September 28 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 5–6; Ephesians 1
Out of the Heart
Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19
A rescue mission nicknamed “Operation Noah’s Ark” might sound fun for animal lovers, but it was a nightmare for the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After receiving complaints about the noise and the horrid stench coming from a certain house, workers entered the Long Island home and found (and later removed) more than four hundred animals from their neglected conditions.
We may not be holding hundreds of animals in filthy conditions, but Jesus said we might be harboring evil and sinful thoughts and actions in our hearts that need to be exposed and removed.
In teaching His disciples about what makes a person clean and unclean, Jesus said it isn’t dirty hands or “whatever enters the mouth” that defiles a person, but an evil heart (Matthew 15:17–19). The stench from our hearts will eventually leak out from our lives. Then Jesus gave examples of evil thoughts and actions that come “out of the heart” (v. 19). No amount of external religious activities and rituals can make them clean. We need God to transform our hearts.
We can practice Jesus’ inside-out ethic by giving Him access to the squalor of our hearts and letting Him remove what’s causing the stench. As Christ uncovers what’s coming from our hearts, He’ll help our words and actions be aligned with His desires, and the aroma from our lives will please Him.
By Marvin Williams
Grieving and Grateful
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:21
After my mom died, one of her fellow cancer patients approached me. “Your mom was so kind to me,” she said, sobbing. “I’m sorry she died . . . instead of me.”
“My mom loved you,” I said. “We prayed God would let you see your boys grow up.” Holding her hands, I wept with her and asked God to help her grieve peacefully. I also thanked Him for her remission that allowed her to continue loving her husband and two growing children.
The Bible reveals the complexity of grief when Job lost almost everything, including all his children. Job grieved and “fell to the ground in worship” (Job 1:20). With a heartbreaking and hopeful act of surrender and expression of gratitude, he declared, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (v. 21). While Job would struggle mightily later through his grieving and God’s rebuilding of his life, in this moment he accepted and even rejoiced in His authority over the good and bad situations.
God understands the many ways we process and struggle with emotions. He invites us to grieve with honesty and vulnerability. Even when sorrow seems endless and unbearable, God affirms that He hasn’t and won’t change. With this promise, He comforts us and empowers us to be grateful for His presence.
By Xochitl Dixon
REFLECT & PRAY
When have you experienced gratitude toward God while grieving a great loss? How has He revealed His presence when you felt alone or misunderstood in your grief?
Compassionate God, thank You for knowing me and carrying me through every step of my grieving process.
Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “When sorrowws come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” Job would certainly have understood. Perhaps any of those trials by themselves would have been devastating, but he experienced multiple trials at once as pictured in the phrase, “while he was still speaking, another messenger came and said” (vv. 16–18). Before even having time to process one tragedy, the next was upon him. The trials described in these events picture life in a broken world.