It’s easy to get distracted. Recently, I was in a room filled with people talking. There was music playing in the background and children were running around. An individual stopped me and started talking about something important. As he spoke, I found myself wanting to listen, but I was distracted by the “room noise.” At one point, I watched his lips moving, but I could not hear a word he was saying. I needed to change something. This past Monday morning, I found a quiet place and started to pray. It seemed like a flood of thoughts came rushing into my head…all this “room noise” in my head of things I felt I needed to do that day and the cares of life. I asked the Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to help me focus on Him. Only after several minutes was I able to start praying with faith and clarity. The Psalmist knew the importance of prayer and our need of staying centered on the Lord Himself. In Psalm 123:2 we read, “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, and as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.” A good servant knows the importance of closeness and attention to detail. Life is full of competing voices and many distractions. In order for me to hear my friend over the noise, I had to alter a few things. First, I had to step closer to him and put my ear nearer to his mouth. At the same time I continued to watch his lips and listen intently to what he was saying. This definitely helped our communication. In hindsight, the best course of action would have been to step into another room, close the door, and listen to every word clearly. The Lord Jesus deserves our undivided attention. As we tune in and listen, life takes on the sense of a mission and not just a “merry-go-round.” Following Jesus is our call…let’s not get distracted.
Most of the Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon. However, God also chose a few others to bring us truth through this amazing book. A man named Agur wrote Proverbs 30, and in verses 7-9 he prayed an interesting prayer: “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” So, Agur is probably an older man at this time (he mentions these requests “before I die”). He has reflected on life and his relationship with God. First, he prays that he might not become a liar or get caught up in lies (“Keep falsehood and lies far from me”). Agur, in wisdom, knows that a good life is one of truth. Lies only bring confusion in our relationship with God and enflame strife between people. Next, Agur prays over his daily needs. He prays not to be rich and not to be poor. He simply asks God for his daily bread. The Bible teaches that both riches and poverty carry deceitful temptations. The rich person is tempted to “disown” God, saying things like, “Who is the Lord?” This attitude is all too common in America as many who “have it made” totally ignore God. An attitude of ingratitude never leads to anything good, and Agur asked to be spared this. He also prays about poverty, asking God to allow him to live above this. Poverty tempts people to break the law and dishonor God. From these verses, I receive the truth that God wants me to trust Him and be content with whatever comes my way. I don’t need to seek wealth or choose poverty as somehow “being more spiritual.” Our Lord graciously gives us everything we need. Let us give Him thanks!
There’s a lie going around, and I’d like to put a stop to it. People have been saying, “I don’t need anybody in my life to be a Christian. I don’t need the church. I don’t need to be part of a small group. I don’t need close brothers and sisters to share my life with. I’m fine just the way I am.” A person who is a Christian is under the authority of the Word, right? Each of us will one day be judged by the Word of God. The Bible clearly teaches a “one another” Christianity. Jesus died and rose from the dead—not just for your individual salvation, but so that you could be a part of His body—the Church. If you are truly born again, you have been born into a family (Ephesians 3:15). The success and blessing of the Early Church was due to the Christians living out their lives as a loving community under the Lordship of Christ. The Spirit was poured out as “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). The Lord added to their number daily because, as part of their life, “they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). The phrase “one another” is found over 76 times in the New Testament. In the Book of Ephesians, for example, we read: “bearing with one another in love” (4:2), “we are all members of one another in love” (4:25), “be kind and compassionate to one another” (4:32), and “submit to one another” (5:21). My favorite “one another” verse is “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). How can we possibly fulfill the law of Christ if we don’t even make an effort to be with each other? The reason for fellowship and togetherness is to learn how to love others and share the special gifts and ministry abilities God has given to each of us. “But, Pastor,” you may say, “you don’t understand. I’ve been hurt by other Christians.” Who hasn’t? What if the Apostle Paul had withdrawn into himself when he was hurt by the Corinthian believers? The beauty of being a Christian is being able to forgive and love others through Jesus—regardless of what they have done. We have a great responsibility…to love God and to love each other. If you don’t get involved in the lives of your spiritual family, you will never be able to fulfill God’s will for your life. Don’t wait for others to come to you. Go to them!
I couldn’t help overhearing a couple of young ladies walking ahead of me on the sidewalk. The one turned to the other and said, “I used to never hear anybody’s opinion except my own. But now I’m learning to listen to advice…and it’s helping.” As I heard this statement coming from this young woman, I wanted to jump into the conversation and congratulate her for her growth and progress (but I decided just to let them talk). As I look back, I can think of many times in my life when I could have avoided bad decisions had I intentionally sought out advice. The Bible (specifically the Book of Proverbs) is filled with challenges for us to humble ourselves and receive instruction. “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (16:20). “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray” (10:17). “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded” (13:13). Life confronts us with many complex situations which require us to make hard choices. The path of wisdom from Proverbs teaches us to seek the Lord and His Word and to surround ourselves with people of godly wisdom. As we do this, our choices are more likely to be profitable and fruitful. A wise teacher from my Bible college days encouraged us not to be afraid to ask questions. After all, how else would we learn what we don’t know? Seeking advice and knowledge beats fear and ignorance! One last proverb: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (15:22). Who speaks into your life?
Every day the news brings us the latest international news. Often we read of great boasts and even threats from rulers and dictators who hate America. These nations (and probably others we don’t know about) are taking steps toward acquiring nuclear weapons. What is the future of our world? Where is God is all this chaos? He is right where He has always been…in charge. Lately, I have been reading the psalms and have noticed the many places God speaks of the nations. We must understand that even though God focuses a lot of attention on the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, He is not just the ruler of Israel but of the world. “The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations will perish from his land” (Psalm 10:16). “For dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Because of the increase of wickedness in the last days, the nations of the world will continue to go through great turmoil (described in the Bible as like the raging of the sea). In the end, however, God will have His way. In fact, even though wrath is coming on the nations that do evil and forget God, the future is one of hope. “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him” (Psalm 22:27). As an individual, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t control or change the power of nations, but this doesn’t mean I should give in to worry and despair. There are some things I can do. I can and must pray for our nation and the leaders and people of the world. I can tell others (from all the nations who live right here in Philadelphia) of the love of God and salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. In summarizing our hope, here is the message we need to hold onto as we have just celebrated our nation’s Day of Independence: “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8). Not to worry…the Lord is in control!