The Power of Focus

“Pay attention!” “Eyes on the board!” “Where’s your head?”

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I heard all of these (and many more!) when I was growing up. I had (OK, have) a very short attention span. Focusing on anything for any length of time has always been a challenge to me. If I’m going to study for a sermon, I’ve got several tricks I use to make sure my attention stays where it needs to. Some days, I’m more successful than I am on other days.

Not paying attention is a growing and dangerous problem in our culture. People drive and text. Others try to carry on conversations while they check social media. Meeting attendees check email and work on other projects while they’re supposed to be paying attention to the meeting they’re in.

One of the places this lack of attention is so destructive is our marriages. Trying to listen to your wife and watch TV doesn’t work. Listening to your husband while you scroll through Facebook actually shuts down communication. It doesn’t enhance it.

We have enough studies to know one thing for sure: we don’t multi-task well. In fact, most of us can only do one thing at a time.

And that is especially true in our marriages. We can only do one thing at a time. We can only focus on one thing at a time.

So, when it’s time to focus on your marriage, put down everything else and focus on your marriage. Turn off the TV, unplug your gadgets, and focus on each other. Look into her eyes and turn your body to squarely face each other. Listen—with your whole self—listen! Listen not only to the words, but to how the words are said. Listen not only to what words are used, but how the way they’re used changes or shapes their meanings.

You notice things when you pay attention. You pick up on small details you had overlooked before. You learn things and discover things that have been there all of the time.

Focus will do the same thing to your marriage. So, pay attention. Focus. Who knows? You may find another reason you fell in love in the first place.

10 Things I Learned Preaching through Ephesians…Again

We’ve just finished our series preaching through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. To add a little more challenge to this series, we preached the letter in reverse. We started with chapter 6 and went to chapter 1. Here are 10 things I learned preaching through Ephesians…again. 

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1. People are people.

Although we’re separated from the people and culture of Ephesus by several thousand years, we have a lot in common with them. The issues addressed in Paul’s letter are the same we address every week in our own church—marriage and family, faith and culture, leadership, relationships, and how the gospel impacts every area of our lives. For all of our differences and as much things have changed in our world, people are still pretty much the same.

2. The war may be over, but the battle goes on.

True, Christ has completed His redemptive work. Our future is secure in Him. Yet, our enemy, though defeated, is still fighting. That’s why we have to be dressed in the full armor of God. Every day is a fight.

3. The good news of the gospel impacts every area of our lives.

Our marriages, our roles as spouses and parents, our roles as employers and employees, our place as believers in an unbelieving culture—everything is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

4. All of us have spiritual gifts, but no one has all of the gifts.

God, in His wisdom, has created a process where we need each other. We are, in the unity of Spirit, more reflective of Christ together than we are individually.

5. God was working before we got here, and He’ll be working after we’re gone.

The divine purposes of God were established before the foundation of time, and His work will continue until He’s completed all that He has promised.

6. Salvation is a gift.

We can’t do anything to earn it, and we haven’t done anything to deserve it. Because it’s gift, we can only receive our salvation in gratitude and live it out faithfully.

7. Each of us was called ON purpose FOR purpose.

Paul was an apostle—by the will of God—called to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul saw his ministry as part of his salvation experience. Yes, we’re grateful for our salvation, but it always involves a call, a mission to which we are sent. They go hand in hand.

8. We didn’t choose Jesus. He chose us.

I always find it amusing when someone tells me they “found Jesus.” I quickly remind them, “Jesus wasn’t lost.”

9. The redemptive work of Christ won’t be defeated.

His victory is “predestined.” The end is already determined, and the victory belongs to Jesus. Because we’re “in Christ,” His victory is our victory.

10.   There’s always reason to praise.

Remember, Paul was in prison as he wrote this letter. His first words to the Ephesians? “Praise!” How could Paul say that? Because Paul knew regardless of the situation, God is always working things out for His glory. That’s a lesson I need to learn again and again… 

So, there you go. What did you learn going through Ephesians in Reverse? Let me know!

Do you pay attention to your spouse?

If you’re going to buy a car, you would do a little research. You would talk to friends, read car blogs and magazines, and search the web for insights and facts about the car you wanted to drive. Coaches watch game films, not only to better understand their opponents, but to study their own strengths and weaknesses. If you were going to buy a business, you would do “due diligence.” That is, you would do the necessary research to fully understand the business and its market. No general would think of initiating an attack without doing the necessary reconnaissance.

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Yet, when it comes to our marriages, we naively believe “we’ll just know” what we’re supposed to do. Let me ask you a question. Does that work in any area of your life? Then, what makes you think it will work in your marriage?

Like any good leader, we have to do the necessary research and study our spouses. I call it “Spousal Recon.”

Here’s what I mean. We should pay such close attention to our spouses that we begin to know them better than they know themselves. We know their dreams and disappointments. We should know their loves and frustrations. We should be able to tell their stories better than they can.

And yes, husbands you should know her dress size and what colors she looks best in. You should know her favorite flower and her favorite restaurant. (If you don’t know, ASK!)

Yes, wives, you should know his favorite football team and his favorite rock band. You should know what movies make him cry…and why. You should know what shirts he looks good in and understand his relationship with his dad. You should know his dreams and failures, his fears and hopes…that’s right…better and deeper than he does.

Our marriage relationship is one of the biggest investments we ever make in our lives. It’s worth a little work—a little research—a little spousal recon—in order to have everything in your marriage you looking for.

Stuck in Your Head

Have you ever had a song get stuck in your head? You don’t even have to like the song, but if you hear it the right way at the right time, you’ll be singing that song for the rest of the day. Reading your Bible can be the same way. You’ll find yourself reading a passage of Scripture that hits you in a particular way, and the next thing you know, you’re thinking about that passage for the rest of the day.

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For the past few weeks, we’ve been teaching through the Book of Ephesians. There are so many passages worth memorizing in this letter. I’ve picked out a few. Spend a few minutes getting these passages into your head and heart.

Jesus quoted Scripture from memory. I guess Scripture memorization should be a priority for us as well.

Here are a few verses from Ephesians to get you started:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. (Ephesians 1:17-19)

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. (Ephesians 6:11-17)