the reckless dad

‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: Theology (page 1 of 3)

Something Different

I’m sitting in the lobby of the YMCA right now having finished an abbreviated work out due to waking up late. Sipping on some of their free coffee, taking a moment to read the Bible. At my church (Grace Orlando) we are studying the parables and last week we studying the parable of the Prodigal Son. 

One of my favorite. 

While there are many parallels to my life and that parable that I could draw, what strikes me this morning is my tendency to tell God what the true nature of my relationship with him is. When the son came to his senses and returned home he says to his father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Like he knows better where he belongs in relationship to his father. The father ignores his comment, hugs him and throws a giant party… overjoyed that his lost son has returned. 

When will I learn God treats me the same way? He isn’t concerned with what I think my identity in relation to him is… he’s only concerned with what he knows my relationship with him to be. God is the source of my identity as my creator, father and savior. Doesn’t his perception of who I am trump my perception, especially considering mine is marred and broken by sin?

There are many lessons to learn from this parable, but the most critical of those lessons is almost lost thanks to the name we have given it, the Prodigal Son. This implies the son is the pivotal character is this story. 

Not so. 

This is the third parable Jesus tells about something that was lost. The lost sheep, the lost coin and in both precious stories the central figure is the one who lost and then searched incessantly, unendingly for the lost item. For the item of incomparable value to them. In the story of the prodigal, the father is searching… waiting… watching for his son’s return so when he spots him far off he runs, undignified, to meet him. 

The central lesson of this story is God searches us. He finds us. He brings us to him. No matter what I have done or who I have become, God has found me. 

He throws a party and rejoices saying, my son who was lost is found, who was dead is now alive.  

Captivity

ColossiansThis morning I was reading Colossians 2 and verse eight stood out to me. This verse has been highlighted in my Bible for years now. Many years ago, as I spoke with a friend who was leaving his wife this passage came to my attention as my friend used all manner of worldly thinking and ideology to justify and explain to me why he had suddenly lost interest and was no longer in love with his wife. He used philosophy and so-called wisdom based on the elemental principles of the world as his basis for why what he was doing was not only ok to do, but the only right thing to do. I believe was taken captive by a philosophy which was unable to provide any legitimate substance or foundation for rational thinking.

We have to tendency to lean towards philosophies or ways of thinking that allow us to justify our actions. We tend to use our desires and actions to interpret Scriptures, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret how we should live. This is what my friend did. This is why Paul cautions us to not be taken captive by hollow, empty, deceitful philosophy. That sentence was very loaded. Let me try to break it down.

Paul warns us to not be taken captive. In the original Greek language, which Paul would have written this, the idea is to not be robbed. He says, look out, keep watch so that you may not be robbed. Don’t let your clear, rational thinking be taken captive or robbed from you. Do not let your thought processes be hijacked and stolen from you. Use your critical thinking and rational thought skills (which I would argue are inherent, built-in aspects of our existence thanks to being made ‘in the image of God’ who possesses critical thinking and rational thought) to see through the empty philosophy.

Paul says, what has taken us captive is empty or hollow. The word is empty, meaning there is nothing to it. No substance. Hollow. Valueless, no merit, nothing inside. As I glance across my desk I see my coffee mug. It is empty. There is nothing inside it. Right now, that has no value. It has nothing in it. At 0646, the mug might as well be dead to me. The mug has zero value to it, because the value it brings is contingent upon Empty mugwhat fills it. Philosophy, a word we get by through the combining of one of the Greek words for ‘love’ and the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, so the loving of wisdom must have substance to it. The philosophy or the train of thinking about wisdom have be full of something, not hollow or it is useless.

Paul goes on to describe the philosophy which has taken us captive as deceitful. In the original Greek text, the words empty and deceit follow each other. The text literally reads, empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world. There is much here, but I want to focus on the deceitful aspect. What makes it deceitful? Its emptiness. The fact that it is hollow and promises what it can not deliver. Just like my coffee mug is deceiving into thinking it has value, when it does not because it is empty. So is the philosophy which has bewitched us. It promises big, but delivers nothing. It is deceit because it has no value or substance to it.

It would be presumptuous for me to speak for you, but I don’t want to be taken captive by anything let alone anything which is empty or hollow. Imagine waking up one day, years from now and realizing you have been chasing a hollow, empty dream. Your whole life, everything you put into that pursuit is wasted, all for nothing. Paul is giving us a wake up call to pay attention to the things we place our trust in and what we rely on. Are we trusting in philosophies which are empty and deceitful because they are empty? Are we placing our trust in something of value, something which is not empty? Clearly, Paul is making a subtle argument for placing one’s faith and trust in God and relying on him to find the values and meaning we need to navigate through life. Trust in God is the only thing in the end providing the lasting meaning we crave. There is no other philosophy or tradition providing meaning and purpose equal to what God provides, because God has no equal.

We need to heed the warning and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by empty, deceitful philosophy. We need to place our faith, hope and trust in God each day. We need to allow the Word of God to light our path and direct our steps. (Bet you didn’t expect a theology lesson this morning!)

What empty, deceitful philosophy do you let creep in and distract you?

Bible is lightsaber

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Dis-Connected

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I was beginning my journey through Bible college and into ministry in the mid to late nineties, which means the seeker-sensitive movement was really big in churches. I’ve never been much of a supporter of the seeker movement. Truthfully, I thought it really missed the mark.

On the tail end of the seeker movement, postmodernism swept in. It’s almost as though the seeker movement was the last ditch effort of modernity to keep a foothold…

I bought the postmodern mindset hook, line and sinker. I would like to think I was ahead of time in this… but unfortunately my journey kept me out of the limelight and off center stage of this discussion. Despite that, I have believed for years people desperately want to be connected. This is one of the things defining the postmodern mindset, the need to feel connected, to have relationships, to be in community, to be a part of something.

This is a universal truth about human beings. This is why I bought the postern thinking, it was one of the first church growth perspectives that took seriously the basic need of humans to connect with each other.

We all want to belong. We all want to be a part of something. We all crave a family, a place where we matter… a place where we mean something to someone. In Genesis God said ‘Let us make man in our image’ (emphasis added), indicating God himself has a communal dynamic to his personality. I would argue, this communal dynamic is the part of his image we are created in which causes us to crave interaction and community with others. So when I say it is a universal truth, I mean to say I believe it is hard-wired into every human being to connect with others.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of this. I was at a meeting for child welfare workers and a new mentor program was being presented by the host of the meeting. In speaking about the mentoring program, she said, ‘the boys in foster care especially are looking for someone to hang out with them.’ I thought, she is dead on. They want someone to hang out wight hem, because this is what we all want at our deepest core of who we are as humans. We want to be connected.

When we are disconnected it feels wrong. It feels out of place.

Numerous musician-theologians over the years have keyed in on this fundamental design within us. We desperately desire to be connected. This is why we must take seriously verses like James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Orphans and widows have a difficult time being connected due to a loss of their primary method of connection – family. Jesus calls us to be family to those who don’t have family. It is our responsibility as Christ-followers to help those who are disconnected to connect. Of created us for connection, for community.

There is no greater act of love we can show those who are disconnected but to connect with them and become the family they are missing.  Without community we can’t survive. Literally, our physical and neurological bodies crave the stimulation that can only be had from others.

What are you doing to connect and create community with others?

Where am I Leading Us?

When as a church leadership you decide to take your church on a journey through confirming vision/mission/purpose and doctrine/theology; you have to confirm your own thought and positions. The leadership team (pastors and myself) has begun the journey of discussing where each of us stand on what we have determined to be the essentials.

This has been a tremendous experience because it has forced me to rethink and remember why it is that I hold the positions that I do. This has led to an intense time of study in which I have been reminded of where my positions have come from. Sounds simple enough, right?

This leads me to my next thought… how can you lead when you don’t know where you are going? Obvious answer, you can’t.

As a church leader I have enjoyed rekindling and remembering the why and how of where I stand.

Let me give an example –

Here are some ‘bottom line’ type stuff we are talking through:

  • We believe that humanity, both men and women, were created in the image of God and designed to be His image bearers on this earth.
  • We believe that our first parents sinned against God and that everyone since is a sinner by nature and by choice. Sin has totally affected all of creation including marring human image and likeness so that all of our being is stained by sin (e.g. reasoning, desires, and emotions), making us incapable of coming to Christ apart from His grace.
  • We believe that because all people have sinned and separated themselves from the Holy God that He is obligated to save no one from the just deserved punishments of hell. We also believe that God in His unparalleled love and mercy has chosen to elect some people for salvation.
  • We believe that the salvation of the elect was predestined by God in eternity past.

There are a few words in there that upon first reading scared me a little. Ok, scared me a lot.

So what did I do? I went back to the Scriptures, back to sources I trusted and find out why those words scared me and if they should even scare me at all. As it turns out, they shouldn’t scare me. The words that scared me are biblical words used in Scripture to speak of something specific and to describe the work that God is doing in my life and in the life of the rest of humanity.

Why was I scared? Because I had forgotten why I understood and believed what I do. I had forgotten the biblical nature of the words. I had forgotten where I came from.

This is dangerous. I had a bible college professor who used to say, “Don’t believe something because I tell you it is true, believe it because you study the bible and know it to be true.” Excellent advice. It is dangerous for us to take a stand that we don’t understand. It is dangerous for us to assume what we believe is true if we can’t back it up using Scripture. It is dangerous for us to get complacent in our theology/doctrine/beliefs that we forget the why. The book of Jude reminds us to earnestly contend for our faith, which is a call to know not just what we believe, but why.

I am glad that we have been chasing down the essentials. Now I remember why my essentials are essential to me.

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