A Challenge to Believers: Non, New & Mature

Matthew 44:44

“Go ye therefore and construct church buildings and fellowship halls and put nice organs in your sanctuaries, and then you listen to sermons and beautiful music and sit around in Sunday School classrooms and talk about the Bible. And don’t forget to buy a church van so you can take the elderly and youth on nice outings.”

The scheduled post for today was more random silliness, but I’m going to save that one for tomorrow or Friday. I need to do this post. Wednesday is one of my Internet fasting days, so if you have a comment, I’ll promise to get back to you on Thursday.

I also need to explain the picture. I do not think the Bible is “goofed-up” in any way. I chose this picture because I think we goof up the Word of God by sometimes taking things out of context. I believe that the Bible — from Genesis to Revelation — is the Story of Jesus. Yes, it is more than that, but unless we understand and believe His story, what’s the point? Unlike most books, it is suggested that you begin somewhat in the middle, with the first Chapter of John, which is interesting, because in many ways, that is the beginning. (Sorry – does that make sense?)

So here’s my challenge:

To the non believer: Read the first chapter of John. Does it make sense to you? I’m not asking whether or not you believe it, I’m only asking if it makes sense. Or does it seem confusing? Completely ridiculous? Unbelievable?

To the new believer: Read Luke, Chapter 15. Who, if anyone, do you identify with in this story? Who do you believe the main character(s) to be? Not who you THINK you should identify with, or who your pastor or mentor told you was the main character. What does your gut tell you?

To the mature believer: Read Luke, Chapter 15. Same question as above. But I’m asking you to put aside your Bible commentaries and attempt to read the introduction into the parables and the parables themselves as if you are reading them for the first time.

I will be working on a post that I will publish next Wednesday. Until then, would you please indulge me just a little? I’ve heard and read the above passages so many times that I fear I have often skimmed over some very valuable teachings contained within. Please feel free to share any preliminary thoughts with me. I only ask that they come from your heart as well as your head. I would also ask that no one get into a discussion about the merits of one particular denomination over another or disparage anyone for believing or not believing in a Divine Creator. For the purposes of this discussion, I would very much like to focus on what unites us, not what divides us.

Back to more of my distinctive ridiculousness tomorrow.

P. S. – I will also be posting something about my experiences in the weird and wonderful world of church planting on Saturday. Please tell all your church planter buddies to stop by for a visit. I think us geeky church planters need to support one another!

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10 Responses to “A Challenge to Believers: Non, New & Mature”

  1. Peter P January 28, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    >Oooo, this is exciting.

    Yes, I’m a geeky church planter so I’m excited about the saturday thing but I’m also excited about the challenge and your analysis of Luke 15 particularly in light of the way you opened the post with Matt 44:44!

    I’m boncing in my seat right now. It’s almost 2 in the morning and it’s giving me a headache – but I don’t care!!!

  2. heartafire January 28, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    >I am the older brother in the Prodigal son story, no question. Most of my life, I have been pretty good about having the appearance of righteousness, following the rules, keeping the letter of the law but have been very rebellious in my heart and places where others can’t see. I’ve kept the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. Most of my really bad sinning has been done privately or has involved other discreet sinners.
    BUT, I am jealous over others’ good fortune, just like the elder brother was—I’m not grateful for all the things that weren’t found out about me, instead I like to point the finger at others, at least figuratively. I am critical of people who I think should have to suffer but don’t seem to. Usually, this is under the guise of wanting them to “grow,” but I think it’s because I am jealous.
    I love the story because I can relate to all of the characters in it—I have also been the son who overtly sinned, and was welcomed back, and I have been the “forgiving father,” with my husband and children and others close to me.


  3. Ryan B January 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    >I’m going to have to agree with heartafire. I most closely relate to the older brother as well. I think that I have probably commit more sins of omission than commission like the older brother and also struggle with forgiveness. It’s hard to continually forgive people sometimes. It’s a process. I’ll work on it. Great post by the way.

  4. Max02 January 28, 2009 at 6:13 pm #


    Okay, so after about a looong time of writing, I realize I’d gotten off topic and off what you asked us to do in the first place. I also determined that I had, inadvertently, written a Bible commentary. So I pasted it onto a word document (no point in losing what had taken so much thought to write out) and am now answering only your questions.

    I identify with all the characters in the passage. I’d say it’s a fairly even spread, as I’ve had the experience of each of the 3 main characters of the last parable; the prodigal, the father, and the other brother.

    It was good to be reminded of the joy that is had in Heaven when someone comes to Christ. And of the unconditional love that can be shown by God and His people.

    It also reminds me that I can take a small part in that joy just by being open to talking to other people about God. They may or they may not give their lives to God then and there, but at least the seed will be planted, watered, or tended.

    I’ll post my “commentary” on my blog. Come over and check it out.

  5. Beth January 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    >Do us church planters always have to be geeky? Can’t we be something else every once in awhile? Like nerdy? Or alternative? Or anti-cool?

    Anyway…I’m cheating a little on the Wednesday fast thing. I’m going to be out of town until late on Saturday, so I’ll catch up then…

    Ok, now finally to the task at hand. I read Luke 15 three different times today just to see if I came away with anything different.

    Who do I identify with? The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

    Who do I think the main character is? The shepherd, the woman, the father

  6. Nick the Geek January 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    >I want to try and say this without reading other comments.

    Generally I believe there are essentially three “character” classes in the parables being told here and are related to the people in the introduction.

    You have Jesus/God who is the shepherd, the woman, and the father. In other words the seeker.

    You have the Pharisees and teachers of the law who are the 99 sheep, the 9 coins, and the son that does the will of the father.

    Finally you have the “sinners” who are the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

    None of us really fit into the first class but we can act in that aspect by helping with the seeking and rejoicing when the lost is found.

    At some point all of us were in the third class.

    If we have been saved then we are in the 2nd class but should learn from what the father says to the son that remained and help with the seeking and rejoice in the finding.

    As for who I identify with. I guess I fluctuate so much it is hard to say. Right now I feel more like the prodigal returned which is strange to say considering where I am in life. Other times I feel like the chastised brother and still other times I feel like I’m actually helping to seek.

    Hope that helped.

  7. Helen January 29, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    >Who, if anyone, do you identify with in this story? The other day, I definitely felt like the lost sheep. But the shepherd sent his field hands to help me out, so I was backin the fold again. In the parable of the forgiving Father, sometimes I identify with the older son, and sometimes the debaucher. Who do you believe the main character(s) to be? The shepherd, the debaucher. What does your gut tell you? That I change (not improve, just change) but God does not. He is always not just ready to take me back, but ready to meet me. In both stories, He was the one to reach out. Yeah, I know the debaucher came back, but the Father was welcoming him and rejoicing before the boy said his speech. The boy didn’t need to reach out, just to be receptive to the Father reaching out. The Father’s love is unchanging.

  8. katdish January 29, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    >Wow! Some really great contributions here! I appreciate your candor and honesty.

    Max – I read your post – awesome. I will comment on it over on your blog.

    Beth – sorry, I’m projecting myself onto others. In case you didn’t know already, I think you’re way cool on so many levels.

    Nick – written like the deep thinker I know you to be. Incidentally, I wanted to tell you that I was blown away by your comment on SCL about critiquing the sermon. Not so much because it came as any great revelation, because I have several friends in ministry and have long suspected that being a seminary graduate must surely leave you with the inclination to view a sermon from a different perspective than most people. What blew me away was your willingness to admit that you do it. I have a tendency to hold teachers of the Word to a very high standard. This probably stems from the fact that I have been disheartened in the past by people in ministry who seem to have split personalities – their real selves and the persona that they become on Sunday morning. Lately, I have been so encouraged to proven wrong by the transparency I have witnessed by you and others. So, thank you. You’re definately one of the good guys.

  9. Beth January 30, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    >Nah…I’m totally geeky…I’m just hoping there’s a glimmer of cool somewhere. 🙂

  10. vanityofvanities February 1, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    >Easy. The main character is Jesus and I am the grumbling, judgemental, narrow-minded pharisee.

    (You said to look at the chapter. So I’m drawing from the whole chapter instead of just one of the parables.)

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