On Losing Focus

(This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post on November 11, 2016.)

time-for-god
ericcartier.com

It happens: we’ve started a task, we’re a few moments in, and then another idea flashes across our minds. For me, that other idea is usually something I need to add to my to-do list. And for me, the task I’d started, quite frequently, is my daily devotional journaling with God.

Let’s be honest. First, I use the word “daily” loosely. I have a daily desire, but the actual execution on a day-to-day basis is…well, not so daily. (I do however talk to God — all day, everyday — so there’s that. But I digress…)

God frequently speaks to me through song. I’ll wake up and He will have me singing or humming a song through the Holy Spirit. I always enjoy that, a sweet reminder that He was with me all night and was downloading His truths and will for me and answering my prayers.

One particular morning I awakened to the tune of Lauren Daigle’s “First” emanating from my Spirit.

I meditated on that song for a few minutes. I felt in it an excitement of knowing that it was God telling me He wanted to spend time with me first thing that morning. And it was a little reminder of loving correction: I should seek and desire and want God more than anything, and that want should be of His presence, not his presents.

I was in a peaceful, joyful place. And then it struck. That errant thought that completely draws you out of intimacy with your Father for a fleeting moment.

It was a to-do item. Something I “had” to remember to do today.

I was irritated, bothered. Why’d my brain have to tell me this now?!

Then the Holy Spirit placed John 10:10 NLT into my remembrance: “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Almost immediately, the Holy Spirit had me circle “stea”l and then He said, “Your focus.”

Whoa.

So many times I’d read that verse, heard it growing up, and always thought of things being stolen. As I marveled at this revelation, God kept talking.

“The thief can also steal your faith, peace, love, and joy, if you let him. He can kill your dreams, intentions, and hope, if you let him. He can destroy your destiny, your future, and your expectation, if you let him.”

I went on to read that very verse in two more translations, The Message and the Amplified versions. And I began to notice that the “rich and satisfying life” part became “abundance” once I reached the Amplified version. I was led to learn more about the term “abundance”.

According to the Blue Letter Bible, “abundance” is a Greek adjective that reads “perissos” in its original form. But the definitions are what got me:

  • Exceeding some number or measure or rank or need
  • Over and above, more than is necessary, superadded
  • Exceedingly abundantly, supremely
  • Something further, more, much more than all, more plainly
  • Superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon
  • Pre-eminence, superiority, advantage, more eminent, more remarkable, more excellent.

That was cool and all, but I didn’t get it. So I waited for an explanation, for the dots to be connected. And God said to me: You can only see this in terms of things (I really like handbags and cars and gadgets!) because that’s all your mind can handle, He told me. But there’s more, international speaker. Prophet.

See, we often lose sight of the more. We spend so much time fixating on what the thief came to take, that we lose sight of what we still have and what’s waiting for us.

We get so flustered that we’re not yet at a place where our time with God comes completely unaffected by worldly distraction, that we don’t celebrate that we can just return to sweet, quiet time with our Father.

(I literally just got a phone call. Ugh! OK, back on track. Where was I?…Oh!…)

And while we’re trying to protect all of our stuff from the thief, He’s taking the one thing we aren’t looking at: our focus.

We’re trying to protect our peace when a coworker eats our lunch by saying, “Not today satan!” And satan’s already taken our focus off of our gratitude to God for having food.

We’re trying to protect our joy when a friend says something unintentionally hurtful to us, but satan’s already taken our focus off of the blessing of friendship.

We’re trying to protect our hearts so we’re turning down new friendships and potential dates left and right, but satan’s already taken our focus off of giving and directing that love to God.

We’re trying to protect our dreams by not telling anyone about the desire God’s placed in our heart, but satan’s already taken our focus off of the freedom and joy God wanted that dream to give us.

See how it works?

Well, I decided this morning to just get back to my quiet, devotional time. Even when my husband came home 20 minutes later. Even when my sister called a few minutes after that. I just — took my focus back.

See, what we focus on matters. And the enemy knows that. Because one moment of lost focus could cost us all of the abundance God is promising us.

And His abundance, the more He still has for us that is so splendid we can’t even imagine it, is far greater than what the enemy is currently trying to take.

So cut yourself some slack; you’re human. There will be times when you can press in like never before and experience God in new, intimate ways. But there will also be times when you can’t for the life of you cease the torrent of mundane thoughts that race through your mind.

Keep the faith. Keep your focus. God’s got more for you if you’d just focus on Him and not the thief and his wily ways.

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#bepetty for Jesus

Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.

Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.”  But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.

I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task.  But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.

Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon.  Take a few minutes, check it out,  and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.

And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here!  *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated.  Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired  me.

Blessings to you!  I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.

Them Fightin’ Words

The Word of God says:

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/jhn.10.3-5.nlt

As children of God, we’re His sheep. He calls us by name and we follow him…and Him only. It’s a critical goal of our walk – to learn and decipher His voice from the “noise” of life – but we so often fall short. 

In life, so many other things beckon for us and our attention. The enemy wants us to follow the money, or the “in-crowd.”  He wants us to follow what feels right or what the world dictates. Chase that promotion. Chase that girl/guy. Follow that high. Walk this way. 

The enemy calls our names…but we shouldn’t answer. We shouldn’t follow him. In fact, Jesus says (and I’m paraphrasing here, “Nah, son, they with me. I betchu they won’t follow you. Mine is the only voice they know.”

So if our lives are the only God some folks see if. If we know there is a group of folks looking for a reason to discredit our Father and our Savior, when we choose to listen to AND FOLLOW voices that aren’t our Shepherd’s, we’re in effect calling Jesus a liar.

Now, fret not. God’s gon’ get ALL His glory, whether it’s from you and me or not. (Remember those rocks?) But I can’t help but to think…

Who you callin’ a liar?!

I for one don’t want to be responsible for calling my Risen Saviour a liar simply because I couldn’t control my flesh, or because I thought I knew better, or I couldn’t get past what I wanted for what He has ordained. 

Nope. I’m good. Because the last I checked it was the devil who was a liar. See how crafty he is?!

Was That The Right Decision?

Life is a series of experiences bookended by decisions. (Credit me when y’all take that!)

Sometimes our decisions are between two choices or about a circumstance we find ourselves in. And still other times the decision is more simply wherher or not to trust God.

So how do we know when we’ve made the right choice?

LET’S BE CLEAR: it’s ALWAYS the right decision to trust God.

But if you need more guidance, you’ll know that you made the right decision when after praying about it, feeling consistently led to move in a certain direction, and then taking that action, you’re overcome with an indescribable peace. And suddenly, that situation that had been costing you sleep doesn’t anymore.

A peace that’s predicated on faith. Faith that’s founded on a decision to trust the Word of God over the world. And a Word that tells us that ALL THINGS work together for our GOOD.

Sure, you may still have questions about how it’s all going to work out. But HOW is none of our business; that’s God’s domain.

Our concern is only the WHO – God, our Lord and Saviour – whom, once we seek first, has promised to take care of everything else.

Leaving the Closed Doors

Here’s some Friday food for thought…

STOP FIGHTING CLOSED DOORS!

You’re so busy kicking that closed door that you (1) can’t see the one God’s opened behind you or (2) you’ve lost sight of God’s plan choosing instead to pursue things the way YOU think they are supposed to go. 

Here’s how I know:

“A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/pro.18.16.nkjv

See, the Word of God says your gifts will MAKE ROOM for you; not that you’ll have to fight for them.

So if that door ain’t opening, stop trying, start trusting, and put your focus back on God.

Face it, We’re Hypocrites

For everyone with a case of the Mondays today. God gave me this this morning to put the J-O-B in perspective — and to call me out for my hypocrisy.

(And as I write this, knowing there are many other ways that Christians are hypocrites, I reserve the right for this to be the first in a series. Anyway…)

HYPOCRITE, STOP WORRYING!

Oh, God’s your source? Then why is it that every time you need something, or it looks like your bank account is getting thin, you start thinking of ways to make ends meet IN YOUR OWN STRENGTH and using YOUR OWN LOGIC?

The Bible says in Prov 10:22 ESV: “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” And, in the footnotes and some other translations it goes further to say of 10:22b, “And no toil/work adds to it.”

See, your job is an assignment, it isn’t your Source. You can’t work your way wealthy. So do what you were sent to do, get what you were sent to get, and give what you were sent to give.

Tithers, we’ve gotta stop panicking every time our money gets a little funny — or looks like it will be. Considering second jobs, taking on unnecessary side hustles, pursuing the wrong clients, and all kinds of things just to get what God has already promised to provide.

As tithers, Malachi tells us we’re covered, and God’s our Source anyway! It’s our birthright. 

Right?

  

One lie “good” Christians tell

Just a thought I had:

Stop telling people “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.”

That’s not Bible.

The truth is that He WILL put more on us than we can bear. It’s how He grows our faith and trust in Him. If He didn’t strategically and purposefully allow adversity in our lives, we wouldn’t come to know His power for ourselves and then trust Him more and more. And if He didn’t allow situations where we were forced to trust Him, how could we ever come to a place where we could have faith for the “exceedingly abundantly” He’s already promised us?

I mean, how could you trust God for that bill being paid, that job, that car, that house, or that healing if you hadn’t already learned through experiencing Him yourself in your challenges that He’s able?

If He didn’t put more on us than we could bear, we wouldn’t need Him and we certainly wouldn’t need Jesus. Heck, we’d be our own saviors every time.

This is why the Bible says we should rejoice in our weaknesses because it gives God a chance to show Himself strong, to show up and show off on our behalf.

With the things I’m fighting, the things I’ve been through, the things you’re up against and been through, you would have lost your natural mind, maybe even taken your own life BUT for God.

I absolutely believe that God puts more on me than I can bear — not overcome, but bear — because otherwise how will He prepare me for what’s to come? What testimony would I have if I never had to cry out to Him in my dark places? And what kind of faith would I have if I didn’t have to believe — while I sat in those dark places, even as tears streamed — that He’d purposed that moment to bless me only AFTER He guaranteed that the weapon wouldn’t prosper and that I would win, it would all work to my good?

I don’t know who else I’m talking to right now, but know this: you ain’t always gotta be strong. He wants you to let Him be your strength. To grow you, to grow your faith, and to increase your expectation in Him.

God’s got more for you on the other side of this — no matter what your “this” is.

I love you. More importantly, God loves you!

What are you feeding?

Here’s a short thought for the day…

Your FOCUS feeds your FEELINGS. 

If you FOCUS on your faults, flaws, and failures, that will feed you fear, anxiety, helplessness and sadness. 

But when you FOCUS on His face, His presence feeds your faith with joy, peace, patience, and power. 

Choose today, all day and repeatedly throughout the day, to FOCUS on what feeds your FAITH. 

That means repeatedly choosing to look to, rest in, trust and give attention to the problem SOLVER instead of the problem. 

  
Read PSALM 46:1–2 and decide now to let  FAITH FUEL your day today. 

Because though what we face sometimes surprises us, nothing is a surprise to God. He’s already delivered us before the storm erupts. 

He’s FAITHFUL. So feed your faith, and follow Him. He’ll empower you to walk on the very waters the enemy sent to drown you. 

  

Tense Matters

blessed
Photo from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-uZkd0giwfTE/UZHJ7PNVq0I/AAAAAAAAGaM/ujxEWmkQPrc/s1600/blessed.jpg

Psalms 13:5 NLT reads:

But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

As I read and re-read this passage this morning, the thing that really stuck in my Spirit was the tense of the words the author chose.

Preceding verse five, the author was crying out to God, asking Him how long will he endure struggle, imploring our Savior to answer him, to show up.

But then we get to verse five and something amazing happens.  The sense of woe ends sharply and, if we look closely enough, we see a change — not in the author’s circumstances, but in his perspective.

Verse five begins with the word “but.”  The word “but” can play a number of roles in English grammar.  It can be a preposition, an adverb.  However, in this use I believe it’s most important as a conjunction, a word to add together groups of words.  That’s what’s important to note: even though a change is occurring in the author, nothing has changed in his circumstances.  Rather, he’s chosen to use what he’s going through as a part of what’s to come.

Further, any good grammarian will also point out that the use of “but” also signifies that everything before it is now inconsequential in reference to what will follow.

My bills are due and I don’t know how I’m going to pay them, BUT

My body is ill and the doctors say they don’t know what more they can do, BUT

The vision You gave me is too big/expensive/scary and I don’t know if I can accomplish it BUT

They said they’d always be there for me, and they’re gone now that I need them, BUT

It feels like I’m going through this all alone, BUT

The verse goes on, after signaling a change in the author’s perspective to say, “But I trust in your unfailing love.”

“I trust.”  That’s current.  That’s present.  That’s now.  And, following the author’s please for response, and then his decision to shift his focus, “I trust” being present tense tells us that even though all hell was breaking out in this man’s life, the hell didn’t negate his faith.  In essence he’s showing us that even as he’s going through it and doesn’t know how much more he can or even when God will will show up, he still trusts in God’s unfailing love.

The author knows that no matter how badly it hurts, or how uncomfortable what he’s going through is, his circumstances do not affect or reflect the fact that God loves him and that God’s love never fails.  It never falters.  It never doesn’t reach us.  It never judges us.  It never decides to show up today and not tomorrow.  It never abandons us because we’ve sinned or doubted.  God’s love just is.

You need to know that trials and trust are not and should not be mutually exclusive in your life.  They will not be exclusive.  In fact, this scripture shows us that trust in the Lord is ever more important when we’re going through our trials.  That trust is a reminder that we aren’t in it alone, that God still cares, and that He isn’t oblivious to what we’re going through.  Trials and trust in God go hand in hand.

The verse then goes on to say, “I will rejoice because you have rescued me.”

Now this is where it gets really good, where the “but” has shown us that the author’s perspective is changing, and the “I trust” show us what the author’s two conflicting states of mind are, “I will rejoice” shows us a decision.

“Will” is future tense.  It also reflects a decision.  The author, even though he’s going through hell, even though it doesn’t appear that God has reached out to save him, he knows that in spite of his uncomfortable circumstances that God still loves him unfailing. And, as a result of that knowledge, the author decides that he will rejoice.

Right there in the midst of his hell.  

Right there in the midst of his storm, his trial, his going through.  

Right there with the overdrawn bank account.  

Right there with the 100th no call back after applying for a job.  

Right there with the raggedy car that won’t start.  

Right there with the daycare closed and no way for you to watch the kids and go to work.  

Right there with the rent/mortgage being due and no money to pay it.  

Right there with that unreliable friend/partner.

Right there in the midst of those silent cries alone at night.

Right there.

Right.  

There.

Right in the thick of it, the author decides, no matter what it looks like or feels like, I am going to rejoice.  And that’s an important decision because the Bible tells us that when we choose to celebrate in the midst of our adversity it confuses the enemy.

In fact, when I looked at the word “rejoice” in my concordance, I learned this:

  • the original word used here is a Hebrew verb
  • in the Bible it’s used to mean to exult and to be glad
  • Strong’s Concordance goes on to define it as “to spin around (under the influence of any violent emotion)…be glad, joy, be joyful…”

Whoa.  “To spin around under the influence of any violent emotion.” To me, that means that all of the anger, the fear, the frustration, the helplessness, the pain, and every other intense emotion the author was feeling as he cried out to God in the beginning of the chapter was still there.

Even as he decided to change his perspective, he then decided he would force himself to be glad, pouring out all of the negative emotions the enemy wanted to use to oppress and depress him as positive praise for a God that never fails — even, and especially, when hell is breaking out all around us.

Then the verse continues with, “because you have rescued me.”

“Because” is a preposition here.  It’s setting us up to understand why.  Everything that comes after because tells us why the author’s perspective changed and why he forced himself to praise God in the middle of his turmoil.

And why did he, you ask?  “Because you [God] has rescued me.”

Don’t miss that: “rescued” is past tense.

It’s already done.

Before this storm erupted.  Before all hell broke loose.  Before I lost all my money.  Before he or she walked out.  Before the doctor gave me the diagnosis.  Before the bills became due.  Before I lost my job.  Before I cried myself to sleep.

Before it all even happened, God had already rescued you.  He’d already saved you.  He’d already provided.  He’d already blessed you.  He’d already made a way.

Already.  Before.

And get this, once a person or a thing has been rescued, that which threatened them can no longer harm them.

So before you started “going through” God had already seen to it that what you would go through wouldn’t hurt you, couldn’t hurt you.

That means that before the storm even erupted in your life, God had already made you victorious over it.

Already.  Before.

Look, tense matters.  Tense matters in this scripture because it reminds us that everything that happened before we were saved, before we prayed, before we rejoiced, before we decided to worship God is no longer important and never could touch us.

And tense matters because if you’re still overcome with the emotion your circumstances have you feeling, then this scripture is a roadmap to peace.

Tense matters because where you are has no bearing on WHOSE you are or where you WILL be.

Tense matters because if He did it back then.  If He did it before.  He’s the same God, with the same unfailing love.  He WILL show up and show out on your behalf this time, too.

Tense matters because how we choose our thoughts and words dictates whether we remain stuck in a place where we’re telling our God — Who’s already saved us — about our problems, or whether we’ll choose to move to a place where we tell our problems about our God.

Tense matters because we have the God-given authority to change our circumstances, to speak life and death to situations in our lives based solely on the words we speak.

So tense matters.  Because you can be going through forever, or you can choose to celebrate the victory you already had now.

It matters.  It matters to God.  It matters to your storm.  It matters for you.