So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threwthe Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea… Exodus 14:27-29
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:49-51
For one entire race of people, the Red Sea will forever represent God’s provision and liberation. To another, it represents destruction and devastation. It is all a matter of perspective. With the events in Exodus 5-14, the most powerful empire of its time was brought to its knees and forever crippled. But those same events served as a new day dawning for another nation. Destruction and devastation on one side. Salvation and transformation on the other. That is the divisiveness of the Red Sea in Exodus 14.
In this holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar, our attention has a laser fix on an entirely different symbol: the cross. Like the Red Sea, it is a symbol forever engrained in a culture for thousands of years. Like the Red Sea, it represents an end of an era and the beginning of an era. But, unlike the Red Sea, the harsh division between the those two eras carries forward even to today, literally dividing all of …
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:33-34
The parable of the rich fool is, I think, a difficult lesson for the American church…a bit like teaching personal hygiene to a rodent…where do you even begin? Let’s be honest here, the American church has taken material wealth to levels never even dreamed by the founders of the New Testament church. “Give us this day our daily bread” was a genuine, heart-felt prayer reflective of a deep-seated daily need by the early church. My church, on the other hand, raised $1.5 Million last year for a new air conditioner in our Sanctuary. I’m not saying God wasn’t in that…I absolutely believe it will bring honor to Him…I’m just saying there is a bit of a cultural divide between the American church today and the early church in matters of material wealth.
There are a lot of benefits which come with that wealth. Churches all over the world pray every day for some of that kind of wealth. It has its perks. But there are some pretty clear downsides as well. And, at one level or another, the biggest downside is its impact on our faith in God. The sad truth is, we just do not need God to meet daily needs when we have material wealth. And when people outside the church look in at us and at our huge buildings and large staffs and extravagant Christmas pageants and decorations, one inescapable question arises:
What, exactly, does our church need God for?
If your church’s answer to that question is not plain…if it is somehow hidden or illusive…then you are not yet finished with your church’s communications strategy. I certainly believe this is true on the …
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 (emphasis added)
I honestly do not remember why or when I went to the trouble of circling all the personal pronouns in this passage in my Bible. I suspect it was a sermon somewhere sometime. But the circles are all still there, and it really does paint a clear picture. The “rich fool” in this parable was totally self-absorbed and focused first and foremost on his own comfort level. This point seems to be central to Jesus’ parable…and to God’s perspective on giving.
I cannot think about the concept of “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, etc.” without thinking about the seagulls in Disney-Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Remember these guys?
I suppose there are a lot of ways to measure how much you or I “give” to something. For example, maybe you have a boss who expects you to give “one hundred, ten percent” and measures you that way. Or maybe you had a coach in school who wanted you to “leave it all on the …