Tag Archive | focus

Living smart in a smartphone world.

Creación_de_Adám hands

There is an old adage…

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The problem is, we live in a time of sound-bite-driven and movie-trailer-style culture. We want to be able to wrap up our assessments of others into nice, neat packages, put a bow on them, and divide life into “simple” categories. We want to define others by how they fit into our agenda, without the messiness or benefit of personal relationship. We have become “experts” at the 30-Second Evaluation, without considering the years (and moments) leading up to that evaluation. We don’t often take into account the bad morning (of history of events leading up to that bad morning) before we pass judgment. We look to the surface of appearance and circumstance without considering the depth of another person’s experience, psyche, or soul.

So how do we remedy this as a society? How do we regain the decency and humanity we have lost in our social-media-driven, sit-com addicted culture? Here’s three ideas that may be a good place for you and me to start…

WWJD?

It sounds a little simplistic, and a bit of a throwback to the ’90’s (remember the WWJD bracelets?), but there’s a lot of truth in that little acronym. “What would Jesus do?” is a legitimate question, especially for anyone who calls himself or herself a follower of His. So, when it comes to relationships, what is the example He sets for us? How did Jesus treat those close to Him? We find in the Gospels many examples of how He responded to people in various situations.

 

  • judasAfter Peter denied Him, He gave Him another chance without throwing His failure up in His face (John 21).
  • When the woman accused of adultery was brought before Him, He offered her mercy, then with a simple question, shined a light on the hypocrisy of her accusers (John 8).
  • He wept at the loss of a friend (John 11), lovingly corrected Martha over her frustration with Mary (Luke 10), and used the Truth as a defense in the light of criticism.
  • He quietly dismissed Judas from the upper room and Last Supper without calling attention to his imminent betrayal.

So how does Jesus see those around you; the odd, disagreeable, quirky, and unpleasant? In the face of the misfortune of another, would Jesus break out His camera phone and put that misfortune on public display, or would He pick that person up and become an agent of healing?

ACTION STEP: Before you react to another person, make the decision to ask yourself how Jesus would respond in that situation. Better yet… ask Him.

Open your eyes.

In the “ME” culture in which we live, it’s easy to pass by and not notice the suffering of those around us. When we are surrounded on every side by voices that are telling us to “look out for #1”, we must make a conscious effort to get out from in front of the mirror, get our noses out of our smart phones, and stop staring at the ground. We must notice what is going on around us, the beauty of God’s creation, and the needs of others at the end of our reach. It’s amazing, for a society as connected and “caught on camera” as we are, that we have become as blind to the needs of others as we have. Jesus didn’t wait for someone to come into the synagogue to be healed or ministered to. He hit the streets, visited the homes of “publicans and sinners”, and made Himself available to the masses. His life was the antithesis of the self-preservation mindset we see today.

 

ACTION STEP: Commit a couple of times a day (for starters) that, when you go into a public place, you are going to turn off your ringer, put up your cellphone, and take notice of those around you, looking for a way to be of assistance to someone else.

Listen.

Monitor 1One of the things that drives me crazy about politics is when, in a debate or interview, someone won’t answer a direct question. It is as though they have paid no attention to the question, and simply use their response as an opportunity to change the subject, and advance their own agenda. In the Bible, the apostle James encourages us to be “quick to listen and slow to speak…” (James 1:19). Too often, instead of really listening to what someone else is saying, we are simply working on formulating a pithy or intellectual response while they are talking. We are HEARING, but not truly LISTENING. Really listening requires undivided attention, focusing on the person who is speaking, and if they are in front of you (ie: not on the phone), observing facial expression and body language. There was a time not long ago when we were NOT connected 24/7; NOT constantly looking at Facebook and Snapchat, and NOT at the instant beck-and-call of every email or phone call. And you know what? We survived! We probably had a better quality of life, and definitely had better interpersonal relationship skills. Honestly, short of some sort of personal or dire emergency, when you are having a conversation, there should be nothing more important at that moment than the person sitting across from you with whom you are conversing.

A group of ministry friends of mine were having dinner with the pastor of a church where they were ministering; five or six men sitting in a restaurant conversing over a meal. About three-quarters of the way through the meal, the pastor looked up and exclaimed, “I just want to point out something. As we have been sitting here, the thing I have noticed is the way John (one of the guys at the table) has engaged everyone here. He has been listening to everyone, and has made it a point to draw every person here at the table into the conversation. That is a rare and wonderful ability.” In pointing out this observation about John, the pastor revealed that he, too, had been listening and observing, and had taken an interest in all of the men at the table. He was right… these days, that is a rare ability. Too often, we simply use our silence as the time in which we formulate our next opportunity to say something seemingly wise or clever.

ACTION STEP: The next time you sit down for a meeting, dinner, or just a conversation, encourage those you are with to turn off their phones, and put them in a place to the side, out of sight and mind. Whatever it is, it can wait. Commit to being a better listener.

We are made in God’s image, and it is the nature of God to want communion and fellowship with us, His creation. We all need someone to confide in, someone to talk to, and someone to listen to. It preserves our humanity. It makes us (and others) less lonely. It improves the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

For those of us who are believers in Christ, I am reminded of this saying…

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

So, I encourage you… saddle up, head out, go forth, and reconnect with the world around you. See others the way Jesus does, and take the time to draw them into your circle.

By drawing them into your circle, you might find them drawn into His heart.

 

Pastor Ron

Unhinged

trump-swearing-inOn November 8, 2016, the American people spoke.

On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United Sates.

And from that time until now, individuals, groups, and organizations have become increasingly hostile, hateful, lawless, and… well… unhinged.

We have seen protests, riots, assaults, and rampant crime in our streets, all under the guise of 1st Amendment rights. We have gotten a front-row seat to unprecedented obstruction with the “slow-walking” confirmations — courtesy of Democrats in the Senate — of President Trump’s cabinet (in fact, not since the inauguration of George Washington in 1789 has a president had to wait this long to have his cabinet confirmed). We have been subjected to a steady string of “false news” reports from a media openly hostile to our new leader and leadership. We have become witness to the spectacle of Hollywood liberal acolytes using award programs and entertainment platforms for the purpose of lecturing the “uneducated masses” on the evils of President Trump, Vice-President Pence, and anyone associated with them — seemingly from birth.


The 1st Amendment of the Constitution has long been a cornerstone of the American way of life. To know that we can worship, believe, speak our mind, and have a free press without fear of persecution from the State is a right we should be able to count on.
The 1st Amendment of the Constitution declares…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

IMG_1905Many of those who rallied behind the lawful election of Barack Obama, and told those on the opposite side of the aisle to “deal with it” are now becoming increasingly hostile to the rule of law. When “We won!” was the reply to those who disagreed with the incoming flood of immoral and, in some cases, arguably unconstitutional legislation, those of a Republican or Conservative bent did not flood the streets, obstruct traffic, destroy property, and participate in disgusting and offensive demonstrations.

Of what do I speak? Well, for anyone who has (some might say ‘wisely’) not viewed news programs or current events, allow me to get you (partially) up to speed…

  • On January 20 (Inauguration Day), rioters took to the streets in parts of Washington D.C., throwing rocks at police, smashing storefronts, and setting vehicles on fire, apparently in an attempt to disrupt the Inaugural parade route. Over 200 were arrested and charged with felony rioting (a federal offense that, if convicted, carries up to a 10-year prison sentence, and up to a $250,00.00 fine).
  • On January 21, The Women’s March on Washington took place on the streets of Washington D.C., and around the nation. While the group’s policy platform includes “reproductive rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, religious discrimination (primarily that against Muslim Americans), LGBTQ rights, gender and racial inequities, workers’ rights, and other issues“, one of the co-chairs of the march was Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist who allegedly advocates Sharia law. Among the highlights of the march were women dressed in “vagina” costumes, profanity-laced tirades and pontifications by celebrities such as Madonna, Ashley Judd, and Scarlet Johansson, and the marked absence of any pro-life women’s groups (who were told they were not allowed to participate because they were pro-life).
  • On February 1, riots broke out at UC Berkeley as the result of a scheduled lecture by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulous, a gay “right-wing” commentator, had to be escorted off campus by police amidst the cancellation of his lecture due to violent protests that included Molotov cocktails, masked agitators, and personal assaults on innocent bystanders. In the end, the campus upon which the “free-speech movement” began in 1964 has become a bastion of censorship and intolerance by the very people who are screaming for tolerance.

For all of their protests, riots, whining, and foot-stomping, those who protest our new administration seem to be missing an important fact…

We are a nation of laws. We pride ourselves in the rule of law. While other countries devolve into chaos and madness, America remains stable because of our laws. And while the former administration made it a point to ignore certain laws it didn’t agree with (particularly regarding immigration and social issues), the Trump administration promised to return to the rule of law. While liberals try their best to derail this administration at every single turn from doing what the American voters tasked it to do, those same voters are, for the most part, in favor of President Trump’s actions. Interestingly enough, the same people who are for the stonewalling of the Trump cabinet are the same people who are criticizing President Trump for not moving faster in accomplishing the goals he set forth in his campaign.

Seems a bit like criticizing a sprinter for not running faster… while ignoring the fact that his foot is chained to the floor.

So criticisms, tantrums, and protests aside, what does the Bible have to say about submission to authority…

 Coffee Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. ~ Romans 13:1-7

“Those who resist will bring judgement on themselves.” In the King James Version, it says it this way…

“…and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

Regardless of what any of us think of a politician or leader, we would do well to heed the words of Paul in this passage. Whether judgement falls as the result of our earthly actions by the hands of authorities here on earth, or judgement is stayed and awaits us in the afterlife, we can rest assured that God is good for His word, and that judgement for acts or rebellion against God-ordained leaders is inevitable.

I have lived through many presidents in my lifetime, and I have probably never agreed with any of them 100% of the time. Still, while I might be critical at times, I have always been careful to pray for our leaders, and while standing for what is right, do so in a law-abiding fashion. It seems that the words “civil disobedience” have come to mean whatever methods people decide upon in the heat of the moment. It is one thing to chant, picket, and protest outside of a building. It is quite another to violate someone else’s rights by burning property, physical assault, and making threats of violence. While it is lawful under our Constitution for an individual to stand up and regurgitate whatever banal ideology they choose, it is not lawful to threaten to kill the President or hurt innocent people. Signs and slogans make you a protester. Threats and violence make you a criminal thug. While one may land you in the newspaper, the other will likely land you in jail.

For the last 8+ years, many laws have been ignored simply because they were socially unpopular, particularly laws pertaining to immigration (hence “Sanctuary Cities”), and social/moral issues. As President of the United States, the person who occupies that office has taken an oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution“. That includes abiding by the laws contained therein, or any laws passed legally through the legislative process set forth in the Constitution… whether or not that particular President agrees with their validity or not. The President himself is answerable to the people for how he carries out his oath. If a President disagrees with a law, then he has the right to have those in Congress try to advance legislation to repeal such laws.

I would contend that the ire against President Trump may have less to do with his lawfulness (or perceived lack thereof), and more to do with the reining in of an attitude that “laws were made to be broken”. Many (if not most) of the protests I have seen are people fighting back against the rule of law, protesting what should be common sense enforcement of the laws of our land. Whether it is immigration, gun control, etc… in most cases, we don’t need more legislation; we simply need to enforce the laws already passed and on the books.

At the end of the day (and to coin a phrase), there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s dusting off a Constitution that has long been ignored.

Faith for the Finale

Think about this…

Would you run a marathon — leading the entire way by a mile — only to sit down at the end, 5 feet short of the finish line?

Would you finish Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E minor with a pianissimo oboe solo?

Would you compete for an entire season — going undefeated for all of it — only to refuse to come out of the locker room for the championship game?

vince_lombardi_bart_starrFor many of us who are sports fans, we just witnessed a historic event. In Super Bowl LI, we watched as the New England Patriots — who were down by 25 points at halftime — came back to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the 5th time in a stunning overtime defeat of the Atlanta Falcons. Never before had a team overcome more than a 10-point deficit in the Super Bowl. Never before had “The Big Game” gone into overtime. When the New England Patriots came out of the locker room for the 3rd quarter, it looked like it was all but over. I had friends who actually turned off the game because it looked like such a blowout. “On to other things.” So what happened?

Well, one of the things that the commentators kept saying was “how young the Atlanta Falcons were”… How young they were…. How quick they were… How much older the Patriots were. Yet for all of their youth and exuberance, it seems that they lacked the one thing that the Patriots did have: Focus. During the second half, the Patriots stayed focused on winning. They stayed focused on the task at hand. They kept their eyes on the prize. Whether it was blown coverages or senseless penalties, the Atlanta Falcons went from a team hungry to win to a team trying not to lose. Somehow, they lost sight of the hard-fought lessons that got them to Houston. They had the motivation and energy to make it to the championship, but lacked the grit and determination to get them across the finish line.

The entire human race is running full-throttle toward the edge of eternity. So even though prophets, preachers, seers, and scholars have been discussing the Last Days  and The Day of the Lord for over 2,000 years, how should we live now.. today? What should our mindset be in 2017? Should we be filled with fear or faith?

Among the customs of some Native American people was a ritual of a young man passing into adulthood. He would be taken out into a place away from the community; he would then be blindfolded and left in that spot all night. He was not to remove the blindfold until the morning came and the sunlight began to shine through the blindfold. So all night, he was in that place, feeling alone and isolated… unsure of his surroundings and what potential threats waited for him, unseen because of the blindfold.

Well, I am sure you can imagine his surprise when, upon removing the blindfold at morning’s light, he found himself surrounded by his kinsmen — his father and uncles. Though he may have struggled with the fear of loneliness and the unknown, there was never a moment when he was not being watched over by his elders, who remained just out of reach and by his side the entire night.

Just like the young brave was never abandoned by those who loved him, so we are never abandoned by a loving Heavenly Father who never lets us out of His sight.

It is that unwavering attention to His children that allows us to run the race, and have Faith for the Finale.

At Abba’s House, I have just begun a series of messages by the same title…

Faith for the Finale.

I want to encourage you to join us, whether in person or online, as I take you through the steps and mindset that it takes to be an overcomer in adversarial times, and what YOU need to do in order to finish well the race set before you.

See you Sunday.

Pastor Ron

Keep Calm… and Focus.

We are living in a time of uncertainty. We are living in an age that, in spite of all of our toys and technology, we can’t answer the seemingly simple questions. We can transplant a human heart from one person into another, but we cannot cure the common cold. We have the technology to put people in space, but we’re still baffled by cancer, AIDS, and Alzheimer’s. We talk about hope and change, yet we have a media that thrives on agenda-driven bad news and fear-mongering.

And for any of us who still watch the news, two stories have captivated the headlines for days now: The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, and the events unfolding in the Ukraine.

When Flight 370 went missing on March 8, most people assumed it was just another unfortunate plane crash. However, after days of searching without any sign of wreckage, our thoughts quickly turned to something more dastardly: terrorism. Upon the discovery that two passengers were (allegedly) on the plane with fake passports, as well as many questions surrounding the pilot, the idea that the plane had not, in fact, crashed began to surface. Was it possible that the plane had been hijacked for some nefarious purpose? Most of us still remember the feelings we felt in the pit of our stomach when 9-11 unfolded right before our eyes. Could this be the precursor to another 9-11?

And while all of the events surrounding Flight 370 were taking place, the world has been watching events unfold in the Ukraine as Russia announced the annexation of the Crimea into the Russian empire. While world leaders have denounced Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, and promised sanctions against the nation and it’s leadership, for the rest of us over the age of 30, we feel as though history is repeating itself, and are left wondering if we are seeing the genesis of another Cold War.

And all of it is having the same effect: Fear. We’re afraid of flying, afraid of traveling, and afraid for those who are. We’re in fear that history is coming full-circle, and that the days of school children hiding under desks, anti-Russian rhetoric, and threats of nuclear war are back on the table. So what are we supposed to do? How should we conduct ourselves during uncertain times?

Keep calmWell… to coin a phrase from a 1939 British motivational poster, we should “Keep Calm”.

Recently, my wife and I had the pleasure of a visit from my daughter and her kids. While they were staying with us, my (only) granddaughter wanted to go see a movie, so we went to see Catching Fire, from the popular Hunger Games series. There is a scene in the movie in which the evil President Snow is discussing with Plutarch Heavensbee (another “bad guy”) how to destroy Katniss Everdeen, the story’s heroine. Part of their conversation really caught my attention…

Plutarch Heavensbee: “Shut down the black markets take away what little they have, then double the amount of floggings and executions… put them on TV. Broadcast them live! Sow fear, more fear.”

President Snow: “It won’t work. Fear does not work as long as they have hope…”

That’s it. That’s the bottom line when it comes to dealing with fear…

Hope.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have a Hope. Our hope is in the fact that this world, although a temporary residence, is not our home. We can follow the instruction of the Apostle Paul by being…

“… Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12

There is a very short, yet very powerful scene in the movie 42. It is the first time that Jackie Robinson steps out onto the field in a Dodgers uniform. He hears the cheers of the crowd, but then the voices of hate hurling racial epithets at him cut through the cheers. Just as he is beginning to focus on those voices, he hears another sound… he turns his focus to a small section of African-Americans in the grandstand, cheering him on. A slight smile comes across his face, and the hate-filled cat-calls fade into the distance. The hateful cries were still there. What made the difference?

Focus.

We can choose to focus on the negatives. We can choose to focus on our past experiences and perceptions. We can listen to the panicked cries coming from the agenda-driven media-elite. We can choose to ignore the fact that, for every airplane that experiences tragedy, hundreds of thousands of flights take place without a hitch. We can barricade ourselves up in our homes with our TV remotes and smartphones, isolating ourselves from the world.

Or…

We can arm ourselves with Hope. We can put on the full armor of God. We can stand boldly in the face of adversity and, while the world falls apart around us, shine the light of Jesus on our signs that read “Hope Found Here”. We can reach out to those around us, and make a difference. Hope is life. Hope is real. Hope is contagious.

Hope is Jesus.

So, what’s it going to be? You have the rest of the day (and your life) before you… where is your focus going to be? How are you going to change the corner of the world that you are touching?

In the Hunger Games, they have a saying…

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

With Jesus as your Hope… they are.

Pastor Ron

Finding Focus

Through The Looking Glass2

Alexander Graham Bell recognized the value of being able to focus on a task…

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

However, he also observed that it was not just about focusing on “a” thing, but on the “right” thing…

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Someone once said that “when God closes a door, He opens a window”. Sometimes, the door of opportunity closes, and when it does, instead of bemoaning what we perceive to have lost, we should be looking for the new opportunity that God is opening before us.

As we enter into the promise of a new year, this is the perfect time to regain our perspective for the tasks ahead. Success in anything requires perseverance and focus. Make sure your focus is on the prize God intended for you, and not an attractive distraction.

Happy New Year!