Bullseye – Encouragement for Today

Several years ago while living in Richmond, Virginia I took a motorcycle safety and riding class in order to get a motorcycle endorsement on my license. The class was pretty informative including the fact that there are probably some people, some of whom were in my class, that shouldn’t be riding motorcycles on  the streets. But, that’s a different story. There was a principle taught in the class that has always stood out to me. They taught that when you’re in a turn on your motorcycle, you don’t look directly in front of you, you look in the direction of the turn where you’re going. Or, to say it in a more simple way, when riding a motorcycle, always look in the direction you want to go. Why? Because you’re always going to tend to go in the direction in which you’re looking.
The same is true in life. Or, I could put it this way. If you want to succeed today and make progress toward where you desire to go in life, it matters where you’re looking. Now, I could talk here about keeping your goals in sight, or keeping your eyes focused on your dreams. Neither of these are bad things. But, the writer of Hebrews tells us of something better on which to keep our eyes locked. He says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) He writes this in the context of running the race of faith and life.
Here’s what I’m saying: if you want to ensure that you’re heading in the right direction today; if you want to make sure you’re making progress in life today, don’t just stay focused on your goals stay focused on THE Prize. This, of course, is Jesus Himself. If you’re focused on Him, you’re always going in the right direction.

Focal Point

Focus
Focus

I’m not much of a photographer, however, like a lot of people I do like to look at a good photograph. I couldn’t tell you what makes a photograph good, I can only tell you when I see it. The only thing I like more than looking at a good photograph is taking one. Fortunately for me, there are cameras these days that do most of the work for you. Automatic settings and focus help non-photographers like me pull off a decent photo every once in a while. For me, it’s pretty much the blind squirrel finding an acorn scenario.

I think the feature that helps the most with my “point and click” is not just the autofocus but my camera automatically locates the focal point. The truth is, unless there’s a focal point, autofocus does little to help.

So it is with the church. The church must have the proper focal point. If it doesn’t then all the focus in the world will amount to nothing. What do you think should be the focus of the church?

Your view of the church growth movement may affect how you answer this question. Also, depending on whether you’re in the vocational ministry or a lay-leader in the church or simply a church attender may make a difference too. However, I fear this question is more commonly answered incorrectly than not. Is church about people, the Great Commission, discipleship, worship services or social justice?

Sure, church should include all these things but none of these should be the focal point of the church. If they are, focus can quickly become attentive to the wrong things.

What, then, should be the ultimate focus of the church?

As I look at the New Testament epistles the answer should be easy. But, how many of our churches, church members and attenders come into “worship” services and programs in our churches and completely miss the focal point? Honestly, it shouldn’t be possible but unfortunately I think it happens all the time.

I could give many, many more references from the Epistles but here are a few to make my point:

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according with the Scriptures…”(1 Corinthians 15:3) Emphasis mine

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…”(2 Corinthians 3:5)

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace…”(Ephesians 2:13-14)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

“….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)

As I said, I could give many more examples but as Paul wrote to the church, he always focused on the centrality, the focal point of Jesus.

All the difficulties we find in the church: division, dissatisfaction, gossip and faded worship are all symptoms of the real problem, Jesus isn’t the focal point.

But, when Jesus is the focal point the fruits are obvious:

1. Authentic, Spirit and Truth worship in the church.

2. Fulfillment of the great commission including the necessity of discipleship.

3. A heart for others that will result in social justice.

4. Unity within the Body. (Remember, Jesus never causes division within His church. If there’s division, it’s not from Him.)

5. Believers who follow Jesus with obedience [to Jesus] that stems from love for Him and His Word. Obedience to Jesus causes the Christian to abide in Him and therefore produce all kinds of good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)

Lord, help us that Jesus may be our focal point, our only focal point. I understand, by that, the rest of your purpose will come into focus. I pray for Jesus to be our focal point, and I pray it starts with me; today.

ReFocus

As I was studying and writing preparing to preach a sermon from Matthew 15, a truth jumped out at me from the text. In Matthew 15:29-31, Matthew records that Jesus, as He did many times, had a large crowd around Him full of people who needed help. I could say it this way, they were people who desperately needed their circumstances changed. This leads me to a question, however. What is the purpose of Jesus changing someone’s circumstances? 

The response of the crowd, after Jesus did all this healing and  circumstance changing was pretty awesome. Matthew records that ” the crowd wondered.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure if I brought a friend to Jesus, or I was the friend who was carried, I would be in some kind of state of bewilderment when Jesus came through and healed. When Jesus changes circumstances like that, it’s always an attention getting act!

But, why is He trying to get our attention. Well, there’s a clue later in that same verse but before I tell you that let me share this truth:

Jesus does not change circumstances simply to get you to look more favorably on your circumstances.

Jesus doesn’t step in and make life better or heal or help financially or answer a prayer that we’ve prayed asking for some kind of possession, (let me make clear that I’m not saying Jesus doesn’t answer those prayers, He does), just to get us to be more satisfied with the world around us. He’s not trying to get you to focus your attention of your stuff, even when it’s stuff He’s provided. So, what is He doing? Here’s a second truth that helps me put this into focus:

You always go in the direction in which your attention is focused.

When Jesus steps in and changes circumstances He does so to get your attention and focus it on something other than your circumstances. Notice what the crowds did when Jesus healed those who came for help, “And the glorified the God of Israel.” The Lord knows, that you will be going in the direction today in which your attention is focused, and He wants you going in His direction!

Where’s your attention focused today? That’ll be the direction that you are heading. I want to encourage you to place your focus fully on God, not your circumstances whether they’re good or bad. When your attention is on God alone, you’ll always be heading in the right direction!