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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Invitation to get focus

4"Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
   full of himself but soul-empty.
But the person in right standing before God
   through loyal and steady believing
   is fully alive, really alive."
(Habakkuk 2:4)

Habakkuk was a prophet of the Old Testament.  The first two chapters are really a discussion between God and Habakkuk - the prophet pouring out his heart and then hearing from God as to what was transpiring around him.  The very basis of this book of the Bible is to present the concept that it is impossible to live without faith - the concept you might of heard of that the just shall live by faith.  It is a short book of only three chapters - but the idea comes across clearly that faith must be growing, continually developing.  The third chapter begins with a plea from the prophet for God to do among them what he had done amongst his ancestors of old - in other words, be awesome in every way, delivering them from the Chaldean army that was about to come in around them and take the nation of Israel into captivity.  The fact was, Habakkuk and the people of the day had heard about the God of their ancestors, but they had not really experienced God in the same way.

Second-hand knowledge about God is never all that fulfilling.  Our prophet challenges us to look - really take in the various aspects of what we are beholding - looking intently at the man who is bloated by self-importance.  At a cursory review of this passage, we may immediately think about someone who is filled with pride, boastful and living with his "nose in the air".  The actual intent is quite different - being bloated with self-importance actually encompasses any man or woman who spends more time focusing on the things that please / fulfill the selfish desires of the heart more than on what pleases the heart of God.

Habakkuk asks us to look at the intentions of our heart - why it is that we do what we do, what drives us to make the decisions we make, how it is that we have chosen to live our lives.  He reminds us, not very tenderly, that choosing to live in a self-centered, ego-centric way is to live a life that is "soul-empty". There is no real substance to it - it is vacant of what really rewards.  We may have "full lives", but they are filled with that which really brings no satisfaction in the end - soul-empty lives.

The prophet wants us to come into the experience of God's presence in our lives - getting to know the "ins and outs" of how he works, having our heart "tugged" by the things that move his heart.  It is quite easy to get so focused on what "I" want, how a circumstance will affect "me", what "I" think is important.  In the end, "I" truly does "stand alone".  When an individual is "ego-centric", that person is focused on self - others are tolerated, but they are not the focus of life (including God).  Israel got themselves in the position of being taken into captivity by many a nasty enemy as a result of getting God out of focus.

Habakkuk tells us how we can be fully alive - by steady and loyal believing.  It is the commitment to keep God in focus - central in our lives - that keeps us steady.  As long as we are focused inwardly on our needs (our wants), we don't have our eyes on anything that gives us stability, assurance, or lasting "advantage" in life.  In fact, all we are focusing on is something that will "pass away" in the course of time.  Faith is a growth experience - it is taking our eyes off of ourselves long enough to put them on Christ, intentionally seeing him.

I was reminding a group of women this week that we can keep two things in our line of sight, but it is impossible to focus on both at the same time.  This is a basic principle of photography - the photographer can go for the big picture (really focusing on no "one thing"), or can obscure the big picture (take it out of focus) to move in with clarity on one thing in the shot that is brought alive as the "focal point" of the image.  When we see this type of image, properly displayed, we are awed by the brilliance of what is captured.  So it is with our focus - if it is obscured by trying to constantly take in the "big picture", we will miss the awesomeness of the brilliance of God in the midst of the "picture".

Our invitation today is to get "focus" - the right perspective determines the image that is ultimately portrayed.