Focus

eyes-33216_150We’ve all heard it. It is one of those legendary lines Moms use on wayward kids. When the unsuspecting child discovers that amazing entertainment of crossing their eyes, their ever diligent Mom says, “if you keep doing that your eyes will get stuck that way!” Little did I know they were right. Last week, my wife and I took our kids to see a movie. Since we are behind on our movie going, we went to the bargain movie theater to catch the film we wanted. Normally, that works fine, but this movie was in 3D. I’m not sure if it was in the equipment or the operator, but the movie never totally worked. I wore my stylish 3D glasses but things stayed out of focus. After squinting and straining I was able to get the center clear enough to watch. After 2 hours of this the movie ended with the hero winning, when we got in the truck to drive home, I was puzzled by the blurred road. My eyes were stuck! It has taken a couple of days to get over that forced wrong focus.

Maybe that is why God inspired Paul to write “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.” (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭8‬ HCSB). The things upon which we focus stick with us. They make an impression and set a pattern for us. For example, by focusing on a lie long enough and performing mental acrobatics to twist our brain, we begin to think the lie is true and the truth is a lie.

Let’s stop pushing and straining to make ourselves fit this world. Instead, we need to have our minds fixed on the things above. High and noble thoughts which conform to the word of The Lord.

Security

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A few years ago I received a disturbing phone call.  It seems a company was calling to verify an order I had placed.  It turned out to be fraudulent and upon investigation, I discovered that someone had been ordering things using my debit card number.  I was soon to receive 2 different make-up of the month offerings to which I had been subscribed.  I also had 2 gamefly accounts and would be receiving games every month.  In all a couple of hundred dollars had been spent when it was discovered.  Then began the hassle of filing a criminal report, calling the companies involved, and watching for other uses.  At the same time I was keenly aware of a news report that said people were doing this and then hitting up the mailbox to get the items which would be delivered.  There had even been a shooting in the headlines related to a similar case.

Since then, I have tried to be more aware of where I use my debit card and have studied best practices to protect against identity theft.  For example, it is recommended that you use a unique complex password for every log in you have.  I recently looked into that and stopped counting at 48 places I have to enter a username and password.  There is no way I can remember 48+ usernames and passwords.  Security is important, but in our connected world, there is no way to eliminate all potential threats.

I’m glad in the spiritual realm we don’t have to worry about security.  2 Timothy 2:12 says, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.“ KJV.  When we trust in Jesus, He takes care of the security.  He can deliver what He has promised.  He won’t lose a single soul who has trusted in Him.  Jesus said in John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.” HCSB

Infection

malwareIt happens frequently. You try to get on your computer to pay bills, and it won’t work. It won’t connect to the right website, it keeps opening popups, the problems just compound. Most likely you have a virus or malware. Time to do some cleanup work. The bulk of the tech requests I answer are related to malware.

All of that got me to thinking about why we get infestations in the first place. On the computer, it happens because we go to places we should not on the internet or open unsafe attachments. Sometimes it comes to us through deceitful links. You are trying to download something legitimate and it is surrounded by fake download ads.
That is also true of infestations of sin in our lives. We let our guard down and start moving in directions we should not. Sometimes it may start innocently, and then it proceeds from gray areas into questionable ones. Finally we end up enslaved to our sins.

James addressed this very issue in James 1:13-15 ”13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” HCSB

Just as we need to be careful when online to avoid malicious programs, we need to be careful in life to avoid temptations. Sin lurks within in us just looking for a chance to lead us astray. Sometimes all it takes is song or glimpse of a television show, and our desires latch onto it and we start the “what if” game. If we are not careful to shield ourselves from them, those desires will lead to sinful thoughts and actions.

So what software is out there to protect us from the malware of sin? David wrote in Psalm 119:9-11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. 10 I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. 11 I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.“ HCSB God’s word is the protection for our lives. Keeping the word and treasuring it in our hearts gives us God’s perspective on situations.

Being exposed to malware and sin are inevitable. Having protection is required. Keep your spirit protected through frequent and extensive application of God’s word.

Church Camp

This week has been a new experience for me.

No, coming to church camp wasn’t new, I have been coming to Daniel Springs my whole life. First tagging along with my Dad who came as a sponsor of the churches he pastored. Then I was old enough to make the trip even if he didn’t come, but I don’t recall that ever happening. After that, I started bringing kids from the churches I served as pastor and youth minister. So what was it that was new? This is the first time I have had to take vacation time at work in order to go to camp. Now that I am IT Coordinator, I don’t get summers “off”. (Not that teachers ever get summer completely free and off.) It gives me a whole new appreciation for those sponsors who have done this for years.

I salute the tireless Moms and Dads, aunts and uncles and other men and women of the church whose vacation consisted of taking lots of kids to deep east Texas in the summer. They played crazy games with us, led cabin devotions, caught us playing pranks and trying to sneak out (except for when they didn’t catch us). They lost sleep and put up with the deprivations of not having all the comforts of home.

Why did they do it? Because they loved us. They wanted us to get away and have new experiences. And they hoped and prayed lasting changes would come in our lives from the things we studied from God’s Word. It just hit me as I approach lights out on our final night, I’m now one of those Dads/sponsors. I hope my daughter has enjoyed her first year at camp. I too pray that life altering things have happened this week in these kids. I can’t wait to come back next year and share this place with my son as well as all the other first timers.

Help!

sosSeventeen years ago I heard words of wisdom from my wise aunts which at the time did me a lot of good. Unfortunately, I didn’t let it sink deep into my soul and apply it to all areas of life. You see, my wife, Shannon, was facing a bone marrow transplant. She had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which had come out of remission. The bone marrow transplant was our only option which seemed to offer hope. My aunts took me aside and had a heart to heart with me. They told me they saw I was a lot like my Pappaw, and that I needed to learn to ask for help. This was going to be too big to face alone. I had to admit I couldn’t do it all and let others share the load. They were right of course. When I was willing to admit the need, people lovingly lent support and encouragement from all over the world. They carried us through 6 weeks of living at the Mayo Clinic and my wife’s miraculous recovery.
Recently, I had another moment where those words came back to the front of mind. As a bi-vocational pastor, I wear a lot of hats. I’m a husband and Dad. I am an IT Coordinator for a school. I also pastor the church and fill many roles there. I finally realized that I needed help, and started asking for people to step forward to help with leading singing, doing the bulletin, and other tasks which I was doing. As our great people have come forward to help, one commented that they never thought about all I do. I quickly shared that it was my fault because it had not dawned me that I should have asked for help. Turns out my aunts were right about needing help in life and in ministry.
We all need help from time to time. Maybe that is why God inspired Paul to say Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galations 6:2 NKJV. In the body of Christ, we have that source of support. Do not deprive yourself of that help and support because you will not ask.