Appropriate Power of ‘Kingdom Resources’

Appropriate Power Of ‘Kingdom Resources’

Chapter Four

Appropriate Power Of 'Kingdom' Resources
The Focus Of Life 62 A Forgiven Past 70
Where Your Focus Should Not Be 64 A Settled Present 72
How To Focus On The Kingdom 66 A Promised Future 74
Living Fully In Christ 68 Discussion Questions 76

Luke 12:22-34

The Focus Of Life

Several years ago my wife and I led a ministry team composed of sixteen college and career young adults around the world. Because I wanted a record of the ministry that we would be doing, and pictures of some of the sights we would be seeing, I took along a very good camera. Among the places visited would be two of the seven Wonders of the World, the pyramids in Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India. Since I took what I thought were pretty good pictures of these places and events, you can imagine how excited I was when I took the film to be developed. You can also imagine my disappointment when I received the pictures and found that most of them were out of focus and fuzzy. Later I found the answer to what had caused this. A colleague of mine had used the camera on a previous trip and had dropped it on the lens. This, of course, jammed the mechanism so that sometimes it operated properly and sometimes it didn't. Some of the pictures were alright, but most of them weren't.

In life there may be many jarring circumstances which get us out of focus. The grit and grime of sin will also do it. But often our spiritual camera gets out of focus because of neglect or other things receiving our attention.

Photographers tell me that every picture should have a focus. So should every life! Focus means "center of interest." The center of interest of a picture may be a person, a building, an animal, a tree or anything toward where the attention is drawn.

We all have a "center of interest." It is where we focus our energy, our activity and our time. The dictionary definition of focus is "a central point of attraction, attention and activity." The question that faces us in today's devotional is, "Where is your focus?" What has your attraction, attention or activity? What is your center of interest?

If we are to live fully in this new century our focus must be on kingdom of heaven. That is what Jesus teaches in the lesson today. Jesus says that we must put our attention and activity upon his kingdom because he must be the central attraction of our lives. When we don't focus on the kingdom of heaven we are out of focus. And if our focus is unclear, fuzzy or cluttered with trying to focus on too many things, we will miss what God has for us. We must also remember that Jesus is the only one who can make kingdom living possible, He alone has the power to bring all of life into focus.

So right now, in prayer and reflection, open your heart to the Holy Spirit as you consider, "where is my focus?"

"Lord God, I confess I sometimes let my life get out of focus. Today I pray, 'Search me, oh God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any

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offensive (out of focus!) way in me and lead me in the way everlasting' (Psalm 139:23- 24)."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I desire more than anything else that Christ and his kingdom will be my focus in life.

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Luke 12:1-31

Where Your Focus Should Not Be

When our children were young our family traveled to Pennsylvania for a church family camp. It had been a long day and the travel on that back road was boring. While I was driving, my young son from the back seat pointed out something to the left. I looked to where he had suggested and concentrated on it. Consequently, I did not see the car that stopped on the highway in front of us. Though no one was seriously hurt, our car was disabled as it plowed into the back of the stopped car. This is what happens when our focus is in wrong places.

In our lesson today Jesus mentions three things about where our focus should not be. The first is that we should not focus on showing off spiritually (vss. 1-3). This happens when we want to appear better than we are, doing religious activity to get attention, or by seeking places of power in the church. Jesus had some of the strongest words for the strictest people. He condemned the religious leaders because they concentrated on keeping rules and regulations. There is no place for pride in the Christian life. Our works do not count for salvation. We are to be humble and authentically transparent persons.

We live in a culture which is saturated with "wanting" and "getting." Success is measured by how much money we make or how much we possess. The temptation is to climb this ladder of success the world sets up. And we can get caught up in this spirit. So Jesus says we're not to focus on material things in life (vss. 15-21). The lie is given to the bumper sticker that reads, "He who has the most toys wins." I believe it was Billy Graham who said, "I've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul!" We can't take our possessions with us, and we also discover they do not fill the longing in our hearts. When the focus is on the kingdom of things it is on the wrong things!

Finally, Jesus says we're not to focus on the cares of this life (vss. 22-31). I suspect this speaks to many of us. I know it does to me. It is legitimate to be aware of our needs, but they're not to be the focus of life. Jesus says we're not to worry about food or clothes. But there are other things that we fuss over as well. Many people are caught up in worrying about their children, their work, their finances and even their aches and pains. Here Jesus uses a very descriptive word, "fussing." We know when children are fussing. How about adults who worry; complain and fuss? "If God can take care of the birds and flowers can't he take care of you who are more valuable then they?" Jesus asks. Then he declares, "Your Father knows that you need such things. But seek first his kingdom, and these things will be given you as well."

"Lord Jesus, I admit that I often get my focus on the wrong things. It is so easy to want things I don't need, and to get caught up in 'the cares of life.' Forgive me Lord! Help

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me trust you for everything I need, knowing that you care for me. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I will keep my focus off the wrong things and put it on that which is eternally important.

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Luke 12:27-34

How To Focus On The Kingdom

Self-help books and "How To" manuals are best sellers in today's society. People want to know what they can do to make life better, have better health, get a better job, become more attractive, and the list could go on and on. The same is true for the spiritual life. You and I want to know if it really works. If focusing upon the Kingdom of God is as important as Jesus says in verse 31, then we want to know how to do it. In the scripture today Jesus gives four clues.

The first suggestion is to re-order, or to refocus on the important priorities of life (verses 31-34). You probably think you have too much to do. We all have our plate of life full of activities and responsibilities. The answer is not more time, but the wise use of the time we have. In conversation with a professional photographer about composition of pictures, he described what he called, "selective focus." Many things may be worthy of attention in a picture, but only one should be selected. This is true in life as well. There may be many things demanding our attention but only one is important at that moment. We need to periodically consider if we are making the Kingdom of Heaven a priority and giving it the attention it deserves. I know I am happiest when I keep the priorities God has given me.

The second is to simply relax in the Son! Trust yourself to God (verses 27-28). What do you fuss over? Why worry? A' doctor friend told me that approximately 85% of the patients he sees are there because of worry. Most things we worry about never happen! Relaxing in Christ begins with relinquishment, letting go and letting God. Richard Foster likens spiritual relinquishment to the old Nestea ad which features a man standing near a swimming pool on a hot day with a glass of frosty ice tea in his hand. Then he sips the tea, falls backward into the pool and exclaims "Ah!" Are you there spiritually?

Next, Jesus says, is to respond to what God is doing in your life (verses 29-31). You see, God is initiating his will for you. "For it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). What is God trying to accomplish in your life? Are you responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?

The last suggestion is to receive what God is giving you (verses 32-34). Jesus admonishes you not to be so taken up with getting so that you miss God's giving! In fact he wants to give you the very Kingdom itself! The truth is that Jesus is "Kingdom come." When you have the fullness of Jesus in your life you have the Kingdom of Heaven. I know God has great things in store for you. Reach out in faith and claim the promises he offers, take them and act on the grace given you.

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"Lord Jesus, you have called me to follow you, forsaking other things that would distract me. Help me to constantly seek your will for my life. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace I will seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, believing that everything else I need will be mine as well.

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Romans 14:17-18

Living Fully In Christ

A popular song in my youth was "Let Me Live, Live, Live Until I Die." On the surface it sounded pretty stupid, for we all live until we die. But that was not the emphasis; what the song suggested was that we are to live life fully until we die. Now, it was the right idea, but the wrong emphasis. We are enjoined by God not to "live it up", but to "live it out"!

People today was feverishly attempting to prolong life, to find the fountain of youth. But to the Christian our objective is not only to be "the years of our life", but "the life in our years"! Even a short life can be filled with blessing and make an impact for Christ. Remember, Jesus said, "I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

As a pastor I sat in the living room of a parishioner who poured out her grief and disappointment. Plans had been made for what she and her husband would do when he retired soon from his job. As he neared that day, he took ill and died. Now all their carefully laid plans lay in ashes at her feet. Through her tears, she looked up at me and said, "Take time to live… we waited too long." How sad!

If we are to live and not merely exist, we must focus on Christ and his Kingdom. And he makes that possible. Eugene Peterson in The Message has put today's scripture into contemporary English as follows:

"God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you." (Underlining mine.)

When I read these words (as I was having my devotions) they really gripped me. Christ alone can make me righteous and give me peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He died to give me life and he lives to help me live my life fully. That day I penned in my Personal Journal this great affirmation: "By God's grace, I will not let the past bind me, the present unsettle me; or the future intimidate me."

This is made possible only by God's grace, not my works. And it does speak to my past, my present and my future. In any of these situations I could be thrown out of balance, and therefore out of focus as it relates to the Kingdom of God. But as I put the scripture, especially the underlined words, together with the affirmation, I sensed God speaking to me. Here was a theological basis and some practical instruction on living

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life fully as a Christian. The next few days we will look at this idea more in depth. For today, I encourage you to reflect on the scripture and the following prayer and affirmation.

"Lord, with your help may I fully live all the days of my life for You. Help me understand how I can do it. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "By God's grace, I will not let the past bind me, the present unsettle me, or the future intimidate me."

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Jeremiah 31:31-34; Philippians 32:12-16

A Forgiven Past

A godly woman over 50 years of age came to me, her pastor, for counseling. She was so bound and crippled by her childhood experiences that she could barely function. Because she needed more expert counsel than I could give she was referred to a Christian counselor. Several weeks later that counselor called suggesting the three of us meet in my office for prayer. I will never forget that day when this woman was miraculously delivered from her childhood bondage. She experienced what many have called a "healing of the memories."

Today there seems to be a great emphasis upon memory and memory training. But just as important as good memory is a good forgettery! We're not to forget all the past, but rather those things that keep us from living fully in the present. We are to forget the past that paralyzes the present. This we can do by God's grace. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13, "Forgetting what is behind…"

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was asked by a governor at a convention: "What is the greatest thing in the world?"

"Well, Governor, suppose you tell me," countered Dr. Peale.

And he did. He said deliberately: "The greatest thing in the world is that you can walk away from your yesterdays."

We can too! And we must. We can walk away from our hurts, our resentments, our heartaches and failures. Dwelling on the mistakes or the problems of the past will only make us ineffective in our Christian walk today.

Louisa Fletcher Tarkington expresses the longing of most of us in one of her poems: "So I wish there were some wonderful place called The Land of Beginning Again, where all our mistakes and all our heartaches and all our poor selfish grief could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, and never put on again."

This is made possible through Calvary. The Atonement of Christ has made us righteous; that is; right with God. "It's what God does with your life when he sets it right…" (Romans 14:17, The Message). We are no longer separated in our relationships: we're right with God, self and others.

A question every Christian needs to ask occasionally is this: "Am I presently bound by anything in the past which keeps me from being a victorious Christian in the present?" As you read this you may sense your need for a "healing of the memories." If so, confess

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your old wounds, and let Christ dress them. Take the hurts, the disappointments, the shattered hopes and dreams and let him set it right! What a wonderful thing it is to have a past that is forgiven!

"Dear Lord, I confess that I have often held on to some hurt, failure, loss or grief in the past when I should have let you take it. Forgive and heal me, I pray, so that I can be victorious today. Thank you, Jesus. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I will not let the past bind me, because I am right before God.

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Psalms 23:1-6; Luke 12:22-26

A Settled Present

Someone sent me the following prayer bye-mail: "Dear God, so far today I have done all right. I have not gossiped. I have not lost my temper. I have not been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, proud or overindulgent. I am very thankful for that… but in a few minutes God I'm going to get out of bed!"

The problem of living generally occurs when we start the day. I often face situations in life where it is easy to experience stress, get out of balance, upset, obsessed, or even depressed. You may be facing health problems, a move, the loss of job, fractured relationships, or some other troubling thing.

Recently I was talking with an elderly gentleman, a retired pastor. He shared with me how he was feeling somewhat depressed. Knowing his situation, I reminded him that he had within the last few months lost his wife, a son, and a brother-in-law by death. In addition he had retired from his part-time ministry job and was also experiencing severe health problems. I said, "You would be right at the top of a stress scale!" He had reason to be slightly depressed! Many experiences of life, especially crises and trauma, really get us unsettled, out of balance.

It is during times like these that we must remember Who is in charge. God is at work in this present situation for our good and his glory. I remember a woman in my first pastorate who faced several situations like this. She was a widow whose only son was in the Army overseas. She often testified in church, "The Lord and I are a majority!" She realized that even in unsettling circumstances God was with her in a special way.

She may have also been the one who met a friend on the street one day and asked, "How are you?"

"Oh, all right under the circumstances," replied her friend.

To which this godly woman responded, "God doesn't want you under the circumstances; he wants you on top of them!"

Christ made it possible for us to be on top of every unsettling circumstance and bewildering happening. The one who created the world out of chaos, can take the broken pieces of every situation and make us whole. It is our Lord who "puts it together"! (Romans 14:17, The Message). We can trust him to know what is best and to keep us in his care. And to the storms of life, whether within or from without, Christ speaks, "Peace, be still!"

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If you are experiencing anything unsettling just now, put it in the hands of the One who cares for you. The fruit of righteousness is peace, the peace Christ came to give. Read and meditate on the following prayer and affirmation. Let Christ speak to you.

"Dear Lord, remind me that you love and care. In every unsettling circumstance, may your peace flood my confused mind. Your presence makes the present situation one I can handle by your grace. In Jesus' Strong Name, Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I will not let the present unsettle me, for God puts it together, and I am at peace.

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Matthew 6:34, James 4:13-17

A Promised Future

The future can be pretty intimidating especially as one grows older. In our world there are health problems and diseases. The environment with hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and global warming is a concern. Then there is the economy; inflation can erode savings, and there is always the possibility that Social Security and Medicare will go bankrupt. It is easy to begin worrying about what's going to happen tomorrow. So what is a person to do?

In the comic strips "Peanuts", Linus observes to Charlie Brown, "I guess it's wrong always to be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today."

Charlie Brown replies, "No, that's giving up. I'm still hoping yesterday will get better!"

Sometimes neither yesterday nor tomorrow gets better. There seem to be too many problems facing us. When we don't see much of a future we become anxious, fret and worry.

The story is told of a poor, anxiety-prone person who didn't have enough faith to go to church. Instead, he went to a fortune teller, who told him, "In your future, I see poverty, bad luck and failure, until you reach the age of 40.

To which the person asks, "Then what?"

The fortune teller looked at him and said, "Oh, after that, you'll get used to it."

But we don't "get used to it." What we need is a word of hope. We need to hear the word of the Lord speaking to us about our future. Jeremiah 29:19 promises: "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." It is not a trite statement to say, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future!" We are in good hands with God the Creator and Sustainer.

I have no crystal ball to see what the future holds for you or for me, but I know that it will be better than all of our yesterdays, for in God the best is yet to be! Our confidence is in a God who has proved himself over and over again. That is the reason Jesus reminds us our Father knows what we need; "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow…"

Whatever the future holds we will be surprised by joy. I know that I will not only make it, but I will make it with victory. God will help me to complete my journey with joy,

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and that step begins tomorrow. That tomorrow, whatever it holds, is promised by God. I can count on that! And so can you.

"Lord, sometimes I get anxious about tomorrow. I can't see the future, and sometimes it looks bleak. Please forgive me, and help me to trust you and your promises. I want to complete my journey with joy. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I will not let the future intimidate me, for God will complete my journey with joy.

– Robert A. Crandall –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Can you think of a 'jarring circumstance' (troubling personal experience) which caused your life to "get out of focus" (for a short or a more lengthy time)? When a person (Christian) sins, is one of the consequences an "out-of-focus" view of life? Does "preoccupation" with life's legitimate concerns and daily responsibilities and stressful relationships tend to take your (Christian) life "out of focus"? What 'steps' have you taken (i.e., what disciplines have you personally exercised) to keep your life "in focus", during times of crisis or change?

  2. As a believer, where is your 'focus'? What has your attention, attraction, or activity? To what do you commit much of your time and energy and concentration of thought? What is your 'center of interest'?

  3. According to Luke 12:22-34, what should be the 'focus' of your life, your 'center of interest'?

  4. Do you think that Christians sometimes appear to be better than they really are, that they sometimes do religious activity to get attention from others, that they sometimes seek places of power in the church? (Note Luke 12:1-3)

  5. Why do you think that Jesus often 'condemned' many of the religious leaders of His day? (Note Matthew 5:20; Matthew 23:1-33)

  6. Have you (as a believer) learned to 'restrain yourself" from worrying about the basic concerns of your life (such as food, clothes, children, job, finances, physical health), and instead 'focus' on God and God's Kingdom and Church (the Body of Christ)? (Note Luke 12:22-31)

  7. Have you (as a Christian) learned to respond positively to God's 'grace initiatives', to reach out in faith and claim the promises which God offers to you? What would a 'prayer of relinquishment' mean to you and do for you? Is "Christianity" primarily a 'legal code of laws' and 'moral demands', or is "Christianity" primarily an offer of forgiveness and new life, with a 'reservoir of divine resources' for victorious (supernatural) living?

  8. Have you ever known a person who experienced many "damaged emotions" from past hurts (abuses), whose life and whose memories were miraculously and divinely healed?

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  9. Is it possible for you legitimately (and justly) to walk away from your past hurts and resentments and heartaches and failures and mistakes and sins? If so, how? When is it 'right' and when is it 'wrong' for you to 'forget' your past mistakes and sins? Is it possible for you to be 'right' in your relationships with yourself, with others, and with God? How?

  10. Are you presently 'bound' by anything in the past which keeps you from being a victorious Christian in the present? Have you personally experienced a "healing of the memories"? Are you willing to surrender all of your past (with both its successes and failures) to Almighty God?

  11. When you are experiencing times of great stress and heartaches and losses, does meditation on the great God of love and wisdom and power help you to regain proper 'perspective' and 'balance' and 'motivation for living'? Share a time in your life when, amidst the 'night of your soul', you experienced the light of God's comforting and cheering presence. (Note Romans 8:28) Have you ever noticed (realized) that, during life's most unsettling circumstances (like the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, or the relocation of a dear friend, or the loss of personal health), God was with you in a very special way?

  12. Share you personal response (i.e., your inner thoughts and emotions) to the following words from the verse of a famous hymn:

    "When through the deep waters I call thee to go, 
    The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; 
    For I will be with thee thy trials to bless, 
    And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."

    (How Firm A Foundation)

  13. Does it give you 'comfort' and 'encouragement' to know that God is a "sympathizing God", because He understands the 'state of your earthiness' as a human being and that He has promised to sustain and to strengthen you during your severe trials and temptations? (Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-18; Psalm 103:8-14; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Jude 1:24-25)

  14. When you find yourself beginning to worry about the future (and about the many possible 'calamities' and 'losses' of the future), what should you do? (Note Matthew 6:33-34)

  15. As you face an "unknown future", what reassuring words of hope are given to you by God in Jeremiah 29:19? Tell why you, as a follower of Christ, can declare with confidence: "I know that I will not only make it to the end of my earthly journey, but that I will make it with victory!" Have you known any committed

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  16. Christian who, as he or she was dying, manifested 'joy and peace and assurance' in the 'face of death'? (Note Psalm 23:4)

  17. Tell what the following popular statement (from a song) means to you: "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future!"

  18. Share your personal response (i.e., your inner thoughts and emotions) to the following words from the verse of a famous hymn:

    "Even down to old age all my people shall prove 
    My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love; 
    And when hoary hairs shall their temple adorn, 
    Like lambs, they shall in my bosom be borne."

    (How Firm A Foundation)

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