Tag: focus

Focus on the Shepherd’s Voice

“The sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4b).

When reading John 10, we are captivated with Jesus’ description of Himself as the Door to the sheepfold and the Good Shepherd.  The focus is and should be on Him.  However, the Shepherd’s life revolves around His sheep.  That same passage gives the sheep’s perspective as well.

Throughout Scripture, mankind is often compared to sheep. All of us like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1). We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). Preachers often remind us that sheep are not very smart. It is true that if the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the rest of the flock is likely to follow. It is also true that a single sheep can get so preoccupied that he can wander off and get lost, unable to find his way home.  Sheep definitely need a shepherd.

However, Jesus did not compare us to sheep in order to make us feel dumb.  He made the comparison because He wants us to know Him as the Good Shepherd and trust His voice.  Sheep are a perfect description of what believers should be because they do trust their shepherd. Maybe sheep aren’t so dumb after all. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tells us:

  • The sheep hear his voice (John 10:3).
  • They listen for their names (v. 3).
  • The sheep know his voice (v. 4).
  • The sheep follow him (v. 4).
  • They will not follow a stranger (v. 5).
  • They will flee from a stranger (v. 5).
  • They do not know the voice of a stranger (v. 5).
  • They do not hear the strangers (v. 8).
  • They know the Good Shepherd (v. 14).
  • They are part of One Flock (v. 16).
  • They hear his voice and follow him (v. 27).
  • They are eternally secure (v. 28-29).

Recognizing the frail nature of sheep, Jesus warned His disciples that as He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves, [they needed to be] shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). The sheep that truly belong to His flock need to be aware of strangers, thieves and hirelings who work to make them go astray (John 10). The strangers and hirelings do not know the sheep nor do they care about them.

When Jesus describes His sheep, He is talking about those who believe in Him (John 10:26). James 2:19 states it is not head knowledge that saves you, for even the demons believe in God. Being a true believer, or part of His flock, involves your whole being.  Paul describes that as believing in your heart (Romans 10:9). Matthew 25:31-33 describes a day when Jesus will divide the true believers from those who might appear to be part of the flock, but are not. He describes this time as a separation of the sheep and the goats. He will have to tell some who claimed to be part of His flock, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).  He said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14).

When people are trained to recognize counterfeit money, they do not study counterfeit bills.  They are taught to examine every detail of real money so that when the counterfeit appears, they can see the difference.  Jesus’ sheep will not follow a stranger because they do not recognize the voice of strangers (John 10:5).  See also 1 John 4:1.  Jesus’ sheep know the real Shepherd is the One who died on their behalf.

My children were part of a church family from infancy and were only acquainted with family and friends that they could trust. When they started elementary school, they were understandably upset when they came home from school telling me that they had attended a meeting about “red light, green light” people.  The school officials were warning my children about those in society who could do them harm (red light people).  They were instructed to only listen to and go with “green light people” (family members or friends who had been identified as those they could trust).  There were even signs given out to families to place in their windows indicating that they were “green light people” in case a child needed to find a safe haven on their walk home. As disturbing as it was to have to discuss this with my sons, it was necessary for their safety. Jesus’ sheep know to flee from strangers (John 10:5). James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).  Jesus is the Door to our safe haven.

Jesus’ sheep hear His voice. Jesus often said, “Those who have ears to hear, let him hear.” He was not talking about people who were physically deaf, but those who were spiritually deaf.  There were many who saw Him with their own eyes and heard Him with their own ears, but did not accept Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus’ sheep have “ears to hear” the Shepherd’s voice. They recognize His voice because they belong to Him.

Jesus’ sheep follow Him.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  The commandments are for the welfare of believers (the sheep).  Just as loving parents give boundaries to their children for their protection, benefit and growth, our Good Shepherd does the same for us.  Psalm 23 is a beautiful description of the safety and security of following the shepherd.  The shepherd’s rod was a guide for the sheep while the staff helped pull them back on to the correct path when they strayed. To follow the shepherd was not complicated.  The sheep just had to keep their eyes on him and follow him.  Jesus’ commandments are not complex.  He demonstrated them with His life and His death. He puts all the commandments into one simple statement: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

The gospel of John was written by one who understood Jesus’ love.  In fact, he describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:20).  He wrote four more books of the New Testament.  In 1 John, one of the recurring themes of that letter was the certainty of knowing Jesus.  Jesus’ sheep know Him.  “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me” (John 10:14).

Reflections for further study:

Study John 10 and 1 John side by side.  It is as if John took Jesus’ words in John 10 and reflected on them and wrote 1 John.  How does 1 John help you understand that you know the Good Shepherd?

Highlight the number of times the word “know” or “knows” appears in 1 John.  In the New American Standard version, the word “know” or “knows” appears thirty-nine times. With few exceptions, the reference is to a believer knowing about his relationship to God.

After highlighting “know” and “knows” in your Bible, look through these verses to list the ways that a believer can (there may be more than one verse which applies):

  • Know the love of God
  • Know what truth is
  • Know how to tell you are born of God
  • Know that you shall be like Jesus
  • Know that Jesus came to take away your sins
  • Know that you have passed from death to life
  • Know that Jesus abides in you and you abide in Him
  • Know His Spirit
  • Know that you have eternal life
  • Know that He hears you when you pray
  • Know that He can help you stop sinning
  • Know that the Son of God has come into the world

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

. . . having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (John 13:1).

Focus on the Shepherd’s voice. He only has good for you. He will comfort you, guide you, protect you, and lead you home.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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Importance of a Forever Focus

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.  – For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever (2 Corinthians 4:18 HCSB and GNB).

From the time you wake in the morning until you go to sleep at night, a multitude of things and people compete for your attention.

  • If you have a job, pleasing management and keeping that job can be a constant concern.
  • If you have a family, spouse and children want and deserve a good chunk of your time.
  • If you are socially minded and volunteer either at church or in your community, what you have committed to demands your follow through.

These responsibilities can, at times, be overwhelming. Not only are you accountable for your commitments; in order to accomplish them you need to take care of yourself – eat well, sleep well, exercise and give yourself some down time.

Perhaps you have done everything you can to maintain good health, but you are not well. Perhaps you have lost your job, your marriage fell apart or your children do not want your companionship. Perhaps, as a Christian, you believe in the promises of God and know that He will work things out in due time for HIs glory. In the meantime, you want to know how to keep a proper perspective while you are waiting for “forever”.

Follow the Perfect Example

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).

Jesus, every bit as human as we are, set the example for us on how to stay focused on God with a ‘forever focus”. Every circumstance, meeting, and trial had an eternal perspective.

  • Even as a young boy, He was focused on doing His Father’s will. His comment to His mother when she found Him in the temple at twelve was, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
  • He was tempted just as we are, but HIs focus on God, His word and His will enabled Him to resist the temptations of the devil.
  • Even though He got hungry just like we do, there were times when He was so focused on the Father’s will that He skipped eating. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work (John 4:34 NASB).
  • He needed sleep like the rest of us (so much so that He took a nap in the middle of a storm), but there were times when instead of sleeping, He spent all night in prayer.
  • He was surrounded by many who wanted His attention. In compassion, He stopped and met their needs, demonstrating His power and the love of God as He did so, but He never forgot His mission.
  • It seems contradictory to our senses that the author of Hebrews described His endurance of the cross as a matter of joy set before Him, but that was the way Jesus looked at it. Certainly, there was no joy in the cross itself. It was horrible and unjust. Christ’s focus, however, was always on what He knew would be accomplished once He endured the shame of the cross – the salvation of souls and the growth of His eternal family.

The circumstances of Jesus’ life on His journey to the cross – tempted by the devil in the wilderness, nowhere to lay HIs head, rejection by those He had created, misunderstood even by His followers – did not slow Him down because He never took His eyes off the Father and doing His will.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21 NLT).

It should be the same with us. Just like Jesus, you choose each day what you will focus on. Know that whatever comes your way, if you are a child of God, He will make things right. Trust Him.

This life is not all there is.

Whenever this life on earth is over, those who rejected Jesus will experience an eternity without Him. Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus will spend forever with Him. If you focus on Him now, your life will be so much richer than it would be otherwise. As a child of His, He is involved in your life now and He will be involved forever. He has promised to never – not ever – leave you or forsake you.

When your focus is on God and His forever purposes for your life, you start seeing life a little from HIs perspective. He knows the beginning from the end. He doesn’t reveal all there is to know about your future, but He doesn’t need to. Your experience with His faithfulness in your past is enough to trust Him for whatever will come in the future. He is not bound by time like we are so we know that what He says He will do will happen.

One of the reasons we have difficulty with a forever focus is because it is hard for us to see past the moment. We must, of course, live in the now, but having learned from the past, we can look to the future knowing that God is in control of it all.

I believe that this one focus is so important that my website is named One Focus Ministries and my blog One Focus. Naturally, this is a common theme throughout the devotionals and Bible studies on this site. Bible studies (under the Word Focus tab) One Day at a Time, Focus on the Shepherd’s Voice and Focus on Fullness of Joy and devotionals (under the Reflective Focus tab) Focus is a Choice, Trusting God: A Predetermined Choice and Trusting God Completely are a few examples of this theme. Every One Focus blog deals with seeing God’s hand in everyday life. We don’t need to wait until we have passed from the temporary to the eternal to experience a forever focus. Jesus showed us how that forever focus helps make sense out of today.

© Stephanie B. Blake

January 2013

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Focus Is A Choice

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31 NKJV).

Fear, worry and panic (all related emotions) have always been a struggle for me.  Loud noises make me jump. I often hesitate before stepping onto an escalator. I had a very hard time watching my sons climb beyond where I could reach them and have the identical response in observing my grandsons. In unfamiliar circumstances, I may experience a moment of panic. Perhaps it was something I learned as a child. Perhaps it is part of my temperament.  Whatever the reason, this tendency makes it necessary for me to exercise faith more often than I might otherwise.  My husband rightly says, “Fear and faith cannot reside in the same space.”  I choose to be a person of faith and so constantly work to remove the “fear factor” from my life.

My life verse is Philippians 4:6-7. 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 (NKJV)In many situations of life, I have had to say these verses to myself in order to get my mind off the situation that would cause me to be fearful or to worry.  More than anything, I know that I need the peace of God to guard my heart and my mind. If I allow myself to focus on negative possibilities, fear gains the upper hand.  If I focus on God and His unfailing provision, the negative emotions disappear. I have learned that focus is a choice.

Not only has my life verse (and many other scriptures) helped me conquer my fears, but my preference in reading material includes examples of those who have learned to focus on the positive.

Victor Frankl was a Jewish Viennese psychiatrist who recorded his experiences as a concentration camp inmate in his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In his observation of other inmates, he discovered “those with a why to live could live with almost any how.” He also concluded that once a man lost his faith in the future, he was doomed.

No one can argue that the horrors of a concentration camp can devastate a person both physically and emotionally.  But, as evidenced in the story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy, how you react to those circumstances is up to you. Corrie’s book The Hiding Place tells how she and Betsy chose to focus on Jesus and eternal blessings rather than the horrendous situation in which they found themselves.  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things [focus on these things] (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).  With your focus on Jesus, you can birth a ministry even among the most terrible circumstances.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer is based on Proverbs 9:10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (NKJV). Reading this book helped me understand that when we fear God (have an awesome reverence for Him), we need fear nothing else.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith helped me to see the sovereignty of God in a new light.  Focus on God and He will direct your life (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In Tozer’s book, The Next Chapter After Last, he states “Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of the deadly effects of  the burden of the imponderables; they are learning that if they would do the patient any permanent good they must minister to the mind as well as to the body.” Many illnesses are caused by or made worse by worry.   Scripture states that as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).  Worry can make you sick.

Jesus knew that man had this tendency toward worry. He supplies the remedy in his Sermon on the Mount. One of the bullet points in this sermon starts with Matthew 6:19 and ends in verse 34. Jesus tells us that our perspective determines our loyalty.  Are we focused on the material and the immediate or are we focused on Heaven? An eternal perspective makes all the difference.

At first glance of verses 19-21 where Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures on earth, but in heaven, we might conclude that Jesus is telling us that we should not accumulate material things.  He had no place to call home himself and had few possessions.  However, we must always remember to take scripture in context and see the big picture.  Abraham, David, Solomon, Job and others were blessed with great wealth by God. He made the world and all that is in it for us to enjoy.  The key is verse 21, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Your heart determines your perspective.

Do you love God more than the things He provides? If everything in your life was removed, would you still trust Him? Is God enough? When you believe that life is more than food (Matthew 6:25), then your perspective is directed away from the concerns of the temporal.

Worry is mentioned five times in this passage (Matthew 6:19-34). In many other passages, God makes it clear that we should not worry. Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1Peter 5:7 NAS).

My only consolation about my tendency for fear or worry is the Bible says I am in good company.  David said, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3 NKJV).  God repeatedly told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1). At one point, the faith of the apostle Peter was so strong that he was able to walk on water. He discovered something important that day. When he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the wind around him, he became afraid and began to sink. See Matthew 14:25-31.

Like Peter, you can choose to focus on the wind of fear and circumstance or Jesus.  I choose to focus on Jesus. I pray that you do as well.

© Stephanie B. Blake

July 2009

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