Fighting Distractions

August 28, 2012

Distractions are everywhere. They can be people, objects, websites, songs, or activities. Distractions come in all sorts of packages and I find they catch me off guard more than they should.

So many times, I am sitting in my office chair getting a lot of productive work done, and then it happens. A distraction comes out of nowhere and I find myself wasting time instead of getting work done. It could be the sound of someone on Facebook chat, a text, maybe I remember a really great video, or I become lost in thoughts and allow myself to drift off to a different world.

Burying my nose in a book

Whatever shape distractions come in, we must be ready for them. If it means shutting your door so that nobody comes in while you are working on something that needs focus. I used to do this in college. It seemed like I had a magnet for people in my room and if I left the door open very long, a whole gang would show up. I found that if I shut and locked my door then I was able to get studying done without the distraction of people.

Sometimes removing yourself from distracting places works. Perhaps there is a place away from the internet or other people that you can go to just to get away and focus on a project or task. I find that sometimes I need to leave the office in order to get my best work done. I take a pad of paper and a book and I am set! It’s not the same for everyone but changing up the scenery can really help with the monotonous feel of the office or wherever you tend to do most of your work.

Setting goals helps fight distractions. Breaks are a good thing to have. It allows for time to relax. Set some goals (either getting a task completed or a time goal) and after that goal is completed, reward yourself with a break. This does not mean work for 10 minutes and then take an hour break. Use some wisdom in this process. When we set goals for ourselves and take periodic breaks it can help productivity and help fight the allure of distractions.

 

This can be applied to many areas of our lived: work, home, school, and even our walk with Christ. I know I have plenty of distractions that try to pull me off track of what God wants me to do.

If Monday was a rough day for you, stay diligent and try out some of these tips. Keep up the fight to do the work that God has laid before you. I’ll leave you with what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

What distractions tempt you the most? What are some ways you fight them?

Flee

August 24, 2012

It has become so commonplace in our culture, and even around the world. It is everywhere you look and almost nobody is protected from encountering it at some point, either personally or through someone they know.

Sexual immorality is everywhere.

Sex before marriage, adultery, pornography, rape, incest, and so much more is heard or read about around every corner.

Some of these forms of sexual immorality are more accepted than others, but they are just as sinful. Recently I heard my wife talk about an interview she heard about a famous actress who cheated on her boyfriend. The anchors wanted to know if it was all out cheating or maybe a lesser version.

It is all sin! It all separates us from God. We can try to make it more “acceptable” in our culture but making T.V. shows about it, or just by letting people get away with it. But these things have never been taken lightly by God.

1 Corinthians 6:18 says “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” That is how seriously God takes this sin. There are some sins that we are told to fight, or to stand against, but not sexual immorality. We are told to flee! Get out of there!!

That stuff is dangerous and destroys lives, families, friendships, and even jobs. The lie we tell ourselves is this sin is something that only affects me, but that is nothing more than a lie.

“We will live together before marriage but we will have separate bedrooms, so it is okay.” Yes, that has worked well for so many. No! God says get out of there! The temptation is there, so don’t even go near it!

That woman at work who has caught your attention, that man who has been treating you in a way that only your husband should, the texts with sexual innuendos, stop it all! Flee from it all!

This sin is not to be messed with. Paul tells us in Ephesians, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Not even a hint. This stuff is powerful and deadly and it is high time we start treating it that way.

Find someone you can be honest with and confess your sin. Get it out in the open and have them help you.

Read a book about the issues. Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (I also wrote a book review on this one), Not Even a Hint by Joshua Harris, and Surfing for God by Michael Cusick are just a few that I have read and would be great tools in helping your marriage or overcoming sexual sin.

Find counseling if you need to. This sin is so serious it is worth overcoming your pride and doing absolutely whatever you need to in order to get over it and leave it in the past.

I listened to a song yesterday that dealt with this really well. You can listen here.

I’m not trying to be old-fashioned or some kind of fire and brimstone preacher. We just let this issue slide by in our culture and have become so numb to it, even though it continues to destroy the lives of ones we love.

Please do not wait. Seek out the help you may need and flee from sexual immorality, because it is that dangerous.

Change Comes Through Jesus

August 23, 2012

I’ve been doing some thinking about change lately. Maybe it is all of this political talk that happens in my news feed. It sends me back to all of the elections that I remember where everyone discusses change. 

Each new potential president talks about how they are just what this country needs. They will bring about the change in all the areas we need it: the economy, morals, in foreign policy, immigration laws, religion, etc.

Before going any further this post I just want to say that I am not trying to convince you to to jump to one side or the other politically. I’m not here to convince you to vote or not. 

I just think our perspective has been off for so long. We are like the nation of Israel. Remember them? They wanted a king more than anything. They cried out to Samuel to provide one for them. Remember what God told Samuel? “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” They no longer wanted God as their leader, but they needed the physical presence of a king like the nations around them.

I know what some of you are thinking, “This the the United States of America! We don’t want a King here! We left England to get rid of a king.” It would be true that we don’t have a king but by the way people swear by their political parties or Presidents, it seems like all of their faith is in the system we have set up in the USA.

We act like if a law is or isn’t passed then the world is coming to an end. Sunday morning we profess a faith in an almighty God, and the rest of the week we fret over the issues in Congress they are the ones who are really in charge. 

Hear this, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished” (Romans 13:1,2).

Republicans, that means President Obama was placed in position by God.

Democrats, that means President Bush had been placed there by God. 

God is the one who is in control. I hear talking all the time about how our country is going down the drain and the only person that can lead us out is so and so. 

That is just not true. The only person who can save us, who can lead us exactly where we need to go is God. He has been trying to do this for so long! 

We just keep shifting our focus! Let’s shift it back. Jesus came to this world to show us the way back to God. He showed us how we were to live. It is through salvation offered by God through Jesus that we are saved and that real change comes about. 

Real change will happen not only in our country, but around the world, when God’s people stand up and start living out the Truth. When we live in a way that allows God to work in the lives of those around us, then we will see a change. 

People will stop murdering (either physically, or through hating), marriages will last, abuse will stop, and so on, not when we pass a law, but when the Holy Spirit changes the hearts of men and women.

Would I love to see this country turn around and be a place where Christians can express their views without being considered hate? Would I like for some laws to be repealed and others to be passed? I really would, and maybe I can’t shake that because of how I was raised. But right now I have to trust that God is in control, no matter what happens and no matter who is in office.

Once again, I am not trying to tell you to vote or not, or which party to go along with. What I am saying is we should be praying for God to work through us so that people’s lives will be changed and more will come to Him. Only when that happens will we see true change. 

Today I received a call from my land lady. Now I was not surprised about this. I had called her yesterday to let her know I dropped off rent.

But when I talked with her she told me that she was calling because I had just called her. Very quickly in my mind I began to run through scenarios.

A group I get to shine Christ’s light to

Had her phone just received the call I made yesterday?

Was she incorrectly looking at the time of the call?

Then she went on to say “I think a button must have just been pressed though because I just heard Noah crying.”

Then it clicked. My son had been having somewhat of a rough morning. He kept crying and there were several times he could have pressed the call button: when he hugged my leg, or sat on my lap.

When I really started thinking about the situation I became so grateful that there was nothing else going on. Instead of Noah, I could have been the one having the bad morning. Then the call gets made, my land lady picks up and she hears me slamming cabinets because we are out of Captain Crunch (FYI, we are  always out of Captain Crunch).

Instead of me comforting my son, she could have heard me getting after him for crying and telling him to “man up!”

It really made me think about how we truly never know who is watching or listening. I don’t say this to make anyone paranoid. I say it so that we are constantly aware of our words and actions.

As Christians we are called to be a light in this world. We don’t shine our own light but it is the light of Christ. We have commands to follow and a Savior to pursue and we need to be working to do that everyday.

Now I know that we will stumble and fall along the way. There will be days that are bad, or mornings people hear us at our worst. Those can be frustrating times, but we just get up, dust off and start following Jesus again.

Too many times we find that we have stumbled and we let that keep us from continuing on, or we are just completely unaware of how we act or what we say. I encourage you to be aware. We want to be living in a way that brings those around us to Christ and not be driving them away.

So when you are around others in church, watch what you say and do.

In the workplace, watch what you say and do.

While hanging out with friends, watch what you say and do.

At family gatherings, watch what you say and do.

And when nobody else is around, watch what you say and do, because you never know when someone may be on the other line.

Lately my wife has been doing quite a bit of yard work and she has been loving it. She tells me each day of the bushes that she has trimmed or the vines she has torn down.

Sometimes I find out when I see a huge pile of clipped branches sitting in the driveway. It really is quite impressive.

Yesterday she walked to the church building and as we drove home she said, “You know, sometimes when you clean away all the junk, what’s left isn’t pretty.” When I asked her to explain she said, “You will see when you get home.”

When we pulled up, once again I saw a giant pile of branches in the driveway. When I looked where they had been I saw what used to be a bush. It was a sad excuse for a bush now. There was one lone branch sticking up with a few leaves on it and some greenery along the ground.

What’s funny is, while the vines were choking the life out of that bush, it didn’t look that bad. The vine was green and leafy. It even had some flowers on it. But the truth is, the vine was killed the bush underneath.

How often does this happen in the lives of people around us, or even in our own lives. We surround ourselves with situations or people that literally choke out the life that God has given us but we pretend everything is fine. Nobody around knows the death we are going through because we have hidden it behind flowery smiles or the greenery of “success.” All the while we are allowing sin to choke us out.

The Bible tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” us. Get rid of whatever it is that is keeping you from living the life God desires for you. Doing anything other than what God wills is sin and it is killing us slowly.

I understand that when the sin is removed, what will be left may not be pretty. There will be scars and bruises. Relationships will have to be mended, people forgiven. But even though the mess may be viewable to everyone around you now, at least you will have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

It is scary to remove sin, but it is necessary for growth. It is so beneficial and the rewards will be worth it.

Taking Steps

August 17, 2012

While riding my bike to work today I saw an older couple making their way back up their driveway. They were walking side by side talking as they went.

What I first noticed though was how slow they were going. I’m talking super slow. With each step they were only covering a couple inches. The woman had a cane that she would then slowly pull up along her and then they would take another couple steps to inch their way back up to the house.

My first thought was about how frustrated I would be going that slow. I had already run this morning and now I was riding my bike to work. Going slow is not something I like to do.

I started thinking about our walk with Christ. Paul describes it like a race, telling us to press on toward the prize. He told his readers to follow him as he followed Christ.

We are told to seek the ways of God and place our thoughts on pure things.

What I am getting at is, we are never actually commanded to stop this pursuit. It is as if this journey is going to take the rest of our lives! Each day, picking up our cross (another Bible phrase) and following our Savior, knowing that we can get closer each day but we will never actually be done until we are united with Him at the end of our lives.

There are times during this journey where it may feel like we are wading through waist deep sludge, just trying to make it through. The going is slow and messy but we continue to press on.

Or perhaps, like the couple I saw today, we just cannot move faster anymore. Maybe life has thrown too much at us and we are tired, or we feel beaten up and bruised. We might be arthritic and unable to take large steps, but the important thing is to keep moving.

Even when we see other people zipping by us in their pursuit, let us not get frustrated at the pace we are traveling. Find the strength, if not in you then in the One greater than you, to move your foot one step closer to the King.

Press on!

We are called to pursue Christ and sometimes that is a slow pursuit because of temptation, struggles, or pain, but we must pursue, no matter the size of our steps.

Fearless follows the life late Nay SEAL Team SIX operator, Adam Brown. Even before the book begins the author makes sure to credit his sources. He received his information from people who knew Brown; so while Eric Blehm never met Brown, all of his sourced did. I received this book for free though Blogging for Books.

Adam Brown was from the town of Hot Springs, AR. He had an older brother and a twin sister. As they grew, Brown almost idolized his brother and wanted to be a hot shot football player just like him. Adam was a daring kid, not afraid of anything. He was smaller than some of the other kids but never let that stop him. He had to work harder to get noticed by coaches but when they noticed, they gained his respect, as did his teammates.

Even though Adam was rushing guys a lot bigger than himself, jumping off bridges, or standing up to a guy with a loaded gun, he was not without a softer side. Adam always put the needs of others above his own. He seemed to seek out opportunities to build others up. When he was in JR. High, Adam stood up for a young man with Down Syndrome, even when everyone else was making fun of the boy. He didn’t seem to care about what others would think of him. He was only concerned with treating other people right as well as testing his own limits.

He hit a rough time in his life when he didn’t really seem to fit in at college. He dropped out and turned to drugs and alcohol. He was a total addict, letting crack rule his life for several years. His parents finally got back in church and began to pray for him and showed him “tough love.” When he was arrested (not the first time) they did not bail him out.

After a year at Teen Challenge his life seemed to be a little more on track and that is when he met Kelly, his future wife.

Even after meeting her, he had a few relapses though but it was her commitment to seeing him overcome his drug problem and a few connections in the Navy that helped him out of that time.

Adam joined the Navy and aspired to be the absolute best at everything he did. It was the hardest work he had ever done, but he went full speed just like he did with everything. Even when his right eye was damaged to the point that it had to finally be taken out, or when his hand was completely crushed and he had reconstructive surgery, he never quit. It was after both of those incidents that he went through the training and was accepted into SEAL Team SIX.

It was during his final mission that Adam was killed in Afghanistan. He was once again looking out for his team but came under some fatal fire. He was always remembered for his bravery, his faith and his friendship.

This book grabbed my attention from the beginning. The further in I read, the more difficult it was to put it down. I was truly inspired by this man’s story.

He displayed incredible bravery. He overcame a drug addiction, which I hear is one of the most difficult things to overcome. He had a relapse and even did it one more time after the birth of his second child, but never again. He constantly looked out for his brothers in arms and never stopped pushing forward, even when others doubted his abilities because of his physical “disabilities.”

But his faith inspired me as well. He was not afraid to die because he knew that even if his flesh was destroyed, his spirit would continue to live. Someone once asked him how he could be religious and do the job he did. He replied “One, I’m spiritual, not religious, and two, I can’t believe you can do what we do and not be.”

His devotion to his family and his job were centered on his devotion to Christ.

I am just amazed at his bravery and his faith and feel after reading his story that I can do (and should be doing) so much more than I am.

If you want to read a story about bravery and a man of faith, I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Fearless. You may laugh and cry, but you will be inspired.

 

“JUST KIDDING!”

August 15, 2012

“Just kidding!”

It seems like I hear or say that phrase a lot. It comes out in all kinds of circumstances. You find yourself in a group of people, just hanging out. Then the banter starts to happen. One person starts to pick on someone else and when they feel they have taken it to far, all is made well by a well placed, “just kidding!”

But does it work? Does the “just kidding” really removed the stake we may have just plunged into somebody’s heart?

You see, the truth is, words hurt. We have more power in our words than we give ourselves credit.

We convince ourselves that our words mean nothing. “They are only words!” or “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” are phrases that we learn to help ease our minds so when hurtful words spill out of our mouths, we can just right them off by proclaiming “JUST KIDDING” (or in my case a wink…which by the way my wife hates).

I was reading an article that you can find here, about how image matters to teens, especially for girls. This got me thinking about how often we tear each other down in the name of fun.

But think about how often someone has “jokingly” made fun of you. Do you immediately stop thinking about that comment?

“Wow is this shirt really that bad? I’m never going to wear it again!”

“What is wrong with the way I laugh? Maybe I should try to change it”

“Am I really that dumb? What else am I ignorant about?”

We can pretend all we want that our words don’t hurt the people around us, but we are only fooling ourselves and we will continue to hurt those that are closest to us. How about we instead watch what we say?

James 3 tells us that our tongues are need to be tamed. They can cause so much damage. But James also says that it is not easy. “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:7-8

So it takes A LOT of work. It will take a lot of moderation. Pay attention to what you say. Start listening to yourself. It may take a while but I bet you will start hearing things that you would dread if they were directed at you.

Maybe enlist some friends to help you as well. Ask them to inform you of things you say that are hurtful. My wife helps me out so much with this! She lets me know and it may take a while but I start to notice that what she points out is true (no matter how much it hurts my pride).

Don’t forget to ask for forgiveness. If you have said something that you think may have hurt someone, go to them and apologize. It takes a lot of courage but it must be done for the healing of both you and them.

I know that it seems ridiculous to watch what we say. I’m not saying you can’t joke around with friends. Just watch the amount of joking and make sure you are not hurting one another. As Christians we are called to encourage each other and build each other up, not tear one another down.

Have you ever been in a situation where you realized your words were not jokes to those around you? What have you done (or can you do) to fix that?

Off the Beaten Path

August 14, 2012

On Saturday morning I went on a walk with my almost 2-year-old son. I love Saturday’s because of the time that I get to spend with my family. We get to slow down and just be together. Sometimes we plan to go out, and other times we just lounge around the house.

Noah doing some exploring

There was nothing to do at this time, and Noah kept pointing down the sidewalk like he does when he want to go walking. So we did.

Once again, there was nothing planned, so we could just go out and enjoy a nice easy stroll. But Noah likes to stroll a little differently than I do. I had in mind roughly how long we the walk would be and that path we were going to take.

Noah on the other-hand, had different plans. He stopped to check out some leaves, pick up sticks, touch different spots in the sidewalk, watch a truck to by, watch a motorcycle go by, watch another truck, and wave at every person he saw. He was exploring and taking it all in.

Halfway (or what would have been halfway had Noah been on my schedule) through the walk I found myself placing my hand lightly on the back of his head to keep him moving forward. It was just a little reminder saying, “hey those things are cool but let’s keep moving.”

When I noticed I was doing this I immediately stopped. This was Saturday! We had no schedule. There was no need for me to hurry this little explorer along.

It made me think about how we do the same thing. Society, our parents, or our friends all have ideas of what our lives should be like. Everyone seems to have a plan, not only for themselves but also all those around them.

When we start doing a little exploring or taking our time there is always someone around to place their hand on the back of our head to gently (or not so gently) encourage us back onto the path “we should be walking.”

But if everyone always took the path people thought they should, where would the great people or accomplishments come about? If the Apostle Paul had allowed Jewish thought to keep him from following God, we would be out of much of the New Testament.

The other Apostles never stopped preaching Jesus even when the hands around them threw them in prison and beat them.

There are so many stories of people who have gone off the beaten path, or maybe taken time to slow down and see what others have looked at their entire live but never noticed, and then gone on to do great things.

I don’t want to find myself just going through life thoughtlessly. I don’t want to find that I have passed up opportunities with family or friends because I was too busy doing what everyone else thought I should be doing. I want to shake the hand off the back of my head and find where it is God would have me go; and do what He would have me do.

For the next month, I’m going to ride my bike to work. Now, it’s only a couple of miles so it’s not like I’m accomplishing some huge goal in that way, but I want to take some time to slow down a little. I think more and notice more when riding my bike than in the car and I want to make the most of that opportunity and maybe see and experience things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

What are ways you can slow down or get off the beaten path?