Painfully focused

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Over focused people may become steam rollers. 

There’s nothing wrong with being focused. In fact, only some are focused enough to make a difference. Most are not. 

Some get so focused on what they are involved in that they become like a steam roller. They get pushy. I think they can become “painfully focused.” The pain is not their own, but they cause pain in others. 

Those who are painfully focused get so set on their personal interests that they forget everyone else. Such people do well with their interests and with that they value. But nothing else matters to them. 

Is that you? Does it ring a bell? Look around you. What do you see on the faces of people around you? Look within you. What is driving you forward? 

Are you painfully focused? 

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The arm breaker

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We don’t wish evil on even the worst of our enemies. We are to pray for those who misuse us and to do good to them. Jesus has clearly commanded us to love our enemies. 

But God is the arm breaker. 

“Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find no more” (Psa 10:15).

Although we are to curse no one, their actions bring certain end results. We are not to take revenge, but God is the one who avenges. 

Silence is a good response. Find ways to do good to those who speak against you. Then a few years later, you’ll hear how God shows up as the “arm breaker” to call to account the misdeeds of those who do evil. 

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal 6:7). 

Maybe this sounds too harsh. Just don’t take any of this on yourself. Learn to relax, be silent and leave things to God. That’s it. 

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Is Fear Good?

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          Well, sort of. There is a good side to fear in that it keeps us out of danger. For example, touching a hot stove causes pain and subsequently fear in a small child. That fear will keep the child from touching the hot surface again. 

         But unwarranted fear may keep us from being persistent in our pursuits. Failure causes pain and subsequently fear develops. That fear keeps us from trying again. It keeps us contained within the domain of the familiar. No more risk-taking in new directions. 

         Failure doesn’t have to cap your future. It ought to be just an indicator to get us more focused and resilient to face future setbacks when they come. Learn to set fear aside. Proceed with passion and move caution out of the forefront and to the side where it belongs. 

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A stronghold in times of trouble

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But it feels like you’re out in the sea without an anchor. Times of trouble simply puts you in a state of “limbo.” 

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psa 9:9).

It’s a promise that the Lord is a sure stronghold for those in trouble. When there is no one to care, when everyone seems to be your enemy, God will be your stronghold. 

As a stronghold, God becomes your protector. When you are attacked from every side, God will be your covering. The weight of the attack may be heavy, but it won’t crush you. It may even feel like you’re going to die, but you will be rejoicing in the land of the living. God is your stornghold in times of trouble. 

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Understanding ancient texts

Recently we visited a historic home, about 200 years old. I tried to read some of the old written documents displayed in the home. Although written in English, it was difficult to understand. The writing, the language, and the usage was different. 

The text of the Bible is over 2,000 years old. The current translations are modern renditions of ancient language, styles, and usage. But since the context of our times is so far removed, we need to be careful how we interpret. 

Here are three clues for interpretation. First, ask what it meant to the original readers. To do this, learn about their culture, usage of language, customs, manners, religion, politics, history, and much more. This is a gradual, ongoing process. 

Second, find the overarching principle. A principle transcends time, culture, and language. It’s for everyone. It may be themes such as: show respect for others, love unconditionally, forgive, etc. 

Third, apply that “principle” to today. Give practical steps to obey the principles from that text. 

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Dominant by default

The dominant dominate. Get it? Now that may be good for dominant, but what about me? This is what the Psalmist said about people:

“You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (Psa 8:6). 

We, as a creation of God, and as children of our heavenly father, can be assertive in this. You are dominant by default. 

It’s time to think outside of our circumstances. Then begin to act like you are a child of your Father in heaven and he has created you to dominate. 

As you dominate, make sure to behave like your Father. Deal with others in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And by all means, dominate!

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Basic Evangelism

Oh, I know. Say you’re not an evangelist? Not a Bible thumping, in-your-face type of person? I don’t think Jesus was either. Actually, he just helped people, and introduced them to the Kingdom. Then, he went one step further and asked them if they wanted to take the next step (Mat 16:24). 

So here’s a simple plan. Be natural. Take it slow. Let it flow. Such non-threatening types of evangelistic efforts are great for those who are not natural at approaching strangers. Many call such methods “Low Risk, High Anointing.” If you’re only able to get to the first step, count it a success. Then aim for the next step, and so on. By all means, pray and ask the Father to show you which ones he is drawing to himself. 

  1. Connect

Take the first step to connect with people by speaking to them. Be friendly. Ask questions. Be curious. Speak less. Allow them to speak more. Listen. Put your phone away and listen without distractions. Connect with people. 

  1. Relate

Go deeper than just a basic connection. You may have started the conversation talking about sports, the weather, politics, road conditions, or any popular topics related to your community. But don’t stay there long. Go deeper by relating with them. Find out what their concerns are. What’s important to them? Where does it hurt? Where is the struggle? 

  1. Introduce 

Take the next step to introduce Jesus to them. At the point of concern, pain, struggle, or grief is where Jesus comes in. I find it’s not sufficient to mention “God,” since gods are many. Find a way to mention the name Jesus and how he has impacted your life. Jesus can do that for them as well.  

Don’t sweat it. Release the fear by making this a “Low Risk, High Anointing” opportunity. If you only get to the first step, that’s fine. Count it a success! Keep doing that with lots of people. Then make it a goal to move to the second step. Count it a success! Then you move on to the third step and introduce Jesus. Note their response to identify those that the Father is calling to himself. These are the persons of peace that Jesus wanted us to identify (Luke 10:5). 

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Basic church

When Jesus said “I will build my church,” he was using the Greek word ekklesia* which is translated as “church” in English Bibles. A more detailed explanation is given below, but the basic idea was a group called out from the rest of the people. For Jesus, it was a gathering of people who accepted his call to become his disciples. 

With this in mind, what is the most basic form of “church” that we can imagine? In my understanding, here are just three of the most basic factors that are required in a church. Many other factors can be added, but these three are essential, and needs to come first. 

  1. Worship 

A gathering of people who follow Jesus must take time for worship. This should be a natural outcome of a gathering of believers. And of course, worship leads to obedience. Jesus said: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). True worship results in obedience to Jesus and his Word. Otherwise, it’s just a group of people singing songs. 

  1. Community 

This gathering of believers should relate together as a community. As a community, they relate to each other in love and concern. Caring for each other in love should be a natural outcome. Jesus said: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). 

  1. Outreach 

As the church gathers together and enjoys the benefits of worship and community life, we must not forget those who have not entered into the Kingdom of our Lord. Jesus commanded his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20). 

These three are the most basic factors that I look for when helping church planters get focused. It is easy to get lost trying to do too much. Instead, focus on just the basics until you have the people and the resources to do more.  

There are other essentials that cannot be ignored. Followers of Jesus must be obedient to his Word. Baptism is an unavoidable command of Jesus that cannot be ignored. Love for one another and for those outside the faith is essential. And of course, there are many others. But let’s begin with the three basic ones first. 

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* The Greek word “ekklesia” is a combination of two words, meaning the word is a compound of two segments: “ek“, a preposition meaning “out of”, and a verb, “kaleo“, signifying “to call” – together, literally, “to call out,” or “called out ones.” 

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Reset

You’ve worked hard to develop deaders. You put in the time, effort, and energy required to set standards, develop culture and to set systems in place. 

Yet the results seem to elude you. You just don’t see it heppaning in the leaders, or in the people. How long can you persist? Even your leaders have second thoughts about you and your approach. In this situation, it is easier for us to “reset” to default like we do with our phones. 

This is the easy way out. I do it on my phone without a second thought. It’s getting easier on the laptop as well. But in Leadership, the “reset” button can be costly. When you “reset” to the good old way of doing things, you may feel some comfort because of familiarity. But don’t. 

Stay focused. Persist. Stick to your values. Keep building on your values. Avoid the reset button. Keep listening to that inner voice of the Holy Spirit within you. 

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Need a shield?

When you sense that you are cornered by the circumstances of life, God will be your shield. When you’re surrounded by more people who oppose you than support you, God is your shield. 

The psalmist David knew what it’s like to be cornered, outlawed, and exiled. He faced some of the most treacherous, painful things that anyone could imagine. Maybe this was his secret:

“My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart” (Psa 7:10).

He truly experienced the “shield” of the presence of God. Once he even lost everything to his enemies and his men were talking of stoning him to death, but “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam 30:6c). 

Do you need a shield today? 

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