Tag Archives: Parable

Christians and Pleasure

So I love this picture. It’s from the prohibition era, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s iconic for what I believe many people think of when they think of Jesus followers. We don’t cuss or chew, or go with girls who do.

In her book, “The Kindness of God” Janet Soskice writes about how when women have their first baby they tend to feel guilty about the amount of affection that they feel toward their child. They’ve never had an experience quite like this before and so sometimes they will struggle with guilt.

She wrote about how one woman found her devotional life in ruins after her first child. So she went to three different churches because she worried about her lack of time with God. One preacher told her to get up an hour earlier than the baby to pray with God, another preacher told her to have her husband watch the baby three times a week so she could make Mass, and another told her, “Don’t worry about that right now, the church is praying for you.”

All of that sounds like decent enough advice, but…

The problem is that none of it takes into account that perhaps the best way that this woman might experience life with God is through her baby.

Did you know that when a woman nurses, her body releases doses of oxycotin? So God wired mothers up, to where when they nurse their newborn it gives them neurochemicals that produce feelings of intimacy and deep affection. So much so, that in tests on rats, mother rats choose their newborns over cocaine.

Here’s the point…we have been taught to think of pleasure has something that we should feel guilty for, but God wired us up this way. Now there are ways that we can and have abused pleasure, it can, of course, make a great servant and a horrible master. But we must never forget pleasure was God’s idea.And if we let it, it doesn’t point away from Him, in fact, it does the opposite.

Here’s a question for you to chew on for a bit: Do you think that Jesus enjoyed life? I know that it was said the Messiah would be a man of sorrows, and certainly Jesus practiced heroic ways of withdrawing from the world as well. But the question remains: Did Jesus enjoy life? Because your answer to that question, as a follower of Jesus, will shape the way you approach your own. Continue reading Christians and Pleasure

The Next Christians and U2

So I’m on Sabbatical for the next few weeks from preaching. Leslie and I are so thankful for the wisdom of the Highland shepherds to work into every the rythymn of every year a season for rest and long term planning. We’ve spent the last few days with friends and family in Arkansas, swimming in rivers, shooting skeet and riding four wheelers…Yes I know, how very metropolitan of us.

But before this week, on the very first day of my sabbatical I got a chance to go to my first U2 concert. For over a decade I’ve listened to Bono sing about the Kingdom of God in sometimes cryptic and sometimes explicit ways. They are by far my favorite band, and Saturday night reminded me of why.

The faith of U2 has been the topic of a dozen books, and a thousand sermons. Bono has led the world in issues of justice and even said some very prophetic things to the leading powers of the world. He’s been espoused by people like Rick Warren as an authentic Jesus follower, and demonized by more conservative Christians who just couldn’t understand a “secular” rock star singing about Jesus stuff.

But that’s exactly what they are.

We live in such a superficial culture. If you ever doubt that, just TIVO the show Toddlers and Tiara’s one time. And it might be easy to try and write U2 off as one more example. But before the concert began we watched on the big screen statistics about world poverty, deaths from disease/poverty/abortion/war…which is not what you might expect before a rock concert. And yes, they were rock stars. Bono is the best showman I’ve ever seen. But it’s all connected to something larger. Continue reading The Next Christians and U2

Creating Parables

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time with a visionary guy who cares deeply about following Jesus, and being innovative. And he’s good at it. I’m talking, major music video producer, good at it. He’s produced just about everyone of Carrie Underwood’s videos, and interesting side note, he actually produced the Taylor Swift award winning video that Kayne West made such a fuss about at the awards ceremony. Continue reading Creating Parables

The Start of Our Stories

Last night on a flight to St. Louis I had a conversation with a very unique man. He was agnostic, and really, really interesting. He was the assistant Grand Marshall of Arms in D.C. And he had rubbed shoulders with the elite and powerful of this country.

When he asked me what I did for a living, the conversation turned toward the Bible. He knew the basic characters, and I guess was trying to be polite and make conversation. But then he said something that I felt needed a reply. He said he was glad that the Bible was around, it gives people something to strive for. But he could never be as good as those characters in the BIble.

So I told him that he already was.

And here’s what I mean by that: Continue reading The Start of Our Stories

How To Throw a Party

So this Saturday I went to the new Cowboys Stadium to see my Razorbacks beat the pants off of Texas A&M in the largest stadium known to man. People were cheering like we had won the national championship, at one point I hugged several total strangers. There was a drunk, fraternity guy in front of us we nicknamed Captain Affection, because he kissed several people, hugged everyone, and I think was eventually kicked out of the stadium. I thought the game was going to be the highlight of my week.

But I was wrong.

I will never forget yesterday’s church service. Even if I tried I don’t think it’s possible.

Sometimes the power of Scripture is lost because we have developed these creative hermeneutical loopholes that make the Bible about another world. We exegete and explain away passages that don’t fit what we are comfortable with. Especially with stories about God’s goodness.

Yesterday Atchley preached on the Prodigal Son. And his main point was that as scandalous as the Father accepting the son back was, people could have probably accepted it. It was after all the Father’s son coming home. But what was truly scandalous about this story is the way that the Father accepted the son back.

He threw a party.

This Father, who’d just taken a serious hit toward his net worth, dipped into the savings once more for his youngest son and threw a party. And not just any party. It was one for the entire family, for all the servants, and the entire village. The Father fed everyone, there was music and dancing (pay attention to those words) and for a moment everything was right in the world.

And so yesterday, RHCC did more than just tell this story. We practiced it.

We passed out 4,000 noisemaking, party favors. Had the Jr. High students re-teach us how to dance to the Happy Song, and bought cake for everyone. For an hour after the assemblies you could see people eating cake and hear those annoying birthday party noisemakers.

And it sounded like gospel noises.

I think this is perhaps the main thing that our Western churches are missing. We are anemic from lack of partying. We have bought into the idea that partying is a secular thing, and have made our churches just as somber and serious as we know how. So we read the Prodigal Son as if was about something other than the unbridled joy of God’s reconciling love. We leave the partying to the people who really don’t have that much to party about.

Soren Kierkegaard spoke about our trivial parties well:

“Last night I went to a party. Everyone admired my wit and
sophistication. All agreed that I was most entertaining. And
I returned to my apartment, closed the door, held a gun in
my hands and thought about ending my life.”

I want you to think about this. Most of the time in our world, parties have a hedonistic bent to them. That is to say, we party just to celebrate ourselves. So we party about the most meaningless things. I have seen grown men cry from joy because a man ran down the field with a ball made from pigskin, and celebrate something that will not matter in one week (this doesn’t apply to the Razorbacks, that was obviously quite important).

There’s a reason that a huge chunk of Jesus parables are about banquets, or weddings, the party scenes of his day. It’s because the Scriptures are trying to paint a hope for this world that is so big, so tremendous that it’s a heresy not to party.

Because what that Father did for the Prodigal Son, God is going to do for every single molecule of creation.

God is reconciling all things to Himself.

So we eat cake to celebrate the time drawing near where no one will be hungry. We make noise to celebrate the time when justice will roll forward like roaring waters. We dance because the Shalom, our “this-world made new” hope is coming. We party, to practice.

And with each movement toward drawing all things back to Himself, Heaven celebrates.

So our churches need to stop slaving. It’s time to join the party.

The Prodigal Baseball Player

The first time I had ever heard of Josh Hamilton I didn’t like him. I was at Wrigley Field, cheering on the Cubs as they led the Cincinnati Reds 3-1. My buddy, Michael Peters, was in the middle of explaining to me how Hamilton was a solid Christian, and God had delivered him from a self-inflicted hell of alcohol and drug abuse.

And about that time he hit a 3 shot, game-winning, home run.

Since then Hamilton has left the dark side. Joined the Rangers, become a Major League Baseball legend, as well as a rare role-model that little boys can look up to.

And then something happens.

Maybe you’ve heard already about Hamilton’s relapse. It happened back in January in Arizona. He went to a bar, one thing led to another, and within the last few hours pictures have surfaced all over the internet of him doing something that is less than honorable.

Be sure your sins will find you out, especially when there are poloroids.

But that’s not where this story stops. At least for me.

I know the power that addiction had over a person. From both personal experience and watching my close friends hurt themselves. And it’s easy to feign shock about someone making a tragic mistake like this, but in reality, anyone with a pulse knows what this is like.

We know what it’s like to do the very thing we hope we don’t do. Or not do the very thing that we want to do. And while some of us may not make the same mistakes that Mr. Hamilton has, I don’t think any of us want our worst struggles publicized.

One of the more famous stories that Jesus tells is the one about a Father with two sons. One goes away after shaming his Father, his family, and himself. The prodigal son runs away, he wanted to be free only to find out that he had always been his captor.

So the prodigal son comes home, the Father throws a party, and the older brother pouts.

But Jesus never says “The End” on that story does he? The story doesn’t resolve. There’s no fade to black. Instead, like most great stories, it is open-ended. It gives us a lens for how to view a reality that just keeps going.

So what if that prodigal son makes the same mistake again? What if he goes off again, drags his dad through the mud again? What if he abuses that same grace again? I think the story just starts over.

This is not to say that what God offers us is cheap grace, but the truth is that many times when we hear about stories like Mr. Hamilton’s our immediate reaction is much more like the older brother’s than the generous Father.

Maybe that’s why Jesus doesn’t tie the story up in a neat little bow. Maybe He knows that life doesn’t always end with the credits rolling at just the right time, and that none of our biographies tend to resolve the way we wish they would.

Because the Prodigal story happens every day. And there are followers of Jesus who consistently fall in the categories of each of the three characters Jesus tells us about.

Which brings me back to Josh Hamilton. This story is breaking, and I’m sure more details are yet to unfold. But as soon as he heard about the pictures he called a press conference and fully confessed to everything.

Which is not what MLB baseball players normally do.

The day after it happened back in January he told his wife, his team manager, and the MLB organization. And now, when the proverbial crap hits the fan, he already has a group of people standing behind him.

Donald Miller once said that when we make mistakes, God steps back and says, “Okay, let’s start there.” Because following Jesus is a process. Because life is open-ended. And because Egypt always looks better in hind-sight, maybe Josh Hamilton still is a good role-model.

But whether you want your kids to look up to him or not, beware of being the older brother.

Because like it or not, grace means, when someone returns to their senses they can always come home.