The Cares of This Life

Cares of life can choke God's wordThere’s a lot to be concerned about in this life, isn’t there? Making a living, maintaining a marriage, raising children, getting along with coworkers and neighbors, car and house repairs, health concerns, preparing for retirement, church ministries, political discord, the latest negative news. And that was before a global pandemic and rioting in the streets. We truly have a lot to occupy our thoughts and time. Sometimes we feel we can’t keep up with it all.

But the cares of this life can have a detrimental impact in unexpected ways.

In Mark 4:1-9, Jesus told a parable of a sower—a planter—planting seeds. Only a few of the seeds took root and grew. Some were eaten by birds, some landed on rocky ground, some were choked out.

The disciples asked Jesus the meaning of this parable in Mark 4:10-20. He said that the seed was the word of God. The seed being eaten by birds is a picture of Satan snatching the word away before it can germinate from people who don’t understand (Matthew 13:19). The rocky ground represents a stony heart that might have soil enough for a plant to sprout, but not enough to nourish the plant. Some people seem to believe, but then never progress because they never dealt with the bedrock in their hearts. Then some of the word is choked by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (verse 19). The ESV Study Bible notes say, on the account of this parable in Matthew 13, “Competing for nutrients from the soil, weeds choke out the good plants, which are then unable to reach maturity and bear fruit.”

Some say that this parable is about the gospel, not the whole word of God. Even if that’s the case, we can choke out the word of God in general when we’re distracted, can’t we? I’ve experienced not being able to take in or rest in God’s promises because my attention is on my cares.

In Luke 21, Jesus mentions the cares of this life again, along with “dissipation and drunkenness.” These distractions can preoccupy people from warnings to prepare for His coming, and then that day will “come upon you suddenly like a trap.”

How can we keep the cares of this life, this world, from distracting us from more important things?

“Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NKJV; other versions say “anxieties” or “worries”). The word for “care” is the same Greek word as “cares” in the two passages above:

But before we can cast our cares on Him, we have to back up to the verses that come before this:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:5b-7, ESV). 

We have to humble ourselves before God, acknowledge Him for who He is and ourselves for who we are. He’s our sovereign Lord. He made us. He redeemed us through Christ’s death on the cross. He is wise. He has the right to call the shots. But He is also love. He is kind. He is our provider. He cares for us.

Then we “cast our cares” on Him. The Greek word for cast means “to throw upon; to place upon.” In prayer and in faith, we place them on Him, knowing He loves us, knowing He can take care of the problems and meet our needs.

How do we know these things? From His word.

Psalm 1 tells us that the person whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” and who “meditates day and night” on it is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Instead of our cares choking out the Word, we sink our roots deep into it. When concerns swirl in our minds, we take our thoughts captive and remind ourselves of God’s truth.

I don’t think it’s going too far to say that spending time with God is the most important thing we can do each day. Some seasons of life, we may have half an hour to an hour to spend with the Bible. Other seasons, we’re doing good to get five minutes. But I like what Sue Donaldson says here: “I figure if I can’t give God five minutes anytime on any given day, I’m not taking Him and our relationship seriously. ”

Psalm 1 speaks of not just reading, but delighting in and meditating in God’s word. We can write a verse out that spoke to us and keep it before our eyes through the day. We can listen to the Bible itself or to Christian music, sermons, podcasts while we’re driving, cooking, etc., setting our “minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Some years ago, I attended a ladies retreat where, on the last day, the speaker had us write down a concern, burden, or prayer request on a small piece of paper. Then she asked us to fold the paper and turn it in. She collected all the papers and put them into a bag, then tied the bag onto a collection of helium-filled balloons. Then we all went outside. I think she prayed, giving all the concerns we had collected to the Lord. Then she released the balloons, symbolizing releasing these concerns to God.

Honestly, at the time I thought it was a little silly. And I wondered what the person who eventually found the little bag would think.

But a few days later, something I had written on my little paper came to mind. I don’t even remember what it was now. But as I turned it over in my thoughts, suddenly I remembered: “I gave this to the Lord. I don’t need to keep worrying about it.”

Perhaps some physical way of handing our cares over to Him might help cement the idea in our minds. I don’t think releasing more balloons would be good for the environment. One friend used to cup her hands and raise them up to the Lord while praying, physically reminding herself that she was giving her concerns to Him. Maybe a prayer journal would be a concrete way to note the concerns and requests we’ve given over to God.

Giving concerns to Him doesn’t mean we never pray about them any more. But when we do, we remind ourselves that He invites us to place on Him all our cares, and He’s the only one who can take care of them. Some prayer requests last a lifetime. But when God does answer others, we can record how and when. What an encouragement to faith to look back over that record.

What helps you to cast your cares on God?

1 Peter 5:7

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When the props are removed

Have you ever felt like the rug has been completely pulled out from under you? Or have the props you leaned on been pulled away? Are the things you always depended on just not there for you any more?

Those hard times of life contain some of the greatest potential for spiritual growth.

Here are some of my prop-removal times:

Family

When I was fifteen, my mother left my father and took us children to Houston. My parents’ marriage had been floundering for some time, so I knew something was bound to happen. But the family break-up was still a shock to my system.

We also moved from a very small town (less than 200 people) to a teeming metropolis of over a million. The culture shock hit me the worst when I went to register at the local high school. I left without registering.

To further complicate matters, these were the days before Internet and cell phones. We had moved during the summer. I had no way to make new friends and couldn’t afford land line long distance calls to my old ones.

So there I was in a new and vastly different city, a new family situation, facing a new school I did not want to go to. I felt alone and cast adrift.

Ours had not been a church-going family, but my parents had let me attend services with my aunt and grandfather or friends. I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I could go to God for help. I prayed.

God answered by leading us to a Christian school and laying it on someone’s heart to pay my tuition for two years. I started attending the church connected to the school and started reading my Bible at the pastor’s urging. I had prayed and asked the Lord to save me several times over the years, but this time I finally understood and believed. My life turned totally around.

Marriage

Fast-forward four years. God provided for me to go to a Christian college, where I met my husband. When we were first married, I still had one semester left and he had two. We went to school together and worked together. I guess I thought that blissful togetherness would continue!

But I graduated, he went back to school, and we had separate jobs. I spent a lot of time at home alone. Then he took a third shift job, and I was a basket case home alone at night. Then, after graduation, his jobs required traveling. With two different moves, while kids finished their school year, my husband worked in the town we were moving to during the week and came home on weekends. Before the last move, we lived like that a whole year.

I cried and wailed to the Lord. It’s not supposed to be like this. I didn’t get married to spend so much time alone.

It’s natural to want companionship and to depend on a spouse. But God wants us to know our ultimate source of companionship, provision, protection, and security come from Him. A few years ago I shared some of what I learned through this experience in Coping When a Husband Is Away, and that has been my most-viewed post several years in a row.

Health

I’d had some health issues, but most were fixed by surgery and/or medication. But when I was 38, one morning my left hand felt numb, like I had slept on it wrong. Within three hours, my left arm and both legs were numb, I couldn’t walk, and I was having trouble using the restroom. I thought I was having a stroke.

After eight days in the hospital and multitudes of tests, the diagnosis came back: transverse myelitis. A virus attacks the spine, and the body’s autoimmune system attacks the myelin sheath around the nerves as well as the virus. Symptoms vary depending on where the virus hits the spine. Some have mild numbness and tingling; on the other end of the spectrum, some are paralyzed and ventilator-dependent.

I was fortunate that my symptoms were somewhere in the middle. With physical therapy and much prayer, I progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane, and finally to my own wobbly gait.

But the body I had always depended on was changed. Continuing numbness, weird nerve signals, balance and urinary issues plagued me the first few years. My neurologist told me whatever I didn’t gain back, I’d get used to. No way, I thought. I could never get used to this.

But I did. And in the meantime, I had to draw close to God in the midst of uncertainty and limitations. In the early days, it was hard to make plans because I never knew how I would be feeling. Any outing or exertion would set me back for a day or two. I often asked God for complete healing, pleading that I could serve Him so much better without the distractions and frustrations my body experienced.

But Elisabeth Elliot’s words about limitations helped me. “My limitations…become, in the sovereignty of God, gifts. For it is with the equipment that I have been given that I am to glorify God. It is this job, not that one, that He gave me.” Limitations didn’t hinder my ministry; they defined it.

I’ve always loved this poem, which I found in Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton:

Two glad services are ours,
Both the Master loves to bless.
First we serve with all our powers —
Then with all our feebleness.

Nothing else the soul uplifts
Save to serve Him night and day,
Serve Him when He gives His gifts —
Serve Him when He takes away.

C. A. Fox

Other health issues have sprung up over the last couple of decades, reinforcing my dependence on God day by day.

Pandemic

When this pandemic first started, I was shaken. We know much more about it now, and the recovery rate is high for most. But at first, I felt like I was taking my life in my hands any time I left the house. I’d seen shortages of bread and milk before a snow forecast, but nothing like store shelves completely empty of paper products. I was grateful for directives to stay home, but worried about the economy.

Our total way of life had been affected by an unknown invader.

I had to remind myself of lessons learned before: God is in control. He’s not taken by surprise. He has promised to take care of His children.

Our church has been reading through the Old Testament prophets. God often had to deal with His people’s trust in everything else but Him. Some objects of their trust were bad, like false gods and despicable religious practices. Some were not wrong in themselves, like other nations or their own wealth and military might; but those things could and did fail them. Some were even wonderful things, like the fact that they were God’s people, and they had the temple and the holy city. But they didn’t realize that they were trusting in everything except God Himself.

Family, a spouse, a healthy, capable body, and our normal routines are not sinful things: they are God’s good gifts. There’s nothing wrong with depending on them and enjoying them.

But sometimes, instead of seeing God worth through those “props,” we lean on them instead of Him. God weans us away from depending on anything instead of Him, because nothing else will satisfy or help in the long run, and because He alone is capable and worthy.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

When our props are pulled away, we’re shaken for a bit til we remember the One who never fails. He may not answer prayer just the way we’d like, but we learn to trust His will. When we know God and rely on Him, we find Him abundantly faithful and capable. Then we come to know Him better and our faith grows even more.

Have you ever struggled with the loss of something you depended on and learned to lean more on God? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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(On a side note: The original graphic I had here showed feet with clouds underneath and a building off to the side. I wanted to convey the idea of free-falling, the way we sometimes feel when props are taken away. It didn’t occur to me until Facebook showed only a grey area in place of the picture that perhaps that image might have been disturbing to some. It was obviously photoshopped and edited by the person who originally made it (I found it in the WordSwag app). But it could have conveyed the idea of jumping off a building. We knew a family whose son committed suicide that way. I didn’t realize that connotation at first, and I apologize if that was a trigger or unsettling for anyone. Also, if the graphic you clicked on to get here had a different picture than the one above, this is why I decided to change it.)  

Why Doesn’t God Explain?

Why doesn't God explain?I promised myself that I would not be the kind of mom to say, “Because I said so.”

I believed in discipline and obedience. But I also believed in helping children understand what was requested of them. Understanding would make everyone happy and make life easier.

So I thought. Until I actually had children.

Have you ever tried to explain to a three-year-old why they can’t have dessert before dinner? Why they really do need a nap? Why they can’t stay at their friend’s or the playground for the rest of the day?

Children have an uncanny ability to find loopholes or come up with alternatives. They don’t have the frame of reference to understand why their parents won’t allow what seems perfectly reasonable.

No parent is infallible. We all learn that some of the things we insisted on really didn’t matter in the long run. But usually we do the best with what we know. And sometimes we have to play the authority card.

Sometimes we want to say, “My dear child. I’ve been around the block a few times. I know you. I know how life works. I have your best interests in mind, really. I know you don’t understand, but just trust me on this. It will make sense when you’re older.”

As Christians, our heavenly Father doesn’t always explain Himself. He doesn’t have to, of course. He is God.

Still, we often want to offer our own suggestions. Or we want to dig in our heels and wail until everything is explained to our understanding.

I think one reason God doesn’t always explain what He is doing because He wants us to trust Him. He tells us plenty in His Word. He gives us some reasons He allows and even ordains suffering. He’s given us multiple narratives that show how He worked behind the scenes to bring everything together to fulfill a promise or to deliver His people. The more we get to know Him, the more we realize He knows what He is doing, the more we can rest in His wisdom and love and care.

But I think sometimes He doesn’t explain because we wouldn’t get it if He did. His thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9). “Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24, KJV). We don’t see the big picture. We don’t have His frame of reference. No matter how much He explained, we still wouldn’t understand some things.

John Piper has said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

I’ve always felt a bit frustrated that nobody ever told Job what went on in the heavenlies that led to all his suffering. God didn’t explain, but He did manifest Himself. And that satisfied Job. His glimpse of God’s power, majesty, wisdom, and care was enough.

There are songs that say we’ll understand everything better in heaven. I don’t know if that’s actually the case. He is God, and we are not and never will be. Though we’ll understand much more then than we do now, we still won’t know and understand everything He does. But in heaven, we probably won’t care. We won’t see through a glass darkly any more. Our sin nature will have been left behind. Our faith will be turned to sight. We’ll behold the King in His beauty. We may not understand all there is to understand. But we’ll wonder why we ever questioned Him.

It’s not wrong to ask why. Many Biblical people did. A lot depends on whether we’re asking our of defiance, challenge, contempt, or pain and confusion. God might answer. He might not. We might not be able to understand His answer, anyway. But the better we know Him, the more we can trust Him.

Amy Carmichael wrote in Rose From Brier, a book to suffering people from her own experience of suffering:

What, then, is the answer? I do not know. I believe that it is one of the secret things of the Lord, which will not be opened to us till we see Him who endured the Cross, see the scars in His hands and feet and side, see Him, our Beloved, face to face. I believe that in that revelation of love, which is far past our understanding now, we shall “understand even as all along we have been understood.”

And till then? What does a child do whose mother or father allows something to be done which it cannot understand? There is only one way of peace. It is the child’s way. The loving child trusts.

I believe that we who know our God, and have proved Him good past telling, will find rest there. The faith of the child rests on the character it knows. So may ours, so shall ours. Our Father does not explain, nor does He assure us as we long to be assured… But we know our Father. We know His character. Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable. For the word sent to the man whose soul was among lions and who was soon to be done to death, unsuccored, though the Lord of Daniel was so near, is fathomless: “And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

There is only one place we can receive, not an answer to our questions, but peace — that place is Calvary. An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can. “O Christ beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions.” Love that loves like that can be trusted about this.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I love Ron Hamilton’s song, “Abba Father” (lyrics here). It tenderly ministered to me after transverse myelitis, especially the line, “Help me when I can’t see Your will is best for me.”

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Let Trouble Draw You Nearer

Let troubles draw you to God

When loved ones go through hard things, I pray that they may be drawn closer to God in all that is happening to them. I know that trials have the potential to turn people away from rather than to God.

In thinking through some of the reasons God allows suffering recently, part of me marveled that God would risk the negative reactions some people would have. Some get angry and rail against God or the universe or their loved ones. Some fear and panic.

But faith is strengthened by testing. And some people won’t turn to God until they are put in a position where there is no other choice.

Thankfully, as the psalms indicate, many work through the bad reactions, remind ourselves of what we know to be true about God, and rest in Him

As we experience this current pandemic, I’ve seen a variety of reactions already. Many are tense and on edge in the face of uncertainties: health of self and loved ones, possible lost time from work, shortage of supplies.

Hudson Taylor once said, “It does not matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies — whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.”

Let these current trials and pressures draw you to Him. Don’t let them come between you. He knows what’s going on in the world. He is wise, kind, loving, and good. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He has promised to supply all our needs.

Do the practical things: wash hands, disinfect, avoid crowds. etc. But in faith. And, as Laura said, watch out for others who night need extra help in times like this.

A stanza in Henry Lyte’s hymn, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken,” says:

Man may trouble and distress me, ‘twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.

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Laudable Linkage

These are some noteworthy reads discovered this week:

To Redeem ‘Cancel Culture’, There Must Be Room for Redemption, HT to Challies. “But now to the most apparent deficiency of secularism as a religion: the absence of any explicit provision for redeeming and restoring to acceptance by the community those judged guilty of violating its moral code.”

Peace in the Beforehand. “If I dread an upcoming difficulty, as well as suffer through it, I’ve doubled my misery.” And, Sandy goes on to say, if we dread something, but then everything goes fine, we’ve wasted all that angst. Such a helpful perspective.

My Heart Is a Featherweight. I’ve enjoyed Laura Ingalls Gunn’s blog for many years. Yes, she’s related to the real LIW. But this might be my favorite post: a true story about how God brought two people to the exact same spot, one with a longtime desire, one looking for just the right person to give a treasured item to.

Dear Teenage Daughter: You Aren’t Entitled.

Protecting Digital Accounts After Death.

And a thought for the day:

. . . or sunrises or seasons or growth.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here are a few of the good reads found in the last couple of weeks:

Humbly Coming Before Our Father, HT to Challies. “Although most people, even many professing Christians, believe that everyone is a child of God in a spiritual way, the word of God is undeniably clear that only those who are united to the Son by faith are the adopted children of God.”

Are You Following a Bootstrap Gospel? “The bootstrap gospel is good, and sometimes is even full of things that we need to hear, but it’s not enough. We need the real gospel to truly change our lives.”

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping. “All living things need constant care, including faith. No one brushes her teeth and says, ‘Done, I never have to do that again!’ So it is with faith. Moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity, we must choose to walk by faith, or, by default, we defer to sight.”

Church kids and Church Shootings. “For times like these, for the church shooter days and the monster under the bed nights, for the why did this have to happen conversations, there is only one source of wisdom and truth, and our kids are counting on us to be able to offer the real answers and real promises of our good God.”

Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian? HT to Proclaim and Defend. “Scripture is full of exhortations to God’s people to sing and make music to the Lord. Our God has been gracious to give us this means to worship Him. But it is important to understand that music in our worship is for two specific purposes: to honor God and to edify our fellow believers. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to grant music a sacramental power which Scripture never bestows upon it.”

Laughing at the Days to Come. The Proverbs 3 woman, instead of fearing the future, “laughs at the days to come.” “The woman who laughs at the days to come, however, does not live a life governed by the fearful question, ‘What if?’ Rather, she calmly and confidently approaches the unknown with the words, ‘Even if.'”

Courageous: Inspiring Courage Through Classic Literature. “Stories feed our children’s minds and spirits the same way food feeds their bodies. I want my children to feast on books with characters who point them to hope, who are brave and honest and kind.”

And finally, this is one way to help people wake up and pay attention to the flight safety information:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my first collection of noteworthy reads for the new year:

Six Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives. “As I’ve had time to think and pray over the situation, I’ve been reminded of the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. She had a difficult person in her life, too—one whose foolishness went way beyond that of my distant relative! But her story gives me guidance for how I can approach these situations in the future.”

Laughing at the Days to Come. The Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the time to come” (31:25, ESV). How can we face the future with that kind of confidence rather than fear?

Parenting with Authority, Affection, and Affirmation. Yes. Some parenting sources tend to emphasize one or the other, but they’re all important.

More Gospel, Less Trolls in 2020, HT to Challies. “If you don’t want to become an orthodoxy troll, don’t take non-essential doctrines and make them your rubric for attacking the orthodoxy of others. Make the gospel your main focus. Give liberty on those issues that are not essential for historic orthodoxy. Discuss these issues, for sure. But don’t act like they are on the same level as the gospel. And above all, for crying out loud, don’t be a jerk. Assume the best of others and act in love.”

The Real Scam of ‘Influencer,’ HT to Challies. “The things you need to do to be popular (the only metric the platforms share) aren’t the things you’d be doing if you were trying to be effective, or grounded, or proud of the work you’re doing. When there’s a single metric (likes/followers), we end up looking in the rear-view mirror when we should be driving instead.” I’m wrestling with this in light of seeking to be published next year. I’ve heard some publishers want authors to have tens of thousands of followers before they’ll even consider the author’s manuscript. Yet chasing online popularity can take away from writing.

This was a quote from a Spurgeon book I’m reading:

Happy Saturday!

Look Up

I don’t know how to type correctly. Somehow I never had a typing or keyboarding class. Over the years I have developed my own “hunt and peck” method, which is slow and riddled with mistakes.

Since I’m not trained to know which keys are what direction, I have to look down at the keyboard. You’d think, after typing for 40 years, that I’d know the keyboard by now. Because I’m looking down, I don’t realize what mistakes I’ve made until I look up again. Sometimes I don’t realize I accidentally hit the “Caps Lock” button until I look up and see a sentence or two capitalized. Sometimes I highlight something to delete or move, and when I look up again, I can’t even recognize my paragraph because somehow my highlighting shifted and caught more words than I meant for it to. I’m abundantly thankful for Control+Alt+Z to undo my last action! Other times, I miss a prompt that would have saved me a few keystrokes.

I may not be able to help looking down at a keyboard: my (bad) habits have been ingrained for so long, I don’t know if a typing class could help me now.

But this continual looking down reminds me of a character in the second half of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Part 1 of the story focuses on Christian; Part 2 features his wife, Christiana. In one scene, the Interpreter takes Christiana to a room “where was a man that could look no way but downwards, with a Muckrake in his hand. There stood also one over his head with a Celestial Crown in his Hand, and proffered to give him that Crown for his Muck-rake ; but the man did neither look up, nor regard; but raked to himself the Straws, the small Sticks, and Dust of the Floor.”

Then said Christiana, “I persuade myself that I know somewhat the meaning of this: For this is a Figure of a man of this World : Is it not, good Sir?”

“Thou hast said the right,” said he, “and his Muck-rake, doth shew his Carnal mind. And whereas thou seest him rather give heed to rake up Straws and Sticks, and the
Dust of the Floor, than to what he says that calls to him from above with the Celestial Crown in his Hand ; it is to show, that Heaven is but as a Fable to some, and that things here are counted the only things substantial. Now whereas it was also shewed thee, that the man could look no way but downwards, it is to let thee know that earthly things when they are with Power upon Men’s minds, quite carry their hearts away from God.”

Then said Christiana, “O! deliver me from this Muck-rake.”

“That Prayer,” said the Interpreter, “has lain by till ’tis almost rusty: Give me not Riches, is scarce the Prayer of Prov. 30. 8. One of ten thousand. Straws, and Sticks, and Dust, with most, are the great things now looked after.”

With that Mercy and Christiana wept, and said, “It is alas! too true.”

I assume this was in the days of dirt floors, so this man’s task was a necessary one. But it wasn’t the only thing in life that needed his attention. He was so caught up in the everyday tasks that he missed the most important things.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus described some “who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

We can get so caught up with the cares of this word, can’t we? Floors have to be cleaned, as well as the rest of the house, errands run, meals cooked, laundry washed, dried, and folded, family tended to, and so on, and so on, and so on. And then the desire for other things distracts our thoughts.

But we need to take time to look up.

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26, ESV).

All our tasks and pursuits here are only temporary. There’s a greater reality beyond our muckraking.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished (Isaiah 51:6).

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:28).

The muckraker didn’t believe in anything higher to look up to. Let’s not follow his mistake.

They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son (Zechariah 12:10b).

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else (Isaiah 45:22).

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32).

Even after salvation, we have to continually remind ourselves to keep the right perspective, to put God first, to seek His ways.

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up (Psalm 5:3).

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 (Colossians 3:1-2, ESV).

We look up to acknowledge our need for the only One who can help:

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV).

And we need to look from our pursuits to minister to others:

Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest (John 4:35b).

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5a, ESV).

God has given us good work to do, but He never meant for those tasks to eclipse Him. Much of our life and ministry is in the mundane, everyday moments of life. But that work and those moments are given meaning by the time we look up to Him. It’s vital to spend time with Him, and then carry those thoughts we gain from His Word back into our everyday lives.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. ~ Hebrews 12:2a

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senor Salon, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, Tea and Word, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Truth Tuesday, Recharge Wednesday, Wise Woman,
Let’s Have Coffee, HeartEncouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Faith ‘n Friends.
Linking does not imply 100% agreement.)

 

Laudable Linkage

Any link I share with you is a worthy read, but there have been some especially excellent ones this week:

A Tale of Two Teachers. “We elevate youth and beauty. We want funny more than we want wise. . . We want empowerment more than we want humility.

If You Want Your Kids to Own Their Faith, Teach Them to Think Critically about Their Faith, HT to Challies. “I think this is one of the reasons why many Christian kids grow up and abandon ‘their’ beliefs. For many of them, those beliefs were never theirs in the first place. They were their parent’s beliefs that the kids were taught to memorize and regurgitate, beliefs the kids were never challenged to think through for themselves.”

Make Me a Cake, HT to Challies. “Sometimes during the long dark nights, I wake. And I remember Autism, that dark cloud that settled over our lives years ago. And I think about how this is forever, at least on this Earth. How this is the rest of my life. And I wonder, how can I do this for the rest of my life?”

The Ministry of Presence. “The local church doesn’t need people of outsized talents or rare abilities as much as it needs normal people with full-out commitment.”

5 Tips for Conversations in Our Tense Cultural Moment, HT to Challies. “In years gone by, it seems you could just disagree with someone and everyone was fine with that. You could just shake hands and move on. But now, in our tense cultural situation, disagreement is regarded as a personal attack. To disagree with someone is to be hateful and unloving toward them.”

Confidence to Face the Challenge. “He doesn’t look to boost Solomon’s self-esteem, but to encourage his confidence in the God who has called him.”

Why I Find Decorating Important to the Soul, HT to Kim. “There was a time when I almost stopped doing any kind of seasonal decorating. Why bother when we no longer have children living at home and the days of spending hours preparing a meal for a crowd are long gone. Why decorate when it is just two of us and a cat most of the time?”

Finally, this showed up in my Facebook memories this morning: a text with my husband a few years ago that brought a smile.

It makes me wish there was a breakfast biscuit called Bacon Nation. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here are the latest, greatest reads I’ve found:

For My Angry Friends, Part 7: Foundation II. This is a continuation of a link I posted last time.

A Different Kind of Humble Pie. I like this idea! And it would help us avoid having to eat the other kind.

I’m So Glad Our Vows Kept Us, HT to Challies. “God has not given you your love to protect your vows, but he’s given you your vows to protect your love.”

Don’t Squander the Little Years, HT to Story Warren. “The endless demands of parenting little ones can feel heightened by the fact that this is often the very season of life—late 20s through the 30s—when budding careers are most demanding and precarious. The need to be tirelessly devoted outside the home can tempt young parents to be less devoted inside the home.”

How Parenting Exposes Our Need for Faith. “Like nothing else in my following life, mothering has taken me to the edge of what I know for sure about God and how to follow him well.”

What Is the Aim of Christian Writing? HT to Challies. If you are at all into writing as a Christian, I encourage you to read this. “Writing is an attempt to take the truth of God’s Word and apply it to the crevices of life.”

Elderly Couples’ Photos. A professional photographer asked several older couple to pose for engagement-style photos. So sweet and beautiful.

It Is What It Is”…but God IS Bigger.” I’ve followed Carol at Blessed But Stressed for many years now. A few years ago, her son fought leukemia, and God graciously healed him. Now he’s facing serious surgery on his eye. Would you join in prayer for as much healing as possible in God’s perfect will?

I don’t know the origin of this graphic, but it looks like something Little Birdie Blessings might do. But I like what it says.

Happy Saturday!