The one

Jesus was a storyteller. He liked to get his message across using stories that related to people where they were at. In Luke 15, he tells three stories one after the other. Since most of our Bibles have headings before each story, we have a tendency to pull them apart and use them as stand-alone tales. But I think Jesus told them together for a reason.

The first story is of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who are safe and accounted for to find the one which was lost.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:7 (NIV)

The next story is of a woman who has ten coins, but loses one. She turns her house upside down to find that one lost coin.

And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Luke 15:9-10 (NIV)

The last story is perhaps the most referenced parable Jesus ever told—that of the prodigal son. A son asks his father for his inheritance and gets it. Immediately, he leaves his father’s house and squanders all of his money on debauchery. He returns home in utter humiliation.

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.

Luke 15:22-24 (NIV)

There are three types of people Jesus addresses with these three stories.

  1. The wanderer. This person is completely unaware of their drifting. One moment they are with the flock and the next, lost and alone. They wander away not knowing any better. But God still chases after the one.
  2. The neglectful. This person, like the coin, is lost through neglect or carelessness. They stop paying attention to where they are going and, like the sheep in the previous story, find themselves lost and nowhere near the rest of the group. But God still chases after the one.
  3. The prodigal. This person knows exactly what they’re doing, and they leave anyway. They’ve made themselves to believe that life is better on the other side and they squander the riches they’ve been given. But God still chases after the one.

I’m not sure that Jesus could have reached any more people with a fourth story. In one way or another, we can all find ourselves in at least one, if not all, of these parables.

Maybe you’ve wandered away because your faith is still new and you just don’t know any better or your roots weren’t deep enough to keep you close to God. Maybe you’ve neglected your faith and have found yourself out of touch with the Lord. Or maybe you made the choice to walk away. But no matter what situation you may find yourself in, God wants you back. He always wants you back. To Him you are the one.

Read: 1 Samuel 17-18, Luke 15:1-10

Commemorate

Read: Exodus 13-15, Matthew 19:1-15

Both in Canada and the United States our mints—the place where physical currency is made—like to commemorate things. Watch television late at night and you’ll probably see a commercial offer for a commemorative coin. These coins serve to honour or celebrate a particular person, place, event, or institution.

Roughrider Loonie

Of all Canadian commemorative coins, this loonie (one dollar coin) celebrating 100 years of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, is my favourite.

Our governments do a good job of helping us to remember certain things. These memories live in our purses, our pockets, our nightstands, our change jars. We need money to make it in our world and, what better way to immortalize something than to put it in the hand of every person in the country?

When something spectacular happened to God’s people, Moses asked Israel to do something similar.

Exodus 13:13

The Israelites were serious about their commemoration. Even today, phylacteries (small, black, cube-shaped leather boxes) are often worn by Orthodox and other conservative Jewish males aged thirteen and older. The purpose of these objects are to remind the Jewish people of God’s deliverance and of their duty to remain faithful to His commands. Thousands of years after the fact, these people are still commemorating their deliverance.

The Israelites celebrated their deliverance every year at the same time with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As their children grew, they would tell the story of how God brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. And then their children would tell their children who would tell their children. You get the picture. Stories of God’s greatness were passed down from generation to generation along with an object and traditions that would be a perpetual reminder.

Most of us have never been enslaved. We’ve never had to be delivered to the extent that Israel required. But God has done something for every one of us. He has delivered us all from something and brought us into His promise. So what do we do to remember that?

Several years ago, my pastor preached a message series called All In. Every person in attendance was given a poker chip with the words All In printed on it. Ask anyone who was in the congregation that day about their chip and most everyone could tell you where theirs is. Mine is in my work belt. I know that my pastor keeps one in his pocket. Our youth leader keeps it in his wallet. Like a commemorative coin, we all have a reminder to give our all when it comes to our relationship with God.

What do you keep to remind yourself of God’s grace and goodness in your life? Whether it be a phylactery, a coin, or a poker chip, it is worth keeping a memento so that you can keep in mind—even in the hard times—God’s faithfulness. Believe it or not, I even have a tissue (unused) tucked in a particular Bible that reminds me that I have the mind of Christ (Jesus in no way relates to a Kleenex, but the illustration worked and the reminder is there).

How can you commemorate the mighty hand of God in your life?

Stuck in the middle

There are two sides to every coin. Two sides to every story. Two sides of the fence. There are two sides to many things and we use a lot of them as analogies and, more often than not, the truth is somewhere in the middle—neither one side nor the other.

There are some that would say building the Kingdom of God is nothing but hard work. Work. Work. Work. And then more work. Others may say that we just have to wait on God. He’ll to it all for us. Like the coin, the story, and the fence, the truth is stuck somewhere in the middle.

Building the Kingdom of God using brute strength alone will only build something that can crumble. Nothing man makes on his own will ever be eternal.

It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty.

Zechariah 4:6b (NLT)

Yet, we cannot just sit on our rear ends and do nothing, expecting the Holy Spirit to do it all for us.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

Zechariah 4:10a (NLT)

God cannot work through us unless there is work to work through. He needs our hands and our feet to accomplish His will on this earth. Sometimes that means getting dirty and maybe even sweaty. But we don’t have to do it all on our own.

And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

It is not within God’s nature to start a job and leave it unfinished. If He has called you to a work, He will be with you, helping you, until the work is finished.

What comes from the grace of God, may, in faith, be committed to the grace of God, for he will not forsake the work of his own hands.

Matthew Henry

So, don’t get stuck on one side or the other. Find that middle ground between work and the Spirit. There is no better place to be than stuck in the middle with God.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 4-6, Revelation 18