Category: One Focus Blog

Biographies and Personal Testimonies

If I admire someone for their strong ethical principles in public life or have enjoyed reading an author’s works, reading their biography often adds to the depth of appreciation I have for that person. For instance:

22541929Billy Graham’s integrity throughout the years of his ministry are inspiring. The biographies I have read about him have cemented my admiration of him.

26779My favorite daily devotional book is My Utmost for His Highest. Reading Oswald Chambers Abandoned to God: The Life Story of the Author of My Utmost for His Highest added to my appreciation for Oswald Chambers. Many things about his life surprised me, but nothing disappointed me.

705983The poetry of Helen Steiner Rice is simple, clear and compassionate. We gave a copy of In the Vineyard of the Lord: Lights and Shadows from the Life of Helen Steiner Rice to my husband’s grandmother in 1982. After my husband’s father passed away, I found that book in his mother’s trunk and brought it home. I’m glad I did. It is a great testimony of a woman who used her talent for God.

1059875I thoroughly enjoyed reading We Had Everything But Money, a collection of true stories of people who lived through the Great Depression. Many of these testimonies were written by family members who were proud of their loved ones, their attitudes, their contributions to others and their examples of the truth that happiness doesn’t come from money. These people were not famous, but their stories impacted my life.

Few of us will have a biographer ask to write our story. It is usually famous people who receive those requests.

We are, however, well known to God. Those of us who are His children have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I believe there is also a possibility that He has written the stories of His children down in another book – a collection of stories about those who love Him.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8).

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:16).

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name (Malachi 3:16).

The Biblical Principle of Thrift

Although God’s resources are unlimited, His word records a basic principle of thrift.

In Old Testament times there was a custom of allowing the poor to follow behind reapers in order to pick up grain that was left behind. This is still practiced among some grain farmers. Even generous owners of vineyards may allow free access to their vineyards after their workers have gathered the grape harvest.

boaz_and_ruth__image_9_sjpg1141Illustrated beautifully in the story of Ruth, Boaz told her, “Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them” (Ruth 2:8-9).

Waste is the careless use or expenditure of goods for no purpose and is never commended in scripture.

On two separate occasions, Jesus publicly practiced this principle of stewardship.

thAfter a day of ministering to a multitude, the disciples suggested Jesus instruct the people to leave so they could go into the villages and buy food. Instead, Jesus fed five thousand men plus women and children with five loaves and two fish – miraculously multiplying the food. After they had all eaten and were full, they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers.

In a similar circumstance, Jesus fed four thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. As before, after they were all full, the disciples took up seven large baskets of what was left.

We do not have the ability to multiply our resources. That is God’s prerogative. We can apply His principle of thrift and make the most of what we have – being careful not to waste what He has provided.

Jesus had a spiritual application in mind as well as the practical provision. When the disciples misunderstood His admonition to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and thought it was because they had forgotten to bring bread, His response was:

“O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? – but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:8-11).

(This was first published on my other blog: http://www.stretchmoney.wordpress.com)

Headline News

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in this Bob Satterfield cartoon, the everyman reads a week’s worth of newspapers with sensationalistic headlines about the risk of an upcoming war between Russia and Japan… finishing with headlines about how peaceful arbitration is inevitable. Jan 11, 1904

If I’m not careful, my day can start out pretty depressing. That is because I watch a lot of news. First thing in the morning, I check to see what has happened around the world. I watch news on television and read it online. Usually headline news is bad news – terror attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, airplane crashes, wars on several fronts – just to name a few.

I have friends all over the world, so I believe catching up on news is necessary. Sometimes, however, I want to turn it all off and not hear any more bad news. Bad news is like the cold, damp, dark days of winter. I find myself searching through the clouds for a glimpse of sunshine. I am eager for good news.

Occasionally, a friend will email or call me with good news and when that happens, it is like a breath of fresh air. I often think when I hear good news, “I needed that.”

I remind myself that I have a constant source of good news. I also read it daily. It is God’s word.

The good news of scripture is that God knows, God cares and God provides whatever we need for whatever comes our way.

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Each year in February, the sun’s angle is such that Horsetail Falls waterfall lights up like fire. Yosemite N.P., USA

God’s headline news is the gospel – good news. It is just what we need. Jesus is the living breath of fresh air – the ray of sunshine we need. Trust in Him and all is made right. Sins are forgiven. Life has a purpose. Problems are measured not by difficulty, but by God’s glory.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 NASB).

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV).

Advice from Warren Buffett

Known as the most successful investor of the 20th century, Warren Buffett recently said:

USCurrency_Federal_Reserve“With a wonderful business, you can figure out what will happen; you can’t figure out when it will happen. You don’t want to focus on when, you want to focus on what. If you’re right about what, you don’t have to worry about when.”

Mr. Buffett does his research when he is considering an investment opportunity. He said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

Although extraordinarily wealthy, he has a realistic view concerning money. “Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.”

“Don’t risk what is important to you, to get what is not important to you.” Warren Buffett shares his wealth freely and launched the Giving Pledge which encourages the world’s richest people to share at least half their wealth with charity while they are still living.

Raised as a Presbyterian, Mr. Buffett says he is now an agnostic. He may not realize, however, that his words of advice can apply to one’s relationship with God.

  • “If you’re right about what, you don’t have to worry about when.” As hard as it is, I try to leave the “when” to God because He is the One with an eternal perspective. I trust Him to do what is right in His perfect timing.
  • “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” The biggest risk in life is doing things without God’s guidance. I don’t always know what to do, but God does and He promises to direct my steps.
  • “Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.” That is true. Riches are uncertain. God’s love is not. Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on thjesus_nails_1e uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
  • “Don’t risk what is important to you, to get what is not important to you.” Every earthly life comes to an end. What should be important is what will last for eternity.

It is hard not to admire Warren Buffett for his investment insight and philanthropy, but I do not envy him. I pray that this smart and generous man will receive Christ into his life.

I don’t know when I will die, but I do know what will happen. I will meet Jesus face to face because I know Him who invested His life for mine. The riches He gives will last forever.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Mark 8:36-37).

Seeing the Heart of Christmas

baby-jesus-christmas-nativity-wallpapers-1024x768God had demonstrated His love and His presence to His people for centuries, but many of them did not see it. So…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 1:14).

The highly favored woman and the just man saw Him first. God prepared Mary to give Him birth. He prepared Joseph to see Him come into the world. They knew why He had come. Angels told them why.

The simple men saw Him. The shepherds came to see the Child. Angels told them where to go and why He had come.800px-Krippenmuseum_Oberstadion_Krippe_aus_Aachen_c1850_06

The wise men saw Him. The star led them to Him. They had been told to visit the King of the Jews and they came to worship Him. The gifts they gave may have enabled Mary and Joseph to take care of the Christ Child as they were gifts of great worth. They were also symbolic. Gold was given to royalty. Frankincense was an incense offered in worship. Myrrh was an anointing or embalming oil. The wise men saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.

Simeon and Anna had been waiting for Him, assured that God would allow them to see Him with their own eyes. And He did. When they saw Him, they prophesied about Him.

When you see the Child in the manger, you are looking at the heart of God.

What a privilege it must have been for these few to have seen the Child and known who He was from the very beginning!

I was not there at His birth and neither were you. Even so, we can see the heart of Christmas – God’s love.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).

He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9). For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:1,2,18).

Gift Giving

This close to Christmas nearly everyone is thinking about what gifts they are going to be purchasing, wrapping, mailing or placing under the Christmas tree for loved ones. It is the season of concentrated gift giving.

Much thought is often put into the gifts you purchase. In fact, while I was typing this sentence, the doorbell rang. It was the delivery of a Christmas gift I had ordered online for my husband. I hope he likes it.

???????????????????????????????We love to give gifts on Christmas, but we also will be receiving gifts. As DSC04112recipients. we have a choice to make. We may use it or place it in the back of a closet. We are not obligated to use it, but whoever has given us the gift hopes that we will use it and like it. If you love the person who gave it to you, you know they spent some time thinking about what gift would suit you. Using the gift makes a statement to the giver – that you value and appreciate the gift you have been given.

As Christians, the most important gift we have been given is the gift of salvation. It was given to us by the Christ who chose to be born in a manger, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and rose from His grave. For those of us who have accepted that gift, He is preparing a place for us to be with Him for all eternity.

God’s Holy Spirit also gives you gifts for service. They are tailor made for you. He is pleased and glorified when you give Him thanks for those gifts and use them for His service. You can ignore your spiritual gift and neglect the good work God has begun in you, but it can insult God, grieve Him and become sin to you.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:6-8).

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).

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).