My son is quite the tea tosser. What is a tea tosser? One who tosses tea! I am a coffee drinker, but even more so, I am a bigger tea drinker. One of my mugs is black so it is not as easy to distinguish if the mug is completely empty when the beverage is closer to the bottom of the mug. When my son had seen my mug sitting on the counter top and it appeared to be empty, he thought he would be funny. He grabbed the mug and attempted to juggle it around. Needless to say, he dumped my tea all over the place. We had a good laugh. He truly thought the mug was empty. The joke was on him, as was the tea!
Many times, things are not like they appear. We look at the outside of a person, but we do not see the heart. We see outward actions, but we do not know the inward motives. The Lord looks at our heart. No matter how hard we try to disguise ourselves, how much we pretend to be something we are not, God sees. He knows how much tea is in the mug, and He knows how pure and how deceitful is the condition of your heart.
The Bible tells us that the heart is the most deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). It is clear our hearts are in need of some deep cleansing. Thank God, He has the perfect cleaner to get that accomplished (Titus 3:5). Our heart is purified by faith and cleansed by the Spirit (Acts 15:9). Ask the Lord today, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NIV).
An attitude is a way of thinking, which typically is reflected by our actions. In Philippians 2, we read that we “must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” What a difficult thing to accomplish! How are we to have the same mindset at Jesus? What is Paul trying to say in this verse?
As we continue reading, the Bible talks about Jesus giving up His divine privileges and how He took on flesh. He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). That’s the attitude we are to share with Christ—humble servant.
Today, consider how you can be a humble servant. Seek out opportunities to serve. Pray for more humility. Ask the Spirit to help you have the same attitude of Jesus.
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” – Philippians 2:5 [NLT]
The morning walk was painful today. As we traveled our usual path, we came upon a home that had their door wide open. When we got close, the owner’s dog came flying out of the doorway. My dogs pulled on the double leash in such a way that my previously injured hand had pain shoot through. This caused me to scream so loud, I’m sure some of my neighbor’s awoke. It was so loud, it frightened the approaching dog, who turned tail and ran home. If I myself wasn’t screaming, I would have likely jumped in the air hearing such a loud scream.
I was frustrated, not only because my hand and wrist were once again feeling serious pain, but also because I had previous discussions with the home owner. The owner said, “My dog won’t do anything bad.” I guess the owner means their dog won’t bite my dogs. Nonetheless, dogs are unpredictable when approaching other dogs and people. There is never a guarantee. Just like humans, not all dogs like every dog they meet. As well, the owner was only thinking of themselves and their dogs. What about my dogs? Max was very anxious for the rest of the walk. What about my hand?!? It still is bothering me as I type. We rarely see the other side of things.
Sadly, we are all self-centered. We look out for ourselves. We never consider how our actions could affect others. When we make choices, we make choices considering what is best for us. Today, remember that we are commanded to look out for the best interests of others. We are supposed to want the best for our brothers and sisters. Be intentional with your focus today. Ask how your actions will affect those around you. Seek out what is best for those God brings along your path. Watch how God moves when you intentionally focus on the best interest of others.
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”. – Philippians 2:4 [NLT]
Believers, children of God, are considered “God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9 MSG). Today, the big questions we should ask ourselves: Are you speaking out for Him? Is your life telling others of a difference He has made by your example? Are you praising God with your words and deeds?
The word excellencies is translated from “ἀρετάς” which literally means “virtue.” The only other time it is used in the New Testament is in Philippians 4:8: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). This same word is used in Isaiah 43:21, where we read: “the people I formed for Myself that they may proclaim my praise” (NIV). The New Living Translation states, “I have made Israel for Myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world.” Eugene Peterson’s translation describes them as “people custom-made to praise me” (MSG).
If we are to “tell about the excellent qualities of God,” it is not simply by the words we speak, but by the actions we take in life (GW). We show forth praises by our profession of Truth and by a good example. Let us examine the words we speak. Let us examine the actions we take. Are we telling people about the “excellent qualities of God” or telling them something very different? Are we professing the Truth or spewing something else?
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9 [ESV]
In Genesis 30, “Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister” (v. 1 ESV). She went to Jacob and basically said if you don’t give me any children Jacob, I will die. Jacob got angry at Rachel. He said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” More or less he was saying, “Hey Rachel, I’m not to blame. It’s not my fault.” Notice how Rachel was jealous and she went and placed the blame on Jacob. Then Jacob, who was incorrectly on the receiving end of the blame, became angry as a result of the misplaced blame.
Sin spreads. When a seed of sin is planted in a relationship, it can easily grow and spread. It can start as a small sin and turn into something very destructive. Too often we play the blame game and see things fall apart right before our eyes. Blame can ignite into anger and lead to a large fire that spreads out of control.
Be careful when you are placing the blame on someone. Often blame is misplaced. Instead fix your eyes on Jesus. Take whatever is on your heart to Him. Seek His Word. Taking everything to God instead of playing the blame game will lead you to a better reaction. Instead of placing blame, you will be placing everything before the feet of the One Who holds the world in His hands. It’s okay to be honest and pour out your heart. May God open your eyes to the Truth and touch your heart, leading to transformation. Transformation is so much better than destruction. Amen!
“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’ Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’” – Genesis 30:1-2 [NIV]
Today I had Chinese takeout for lunch. The end of the meal always consists of eating the fortune cookie. It said something like don’t just think about it, act on it. Though I am not into fortune cookies, despite finding them tasty for being crispy bits filled with air, the words on the little slip of paper are a great reminder to us all.
See we can all think about living for Christ. We can all think about being a shining light. We can all think about what is good and pure and holy. We can think about how it is good to help the needy. We can think about how it is important to love others. But where does thinking get us? What happens if we all just sit and think and no one does a thing?
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Today I pray that thinking isn’t the only thing you are doing. Actions speak louder than words. James said to be doers of the word. It’s important to ponder things. It’s important to not rush into things. But if we do nothing else but think, if we never be the hands and feet of Christ, then we miss so many great opportunities. Take advantage of each opportunity. God put these people in your path for a reason.
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:22 [NIV]
People often tell me that it does not matter who they spend time with because they will be who they will be whether or not they are hanging around with people doing bad things. They have control. They are their own person. I have heard it again and again. And yes, some people have more self-control than others and some people do not follow the crowd as much as others; however, the people you spend time with ALWAYS matters.
If you spend time with someone who talks a lot about politics, you will likely hear and learn a lot about politics. You might even become more political. If you spend time with a group of people who are all Christians, you should be able to see a difference between them and the rest of the world. You may partake in more theological discussions, do more studying of God’s Word and pray more. When you interact a lot with those who listen to a particular type of music or talk a certain way or do certain things, you will be soaking in those things. Your dialect could change a bit while you are with them. You might be listening to different music than usual and start humming songs you never thought would come out of your mouth.
Some of the truths of life that I learned came from hanging out with wise people. Spending time with pastors, with ministry laypeople, with strong Christians, has taught me a great deal and has challenged me, helped me to grow, encouraged me, and guided me to who I am today. I remember a time when I was hanging out with those who many would deem “fools” and I can attest that part of my life was falling to pieces. So remember this Proverb. Remember this choice. Remember the importance of who you walk with in life. Wise walking will help you to grow and get where God wants you to be in life. Foolish walking is walking backwards. God has so much more for you. Believe me. Or better yet, believe Him.
“Become wise by walking with the wise;
hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”
-Proverbs 13:20 [MSG]
When you get angry, it can often be difficult to keep your mouth shut and remove yourself from the situation for awhile. We want to speak out right away. We want to respond. We start to yell. We want to speak our mind. We feel the need to tell the person that we are in the right. We have to explain ourselves. We must get in the last word. We want to tell people when they are wrong and we are right. We can’t help but point fingers.
Nehemiah discovered that people were taking advantage of others. The Jews were charging interest to their brothers. As a result, the people were mortgaging fields and homes. Their children were going into slavery. They were being drained of everything. When Nehemiah found out he was very angry. But notice he did not respond right away.
Nehemiah thought it over; he considered his words and actions. He still went forward and told the people what they were doing was wrong. He told them to return to the people what was theirs. However, he waited till he contained himself and got his thoughts together. Oh how easy it could have been to immediately rush in and start pointing fingers and barking out orders. Instead he gathered his thoughts, went before the people and calmly stated the problem and provided the resolution. Now that is anger management.
“I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, ‘Each one of you is gouging his brother.’”
-Nehemiah 5:6-7 [MSG]