Some of you may have a family motto, or a common phrase that you use within your home. For my family and I, our motto is “Be Easy to Live With.” We’re not a perfect family by any means, but below are some ways in which we attempt to apply being easy to live with in our home and lives. I’ll break this down so each of us can focus on a few thoughts each day. Hope this helps.
Practicing His Presence,
If you’ve ever tried to play the piano by starting with your fingers over by one key, or if you’ve ever been typing on the computer only to find that your hands started one key over, then you’ve noticed that either the tune was way off, or the letters/words on the screen weren’t making any sense. When this happens, you admit you were close, but close was incorrect and unpleasant, right? So you carefully reset your hand positions before trying again, and then give it another go at it. Finally, you begin to hear and see something that makes sense and is beautiful.
In the Bible, I can think of two examples of individuals who were so close, yet so way off.
In John 3, Nicodemus, a religious leader for the Jews, was confronted by the truth of Jesus. Jesus shares with Nicodemus how he was so close, yet so far from entering the Kingdom someday. Jesus helped Nicodemus understand where his truth and trust needed to lie, and once Nicodemus received that with his whole heart, then he too was on his way to heaven (John 7:50). Such a beautiful adjustment and scene in the life of Nicodemus.
Similarly, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus confronts those who claimed to have prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and did many wonders in His name. Knowing their heart and intentions, He looks them in the eyes and says “I never knew you; depart from me.” Here they thought they were right on, maybe so close, yet Jesus lets them know that they were so very way far off.
Some in our culture believe that there are many ways and many beliefs on how to get to heaven. Sadly enough they’ll end up like many of the false prophets, but hopefully they’ll realize it in time and make the choice that Nicodemus eventually made when he was confronted with reality and THE truth.
If you feel like maybe you’re a little off, or “close,” then ask the Lord, and He’ll let you know. If your idea of truth needs realigned, then allow Him to show you how to correctly place your faith and trust in Him ALONE.
How can you know for sure if you don’t just have a head knowledge of God, but a saving knowledge of God? Check out the verses below, and this link as well Steps to Peace with God by Billy Graham.
James 2:19 (NLT) You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
Acts 4:12 (NIV) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
Matthew 1:21 (NIV) She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Acts 10:43 (NIV) All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT) For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.
John 14:6 (NIV) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV) Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
In today’s lesson there are two extremes that we as believers must guard ourselves against. Overly-busy and boredom.
God designed us to be a busy people. In fact, He tells us to look to the ant as an example of what it looks like to remain busy (Proverbs 6:6-11). But keep in mind that He didn’t intend for our busy-ness to result in ignoring family (1 Timothy 5:8), or ignoring the spiritual needs of others (Acts 6:1; 1 Corinthians 11:33), or ignoring the Lord Himself (Luke 10:38-42). Becoming overly-busy always leads to unnecessary high stress levels, being distracted, loss of purpose/meaning/direction, seeking to fulfill selfish ambitions, and regret of missing the big picture / what’s most important in life. On the other hand, some choose the extreme opposite of overly-busy, which is boredom.
This extreme has its own issues. The Book of Proverbs provides multiple examples of what it looks like to be someone who is considered a SLUGGARD or LAZY…which leads to differing levels of boredom. Being bored and lazy can indeed lead to much self-destruction. What we know, and at times observe, is that oftentimes when someone is lazy or bored their mind runs as fast as it can to unprofitable thoughts and actions – such as cheating, lusting (fulfilling the lust of the flesh or the lust for materialism/unnecessary and unaffordable purchases), uncleanliness, oversleeping, and possibly hatred towards others or self. This list could go on and on, right?
So what is the balance?
God doesn’t want us to live in a state of being bored, and He also doesn’t want us to be so busy that we lose sight of what’s most important in life. Rather, in Philippians 4:8 below, we are encouraged to think and act on multiple things. Notice how often the word things is used, and notice that it’s a plural word. A busy word. A word that will keep our mind and actions busy in ways in which God intended and desires. Take some time to meditate on THESE THINGS today, and ask the Lord to reveal to you what change needs to be made in your mind and life at this time. Remember, what you meditate or allow your mind to think on, is often what you will act on (James 1:15). Therefore, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV).
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Practicing His Presence,
Eyes, Hands, and Feet. As you consider the verses and the lyrics in the hymn below, request from the Lord that He’ll show you how to be Jesus with skin on each and every day of your life…both to the lovely and to the unlovely…to the prosperous and to the needy.
Practicing His Presence,
Hymn: Make me a Blessing
Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
Making the sorrowing glad.
Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love,
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True, every moment you live.
Give as ’twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.
A former Pastor of mine used to remind me often to “Keep Looking Up!” Even though that phrase has always stuck with me, doesn’t mean that I have always lived it out, especially during difficult times in my life. For instance, these past few years an uncle of mine has created a pretty traumatic and stressful time in my life. I have grown bitter towards him, and have struggled forgiving an unforgiving individual. His evil deeds have been a constant film playing in my head. In fact, just the other night I had a nightmare about this uncle confronting me again. As I laid in bed, the Lord brought to my mind the scene of Peter sinking in the water, but this time it was me. I was the one slapping at the water. I felt like the purposeless / aimless shadow boxer that the Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 9:26. What the Lord made me realize in that moment is that during this experience I had taken my eyes off of Him and fixed them on my circumstance. I got distracted by my circumstance and because of that I am left with no other choice at this time but to look up and cry out as Peter did (sometimes the Lord allows us to begin to sink until we realize He’s all we need). If only I'd kept my eyes fixed on Him from the very beginning...would there be less regret? Would there be less stress? Would there be less sleepless moments? Would there be more love and no bitterness or anger? Would there be more trust in His purpose and plan?
Maybe I’m not alone here…I doubt I am. So let me ask you, what's the situation keeping you from looking up and or crying out to Him today? Have you allowed your situation to cause you to turn to or from Him?
Below are a few Biblical examples and reminders for us to consider and apply each day of our lives. Keep growing, learning, maturing, and looking up! When you do, you’ll find Him right in front of you every time…you just have to be willing to call out to Him and recognize His presence.
In God’s Word we find that the Holy Spirit knew that looking up / unto the Lord wouldn’t come natural or easy for humankind. But what we find is that when looking up is the first resort, then all else seems to fade away. Examples…
In John 6:60-69 some disciples (students/pupils) chose to turn their backs on the Lord and no longer walk with Him. Jesus asked His disciples (genuine followers of Christ) if they too wanted to leave Him? In verse 68, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
In the midst of others deserting the Lord and His ways (going their own hopeless way), Peter knew that there was only one true option to follow and look to…and that was to The Way / Christ Himself. Others deserting the Lord posed a potential distraction for Christ’s disciples. Thankfully they recognized that there was no one else to go / look to in their time of need.
In Exodus 3:1-6 we read about an interaction between Moses and the Lord at the burning bush. When Moses was confronted with Who God is he chose to hide his face, why? Because he was afraid to look upon the Lord. God’s magnificence was his distraction. The possibility of being confronted by God / His ways and truths, is a real fear for many. When understanding who God really is…some run to Him, but sadly enough, all too often there are also some who choose to run away from Him (to hide their faces from Him).
In Psalm 40:1-12, David was so guilt-driven because of his sin – to the point where he admits that his shame has caused him to be unable to look up to the Lord. It paralyzed him. He just mentally convinced himself that he physically couldn’t look up at Him. Guilt and shame in the midst of Holiness were his distractions at the time.
Similarly, in Isaiah 38:1-14, Hezekiah chose to fix his eyes on his situation – which was an illness that nearly caused him to die. In that moment of his life, Hezekiah admits to us in verse 14 that “My eyes fail from looking upward.” Such action was a willful decision that he made. Sickness and fear of death were his distractions.
In Numbers 21:4-9, the Israelites are called out for being impatient with and grumbling against the Lord. They were given one command after being bitten by the snakes…look to the bronze serpent that Moses put on his pole. Either turn and die, or look to it and live, were their two options. Many became distracted by their discontentedness and physical illness…therefore, they refused to obey and look to Him for healing. Choosing, then, to live in their misery.
In Matthew 14:22-33, the Lord invited Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him…to walk on water with Him. Peter was obedient, looked to Jesus, and then his surroundings began to change. Out of his peripheral Peter saw the wind, looked down, began sinking, cried out, and the Lord rescued him. While being tossed to and fro by the wind and waves he began to panic. Peter relied on his own abilities in that moment, and this resulted in him beginning to sink / “dig himself a deeper whole”. His peripheral / the surroundings, storm, doubts and the fears of his life distracted him from keeping His eyes fixed straight ahead on the Lord. Do you have tunnel vision for Him, or is your peripheral causing you to take the nearest exit ramp?
In John 3:14, Jesus reminds us that “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”
He MUST be lifted up…that’s where true answers and healing begin. And when He’s lifted up, our posture and mindset should be looking up, regardless of the traumatic circumstances surrounding us. During a hard time in Jesus’ life – even He demonstrated in John 11:41 that He looked up and spoke with His Father in heaven (his prayers during pressure-filled times in Matthew 14:19 and John 17:1 also demonstrates for us that He physically looked up in those moments). Thanking Him for hearing His cries to Him.
Followers of Christ Today
As you can see – prayer is a great cure for eliminating distractions. May we be known in our home, community, church, etc., for – “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:12 encourages us to continually be “faithful in prayer.” And the same author in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) reminds us to “Never stop praying.”
You might wonder, “What and how should I pray today?” If anything, Psalm 5:1-3 below might be the best guide to at least get you started…
Psalm 5:1-3 (NKJV) A Prayer for Guidance…A Psalm of David.
5 Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.
2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.
3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 2 granddaughters, a police chaplain, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter