Distractions Abound

Distractions Abound

2 Thessalonians 3:5 – “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Have you ever set out to do something, only to get distracted from the task? It’s easy to do, because distractions are everywhere. It can be something on tv, a phone call, a text, something on the internet, another task that needs to be done, a person, or just simply a wandering mind. We are easily distracted. Studies say that most toddlers have an attention span equal to roughly their age, for example a 4 year old can concentrate for about 4 minutes. Unfortunately there is a point in our lives when those numbers don’t apply. Most 40 year old have a hard time concentrating for 40 minutes. Maybe at some age it begins to go backwards. We are easily distracted.

Paul knew this as he wrote to the church at Thessalonica. He knew that they could get distracted, not just from the tasks that they were doing, but they could get distracted from the reason they were doing those tasks. They could get distracted even from the person who gave them the abilities and the strength to do the tasks. We are easily pulled off base. We quickly fall off the path, our attention spans are short. For that reason when Paul wrote to those early Christians he said, “may the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” The love of God is the greatest thing in the world but we can so easily lose focus even from it. We can get distracted by sin or by stuff or by worry or by responsibilities that we forget about the life changing, life enfusing, power giving love of Jesus. We are easily distracted sometimes even by good things. We can be busy doing good things but forget the reason we are doing them or take our eyes off the love of God which is why we should be doing them in the first place.

No wonder Paul prays that the “Lord would direct their hearts to the love of God.” The word direct means to “straighten fully”. We quickly go off on tangents and chase after things much like a dog chases after its own tail. Paul prays that God would straighten us fully and set our hearts (our minds) 100% on the love of God. In other words he is praying that we would keep the Gospel before us. That we would realize that we are loved everyday and that that love would serve as the motivation for life.

He also prays that we would be directed towards the “steadfastness of Jesus”. What does that mean? The greek words means “cheerful endurance”. What a description of the Savior! Jesus cheerfully and even joyfully went to the cross. He endured all that He endured with joy. Why? Because He did it to glorify the Father and to show us the love of God. He did it so that we might be reconciled to the Father. Paul prays that we would be directed toward that “cheerful endurance”. You have to wonder why he does that? He does it so that we will be reminded to be joyful regardless of the circumstance because of the love of Jesus. We are to endure whatever we have to endure with that same type of cheerfulness and joy. We are loved by God and that should show by the joy that is in our lives.

It is easy to get distracted from what’s important. It’s easy to forget how much we are loved, but once you are set straight on the love of Jesus, once you realize what He did for you on the cross, it will produce within you an everlasting joy. Once you keep your mind and your heart focused on the Gospel by the grace of God then you can be like Jesus, and have that same type of cheerful endurance. Regardless of what happens in life you can have joy because you are loved by God. Keeping your eyes on this will not add days to your life, but it will add life to your days, as you live for His glory!

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A Surprising Path

A Surprising Path

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Most people have more in common than they realize. Yes we are all different, sometimes radically so, we may think differently and have different views but in many ways we are a lot alike. All people want pretty much the same thing, and one thing that we all want is happiness. We all want to experience joy, real true and lasting joy in our lives. So the question has to be where does that joy or that happiness come from?

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, actually at the very beginning in the part that we call, “the Beatitudes”. He says “blessed are….” The word blessed in the New Testament means happy, so Jesus is telling us how to be happy. Yet it isn’t in the ways that we would think. Happiness doesn’t come from what we own, or from what we accomplish, or from anything that is temporal. The Beatitudes make it abundantly clear that true happiness comes from a relationship with God. Jesus isn’t saying in the Beatitudes that you will be happy if you do these things, no His thinking is far beyond that. He is saying if you have a relationship with God these things will be a part of your life and through them God Himself will produce joy and happiness in your life. That is one of the problems with modern society we think we can produce our own happiness or our own joy. We might be able to temporarily but what happens? It quickly fades away. That is why for example we can buy something new and be oh so happy with it for a few days, only to see the luster fade. When that happens we go in search of something else to bring us happiness.

Unfortunately on our continual quest for more, we are missing out on true happiness. Because true happiness doesn’t come from what we can do or buy or accomplish, true happiness comes from a relationship with Almighty God. It comes from the gift that was made possible through what Jesus did on the cross FOR YOU. That is why He says “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Happy are those who are poor in spirit? That is a surprising and strange path to happiness but it is where Jesus says happiness starts.

What does “poor in spirit” mean? It means those who realize that they don’t have life figured out. Those who realize they don’t have all of the answers. What do they do then? They run to God and to His wisdom, looking for His strength and His wisdom. The beautiful thing is this, the Bible says, “if anyone is lacking in wisdom they should ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” When we realize we don’t have life figured out, we become desperate and in our desperation we cry out to God for His wisdom and He gives it to us. Joy comes from humbling ourselves before God and crying out for His help.

We all want to be happy. True happiness only has one source and that source is Jesus, so run to Him today. Humble yourself before Him, admit that you don’t have life figured out (there’s no shame in that, none of us do because life is hard and filled up with surprises), and call on His wisdom. He will give it to you and you will find joy through Him.

Your Attention Please!

Your Attention Please!

Matthew 5:3- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

Most people have at least one thing in common, they want to be happy. Regardless of anything else most people desire true happiness in their lives. This is true in 2017 and it was true in AD 30. People want to be happy. Jesus burst on the scene in about 30 AD with the sermon on the mount. It was short, it was precise, it was direct and it talked about happiness. He said “Blessed are…..” and the word blessed in the Bible means happy. So Jesus began His first sermon with the topic of happiness.

Now before I go any farther it needs to be pointed out that He isn’t saying if you do these things you will earn the favor of God and find happiness there. No, He is saying once you have a relationship with God, you will find your happiness in these things and in these ways. True happiness comes from knowing God as your Father. In fact that is what His first statement is about. Blessed are the poor in Spirit? That is radically different than what you will hear in the world isn’t it? Poor? Happy? To be honest the two words do not seem to go together.

Happy are the poor in Spirit. What does that mean? Well the word poor that Jesus uses there is a word that means a beggar, someone who is desperate. Someone who is desperate in spirit, in this context. What does that mean? It means someone who realizes that they don’t have life figured out. Someone who is begging for help, someone who is begging for wisdom, someone who is begging for hope, someone who is in desperate need of forgiveness. Happy are those who realize that they are spiritual paupers and that they can do nothing on their own. Happy are those who realize they need God, those that realize they need Jesus. Happiness comes from our relationship with Him and from knowing that our sins are forgiven. Happiness comes from realizing you don’t have life figured out and you never will. That is counterintuitive isn’t it? It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it is absolutely 100% true. Happy are those that realize that they will never have life figured out but they know someone who does. Happy are those who have a relationship with Jesus.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” This is a plural statement. It is for people, plural more than one. Jesus is not only telling us how to be individually happy but He is also hinting at the beauty of community. The Beatitudes are for the church. He is painting a picture of what the church is supposed to be, we the church of Jesus Christ are poor in spirit. In other words we don’t have it all figured out. We can’t be prideful or arrogant because we are poor in spirit, we are sinners who are struggling. Sinners in need of a Savior, and thankfully Jesus is that Savior. He is the only one who could be. The church is a gathering of those who are poor in spirit.

The church is also a sending of those who are poor in spirit. We go out into the world with a message of hope, of love, of forgiveness and of redemption. We are sent as God’s ambassadors, but we are still poor in spirit, nothing without Him. That is why when we relate to the world we don’t relate as people who have it all together or who have it all figured out (we’ve done that for far too long, and if we are prideful we are in sin). We relate as people who desperately need hope, and help, and forgiveness. We are people who will always need Jesus, and that is why we reach out with His love. That is why Peter says to treat others and speak to others with “gentleness and respect.”

We are poor in spirit. We desperately need Jesus. We gather for worship as those who are poor in spirit, thankful for the grace of God. We go out as people who are poor in spirit to share the message of hope and love with the world, and we must do it with gentleness and respect. We live everyday as people who are poor in spirit, happy and joyful because we have been given (not earned) the promise of the Kingdom.