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, April 18, 2013

Are you living in fear because of Boston?

Once again our nation has been attacked and this time in Boston at the Boston Marathon. The terrorist attack was not aimed at bringing down a building, or a plane.  It was not aimed at some prominent politician but rather at innocent citizens watching a race, a race that for some included their family and friends.  As a result of these kinds of attacks, whether it be at a mall, theater, school, bus, building or athletic competition it causes people to obviously react.  For some, it is easy to over react however over reacting can be dangerous.  One way to over react is to begin to live in fear.  That might be natural, but fear leads to phobias and phobias tend to keep us indoors, isolated and basically stop living.  And soon, we become afraid to do anything or go anywhere.

This week a friend of mine named Ben (who Pastors in the Boston area) wrote an opening paragraph to us pastors on a pastors email list that I am on and then included a letter he had written to his church and community. I want to share the introductory paragraph and then the letter he wrote.  His words are great words of encouragement that surely will speak to all of us.


After speaking with a friend from the church who was 30 yards from the first bomb explosion, hugging his daughter over a crowd barrier as she finished the race I wrote down a few thoughts. He and I had spent the past few weeks talking about kids, travel, and safety (My oldest is traveling to teach in Turkey this summer) quickly realize safety anywhere is an illusion outside of Christ.


Now here is the well written letter to his church and community.

Boston, Bombs, & Belief

 Dear Church, friends, and community,
We live in world that is not right...moments like this are painful reminders that our world needs what Jesus Christ brought. Better intelligence, safer cities, more laws, and stronger armies are no substitute for a renovation of the heart. When the reality of a moment like this has finally settled, in our thoughts turn to “what next?” and “how do we respond?”.  Here are three ways we can begin:
 Pray for justice
The aftermath of moments like this one can bring out the best and worst in all of us. We speak of justice but our spirit craves vengeance. Vengeance is justice gone wild - justice laced with hatred. Justice is right, righteous, and fearsome…and it belongs to God and to the governments He has established.
The Apostle Paul directs us to give our vengeance to God in one chapter - apparently He is good at it - (Rom 12:17-21), and then moments later he speaks of God directing governments to bring the righteous consequences of justice to evildoers (Rom 13:1-7).  
Pray for justice, pray for our leaders, and pray for our country as we seek justice.
Live without fear

Terrorism has a singular goal:  terror…to exchange our peace and confidence for fear and dread.  Our natural reaction is to limit risk, to run from life and living to a safer place…but where is this mythical safe place?  A tranquil elementary school, a celebratory finish line, an office tower built of steel and concrete?

While we seek safe places, God reminds us that confidence comes from within:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (1 Timothy 1:7).

If the safest place to be is in the center of God's plan, then the question we should be asking is, “Am I where God wants me?”  If  you are…stay there, serve others, and spread His love in small acts and bold reminders of the unconditional love of God - love proven once and for all in Jesus Christ.

Resolve to love

Hatred can feel empowering in moments like this.  Water cooler moments, Facebook walls, and Twitter feeds are full of bold declarations of resolve. Resolve is good, but let us resolve to love…the rarest of emotions in moments like this.

Jesus famously said “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:44) - a declaration not faded one bit by an enemy's tactics or hatred. Justice and love are not enemies but allies. They validate each other in ways that  capitulation and hatred only hope to.

Pray, Live, Love.

As I read Bens article I thought of the video of Francis Chan that speaks to this subject as well.

A video well worth your time to watch

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are you hindering the cause of Christ?


In the film, ‘Remember the Titans’, you see the true story of two coaches, one white and one black who are asked to coach a newly integrated team.  The head coach (played by Denzel Washington) has to try to get this team to put aside their differences and focus on their common goal.  As they begin to do this they not only begin to play good football, but they begin to change individually as well.  And this change that begins within themselves and the team, begins to change the entire community.
In the same manner we come from different backgrounds.  We have different tastes, styles and interests.  And we can let our differences divide us or we can let our common experience of grace in Christ unite us.  Yes, in our quest for truth we may still debate issues..but our goal will not be to be focused on self or my way, but to know Christ better.  Our differences will not be the cause for division they will provide opportunities to grow.
I’ve said it before and will say it again, Christians fighting Christians only causes the world to turn away.  But when Christians work together, the world takes notice. In the early church many people didn’t understand the gospel, but what they did understand was that these people loved each other.  If we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel we will gladly set aside our ego for the purpose of advancing the gospel.  We will overlook minor differences and discuss bigger differences in a spirit of love. 
Let me ask you a straight forward question.  What fellow believer are you figthting with or at odds with right now?  It doesn't matter if they are within your church or not, someone is watching and it will effect the cause of Christ.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I thirst

Right now as I am writing it is pouring down rain outside.  It is not one of those days that is hot and dry and where you are craving for a glass of water.  Believe me, like many of you I have had those days when living in Redding where the temperature in the summertime can soar to 115 for several days in a row.  But today: that is definitely not the case.

At Smith River Baptist Church we are in the middle of a series that deals with the final words of Christ on the cross that can be heard at 

This Sunday we are looking at the passage where Jesus said “I thirst”.  It is the only statement in which our Lord referred to His body and His physical suffering.  Perhaps you have wondered why he would say that.  I mean after all He was Jesus, He was God and yet He thirst?  You mean He suffered and got thirsty just like we do?  Well, as a matter of fact He did and as a result He is able to sympathize with our needs.  You see, while Jesus was 100% divine, He was also 100% human. Because He walked upon this earth as a man, though He knew no sin, He did become very much acquainted with the difficulties of life here below. When He was a child, He probably skinned His knee a time or two. As a teenager, it is likely that He knew what it was like to not be part of the "in" crowd. Learning the carpenter’s trade in His father’s shop, He possibly had a splinter or two, and He also could very well have smashed His finger on occasion with a hammer. As a man, He knew what it was to grow tired, to be cold, to sweat, to be hungry, and, of course, He knew what it was like to be thirsty.

During an airline flight, concern over the heavy turbulence mounted until the soothing voice of the pilot came over the inter¬com: “No need to worry, folks,” he said cheerfully, “Just remember: these bumps are made of air!” We may wish the bumps we face in life were made of air, but they are not. Life is difficult; adversities are real. Physical trials sting and smart. Emotional trials leave us with unresolved baggage. Spiritual trials drain our souls.

Jesus felt the "bumps" as He lived here among men. Because this is so, we know that He understands where we are and what we are going through in our struggles in this life. 

“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” - Hebrews 4:15-16 (The Message)

One of Denmark’s leading sculptors had a burning ambition to create the greatest statue of Jesus ever made. He began by shaping a clay model of a triumphant, regal figure. The head was thrown back and the arms were upraised in a gesture of great majesty. It was his conception of Christ the King: Strong, Dominant. "This will be my masterpiece," he said, on the day the model was completed. But, during the night a heavy fog rolled into the area and sea-spray seeped through a partially opened window of the artist’s ocean-side studio. The moisture affected the shape of the model so that when the artist returned to the studio in the morning, he was shocked to find a wounded figure. The droplets of moisture that had formed on the statue created the illusion of bleeding. The head had drooped. The facial expression had been transformed from one of strength to compassion. And the arms had dropped into an attitude of welcome. The artist stared at the figure, agonizing over the time wasted and the need to begin all over again. But something came over him to change his mood. He began to see that this image of Christ was the truer one. Then he wrote at the base of the newly-shaped figure: "Come unto Me!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

God told me to do it part 2

So…..God told you to do that?  Really? Seriously? How do you know that?
For those of us who lived back in the 70s there was a CB phrase that truckers used.  Remember it?  It was this:  “Got your ears on?”  What did that mean?  It meant, are you listening? Are you tuned in to the same frequency, the same CB channel, are you listening to me?  Well actually Jesus said something of the same thing over 2,000 years ago when He said in Luke 8:8 “He who has ears to hear let him hear”.  He is talking about if you have the equipment needed to tune in, then tune in..listen.  And the truth of the matter is that we do have the equipment needed, God has given you the ability to hear from Him.
There are times when you are traveling on the freeway and about to enter a city that you might see a billboard with a message and a radio station call number on it.  The message on the billboard reads, “for updated traffic conditions tune in to _______ on your AM dial. But you don’t do it, you ignore the advice just like I often do.. I mean really, how many of us turn off the music and turn on the traffic report?  But then comes the time you wish you had because you come upon construction or unfortunately an accident that is causing hours of delay.  If you had just tuned in and heard the message you could have taken a different route and saved yourself all that time.  But no, the information line was ignored and we are stuck suffering the consequences of not tuning in and listening.
So this leads me to think of a very important reason to tune in, put my ears on, and hear from the Lord.  And it is this: ‘It protects me from mistakes’.  If you will listen, God will warn you in advance of the delays, and traps of life.  Proverbs 3:5 & 6 is very real when it says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths.”  Proverbs is saying, “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do and everywhere go. He’s the one who will keep you on track.”  God is trying to say to us, “Watch out for this today”.  Because His warnings and directives will at some point during the day protect me and keep me from making a stupid mistake.  God will do that for you if you will listen to Him.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

God told me to do it....

Probably one of the most dangerous phrases in the English language is this phrase:  ‘God told me to do it’.  This could be one of the most misunderstood phrases, most misused, most abused phrases and it could be one of the manipulating phrases when somebody says that.  Because how do you argue with God when someone says, “God told me to do it”?
A lot of bad decisions have been blamed on God because people think that it was God who told them to do a certain thing.  I have to admit, even as a pastor when someone tells me “God told me to do this” I get a little skeptical at times.  Because I want to know, how do you know it was from God. 
Perhaps you have said that yourself at some point, or you have even heard someone said it only to scratch your head and think, “what?…no, I don’t think so.”  I heard it twice recently on television. Once on Restaurant Impossible when Chef Robert Irvine asked a restaurant owner where he came up with his terrible tasting spaghetti sauce?  The owner replied by saying, “it was divine, God told him how to make it.”  Hm….The second time was when one of the American Idol contestants, (who was only seen during the audition segments and never did sing the right note) was asked by the judges, “who suggested you tryout for this”? The contestant said,  “God told me to tryout”.  Well, how do we know when God is truly speaking to us?  How do we know when it is not our own self talking to us, satan talking to us or simply some bad spaghetti sauce we ate late one night?  Because knowing where this ‘voice’ is coming from is very important in making the proper decisions in our life.  We better make sure the voice we are hearing and the instructions we are receiving is in fact coming from God and His Word.  And there are some ways to know this….
Stay be continued

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thought for the Day - God loves you


This is one of my favorite stories that makes a great point.  A young preacher had installed a weather vane on top of his church with the words 'God is Love" on it.  He was then asked if that meant Gods love changes with the wind?  His reponse was "no,  it means which ever way the wind is blowing God still loves".   And you know, he was right because no matter which way the wind is blowing in your life and no matter what the circumstances you find yourself in right now or tomorrow or next week, God loves you.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Make Yourself at Home


Where do you find you are most at home in this world? 

Have you ever gone on a trip for a length of time and when you finally got home, you walked into your house and said,"its good to be home".  You dropped your suitcases on the floor, felt the security of your house, sat down in your favorite chair, kicked off your shoes, cranked up the fireplace, made a bowl of popcorn, leaned back in the recliner and said "home" and took a peaceful breath. 

Or, have you ever gone to someones house and heared them say, "just make yourself at home?"  That's a nice offer but do they really mean that?  Can you really do that?  I mean, do you have the freedom to start going through their closet, cupboards, desk?  Do you really feel comfortable taking your shoes off (or leaving your shoes on) and putting them on top of the coffee table?  Can you open the frig, get out some food and start cooking it?  One night my son came over and he said to his mother,  what have you got to eat?  Well I had some leftover pizza wrapped in foil and hidden in the back of the frig for this very reason, I knew he might come over and I didnt want him to see it :)...Well Karen said to him, "sure, dad has some pizza in the frig, to which he did not hesitate in finding it and then reheating it.  Agh !! :)   That is making yourself at home.  Well, that might work in your parents home, but does making yourself at home work like that in someone elses home?..Does it really work that way?  Well no it doesn't. 

So ...where do you find you really are most at home in this world?  What does being "at home" mean to you? Well, aren't you at home where you are most free to be yourself, where you are most comfortable, where you are most secure, and where you have the most freedom to be honest about who you really are? We are at home where our roots are the deepest, where we know we belong and where we can most be ourselves and where we don't have to try to impress anyone to be ourself. And, where you can go to the frig and help yourself without being invited or having to ask.

I think that is what David is asking in Psalm 27:4 when he says:

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple

David is saying the place he wanted to be most at home, most comfortable, most real, most secure, the place he knew he would be certain he belonged was in the presence of the Lord.  There is an old gospel song that says:
Feeling at home in the presence of Jesus,
Hearing Him call me His own
Feeling at home,
Feeling at home
Putting my feet right under His table
Knowing I won't be alone
Just feeling at home
Feeling at home

For the Christian when we are in the presence of Jesus as we spend time in worship, prayer, His Word, in church and walking in obedience is when feel most at home.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Recently our family just got back from a great trip to Disneyland.  We had an amazing time, riding rides, eating, watching parades and shows and most of all watching my granddaughter get to see the Disney Princesses Belle...

But one thing we found to be true not only every morning, but all through the day was that we had choices to make. Choices of what rides to ride and at what time and on what day so that we were not standing in long lines.  And one piece of technology that really helped us make the wisest decisions was a Disney App on my daughters Iphone. 

Well each day and all through the day we have choices to make concerning areas that are far more important and eternal than what disney rides to ride on at what time.  And..we have something far greater to help us with those decisions than an App.  We have Gods Word and His Holy Spirit to instruct us and guide us. 

See, life is all about choices.  We have choices to make concerning our lifestyle or how we are going to live.  We also have choices to make concerning our allegiance or what we are going to be committed to.  Questions like:

How are we going to live?
What is going to be the object of our affections?
Are we going to live for ourselves, for someone else or for the Lord?
Will you let God be God in your life or will you let other things crowd Him out?

These questions are extremely important.  You see, to put Him first in our life (as Scripture commands) is to know the blessing of His peace, His love, His provision and His life.  But to put other things first is to know the ultimate emptiness of things that simply does not satisfy.  When we say that Jesus Christ is Lord, we are saying that God is top priority.

Mark 12: 30 says "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."

Then in
Exodus 20:3 says "You shall have no other gods before me"

Now while we are to Love the Lord with all that is within us and then allow His Word and Spirit to guide us...The answer to our choices in life isn't to 'just love God'.. The trick is to love Him exclusively.."You shall have no other gods before me".  When we love like that it helps tremendously with the choices we have to make in life. 

While a Disney App on your phone may guide you through Disneyland.. Gods Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path..and the more I love God exclusively the more I allow His word to do just that

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When you need Help: Look Up

Where do you go when you need help?  I guess we can look in the want ads, call our parents or a close friend.  Perhaps even call your Pastor, go to your spouse and you might even go to your boss.  Sometimes however we talk to the wrong people about our needs.  We go to a person who either gives us bad advice or they really can not do anything tangible for us at all. 

Not only who do we go to for help but where do we go when going through the valleys?  I don't mean the valleys of death, I mean just the deep dark valleys of life, valleys that so many of us travel through.  You might say, "well its pretty shallow right now, its not that deep, and I can make it myself"  Well I have news for you, unless you begin to look in the right direction even when it is shallow you just might sink to despair when it gets deep simply from lack of practice.  Too many people wait until its a 911 call to heaven before they start talking to God about the valleys of their life.

Psalm 121 has been a tremendous help to so many people.  I know it was to me just three years ago when Karen was in the hospital and I was going through that dark valley.  It is a passage that has been memorized, quoted and sung about.. It is a reminder that God was and is a great source of help and strength to those of us in need. 

Psalm 121 says I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night
7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore
When your mountain seems too big to climb, look up and remember who gives you the help you need.