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 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.

HOW CAN I REPAY THE LORD?

Psalm 116:8-11 reads:  For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 

When I was young I learned about the Lord in Sunday school.  I even went to church.  However, my daily life was on me, and I didn’t think much about the Lord during the week.  Then divorce came into my life.  On my own, I tried to fix the emotional distress of this tragedy.   I floundered in a cavern of unsuccessfulness.  Finally, I came to the end of myself and called on the name of the Lord.  He was right there to help.

Jesus delivered my soul from anguish, my eyes from tears, and he gave me direction for my life.  Jesus gave my life purpose, and I stopped randomly stumbling through life.  Overnight, life completely changed.  I felt alive again as I started my new life walking with him.  In his mercy and grace, Jesus was very good to me.

“How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” asked the Psalmist in verse 12.  He shared his answer in verses 13 and 14.  “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people.”  To me this means I will praise the Lord for the salvation he purchased for me.  And, as I have vowed, I will continue to serve the Lord for the rest of my life.  This I will do in the presence of his people.  Gratitude and faithfulness will be the hallmark of my existence.

If you haven’t found the mercy and grace of Jesus just call on the name of the Lord.  He will answer you.

Repost from August of 2016.

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.