Tell Me What You Think

whichway“Tell me what you think.”

Jesus wants to know.

“Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)

God does not want us to refuse to change.

We can create a false line of reasoning when we conclude that since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and we’re created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), we’re not supposed to ever change. Really? Take a look in the mirror. Consider what you know now that you didn’t know when you were 5 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old, and so on. You change. It’s part of life. It’s how God created you.

God doesn’t change, but he changes us. That’s what being in a thriving personal relationship with him is about. Consider what God says about growth.

You were taught to leave your old self—to stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self becomes worse, because people are fooled by the evil things they want to do. But you were taught to be made new in your hearts,to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God—made to be truly good and holy. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. (Philippians 1:6)

Brothers and sisters, in the past I could not talk to you as I talk to spiritual people. I had to talk to you as I would to people without the Spirit—babies in Christ. The teaching I gave you was like milk, not solid food, because you were not able to take solid food. And even now you are not ready. You are still not spiritual, because there is jealousy and quarreling among you, and this shows that you are not spiritual. You are acting like people of the world. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways. It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. Sometimes we fail to grow because we’re stubborn. Sometimes we’re lazy. Sometimes we’re proud. Whatever the reason, set it aside. God wants you to change, and he wants to do the changing for you, but you have to seek and yield to him.

Are you ready to grow up today?

A House of Prayer

houseofprayer

Jesus said to all the people there, “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘My Temple will be called a house for prayer. But you are changing it into a ‘hideout for robbers.’” (Matthew 21:13)

Jesus cleared the temple of everything that was going on in it that never should have been going on in a holy place. Even if your holy place hasn’t become a marketplace as in Matthew 21, consider how “set apart” as a house of prayer it is.

What is God-honoring about the place in which you worship?

What isn’t God-honoring about the place in which you worship?

Are you personally honoring God in what you say and do, in your attitudes and in your relationships?

Being a house of prayer isn’t just about having a time of prayer. Opening and closing a worship service (or your day) with prayer doesn’t keep everything in between focused on God. Yielding to God every step of the way is the only way to remain focused on God.

Who do you run to when you have a question or problem?

Who gets the glory and thanks when something goes well?

Who sets your to-do list and modifies it as situations change?

Who determines the use of time, energy, and resources?

Who is central to all decisions, actions, and thoughts…not just in theory but in everyday practice?

The holy place isn’t just where you worship with others. You are personally a holy place.

Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

What is robbing you of being a fully-committed house of prayer? How have you replaced God’s will with anything contrary to it? Who are you allowing to occupy time, space, and effort in your life that is reserved for God and God alone?

Jesus does a great job of clearing the junk out of the temple. Invite him to do the same within you.

Group Think

groupoIt’s easy to go along with the group.

Many people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people were walking ahead of Jesus and behind him, shouting, “Praise to the Son of David! God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise to God in heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”

The crowd said, “This man is Jesus, the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)

It wasn’t long before the crowd’s sentiment had shifted…

Pilate wanted to let Jesus go free and told this to the crowd. But they shouted again, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

A third time Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I can find no reason to kill him. So I will have him punished and set him free.”

But they continued to shout, demanding that Jesus be crucified. Their yelling became so loud that Pilate decided to give them what they wanted. (Luke 23:20-24)

A joyous celebration can turn into a destructive riot fairly quickly. Of course, some of the people in the crowd were not at both events. And not everyone in the first crowd was happy to welcome Jesus into the city, just as everyone in the second crowd wasn’t shouting for his crucifixion. However, it’s no surprise that we can quite easily be swayed by the crowd we join, whether it’s for long-term relationship or a temporary event.

Groups can have positive or negative influence on us, but in either case, we need to individually know where we stand, filter the information coming in from all directions, and determine what our individual responses will be. A group is simply made up of individuals, and each individual is capable of making a decision.

When we’re connected to God through an intimate, personal relationship, we don’t need to worry about shifting standards; however, we can’t get lazy and believe what everyone around us is saying – even in the church – without personally engaging in active learning and understanding of God’s Word as well as yielding to the wisdom and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing whether you’re supposed to yell “Hosanna” or “Crucify” is a simple decision. But you’re faced with many decisions each day that require careful scrutiny. If you don’t take the time and effort to establish a firm, trusting relationship with God, you will more easily become prey to the easy path of yielding to the whims of the crowds around you.

How engaged in the thought process will you be?

Jesus Is The Way (but what if we don’t like his way?)

wayYou’ve heard (and likely had) the skeptic questions:

Why would a loving God allow evil?

Why would a loving God allow just one way?

Since God says he’ll give me what I want, why can’t I just go on living the way I want? Why do I have to live by someone else’s rules?

Taking the step of faith to believe God is who he says he is so that you can trust what he says about himself, you, the world in which you live, and the will and purpose he has for you is a biggie. It’s tempting to list the pros and cons of a life of faith, and since, prior to a choice to accept Jesus is the Son of God and your personal Lord and Savior, you are more familiar with what you know and live, and even if you’re uncomfortable where you are, the familiarity is a big, highlighted “pro” among your lists. You’re not the only one.

A man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have life forever?”

 

Jesus answered, “Why do you ask me about what is good? Only God is good. But if you want to have life forever, obey the commands.”

 

The man asked, “Which commands?”

 

Jesus answered, “‘You must not murder anyone; you must not be guilty of adultery; you must not steal; you must not tell lies about your neighbor;honor your father and mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

 

The young man said, “I have obeyed all these things. What else do I need to do?”

 

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”

 

But when the young man heard this, he left sorrowfully, because he was rich. (Matthew 19:16-22)

This man was seeking answers. More specifically, he was seeking Jesus’ answers. He wanted to know! Yet when faced with the truth, he decided he didn’t want to know that badly. He found a “con” in his pro/con list that he just couldn’t live with. He found his tipping point.

If you’ve already accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you’ve reached the tipping point, but don’t think that’s the end of all spiritual decisions for your life. Sure, you can be certain of where you’ll be spending eternity, but God never intended for you to stop thinking, learning, asking, and responding. He created you for a relationship with you, and he wants you to know him consistently more deeply. He will reveal himself to you, but you have to choice in how to respond.

When you read a command in Scripture that goes against how you’re living or what you prefer, how do you respond?

 

When you want to find out if something is in Scripture, do you search for what will confirm your assumptions, or do you search more thoroughly to get the big picture even if it means rearranging your assumptions?

 

Do you believe what other people say God says and wants, or do you widen the opportunities for learning by personally knowing God’s Word and yielding to the Holy Spirit for cautions, prompts, and convictions?

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Even if we don’t like his ways, we don’t change his ways; we simply do or do not respond in ways consistent with who he is and what he wills. A relationship with Jesus is a constant journey. It’s not a list of pros and cons, and it’s not a popularity contest of what you like best.

Seek a relationship of truth.

Seek a relationship of life.

When Matters

whenWhat does timing have to do with the following verses?

When Jesus heard what had happened to John, he left in a boat and went to a lonely place by himself. But the crowds heard about it and followed him on foot from the towns. When he arrived, he saw a great crowd waiting. He felt sorry for them and healed those who were sick.

When it was evening, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already late. Send the people away so they can go to the towns and buy food for themselves.” (Matthew 14:13-15)

“When” is an important word. It indicates a point in time. We can easily turn the certainty of “when” into an uncertainty of “whenever.” Jesus isn’t about “whenever.” He’s about his Father’s business and the provided and guided timing that comes along with it. He knew when he needed to be alone and pray, and he knew when he needed to teach. He knew when to miraculously heal people and when to admonish others. He was sent by his Father to do his Father’s will, which includes the “when” of his will.

Are you listening to God and responding to the “when” of his instruction?

It’s tempting to get focused on the when and what of God’s will, because if we can just figure out the details, we can get it done and check it off our lists. But God wants relationship with us. He wants us to continually seek him, trusting him for the when of right now. As we trust him, our nows prepare us for our laters, but when we don’t trust him, his whens become our whenevers.

How can you know the “when”?

Know God and trust his guidance. He’ll take care of the details.

The Understanding Standstill

mustknowOur need for understanding can get in the way of our faith. And it’s not just when we’re far away from understanding. We can also be very familiar with something…familiar enough to not see our need for continued understanding.

Consider what happened with Jesus returned to Nazareth.

He went to his hometown and taught the people in the synagogue, and they were amazed. They said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and this power to do miracles? He is just the son of a carpenter. His mother is Mary, and his brothers are James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. And all his sisters are here with us. Where then does this man get all these things?” So the people were upset with Jesus.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and in his own home.”

So he did not do many miracles there because they had no faith. (Matthew 13:54-58)

The people Jesus had grown up with seemed to know him the least. They’re not the only ones who can be guilty of this. We get used to who someone is…at least who they appeared to be at a certain point in time…and we make assumptions about them, both good and bad, into the future even when they’ve changed, both positively and negatively. We don’t expect them to have grown beyond where and when we got to know them, or we refuse to see the ways in which they have failed to develop and grow.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Are you going on your assumptions but refuse to know him personally?

Are you standing firmly on what you’ve been taught but refuse to sift through the details as he reveals himself to you in more clarifying ways?

Jesus doesn’t change, but your faith should always be growing. He wants more for you, and he can provide the “more” he has in mind. Replace your trust in what you think you know with the reality of who Jesus is. Know him.

United We Stand…Sometimes

unitedJesus is certain in the importance of unity. When the Pharisees confront him about the source of his power over demons, assuming he could only be a follower of Beelzebub, who they believed to be the ruler of demons, he declares,

Every kingdom that is divided against itself will be destroyed. And any city or family that is divided against itself will not continue. And if Satan forces out himself, then Satan is divided against himself, and his kingdom will not continue. You say that I use the power of Beelzebul to force out demons. If that is true, then what power do your people use to force out demons? So they will be your judges. But if I use the power of God’s Spirit to force out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. If anyone wants to enter a strong person’s house and steal his things, he must first tie up the strong person. Then he can steal the things from the house.Whoever is not with me is against me. Whoever does not work with me is working against me. (Matthew 12:25-30)

Jesus refutes the Pharisees’ accusation that he is doing the devil’s work by pointing out that if the devil is allowing Jesus to do his work for him, the devil is actually undermining his own work. Jesus performed many miracles, many which had nothing to do with demons. Plus, Jesus gave all glory to God and took none for himself; he actually instructed people whom he helped to keep the situation quiet on many occasions. Humility is definitely not the way of the devil. He will take all the glory he can get.

Also, Jesus asks the Pharisees who is guiding them to cast out demons. Who is their authority? Of course, they are confident they are guided by God. So, they are condemning Jesus for something they do themselves.

The bottom line is the Pharisees don’t understand. They trust the inwardly-focused community they’ve built for themselves, and as long as they remain vehemently united, they believe they are right. But just because we stand together doesn’t mean we will stand for long.

Only those who stand with Jesus with stand for long. It’s not a self-centered stance. It’s not a stance of superiority. It’s a stance on truth and in trust. And Jesus prefers that everyone stands with him. Each of us has a choice to believe him. We also have to the choice to ignore, refuse, or condemn him.

What are you choosing today?

How do you handle what you do not understand about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God’s Word?