The Key To Distraction-Free Living

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes interrupting our plans, dreams, and many other areas of our lives.  When I think of distractions, my mind immediately goes to a scene in the movie Up.  Dug, the dog, comes up to Carl, the widower, and starts explaining to Carl why he can talk.  In the middle of explaining, Dug quickly turns his head and cries out:

“SQUIRREL!!”

Then after a moment turns back and continues his conversation.  

At the time of this writing, my day has been filled with squirrels; some self-imposed and others just part of the typical day.  It feels like whenever there is a job to do, you can count on a multitude of other things vying for your time.  

No other person on earth can help us live distraction-free except our Lord and Savior.  Jesus had a purpose and mission while on earth, and He did not let anything take away from that calling.  His self-discipline in living a distraction-free life started at an early age.  

“Every year, His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.  When He was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival.  After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents did not know it.  Assuming He was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey.  Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends.  When they didn’t find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Him.  After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking him questions.  And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.  When His parent saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.” 

“Why were you searching for Me?”  He asked them.  “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what He said to them.” Luke 2:41-50

Before Jesus even started His earthly ministry, He was practicing spending time in His Father’s house.  Surely He related to David’s prayer in Psalm 27:4

“One thing I ask this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the LORD and seeking Him in His temple.”  Psalm 27:4

Christ’s response to His mother was not one of disrespect but a statement of His actual position and purpose.  He would be in fellowship with His Father at all costs and without distractions from parents, disciples, crowds, or demons.

Distraction-free living begins with a desire to be in the presence of God.  

As Christ modeled our hearts should have one desire, and that is to seek God.  Our focus is to be on Him.  When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus response reflects distraction-free living.  

“He said to them, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  The is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”  Matthew 22:37-40

God wants our whole being.  When we walk in distraction-free living and love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, He promises He will be with us.  James 4:8 states:

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

The key to distraction-free living begins with a desire to seek God, but it doesn’t stop there.  Distraction-free living is a continual lifestyle that requires action.

Distraction-free living continues with action.

Jesus didn’t just spend time with God one time and then said okay I got this.  No.  He continually spent time in the presence of God.  We could easily cop out and say, well He was God, and it is impossible for me to do.  I can’t spend 24/7 in my prayer closet.  That is not distraction-free living.

Refusing to give in to distractions means remembering God is already with us. What we are doing or saying or thinking is an offering to our Lord.  

Brother Lawrence is an excellent example of what it looks like to practice the presence of God.  He described what it means to practice the presence of God in his book, The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims: The Spiritual Secrets of a Humble Brother Who Enjoyed Closeness With God.

“That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.”

Brother Lawrence highlights three things when practicing God’s presence.  First, we need to recognize that God is already present with us.  Second, to ask for His assistance.  Then carry those tasks out as an offering and with thanksgiving.

One of the more famous stories surrounding Brother Lawrence’s intentional practicing the presence of God is when he is in the kitchen peeling potatoes.  Hear his understanding of what it looks like to be distraction-free.

“The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” 

Learning from His example, we too are encouraged to do everything as unto the Lord as these verses remind us.

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men,”  Colossians 3:23

“Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him (into His presence) with joyful songs.”  Psalm 100:2

Not being distracted takes love for God the Father and obedience to Him at all times.  To abide in Christ is the greatest weapon against distractions.  

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”  John 15:5

When we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, ask for His help, and then work as unto Him with thanksgiving, distractions fade away, and we enjoy the blessing of walking with our Lord and Savior most intimately.

Conclusion

There is an older lady in my church who knows how to abide in Christ and live a distraction-free life.  She will occasionally call and tell me that she wasn’t at church because she felt like God was telling her she needed to stay home.  She and God had some business to do.

Every time I think of this story, I think to myself, “That is the kind of relationship I want with the Lord.”  The kind of relationship that does not get pushed aside for any reason.  The kind where I hear the Lord speak and then walk with Him into the next activity.  

How about you?  

Are you good at diffusing distractions, or do you find yourself crying SQUIRREL?

Take a step today towards distraction-free living by focusing on God and Him alone.

How Can I Live With My Mortality?

Funerals always reveal the reality that we are mortal beings.  We do not live forever, and whether it is expected or unexpected, no one is ever ready to face the aftermath of the death.

As a pastor’s wife, I have attended many funerals.  Each one is different and yet has similarities. However, they all have one thing in common.  

Someone has died.

Not one of us will live forever in our earthly state, and it forces us to come face to face with our immortality.  The older we get the more we question and the more unsettled we become.  

Alan Lightman explores the idea of humankind’s longing for immortality in his essay The Temporary Universe found in his book The Accidental Universe.  In it, he admits to having no answer for every human’s desire for immortality.   

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. 

Lightman concludes that there is nothing we can do about our pursuit of immortality, and we have to continue to live with that reality.

However, what Lightman fails to address is that we are created beings and the Creator of our lives is the one that put this pursuit of eternity in our hearts from the beginning. 

He has made everything appropriate in its time.  He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

God’s Word tells us God is the one who put this longing for permanence in our hearts.  We have a “God hole” in our hearts put there by God Himself.  While we may try to fill it with all kinds of things, the only thing that will fill this longing is God through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

Once we have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we then must learn how to live with an eternal mindset while still living in a mortal body.  The question then becomes, 

 

How Can I Live With My Mortality?

The greatest example of how to live with a dying flesh is Christ, the Son of God.  He lived every day, knowing He would die.  Not only did He know He was going to die, but He knew when and how.

This would freak most of us out if we knew the time and circumstances surrounding our death.  But not Christ.  He modeled three ways for us to live while we await our physical death here on earth.  

Fellowship With The Father

Christ spent a lot of time surrounded by His disciples and the people of the cities and towns He visited.  However, this did not interfere with the one-on-one time He had with His Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out and made His way to a deserted place.  And He was praying there.  Mark 1:35

This is one of the more prominent verses in Scripture that point to Christ’s desire to meet with His Father, but there are many more.  What Christ’s example encourages us to pursue our relationship with God the Father with the same fervency.

It may not mean getting up before the crack of dawn, but it might.  The question is, do our heart and life reflect that time with God is more important than anything else?

Christ’s first act of living while on earth was the pursuit of spending time with God through His Word and in prayer.  As we spend time with God, the next area Christ models surfaces.  

Obedience To The Father

Living in light of our mortality means living in obedience to God the Father.

So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own.  But just as the Father taught me, I say these things.  John 8:28

For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak.  John 12:49

Christ’s fellowship with the Father resulted in one thing—Obedience.  

His obedience to the Father continued to fulfill and reaffirm the purpose of Christ’s life on earth.

Our lives begin to have greater and greater clarity and purpose as we spend time with the Father.  When people say they don’t know what job they should take, or who they should marry, or where the should move, it is essential to remember that when we spend time with the Father, He will always guide and direct us where He is leading.

Time spent in fellowship with the Father leads to obedience, and obedience is done from a heart of love.

Love For The Father & Others

Throughout Christ’s ministry, we see His love for God, and for the world, He came to save.  

On the contrary, I am going away so that the world may know that I love the Father.  Just as the Father commanded Me, so I do.  John 14:31

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.  1 John 3:16

Christ’s obedience to the Father flowed out of His love for Him.  Also, His love for us spurred His continued obedience even unto death so that we might enjoy eternal life.

It is hard to be obedient if our hearts are not filled with love.  This final act of Christ shows us how important it is for us to keep hearts of love as we journey and live with a dying body.

Conclusion

When we stop and take the time to reflect on our life, it is hard to admit we are dying — every one of us.  The question then becomes, how are we going to live until then?

Don’t be afraid to take some time and fellowship with the Lord today.

Walk in obedience heartedly with love for Him and the rest of the world!

Alicia

How Powerful Is God?

Kaboom!!

It wasn’t even a dark and stormy night, but mid-afternoon.  I stood in the living room, chatting with my nephew, and gazing out the kitchen window.  Two of our sons, along with our nephew, had just recently come through the front door not 3 minutes before.  

When out of nowhere the loudest noise you have ever heard thundered simultaneously with the brightest flash of light, while branches, wood, and limbs went flying.  It happened so fast that I barely screamed the words out, 

“Oh my gosh, lightning just hit our tree!!”

My husband and son came quickly from the back room to see what in the world just took place while my heart raced and pounded in my chest.

We all stood at the window in disbelief.  

There stood our amazing red oak, half-naked and split down the middle.

Anyone who has ever been through a natural disaster understands on a small scale the great power the natural elements contain.  

However, what is unfathomable is the power of God Almighty.  Our wildest imagination doesn’t come close, but this does not excuse us from seeking to understand God’s great power.

Immeasurable Greatness of God’s Power

It was essential to Paul for his fellow believers in Ephesus to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power, and thus, he included it in his prayer for them.   

This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. Ephesians 1:15-19

Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesian believers included a prayer of action.  He desired for them to continue growing in their knowledge of their calling, their inheritance, as well as the greatness of God’s power.  

Not just any power either.  It was the immeasurable greatness of God’s power according to the working of God’s vast strength. 

 But what does this vast strength look like?  Paul continues: 

He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens-far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way. Ephesians 1:20-23

God’s Demonstrated Power

Paul lists four ways God demonstrated His power so that believers would see the actions of His vast strength.

1.  God raised Jesus from the dead

Can you name any act more powerful than raising someone from the dead?  

2. God seated Jesus at His right hand

Not only did God seat His Son beside Him, But He also placed Him above every ruler and authority, above every power and dominion, and above every title given in this age and in the one to come.  Christ is over every man, spiritual being, and any title.

3.  God placed everything under Jesus’ feet

God’s power put everything under His Son’s feet.  Not one thing is above Christ.  It is all under Him.  Think about that for a moment.  Christ is at the highest elevation.

4.  God appointed Jesus as head over everything for the church (which is His body)

God’s power extends through His Son over the church.  Christ is the head, and there is no other.  Jesus fills all things in every way.

 God is power and should be revered.  Our reverence for God’s immeasurable great power also produces security and comfort.  

Our Response To God’s Power

God’s power enables us to come boldly before His throne (Hebrews 4:16) because of His great love (Romans 5:8).  

 I am reminded of a scene from C. S. Lewis’ book The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  In it, there is an exchange between Susan and Mr. Beaver.  Susan is inquiring about what to expect when she meets Aslan, the ruler of Narnia.  

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” 

“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …” Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

While the great and powerful lion was not safe, he was good.  

So is God Almighty.  

Paul’s prayer is for us to understand greater God’s power because he knows the security and comfort it will bring to us.

As we understand the vastness of God’s power to raise Jesus from the dead, we grow more assured of our eternal salvation and the fact that nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-30).

As we understand the vastness of God’s power to seat Christ at His right hand, we take comfort in Christ’s intercessor role beside His Father (Romans 8:34).

As we understand the vastness of God’s power to place everything under Christ, we have victory in this world, because nothing can stand against Him (Isaiah 14:27).

Finally, as we grow more in our understanding of God’s power through Christ as the head of the church, we can be guided daily through His headship (Colossians 1:18).  

As we press into understanding the vast strength God demonstrates through these four areas, a higher level of reverence rises in our hearts along with greater comfort and security.  

Conclusion

My heart was still racing an hour later.  I felt like I had been in a car wreck from my body tensing up through the whole experience.  

Over a week later, I am still in awe of the great power behind the lightning and the force it struck the tree.  

If that amount of power is contained in a bolt of lightning, can you imagine how much power is in Christ?  

Imagine even further, the same power of Christ is also living in each of us.  

It is hard to believe that we don’t explode!  

As we seek to understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power, may we also allow it to spill out onto others.  May we hold it in high regard while at the same time taking comfort in the security of His power.  

What portion of God’s power have you been denying or covering up in your life?  

Confess it and embrace God’s love and forgiveness.

Then walk in the power of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Additional Resources:

Video: I Survived A Tornado by Mark Lowry

Song: Same Power by Jeremy Camp

Sermon: Jesus Is Better Than Strength by Pastor Scott Zbylot