“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Jesus summed up the entire law with the simple command of love God and love others.
In this single statement, Jesus revealed humanity’s greatest need as well as the highest call for us as Christians. Yet, for whatever reason, whether it be fear, selfishness or just plain laziness, this weighty issue of faith sometimes does not sit well with our stomach.
Being independently dependent upon Jesus Christ involves understanding the true source for sustainability in our walks. We must be fueled by the love of God. There is nothing else strong enough to motivate us to care for one another by extending a hand.
If we are shallow in our walks with God we will continue to be shallow with others. Our willingness to “go there” and invest in the lives of others is an expression of the health and vitality of our walks with God.
Like Christ, we must be willing to move into relationships and help those that are in our sphere of influence. It is our responsibility to engage, invest and encourage them. Helping someone walk with God requires taking the time to get to know him or her. This can only occur if we are willing to lean in, listen to their story and try to understand their heart.
Yet, the first step is making room in our own lives to know more of God’s heart. Inviting Him into our heart allows us to show the heart of God to others as we enter their world.
Through our attempts to love others, God stretches us, teaches us and reveals to us more of His character. The depth we crave in our walk with Him develops as our hearts slowly become His own. Giving ourselves away is the most powerful way to live. It is the cure for a lot of the problems we face in our individualistic culture.
Scripture reminds us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for God will find it” (Matthew 16:25). This takes place by following a simple command: love God and love others.
- Where do you need to “lean in” and respond to the nudges you feel to love God and love others?
God, allow me to take the call to love others seriously. Enable me to see that my willingness to help others means nothing if it isn’t grounded in love. May the love I extended to others come from the overflow of feeling loved by You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33
What we do must flow out of who we are. Our significance comes from being identified with Jesus. This perspective keeps us humble and humility gives a proper perspective on impact and influence. In the midst of serving God and others, we are actually freed from our own sense of importance.
We are liberated from the burden of maintaining an image, from seeking the approval of others, and from other forms of self-delusion. Our audience is narrowed to the only-important and all-important audience of one. We are free to glorify God by reaching out and serving others.
Finally, humility is part of God’s design for us. When we act in humility, we act according to our original design. There is integrity and integration, harmony and wholeness. It postures us to be teachable by God (Psalm 25:4-6) and to receive His blessings. When we look through Scripture, we notice those that are humble find God’s favor (Isaiah 66:2), experience His grace (James 4:6) and are exalted by Him (Proverbs 15:33).
Humility is for our own good. It keeps us grounded in reality by preventing us from operating out of distorted and exaggerated opinions of ourselves. Cultivating humility comes from seeing God as God and who we are in relationship to Him. It’s realizing the grace and blessing we have received by being called and adopted as His children.
When humility paves the way for us to be glorified, we become a stripped-down, cleansed vessel, ready to bear God’s image and have His glory shine through us. God can then exalt us because it will be Him who is seen in our actions and words. Any place you are trusted or given influence should be seen as God’s exaltation in your life and an arena where you can honor Him. It is to our Father’s glory that we bear much fruit.
We are exalted when our faith meets with God’s faithfulness. Being exalted is never about one’s efforts, but rather about faith. Faith pleases God and to please Him should be our aim in all things. This takes place through a bended knee – a posture of humility and submission that abandons my will to His.
- In what relationships are you currently struggling with humility?
- How does humility help frame the perspective we have in our relationships?
God, I’m humbled that You are willing to use me to make Your name known. Help me to exalt Your name through the way I go about my day today. May I use the time I’ve been given to glorify You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” Romans 15:1-2 (The Message)
If we are hoping to see good in the world, we’ll catch glimpses of joy, beauty, and forgiveness. On the flip side, if view the world through a lens of cynicism and negativity, our eyes won’t be disappointed. We always find what we’re looking for. This principle holds true even in our handling of the Bible. When we look to God’s Word just to find God’s laws, we will often find loopholes.
Approaching Scripture with an agenda alters our perspective. Instead of searching for wisdom and guidance, our sole focus is looking for Scriptures that fit our agenda and justify our behavior. Our red pen is at our disposal to scratch out verses that are inconvenient, uncomfortable or require more than we are willing to give. We edit out the words we don’t like to soften up the commitment level. Rather than a sword we hold to battle the enemy (Ephesians 6:17), we can sometimes be guilty of using the Bible as a hammer to beat down anyone who disagrees with our point of view.
This internal focus on submitting to God’s authority has greater implications to those around us than we even realize. What we focus on gets our attention and what gets our attention impacts our heart. The condition of our heart doesn’t remain hidden; it will eventually get expressed. What is happening on the inside shows on the outside. If all our energy is spent on deciding what is best for our needs, our agenda and our comfort, others lose out and are hurt as a result.
We were never meant to live for ourselves. Scripture speaks to how the body of Christ is meant to build each other up, especially those closest to us like our families. The only way we will be transformed into Christ’s likeness is by relying on each other. The authority we’ve been given shouldn’t be used to grab power and oppress. Neither should we approach our families with the sole focus of making sure our needs are met. Authority wasn’t handed over to us so we could make much of ourselves or prop ourselves us.
We’ve been given authority to empower others and point them towards freedom. By trusting God’s authority, we are able to steward the authority we’ve been trusted with well. God’s love should be the driving force in our lives and our families because this is what God uses to bring His Kingdom to bear in this world.
- What are you doing with the authority you’ve been given?
God, all too often I make decisions based on my needs, my desires and what I feel is in my best interest. Help me to understand how my willingness to submit to Your authority impacts others. May I live under Your authority, trusting that by doing so You will transform my heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. Psalm 25:8-9
Game night is a time I always look forward to spending with my family. I love playing board games and even more, I love that my kids still want to hang out with my husband and I—guess we’re still cool after all. We keep the popcorn popping and play classics like Monopoly, Clue, and Trouble. Everyone is laughing and cheering until someone takes a turn and we hear, “That’s not how you play the game.” Now we have to put the game on hold to read over the rules. Once the rules are clarified, we can continue playing our friendly game, well, after the person who had the rule right in the first place does a dance while shouting, “Told ya so. Told ya so,” which leaves the other family member hurt and embarrassed.
It feels good to be right, but not at the expense of someone else’s heart getting broken. Pride demands self-gratification where humility lays down its rights entirely. There are several definitions for the word pride, but one that caught my eye read: a feeling of being better than others.
You see it’s when we are in the company of others that our humility is truly tested. I’ve witnessed families torn apart over a lack of humility. Refusing to apologize, not admitting when one is wrong, these actions, or lack of, hardens the heart.
A family should be a safe place to form a good heart. I say that keeping in mind that not all of us view family as a ‘safe place’. I come from a broken home and know the heartache it causes. The truth is there are no perfect families because there are no perfect people. However, I believe God desires the life of the family to transform us more into the image of Christ. I believe He can take my broken past and redeem it through my own family by how I choose to behave and act. Will I lay my rights aside for something bigger than myself? Will I allow God to use the people I’m around the most to conform me more into His likeness?
Like it or not, my family is who I’m with the most. They see the real me who is smiling and happy to be at church on Sunday, and the real me, who an hour before, was screaming at everyone to hurry up and get ready. They love me with all my flaws which makes me want to be a better wife and mother. They help me grow in areas I may have never known I am weak. And they teach me about grace in that I need to not only extend it, but also receive it.
- How do you respond when a family member has offended you? Are you quick to forgive? Why or why not?
- How has your own childhood impacted the way you view the life and function of a family?
Heavenly Father, help us love others as You love us. Keep our hearts soft so we may be open to what it is You are doing in us through those who are closest to us. May we trust that You, our redeemer, heal all wounds, past, present, and future using all things for Your glory. In Your name we pray, Amen.
PC3 writer Mandy Hughes wrote today’s devotional.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
The family is one of the most central concepts of humanity, but it’s also one of the greatest sources of frustration, disappointment and shame. These emotions happen for a variety of different reasons. For some it’s a bad experience growing up. For others, it involves friction with being married or single. Throw in the pressure of kids on parents or parents on kids and you can understand why many of us view the family as maddening. This doesn’t even touch upon the devastation of divorce, blended families, infidelity and abuse. Even though we believe the family is important, we are well aware that the family is imperfect.
Some of us are disappointed with our spouse. Some of us are disappointed with our parents. Some of us are disappointed with our kids. Some of us are disappointed that we’re still single. Some of us are disappointed with yourselves.
If we’re really honest, our families just kind of happened to us. We don’t really have a firm grasp on what they are or why they matter. The ideal picture we have of the family is a fairytale that leads to frustration. Things don’t get wrapped up in thirty minutes with everybody happy and the problems solved like they do in the sitcoms.
The condition of the family has changed over time. Kids are growing up in a different culture than the one we were raised in. The cultural understanding has morphed more than we know. Cultural acceptance hasn’t brought wholeness to the family, but neither has the church’s rejection of those families who are different and who might be struggling. The church has fought hard for the restoration and reclamation of the family. Unfortunately, they’ve also lost sight of another important element, which is the redemption of the family.
The reality is that we cannot just wish these issues away or pretend they don’t exist because the struggle is real. To ignore it would force people and families to wrestle with things on their own. This can’t happen because the worst possible way to struggle is alone.
As believers, we have to take a deep breathe, lay our limited perspective on the table and take a step back to address the issues plaguing the family. What would it look like to make things right? Almost instinctively, our minds go back to the way things were. So, we try, fail and feel guilty. Our efforts pour forth out of the guilt we feel. We hope that if we can just do some things it will make up for what we’ve done or what has been done to us. Yet, this will never work.
The way of redemption requires us to let go of demanding things work out. The danger of disappointment is that we long to go back. The danger of fulfillment is that we long for things to stay same. We can’t be bogged down with the past and it is a losing battle trying to freeze time. There is only one direction we must set our gaze towards and that is forward. God is always working towards redemption. But, redemption doesn’t necessarily look like the way things looked before. We will not find a new story for our family until we let go of the old one.
- The worst possible way to struggle is alone. What struggles are you dealing with when it comes to your family? Who knows about these struggles?
- How can God begin to write a new story for your family?
God, rather than trying to rewrite my family story on my own, let me remember that You are a God of redemption. I can’t change the past and I’m incapable of freezing time, but there is hope for my future. Help me to let go of my old story and pick up the new story You are writing. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.1 Peter 2:2-3
Being a night owl I often waste countless hours mindlessly flipping channels. For whatever reason, I’m a sucker for infomercials. At the beginning, I scoff at the product, but eventually I’m hooked and believe this magical product will solve of all my problems, both big and small. I’m embarrassed to admit but I’ve purchased a product or two only to have buyer’s remorse.
The product never lived up to its claims. Take for instance, those magical towels that can clean up a spill in an instant. With all apologizes to Billy Mays and the Sham Wow guy, there isn’t anything more absorbent than the mind of my children. The Brawny Man looks scrawny in comparison to their ability to soak things up.
My youngest daughter, Paige, is a mini-me. Her spirit animal is a parrot because she mimics EVERYTHING I say. It’s like I have my own personal microphone set to echo mode. This is a fun trick when we’re driving to school and I want to do a little carpool karaoke.
My kids aren’t unique. Every child possesses an uncanny ability to soak up all that is around them. They watch, study, and take in everything we do. I’ll admit that sometimes knowing I have my own personal voice recorder is amusing.
However, my daughters’ absorbent capabilities also have an ugly side. These are the moments when I see how my little ones mimic my mannerisms and tone of voice. Or even more convicting, when one of my daughters calls me out on my behavior by recalling something I said or did months ago. Even though I gave little thought to this previous exchange, it served as a defining moment for them.
Once a thought or experience gets sucked up in their brain vacuum it is near to impossible to get that little bugger unstuck. I guess the saying is true that kids are like sponges, which means as we have to be careful about the things we let them absorb.
This focus and intention is required not only for parents, but other family members, teachers, coaches, neighbors or any adult who has influence in their lives. Regardless of whether you are a parent or not, there is someone younger looking up to you. Each one of us has more influence than we can even imagine or comprehend.
Our kids are impressionable, but we often don’t consider what impression we are leaving on them. How are we influencing the next generation? What are they soaking up through our words, actions and mindset?
- What impression are you leaving on the next generation?
- How are you leaving your mark on those that come after you?
God, help me to realize that my words, actions and attitudes influence others, especially those younger than me. Let me not take the influence I’ve been given lightly, but rather set an example to follow. When people look to me may they see You in everything that I do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. EPHESIANS 5:15-17
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 1 CORINTHIANS 10:23
Brett Eddy used insight and humor last Sunday to teach us the best question to ask when making a decision. “Is it right?” or “Is it wrong?” can be deceptive because we humans can rationalize anything, forgetting that even though it’s not illegal or immoral, it may still be harmful.
Brett shared a better question: “Is it wise?” This query works for big and small decisions as it slashes through the gray areas I use to justify my behavior.
For example, yesterday I reacted to something my husband said with a less-than-gracious response. In fact, I spewed the same negative, biting attitude I was in that moment accusing him of! I had not taken the time to ask myself, “Is it wise to say this, even though I feel like I’m right and he needs to hear it?” Nope. I just spit it out.
Many times I am stubborn despite the Holy Spirit’s conviction, but this time I (wisely) went straight over to Chris and said, “Honey, I’m sorry. I was wrong to speak to you like that.” He responded with forgiveness, and we were able to move forward from there.
The wisest decisions I’ve made over the years have involved surrendering something.
In the case of my flaming tongue yesterday, I had to yield my pride. When I decided to go into treatment for an eating disorder years ago, I had to abdicate a (destructive) method of controlling my weight. Here are a few more decisions, along with what I waived:
Going freelance ~ A steady paycheck
Regular exercise ~ My laziness
Marriage ~ My selfishness
Parenthood ~ All of the above 🙂
On the other hand, unwise decisions always involve me “wanting it all” without giving up a thing. The bulimia was my desire to be thin and still eat whatever I wanted. Dating indiscriminately in my 20s was my craving freedom with no commitments. Avoiding God was my longing to live my own way with no accountability.
Thankfully, James 1:5 reminds us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
God does give us wisdom when we ask for it. But it’s still up to us to use it.
- What is the wisest decision you have ever made? What did you give up to make that choice?
- What unwise choice have you made, and what were you refusing to relinquish?
- What small or large decision are you facing that could use some God-given wisdom?
Dear Father in Heaven, Your Word says that You give “generously to all.” That includes wisdom! Help us not to be merely intellectually clever, but to be truly wise no matter our age. Give us the willingness to let go of pride, selfishness, anger — whatever it is that keeps us from choosing Your best. We pray these things in the beautiful name of Your Son, who gave up His life for us. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble there is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
What is pride? It’s hard to define, but we all recognize it when we see it.
Prideful people have an inflated opinion of themselves. They presume their thoughts, opinions and ways are always right. Pride rejects and resents wise instruction and correction.
Let’s be honest: prideful people get on our nerves.
But, what is pride, really? Pride is self-delusion! Pride happens when we demand the status and position only reserved for God. Pride happens the moment we refuse to acknowledge our dependence upon God. We think that unlike other people we are immune to the crash and can handle everything that comes our way.
Yet, consider today’s words from Proverbs. Pride is not just an annoying character trait. It brings disgrace and, eventually, destruction.
If we choose pride, and refuse to humble ourselves before God, He will oppose us. Most of us do not set out to be prideful and self-centered. Our intention is to be good. However, it is our direction, not our intention, that determines our destination. Pride is one of the traits that causes us to continue to push.
Why do the humble have wisdom? It is because the humble do not trust their motives and tremble before God’s Word. They take correction, quickly confess their mistakes and alter their lives accordingly. In sharp contrast, the proud deceive themselves into ignoring the reality of their conduct and rush headlong onto a path of destruction.
What is your direction? Are you on a prideful path? You must examine yourself closely. Identify the seeds of pride in your life and root them out quickly and completely. Seek after God in such a way that your life is changed because you are being formed more closely in His image.
- Would you say pride is clouding your judgment when it comes to your priorities, respect for authority and current pace of life? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
Lord, give me eyes to see my prideful ways. Give me ears to hear wise advice and counsel. Help me root out the pride in my life and keep me from disgrace. I acknowledge my complete and total dependence upon You. I humble myself before You. Grant me the resolve to actively take a posture of humility so that I might gain wisdom and be formed more closely in Your image. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Losing your temper. Telling a lie to save face or avoid an ugly truth. Speaking harshly to your kids. Being judgmental. Giving in to peer pressure. Lingering online instead of shutting the computer down. Fudging the numbers on a business report.
We all experience moments when our actions and words don’t line up with what we say we believe or who we say we are. These inconsistencies between our perceived belief and actual behavior leave us in shock, scratching our head, and saying things like, “I can’t believe I did that. I don’t know where that came from. That’s not like me.”
How do we tend to respond to these moments? Our natural default is to tackle our behavior because we can quickly and tangibly deal with our problem and, most importantly, see results. Impulse control and self-discipline are important, but should never be our ultimate goal. If all we do is address our behavior, we ignore the bigger issue – our heart.
What we need is a changed heart. During those moments when we look at the devastation our words, actions or thoughts caused, we are witnessing our heart expressing itself. The true state of our heart is making its appearance. The way in which we express ourselves flows from the condition of our heart. What is formed on the inside always gets expressed on the outside.
Total transformation of the heart means that we submit ourselves to God’s Truth. If we want our lives to be an authentic expression of God then we must allow God the access He needs to shape and mold us into His image by shaping and molding our heart. To be able to exhibit God’s nature comes from a total transformation of heart, soul, mind and strength.
Expression is the authentic alignment between God’s Truth and our behavior, which comes from a changed heart. In other words, when we genuinely align with God’s Truth, believing it with our heart, soul, mind and strength, it becomes natural to display His character in our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. When God’s Truth is governing and influencing an individual’s life, every facet of who they are becomes an expression.
The formation process starts by examining our heart. This requires transparency and honesty. If we want to align ourselves with God’s heart, we must possess the courage to ask God to search us and make us aware of the areas of our lives that are not expressions of His nature.
When those areas of disobedience are brought to light, we commit our heart to the life long process of formation and exposing ourselves to God’s Word. Our hearts overflow in a response that reveals our recognition of the truth. Our perspective, our hearts, our lives will all begin to authentically reveal God in response. When we see God as love we are able to exhibit and extend love to others. We love, because God first loved us.
Without evidence of this transformation, our words of a kind and compassionate God will fall on deaf ears. God uses not only our words, but also the way we live our lives to speak His truth to others. Our expression serves as someone else’s encounter. We’re not just called to speak the truth in love, we are charged with living it out as well.
- Over the past few weeks, when has the true state of your heart made an appearance and expressed itself? How did you respond in these moments?
- How aware are you of the current state of your heart? What does it look like to guard your heart?
God, I desire for my life to serve as an expression of Your love. Yet, this can only occur if I’m willing to give You my whole heart. May I realize that everything I do, both my words and my actions, serve as a reflection of my heart. Open my eyes to see what is taking place on the inside. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Proverbs 19:20
We’ve all had numerous people who gave us advice that went “in one ear and out the other.” To take this to another level, we’ve probably caught ourselves giving the same advice to someone else and as we hear it come out of our mouths we’ve realized that we don’t even heed what we’re saying. Our greatest regrets could’ve been avoided is we asked, “What is the wise thing to do?” and acted on our conclusions. If we would’ve sought wisdom, we could’ve spared ourselves years of chaos, brokenness and hurt.
Yet, sometimes the decisions we face aren’t so clear. They don’t involve a matter of right or wrong. Rather than being black and white, the choice we make resides in a grey area. Our hearts don’t do too well with the shade of grey. We wrongly assume that if something isn’t illegal, unethical, or immoral, then it qualifies as a legitimate choice. We reason as long as there isn’t a law against it or there isn’t a Bible verse prohibiting it, then we are in the clear. But, not every decision is a moral decision.
If we can deem that something is not morally wrong, then we often conclude that it’s the right decision. We say things like, “there’s nothing wrong with going to dinner with her or one date with him….there’s nothing wrong with comparing ourselves to our friend’s post on Instagram…there’s nothing morally wrong with spending that much on a car lease.” It is true that there’s no law telling us it’s wrong to eat unlimited amounts of ice cream or wasting endless hours tuning into our favorite sitcom. Yet, this doesn’t make it wise to polish off a gallon of cookie dough ice cream while lounging on the couch binge watching Netflix.
Sometimes the grey area has us facing choices that can have more devastating effects than an upset stomach and tired eyes. We’re experts at rationalizing decisions that we know are wrong. No one is better at deceiving us than ourselves. We tell ourselves we can handle it, that it won’t hurt anybody and that we can quit when we want to. We’re well aware of the games we’re playing. And even if we’re not, the fact that we have to give a reason or excuse should tip us off.
We never have to rationalize good decisions like eating vegetables, exercising, saving money, or avoiding bad company. Asking, “Is it wise?” takes our issue out of the arena of right and wrong by entering it into the world of wisdom. This question leaves less room for rationalization. We all know from experience how easy it is to stumble. This is why we have to be careful about the decisions we make. We not only need to ask God for wisdom, but we must be proactive in surrounding ourselves with individuals who walk with integrity and provide insight. We also have to take it a step further and grant both parties access to speak into our situation and expose our hearts.
We all have a picture of our futures and what we want them to be. If we don’t ask what is wise, small decisions can train wreck the futures we’re imagining. By considering our past experiences, our present circumstances and our future hopes and dreams, we create boundaries in our decision-making process.
- When making a wise decision we need to consider our past experiences, present circumstances and future hopes and dreams. Of the three, which one do you tend to lose sight of when making decisions?
God, give me wisdom and insight into the decisions I face. Help me to make choices that set me up to become the person I desire to be in the future. May I surround myself with others that are pursuing Your heart and who desire to reflect You in everything they do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.