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 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.