Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt.6 "celebration"

Going through the three stories Jesus tells in Luke 15 he illustrates the longing of God for all people to come to repentance, for all people to truly bear his image and bring healing to the brokenness of the world. That is the role the "body of Christ" should be living out today, bringing liberation to the oppressed, Jesus was doing that by going to the outcasts in Israel. Heaven in the meanwhile was rejoicing to see humanity grasp what is truly life. Sin is a cruel master to serve but "if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed"(John 8:36).
  All three parables conclude with a scene of celebration and this is the eager anticipation for Christians today.The prophet Isaiah gives to us a glimpse of that day "On this mountain  Yahweh Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Yahweh will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. Yahweh has spoken"(Isaiah 25:6-8). We have here just a faint glimpse of the resurrection day, yet taken with the other passages in the Bible of that day we find a time of celebration, renewal, transformation, removal of the old order of things, also of judgement, and the justice that creation longs for. The Messiah Jesus will appear as Savior, but also as Judge to all who love the corruptible things in this world,to all who oppress people through the love of power and those who continue to mar the image of their Creator, for these they will experience the "second death"(Revelation 21:8). The Lord is patient toward us however and desires that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).So let the church be about Kingdom work! Let us show unity to this world, healing to the hurting, relief to those in need, food to those who are hungry, new life with God through Jesus. A celebration is coming, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.(Revelation 22:20)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt. 5 "reconciliation"

The story Jesus tells in Luke 15 continues to unfold paralleling the good news of how God has worked within history to reconcile humanity to himself. We are shown a beautiful scene of reconciliation as the father receives home his son. The "best robe" is given to his son, sandals are placed upon his feet, and a ring placed upon his finger, probably the "family signet ring" bearing the seal of the family. There is complete restoration. Jesus in going to the "sinners" in Israel is carrying out that which God delights in, bringing people back into what it means to truly be human, to truly bear the image of God.
  God said long ago through a man named Ezekiel that "do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?(Ezekiel 18:23) Heaven rejoices when reconciliation takes place. Jonah in the Bible was a man that God told to go to Nineveh, that was the capital of Assyria, the enemies of Israel, Jonah was displeased with this calling and went the opposite way. God was able to get Jonah's attention however as he was swallowed by a great fish, its sad that usually at this point people spend more time debating wether a fish can swallow a man or not than noticing the great theme of the book. The great story is that God delighted in compassion, Nineveh was rushing headlong into its own downfall from depraved living, something Jonah seemed to welcome, rather God desired their reformation, their transformation, finding new life in him.
 Jesus died to bring us back to God. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel"(Colossians 1:21-23). We are like the son in the parable reconciled to our Father, clothed with the robe of Christ in baptism, reconciled to live kingdom life for God.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt.4 "fullness of grace"

As the story of the prodigal son unfolds the son "came to his senses". He had left his fathers home squandered his inheritance, shamed himself and his family and now found himself dependent on a citizen of that country for basic survival. He wants to go home, he wants to embrace his father again, he longs for the community of his family, at this point he is in a world where "no one is giving him anything". And so he resolves to go home not expecting at all to be received well by his father just hoping to be given the status of a "hired man", literally a "day laborer".
 Yet to his surprise his father sees him "while he was still a long way off", and the father runs to him to embrace him. In Jesus' first century culture grown men did not run,it was considered disgraceful, yet Jesus paints a picture in which this man runs to embrace a son who has shamed the family image. Complete grace shown by this father, again in this story we parallel the theme of the Bible. God has acted in history to demonstrate his love for us and make his grace apparent.
  The story of Israel comes to its culmination when Jesus comes into this world, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 12:3 to be a blessing for all nations of the earth. Jesus comes to "shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace". Jesus the messiah, is the reason for the fullness of the grace God extends to us. He upon that roman cross endured our exile of sin when he said those words "my God, my God why have you forsaken me?"(Matthew 27:46). All the evil of this world focused its energy upon the "sinless one" it was indeed the hour when "darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53). Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:14). Like the prodigal son we have received this fullness of grace not to take and keep to ourselves but to live among this world in a way that shares it with our community in our words our actions our entire lives.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prodigal Son pt.3 "redemption"

The parables that Jesus taught in Luke 15 continue to parallel the Biblical drama of history: creation, fall, and now God acts within history to redeem the creation back to Himself. In the parables the shepherd goes to search for the one lost sheep, the woman sweeps the house looking for the lost coin and the father sees his son a "long way off". You get the idea that the father had on many occasions scanned the horizon  hoping to see his son return.
 In the Bible, God calls a man named Abraham in Genesis and says to him that "all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you".And from that point forward this family is the primary focus of the Biblical narrative both the good and the bad. God is setting about to redeem back to Himself the humanity that He loves even working through the broken images of Himself to accomplish this goal. He gives to Israel a Law in order to set them apart from all other nations to retain a true knowledge of God among them. And the history of Israel is filled with redemptive scenes that begin to anticipate the great redemption that will come in the Messiah. God is taking the role of the shepherd seeking his lost sheep, the woman sweeping, looking everywhere for the lost coin and the father who is scanning the horizon hoping to see a returning son.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt.2 "broken image"

The stories that Jesus told in Luke 15 begin with as we noticed in the first part of the series that something of great value exists, the lost sheep for the shepherd, the lost coin for the woman and the son that goes away is dearly loved by the father. The Bible begins with in its first scene God delights in His creation, God creates, we are told, male and female in His own image. Humanity is to be the image bearers of God. What does that entail completely? I certainly don't fully understand myself, though I fully believe it involves demonstrating the attributes of God in how we live. "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him". (1 John 4:16).
 We see in the parable however that the son ,who would naturally bear his father's image, begins with his actions to break and mar that image. The son says to the father to give him his share of the inheritance, he is basically saying to his father "I wish you were dead". Then he takes his share and goes off to a "far country" and squanders it with "wild living". He then after spending everything is reduced to dependence upon a citizen of that land, and is given the work of feeding his pigs, then becomes so hungry himself he hungers for the food they are eating.
 In a similar way Adam and Eve break the image they were to bear, Cain shortly after murders his brother, the earth in Noah's day becomes filled with violence, and so forth we see evil befall human nature. In our own day we still live in a broken world, a world that needs the healing message of Jesus. It is a world that God seeks to redeem that God still loves, a world itself that God is willing to bear the pain of Himself. "this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9).

Monday, February 20, 2012

'The Prodigal Son" pt.1

When Jesus used story to illustrate what was happening in His own ministry in Luke 15, it was a story that really summarizes the entire narrative of the Bible. To begin with in the three parables of Luke 15 something of great value exists. The shepherd of the first parable places enough value on the one lost sheep to go and search for it, the woman places a important value on the lost coin in the second parable, and climatically the father in the third parable loves the son immensely.
 Similarly as we look at the Bible as a whole something of great value exists to God, His creation. In the opening scenes of Genesis, God speaks His creation into being commenting on each day that it was "good" but after the creation of male and female he says His creation is "very good" in chapter 1:31. God Himself delights in humanity, and it is evident that He delights in His entire creation as we see the beautiful diversity of the animal and plant life in this world. In Proverbs chapter 8 "wisdom" is poetically spoken of as being along side God in creation as a "craftsman" and in verse 31 it says "rejoicing in His whole world and delighting in mankind".
 God places an infinite value on His creation. We read of Him interacting with humanity and inhabiting His creation in Genesis 3:8, He is walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
 So as Jesus begins His story of redemption in Luke 15, He establishes that God delights in His creation as the father loves his son in the parable and the "sinners" that He is going to and "eating with" are a part of that creation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I have been reading the parable of the "Prodigal Son" the last few days. It is probably the most famous of all the parables Jesus told. The reason for the story is that the scribes and Pharisees were criticizing Jesus for eating with the "sinners".So Jesus tells this memorable story to show that His celebrating the kingdom of God with the outcasts was an earthly reflection of a heavenly reality, He says "there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents".The whole story is about forgiveness and healing. The father of the prodigal son celebrates his sons return home there is music and dancing, the best robe is put on the son, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. What a marvelous picture is presented to us. And I have come to realize that we are never more like God Himself than when we show forgiveness and mercy to other people. Micah the old testament prophet says of God that He "delights to show mercy".How can we show mercy how can we live out this kind of forgiveness in our own lives today, what will it look like?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Gospel

What thoughts conjure in your mind when you hear the word "gospel"? For the early Christians the "gospel" meant the biography of Jesus of Nazareth. From as early as the second century the Christians were referring to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the "gospel".The title pages of these ancient writings were referred to as "the gospel according to..." They saw these writings as four accounts of the one "gospel". They were all about what Jesus began to do and teach and they culminate in his death, burial, resurrection and commission to his disciples. The "gospel" is the good news that God has acted in His creation in Jesus to redeem His creation and to bring His kingdom. I hope you read the biography of Jesus  in a new way and seek to follow Him.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Reading through the Old Testament prophets I am impressed with the visions of "hope" that reverberate throughout the writings. Jeremiah can find hope even amid the desolations of Jerusalem (Lamentations 3:21-23). The exiles are given a message of "hope", "say to the captives,"Come out" and to those in darkness, "be free".He who has compassion on them will guide them, and lead them beside springs of water.(Isaiah 49:8-23) "those who hope in Me will not be disappointed".
 The hope that is expressed is in God who seeks to liberate the oppressed, the God who acts within His creation to bring justice and renewal. "Hope" is to me one of the most beautiful of words because of the idea that is contained within it. It carries the idea of anticipation, a glorious outlook, a change in condition for the better. Hope generates newness out of the bleakest of circumstances, it gives reason to live in a transforming way today.
 We live in "hope". Paul speaks of the "faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for us in heaven"(Colossians 1:5). We have hope because of God acting within history through Jesus, shouldering upon Himself our exile of sin, through His life, death, resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit. He has ushered in His Kingdom and given us a foretaste of the new creation. We like those prophets of old have hope, and we look and live for the day when He says " I am making everything new."