Identifying Blind Spots

Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This is one of the most quoted passages in all of the Bible—specifically the first sentence. Unfortunately, the statement “judge not” comes within a larger context that we can’t ignore.

Jesus is clearly against those with judgmental attitudes, but he is not against judging. Don’t miss this. There are areas in our lives where we all have blind spots. These are the things that are damaging to ourselves or hurtful to others that we have either justified or are completely oblivious to. The only way I will be able to identify these things is with the help of others judging me. But the order and heart behind the judgment matters.

Look at how Jesus concludes this thought in verse 5, “…first, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Judgment always begins with a mirror. None of us have it all together. All of us need help. Before we try to help somebody fix their issues, we must begin with our own. It’s easy to ignore our own problems by pointing out everybody else’s. Jesus would say that is a bad idea.

BSE-Devo-Week3-6.29.18First, start with the truth that you need help just as much as the next person. Get help. Let others speak into your life regarding blind spots. Then, you can help others on the same journey you’ve been on from a heart of humility and love.

Simply pointing a finger and shouting, “Hey! There’s a speck in your eye!” isn’t very helpful. Neither is just running up to somebody and sticking your finger in his eye. This sort of endeavor takes a very delicate approach (and clean hands). Love is action-oriented, but it is also patient and kind. Before you go depositing digits into eye sockets, humbly and patiently earn permission.

Prayer: Father, help me to see the logs in my own eyes. Use others to speak the truth in love and, when they do, help me to listen. If, then, there is somebody you want me to help, please guide me in my approach. Help me to earn favor with them so that I may be helpful. Amen.

What Happens When We Worry

BSE-Devo-Week3-6.28.18Matthew 6:25-27

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  

Since we moved to Arizona, we have learned far more about pigeons than we ever wanted to know. They mate for life. They go back to the place they were born to lay eggs and hatch their babies. They hold the pieces they gather for their nest together with pigeon droppings. If a pigeon makes its nest on your roof, within a few years you will have generations of birds, their mates, nests, droppings, and babies on your roof! This is how God designed them to thrive and they don’t worry about a thing.

The dictionary defines worry as “a state of anxiety…” The definition for anxiety includes “worry… typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

We worry for various reasons, including not knowing the answers, fearing uncertain outcomes, and thinking about situations that never actually happen.

And that’s why God wants us to give up worry.

  • God knows all of the answers. And He has your best interest at heart. He wants you to believe Him.
  • No outcomes are uncertain for God. If the outcome in a situation is the absolute worst, God’s grace and His community will shine. He wants you to know you belong to Him and His people.
  • God is prepared for situations that will happen, and He will prepare us for the next step because he wants to bless you.

God doesn’t waste time on the stuff that won’t happen. Neither do the pigeons.

We should live the same way.

Thought for the Day: The Bible says “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). When we worry, we are in a passive argument with God. We dispute His knowledge and question His blessing. It’s only when we take our thoughts captive, when we reel in the “what-ifs,” that we become obedient to Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, it has never been our intention to argue with you. It has never been our intention to be disobedient. Sometimes, the “what-ifs” in our lives overwhelm us and we waste too much of our time on them. Father, remind us that when we trust you with the details, you are already at work preparing our hearts and rallying your resources for the situations that will happen. Don’t let us waste another minute on worrying about the uncertain outcomes or the imaginary worst-case scenario. Let us focus on you and the next step that you lead us to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What Do You Treasure?

Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus was approached one day by a rich man who asked, “Jesus, how do I get to heaven?” Knowing the man’s allegiance to his money, Jesus responded: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). The man turned away saddened by the answer. He loved his wealth more than God.

It wasn’t about the money though. Money is innocuous and inanimate—it is meaningless until we collectively assign it value. When you and I agree on what a dollar can buy, that’s when it comes alive, figuratively speaking.

Today’s passage is all about what we individually decide is valuable and important. Using money is not a sin; growing one’s wealth is not evil. The problem is found in loving one’s treasures more than God.

God wants us to use our resources here on Earth to advance His Kingdom. God wants us to leverage our stuff to help others meet, know, and follow Jesus. With or without money, the Christian life is all about receiving the love of God and then giving it away.

BSE-Devo-Week3-6.27.18Thought for the day: What do you treasure more than God? Is it your car, your toys, your bank account, or something else? Where is your treasure? Is it here on Earth where things will someday fade away, or is it in Heaven where our treasure will last forever? Listen to Jesus’ response to us: “You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). Like the young rich guy, Jesus asks us to choose. May we choose wisely.

Prayer: Father, give us wisdom in this critical aspect of our life. May we serve you fully and use money wisely. May our treasures be in Heaven. Lead our lives, and may we be focused on your Kingdom. Amen!

Satisfaction in God

Matthew 6:16–18

And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair, anoint your head, and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

We live in a “now” culture. The time that spans an initial desire and when we’re able to get our needs met is decreasing by the day. If you don’t know something, you’re able to find an answer in half-second by Googling it. If you forgot an essential at the grocery store, Amazon or Instacart can deliver it within a couple of hours. The miles that separate us from family members across the country evaporate through video calling. We’re a culture that doesn’t like to wait to have our needs met.

Fasting is a unique way of allowing ourselves to “feel” our needs and reminding ourselves that God is the only one that can bring the satisfaction and answers we need. Many people will fast, or abstain, from eating for a day or two and give a focused amount of time to prayer, reading, or worship in the place of eating. When hunger strikes, people use that as a cue to ask God to satisfy their needs. Whether the goal is to grow in our relationship with God or to pray for something specific, fasting can serve as a great reminder of the way God can meet all of our needs.

BSE-Devo-Week3-6.26.18It doesn’t have to just be food—but it could be social media, TV, sweets, or any other thing in life that, through its absence, would have a regular reminder to lean into God as a provider, leader, and Father.

Thought for the day: Have you ever fasted before? What is something you could fast from for a day that would give you more margin to spend time with God, and see Him as your provider?

Prayer: God, regardless of what I fast for, or even if I do, remind me that you are my ultimate provider. In a world that wants things immediately, teach me the importance of patience and trusting you for answers. 

Pray Like This

Matthew 6: 9-13

Pray then like this:
 “Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread,
    and forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
        but deliver us from evil. 

Even if we don’t have a lot of background in the church, the Lord’s prayer is something that we’ve heard. As Jesus taught this, He was helping people understand that prayer is a personal way for us to communicate with God. People at the time (and still today) viewed and approached prayer as part of religious duty, or as a way to ask God for what they wanted. 

BSE-Devo-Week3-6.25.18Prayer is an important part of building a relationship with Jesus as we follow him. Just like in any other relationship, it’s a way to get to know each other, catch up, and be vulnerable. Jesus gives us a pretty great “formula” in how to pray. Today, we’re going to pray using the same method He described. As each part is described, pray using the promptings and ideas in each section:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.

It’s important for us to tell God what He means to us. Where have you been seeing Him work in life? What are things that have happened that were so clearly God working?

 Your kingdom come,
   your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.

There are two main takeaways from this section. The first is asking for God’s kingdom to come to Earth. The best way we can build God’s kingdom here is by sharing His love with others. Who can you invite to Sun Valley that hasn’t said Yes to Jesus? Who are some people you can serve and love in your community, workplace, or circle of friends? The second is reminding ourselves that He is in control. Though there are seasons of waiting for His guidance in making a big decision, we can always be assured that His will in our lives includes loving Him and loving others.

Give us this day our daily bread,

What are your needs? What are some ways that you need God to provide in your life? What are some things that you’re dependent on Him to come through on?

and forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Even though Jesus forgave us on the cross, it’s important for us to recognize and confess our mistakes to God so that we can develop the habits and perspectives needed to follow Him more closely. It also reminds us of the importance of modeling God’s forgiveness to those that we need to forgive. Do you have any unaddressed tension with anyone? Who can you forgive or seek forgiveness from?

  And lead us not into temptation,
        but deliver us from evil. 

There are a lot of things competing for our hearts and affection. Likewise, there a lot of things telling us they will be what brings satisfaction and peace. It’s important for us to ask God to be our satisfaction and to protect us from the things that we might choose instead of His love, grace, and peace. If we have a struggle, He wants to be our help—all it takes is for us to ask and to be obedient in taking the right steps to get healthy.

A Heart of Serving

Matthew 6:2–4

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We’re all born with a deep desire to be known. From the playground as a kid, relentlessly trying to increase our social media follower count as a student, or advancing in our career as an adult—we want to be noticed. Beyond just being known by others is the importance of what we are known for.

The Bible is clear that we’re supposed to be known for our love. However, Jesus teaches a unique viewpoint on our service. In this passage in Matthew, he calls out those who only serve so that they can receive the praise or approval of other people. Maybe he’s referring to the people who only give to a homeless person when they are surrounded by their peers. It could have been to the people who were only doing good deeds for political gain. Knowing this would be a natural tendency, Jesus made it clear—a heart of serving matters just as much as how we serve.

BSE-Devo-Week2-6.22.18Corporations, politicians, and celebrities often have their motives questioned when doing acts of service in public. Though we might not have the same platform or public visibility, it’s important for us to check the reasons behind why we serve others. Is it to gain approval, opportunity, or accolade? Is it to impress that guy or girl? When we serve others, it’s important to take on the mindset that, even if nobody saw us doing it, or if we were never thanked for it, there’s value in prioritizing the needs of others before ourselves.

Time and time again, Jesus stopped to care for, serve, and heal people that the rest of society literally walked by or cast out. Though His platform gave Him the opportunity to serve in visible ways, He only leveraged those opportunities to draw people near to the love of God. In fact, people were so threatened by the way Jesus lived and served that even some of His followers were the ones who ultimately sentenced Him to death. Even knowing that would be the outcome, Jesus chose to love and serve relentlessly.

Thought for the day: Are there any ways you’re serving for the sake of personal gain? Would you be willing to do those things without praise or thanks? What are some ways you can serve others behind the scenes today?

Prayer: God, thanks for setting a great example of selfless service through Jesus. In the areas that I make serving about myself, show me the value of serving others to simply meet their needs and point them toward you. Amen.

Learning to Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-45

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Without fail, it seems a new antagonist enters into the story of our life at some of the most inopportune times. Perhaps your antagonist is someone who intentionally tears you down, a boss who takes the credit for your hard work, a relentless rival, a gossip, a backstabber, or even an abuser.

If you’ve had an experience like mine, maybe your antagonist was all of the above. It is hard to imagine loving someone who has done so much harm to you. Forgiveness doesn’t seem easy and mustering up enough compassion to pray for your antagonist seems even harder. When Jesus said, “You have heard that is was said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy,’” many of us are like: “Yeah, we should hate our enemies!” However, Jesus turns this notion upside down and instructs us to love our enemies and pray for those who come against us. Jesus is calling us to elevate our thinking by turning what seems right in our natural thinking completely upside down. If you want to elevate your thinking beyond your circumstances – above your antagonists – I encourage you to meditate on the following verse:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

BSE-Devo-Week2-6.21.18Thought for the day: Have you identified the antagonists in your life? How is God calling you to both love them and pray for them, regardless of the severity of their offenses?

Prayer: God, thank you for your saving grace that protects and empowers me. Help me to elevate my thinking by setting my heart and mind on you. Give me understanding as I seek to have both the heart and mind of Jesus. Help me to forgive, love, and pray for those who have harmed me. Jesus, I trust you more than I trust my own thinking. Amen.