On Things Above

1995

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:14

Upon hearing something precious of God’s truths and as your heart says “Yes” to it, you have an important choice to make as you rise up from that place and move on from there. As you walk out the door, you’ll have dozens of options and choices on how to spend your mind and energies and the seeds that have just been sown. Someone else may have planted it there, and now it’s your turn to do the work of holding on to what was precious truth from Jesus’ heart. Was it God speaking to you? Do you hold it dear? If you know that the only things worth holding onto are the things that come from God, then it’s important to also understand that “stuff” (and it may seem harmless) will be around you to distract you from doing that. Don’t allow the “worries of the world” to choke out the specific seeds of God’s word. In your mind, you really will have choices about whether you’re going to get caught up in the busyness of life or ponder tomorrow’s needs and events, or let your eyes and ears distract you with the “stuff” of life around you. You’ll have a decision to make to NOT LET the tangible, visible world around you take away your thoughts and thus lose what has just been sown.

It is so important to think in clear terms about what we hear. It is our individual responsibility to RETAIN and PERSEVERE in what we have heard. Talk to Jesus about the specifics of what you heard. Ask Him how it applies to you and if he’d give you practical opportunities to walk it out. Look in the scriptures for related teaching. Ask others for their help or insight into that area. Recall tapes or readings that may apply. Find practical ways to retain it. The seed will not automatically produce fruit unless we put some care and energy into persevering in the Word you heard. Remember that if you do not hold on to it, then by default, the precious prick or presence of God’s thought in your heart will evaporate and dissolve. It will, if you don’t hold on to it, vanish, like sand between your fingers. So hold on!!

A Practical Scenario

“As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ “ Luke 10:38-42

Notice that it was Martha who did in fact “open her home to Him.” She did want Jesus to be there. She did care about Him and want to serve Him. But it seems the “who she was” was still earthly minded in her service and relationship with Jesus. She was “worried and upset about many things”—all the preparations were right in her face. And by living on that plane, Martha missed what really mattered for her life at that moment. Mary, however, sat at his feet and LISTENED.

That’s just how it is with us. We can be either distracted, or we can be zeroed in on the important. Focus. Listen. It will take a discipline and a choice to be quiet and still enough to lean in and listen. Martha was distracted and busy with all the “stuff” that needed to be done. She missed the important as a result. Let’s not do that, ever! Let’s lean in at every opportunity to hear God and feed on that bread from heaven—whether alone, with twos or threes, or with the whole church.

Jesus Sets Our Thinking Straight

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ “ Luke 9:57-62

Sounds pretty heartless, doesn’t it? Or is it just that their thinking was off. Their priorities were to “take care of business” first, and then follow Jesus. Worldly thinking was their reference point. Of course you must speak with your family first. Of course the task of burying a dead man was first. These men probably wouldn’t have mentioned these “important” things unless they thought they were valid reasons. Well, Jesus let them know very clearly that they were wrong. If they planned on being His person, then they had to get their priorities and their value systems right. Please don’t live based on the logical. You will miss God every time if you live that way. Please take the time to really ask God how that applies for you specifically. Listen and obey. None of this “Okay Lord, sure. But first….” Deal?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

It is as though Jesus is pleading with us to be free from the earthly-minded thinking that we used to live in. We no longer have to be strapped to the ways of running after things as the pagans do. This is part of the Good News and the glorious freedom we have as God’s children. We have a Father whom we now know, who loves us and cares for us and knows our every need. And besides all that, do we gain anything by worrying? We can’t even add a moment to our lives! It’s in God’s hands. Plotting, planning, fussing, and worrying about how to accomplish errands or meet our other needs; when, where, what, how—it ends up wasting our energy and God’s when we allow the demands of worldly cares to be our priority. That is why Jesus so clearly said that we MUST make our first priority to seek out His Kingdom, his righteousness, His life, His voice…and these other things will be added. You don’t have to fret. Jesus said that’s what the pagans run after, and we’ve been set free from that futile, toilsome life. We have a Father who loves us and knows what we need. If He clothes the lilies of the field, don’t you know He’ll clothe you too?

Jesus’ Admonishment

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19, 20a, 21

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24

It’s on the heels of saying that scripture, that He says, “Therefore, do not worry….” If you want to store up treasures that are unseen, (and spend your life in a way that results in bringing change to people’s lives) start by seeing that our lives do not consist of food, drink, and clothing. Rather, Life that is truly Life, comes from our Father and consists of the food and drink of His Spirit and being clothed with Christ. That’s where we need to invest our energies of thought and heart. Let’s not get our heart wrapped up with the temporal world. Invest there, and you’ll find your heart being there also.

If you’ve ever felt like you’ve spent your day spinning your wheels, it doesn’t have to be that way! We don’t have to chase after physical needs the way the world does and for it to be a big burden on our back. Rather, He’s asking of us to trust Him with even the practical areas of life. There is a blessing on your life when you lay things in God’s care and trust Him for His provision. I am not at all advocating irresponsibility or presumptuous living. But I am saying that we cannot, as God’s people, allow ourselves to be driven and led around by the nose with the endless chores, errands, needs, and demands of the physical world around us. There is a way to accomplish those things, but it won’t be in the pagan way of running after them. It will come as we seek first His kingdom. We’ve probably all been pleasantly surprised, when, as we have woven our lives into the fabric of God’s people, we’ve found His answer to our needs. We weren’t even looking for it, and all at once He’s provided our physical needs in a divine way. He has promised that as we seek Him and His people out FIRST, while trusting Him for the “things,” He will provide. And doesn’t it make sense that He’d accomplish it for us in a way that would be undeniably Him? Jesus did say that we’d find Life as we lose our lives. Surely a practical application of that would be to make other people’s needs our first priority. He’ll take care of us. He loves us! And it makes you smile when you see that the errands or the housecleaning isn’t an “end.” They are simply the “means” to an end; participating together in God’s Life. Those “practicals” draw us together to be side by side, at stores, in homes, outside, wherever. Accomplishing the chore ends up being the side thing because the “real” thing was sharing God’s life together!

That does require, however, that we see our purpose for living in a clear way. The trips to Wal-mart are meant to be about people, not purchasing goods only. If we’re seeing who we are and who God is, we’ll view it as another opportunity to be an ambassador of the Good News that’s been entrusted to us. It’s so easy to categorize certain times and places as being “more spiritual” than others. But surely God wants us to have a consistent knowledge of His presence and the potential for Life from heaven being revealed in any given time or place.

I was reminded recently of a very important reason why we go out to other places in twos and threes as we do errands or whatever. If we really believe that “where two or three are gathered” there Jesus is, (in a supernatural way that’s much different than if I were by myself) if I really believe that truth, then maybe I’d be watching and praying more closely for the work God might have for His saints in the store or restaurant or wherever. With two or three of us present, how much more potent God’s testimony and Life! To “gather” or pray there in a place has that synergetic quality. But it does require that you see yourself as being an ambassador of God’s truths at all times and in all places. What better reason to take two or three together! After all, Jesus our Master tells us that when we’re gathered, He’s there too. Wouldn’t we want the best for the dying world around us? Of course. Anyway, that recent reminder shook up my thinking in a healthy way again to remember who I am and why I’m here and what the purpose is behind the shopping and comings and goings of life.

I’m not meaning by all of this to overspiritualize our lives, but isn’t it true that on those days that your nose is buried in “stuff” and your vision is blurry and unclear about the people around you; isn’t it true that when your mind is cluttered with “getting stuff done” as the goal for your day—aren’t you just left empty and wondering where you left God in the hubbub?

Well, that’s one reason why it’s important to keep your head clear about why you are alive. We’re here to be His and serve His purposes and to have Him as our preeminent King and Sovereign Lord in all things. He is to be our very life; living and moving and having our being in Him; caught up and saturated with the Life of God—just like Jesus was! We really can see Jesus in ALL things and care about Him and the person in front of you, whether believer or unbeliever. When you are living with God’s thought for the moment in mind, rather than your “task” or “goal,” there is LIFE in your bones. That’s why we’re here—to carry out Jesus’ life in the day-to-day practicals as we rise up and sit down and walk along the way, to bring forth from our lives (because we’ve stored up His Word, and made that a priority) the current mind of Christ in any given situation. We’re there. We’re not somewhere else. We’re not wishing we were “done” with the task. We don’t have our nose buried in our shopping list. Rather we are THERE. Right there at the moment, connected to God, listening, soft, watching, praying, vulnerable to His Spirit at work in us and the world around us. We’re not just “spacing it” because we’re tired. Our priority is Him and bringing His life from within to the world around us. It’s who we are becoming because we’re storing up His word in our hearts. We’ve not stored up worldly cares and thinking, planning, and fussing. We trust Him for our needs, and He graciously unfolds the opportunities to meet the physical needs as we carry out our days in the midst of the Kingdom of His people. And because we’ve trusted Him all along the way, He can do some marvelous things in and around us!

(This is probably an unnecessary side note, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s a flag if: You’ve built your day or weekend around some shopping trip in the sense that “doing it” makes you so glad; there’s a looking forward to it that’s fleshly and there’s a thump in your heart about shopping or whatever. Something in you “likes” that thing you’ve been looking forward to. You’ve stored up an unhealthy “looking forward to” that isn’t something that’s driven by God’s governing thought for your life. When you get in that state of mind, it’s pretty hard to have an ear for God’s thoughts for Jesus, for His people. The worldly cares have somehow dominated your thinking.)

Build The Right House

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.’ “

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord. ‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.’ “ Haggai 1:5-9

It is a spiritual principle: The more you toil, toil, work, work, it is never enough to satisfy you. Somehow, though you’ve tried and worked, if it’s a straining and toil born in your flesh, you’ll have little to show for all the effort you put in. When you take things “into your own hands” to get the job done, God somehow gives us the feeling of spinning our wheels and accomplishing little. It’s because He loves us too much to let us live that way!

He emphasizes: “Give careful thought to your ways…”, “Give careful thought to your ways….” Build God’s house, not your own!! Put your house in his hands and trust Him. Work and pray and seek to build up His House, His dream and desire. Put your efforts there, not in your own “things.” Bring all the things of your life under His government and direction whether it is your physical house, furnishings, food and clothing needs, places of employment situations, financial expenditures, children’s needs, personal comforts, preferences, habits. Whatever it may be, let those things of life, things of this earth be carried out HIS way not your way. It’s not that we’re to neglect the physical world; rather, we’re to have our minds renewed about how God sees them and then transformed to carry on our lives as Jesus would.

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