Ash Wednesday—Applied Every Day

If you’re unfamiliar with it, Ash Wednesday seems an odd tradition. Ashes of burned crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are rubbed on the forehead in the shape of a cross.

Ash Wednesday . . . Every Day

(Photo: By Oxh973, Jennifer Balaska. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

So what’s the point of wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday? The cinder residue is reminiscent of the biblical act of repenting “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). (Speaking of ashes, the holiday also represents “National No Smoking Day” in Ireland.)

Many Christians have no connection with Ash Wednesday’s tradition.

But we all have need of what it represents. Every day.

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Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged—What Jesus Meant

Thankfully, He told us what He meant so we don't have to guess.

The best-known Bible verse used to be John 3:16. But our culture has a new favorite. In fact, it has become the trump card played to justify any and every lifestyle. It’s even a quote from Jesus.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged—What Jesus Meant

(Photo by Photodune)

The phrase is often quoted as “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” While the meaning is the same, it’s interesting we have learned the wrong wording from the 1611 King James Version. It should be: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” The verse often is taken to mean nobody has the right to judge anybody for anything at any time.

The problem? The verse has a context. Jesus told us what He meant.

When Jesus spoke these words on the slopes surrounding the Sea of Galilee, He wasn’t saying never to judge. He simply warned about doing it the wrong way—by telling us how to make judgments the right way.

And believe me, it ain’t easy.

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How to Avoid Personal Hypocrisy

Ever tried to tell if someone is authentic or phony? It isn’t easy. It gets even tougher when we look at ourselves.

Wearing a mask.

(Photo: Tyler Olson, via Vivozoom)

I remember seeing at Masada a one-inch painted black line running across the walls of the ruins. This line revealed the division between the original ruins below and the modern reconstruction built directly on top of it.

Unfortunately, we have no black line running down our lives and behaviors to reveal the division between the authentic and the phony. The line often seems easy to see in the lives of others, but discerning the hypocrite in ourselves?

That’s a challenge, even when we’re looking for it.

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Serving in the Lip Service [Podcast]

Mark 7:1-23
Jesus reminds us that a person’s appearance and even behavior can be misleading. There were people in Jesus’ day who looked impressive, but their hearts were far from God. They drew near to God with their lips—their words—but that’s it.

Let’s look beyond our starched shirts and beautiful blouses to the heart that lies beneath them. Evaluate the product of your heart. Do you strive for purity inside as well as out?

Jesus and the God Squad [Podcast]

Mark 2:23-3:6

We have to watch out for our attitudes toward rules. When we pick our favorite ones, we can overlook those more essential. The Pharisees’ crowing leaned on rules as the way to God. But Jesus’ revealed that rules for rules’ sake are never God’s will.

In fact, they can actually keep us from doing good—and from meeting needs.

Bad Company [Podcast]

Mark 2:13-22

When questioned why He hung around “sinners,” Jesus answered that the sick need healing, not the healthy.

The religious were preoccupied—as many are today—with rituals and rules; but Jesus spent His time in relationships with those who needed Him—and those who would receive Him.

Judge Not, Why Not? Dealing with Hypocrisy [Podcast]

Matthew 7:1-5

“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Our culture’s favorite quote by Jesus is seldom read in context.

Jesus isn’t teaching that judgments are never to be made. But that before judging, we are to examine our own lives so that we can see clearly—rather than hypocritically.

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Sham I Am [Podcast]

Zechariah 7

Feel like you’re wearing a mask? Then consider the question Zechariah suggests: do your religious rituals reflect a life for God’s benefit or efforts to satisfy self?

Since empty ritual reflects an empty relationship, we should walk with God sincerely . . . and shed the shams.

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Inside, Outside, Upside-Down [Podcast]

Micah 6-7

Sometimes we live upside-down lives. While God wants us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly—often our inner lives of faith become little more than going through the motions on the outside.

But God offers hope for those who get our inside and outside upside down—for there is no God like ours.

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A Christian’s Creature Comforts [Podcast]

Jonah 4

Jonah showed himself more disturbed over a plant withering than an entire city being destroyed. Don’t look so pious! Haven’t we all defined our commitment to the God’s work in terms of what’s convenient? Jonah teaches us that our priorities should not be defined by creature comforts, but by God’s commands.

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