Shopping for apples is always a fun time. I am very specific about what apples I purchase, and I rarely will buy a bag of apples. I am the strange person you see in the produce area picking up each piece of fruit, turning it around in my hands, closely examining the entire item before making a decision to either place it back with the others of its kind or place it in the fruit bag I will take home. I guess you could call me an apple snob.
When I examine the apples, I’m looking for bruising, for signs of rotting, for firmness, for signs of bug infiltration. I look at the color. I am particular about the type of apples. I know which ones are more crisp, which is something I desire in an apple. I know which ones are more for baking so I avoid them most days as I seek out apples to eat as they are—simple apples.
You may think I’m a bit crazy with my apple selecting process; however, we each are to examine in life. The Bible tells us to examine ourselves. Yes, you are to examine yourself. We are constantly to be examining ourselves, to see if we are in the faith. We are to examine ourselves to see the state of our heart. We are to examine ourselves to test our motives, to see if we are too comfortable, to know if we are allowing something to get in the way of our relationship with God. We are constantly to be examining ourselves. As well, we are called to test ourselves. This means we are not standing still. We are doing. To be tested, something must be in action. That something is us. We must be in action. We must take steps forward. We must move from our comfort zones. To finish the examining process, there is always a testing. Each apple I examine eventually is tested at a future time when my daughter or I grab hold and take a bite. So after you examine yourself, don’t stop there. Test yourself. Walk forward. Faith that is not tested—is that really faith at all?
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 [ESV]
It is important to look inward daily. The world tells us to look outward. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with someone else. You are free to do as you want—you are free to be who you want to be and think how you want to think. The world tells us it’s okay to be focused on self.
When we focus on ourselves and live in a “me world,” we do not see the importance of looking inward and life so often becomes a life of you against the world. We fail then to see that God should be first in our lives—He is our life. It is only when we can recognize that we were meant to live with Him, and then look inward to see what is keeping you from fully living a life for God.
Jeremiah wrote to “test and examine our ways.” This is something we need to do daily because our walk with Christ is a daily walk. There will be good days and not-so-good days. There are days we will struggle more and days when we will see great strides in our walk. We are reminded that we are a sinful people who often focus on self. One day we take two steps forward, another five steps back. We are ever-changing and often emotionally driven. For this reason, it is crucial we test and examine every day. Today, look inward. Question your motives. Examine your moves. Test your life against the Truth of God. Allow the Spirit to reveal anything that separates you from God, anything that may be a stumbling block in the way of God’s great plan.
“Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” – Lamentations 3:40-41 [ESV]
Most people who bake cakes have used the toothpick test. You use a toothpick to make sure the cake is completely finished. If you take out a cake before it finishes baking, it will be worthless. Hosea noted that the people of Israel who were spending time with godless foreigners were “as worthless as a half-baked cake.”
We know why a cake is worthless when it is half-baked. It cannot be eaten. But why were these people of Israel worthless? As they mingled with these foreigners, they started to embrace the godless ways. They started to accept what was unacceptable for God’s chosen people.
God has placed a special calling on your life. Yes YOUR LIFE. You are valuable. You have a purpose. It is important that you do not allow things to keep you from embracing what God has for your life. He has so much for you.
“The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake!” – Hosea 7:8 [NLT]
When you give someone a compliment or when a person gets a promotion, there is always a reaction—a response that gives us a glimpse of the heart. Proverbs 27 says that “a person is tested by being praised.” Tested for what? For humility.
I have noticed that people fall into different groups. There are some people who enjoy praise a little too much and they become proud. There are some people who do not accept compliments or praise well at all because they have low self confidence. Then there are those who say “thank you” and point to Christ—they say that it is because of God that this success has come their way.
How do you act when you receive praise? Do you collect it all and beam with pride? Do you deny the praise all together, not thinking that it was a great thing? Or do you recognize the great things God is doing in your life and let people know it is because God has been doing a great work in you?
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” – Proverbs 27:21 [NLT]
During the hot summer months, chocolate, gum, and lip balm do no fair too well. The heat does a good job to melt the items. Being a Hershey girl, I love chocolate. When you purchase chocolate at a store, by the time you carry it from the store to your car, the chocolate is already melting from the high temperatures. I always advise my kids to not open it, but instead to put it in the refrigerator so it can harden again. When the chocolate is eventually opened, it is interesting to see the new form of the chocolate.
Heat is often affiliated with changing the shapes of items so it’s no surprise to read about heat in the Bible. We read and the refiner’s fire and the furnace of affliction. We also read about taking a new form. When we accept Christ, we start to become a new creation.
There are times when we can feel the heat of the furnace of affliction. We are being pruned and built up. We are being challenged. We are being tested like gold. We find ourselves in these situations because we are called to be a holy people and little by little God gets us to where He created us to be as His child with a purpose. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
“I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” – Zechariah 13:9 [NLT]