Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Power of the Parable

As we finished our Summer Series on the Parables of Jesus, I’ve was struck by the power of these stories with intent. The truth wrapped in the parable is a powerful truth. A life changing truth. A truth that corrects our distorted vision and realigns our focus on things God has determined to be of utmost importance. I’ve learned that there’s power in the parable.

And the power in the parable was often charged by scandal. This was something that I didn’t appreciate until we began the study. The stories Jesus told grabbed people’s attention because, very often, it is not what they expected. A Samaritan helping a Jew…even risking his own life to render aid. Why, that’s unheard of. In fact, it was socially unacceptable.

Praise given to an Unjust Steward. A man who was shrewd as a serpent but not innocent as a dove. Why, there is nothing to learn from the pagan world! Oh, but Jesus says the people of the world are often more shrewd than the people of the light. Tell me that shouldn’t grab our attention.

The Parables of Jesus: Powerful truths wrapped in a captivating story with an unexpected, sometimes scandalous conclusion.
I’ll be honest, there is more packed in a parable than I ever realized…and I have a feeling we just scratched the surface.

I hope you enjoy,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If your mouth is a fountain, what kind of water springs forth?

The “Corporate World” and the “Church World”. Is there a difference? I mean, really. They both have people and, if anything, the church world should be a polished version of the Corporate World because, in theory, the people in the church world are a redeemed people. Is there a difference?

Well…let me give you my opinion. Admittedly, I have limited experience in the church world but at least I can say I have live both long enough to say, “Yes, there is a difference.”

Now to be fair, there are a number of similarities. The Corporate World and the Church World are mostly benevolent. When a need arises, people want to help. I can remember a number of occasions at the hospital where I worked when a family experienced a tragedy. Maybe a fire in their home or an unexpected death. Overwhelmingly, people would give of their own resources, donate vacation time or simply offer notes of encouragement. The outpouring was consistent.

In the church, I see the same. People are inclined to care for others and meet needs as they arise. The church may be more proactive (or at least it should be) by meeting the needs of others before the crisis occurs. For example, they may have a “Clothes Closet” where people in the community who have a need might come by the church for clothes at no cost. No crisis, just proactive love.

I also see that the Corporate World and the Church World both need sound leadership. The church and the business need people who are setting a vision and direction. People that have earned the trust of those whom they lead. And the best leaders are humble leaders – in both the Corporate World and the Church World. People who lead by serving and getting their hands dirty with those who are out on the front lines.

Along with this, communication seems vital in both the Corporate World and the Church World. People feel safest when they know what is going on. They want to feel valued by being “included in the conversation.” A lack of communication in both the Corporate World and the Church World always breeds distrust and misperception. Communication seems important in both worlds.

In many ways, there is more in common than there are differences in the two worlds. Both involve people and people have innate needs no matter what world they live in.

But here is the biggest difference I have experienced so far. In the Corporate World, people operate within boundaries and they filter their communication. In the Church World, I am finding that there are no boundaries and the filters are removed. In other words, people feel the right to say whatever they want however they want to say it.

For example, in one week I received two letters from people I have never met who have nothing to do with our church family. Yet they felt compelled to tell me what I should be teaching, what movies we should be promoting and how often we should have prayer meetings and what should be there content. Another person wrote to ask for prayers. He describes a difficult family situation and despite the fact that he lives in another city two hours away and has never been to our church, he felt like it was important for me to know his situation so I could remember him in my devotions.

Now, I’m not offended by this at all, I’m just amazed. I never once received a letter in my 15 years at the hospital with advice on how I should be running the cancer center. Perhaps there were people who had ideas, but I didn’t receive random letters advising my direction and oversight. There were boundaries and filters and these seem to be removed when it comes to the church.

Maybe it’s healthy, people in the church world seem to be much more apt in letting their feeling be known. In fact, I have watched more venom spill from the lips of a church member than I ever did in the workplace. Hurtful, unkind words that seem to be permissible in the church world that I never heard in the Corporate World (at least not to my face… i.e boundary). People in the church seem to be more inclined to say what they think and how they feel about it without boundary or filter.

Personally, I think we can do better. Perhaps, people in the Corporate World have the same emotion and they just hold it inside. They have to protect their job you know. And to keep that bottled up may not be good. But I still think the Church World could stand to consider the power of their words and seek to use them for healing more than hurt.

Why is forgiveness such a rare commodity in the church? How do we justify the gossip and backbiting? Perhaps we need to be reminded of the wisdom from Proverbs 16.

23 A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,
and his lips promote instruction.
24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

And as James guides us:

James 1:19 (NIV)

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

James 1:26 (NIV)

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

James 3:3-12 (NIV)

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

So here’s the question: If your mouth is a fountain, what kind of water springs forth from your lips?