Focus On The Main Thing

In educational circles, the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder gets a lot of attention—and so it should. If a child cannot focus his/her attention, he/she will struggle to learn.

A similar principle applies as we seek to follow Jesus as individuals and as a congregation. It is easy to be distracted by the myriad of things that are required of us, and so we often have difficulty focusing on what is most important.

The author of Hebrews offers a most helpful antidote in this regard: “Let us run the race set before us with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of (our) faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

The original Greek suggests turning away from things that are distracting in order to focus on Jesus. The sense is that we cannot effectively follow Him while looking in multiple directions. If you have ever watched elite athletes run the 100 metre dash, you understand what the author of Hebrews is getting at. The best way to run a race is to fix your sight on the finish line. Looking around you will slow you down.

Likewise, the follower of Jesus maximizes his progress by fixing his attention on Jesus.

On July 25, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk, I delivered a message (listen to the audio below) on this text urging the congregation I serve to focus on what matters most. I asserted that if Christ was to be of any benefit to us, He needed to be more than a Sunday thing. I implored the congregation here to make following Jesus the centre of their focus while providing some suggestions as to how we can do this.

This isn’t simply a case of setting aside “bad things” for Jesus. Fixing our eyes on Him may require diminishing our attention to some very good and noble things in order to better focus on Jesus, “the main thing”.

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The Mission Is Huge

The island of New Providence is just a shade under 80 square miles, and while it is one of the smaller islands in the Bahamas it is the largest (by far) in terms of population. I have only lived here for two and a half months, but with each passing week I am gaining a greater sense of the need of the people here—it is massive.

Last week I was able to meaningfully connect with two of the missions on this island. On Thursday, I drove out to the All Saints Aids Camp to tour their facilities and to meet those ministering to the people there. One volunteer described the camp as “a modern day leper colony”—a group of people that society doesn’t know how to cope with. These people are not unwell enough to require hospitalization, but they are not healthy enough to reasonably care for themselves. The camp is in a fairly remote area of the island and cannot be seen from a main road. I might have never heard of the Aids Camp if it weren’t for the fact that a bus load of U.S. volunteers working at the camp showed up at the Kirk a few Sundays ago.

A ministry from the United States, Next Step Ministries, has been sending down teams of volunteers all summer long. These groups have built two new cabins, repaired the “bath house”, and have rebuilt one of the concrete walkways. In addition to the very practical assistance Next Step has provided, these missionaries have also been a loving and caring presence to a group of people with emotional and spiritual needs.

As the summer season closes out, the work of the Aids Camp is largely left to a U.S. missionary couple, and a few paid administrators. I understand that the Aids Camp already has a couple of connections to local congregations, but I’m hoping and praying that at least one more connection can be made.

This past Saturday I had my second visit to Ranfurly Homes—a residence that provides a safe, structured environment for children who have been orphaned, abused, neglected or abandoned. I’m just getting to know the children there, but my intention is for my support to be long term. On Saturday, we mostly played basketball—what a delight it was to do this, and to see how playing sports can offer a boost to a child’s joy and self-esteem. The age of the boys playing ranged from 10 to 18, so this old pastor thought it made sense to try and cover the 18 year-old. Turns out that I chose poorly as this “kid” is a bit of a phenom. He dunked over me once, which was one part impressive and one part terrifying.

I recognize that my effectiveness in these contexts is diminished unless I make myself a regular an reliable presence in these children’s lives. I want to do that. I recall that James says in his letter, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

God cares about the most vulnerable, and so should I. But I also realize that I ought not to act alone. I need to think about meaningful ways to enlist and equip others to share in this work. The mission is huge, but this means that our potential for Gospel impact is also huge.

I am encouraged by the words of Jesus who recognized the immensity of the task at hand when He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2).

I will be praying for this. I will be praying for a new generation of Christ followers to come alongside the most vulnerable, and to offer them the love of Christ and the eternal blessing of His Gospel.

Be Led By Another

Since the launch of standrewskirk.com I have neglected to post my audio messages on this blog. I’ve decided to correct that and to post the audio messages on each site. By posting them here also, I can include a brief introduction to the message……

On July 11, I delivered a message entitled, “Be Led By The Spirit”, based on Romans 8:5-16. The key point is simple: Our thoughts, words, and actions are to be governed by another. We should not live our life according to our instincts or our preferences. As followers of Jesus, we ought to be led by the Spirit of Jesus, in order to be conformed to the will of God.

Conformity to God’s will is not our default position. Nor is this something we come to by following our “gut feelings”. We are conformed to God’s will as we make a choice to live according to God’s Spirit. According to Paul, this is also our “obligation” (Romans 8:12) and provides evidence that we have been truly redeemed and are indeed “Sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

Soul satisfaction comes when we choose to be led by the Spirit of Christ. That is my daily struggle and pursuit. Moreover, I want to be led by the Spirit of Christ so that I can be an effective servant for my Heavenly Father’s kingdom. I want that for you too. Have a listen, and choose to be led by another.

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