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There is no painless path to growth.

The Cares of Life

One of the more familiar parables of Jesus has come to be known as “The Parable of the Seed and the Sower” (or sometimes just the Parable of the Sower).  This title is somewhat of a misnomer, as the focal point of the story is neither the seed nor the sower; ultimately, it is about the soil.  And for those of us who count ourselves as believers, it is the words in verse 22 that most directly apply.

 

Matthew 13:22 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (NKJV)

 

Implicit in the manner this example is given, the depth of ones roots is not at issue here. The lack of a deep rooted faith is addressed in verses 20-21.  This passage speaks to the object of our focus, and it may be surprising to consider that it isn’t necessarily sin or evil that chokes off the seed of God for the believer.  Often times it is simply the cares of this life.  It also worth noting that the consequence of this distraction isn’t necessarily the loss of one’s salvation, it is generally a lack of fruitfulness.

 

It is tempting to gloss over the words and to convince ourselves that He is talking about caring about what the world cares about (i.e. fame, social status, the praise of men…), and/or about being greedy, but I sense the message of this passage runs much deeper than that.  I believe that the “cares of this world” quite naturally occur as part of living in a fallen world, and dealing with the world’s system for getting things done.  I also sense that when He speaks of “riches”, He isn’t necessarily talking about money.  He’s referencing what the world sees as valuable.

 

On a personal level, this passage hits me where I live. As I’ve endeavored to answer the upward call of God upon my life, being a good husband, a good father and a good neighbor have become a much higher priority.  But embracing those roles also creates an endless supply of practical issues that need to be dealt with, and those things often grab hold of my attention and require the bulk of my energy.  In those instances the reality of my circumstance tends to overwhelm my grasp of the reality of God’s word, and when it does, I flounder.

 

No doubt, there is a balancing point that needs to be reached with all this, as we are called to be in the world, but not of it. It is an equilibrium which I doubt that I’ve experienced for any sustained amount of time.  I don’t generally struggle on issues that relate to me personally, but I can be very susceptible when it comes to the people I love.  The truth be told, I often ride the rollercoaster of their situation until it dawns on me how nauseous it is making me, and I choose to step off.  In those moments I must cast my cares on Him who sustains me.  And when I do, I always wonder at my tendency to get back on that ride.

 

Jesus said that the key to producing fruit was “abiding in the vine”, which means maintaining a constant connection to Him. The Hebrew writer encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  Ultimately, it’s all a question of what we’re focused on.  Like Peter, we are capable of “all things” when we’re looking unto Jesus, but when we fix our eyes on the storm, we are bound to sink.

I believe that we often struggle to hear what God is saying because we’re trying to figure out “what to do”, when He’s speaking about “who we are”. His destiny for us isn’t a place, or a vocation, it is a person we were created to be.

Morning Prayer

On the first day, You hovered above the chaos, bringing about the beautiful order we see throughout creation; and to this day all things are held together by your Spirit.

Lord I pray, hover above the turmoil within my soul; and gather my scattered thoughts with your loving hands.

 

On the day You awoke in the midst of a raging tempest, You rebuked the wind, and calmed the seas.

Lord I pray, speak to the storms that swirl around me, and quiet the waters of my heart.

 

On the day You prayed in the garden, You chose the will of your Father above your own.

Lord I pray, help me today that I might do the same.

 

Fingerprints

In the deepest part of our hearts – we all yearn to be loved, and each of us comes with the capacity to give love in return. We instinctually draw together in relationship with each other, and gather ourselves into communities.

 

And yet somehow we struggle to believe that we come from a God who embodies love, and who yearns to be in relationship with us.

 

In the deepest part of our hearts – we all yearn for justice, and each of us comes with an inherent sense of when that justice has been violated. Even as small children, no one has to teach us to cry out, “It’s not fair!”

 

And yet somehow we struggle to believe that we come from a God who embodies justice, and who would demand a price for sin.

 

In the deepest part of our hearts – we all yearn for shelter from the storm, and comfort in times of trouble. Something within us inherently knows to run for cover, and to seek a place of refuge.

 

And yet somehow we struggle to partake of God’s Spirit, who stands ready to manifest Himself as the “Comforter”, and who offers a peace that surpasses our understanding.

 

In the deepest part of our hearts – we all yearn for a sense of significance, and of belonging. It is within our very nature to fight wars, to fly banners, and to adorn ourselves in accolades, in order to establish our place in this world.

 

And yet somehow we struggle to believe that we were created in the image of God, and that we were meant to be the heirs of His Kingdom.

 

In the deepest part of our hearts – we all yearn to believe in something that is bigger than ourselves, and that is beyond what we can understand. From the beginning we are drawn to fairy tales, magic, legends, the depths of the ocean, heroes, outer space, Sci-Fi… or anything else that might carry us beyond the boundaries of what we have known.

 

And yet somehow we struggle to accept a God whose ways are much higher than ours and who can do abundantly more than we could ever ask for, or imagine.

Hindsight

The day after your child is born

You realize that pain and discomfort can be worthwhile

*

The day after you utter piercing words

You realize that hurt cannot be taken back

*

The day after you are swindled

You recognize all the signs you should have noticed

*

The day after you receive that “thing” you thought would change everything

You recognize that no “thing” has the ability to do that

*

The day after you enact revenge on someone

You realize there is no satisfaction in it

*

The day after you lose someone you love

You recognize the void they filled in your life

*

The day after a “One Night Stand”

You find the emptiness within you

*

The day after you forgive someone

You realize that it is you who have been set free

*

The day after the “Dark Night of the Soul”

You find that God’s mercies are new every morning

*

The day after a tragedy

You realize how blessed you were two days ago

*

The day after you see one of your children step into their destiny

You find yourself being thankful for the sacrifices you made for them

*

The day after you compromise on the things you truly believe

You realize the power of shame

*

The day after you die

You’ll realize that how you lived really mattered

*

The day after Jesus comes back

You’ll realize that the truth was never really negotiable

*

(Proverbs 14:12)

Present Tense

I could speak of the place that the Lord first found me

& of the great saints who have gone before

*

I could tell of the mighty battles that have been fought

& of the miraculous deeds that have been done

*

I could sing a hymn of God’s great holiness

& of the wonders of His ways

*

I could paint a portrait of the splendor of the heavenly city

& of the angelic host that await us there

*

But in truth

it is only the

faith

& hope

& love

that I carry within my heart today

that has the potential to change anything