Category: One Focus Blog

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).

 

The Original Masterpiece

Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_presumed_self-portrait_-_WGA12798 Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouchedThe Mona Lisa, a masterpiece painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1506, has been on display in the Louvre in Paris, France since 1797. I have seen it.

The painting was stolen August 21, 1911 and was not returned to the Louvre until 1913. In 1956, someone threw acid on it and damaged the painting and later that year another person threw a rock at it and damaged it further. It was restored and finally protected by the use of bulletproof glass.

Among the duties of the Louvre security guards (who account for over half of the 2,000 member staff) is the protection of priceless works of art such as the Mona Lisa.

God is the Master Creator. In God’s act of creation, everything He made was good. After He created man, God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Made in His own image, man is God’s masterpiece. There is no equal to that work because of the identification with the Master.

With the entry of sin into His creation, perfection was disrupted for a time. God was grieved, but not surprised. He had already signed this masterpiece with the blood of His Son.

  • Just as the Mona Lisa was stolen and removed from her spot in the Louvre for a time, Satan wants to steal our joy and remove us from the preferred place God has for us. Satan knows he cannot steal our salvation, but he can temporarily steal our joy.
  • Just as people continue to try to damage the beauty of the Mona Lisa, Satan wants to damage our credibility and our fruitfulness. He uses any means at his disposal to make us less than what God intended us to be.
  • Just as the Louvre resorted to placing bulletproof glass in front of their most popular masterpiece, God reminds us that nothing can separate us from His love. His love is bullet (Satan) proof.
  • Just as the Louvre deemed it necessary to post security guards around their most priced possessions, God’s guardian angels stand guard to protect us.

His holiness demanded a curse upon sin, but His perfect plan of restoration was already in place. Every day since is a step closer to that perfect restoration of creation.

Although restoration is a completed fact in God’s eyes, it remains a reality in hope to us. Hope in God does not disappoint. Satan, however, attempts to get us to live by sight and not by faith.

The monetary value of the Mona Lisa has been debated. Instead of insuring the painting for the $100,000,000 it was assessed at in 1962, more money was instead spent on security. We have been bought with a price – the precious blood of Jesus. God not only made us. He sought us out from the grip of Satan and bought us.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Look Around You – What Do You See?

When you look around you, what do you see?

Inside your home, you may see things of value to you and your family – furnishings, decorations, souvenirs, collections, pictures of family members, etc. Outside your home, you may see a yard, a garden, decorations or furnishings on a porch or deck – things that make your house a home.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Bird's_Nest_-_H._LyndeWhen you look around you, sometimes you are surprised by things you have not seen before. Some things may have been there for a long time and you are just now noticing them – an empty bird nest, wild flowers in a back lot or behind the garage, a new plant that came up on its own. It is possible to look around you and see something new.

I have often heard people say, “what you see is what you get” – meaning there is no pretense – there is nothing hidden here.

That phrase or at least the acronym WYSIWYG has become well known in computer language – meaning what you see on the screen is the way it will be displayed in print.

The original phrase has been around since the 1940s when it was associated with straight forward advertising. The comedian Flip Wilson popularized the expression in Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In and the Flip Wilson show in the 1960s, so it was around long before it was adapted in computer language.

IMG_1039As a child of God, I know what I see with my eyes is not all there is. The spiritual blessings He gives are of much more value than the material things surrounding me. I appreciate those things He gives me in this world to enjoy and I thank Him for them, but because of His presence, I enjoy much more than the things I can see right now. In fact, those things I see now will be left far behind when it is time for God to take me home.

I am eager to look around me on that day and see the eternal blessings He has planned – to discover that something new.

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18 HCSB). But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV).

The Perfect Recipe

I like to cook. Sometimes I follow a recipe but I often like to make something from what I have on hand. If I use the right ingredients, it does not matter whether it is my recipe or someone else’s. The perfect dish is a combination of ingredients that blend together well, tastes good and brings nourishment to our bodies.

I may mix up those good ingredients, however, and not finish the task. If I never put them in the oven and bake the dish, it is not completed – no matter how perfect the ingredients are.

IMG_1013IMG_1015For instance, I love to cook breads. Sourdough biscuits are my favorite. I take great care to always have the right (perfect) ingredients on hand so that I may cook them at any time. When I am ready to fix these biscuits, I put together a combination of flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, oil and sourdough starter in a bowl. Those are the perfect ingredients. I didn’t make those ingredients. I just use them.

If I leave that mixture in the bowl on the counter, we will never have biscuits for breakfast. In fact, it would at some point become a smelly mess. I must put it in the oven to complete the process. Only then are my biscuits perfect AND complete.

I’m not sure if that’s exactly what God meant when He talked about the process of perfection and completion in us, but I think it might be a little like that.

The ingredients God provides for us are perfect. Those are the resources He makes available to us: salvation through His Son Jesus, mixed with the guidance and gifts of His Holy Spirit along with the blessings and trials we need in order to complete our walk with Him. Throughout our lives, we must be faithful and patient to use these resources wisely. If we do, the result of His perfect work in us will enable us to stand “perfect and complete” before Him.

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 complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12).

My Favorite Work Hat

IMG_0758I inherited a great work hat from my father-in-law. He was a hard working man and had a lot of work hats. Practically all of us who were at his home after his going home service (some people call it a funeral) took at least one of his work hats home with them. I took two. My favorite is one that is bright red, stays on my head easily because of the velcro in back and says “I love Jesus”.

Pop loved Jesus. He worked tirelessly for Him. After he retired, he traveled with Louisiana BaptistChristmas 2007 170 men and helped construct churches and maintain Christian camps. When he could no longer travel because of my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s, he took care of those in his own small town in Louisiana – especially doing odd jobs for widows in his church and neighborhood.

It was easy to tell he was a hard worker. His arthritic hands were a big hint. If he hadn’t been such a hard worker, those hands might have been in worse shape. If you have arthritic hands, you know it helps if you keep them busy. He certainly did.

Pop was not rich in the eyes of the world, but I believe He was in God’s eyes. He raised his boys to love Jesus. I was blessed to marry one of them. I miss my Jesus loving, hard working Pop.… You have blessed the work of his hands… (Job 1:10).

When I think of my favorite cap, I not only think of Pop, but of the principle behind work and loving Jesus. Jesus worked tirelessly on our behalf. Rightfully so, He asked us to do the same for Him. He knows that an evidence of our love for Him is finishing the work He has for us to do. It is actually His work. He just delights in including us.

being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 1:6, 2:13). That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God … To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Colossians 1:10, 29).

Jet lag

I am writing this at 4:21AM. I have already been awake twice this evening and tried unsuccessfully to go to sleep again. This is not uncommon for me as I travel frequently overseas and have never found a cure for jet lag.

I have tried everything suggested to get around the sleeplessness, but nothing seems to work for me. Sleeping pills don’t work. I can go to sleep but I can’t stay asleep. Staying up until normal bedtime when I have reached my destination doesn’t work. I still get up in the middle of the night. Trying to lull myself back to sleep with a good book or soft music doesn’t work. My mind still spins and my body rebels.

I know others who seem to have no problems with jet lag. One says she just stays up all night before a trip packing and attending to last minute details and when she gets on the airplane, she sleeps and is set for the new time zone upon arrival. She says, “I don’t let myself think about jet lag. I just set my watch for the new time upon takeoff and I’m good to go.”

800px-Anker_Zwei_schlafende_Mädchen_auf_der_Ofenbank  Sleeping_on_the_JobThat doesn’t work for me either. I have seldom been able to sleep on an airplane.

There’s something about my internal clock that has to go through the long process of adapting to the new time zone whether I like it or not. Once I get over jet lag, I am a good sleeper; however, another trip is usually right around the corner and I have to tackle the problem once again.

The problem is I really need the sleep. Studies show that sleep is as important as diet and exercise. Dr. Charles Czeisler, head of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, calls sleep the “third pillar of health.”

I know Jesus understands my need for sleep because He took ojesus-sleep-300x209n human flesh. With His death and resurrection, He conquered all human frailties and no longer needs sleep. One day neither will I.

I am glad God’s children never have to be concerned about Him being sleepy or too tired to hear our prayers.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:1-4).