I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!
In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (v. 33).
(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,
“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).
(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).
Let’s break that down from the top.
Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.
Hockey Puck Apples
Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.
From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.
Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.
We Need a Heart Transplant
But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,
“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.
Jeremiah 17:9 says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)
We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.
Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).
So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?
Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!
“Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
Do you talk too much? Do you babble? Do you spend a lot of time on the phone or in chat rooms? Do you monopolize conversations with your opinions? Do you interrupt? (See Eccl. 10:11; Prov. 15:28; 29:20; Jas. 1:19).
Are you reluctant to admit you’re wrong? Do you fail to ask forgiveness? Do you refuse to admit your error when you feel another’s error is greater? (Prov. 29:23; Jas. 5:16).
Do you betray a confidence? Do you repeat matters that you should keep private? If someone has failed or injured you, do you feel compelled to tell someone else about it? (See Prov. 6:19; 17:19; 19:11; 25:9–10).
Do you criticize? Find fault? Focus on the bad instead of the good? Do you see people’s shortcomings more than their strengths? (Ps. 41:5; Rom. 1:30).
Do you complain? Do you bewail the circumstances you find yourself in? Do you let others know that you resent being inconvenienced? (See Phil. 2:14).
Do you make assumptions and assume the worst about other people’s motives and intentions? (See 1 Tim. 6:3–4; Prov. 29:20).
Do you hold grudges? Focus on past wrongs? Accuse others? (Prov. 11:12).
Are you sarcastic? Do you mock others? Do you use negative humor to put others down? (See Prov. 15:1; 16:27).
Are you malicious? Are your words intended to cut and wound? Are your words harsh? (See Prov. 11:12; 15:1; 16:27; 17:4).
Are you insincere in your compliments? Do you flatter others for your own advantage? (See Prov. 26:28; 29:5).
Is your speech filthy? Do you swear or use foul language? Do you use the latest slang or crass expressions? (See Prov. 4:24; 10:31–32; Col. 3:8).
Do you fail to listen? Do you jump to conclusions before you are sure that you have heard and understood? (See Prov. 18:13; 19:20; Jas. 1:19).
How’d you score? If you suddenly realize you have a problem with your words, come back next week as we drill down to the root of those nasty words.
“Quiz Time! Are Your Words Nasty or Nice?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
Have you ever seen the movie Aladdin? Here’s a short clip where Genie reveals to Aladdin that Aladdin is Genie’s master, and Genie’s job is to grant Aladdin any three wishes he wants.
Can you imagine?! Having a genie that would grant you any three wishes? How amazing would that be? I’ll take . . .
God’s Not Your Personal Genie
Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but unlike Aladdin, you’re not “the king, the boss, the shah.”
God doesn’t exist to grant your wishes . . . you exist to carry out His.
And God is not your maître d’ or your personal genie.
Actually, it’s quite the other way around.
God is “the king, the boss, the shah.”
And you’re His servant.
In Revelation 19:16, we’re told that Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” It doesn’t get any higher than that. Jesus is the greatest. The highest. The bestest. (Sorry, I know that’s not a word, but I just had to.) As the King of kings, He deserves our respect, our obedience, our honor, and our celebration.
Fact is, God doesn’t exist to grant your wishes . . . you exist to carry out His.
History = His story
Even your life story is His story of rescue and redemption.
Your life is not about you but about God.
We exist for God; He doesn’t exist for us. It even says so in 1 Corinthians 8:6:
Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
We forget this, though, all the time. And instead of remembering that He created us, that He’s our Master and we’re His servants, we shake our fists at God when He doesn’t fulfill our plans like Genie would.
Do you relate, or is it just me? Have you ever wished God was a little more like Genie?
Now that you know the truth, though, will you begin to live for and serve this wise and loving King? Or will you continue to insist on living like you’re “the king, the boss, the shah”?
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom. 11:33–36, emphasis added).
This blog post won’t paint me in a good light. But that’s okay, because it’s true. And the truth is always good, right?
My Superior Response
Recently I got an email from a young girl asking for my advice. I chuckled inwardly when I read it because it seemed so . . . juvenile. Oh to have problems like that again! I refrained from laughingly sharing her email with someone else (thank goodness!), but that didn’t change my feelings of superiority inside.
God Exposes My Superiority Complex
Oh, I never would have called it superiority. But this morning the Holy Spirit called me out on it as I read Hebrews 4:14–16:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Our Sympathetic God
These verses encourage us to run toward God’s throne of grace with confidence. Why? Because He’s a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses!
He sympathizes because He’s been there, too. He willingly laid His position aside (as the King of Kings so high, high above us) and became one of us. Actually, He became a servant to us. He spent time with us, listened to us, taught us, washed our dirty feet (and our dirty hearts!), and healed us.
‘Cause He’s Been There
And while He was with us, hell threw every temptation it had to offer directly His way. Hebrews 4:15 tells us Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
What does that have to do with me and my big, fat superiority?
God’s Shocking Sympathy
Jesus, too, was tempted just like that young girl was. Like I was. But He didn’t sin in that temptation.
In the past, I’ve been tempted just like that young girl. But I sinned in that temptation. Sympathy should come easy for me, then, right?
Jesus, too, was tempted just like that young girl was. Like I was. But He didn’t sin in that temptation. If the same were true for me, I’d really, really feel superior! Not Him, though. He still sympathizes with our weaknesses, in spite of His perfect record of success.
Turning From Superiority to Sympathy
How quickly I forget that I’m a recipient of His grace. I’ve made it out of that pit—not on my own—but only ’cause Jesus entered my pit for me so I might stand on His shoulders and climb out.
Shame on me for thinking myself superior to any person because His grace has carried me past a particular struggle. Oh for His sympathy in place of my superiority!
Would you pray for me in this? As you can see, I’m a girl who’s still in process, just like you. Good thing for me, Jesus sympathizes with my superiority in spite of His perfect humility.
How about you? Maybe you don’t have girls emailing you for advice about a past struggle. But have you secretly thought you were better than others because you weren’t tempted by what tempted them?
Do you ever chalk up other girls’ problems as just silly drama compared to the challenges you face? Where do you see superiority popping up in your life? And how might Jesus’ sympathy for you change the way you view others’ struggles?
Here’s the thing, though. That brother or sister of yours is handcrafted by God and, believe it or not, will one day probably be one of your best friends!
In fact, did you know that the Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17)? Part of the reason God gave you siblings is so that you would have someone to walk through the peaks and valleys of life with!
High school and college friends will move far away, but you’ll keep seeing your family on birthdays and holidays. Why not begin to not just survive in the same house without killing them, but actually . . . befriend them? (By the way, this applies to your parents as well as your siblings!)
2) At church. So they’re different from you, those people you sit next to Sunday after Sunday. Fact is, you’ll be spending a lot more than holidays and birthdays with them—you’ll be living with them . . . forever! In Christ they’re family now—a tighter bond even than your own flesh-and-blood relatives.
Forever is a long time. Why not learn how to get along with them now? I wish I’d understood years ago that friends don’t have to be your age. Read “An Unlikely Friendship” to hear about a dear friend of mine who is thirty (yes, thirty!) years older than me.
PS: Did you know you should seek out friends who are older than you to learn from (Titus 2:3–5)? Also, don’t forget that you’re an “older woman” to someone. Do you have any younger friends who can learn from your example?
3) In the Book. Proverbs 7:4 tells us to “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend.” The Word of Truth (another name for the Bible) is chock full of wisdom. Consider it your dear friend, and it will lead you well. Are you spending time with and listening to this friend?
4) In God. Did you know that God has friends?! He called Abraham His friend (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8), and He talked with Moses face to face, the way good friends talk (Ex. 33:11). Abraham and Moses weren’t His only friends. You can be His friend, too!
Believe in the One who sacrificed more at the cross for you than any friend ever will, and you will find Him to be the best friend you’ll ever know.
Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). And what does He command?
The secret is found in James 2:23: “‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.” Believe in the One who sacrificed more at the cross for you than any friend ever will, and you will find Him to be the best friend you’ll ever know. He will never leave you, never let you down, never stop loving you.
I’d love to hear from you. Which of these four friends are friends of yours?
“How was your day?” your mom hollers from the laundry room as she separates towels from underwear, sheets from jeans.
“Crummy,” you snap as you pillage the fridge for . . . well, something more than mayonnaise, a bag of carrots, or a carton of eggs. You’ve got to be kidding, you mutter under your breath, turning to the cupboards.
Exhibit B, A Better Day
“How’s it going?” your friend asks, her voice muffled from inside her locker, searching for her chemistry book.
“Great,” you exclaim as you turn to her, a giant smile spreading across your face. “This has been the best day ever!”
Have you ever stopped to think about what makes a good day . . . good? Is it an A on your World History quiz or a Facebook “like” from that guy who’s never far from your mind?
How about a crummy day? Is it waking up ten minutes before the bus comes or spilling orange juice on your favorite shirt?
Well, what if . . .
What if a good day has nothing to do with your circumstances?
What if a good day is waking up alive?
What if a good day is knowing you’re never alone, no matter how lonely you feel?
What if a good day is remembering that the best is yet to come?
Most of the time, our definition of a crummy day isn’t really all that crummy in light of God’s goodness to us.
What if a good day is not based on how much you accomplish, but on how much Jesus accomplished for you on the cross?
What if a good day is knowing that every crummy circumstance that crosses your path is something God promises to work together for your good and His glory?
What if a good day isn’t attention from a guy or affirmation from your boss, but the steady, constant love of your heavenly Father?
What if . . . what if this day isn’t all that crummy after all?
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24).
(Interesting timing . . . just as I was polishing off this post, I heard of a friend’s son who lost thousands of dollars after unknowingly buying a stolen vehicle. Turns out there are crummy days. Really crummy days. I don’t mean to downplay that. I just think that most of the time, our definition of a crummy day isn’t really all that crummy in light of God’s goodness to us.)
How about you? How do you usually define a “good” or a “crummy” day?
I wish you could meet my sister. In addition to being a downright awesome friend and woman of God, she has a great sense of humor. Growing up, she’d often ask outlandish questions like:
Would you rather only eat green olives dipped in mayonnaise for the rest of your life, or would you rather never bathe or shower again?
Her questions were always so "out there." Both options seemed hilariously . . . horrible!
Today let’s play a more obvious version of "Would you rather." Here are four questions you shouldn’t even have to think twice about:
Would you rather:
Live in Ahwaz, Iran (the city filled with the dirtiest air in the world), or would you rather . . .
Live in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada (boasting some of the cleanest air you’ll find of any city in the world according to the World Health Organization)?
Would you rather:
Fill your Nalgene bottle with water from Lake Karachay in Russia (the world’s most polluted spot thanks to the Soviet Union dumping nuclear waste from their largest nuclear production facilities into the lake from 1951–1953), or would you rather . . .
Last week we asked the question, Why does God want your money? We made the important clarification that it’s not your money but God’s money. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the original question:
Why does God want your (er, His!) money?
Here are just two reasons from Matthew 6:19–21:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (emphasis added).
When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
God wants your money because He wants you to have treasures that’ll last. As in, forever.
My sweet neighbor has let me watch two of her births. Elijah came out clutching a flat-screen TV, and Mercy came out with a sparkling pair of twenty-four-carat diamond earrings. (Kidding!) They both came out naked and empty-handed. No surprise, right? Paul says it like this in 1 Timothy 6:7:
We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (emphasis added).
Have you ever asked your mom what you brought into this world the day you were born? Probably not, because you already know the answer. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that when you leave this world (whether it’s through death or through Jesus’ soon return for you), you will bring nothing with you? Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
I like how John Piper says it:
There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.
In Matthew 6:19, Jesus isn’t saying it’s wrong to store up treasures; He just doesn’t want us to be stupid about it. We can’t take our favorite possessions or clothes with us (sorry to disappoint!). When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
Randy Alcorn says it like this, "You can’t take it with you—but you can send it on ahead." He continues in his fantastic little book The Treasure Principle:
Jesus has a treasure mentality. He wants us to store up treasures! He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong place and start storing them in the right place!
God wants you to have treasures that’ll actually last—as in forever.
God wants your money because above all, He wants your heart.
There’s another reason God wants your (ahem, His!) money.
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21).
What if God is really after your heart? And what if the way to your heart is through . . . your wallet?
As I read The Treasure Principle, I learned that 15 percent of everything Jesus says in the Bible relates to money—more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined!
Why does He care so much about money? It’s ’cause He knows that wherever our money goes, our heart goes.
More than your money, He’s after your heart (Matt. 15:7–9). He wants you to share a relationship with Him that’s closer than any other relationship you have on this entire planet. (And yes, when that happens, He’ll also have your money.)
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t payback. God didn’t sacrifice His life for you so you could pay Him back (as if you could!). Your salvation was a free, lavish gift. Don’t pull out your wallet to pay Him back. Give out of joy and gratefulness for how He gave to you, and watch your love for Him skyrocket as you do. Because where your money goes, there your heart goes.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).