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.

Advertisements

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.

THE VALUE OF WORSHIP

I have often wondered why a humble God would want me to worship him.  As I write these words, I fear I’m in danger of blasphemy. But don’t get me wrong, I am convinced that God is worthy of praise and worship. I just don’t know why he wants it?  He obviously doesn’t need my worship.  While exploring this thought, I have also discovered that my flesh doesn’t want to worship God.  There’s a clue.  Worshiping God is counter to my sinful nature. 

So, I’m sitting here at my computer.  I have all kinds of little tasks in mind.  One is writing this blog post.  Guess what?  I can’t get anything together to write about.  I play a few games of Free Cell to focus my mind.  Finally the realization strikes me; I need to worship the Lord.  With a heroic act of will power, I drag myself from the addicting game, pick up my guitar, pick out a worship song, and begin to sing and play.

I am surprised by the transition that takes place.  I have no idea why this should surprise me.  I have experienced this shift from the flesh to the spirit an innumerable number of times.  My spirit begins to connect with the Holy Spirit, my mind begins to clear, and my heart experiences God’s loving presence.  This is the result of worship.

Therefore, my great intellectual quandary turns out to have a quite simple answer.  God doesn’t need my worship; I need to worship him.  God is humble; I am not.  I need to position myself in a humble place of worship in order to get on his level, so I can reach him.

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him. 

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life.  One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives.  God’s will can be explained by these two commands.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”  God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose. 

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill.  Bonnie calls this our passion.  For her and me the passion has been for children in need.  Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children.  The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and satisfied as we walked with the Lord.  What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him.  We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill.  “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

CRYING OUT TO GOD

Psalm 34:17&18

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I have prayed and ask the Lord for many things.  I have sought his wisdom and direction.  Still there have been times of despair when I was emotionally distraught, and I have cried out to the Lord.

In my recollection, every time I’ve reached the point of crying out God has immediately answered, and the answer has always brought me comfort.  Often the answer does not resolve the difficulty or even bring a positive outcome, but there was always a warm comforting touch from my Father.

I believe God answered my cry because in my crying out there was surrender and recognition of my need for him.  I went to him in my time of trouble since I needed him, and only he would do.

When I come to the end of myself, and I’m at the place of despair, unpretentiously I stand before the Lord.   Then my words flow from a humbled heart, and he draws near to me.  He hears and he answers.

When you come to the point of despair, God will be there to hear you.  He will answer.