In Luke chapter 15 Jesus tells three parables involving the loss and recovery of precious items. One of those is the story we know as the parable of the prodigal son. Before we begin it is important to understand something about servants in the Jewish household in the time of Jesus.
There were three types of servants employed by Jewish estates. The first was a bondservant: which was treated like a family member, they ate with the family, dressed well, and were given responsibility to conduct the affairs of the estate. Bondservants hired household servants, who also lived in the home, but ate separately and were not treated as family members. Household servants were the cooks, maids, personal attendants, gardeners, etc for the family; doing the bulk of the day-to-day work of the estate. Hired servants or hired men, were per-Diem workers brought in on an as-needed basis and paid their days wages at the end of each day. Typically a full-day worker would be fed at mid-day. These workers helped at harvest time or to accomplish some major task. They were disposable workers.
Although most Bible translations do not use the word “prodigal” (which means “reckless or wild spending”) this title has become common for this parable. Whether we refer to him as the prodigal son or the lost son, it is unfortunate that we look to the younger son as being the topic of this story; for indeed Jesus intended it to be about the gracious and forgiving father. He was using the parable to illustrate why He was associating and eating with sinners, a practice that incensed the Pharisees.
A rich man had two sons. The younger son demanded his share of the family wealth. This was an audacious demand! He was, in effect, telling his father “I wish you were dead”, because family fortunes were not normally distributed until the father was dead or close to it. This one was very much alive. This had to hurt the father. Continue reading Points to Ponder On the Prodigal Son
In Luke 14: 26-33 Jesus is telling the throng of people who were following Him around to count the cost of discipleship. They were claiming to be devoted to Him but He knew their motivation.
By this time the crowds had seen Him heal many hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who had been diseased, crippled, or demon possessed. He had raised a child from the dead. He had fed thousands of people from what amounted to a sack lunch. And He stood up to, and confounded, the Pharisees and Scribes. There was talk among the people that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, was their long awaited Messiah: the one who would, according to their tradition, throw off the manacles of Rome and restore Israel as the preeminent nation of the world. But He would soon dissuade them of that notion. Continue reading Counting the Cost of Discipleship
Sometimes life as a Christian is a mountain-top experience: life is going our way and it is easy to be content and at peace. Other times we encounter difficulties and we may ask God, “Why am I going through this?” We may wonder if we are being tested or even punished.
Does God Test His People?
Personally, I have a hard time accepting that God needs to test us to see if we are ready to move to another level. God is omniscient: meaning He see’s everything, not just now but past and future as well. As such, He knows us better than we know ourselves. Why would He need to test us? Further, I cannot find anything in the Bible that says we are being “tested”, as in an examination to determine our knowledge of a subject or proficiency in a sport, when we encounter difficulties. But that does not mean there is not a purpose behind it. For in fact, even God’s own Son was subjected to trial. Continue reading When Led Into the Wilderness
In Matthew 23 Jesus launches into a verbal assault on the Pharisees and scribes: the religious leaders and lawyers (interpreters of The Law) of the nation of Israel. He calls them hypocrites (several times) and blind guides, saying they would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel: meaning that they pick at details but ignore the main concept of faith. His most striking analogy, however was to call them ” whitewashed tombs “: painted and pleasing to the eye on the outside, but full of death and decay on the inside. Continue reading Whitewashed Tombs
Prayer is a Christian’s most powerful means of effecting change in our own life, the life of those around us, and in the world. Having said that, there are some caveats to bear in mind.
- Most importantly, when we pray we must have a right standing with God. We cannot expect God to heed our requests if we are living in rebellion to Him.
- We must pray in accordance with God’s will.
- We are to pray with confidence, knowing that, as long as 1 and 2 are true, God has already granted our request and it will come to pass in our physical world.
- We are to be persistent in our prayers; accepting that, as humans, our perception of time and the world around us are limited. God may well be at work granting our request but in His own time and His own way to maximize the benefit.
Continue reading Ask, Seek, Knock in Prayer
Each of the four gospels tells about the ministry of Jesus, but each comes at the story from a different angle, being aimed at a different audience, and for a different purpose.
Matthew describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as Jesus walking along the sea shore encountering a group of fishermen cleaning up after a night of fishing, and shouting, “Follow me!” Peter, Andrew, James, and John immediately abandon their boats and nets and fall in behind Jesus – seemingly without a clue of who Jesus was or why they were going with Him.
Luke goes into much more detail, starting with Jesus going home with Peter (then called Simon) for a meal and healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. In a later incident, Jesus was teaching one morning along the sea shore where these four fishermen were mending and drying their nets. He asks Peter to take Him in his boat out a short distance from shore so He could speak without the crowds pressing in around him. Peter complies. Afterward, Jesus tells Peter to let his nets down for a catch. Continue reading Stepping Stones
You have heard it said that money is the root of all evil: that is incorrect. Money, wealth, possessions themselves are not evil, but the pursuit of these things: greed, spawns evil. For where our treasure lies, here also will be our heart.
What is treasure?
The traditional image of treasure being chests of coins and jewels is a little archaic for a modern discussion of this topic. Today’s treasure tends to be comprised of things like a fat bank account (modern-day equivalent of a chest of coins), a big fancy home, a snazzy car, a killer wardrobe, and all the latest tech toys. When taken individually they may not seem terribly imposing, but when taken en masse they can indicate a problem.
The real question becomes one of want vs need and where your focus lies. Matthew 6 says: Continue reading Where Your Treasure Lies
Many years ago I built a pair of English Garden Benches to go in a therapy garden at a church. When I delivered them they spoke of having plaques made and attached that quoted Matthew 11:28 “Come unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” I don’t know if that was ever done, but it seemed like a nice idea.
A comfy bench can give rest for the body, but how do we find rest for a weary soul? The rest of the passage quoted above holds the key. Let’s look at that today.
Continue reading Finding Rest for Your Soul
When people are asked what would make them happy, many think of things that involve possessions, wealth, fame, or power. To some, these things bring a fleeting sort of happiness. But pursuit of these things always becomes just that: a pursuit, an on-going chase. A little makes you want more. Then more. And more. This is not happiness.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus tells his disciples the simple formula for being happy. Let’s take a look at verses 5 through 10. Jesus begins each verse with “Blessed are” (actually the “are”s were added later by translators, originally Jesus said, “Blessed, the meek”, “Blessed, the merciful”) and so on. The word translated as “blessed” is the Greek word, makarios, which means “supremely blesst, fortunate, well-off”. It is closely related to another form, “makarizo” which indicates large in size or length. He is not talking about being a little blessed, but being hugely, supremely blessed! Continue reading How to Be Happy:
According to Jesus
About two weeks ago I engaged in a discussion about evidence that Jesus lived with a fellow through social media. Because it was on social media I was able to record our back and forth verbatim. It was a good discussion: he made some good points and it never degraded into mean-spirited argument (as so many do).
This topic branched off from a discussion with others about how silly religion in general is with all its rules and clouded, conflicting information. Here is our discussion: he is Bruce, I am Doug.
Bruce: So how do you know which parts of the bible, if any, to believe? Perhaps all of it is a creation of men. After all, there is not one single contemporary account that Jesus ever existed, not one. Continue reading Is There Any Evidence That Jesus Lived?