Focal Point

Focal Point
Focal Point is more than a blog. It's purpose is to help us stay focused on Christ through Gods Word as we navigate through life and today's culture.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Handling Discouragement

Do you ever get discouraged?  I do, and most often it is in relationship to Ministry.  I love our church, I love our families, I love being in the ministry, but I get discouraged at times.  Why? Because I love our church, I love our families and I love being in the ministry.  You see, because I love them I want to see them grow, be faithful, see God do a work in their families and in their personal lives.  I want to see God do something marvelous in His church and the family of God.  I want to see Husbands grow, wives grow, teenagers and children grow in Christ, and go deeper in their faith.  So, when I see families not attending, not putting their families in the one place that can have eternal value in their life (and that is regular systematic Sunday worship), I get concerned for them and at times it can lead to discouragement.  Because, as we all know, one thing leads to another, and it doesn’t take long where a one Sunday absentee becomes a month absenteeism  and then months of being not in Gods house.  Then bad things begin to take place and we wonder : how did we or I ever get to this point in my life? 
Then there are times when I get discouraged over the opposition, resistance and criticism one faces in the ministry when you are simply trying to do something for God.  I am reminded of a letter William Carey wrote to a group of Christians who was opposing him on his missionary desires.  Carey wrote, “do great things for God, expect great things from God.”  Carey faced opposition, Nehemiah faced Opposition to rebuilding the wall, I face opposition and so will you.  You will face opposition in your life when you decide to become what God wants you to be.  When you decide to grow in Christ, go deeper with him, or attempt to serve Him in a deeper way, you will face opposition as well.  And that opposition may come from family, friends, nonbelievers and of course the one who is behind it all ..Satan himself.
So, what do we do with our discouragement?  How do we handle it?  Do we even know where it is coming from?  Let me give you some thoughts on this that comes from my series on Nehemiah that can be heard in its entirety at   
First, why do we get discouraged and where does it start?  Well its starts with fatigue, with being tired.  Often times being physically, spiritually, emotionally and/or mentally tired leads to discouragement.   This is why we need times of rest for all four of those areas.  We need to do as Jesus did and that is to get away and rest and pray.  Another place that discouragement comes from is fear. Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown, fear of the enemy.  Perhaps we get tired of the spiritual opposition that we face in our life and that leads to the fear of that opposition and what they might say or do.  And because of those two elements it leads to discouragement.
Now there is a danger in discouragement.  The danger is that it can very easily distort reality.  For instance in the Book of Nehemiah the people are tired, fearful and they see all the rubbish and basically tell Nehemiah they can’t go on because of all the rubbish.  Well the truth of the matter is that the rubbish was half gone.  It was not as bad as thought.  We at times get so discouraged that we look at the rubbish around us, or the situation we find ourselves in and think it is worse than it really is.  We look at the seemingly lack of progress we are making in our Christian life and think there is still “too much rubbish” and we say as the people of Nehemiah did, “I cant go on, I am discouraged, I quit.”
Well, what did Nehemiah do with his opposition and what did he tell the people to do with their discouragement.  The answer is twofold – One is to pray, stay on our knees before the Lord.  This is what Nehemiah did.  When faced with opposition he prayed, he was a man of prayer.  But the second thing he did was stay focused on what God had called him to do.  That is what you and I must do as well.  We must stay focused on Gods plan and will for our lives and not let ourselves get distracted with all ‘rubbish”. 
But there was something else Nehemiah encouraged the people to do in relationship to their discouragement.  They were not only to stay focused on the task at hand, but also focused on who God is.  And that is what we are to do as well.  Stay focused on who God is in our lives.  Nehemiah says to the people “remember the Lord, great and awesome” ( chpt 4:14)  Let us also remember that God is a personal God, God is a caring God (we can cast all our care on Him), God is a powerful God, God is an awesome God, God is a sovereign God, God is a Victorious God, and God is a God who is on your side.  He is always on the side of His people.  Never forget that.
Psalm 56:1-4 and vs 8-9 says.  Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. 2 My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? 9 When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Passion: Do you have one?

Passion, is one of the most important ingredients one can have in their life. It can mean the difference between success or failure, joy and contentment or discouragement, fulfillment and satisfaction or emptiness.

"So what is your passion?”

I love to be around people who are passionate about something.

School teachers who are passionate about teaching.

Coaches who are passionate about seeing players excel.

Business people who are passionate about their service or the product they sell.

People who are passionate to find a cure for a disease.

Christians passionate about those who need Jesus.

Christians passionate about loving Jesus and serving him.

And people passionate about being right with God.

And there of course are far more good things to be passionate about.

My passion is to see men and women change. Nothing gets me more excited and makes me feel more alive than to see average ordinary people discover Jesus and begin to seriously follow him. That is why I enjoy outreach, missions, Sundays and ministry in general.

I have always had a heart for people who have made some “detours” along the way and now are desperately seeking God.

Do you know your passion? Is there something about God and his mission that just causes you to come alive? Is there something about the kingdom of God that really does get you excited?

I really believe that one of the ways that Satan has impacted the church is by convincing us that the things of God are actually pretty boring. When we buy that, the result is deadly. First we lose any sense of a passion for God. Second, we begin to believe that the world offers us real excitement. Third, we become a people who go through the motions while our hearts are elsewhere.

It doesn’t have to be that way…

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Life Makes Sense


How long is thirty minutes?  Well ask a student or teacher waiting for the dismissal bell on a friday afternoon at school and thirty minutes can drag on forever.  How long is an hour?  Ask a patient sitting in a dentist chair with their mouth wide open waiting for the root canal work to end and they will tell you its an eternity. How long is three months?  Ask an expecting mother who is into her sixth month.  Ask a teenager who gets their drivers license next year..just how long a year seems? Ask a Father who it seems was just walking his daughter to her first day of school and is now walking her down the wedding isle?  Time can drag on or time can fly by.  However time is a wonderful thing because we all have it.  We all have the been given the same amount of time.  The question is how do we spend out time, how do we utilize our time? 

We are studying the book of Ecclesiastes at Smith River Baptist  and this past sunday we were in Chapt 3 where Solomon is discussing this important topic of time..and trying to make sense of it all.  Up to this point Solomon had been living life from his own perspective and had tried everything under the sun.  He had talent, wealth, fame, power and plenty of time to do it all.  But he kept running into a dead end with the answers to life.  But now he is coming to a turn point in his life.  What Solomon needed to do totally and what we need to do is turn, turn, turn from our own ways and our own perspective on life to Gods. 

When you study the third chapter of Ecclesiasties you find that Solomon gives us an IOU.  That is an Inward look, Outward look and a Upward look as he begins to figure out what life is all about.

Inward look - The bible says that 'He has put eternity in their hearts..."   Augustine said "Is it no doubt we are always restless till we find our rest in him."  Solomon said the Lord has placed eternity in our hearts.  That is when you look inside you realize this life is not all there is to it.  God whispers to us as we hear the call from the inside "This is not all there is..there is more..and you were created for eternity..Therefore we should live our life with eternity in view..we don't live for ourselves but we live for Gods purposes.

Outward look - Solomon goes on in 3:12-13 and speaks of the gifts that God has given us. The gift of food, drink and work..these are all gifts of God.  But then he also speaks of the gift of rejoicing.  And while we may get excited and rejoice at times..there is no rejoicing like that which comes from a true deep relationship with God.. Solomon also speaks of the gift to do good in ones life time.  We are to do good and make a difference.  We are not just here to suck air, eat, and draw a pay check but we are to make a difference in others lives and that is a gift of God

Upward look - chapt 3:14 - we are to fear God.. This is not a fear that calls us to be scared, but rather a fear that brings us into a reverent, holy awe and repect of who God is and what He says.  When we look upward to God we should look with a reverent awe and fear of Him.. Many have lost that fear today.

The problem with many is that we have pushed God over to the edge and corner of our lives.  We are glad He is there and we can call on Him whenever we want and need Him.  But God doesn't belong in the corner of our lives, He belongs in center of our lives.  Our time belongs to Him

We all need that turning point in our life that brings us back to a right relationship with Him.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Friday, April 20, 2012

Life can be a roller coaster ride

Do you remember your first ride on a roller coaster? The nervousness in your stomach as the coaster climbed ever so slowly to the very top of the first summit. Then slowly it itched its way over the peak and then straight down.. it seemed to be in a free fall and your stomach was literally in your throat. All the way to the bottom the coaster went then right back up the next incline and then down again. Over and over throughout the ride you were left with a series of physical and mental feelings. Well life can be that way moment we are thrilled, happy and joyful, the next we are in the depths of, depression, discouragement, worthlessness, dejection, feeling apprehensive, and alone. While you can choose not to get on that roller coaster at the amusement park, the ride of life is one we all ride. But while it is a ride we all get on daily, it is not one that we have to be dominated by. We can learn to ride it with a great deal more spiritual, mental, and emotional stability regardless of whether we are in the valleys, on the level places, or on one of the peaks. Spiritual stability is one of the blessings of our salvation in Christ. We experience it only as we learn to keep our focus on the Lord and His purposes and as we rest by faith in God’s person, principles, and promises.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Can you hear me now?

Do you ever feel disconnected from God or have a hard time hearing Him?  The older I get the worse my hearing gets and sometimes I feel disconnected from people because I have a hard time hearing exactly what they are saying..  In fact I have had to say to my wife...”what?”….”say that again”..  Then there are times she has said to me…’can you hear me?”  Well that’s the same question God often asks of us …“can you hear me now?” In fact that question was made famous as a result of the Verizon commercials.  But did you know that God is also trying to get our attention.  That’s right God wants to talk to you, He doesn’t want us to be disconnected from what He is trying to tell us..  Why?  Because God knows what lies ahead, the dangers in our path and He wants to lead us through them.  But in order to do so we must take time to listen to Him in prayer and through His Word.  When God speaks we need to listen.

But Do you know why it’s important to hear Gods voice?  Well for one it protects me from mistakes.  He will warn you in advance of traps in life.  That’s why He says in Proverbs “Listen for Gods voice in everything you do and everywhere you go.  He’s the one who will keep you on track”   He says in Psalm 32 – I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Light in the Darkness

When I was a child my parents took our family to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.  I will never forget that experience.  When the group got way back deep into the caves the guide told us to stand still, not move, hold on to someone because he was going to turn off the lights.  Wow, I have never been in any place since then that was as dark as that.  Even after our eyes got adjusted to the dark you could not see your hand even when held right in front of your face.  One thing is for sure, you would not want to walk through the Mammoth Caves or any caves for that matter in total darkness…you would need a light to get you safely through.  Now for that moment in time we were in a very dark place.  The sad thing is many people today are in a very dark place, and I don’t mean because they are stuck in a cave…it is because they are in a dark place in their lives and they need a light to get them safely through it and out of it.  2 Peter 1:19 says “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”.  The Word of God is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.. We need Gods Word and we need to pay attention to Gods Word if we want to walk safely through the dark…But there is something else in vs 19.  It says ‘until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts’.  That is speaking of the appearing of Jesus, until Jesus comes again, until we see Jesus we need to pay attention to the Word of God.  We pay attention to the lamp.  We live in darkness and we need the light of Gods Word.  Now, there is coming a day when we will not need the scriptures.  It is a day when we will exchange the scriptures for personal contact.  For example, I send my wife a text message and I tell here I am leaving town and will be home soon.  She writes back, “ok, drive careful”. When I get home what do I do?  I walk into the house, and come right up to her and then write another text that says “I am here”……No..I am there in person, I exchange the texting for the audible, the personal contact.  The same is true when we all get to heaven.  No longer will there be the need of Gods Word, we will now be with the Lord in person.  But until that day when all our dreams are fulfilled, we will continue to live in a dark world.  We need the light of Scripture to guide us and to confirm to us that we belong to Him and that all of the promises our ours….
…to be continued….

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pay attention to the voice of God

God wants me to pay attention to what He is saying.  He wants me to obey His instructions that are clearly written in His Word..I don’t need another version to figure it out or for Him to say it twice.  For example, my wife sends me a text message that says “get milk”..makes you wonder what that means doesn’t it?  So what should I do? I know, I will call her and say something like this..”Karen, I received this text message from you that says ‘get milk’, now just what does that mean, are you sure you want m-i-l-k milk, or did you mean milkshake because I like that better?”  Do I need an audible voice confirmation to clarify that simple request?  Of course not..and the same is true when we open the Word of God and read it.  You see, I have had a lot of people over the years tell me, ‘I sure wish God would speak to me’.  What they mean by that many times is that they wish God would speak to them in some audible voice.  Well Peter tells us 2 Peter1:17-19 that the Word of God is a more reliable verification of the teachings about the person, atonement, and second coming of Christ than even the genuine first hand experiences of the apostles themselves.  Why? Because Gods Word is the inspired Word of God.  That means that when you open the Word of God you are opening the mouth of God.  We have something that is powerful and totally authoritative in the inspired Word.  What is written is sufficient, we need nothing else to hear God speak.  I don’t need a second text from my wife to verify that I need to stop at the store and get milk, nor do I need to hear her voice. The text message speaks for itself.  And in a far far greater way so does the written inspired Word of God.

People today want warm fuzzy feelings before they do something that is very clearly defined in Gods Word. They say, well I want to pray about this or wait till I feel right.  Usually that is a smoke screen for delayed obedience..  If God says ‘repent’ – there is no need to pray.  When God says be a witness to Him – there is no need to pray.  I simply need to pay attention to His Word.  Remember the old E.F. Hutton financial commercials..’When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen’.  Well when God speaks we should listen..And to hear the mouth of God, simply open the Word of God”… be continued….

Friday, March 30, 2012

We are made new in Christ

In six days the LORD created the heavens and the earth. The power to create is beyond understanding. With the Word He formed the physical elements. Then He rested.

4000 years later the Christ is born. As a man He lives out life as life was meant to be. Without one sin He conquers death, the separation of God and man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us! And then He died on the cross and rose again for us.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

God the Son created one last time. At the cross and by the resurrection, man is born again when we receive that gift. Made a new creature. We have become new in Christ. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

To secure this great gift of grace we must be willing to repent, turn from our sin, and place your heart and trust in the finished work of the cross. It is only through Christ a person will see life.

When a person receives Christ as Savior they become a new creation, forever transformed, forever changed, never to be the same. A new creation! Praise the LORD!

Child of God, you are special to your LORD. He made you fresh and clean to come into His presence again. What a privilegde to be called, "Christian". May we live with a sense of victory and strength because our God has made us new and as righteous as God Himself! For He gave us His own righteousness as a gift from above. O what love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God!

Don’t miss this opportunity on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday to give thanks for what Christ has done for you.  In fact, take it a step further and take a friend with you to church and pray that they too hear what Christ has done for them and then receive it.

Sing for joy, Christian! Sing for joy! May this Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday be a day of great joy and celebration.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

True Spirituality

James 1:27 states "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" and 2:15-16 says "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?". These two verses makes it clear that true spirituality takes us away from ourselves and into the messy lives of other people.  True spirituality is not introverted, but extroverted.  It doesn't take us deeper into ourselves; it sends us further out.  It doesn't make us more introspective but more extrospective--looking outward.  In fact, real spiritual growth happens as we look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbors and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we're doing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sleepless in Smith River

Last night I went to bed with every intention of getting a good night sleep and then waking refreshed this morning. Well, when I looked over at the clock at 2:30 am and I was still wide awake I knew that was not going to happen. So while I laid there the Lord seemed to say to me, “if you are going to stay awake all night why don’t you get up, get your Bible and spend some time with me in prayer,” which is what I did. I rolled out of bed, got my Bible along with a book I had received at a pastors conference in Jacksonville, turned on a light and sat in the quietness of our living room and began to pray. I just began to give things to the Lord, areas of my life that I wanted Him to take control over. There are some who think that just because you are a Pastor you are on top of everything..(well we are not). I have had people over the years say to me, “well I am not you”, as if I am able to handle everything that is thrown at me in life simply because I am in the ministry. So I began to pray and asked the Lord to give me wisdom and strength in various areas of life and ministry.

After a good time alone with Him in that semi-dark and very quiet room last night, I picked up that book and began to read. Before long it was 4:30 am and after just being in His presence for awhile and letting Him quiet my heart, I went back to bed and went right to sleep and woke up this morning probably more refreshed than I would have if I had gone to sleep right at first. Because the refreshment I got was not from physical sleep, but from the encouragement I got from prayer and what the Lord gave me through my reading.

On one of the pages of the book I read was a statement by Paul Tripp – counselor, pastor, and author. This excerpt comes from his book ‘A shelter in the Time of Storm’:

“You are clearly not in control of the details or destiny of your life, yet as a rational, purposeful, emotional being, you cry for a deep and abiding sense of well-being. In your quest, what you are actually discovering is that you were hardwired to be connected to Another…In this way, every human being is on a quest for God; the problem is we don’t know that, and in our quest for stability, we attempt to stand on an endless catalog of God-replacements that end up sinking with us…

There is a Rock to be found. There is an inner rest to be experienced that’s deeper than conceptual understanding, human love, personal success, and accumulation of possessions. There is a rock that will give you rest even when all of the things have been taken away. That rock is Christ, and you were hardwired to find what you are seeking in him. In his grace, he won’t play hid-and-seek with you. In your weakness and weariness, cry out to him. He will find you, and he will be your rock.

He is the rock for which you are longing, he is the one who alone is able to give you the sense that all is well. And as you abandon your hope in the mirage rocks of this fallen world, and begin to hunger for the true rock, he will reach out, and place you on solid ground.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Extreme Makeover part three

All of us want to feel good.  We want to feel good about life and we want to feel good about ourself.  Take me for instance, yesterday afternoon I felt great.  We had a great service at Smith River Baptist, we worshiped the Lord in music, spoke on the blessing of sharing the most liberating news to ever hit the planet and that's the gospel of Christ, did a skype video call to our missionaries in Chile and hear from one of our college students preparing for ministry on the mission field.  I got to be with my church family and have a church dinner together afterwards in the gym.. I was feeling good.  Then I came home, put on my Joe Montana no. 16 SF 49ers football jersey and got ready to watch them slay the NY Giants in a NFC championship title game.  Nope, didnt happen.  By the end of the night not only had the 49ers lost in the most ridiculous way, (2 fumbles on a punt return by the same player which put the Giants in field goal positions), but also I got crushed in xbox Madden football by a 10 year old boy from church, (Robby I want a rematch!!) and then I heard that the Oregon Ducks head football coach was going to leave in order to coach in the pros (which by monday morning he had refused), when I went to bed I wasn't feeling as good and joyful as I had felt a few hours before.  Although I was feeling good for Robby that he went to bed knowing he had taken down his Pastor  :) 

Now, I totally realize those are trivial reasons for not feeling good and I mention them only in a humurous way.  Because there are people who genuinely do not feel good about life and especially in regard to the context of this blog do they not feel good about themself.  They get up in the mornng, look in the mirror and do not like what they see and they set out to do something about it.  Thus their goal for the day is to feel better about themself.

What do you do when you want to feel better about yourself? Well, some people shop – “I’ve just got to buy something” they will say. For others, its eating or just the opposite - dieting. Everyone has something they do when they want to feel better. And for some people it’s trying to improve the way they look and how they dress and its not just women - it’s men as well. That’s why some men (and women) hit the gym and the weights, it is not just a health reason, they are doing something that will help them feel better about themself. But then their are others who go to an even more extreme idea in order to feel better. Their solution is getting a face lift, rhinoplasty, tummy tucks, liposuction, and Botox, But you know, when it’s all said and done you’re still stuck with the same you on the inside.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your outward looks. But God has a purpose for your life and that is to have a real attractiveness and beauty that comes from within. It’s a beauty that the finest beautician, plastic surgeon and fitness gym can not give. And that beauty and makeover begins in the heart with who we really are. God wants to make us into a totally new person – with a new character, new attitudes and new actions and it all begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Then, as we get into the Word of God, and we let it work itself out in our life we will then begin to see amazing changes take place.

We will start feeling better about ourself when we see ourself thinking, acting and talking different. That is when a real makeover has taken place.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Extreme Makeover part two

There’s a saying “Beauty is only skin deep but ugly goes straight to the bone”  Well, that is somewhat true because some people are working so hard to improve their outward looks and doing nothing to change who they really are.  They have no self control, they lack patience and as a result have little peace with themselves or others and as a result they act in unkind ways.  But God can change all that and give you a true beauty and attractiveness that not only goes clear to the bone – But one that all will see.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Extreme Makeovers part one

It seems that more and more people today are getting makeovers, and while it may make you feel better about yourself and give one a sense of confidence and self esteem, it still leaves you as the person you really are on the inside.  It doesn’t change the real you.  Only God can give an internal makeover that can bring real peace, patience, self-control, kindness and goodness in your life and all the while give you an inward beauty that will truly be an extreme makeover. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Living for a Greater Cause

In my study for Sundays sermon I came across this article titled 'Living for a Greater Cause'.  I am starting my message sunday morning with this and sharing it with my blog and facebook friends now.  It is written by Os Hillman, president of Marketplace Leaders.

Living for a Greater Cause

"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

What does it mean for businesspeople to live for a cause greater than themselves in our day and time? Jeremiah Lanphier was a businessman in New York City who asked God to do this in his life in 1857.

In a small darkened room, in the back of one of New York City's lesser churches, a man prayed alone. His request of God was simple, but earth-shattering: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" [John Woodbridge, ed., More Than Conquerors (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1992), 337]

He was a man approaching midlife without a wife or family, but he had financial means. He made a decision to reject the "success syndrome" that drove the city's businessmen and bankers. God used this businessman to turn New York City's commercial empire on its head. He began a businessmen's prayer meeting on September 23, 1857. The meetings began slowly, but within a few months, 20 noonday meetings were convening daily throughout the city. The New York Tribune and the New York Herald issued articles of revival. It had become the city's biggest news. Now a full-fledged revival, it moved outside New York. By spring of 1858, 2,000 met daily in Chicago's Metropolitan Theatre, and in Philadelphia the meetings mushroomed into a four-month long tent meeting.

Meetings were held in Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, New Orleans, and Mobile. Thousands met to pray because one man stepped out. Annus Mirabilis, the year of national revival, had begun.

This was an extraordinary move of God through one man. It was unique because the movement was lead by businessmen, a group long considered the least prone to any form of evangelical fervor, and it had started on Wall Street, the most unlikely of all places to begin.

Could God do something extraordinary through you? Take a step. Ask God to do mighty things through you.

Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders, an organization whose purpose is to raise up and train men and women to apply Biblical faith in the workplace. His email address is os@marketplaceleaders