When I recently asked my daughter to give the dog his food, there was a bit of a mishap. She had some difficulty getting the food out of the can because she had never done it before. When she finished getting out what she could, she tossed the can (still with food) into the recycling bin. The dog quickly noted that there was food still in that can and he retrieved it from the bin. From the next room, I heard the sound of a can moving along the kitchen floor. I quickly retrieved the can and verbally scolded the dog. Then I noted that the can had a good deal of food still in it and realized why he was behaving that way. He saw the good stuff was still inside and could not see the danger—the danger of getting his tongue cut on the can.
We have this same problem in life. There is danger (temptations) all around us. We sometimes cannot hear or see the danger warnings because we keep looking at the good stuff. We see a little good stuff and fall to the temptations. We do not always catch ourselves before it is too late. The devil does not put up flashing neon lights saying, “Danger, I’m going to try to get you to sin with this here.” You won’t hear a “temptation alert” sound when temptations are lurking around the corner. Usually the path to sin is a slow and winding road. C.S. Lewis wrote that the path to hell was gradual. It is when we see the little bit of good stuff and slowly slip away that gets us the easiest.
I cannot warn you of what is around the corner. I do not know what temptations you will face today. But I can point you to Christ who faced every temptation and did not sin. He is our only answer.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” – Hebrews 4:15 [NIV]
My daughter always gets me laughing. One day we went to get some ice cream from the local Dairy Queen and I barely could leave the drive thru area. My daughter read the cup and it said, “Flip over.” This was some sort of marketing thing Dairy Queen did where they flip over the cup for a moment to show that the Blizzard is made properly.
My daughter took the ice cream and turned it upside down. My son found it hilarious and took out his phone to take a quick photo and my daughter; oblivious to what could happen, she posed for the photo, continuing to hold the ice cream upside down. The drive thru attendant stared puzzled. I was concerned that the ice cream I just purchased was going to spill all over the interior of the car. What was she doing?
My son soon told my daughter that she misunderstood what “flip over” meant, that you aren’t supposed to just hold it like that so long. The workers do a quick flip over. We all had a good laugh. It took awhile to leave the area because I couldn’t stop laughing. It provided a good laugh but also a warning of caution. It is so easy to read something and take it one way, when it is meant to be taken another way. This is true for many things including God’s Word. It is important to read Scripture in context and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You may find yourself flipping over a cup, when you should simply turn it around.
“But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14 [NLT]
When my daughter came home from school yesterday, she gave me this little comic drawing of a coffee cup. On the back she wrote that I was as sweet as coffee. My daughter never tasted coffee and she did not realize that coffee has a bitter taste unless sugar is added. She simply sees me drinking it and assumes it must taste good because I drink it often. Therefore she developed this false impression of the taste of coffee.
The same can be said of the Pharisees in the Bible. People observed them walking around holding people to the Law. People assumed that the Pharisees, being educated in the Scripture, were more knowledgeable and understanding of God and what He desired from us. It was quite a false impression, something that can be seen so easily when the Pharisees are called white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27). They looked great on the outside but on the inside things were not so great. Just like the coffee looks nice and sweet because I’m drinking it each morning, but it is very bitter without some sugar.
God tells us that He desires our love, and Paul wrote that whatever we do, if it is done without love it means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). The Bible says that God can see our heart, our true heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He selected David because of what He saw in David’s heart. Our aim should be to have a pure heart, a heart that loves God first, and loves others. There should be no false impression, no confusion as to the appearance of our heart and our motives if we are living our lives with an outpouring of God’s love. The same love that God shows us, we can show others (1 John 4:7).
Today, look at your heart and see what is there.
• Do you love people like Jesus?
• Are you carrying around bitterness and unforgiveness?
• Where are areas for improvement in your life?
This morning it was drizzling but I still faithfully took my dog for a walk. As we continued up the street, I noticed that there was a newspaper that was poking through the plastic covering that the delivery person used for protection. In a quick moment, I passed by thinking that the newspaper would get all wet and perhaps I should pick it up and put it under the safety of the porch roof. But instead, I did nothing. I left it where it was and made excuses as to why I could not do that simple act. As I was a few blocks away, I started to feel regretful for not taking the opportunity that was right before me. It was a simple act of love that did not happen.
I think that too often there are opportunities presented to you and I, and I personally know that there are times in my life when I make excuses to not take action. I have heard many excuses as to why help cannot be given to someone, to the church, to a family in need, to a cause. Though this world is a hectic place and our schedules get busy, I think of how Jesus was walking toward one person when another person came in need of help. The lady reached out and touched His garment, and although He was on His way to pay a visit to the daughter of Jairus, He stopped and spoke to this woman (Mark 5). I remember how even after He was teaching at Capernaum and most likely tired from a busy day, He went back to Peter’s house to settle, only to still continue healing and reaching out to help others (Mark 1).
We will not always reach out. We will find ourselves making excuses. We will say we are too tired, too overwhelmed, too busy, too focused elsewhere, too unworthy, too untrained, too afraid. The list could go on and on with excuses I’ve given or heard. Thank God that He never makes excuses.
Today I encourage you to be the person who puts the newspaper on the porch. I pray that when you notice that you are making excuses for something that you can easily do before you walk away so that later you won’t be feeling guilty that you did not do more. Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
“Do not neglect to do what is good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” – Hebrews 13:16 [ESV]
We like to complicate things in life. We can make a three word sentence trivial. Interpretations and experiences cause us conflict. We need to see evidence. We are very doubtful, skeptical of anything. We have so many documentaries showing us proof that something is true, and then so many others to counter that theory. We are a society that needs DNA analysis, sheets full of statistics, a handful of witnesses, video footage, photos, and still we are skeptical.
With us wanting so many facts and to be shown proof, we often will have battles with doubt. We get into a situation that seems glum. Will God really see me through this? Why is God allowing this to happen? I don’t understand. Show me. I need proof. Is He even there? We become skeptical of what God can do in our lives because we allow the doubt to win. We limit God with our shaky faith.
Thomas asked to see Jesus’ wounds to believe, and only then did he believe. The other disciples believed after seeing as well. In Mark 5, Jairus asked Jesus to heal his ailing daughter. Before they could get to his daughter, she passed away. When Jairus was told the news, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe” (Mark 5:36b NASB). Only believe.
At times we need to only believe. It is hard. Things are not always going to be pleasant and everything is not always going to go well. But God has promised us that one day things will be perfect. This is a promise that I cling to, knowing that Jesus has overcome, and therefore so will we.
If there is something going on in your life right now and you are doubtful, only believe. Only believe that He is big enough. Only believe that He has overcome. Only believe that things will one day be perfect. Only believe that He loves you so much. Only believe.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
– John 20:29 [ESV]