Avoid Distractions to Focus Our Attention — Devotion

Avoid Distractions to Focus Our Attention — Devotion

Our traffic laws forbid distractions while driving, Vehicles may quickly become lethal weapons under the control of distracted drivers. Distractions intrude from every angle, dividing our attention. For the most part the consequences of such interruptions are minor, but not always.

A couple weeks ago, one appointment ran into another with only a small break to run errands before the next meeting. My phone vibrated with yet another message just as I was entering the elevator to go to our fourth-floor condo. I pressed the elevator button while responding to the text. When the door opened, I followed the hallway around the corner, while simultaneously retrieving my keys and responding to the test message. At “my” door, I was surprised when the key refused to fit the lock. Looking up, I was horrified to realize I was on the wrong floor, attempting to open someone else’s door. Yikes!!! I quickly turned back to escape notice and embarrassment, correcting my steps. Distractions had led me down the wrong path, to the wrong door!

Later, I admitted my error to my adult children. “Mom, forget about distracted driving,” they laughed, “you can’t even do distracted walking!” They are right.

It is no wonder God calls us away from double-mindedness and into undivided loyalty.

 “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
James 1:6-8

Divided Hearts and Minds

The word for divided loyalty or double-mindedness, in Greek dipsychos, means to have “two souls, or two selves, to be wavering, two-spirited, or vacillating.

At times, we all waver between opinions and struggle to choose the best option. Usually, like my walking while texting experience, the consequences are minor. But at other times, such distractions result in something much more serious.

Psalm 12:2 tells us that “double-talk” flows from a “double heart.” Many relationships have been irreparably damaged by flattery and double talk. Double minds and double talk will always lead to trouble.

““These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.”
Isaiah 29:13-14 MSG

In the New Testament, Paul advised Timothy to choose leadership who were not “double-tongued” (1 Timothy 3:8).

Distractions

Distractions of texting while walking caused me nothing more than embarrassment, inconvenience, and a waste valuable time. I recently read that people check their cell phones between 100-150 times a day. If each distraction averaged only one minute, that totals a staggering two hours of interruptions daily.

Long before the invention of cell phones, people were prone to distraction — especially the distraction from focused attention and devotion to God.

“Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.”
1 Kings 18:21

The divided focus of Elijah’s day included the worship of many other gods. Today perhaps, it is different things that draw us away from worshiping God with all our hearts. The distraction by many things takes various forms. Elijah asked, “How long will you hesitate…?” Every distraction creates a hesitation. We, like they, can’t find a reasonable excuse..

Do you feel the pull of distractions as much as I do?

When I go to pray — distractions! As I try to focus and read the Bible — more distractions! When I plan to serve God with my whole heart — even more distractions!

Throughout the ages, the battle for whole-hearted devotion with undivided hearts has remained the same.

Focused Love and Devotion

God knows and understands our struggle better than we do. He knows the enemy who tries to keep us from focused love and devotion to God. It’s a battle we will win by intentionally drawing close to God.

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”
James 4:7

As we acknowledge our weakness to the lure of distractions and seek God, He immediately comes to our rescue.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4:10

God was teaching me a far greater lesson through my distracted walking. He doesn’t want me, or anyone else, to follow the wrong path and end up at the wrong eternal door. By avoiding distractions, we will each accomplish our full potential and reach our intended destination. May we not stand before Him speechless, but may He receive our full attention and undivided devotion.

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A Never Ending Battle: The Problem With Pride

Problem with Pride

Do you have a problem with pride? If you answered in the negative, I guarantee you do. Actually, we all do. Whether flagrant or subtle, we all battle with pride.

In an action-packed child’s game called “Catch-a-Mole” each player whacks one of several moles popping up from its hole with a hammer. The person who pulls the most moles out of their holes becomes the declared winner. Oh, how this game resembles my battle with pride. No sooner have I successfully whacked pride in one area of my life, when suddenly a new area springs up — or even a multitude of new areas.

Unfortunately, in reality, no one wins when it comes to being proud. God minces no words about His hatred of pride.

“The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:5

Proud as a Peacock

My Battle

I’m often shocked at the invasive nature of pride. All too frequently, I have to pick up my spiritual weapons against this deceiving attitude, pulling it from its hiding place. There lay part of the issue! Pride wraps itself deceptively in a multitude of disguises.

I may easily become proud of my looks and my possession, or even my spiritual gifts or prayers. Pride pops into my thoughts, bounces off my words, and hides in the motivations of my heart. Sometimes, I lose hope of succeeding in the battle.

Three truths help me:

  1. The root of all pride grows in insecurity.
  2. The only antidote is humility.
  3. I am free to choose.

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 14:11

Peacock Feather

Pride’s vain promises result in humiliation, but God rewards those who choose humility. We will all have ample opportunity to choose either to exalt ourselves or to walk in humility.

The Test

We often see the evidence of pride in others long before we recognize it in ourselves. I’ve listed just a few of my pride points below. Do you relate to any of these?

  • Self-sufficiency — difficulty asking others for advice or assistance
  • Comparing myself to others
  • Need to be heard or noticed (especially getting in the last word)
  • Not being grateful for the little and big things God and others do for me
  • Jealousy or envy
  • Slander, gossip, or talking negatively about others
  • Feeling irritated, frustrated, or critical of others
  • Fault finding and being judgmental
  • Perfectionism
  • Feeling inferior to others
  • Difficulty saying, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
  • Feeling embarrassed or foolish around others
  • Finding it difficult to receive correction — justifying myself
  • Believing my way is right
  • Self-willed and stubborn
Problem with Pride

These symptoms of pride are obvious. What about the more subtle ones?

  • Often late for meetings or appointments
  • Interrupting a conversation or not listening when someone else is speaking
  • Being superficial
  • Difficulty working with others or as a team
  • Preferential treatment toward some, while neglecting others
  • Reluctant to share personal needs or struggles
  • Neglect of prayer or Bible reading

These lists form only the key points of my struggle. Though I am improving in this area substantially, my problem with pride has negatively affected many people.

The Antidote

Fortunately, God equips us to win! The problem with pride is beatable. We dare not let down our guard, lower our hammer, or turn a blind eye to any “pride mole,” wreaking havoc in our lives. Whether I whack once or fifty times a day, persistence reaps rewards.

Whack #1: If I ask, God stands ready to reveal and expose areas of pride in my life.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139:23-24

Puffed up Peacock

Whack #2: View every point seriously! Instead of a general, “I’ve failed . . . sinned . . . been proud,” be specific. By pinpointing the exact areas where the problem with pride arises, we target the “mole,” dragging it into the open. Then confess each area, asking God to reveal the source behind the problem.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9

Sometimes, I wrongly expect God’s complete faithfulness, regardless of my half-hearted confessions.

Whack #3: The responsibility for my pride rests on me. God desires that I choose humility, but the decision is mine.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5:6

Keep Whacking

For me, the greatest breakthroughs came after even more strategic whacks. Victory came as I honestly repented and confessed my pride to others. I needed to both ask for forgiveness and submit to accountability in this area. Painful, yes! But absolutely profitable.

I know the best path to follow loves what God loves and hates what He hates. Such a transformation of my heart and mind requires process — a Holy Spirit led daily process.

Peacock Feathers

I often become weary in the relentlessness of it all. In many ways, the problem with pride bears no resemblance to a happy children’s game. I expect the battle to continue as long as I wear this garment of weakened flesh.

“For this is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 57:15

This verse encompasses God’s ultimate goal for us — “to revive the spirit of the lowly (or humble) and . . . the heart of the contrite (or repentant).”

Humility

Humility literally means “low lying.” Humility consists of that quality where you don’t think you are better than any other person. We identify this freedom from pride and arrogance as true humility.

Humility never refers to belittling oneself or denying God-given gifts or abilities. Rather, it freely acknowledges God’s grace without diminishing others.

As a matter of fact, humility empowers us to encourage, build, and lift other people to their full potential without personally feeling threatened by their success or ours.

Humility

Humility opens the door for us to receive fully the knowledge, wise counsel, and even correction from others, without self-defence, criticizing, or becoming resentful.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

May we all overcome the problem with pride, learning to walk in true humility, gentleness, patience, and love.

Is anyone else ready for a ferocious game of “Catch-a-Mole?” Let’s do it!

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