The Constant Battle: Who (or What) is Demanding Our Attention?

by: Charles Bryan

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“Are we giving due time to devotion with our Heavenly Father?”

So often, we can be influenced so easily by external things. For instance, our time, money, job, television, and social media dictate so many of our decisions and actions. The question then becomes "are we giving due time to devotion with our Heavenly Father for Him to be our greatest influence."

Our daily duties too frequently demand our attention and take our focus away from spending daily time with the Lord. The hustle and bustle of the day comes, we get busy, and time with God gets forgotten. In a given week, I have committed myself to my job, classes, 5 hour round-trip commutes multiple times a week, and studying so I can get that "A" I so desperately desire. I'm also committed to a local church to counsel students in the ministry and preach at youth group. Not to mention, I have an 18-year-old son, Trent, who needs my time as well.  If you're like me, this is just scratching the surface of what could potentially demand my attention this week.  

I get it. We are all busy.

I have to be very proactive in accomplishing my goals and tasks for the week. Four ways I successfully handle these commitments & responsibilities are as follows:

1. DEVOTE MYSELF TO PRAYER

Prayer and devotion are so important! I have learned my day is not complete without it. In Philippians 4:6, Paul states,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (NKJV)

Without prayer, I cannot let God know what I am requesting and what I need help in, especially when life can be overwhelming. Naturally, I tend to overdo it. Spending time in God's Word brings a lot of perspective and allows the Holy Spirit to be in control of my entire life. Being diligent in prayer and petition allows me to submit further to His will for my day. In my devotion time, I write about the day ahead and the truths God has revealed to me in the past. When I do this consistently, I am always surprised at how much better my day is with a refreshed spirit.

Spending time with Jesus through prayer and devotion will give you peace even in demanding seasons when stress is high and life seems unmanageable. 

2. PRIORITIZE MY DUTIES

I often find myself at a standstill when it comes to my priorities. I want to give everything I do priority, but that is just unrealistic. In prioritizing, it is beneficial for me to ask these questions:

Is it beneficial for me today or can it wait?
Have I prayed about it?
Can I realistically accomplish everything on my list in that day or that week?

Setting realistic goals in your daily duties and surrendering your to-do's to Jesus will center your heart and your tasks on Him.

3. KNOW WHEN TO SAY "NO"

How do we say "no"? This is something I struggle with mightily. I am a people pleaser and have this idea that I need to be everything for everyone. This has caused me to become burned out and carry unnecessary burdens. Knowing how to effectively say "no"  - even to meaningful or spiritually enriching opportunities -  allows you to stay in your lane, avoiding distractions and detours, in order to pursue His calling on your life with excellence. Hebrews 12:1-3 says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners, such hostility against himself, so that you will not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Hebrews tells us if we keep Him in the center of it all, then we can do many things. However, when we don’t keep Him as our focus and begin to say "yes" to too much, it can weigh us down and cause many problems. We must keep our focus on Him and pray continually about all things.

4. BE THANKFUL FOR EVERYTHING

Finally, we must be thankful for all the Lord has given us.  I am preaching to myself here. We must take hold of the things we have been called to do and give them our very best. Colossians 3:17 states,

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

So give it your best today, and may we all be controlled by the Spirit and be thankful in our labor. He deserves our very best and others do too!


About the Author: Charlie Bryan is from Live Oak, FL. After being called into ministry two years, he began pursuing a Bachelors in Ministry Studies at the Baptist College of Florida. Charlie is an active member of Mt. Olive Baptist Church and serves as a youth leader and Sunday School teacher. 

Most recently, Charlie joined Clayton King’s Coaching Network. He is a man willing to do whatever is necessary to see the Gospel spread.

For more information:

Follow Charlie on Instagram: @swamp1998 and on Facebook: /charlie.bryan.75

Experience vs. Exposure

This is a very religious nation of ours, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Not always.

Because of our freedom to choose to believe in something or nothing, which was the God-inspired genius of those men who framed our little governing document called the Constitution, religion has flourished in our democracy. Actually, only one religion has flourished. All the others have had the chance, but none has found the privileged place that Christianity has. Setting all debates aside concerning whether or not we ever were a Christian nation, no one with a lick of common sense would argue that all the other religious groups, sects or cults combined could rival the numbers or the influence of the religion of Christianity. This brings me to my question…

Have most professing American Christians been EXPOSED to the RELIGION of CHRISTIANITY or have they EXPERIENCED the REALITY of CHRIST? The difference between these two is staggering.

Exposure to the religion of Christianity is something that we all have in common. Exposure comes in all flavors and forms. Vacation Bible School as a kid. A sleepless night tuned into a TV preacher on a local cable access channel. A CNN special on The Evangelicals and politics. Seeing Billy Graham address the nation at the National Cathedral after September 11. A Switchfoot song played over the speakers during a meal at Chic-Fil-A. All of these things expose the individual to elements of the Christian religion, and in a nation such as ours, we can expect this type of exposure to continue.

But when someone confuses Exposure with Experience, the results are not just devastating. They are deadly. Eternally.

Experience Him for yourself. Taste and see that He is good.

Experiencing the reality of Christ brings more than feelings of religious liberty or even a sense of goodness. One can be Exposed to facts about abortion, stories about how long Noah’s ark was, testimonials of deliverance from addiction or voting habits of Baptists in Tennessee, and never once personally Experience the breath-taking grace of God.

It’s like this. My entire life I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. It became an obsession. My Exposure to the Grand Canyon began in books I read in elementary school. The pictures mesmerized me. Then later I watched specials on PBS where they actually showed videos of it; covered in snow, during thunderstorms, people hiking to the bottom. I had taken everyone else’s word on how magnificent it was. But until I Experienced it for myself, it was just a shadow and a rumor.

In 1994, I drove to Arizona with two good friends, and when I got my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon from our moving vehicle, I nearly hyper-ventilated. When I stood atop the edge of the North Rim and let the breeze hit me in the face off the Colorado river, I was ruined. 24 hours and 15 miles later, I had my sore, blistered feet submerged in those icy cold waters. Every day for the next two years, that giant hole in the ground called me back until the summer of 1996 when I rafted the upper half of the Grand Canyon. It still was not enough. I returned in 2000 with my new wife. We hiked the South Rim and rafted the lower half. And I have been back 5 times since 2000. The Experience surpassed the Exposure.

Exposure to something great is not the same as Experiencing it for yourself. Hearing the stories of Jesus does not mean you believe them to be true. You will never know how good Jesus is until you quit looking at pictures of Him, watching movies about Him, and listening to others talk about Him. Until you Experience His grace, He is nothing more than a shadow and a rumor. No matter how much Exposure you’ve had in this religion-saturated culture we live in.

Exposure to something to great is not the same as experiencing it for yourself.

Don’t take my word for it. Experience Him for yourself. Taste Him and see that He is good. The real Jesus is even better than the stories and the pictures.

The Fireman and the Fire

by: Joshua Gardner

"Why do you speak to the people in parables?" - The disciples

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"For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them."  - Jesus

Sunshine City is renowned for its delicious fast food, its decadent malls, its trendsetting people, and gargantuan fire academy schools. These academies offered state of the art training and coaching and qualifications needed for being a pro firefighter. The rookies in training spend most days studying films on how to fight fires.  Youtube can teach you everything these days, Fire Academy is no different.   Instructors during “Hell Week” lecture for hours on important themes like “Why Fighting Fires Matters” and new recruits memorize the Fireman’s Creeds.  They study things like “ A Fireman’s Finances” and “Fireproof Your Marriage” and “Dating as a Fireman” and “Raising Little Firefighters”.  

However, the problem in Sunshine City is that there hasn’t been a serious fire in a great many years. In fact, the city is 99.999% fireproof.  The instructors themselves haven’t seen a forest fire in their lifetime.  Sunshine City has over 700 academies in its city limits.  At any given time, it is not uncommon to pass 50- 60 firetrucks on the street on their way to rescue a stray cat.  Stray cats are a serious problem in Sunshine City.  

The recruits at the academy often raise money to start a new school by standing at street intersectionswith their fireproof boots.  1/10th of every penny goes to helping fire victims outside the city limits.  The rest goes to the fundraising efforts to pay salaries, buy new firetrucks, and start new Fire Academies.  Sunshine City is a pretty insulated place.  A city on a hill you could call it.  A curious reporter came to town, and had groundbreaking news to share.

A town hall meeting was called, and all the firemen in training, existing firefighters, and instructors were in attendance.  The reporter from the International News Network came in and shared that arson was on the rise, and was now worse than ever before.   A forest fire was raging out of control in several locations all over the globe. In some continents, whole countries were now on fire.  The predicament is serious, she went on to say, “It hasn’t rained in 5+ years’ in some places.  In some towns no one has even heard of a firefighter before in all of the cities history.  In essence, unless help arrives soon, these people’s lives will be lost.”  

“The reports of these fires have flooded the news, emails, blogs, and reports for decades now.  All this time you have known the state of these fires, and still you are busy rescuing these cats. Your city is located on a lake of unknown depth.  You have endless water here.  You have the trucks.  You have the training.  You have the recruits.  I was hoping you would also have the resolve to act.  We are talking about 30 million people who have no idea whats about to hit them!  We are talking about 3 billion people in danger right now worldwide!    

 “It’s too far away, it’s impossible for us to get there!  We’d be leaving all of the families here at risk.” one of the instructors said. “I am gonna need proof of concept that our going would even be effective.  The logistics are mind-blowing.  A lot of these firemen here don’t even have a passport, speak foreign languages, or are caught up on their shots.” said the Firechief.  “We could lose the academies.  Who’s gonna answer the phones?  If the academies go under, and some firemen lose their lives, it would really do a number on recruiting also.”  An older, wise looking man spoke up and said, “People need to learn to take care of their own. We don’t want to go around helping people who need to learn to help themselves.  If we go help, we will be seeing an unprecedented amount of “entitled” people won’t we?  How will they ever learn to help themselves? Many heads nodded in agreement.  They probably don’t even want our help”, he said. 

“But, sir, these people can’t help themselves.  They aren’t firemen.  They have no access to help at all” said the reporter.

But, sir, these people can’t help themselves. They aren’t fireman. They have no access to help at all” said the reporter.

“We might lose some of our guys” said the chief, “Plus, we are in $100 million of debt right now from our 50 new academy projects. “I have a wife and kids to think about” said another. “My father’s funeral is tomorrow, and my mom is a wreck” said another. “I just got diagnosed with diabetes” said another. “I’m really scared of fires” said one of the rookies. 

“I’m really scared of fires” said one of the rookies.

The chief spoke up through the worry and commotion and said, “ I want all you boys to read a few books this weekend about fighting fires, be sure to get those reports to me on the double.  People are in serious trouble and we need to be ready.  Seems best to me, that we table this business for now, and put this to a vote till a viable plan can be figured out”.  All nodded in agreement.  

 We will be having another fundraiser Saturday to get a new pole for the station; but I suggest we give at least1% of everything we raise to help that town over yonder. Agreement and applause scattered through the crowd, and also....relief.  The chief’s secretary came running in.  “Sir, 1,000 cats just escaped out of the Sunshine Zoo!” “Men, you heard the lady!  There is a crisis at hand!”  Pass the ballots quick men, we need to get out there and catch those rascals before the town starts calling us incessantly. The resolution to stay in Sunshine City passed 4,999 to 1.  

The reporter now in a bewildered fury grabbed the microphone and said, “16 years ago my father entered a skyscraper that a plane flew into.  With thousands trapped, many jumping to their deaths to escape the heat....he entered." She paused.  The room now silent.  "He had a cold that day.  He was underpaid.  He was only a rookie, and he too was afraid of death.  He had a 7-year-old little girl.  He had an abundant life to live.  He entered regardless, not because he felt like it, but because he’s a fireman!  If you heroes won’t be heroes, what hope do the endangered have? He died that day storming up the stairs! The time to act is now....Don’t you see it?"  

He entered not because he felt like it, but because he was a fireman!

 Long pause.....the tears streaming down her face now.....

"How can this be your answer?"

Deafening silence from the crowd of firemen.  None knowing what to say or do.  But in the back, I saw him, he was only a rookie.  He was last seen grabbing the keys to the firetruck, his coat, axe, oxygen tank, and the rest of his gear.  We don’t know his name.   As I saw him, his face was set like flint, his eyes were clear, and his heart was full.  

 

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Joshua Gardner / Discipleship Director