Items filtered by date: May 2014 - Harris Creek Baptist Church
The parables of Jesus are some of the most famous teachings of Christ recorded in the gospels. In fact, one-third of Jesus' recorded teachings in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are parables. These particular teachings are so engrained in our understanding of who Jesus is and what he is all about that it's hard to fathom what our picture of Jesus would be like without these famous stories. Since most people are familiar with parables such as "The Good Samaritan" or the "Prodigal Son," we face a unique challenge today that Jesus' original audience did not face when studying these well-known stories: we are so familiar with the parables of Jesus that we're rarely shocked by the messages contained in them like we were when we first heard them told. Our challenge, as modern listeners, is to approach these parables with "fresh ears." In fact, Jesus says explicitly in Matthew 13:1-15 that "hearing" the message of truth contained in the parables is the purpose of these stories. In other words, he tells these stories to reveal a truth about God we otherwise would have missed. It's as Flannery O'Connor says: "When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock— to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."
In many cases, our personal legacies can dominate our thoughts, careers, and parenting. Sadly for others, little energy is spent processing what may be said of our lives after we die. We have a choice in working to develop our legacies as healthy trees or behave in such a way that they are reduced to gangly stumps. Either way, a remnant of our life's story will be left to observe by at least some in the years after we leave this life. God challenged the people of Judah along these lines. Their behavior over the generations had brought about a crucial crossroads as it related to their collective legacy. The prophet Jeremiah called out four behavioral traits that had led to their demise as a people. Fear, isolationism, selfishness, and worry were rampant in the heart of the nation. Those four traits can be resident in our lives today and can literally kill our personal legacies. However, the beauty of God is that He is a redemptive God. His grace can turn our stumps of fear, isolationism, selfishness, and worry into new life.
Worry and anxiety about the future is an inevitable part of life. Many times, the source of our worries is the trouble we are facing right in front of us; our worries for the future cripple us in the present. In Jesus' most famous discourse, known as "The Sermon on the Mount," he addresses the subject of worry. When talking about the subject, Jesus doesn't avoid the tough realities we will face in this life. In fact, he acknowledges that life is not always easy when he says, "Each day has enough trouble of its own." Yet even knowing the troubles we face, Jesus commands his disciples to rid themselves of worry. First, he does this to remind them that there is more to life than whatever we are currently worried about. Most often, we are worried about things "of this world" rather than things that are eternal, so Jesus is calling his disciples to have an eternal focus. He goes on to remind his listeners that God is control, which means we are not. When we believe this to be true, our worry boils down to us doubting the character of God. Ultimately, Jesus' teachings on worry remind us that there are two responses to challenges we will face in this life: worry or worship.
One of the most popular and critically acclaimed movies from the last year is Gravity. What may appear to some on the surface to be an action movie is actually a commentary on our current cultural climate that contains great truth. So many people in our world today are floating through space in isolation, many times because of tragedy and pain from our past. On top of that, we as a society have increasingly tried to replace faith with science, which ends up trivializing life. This is because faith in a higher power is an essential part of the human experience. When we try to explain away all of life through science and information, we lose our sense of wonder and our capacity for faith in God. Abraham Joshua Heschel says, "Awe, reverence precedes faith; it is at the root of faith. We must grow in awe in order to reach faith." Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:6- 7, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (emphasis added). Gravity gives us a great picture of why we need to be rooted, or grounded, in Christ and how this leads to thankfulness and strengthened faith.
Anytime we discuss the subject of how Christians should relate to the culture we live in, an important part of the conversation deals with our "posture." Posture, in physical terms, is the position your body assumes when you aren't paying attention. When thinking about this term in relation to how we interact with culture, posture can be the default attitude we have towards the world around us. In Culture Making, Andy Crouch defines the term by saying, "Our posture is our learned but unconscious default position, our natural stance." An important question is, "What should our posture towards culture be, as Christians?" The answer—possibly a frustrating one—is, "It depends." In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul assumes different postures depending on the context he finds himself in, and the same must be true of us. When it comes to our attitude towards movies like "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," it would be beneficial to assume a posture of openness and eagerness to learn. In this particular movie, it has an important message for Christians and non-Christians alike. It's a movie that reminds us about what's truly important in life and contains a message that echoes a truth found in Scripture.