My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend,
to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words.
— Proverbs 7:1–4
What is the apple of your eye? Is it a person, a job, a child, a passion? This term, both today and more than 2,000 years ago, is used to describe something or someone who is cherished or esteemed above all others. Proverbs 7:1–4 tells us that God’s word, his commands and teachings, are to be held to that regard. We should treasure his commands, and his teaching should be the apple of our eyes! Somehow we, as believers of Jesus Christ, can believe the lie that we can get closer to God without even drawing near to him. But the saying almost always holds true: direction, not intention, determines destination. If we want to have peace, freedom, and to walk in step with God, we must move in the direction of his will. We have to draw near to him, and get to know him in order to know what his desire is and what is right and true.
Let’s all start our summer off by deciding what our “win” is in life. At the end of our lives, what do we want to say we fought for? Our fight, our battle to win for what matters, starts with knowing Jesus. Not knowing about him, but really knowing him. Having a relationship with him and being made new. This starts by inviting him into your life.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
— Romans 10:9–10
Let’s fight to know God more each day. Let’s fight to put off our own desires and adopt his desires as our own. Let’s fight to keep him first. Let’s fight to “hide his word in [our] heart that [we] might not sin against him.” (Ps. 119:11) Because that kind of life would be a true win!
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
— Psalm 119:105
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
— James 1:22
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
— Psalm 119:9
“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”
— Luke 11:28
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
— Matthew 7:24
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
— Matthew 4:4
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
— John 7:38
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
— Hebrews 4:12
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
— James 1:22
Each day is a new opportunity to align our direction with our intention. The prophet Jeremiah says in Lamentations:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
— Lamentations 3:22–23
Because of the Lord’s great love for us, we get to wake up each day and decide if we are going to continue to let our sins rule our lives, or if we are going to let this day honor the God that gave it to us. What is even better is that, like the movie Groundhog Day, we get to experience the mercy of God’s love every day, again and again, because he is faithful. This means that no matter how far our intentions were from our direction yesterday, today is different if we choose to lean on God rather than ourselves.
I know that this is good news for me. Often, I let my schedule or checklist for the day derail my direction. When I let the world begin my day rather than spending precious time studying, praying and worshiping, then by 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon I am lost. My head is swimming in worry, fear and doubt. The things of this life seem bigger than the people around me, and I forget to count others more important than myself, as Paul tells us in Philippians.
In the past few months, I have been stopping several times each day to realign my direction with my intention. My intentions are to live this life lifting up those around me, spurring them on to better things, and showing them what it means to live life in grace. I have learned that the only way for me to live out those things is to begin the day with my Lord. The Lord has been more than faithful to help me begin noticing during the day when it is time to stop and realign a bit before continuing one more second. Recently, I have begun working on ending the day with my Father and allowing him to show me all of the gifts that he has blessed me with during that day.
Trusting God to satisfy the needs in your life, rather than trusting the world takes minute-by-minute alignment of direction and intention. The only way that you will be able to align your life is through the Father. Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that we should keep our thoughts on purity, holiness, honor, honesty and kindness focusing on the good works of our God, and then, he will give us peace. Our human nature can make this task seem monumental, but we have a good Father who loves us. He will help us focus our thoughts when we ask him to do so. I pray that each of you begins to do the good work of realignment and focus on the God of peace.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
— Proverbs 4:26
In 2008, pastor Andy Stanley wrote a book entitled The Principle of the Path In this book, he taught that there is a principle at work in each of our lives. The principle is simply this:
Direction, not intention, determines your destination.
Once you hear it, there is no way to forget it because it is obviously true in every area of our lives. It is a principle that is always at work. Always.
It is easy to identify this principle when we are driving. Even an obstinate person would readily admit that, if you want to get from Dallas to Austin, you need to travel south. Every reasonable person will agree that regardless of how well intentioned you are, how much you have prayed that God would make a way, or how desperately you want to get from Dallas to Austin by traveling north…..it won’t work. Why? Because direction, not intention determines your destination.
Sadly, it is more difficult to identify this principle at work in our lives when we are making decisions about our future. All too often, we follow our heart or do what feels right without seeking the counsel of God through his people or his word. When we go our own way, it often leads us to destinations that we never desired. Going the wrong direction in a car is easily fixed, but going the wrong direction in life? Well, that is often much more costly and much more difficult to redeem. If you set your feet on the wrong path, it could take decades to discover it, and there is no end to the damage that it can do.
I believe this is why God gave us so much wisdom in his word. I believe this is why God provides so much wisdom through his people. I believe God makes wisdom available to us because he wants us to set our feet on the right path in order to bring us to the exact right place he has for us.
As you go throughout this week, take some time to honestly evaluate where you are in your life. Ponder the path of your feet and ask yourself, “If I keep going this direction, where am I going to end up?” Stop looking for a quick fix or a simple solution and resolve before God to seek his wisdom. Then, allow him to change your direction. A change in direction is the only thing that will change your future. Why? Because direction, not intention, determines your destination.
We will have many different relationships over our lifetimes. Usually, they change and become more complicated. We start out as children with parents and, many times, siblings. Inside the family unit we will have lots of experiences with immediate and extended family members, neighbors and family friends. Hopefully, most are good experiences, but sometimes they’re not so good. As we grow, friends, neighbors, coworkers, spouses, in-laws, and more come into the picture. Most levels of development will bring many kinds of relationships, but along the path of life we will all experience good and bad interactions with people. We are to learn and grow through these encounters.
We are designed to be in relationships, but how can we make sure they are healthy and beneficial?
As relationships change, we need time to adjust to new roles. It is not always easy to see all aspects of each relationship, but we are on a journey to grow and develop so we can serve others. Being healthy requires us to have healthy relationships. Sometimes we are the giver, sometimes we are the taker, and other times we share those roles. As we move through life, we should become better and better at understanding our roles and how to make them successful.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
— Philippians 2:1–8
So for successful relationships, we have to have the same mind as Christ, serving others and looking for the best for them. Selfishness is the number one killer of relationships!
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
— Ephisians 5:21
For a relationship to work, both parties need to follow Jesus’ example of standing in the other’s shoes. Are we willing to humble ourselves and submit to others “out of reverence for Christ”?
Prayer: Father, help us to follow Christ’s example in building healthy relationships. Lord, be our mediator and give us extra patience when relationships get tense. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
— Romans 10:9–10
Honor is not something our culture necessarily holds in high regard. In fact, dishonor is sometimes more glorified. We (including myself) often find entertainment in the “roasting” of others or the tearing down of others with our words (even if it’s in a joking manner). For whatever reason, it is sometimes easier to make a joke at someone’s expense than to build them up with our words or actions.
Paul says we are to abhor this practice and let our love (through word and deed) be genuine and to love one another with brotherly affection. What this text does not say is to love another with brotherly affection only when it is called for or deserved. If others loved me only when I deserved it, I don’t think I would receive love very often. If Jesus loved me according to the things that I deserve, I would still be dead in my sins. But praise be to him that, even when I was dead in my sins and trespasses, God made me alive together with Christ by his grace (Ephesians 2:4–5). Even when I had nothing to offer to him, he laid his life down for me so that in Scripture, whatever it says about Christ can be said about me. What a gift that is! In the same way, we should extend honor and love even to those we don’t think are deserving.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s easier said than done, Castle. You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my coworkers. They are horrible, despicable people. I just find it really difficult to show love and honor to these people.
Here’s the plain truth: outside of Christ, we are also sick, depraved people in need of love and grace from a redeeming God. Jesus laid his life down for us, even when we could offer him nothing. This is the greatest form of love and honor (John 15:13). If we are to model Christ and be conformed to his image, we should be drawn in by the Holy Spirit to treat others in a similar manner. And if you are still thinking that this is easier said than done, I would remind you of what Paul says in Romans 8:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
— Romans 8:11
The same power that raised Christ from the dead now resides in those who follow and believe in him. This is great news in our struggle against the flesh. We have the power to show love and honor to those who aren’t the easiest to love and show honor to. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart. Start with baby steps. Maybe it’s initiating a conversation, holding a door open, speaking an encouraging word, or going out of your way to make someone a priority. Showing love and honor to those who maybe aren’t worthy of it is difficult or maybe even impossible without the help of the Spirit, but with him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
And once we lead out and start on the journey of showing honor, it becomes more likely that the other person’s heart will be softened and will start reciprocating that honor in return. And then we get to experience the life-giving practice of “outdoing one another in honor.” All made possible by the Holy Spirit to bring about the abundant life that is found only in Christ.