Time to Grow Up?

Quart Bottle Milk Family

I just finished an article in the Christian Research Journal by Thomas E. Bergler who asserts that churches need to put spiritual maturity high on their agenda, pointing what we say, what we model and how we lead toward helping Christians attain spiritual maturity.  This post’s content is inspired by Dr. Bergler’s article with much of the content coming from there.  This post contains some tough teaching.  Hang on and hang in there!  There is hope at the end so read it all!

So, So True

The observation by Dr. Bergler that many people in our churches are “juvenilized Christians” (i.e, self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually shallow) hit home for me.  I’ve experienced first hand this kind of thinking and feeling from many, many people.  And, I’m not talking about “young” or “new” Christians who just are beginning their spiritual journeys and are expected to be immature in their faith and walk with God; I’m talking about people who have had ample opportunity, ample time and ample experience at least to be maturing, if not yet mature, in their faith.  Maybe that’s you; maybe not.  It’s probably more of you than would care to admit it.  I suspect after you read the rest of this post, you’ll have a better idea of whether you are maturing or not.

Spiritual Maturity is Desirable and Expected

Hebrews 5:11-6:1 – “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity ….”

Spiritual maturity is expected because it means becoming more and more like Christ.  That’s what being a Christian means: “little Christ.”  Over time, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we should be increasing our knowledge of the Lord as well as our “likeness” of Him.  We should be developing more fully the fruits of the spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-26.  We should become like our teacher, Jesus Christ (Luke 6:40).

Here are some of the areas/ways in which we should be attaining spiritual maturity:

Intellectually — A MATURE Christian knows the basics of the faith and is able to communicate them to another.  A MATURE Christian recognizes false teaching and is not swayed by such.  A MATURE Christian is routinely and regularly expanding their knowledge of who God is, what His Word says and what the Word means for all of us. An IMMATURE Christian doesn’t think it really matters what you believe as long as you earnestly believe it.  They don’t seek to dig deeper into the Word and are satisfied with what they think they already know.  They often say things like: “I don’t like to read” or “I don’t have time to study the Bible” or “I’m not comfortable in groups.”

Church commitment — A MATURE Christian recognizes the importance of the corporate church body as a place to connect with one another, and, more importantly, care for each other.  (Ephesians 4:7-16).  An IMMATURE Christian feels that a church home, and in particular regular corporate worship attendance, is an option if you need it or like it.  There is little value placed on commitment to a local church body beyond the individual feeling of whether it “does anything for me and my life.”  Their attitude is often “What has the church done for me lately” rather than “What have I done for the church lately.”

Serving and Kingdom growth — A MATURE Christian lives for others, serves others and joins others in serving others, all for the benefit of showing God’s love and introducing Him to other people.  They are “on mission” for God before themselves.  (Matthew 28:16-20).   They are sacrificial with their time and money.  However, IMMATURE Christians tend to see service as something that can be done to help the community at large, if and only if, they have the time, energy, money or interest to help a particular person or group of people.  They are happy to help someone as long as it fits in their schedule and makes them feel good.  They often point to one “community service project” event in the last year or a once-every-few-weeks service in the church as being “more than enough” to help the Kingdom.

Emotionally — A MATURE Christian is in control of their feelings rather than allowing their feelings to control them.  They do not feel sorry for themselves and they reject feelings of jealousy and anger towards others who are in different places economically, socially or physically.  They recognize that both suffering and comfort are regular parts of the Christian life.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 4:7-18).  An IMMATURE Christian believes that negative emotions, experiences and circumstances are unfair, unique to them, and that they have a “right” not to have them.  They often believe that one of the benefits of being “on God’s side” should be that life should be care-free, struggle-free and happy-me.  They often “get mad at God” because He’s not doing what they think He should be doing in their life, or, at least He’s not doing it quickly enough.

This is just an exemplary list, but it should get us all thinking.  Even while writing this, I had to stop and really, really think about myself and my own spiritual journey.  It was scary.  I have a long way to go.  Too many of the “immature” descriptions described me.  I didn’t like that and I don’t want that for me, for my family or for my church!  So, I had to ask myself these questions:

Am I allowing God to mature me?

Am I satisfied with spiritual milk rather than seeking deeper things of God?

Will I do anything about where I am and where I need to be?

I hope that you ask yourselves these questions too.  And, that you answer them!

The Fate of Hypocrisy

"The Smallest Church in the World"

 

Sermon Notes from July 7, 2013.  You can catch the audio sermon on the Adventure Church website.  This message was based on scripture from Mark 11.

“Hypocrisy” – means to act or to pretend.  In short, it means to act like something that you are not.  The world is full of hypocrites, including the church.  But for Christians, it is especially important that we seek to be “real” and “authentic” all of the time.  Our witness is mostly who we are, not what we say.  As many as 72% of unchurched people say that the church is full of hypocrites.

“What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” – Emerson

The Hypocrisy of False Appearances

Mark 11:13-14, 20-21 — Jesus sees a fig tree in the distance full of leaves.  It appears to be healthy, but he finds it to be fruitless and curses the tree.  The next day, the disciples find the tree completely withered.

We can too easily live in such as way as to appear that everything is “good” or “fine” when in fact, our real life is far from such things.  We are broken inside.  We hurt.  We sin.  (note: illustration – ‘Dust if you Must’ – when we clean our homes for company, we shove all of our clutter and dirt in the closet or under the bed.  Do we do the same with our spiritual and emotional clutter?)  When we live like this, it is destructive to ourselves and the people around us, especially our kids, who are watching us.

Such hypocrisy is detestable to God, is known by Him, and will be destroyed.  Just like the fig tree, God knows if our lives our bearing fruit.  He knows our real selves.  And, when we try to live a double life, it destroys us.

Also, see Luke 6:45 – “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man things out of the evil stored up in his heart ….” — What is on the outside comes from what is in our inside, our heart.  Fruitlessness shows that we have a heart problem.

The Hypocrisy of Wrong Focus

Mark 11:15-16 – Jesus enters the temple area and turns over the tables of the money changers and prevents them from transacting business.  He teaches the crowd by saying “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The temple was the centerpiece of the Jewish faith.  By his actions, Jesus showed that they had come to worship the acts of holiness, the rituals, instead of worshipping God, the only one who is worthy of our worship.

As individuals and churches, we can slip into the hypocrisy of wrong focus.  Instead of spending our lives worshipping God himself, and living for His purposes, we get caught up in our buildings, our attendance numbers, our great music.  We can even allow ourselves to fall into a place of “pious fellowship” whereby we spend time with one another and are “happy” to be with each other, as long as there is no sin mentioned or demonstrated.  We don’t want broken people or personal filth to interrupt our “holy fellowship” times in our small groups or pot-luck dinners.

This type of hypocrisy is opposed to God’s purposes and will be exposed by Him.  God will not allow us to continue to worship things that are not aligned with His purposes or that conflict with our worship of Him.  He exposes our inauthenticity – to us, to others, to the world.  And, just as Jesus upset the money changers’ tables, when our focus is wrong, and it is exposed, it upsets our lives in uncomfortable ways.  But, that’s how God gets our attention.

The Hypocrisy of Willful Ignorance

Mark 11:27-28 – Jesus engages in yet another verbal exchange with the religious leaders.  The leaders try to trap Jesus once again with a question, but Jesus poses a question back to them.  The leaders choose not to answer and in refusing to do so, expose their hypocrisy.  The refuse to listen to God’s Word, instead choosing to be worried about what other men will think of them.

This may be the most devastating of all of the hypocrisies.  Willful ignorance simply means that even though the Word is right in front of us, even though we can read the Bible, hear the Word preached, etc., we choose not to take it to heart.  We know what we should do, or what we should not, but we choose against those things in favor of what is most expedient or most comfortable for us.

This hypocrisy shows up in our lives as we fail to live as God directs in our marriages, our relationships, in how we forgive others, in what we do at work or at school or on the golf course.  The bottom line is that we purposely sin because we willfully ignore God’s Word.  What can be more hypocritical than that?

Such hypocrisy is repugnant to God and will be defeated.

The Bottom Line

1 Peter 2:-2 – “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation ….”

Note: illustration about deer getting addicted to junk food to the point of not being able to consume anything healthy.  It lead to their destruction.

We must crave pure spiritual milk from God.  We must get rid of our hypocrisy, for the sake of ourselves and the kingdom, by feasting on what is good, allowing God to transform our hearts so that we can bear good fruit.

Are Some Sins “Worse Than” Other Sins?

3D Scales of Justice

This is another question from the congregation during Adventure’s “Q & A” series recently.  For some, this seems to be a very important sticking point in their faith.  Frankly, I’m not sure why.  I think it might have to do with our comparative nature of not wanting to be “as bad” as someone else.  Maybe it has to do with our own sense of justice as we try to  figure out the world we live in.  Perhaps we seek the answer to this question to help us understand God’s grace more fully.

In any event, I do believe that there is an answer to this that we can understand, and, when understood, that should motivate us to seek to live more holy lives.

The Actual Question as Written“Are some sins a ‘bigger deal’ than other sins (i.e., abortion, homosexuality, adultery vs. lying, gossiping)?”

The Answer:

The short response to this question is “No and Yes.”  That may sound like a cop-out, but it really is the truth.  The answer of whether one particular sin is “worse than” another is dependent on how we are looking at (i.e., “evaluating”) a particular sinful action or inaction.  Let me explain.

The “All Sins are Equal” Perspective

All sin causes separation from God.  (Romans 3:23) That means that EVERY sin, whether we would see it as “little” or “big” is completely and fully devastating to our relationship with God, who is perfect and holy in every respect.  Any pollution to the relationship at all, no matter how small, causes imperfection and separation.

An illustration I like to use to explain this goes like this.  Imagine that you are a lamp with a cord that needs to be plugged into the wall in order to have “power that turns on your light.”  Imagine that God is the electrical socket in the wall.  When we are “plugged in” to God, our relationship is “perfect” and our light is on.

Now, imagine that sin is any distance between the cord’s plug and the wall socket.  What we might see as a “small” sin (for example, calling into work and saying I’m sick when I’m really not because I wanted to play golf) might only move the plug away from the socket a short distance – let’s say a foot.  What we might see as a “big” sin (for example, cheating on my wife or committing cold-blooded murder of multiple people) would move the plug away from the socket a big distance – let’s say a mile.  In BOTH EVENTS, the lamp is not plugged in and there is no “relationship” between the power-source and the lamp.  Both “sins” essentially caused “equally devastating” damage to the relationship because the relationship is either “on” or “off”.

So, from the perspective of our relationship with God, there is really no “ranking of sins” because ALL sin separates us from God.

(Note:  While not directly related to the question of the ranking of sins, I do want to finish my illustration. — Jesus is the extension cord of infinite length (i.e, infinite grace) who is always sufficient to connect our lamp to the power source. See, Romans 5:26).

The “All Sins are Not Equal” Perspective

On the other hand, and something that we often forget, is that our sins do not just affect our relationship with God, they also affect our relationships with people.  And, because of that truth, it is also true that a particular sin that I commit can cause much more damage to my personal relationships with people, as well as their relationships with people and with God, and, therefore, is “worse” than another sin I might commit.

Staying with the sins used in my example above — lying about being sick in order to play golf will definitely cause some damage to a relationship or two.  Even if I don’t get “caught”, by lying I have introduced an element of distrust into the relationship I have with my boss and co-workers.  If you don’t believe that, just imagine what I might think the next time a co-worker called in sick and left me with a bunch of extra work that day.  Don’t you think it would cross my mind that he might be out playing golf?  Of course, damage to the relationship, any relationship, is not good.  But, the damage caused in this example will be fairly “contained” and hopefully “subside” somewhat over time, particularly if I don’t compound the damage by continuing to lie.

However, if I cheat on my wife or commit a multiple murder, the damage and pain caused by such sins would be devastating to many, many people for a long, long time.  There would be extreme grief reaching multiple families.  My kids would be devastated and their future marriages would be impacted as they would have to overcome an element of mistrust.  And, you can only imagine the devastation and ripple effects of committing multiple murders – to families, to the community, to the legal system, to the church, etc.

So, from the perspective of my relationship with people, some sins are much “worse” than others because of the widespread damage they cause to relationships – between me and others, between others and others, and between others and God.

The Bottom Line Goal

Our goal in seeking an answer to this question should not be so that we can compare our sins to the sins of others.  Instead, our goal should be to understand that what we do, and what we fail to do, when we are not living up to what God wants for us and from us, causes damage to both our relationship with God and with others.  That’s why sin is harmful and that is why it is wrong.  Sin isn’t harmful because God says so.  Sin is harmful SO God says so.

Previous Questions:  How Can I Know God’s Will?

How Can You Know God’s Will?

Question mark

 

Recently, I conducted Question & Answer sessions during our weekend services at Adventure Church.  People asked questions via email, text or notecards during the services and I attempted to answer as many as I could during each service.  There was a HUGE response to this activity and many suggested that I blog some of the questions and answers as well.  So, here’s the first one.

The actual Question:  “How do I really know if God wants me to move my family?”

Answer:

This question, and a few similar ones, has to do with God’s will for our lives.  It’s a common inquiry.  And, it should be.  Of course we should all want to be within God’s will for our lives and to do our best to direct our families to be within God’s will.  So, how can  we know God’s will?  The answer comes in a few parts.

God’s Hidden Will

It is only logical, and reasonable, that there are some things about God and His will that are not now known, and will not be known presently.  At first that statement might confuse you or even anger you because we can sometimes feel that it is our “right” to know everything.  But, if you really think about it, is that your right?  And, is it even necessary?  The short answer is:  of course not!

God is God.  We are not.  He gets to decide what He reveals about Himself and His will.  We don’t get to decide.  He’s the Creator.  He’s the One in control.  He’s God.

He even reminds us of this in His Word in the book of Job where God essentially says “Who do you think you are?   Did you create the world and everything in it?  Were you there?” (see especially chapters 38-40)

But, don’t fret.  God is also perfectly just and perfectly loving.  He’s not going to hide something from us that He desires us to know.  Why would he?  Even I, an imperfect father to my children, wouldn’t hide from my children knowledge that I want them to know.  It just wouldn’t make any sense to do so.  So, whatever is within God’s hidden will should be hidden, and it will stay hidden until God decides otherwise.  And, it does not and should not affect anything about our present day living.

God’s Revealed Will

Then, there is God’s revealed will.  This is His will that can be known by us.  And, when you really search for it, you can find it.  See below.

God’s Universal Will

Part of God’s revealed will is called His “universal will.”  That simply means that whatever is within God’s universal will is God’s will for everybody.  There is a lot of God’s universal will in nature – for example – oxygen to breathe, gravity to bind us to the earth, and sunlight to provide energy.  There are also other things that are clearly God’s universal will – for example, it is His will that all would come to know Jesus as Savior for He sent Jesus to the world because “God so loved the world …”  See also, 2 Peter 3:9.

Outside of God’s Will

Then there are some things that are clearly outside of God’s will.  Sometimes these can be easy to identify.  It is outside of God’s will for me to murder someone, to steal, to cheat on my wife, or to be selfish with my possessions.   When we are outside of God’s will, we are committing sin.  God has given us the Bible so that we can know what is outside of His will.

God’s Specific Will and God’s Permissible Will

At times, God has a “specific will” for us.  And, at times God’s will is what is called “permissible will.”  This is where most of our questions about “God’s will for me” come from.  I hope that I can explain these for you to ease some pressure for you and to get you to focus on a better question for your life.

First, let me explain the difference between specific will and permissible will.

“Permissible will” choices are those choices / decisions that God allows us to make on our own, that are not outside of His will (i.e., sinful).  Most things in life (that are not sinful) fall within this category.

“Specific will” means that specific calling that God has for you at a particular time and place.  Frankly, most decisions we make are not really within or outside of God’s specific will.  I’ll explain more below.

If God has something specific for you — i.e., a decision that He desires for you to make, a choice to choose, or a path to take — we would further define that as a “calling.”  When God is calling you to something, He is going to specifically gift you to accomplish the goal or to meet the challenge.  He is going to give you passion for whatever it may be.  And, it is going to further His kingdom specifically in some way.  (That’s the kicker and is often the difference-maker between specific will and permissible will).  Some things that may be included in this are being called to the mission field, called to the pastorate, marrying a Christian if you are going to marry, etc.

However, all other choices, as long as they are not sinful, are going to be within God’s permissible will.  That simply means that God allows us to make a choice and whatever choice is made, He can bless that choice and use us within that choice.  By far, most choices that we make (that are not sinful) are permissible will choices.  Here are some examples:  who you marry, whether to take the job at company A or company B, whether to live in Louisville or New York, whether to buy a house or not, which prom dress to wear, what gift to give your wife for her birthday, etc.  Those are all permissible will decisions because no matter what we choose (as long as it’s not sinful), God can bless that choice in a special way.

Where I have seen people get hung up, and stressed out, is thinking that a permissible will choice is somehow a specific will choice.  I’ve seen someone truly fearful that she was going to be outside of God’s specific will by choosing to take a job at Starbucks instead of working at the local mall.  Believe me, God is a very big God and he can use you at Starbucks or the mall so either choice is permissible!

So, relax.  Spend your time in prayer, studying the Word, and seeking advice from other Christians on the important question in all of this “will” stuff:  is this decision outside of God’s will or not?  In other words, if I make this decision (this choice) will I be sinning?  If we all spent more time on that question, the rest of our decisions would be a lot easier, and, frankly our lives would be a lot less complicated and a lot more holy.

 

Who are you giving to? You might be surprised …

photoAt Adventure Christian Church we are currently teaching a series titled, “Money Matters.”  The point of this series is not about getting people to give more to the church.  The point is for all of us to acknowledge the influence that money has on our lives and to learn to be in control of money rather than to be controlled by it.  It sounds easy enough!  But, the reality is, it’s not.

Today’s post is titled “Who are you giving to? You might be surprised” and is essentially my sermon notes from this past Sunday.  There was a long list included in the message so I thought it could be beneficial to some to post the notes for use later.  I realize this post isn’t as detailed as some others, but remember it’s just my notes.  Listen to the message for the full lesson.

You can listen to the sermon here:  Buddy’s Sermon January 13, 2013.

The Enemy Wants To Deceive You

Mark 12:15 – But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. Why are you trying to trap me? he asked..

1.Money does not equal security

2. Money does not equal satisfaction

Proverbs 15:17 –  Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.

3.  “Your” money is not really yours

Whose “Portrait” are you giving to?

Mark 12:16 – They brought the coin, and he asked them, Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?  Caesars, they replied

1.  What/who are you most disappointed with right now?

2.  Whatsoever you spend your money on?

3.  Where do you spend your time?

4.  What consumes your thoughts?

5.  What are you scared to lose?

6.  Where do you turn/go when you have been hurt?

7.  What brings you the most joy?

8.  Whose applause do you long for?

(note: The list in this section was changed in respects but largely came from a Tim Harlow blog post who said he adapted it from Kyle Idelman’s new book coming out soon.)

You Are Made in God’s Image, So Give Your All to Him

Mark 12:17 – Then Jesus said to them, Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods.  And they were amazed at him.

They gave to Caesar because everything was his — the property, the money, the farm, the animals.  They understood that to be true.  God has made us His as well.  Everything we are is His.  So let’s give Him our ALL.

Discipline Makes the Conscious Unconscious

This is the fourth article in my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Conscious Unconscious” and continues our discussion of the benefit of engaging in spiritual disciplines routinely, over time, in an ever-increasing measure.

We began this series with my previous articles: “What is Discipline?”, “What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?” and “Men Are Easily Distracted.”

Making Choices …

We control our days more than we realize.  What we decide to do or not to do impacts so many other things every day.  Our choices impact our conversations, they impact our relationships and they guide our behaviors.  Our choices influence our very thoughts.

Even after counseling people in both spiritual and legal situations for over 20 years now, it still amazes me how little people understand the connection between the choices they make and the state of affairs their lives are in.  Too often, people fail to make the connection between how the little choices made (or not made) each day have set the tone for their attitudes and expectations, and, ultimately, their “day.”  Instead, many believe that their life situations are “caused” by some external forces beyond their control and that the chaos of their life is simply something that is “happening to them.”

But the reality is, that what we choose for ourselves makes all the difference.  What we choose to read, what we choose to watch, whom we choose to be around, where we choose to go, and what activity in which we choose to engage is OUR CHOICE.  And when we make poor choices, things don’t go as well for us.

The difference between a chaotic life and a peaceful life is developing habits so that the routine, everyday choices are made effortlessly, almost unconsciously.

Choosing without Thinking

Any great athlete will tell you that the main goal of practicing each day is to create an “unconscious response” to a given game situation.  More accurately, the goal is not just an unconscious response but the CORRECT unconscious response.

We make unconscious decisions all of the time.  If you have been driving a car for any length of time, then you experience unconscious decision-making.  You don’t “think about” moving your foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal to stop the car, you just do it.  You don’t “think about” smoothly turning the steering wheel in a curve so that the car doesn’t jerk repeatedly, you just do it.  Why?  Because you have trained yourself to “think unconsciously” via days and days of practice and habit-formation.

The same mental capacity to “choose unconsciously” is also available in our spiritual lives.  We can practice spiritual disciplines until they are so habitual that in given situations we simply “respond without thinking.”

The Benefit of Spiritual Discipline

As we “train” in areas of spiritual discipline such as Bible study, scripture memorization, controlling our speech, and removing ourselves from problematic situations and conversations, the wise choices we make start to become part of us — Godly choices become natural for us.

In Psalm 119:11, the Psalmist exclaims to God: “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

What an awesome goal!  The daily spiritual training of Bible study, reading, memorization and meditation eventually leads to God’s Word being “hidden” in us, almost at an unconscious level.  What that means is that when we are confronted with conflict, instead of reacting harshly (our natural selves), we respond with patience and kindness.  It means that when we are tempted, instead of giving in to the temptation to satisfy our flesh (our natural selves), we are actually repulsed by the temptation before us.

What we previously “thought about,” becomes “unconsciously natural” after we have hidden the Word in our hearts.

The Bottom Line

The more we engage in spiritual discipline activities such as study and scripture memorization, the more our decisions, actions and speech become Biblically unconscious.  Our nature actually becomes more “Christ-like.”

What’s Next?

Go back to the article titled “What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?” and pick out three or four spiritual disciplines that you will seek to develop more fully.  Make a commitment to make these disciplines part of your daily routine so that they become habits.  As they do, notice the difference in your life — the difference in your relationships, in your attitude, in your outlook and in your behavior.

 

Men Are Easily Distracted

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This is the third article in my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Men Are Easily Distracted” and begins our discussion of the obstacles men face in engaging in spiritual disciplines routinely, over time, in an ever-increasing measure.

The first article, “What is Discipline?” defined “discipline” as a means of God training us versus God punishing us.  The second article, What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway? provided some examples of spiritual disciplines.

Men Need Discipline Because We Are Easily Distracted

Are you still reading this blog?  Great!  You passed the first barrier!

It surprises me that I am such a poor driver.  Fortunately, I haven’t had a serious accident or caused any severe damage to my car or the cars around me.  But, the truth is that while I am driving, especially when there is not a lot of traffic around, I find myself to be easily distracted by what’s around me.

“Look at the deer!”  “Wow, there’s a new Starbucks!”  “I wonder how many of these reflector things are on this road?”  “What time is my meeting this afternoon?”  “Oh yeah, I need to call Bob about the thing.” — Those are the things that often go through my mind while I’m driving.  Yes, I am easily distracted.

Distractions for Men

Men can have a tendency to become distracted by the newest, most exciting thing around them.  We are curious.  We want more.  We like new things.  We want to be successful.  We have a lot on our plates.

So, it is not uncommon for us to allow the new, shiny thing to distract us from our priorities, especially those priorities where we do not have to “officially” give an account to anyone today.

Sports, women, cars, friends, kids, jobs, to-do lists, golf games, elections.  Those are all things that can become the focus of our minds, and our time, and eventually our choices, if we allow them too — IF we are not disciplined.

The Problem with being Distracted

The problem with living a distracted life is that we are “trading” what is currently before us in exchange for what is “most important” to us.  Distraction causes us to short-change our spiritual growth, our families and our churches because instead of spending our time investing in those things which we would declare are most important to us, we “accidentally” spent 40 minutes watching SportsCenter or a couple of days reading through car magazines fantasizing about our next car purchase.

Obviously, the end result in such situations is that those things we declare most important suffer at the hands of the distraction.

The Benefit of Spiritual Discipline

One of the benefits of developing spiritual discipline in our lives is that we become more focused; and, more importantly, we become more focused on the One who matters most, Jesus.

As we engage in the discipline of finding a quiet place and time to read and pray for example, we are choosing to not allow the world to distract us.  The reason I’m so easily distracted while I’m driving … is because I’m driving.  New things are all around me literally every second.  But when I choose to be in a quiet place – no t.v., no radio, no phone, no kids running around, my mind is able to give God and His Word the attention they deserve.

As we engage daily in the disciplines of prayer, study and Bible reading, we hear God’s voice more clearly.  He starts our days off in the right direction with reminders of what He wants for us and for those around us.  He reminds of us our responsibilities so that when the moment of distraction presents itself, we are prepared to say “no” to it.

As we engage in the discipline of offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, i.e., worshipping God with ALL of our lives (see Romans 12:1-2), we begin to see changes in every other area of our lives.  We become more productive at work.  We are better husbands and better fathers.  We speak differently to our family and those at work.  We are less stressed.  We spend our money differently.  We approach problems in a new way.  Everything begins to change.

The Bottom Line

We are not changed into perfect men overnight when we become Christians.  Instead, God uses a training process to transform us into the people He desires.  The first step in this process is removing distractions from our lives and developing routines focused on improving those things which we have consciously CHOSEN as most important.

What’s Next?

To get started with this process answer these questions honestly:

What is most important in my life?

How am I currently spending my time each day?

Where and what are the things that “distract” me?

What steps can I take tomorrow to eliminate the distractions so that I can begin to focus on the things I have identified as most important?

In my next article, I will address another reason why men need discipline:  because we think we know more than we really know.