Category: One Focus Blog

Time, Trains and the Total Picture

In Europe, I often travel by train. One day, I waited for a train – and waited – and waited – and waited some more. Over an hour after my arriving at the platform, the train finally showed up.

Although during that time there had been announcements over a loudspeaker, I couldn’t understand them. I don’t speak the local language. A friend showed up a few minutes before the train came and said she heard that there might be a strike on that day. That would explain the delay, of course, but if she had not said something, I still wouldn’t have any idea what had delayed the train. The problem was not only do I not speak the language. I was missing other essential facts. I didn’t have the big picture.

Only God has all the facts. In His wisdom, He knows what has led me to a point in my life. He knows where I am going. He is also aware of what is going on with those around me and how their lives intersect with mine.

He may give me clues along the way (like the public announcement on the platform), but He knows I will understand only so much. What He asks is that I trust Him to do what is right because He does have the big picture.

I am confident of God’s love. I love Him and I know He loves me. I don’t totally understand His ways but I trust Him. His perspective is based on His unlimited knowledge and His eternal plan.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Abundance: So Near Yet So Far

Ministry has taken me to many locations where I have observed a variety of living conditions. Two weeks of ministry in Cape Town, South Africa caused me to reflect on some of what I had seen in my years of ministry.

During years of living in Germany, several German friends gave testimony of the state of affairs before and after the Berlin wall came down in 1989. Some of these friends were in Berlin at the time. The freedom that came with the removal of that wall was more than a news report for people living on each side of the wall. It was a life-changing event. For so long, those on the eastern side of the wall had dreamed of a day when they would be able to once again see family and friends. They had been so near, yet so far away.

One year, as I traveled through Nigeria with friends, we drove past an enormous mansion protected by a high fence. Everything else I had seen, including the immediate surroundings of the mansion, gave evidence of poverty. People living next to the mansion were aware of the luxury, but it was not attainable for them. They were so near, yet so far away.

Much of one year was spent in France where the local beauty and the housing are well above many of the other countries I have visited. Yet, many days I passed by a woman who sat on the sidewalk in between a large bank and a nice shop. She was huddled against the wall during the cold and her tin can in front of her was an indication that the abundance in the bank and the shop was not available to her. She was so near, yet so far away.

This situation was even more pronounced in Cape Town. In a beautiful natural setting, the very modern cosmopolitan city has pockets of severe poverty throughout. The shantytowns, where thousands of people live, are right next to well-maintained highways where luxury vehicles travel. They are so near, yet so far away.

Many in their spiritual lives are in the same situation.  God’s love promises the abundance of His everlasting love, the adoption into His royal family and a heavenly inheritance that lasts for eternity. Unless one reaches out and receives Jesus’ invitation to become a part of His family, they will never experience the abundance of the life that He has to give. They are so near, yet so far away.

I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10b NAS).

Keep Moving: It’s Good Spiritual Exercise

I used to be a runner. I was one of “those.” I ran because I loved it. There was a certain point in which I thought I might run forever…and ever. I even ran in the rather steep hills surrounding San Diego working up to 9 1/2 miles a day in my mid-40s. The beauty of the surroundings and the private time with God was delightful. I miss it.

I can’t run any more – doctor’s orders. Time is catching up with me and sometimes just rolling out of bed causes back pain. My knee gives me fits every once in a while, but the real kicker came when I developed floaters and flashes in my eyes and I was told that excessive jarring (operating a jack hammer or garden tiller or simply running) might result in a detached retina.

So, alas, now I just walk. But I do walk. I don’t just walk for exercise. I walk to do things, like shopping or banking or getting my hair done. In Europe, that is not strange. Europeans walk everywhere. In America, some well meaning person is always stopping me asking if my car has broken down. Am I OK? Do I need a ride? They find it hard to believe I walk because I want to.

I have made a discovery. The slower I have to go physically, the more determined I am to stay on the racetrack spiritually. I have more time behind me than I have ahead of me. There is no time to waste. What I do I want to count for God. So, where I meandered along slowly in the past thinking there was lots of time for God to point out things to me, I realize now I need to move faster. I want to know God better and I want to know Him better now.

Honestly, lately, I have thought how sad it is that because of my lack of spiritual exercise I wasted time:

  • times when God was right beside me and I ignored His presence
  • times when He was trying to teach me something and I was unteachable
  • times when I stopped altogether because I didn’t want to make the effort to get to know Him better
  • times when I could have spoken for Him and kept my mouth shut

Obviously, I can still trip myself up on the track, but I am determined that with the time I have left, I want to pick up the pace. My physical endurance may have waned, but my eyes are on the goal. I am determined to keep moving.

The Apostle Paul likened our Christian life to a race and talked a lot about the discipline of the journey. Jesus did most of His work in little over three years. He rested physically, to be sure, but He never stopped moving spiritually. God provides the endurance. There is a prize waiting.

. . . let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1) . . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14 NKJV).

A True Handicap: Loss of Communication

While lodging with a mission team here in South Africa, there have been some surprises. No one expected to stay in an inn that had no heat (especially when winter is making its entrance in Cape Town); however, the lack of internet access has been an even bigger hurdle for most of us. Everyone brought a laptop or IPad expecting to be able to do business as usual. Although there was a varied response to the lack of communication, we all felt the loss. After much searching, we finally found a coffee shop where internet time could be purchased, which is the reason I am able to do this posting.

Many of us now live in a world totally dependent upon instant communication. Ministry carries me to one country where internet is not available for any of the population and to some others where it is greatly restricted. Even in those countries, though, the people are aware of the possibility of instant access and greatly desire it for themselves.

It is now possible to make connection with someone from the other side of the world, form a friendship and never meet face to face. We have seen recently how Twitter and Facebook have sparked revolutions and even changed the punishment for a high school student who asked for a prom date using his school wall. Complete strangers now have the possibility of becoming involved in any issue, whether it pertains to them or not. Social media is a great influencer.

Those of us who are dependent upon the internet feel the loss immediately when it is not available. However, how long does it take us to discover there is a loss of communication with God? Prayer is conversation with God. He is always instantly available. His desire is that we come to Him with anything that is on our minds. Whatever concerns us concerns our heavenly Father. He loves His children and yearns for a relationship that is unhindered by sin. God is as close as our thoughts – even closer – His Spirit resides within our hearts.

Although God never leaves us, it is possible to block communication with Him. When communication is broken, it is all of our own doing. We can ignore Him. When world noise rings louder in our hearts than the voice of the Holy Spirit, it is because we have chosen to let it be that way. Even believers, who have the Holy Spirit, can permit the temptations of the world to interrupt fellowship with God. However, the connection can be quickly restored. As obedient children, when we succumb to temptation, we can then immediately go to God, ask for forgiveness, and then fellowship is once again unhindered. However, if we let the temptation dwell in our heart and give in to the desire, we create a wedge between us and God. When that wedge becomes as prominent as losing the ability to go online, perhaps we will be quicker to remedy the situation.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18).

Sweaters, Sandals and Seasons

Traveling from France to Cape Town, South Africa, I encountered a surprise in weather. I checked the weather report before I left France. Both locations had similar predictions. Even though France was going from spring to summer and South Africa’s fall was changing into winter, I erroneously thought that 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit was going to feel the same in both places. I was wrong.

What I didn’t take into account were winds from an icy Atlantic and the start of the rainy season in South Africa. The lodging where I stayed had no heat. None. There was a fireplace, but even in use, it was basically ornamental. All the heat went up the chimney.

My heavy suitcase was full of summer clothes. At least they were still clean when I returned to France. You would think that with all the travel I do, I would know better. Just before I left France, I observed many people wandering about in sweaters and jackets, but eager for the warmer weather, I suppose, they had changed their winter boots for summer sandals.

I found myself in that same situation. With one exception, I only brought sandals to South Africa, but I found myself layering all those summer clothes and wearing the two jackets I brought every day – whether or not they matched my clothing!

Life is full of seasons. Sometimes we are prepared for the next one. In moving from youth to adulthood, or high school to college, we spent years anticipating and preparing for that season in our lives. From being single to married, from living with parents to being on our own, we plan for that season. Other times we are caught by surprise. Parenthood sometimes comes without a definite plan; becoming grandparents especially so. Each season has its’ own challenges and joys.

Job, a man who trusted God and was blessed by Him, was taken by surprise when he experienced the hardest season of his life. During the trials and heartache of that season, he longed for the days of his prime. Through it all, God was watching and allowing Job to be tested. In the end, Job passed the test. Even in his most despondent days, he did not sin against God in what he said about Him. Even when he wondered if God had deserted him, he was determined to trust the God he had known in the past seasons of life. God richly rewarded him, not only restoring family and riches, but gave Job a new level of understanding of who He is. Whereas Job had heard of God before, he said, now my eye sees You.

For those of us who long to know God better, when an unexpected season presents itself, we can learn lessons from Job’s experience. God has not vacated the premises. He still cares. He is still in control. He wants to bring us into a new level of relationship with Him. Through times of confusion, be encouraged that He has a purpose for anything He allows in our lives.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

One Focus is a Choice

A blog, short for a web log, gives personal reflections intended to be shared with internet users. Wow, how things have changed in the last few years. There is no longer the need for hand written letters in order to communicate with friends and family (although I still love writing and receiving hand written notes in the old fashioned snail mail). Technology is moving faster “than a speeding bullet,” and sometimes I think only Supermen (or women) could possibly keep up with the changes; however, if you want to communicate with anyone, you must attempt to keep up with changes on the internet.

It is so easy for life to get in the way of Life. So many things can occupy our time and thinking that we are tempted to have no focus at all. We just flit from circumstance to circumstance, or thought to thought or day to day, never really being grounded in the reality of the Truth.

One Focus – the only way I can handle all the changes going on in this world is to keep my feet firmly planted on the one foundation that I know is unshakeable and never changes. The love of God is expressed through the person of Jesus Christ, His Son. That Truth is my reality and I hope and pray that it is yours.

The book, devotionals, and Bible studies on my website, http://www.onefocusministries.com, attempt to provide resources to help me and others keep our eyes focused on the One who can help us navigate the joys, trials, questions and changes of life. This blog is designed for a more current reflection of how I see God working.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV).