Focus | Static
Monday— Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:2
“I swore I would never be like my father and now…here I am!” Many dejected clients have sat in a counselor’s office and poured out their frustrations. They grew up with an angry, cold, or abusive father and knew it shouldn’t be like that, but felt helpless to change it. So somewhere between kindergarten and college, they made a personal vow: I WILL NEVER BE LIKE HIM. Yet, as the years rolled on, the same dysfunctions that defined ol’ Dad began to define them too. They discovered too late that they’d become—or married—the very thing they hated most. How did this happen?
This verse answers that question. Whatever we focus on, we become. Whether good or bad, the ones who dominate our thoughts carve our character. Remember playing with a Spirograph? You chose a design and then duplicated it by following a pattern. As the tip of your pen went round and round the track, the design you had your eye on took shape beneath your pen. “How did that happen?” the technology-deprived children of the 70’s and ‘80’s cried with delight. But when they grew up, many realized their lives had done the same thing. As life went round and round, their actions began to replicate the people they’d fixed their eyes on. God implores us to fix our eyes on the perfection of Jesus so that only His likeness is duplicated in us.
Final Thought: Who have you fixed your eyes on?
Prayer: Father, could this be my problem? Have I focused so much on who I don’t want to be that I’ve become like them? I’m ready to refocus. I forgive those who wronged me and redirect my gaze to the only one worthy of it. In His name, amen.
Tuesday— When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. Mark 6:49
They’d been with Him night and day for months. They’d watched Him heal lepers, cast out demons, and feed crowds with a Kid’s Meal. They’d listened to Him talk about God and heaven like someone who’d been there and they’d given up everything to follow Him. But then the storm hit and waves were all they could see. Jesus, their Friend, the Lord of the storm, was right in front of them, but they didn’t recognize Him as the answer. They thought He was part of the problem.
Have you been in that boat? Maybe, like the disciples, you’ve had times of closeness with Jesus. You believed you knew Him well and assumed that with Him around, your life would be smooth sailing. Then the storm hit. Divorce papers came. Medical tests revealed a problem. Your loved one died. Suddenly, all you could see were waves. And you got angry. Terrified. How could God do this to you? He could have stopped the storm and He didn’t, so maybe He was part of the problem. Waves can do that to us. They can make us lose focus. We panic and assume that Jesus is nowhere around. But in truth, He’s right there with us in the middle of the storm, standing on top of our problem, encouraging us to trust Him. Storms don’t mean that God has abandoned us. No storm catches Him by surprise. He won’t always calm them, but He stays with us all the way through,
Final Thought: Has a storm caused you to lose focus? Remember who is standing on top of the waves.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for promising to be with me in the storms. Forgive me for the times I’ve blamed you for not stopping them. You see things I can’t see. So even when I don’t understand, I’ll trust that you have a plan for my good. Amen
Wednesday— “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
“God told me.” “The Lord said so.” Statements like those are increasingly popular these days. They can come from the most unlikely sources and are not referring to scriptural insight, but about someone’s passion. They are usually spoken by a well-meaning person who desperately wants to feel like God’s personal mouthpiece. But often those authoritative-sounding words are the result of a dizzying tangle of thoughts, impressions, and static that sizzles in all of our minds day and night. It’s easy to get our wires crossed and assume we’re hearing God’s voice when we’re actually voicing our own strong feelings or opinions.
Yet, Jesus said that those who belong to Him will recognize His voice. How do we know when it’s Him?
God has a zero-tolerance policy for false prophets claiming “thus saith the Lord.” (Read about it in Jeremiah 23:30-40). So how do we separate His voice from all the other voices (including our own) that clamor for attention? The best way to recognize the voice of Jesus is to immerse ourselves in His word. Memorize. Meditate. Savor scriptures like they were Jolly Ranchers and then apply them to our lives. That keeps us from becoming entangled in deception, declaring nonsense like, “God told us it was okay to sleep together since we’re in a relationship.” Or, “The Lord told me that you should…” When God speaks to us, it is ABOUT us and FOR His purposes. He doesn’t appreciate it when we leverage His name to further our own agendas.
Final Thought: If a strong impression contradicts God’s written word, it was not God’s voice.
Prayer: Lord, I’ve been a little confused by people who claim to hear from you, but I’m not sure they did. I don’t want to be a false prophet. Speak to me from your word so I learn to recognize your voice in my spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Proverbs 19:20
Advice is as common as acne on a teenager and equally welcome. Everybody is full of advice, regardless of whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Marriage trouble? The co-worker going through her third divorce is eager to give her two-cents. Financial struggles? It’s best to avoid the counsel of the playboy in bankruptcy court. However, on the flip side are know-it-alls who are unteachable. They hope to appear wise by spouting off on every subject, but they’re only revealing how much they don’t know. If we truly desire to grow wise, we should listen more than we talk. Seeking advice is a good way to stay focused on the right things; however, not all advice is worth hearing. Culture is one voice we should hear with great caution.
Our success or failure is directly connected to our counselors. We cannot always control the static from a thousand voices crackling in our brains, but we get to set some filters. Got a foul mouth? What kind of language do you tolerate? Lustful ideas? What images are you feasting on? Wrestling with doubts about God? Stay off the atheist sites. Struggling with comparisons? Get off social media. We control a lot of the static in our minds by choosing our counselors wisely. Seek those voices that reflect godly values and take their advice. Accept discipline, learn not to repeat mistakes, and enjoy the benefits of wisdom.
Final Thought: Who or what are you allowing to counsel you? If you follow their advice, will you be wise?
Prayer: Father, help me evaluate my counselors. Whose voice am I listening to? Who or what should I avoid? Whose advice should I start seeking that will guide me closer to you? Help me see wisdom as the ultimate goal. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
Election chaos swirls around us. Racial tensions are dividing the closest of friends. Fear of a deadly virus forces us all to live behind masks while whispers of conspiracies, fraud, and sinister agendas are creating anxiety in even the most stable souls. Fear, dread, and panic greet us before our eyes open in the morning and follow us to bed at night, hunching in the dark to whisper, “What if…? Oh no!” The world seems to change hourly, and we try to tune it out but fear being left behind. Peace seems like a delicacy that belongs to another era, and yet we tasted it once. How do we get it back?
Isaiah tells us. He uses the Hebrew word “samak,” which is translated “stayed,” to describe the posture of a peaceful mind. “Samak” means to lie against something sturdy, to rest against it. When we bring our troubled minds into the presence of our powerful, loving Father, peace waits for us. As though we were gathering flowers for a bouquet, we gather up the fragments of our anxious thoughts and arrange them before the Lord. “Here, Father,” we pray. “This is all the stuff I’m worried about. I’ve done all I can, so this is yours now. I’m not taking it with me. I’ll trust your decision on it all.” Then we take our hands off and leave it there. But… the troubles want to follow us like a stray dog looking for a home. We can receive the angst right back again, or… we can “samak” on the Lord. We can’t do both. Only a mind “samak” on the Lord is promised perfect peace.
Final Thought: If you’re struggling to find peace, check what you’re resting against.
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to have a mind samak on you. I pray about things, but take them right back. I want that perfect peace Isaiah talked about. No matter what’s happening around me, help me learn to rest in you. In Jesus’ name, amen.