Staying focused on Jesus as seasons change
While losing focus on Jesus can happen at Christmas time, this post is more about losing focus at the change of spiritual seasons: bad to good; good to bad; difficult to easy; plenty to little; and so on. Christians tend to do better when they keep Jesus as their focus because He is our source of life and joy.
Most Christians know that He is our source, but get distracted. The key to returning to a good focus is not simply following a checklist, nor is it simply trying to think more about Him. Thinking about Him is not bad. It must, however, be done in the context of a relationship that is living and vital.
All Christians are given a doorway into that relationship in Christ. Many then treat following Jesus as something that they do every now and then — usually at church or sometimes during prayer or even regular quiet times.
What God offers us is so much bigger and better. While He is always with us, He wants us to always know and experience His presence.
He calls us friends. We are not slaves, simply there to perform tasks of obedience. Rather, He calls us to an exciting life of serving and loving others with Him. We live and work in a vital, sustaining relationship with Him. He wants us with Him always, and died to prove it. Because He rose, we are members of His family, perfectly and fully loved.
Distracted? Lost focus? Then remember. Remember that you are part of His family, and He calls you sister or brother. He loves you with an everlasting love, calling you friend — the close kind. So close that He takes up residence in you. Ask Him to keep reminding you of His love, presence and friendship. Also ask Him to continue to reveal greater depths of His love an friendship, and how that revelation affects how you live. Do your part — seeking to know His friendship.
When we know we are truly loved for our benefit, we tend to respond lovingly. This response refocuses us, giving us the ability to properly live out our relationship with our Lord and friend, Jesus Christ.
p.s. Knowing you are in or out of focus often takes monitoring your attitudes, thoughts and actions. Regular short times of reflection can be enough, using even the simple question, “Is my priority of my relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being lived out in my attitudes, thoughts and actions?”
Keywords: Christian, discipleship, love, friend of God, re-focus
Really love rather than hear, “Love? Really?”
While the desire to see Muslims come to Christ is an indication of love, treating people simply as potential converts makes them feel like projects. Our love for them has to be for them as individuals or they will likely reject our message.
Most Muslims know that Christianity is based on love, and are looking to see the love written in the Bible displayed in our lives. I was looking for it in my Christian friends, and saw little of it at first. They only related to me at that time in order to convert me, showing little care about me otherwise.
I listened patiently to them for quite some time, but then decided to tell them how I felt. I told them that if I had to become like them in order to be a Christian, then I never wanted to be a Christian. I felt that they lacked love for me, denying the validity of their message. When they heard it, they, to their credit, went and prayed long prayers of repentance before God, asking for another chance to share the love of Christ with me properly (I found out about this after I became a Christian). They changed. They began treating me like a person rather than a target, and some of them even became friends. That was much more convincing to me than them trying to make me convert. Their change was certainly not the most important part of me becoming a Christian (divine intervention was), but it did help.
What I am writing is not limited to Muslim ministry. I think that all people want to be treated with love. Non-Christians measure us by our love for them and for other Christians. We probably should ask ourselves how we’re doing in that area. Let’s really love rather than have those we’re ministering to and interacting with say, “Love? Really?”
Keywords: Muslim ministry, real love
God’s welcoming nature revealed in His names
God welcomes us. People either forget that or never knew. Many need God’s peace today, and God calls them to Himself so that He can give them that peace. People often cannot see His welcome, so they live in frenetic and uncomfortable worlds. So how do we understand His welcome if we cannot see it?
The first thing is to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We can then look at just two of His names, Father and I Am. His names reveal His character and how He acts.
Many understand God’s immense power, revealed when He says He is I Am. He is self-existent and can do anything He wants. That knowledge is good, but leaves people wondering how He will treat them.
God is revealed in Christ as a good father who cares for and deeply loves His children. He made all of us, and those that follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are His children. We can then know that the One that can do anything welcomes us as His children and looks favorably on us individually. We can come to God and He will take care of our circumstances. He also giving us a peace that passes understanding as He works in our circumstances. This peace is based on knowing his goodness continues towards us regardless of our circumstances.
Keywords: how God sees us, Father, I Am, names of God, love, children
Good news for the seeker: God wants to be found
Many of you know people who are seeking to begin a relationship with the living God. Some of you are in that position. I have good news for the seeker: the God of this universe wants to be found. He loves and cares for each of us, wanting each one to be part of His family so that He can love them as a good father loves a child, and also as a faithful friend loves a friend.
Rather than try to provide an answer for the intensely personal journey of a seeker, may I suggest the following for those seeking God: ask Him, “Please show me who You are, and I will follow You.” If a seeker prays that prayer sincerely, I believe He will lead and direct that person into the truth about who He is and the steps to take to enter into a personal relationship with God.
Keywords: seeker, evangelism, prayer
Feeling rejected? Rub love in like a lotion.
That’s what I was told a few months after I had become a Christian. It was great advice, but took me a while to discover what it meant, even though my friend told me.
He said that though I was being loved a great deal by others, I still felt rejected because of the effects of being disowned and disinherited after becoming a Christian. He said that the love was rolling off of me like water off of a duck’s back because I did not have a way to receive it.
I knew he was right, but told him I did not know how to change it. He said that much of it was about focus. I told him that in my mind my focus would often go to the thing that screamed the loudest — in this case the pain from the rejection. Acceptance and love were not being received because their voices were being drowned in the noise from the storm of pain.
He paused for a while, looking down, brow furrowed. He took so long that his wife reached out to gently touch his shoulder, reminding him of the need to speak. I think He was praying, asking God to speak through him. I believe He did.
He continued to wait, then finally told me to rub love in like a lotion. He clarified that the kind of love I should focus on was love that agreed with the description of love in 1 Corinthians:4-8 and came from people that wanted the best for me. He said I should actively focus on that love, and continue to think about it until it went in (to my mind and soul). He said I should rub the thoughts in until all the love was absorbed into me, and that I should not stop doing so until I knew that I had been loved. I should note that I was being loved by people and by God.
He said that God was building in me the ability to receive love, and eventually I would be able to take it in fully. He said that receiving love would overcome the rejection, leaving me free to grow in Christ fully, with the ability to help others.
Receiving love in my life has brought healing, comfort and confidence. It takes time, but rubbing love in like a lotion has been helpful in receiving love and practicing Philippians 4:8-9. I recommend actively receiving love if you feel rejected or are being oppressed or persecuted — yes, even rubbing love in like a lotion. It works.
Keywords: Receiving love, lotion, rejection, persecution, oppression