Friday, April 20, 2012


On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them,
"Go and show yourselves to the priests."

And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered,

"Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

Luke 17:11-19
      I had a rough day yesterday in which some minor, passing issues were weighing on me heavily. I had read this passage in the morning, but it was not until evening when I was pouring out my grievances to God that He reminded me of these lepers. Was I grateful for the cleansing He has done in my life? Or am I more like the nine who walked on to the priests without bothering to offer thanks and praise to the One who had made them clean?
     It was a humbling thought.

     Caught up in my petty problems and hurts, I had forgotten to praise my Lord for the cleansing He has already done in my life. I was like the nine; going on their way, perhaps showing their smooth, healed skin to one another, but forgetting simple courtesy. Their focus was not on the One who healed them, but on the healing itself. Or was it?

      Perhaps it was something else that caused them to neglect decorum. I wonder if their minds turned quickly from that miraculous act of mercy to the difficulties that certainly awaited them back at home. They would have to re-enter society. Perhaps their wives or families would hesitate to accept them. Certainly there would be financial concerns from their time spent as exiles with their disease. The Bible does not tell us any of this, but it is possible that they allowed the trials that faced them to crowd out the appreciation that they should have felt and expressed.

     I was like that yesterday. Rather than gratitude for all the restorative work God has done in my life to date, I was focused on the healing I wanted Him to do right then. I had allowed worldly concerns to take the place of simple praise for the priceless work He has already accomplished in my heart. Rather than falling on my face in an outpouring of genuine thanksgiving, I was walking past him and brooding on the question of what I need to do in the near future. I had forgotten that He is sovereign and that His will is going to be accomplished quite despite what I say, think, or do about it. All I need to do now is worship Him, praise Him with a loud voice, and fall on my face at His feet in complete surrender. My loathsome and terminal spiritual disease has been remedied, and that alone is grounds for a life concentrated on gratitude and praise.

 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:6-21

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.  Galatians 3:26-29

     There is a beautiful picture tucked into these passages of Scripture. Of course, the beginning of this story is far from lovely, and if I must be honest, it is more accurately an appalling, dreadful sort of beauty. It is similar to the beauty of childbirth where, in its natural state, one of the most exquisitely painful moments of a woman's life directly precedes one of the most exquisitely miraculous moments; where intense travail in an instant is transformed into a keen burst of joy and love.

     The anguish preceding the beauty in Genesis is, of course, the consequences of the first sin. God demonstrates without room for uncertainty that He takes sin very seriously, even in so small a matter as fruit. Disobedience is disobedience, and the consequences were dire indeed. Before they spoke with God, the man and woman had already experienced the very first result of their poor decision: they felt shame. Once they encountered Him, He outlined the repercussions for them, though they had no way of knowing the toll it would extract from their own family later on with the murder of Abel by his brother's hand, nor of the cumulative toll through the ages. Basically, in choosing to ignore His command, they chose pain, hard labor, suffering, and  both spiritual and physical death.
     After the matter had been dealt with and the ramifications laid out, then came the tragically magnificent part: God Himself made garments of skins for Adam and Eve and clothed them. Do you see it, Christian? Within the rebuke, God told them of a coming Savior. Immediately afterward, He fashioned the first covering for shame. Certainly a life was given and blood was spilt, for a skin is not easily removed from a living being, nor are many living things in a rush to part with their skins.

     And so, directly after the first sin, we see the first likeness of being clothed with Christ, and the first blood was shed to cover the shame of man. From this point forward, nakedness is associated with shame (see Genesis 9:22-27; Exodus 20:25-26; Isaiah 47:3; Lamentations 1:8; Ezekiel 16:35-39, 23:18; Micah 1:11, Nahum 3:5-7; Revelation 3:18 et al). Moving to the passage from Galatians, it is written that we are to "put on" Christ. The Greek verb translated "put on" is transliterated enduo and means, "to sink into (clothing), to put on, to clothe oneself." It is a word picture of being clothed in Christ. In the new Covenant, also, the Lord Himself has tenderly covered our shame, for whether we know it or not, until we have surrendered to "put on Christ," we are also naked and exposed in our sin before the very throne of the mighty El Shaddai.  When we clothe ourselves in Christ, the shame of our nakedness is covered in His righteousness. Only in Jesus are we thus clothed. Only in Him--not with one arm in a sleeve or holding the garment up next to us--but wholly swallowed up in His life as we relinquish control in complete surrender is our shame covered.

     There is the joyous rendering: That God began preparing the minds of man for the coming Redeemer from the very moment they turned their backs on Him. He clothed them, just as He would one day clothe us with His very Self. Tragically, a sacrifice was made before the garment of skins could be fashioned. Tragically, our Immanuel was sacrificed so that we could be clothed in His righteousness and obedience. The first portrayal is a dim reflection of the great Work of Christ, however, for in it an animal died to cover sin. In Christ, the misery of death was transformed to elation because the sacrificial Lamb of God did not stay in the grave but rose again. From His anguish, we are given new birth.  Because of this, when we are clothed with Him, we have not only a covering for our shame but a new life in Christ! It is no wonder the old hymn so joyfully declares:

     "Oh victory in Jesus,
       My Savior forever;
       He sought me,
And He bought me,
       With His redeeming blood.
       He loved me 'ere I knew Him,
       And all my love is due Him.
       He plunged me to victory
       Beneath the cleansing flood!"

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Deliberately Designed

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalms 139:1-24

     I had a moment just the other day; a shocking, wonderful moment where I truly realized--not just logically, but in my heart--that one of my son's most annoying and disheartening characteristics could turn out to be his greatest boon if applied correctly. You see, he is a little bit obsessive. . . well, maybe more than a little bit.

     He tends to find something to fixate on, and once he does, it is nearly impossible to bring his mind away from the object of preoccupation to something else. Unfortunately, for now his obsessions tend to be rather unhealthy or negative. He will mourn endlessly over one of life's little irritations, obsessing over how he thought it should have turned out or what could have been different. Or he will have a friend and fixate on that one person to the exclusion of everyone else, making other kids feel that they are not liked by him. Or an idea for a game or even the idea of playtime will dominate his thoughts and crowd out every math fact he has ever learned. He peels his toenails down to practically nothing and he cannot seem to leave them alone. The list is endless, really.

     In watching a particularly passionate preacher just days ago, it occurred to me that this is  quite possibly a characteristic that they share. The difference is that this man's fixation is on the Lord and His word, which has far greater merit than the latest Lego kit trend. I am sure that the apostle Paul was also intensely driven, and no doubt Elijah and many of the other prophets seemed unnaturally impelled to the mass of men. I have no doubt that if he does not outgrow this obsessive tendency, the Lord will sanctify it, so from now on my prayer is that my boy will have a humble, submissive heart and will give his passion to the Lord to use for His purposes and not try to cling to it himself.

     Truth be told, my middle daughter is highly intelligent and creative but also highly disorganized and dreamy, often losing track of what she was supposed to be doing within moments of being told. If she were in public school, I have no doubt that her harried and overworked teacher would press me to medicate her for Attention Deficit Disorder, but praise God that I fight that battle at home on my terms, and I fight it with the Sword of the Spirit rather than with a bottle of pills. 

     Concerning these things, there is a fact that is frequently overlooked by American culture: when it comes to our kids, there is nothing "wrong" with them no matter how differently they are wired. They are created by God, formed and fashioned by Him, and there is absolutely nothing accidental or messed-up about them. He made them just as He means them to be. Naturally, they are all corrupted, just as we are, by the sin nature. That is why it is our job to teach them about the Lord and His ways, to model that, and to show them what it means to be God's bond-servant.  But whatever their strengths or weaknesses are, we must not forget it is God who has created each individual, and He has fashioned them precisely as He planned them to be. It is such a component of our modern culture to look upon any observable eccentricities in our children as something unwanted and to attempt to drive them out, or even to attempt to smother it with medication. Would it not be a better use of our time to humbly and prayerfully seek the will of the One Who formed them, to ask Him what His purpose was when He created the child thus, and to direct each child to Him instead?

       I know that my son could perhaps be diagnosed as Obsessive/Compulsive and possibly even have a hint of something under the autistic spectrum umbrella, but I choose not to pursue that path. My middle daughter exhibits nearly all of the symptoms of ADHD that I find listed in various magazines and pamphlets, but I would rather teach her to funnel and focus that energy rather than sedating her. Instead, I am highly motivated (although I confess that I am also frequently frustrated and discouraged!) to point  them both to the Lord. I want them to seek the counsel of their Creator in understanding why they were given the peculiar set of traits that make them  uniquely themselves. I want them to get to know the goodness of a God who is sovereign even over our weaknesses, and in fact wants to use our weakness to bring us humbly to Himself. I want them to adore and worship the Lord who died for them, and I want them to choose willingly to pick up their crosses daily and follow Him.

     There are times I would love for my son to just be easy-going and eager to please rather than capricious and stubborn. I often long for my daughter to simply walk through the house without leaving a trail of books and papers in her wake. However, as much as I would like painless parenting, I more earnestly desire to see my son's obstinacy and obsession transformed into passion and steadfastness for the risen King and all His commands and ways, and for my daughter's creative mind, high energy, and natural gift for making friends become focused into desire to serve her Lord with all the creative, spontaneous, and charismatic energy she can bring.

     The simple fact is: even at its best, parenting is hard work. It is often brutal and always messy. However, I know that my God has given these children to me in order that I may train them diligently, to teach them self-control and obedience, and to hone their gifts -- which are not always viewed as such by our culture -- for Him to use when they reach that place of total surrender to their God and King.  It is not easy work and I certainly do not feel myself capable or qualified. I frequently falter or fail, and I am tempted many times over to give up and ship them off to someone who is trained or more qualified than I, at least in the eyes of the world.

     Then I remember that God has told me, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not tremble or be afraid. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go," (Joshua 1:9). He has said, "These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children..." (Deut. 6:4).  When I grow lazy about my job, He reminds me that, "whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who love him is diligent to discipline him," (Proverbs 13:24). And above all, He reminds me that He knew what He was doing when He created my children. He  that all I need to do is to seek His face every moment of every day, to utterly surrender my all, to trust, and to obey. In the end, the hardest thing He has ever given me to do--raise my children well--turns out to drive me to the very thing I desire the most; to draw ever nearer to the great Creator God of love and mercy.

     Most gracious Father, the Creator of us all and our Sovereign Lord, I thank you for the gift of children and of child-rearing. I thank you for the humility it brings as I am forced daily to face my own inadequacy and faults. I praise You that You have allowed me the glimpse of what it means to be Your child through the children You have entrusted to my care. I ask for Your forgiveness for myself and for all of my brothers and sisters when we have taken our duty as parents lightly. I repent of trivializing this grave responsibility You have given me to shepherd these children as they grow, and I am forever thankful that You are there and have not left me to perform the task alone. May I always remember to call on You in times of crisis or need, whether small or large. I know that I am feeble and unworthy, often even unwilling, to do this job well. I pray that You will strengthen and guide me, that You will keep me from wandering off the narrow path, and that as You walk through it with me, I will see what I must do to train and prepare my children to walk the narrow path with You as well. I ask this in my Savior's name and I commit myself and my children to Him, amen.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Death Worth Dying

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.  
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.   Isaiah 53:2-12

     Resurrection Sunday. My favorite day of the year. It isn't the eggs, the chicks, the cute little bunnies... it's the resurrection of my Lord and King that I adore. It's the new life I see all around me with the flowers in bloom, the grass either green or greening depending on how early the day falls. It is a celebration of life, and of that abundantly.
      I have to confess, however, that in more recent years the holiday has been disturbing to me. Perhaps it is the greed I see on children's faces at egg hunts. It could be the focus on the new Easter dress or the fixation on long-eared chocolate mammals that haunts me. But no, I don't think those quite get to the heart of it. I think it is the frivolity of it all that I find chilling. The focus so often is on food, family, and apparel and so lightly on the Lord who gave His all for us. It is a day to celebrate, yes, certainly. Death has been overcome, and so we who belong to Christ have no need to fear! That is worth a bit of enthusiasm. What troubles me is the misplaced nature of the enthusiasm I see--so much ardor for pomp and for a sugar rush, but so much apathy for the Lord Himself and His ancient and amazing Word.
     Has our love of the Lord cooled while we are consumed with the passing splendor of ceremony? Why is it that no one wants to talk of humility, or of repentance, or even that naughty "s" word, sin? Why do we celebrate so delightfully this day, but we do not do what our Lord commands us to do every day? As James says, we need to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers who deceive ourselves. The truth is, we hunger and thirst for comfort and pleasure, but Christ's words were, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied," (Matt. 5:6). 
     Brothers and sisters, the immense and intense anguish of mind, body, and spirit our Jesus went through on that cross is nothing to gloss over! I don't care how you slice it, that death does not show our worth, but rather it highlights the depths of our pathetic and hopeless depravity.We are worth beans precisely because of His sacrifice, not the other way around. We should celebrate with glee, but also with a humble and accurate reckoning of our hearts and a sober realization that this sacrifice was not made so we could overindulge in chocolate once a year. It was so we could die with Him so that we may live with Him, now and forever.
     So on this happy and blessed Sunday, let us not forget that along with our celebration comes commitment. We must commit ourselves to surrender our all to Him. We need to live no longer for our self, but put to death even the tiniest shred of self-serving or sliver of self-righteousness. We need to put down any earthly thing that occupies more of our minds, hearts, or energy than our Lord--whether it be a hobby, a career, or any other thing at all. He must be our highest priority, our first commitment, our most obsessive passion. We must remember that we were bought with a very dear price indeed, and then we need to live our lives every single day in a manner that will honor the weighty and soul-shattering sacrifice that was made for us by our King. Friends, if we are truly Christ's, then our lives are no longer our own that we have any say in them. They are His.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:1-17

 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 

2 Peter 1:2-10
     Easter, or as I have grown fond of calling it, Resurrection Sunday, is my favorite holiday of the year. It is an abundant celebration, for it commemorates the day my Lord defeated Death on my behalf. It is also a sobering celebration, for it reminds me that before Death was conquered, He also suffered horribly and submitted to a brutal and humiliating death in my stead, and that He suffered willingly for my crimes and not for His own. It is both a time for reflection and repentance as well as a time for delirious joy, and I cherish the bitter and the sweet aspects alike. It is a time to celebrate the entirity of my walk with the Lord.
     With His sacrifice in mind this week, I have been reading in 2 Peter and the above passage stood out to me today, particularly the admonition that "whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind." I took some time to consider not only my walk but my spiritual vision as well.

     I looked a little deeper and discovered that the word translated in ESV as "nearsighted" is translated by the ASV as "short-sighted" and that the Greek word, muopazo, is only used this once in Scripture. It means, according to Thayer's Greek Definitions, "to see dimly, to see only what is near."  Strong defines it as "to shut the eyes--cannot see far off." Either way, I am sure Peter is referring to spiritual vision here. Do I see clearly with eyes fixed on myLord, looking through His eyes of eternity? In both trial and triumph, do I fix my gaze steadily on the enormity of God's great plan and purpose? Or am I short-sighted, seeing only what is passing in front of my eyes at this very moment, things which are really only the transitory stuff of this world about which Solomon wrote, "I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind," (Ecclesiastes 1:14). As I meditated on the passage, the following parable kept surfacing in my thoughts:

 "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.' Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
"No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away."
Luke 8:5-18

      It seems to me that there is a strong correlation between both the seed sown on the thorny ground and those who are spiritually short-sighted. I also see clearly that it is extremely easy in the America of today to become spiritually nearsighted. Note that it is not only cares or trouble but also "riches and pleasures of life" that choke out the Word of God. My friends, this is a dangerously deceptive trap that the enemy of our souls has laid for us, for it does not appear to be a trap at all. At one point in my journey I was nearly lulled into it myself, and I am thankful that God shook me out of my reverie in time! I know the danger has not passed, for I am not yet in my eternal home but I am more on my guard than  I was before.

     This trap, I fear, is found in all the things that seem so very important to us and yet crowd out the time with our Lord, the one thing that truly matters. Most of us are consumed with "cares and riches and pleasures of life." I see so many people, especially people with children, caught up in a whirlwind of activities, from sports to dance, clubs, teams, jobs, and hobbies that there is virtually no time left for them to simply sit and listen to the Lord. 

    So many of us have become short-sighted, allowing all the "good" things that we do to crowd out the best thing--investment in the one relationship which will matter forever. We try to squeeze "God time" into these hectic schedules rather than making Him the priority and dropping off anything that threatens to infringe upon His time. Friends, when we do that, our priorities are just plain backwards.

     I have been convicted of incorrectly prioritizing my time and have repented, and now I share my conviction with you, my brothers and sisters. Please do not let all the pleasant and fun entertainments or even the hard work of this life crowd out your critical time with God. The Kingdom of God, His service, and His purpose for your life absolutely must be the most important item on your agenda. All else, no matter how nicely you color it or how necessary it seems to your sanity or your child's development, is fleeting.

     A tool that I have found useful in weighing the myriad options that threaten toconsume the hours of my day is this: I ask myself, "Will this action or its results matter 100 years from this day?"  For you see, I do find that eternity is quite beyond my spiritual visual range, but I can envision 100 years from now. If my answer to that question is, "no," than, my friend, that is my answer to the commitment. My God has my heart, mind, body, and soul, and if it matters to Him, than it matters to me. All else is as brief as the blossoms of spring.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.