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

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.

A FATHER’S DISCIPLINE

I came to the realization today that God has me in a tight spot with no wiggle room.  I can’t wiggle myself out of this situation.  The only thing I can do is trust Him.  I have a tendency toward self-reliance, but I can’t think myself out of this one.  God knows me so well.  I chuckle at myself as I realize that God has infinite patience.  He can wait me out.  I am slowly surrendering.

As I ponder this quandary, I recognize the Father’s touch.  He loves me enough to work in my life.  He is disciplining me.  I then remember the words of Hebrews 12:5-6:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son?  It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

The God of the universe is taking time for me!  He loves me enough to discipline me.  I can’t take this lightly.

 

I now have a choice.  I can humble myself and learn the lesson, or I can resist and gain nothing.  Surrendering to discipline is not easy.  Verse 11 reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.”  Yes, I concur that it’s painful, but the verse continues, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  I hope I can stick it out.  I will definitely need His help.

 

I pray by God’s mercy and grace that I will learn this lesson.  May my heart be humbled and encouraged, so I might reap the fruit of this lesson and gain what the Father intends for my life.

 

 

This is a repost from September 2016.

LIFE’S DIFFICULTIES, BLESSINGS

I’m sitting here in my study looking at the weather station that shows it’s 105 degrees on the north side of my house in deep shade.  Yes, it’s hot!  In the back yard it’s 109.    My refrigerator died earlier this month, so I had to buy a new one.  My not very old washing machine quit working, but woo, I was able to fix it.  The espresso machine went on the fritz.  All this is happening when we’ve recently lost a fair portion of our monthly income.  Life has its difficulties.

In addition, I live in drought ridden California, so we’re trying to be very careful with our water usage.  A sprinkler valve stuck in my front yard sending a great wash of water down the street.  I replaced the valve, but not very well, so it broke loose and flooded the front yard.  Yes, and I forgot a hose I left running that flooded my back yard.  Really, I’m trying to be good!  The August water bill will reflect that I’m not being very successful.  Life has its difficulties.

As I reflect on these difficulties, I’m suddenly embarrassed.  A vision of the suffering across the earth passes through my mind.  I see the pictures of starvation, famine and war suffered by my fellow humans.  My difficulties pale in comparison.  I live a very comfortable and blessed life.

Even though it’s hot outside, my air conditioned house is a comfortable 80 degrees.  I love my new refrigerator, and it’ll be paid off in a few months.  I have the convenience of a washer and dryer right here in my house.  The espresso machine is working again!  And though we’ve had a financial set back, all our bills are paid.  Life has its blessings.

About now you’re wondering where the scriptures and the adaption of a spiritual message are.  Well here it is.  When living in God’s world, trust him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (See Proverbs 3:5)  Both difficulties and blessings are covered by this verse.  It is his world.  We can trust him with the outcome.  He worked out our salvation.  He can handle all the rest.  He loves us through the difficulties and the blessings.

 

Reposted from July of 2015

FAITH AND DOUBT

Are you convinced that Christianity is true?  Do you ever doubt your belief?  Does God really exist?  Is my belief in vain?  Do these questions of doubt haunt you at times?  They do me.  During these times of doubt I have two processes that I follow, reason and experience.  Reason alone cannot restore faith, but it can help.    Walking back through my life and remembering my experiences with God seals the breach in my faith, and I am restored.

These nagging questions that challenge my faith cause me to return to the process of reasoning. I start with the basic question of where did I and all I know come from.  There are only two possible answers.  It all came about by some accidental occurrence of events over millions and billions of years, or an intelligent force designed it.  The complexity of the universe and the existence of life itself lead me to believe that an intelligent force designed it.  And if this is so, what do I know about this intelligent force.  I have concluded that the Bible is the most reliable source of information about this intelligent force.  This process, to remind myself of the logic of my belief, gets me started.  But the most interesting truth about this reasoning process is that it all came about after I believed.  My belief in God is therefore founded in something other than reason.

I next reminisce on my experiences with God.  God has spoken to me at key moments in my life, and he drew me to himself.  He answered prayers and provided miracles all to build a relationship of trust.   My faith is rooted in a relationship with God that he has built over many years.  Then I remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Ah, my faith is based not on my ability to reason, but on my relationship with God.  Experience trumps reason.  The questioning of my faith is entrenched in my reasoning skills.  My reasoning is faulty, but my experience is sound.  There is no argument against what I have experienced.

I feel that faith is even more deeply based on a spiritual foundation.  When I first believed reason played a small part, experience barely existed, yet I was drawn to God.  Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44).   My reason and my experience came because God drew me.  I simply said yes to him.  I believe because I was predestined to believe.  God is sovereign over all his creation, even me.

Repost from July 2015

INFINITE WISDOM

If you believe in the God of the Bible then you believe in a god that has infinite wisdom.  God is all knowing.  God always uses infinite wisdom in the application of his knowledge.  This is demonstrated in his creation, in his interactions with mankind as a whole, and in the individual direction of our lives. 

Being fully convinced of this truth, I have no worries or concerns.  Whatever the situation, I know that God has got it.  Right! 

Unfortunately, I have worries and concerns all the time.  Does this mean I’m not fully convinced?  I’d have to answer no it doesn’t.

If you’ve studied the life of King David, you are aware that he had his times of trials, sins, and difficulties.  There were many times in his life that he was worried and concerned, but he never lost his faith.  In Psalm 23 he writes, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”    David did not waiver in his trust, but he often wrote about being perplexed at what God was doing.

As I go about my daily routine, I’m trusting God for the outcome, but I trust him with finite knowledge and wisdom.  I only see my little portion of the world in my miniscule moment of time.  I don’t understand what God is doing, and I can’t.  What I do know is that God is good, he loves me, and he has called me according to his purpose.  Even though I don’t understand his ways, I can trust in his infinite wisdom. 

Thus, I can join with King David in knowing: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

FOCUS ON JESUS, NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCES

This morning I’d like to share a story from Matthew 17: 25-31.

            At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them (The Disciples) walking on the water.  They were scared out of their wits.  “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror. 

But Jesus was quick to comfort them.  “Courage, it’s me.  Don’t be afraid.” 

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus.  But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink.  He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate.  He reached down and grabbed his hand.  Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”  (The Message)

When walking along a high narrow ledge, one common instruction is don’t look down.  Looking down makes us aware of the danger we are traversing, and we begin to falter.  If you have ever been in a situation like this, you know that the temptation to look down is strong, but when you do, you lose focus.  Peter looked down, and he lost focus.  Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the circumstances of what he was doing.

Other than Jesus, Peter is the only man who has ever walked on water.  Walking in faith and trusting Jesus with the circumstances is a challenge, but we can accomplish amazing things when we do.