The Parables: Jesus’ Friendly Subversive Speech is a new book designed especially for pastors to get deeper insights into how Jesus used His parables to communicate the gospel message to His listeners during His earthly ministry. However, this book is written in such a manner that Sunday school leaders, small group leaders, and others who engage in teaching the Bible will gain much wisdom and helpful suggestions in how to make the parables more meaningful to others.
As suggested by the subtitle of the work, Webster posits the view that Jesus used parables to communicate the gospel to the crowds on two levels: On one level, they were entertaining stories that drew in the listeners and made immediate impacts on their hearts because Jesus drew the stories from everyday life and situations. But on a deeper level, these parables could teach the subversive truths of the gospels in ways that sophisticated listeners like the Pharisees could take as insults, but the spiritually hungry in the crowds could take as a balm for their souls.
Webster states that many commentators tend to be too analytical in their analysis of the parables and thus miss the impact of the parables on their original audiences. So, he aims to be mindful of the pastor in the pulpit and the person in the pew to bring out the meaning and applications of the parables that he covers in this book. And Webster has chosen to cover the parables that appear in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke because these two accounts are the most systematic in using the parables of Jesus to illustrate His teachings on important topics; such as the true nature of salvation and discipleship, the kingdom of heaven, perseverance in faith, the value of hospitality, and the importance of the inclusion of women and the poor in the kingdom.
This volume is written in a straightforward and easy-to-follow manner that will prove useful and valuable to both clergy and layman alike. Highly recommended!
** A free electronic copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the contents. **
Spiritual formation in Christ is the process through which disciples or apprentices of Jesus take on the qualities or characteristics of Christ himself, in every essential dimension of human personality. The overall orientation of their will, the kinds of thoughts and feelings that occupy them, the “automatic” inclinations and “readinesses” of their body in action, the prevailing posture of their relations toward others, and the harmonious wholeness of their soul—these all, through the formative processes undergone by his disciples, increasingly come to resemble the personal dimensions of their master. “A pupil is not above his teacher,” Jesus said, “but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
This article tackles the question of whether there is one “God’s will” for each of us, and if so, can we miss God’s plan for us through some ignorance or poor choice of ours? Here is a takeaway for me: “The reality is that we cannot fall short of God’s best for us. We cannot walk off the path that God has laid out for us. Everything that happens is, in fact, God’s plan and God’s best.” From Building Jerusalem……………………..
We don’t have to look very far into our own thinking and living to see the effects of either being sure of God or not being sure of God. I believe that scripture always presents real faith as something that is based on knowledge as well as something that goes beyond anything you could know, and involves a commitment to God and his kingdom. Those two things, knowledge and commitment, are not exclusive of one another; rather, they are related. If we do not have a knowledge of God at the foundation of our commitment, that commitment simply will not hold up. It will waver; it will not govern our lives. It will be like pulling a chair away from someone in the act of sitting down. We will not be able to hold on to our belief as God intends, by the action of his Spirit on our hearts and our minds.
Knowledge and faith are intended to go together. For example, when you read Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, you will see faith equated with a vision of reality. We are told that Moses endured as one who sees the invisible. Faith is not a mere thought that something is true or the hope or resolve to believe it is. As Martin Luther said in the preface to his commentary on Romans:
Faith is a living, well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction. Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things—all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith. Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and to glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace. It is thus impossible to separate works from faith—yea, just as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire.
I enjoy reading these little articles from Crosswalk. This one focuses on the image of shelter we can find in the Bible. Here is a takeaway for me: “When our journeys are difficult and our bodies remind us that this earth is not our permanent home, God does not leave us without help. He is always available to be a shelter for us to offer protection and grace.”
How do you become a really good person? You place your confidence in Jesus Christ and become his student or apprentice in kingdom living. That amounts to progressively entering into the abundance of life he brings to us. You learn from him how to live in the kingdom of God as he himself did. There is much to learn after you enter. To go through the door is not necessarily to live in the house. Our confidence that Jesus is “the One” leads us to go constantly to school with him, taking our whole life with us, and it is in so doing that love comes to pervade our life to such an extent that we are unmistakably his students. He said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He can impose this challenge upon himself as teacher because he knows no one else can produce the human transformation he has in mind
This is a really great article that is ostensibly about not letting your fears about retirement overwhelm you, but it has a lot of other applications! Here is the money quote for me: “Trust God, but row away from the rocks.” From Retirement Stewardship……………………..
We must stop using the fact that we cannot earn grace (whether for justification or for sanctification) as an excuse for not energetically seeking to receive grace. Having been found by God, we then become seekers of ever-fuller life in him. Grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort. The realities of Christian spiritual formation are that we will not be transformed “into his likeness” by more information, or by infusions, inspirations, or ministrations alone. Though all of these have an important place, they never suffice, and reliance upon them alone explains the now-common failure of committed Christians to rise much above a certain level of decency.