Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Verse for the Week

And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' ~ Luke 15:31-32 (ESV)

One of Jesus' better known parables tells the story of the prodigal son. The younger of two sons asks for his share of the inheritance from his still-living father, only to party it away with fair-weather friends in a foreign country. A famine strikes and the prodigal is reduced to slopping hogs and is soon hungry enough to join them at the trough. Then he comes to his senses, realizes that his father's workers have plenty to eat, and decides to go home, confess his sin and work as a hired hand. As he approaches home, his father sees him coming and runs out to meet him. The lost son has returned. A celebration ensues and everyone is happy. Well, not everyone.

The eldest son enters the picture again. At the time of the dividing of the inheritance, the story tells us that the father "divided his property between them". So the elder son had also received his share of the inheritance. But now he is angry. He stayed and worked the fields, doing all that his father asked him to, but with no reward or thanks. Now his irresponsible brother comes home after wasting all his money and there's a party thrown for him. Is he justified in his anger?

Not really. His father's words to him, given in our verse above, show the true picture. "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." The elder brother, though living in his father's household and sharing in all the blessedness of it, was as oblivious to the grace of his position as was the younger brother. At least the younger brother, via hardship, had finally come to his senses. The elder brother daily shared in his father's love, but didn't see it or appreciate it. How short-sighted. How tragic.

Jesus told this parable to some strictly religious Jews who were unhappy that Jesus was willing to associate with the sinners who were coming to him. They were the elder brother in the story, unable to see or to share in the grace of the father, and angry when he accepted those who did.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Verse for the Week

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
~ Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)

The words of Isaiah were claimed by Jesus and wherever his name is exalted, freedom follows.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Verse for the Week

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." ~ Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV)

And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." ~ John 1:32-34 (ESV)

Yesterday was the day in the church calendar set aside to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus. This is an important event for us because it marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on earth. Jesus’ message to the people was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” He could say this because he himself came from heaven. God the Father set his seal of approval on Jesus and spoke from heaven. This event is recorded in Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and all of the accounts match closely. In the Gospel of John, however, we get the story from the point of view of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist came from out of the wilderness and his message was the same as Jesus’ message, although he preached it first – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” John was told by God the Father to baptize the people who turned to the Lord and repented. He was also told that, while baptizing, the Son of God would be revealed to him. The Father revealed the Son to Israel through his baptism. He used baptism as a mark of identification for Jesus. As Christians, we still practice baptism as the symbol of identification with Christ. It is the outward sign of an inward change.

Baptism didn’t make Jesus the Son of God, but revealed him as the Son of God. So baptism doesn’t give us faith in Christ, but reveals to those around us that we have put our faith in Christ. But baptism in water is also a picture of a much deeper identification with Christ. Water baptism is symbolic of our deep union with Christ through faith. A union so deep that Christ’s death becomes our death and his life becomes our life. The old way of life for us was buried with Christ. The power of the resurrection gives us the power to live new lives, lives of devotion to God rather than devoted to sin.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Verse for the Week

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:23-25 (ESV)

Jesus did not need the assistance of a psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, poet laureate or bartender to understand the inner workings of the human mind. He knew people, inside and out. Nor did he need to gain the approval or affirmation of the masses to carry out his task since he did not suffer from low self esteem or insecurity. Instead, from his position of strength, he came to alleviate the deepest need of humanity - estrangement from God the Father.