Wednesday, April 15, 2015

FOCUS



Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (KJV)

FOCUS
Fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
Occupy ourselves with the work of the Father.
Conquer fear and doubt.
Unite with the brotherhood of believers.
Serve God faithfully.

            People tend to invest time looking at and longing for the things we think will make us happy. (Caution: the following information may date the author.) As children most of us spent countless hours pouring over the big Sears toy catalog at Christmas, The Wish Book. We would turn page after page circling and signing the items we hoped to find wrapped and waiting for us under the tree. The fact is: God has a gift for us that is infinitely more valuable than anything found beneath the Christmas tree. The happiness and fulfillment it offers is unmatched. Unwrapping God’s gift can be a challenging undertaking, but both the gift and its fruitfulness in our lives are worth the effort.

            Personally I attempt to boil everything down to a step-by-step process. Complicated tasks, such as living a Christian life, become simple when I can take them one step at a time. Serving God and living for Him is a manageable goal. The proper FOCUS will allow us to fix our eyes on Jesus and endure what life seems to throw at us. The first step is finding fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

            Fellowship is God extending His invitation to us into partnership with Him. Through that partnership we can see as God sees, speak as God speaks, and do as God does. We do not and will not become gods ourselves. We do become His servants and ambassadors here. Our finite understandings are expanded. Eternity becomes our target. Keeping eternity with God in view brings direction to our lives. That direction is constantly moving upward –– toward the light of Christ.
            He is The Light offered to the world and He begins to radiate from within us and we, in turn, proclaim God’s invitation into fellowship to all who will hear and respond. This type of joint venture, our faith lived out under the power of the Holy Spirit, cannot fail. God offers us true communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. When our dependence is upon God to accomplish what is promised in His word, joy and peace mark every area of our lives. Make no mistake we are not perfect –– only being perfected.

            This is not an excuse for our shortcomings nor is it a claim to magical powers of peace and harmony. We have all experienced pain, sickness and loss. Yet, by the grace of God, we can keep those things in eternal prospective. Our joy is made complete in sharing God’s message and seeing the Holy Spirit at work both in us, and those around us.

            What we see and hear in the presence of the Lord is what we openly proclaim to the world. It is our hope that others will share in the fellowship we have in Christ. There is only one message. We all need to walk in the light of Jesus Christ. Separation from the world and its system of operation is necessary. Living by the truth makes our life, in Jesus, the example to follow. If we are not spending time with Him, we have no life changing message and no power to accomplish the task. (1 John 1:3-6)

            Bringing things into FOCUS demands we take a hard look at what we do and why we do it. The task can be depressing if we, as we so often do, fixate on the negative. It is much easier to generate a list of all the things we do wrong or all the faults we have, than it is to celebrate our success in spiritual areas. As we look at what needs to be changed in our lives, we should remember to balance our zeal for correction with the comfort and encouragement of our fellowship with Christ. (Philippians 2:1-2)

            FOCUSFellowship with the Holy Spirit. Occupy ourselves with the work of the Father. Conquer fear and doubt. Unite with the brotherhood of believers. Serve God faithfully.

            Scripture calls us to like-mindedness, unity in spirit and purpose. That noble goal can only be reached through fellowship. As the family of God, the driving purpose we share is the salvation of souls. We need to occupy ourselves with the work of the Father.

            Teamwork is stressed in almost every walk of life and yet it is a major area of disagreement or at least discomfort within the church. Outreach efforts are not coordinated across denominational lines, or for that matter, in our experience, within the same fellowship conference. We need to overcome our kingdom mentality, small k, and replace it with a big K, Kingdom view.

            In writing this it is difficult to know what to share and how many details to offer, but there is no shortage of struggles regardless to the size of the church we find ourselves in today. The only practical encouragement I can offer is: Examine your gifts honestly and completely; then, go to work. Many times we feel frustrated and ineffective in ministry not because we are not called, but because we are not using the gifts God gave us.

            Getting busy with the work God has given us calls for clear direction and measurable goals. We must know what we are attempting to accomplish and how we intend to start the process. Teachers say, “Plan the work and then work the plan.” In ministry we are working God’s plan. Out of necessity we pray, study, and wait for His timing.

            In our devotion to His plan we cannot neglect responsibilities to our families or our financial obligations. Working to earn a living is not optional. Christians must be examples to the world in every area of life. Taking care to pay our debts and provide for our families does not lessen our dependence upon God, nor does it allow us to sit back and wait for the money we need to fall from heaven.  (2Thessalonians 3:10-12)

            If we spend time being idle we may soon find ourselves being a busybody. Concentrating on what we think others should do is counterproductive in the process of bringing our lives and ministry into FOCUS. Fellowship with the Holy Spirit helps us discern God’s plan. Occupying ourselves with the work of the Father keeps us busy doing what needs to be done for His glory. Idleness distracts our Focus and causes us to busy ourselves in the affairs of others.

            No one can deny there are benefits and blessings associated with serving God. Our motivation cannot be the blessing or the recognition. It must be our love for God. Being physical creatures and living in a materialistic society too often distracts us from the reason we are disciples. Jesus ministered to great crowds but many followed for the wrong motivation. (John 6:26-29)

            Jesus said the work of God is to believe in the one He (God) has sent. Have we ever entertained the idea that we are the person God is sending? By this we are not saying that we take the place of Christ as Savior; simply, God is at work within us, using our lives for eternal purposes; impacting the lives of those around us. Whatever our vocation, God has both called and sent us into that field. Every vocation in our society is a mission field. We must believe in ourselves as an ambassador for God. We have, by virtue of that position, been given authority.

            We are the people God is sending out to reconcile this world to Him. According to His word He has both called and equipped us to accomplish the task. Too often we do not act because we are afraid. We fear what others may say. We worry about what they may think, and we doubt our actions will make a difference. Living life as a Christian is like swimming against the current in a raging river if we do not conquer our fear and doubt. Trust the Lord. Stand upon His promises and understand the way we live makes a difference.

            Understanding and applying the word of God will conquer doubt and fear in our lives. Just thinking about the glorious blessing God has bestowed on us should excite and empower us. God enables us to be self-disciplined. We can, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, stick with a task until it is finished. God has blessed us with courage. Because of His presence and the wisdom He supplies we can exercise boldness in our actions. God fills us with His love. That love motivates us to become, in the Lord, what we cannot be in ourselves.  (2 Timothy 1:7)
            As children of God we must examine and evaluate what we do based on His word and His plan for our lives. We cannot do everything. Answering every call to discipleship is a physical impossibility. We cannot be a part of every ministry and we should not allow guilt to bully us into picking up projects that will be left unfinished. Every Christian has a responsibility to seek God’s direction as to how to get involved and every Christian has a responsibility to be involved, but spreading ourselves too thinly does not bring the peace of God into our lives. Fear, stress, torment, and guilt do not help us be made perfect in His love. (1 John 4:18)

            We cannot spend our time in idleness and we cannot wear ourselves threadbare with activity. The key to a successful Christian life is balance. It is a delicate and difficult thing to achieve. It is impossible in human terms. However, we have access to God and according to His word, we may ask for His wisdom and expect His assistance without fear or doubt. (James 1:5-6)

            FOCUS ­­­— Fellowship Occupy Conquer Unite Serve, only works if we keep our spiritual eyes on Christ. He is the author and finisher of our faith. We can Fellowship with the Holy Spirit, Occupy ourselves with the work of the Father, and Conquer fear and doubt in our lives; but, if we stop before we take the next step we kill our effectiveness.

            Just as each congregation is the body of Christ, the collective body of believers is the body of Christ. Our denominational differences should not isolate us. We should agree on the foundational matters and allow the Holy Spirit to sort out the differences. There is one God eternally existent. He has revealed Himself through scripture. Jesus is the only Son of God. His virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death on the cross, and bodily resurrection from the dead allows us access to the Father through faith. If we can agree on those matters we can labor together in God’s vineyard.

            It pleases God to see His children working together. Any parent would affirm that it is a joy when brothers and sisters work together in unity. It is time that the body of Christ discovered the power of unity. There is one message throughout the books of the Bible. That is God desires relationship with His creation and it comes through salvation.
(Psalm 133:1)

            Uniting with the brotherhood of believers cannot be accomplished if we do not lay aside our personal agendas. We endure, press on, and encourage each other as we walk in the unity of the Spirit. The encouragement we offer to each other does not remove us from our identity in Christ. It strengthens our commitment. It shows the world that there is a more excellent way and we have found it in Christ. We should all believe it is possible to be denominationally sound in doctrine and work together for the cause of Christ. (Romans 15:5)

            The emphasis on effort in this area is upon us. We as individuals must make the effort. We must offer the hand of friendship and fellowship to our brothers and sisters. The glory for what happens in all of this belongs to God, so what do we have to lose?  (Ephesians 4:3)

            Giving the glory to God allows Him to reward us. If we are His servants it stands to reason that we will be rewarded. We are serving God, not out of obligation, but out of love. What parent does not reward the love shown by his child? What manager does not reward the loyalty of employees? Faithfulness to God brings reward.

            In our society we can see the wicked prosper and might be tempted to say serving God is a futile effort, but God is true to His word. So, before we make that mistake we should look at Malachi 3:14 –18. God is going to make a distinction between those who serve Him and those who do not. He is already making that distinction in our lives.

            The old hymn, “Count Your Blessing” can still be sung. There are blessings for the Christian that money cannot buy. We are continually surprised by what God has done in our lives and the lives of those we pray for. (Malachi 3:14-18)

            God honors our prayers. He hears our heart’s cry, and He rescues us form the hands of evil men. We must FOCUS our lives on eternity. Fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Occupy ourselves with the work of the Father. Conquer fear and doubt. Unite with the brotherhood of believers because when we Serve God faithfully rewards will follow. (Psalm 17:14-15)

            Earlier we said, Living life as a Christian is like swimming against the current in a raging river, but there is a vastly different river we have access to as Christians. It is the river of the fullness of God. If we struggle it is because we are trying to swim in the river of this life — not the life God has called us to as His children. God is offering a chance to swim in the river of His presence. (Revelation 22:1-3)

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