Living A Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…”Our Enemy: Distraction”

This is part 6 of a series of posts I will be sending out every Friday,  relevant to the theme of this year’s ENGAGE Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference (only 4 weeks to go for Christchurch, 5 for Auckland!!!). The posts will be short, to the point, and practical – designed to help you/your family in preparation for the conference (you will still benefit if you’re not coming to the conference!). Here goes with the sixth post…

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Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…“Our Enemy: Distraction”.

Proverbs 4:25-27 NKJV – 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

In the last post, we talked about the importance of acknowledging God in all situations, and how “grace-paced” living is essentially living a life centred upon Christ. I have no doubt most of us reading this would agree, and desire this in our lives – yet we have an enemy that constantly holds us back, and hinders us from doing this.

The enemy I am referring to is that enemy called distraction. 

By the time some of you have read even this far in this post, it’s highly likely you’ve had the “urge” to check your email inbox quickly, or respond to that Facebook notification, or answer that text that just came through.  If so, you would share those urges with many people in today’s technology-saturated, 24/7 notification, information-overload culture.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing these things in, and of themselves – unless they are leading us into sin of course. But the frequency and placement of even “good” things, can end up being the enemy of the “best” things.

“Good” things become “bad” things when they hinder you from the “best” things.

When the best thing is being mentally and emotionally present with your family at the dinner table – a “good” text message can become something bad.

When the best thing is spending time in prayer and God’s Word – a “good” news article can become something bad.

When the best thing is getting to bed at a decent time, so you can function well the next day in your responsibilities – a “good” movie can become something bad.

When the best thing is focusing on the work you are responsible for carrying out – a “good” Facebook post (which so easily leads to 10 “good” Facebook posts!) can become something bad.

“Good” things become “bad” things when they hinder you from the “best” things. 

For example, think about the time when Martha was rushing around like crazy to get everything ready for dinner with Jesus, furious that her sister Mary was just “hanging out” with Jesus. Martha would have agreed that what Mary was doing was “good” – she just didn’t think it was “best”.

However, Jesus didn’t see it that way…

Luke 10:42 NKJV – 42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” 

We see something very vital for us to understand here.

So often in our lives at any given moment, one thing is needed. But so often (and I am speaking from experience!) we trade that one thing, for something far less important. The end result of this is that we miss out on God’s best for our lives.

As Proverbs 4:25-27 encourages us (see the beginning of this post) – it is very wise for us to stay focused, think carefully, and diligently stay on course in whatever best thing we are responsible to do, or whatever best path we are responsible for taking. We can only do this by defeating the enemy of distraction, which then allows us to live victoriously in that which God has called us to be and do.

For thought, prayer and application: Try to be hyper-alert today, to the many distractions that come your way, when you are doing the things that you are responsible to do. Ask yourself at that moment, “Do I need to respond to this?”, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I wait?”, “Will I pay for it later, by giving into distraction now?”, “Am I escaping responsibility by giving into this distraction?”. Ask God for His grace and strength to change established habits in your character so that you can learn to be more like Mary, and less like Martha.  There’s a time and a place for Martha activity – just not when it takes you away from Jesus and what He is wanting you to do. 

Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…”The Performance Trap”.

This is part 3 of a series of posts I will be sending out every Friday,  relevant to the theme of this year’s ENGAGE Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference. The posts will be short, to the point, and practical – designed to help you/your family in preparation for the conference (you will still benefit if you’re not coming to the conference!). Here goes with the third post…

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Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…”The Performance Trap”.

1 John 5:3 (NKJV) 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

In the last post, we talked about the difference between intention (actually carrying out that which God has called us to do), and intentions (desires that never turn into actions). We also considered the difference prayerful evaluation makes, in knowing what we should prioritise, so that we can focus on the right things, and not just “do stuff for the Lord”.

What I am about to say next may seem like an absolute contradiction to everything we have covered so far – but please bear with me.

For some of you reading this, the thing you need most, in order to make progress in that which God has called you to do and be, is to……wait for it…..not do anything!

What!?

That’s right – not do anything. Now when I say this, please don’t use this as an excuse to neglect your daily responsibilities or completely “drop the ball” in an area of your life. The context to which I am referring is that of “intentions” that are hovering around in your head, and haunting you by their “undone-ness”. This might be the intention to lead family devotions with your wife and children, the intention to spend more time in prayer as a busy mother, the intention to step things up in the discipleship of your children etc.

Whatever those things are, that you know should be given your time, and attention – here’s something really important to acknowledge. Doing or not doing those things makes absolutely no difference whatsoever, to your position before God. The acceptance, and security you have in your relationship with God was secured (past tense) by grace – not by anything you did, or didn’t do.

So……back to my original statement: The thing you need most, in order to make progress in that which God has called you to do and be, is to not do anything. That is, not do anything…….until…..you have it firmly settled and established in your mind and heart, that you do these things because you have God’s blessing, favour, and approval by grace, in Christ – not because you have to do those things to get God’s blessing, favour and approval. Yes God blesses obedience, but we often forget the greatest blessing is in our obedience, rather than it being something we get for our obedience.

In the following blog posts, there will be challenges to make changes, to “do” things, and to invest our time attention and energy in actions. That’s why it’s so important for us to understand that a grace-paced life begins with a grace-based relationship with the Lord.

“…we often forget the greatest blessing is in our obedience, rather than it being something we get for our obedience“.

There is no place for the believer to say, “I won’t do anything if I feel like I have to, or it’s not from the Lord” because God does require obedience. Therefore it’s not an issue of whether we obey or not, but rather how we obey. As 1 John 5:3 reminds us,  “…this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”. If it is a burden to obey our Lord, it just means we have forgotten our grace-position, and have slipped into a “performance trap”. Allow Christ to set you free today.

For thought, prayer and application: Are you a person who relies too much on the approval of others? Do you find yourself tempted to do or say things because of how others will / will not treat you, rather than because it’s the right thing to do? If this is a challenge for you, it’s important to recognise these attitudes will affect how you relate to God. The only remedy is to take those thoughts captive, and replace them with the truth of God’s Word. For all of us, whether we struggle with this or not, it’s essential that every now and again (the Lord’s supper is a great time for this) we check our hearts and acknowledge and correct any thinking that suggests our actions or obedience gain us favour from God, apart from the finished work of Christ. Meditate upon this truth: “God’s love for you is unconditional, and if you never did another thing “for” God for the rest of your life, His love for you would be unchanged”. When we really accept that fact, the response will always be a deep desire to “freely” serve, obey, and honour the God who loves us so incredibly. 

Click Below To Read Previous Posts in This Series…

Part 1 – “It is Finished!”

Part 2 – “Intention vs Intentions”

Have you registered for this year’s ENGAGE 2017 Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference (Christchurch & Auckland)? Click here to find out more and register.

Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…Intention vs Intentions!

This is part 2 of a series of posts I will be sending out every Friday,  relevant to the theme of this year’s ENGAGE Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference. The posts will be short, to the point, and practical – designed to help you/your family in preparation for the conference (you will still benefit if you’re not coming to the conference!). Here goes with the second post…

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Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Crazy-Paced World…Intention vs Intentions!

Mark 1:35 NKJV – 35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

Maybe since reading the last post, you had a moment to reflect on the level and nature of the busyness in your life – or maybe you were too busy? 🙂

One of the keys to making progress in the right things in our lives, which again is simply that which God has called us to be and do – is to understand the difference between intention, and intentions. They sound the same but are very different from each other.

Intention speaks of diligence, discipline, organization, and Spirit-empowered action. Intentions, on the other hand, speak of that which we want to do, know we should do, plan to do, but never actually get around to doing! We all know what it feels like to be surrounded and bogged down by the things that fit that category – and it’s never a pleasant experience, is it?

Having said this, that’s not always a bad thing – because some things we intend to do are birthed out of impulse, emotion, pressure, or obligation – so it’s no big loss when they get left by the wayside.

“Intention speaks of diligence, discipline, organization, and Spirit-empowered action”.

On the other hand, those things we neglect to do that God does want us to do – they are the things that haunt and hassle us with guilt, frustration, and regret.  So how can we avoid this?

Charles Hummel in his classic, tiny little booklet, “The Tyranny of the Urgent” puts it this way as He reflects upon the life of Jesus…“Jesus had no divinely drawn blueprint or schedule; He discerned the Father’s will day by day in a life of prayer. Because of this, He was able to resist the urgent demands of others and do what was really important for His mission” (p9-10).

What this helps us to understand, is that when prayer is a priority in our lives – it increases our “spiritual vision” and also our “spiritual strength”. We need spiritual vision to see more clearly that which God has and hasn’t called us to do, and we need spiritual strength to stay focused and faithful (living with intention) and avoid the distractions that lead to neglect (living with intentions).

In Summary – intention is when we prayerfully set the priorities for our lives, and in dependence upon the Lord, carefully carry them out. Intentions are just sincere, but unrealistic desires, that most likely will not eventuate – and even if they do, may not be God’s will for us anyway! Let us aim to live, by God’s grace, with more intention, and fewer intentions, remembering of course that we will fail at times. Thankfully, God knows this, so that’s why we have a Saviour to forgive us, and help us get on track again.

For thought, prayer and application: Take some time to mentally, or physically (better option) note down your top “intentions” for the next few weeks/months. Take this to God in prayer, and ask Him to show you which are in line with His will, and which are not. Prayerfully evaluate your motives for each intention. Ask the Lord to show you where you might be motivated by selfish gain, the approval of others, or pressure to conform. With those things you discern to be God’s will, ask God for the wisdom and strength to carry them out, and give them the priority they deserve. Confess any intentions that you have neglected, and believe and receive God’s forgiveness. 

Click Below To Read Previous Posts in This Series…

Part 1 – “It is Finished!”

Have you registered for this year’s ENGAGE 2017 Family Discipleship & Home Education Conference (Christchurch & Auckland)? Click here to find out more and register.