Self-Control 4

Matthew 15:11

Whenever we need our children to set the table, empty the dishwasher, or sit down to eat we must remind them to wash their hands. It is the best way to prevent the spread of disease and avoid illness. The germs and dirt we gather on our hands can be brought into our bodies through contact with food and dishes.

But sometimes our worries about contamination remain focused on the outward and not on what is on the inside. What does Jesus have to say about the Jewish concern of uncleanliness? What makes us unclean?

I don’t think Jesus was telling us that we need not worry about washing our hands or observe regular cleanliness practices for our health. I do believe he was addressing the common problem of the outside not matching up with the inside.

The simple fact that we call ourselves Christians automatically presents an outward appearance that others may perceive. As Christians people expect us to be caring and kind, sacrificial and humble. And there are many who are skilled at giving the appearance of righteousness – in their dress, in their superficial behaviors, and in their words. On the outside so many may look pious and pure, but it is the inside that we must be concerned about.

Some think that if we avoid associating with people who are not Christian or even blatant sinners we can remain holy and pure. While I do not endorse immersing yourself in a culture of earthly pleasures, I do believe that we need to be aware of what is inside our hearts as much as we are with what is around us.

The best way to be in control of how you are perceived and how you behave is to be in control of what is in your heart. We need to do more than tame our tongues. We need to tame our hearts and make them full of the love of God, so that love might overflow from us into the world around us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Evaluate what is flowing out of your heart. Is your attitude one of loving kindness?

For our friends who have expressed concerns regarding HIS Home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – we have heard from Hal and Chris, who operate the orphanage. There were a few cracks in the walls of the houses and one of the walls surrounding the yard suffered some damage, but the orphanage is okay and all of the children are safe.
As of Thursday, January 14, they had not heard from one of their employees, a man named Junior who lived in a neighborhood hit hard by the quake. Please continue to pray for all of them.


In light of what has happened in Haiti, I felt called to suspend the regular 10/2 Grow posting for today.

Instead I think of Psalm 46:1-3.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

As most of you know I have been to Haiti and have seen first-hand the extreme poverty of the people and the country. We are weeks away from a second mission trip, but now that trip is likely to be canceled. For Haiti to go through the horrific events of the earthquake which struck Tuesday afternoon is beyond imagination.

Rather than reading through a devotion today, I ask that you spend the 10 minutes in prayer – praying for the people of Haiti, and praying for yourself to see where the Lord might direct you in how to respond to the incredible need Haiti is in.

Self-Control 3

Luke 6:45

It is very disturbing to take a big drink of milk only to discover the milk has gone sour. You were expecting some cool, refreshing, wholesome milk, but instead you get a mouthful of nastiness. Sometimes the unexpected shock of it is more disturbing than the taste.

In Luke Jesus has a comment on the words of believers. What comes from a good person? What comes from an evil person? Where does this good and evil come from?

It is no surprise to know that good comes from a good person and that bad comes from an evil person. The twist is at the end of the statement. This evil that wells up comes from the heart.

Maybe that doesn’t shock you. But what may shock you is when a person who claims to be a Christian has evil spew from his or her mouth.

We encounter it all the time. There are many people who go to worship, carry a Bible, attend small group studies, and call themselves Christian, yet they are the same people who spread rumors about others. They are the same people who make disparaging and bigoted comments about people of other races and nationalities. They are the same people who verbally run down people of different lifestyles.

It seems they are not aware that we are all God’s children. We are all loved by God and all saved through Jesus, because Christ died for all the world.

As Christians we should be speaking words of love and compassion, performing acts of mercy, and spreading peace. But sometimes people who say they are Christian allow evil to flow from their lips. And where does that evil come from? That evil is in their hearts.

If we will be true Christians we need to not only control what we say, but remove the evil that lies within our hearts. Our love of others should be genuine.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain that the source of your words – your heart – is full of good and not evil?

Self-Control 2

James 3:9-10

It wasn’t until I was a high school freshman that I realized teachers are human. I saw one of my English teachers, one who was always so prim and proper, wearing jeans. Oh, my goodness! Jeans! How could it be that someone so dignified and well-dressed all the time could wear something so casual?

My experience was just part of growing up and I can see now how silly the whole ordeal was. But sometimes the Christian believer can present two faces, and one of them might shock other people.

James mentions controlling the tongue in James 1:26, but also has a great deal to say about taming the tongue in the third chapter. What do we do with our tongues? According to verse 10, what comes out of our mouths?

Many examinations of what James has to say about taming the tongue centers around gossip. Gossip is certainly one of the sins that is very easy to fall into and a sin so often overlooked among Christians. But I believe James’ warnings go far beyond mere gossip.

While it is bad enough that we share stories and lies and rumors behind the backs of others, the attitudes we may express with our mouths can be even worse. On one hand we offer praise to God. We thank God for the gift of salvation and we give honor to our heavenly Father in song and prayer.

But on the other hand we utter curses and oaths against other people, those we are angry with and those we don’t like. As James says, “this should not be.”

If we will live out the life of a Christian then we need to exercise some control over what we say. And our control needs to be over not just the words that we use but our attitudes as well.

If we will be Christians then our attitudes, expressed in the words and tones we use, should show mercy and love and not prejudice and hatred. We should not express judgments and condemnation of others, but be welcoming and gentle in all that we do and say. We must remember that other people are also children of God, made in God’s likeness, and we should treat them with respect and care.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Are there words that need to be removed from your vocabulary? What about your attitude in saying certain things?

Self-Control 1

Proverbs 3:34

The other day while watching a History Channel special about prophecy with many of the famous Christian leaders being quoted in regard to the story, I thought of how many of these leaders had gained notoriety and influence within the faith but are now laid low with disgrace, scandal and controversy, their authority and power now questionable. While there is nothing wrong with gaining influence in the name of religion and there is nothing wrong with garnering fame and popularity because of the good works a person may do, we must be careful how we conduct ourselves as children of God.

Proverbs gives a simple warning to the faithful. Who is lifted up? How are mockers handled?

It is easy to understand that those who are humble in their faith will be lifted up by God for their good attitude and holy behavior, but where does mockery come in? One concept that strikes me is the attitudes that many Christians have toward unbelievers and non-Christians. So many of the faithful keep their faith as a personal gift, hording it, clinging to it with selfish spiritual greed.

We can come to look at the un-churched and non-Christian as someone to be despised and reviled. We can come to a point where we use our faith and belief in Christ as something to mock others with.

We know the truth. We have salvation and hope. But these other people are simply fools headed for damnation. Unfortunately, some Christians can find a secret – and not so secret – delight in this idea.

But God lifts up the humble. God expects us to exercise some self-control, restraining ourselves from becoming arrogant and pushy in our faith. We are certainly to have confidence and assurance in our own salvation, but that is not something to lord over others with.

Rather, we should be self-controlled in our faith and exercise mercy and compassion, even to the most ardent of un-believers. It is not our place to be vain or self-righteous, but caring and loving and forgiving.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there a part of your religious behavior that needs to be controlled so that you might give glory to God and mercy to others?