10 May, 2017

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide? I Don't Think So!

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Disney's "Pinocchio." Jiminy Cricket was my favorite part of the movie, and when I was young and growing up, his motto, "Let your conscience be your guide" became my motto. That may sound like sound advice, but as I grew older, I discovered that our conscience changes; and that can lead to a lot of problems. 

A pure and undefiled conscience may in fact be a good guide. But as we live and breathe in this world, life treats us to some harsh realities and can make us hard and cynical. Our conscience can and does become seared as we become "used to" the pain and grief of this world. Ever wonder how a sweet and innocent child can grow up to become a cold blooded killer? They were not born that way. They allowed their hearts to become hard and calloused, just as a man's hands become calloused and when he uses them to perform hard labor. When a heart (conscience) becomes calloused, things that once troubled the person no longer does. The conscience once was bothered and we knew not to go any further, but that hardened shell has now been formed and the voice that cries out to stop can no longer break through. It is kind of like when we sear meat.  To sear meat, the surface of the meat is cooked rapidly at a very high heat, which causes the juices to caramelize and form a crust, sealing in the juices. It is the same as cauterizing a wound where it is burned, thus sealing off the wound so that it will no longer bleed. When the heart is cauterized, it no longer feels in the same way that it used to feel.  Paul warned Timothy about false teachers whose conscience have been seared with a hot iron in 1 Timothy 4:2.  

My point is simply this...

Just because a person's conscience no longer "bothers" them does not mean that the activity they are doing is now "OK" to do. Once their conscience pricked their hearts and they felt guilty or ashamed; or we might say "bothered" by that which today they do without giving it a second thought. It's not that God's standard has changed; it's the case of callouses forming which have built a hardened shell around the heart and the person is no longer sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We must all make an honest effort to be aware of just where we are and the need to keep our hearts (conscience) tender. If not, we would find ourselves doing things we once knew to be wrong and becoming bitter and cynical people. 

03 May, 2017

Walking Out Your Faith

Over the years I have come to realize that many, (maybe even most) Christians are really intimidated by the idea of sharing their faith with others. I am convinced that Jesus did not have any intention for us to fulfill the Great Commission to be such a drudgery and burden, but rather I believe that God intended for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ as a natural outflow of our daily walk as we live for Him. So, why do we make it complicated? It’s like we think that we must complete a course on evangelism or personal witnessing before getting started. I’m not knocking such programs, for they can be beneficial to us, but the truth is that all God wants from us is to walk out our faith before others.

I think we’d all agree that there's nothing worse than somebody trying to preach to us you about something going on in our life when all we can think about is finding a way to fix the problem. Right? The reality is that at that moment in our life, the last thing we want is somebody wearing a suit, carrying a Bible big enough to choke a mule and acting like they know exactly what we need and how we feel. Let’s be real honest… at those times in our life (especially before we were saved) and some Bible thumper came reading their verses of scripture, we were thinking that we with they’d just quit wasting our time and go away. For some reason, after we’ve been saved awhile, we forget how we felt. We didn’t want some religious person spouting scripture… we wanted someone to show us how to get out of the mess we were in!
This is exactly what makes the prospect of sharing our faith so scary or intimidating. I think that most people would like to help others to Jesus, but not knowing what to say and how to say it stops us dead in our tracks. So how do we share our faith without making people run and hide? The truth is, people can spot a phony from a mile away. That being said, then I have to believe that the absolute worst we thing we can do is to say one thing and do another. In other words, if you are not committed to applying Christian principles in your own life, you will not only be ineffective but will be seen as a phony. I’m convinced that people aren't near as interested in what you say, as they are in seeing how it's working in your life. Please don’t misunderstand, I believe we need to open our mouths and share with others, but first, we must live it out. I often speak to the people of my church and tell them that we must “earn the right to be heard.” Those around us want us to BE a friend, not tell them we are. They want us to show them we love them before we tell them that we do. A hungry person needs to taste the food… not just hear about it.
So, how do we walk out our faith before others? I want to share some practical ways to walk it out.
Be Real: OK, that sounds so cliché. What do I mean?
Be transparent and let people see your faith in action. When we go through a crisis or trial, let them see you with a positive outlook and a good attitude, even in the face of adversity. As we keep our eyes (and faith) on Jesus in the storms of our life, we are “walking out our faith” before the world. Remember when Peter walked on the water? He kept walking as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. But as soon as his attention was drawn off of Jesus and onto the storm around him, he sank. When those around us see us walking through the storms of our life, but still maintaining the peace of Christ, I’ll bet you that they are going to want what you’ve got! But if they see you panic and acting like everyone else, then they will see your faith means nothing, and dismiss it.
Another thing we can do is to treat people with respect and dignity, no matter what the circumstance. Be consistent and show that you always treat people the same, no matter what. Jesus treated people right, even when they mistreated Him. People around you will wonder how you're able to show this kind of respect for others. You never know, they may even ask you about it.
Still another way of walking out our faith is for us to find ways to be a blessing to others. This not only plants seeds for a harvest in our own life, it shows others that you are real and not a fake. Your life speaks louder than words and when we look for ways to bless others, it shows that we live what we believe. Saying you're a Christian is one thing, but walking out our faith in tangible ways every day is something else. The Word tells us that They will know us by our fruit.
Above all don't compromise your beliefs. Situations happen to us every day where we are tested because compromise is not only possible, but many times is expected. This is a real way to show people that your Christianity means living a life of integrity. And yes, that means you tell the cashier that she gave you back too much change or forgot to charge you for an item!
Our willingness to forgive quickly is a powerful way to walk out our faith. As children of the King, we must become a people of forgiveness. I’ve learned that nothing creates division, hostility, and turmoil more than an unwillingness to forgive the people who hurt you… even when you are absolutely right! Being right doesn't give you a free pass to lash out, insult, humiliate or embarrass someone else. Being right doesn't eliminate your responsibility to forgive.
Let me sum all this up in one sentence. The best way to share your faith is to be an example. Walk it out before them and people will want to know how they too can be peaceful in their storm. They will want to know why your kids are not sucked into the traps that theirs do. They will want to know why your marriage is going well… Live it out before them and they will watch and eventually they will ask. And when they ask, we have all kinds of great stuff to share about how good our God is.

02 May, 2017

What Is Lacking?

Is it not written: Behold, the Lord your God will withhold nothing good from you who walk uprightly; for He has graciously shielded you with Favor in Christ Jesus. (Psalm 84:11)?

Guess what?
Favor is a good thing!
Healing is a good thing!
Deliverance is a good thing!
Good health is a good thing!
Salvation, redemption,
and restoration are good things.
Wisdom is a good thing!
Provision is a good thing!
Blessings are good things!
Victory is a Good thing!
Overcoming is a good thing!
Being fruitful is a good thing!
Peace and Joy are good things!

Not experiencing these things in your life?
Guess what is lacking?

Behold, NO GOOD THING will the Lord your Father withhold from you who walk in obedience to God's Word!

29 April, 2017

What Reward Are You Expecting?

In this entry, I'm not even going to approach dealing with those who are not saved, or "in the world." I want to talk to those who are in the church. Those who claim to be Born Again, Spirit-led believers. I want to be clear that I'm not asking how loud do you shout, how passionate you pray or any other outward sign that we would normally look at and say, "Wow... he/she is a good Christian." The truth of the matter is that none of that matters if your daily walk does not line up with the Word of God. Now, normally, when we say that, most people think, "I don't drink, sleep around or smoke pot." I contend that most Christians have put on blinders, just as the Pharisees did in Biblical times, and they see themselves as super-saints when in reality, their lives are a poor expression of Christ. These are the people Jesus spoke of when he spoke of being lukewarm. A lukewarm Christian has found a place of comfort and cannot be swayed from that comfort zone. They think they are impressing the Lord with their shout and church sanctuary religion... but I believe he says of them, "you make me sick to where I want to spew you out of my mouth." Here are the simple facts: nowhere in the Word of God does it mention that God is impressed by the shout, the dance or anything else we call worship. What He is impressed by is faith that causes us to walk out the word Monday through Saturday. Faith that causes us to be people of integrity, where our word and our work ethic testify of Christ. Faith that tells others outside of the church house of God's goodness in our lives and our actions, not our words show the difference that being a child of God makes... not because we don't do certain things, rather because we are faithful, consistent and trustworthy. Lives that are not on a continual rollercoaster emotionally. Lives that don't need to see another miracle to enable us to continue to believe, but we believe because the Word of God says so.

No... God is not impressed with the flash in the pan person who shouts and jumps in the church house... he is impressed with the one who lives their life with the full understanding that everything they do and say testifies more fully of what they really believe.

Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you were working for your real master and not merely for humans. You know that your real master will give you an inheritance as your reward. It is Christ, your real master, whom you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Years ago there used to be a public service announcement that came across the TV screens every night at 10:00.  It said, "It's 10:00 PM... Do you know where your children are?"  The message was a reminder that parents had a responsibility to look after and care for their children.  It was telling parents that the hour was late and they should be making sure that their children were safe in their homes or wherever they were supposed to be, and not in danger or in a place where they could get in trouble. Back in those days, America believed in responsibility and accountability; something that has long since disappeared from our society.  

I was thinking about that message from my youth and what it was saying to both parents and children, and that thought got me to thinking about the same message in a spiritual sense. The same spirit of "not my responsibility" and self-centeredness has crept into the church. Parents have often said to me, "I can't make my child go to church if they don't want to." Then they wonder why they don't want to go to church as adults. My own children will be 27 and 24 years of age soon and I still call and/or text to check on them, talk to them about what is going on in their lives, both in the natural as well as the spiritual realm. They may be out of the nest but they are not out of my care. And the bottom line is, I want to see them in Heaven. I think about that. I pray about that, and I stay involved in their lives because it is important to me. I see that the hour is late and the midnight hour is fast approaching and I want to know that my children are where they need to be, safe and secure. It may sound self-serving to say this, but I really question how many parents think along these lines. When they see their children going down the wrong path, do they say anything to their kids? I have to honestly say that I see many parents who know their kids are on the path to destruction and Hell, they sheepishly say, "all I can do is pray."  That is a lie from the pits of Hell itself! I promise you that if they knew an intruder was waiting inside their children's home to kill them, they'd be standing outside that home doing everything within their power to keep that child from entering that home. They would not sit at home and pray, but they'd physically intervene. If their child thought them crazy or became angry and cynical of their intervention and tried to enter that house, they'd persist and fight them if necessary rather than say, "well, I prayed." This is real. This is not a fairy tale and the fact is, it's not 10:00 PM, it's 11:50 on the spiritual clock and there are souls hanging in the balance!

Do you know where your children are?

21 April, 2017

I'm Learning

OK, I've been preaching since 1981, pastored my first church in 1986 (interim pastor) and been a full-time pastor since 1991... so you'd think that by now I'd have this thing figured out. Hardly. The more I learn the more I discover how much I don't know. To be honest, pastoring in 2017 is nothing like it was in 1993. The world has changed. People have changed. With the increase of technology and especially the Internet, pastoring took an abrupt change of direction. Things I did back then are almost non-existent today. In 1994 when I got my first cell phone, none of us had a clue where that technology was taking us. Who would have dreamed that one day we'd set our cell phone up in the sanctuary and live stream our services around the world in real time and be able to communicate with people watching in Pakistan and the Philippines instantly? Or that a small church in a town of 800 people would literally touch people around the world? It's crazy mindboggling... and it is changing us even more rapidly. The frustrating thing that I'm learning is that with these changes which enable us to reach people around the world (as well as those who are shut in locally and cannot make it to church) come more excuses for people to stay home from the physical church and disconnect. As we live stream and record the services to be viewed later, already people are learning that the can stay home, sleep in on Sunday morning and watch the service at their leisure from the comfort of their home. Attendance drops, as does giving to the church and I'm learning that even though the church is reaching hundreds of viewers and listeners to our podcast, the church is having to make cutbacks in order to survive. One of the things I'm learning in 2017 is that fewer and fewer people are committed to the church and to supporting the work of the church financially. I wonder sometimes if they think that God just supernaturally puts money in our bank account to pay the utilities, mortgage, and insurance? I guess what I'm really learning is that people no longer really care about their church like they used to. It seems like as long as their needs are met, that is all that matters and if once church shutters its windows and closes the doors... there will always be another. I'm learning that pastoring in 2017 is a whole new challege. I have to wonder what tomorrow hold?

14 April, 2017

The Power of Simplicity

Have you ever thought about how many times we climb a mountain when all we need to do is walk through the tunnel? I'm talking about times when rather than simply saying or doing what needs to be done, we make a major production out of something that could be handled quite simply. I recently listened to a politician give a speech on television, and after he had spoken for nearly 30 minutes, a friend asked me what he had said. I was able to say everything the man said in two short sentences. We laughed about it, but I have been thinking about that ever since that moment. Why do we tend to make things so difficult? Why can't we just say it, or do it, and be done with it?

I was thinking about how this applies to us as Christians and how we tell others about our faith in Christ. We often try to "scale the mountain" with our words or testimony, when the person we are speaking to is ripe and ready to hear a right now Word from God.
A lot of folks think that unless you say a lot, talk a long time, you have not been effective. But can I tell you that there is power in just a few words?

I'm reminded of a time when I was young when there was a large number of accidents at train crossings. The Grand Trunk Railroad was quite concerned and they ran a nationwide contest searching for a slogan that would make people more aware of the dangers of these railroad crossings. The winner was to receive $2500. (Which was a lot of money back then!) Thousands and thousands of entries poured in... but the winning slogan was three short words... "STOP... LOOK... LISTEN." Those three words became known to everyone and undoubtedly saved hundreds, maybe even thousands of lives.
Great studies had been completed, positional papers were written, and meetings held across the nation to try to solve this problem at railroad crossings.... but three words changed the entire situation all across the nation. There is power in simplicity.

I've been thinking about this for some weeks now, and I realize that way too often, when people call me about their problems, their current crisis or whatever, I often go into long discussions as we try to get to the bottom of the issue and how to resolve it; when the answer is found in three short words found in Hebrews 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus." What else really needs to be said?
The reality is that so often we need to quit talking, quit fretting and worrying, and we need to take it to Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith"!  There is power in simplicity!

Sitting here typing this, I am reminded of my teen years when I sang in a church youth choir. There was an old song that a man in my church had written a new arrangement to that had a recitation in it. The recitation began:
"The love of God; four short words, but how inclusive."
The words to the song said:
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

You know, sometimes rather than scaling the mountain to tell someone about the ramifications of sin...
Rather than launching into a theological discourse about salvation...
Maybe we just need to tell them about the wonderful love of God.
There is power in simplicity!

08 April, 2017

The Yoke of Christ

Do you ever find it difficult to follow Christ? 
Why is it so hard to follow Jesus sometimes?
Do you ever get tired?
Do you ever find yourself in need of rest?
How can I find rest while following Jesus?
Matthew 11:28-30 MKJV
28) Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29) Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.
30) For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say.
He doesn’t say, “Come to me, for I have no burden!"
Nor does he say "Come to me, for I don’t make any demands!” 
Hey, let's be honest... Wouldn’t that have been more appealing?
But a yoke involves subjection to a master. 
There are more than 50 references to "yoke" in the Bible that speak of the wooden bar or frame used to join animals to enable them to pull a load. It is an image of subjection, service or bondage, just as a yoked ox is subject to its owner. A yoke is usually a negative thing—something a person would do virtually anything to avoid. Sin is described as a yoke around a person’s neck.
But when Jesus talks of his yoke, the imagery has a positive meaning of good subjection to him.
For those of us in the individualistic and permissive West, talk of surrender, submission, and radical obedience may be difficult for us to swallow. We tend to want to have our cake and eat it too. But when Scripture pays honor again and again to Jesus as “Lord,” it is clear that this term refers to a master who owns and controls servants or slaves.
Paul understood himself to be Christ’s slave (doulos), who is compelled and controlled by his master to do his master’s bidding and to serve his purposes.Most English translations of the Greek NT tend to use the more socially acceptable term “servant” instead of “slave” in translating some 190 words that refer to slavery (because of our collective shame over the history of slavery in the West).
But one of Paul’s most common self-designations is “slave of Christ.”
Paul makes it clear that using the image of slavery to understand one’s relationship with Christ has to do with obedience. 
For Paul, the issue is clear: everybody obeys something, and whatever or whomever you obey, you are enslaved to.
We wear a yoke. But is it on you alone?
In the scripture text I mentioned above, Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves and he will give us rest.
That sounds like quite a paradox, doesn’t it? To put on a yoke, which symbolizes work or labor, and expect to find rest there.
But the truth of this test is that we find rest when we discover that the yoke’s also on him (29b) Jesus’ generous invitation is to the broken and the burdened. It is grounded in his own gentleness and humility. He was not simply a powerful lord who ruthlessly crushed all opposition, but one who sought the good of others and promised rest for their souls.
There is a famous study that was done on two horses. The first one could pull 10,000 lbs on a sled while the second could pull 14,000 lbs.
What would you think they could pull when yoked together in the same direction?
Most people would guess something like 24,000 lbs, but the answer is 49,000 lbs! The sum is greater than a combination of the parts.
Like many of the "crazy" things Jesus said, this truth is paradoxical.
We lay down our burdens, our agendas, and take on God’s yoke, “easy” and “light.” Even though his is a burden, it is easy compared to ours because we are joining Jesus in his work. On the other side of the yoke pulling with us is the powerful and almighty resurrected One, carrying the weight of the world. It feels easier and lighter because of who is helping carry the load. 
Imagine two men in boats; one a row boat, the other a sailboat.
A rower gets to a destination by personal strain, struggle, and effort. A sailor arrives under the wind’s power. Rowing is a good way to keep in shape but a lousy way to travel. Sailing, on the other hand, taps the power of the wind and allows us to go much farther, much faster, with far less human effort than rowing. 
The scary thing is, I often try minister like I’m rowing a boat—out of my strength, in my wisdom, by my power. When I do that, my ministry lacks power and I grow quite weary. God may still use me, graciously, but sailing is a far better way to go. 
Jesus makes it clear that following him is a slave to master relationship, which involves submission and obedience. The yoke’s on us. But that means the power comes from the One who directs our lives.
Christ offers a liberating enslavement. The yoke’s really on him.

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said: “The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. If He bids us carry a burden, He carries it also.”
The yoke’s on us, but the yoke’s really on him.
But what about that rest we’re looking for?
We find rest when we realize that no one gets tired of a really good yoke.
The New Living Translation of this text says: “For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

If I put a flat, uncarved piece of wood on an ox’s neck and use it to pull a cart, very quickly pressure sores will break out on that animal’s neck, and he will be useless.
A good yoke must be formed to the shape of an ox’s neck. It should cover a large area of skin to distribute the stresses widely. It should also be smooth, rounded, and polished with no sharp edges so that no one point will endure unduly high stress. If I succeed in my workshop, the yoke I make will fit snugly around the ox’s neck and cause him no discomfort. The animal can haul heavy loads every day for years, and his skin will remain perfectly healthy, with no pressure sores.

Can I tell you that Jesus offers each of us a well-fitted yoke, of custom design? He does not call us to the kind of rest that means inactivity or laziness--that would lead to spiritual atrophy. Instead, he promises a burden designed to fit my frame, my individual needs, strengths, and capabilities. The problem so often is that we try to wear a yoke of our own design, or that someone else wants to put on us, rather than the one that Christ has designed for us. When we do that, we get weary, or hurt, and render ourselves useless. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to direct us and put on us the yoke, or labor that he designs for us, not man.
Here’s the picture that we must see: We come to him weary and heavy-laden. He removes those crushing burdens that would destroy any human being, and replaces them with a yoke of appropriate stress designed specifically for you and me.
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me," he says, "for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Isn't It Funny?

Funny how we set our clocks to arise at 4:00 am or 5:00 am to be at the job by 7:30, yet when Sunday comes we can't get to church for the 10:00 am service to praise the one who gave us the jobs!

Funny how we call God our Father and Jesus our brother but find hard to introduce them to our family.

Funny how small our sins seem, but how big "their" sins are.

Funny how we demand justice for others but expect mercy from God.

Funny how much difficulty some have learning the gospel well enough to tell others, but how simple it is to understand and explain the latest gossip about someone else.

Funny how we can't think of anything to say when we pray, but don't have any difficulty thinking of things to talk about to a friend.

Funny how we are so quick to take directions from a total stranger when we are lost but are hesitant to take God's direction for our lives.

Funny how so many churchgoers sing "Standing on the Promises" but all they
do is sit on the premises.

Funny how people want God to answer their prayers but refuse to listen to His counsel.

Funny how we sing about heaven but live only for today.

Funny how people think they are going to Heaven but don't think there is a Hell.

Funny how it is okay to blame God for evil and suffering in the world but it is not necessary to thank Him for what is good and pleasant.

Funny how when something goes wrong, we cry, "Lord, why me?" but when something goes right, we think, "Hey, it must be me!"

Oh, wait...maybe all this isn't so "funny" after all.

--Author Unknown

06 April, 2017

One Dimensional Christianity

Those who know me and who have sat under my ministry know that one of my key words is "balance."  There must be balance in all of our lives, and that includes in our Christian walk. A pet peeve of mine is people who like one area of teaching, and that is what they feed themselves on. They zero in on an area of study (such as prophecy) and they study nothing but prophecy. Note that there is nothing wrong with prophecy, but we need more than that. We could pick any subject, but the principle is the same. We must study the whole Bible, rightly divided. Otherwise, we are out of balance. Ever have a washing machine go out of balance? All it does is make a whole lot of noise, and waste a lot of energy. Not much more than that is accomplished. And so it is with our Christian walk.

Let's look at it from another perspective. Suppose there was someone giving a speech on the awesome wonder of the automobile engine, but when you went to hear him speak, all he spoke about was the crank shaft. He could stress how that without the crankshaft, the engine was worthless, because the crankshaft moves the pistons which compress the fuel mixture, which fires and the force of the piston recoiling from the explosion turns the crank shaft with more force, thus driving the transmission. And he could make a good case for the crankshaft being the most important part of the engine. However, another person on the other  side of town giving a speech on the awesome wonder of the automobile engine is giving a speech and he insists that the piston is the most important part of the car engine, for without it, there is no compression of the fuel mixture, thus no explosion, thus nothing to turn the crankshaft. In yet another part of town, a man is giving a lecture on the automobile engine, but he insists that the spark plug is the most important part of the car engine, for without it, there would be nothing to cause the explosion, so the piston and crankshaft are useless without the spark plug. In still another part of town, there is another man giving a lecture on the automobile engine, but he asserts that it is the distributor/electronic ignition that is the most important part, for if it were not for it, the spark plugs would never know when or how to fire, therefore there would be nothing to push the piston, and therefore nothing to turn the crankshaft.  I could go on, but I hope by now you are getting the idea. Each part or component of the engine is vital. Remove any of them, and the rest of it does not work. It takes them all, working at peak performance in the correct order and balance in order for the engine to work. So it is with our Christian lives. When we study one area, or focus too much on one area, we get out of balance, and that throws everything in our Christian walk out of kilter, leaving us either not performing, or performing at a less than optimal way, rendering us ineffective.

It is easy to get caught up in what I term, "one dimensional Christianity". We have to guard ourselves, and discipline ourselves to study all of the Bible, not just the parts that we like or excite us, for just like that car engine, all the parts are essential to one another in order to balance out and keep our spiritual lives functioning in harmony and with productivity. Think about it... have you become prone to studying one area of our Christian life to the neglect of others? Find your place of balance. It may just be time for a spiritual tuneup.

03 April, 2017

Changing Your Focus

Awhile back I was shooting some pictures for someone and my eye kept being drawn to something in the background that I absolutely hated and it was just ruining the shot. I kept trying to get this shot, but it just was not right. I was getting very frustrated, as I could see in my mind what I wanted, but I could not get the shot. I started fussing about the junk in the background, but it was not only the object in the background, the entire thing seemed out of joint. I just could not get the shot right. I probably took at least 25 or more shots and I just could not get what I wanted. I stopped and talked with the person I was shooting and she said to me, "can't you just edit it out?" I'm like, "Duh?" But I was still unhappy with what I had. And it hit me... what was wrong here was that I was so consumed with that thing in the background that I was not focusing on what my subject was doing. We shot it again, and immediately I knew what was wrong. When my focus shifted from that stupid thing in the background and put my focus on what I was trying to do, I knew right away what was ruining the shot and was able to make the necessary corrections. Two more shots and I had exactly what I was looking for.

There is a great life lesson in that scenario that I walked out in my photography. I've come more and more to realize that what has your attention is what will become your focus and cause you to waste a lot of time and energy because you are focused on the problem rather than the solution. Winners... or those who overcome are positive thinkers. They do not give in to the temptation to become negative. They refuse to waste their energy and thoughts on their obstacles.  Instead, they focus on their goals and how to attain them, rather than what obstacles stand in the way. Only two things will consume you every day of your life… your obstacles and your goals.  What you choose to focus on is what will prevail in your life. Make a choice to stop looking at your failures and setbacks and all the "junk in the background" and shift your focus on the subject at hand and how to succeed. Failure is not an option!

Philippians 4:8-9 from The Message version of the Bible says:

 8-9  Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

30 March, 2017

Lighten Up and Have Some Joy

Galatians 5:22 says, "THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS...JOY."
Over the years I have come to realize that most of us are just far too serious for our own good. 
We can be so uptight about anything and everything, like:
* running a couple of minutes late, 
* getting stuck in slow or stalled traffic, 
* having to wait in line with a slow cashier
* somebody looking at us wrong
* somebody not looking at us at all
* having to wait 5 minutes for someone late for a meal
* gaining a pound
* discovering a new gray hair or wrinkle
* making an honest mistake
* you name it - we lose all perspective! 

The problem is that we have unrealistic (and unscriptural) expectations of ourselves and others. 
Nowhere did God say that He'd take us out of all our troubles.
He did say that He'd bring us through them and make us stronger. 

If you want to experience the joy Jesus promised, do two things:

(1) Admit that your uptightness is largely because of the way you've decided life should be.

(2) Understand that your expectations are causing most of your frustrations.

If you keep expecting things to be a certain way and they aren't, you'll always be upset. 
Here's an idea: try approaching each day without all those expectations. 
For example, don't require everybody to be friendly; then when someone is friendly, you will be delighted. 
Don't expect your day to be trouble-free; instead when problems come, say: "Thank you, Lord, for a chance to grow in grace." 
Do it, and you'll see how much better everything is. 
Rather than fighting against life you'll be flowing with it. 
And pretty soon, if you work at it, you'll enjoy your life more - and other people will enjoy being around you much more too! 
That's why Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG
“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”