Saturday, April 29, 2006

Your Responses on the da Vinci Code and and Gospel of Judas

Well I have a real challenge on my hands! Last week’s blog provoked such a response and I wanted to include comments I got from readers. However as you all know, I am trying to be disciplined about restricting length of the blog.

Last week I made comments about the da Vinci Code by Dan Browne and the Gospel of Judas. In short I said that I believed Christians should not buy the da Vinci Code or go to the movie, as this so-called fictional story is a heretical and I believe blasphemous treatise disguised as “fiction.” I find it interesting that Dan’s wife needed to do “research” for what is supposedly a fictional story. Don’t get me started.

As far as the Gospel of Judas is concerned, I said that a) it was not by Judas buyt by a group of Gnostics – a religious sect that was already condemned as being heretical in the New Testament itself, and secondly it is not a ‘gospel’ – i.e. it is not good news. It certainly is not a threat to Christianity though I do concede that it could threaten the faith of many a weak or unsure believer and could be a stumbling block to a seeker who might otherwise find Jesus Christ.

Well what of the comments?

Rob from UK wrote: Ultimately though for most of us the defence of Jesus in our lives cannot come from intellectual texts or endless controversies about Creationism but, like the gospel song rings, "I know that my redeemer lives.... (because) I spoke with Him this morning!" If that really happened how much more convinced can one be? Conversely if that has never happened how will even Nicky Gumble help?

Note: Nicky Gumble is the main presenter of the Alpha Course – a course in basic Christian doctrine without getting into contentious debate over peripheral matters such as mode of baptism or amillenialism/premill etc. Nick Gumble was a QC (lawyer) and it is this legal expertise that he uses to dismantle DVC in a book “response to the da Vinci code.”

Cheryl from California wrote: I read the fictitious da Vinci Code over a year ago and am glad I did just so I could have my own opinion of such a piece of literature, just as I also read the Last Temptation of Christ many many years ago. Both are interesting pictures of literature, but it would be an easily led and poorly versed Christian that would consider either of them to be truthful. That said, even if the "earth shaking facts in either book were truthful" per se, Christ had a child or harbored a secret longing for Mary Magdalene, neither of the books really refute his true dinivity and purpose. As I said, I believe it would be a shallow person of faith that would read either of these books and allow them to cause them to lose their faith.

Cheryl wrote more, but space does not let me include it. I did not entirely agree with Cheryl, as I explained in an answer to her personally but did agree that if a person is established in their faith, da Vinci codes and Judas gospels will not shake it. However, alluding to the whole debate in 1 Cor. About meat sacrificed to idols, I pointed out that for the sake of weaker Christians, stronger Christians may need to abstain.

Charles from Jo’burg wrote: I really have been thinking about all these things and I saw these 2 works as a strategy from the pit of hell. You see, the Passion of the Christ really did it to the devil’s kingdom he wanted to come up with something to counter it and hence this da vinci rubbish and the gospel of judas. Gnosticism was heavily criticized by Paul because it was a huge problem in their time so there is nothing new about it! The devil wants to try and sell it as a new thing yet he has used it centuries ago to try and pour water on the gospel!

Need I add anything to this?

Graham from Hilton sent me a devotional he got that deals with the subject of the da Vinci Code and what the writer believes would be an appropriate response to DVC. He sums up by saying: Though the story is clearly fiction, it will raise questions in people’s minds about the validity of the sources through which the story of Christ and his disciples has come down to us. In other words: We have homework to do. I suggest we turn this cultural event into an opportunity for dialogue, not a call to battle. Here are some things I think would be appropriate.

1) Let’s not try and be experts about something we haven’t read or seen. If we’re going to have an opinion, make sure it’s an informed one.

2) Bone up on the origin of our information about the Scriptures and why we can trust them as reliable historical documents and as God’s Word.

3) Use this information to bolster our own faith, not fight a battle of wits with unbelievers we are eager to disprove.

4) Use the information gained to address the doubts of those who are genuinely seeking the truth.

5) Above all, let’s use this interest in the historicity of religion as an opportunity to get people thinking about the possibility of a real relationship with Christ – something we have found to be our own personal validation of the truth

(Source: Fischer, J Da Vinci decoded daily devotional – 27 April 2006).

This is sound advice indeed and I feel sums up the matter well.

Back to a more devotional theme next week.

Have a great week, a drop me a line if you have time.


Friday, April 14, 2006


Hello Friends,


This week in different contexts I have been coming across the references to the harmful affect of words on others, but before I get too carried away, allow me to introduce Michael Josephson who delivers short homilies on ethics on radio stations in the united states and has a website called I have subscribed to his weekly digest of his Commentaries and they often give me a lift. He never deals with religion per se but concentrates on right and honest living. Well this weeks digest contains to commentaries that I’d like to share with you. But I recommend you visit the website and subscribe yourself to it, they are worthwhile reading.


Sticks and Stones 457.4

I don't think a week has gone by in the past ten years when at least one of my young daughters (the eldest is 12) hasn't come to me sobbing because one of her sisters was being mean or called her a name.

Sometimes I investigate the problem and, where appropriate, discipline the name-caller and counsel the wounded child to "toughen her up." More often, I give the complaint short shrift telling my complaining child to "work it out," "suck it up" or "get over it." Occasionally, I've trotted out the old wisdom, "Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names will never harm you."

Recently, I was reminded this isn't true. One of my dear daughters said some mean and hurtful things that made a classmate cry. The teacher assured me my daughter's unkind remarks did indeed cause serious emotional pain.

I wondered whether my callousness to unkind sibling interaction encouraged my daughter to wound another child.

The truth is, thoughtless and malicious insults, teasing and gossip inflict deeper and more enduring pain on more people than guns or knives. Ask anyone who as a kid was fat, skinny, unusually short or tall, flat-chested or big-busted, acne-faced, unathletic, slow-witted or exceptionally smart. In schoolrooms and playgrounds across the country, weight, height, looks and intelligence are much more likely to be the subject of ridicule than race or religion.

Words are enormously powerful. And while we should try to fortify our children's sense of self-worth so they can bear insults and sarcasm, declaring words harmless won't make them so.

Intentionally or carelessly hurting someone's feelings isn't a small thing. If we have to resort to ancient wisdom, we'd be better off with: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

*I'd like to illustrate the point of this commentary with real examples. If you are willing to share (for posting on our website) a story of a situation where someone's words inflicted a lasting and serious pain on you or someone you know, please send the story to and indicate whether you want your name used with the story or published without attribution.

Pounding In and Pulling Out Nails 457.5

When my daughter was confronted with the fact that she had really hurt another child with a mean comment, she cried and immediately wanted to apologize. That was a good thing, but I wanted her to know an apology can't always make things better. So I told her the parable of Will, a nine-year-old whose father abandoned his mom two years earlier. Will was angry, and he often would lash out at others with hurtful words. He once told his mom, "I see why Dad left you!"

Unable to cope with his outbursts of cruelty, she sent Will to spend the summer with his grandparents. His grandfather's strategy to help Will learn self-control was to make him go into the garage and pound a two-inch-long nail into a four-by-four board every time he said a mean and nasty thing. For a small boy, this was a major task, but he couldn't return until the nail was all the way in. After about ten trips to the garage, Will began to be more cautious about his words. Eventually, he even apologized for all the bad things he'd said.

That's when his grandmother came in. She made him bring in the board filled with nails and told him to pull them all out. This was even harder than pounding them in, but after a huge struggle, he did it.

His grandmother hugged him and said, "I appreciate your apology and, of course, I forgive you because I love you, but I want you to know an apology is like pulling out one of those nails. Look at the board. The holes are still there. The board will never be the same. I know your dad put a hole in you, but please don't put holes in other people; you are better than that."

*A fourth-grade teacher recently told me how she tells this story to her class in the beginning of the semester and uses it throughout the year. When she comes upon a child saying or doing a mean or unkind thing, she will say, "Did you put a nail in someone?" Then she`ll ask, "Did you take it out?"

She says her students always know what she`s talking about and recognize what they did was wrong, which isn`t always the case if she simply asks the child what happened (that usually results in a string of blaming everyone else).

She urges her students not to use the automatic "That`s all right" after an apology because usually what was done was not all right and the person saying it, rightfully, doesn`t feel it was all right. She tells her class to say "I accept your apology" or "I forgive you" instead.

The teacher also uses the story to help her kids understand difficult family matters outside the classroom. She tells them some people will never take out the nails they`ve pounded into the children, but everyone has the power to pull them out themselves and get on with their life rather than let others rule them.

She told me, "The story is simple, but the message is powerful -- especially when reinforced with: "You`re better than that!"

This is Michael Josephson, reminding you that character counts.

Reading my textbook on health education – I was studying a chapter on School Violence and Bullying and was surprised to read their definition of “Violence” which reached far beyond my limited perspective on the matter – it read as follows: “All violent acts have a single common theme: They all inflict harm, “or threaten harm” to a person or property. Although the term violence usually invokes the thought of physical harm, non physical acts such as teasing, insulting, ignoring or demeaning gestures or facial expressions, all hold the power to make the recipient feel hurt, disrespected and devalued.” (Rosen E. and Weinstein E., Teaching children about health: 2nd Edition 2003: Belmont, CA,: Wadsworth / Thomson Learning p. 305)


I couldn’t help thinking, I wish I knew that when I was at school. I think the two commentaries I included above puts the issue in a nut shell. The Bible puts it this way:


The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.


Proverbs 18:21, New International Version


Another scripture which springs to mind when this topic is discussed is James 3:1-12

My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. Why? Because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly than other people. 2We all make many mistakes. If there were a person who never said anything wrong, then that person would be perfect. A person like that would be able to control their whole body, too. 3We put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us. With these bits in the horses’ mouths, we can control their whole body. 4It is the same with ships. A ship is very big, and it is pushed by strong winds. But a very small rudder controls that big ship. The man who controls the rudder decides where the ship will go. The ship goes where the man wants. 5It is the same with our tongue. It is a small part of the body, but it boasts about doing great things.

A big forest fire can be started with only a little flame. 6The tongue is like a fire. It is a world of evil among the parts of our body. How? The tongue spreads its evil through our whole body. It starts a fire that influences all of life. The tongue gets this fire from hell. 7People can tame every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish. People have already tamed all these things. 8But no person can tame (control) the tongue. It is wild and evil. It is full of poison that can kill. 9We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father (God), but then we curse (say bad things to) people. And God made those people like himself. 10Those praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. 11Do good water and bad water flow from the same spring? No! 12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree make olives? No! Can a grapevine make figs? No! And a well full of salty water cannot give good water.

“Easy to Read Version”



I was just thinking about that saying that we have all repeated at some point: Sticks and stones make break my bones but words will never harm me: and as Michael points out, this saying no matter how often it is repeated, will never be true. Ironically I think the converse may be true in part, in the sense that broken bones eventually heal, but spiritual/emotional wounds will not heal so easily. (They do heal but, they are more enduring.) I was just thinking about the first person who ever said that to another person – Well no-one will know who that was, as it was never recorded but must have happened many years ago. The point is, I’m sure if we could call that person back today and ask him or her about the occasion on which these illustrious words were first uttered, and ask the speaker if he or she really believed them at the time. We can never know, but my guess is, no, probably not. My guess is that someone had said something hateful and hurtful, and in a futile attempt to shield himself/herself against them responded with this now famous saying.


Words do harm and leave gaping wounds that need treatment as much as a physical wound needs. Words like “You are stupid!”, thick, dumb, retard, spastic, sissy, etc. are more than just mean – they are dangerous. I was reading a Christian magazine this week and I read a letter from a lady who signs herself desparate Mom. She was explaining in her letter about her teenage daughter who has some disabilities but a few things in  this sad letter jumped out at me: I quote:


“Unfortunately, children are very cruel. She is teased a lot and because she is such a sensitive spirit, she is easily hurt. “

Firstly I’d like to say to this mother, she does not have to excuse her daughter’s feelings. It is normal to feel hurt when someone teases you. The teasing must stop.


“Teachers also treat her differently…. They presume she is ‘stupid when she is not.”

What did the teacher say to the mother to make her think that? Did the teacher come out and say, “Your daughter is stupid.” Probably not, but he or she may have said much the same thing using euphemisms. Changing the words does not always sweeten the pill. I hope that that mother holds on to the fact that her daughter IS NOT STUPID. But what concerns me is what the teacher communicates to the daughter.


“She just needs someone to pay a little bit more attention to her, but it seems everyone is simply trying to keep their distance.”

It’s not only words but unspoken gestures like deliberate ignoring. Talking about a person in their presence, as if they were not there, is very wounding.


The following paragraph was what really concerned me:

“We are part of a church and she loves it. Yet, even there, she is ostracised. She doesn’t go to youth group for fear of being alienated, as she has seen how they look at her during church.”


What an indictment on that Church. I wonder if the pastor is aware of this. If I were the pastor of that church and I realised that this child was in my church, I wonder how I would react? It’s hard to say. But the child is missing out because she is looked at in a certain way. You might be saying to yourself, that child is far too sensitive, and the others probably mean nothing and are not aware that their looks are offending her. Be that as it may, the reality is, especially with people with disabilities that they are keenly aware of how society in general looks at them, and it hurts.


Recently South Africa celebrated “Human Rights Day.” Thinking about these, I have said and sincerely believe that it should be “Human Responsibilies and Rights Day.”    


Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


This is a right that the more vocal component of our society, for obvious reasons consistently and loudly invoke. I have a right to my opinion, and I have a right to express it. I suppose by writing this blog I am making use of this right and am grateful for it, but I have to ask the question, when my right to express my opinion, when that opinion is harmful to other people in society, surely though I have the right to hold the opinion, but maybe not the right to express that opinion. It is not based on any documented evidence that I know of, but it is a guess of mine, that the most legally contested right, in the courts world wide is this particular right – The right to freedom of Expression. As I say, I cannot quote facts or figures, but this is the impression I have from the media. I think of that Englishman who was recently convicted of a crime in Austria for expressing the opinion that the extermination of Jews did not occur in War Time Germany and Austria did not occur. That was his opinion, but he was not allowed to express it, and he has gone to jail for it.


To further illustrate this point I refer to a very current issue in South Africa. The former deputy President, Jacob Zuma has been accused of Rape and his trial is presently going on. Every day the media regale us with what was said by whom. It is as all rape cases are, a sordid affair. In short the Rape Accuser was visiting Jacob Zuma in his house and according to her, he raped her, according to him, they had consensual intercourse.


Talk shows have been discussing the case ad nauseum and the issue as to whether and how the media should cover this trial. As a matter of background it is important to know that Jacob Zuma was leading the Movement for Moral regeneration in South Africa, as well as chairing the Council for HIV/AIDS. Among the many sordid things to come out of this trial, which I am not going to bore you with, Jacob Zuma is reported to have said that he had a shower after sex with this woman as he understood that taking a shower after sex minimises the risk of contracting the virus.


This was reported in all the media and it has confused a nation already wracked (or is that wrecked) by HIV/AIDS with an estimated 5.3 million infected people. People have been phoning helplines and wanting to know whether taking a shower will minimise the risk of contracting the virus.


My personal opinion is that this whole trial should not be reported except to say that it is in progress and when the verdict is announced, that can be made public. But the media people say that they have to report on this trial as it is “in the public interest.” Well, there is no question about it, “The public are interested.” But is it IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST – I hardly think so. How does the proceedings of a case help society in general, let alone the misinformation about AIDS and HIV,. I feel that the Sub Judicae law should be that apart from details of the names of the accused, the nature of the charge, and the name of the court and the presiding judge, all other matters should be sub judice, and even those minimal details can be declared Sub Judicae by the judge if he/she believes it to be necessary. Any media who publicise sub judicae information would be guilty of an offence.


I also think of the “Cartoons of Mohammed” debacle which sparked riots and death and destruction all over the World. The papers claimed “the freedom of expression” – ah but at what cost?


Coming back to a more individual situation, instead of breaking down those around us with our words and wordless actions, let’s rather to edify one another, build up and encourage. Look for the positive aspects in your neighbour and tell them. It has often said that it takes seven positive remarks to outweigh the effect of a negative comment.


Wishing you all a blessed week and Happy Easter everyone.







Saturday, April 08, 2006

Wise builders


Are you familiar with that Sunday School song, "The wise man built his house upon the rock"? I'm sure you are we used to sing it with gusto when in Sunday School. The song is based on the parable that Jesus told:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house yet it did not fall, because it had its foundations on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matt. 7:24-27

The words of the song are:

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock,
The wise man built his house upon the rock,
The wise man built his house upon the rock,
And the rains came tumbling down!

The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the rock stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down!

The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand went SPLAT!

So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ,
So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ,
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
and the Blessings will come down.

The blessings will come down as your prayers go up,
The blessings will come down as your prayers go up,
The blessings will come down as your prayers go up,
So build your house on the Lord!

(Thank you to for the lyrics.)

Well, it's a lovely little song, but I can't help thinking that it misses the point of the particular parable.

Here is the analogy the analogy that Jesus is drawing.

A person who hears these words of mine and PUTS THEM INTO PRACTICE is like the wise builder.

A person who hears these words of mine but DOES NOT PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE is like the foolish builder.

Let us consider in both cases. "The rains came down and the winds blew against that house." The rain and the wind are an illustration of the difficulties that we experience in life. The difficulties may be different, but the fact that come can be guaranteed. Jesus used the phrase: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice" - when we see a "therefore" in the Bible we must find out what it's there for! In other words, let us look at the context of this parable in the Bible. It comes right at the the end of what we call "The Sermon on the Mount." It covers a lot of ground, and I believe that Jesus was referring to everything he was saying in that Sermon, but it would take too long to cover it all in this blog but let me focus on the section immediately before the parable.

WARNING: The following statement may disturb those with a nervous disposition.

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!" Matt. 7: 21-23

This statement of Jesus must give every Christian pause for thought. Every Christian needs to ask the question to ask the question of themselves: "What is the basis of my relationship with Jesus Christ?" Many people are living under the delusion that they are Christians. This is a dangerous delusion.

Whenever I have to travel over a international border, I always check that I have my passport with me, and some time before I travel I ensure that I have the requisite visa stamped in my passport. But just imagine I set off on my journey (say travelling from Zimbabwe to South Africa by road.), but I had not checked that my passport was with me. Just imagine I assumed it was in my briefcase. I set confidently driving South to Beit Bridge and I arrive at the border post. I walk into the building with my briefcase under my arm, but when I get to the desk and the official asks me for my passport, I look in my briefcase and to my horror I can't find it. I had assumed it was in my briefcase, but it wasn't there. Do you think that the official will say, "That's alright friend, I'm sure you've got one, I will let you through. The fact is, he wouldn't. He is not allowed to." I would have to turn my vehicle around and return to Harare. I can tell you now, that if that were to happen to me - it never did, I promise - but if it did, I would not tell anybody about it. I'd be too embarrassed. People would say, and they would be quite justified in saying it, "That was VERY FOOLISH. You should have checked that you had your passport before you left."

The first group of people who I would put in the "deluded" category are the regular "church attenders." These people are very faithful in attending church services and may even very involved in their church, teaching Sunday School, pouring tea after the service, be a sidesman or deacon in their church, taking up the collection, or distributing the bread and wine during a communion service, being in the church choir or worship team. These involvement's in themselves are very good but if a person believes that by performing these "good works" they are in for a horrible surprise. The people Jesus referred to who called him Lord, Lord, were "busy Christians" doing all sorts of "holy things." But these things did not impress Jesus.

In the "lost and found" series, I hope you realised who it is, in the case of the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin who was doing the searching. The son's return in the parable of the Lost Son, was at the mercy of the Father. Our return to the God is because He takes us in, and not because we would make a useful servant. It is the Good Shepherd (John 10:10) who notices that one of his hundred sheep are missing and goes in search for it. The woman in the parable of the Lost Coin, represents our Lord, lighting a lamp, and sweeping the house clean till the coin that was missing is found. My point is, our Salvation is not due to our own effort. There is nothing we can do for ourselves to get out of the predicament we are in. Salvation is both initiated and completed by our God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Do you think that you deserve to go to heaven? We are completely dependent on God for our salvation. There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. The only thing we can do is accept the help that the one Person who can save us, offers. That my friend is where faith comes in. I by faith receive Salvation from God, who gives it willingly and freely (without demand for recompense.) - We couldn't pay Him anyway.

Salvation is made possible by the Grace of God. We receive that Salvation through Faith. We do not earn our salvation by works. Any good works that we do do, were prepared in advance for us to do. God does have a purpose and a role for us.

Friend, if you feel that your good works are earning you points, your religion is based on a lie. In order to immigrate to some countries, like Australia and New Zealand, the applicant needs to earn "points." These points are awarded according to a person's age, and the profession or trade that they are qualified to do. Unless you can get a minimum number of points, you can't immigrate. But Salvation is NOT ON A POINTS system. The truth is, nobody would be able to earn enough points anyway. Neither is there a lottery, a lá the USA's Green Card Lottery. The Bible tells us that Salvation is BY GRACE - that is our Salvation was purchased through Christ's death and resurrection.

Jesus made the way because he was Crucified and rose again. It was that act that opened the way to Salvation. Without that death nobody could be saved. But we have to exercise faith and that is deciding to walk in the way. Did you know that before the term Christian was used, believers in Jesus Christ spoke about themselves as being disciple who "belonged to the Way" (Acts 9:2)

If you are reading this and questioning whether you "belong to the Way" you don't have to wonder or guess or hope. You can be sure. This is how:

The Bible says: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23) and "the wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23). In short, we do not deserve heaven, we actually deserve death. You need to acknowledge that you are a sinner and confess that. "Lord, I know that I am a sinner, that I have sinned in what I have done, in what I have said, and in my thoughts."

But God has stepped in and made a way and it is the only way for all of us to be saved. "This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people." (1 Tim 2:5-6) Pray and ask the Lord to save you.

Surrender your life to Jesus right now. Acknowledge His Lordship of your life.. This is different to simply saying "Lord, Lord." Surrender all the control over to Him. Be willing to accept his lead in your life. The Bible says "Offer yourselves as LIVING SACRIFICES." (Rom 12:2)

If you have taken this step of confessing and repenting from your sin and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord then you need to tell people about it, and resolve to live differently from now onwards. Will you slip up? Yes. But we have a merciful God who died for all our sins. The difference now is that you are no longer a slave to sin, but are free to live the life God has called you to live. Previously you sinned and didn't care, now you have conscience and desire to live right.

Tell someone who you know is a Christian about this change. That person can help you as you begin your walk with the Lord. Then tell others about what Jesus has done for you. If they are Christians they will celebrate. If they are not they may think it strange. They might say: But I thought you were a Christian already, and then you can tell them about the difference between being a church attender and "belonging to the Way."

Friends I have more to say but that's enough for this week. God bless


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Chapter 3 - Lost and Found Series

Chapter 3

The third parable Jesus told was the Parable of the Lost Son.

Part 1 - The Getting Lost Phase

"Jesus continued; "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need." (Verses 11-14)

Just thinking about the first phase of this story. We can call it, the "getting lost" phase. In the English language, there is an expression which one hears from time to time. It is actually a rather nasty phrase. When somebody, or an animal is bugging a person, the person may say "Oh, Get lost!" meaning: Go away and stay away, and don't bug me. People don't mean it literally, but nevertheless I think we ought to be more careful as Christians about what we say. It is after all just as easy to say to a person, "Please leave me alone for a while."

Well in this story, there was no-one saing to the younger son, "Get Lost." but he proceeded to do that anyway.

More often than not, Getting lost is not a deliberate thing, done by the person lost. Nobody intends to be lost - it's kind of accidental. But people do sometimes deliberately want to get away, to escape from a situation. Animals that are confined to a small area, will look for a way to get out. Prisoners are always looking to escape the confines of their prisons. Sometimes a child may want to run away from home, because they believe (or know) that they are being denied something that they want.

The younger son in our story, wanted to get away. He was bored by home living and he decided he would like to "have his freedom." Of course sometimes the reality is you are being confined for your own good. I was safest while I remained within the confines of the campsite. (See my introduction to the Lost and Found series.) People who have been Christians from a young age, sometimes go through a stage when they decide to kick over the traces. They want to "Live a while." They perceive living according God's Word as being boring and they "just want to have a bit of fun." The problem is that the "fun" that they want to have means going against God's Word and will in the long run, result in tears.

Maybe you are a young person who's thinking about leaving home, either secretly, at night, or openly and defiantly. I strongly urge you my friend to talk to somebody and get some other perspective on this. If you can't talk to your parents about your unhappiness, talk to another adult, but don't run away. Let me just warn you up front, that there are people out there, who hang around places like bus terminals and railway stations and they can spot a run-away as if he or she is wearing a sign "run away" on them. When they find find such a person, they act like the friendly older person, who will help. They show the young runnaway a lot of interest and concern, but in a subtle way, they confine the run-away but this time to the run-away's peril. They will give the run-away enough to buy their trust, and then bring them into a terrible life. Young people from Africa and Eastern Europe have been literally enslaved by these people who offer a wonderful life over in "the West" but many a young women will tell you that their lives were awful - they were entrapped and forced to become prostitutes by these people. This is a world-wide phenomenon. It's not that new either. I think of the Charles Dicken's story Oliver Twist, and the story of Pinocchio. My point being that just because someone acts friendly and wants to give you some "friendly advice" does not mean that they really care for you.

Part 2 - Hitting Bottom

"So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country. who sent him to his field to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no-one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, "he said "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" Verses 15 - 17.

I would like to refer to this the "awareness phase." Alcoholics Anonymous talk about "hitting bottom." (This has nothing to do with spanking - please read it in context) What is the most painful aspect of falling? When are most of the injuries sustained. Is it not the impact with the ground? But in order to "hit bottom" you first need to have jumped. Jumping might have seemed a good idea at the time, but as you come closer to the ground and certainly when you've hit the ground, jumping definitely was a bad idea. This young man in the parable appears to have hit bottom. But of course there is a "good side" (if you can call it that) to hitting bottom - it means you can't fall any further - it's got as bad as it'll get. Again, Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that the only way to recover is first to admit that one IS an alcoholic. If you are sick, it is realising that you are sick and deciding to get help that is the first step to recovery.

There is campaign for "at risk" people to have themselves tested for HIV or Hepatitus A virus. There are no cures for these but if you catch it early you can take medication that will help you, and keep your system going. Some cancers if caught at the early phases can be removed, but if left alone, or ignored or one is in denial, then that cancer will get the better of you and will kill. This truth is the same for those who are lost, wondering away from God.

It is only at the moment that you realise your need for God that you can be helped. The young man said "I am starving to death." That is the crux of this part of the story. Where are you at the moment, my friend? How are you? Are you "starving to death?"

Part 3 - The Returning Phase

"I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of yor hired men." So he got up and went to his father." Verse 18 - 20a

"The Returning Phase" When the son left home, he left with a swagger, with an attitude, being "full of himself." He was after all in charge of his life. What a different picture we get of the returning son, full of remorse and feeling ashamed. nevertheless, he was doing the right thing returning home. If you have got it wrong, the truth is there is such a thing as new beginnings - 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come." Friend, the truth is all of us have a past, something we are intensely ashamed of, something which we would do anything to hide away from. It happens to all of us at some point. The Bible says: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23) The young man in our story was ashamed of himself, and well he should have been. But he returned, with a new attitude, one of humbleness, realising that he had a father who loved him (even if he did not at this stage appreciate to what extent.) It doesn't really matter wat the motive for the son's return is, what is important is that he was returning.

Part 4 - The Reunification

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, through his arms around him and kissed him." THe son said to him, "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father said to his servants, "Quick, Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate. "

Verses 20b - 24.

The Son, having made his resolve to return, was met "while he was still far off. " Friend, God looks to the day when you and I will see the error of our ways and will come to him. But he doesn't wait for us for us to walk through his gate, or to knock on his door. The Bible says: "As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.... But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions." (Eph 2:1a, 4-5a) Friend, God is just waiting for you to turn, and he is ready, willing and able to meet you right where you are.

I'm into drama - I really enjoy it, and if I were to set this story in a modern context, I would have the son, after he had realised that he'd blown it completely, living at the other end of the world phone from a call box (reversing the charges) and say something like this: Dad, it's Phil here - I'm calling from .... Please Dad I want to come home. But it'll take me a while, I've hit on some bad times here. Would it be okay if I come?" - to which I would have the father reply: "Son, where are you exactly - I am going to organise you a ticket, you can pick it up at the airport." I think you get the picture - God hasn't given up on you friend, and when you return He's ready for a party.

© John F.