April 3, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

The Problem Is Me

Mark 7:14-15;21-23

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand:

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Several years ago, I was driving back to Boston from the New Jersey area. It was late at night and I was surprised at the number of cars that were on the highway with me. Even more unusual was the number of cars that were honking and high-beaming. A car would swerve in front of me, and honk obnoxiously, and then speed ahead. I thought to myself “Yup, Massachusetts drivers… rude!” Another car kept high-beaming me from behind, for 5 straight minutes, before swerving around me and speeding off. My frustration with these terrible drivers was coming to a boiling point. It was in this moment that I looked down at my dashboard and realized that my headlights had been off during my entire drive. I had been driving 80mph, lightless, in the dead of the night, putting myself and everyone in my vicinity in danger. No one was around to see, but my face turned bright red in embarrassment as I realized, the problem was me.

When things go wrong, when relationships turn sour, when people get hurt, we are always looking to understand the source of this pain. Our first reaction may be to analyze the circumstances; perhaps we were just in an unfortunate situation. Then, our tendency is to look for faults in other people. But our passage for today teaches us that the primary source of evil and brokenness in our lives is the very heart that is within us. It takes a lot of humility to recognize that we are broken on the inside. But when we come to terms with the true condition of our hearts, that’s when the door opens for God’s healing to come.

Today, let us not be too quick to cast blame on others or the flaws of our society in general. Before we go there, let’s first admit that we, too, are in need of redemption.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us today. Without Your help, what righteous thing can we do? Grant us the humility to recognize the brokenness of our own hearts. At the same time give us confidence, knowing that You are living and working within us, empowering us to be Your ministers of reconciliation. In Jesus name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ephesians 3


Lunch Break Study

Read James 3:7-12: For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to James, what is the problem with the tongue?
  2. What hope does James offer in regard to fixing this problem?
  3. Read Luke 6:43-45 what does Jesus say about the tongue (mouth)?

Notes

  1. According to James, the tongue (our words that proceed from it) is evil and full of deadly poison. He explains that it’s because we use our lips to bless God, but also to curse people.
  2. Unfortunately, James offers no hope. In fact, he states that “no human being can tame the tongue.” In other words, there is no power within us that is able to fix this problem.
  3. In this passage, Jesus says, “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We see that the problem of the tongue is but a symptom of the heart. The root of the issue is not about having enough self-control to be able to hold back certain words. Rather, the source of the brokenness is the heart itself. The good news is that when we come to God, He is in the business of giving us new hearts.

Evening Reflection

Spend some time this evening thinking of people in your life who might be blessed by a word of encouragement from you. It may be a co-worker, a classmate, a roommate, or a family member. Pray for them tonight, and perhaps you can share a word of encouragement with them the next time you see them.

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