What Comes Out

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of the mouth, that is what makes him unclean.” Matthew 15:10-11

The tongue. James talks about “taming the tongue.” I think you can tell a lot about a person by listening to that person speak. And even more so when the pressure is on in any given situation. We often say things we wish we could take back in the passion of an argument or heated discussion. All of us are guilty of it.

But here’s something to keep in mind: the world is watching. They are listening to every single foul word or unkind word or damaging word we say. And they are also listening to how we react.

Back in the day before I became a Believer, I heard someone rattle off a string of profanity followed by every blasphemous word you could think of. Another bystander simply asked the person, “Do you kiss your mother with those lips?” It was a fitting rebuke, and the person apologized.

Jesus even cut to the matter quicker: it’s what’s inside that matters.

So, here’s the question we need to ask ourselves regularly: what’s in my heart that would make me cuss like a sailor?

Consider

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. . . Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” Luke 12:27

Consider the lilies. Whenever the Bible says we should consider something, perhaps we would be wise to do it. Consider the lilies for instance. Look off into a field where lilies (or other flowers grow). Marvel at the ease at which they grow (forgetting the hard work that went into gardening).

Or Scripture elsewhere states: consider your life. Think about it. Ponder it. For a few minutes focus your entire attention on it.

We would do well if we took the time to stop and smell the roses, as it were. It’s a time to reflect on life itself. We lose that in all our busyness.

Don’t let a day pass you by without stopping and considering the beauty around you. In a world tends to be ugly and uncaring, certainly you can stop to find beauty (and it may even be your life that’s the beautiful part!)

Up From the Pit

“For the roots of the mountains I sank down, the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.” Jonah 2:6

Jonah was in the belly of the fish when he said that. He realized that he could no longer run from God and had to give in to what He wanted Jonah to do. It was painful, but in the end, he could say, “you brought my life up from the pit.”

Perhaps you’re wondering about your own life. It doesn’t seem to be going the way you had planned. There are obstacles in the way. Often. Always. But one thing you know and one thing you have going for you: God brought your life up from the pit. Where would you be now if He hadn’t?

The world may end tomorrow, but that’s one truth I can cling to: He brought my life up from the pit.

Sometimes we just need to reflect on the essentials.

Is Your Lamp in the Closet?

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” Mark 4:21-22

As I write this, I know that the room I am in could use another light so I take out a small lamp. Now I have a couple of choices. I can put it near where I am reading or I can put it on the floor. Placing it on the floor won’t do me any good because, well, it’s on the floor. There’s nothing there but carpet. The higher I put it, the more widespread is the light that goes out. Why would I put it on the floor anyway?

I suppose that it’s similar to my faith. I tend to hide my faith, sometimes to the point of burying it. What’s the point of that? Back in the day, I was bolder and confrontational with my faith.

What happened?

What changed?

Why is my lamp now on the floor, or worse yet, why is it in the closet with the door closed?

Finders, Seekers

[Nicodemus] came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” John 3:2

We read this passage and get a sense that a sincere, curious man has approached Jesus. He doesn’t make a big showing of his encounter (for fear of being ostracized by his fellow leaders…probably). He’s a Seeker in the truest sense of the word. He’s hungry for the truth and isn’t disappointed at all.

Many of us can relate to Nicodemus. We’re not boisterous or “in your face” about our beliefs, but we’re still Seekers. Even if you’ve been a Believer for years, we’re still seeking truth, seeking direction, seeking wisdom, seeking answers in a world full of questions.

And of course we come to the right Man.

And yes, Wise Men Still Seek Him.

With All My Heart

I call with all my heart, answer me, O Lord, and I will obey your decrees. Psalm 119:145

The story is told of Admiral Rickover. When he interviewed junior officers, he asked them two questions: “In everything you did, did you always give 100% effort?” The second was a followup (and always the same): “why not?” What Admiral Rickover understood about the human condition was that we tend to be slackers. Even in our mightiest efforts, we get tired and worn down. We get lazy.

The Psalmist writes that he calls out to God with all his heart. It may be that he, too, is worn down and tired, aching for relief. Like Adm. Rickover, I’ll ask the question, “When you call out to God, do you do it will all your might?”

And why not?

My answer probably reveals more about me than the question.

No

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age. Titus 2:11-12

First of all, memorize this passage.

Dwell on it, drink it in, get into your very soul. Play with it in your mind. Keep it churning and churning and spinning around in your head. Close your eyes and meditate on it. It will be time well spent.

A number of years ago there was a famous anti-drug campaign: just say no. Whether it worked or not is unclear, but let me just say that it was a good starting point (on its own it was doomed to fail without something to replace it). And so it is with us and sin (ungodliness and worldly passions). It’s a start. Is it the be all to end all? Part of the problem is that we put ourselves in situations that are tempting and once we’re down that path, it’s next to impossible to turn back.

What areas of temptation are you susceptible to? Only you can answer that. Scripture does tell us that we can say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions.

JB, What a Character!

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath…” Luke 3:7

John the Baptist, what a character! He ate locusts and wild honey, and his clothes were made of camel’s hair (Matthew 3:4). He wasn’t exactly on any List of the Top 100 Best Dressed people in the world! Some found him downright obnoxious. But boy was he fearless (and peerless too). Not only did he dress and eat strangely, but his message was direct: you brood of vipers!

We have people like John the Baptist in our midst today. And like days gone by, not a lot of people accept them. How so, you ask? Think of someone with multiple piercings or a bright green Mohawk. Think he (or she) would be accepted in most churches? But would it be different if you looked his way and saw him raising his hands in true surrender and worship? You see, we accept people who are a little different from us, but not a lot different. Sadly, we all fall into that trap from time to time.

We need to ask God to be more accepting and less judgmental. It doesn’t always come natural to us. There will be people in heaven who look, sound, and smell quite different than we do. We might as well get used to it here.

Only One Returned

“Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. Luke 17:11-19

This is a story of simple faith. Ten lepers came to Jesus asking to be healed. They were healed on the way to the priest. In other words, when Jesus told them to go to the priest, they were not yet healed! They had to have faith that what this man said would be true by the time they arrived at the priest

Then only one returned to thank Jesus (a Samaritan, no less), though I’m sure the others had an impressive story to tell. Sadly, they never returned to thank Jesus.

As Christians we have much to thank Jesus for. Take out a piece of paper and just write down your blessings. Then give that list over to God, thanking Him for those blessings. We never want to be accused of not being thankful people.