ONE BIG DISTRACTION

The National Safety Council reports several thousand deaths each year due to distracted drivers on our highways. I think most of them are in Colorado where I am told people feel a certain entitlement while driving meaning they can pretty much do whatever they like. Everything from cellphone use to adjusting the radio to just plain daydreaming and not thinking about what they heck they are doing.

Anyway. Enough of that. What I am writing about today is the DISTRACTION OF COMPLACENCY within the Christian faith. Driving the highway of life.

I recall Jesus speaking with his disciples not long before his arrest. He told them to WATCH and PRAY so that they would not be led into temptation away from God- their true source of life. (See Matthew 26:41f) He concludes by saying that the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’.

We grow complacent when we stop watching and praying thinking that all is well for us at the moment. It happens when we are not vigilant about what is going on around us. So many times Jesus told stories about a master going away and leaving his servants to care for his estate. The creation and the people of it are so important to our Lord. We dare not just take care of our selves while the world suffers.

And it can get to the point where we are like the church of Laodicea, a city just southeast of Philly (not the one in Pa.), which is now in ruins. But back their heyday they had it made. And in the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to the church there: “you all say that you are rich and have need of nothing not realizing how pitifully poor and naked you are even with all your wealth and finery.” (See Rev. 3:17f)

Complacency distracts us from the Christ at the center of all life. Even in this season I am troubled by the bumper stickers that say KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS. What that does is legitimize the extravagance of Christmas for the ‘well off’. Keeping Christ at the center of our lives would be to recall that Jesus came with nothing worldly for those who were poor, marginalized and treated unjustly.

So now in this beautiful season we have a TAX PLAN. I guess that’s great for some folks but it is a distraction of complacency from the threat of poverty, poor health coverage, nuclear war, and a nationalism that says, ‘US FIRST’ at the expense of so many in want and in need of some of the basic necessities of life. The better economy and the greater number of jobs and general political euphoria on the part of at least one party provide the same situation that we find in Laodicea.

“We have all we need.” “What a great Christmas present.” And let me repeat that for some it may be ‘life saving’. I am personally for a more robust economy from which America can help the poor. And recall that ‘the poor’ are the centerpiece of God’s attention for this earth.

Prov. 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Is. 58:10. “And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

But forgive me if I am a bit suspect on how this new economy will help the poor.

Recall God’s words in Deuteronomy 4:25f “When the time comes that you have children and grandchildren, are growing older and you start taking things for granted and growing complacent and start to make any idol no matter what kind and form – well then I can tell you. You are in big trouble.”

What does the Lord really require of us but TO DO JUSTICE (this doesn’t mean arresting undocumented people) LOVE MERCY, AND WALK HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD. Humble means acting in the attitude and manner of Jesus. (And just so you know. I have a long way to go in this regard.) See Amos 6.

Now I realize that our country is not a theocracy and that’s a good thing but as Christians we, in this country, are called to be a LIGHT FOR THE WORLD. Let us not be distracted or grow weary from doing good.

The other day I encountered a man on a street corner asking for some money for his family. I’m not sure how he will benefit from the new tax law but I care more about how Christian lawyers and laypeople can help our country to help those like him. (See Matthew 25)

I was hungry and you fed me

Thirsty and you gave me drink

Homeless and you gave me a room

Sick and imprisoned and you visited me.

 

And one more thing. Let’s enjoy ourselves this festive season but let not our religious ceremonies distract us into thinking what good people we are to observe the day. No, Jesus doesn’t call us to ‘religion’ but to life …. important and maybe more so on the 26th (oh by the way, that’s my birthday, speaking of distractions) and beyond. Watch and Pray.

 

Grace and Peace to all. And God bless us EVERYONE.

WE HAVE BEEN LIED TO

 

Call it Satan, evil, powers of darkness or even ‘the secular world’. There is a lie out there that says God doesn’t intimately love or care for his creation particularly his children. It is a lie initiated in the ‘garden’ when Adam and Eve were told there was something more, something better than God. It is a lie perpetuated by people today who point to events in the world, atrocities, natural disasters, disease and humanity’s inhumanity to one another and say this can’t happen under the watch of a good God or a powerful God. It is a lie that would turn our eyes away from God and turn our hearts to the affection of others and other things. It has all the markers of the ‘accuser’ who wants to thwart God’s people away from confident, trust and praise to God. It is an evil from the pit of hell that tried even to distract Jesus from his purpose on Earth when he was in the wilderness faced by satanic forces, tempted to think that God some how doesn’t know how to restore earth, or has left earth on its own.

God’s greatest power is love and he will do anything to convey that love to his creation. He will even allow his creation to groan in order that people will seek and find him. He is near to the brokenhearted not the proud. The lie tells us to be strong in ourselves, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, to do it our way because we can’t trust the one we can’t see. Jesus says blessed are you who do not see and yet believe.

God is faithful, loving, gracious, kind and every other characteristic we see in Jesus. God is also holy and God knows God’s plans for us and he will not be thwarted to change to accommodate humanity’s egoistic desires. God is happy with his creation because he knows how this whole thing is turning out for our good and his glory. God is saddened by the death of his creation for God’s loving heart is the origin of the love we feel for those who suffer, for a creation, which suffers.

God is good which means that his virtue is impeccable, without sin. Jesus came to prove amidst suffering and sinfulness that God intends good for his creation and will go to any lengths to bring us into community with him now and for all eternity. In some respects we can no more understand the goodness and love of God than a child in the womb can fathom what a parent’s care will be like. The Apostle Paul writes to one of the churches saying that he longs for Christ to be formed in them with all the pains and groaning of a mother giving birth to a child. (Galatians 4:19)

It’s like that with suffering. Until we grasp Christ ‘in us’ we cannot know the complete love of the Father. When Christ dwells inside of us we will know God like Jesus knew his Father, even when Jesus was in agony and felt forsaken and was dying. There is a verse in Colossians which says that Christ being in us is the hope of glory.’ Colossians 1:27.  That means that the life of Christ in us will allow us to see the radiance, splendor, joy and salvation of God.

Now, don’t expect that such revelations happen easily. It is a journey of a lifetime to discover the Christ in you and me. It is a journey worth the taking. We have seen others take that journey, a path that often leads through suffering, that of our own or watching the agony of loved ones or even from a distance seeing it in the world but it is a journey that God places us on when we place our confidence in him. He is doing the work of forming Christ in us as our own will allows. He will not force. His love is patient and long-suffering and there will be times when we feel left alone, angry, shamed but He promises to allow us to see the glory, maybe a glimpse here and there, maybe a flash of insight, a moment of forgiveness, maybe a radiant burst of light that overcomes all darkness. But it will come. He will not leave us nor forsake us. The history of faithful Christians bears that witness. And when the life of Christ grows ever more present in us we will become like him, we will live his life in this world. We will say like the Apostle Paul, ‘it is no longer I who live this life but Christ living in me.’(Galatians 2:20)

It will be sometimes a tortuous journey, sometimes exhilarating but it moves forward, onward, and upward. It is an eternal journey, which begins now.

 

Deadly Distractions

More than 3000 people were killed in 2012 in car crashes attribute to distractions while driving. Many more were injured because when driving our cars we should be focused on the road and the route but many of us do things like drink our coffee, put on our make-up, read bits of the newspaper lying in our laps, use our cellphones and probably worst of all ‘text’.  Even adjusting our radio is enough to take our eyes off the road for that split second that could mean life or death, to us or to another driver.

And now I want to suggest, as part of my series on Road Grace that driving our car is somewhat analogous to our life as a follower of Jesus. Distractions on the journey of discipleship may not seem to lead to a deadly outcome but if they separate us from the walk that we intend with Jesus, well, we might just end up lost or even worse.

So let’s consider distractions to living the life of a follower of Jesus. I suspect that pride is right up there at number one.  It’s hard to think of others when you are too busy thinking about yourself.  It’s hard to listen to others with a sense of respect when all you care about is the sound of your own voice. I know. I have done it and realized too late how uncaring I seemed to the other person.

Anger is distracting. So is lust. So are material possessions. Worry is distracting taking our eyes off our relationship with Jesus and his direction because we are too busy thinking about tomorrow.  Guilt is a distraction from the joy of a relationship with a loving God who forgives so completely.  Busyness and hurrying are distractions to the time we could spend loving others and loving God.

I believe that Satan isn’t as dark and malicious as some movies portray him. He has only to ‘distract’ us for a moment.  I am recalling (I hope correctly) that in one of Screwtape’s letters to his younger colleague he argues that when the patient (a new Christian) is reading the Bible all the colleague has to do is distract him with hunger so he will stop reading and probably not get back to it. How often has that happened to us where our devotions are interrupted never to be visited again that day?

Distraction is what Satan was about in the temptation of our Lord, distraction from the purpose for which Jesus came to our world.

Shame is one of the greatest distractions of the devil. Thinking that God couldn’t love us or care for us because of our character, or some bad deed or something someone has said to us.  Shame takes our eyes off God’s love and places that sight back on ourselves that we are not good enough.

So be careful in your walk with Christ not to be distracted to the right or the left but to stay on the path with Jesus, doing what he has said and trusting his love more than we trust anything else. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ.

Hey, we want to get to our destination whole.