Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way. Psalm 119:37
“Mommy, look at me!”, were the words that turned my focus away from the screen of my iPhone. I cannot remember what I was accomplishing at that moment, nor how long he had been calling me, but I won’t forget those words or the exigence on my son’s sweet face when I finally shifted my gaze in his direction. My precious child needed my attention, but I was choosing to look at something else; something far less valuable than my son. It is so easy to get caught up in the distractions of this life and lose focus of what truly matters. When I picture the desperation in my son's eyes; his hunger for my attention, I can’t help but think about how God must feel when I choose to focus on lesser things than Him.
In Psalm 119:37, the psalmist requests that his eyes be turned away from looking at worthless things, and instead that he would be revived in the ways of God. When we look at the ways of the Lord, we are presented with a path that is both good and satisfying. This path that God desires for us is meant to revive us; to protect us from becoming weary and unsatisfied. It is meant to keep our eyes from drifting toward worthless and unrighteous things, so that, as it is explained in 1 Peter 1:13-16, we may be holy as God is holy.
In the Bible, when David’s eyes were on the Lord, he defeated Goliath, he humbly restrained his hand against king Saul and he achieved victory upon victory in battle. But, when his eyes wandered to the rooftop of Bathsheba’s home, he got distracted. His focus shifted from the righteousness that God requires of us toward his own lustful desires and the results were devastating. Maybe, like David, you also have a hard time guarding your eyes from lustful temptations. Or, perhaps you struggle with envy and are drawn away from the right path when you begin comparing yourself to that mom on social media; wanting her stylish home, her happy marriage or her perfect figure. This is not God’s will for the use of our eyes. When we focus on the wrong things, there is a tendency to connect our self-worth with external factors, like what we have or how we look. However, in 1 Peter 3:3-4 we are told that God values our “inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. These valued characteristics come from having a right view of what is truly important.
We cannot expect to find God’s best for us when our eyes are looking in the wrong direction.When our attention is rightly placed on the things of God, everything else fades into the background. The prideful desires of this world: vanity, fortune, sensuality, they all disappear in the light of His goodness. When Matthew sat at his tax booth, greedily collecting money from his fellow Jews, he was focused on worthless things, but when he heard the words, “follow me”, his gaze was transfixed on Jesus Christ. He then got up, left everything and followed Him. We too should be moved towards righteousness when we fix our eyes upon Jesus; the greatest treasure that mankind will ever see.
“…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:14, (NIV)
Several years ago, I was on a bicycle ride with a group of people and we were traveling on the open road. We were riding single file on the side of the road - with cars and trucks passing, road debris, pot holes, intersections and more. On this one particular stretch of road, I was leading about 17 other cyclists through an intersection and across railroad tracks. After I went through the intersection, I looked back to make sure everyone made it through safely. When I took my eyes off of the road in front of me - I completely missed our next turn. The moment I took my focus off of what was in front, I took us off course!
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul stated, “… one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, NIV).
When we look back, we may be fixating on the past rather than forgetting what is behind. Sometimes we keep reliving the thoughtless mistakes or intentional poor choices that we have made. Perhaps there were minor insults or serious offenses that have been done to us and we are consumed by them and are allowing them to define us, causing us to remain in an attitude of bitterness or shame. Rather than struggle in silence, we may need to process this with a Christian counselor or Godly friend who can help us press on toward the goal and walk in victory.
Maybe when we are looking back we remember a time when our walk with the Lord was more intimate, and we heard His voice more clearly; a time when we read His word and it seemed more alive and active. If we are looking back at those times, we may be missing the fresh word that the Lord wants to speak to us now. We certainly do not want to miss the “prize for which God has called” us!
We all have scars from injuries in the past AND we may have markers of spiritual victories in the past. God wants to use ALL of these past events as opportunities to show us more about Himself today - to show us more of His glory, grace, comfort, forgiveness, strength, kindness, hope and most of all His healing, love and acceptance. We can claim Romans 8:28, “God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” If we cling to Him, we will experience this verse!
This new year of 2021 is a year that we have never experienced. Everything in the future is new and somewhat unpredictable! May the Lord help us to forget and learn from what is behind, to strain toward what is ahead, to press on toward the goal and to win the prize for which He has call us heavenward in Christ! May we believe and know - that in Him, the best is yet to come-and each day remember that this is the day that the Lord has made, we can rejoice in it!
“Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul….”
This morning I took my husband to an appointment with his doctor. I was sitting in the waiting area waiting for him, watching a few people walk through the lobby. A young woman was sweeping the lobby floor. An older man, walking with the help of a cane, entered the lobby doors and made his way to the elevators. As he passed the young woman, he spoke to her, “You’re doing a great job! Keep it up!”
I looked up as the woman nodded a “Thank you” and kept on working. The older man and I shared a glance and I saw a twinkle in his light blue eyes. I hoped that he could tell that I was smiling at him behind my COVID 19 mask. “That was kind,” I thought to myself.
It really doesn’t take much time or effort to offer an encouraging word to those around us. Though, it does take an awareness of others and the job they are doing, or maybe a disheartened look on their face, or a stooped shoulder in their walk.
We all benefit from words of encouragement. If you don’t believe me, just think back to the last time someone offered you a kind and encouraging word. I bet that memory makes you smile.
Recently, I have noticed the places in Scripture where God the Father offered His one and only Son words of encouragement.
When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, God the Father spoke His approval, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22)
After Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, Peter, James and John, they heard a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35-36)
God the Father affirmed his Son and the work he was doing and the person he was here on earth.
In the book of Acts, Luke writes of a man named Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36-37) Barnabas must have been quite the encouraging guy to have earned such a nickname. Luke mentions a little later in Acts that it was this same encouraging guy who went and brought the former persecutor of Christians, Saul of Tarsus, to meet with the apostles after Saul’s conversion. (Acts 9:27) It was a good thing that Barnabas was around to encourage the apostles to give this new believer Paul a chance to be one of them.
Everyone needs encouragement. This means we all have the opportunity to act as encouragers to those around us. And who knows the difference a little encouragement might make in someone’s life.
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
A couple of summers ago, my oldest son and I went on a mission trip to Hungary. We were serving in the little town of Tóalmás, a rural community surrounded by endless acres of farmland. One of the crops Hungarians grow is the sunflower and they caught my attention. The flowers were in full bloom, creating a sea of brilliant yellow as far as the eye could see.
Sunflowers are a unique flower; they get their name because they follow the sun across the sky. In the morning they face the east and track the sun to the west. Then through the night, they turn their heads back to the east in anticipation of the next sunrise.
All flowers need the sun to grow, but most do not follow the sun throughout the day like the sunflower. The sunflower is one of the fastest growing and tallest flowers in the world. In fact, the tallest sunflower ever recorded stood over 30 feet tall. In order to become what it was created to be it must soak up as much sunlight as possible, so as it grows it follows the sun across the sky.
Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above not on the things of the earth.” The way the sunflower keeps its face turned toward the sun reminds me of how the Lord wants us to keep our focus on Him. This is the way we grow and mature, by spending time with Him, learning to trust and follow Him.
The farmer grows sunflowers for several reasons, here are just a few. They replenish the soil, the flowers have a deep root system and when it is allowed to die in its place the decomposition adds nutrients to the soil. A wheat crop grown after a crop of sunflowers typically produces a bumper crop. The seeds are crushed to make oil, which is used in cooking and even medicine to prevent high cholesterol and heart disease. They are also grown for animal feed and human consumption.
As the sunflower follows the sun it matures into a beautiful flower, and a vast field of them is breathtaking. But its true purpose is not fulfilled until it dies. Luke 9:23 says “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” In this verse Jesus is saying following me will look like sacrifice, it will demand more than you think you have to give. At times it will take you to places of rejection and isolation.
In the next verse Jesus says “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” In these two verses Jesus says the way to follow me, to live out what I have created you to be, is to lay down your life. Lay down your pride, lay down the way you think you should be treated, lay down your desire to serve yourself, lay down what you want others to think of you and follow Me.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “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.” Jesus is the example, He loved us and laid down His life, and He is calling us to do the same. But in order to do this we must keep the eyes of our heart fixed on Him.
So when we see a beautiful sunflower let’s be reminded to follow the Son.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, make their home in central Arkansas. They have five grown children and are grandparents to wonderful grandchildren. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.