Extra Strength: Eyes Open, Ears Focused — the Art of Giving Up Multi-tasking

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge. 

ExtraStrengthEdit

 

Pastor Josh defined listening as “giving your attention to one sound.”  How often do we really do that? How often do we focus so intently on one thing that everything else is blocked out?  For me, it can occur when I am watching TV.  Depending on the show I am watching, I will not hear my kids talking to me when they walk in the room.  This doesn’t occur when I am home alone with them, though — only when my husband is there with me.  He’s the one who normally gets me to come out of my trance.

Let’s stop here for a moment and define that word: trance.  It is defined as, “a half-conscious state characterized by an absence of response to external stimuli.” When I am caught up in what is on TV I do not respond to external stimuli, especially when I know there is someone else there that can handle the situation for me.

I believe that God wants our focus on what He places before us to be so intense it is as if we are in a trance.  We are able to “zone out” and allow Him to take care of everything around us while we focus on that moment or that thing or that person.

In life there are so many distractions.  It seems the easier technology makes things for us the harder it is to get us to focus on a single thing.  We have become multi-taskers, but we are horrible at it.  We have so many things going on around us that nothing gets our full attention.  We are almost always distracted.

I watched the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie the other day.  At the beginning of the movie Splinter (the master or trainer of the turtles) said some things that stood out to me.  I took out some of the parts, but kept what I believed to be key and relevant.  Here is what he basically said:

You are extraordinary, unlike anything the world has ever seen. You are bound for greatness. Eyes focused.  Your training is not yet complete. As your father you must trust me.  You must have patience, patience.

Eyes focused.

If our eyes are not focused on Him, we get caught up in everything around us, all of the distractions. If our eyes are not focused on Him, we miss what He is trying to show us and tell us.

If we are going to truly seek God, not only must our eyes be focused but our ears must be open.

Pastor Josh mentioned that the Navy recruits were trained to have their ears open.  I was present for the “Very Navy Christmas” that Immanuel hosted so I knew exactly what he was talking about.  The commanding officer would yell out, “ears” and the recruits would respond with “open”.  Two simple words that means so much.

Ears open meant that I am no longer focused on what I was doing but I am now giving my full attention to the one speaking.  No matter what is going on around me, you have my undivided attention.  They do nothing until they hear the voice of their commanding officer telling them what to do next.  They don’t move and they don’t speak, they wait, in silence.

It is in the silence that we find our struggle.  It is in the waiting that we find our discomfort.  It is the now knowing when He will speak, but it is also in the not knowing what He will say that makes the silence awkward.  When it becomes too awkward we speak or we move, we become distracted.

I understand the challenge of sitting in the silence and not being distracted.  Often times for me I can tune out what is around me but I have a hard time getting my head to be quiet.  Pastor Josh encouraged us to just practice. He suggested spending three minutes a day being quiet before God.  When I attempted this early in the week my challenge was once again all the thoughts in my head. But I am not going to give up. I plan to keep practicing. So are you ready?

Eyes focused. Ears open.

We are extraordinary people, unlike any other and we will be great at where God places us.  But in order to get there we must trust Him. We must be silent.  We must be patient.  We must have our eyes focused on Him and our ears open to His voice.

 

Sheryll Belonga is wife to Jurrell and homeschooling mom to their three great boys. Her hearts desire is to glorify God in all she says and does in spite of life’s daily happenings.

 

 


 

Be Challenged:

  • Practice sitting in silence for three minutes each day this week.

Our Prayer for the Monday After: First Christmas: Joseph

TheMondayAfterPrayerEach Monday we’ll be bringing Sunday into the work week by sharing a prayer for the week based on the Sunday sermon. You can now catch the sermon blogs written by our blogging team Wednesdays, where they’ll offer a mid-week shot of espresso to help re-energize, encourage and challenge us in the midst of our work weeks! 

 

The Monday After Sunday, December 22, 2014: First Christmas: Joseph

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ICYouth: Dreaming of Heaven (Erianne)

Thank you for your generosity to Immanuel. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

By Erianne Thedorf

Do you ever just sit and think to yourself about how AMAZING life will be once we die? Do you ever think about the life full of light, love and happiness once you die? Let’s not forget the most important part; you will meet God! God the creator himself! Isaiah 25 states, “He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people.”

How amazing is that? He will wipe away all tears. Revelation 21 goes even further into this: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Imagine that type of life! Wow. No more tears, no more death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain. I wish you could see the smile on my face as I read those words and just how marvelous life is going to be with our God.

Revelation again says, “No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there … And there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”

Joni Eareckson Tada explains the glorious things of Heaven in her book A Place of Healing (my summer deeper book), better than anyone ever could. She says “Everything will be far better than anything we ever experienced on earth. I tell these unbelievers, ‘The most beautiful, pleasurable things one could enjoy here on this planet are only hints and whispers and omens–mere crayon scribbles on a grocery sack–of even greater, more glorious things. Pleasures on earth are just shadows of their realities in heaven.'”

You could love the way the leaves change color during fall, but those are only hints and whispers. Can you imagine how beautiful heaven will be? The things you love on earth, no matter how big they are, will be so minute compared to the amazing things God has in store for us. Joni says again, “The best thing about heaven will not be running or walking, touching or holding. The best thing about heaven will be a pure heart no longer weighed down by sin and selfishness.” A pure heart. How beautiful it will be to have a pure heart. To live for God and not yourself and no heaviness on your heart from sin. Oh friend, heaven will be wonderful. The sights, the sounds, the people, the things we’ll do, the places we’ll explore, the friends we’ll make, the kingdom we’ll rule, the fun things we’ll learn, the joy of being with our God, the happy-hearted praise we’ll give our Savior, the angels, the heavenly hosts.

It is in God’s hands when it is time for me to be with Him, but I just cannot wait to be there! Heaven will be nothing I could have ever imagined… it will be an infinity of times better. I challenge you to not be so hard on yourself in the toughest days, for God has a incredible place waiting for us.

ErianneErianne is a Junior at Grayslake North High School. She enjoys books, movies, music and meeting new people!

Extra Strength: First Christmas: Elizabeth

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge.

Extra Strength for First Christmas: Elizabeth. 

Christmas.

It’s an entire season dedicated to warm fuzzy feelings and having fun in the great outdoors. The entire world gets nice all of the sudden and all troubles cease for the month of December.

Families come together and everybody just feels good all the time. Right? That is certainly how society portrays Christmas — it’s as though as soon as December 1  rolls around, we are supposed to feel happy every second of every day until December 26.

After Christmas, it’s like its okay to feel depressed and worried and sick again. But for the 25 days before, we aren’t supposed to feel that way. It is supposed to be peace on earth and good will to men 24/7.

But Christmas isn’t like that. As much as we would like it, things like cancer and debt and jobs and addiction and depression still exist just as much, maybe even more, during the holidays. A new month cannot bring you out of the place you are in. But God can.

Pastor Bryan spoke on Sunday about Elizabeth who prayed for a baby and God said “no” for a very long time. Elizabeth was barren. Although she was filled with shame, she never grew angry at God. She never cursed Him or ran away. God later showed Elizabeth mercy and blessed her in her old age with a child.

“God delights in bringing new life to barren places.”

That isn’t just true of Elizabeth. That’s true of us all. Whether you are in the same boat as Elizabeth, wondering where your baby is, or if you’re wondering when you’ll get a job or your sickness will go away or when a loved one will accept Jesus, we probably have one question in common: why. Why is God doing this? Why am I here? We may never know the answer.

But if we trust in God and in His plan, God will give us what we need. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Don’t worry bout the “why” right now. Worry about how you can praise while you’re in this place, even if it is one of hardship. This might not be a time where all problems are miraculously erased, but it can be one of celebration ; perhaps now’s the time to go make those gingerbread houses and roast chestnuts over an open fire and go caroling, praising God because we know He is a God who delights in taking our broken and turning it into beauty.


 

Be Challenged:

  • Consider your own struggles and ask God to help you see them from a bigger perspective.
  • Go through the Conversation Starter either alone, with your small group or a friend.

Our Prayer for the Monday After: First Christmas: Elizabeth

TheMondayAfterPrayerEach Monday we’ll be bringing Sunday into the work week by sharing a prayer for the week based on the Sunday sermon. You can now catch the sermon blogs written by our blogging team Wednesdays, where they’ll offer a mid-week shot of espresso to help re-energize, encourage and challenge us in the midst of our work weeks! 

 

The Monday After Sunday, December 15, 2014: First Christmas: Elizabeth

blog 12.15.14