Thursday, December 13, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
We tend to make categories of people - usually they are described as some variant of either good or bad. The religious leaders were masters of such categorization! And Jesus constantly frustrated their categories.
Rather than “good or bad” Jesus shared with them the categories of “lost or found.” These categories seem similar, but upon closer inspection there is a world of difference between them - difference the Pharisees and other religious people could not accept.
- “Good or bad” puts all the emphasis on the moral choices and consequences of the individuals, while “lost and found” emphasizes the act of God in redeeming (reclaiming) his people!
- “Good or bad” focuses on the tragedy of being lost (which is true, but not the final word!), while “lost and found” rejoices in God’s gracious salvation!
- “Good or bad” seeks to codify the boundary between saints and sinners, while “lost and found” works tirelessly to cross the boundaries and encourage the lost to become found.
- “Good or bad” creates an atmosphere of moral and spiritual superiority which, of course, leads to arrogance and hypocrisy. “Lost and found” reminds us gently that we are all saved by the grace of God and we are in no way superior to others. Rather we are reminded that the greatest among us are the servants!
God is like a shepherd seeking his lost sheep, or a woman searching for her lost coin, or a father welcoming his wandering son home, not as a servant but as his son! We must become like that image of God.
Jesus tells three parables in response to Pharisees who complained that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them!” All the stories deal with something lost, but only as the prerequisite to the joy of being found! The contrast with the religious leaders could not be more stark: Jesus rejoiced with the sinners who were coming to God, while the religious people could only complain. Their identity was built in opposition to the people Jesus welcomed, rather than in their relationship with the father!
The father in this story had two sons, both of whom were separated from their father. The younger son was away from home, living in a far country - free from all restraint! (Except, of course, the restraint of hunger and no resources!) The older son still lived at home, but he was just as estranged from his father. Both boys did not know their father and their lives were impoverished as a result. The younger son was surprised at his father’s grace. The older son was surprised at what he considered his father’s foolishness - for grace always looks quite foolish!
Monday, April 09, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Monday, April 02, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Jesus offers a radically different approach to security. Jesus claims that being faithful to him brings security, while avoiding dangerous situations will not. Jesus claims that trusting God to provide for our needs will lead to security, while trusting our riches will not. Jesus claims that being watchful and ready for his return will provide security, while pursuing our selfish interests will not. Jesus claims that choosing to follow him even when it puts us at odds with those we love will make us secure, while following those we love in rejecting Jesus will not. Jesus claims that keeping our relationships honest and peaceful, as far as it is possible from our side, will lead to security, while defending our pride will not.
It takes faith to trust that Jesus is right about the source of our true security. We tend to trust things we can touch and hold in our hands. Jesus says those are the very things that will fail us. You will trust something for your security, the only question is “Will you trust Jesus?”
The most obvious test of your concept of God is simply looking closely at your life. If we are serious about following God then our lives tend to become like God and his commands.
If our lives are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness then we know that God is living in us and our concept of God is consistent with Scripture.
However, if our lives are full of strife, sorrow, impatience, rudeness, evil, unfaithfulness, self-indulgence and harshness then we have either failed in following Jesus, or we have lived up to a faulty concept of God.
One reason the Pharisees and Jesus clashed so often is that they both lived faithfully to their concepts of God. Jesus’ God was a loving Father who wants relationship with all his children. The Pharisees had an image of God as a strict, exclusive, demanding, angry Ruler. They became like their image of God. So did Jesus. So will you!
Often the people who most need to hear the message of the kingdom are those who think they are already close to God! This may come as a surprise, but assumed righteousness is an effective mask to real relationship with God. Therefore, disciples must continually choose to accept the kingdom and not think they have already arrived in God’s image. Here are some common obstacles to accepting the kingdom…
· Thinking that working FOR God is the same as knowing God.
· Confusing observation of the world with revelation from God.
· Thinking knowing God’s will is the same as doing God’s will.
· Unwillingness to resist the good to embrace the best.
Jesus does not give all people the same prescription for their spiritual growth. To some (like the scribe who questioned him concerning "who is my neighbor?") he says, “Go and do.” To others, (like Martha who was complaining that she was stuck doing all the cooking while Mary was just sitting down on the job), he says, “Sit and listen.”
Which should we do? Probably BOTH!