Items filtered by date: July 2014 - Harris Creek Baptist Church
Parables have the ability to reach a wide audience because they are stories that have multiple layers to them. There's the more obvious surface layer to every parable, but there's also often a deeper meaning in these memorable stories, particularly in the parables of Jesus. That is certainly the case with the parable found in Luke 18:1-8. On the surface, it might appear that Jesus is addressing the issue of prayer, or perhaps even the need for persistence on our part. In fact, Luke 18:1 plainly says, "Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." However, by the time we get to the end of the parable, we see that Jesus is addressing a deeper issue than what we see on the surface. While persistence in prayer is the "symptom" Jesus is speaking to, the deeper disease he is addressing is a lack of faith based on a distorted view of God amongst his followers. In his book Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, Henri Nouwen probably does the best job of capturing what Jesus is saying in this parable. Nouwen says, "Trust in God allows us to live with active expectation, not cynicism. When we view life as a gift, as something given to us by a loving God, not wrestled by us from an impersonal fate, we remember that at the heart of reality rests the love of God itself. This means that faith creates in us a new willingness to let God's will be done. The word so often translated faith in the New Testament comes from an ancient word that literally means 'trust.' Faith is the deep confidence that God is good and that God's goodness somehow triumphs."
The parables of Jesus are stories Jesus used from everyday life to explain abstract spiritual truths and ideas. The truths Jesus proclaims in these parables are timeless truths; however, the stories are also rooted in a particular time, culture, and context. Often times, this means the reader must become a student of Jesus' culture in order to understand the timeless truths he is communicating. This is particularly the case in "The Parable of the Ten Virgins" in Matthew 25. There are even a few wedding customs Jesus casually mentions in this parable that we know very little about today. Despite the cultural gaps we may encounter in this story, the overall message is clear: what we do in this life matters eternally. In his book In Light of Eternity, Randy Alcorn says it this way: "This life is the headwaters out of which life in heaven flows. Eternity will hold for us what we've poured into it during our lives here. Your God-given resources of time and talents and money and possessions are the lever, positioned on the fulcrum of this life, that moves the mountains of eternity. When you see today in light of the long tomorrow, even the little choices become tremendously important." In this parable, Jesus reminds us of the importance of preparing for eternity by the way we live here and now.
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a parable describing what the Kingdom of God is like. Often times, the "Kingdom of God," or the "Kingdom of Heaven," comes across as a lofty and abstract idea to modern-day readers. This is because we rarely use the word "kingdom" any longer in everyday language. Add on top of that the idea of talking about a heavenly kingdom, it can make this phrase seem less real than any earthly kingdom we think of. Despite our misconceptions of it, the Kingdom of God is, in fact, a real kingdom where there is real citizenship; and, as we see in Matthew 20, God's Kingdom openly challenges our present world in ways that tend to make us uncomfortable. "The Parable of the Generous Employer" is a story describing how the economy of grace works. The economy of grace confronts the ideals we carry around of what is fair, what is right, and what we think we deserve based on our efforts. In his book What's So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey says, "Grace cannot be reduced to generally accepted accounting principles. In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word deserve does not even apply." That is one reason why this parable in Matthew 20 forces us to decide whether we want to be citizens in God's Kingdom, or if we actually prefer to keep our citizenship in the kingdoms of this world.
In his book Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull (the founder and CEO of Pixar Studios) talks about the fact that, when creating art, every human being has to overcome inaccurate versions of images we carry around in our head if we want to create realistic art. In talking about this challenge, he says, "It is a fact of life, though a confounding one, that focusing on something can make it more difficult to see. The goal is to learn to suspend, if only temporarily, the habits and impulses that obscure your vision." What Catmull says about art is true for us spiritually, as well. We naturally carry around a bunch of inaccurate pictures in our head of what true life is all about, how to find fulfillment, and even the concepts we have of God. In fact, some of our preconceived images we possess are some of the primary barriers that keep us from accurately reproducing the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. Perhaps that is one reason why Jesus taught in parables: he wanted to help us learn to suspend any habits that obscure our vision of the Kingdom. To say it another way, he wanted to help us "learn to see." One of Jesus' greatest and most effective ways of doing this is found in parables like the "twin parables" in Matthew 13:44-46. He turns our worldview upside down so that we can see more clearly and hopefully more accurately reproduce the Kingdom in our daily lives.
At the end of Luke 14, we find a bold lesson on discipleship coming from Jesus, including a curious parable about a tower builder. If someone were going to build a tower, the project would surely begin with an initial assessment of cost to make certain the task could be completed. Speaking to a large crowd of curious observers, Jesus offered words of instruction about the cost of being a disciple, a devoted follower. From the parable (and the surrounding passages), we are reminded of God's devotion to finish what He started no matter the cost, but we are also invited to consider our own involvement in the grandest building project: the restoration/redemption of creation. The choice is up to us: Will we decide to trust the Lord daily and submit ourselves to be fully devoted to God?