They say there’s far too little thinking going on in today’s world.

I say there’s far too little re-thinking going on in today’s world.

We form habits and we rarely take the opportunity to step back and really look at those habits to determine if they’re helping or hurting us.

Our culture teaches us a certain way of going about life. We are stunningly incapable of stepping outside of our own culture to see if what it teaches us is truly wise and helpful.

Our parents instruct us in the ways they think are best. But are they really?

And the saddest fact of all? That we don’t know, or possibly even care, what God thinks about our habits, our culture, our parents’ instruction.

When Jesus carried out his ministry, he trained his disciples and readied them to come alongside him, and take his teachings out into the world. He prepared them for battle with spiritual forces. He even gave them authority over evil spirits.

And what were they to teach people? In a word: Re-think.

Re-think your way of life. Re-think your habits. Re-think your culture. Re-think what people in authority have told you is correct. Re-think it by comparing it to what Jesus teaches. Re-think it by comparing it with the word of God.

Re-think. Or, its synonym: Repent.

“They went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, February 21, is Exodus 29:1 – 30:38, Mark 6:6b – 29 and Proverbs 5:15-23.

Lord Jesus, help me to re-think everything in light of your teachings and your words and promises.

Header image based on "Thinking RFID" by Botter, CC By 2.0

Better Broken than Crushed

What would your decision be if you were presented with the following choice: “Would you rather be broken or crushed?”

Mine would be “option C.”

I mean, really?! Broken or crushed. What kind of choice is that?

Well… actually…

It was the choice Jesus presented to the chief priests and the elders in Jerusalem as he was completing his ministry.

Those priests and elders were not in a particularly receptive mood as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Though the crowds sung praises, and spread their cloaks on the road for Jesus, the religious leaders refused to believe.

While the children sang “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the priests and elders simply got angry. Up in arms, they took Jesus to task. And Jesus responded with the choice.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed'” (Matthew 21:42-44, NIV).

So what about you? After hearing that, wouldn’t you agree it would be much better to be broken than crushed?

Fall on Jesus in faith, broken by your sins, and he will heal you.

Don’t fall on Jesus, because you’re too proud, or too busy, or too preoccupied, or simply determined to remain unbroken… then, please, please hear Jesus’ clear warning.

Lord, Jesus, my sinful nature is so strong. In my own heart, I’m often just like the priests and elders. Instead of trusting you and embracing your promises of healing and forgiveness, in pride or in fear I reject them. I don’t want to be crushed, even though that’s what I deserve. I am broken by my sins. Send your Spirit, so that my cold heart becomes a heart willing to fall on you in faith, and be healed.

Our Bible reading for Monday, February 2, is Job 25:1 – 29:25, Matthew 21:33 – 22:14 and Psalm 18:7-15.

Header image based on "Glass" by Belli, CC by 2.0

When Jesus’ Love Gets Direct

A lot of times we associate directness and bluntness with a lack of tact, or outright unkindness. With the picture many of today’s people have of Jesus, most can hardly imagine Jesus ever being direct or blunt in his speech.

But sometimes the best way anyone can love a person is to get straight to the point. Sometimes the kindest thing we can say to a person is something very, very direct. Blunt, even.

That’s because not everyone is listening from the same vantage point. If a person is listening in order to judge, rather than to grasp, or learn, or empathize, then what’s being said is going through a very thick filter. And that filter can be almost impenetrable.

Unless we can get the person to listen from another position there’s very little possibility of punching through that filter. It’s only when a person moves from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk that words — even Jesus’ words — can penetrate to the heart.

Jesus is in the business of penetrating through to the heart. That’s why he doesn’t give up on the chief priests and the elders. Still, he’s definitely having trouble cracking through their filter, and he can’t seem to get them to change positions.

But Jesus’ heart for sinners is huge. So though it’s near the end of his life, he still wants to break through the concrete bunkers their hearts have become. He goes “direct” with them. He addresses the chief priests and the elders with very blunt, challenging words:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.'” (Matthew 21:31b-32, NIV).

It’s clear what Jesus was seeking. Repentance — minds and hearts willing to make a turnaround. Sadly, the chief priests and elders were too busy judging to consider a change of mind and heart.

If you’re struggling to hear or believe what Jesus says, try changing positions. Move from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk and see what happens.

Jesus, crack through the concrete bunker of my pride, and help me switch listening positions. Move my mind and heart so that I am willing to turn around, and listen to you from the pupil’s desk. You have so much to teach me. Don’t let me miss a thing! And Lord, if you have to be direct with me to get my attention, then go right ahead. I know that it’s all just love!

Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 1, is Job 22:1 – 24:25, Matthew 21:18-32 and Proverbs 3:21-35.

Header image based on "Second Judicial Circuit" by July, CC by 2.0

Broadcasting Repentance

Once Jesus settled into a base of operations in Capernaum, he began to do what he came to do: broadcast the news. And the news that he came to broadcast was not the evening news. (Thank goodness. Have you ever noticed how relentlessly bad the evening news can be?)

The news Jesus came to announce was very good news. The news was that he is the Light of the world and Life to those living under the shadow of death (Matthew 4:16).

As the light and life of the world, Jesus had wisdom that needed to be heard. But to be received this wisdom would require a change of mind on the part of people.

By nature, people’s minds are not on a receptive track, as Moses clearly indicates in the book of Genesis: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5, NIV).  

Jesus wants to get people back on track, receptive to God and to God’s loving plans for them. And he knows that getting on track begins with the fear of the Lord: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV).

So what’s the best characterization of Jesus’ teaching? Matthew tells us what it is: Changed minds. Changed hearts. Changed lives.

Repentance, in other words. Receptiveness. Because when Jesus comes near, his kingdom comes near, too. That’s why wise people tune in when Jesus is broadcasting.

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near'” (Matthew 4:17, NIV). 

Lord, change my mind and heart. Make me receptive to you and your wisdom. Get me back on track by shining the great light of your salvation into every corner of my mind and heart. May listening to you give me a repentant mind and heart. You are my Savior. You are my Lord. You are my light and my life.

Our reading for Sunday, January 4, is Genesis 7:1 – 9:17, Matthew 4:1-22 and Proverbs 1:1-7.

Header image based on "Radio" by Godber, CC by-SA 2.0