Sure, leaders are often characterized by the period. “Go here. Do that.” Others are better characterized by the exclamation point, expressing enthusiasm and optimism. But the best leaders, especially Jesus, are characterized by a symbol that is bent in humility: the question mark. Jesus was always asking questions. The gospels record over 100 from him.
If you want to be a better leader, ask more questions than just giving blunt answers.
When I was younger and I meditated on the birth and life of Jesus and then contemplated his death, it made me extremely sad that an innocent man would be executed. It was emotional for me as if I was watching a sad movie.
But now I see it a little different. While what I was seeing was true I also understand the plan that God was fulfilling. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
As our Lord hung on the cross, the crowd saw only one man on the center cross. But the Father saw not just Christ but you and me and all others who would put their faith in Christ. When we come to Jesus, God takes our old life from us (“I have been crucified with Christ”) and puts a new life in us (“Christ lives in me”). The Christian life is not a changed life; it is an EXCHANGED life. You give Christ your old life, and He puts it away in a sea of forgetfulness. And He gives you a brand new life, a new life in Christ. It is an awesome and joyous thought: “Christ lives in me!”
God’s giving always follows His forgiving. God does more than pardon us, if pardoning is simply the non-infliction of penalty. God does more than that! He loves!
That’s what makes the parable of the Prodigal Son so great, even better than the two parables that introduce it (Lost Sheep/Lost Coin). The lost son was pardoned and then capable of receiving greater gifts than he had before.
He received a robe, ring, shoes and feast. The robe parallels to “putting off the old man, putting on the new.” See also Revelation 19:8 as well.
The prodigal just wanted to return to as a slave but his father gave him a ring. The ring is an emblem of wealth, position, honor. It is a sign of delegated authority like the Pharoah’s signet-ring was placed on Joseph’s ring. So the son went as low as possible but restoration was possible to highest dignity.
What about the shoes? Is that just drapery?
God does prepare us for future service and for every step they have to take. It starts with forgiving our past which gives us power to live the future.
And the feast? Remember what drove the son back: not his heart or conscience, but his stomach. Even so low a motive is accepted by God!
He had to learn that he could not get bread on his own terms, and that what he wished most was not what he needed first. He had to be forgiven before he can be fed.
Romans 5:8 says, ” But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Every lash of the whip across his back, every thud of the hammer driving spikes in his hands and feet, was the voiceof God saying, “I love sinners!”
It is the right and duty of each Christian to read and interpret the Scriptures for their own understanding and edification using reason, tradition, and the Holy Spirit as guides. Furthermore, standing on the shoulders of Christians before us we can learn principles that make the text clearer and consistent.
For instance, we must beware of interpreting any portion of Scripture in a way that conflicts with the general teaching of Scripture elsewhere. The New Testament must be approached as a whole. It is a complete and entire revelation given by God.
And when we approach parables we should avoid drawing any negative conclusions from the teaching of a parable. Parables teach ONE lesson primarily. The purpose of a parable is to present us one great positive truth.
2 Timothy 3:12 says, “In the last times there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful.”
Notice how ingratitude goes with pride, abuse, and insubordination! This is worth pondering.
Does gratitude or ingratitude characterize your life?
Everyday mission must not neglect our actual, immediate, and extended family.
Family imagery fills the most common metaphors for the church in the New Testament.
How do we live on mission to our family?
- Diligently teach children. Parents are to be the primary disciplers of their children. We cannot farm out our child’s spiritual formation to a church, school, camp, or trip. However, our community should come alongside of us and help.
- Be faithful to adults. As Jesus patiently laid down His own life for us, so we are sent to the unbelieving adults in our families. As Jesus revealed the character and work of God in his words, actions, death and resurrection, so we can reveal the character and work of God in our words, actions, and death to self.