Help Our Way

The parable that follows is one that I stumbled upon recently. (I could find no attribution.) You may have read it before, but I challenge you to read it through the lens of your present circumstance and prayers. A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately. A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will save me.” The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.” As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.” The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!” The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop. A helicopter spotted him...

Be Content – Identity and the Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. – Exodus 20:17 The Ten Commandments, given to the Israelites so they would remember their identity as the people of God, are related to us twice in the Old Testament. First in Exodus 20 and then again in Deuteronomy 5. They are identical with one curious exception. When giving justification for keeping the Sabbath, in the Exodus passage God refers back to the creation and in the Deuteronomy passage God reminds then of the source of their newly experienced freedom. This gives us two important reminders about our identity. First, we were created to see our self as God’s. Our sense of self being defined in that way. Our lives have meaning in communion with our Creator. No other source of value will fit or satisfy. Second, our identity as God’s is the source of freedom. Security for our self is found in God’s unchanging nature. We do not have to produce or consume to be valuable, that is an intrinsic part of who we are. I mention that here because the last commandment is one that consumes our culture. Our entire economy is based on breaking the commandment. Advertising targets this part of our false self. Remember the three questions of identity? (see Why Do We Adopt an Identity?) The answers to these questions are where we get our false sense of value from: What do I do? – What do I have? – What do people think...

Sabbath – Identity and the Fourth Commandment

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. – Exodus 20:8 – 11 Work is not a curse, it a part of the image of God we bear. For the first man and woman in the garden, work was an expression of their communion with the Creator. Part of the reflection of his glory to the world. But for a people who were in the midst of exiting slavery, work would not have felt like a gift or a product of design, but rather a death sentence. So, God reminded the Israelites that He set the standard for work. In the days of creation. Then He introduced Sabbath, a day of rest that would have been startling to a person who had spent their entire life in slavery. God created the rhythm of work and rest. Yet, in the garden, at the fulcrum event of the Fall, mankind’s relationship with work changed. Rather than responding, the creation was not going to fight back. There was going to be pain and toil. Mankind was also going to look to work...

An Encounter with the Older Son

In Luke 15 we find one of the most memorable stories of our faith, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Chances are, even if you are not an avid church goer, you have heard of or read this story. The younger son wants identity outside of the father’s household – he lives to satisfy the false self. So, this son pursues a life that seeks wholeness apart from the father and his standards. Yet, this path ends with the son becoming aware of his own brokenness and his lack of satisfaction. Within it are many of the qualities that make following Jesus unique – grace, God’s faithfulness, mercy, and covering to name just a few. What makes this story of God so beautiful is that it is the father – the father who was wronged, disgraced, and sinned against – who waits for the son. The father runs to the exhausted, repentant son. The father forgives. The father provides the sacrifice. The father declares righteous. The father clothes. The father celebrates. There is an oft overlooked character in this parable. He is treated as an insignificant addendum. The older son. The one who will inherit all that is left. What if the father had left him in charge and given him the ability to speak on his behalf. How would the parable be different if these two brothers had interacted directly? Adapting their words from the text of the parable: Prodigal: “I have sinned against heaven and before our father. I am no longer worth to be called his son.” Older: “Look these many years I have served him, and never disobeyed his command, yet he has never given me a young goat, that I...

The Question to Ask

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 This verse is delivered by Paul in the context of discussing the eating of meat that has been sacrificed to idols. The Corinthians wanted to know if this was a problem for the follower of Christ who does not believe in, follow, nor derive wholeness from the idol. For us and our post-christian culture the thought behind this question is still relevant and crucial. It could be phrased like this: Can I participate in trick-or-treating? Is it OK to go to that movie? Can I wear that bikini at the beach? And there are numerous other situations in which the question could be asked. We like black and white answers. A clear right and wrong. But, unfortunately Paul seems to paint with a lot of gray on his brush. The answer is that we have a great amount of liberty in Christ. There is nothing inherently wrong with going to people’s doors and asking for candy. Or wearing a particular bathing suit. Yet, there is a further, deeper consideration. As believers, we are all interconnected. This is the premise that what I do as part of the body can have real – even if unintended – consequences to other parts of the body. We need to live in awareness of this interconnection. Paul reiterates this idea in Romans 14:1 – 12. So, is it OK to eat the meat sacrificed to idols? Well, yes it is. Christ is the fulfillment of the law. Yet the reality is –...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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