Category: One Focus Blog

The Shepherd-Kings

God made some amazing promises to David about his part in God’s plan to give the world the Savior they so desperately needed.

Many of the psalms David wrote spoke of the coming of the Christ Child. God inspired David to tell of the coming of Jesus in terms that cannot be misunderstood.

nativity-1As a boy, David was a shepherd who counted on God to help him protect the sheep from predators. His experience as a shepherd enabled him to defeat Goliath. Jesus came as the door of the sheep and the good shepherd who gave His life thus enabling His followers to defeat the Goliaths in their lives through His saving grace.

Jesus was born in the City of David, was known as the Son of David and will forever rule on the throne of David. God fulfilled every promise He made to the man after His own heart.

Son of David

During the life of Jesus, many who recognized Him as Savior addressed Him as the Son of David. At least fourteen times in the New Testament Christ was called the Son of David.

City of David

nativity-2Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David) (2 Samuel 5:7).

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).

Throne of David

God promised David your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).

Isaiah spoke of the coming of Jesus when he said, For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

The Eternal King

And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’: how is He then his Son?” (Luke 20:41-44).

Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life. David knew that God would fulfill His promise to him. Being a sinful man, however, he knew his place. God is the Lord. David was His servant. As a king, David served God with the awe the perfect and eternal King deserves. So should we.

 

Some Great Quotes on Prayer

I am a collector of quotes. Recently I came across some new (for me) quotes from some strong men of prayer.

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“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God; not only by unbelief, but by thinking that you know what he can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.'” – Andrew Murray

“Since the days of Pentecost, has the whole church ever put aside every other work and waited upon him for ten days, that the Spirit’s power might be manifested? We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power.” – J. Hudson Taylor

“The battle of prayer is against two things – wandering thoughts and lack of intimacy with God’s character as revealed in his Word. Neither can be cured at once, but both can be cured by discipline.” – Oswald Chambers

“Time spent alone with God is not wasted. It changes us; it changes our surroundings; and every Christian who would live the life that counts and have power for service must take time to pray.” – M.E. Andross

“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of his willingness.” – Martin Luther

“I look at a stonecutter hammering away at a rock 100 times without so much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it splits in two. It was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before. So it is with persevering prayer.” – George Muller

“…True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” – John Bunyan

“If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing; it is an infinitely foolish thing.” – Philip Brooks

“You can read all the manuals on prayer and listen to other people pray, but until you begin to pray yourself you will never understand prayer. It’s like riding a bicycle or swimming: you learn by doing.: – Luis Palau

My life verse reminds me to pray at all times in all situations giving every care to God. If it concerns me, it concerns Him. He is my heavenly Father.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

My Fathers

I can know many things about someone else. I can study his life and his accomplishments, but unless I have a personal relationship with that person, there are things about him I will never discover.

For instance, the first American president I remember was Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five star Army General in WWII who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He became President in 1953 and served until 1961. I respected and admired him, but I didn’t know him personally.

Frank Ballard, WWII photoMy father also served in that war, but was known by few people outsid547396_3527358137646_407129404_ne his family. I knew him as no one else knew him. He introduced me to Christ and loved me. My personal relationship with my father had a larger impact on my life than knowing everything I could ever learn about President Eisenhower.

When my father was dying, I knew he wanted me to be near him. I didn’t have to say much. In fact, he couldn’t talk to me. He was on a breathing machine. The doctors told me that before I got there, he had been struggling. He had pulled out all the tubes and tried to get out of bed. He fought the doctors. When he saw me, everything changed. He stopped struggling. He relaxed. His daughter that he loved was near.

You may be sure God is sovereign, good and righteous and that His Son died so that whoever would believe on Him would become a child of His. Many people know this about God but they don’t know God. Until you come to understand that He loves you personally, you will never feel blessed. In turn, you will not be able to bless others if you don’t have the assurance in your life that God is personally interested in you.

I know the value of feeling my Father’s presence. I talk a lot to God, but not always. I know if He needs to say something to me or I need to say something to Him we can talk. All I really need to know is that He is near.

Psalm 119 is full of revelations of how majestic God is, but the psalmist also describes God as a very personal God. As He addresses God directly, he says that God will enlarge his heart (v. 32), has caused him to hope (v. 49), is his portion (v. 57), God’s hands made him (v. 93) and God Himself has taught him (v. 93). His very last personal reference to his relationship to God is that God is near. That is enough.

You are near, O Lord, and Your commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151).

A Government You Can Trust

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Uncle Sam, cigar in hand, stands speaking to a sullen Carl Schurz sitting at a square piano though turned away from the keyboard. The sheet music on the piano is entitled “Mein Herz ist am Rhein.” Source Harper’s Weekly, August 24, 1872. Caption: CARL IS “DISGUSTED WITH AMERICAN POLITICS.” — Frankfort Gazette. Uncle Sam. Look here, Stranger, there is no Law in this Country to Compel you to Stay.

Americans would like to believe that democracy works –  our voice and votes count, our elected officials have our best interest in mind, listen to their constituents and work tirelessly for the good of the nation. And yet, it’s becoming hard to trust anyone in politics. Even those who start out wanting to make a difference may wind up more than just discouraged with the process. After being in office for a short time, they often take on the same attitude of the politicians they defeated in their election. They give up on the changes they said they were going to make. They will do anything just to get elected again.

I do know of politicians who are determined to keep their head about them and not let that happen. To those few, I say “thanks.”

Although there have been times when I have asked myself, “what is wrong with this picture?”, I still vote and am grateful for the privilege of doing so.

In November 2014, Pat Buchanan said:

In a democracy, people get the kind of government they deserve.

The American people are today a deeply divided people — on ideology, politics, faith, morality, race, culture. Americans today — and not for the first time — do not really like each other.

Americans have no one to blame but ourselves. Our problem is really a sin problem. We are divided in politics because we are divided on the basic trust issues of life. A democracy would only work if people cared for one another.

Thankfully, I am part of a government that is truly trustworthy. It is not a democracy. It is a kingdom and Jesus is in charge.

As King of Kings, He does not need to listen to us, but He does. He not only has our best interest in mind; He left the comforts of heaven to work on our behalf. He speaks for us when we can’t speak for ourselves. He never gave in to the temptation to be popular. He followed through on His mission. What He accomplished resulted in a kingdom where everyone will care about one another because they are part of His family. I am truly grateful to be part of that government – now and for eternity.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

New Words, Old Words

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Noah Webster

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The first American dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, was published in 1806 by Noah Webster. It was replaced by An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. When Webster died, George and Charles Merriam purchased the rights to publish revised editions of the dictionary – creating the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

The dictionary has been revised many times (new editions are released about every ten years). New words such as hashtag, selfie and tweep are a result of advances in technology and social networking.

Few people read the dictionary through in order to discover new words, so I subscribe to a “word a day” email. The words given are often obscure.

  • antimetabole – A repetition of words or an idea in reverse order: “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.”
  • zeugma – the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one (as in “opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy”)
  • synecdoche – A figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole or vice versa: “head count” to refer to the count of people or “the police” to refer to a police officer.

Who uses such words in casual conversation or even writing for that matter? Regardless of the frequency of their use, there is a word for it!

Words are not only added to the dictionary. Old words are deleted – those not in common use anymore.

  • ostmark – unit of currency in the former East Germany
  • hodad – word from The Beach Boys era meaning “a nonsurfer who frequents surfing beaches and pretends to be a surfer” and
  • snollygoster – a shrewd, unprincipled person (often used by President Harry S. Truman).

It is interesting to observe the evolution of words used in the English language. As a Christian, I can count on one Word never changing. He is not new. He is not old. He is not obscure. He is eternal – my Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God….

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1: 1, 2, 14).

 

 

 

 

 

Metamorphosis

IMG_1097Butterflies are beautiful. I especially like the monarch butterflies that get their nourishment from nectar contained in my lantana bushes. As I observe these amazing creatures as they flit from flower to flower, I often reflect on the fact that they have not always been as beautiful and free as they are now.

Young butterflies are very different from adult butterflies. They have actually gone through a great change in their appearance and function. They look different, move differently and even eat different kinds of food. Even their purpose changes. Whereas the caterpillar lives to eat, the butterfly lives to reproduce.

The metamorphosis has four stages. The egg develops into a caterpillar. The main function of the caterpillar is eating. As it grows, it sheds its skin four or five times, storing food to be used later. A full grown caterpillar stops eating and forms a pupa (called a chrysalis in butterflies and a cocoon in moths). When that stage is finally complete, what emerges is what most people think of when they consider butterflies – those beautifully colored insects that frequent my lantana.

Even though I am aware that the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, I do not sit and watch caterpillars. They are not attractive. They are sluggish. They cannot fly. It is when they have been released from their confinement that the beauty and the freedom of the butterflies capture my delight.

The metamorphosis that takes place in the life of a butterfly is similar to what happens to us when we become Christians and make Christ the Lord of our lives. We don’t lose our original identity, but we are transformed with a new purpose. We have been released from our bondage and are free.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). John MacArthur says, “The English word metamorphosis comes from the Greek word used in this verse translated ‘transformed.’ It speaks of a total change and involves a choice: to express your new nature through holy living or to allow your flesh to act unrighteously…. Only the believer with a spiritually transformed mind can resist the world, the flesh and the devil.”

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 ESV).

Test Results

In school, I can remember well the nerve raking anticipation of tesschool-clipart-1ts – all kinds of tests, but especially pop quizzes. If a test was announced ahead of time I could stay up all night before, memorize what might be on the test, take the test and then promptly forget all I had “learned.” I would catch up on the sleep I had lost and go on to other things I wanted to do.

school-clipart-3-tnThis was not so with pop quizzes – a favorite with some of my teachers. For some reason, they wanted to see if I really knew the material and so unannounced, they would say, “Close your books. I am passing out a quiz which counts for ¼ of your grade.” Ouch! Depending on the subject, I ranged from OK to not so good on these pop quizzes. What I did learn was in that class I must expect the unexpected. Because pop quizzes were a norm in some classes, I found I studied more for those. I knew I had better be prepared.

Life is like that. Rarely can we anticipate everything that is going to come our way especially in the area of trials and tests. Satan intentionally takes us off guard with a new temptation. The only way to combat his onslaught is to be prepared. When Bible study is a holy habit and the test comes, the Holy Spirit can remind you of the answer just when you need it.

Joel C. Gregory in his book, “James: Faith Works!” says, “God tests believers to bring out the best; Satan tempts them to bring out the worst. A person chooses whether or not tests become temptations. Trials may refine people or ruin them, depending on their reactions. God’s intention in every test of health or wealth is positive.”

When we are tested by God and tempted by Satan, we need to be ready.

You may not know when or how trials will come, but expect them. The same word James uses for “fall” into various trials, Jesus used in the story of the good Samaritan when the man “fell” among thieves. Trials are unpredictable. They can only be resisted when one has trained himself adequately ahead of time.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complschool-clipart-2ete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).

Books That Will Outlive Us

Is the land of literature changing as rapidly as some say or are there just more avenues to travel down it?

Certainly, there have been many changes. No longer are we limited to books printed on paper that can be placed on a library shelf (although that is still my preference). All sorts of digital resources are also now available and as I travel frequently, I am a big fan of my e-reader.

The possibility that literature would totally disappear never occurred to me so on 9/13/2014, I was interested to read “2114: A Library Project” in the International New York Times.

This is an excerpt of the article:

The hope that creative work survives its creator is usually empty. Shakespeare boasted that his sonnets would outlast monuments and the memory of princes, and they have. But it’s rare for an artist to keep audiences interested over generations. … Even the list of Nobel laureates in literature is filled with now-unfamiliar names.

Yet a Scottish artist, Katie Paterson, has found a clever way around this humbling problem. “A forest has been planted in Norway,” Ms. Paterson explains on the Future Library site, “which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years’ time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114.”

…Ms. Paterson has already chosen a time capsule for this unusual experiment: The Deichmanske public library in Oslo. And she already has her first contributor: the Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who is known for her speculative fiction.

… The project coordinators seem to have thought of everything, going so far as to equip the Deichmanske library with a printing press. If humanity loses the ability to print books, that’s covered. Of course, if humanity should lose the ability to read, that’s another story.

The author of this article poses the possibility that humanity could lose the ability to print books or even to read at all.

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Reproduction of Gutenberg-era Press on display at Printing History Museum in Lyon, France.

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The Gutenberg Bible was the first mass produced printed work.

I believe there is no such possibility. Although many have tried unsuccessfully to destroy it, one book will last forever.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Matthew 24:35).

Those That Have Gone Before Us

I have members of my family and friends who have preceded me to heaven. I think of each of them often and the things they did and said.

When I clean up after a meal, I can hear my sister saying, “The kitchen is not clean until you have swept the floor.” When I think of my dad (which I do often), I remember him saying, “When God is through with me, He will take me home.” When I think of my close friend, I remember her life principle, “God is faithful.”

It does not need to be a single saying that brings back memories. The relationship I had with some of my loved ones continues to speak to me.

Frank Ballard, WWII photoMy dad and I were very close. He called me his “blessing in the Lord.” His mother, in days when divorces were rare, divorced her alcoholic husband and raised four children on her own teaching each one of them to love the Lord. His older brother took his position in the family seriously and looked after every member of the family. He taught his sons to do the same.

I often think of my father-in-law’s patience and love as he cared for my mother-in-law through her long bout with Alzheimer’s. I also remember how birthdays were so important to him. His calendar was filled with reminders to send cards to his family and friends. His mother was an amazing witness for the Lord and his wife’s mother was one of the sweetest Christians I have ever known. They both had a great influence on me.

I miss my sister by choice so much. She had an unconditional love for me. I never had to explain myself to her. She knew instinctively. There was no one else in my life like her.

Picture 458Although dead, they still speak to me.

God reminds us what we say and what we do in this life lives on. This reality is sobering. We all have done things and said things we would not like to be remembered for. While we are still here, though, there remains opportunities to be a positive influence and hopefully be remembered for our trust and faith in God.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Hebrews 11:4).

Preparing Good Soil

I love beautiful gardens. Even though I don’t naturally have a green thumb, I keep trying to learn what it takes to groKuykenhof and Delft, Holland May 2004 043w healthy plants.

When I lived in CaliKuykenhof and Delft, Holland May 2004 028fornia, the soil was very rich. When I wanted to transplant geraniums from the back yard to the front yard, a friend told me, “Just pull it up and put it where you want it. Don’t even worry about getting the roots. It will grow.” She was right. It did grow. That would never work where I live in Texas. The soil is not the same.

Professional gardeners say plants rely on good soil for their fruitfulness. All agreed good soil needs these three things:

  • Air. Gardeners recommend adding what is necessary to open up a poor soil so that it can breathe.
  • Water. Good soil needs to be able to retain moisture. Water runs off heavy soil and goes straight through a soil that is too porous.
  • Fertile. Good soil is deep and rich. For good plant growth, soil needs to have a good food supply of minerals and nutrients to keep alive microorganisms, insects and other ingredients that create rich soil. The addition of peat moss, compost or other organic matter is sometimes necessary to make that happen.

When a soil is rich and fertile, it is also good for those around it. Scientists have discovered that breathing certain kinds of soil bacteria can reduce anxiety.

In Jesus’ parable of the sower, only the seed sown on good ground bore fruit. There was nothing wrong with the sower or the seed. It was what received the seed that made the difference.

We receive the seed – the word of God – and in so doing, choose which type of soil we will be. If we choose to be good soil, we need to keep the breath of God active. Through His Spirit, we bear His fruit. Our soil should be the type that will retain the Living Water as He comes into contact with us and thirst for more of His presence every second of every day. The disciplines of a holy life – prayer, worship, loving God’s word, loving the body of Christ and witnessing – will  keep our soil deep and rich. Then we will not only bear fruit, but our very presence will be beneficial to others.

Kuykenhof and Delft, Holland May 2004 083“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces; some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13: 23).