If you asked our daughter what was one of the most memorable Christmas gifts she ever received as a girl, I think she'd say the dollhouse. Now there are certainly better crafted dollhouses than the one her mother and I gave her, but we made this one! One December, we just hung a "closed" sign on the basement door and we made it into our workshop. Of course our hammering and sawing down there drove all three kids crazy. "What's going on down there?" Frankly, my December was really crammed, so the work was often pretty late. And it took quite a few hours (Face it, I was not ever asked back in the days of that Tool Time show to ever make a guest appearance). But I enjoyed every minute of working on that dollhouse. Was I tired? Yes. Was I too busy to be taking on this project? Yes. Did this make me go beyond the things I do well? For sure. Was it a pleasure? Yes! Why? Because it was for a little girl I loved very much.
For several years, our offices were located on the third floor of an old factory building. An alley ran behind our building, and there was an antique elevator that was useful if you had to transport things to that third floor. If you parked back there, you had to walk by this big old electrical thing that was surrounded by a chain link fence – with a sign that had these words in big print: "High voltage. Do not touch." I personally never knew anybody who disregarded those instructions. I certainly was never tempted to.
Oh, grandkids! They just keep lighting up your life, right? When our oldest was just past the one-year mark, it was exciting to see him investigating all the things around him and learning the words of what things are called – Daddy, car, moon, dog, ball. And he even learned one of the hardest words of all. It's not hard to pronounce – just to accept. You know that simple little word – "no". Now, I didn't say he liked the word. I said he was learning the word. In fact, I'm not sure any of us really loves the word.
It was Bible story time for our three-year-old grandson. When Daddy asked about David, our little Bible scholar said, "David obey God." But when Daddy asked about Jonah, our grandson said, "Jonah not obey. Go in whale." Then, for the grand prize, "What happens if you don't obey?" The little guy paused for a moment and then he answered, "Go in whale".
Our girl was always a wonderful daughter and now she's become a wonderful mother. She's incredibly conscientious, attentive, loving - sounds like her father talking, huh? When our grandson was a baby she was pretty careful about what our he ate, about baby proofing everything, about always having him ride in his infant seat - oh, and about cleanliness. Oh yeah, hand sanitizer! That stuff that's called Purell - that antibacterial liquid that works without water. But it's not just Mom and baby who are required to use the sanitizer--oh, no-- any of us who was planning to hold him...especially in those early months when germs can do so much damage. It almost became a joke in our family...you reach for the baby and you will be intercepted by a bottle of Purell! Our daughter understood a very basic principle of staying healthy-if you want to avoid problems, keep your hands clean!
The youngest of our three children had the opportunity to observe what worked and what didn't work for his older brother and sister - especially when it came to getting or not getting their way in their social life. By the time he reached junior high, he had developed a very interesting approach to getting a "Yes" to what he wanted to do with his friends. He would come to us, he would lay out a thorough plan, let's say for this Friday night. He told us which five friends were going, where they were going, whose mother would drive them there, whose mother would drive them home, what time they would leave, what time they would get home. We had everything but photo IDs of the kids who were going. Although, I'm sure he probably would have supplied those upon request. Obviously, there was one problem with this exquisite planning. We weren't consulted until the plans were complete, and a "No" to him would be a "No" to five friends and two drivers! As a father, I'd give that boy an "A" for initiative, but an "F" for checking with your father before your plans are almost irreversible!
Several of our team members were driving together to ministry events in a nearby state. We were in two cars, but we stayed in touch by means of walkie-talkies. At a couple of points, one of the men in the car behind me pointed out a hawk that he spotted soaring gracefully over us. We saw several of them, actually, on this trip. Now, when you see a hawk or an eagle, it is kind of always an event for a city boy like me. But as my friend – who was not driving at the time - pointed out one of those hawks, the man who was driving said, "Well, I just saw a dead coyote on the shoulder." As our walkie-talkie conversations went on during that trip, that wasn't the last hawk the one man saw – or the last road kill that the driver saw.
It was a fogged in morning at the country house we were using for our vacation. The valley below us and the mountains beyond us were nowhere to be seen. In fact, you couldn't see much beyond the front porch. But by about 10:00 A. M., the sun started doing its thing. I was sitting there literally watching the mist being sucked upward and up and away by the heat of the sun.
I had just finished speaking for a Christian leaders' gathering that was part of the countdown to a Franklin Graham Festival. The setup team there was in their early days of working together on this massive mobilization. The team leader thought it would be a good idea to get his team together for a few minutes after the meeting ended, and he invited me to join them. Then he handed me a cluster of helium balloons tied together. Suddenly, I felt like I'd gone from speaker to circus clown. And, you know, I've read Winnie the Pooh stories to our kids enough that I couldn't help but picture Pooh Bear being carried into the sky by a bunch of balloons like that.
I'm not much of a photographer, but I'm married to one. A number of years ago, I was able to open doors to minister to our local football team by being on the sidelines and shooting pictures of them in action. Well, my wife gave me a crash course in photography, and the one thing I had to learn fast was how to focus my lens. See, I was shooting from all different angles, all different distances. If I said, "Well, I'll just focus my lens for the first photo and leave it like that," I would have had a pile of blurry pictures and not many friends on the football team when they came looking for a picture of themselves. See, the picture kept changing, so I had to constantly refocus for each new situation.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Focus That Sinks You."
What you focus on in any given situation will determine your attitude and ultimately your response, and quite possibly your outcome. So, it's important that you fill up your lens with the right thing. That you ultimately, of course, focus on Jesus and not on the circumstances. But your heart and your mind are a lot like my camera-you can't just focus once and leave it set there and think it's going to stay there. The picture keeps changing, right? You have to get back in focus for each new situation.
There's a memorable example of this in our word for today from the Word of God in Matthew 14 beginning in verse 25. The disciples were out on the lake in a sudden, violent, life-threatening storm. And then, the Bible says, "Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.' 'Lord, if it's You,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to You on the water.' 'Come," He said. "Then Peter got down out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus."
Wow! Peter had his mental camera focused completely on Jesus and he was unsinkable. But then things slipped out of focus. The Bible says, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' He said, 'why did you doubt?"
Well, there I am. There you are. Focused on Jesus, walking where we could never walk otherwise. And then focused on the storm, the circumstances, our fears – going under. That's why we need to constantly refocus on Jesus, because we keep slipping out of focus. We get halfway there, and we start looking around. We lose our focus on Jesus.
Let's say, for example, you start your day praising the Lord, really hanging onto Jesus. But throughout your day, there are just so many distracting problems and temptations and pressures and emotions and people. And it is so easy to focus on those stresses and those issues. And suddenly Jesus has become this kind of blurry figure in the background.
Over and over, we need to stop and consciously get our eyes back on Jesus-to breathe and just say, "Jesus is Lord." "Jesus is first." "Jesus is in charge here." "Jesus has got this." Often I'll find myself stopping several times a day when the winds have suddenly picked up and saying those three peace-producing words: "Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord."
Satan's great strategy for sinking you is to get your eyes off Jesus because he can beat you, but he doesn't stand a chance against Jesus. So keep readjusting your focus. Keep Jesus always in the foreground, clearly in focus. Remember, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."