As the dogs and I were walking along, I noticed that Marci was walking differently. I picked her up and found something on the bottom of her foot that I quickly removed.
Observation – paying attention – requires us to be intentional. It is necessary to be intentional to understand the needs of the people around you. In this busy world, we often don’t listen when someone is talking with us, because we are trying to contemplate the best answer to the conversation or even thinking about the next task we must accomplish, looking beyond the current interaction. Many times, we are so stuck on ourselves and our goal is to be heard instead of to listen. Also, we are rarely present in the moment, and yet this presence is what is needed to show love and compassion to others. Time is precious, and how you use time is a choice. Do you choose to run around on empty and allow the situations around you to dictate your actions? Do you attempt to be in the moment wherever you are at, being at attention, and calmly following the leading of your Father?
Notice that Jesus was always intentional—always present – and able to understand the needs of those around Him. He spent much time in prayer. He spent much time interacting with people, whereby He invested in their lives, actively listening and engaging in conversation. Conversation, such a lost art today.
Today, be mindful of what is happening around you. Wherever you go, be there. Slow down. Listen for His still small voice. Invest in those before you. Enjoy the people God has put before you, and ask God how you can bless them today to bring Him glory.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 [ESV]
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 [NIV]
You have likely glanced in the mirror recently. Each morning I catch a few glances in the mirror while getting ready to start the day. But then I walk away and the mirror does not follow. As you go along through your day, you are not continuously looking at yourself. You cannot remember all of the fine details that you saw earlier in the day.
When we read in James about the mirror glances, it is compared to people listening to God’s Word and then walking away as if it was not even heard. This letter speaks about the need to have God’s Word written on your heart so that you can remember what you have read and heard. It also reminds us that we simply cannot be hearers of the Word, but we must also be doers on the Word. If you live out the Word (instead of the glance and then fading away), the Word is not only in your heart but demonstrated for others to get a glance too.
Today, have you read the Word? Have you taken some time to sit down and read a passage, a verse, a chapter of the Bible? Have you glanced and went back to your day, or have you taken what you have read and put it to memory? If people would look at your day, would they see God’s Word being lived out or are you taking mirror glances?
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” – James 1:22-25 [NLT]
I talk a lot. Always have; perhaps I always will. It has certainly been something I had to be mindful of because speaking can get you in trouble. The Bible speaks a lot about the words we speak and even the action of speaking. We are to be quick to listen and we are to be slow to speak.
If we are slow to speak, it allows us to think before we put our foot in our mouth. It also can keep us from sinning. It could prevent you from saying something hurtful or destructive to someone you care about when you are angry or frustrated. Something that is said cannot be unsaid. It’s important that we have the ability to bite our tongue, even if we are right. If we speak without thinking, we will leave behind us a path of destruction.
This verse also speaks about being quick to listen. Listening is often an issue for us. We want to talk. We want to share everything. I think we may like the sound of our own voices. It’s a me world. Listening is harder. It means you are allowing others to control the flow of the conversation. It means you are focused and taking in what the other is saying. Hopefully it means you are truly paying attention to the person. As you listen, you get to know more. As you listen, you basically are acknowledging that the speaker matters. Today, aim to be slower to speak and quicker to listen. Control your tongue.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 [NLT]
Jesus said that we could not serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We know it’s true. Time and time again we find ourselves with divided loyalty. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it as “an indecisive man… unstable in all his ways.” Other translations say “double-minded.” That wasn’t even a word until it appeared in the Bible!
All of us have a divided loyalty. We can say we are devout Christians and that we have placed God first, however, we are still in this world and we are still in the flesh. Romans 7:15 says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (NLT). This is the Apostle Paul saying that he wants to do what is right, but yet he doesn’t do it. He recognizes that we have a sinful nature. The struggle is real. We keep on doing evil.
As we are living in this world, trying to live for Jesus, we need to keep in mind that our loyalties are divided a times. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep your focus on His Word. When the world tries to pull you closer, remember that we are not of this world. God has a bigger plan for you and I, and it requires a desire for Him. Always aim to take steps toward Him, and the loyalty will become less and less divided, and more and more God-centered.
“Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” – James 1:8 [NLT]
When I was grocery shopping, I wanted to get a handful of different types of meats to prepare during the week. I saw the freezer area that typically contains the sale items. Sitting within the enclosed case were sweet brown sugar ham steaks. The price was absent. The price holder was there; however, they had not displayed the price card. Though I am very OCD with my budgeting, I decided to grab a few ham steaks since they were in the sale case. I figured I could get two for five bucks; that was the usual sale price.
I soon found out that the price wasn’t even close. Yes, the ham steaks were in the sale case; however, there was a reason that the price card was absent. The sale started the following day—a sale that required a certain purchase amount, thereby making the ham steaks only a dollar. What was my great price? Four dollars for just one! Boy did I allow myself to get led in the wrong line of thinking. If I waited another day and had the coupon that arrived in my mailbox, I would have enjoyed nice savings. As they say, looks are deceiving.
We often allow ourselves to see something and think one thing, and yet we are not even close to knowing the truth. The devil loves to trick us into thinking one thing is likely true, when it is anything but the truth. The devil plays on our fears and our doubts. He knows what will be most tempting. He knows what will pull you away from focusing on God. Remember that God wants us to fix our eyes on truth, to live truth, to know Truth. To do this, means that we devote ourselves to Jesus Christ, and we dedicate time for individual Bible reading and group study. Church attendance is important too. Allowing the Spirit to move is crucial. When you do this, you allow yourself to be filled with God’s Truth, and it is then more difficult for you to be led astray. Note, I didn’t say you won’t get led astray—only that it will be harder to be led astray. Today, take a step closer to Jesus. Spend time in His Word. Seek out His Truth. Pray for His Truth to be revealed. And then listen.
“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:18-22 [NLT]
Matthew 27 / Mark 15 / Luke 23 / John 18-19
Pontius Pilate – Roman Governor –Procurator.
- He was in charge of appointing the high priest and controlling the Temple and funds.
- He had full control of the province.
- He had full powers of life and death as he could reverse capital sentences passed by Sanhedrin.
- He had a bad reputation with Jews and Samaritans.
- He was guilty of slander, robbery, violence and murder – and at least twice was called to account by the Roman imperial authority.
- Because people threatened Pilate, that they would inform the emperor that Pilate hadn’t eliminated a rebel against Rome, Pilate went against what he knew was right. He didn’t do the right thing.
- He was later removed from his office for unnecessary and brutal treatment of his subjects.
- Pagan historians only mention Pilate when mentioning his authorization of the death of Jesus (Tacitus).
- Historians documented that Pilate was forced to commit suicide during reign of Gaius (AD 37-41).
1) DISCOVER THE TRUTH – What is Truth?
Jesus told Pilate, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth” John 18:37 (NIV). The question that Pilate and many others have asked is “what is truth?” (v. 38 NIV). The Bible mentions the word “truth” over two hundred times. God revealed truth to us through Jesus. Jesus says in John 14:6 that He is “the way and the truth and the life” (NIV).
I believe absolute truth is God’s truth. The Bible is God’s Word and God’s Word is Truth. The Bible says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), which therefore means that He speaks only what is true. The Psalmist writes “Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth” (Psalm 86:11a NLT). God is the source of all truth. I believe Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” and I believe that Jesus is infinite, living Truth.
When we read the garden scene in Genesis 3, it is quite clear that God presents absolute truth with regard to this tree of knowledge of good and evil to Adam and Eve. Satan challenges God’s truth, and deceives Adam and Eve into questioning what God says as well. Even today, Satan attempts to get us to challenge God’s Truth, to ask “did God really say” when we encounter His Truth. God’s Truth does not change; though we may attempt to misrepresent or skew His Truth, it still remains as Truth, as absolute reality. We can choose to accept His Truth and live by it, or to deny it and live as a fool, lost and wandering in search for another alternative which just is not there.
Some people believe that there is truth and it can be found through science and logic. Anything claimed of God that has no scientific or logically basis is not seen as being true. Other people reject the idea of absolute truth and believe that what may be true for one person is not necessarily what is true for another person. Truth is what we make it to be and we each will find our own truth. That means one person can claim God to be God and that is seen as Truth for that person. Another person may claim that there are three gods and that is truth for that particular person.
Many people will spend their lives asking the same question as Pilate, and will never get the true answer because they are seeking for answers in the wrong place. I cling to the promise found in John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (NIV). Only through a relationship with God, as a result of Christ’s redemption and the working of the Holy Spirit are we able to understand Truth. If only Pilate realized that he was speaking to the Truth, he would have seen the answer was right before him.
Truth is God’s Truth
Jesus is God’s Truth – John 1 says Jesus is full of grace and TRUTH.
God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17) – We find truth when we read & study the Bible. We need the belt of Truth in place (Ephesians 6:14)
We are to correctly handle/explain God’s Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
To be a disciple of Christ, you must continue in His Word and you will KNOW the truth and the truth will SET YOU FREE. (John 8:32)
Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.“ – John 18:37 [NLT]
Every child of God knows the truth as Jesus, and is on the side of truth, and stands by it.
Pilate avoided the truth:
- Tried to get out of the situation? Sent Jesus to Herod (Luke 23:6-17)
- Tried to get someone to side with him?
- Tried to put responsibility on someone else – Told Jews “judge by your own law” – a mockery (John 18:31)
- Tried to escape – offer to release “criminal” (John 18:39)
- Tried to washed his hands – though it didn’t cancel guilt (Matthew 27:24)
- Tried to compromise – Had Jesus flogged (John 19:1-3)
- Tried to appeal to sympathy – Shall I kill your King? (John 19:15)
All this despite Pilate never having doubt of Jesus’ innocence – 3 x’s said NOT GUILTY!
2) DOING THE RIGHT THING EVEN WHEN IT COSTS EVERYTHING
When you know the Truth – then you must make a choice – what will you do with the Truth?
James 1:23-24 speaks about person who stares in the mirror and walks away, forgetting what he looks like. The mirror becomes useless after you walk away from it. James was saying that if we simply hear the word but don’t act, it’s useless just like the mirror.
St. Augustine said, “Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Right is right even if no one is doing it.”
Right choice could mean
Social Rejection / Career Loss / Public Ridicule
“Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth” (Psalm 86:11a NLT).
Here’s my heart, Lord
Speak what is true
Here’s my life, Lord
Speak what is true
Every morning as I get ready for work I find myself brushing my teeth and glancing in the mirror. The mirror reflects what I look like at that moment. It is the truth. It is real. There is no façade, no clouded view, no distortion. But when I leave the bathroom and can no longer see that mirror image, the mirror is useless to me. It means nothing. My appearance will change throughout the day. Hair will stick up. I might get a scratch from my dogs. One never knows. But the mirror image is useless.
In James we read about self-deception. People hear the word of God and it goes in one ear and then out the other. The Bible says that it’s like someone who looks in the mirror and walks away and doesn’t remember what they look like. What the passage is referencing is how the mirror is useless when we walk away. It means nothing. When people hear the Word of God and walk away without acting upon it, it’s like that useless mirror. It is useless. They are deceived. The word is irrelevant in their opinion and ignored.
James spent the time speaking about self-deception because it is something we all fall prey to if we just take the Word of God and nibble on it but do nothing else. It gets us nowhere. It’s like pushing the gas pedal on a car that has a dead battery. There is no action. When you truly hear the Word of God, you act. You embrace. You love. You live the Truth.
“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” – James 1:22-24 [MSG]
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]