Tag Archives: Christian

Focus

I can be a terrible listener.  My wife and kids will attest to that.  When I am watching a TV show and they try to talk to me, I won’t hear them.  Especially if it’s a really good movie.  I want to hear every word and see every action on the screen because I know that each word has its own importance.  I could easily mis a key element of the movie if I don’t concentrate fully.  Or maybe it’s a football game.  I want to see every play, every replay and hear what the commentators are saying.  I can’t be bothered with interruptions.  If they try to talk to me, they can’t get through unless they turn my head to listen.

I’m the same way when with a bunch of people.  If someone tries to talk to me, and does not get my attention first, I hear every conversation in the room and can’t distinguish one from the other.  It all becomes a muddled mess, In most instances in my life I can multi-task, but when it comes to words, I cannot get them from multiple sources at once. I have to focus my attention on one aspect at a time, whether it be the movie, or the football game, or the conversation that wants to include me.  Once I focus my attention, I do fine.

Many times, when we think of focus, we get a visual picture of what that is.  We focus a camera to get the best shot, or a telescope to see further into space.  Without that focus in our visual image, it comes out all blurry and we can’t define the better points of what we are looking at.  The picture is not what we really want because we want to see that smile or those beautiful eyes, or that gorgeous sunset.  If it’s not in focus, what good is it?  The focus has to be to the right depth in order to get the picture we want.  If we focus too much on the background, our image is blurry.  The same is true if we focus on one feature and not the whole picture.  Our focus has to be completely on the image we want to see clearly.

Focus also means the center of interest or activity.  It is what we spend the most time thinking about in our daily lives, whether it be the next lesson in our school work, or a detailed job we need to get done for work.  Recently I have been focused on getting the weeds out of my garden in preparation for next year’s garden.  Every day I do a little more to make sure those pesky weeds won’t shed their seeds into the soil and give me a bumper crop.  If I don’t focus on that goal, I won’t get the job done.  It is tedious and won’t show results for a whole year.  Why bother??

In my spiritual walk, focus is just as important.  What exactly do I focus on one day to the next.  I know that I am a sinner saved by grace, and every once in a while, that sin creeps back into my life and sets me back.  I repent and ask God for forgiveness only to have it rear its ugly head again.  I often don’t think to ask myself why it came back up.  I just repent again and God, in His mercy, forgives me and I go on.  This seems to be a recurring cycle that I don’t have the power to control.

Or do I?  I heard a message the other day that talked about focus and realized what my problem was.  After I sin, and after I repent to God, and after He forgives me, I have a tough time putting out of my mind that sin that I committed.  I know I am forgiven, but I just think about how much I disappointed God and how disappointed I am in myself.  I think about how much I want to give it up and never do it again.  I think about why I got into that mess in the first place.  In other words, I think about my sin – I focus on my sin.  When I am focused on my sin, it is bound to come back again.  It is bound to overtake me again.  It is inevitable because that is where my focus is.

Instead, I need to change my focus. I need to put that sin behind me and put it out of my mind.  In Philippians 3:13, Paul says he forgets those things that are behind and reaches to the things which are ahead, and he presses toward the mark of the High Calling of Jesus Christ.  God says he separates are sin from us as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103:12).  It is not God that keeps our sin alive!  When God cleanses our sin, He cleanses us as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).  He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  How does sin remain if God takes it away?  We keep it alive by focusing on it, even if that focus is to try and get rid of it,

My focus needs to go to something else.  Paul said “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” in Philippians 3:14. He focuses on Jesus!  That is how you overcome sin!  Not by avoiding the sin, which puts the focus on your sin.  NO.  We defeat sin by turning our focus to Jesus.  We are victorious when we forget the sin, forget that we have sinned, forget that sin ever had us in it’s grasp.  It is what is before us that matters.  It is where God is calling us to that makes the difference.  There are so many admonitions to this in the Bible that I can’t begin to scratch the surface here.   I think of Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:6-8, Proverbs 3:5-6, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 23, Psalm 91.  I think of the words of Jesus when He says “In this world you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Or the words of James in James 1:2-4.  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

You can leave that sin behind.  You can clear up the muddled voices that speak inside your head and confuse you.  You can go toward God instead.  Change your focus and you will be an overcomer.

Are You A Meat Eater?

Hebrews 5:10-14

 

10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Am I dull of hearing?  Has the preaching in my church, or the radio sermons I hear, or just reading my bible daily become like wrote practice that I just do and don’t glean anything from it.  The voice just goes on and on with nothing important to be said to me because I already heard it or read it.  In fact, I think I could give that preacher a pointer or two.  They missed this scripture or that and those would add so much to their message!  Why would they leave that out?  This is boring!  I’m not going to listen to a sermon where I know the outcome.  Dull – boring!

If I really sit back and think about my reaction to messages I hear, this statement is not far from the truth.  I have always had a quest for knowledge, and in my younger years as a Christian, I read the Bible like a person with a voracious appetite.  Three years in a row I read the Bible cover to cover., I underlined, did word studies and topical studies with my Thompson Chain Bible and my Strong’s Concordance.  I wanted to know all I could know so I was ready if I ever had to apply those scriptures to my everyday life.  This activity was all well and good, to a point.  It became a routine.  Just another thing I did each day.  After those first three years, I did the yearly reading again a couple times.  I had become dull of hearing in a way, because the reading was not as exciting as it once had been.

But my quest for knowledge did not cease.  I still did word studies, topical studies and other things that made the scripture seem more palatable.  The King James can be hard to read, and I was pretty full, or so I thought.  I wasn’t sure there was much more for me.  The problem was that I thought I knew it all and had a tough time when people tried to tell me about the scripture.   I already knew it!  This brought me to a point where I stopped digesting the word and making it a part of my life, deep down inside myself.  I started to just drink it like water or milk, just enough to get me by, but certainly not enough to sustain me.  And that’s when I started to get into trouble.

I started chasing after sin.  It was not enough to have sin come calling at my door – I chased after it in places I should not have gone.  I looked at things, read things and did things I had no business doing as a Christian.  I was a worship leader, lay minister, deacon, and Sunday School teacher.  I should not have fallen to the tempter like I did, but here I was, steeped in private sin, doing things in the dark I should not being doing.  This went on for years until one day my daughter found out and told my wife.  Consultation with my Pastor brought many tears and a period of remorse set in, but the problem came back harder then before.  The second time I was caught it cost me my job of 20 years.

But I had a wise Pastor, and he put down the law on me.  He told me I needed to go to Pure Life Ministries in Kentucky or I would never set foot in his church again.  So, I went.  The place as all about Bible study, and so I got back into my old habit of word studies and topical studies.  When my counselor found out I was doing that, he got after me.  I had enough homework to do, and he did not want me to do anything outside of that.  He said something I will never forget.  He said I had way to much head knowledge and it had not made it into my heart.  No more studying of any kind outside the structured study they gave me.  I learned at that time that all the studying I had done previously was in vain unless it became the way I lived.  Unless it became meat to my body instead of just milk or water.  The meat that I needed was already inside, I had just not chewed it slowly and digested it properly, and it was going out in the draught.  It wasn’t as profitable for me as it should be.

This is exactly what Paul is talking about here.  The Hebrews were so familiar with the Bible and the story of Jesus, that they simply glossed it over and did not make it a priority in their lives.  They needed to listen more closely and allow the Holy Spirit to make it real to them.  They needed it to come into their bodies and go through the blood stream just like nutrients do.  When we eat meat, our body has top break it down to its basic elements for us to gain any good nutrition from it.  We have to do the same with God’s word.  I am not talking about taking anything out of context, but merely to read the word more slowly and apply it to our lives as we go.  That is why I do these studies in short pieces of scripture – because I want to absorb what God is saying to me.  Don’t read them fast.

A other way to do this is to write out the scriptures in your own words.  If you really want to have a good time with this concept, go to Psalm 119.  Write out what each verse means to you in your own words.  I know, it’s 176 verses long.  But you will find treasure in there that you never knew existed in that Psalm.  I did this experiment a few years back, and right now our men’s group is going through that study.  This tactic can really be used with any scripture, but Psalm 119 is often skipped over because of its length, and I think you will find this an excellent growth experience. I pray that you are at a place where you are eating the meat of the word, and not just drinking at the fountain.  There is so much more to this Christian walk than simply being dormant.

Obeying to Perfection

Hebrews 5:7-9

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

The Garden must have been a gruesome ordeal for Jesus.  All His life, He had done what His Father had wanted Him to do.  He said so on numerous occasions.  His mission was to show us the father and He did so with compassion and grace.  For three years, he healed every sick, lame, blind, dumb and deaf person that came to Him.  Constantly “He healed them all” appears in the word.  He taught us great lessons that have and will endure the test of time.  He was loved and followed by thousands everywhere He went.  He got away to pray several times on His own, and this strengthened Him for ministry.

But now He was really alone.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, early in the morning (it is guessed around 1 am) He went there to pray, knowing the fate that lay ahead of Him.  He knew that Isaiah said he would be like a sheep taken to the slaughter and that He would be wounded and would take stripes.  He knew that they would mock Him, gamble for His garments and nail Him to a cross.  He knew this road awaited Him.  He desperately wanted His closes friends, Peter, James and John, to pray with Him during this troubling time.  But they could not stay awake.  They slept each time he woke them up.  He was alone.  Terribly alone in prayer.

It was a simple prayer.  “Not my will, but thine be done.”  But it was a big battle for Jesus.  All his life He had done the fathers will, never questioning.  But now, he really wanted this cup to pass from Him.  He really, in His flesh, did not want to go through the agony that lay ahead.  He knew he must, but he asked the father if there was any other way, to make it happen.  But there was no other way.  The father’s will would prevail.  He would do whatever He needed to do.  He would be obedient through the suffering.

I can’t help but think of another Garden experience so prominent in the Bible.  In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are in the garden and they are faced with the same dilemma.  Should they obey God or listen to their flesh.  The enemy made giving in to the flesh real tempting to them.  But they knew what God had told them – they should not eat of that fruit.  It was the only thing they were told not to do.   They had to make a decision, and they made the opposite decision that Jesus made.   They decided to listen to the flesh instead of listening to God. Because of that decision sin entered the world.  Sin was passed on from Adam to all me through His seed.  It was a real bad decision.

But Jesus made the right decision.  “Not my will, but thine be done.”.  What a different world we would live in if Adam and Eve had made that decision.  Because of Jesus decision, he suffered unbelievable torture and pain, all for us.  But he was also perfected, and became salvation to all who will believe in Him.  He affected the lives of every person who every lived by making that one decision.  I’m so glad he chose obedience in the midst of the most difficult trial a man has every faced.  He saved us all!

What a different world we would live in if we would make that decision every time.  To do the will of the Father above our own will.  To obey no matter what the outcome might be.  Those of you who read my writing all the time know that I live by a verse and do my best to abide by that verse all the time, in good and bad. It is Proverbs 3:5-6, which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your path.”  This verse has saved me from worry, sorry, storms, trials, troubles and all manner of things the enemy has put in my way.  It has also saved me during times when I have been the master of my own disasters.  I know that no matter what comes my way, no matter what trouble or storm, I can trust in Him.  I don’t try to understand why I made that dumb decision, or why this test has come to me, I just trust Him.  I acknowledge that he is working in my life even when I can’t see Him working.  I acknowledge He is there, somewhere, working on a better plan for me – His plan. I can praise Him in the midst of the storm because he will show me the way out of that storm.  In fact, I would not be surprised if this verse was in Jesus mind that night. James 1:2-4 tells us that we are made perfect by the troubles and temptations that come our way.  These verses have also become central to my philosophy.  Paul says that for the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.  We must look at our troubles that way as well.  He works all things for our God – always.  Romans 8:26 tells us that we must know this.  When we know this, we will see our obedience to Him through our suffering will perfect us in the end.  And he will be exalted which is just as it should be.

The Third Night

A question was posed to me a few weeks ago that I have been pondering ever since.  Do you ever have those biblical questions that you just want to sit on for a while and contemplate, wondering what it really means.  You think you know, but you are not sure, so you seek the Holy Spirit to guide you to an answer because it is He that will guide you into all truth.  You ask God for wisdom and your faith doesn’t waver so you know He will give you the wisdom you asked for.  This was one of those questions.  I gave my friend a quick thought, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the Holy Spirit spoke tome in an instant and gave me those words I shared with him.

In Matthew 12:38 the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask Him to show them a sign.  I found this a little funny, since he has already been ministering for over a year, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk and the dumb to speak. Certainly they had heard of these deeds and maybe, upon giving them the benefit of the doubt, they had never been present to witness one of these miracles.  They wanted to see for themselves, much like Thomas did the night of His return from the dead.  After all, it would be much easier to believe Him if they could see and actual sign!

Jesus knows their hearts though. He tells them an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.  WOAH!  Wait a minute!  How often do we seek signs?  How often do we need a miracle to happen in our lives in order for us to believe he is the good and merciful God we have heard about?  I hear a lot of people praying to God for miracles all the time and when they don’t get them, they question God.  They wonder if He really hears their prayers, if He really cares about them.  Even though His word tells us He does, they still question.  Does that make us an evil and adulterous generation?  We should worship God for who He is, not for what He will do for us.  There is a huge difference there, and we should make sure we are praising Him for the right reasons.  That way our praise can be unceasing and our love will never die.  But that is not the point I am writing this about.

The next thing Jesus says is even more intriguing.  In Matthew 12:40, He says:

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Let me check my math here.  Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, right? Friday, Saturday, Sunday – that’s three days.  But Friday night and Saturday night are only two nights, right?  He says three nights.  My friend misquoted the verse by saying Jesus was three days in the heart of the ground.  But it says earth here.  So, what happened to the third night?

I think Thursday night was the third night – the night of the Last Supper and the Garden, the several trials also.  It was then that He gave Himself up, that he was no longer a man of this earth.  How could any earthly man endure the suffering he went through?  How could anyone not want to atop Jonas from leaving the upper room and betraying Him?  How could any man not call upon all the power He had to dispel the Roman guards that came to take Him away?  How could He face the Sanhedrin and Pilate without defending Himself before the sun even came up?  My thought is that no living human could.  Only a person who had fully died to himself could go through this chain of events that happened Thursday night into Friday morning.  For all intents and purposes, Jesus really died Thursday night.  His power, His anointed preaching, His ability to call on His Father – all gone.  From that moment on, nothing could kill Him because he had already consigned himself to death.  Three nights in the heart of the earth.

We can learn a valuable lesson from this.  This world is going to come at Christians more and more in these last days.  We are seeing it now and will continue to see the persecution rise.  It started back in the 70’s, with the Bible and prayer being taken out of our schools.  But today it is so much worse.  Today, there is an all-out assault on the church by the LGBTQ+ coalition.  They are splitting churches wide open and are perverting the scriptures with their misinterpretation.  They are winning even the dearest of saints over to their side and indoctrinating our children even as young as kindergarten age.  Free speech will be next as they seek to stop us from reading certain parts of the Bible.  Oppression will hit us all eventually, and we must be prepared.

In my mind, the only way to be prepared is to die to ourselves.  We are supposed to crucify this flesh, let it die, so the Spirit can live within us in this world.  We are supposed to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  If my body can be offended and made weak by the attack of the enemy, what good will I be to the Kingdom of God?  We cannot allow ourselves to be offended, but rather to stand on the word of God when the enemy comes roaring in like a lion.  And he will come, you can depend on that.  He came against Jesus!  He certainly has no fear coming against us.  If we react in the flesh, we are doomed.  But if we react in the Spirit, as Jesus did, we will be victorious every time.  Jesus trusted God in the middle of the assault, and we should as well.   The third night shows us that.  It was in the third night, which actually came first, that all the enemy’s arsenal was used against Jesus.  He did not flinch.  He did not get offended. He did not complain.  He just did what God called Him to do.  And we should do the same!

The Order of Melchizedek

Hebrews 5:5-6

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

There are some things that I just don’t understand.  Well, to be honest, there are many things I don’t understand.  I am a simple lay person whom God has given the gift to write, both these studies and poetry/songs.  He can craft a sermon using my mouth, but most of it comes from Him, not me.  I learned at one point in my life to listen to His voice and that is where the words come from.  People ask me all the time how I can write such beautiful poetry, and I ay that I don’t.  he speaks it to me and I just put it on paper (Or type it on my computer).  It flows like a brook that flows down a mountain after a rain.  I certainly don’t understand why He chose me to write these words, but He did. By the way, if you are not familiar with my poetry blog, you can find it HERE (psalmistpetegardner.com)

I don’t understand why everyone did not follow Jesus and leave John the Baptist the day Jesus was baptized.  After all, an audible voice came out of the heavens saying “This I my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11).  If I heard that voice from heaven, I would have followed Him right into the wilderness and been there for Him when He needed something.  I doubt I would have left His side for anything.  But He went into the wilderness alone right after that proclamation.  I don’t understand that.

Imagine if you will if that would happen today and you were present.  You see a man come forward to the altar in your church.  You’ve never laid eyes on him and you know he is a visitor here that day. But your Pastor looks at Him and sees something special about him.  Maybe he feels the anointing on the man – that is definitely possible.  Maybe there is some thing in the way he looks at the Pastor that grabs his attention.  Whatever the case, the Pastor believes something special is happening.  All of a sudden. A voice booms out of heaven and says “This is my anointed messenger, in whom I am well pleased.”  What would you do?  Me – I would be skeptical.  In todays’ society, with the high-tech sound systems we have, this could come from a sound system.  But you know the sound system, and this voice definitely did not sound like it came from there.  My tendency would be to listen to the man if my Pastor allows him to speak.  Hopefully, the pastor has enough discernment to now be distracted by the voice.  Hopefully, he will ask the man what he wants to say and weigh it against scripture.  And hopefully, I will weigh my response by that same standard.  If the words spent by any man do not line up with the scripture, it should be rejected.  In these times especially, we must be vigilant and know the word of God well enough to judge sound doctrine.

That is why Paul uses scripture to back up the claim that Christ is our high priest.  This was difficult for the Jews (Hebrews) to comprehend.  After all, Jesus never served in the temple as a priest.  He was not in the Levitical line, but the line of Judah.  He had no right to be a priest according to the literal translation of Old Testament law. Paul has to build His case that Jesus came as our high priest.  Jesus never claimed this position.  Jesus never claimed He would take away sin either.  But the scripture tells us these things about Jesus.  They tell us who He was and why He came.  They tell us the ministry that He represented.   He did not glorify himself.  He let His Father do that.  Even on holy week, he asked the father to glorify His name and God said (again in an audible voice) “I have bopth glorified it and will glorify it again” (John 12:28)

So, to help the people understand how Jesus could be a high priest, he draws back into the Old Testament and a man named Melchizedek.  This goes way back to Abraham’s time, before the law, before the priesthood was even thought of. The story is in Genesis 14:18-20.  Melchizedek was the king of Salem, but it also says he was the priest of the most High God.  The Levitical priesthood was not even established yet, so the priesthood of Melchizedek was directly from God, not from a human perspective.  Abraham, the Father of the nation of Israel, and the father in faith of all who claim to be Christians, paid tithes to this Melchizedek.  And Melchizedek blessed Abraham in return.  Paul equates the priesthood of Jesus to that of Melchizedek, and uses the prophetic words of Psalm 110:4 to make his case.  This verse would be familiar with the Jews, as they had all been taught from their youth that this verse was about the Messiah.  He would be their high priest forever.  But still to this day many do not believe. Paul gives us a great example here of backing up His preaching with the scripture.  We should always make sure what we written, say or do lines up with scripture.  That is the purpose of Gods word – to teach us and train us in God’s ways.  It escapes my why so many can be drawn away from the word be the deceitfulness of a false prophet or false teaching.  It has to be that they do not know the scripture well enough to discern the truth.  Don’t let that be you!  Know the truth of scripture, and the truth shall set you free!