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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Need for Focus)

Why do we need FOCUS? There are many reasons, of course, but our text here in 2 Peter 1 makes it quite clear that FOCUS in the Christian life is critical! If I am not focused on adding to my faith certain virtues, there are specific conclusions that can be drawn.

In this series of blog posts I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

In our passage this morning, the Apostle Peter does not mince his words when he talks about spiritual growth in the believer’s life. Peter lists seven virtues which we may choose to add or not add to our faith. The Christian life is the furthest thing from merely coasting down the highway. It is a struggle against on-coming traffic, with enticing exits everywhere, requiring us to peddle with all of our might so that we move on in our faith. The believer is to “make every effort” (v. 1) to add these seven virtues — goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love — to his foundational faith in Christ.

And these seven virtues are not added in one fell swoop. They are to be possessed “in increasing measure.” No one will ever be told by the Lord in this life, “Hey, stop working on that self-control thing. You’re good!” No one will ever hear a voice from heaven saying, “Child! Slow down! You’ve got enough godliness!” These virtues are to grow in us. If they don’t, there are certain dire, inevitable consequences.

But let’s use the positive tone which Peter uses. Possessing these qualities will keep us “from being ineffective and unproductive” in knowing the Lord Jesus. However, we must not miss the catastrophic conclusions for the one who doesn’t “make every effort” to add these virtues. And the two conclusions have to do with FOCUS and FORGETTING.

The first conclusion has to do with eyesight. The one who does not have these virtues “is nearsighted and blind.” Which is it? Is he nearsighted or blind? Can he be both? Perhaps the idea is that he only sees what’s right in front of him. And he is blind to everything else! This Christian’s FOCUS is ruined. He is unable to see the future person he should be. He only sees what’s nearby. And his vision is gone. He is “blind.” Perhaps the meaning is he is blind to what Jesus wants to do in his life. He just can’t see it.

The second conclusion has to do with memory. This one who does not have these virtues — and is not working on them — has forgotten that they have been forgiven! The saving work of Jesus Christ is no longer a memory or a reality for which they praise God. It’s as if the hard drive of their brain has been wiped clean.

Today’s Challenge: Are your spiritual eyes open to these seven virtues and the absolute necessity of your working on them? Don’t be nearsighted or blind. Roll up your sleeves, open your eyes, and remember what Christ has done for you.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (Introduction)

Introduction:  In high school, for some inexplicable reason, I memorized the lines on the eye chart! I don’t know why. And I passed each year’s eye exam with flying colors. I actually sabotaged my own eyesight.

How’s your vision? Would you say that your eyes are focused on the Lord Jesus and all that He has planned for you? Or, like me, would you admit you get distracted and turn your gaze away from Him? Would you say that the things of this world are pretty and shiny and tend to draw away your attention like small metal beads to a powerful magnet?

In this series of blog posts I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

For this morning let’s think about our primary text for a few moments: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2). The author is quite candid about his need to have his eyes “fixed.” The term “fixing” here is ἀφορῶντες from the verb ἀφοράω (aphoraō). It means “to view with undivided attention, by looking away from every other object; to regard fixedly and earnestly.”

It is used only twice in the New Testament, here in Hebrews 12:2 and also in Philippians 2:23 where Paul is talking about sending Timothy to help those believers. (“Therefore I hope to send him just as soon as I see how things will turn out for me”). The verb is composed of a prepostion (apó) which means “away from” and a regular verb meaning to see (horáō). The implication is properly, “looking away from all else, to fix one’s gaze upon” (Abbott-Smith).

Today’s Challenge:  Someone has said that the devil’s primary tools are destruction and distraction. What seems to distract you from focusing upon the Lord Jesus and all He has done — and plans to do — in your life? Some repair work is needed, don’t you think? Today ask the Lord to “fix” your attention on His Son — and fix your distractedness.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2021 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 10)

It was a perfect move. I’ve been playing online chess for several years and most of my opponents have been kind and friendly and, well, encouraging me in my growing expertise in the game.

Until Bill. Bill had a very high ranking and severely criticized me for bringing out my queen way too early. [If you’re not a chess player, cheer up. My illustration will be done soon]. I knew he was right, but he didn’t have to be so snarky about it!

When all of a sudden, I took my next move — and checkmated him! It was purely by accident. No foresight had gone into my move. To charge me with well-thought-out strategy would be a gross overstatement. One move. And I had him. Snarkiness and all.

He texted me something like, “Of all the dumb luck!” with a few &%*$’s thrown in for good measure! And he never played me again.

I just stared at the board, cerebral pride growing in my head. I had success. Against a much more worthy opponent! And I couldn’t stop looking at the board. I wanted to take a picture of it, have it canvassed, and mounted on our living room wall among all the pictures of the grandchildren (the wife said “No!” to my idea). I was successful. I had won!

In our post this morning we want to think about SUCCESS. We’ve considered how SUFFERING (both self-inflicted as well as others-inflicted) can get our eyes off Jesus. But what about when things are going well? When we’ve closed that big deal, hit that home run, remembered our anniversary (trust me, guys — you’ll only forget your wedding anniversary once).

There are many aspects of SUCCESS that we could think about, but the one that gets our eyes off Jesus is . . . PRIDE. Many biblical texts warn against ungodly PRIDE (there is a godly kind), a focusing on self and one’s SUCCESSES. For example, we read —

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

2 Chronicles 26:16 – “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”

Psalm 10:4 tells us that “In his pride the wicked man does not seek [God]; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Proverbs 11:2 reminds us that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

When we exalt ourselves instead of the Lord, Isaiah 2:11 tells us, there are consequences: “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”

James 4:6 warns us of opposition from God Himself: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

In a sense, ungodly pride is robbing God. We read in Psalm 31:23 “Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.”

When we find ourselves in what some have called “the terrible squirrel cage of self,” we would do well to remember Proverbs 16:19 which says, “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”

We read of Lucifer’s (the devil’s) fall in Ezekiel 28 – “In your heart you became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” (v. 17).

But we must also remember that there is a godly pride which we should cultivate. Romans 11:13 has Paul testifying, “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.” It is right to speak or write words of encouragement to others, as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4 – “I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” And there is even a text that tells us we can take pride in ourselves! We read in Galatians 6:4 that “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

“What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). Any SUCCESSES that we experience — if they are honorable ones before the Lord — ought to drive us to thank Him. We do not, nor should we, strive to be failures, but we must refuse to let SUCCESS turn our vision from the Lord to ourselves.

It’s easy to criticize a quote like the following from Bob Dylan: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” But if “what I want to do” is to become more like Jesus . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2020 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 9)

In our last post we described the eye injections that I am receiving to curtail the effects of macular degeneration. Some temporary suffering is necessary to prevent long-term consequences.

We are thinking about the challenge to FOCUS our eyes on Jesus. And there are distractions that keep us from doing so. Distractions from the world, ourselves, and our archenemy, the devil.

Let’s continue thinking this morning about a major source which can blind us in our keeping our eyes on Jesus — suffering. We’ve thought some about self-inflicted suffering and how we ourselves are often our own worst enemies.

But what about others-inflicted suffering? The very world we live in is broken, dangerous, and opposes us with its Fall-induced thorns and thistles (Gen. 3- Adam and Eve’s fall away from God). We should not be surprised that we will suffer in this world, for the Lord Jesus promised such. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). Our fallen world inflicts us with diseases, “natural disasters,” “acts of God,” birth defects, wild animals, and wayward politicians. Human beings do unspeakable things to other human beings. Although suffering in this world is inevitable, we are not to pursue pain or persecution.

What are some guidelines that will help us endure others-inflicted suffering so we can FOCUS on the Lord Jesus?

1. We must realize as believers that sometimes suffering is a gift! Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him . . .” Granted?! Yes. Belief in Christ + suffering for Him = a life of obedience and faithfulness. We “participate” in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, as we read in I Peter 4- 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

2.We should also affirm the truth that sometimes suffering is a tool in the Master’s hand to shape us! James 1 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

3. In our weaknesses, we learn of His strength and His grace. We read in 2 Corinthians 12 of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and how he prayed three times for God to take it away from him. Paul writes, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It sounds pathological to “delight” in one’s weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. But the key expression for Paul — and for us — is “for Christ’s sake.” (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2020 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 4)

I just can’t do it! It’s impossible for me. I just cave in — and break out laughing.

I’m talking about having a staring contest with my eight-year-old grandson Isaac. He is a child of great humor, contagious laughter, and — that’s the problem. I never win in a staring contest with him. Within a few seconds of gazing into his blue eyes, seeing his determined-not-to-laugh expression on his face, I collapse in laughter. And he is, once again, victorious.

Staring — sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s creepy. But it’s a use of our eyes that can show us that our FOCUS is very important.

What are you staring at? If we “fix” our eyes on Jesus, we discover that He too was a man of laughter. But He was — and is — so much more . . .

Let us think one more day about this amazing text in Hebrews 12. There we read —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We have learned from this passage that we are in a race. A race which has been “marked out for us.” And we are to run that race, stripped down from everything that hinders us and turning down every sin that so easily entangles us. We are to run with perseverance, for we are running towards our Savior who is also the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

How did He run His race? We read that “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2). JOY?! Yes, this One “born to die” did so willingly, with joy. The cross was not His joy. He “endured” the cross. He “scorned its shame.” His dying for sinners was not His joy. Although the text does not specifically say so, I would argue that the joy that was “set before Him” was His pleasing His Father by providing a righteous forgiveness for all who would put their faith in Him.

Then the writer to the Hebrews challenges us to “consider him who endured such opposition from sinners . . .” This One who “endured the cross” also “endured” human opposition in His mission to save sinners.

If you and I “consider” Him as we should, what ought to be the result? The result will be that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3). Weariness and discouragement wait to invade the life and heart of the Jesus-follower who gets his or her eyes off Jesus. And that’s why we need FOCUS. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on January 3, 2020 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 2)

When I was in high school my best friend Ronnie had a pair of Buddy Holly black horn rim glasses. They looked so cool. I asked him one day if I could wear his glasses at school and he said yes.

I’m not sure how to describe the effect those glasses had on me that day, but “babe magnet” would not be an exaggeration. I got more attention from the ladies that day than all my years of tricks on the elementary school’s jungle gym combined.

So, I went home (after giving Ronnie his glasses back) and said, “Mom, I think I need glasses!” She said, “Let’s go get your eyes examined this afternoon.”

I knew I was going to be in big trouble. I knew the eye doctor would do his exam (with an eye chart I hadn’t memorized) and say to my Mom, “Mrs. Dixon. Your son’s eyes are perfect. I suspect he wants glasses as a kind of, how should I say this?, babe magnet.”

Instead, he comes out of the exam room and says, “Mrs. Dixon, I’ve completed your son’s examination — and he not only needs glasses. He needs to wear them all the time.”

I immediately drew the conclusion: There is a God in heaven and He loves me!

In this series of posts we are working on the topic of focusing our eyes on the Lord Jesus. And, yes, these posts are the rough beginning of a new book. We want to think through the issue of consciously directing our attention to the Savior in a world that is blind, or near-sighted, or deliberately closing its eyes to the gospel.

Let’s think a bit more about the passage we quoted in our first post — Hebrews 12 —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We are in a race. We are to run that race unhindered, throwing off everything that will slow us down or entangle us. We are to run that race with perseverance. And that race is not some haphazard dash through the woods. It is a race that has been “marked out for us” (v. 1).

But what are we do with our eyes? We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (v. 2). Fixing one’s eyes is the idea of looking away from one thing and at another. We are to concentrate our gaze on Jesus.

Our FOCUS is to be on the Lord Jesus. We are not tourists who are admiring the passing scenery as we run. Nor are we to look behind us at the other runners. We are to “fix” our eyes on Jesus who has gone before us. Who waits for us.

Today’s Challenge: Ask yourself, “Am I fixing my eyes on Jesus as I seek to run the race He has marked out for me? Or is my attention on the passing scenery or on other runners? In our next post we ask how we might sharpen our FOCUS on the Savior. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 1)

When I was in elementary school, I remember getting an eye exam once a year. For some inexplicable reason, I decided to memorize the eye-chart! So I passed the eye test with flying colors and didn’t find out until high school that I really needed glasses!

In this series of posts we are working on the topic of focusing our eyes on the Lord Jesus. And, yes, these posts are the rough beginning of a new book. We want to think through the issue of consciously directing our attention to the Savior in a world that is blind, or near-sighted, or deliberately closing its eyes to the gospel.

The Word of God has much to say about sight and vision and blindness. For example, we read in Hebrews 12 —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

“Fix” in this passage comes from a word meaning “to look away from one thing and at another,” “to look away from one thing so as to see another,” or “to concentrate one’s gaze upon.” The same verb is used in Philippians 2 where Paul writes: “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.”

In the South we use the word “fix” in a strange way. We might say, “I’m fixing to go to town” Or, “I’m fixing to fix the fix I’m in” (just kidding about that second example). “Fix” in Southern English means “about to.” That’s not the meaning here in Hebrews 12.

Usually the word “fix” means to repair something. Our vision, our spiritual eyesight, certainly stands in need of repair, does it not? But that’s also not the meaning of “fix” in Hebrews 12.

The meaning in Hebrews 12 is FOCUS. We take account of that “great cloud of witnesses” that has come before us, we recognize everything that hinders us in wholeheartedly following Christ, and we are start running in the race He has set out for us!

In our next post we will unpack a bit more of what Hebrews 12 calls us to. But for today, may I ask you, are you FOCUSING on the Lord Jesus, longing to see Him as He really is, and to obey Him in the race of life? (to be continued).

 


 


 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in focus

 

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Colossal Truths from the Letter to the Colossians! GET BUSY GETTING GODLY! (Part 2)

In Colossians 3 we read about how we should get busy getting godly. Let’s look at the first two challenges in this passage:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We are commanded in verse 1 to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is.” And in verse 2 we are again told to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Setting your heart and setting your mind are not automatic choices the believer makes. We need to be challenged to emotionally and intellectually focus on things eternal.

Why should we “set our hearts on things above”? Because that is “where Christ is.” Now, I don’t understand God’s omnipresence (as one theologian put it, “Wherever there is a where, God is there”), but the divine Son of God can be (and is) both in the believer and at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. But we are not commanded to set our hearts on the Jesus who lives within us, are we? The emphasis is on His location — “seated at the right hand of God.” His atoning work was accepted by the Father and His glory and honor (veiled during His incarnation) are fully restored or made manifest.

Why should we “set our minds on things above”? Because we naturally give our best attention to “earthly things.” But we have died to this world and its “things.” Our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God.”

This does not mean we are to hate this world. This is, after all, “our Father’s world.” But our primary attention — both emotionally and intellectually — is not to be given to the finite, fallen, fractured system which so easily distracts us from our new status in Christ. Choose to set your hearts and your minds today!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2019 in focus

 

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Time for a Great Commercial: Divided Attention! DISTRACTION! (reprise)

I’m sorry, but I think these commercials are terrific! Wouldn’t you agree that DISTRACTION is a major issue at times? We need to learn to focus on the task God gives us.

Most of us know the famous missionary/martyr Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” There’s another great quote from him where he says, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every moment you believe to be the will of God.”

Don’t live DISTRACTED today!

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2019 in distraction

 

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Time for a Great Commercial: Divided Attention! DISTRACTION!

I’m sorry, but I think these commercials are terrific!  Wouldn’t you agree that DISTRACTION is a major issue at times?  We need to learn to focus on the task God gives us.

Most of us know the famous missionary/martyr Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  There’s another great quote from him where he says, “Wherever you are, be all there.  Live to the hilt every moment you believe to be the will of God.”

Don’t live DISTRACTED today!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2018 in distracted

 

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