THE TRAP OF INWARD FOCUS

We all have troubles that come our way; they are a part of life in this fallen world.  I tend to draw into myself when troubles arise.  I focus on solving the problem; I worry over the problem, and I lose sleep thinking about the problem.  If the problem is long term, I eventually fall into despair. Then I enter into that dark cavern of self-pity.  Once again, I have succumbed to the trap of inward focus.

You’d think I’d know better, but alas I find myself caught again.  In this state, I don’t pray for others, I’m not very kind, and I don’t have time for others. Inward focus makes me useless to those I love and not very pleasant to be around.  When I finally come to the end of myself, I cry out to the Lord, “Save me!”

The lord, in his patient and kind way, reminds me that I need to trust my troubles to him.  He redirects my focus to the needs of others, and I begin to look outward.  To my amazement, life becomes brighter, and my troubles become less important.  By putting my troubles in the hands of the only one who can do anything about them, the burden is lifted.  I can actually become a nice guy.

Will I fall into this trap again?  I hope not.  The “pit of despair” is not a nice place.

Psalm 42:5

Why are you down cast O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Note:

I found out that Praising God is the first step out of the trap.

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THE ADVENT OF CHRIST

Over the next four Sundays we will prepare for the celebration of the advent of Christ.  The word advent means, the arrival of something important.  What could be more important than God’s son coming to us?  During the preparation our hearts become more open, and we enter a season of greater generosity and deeper expressions of love.  We sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” This is a season of great joy. 

Part of our advent preparation is the preparing of gifts.  The gifts we give are in remembrance of God’s great gift.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God’s gift reflects the love he has for us.

As we prepare, Let us lay our hearts before him and allow his Spirit to minister to us so that we are ready to receive him with open arms. We need to guard against the current and temporary circumstances of this life that can cause us to miss out on the celebration of our eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Advent is a time of preparing.  We are preparing to celebrate the greatest of all events, the advent of Christ.

THE BEAUTY OF GOD

I’m sitting here in my kitchen, looking out to my backyard, and enjoying the beauty of the fall foliage.  I realize that I love God because of the beauty in his creation.  I’m always pointing out to my driving students (to help them relax) the delightful colors of the sunset.  I tell them that God paints us a new picture every evening.

Seeing the fall colors always reminds me of the September Bonnie and I spent in New England.  We were slightly in advance of the leaf peekers.  This is the maybe not so affectionate name the New Englanders call people coming to see the fall colors.  I was thinking of the leaf peekers and wondering how many of them understand that what they are driving to see is the beauty of God.

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

When we allow our attention to be drawn to nature, and feel that contentment it brings to our souls, we are experiencing God himself.  Our western minds always want to deal with facts, but we should not ignore the aesthetics of life.  We could be in the very midst of God and fail to recognize his beauty.

THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH

Webster’s Dictionary defines meek:

1 Enduring injury with patience and without resentment – submissive – humble 

2 Deficient in spirit and courage

The first definition doesn’t convey the characteristics of weakness but of Christ likeness.  This definition speaks of the qualities Jesus displayed on the cross.  It is a Godly perspective.  The second definition imparts thoughts of weakness, timidity, and cowardice.  This is a worldly perspective.  Which of these will inherit the earth?

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10 the Apostle Paul responds to the to the Corinthians’ worldly interpretation of his meekness.  He uses a little sarcasm in verse 1 when he states: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!”  They had obviously accused him of being cowardly.  He goes on to let them know that his meek/humble approach to them was not out of weakness but out of caring for them.  He was trying to change their viewpoint from worldly to Godly.

I believe that the ones who endure the injuries of this world with patience and without resentment, who are submissive to Christ, and who humble themselves before their God will inherit the earth.  These are not weak people.  They are the ones who have been overwhelmed by the love of Christ, and from their humble thankfulness give that love to others regardless of the cost.  This takes strength and courage.

GOOD AND EVIL

I love to revisit the story of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  Envisioning God’s fresh creation delights my heart.  Genesis 1:31 reads, God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  The creator stepped back, looked over what he had made, and concluded, “It was very good.”

Today as I continue to be awed by what God created, I see elements that were not there at the beginning.  Death and decay are at work in the creation.  What God created that was “very good” has now deteriorated.  Good now has a counterpart, evil.  How did evil get into God’s creation?

When the first man and woman walked the earth only good existed.  They had no special awareness of good because it was the default of their world.  There was no contrast to good.  In the garden, where God put them, was a tree with the knowledge of good and its contrast evil.  God warned them not to indulge in this knowledge for it brought with it death.  They chose not to heed God’s warning.

Why is our world filled with death and decay?  The answer is obvious.  We had to know about good and evil.  Well, now we know.  I think we could have gone without knowing.  So in hindsight, when God says not to do something, we probably shouldn’t.

WHY DO WE EXIST?

As we explore our existence the question often comes to mind, “why do I exist?”  What is the purpose of my existence?  Rene Descartes, a 17th century philosopher known as the father of modern philosophy, went even further to ask the question, how do I know that I exist?  His conclusion, “I think, Therefore I am.”    So in our conscious awareness, we contemplate purpose.

The Apostle Paul stood before the philosophers of his time and gave this clarifying discourse:

Acts 17:24-28, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  For in him we live and move and have our being.  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

Why do we exist?  I believe we exist at God’s good pleasure.  Paul says that God created us so that we would seek him, reach out for him, and find him.  Our purpose, why do we exist, is to seek and find God.

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent.  The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject.  If he did he would forfeit his right to rule.  When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short.  Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself.  He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom.  As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory. 

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom.  Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away.  In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness.  The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader.  Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace.  In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us.  We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom.  Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king. 

I’d like to leave you with this thought.  It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live.  Two choices exist.  You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.  I think the choice is that simple.