Where is your focus?

What do you do with a story that leaves you slack-jawed?

I was faced with this very circumstance while reading Numbers 16 as the earth opened its mouth and swallowed Korah and all of his people from the tribe of Levi. I was shocked with the dramatic and traumatic events of scripture, and wide-eyed to the reasoning behind such an event.

In brief, let me set the stage of Numbers 16 for you. Korah, joined with three others, assembled a co-hort of 250 prominent Israelite men for the purpose of coming against Moses and Aaron. Their accusation? Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves above the assembly of LORD. It seems as though Korah and friends were seeking to not only demean Moses and Aaron, but sought something higher – the priesthood and leadership.

I believe Korah, the ring leader, lost sight of God’s words to his people. “Speak to the entire Israelites community and tell them: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Korah seems to have forgotten that he too was holy, not because of what he did but because he was part of Israel, called to lead a holy and blameless life.

Korah lived during the Israelite wilderness travels and building of the tabernacle. Korah was in the tribe of Levi, from lineage of Levi’s son Kohath. This lineage is important because the Kohathites, Korah’s people, were entrusted with transporting the most holy objects as the tabernacle was moved from place to place. (Numbers 4:1-20) Korah would have been among the few Israelites granted access to come near the holy objects for purpose of transport. Perhaps this opened a door of temptation to priesthood. It seems as though Korah became blinded by the discontented and prideful desire of more.

Pride and discontentment are desires that can grow like a dangerous reef under the surface of our mind and soul. Our unfocused eyes gradually becoming clouded, as our attention turns toward being elevated in power and prestige. Scripture is clear, we are to seek God above all else. According to Colossians 3:1-4, that looks like keeping our minds set on Christ.

With our minds focused and set fully on Christ, we can experience a contentedness that is not lazy but one that is secure and at peace resting in the Lord. As a Christ-follower, how are we able to be content with Him rather than chasing power? How can we hold our gaze on Jesus?

Perhaps a couple of ways we can be contently focused on Christ is with a heart full of gratitude. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:4) Am I praising God for my own good, or because He is good? Praise can help to check our focus.

We can seek to serve, rather than to be served. If you are a woman, serving others may be or seem to be your full-time job. That being said, why are you serving? Is it out of obligation? Or, is it from a sincere desire to serve the Lord through serving others? As Jesus spoke to a crowd in Matthew 23, he said, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11) In going to the cross, Jesus modeled servanthood to the highest form.

Let us not seek to satisfy our own pride, but rather to be satisfied by God. Over the coming days, would you join me in memorizing Colossians 3:2 as a way to guard our hearts for God and be satisfied by him? Also, perhaps you would share below how you guard yourself against those temptations Korah faced.

For further reflection, read through Numbers 16. But, let us stay focused on Jesus, keeping our minds set on the eternal.

With gratitude,

Amy

Colossians 3_2
Background photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Advertisements

Bearing Fruit and Growing

Everyone likes to bear fruit, and be the recipient of fruit produced in season. There’s nothing better than a fresh picked peach in the height of summer or crisp apple when the cool fall arrives. Our berry farm is meant to bear fruit throughout the heat of summer. And just like fruit born in appropriate seasons, our lives are meant to do the same. That being said, it can be hard to not strive to produce the whole fruit bowl at once.

Spiritually speaking, we are told that we will bear fruit and we are called to do so. I believe there’s more to simply being focused on bearing fruit. Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “…so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:10 (ESV, emphasis mine)

Paul was specifically talking to the church in Colossae about the gospel’s effect in their lives, and his words are easily applicable to us today. Walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord, bearing fruit and growing. I appreciate the order in which Paul presents these things, bear fruit and continue in growth. We can have a tendency to want to bear fruit, but perhaps forget to continue growing once fruit has been born. In order to continue bearing fruit, there must be continued growth. We aren’t called to be corn plants, growing rapidly to produce a crop for harvest and then die. I believe that as eternal beings, we are called to continue bearing fruit for harvest and grow – a perpetual process.

Familiarity with the Word may bring to mind what kind of fruit we are to limitlessly produce. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

How then shall we grow it? According to our verse in Colossians, we are to grow in the knowledge of God. The Greek word being used here for knowledge is ĕpignōsis, it denotes the idea of recognition, acknowledgment, full discernment, and to become fully acquainted with.[i] We aren’t being asked to become know-it-alls, knowing everything the Creator of heaven and earth knows, but rather to fully know Him. Recognize Him, acknowledge His ways, movements, and characteristics.

One of the most powerful and active ways we can grow in knowledge of the Lord is having an active encounter with His living Word on daily basis. God begins revealing His character in the first line of scripture, and he doesn’t let up until the last.

We have the free will to choose a relationship with God through His Word. Those Spirit-inspired words can be the water, fertilizer, and Son-shine the seed of the gospel message needs to grow in our heart and mind. We are called to both bear fruit and grow. If we are stunted spiritually, after a while the fruit will no longer come forth.

Let’s have some dialogue on how God is revealing his character, so that together we may grow in knowledge and understanding of Him. What characteristic of God has been most real to you this week?

Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 2.05.25 PM
Photo by Katherine Chase on Unsplash

[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 31). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Rooted In Faith

There are several trees in our yard, some we planted and some inherited with the house. One particular tree was inherited  – a scraggly little oak. It was pitiful. The deer had used it as a buck rub for multiple seasons, several branches mangled and torn. It wouldn’t seem to grow, staying the same size for six or seven years. At one point, I seriously considered taking my little hand saw to it; put it out of its misery.

Then one year, it started to grow.

This little, scraggly oak tree has grown to become one of the nicest trees in our yard. It’s gotten rather large, and now holds a lovely shape. Gabe and I frequently stand in awe of its growth and maturity, in what seems like such a short period of time. Grateful that I never took that saw to its trunk, it serves as a reminder of possibility and the importance of a sure foundation.

For years, I didn’t see any growth; but it was there. Hidden deep in the earth, this awkward little oak had been growing what was necessary to sustain outward fruit and vegetation. The fruit is pretty great, and well worth the wait. We don’t get juicy peaches from its branches but acorns for critters, strong limbs for climbing kiddos, and cool shade for picnics. Now, this oak easily withstands heavy winds and rain because it is deeply rooted with a sure foundation.

For me, this tree has displayed what is necessary for each of us – to grow first in the secret. Our roots in faith are there to anchor and hold, creating that firm foundation so that we aren’t driven and tossed about by the wind. Those faith roots are vital for taking up the necessary nutrients for spiritual growth, maturity, and fruit production.

It is known that for most trees, what you can visually see in size and mass above ground is mimicked below ground in the root system. In our fast-paced and immediacy driven society, we often want to produce fruit immediately. That can easily be a desire of our flesh. The sweetest fruit often takes time, God’s time. God’s timing is not our own; His can happen in the blink of an eye or take decades in our human understanding. We desire that fruit of the Spirit, which is a good and noble desire. In that desire, we must first also desire and be willing to allow our roots to go deep in Christ, taking the necessary time.

It’s easy to accept Jesus in faith, and stop there. But I firmly believe our Creator is one of growth and expansion. We are not meant to sit stagnant and unchanged, like the homely oak tree in our backyard seemed to have done for so many years.

Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)

Those deep roots are developed in the secret with Christ through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. It’s imperative that we not settle for stagnant. Even when I don’t feel closeness and growth with the Lord, I can know He is near and always active. And that knowing only comes from spending time in the secret with my Creator, in His Word. It’s where we grow our roots down deep in the truth of Jesus. For that, I am grateful.

How are you continuing to be rooted and built up in the faith of Christ Jesus? Fruit will come – that’s a promise.

oak-tree.png
“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)