Sunday, March 17, 2013


Sometimes distractions are a good thing. They allow us to to stop and rest. And, often times, it is those distractions that give us a fresh perspective. Every now and then at work I just need to step away. A quick five minute break from staring at the computer brings my productivity back to normal. However, more often than not, distractions are negative. They take our focus off the present. They keep us from what's important. They suppress our potential and inhibit us from achieving our goals. Distractions have the power to send us into financial ruin. They can get us canned at work. They have the potential to destroy relationships.

Distractions are everywhere we turn. For me, it usually comes in the form of television. This is part of the reason I got rid of cable several years ago. I knew without it I would be much more productive and active. Oh yeah, saving $50 a month was a bit motivational as well. While I thought I would miss cable, it turns out I was wrong; the withdrawals only lasted a few short weeks. That doesn't mean I'm not drawn to it when it's available. For example, I can be enjoying a show at my girlfriend's place completely oblivious to the conversation she is trying to have with me. I can even go to a restaurant for some one-on-one time with a friend and for some reason I'm sucked in to the baseball game on the screen above our booth. A few minutes in, I find myself wondering what I'm doing. "I don't enjoy watching sports on television. And I don't even like baseball." I think to myself.

I am distracted far too easy!

This reality is most obvious when it comes to my spiritual life. One moment my faith is vibrant and growing, the next I find myself stuck in a rut, walking the path of spiritual complacency. There are seasons of life where the devotional patterns I set up wane, almost to the point of non-existence. I get caught up in the books I'm reading. Working out takes priority. The draw of warm weather and sunshine beckon me outside. All the while my Bible and devotional books set on my night stand collecting dust. When it comes to prayer, it doesn't take much to distract me. The Internet on my phone. Just a few minutes of relaxation. A two and a half hour nap. But if I'm willing to fore go those distractions, my mind begins to wander to thoughts about what I'm going to have for dinner, the car that needs to be washed, or that friend I haven't talked to in ages. If I even attempt to fast, inevitably a friend calls and wants to meet up for lunch. Or that time in college I was doing so good, and not even thinking about it, took a few pieces of candy from my professors office.

This has led me to, what are now, some very obvious realizations.

Distractions never seem to come at opportune times. Almost always, they seem to catch you off guard. Sunday morning, on your way to church, an argument with your spouse comes out of nowhere. Fifteen minutes into morning devotions the phone rings. Finally, you've found some peace and quiet to pray and you doze off--no matter what time of day. You promise yourself not to miss a week of Lifegroup this semester and en route the car dies. Why? Because the Devil is an opportunist. "He prowls around like a lion looking for someone to destroy."

Good things often distract us from better things. I recall an occasion when I was pastoring in Wyoming. Several of the teens and I were taking a road trip to some sort of youth rally. Being the punctual person I am, I was annoyed at our late start. Determined to make up ground and arrive on time, I wasn't willing to stop for anything. About 30 minutes into the trip we passed a family in a mini-van broken down on the side of the road. I wish I could tell you I took advantage of that opportunity to show the teens what ministry really looks like; but I can't. Instead, my need to be punctual overshadowed my need to extend help and compassion. Even at the suggestion of some of the teens, I drove right by without giving it a second thought.

But, the biggest realization I have drawn is this: serving God has distracted many of us from knowing God. We spend our time serving, evangelizing, discipling, or any other -ing you can think of. At the core of all our doing tends to be a desire for His approval as opposed to a need for His intimacy. For me, there are seasons of life I fall into a trap where "doing ministry" becomes my focus. I read my Bible so I have something to preach or blog about. My prayer life becomes consumed with asking God to expand my boundaries and use my pastoral degree. I fill my time meeting with people, all the while waiting for the perfect opportunity to share my great spiritual insight. Shane and Shane penned lyrics that speak volumes to me and you on all our doing. "You can only go so far, until the bottom falls out. All my singing, smiling...dedicated to God. To be called by one Almighty God and take it for granted. Heard a rumor I guess, but I wanna know who told me so. Told me serving you replaced me knowing You."

To replace serving God with knowing God is to miss the point of everything He has done. The point has never been to work for or with God. It has always been--and will always be--to dive deeper into a soul-satisfying, intimate, father-child, eternal relationship with Him. God has freed us from bondage, not to serve Him, but to love and be loved by Him!

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