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FOCUS 11

God wants you and I to live on mission. A mission larger than a New Year’s resolution, but one that requires the same amount of focus to achieve. As we start a New Year, let’s resolve to do one thing together – keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Let’s resolve to focus on the vastness of God’s mighty power and amazing work all around us on this planet. God wants us to be diligent in keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, to be laser focused, because He knows that where we focus is where we’ll go. Read the rest of this entry »

Focus 4As we focus on knowing God we also need to focus on making Him known.

Matthew 9:35-38 New International Version (NIV)

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The next time you’re in church, look around you. On most rows there is an empty chair.  That chair is a space for someone to come and join our family – not just so we grow our church and fill the seats but so that people are saved.  Read the rest of this entry »

Focus 9 (1)

In Matthew 14 we read about Jesus calling Peter to step out of the boat and walking on water.

After Jesus had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Read the rest of this entry »

Focus 7

So where is our focus?

“What do you see on the screen?”

“A black dot.”

If you focused on the little black dot in the center of the screen, you may have not noticed the dominant image on the screen: the large white space covering the screen top to bottom, left to right.

There is far more white space than black dot.

Whatever we chose to focus on had our attention.

There is always much more white space than there is space covered by little black dots — we simply need to recognize and focus on it. On the screen this idea seems like an easy notion, it’s obvious, there is so much white space — easier than it can be in real life.

Because the harsh reality is that the black dots of our lives — the trials, challenges, disappointments, obstacles, and hurdles we face as we run — will naturally draw our attention. Our enemy would love to get us to focus on those black dots and convince us they define and shape our lives and determine our destiny. But in the divine race of life, we are to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the “white space” of God’s power at work in the universe, and the trials we face are but a tiny speck, a black dot, in comparison. As we learn to focus on the vastness of God’s eternal, amazing work on this planet, those black dots will cease to mark our lives.”  It doesn’t minimalize them, because those things are so real, but it gives it fresh perspective.

Stay focused on Jesus. Where we put our focus matters (Hebrews 12:2)  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.

Focus 6 (1)

Let’s have a look at how focus plays out in Numbers 13

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

V18 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”

21 So they went up and explored the land ….  23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.

26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

The spies came back and said: We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them. Numbers 13:33

Note the wording there.  We looked like grasshoppers in OUR OWN eyes.  And so we looked the same to them.   IN OUR OWN EYES.

Because the Israelites saw themselves as small, powerless, and insignificant they were then seen as small, powerless, insignificant grasshoppers by the people possessing the Promised Land.

They were focused on the wrong things!  They focused on the walls and the giants instead of their God who split the red sea so they could walk through on dry land and who would knock the walls of Jericho down and defeated a giant with a shepherd boy and a stone.  Sure, they didn’t know those realities yet – David hadn’t even being born and Jerichos walls were strong and proud but this is the God they followed and this is the God WE follow!

It was the people’s insecure perception of themselves that limited their ability to take the land and have faith in God. It was the Israelites incorrect perception of themselves that hijacked the fulfilment of the call of God.

Compare this to what Caleb and Joshua, the other two spies, said in verse 30: We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.

Why did they have this confidence? Interesting to note that God says of them “my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” Numbers 14:24

They had a different attitude and perception, not only of themselves but of the power of God to bring victory and fulfilment. They focused their attention on God and his superabuntant ability to do more than we even dare ask, dream or pray for.

So where is our focus?

Focus 4

The things we get distracted by are never as important as the thing we get distracted from. Andy Stanley

We are bombarded by distractions all the time.  Netflix.  Social Media.  Whatever it is, its 24/7.

However I think the greater distraction that we need to be aware of are hurts, disappointments and real life “stuff” that happens to us all.  Jesus said in this life you will have trouble but it is how we allow that trouble to affect us how can derail and distract us.

We get thrown off course by unexpected life circumstances and our goals are de-railed. We focus on our weaknesses or disappointment or challenges and we miss God’s power at work in our lives.

We never intend to get derailed, but it can happen when we take our eyes off Jesus. The enemy will do his best to drain our passion and wear us down until we drop out of the race. Here are some ways that the enemy works to draw our focus and slay our passion: Read the rest of this entry »

Focus 3

1 Corinthians 2:9-14 New International Version (NIV)

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[a]
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

 

I didn’t want this message to be a cliché – but seriously, in 2020 we need clear vision.  What do you see?  What you focus on you will live out.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” – Proverbs 4:25

Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

27 Do not turn to the right or the left;  keep your foot from evil.

 

And while there are many reasons for failing to keep a resolution, one major factor is distraction.

Distractions and interruptions are coming and they don’t care about our resolutions or goals. They don’t care about our vision.  Right now, as we are sitting here read this we are being bombarded with more emails, texts, notifications, and look at me look at me look at me…

How well we handle distractions will greatly determine how successful we will be – not only in how the world defines success but in how GOD defines it!

Take a moment and think about how many hours a week you watch TV. How many minutes (or hours!) you spend each day on the phone scrolling…. Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Youtube, email, phone, and so on are all weapons of mass procrastination.  It is easy to go down the rabbit hole and then wham bam an hour or three have passed!

The things we get distracted by are never as important as the thing we get distracted from. Andy Stanley

FOCUS 11

As we stand here today at the start of 2020 – we look out at a blank canvas.  We look out on potential.    We look out into the unknown.

Corrie Ten Boom said it best, “Never be afraid to trust your unknown future to a known God.”

At the start of the year we look out and declare:

Ephesians 3:20 Amplified Bible (AMP)

20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us,

 

Romans 8:28 The Passion Translation (TPT)

28 So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.

 

At the start of the year we make resolutions.  Research suggests that about 50% of people end up making a New Year’s resolution each year. But, of those, not even 10% say they are successful in keeping those resolutions. In fact research suggestions that, 25% of people don’t even make it past week one of keeping their resolution. I don’t need a new year to make a new goal.  I confess I always have some resolutions on the go, by nature I am always working towards something but I don’t really make typical new years resolutions.    This year my new year resolution was to make southland cheese rolls.  For those not in the know I lived in Gore for a few years when I was a kid – and yes, I still have some of the accent!   Cheese rolls are like a local delicacy that North Islanders are totally ignorant of.  Except the café at the Mercer pit stop, they have them!   So January 3rd I made Southland Cheese rolls.  Resolution tick! Read the rest of this entry »

dVision 7

While on holiday in Blenheim last week I went to visit my brother – he’s a builder and has the most epic beard.  Over the past 8 weeks he has renovated their kitchen and living area.  He had kept me updated over the past 8 weeks with snapchats and photos of their progress.  Progress when you’re renovating is not pretty at first.  Their first step was to completely gut their kitchen and living area including removing the wall between the two rooms.  In winter, in Blenheim.  They stripped the stipple ceiling and jib board I confess, rather them than me.  Every weekend they would drop my neice,  off to my parents so they could install walls, paint, scrape, build, whatever.   Eva and I got to see the mostly finished product on Wednesday and it is beautiful.   All the work has paid off.  They have the most epic taps and cupboards that literally make you go oooooh.

 

Vision is a doing word.  It takes action.   We cant just dream, we have to do.

I love the book of proverbs.  Firstly, it nails you on those character things… but secondly, some of them are just funny.

Prov 22:13 The lazy one [manufactures excuses and] says, “There is a lion outside!

I will be killed in the streets [if I go out to work]!”

Proverbs 31:6 (New International Version)

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.

Proverbs 26:11 (New International Version)

Gray is a crown of splendor: it is attained by a righteous life.

 

But one that I have always enjoyed is this:

 

Proverb 14:4

Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is clean, but an abundant harvest is produced by strong oxen.

 

It’s the poo profit ratio.  If you’ve got no oxen, you’ve got no poo.  But you’ve also got no harvest.  You’ve got to have the oxen to have the harvest and what do you know, oxen poop.

The idea is to have the poo profit ratio right.  Too much poo – not a good thing, you spend your time mucking the stall and up to the ankles in… .  Too little poo means too little profit.

Get the ratio right and we’re living the vision.

 

Every vision requires doing.

It requires work.  Effort.  Sweat.  Time.  Tears.  Strain.  Stretch.

As people of vision we must make each moment count.  Our whole life matters.  Dreams don’t magically come true at the right time without the right preparation and cultivation.

Do you dream of being an author?  Then write, now, today.

Do you dream of being a missionary?  Learn and serve, now, today.

Do you dream of being a worship leader?  Practice and join the worship team.

Do you dream of being a preacher?  Write messages, now, today.  Join a connect group

Don’t let your vision stay as just a blueprint.  Knock down walls and build stuff.

There are so many ways that we can feed our visions – podcasts, books, getting around people who are doing it – but at some point we need to just step out and trust God in the doing.

 

A few weeks ago I had the incredible privilege of speaking at a Renew Youth event in Whangarei.  Right up to the moment I stepped onto the stage and grabbed the mic I was freaking out and the voice in my head was saying why did we say yes to this, what were we thinking, can I back out now, I need to pee!

But as I stepped onto the stage it was like the Holy Spirit came upon me and through me and it was the sense of I am made for this.

Living out the vision may be scary – probably will be scary and bigger than what we can do on our own strength – but that is the awesomeness of doing life wth God.

Philippians 1:6 says that God will finish what He starts.  He started something in your life.  And He will see it through to the destination.  God is the dream giver and the dream fulfiller.  He gives us dreams….  those desires and thoughts you have are seeds of God’s plan.  And He doesnt just leave us to do it ourselves, He on purpose is at work to make the dreams come true.

Vision 3

Often we equate vision with doing but a massive part of vision is BEING.  We have to BE the vision, we have to BE the person that can live that vision.

Vision is more than what we do.

It is who we are.

“God-size dreams ensure our growth. When God calls us to something, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable, like someone handing us the wrong size in the dressing room. It gaps in strange places and pinches in others. We may find ourselves wanting to send it back for a more reasonably-sized dream, one that doesn’t cause so much discomfort.

But that’s a huge mistake.   God hands us an extra-large vision by design. He is not just interested in what we can accomplish for him, but in who we are becoming along the way. As we struggle to grow into what and who God calls us to do and be, we are changed and shaped more and more into the likeness of Christ.”  Michael Hyatt

 

In 1 Samuel 10 we read about the calling of Saul.

1 Samuel 10:23-24

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

 

On the outside Saul looked like he was the right man for the job.  On the outside he was head and shoulders above everyone else, tall dark and handsome.

Saul’s downfall wasn’t a one time event but a series of consistent character flaws that revealed where his heart was at… he made snap decisions and followed his own heart, he built his own kingdom and did things his own way.

Compare this to David… he wasn’t even in the line up when Samuel was there to choose the new king

1 Samuel 16:6-7

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

 

In Acts 13:22 we read that God said that David is man after my own heart – David was a man after God’s heart.

Time and time again we read how David would seek God and follow God’s ways.  He wasn’t perfect and like all humans, had some serious character flaws, but for God to say that he was a man after God’s heart speaks volumes.

All the competency in the world can’t compensate for a lack of character. Not for long.

Eventually, ultimately, your character is your lid.

Even in your workplace character is a great level upper.  You may be the smartest person in the room but if you don’t follow through and keep your word and be kind then it may hinder you in stepping up.   Lack of character hurts marriages and friendships.  It erodes trust and closes the doors to opportunities.

As John Wooden famously said, he true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.  It means we’re the same with one person, as we are on a stage or with a thousand.   I read a great challenge the other day:  live as if everything you did and everything you said would be made public.

Saul, the man who was head and shoulders above everyone didn’t have the character to carry the crown.

Like it or not, here’s the truth:

Character, not competency, determines capacity.

 

2 Timothy 2:20-21 describes a house with objects used for common and special useage.

 

2 Timothy 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. Therefore, if anyone purges himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified and useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

 

So the question I want to ask today is simple.

What are you doing to grow your character?  What are you doing today to be prepared for every good work?  To be a person who will live the vision?

Psalm 119:11 says I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

As human beings we are flawed selfish creatures.  Which is why we so need Jesus!  By reading the word of God and letting it transform us inside out, letting it challenge us, letting it choose how we live and react and letting it determine our priorities, we allow God to shape our heart and it helps our character grow so we can BE the person that lives the dream.

One of the best ways to grow your character is to remain in God’s presence. And by keeping your attention fixed on Him, you will become changed.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18

We see in David’s life when he walked close with God making the right choices was easier – note I didn’t say easy, but easier.

Francis Chan says the secret to overcoming temptation – thus the secret to growing good character – is to know that God is greater.  We need to live that – in a very real awareness and sense of awe and worship that God is greater and the thankfulness that we can have a real relationship with Him.

Vision sets boundaries for how we live our life.    It affects our choices and how we spend our time.  It changes what we give our focus and attention to.

 

My dad was a marathon runner and I have very clear memories of how all encompassing the lead up to a marathon was.  He would run every day but leading up to a marathon those runs would start earlier and would often be followed up by an evening run.  Closer to the time he would take a Wednesday afternoon off (and work in the evening) and would build up his stamina and ability to run the distance.  We would go and watch the finish line and cheer him on and it was amazing to see the hundreds of people that would do this, for fun.   Dad’s vision was to run a marathon and so he trained his body to run the race.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

The MSG version puts it this way: You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.  26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

The dream is free, but the journey isn’t. At some point, we have to make a transition from believer of the dream to buyer of the dream, from vision seer to vision be-er.  No dream comes true without somebody paying for it. If we want to achieve the vision, we have to be willing to do more than just imagine the outcome. We have to sacrifice our comfort, money, time, and energy.

“I encourage you today to embrace the change necessary in order to grow into the success that God has prepared for you. God calls us to step up and into His promises and purposes, and He will give you the grace to run your race.” ~ Christine Caine

 

“Your life from seed to full-grown tree is a process. We all like the idea of fruit, but rarely do we allow ourselves to build a root system.” Banning Liebscher

 

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