues.

The manifestation of the Spirit is give to all, but the gifts manifested in each through the Spirit vary, “for to one is given….wisdom” “to another…[is given] tongues.” 1 Cor 12:7-8

If we tried to all have the same spiritual gift, we would not function properly.

1Co 12:16-18 “And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (Note this passage comes directly out of Paul’s commentary on Spiritual Gifts)

Are tongues still being used today? Or have tongues ceased?

If tongues were not meant for us today, then are the other gifts in this list also not meant for today? I think we would have a lot of trouble functioning as a church today if all of these things were no longer meant for us to have and use today.
1 Co 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”

What is the gift of tongues actually used for?
How does using tongues actually work?

1Co 14:2 “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”

1Co 14:4 “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…”

1Co 14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.”

1Co 14:15 “…I will pray with the spirit…I will sing with the spirit…”

1Co 14:16 “…if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?” (You can bless and give thanks in tongues with the spirit, but this blessing and giving of thanks are only understood by other’s if there is an interpretation of what is said.)

1Co 14:22 “…tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers

How do we use tongues correctly?

1Co 12:31-13:3
“But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have…all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Paul says, “Earnestly desire the best gifts,” and then he says: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1Co 13:13
Pauls says after this is, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts…” 1Co 14:1

So if we are using spiritual gifts (no matter which gift) we need to make sure we are using it with love.

How do we use tongues correctly in church?

Paul says, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1Co 14:18-19 (Notice, he says, “in the church.” Outside the church, Paul thanks God for the gift of tongues he has through the Spirt.)

1Co 14:13-15 “…let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret….I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”

1Co 14:26-28 “…Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.”
1Co 14:33 “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
1Co 14:39-40 “…do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Can the gift of tongues be abused?
Yes, just like any other spiritual gift, tongues can be abused. I believe this is exactly why Paul included the statements above about how tongues need to be used decently and in order. Don’t rob the church of the blessing of tongues and interpretation in fear of them, but use them the right way through the Spirit.

Just like a true Christian should reflect the nature of Christ.
True tongues given by the Spirit should reflect the nature of the Spirit.

If tongues are not matching who the Spirit is, then either they have not been given by the Spirt of Christ, or they are not being used according to the way Scripture says to use them. Both are an abuse of this gift.

1Jo 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

2Th 3:13-15 “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

Believer’s receiving the gift of tongues

Act 10:43-46 “‘To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.’ While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”

Act 19:1-6 “And it happened…Paul…came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’… when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

Challenge: 1Co 12:1-14 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant (Agnoeō)”
1. to be ignorant, not to know
2. not to understand, unknown
3. to err or sin through mistake, to be wrong

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What does the Bible say about Darkness vs. Light?

Saul’s conversion is an interesting story in Scripture, because Saul describes the moment himself in Act 22:6-8 this way: “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus…suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I…heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’”

Here’s the interesting thing, Saul, who was a Pharisees, would have known these verses.

Isa 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.”

Psa 27:1 “…The LORD is my light and my salvation…”
Psa 104:1-2 “…O LORD my God…Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment…”
Psa 118:27 “God is the LORD, and He has given us light…”

Hab 3:3-4 “God came from Teman…His brightness was like the light…”

Saul knew God was Light, but suddenly Jesus, who Saul thought was a false teacher, is the one talking to him as the Light–something Jesus had already said about Himself and which several of His disciples had already witnessed.

Jhn 8:12 “Then Jesus spoke…saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”

Jhn 9:3-5 Jesus answered, “… I am the light of the world.”

Jhn 12:44-46 “Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘…I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.’”

Mat 17:1-2 “…Jesus…was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

Saul did not get to see Jesus transfigured here on earth, and yet Saul saw a great light, and notice what Saul (now Paul) later says in Ephesians in encouragement to the believers:

Eph 1:15-21 “Therefore I also…do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…that you may know what is the hope of His calling…according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”

Eph 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”

Light vs. Darkness

For interest sake, without even looking at what Light means in direct relation to God, but simply looking at a Biblical comparisons of light versus darkness, let’s see what we know.

Gen 1:4 “…God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Job 30:26 “But when I looked for good, evil came to me;
and when I waited for light, then came darkness.”

Ecc 2:13 “Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.”

Isa 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness…”

Act 26:17-18 “…in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…”

Light is: good, wisdom, and God.
Darkness is: evil, folly, and Satan.

2Co 4:6 “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Challenge: Declare the message. 1Jo 1:5 “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

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What does the Bible say about Apologizing?

Interesting fact: you won’t find the word “apology,” “apologize,” or “apologizing” in the Bible.

So….? What does this mean for our concept of apologizing? Well, actually, I hope it changes it. And here’s why, because we need to get rid of this idea of apologizing and instead return to what we’re supposed to be doing and that’s repenting.

What are the differences between these two words and why does God say repent (a lot!) and does not say apologize?

What does “Apology” mean?
(Merrian-Webster Dictionary) Apology: an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret
(Google’s Dictionary) Apology: a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure

Now let’s look at the meaning of Repent—a word which actually is in the Bible.

What does “Repent” mean?
(The Merrian-Webster dictionary)
Repent: 1 to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
2 a. to feel regret or contrition b. to change one’s mind
(What does “amend” mean? 1. to put right… 2 a.to change or modify (something) for the better)

Blue Letter Bible Greek Lexicon:  (Metanoeō is used 34x)
Repent: Metanoeō
1. to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent
2. to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins

Remember what amend means? TO PUT RIGHT!

Blue Letter Bible Hebrew Lexicon (Shuwb is used 1,066x)
Repent: Shuwb
1. to return, turn back

Repenting isn’t just expressing remorse or saying “sorry.”

Repenting is actually setting right, amending, changing, turning away from that which you have done, said, or been a part of that was wrong!

An “apology” is saying: “Yes, I made this mess, and I regret it.”

Repenting is saying: “I regret making this mess. I will clean up this mess. And in the future I will not make this mess again.” And then doing it!

Challenge: Don’t just apologize. Actually do what God says—repent!

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Practical Application of Worldview: Bearing One Another’s Burdens

What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens? “Bearing” comes from the concept of carrying a burden.
Do you ever feel like you are burdened by something? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a physical or emotional burden you were carrying? Guess what, you’re not alone. In fact, two of the most well-known Spiritual leaders in the Bible also struggled with this feeling of being over burdened.

Num 11:11-14 “So Moses said to the LORD…“I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me….
Num 11:16-17 “So the LORD said to Moses: ‘Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel…I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.’”

Psa 38:1 “A Psalm of David….my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me….I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly….my strength fails me.… and my relatives stand afar offin You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God….I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin. But my enemies are vigorous, and they are strong. And those who hate me wrongfully have multiplied.… Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

David later says this in another Psalm

Psa 55:22 “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

And Jesus says in Mat 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls….”

Now, if we are to be an example of Christ to others…how should we be responding to one another’s burdens?

Gal 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

And Gal 6:9-10 says, “…let us not grow weary while doing good…Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Why especially to the household of the faith?

Our brothers and sisters in Christ should be the easiest people to love in this way. Helping to bear the burden of a dear brother or sister should be a joy. We should be excited to stand along side each other, encouraging and supporting one another. So why do we seem to have such reservations, such fears, such disregard for the burdens of other Christians?

Who, if they saw a fellow Christian trying to carry a huge box alone, would walk past and not pause to help them? In the same way, who, when seeing an emotional or spiritual burden weighing them down, would not pause to help them? Surely, to leave them carry that burden alone, would not be love.

Mat 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The epitome to how God feels about how we should respond to other’s heavily burdened, is that God even cares about the animals of our enemies who are too heavily burdened and tells His people how they should respond. Exo 23:5 “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.”

How much more so should we be responding to people who are heavily burdened?

Challenge: Bear one another’s burdens, especially those who are of the household of the faith.

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P A of W: Do We Need God All The Time?

What if God didn’t do anything for a day? What if we were on our own?

There’s this mindset that develops in us, this idea that most of the time we’ve got this life thing handled. It’s only when things go wrong, it’s only when our life get’s crazy and out of control, that we need God. And in those moments that’s when we run to Him and are like, “Hey, God, I actually need Your help today.”

But otherwise, when things are going well, we act like we’ve got it and God can just chill, because we don’t need His aid or intervention at that moment.

Its like, we have this mistaken perspective that God’s hands are only needed on the wheel when we ask them to be, and, that the rest of the time, we can and are actually doing just find driving on are own.

So let’s picture it: It’s a sunny Fall day, we’re behind the wheel, heading to visit a friend. We’re cruising at 65mph, sipping our chai latte, and jamming to some tunes. Do we need God in this moment? What is God actually doing for us right at this moment? Aren’t we basically doing great on our own?
Who is God exactly? (Note: I’m not asking, who is He to you. No, I’m asking: Who is God?)

Let’s pause, go back, and ask ourselves our earlier question: What if for a day God stopped doing what God does?

What if, in that moment while you’re going 65 and drinking your latte, God no longer kept the earth spinning or gravity working? What if God ceased giving the sun its light or keeping your heart pumping? What if He stopped holding your body together and quit keeping atoms united? What if… what if for a single moment God stopped doing what God does?

Jer 31:35 “…Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night…(The LORD of hosts is His name)…”

Col 1:17 “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (NIV)

Job 38:1-41 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:…“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements?…
“Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!’
Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth… Have you entered the springs of the sea?… Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail…By what way is light diffused, or the east wind scattered over the earth?
Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt… Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? The waters harden like stone, and the surface of the deep is frozen.
“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion? Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season? Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you? Can you send out lightnings…
“Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart?…”

Challenge: Next time your tempted to think you’ve got this life thing handled on your own, remember Who’s really holding everything together. God is truly good all the time! And all the time, God is needed!

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