Ever feel like you’re pushing around an empty cart? Or one weighed down and overflowing?
Either way, I’ve been gripping my cart handles more than my Bible lately. Misplacing my priorities is a sin I’m not fond of admitting to others. To me, it feels like a litmus test for the heart. Either I’m synching with God’s heart or something else.
Somewhere in the first hour of waking up and getting the kids through breakfast (and myself through coffee), I caught a glimpse of where I was shopping. Silently, I hungered for a moment to sit down with my iPad. The thought of a flashy update waiting for me in the App Store actually danced in my head.
Harmless, right? Discovering some exciting update — beyond that of having the option of now reading the Winnipeg Free Press in Portuguese (and here I mean no disrespect to my Portuguese-speaking family on the West Coast) — can’t possibly sting of evil, could it? Come on, is it really so wrong for me to enjoy the upgrades life is willing to download for me, especially when they’re free?
However, my spirit tells me there is something wrong — when I hunger for His world at the expense of His Word.
Reminding me that Jesus overshadows my distractions, the first chapter of John puts the things of this world in their proper place.
These first few verses lead me toward a question: Am I truly longing for a real-time connection with what’s most important? Or, have I been lulled and dulled by the darkness of stuff?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (verses 1-4).
The enemy likes for my eyes to skim over the truth in these verses. The enemy wants to interrupt any abiding reverence for His presence. He’ll tolerate belief, if he must, but then he’ll gather the entire arsenal of hell to keep me from interacting with the Light. From feeling the warm Light on my skin.
Jesus came and dwelt among the self-professed spiritual champions of His day, though very few recognized Him. They missed out on communing and breaking bread with God Himself. Many of them lost the opportunity of a lifetime because their eyes were searching for other spiritual technology to help them in their quest to download their own image of God at a better resolution.
Obviously, the enemy’s battle plan has changed very little over 2,000 years.
Of course, I would never allow an opportunity to dine with Jesus escape my experience, right? It’s the non-Christian who would ignore Jesus, right? Surely, if I had the chance to sit down in such close, intimate conversation with the Lord, then I would have been all ears.
Yet I’m already guilty of offering rain checks to Jesus. “Oh, yes, I pray every day,” I’m quick to respond. “I know He’s dwelling in my heart.”
God’s people have claimed the same defense throughout history, as they complain about the potholes strewn about their paths, but still believing they were skilled drivers who were mostly on track. But then every once in awhile, God has to interrupt our monologues.
In Hosea, God cuts to the chase: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6).
What? Lack of knowledge?
Excuse me: These were God’s people, so they must have possessed knowledge. Right? Okay, so what IS this knowledge which, given its lack, is destroying everyone?
Let’s turn to one of the greatest deliverance stories. Moses died after leading an enslaved and obstinate people on a road trip through the wilderness. He took them to the border of a promise, to the outskirts of a complete deliverance. Moses wasn’t allowed to enter because of his past. But there was a larger work that God determined to complete in His children before He led them into victory. And Joshua, their new leader, would lead them by example.
God gave Joshua a clear direction, saying, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
Whoa. The Word.
God instructs Joshua to keep the Word alive in his heart, constantly meditating upon it through his eyes and ears. This discipline was so important to God that Joshua would not see any lasting success until He fully allowed God to take hold of his mind, heart and spirit.
This lesson was not merely for Joshua, however. God was announcing to His people, “Look, you may have the knowledge that I am with you. But now it’s time to walk deeper in that knowledge. I know your tendency to grow distracted by the things of this world, and I can’t direct your steps until you are drenched in the knowledge of Me. Stop relying on devotional or small group rituals. You must hear My Word spoken through Your own ear. You must touch Me with your own hands. I am with you” (Joshua 1:8).
“Otherwise,” God says, “you will be destroyed.”
God’s people have a desperate need to dine, daily, with the Creator of the universe. Or else.
God provided a meal for Joshua and the rest of His people who stood on the border of a promise. They were to feast on the Law. Later, in the New Testament, John writes with a greater knowledge because of the revelation of Christ. He describes the richness and mystery to which we now have access through this feast: “And the Word became flesh.” The Word became tangible, something the people could touch and, ultimately, eat.
Without this fellowship, I end up picturing God as some blue-white holy vapor wafting through space. When I seek His nebulous material through my telescopic prayers, I feel as though He’s loving me from a distance.
And I end up loving Him from a distance, too.
Too often I forget how I can touch Him — and He can touch me — while holding the living Word of God in my hands. I’m guilty of neglecting my most important meal. I’m guilty of clicking on a Christian Culture icon for some kind of digital shopping cart that overflows with vitamins, supplements, and energy boosters to help me in my walk. The four-star recommendations make my mouth water. And if I like that product, then I might also like …
While they may help, they aren’t meal replacements. When I reach for anything else first, I miss out on the knowledge that He alone can breathe life into me — “and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” I’m praying today that the Holy Spirit will pour out a holy re-reverence for His Word. And starting with me. I’m not a reliable diet technician on my own. In my cross-eyed wisdom, I satisfy myself with a need-based spiritual intimacy (a.k.a. complaining to Him about the hazards of my daily commute).
But we will not receive deliverance from our travels, or shopping trips, until we begin to look into His Holy Word — as into the eyes of our Lord Himself.