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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nudging us toward readiness

10The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"  11-12He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight."
(Matthew 13:10-12)

My daughter told me last night that she liked reading from my grandson's children's Bible.  When I asked her why that may be, she was quick to reply, "Because the stories are easier to understand!"  This is not an uncommon feeling.  The "stories" of the Bible are a lot easier to understand sometimes when they have been brought into the language we best understand.  I used to teach at vacation Bible school in the summers.  My role won me the title of the "story lady" because I would tell the Bible story of the day.  What I remember most is that I always tried to tell it in a way the kids would understand.  For example, they did not know what a chariot was, so the chariot became an ATV or a sleek motorcycle.  The kids got it!

Insight is the ability to "get it" - to have the faculty of seeing into the inner character or underlying truth of something.  Jesus used stories because those who really had not quite opened up to his teachings yet could "get it".  Before really giving their allegiance to Jesus and beginning to follow him with their hearts, not just their curiosity, he told them simple parables (stories) that "hit home" because they associated with the symbolism he used in those stories.  When speaking to farmers, he used farming terminology.  If he spoke to fishermen, he'd use the nets, boats, and fish to illustrate his point.

Jesus tells his disciples that he uses stories because those who are just curious about him don't really have the depth of insight into the truths he is sharing as well as the disciples did.  The disciples had the advantage of sitting at his feet, hearing from him day-after-day, and then seeing that knowledge put into action.  They "got it" because they had direct revelation from Jesus.  Today, we don't have the privilege of sitting at his feet (in the flesh) and seeing his ministry (in the flesh).  What we do have is his Spirit resident within us.  That Spirit is what brings insight - the ability to see the underlying truth.

There was a purpose for the stories - to nudge people toward readiness.  It was the stories that drew them in, gave them a taste of what life with him was really like, and kept them coming back for more.  It is that same "taste" of him that he tries to create when we "get" something that a pastor or teacher is bringing to us through the use of illustration, or stories.  It nudges us toward readiness to accept the truth that is being revealed.  We "connect" with the Word through the illustration - it brings insight in small measures that may have been hidden to us before.

We don't have to be ashamed of not "getting it" every time we go to the scriptures and seem to come away without any real nugget of truth that we held onto that day.  Maybe what we should do is turn to someone a little further along in their walk with Jesus and ask them what they see in the passage we read.  It is possible that they have a little insight we might benefit from.  Maybe we need to just "chew on it" a while, in time beginning to realize what it was that Jesus was telling us.  The disciples even had to do that!  In the obedience of taking the Word into our lives, we are being nudged toward readiness - the readiness of insight that leads to the readiness of obedience.

Nudges are gentle pushes that direct us toward something.  They are also used to get our attention when we aren't fully focused.  Whatever the purpose, they both serve to bring us to a place of readiness.  Whether we are being nudged awake today, or simply nudged a little further in our obedience, the intention is the same.  It is to bring us to a place where we are ready to take whatever next step Jesus has for us!  What nudges have you experienced lately?  It is likely that they are pointing you toward a specific action, or response.