Avoid Distractions to Focus Our Attention — Devotion

Avoid Distractions to Focus Our Attention — Devotion

Our traffic laws forbid distractions while driving, Vehicles may quickly become lethal weapons under the control of distracted drivers. Distractions intrude from every angle, dividing our attention. For the most part the consequences of such interruptions are minor, but not always.

A couple weeks ago, one appointment ran into another with only a small break to run errands before the next meeting. My phone vibrated with yet another message just as I was entering the elevator to go to our fourth-floor condo. I pressed the elevator button while responding to the text. When the door opened, I followed the hallway around the corner, while simultaneously retrieving my keys and responding to the test message. At “my” door, I was surprised when the key refused to fit the lock. Looking up, I was horrified to realize I was on the wrong floor, attempting to open someone else’s door. Yikes!!! I quickly turned back to escape notice and embarrassment, correcting my steps. Distractions had led me down the wrong path, to the wrong door!

Later, I admitted my error to my adult children. “Mom, forget about distracted driving,” they laughed, “you can’t even do distracted walking!” They are right.

It is no wonder God calls us away from double-mindedness and into undivided loyalty.

 “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
James 1:6-8

Divided Hearts and Minds

The word for divided loyalty or double-mindedness, in Greek dipsychos, means to have “two souls, or two selves, to be wavering, two-spirited, or vacillating.

At times, we all waver between opinions and struggle to choose the best option. Usually, like my walking while texting experience, the consequences are minor. But at other times, such distractions result in something much more serious.

Psalm 12:2 tells us that “double-talk” flows from a “double heart.” Many relationships have been irreparably damaged by flattery and double talk. Double minds and double talk will always lead to trouble.

““These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.”
Isaiah 29:13-14 MSG

In the New Testament, Paul advised Timothy to choose leadership who were not “double-tongued” (1 Timothy 3:8).

Distractions

Distractions of texting while walking caused me nothing more than embarrassment, inconvenience, and a waste valuable time. I recently read that people check their cell phones between 100-150 times a day. If each distraction averaged only one minute, that totals a staggering two hours of interruptions daily.

Long before the invention of cell phones, people were prone to distraction — especially the distraction from focused attention and devotion to God.

“Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.”
1 Kings 18:21

The divided focus of Elijah’s day included the worship of many other gods. Today perhaps, it is different things that draw us away from worshiping God with all our hearts. The distraction by many things takes various forms. Elijah asked, “How long will you hesitate…?” Every distraction creates a hesitation. We, like they, can’t find a reasonable excuse..

Do you feel the pull of distractions as much as I do?

When I go to pray — distractions! As I try to focus and read the Bible — more distractions! When I plan to serve God with my whole heart — even more distractions!

Throughout the ages, the battle for whole-hearted devotion with undivided hearts has remained the same.

Focused Love and Devotion

God knows and understands our struggle better than we do. He knows the enemy who tries to keep us from focused love and devotion to God. It’s a battle we will win by intentionally drawing close to God.

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”
James 4:7

As we acknowledge our weakness to the lure of distractions and seek God, He immediately comes to our rescue.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4:10

God was teaching me a far greater lesson through my distracted walking. He doesn’t want me, or anyone else, to follow the wrong path and end up at the wrong eternal door. By avoiding distractions, we will each accomplish our full potential and reach our intended destination. May we not stand before Him speechless, but may He receive our full attention and undivided devotion.

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5 Ways to Overcome Adversity — Part 2

5 Ways to Overcome Adversity — Part 2

We all face various levels of distress, trouble, and hardship. Today, we look at five ways to overcome adversity, no matter the source.

Yesterday during prayer, I saw a vision of a paved, mountainous road completely covered with huge boulders. Many people attempted to navigate the road, pain-stakingly climbing over boulder after boulder. Fatigued and weary, some had already given up. Their garments hung torn from their frail bodies, exposing scaped arms and legs. Then I saw sand being poured out over the boulders, filling in the crevices between the rocks and making the road smooth. Although the boulders remained, the road became easily passable.

Through the vision God showed me the plight of many people — weary from struggle, battered from their efforts, and on the verge of giving up. Perhaps, you face similar circumstances. The road ahead seems too rough and your strength too little.

From Genesis to Revelation, we read of many people who also faced insurmountable odds. Their examples continue to speak encouragement to us all.

#1 Stand in Battle

As Christians, we fight a real battle against a real enemy who attempts to slow or stop our progress. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy at every level. As Christ followers, we position ourselves with others on the battlefield, not on a relaxing sunny beach.

Paul encouraged young Timothy,

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
2 Timothy 2:3-4

Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-13, and Luke 4:1-13, all record Satan’s attack on Jesus to destroy His mission before He even began. Jesus stood His ground. His only weapon was the Word of God.

“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
Matthew 4:11

Luke uses the Greek word apeste for “left him,” meaning “retreat, desert, or remove.” I love that! Jesus stood His ground until the enemy turned tail and ran! Immediately, angels moved in to minister to Jesus. As the devil fled the scene, God figuratively poured sand over the rugged road for Jesus to walk upon.

May we learn from our Master and stand upon the unchanging Word of God as we, too, overcome adversity.

At the end of his life, the mighty warrior and military leader, Joshua, declared,

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14

#2 Persevere

In the vision, some people were sitting on the rocks their heads bent in defeat. Others were standing on the boulders. They appeared to be immobilized — uncertain whether to go back or move forward.

Most of us have heard or seen illustrations of people giving up just before they uncover a treasure, or on the edge of breakthrough. But when we are the ones broken and weary, perseverance seems trite or even cruel.

“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5

Every successful athlete undergoes strict training. Few, if any, athletes enjoy the discipline required. They all look to the end goal — “the victor’s crown,” a gold metal, a personal best, public recognition, or reward. And so, they persevere through arduous training, preparing themselves physically and psychologically to excel.

Perseverance perfectly describes both athletes and Christians, who give continued effort to achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

As we overcome adversity through perseverance, God pours more sand upon our path, smoothing our way.

#3 Choose Joy

Jesus again becomes our prime example.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of fath. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:2-3

No one will ever undergo what Jesus endured. Words fail to define the fullness of what He bore as He carried the weight of every sin committed to set humanity free and declared righteous before Holy God.

How did He do it? With joy! In joy! Through joy!

During times when my boulders, though small by comparison, seemed insurmountable, as I chose joy, God poured sand upon my path, creating a way to press through rough territory and eventually overcome. Joy is a choice — a decision of the will. In Christ, joy becomes a viable option.

Paul wrote to a church under extreme persecution the following words:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-8

#4 Focus Forward

In the vision, the people near the beginning clawed their way up the rocks inch by inch. While further along, others took giant leaps of faith from one boulder to another. I feared they would miss the mark and become wedged between the boulders. Yet, they moved with a capacity beyond natural ability. More often than not, as they leapt forward sand filled the chasms between the boulders. Even their misses weren’t fatal. Solid ground appeared beneath them, enabling them to more easily ascend the boulders.

Along this stretch of road, no one looked back. They all focused forward. They experienced God’s supernatural intervention enough to increase their faith for what was ahead.

No longer focused on the boulders, their gaze fixed on the bigness of God. Rather than the adversity, they looked to the God possibility ahead. Perhaps, these are the ones Jeremiah spoke about,


“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7

#5 Take Courage

As more and more sand filled the gaps and covered the rocks, the boulders became completely concealed beneath the sand. The road, once cluttered and impassable now became level. Not smooth black pavement but soft pliable sand softened the travellers’ footsteps.

These now walked unhindered with confidence and boldness. They knew, beyond a doubt, God enabled every step. He was with them.

As Joshua assumed leadership, replacing Moses, Moses commanded him,

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 21:6

To overcome adversity, we must possess an abiding assurance and an unwavering awareness, that God is with us. The same miracle-moving God who parted the Red Sea walks with us. God, who empowered people of old to overcome, works the impossible on our behalf. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.

Overcome Adversity

In the vision, the forerunners, those who were making the most progress, encouraged those who followed as they pressed ahead. The weak drew strength from the strong. The fearful found hope in the courageous. Confused travellers regained direction from the focused leaders.

No matter what “boulders” you are attempting to overcome, may Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians encourage you.

“My heart is always full and overflowing with thanks to God for you as I constantly remember you in my prayers. I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him. I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling — that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones! I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! And now he is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! He is gloriously enthroned over every name that is ever praised, not only in this age, but in the age that is coming!”
Ephesians 1:16-21 TPT

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Why Did I Just Do That? The Things We Say And Do

Refocus! The Fruit of the Spirit

Do you ever find yourself scratching your head wondering about the things you say and do? I just had one of these moments! Here I sit with an Alice & Victor cool pack resting on the shoulder I pulled during an ungraceful entrance into my own home — through the basement window.

As I read firsthand accounts of others I know they questioned their decisions:

In case you think it was only the male leaders who were rash in speech or action, I’ll spare us the feminine examples Eve, Martha, the mother of James and John, and others.

We’ve all been there at one time or another:

speaking when silence would have been golden
moving at a time when peace and rest were the power centers of advancement
allowing emotions to rule reason
hidden internal agendas and motives bubbling into full view.

The Things We Say and Do

Things We Say And Do

Words are like toothpaste” is an object lesson that powerfully illustrates the importance of the things we say and do.

“Those who guard their mouths
and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”

Proverbs 21:23

In most cases if I would slow down, say a little prayer and move thoughtfully, “calamity” could be avoided.  Proverbs 31 speaks about women, but it applies to all.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

Proverbs 31:26 

But of course, it isn’t just our words that can get us into precarious situations; actions speak too!

“Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let them show it by their good life,

by deeds done in the humility
that comes from wisdom.”

James 3:13

Fruit of the Spirit

I enjoy growing fruit: raspberries and strawberries, cherries and plums, apples and grapes, apricots and pears – all in a Canadian prairie garden! That may not seem like much to those in warmer territories, but in northern regions these plants need to withstand the brunt of harsh and lengthy winters.

The bible and life have taught me that a good tree will always bear good fruit. Always!

Fruit of the Spirit

I know we tend to think of the fruit of the Spirit as elementary, but it remains a constant work in progress for me. (Slow learner?) Just when one branch of my life is producing in abundance, another withers.

I find the hardest place to position this beautiful and life-giving “fruit” is toward myself especially in “what did I just say and do” moments.

But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

In our “Ugh!” moments, can we show ourselves the same grace we demonstrate to others?

patient in our weaknesses,
loving in our self-thoughts,
gentle and kind in failure,
displaying the love of Christ
when we feel replaceable, unloved,
rejected, forsaken, or alone…

The fruit of the spirit is the kingdom on heaven, through Christ, being expressed toward others and myself!

Why Did I Say and Do That?

It all begins in our thinking! Graham Cooke is a gem at inspiring many to redirect the negative to positive!

“Every day, we wake up with a mindset that
works for us or against us
It produces a way forward
and it allows us to enjoy the circumstances
and the discovery that we are going to make.
It allows a strength to emerge and be developed.”

Did you catch that little word – “produce”? That is fruit talk!

“A mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:6

The good news is, we have the mind of Christ already! It has been given to us with salvation! Now we just need to adjust it, focusing it fully on the Spirit!

Refocus

So on those days when I say or do something out of focus with who Christ in me is, I can think creatively and positively to turn things around. This little pulled muscle reminds me of lessons learned!

  • I’m too old to elegantly climb through windows!
  • I can listen and focus on what the Spirit is doing and saying.
  • I have opportunity to adjust my personal lens zooming into the same perspective.

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