The Outward Look (Philippians 2:4)

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Ours is a self-serving age. That‘s what George Sweeting, former president of Moody Bible Institute, told graduating seniors at Taylor University. To illustrate, he told of a farmer who was single and wanted a wife. So he put an ad in a newspaper that read: “Man 35, wants a woman about 25, with tractor. Send picture of tractor.

All of us are infected with selfishness. That’s why Paul told us to look out not only for our own interests but also for the interests of others. That “not only … but also” phrase keeps a proper balance.

This balance is also seen in the Old Testament law, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). To make this practical for His people Israel, God instructed them not to reap the corners of their field, nor gather the gleanings of their harvest. Why? “You shall leave them for the poor and stranger” (v. 10).

We need the outward look. Psychiatrist Dr. Carl Menninger was asked what he would do if he knew he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His reply: “I’d go out, find somebody in need, and help him.

Christ is the greatest example of the outward look. Even though He is God, He humbled Himself as a man and became obedient to the point of death. He was looking out for you and for me. – Dennis J. De Haan

If we would learn the fear of God,

If would strive to keep His Word,

Our neighbor’s good would always be

Of great concern to you and me. – D. J. De Haan

We are at our best when we are good to others.

  • May 22, 1992, Our Daily Bread
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It Pays Better (John 15:17)

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What kind of lifestyle do you believe in and live? Is it one of focused selfishness, or one of lovingly seeking to meet the needs of others? (Romans 13:8).

One popular and influential novelist of our day espouses a godless philosophy that is totally self-centered. The hero of one of her early novel says, “The word we must never be spoken . . . . I see the face of a god, and I raise this god over the earth, . . . who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: I.”

What are the results of living entirely for ourselves? Such a lifestyle may bring pride, and according to the author of the quote above, pride is the sum of all the virtues. Yet ruthless self-concern doesn’t bring joy, nor does a self-centered lifestyle bring peace. One discerning reviewer made this statement about the selfish novelist: “She seems to be one of the unhappiest persons who ever lived.

God’s Word sets forth the precise opposite of such a self-centered philosophy of life. The guiding principle for abundant living is that we love our neighbor as we love our selves (v. 9). What do we experience when we live such a lifestyle? A life of love – it definitely pays better! – Vernon C. Grounds

Love is giving for the world’s needs,

Love is sharing as the Spirit leads,

Love is caring when the world cries,

Love is compassion with Christlike eyes. – Brandt

Love is the door through which we pass from selfishness to service.

  • May 19, Vol. 18, Our Daily Bread

Getting What You Want (Luke 12:15)

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There’s a popular idea floating around about how to get whatever you want. It’s called “the law of attraction.” Just think and feel what you want to attract, and “the law will use people, circumstances, and events to magnetize what you want to you, and magnetize you to it.” This positive thinking philosophy teaches that the “energy” of your dominant thoughts “attracts” your circumstances.

You won’t find that idea anywhere in the Bible! As believers, we have good reason to be positive in our thinking, but it’s because our heavenly Father understands our needs and meets them. Because He cares for us we don’t have to be anxious (Luke 12:29-30). Life doesn’t consist “in the abundance of the things [we possess]” (v. 15), so we make it our aim instead to be “rich toward God” (v. 21). We do that by seeking His kingdom and purpose (v. 31) and by laying up treasures in heaven, not for ourselves in this life.

Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness” (v. 15) because one day, like the rich fool in the parable in Luke 12, we will leave it all behind. That’s when we’ll have more than we ever dreamed of. In the meantime, God promises to care for our need – no matter what the circumstances. And that’s no secret. – Anne Cetas

I know not by what methods rare

That Lord provides for me;

I only know that all my needs

He meets so graciously. – Adams

God has promised to supply all our needs, not all our wants.

  • May 24, Vol. 15, Our Daily Bread

Money Matters (Luke 16:13)

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Godfrey Davis, who wrote a biography of the Duke of Wellington, said, “I found an old account ledger that showed how the Duke spent his money. It was a far better clue to what he thought was really important than the reading of his letters or speeches.”

How we handle money reveals much about our priorities. That’s why Jesus often talked about money. One-sixth of the Gospels’ content, including one out of every three parables, touches on stewardship. Jesus wasn’t a fundraiser. He dealt with money matters because money matters. For some of us, though, it matters too much.

Jesus warned that we can become slaves to money. We may not think that money means more to us than God does. But Jesus did not say we must serve God more than we serve money. The issue isn’t what occupies first place in our life, but whether we serve money at all. Pastor and author George Buttrick said, “Of all the masters the soul can choose, there are at last only two – God and money. All choices, however, small, however the alternatives may be disguised, are but variants of this choice.

Does your checkbook show that Jesus is the Master in your life? – Haddon Robinson

If we pursue mere earthly gain,

We choose a path that ends in pain;

But joy and peace are in our soul

When we pursue a heavenly goal. – D. J. De Haan

For a quick check on your heart, check out your checkbook.

  • May 20, Vol. 12A, Our Daily Bread

Self-Inflation (Galatians 6:3)

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Disaster always results when we try to build ourselves up by minimizing the worth of others. That’s the message of an old fable about a little frog who was startled when he looked up and saw an ox drinking out of the pond. He had never seen such a huge creature. Immediately he hopped away to tell his grandfather. Determined that no one should seem larger in the eyes of his grandson than he, the old bullfrog began to puff himself up as he asked, “Was he bigger than this?” “Oh, yes, Grandfather,” answered the little frog, ”much larger.” He inflated himself more. “Bigger than this?” he queried. “Lot’s bigger!” replied the grandson. The old frog continued to puff up until he exploded.

Now, it is healthy to have a good self-image, but there is a big difference between a sense of our God-given worth as His handiwork and an ego that is inflated by pride. That’s why we must be quick to acknowledge that what we accomplish is done solely by God’s grace. Only then can we see how foolish it is to promote our selfish interests. Furthermore, humility will enable us to show appreciation for the achievement and position of others.

The apostle Paul put it clearly, “For I say … to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). If we puff ourselves up, we always get blown out of proportion and that will surely lead to our downfall. – Paul R. Van Gorder

If you would glorify your God

And thus His name adorn,

Be sure you kept your heart from pride,

Self-praise and boasting score. – Anon.

God wants people great enough to be small enough to be used.

  • May 18, 1987, Our Daily Bread

The Gift of Self-Indulgence (Ezekiel 16:49)

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An upscale London department store launched a new gift card with the slogan, “The Gift of Self-Indulgence.” Throughout the store, signs, slogans, and even nametags called attention to the cards. According to one employee, sales of the cards during the first weeks of the promotion had been very strong, far exceeding company expectations. Generosity may prompt a person to give a luxurious gift to someone special, but too often we find it easier to purchase what we want for ourselves.

The prophet Ezekiel sheds light on an ancient city whose people suffered God’s judgment, in part, because they embraced a self-indulgent lifestyle. “This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

Historically, the Lord has dealt harshly with His people who became arrogant, overfed, unconcerned (v. 49). The antidote to the poison of self-indulgence is the desire to please God and serve others, not ourselves (Philippians 2:4).

Self-indulgence is a gift we don’t need. – David C. McCasland

Some are discouraged and weary in heart,

Help somebody today!

Someone the journey to heaven should start,

Help somebody today! – Breck

The more we serve Christ, the less we serve self.

  • May 16, Vol. 16, Our Daily Bread

My Kind of People (1 Corinthians 6:11)

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Years ago in a worship service, Pastor Ray Stedman stepped to the pulpit and read the text for the day: “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people – none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Then he looked up, a bemused smile on his face, and said, “I’m curious: How many of you have one or more of these sins in your background? If so, will you stand?”

There was a young man there who had never been in a church before. He had recently been saved at a Billy Graham crusade and came with fear and trembling to church that Sunday, not knowing what he would find. He later told me that when he heard the pastor’s question, he looked around to see if anyone would stand. At first no one did, but then most of the congregation was on their feet. He said to himself, “These are my kind of people!”

We can all find ourselves in Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians. But when we confess our sin and accept the gift of eternal life paid for by the death of Jesus, we become a new creation saved by grace. – David Roper

He touched me, oh, He touched me,

And oh, the joy that floods my soul!

Something happened and now I know

He touched me and made me whole. – Gaither

Nothing in my hand I bring, simple to Thy cross I cling.

  • May 7, Vol. 22, Our Daily Bread