The Main Thing

Gardeners are amazing! They keep watch over their plants and over everything in their garden to make sure that it is in order and working right. One thing that they are very careful to watch out for is if anything is dead. They’re checking to see if there’s any brown leaves on any of their plants. If there’s brown leaves, that means something has died. When they see that something has died, they trim it off.

In your life are there any brown leaves? Are there any places that aren’t bearing fruit the way that they should be?

Proverbs 29:18a “Where there is no vision, the people perish”

This passage of scripture states clearly why there might be death in some of the things you are doing.

Let me illustrate.

I love playing guitar. I’ve written several songs and recorded a few CDs. I love playing at parties and in front of people and at church. My wife especially loves my playing. She wants me to go back out and play in the restaurants like I used to, just because she knows how much it blesses people.

But I have so much on my plate. It’s very difficult to choose what I’m supposed to keep my eyes on. I am the pastor of a church, I run Joseph Barlow Ministries, we have 7 children, we have a home group on Wednesday nights, we have healing class on Saturday morning. We are trying to manage a very busy schedule and there is a lot going on. Rest is sometimes something that you have to steal; at least it seems like that.

So what about the guitar playing? My guitar has been sitting in its case.

I haven’t played it in a little while. It feels like a brown leaf sometimes. I want to write songs I want to go back into the studio. But I’m letting too much get in the way of that.

What is happening?

I am letting the vision dissipate. I’m letting it lose its appeal in my heart. Sometimes you have to stir yourself back up. You have to stir up the vision. When you stir up the vision, the desire gets stronger. You have to imagine what it would be like if your desires were coming to pass right now. Is that something worth working for? Maybe!

You, like me, need to make some decisions. We better decide what are the visions we want to keep in place in our life that will motivate our actions and drive our plans forward. So list the things you want to do. Then list the things you have to do. How well do those two lists intersect?  It’s time to start trimming. It’s time to reestablish vision. If we don’t do the trimming then disappointment and the clock will do it for us.

Let’s make the main thing the main thing.

But, for you, what is the main thing?

What is it you were sent here for?

Are you doing it?

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Getting To Jesus

He climbed a tree. He was short of stature. He wasn’t a tall man, but he was hungry. The life he’d been living had its perks but peace wasn’t one of them. Taking & cheating are soul-diminishing practices but it can make the bank balance go up. If you’re hungry for money and pursue it you should pray you won’t be successful. The leanness of soul that it will produce in you is actually painful.

That’s where this man was. He was a taker. A cheat. Full of himself and his own greed, but who was this new fellow? His life was a constant outflow. He was just giving. Compare a drain to a fountain. That would be Zacchaeus and Jesus. Jesus just overflowed and people were attracted to him. Zach was always on the take and people fled from him. It’s a lonely life being on the take. There is no one to enjoy all of your ill-gotten gains with. Oh he was rich alright, but not in things that would satisfy his soul.

Now he was hungry. He saw Jesus. Heard about how He operated. Was intent again on getting what He wanted. He wanted to see Jesus. So he climbed the tree to have his way. But this day he got more than he bargained for.

The Giver came right up to the tree that Zacchaeus had climbed, he looked right at the Taker and said, Zacchaeus come down from there for I’m going to eat at your house today. Have you ever told someone that you are going to eat at their house? I’ve never been so bold. Now Jesus was not asking. He was telling the Taker that He was taking from him. Now this was more than he had bargained for. The Taker was being taken by the Giver!

So Jesus goes to Zacchaeus house for dinner and Zacchaeus is so excited that he repents and decides to give back the things he had taken. Some even four-fold. Jesus said to him, “This day salvation has come to this house.”

Now how did the Giver bring salvation to the Taker? By getting him started in the giving process.

Well, my friend, is your center self or others?

Are you a fountain or a drain?

I call you Giver!

Short People

Do you remember the Randy Newman song called “Short People”? The words say, “Short people got no reason to live.” This morning, I woke up with that song in my mind, but for a reason you might not expect.

You see, I was short with my wife last night. Now if you’re not from America you may not understand what I mean. When I say I was short with her that means that I was short-tempered. It means that I was short of the fruit of the spirit. It means that my responses toward her were not full of grace. I was less than kind, maybe even mean.

My Wife

Now I love my wife. She is an amazing blessing in my life. She’s beautiful, thoughtful, helpful, fun to be around, she works hard, she’s always looking out for others. She’s willing to sacrifice her own needs and wants for me, the kids and others. The more I write this paragraph the more I realize that if I really want to do my wife justice this is going to have to be a really, really, really long paragraph because my words can’t match up to the level of amazing that she is. So, just take my word for it, she’s amazing.

Focus

So if she’s all that why would you get short with her? You must be some kind of jerk! Well I can tell you why. I’m not really a jerk. But even the nicest person can act wrong if they change their focus from others to self

You see each of us has an internal focus, a center, a place where we bring all of our energies to serve whatever is in the center of that focus. When we are ministering to others, truly from the heart, then those other people are our focus. We see the need they have. We have a compassion in us. We focus that compassion on them. We begin to bring all of our energies together to serve them. It is greatly satisfying to serve someone and see their life improve or change for the better.

What really can top that off for us is when they are thankful, really thankful for what you’ve done. It just makes it so satisfying that they recognize your selflessness and they tell you how thankful they are. But what can really mess things up is when you are being others focused and helping someone and they are not thankful. They are just self focused. Especially when they expect you to serve them. Then your compassion can disappear in a heart beat. Suddenly instead of being happy to serve them because you are making a difference in their life, you are a slave to their will. Nobody wants to be a slave to anyone.

Opportunity

Immediately when someone else acts like that you have the opportunity to change your focus from others to self. You have the opportunity to put up your defenses; to protect who you are and your pure-hearted ways. You also have the opportunity to continue to be loving, selfless, kind, helpful and remain others focused. But here’s the problem, once you change your focus to self – you become short with people. You become focused on your needs and your self and you begin to see yourself as needy and you want others to begin to serve your need. All you see is your lack.

When you are others focused you see your abundance can meet their need.

When you are self focused you see that their abundance should meet your need.

Life

For me the word life is an amazing word, it has a connotation of abundance, growth, overflow, more than enough. For me to be truly living I must be overflowing with blessings so that those around me are glad they’re with me. The abundance on my life overflows to them. For me to live means to live from that overflow. If you will accept that type of definition for living then living life is wonderful. It is rich, fun and rewarding. So when I bring up that song “Short people got no reason to live.” You can see that short people are people who are short tempered; people who are self-focused; people who have nothing to give; people who only want others to give to them. As the song says, “I don’t want no short people ‘round here.”

Really what we could do is help others to get set free from being self-focused.

Rescue

Do you remember George Bailey? He’s not a real person, he was a character in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He was about to commit suicide because he had gotten so self-focused and distraught that he despaired of life. The angel rescued him by jumping in the water and acting like he was drowning. He shocked him out of self-focus and despair by presenting a tragic need. Who George really was, selfless, was set free. The chains of self-focus were broken and George sprang to selfless action and in doing so was set free from the desire to commit suicide.

Compliment

Now maybe that tactic won’t work for everyone, but something that can help people see their own abundance instead of their lack is a compliment. Tell them what they do have. Compliment them on something, anything. Once you help set their eyes on their own abundance then they can see how they can be a blessing to others. This can change them. This can make them taller in the spirit, if you will. This can help them to not be short people.

Favor

Another idea you may use is one I picked up from the advice columnist Ann Landers. Some of you may remember her from years ago. Someone had written her inquiring what could be done when someone’s heart is set against you or their heart is closed to you. Let me share what I mean by saying their heart is closed. As I was saying earlier about focus being on self or others; when someone’s heart is closed to you they refuse to allow you to be the center of any of their efforts or energy. They are closed to you.

Ann Landers reply, I feel, was significant. She said, “ask them to do a favor for you.” Now that is a genius answer. Because if you think of this in terms of someone needing to be set free from self-focus, asking them to do a favor; being bold enough to ask; is a tactic that could really work. If they actually do the favor then they have opened their heart to you. The focus which was not allowed on you, now is. That person is no longer short with you. The flood gates are on their way to being opened.

But most importantly they are being set free from the ravages of self focus.

Short people have no reason to really live life.

You give ‘em one.