Sheep, Coins, and Sons

SheepOne of the illustrations frequently used in the Bible is of sheep. Sheep are very dependent creatures. They have a symbiotic relationship with people, where the sheep rely on the shepherd for protection. In return, the shepherds get wool and food from the sheep. It’s this interdependence that makes sheep a perfect metaphor for God’s children. We need God’s love and protection, and in return we should give God the glory and praise that he is due.

The best known story involving sheep is the parable of the lost sheep. That parable starts off “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” Now, those of you who have heard this story before probably don’t see anything outrageous in that first sentence. Take another look. Leaves the ninety-nine in the open country? What kind of shepherd would do that? If you were a shepherd, would you risk having your other 99 sheep wander off while you searched for one? Of course you wouldn’t.

I think this parable makes even more sense when we look at it with the other two parables contained in Luke 15: the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. The woman who swept her house looking for a lost coin threw a party to celebrate when she found it. She likely spent many times more on the party than the value of the coin. In the same way, the parable of the prodigal son is about a father taking his son back, even after his son had taken his share of the inheritance (which was a way of telling his father “I wish you were dead”) and spent it on cheap highs.

All these parables are about the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom doesn’t work like the system of the world. His values and priorities are often nonsense in this world. These parables tell us the extent to which God loves us, that he would stop everything and come running after us. Even when we choose to run from God, He is still there for us and looking for us, ready to bring us back into the flock. It reminds me of 1 John 3:16: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”


Quick thought for the day

Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed. – A close friend of U2’s Bono

Right on.


Recent flicks

V for VendettaRecently, I’ve seen two outstanding movies. Last weekend, I saw V for Vendetta. It was a very well done movie, and it’s probably my favorite so far for 2006. It had excellent artistic work–I especially liked the lighting design on V. It almost gave his mask emotions.

Tonight, I saw The Count of Monte Cristo. Another excellent movie that is an instant classic. Now I want to see the old movie and (eventually) read the book. Excellent cinematography over the last few days.

General Politics

Amazing footnote

GavelI think this may be the best legalese footnote I’ve ever seen:

A certain four-letter verb for “copulate,” of possible Scandinavian origin (see Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1977) p. 463, col. 2) appears frequently in the record along with its gerundive and a related noun involving the maternal parent.

From footnote 1 of this California Court of Appeals opinion.


Engineers Against Cancer?

Sometimes you get a very well intentioned email that makes you stop and think.  This morning, I got an email with the subject Fw: Engineers  Against Cancer.  Even though it came off the ECE department listserv (they forward just shy of 15 billion emails a day), I glanced at the message and got to thinking.  If there’s an engineers against cancer, doesn’t that imply that there’s also engineers FOR cancer?  You could argue that by being indifferent, you are indirectly for cancer, but you usually see the term used when there’s two sides each with clear supporters.  It would make more sense if it were engineers against gun control, because you could also clearly see a group engineers for gun control existing.

Note: The email was actually about the Relay for Life to support the American Cancer Society.  It’s a good cause, they just had bad word choice when forwarding it to a group of engineers.


The prayer incorrectly attributed to St. Francis

candleLord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

What great things to be asking for, and also what amazing things to display in life. It’s my prayer that through the grace of God I can do a better job exhibiting those attributes in my life. ‘Nuff said.


Featured elsewhere

In the past two days, I’ve been mentioned in two other blogs.  While I read and link to both these blogs, I find it amusing that I would get my first and second mention in another blog only a day apart.  Saturday, I was featured (complete with photo!) by Snook for being his second largest referring site.  Sunday, I was mentioned by Erock for my guess on the milage on his new Jeep.  Incedently, Snook and Erock are two of the first people that I met through NLCF during my first week at VT.  Snook actually has the distinction of being the reason that I stuck with NLCF instead of trying more churches.  I prayed going in to the first service that if God wanted me to go to that church, someone would have a meaningful conversation with me.  Let me put it this way: Snook sat in front of me.  I stayed.

For the record, my top referrer is Google.  My second largest referrer is Tim.

Faith General Virginia Tech

Very busy

I’m very busy at the moment, so sorry for the blog slience.  I’m presenting to the Christian Faculty Fellowship today and I have a big micro project due Monday that I need to do a lot of work on.  Also, the last week has been teaching me how to pray.  I should be back next week with more posts.


Jesus Wept

TearIt’s the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35). When I was growing up, it was the memory verse that we always begged our Sunday School teachers to give us. It’s a widely known verse, yet it’s a verse that I don’t think most followers of Christ understand the full significance of. Here, we have Jesus, the son of God crying. The only perfect person in the history of the word spurting tears.

So why was Jesus crying? If you look at the context, the story is the death of Lazarus. All of John 11 talks about Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him from the dead. Essentially, Jesus that heard that his friend Lazarus was sick. Jesus stayed where he was for two days, then came. When he arrived, Lazarus was already dead. Mary and Martha show Jesus where Lazarus had been buried, and Jesus saw the grave and wept. The story doesn’t end here. Just a few verses later, Lazarus walks out of the tomb on Jesus’ command. When Jesus wept, he knew the next part of the story. He knew that on his command, Lazarus would return to life from death. But I don’t think that it was Lazarus who made Jesus cry.

Mary and Martha had already had several days to mourn Lazarus when Jesus arrived, but with the death of a close friend, I’m sure they were still torn up with grief. At that time, what Mary and Martha needed wasn’t a miracle, but a shoulder to cry on. Jesus knew what came next, but he joined in with his friends in their sorrow, and through that supported them. Jesus, fully God and fully man, used his human emotions to connect with those people who he loved.

And the same is true for followers of Jesus today. When we come to Jesus, he offers us a shoulder to cry on. He also offers us healing and forgiveness, but he comes to us where we’re at and enters into our suffering with us. Taking it to Jesus isn’t the fast solution, but it’s the only way where we can find support in our times of need and hope for the future.

So many times, I’ve set up my life with a fortress to keep God out fearing giving the Almighty power over me. But that’s just what this story is about, recognizing that God is a god of love and he sent his son Jesus into the world so that we could have a more intimate relationship with Him. Jesus’ weeping is our reassurance that God cares about his children and wants to be deeply involved with their lives. Today, let that thought encourage and comfort you.

An excellent talk on this verse was given by my friend John several months ago called Almighty Tears.

Faith General Virginia Tech

It’s funny how things work out sometimes

I had this strong desire to write a few specific things in one of my (paper) journals.  I get the journal out and discover I’ve lost my good pen.  I then realize how bad tomorrow would have been if I had gone through all my classes without a proper writing implement.

It’s small things like these that constantly remind me that God is involved in my life.