Daily Devotions

Bad Decisions

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 "A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living." (Luke 15:13)

 I wish I knew what motivated people to destroy their lives with the lie, that there is something better out there beyond. The young man had familial support, material benefits, etc. If I were to add more background to Jesus' parable, I would say that the two brothers competed throughout their young lives. The older brother always seemed to do everything right, and the younger brother never felt like he could successfully compare.

 No parent is perfect, and the father may have even celebrated too openly the successes of the older son. When the younger son acted out for attention, the father may have said the destructive phrase, "Why couldn't you act more like your brother?!" The phrase is like a punch in the gut. When you cannot compete, or get the attention you think you deserve, flight can feel like the only option.

 It wasn't that the younger son hated his father and brother. The ache of his insecurity and shame drove him to leave their sight, in the hope that he could start over, on his terms, and make a new life for himself. He fantasized that he could live high on the money, garner respect and stop the emotional pain. Not surprisingly, the pain and shame didn't leave the minute the father and brother were out of ear shot. So he turned to "dissolute living" to mask the ache. One terrible decision after another, until he had no self-worth left.

Today, think about what the younger brother's decision means to you. Perhaps you had your moment(s) when shame brought on bad decisions in your life. Maybe it was someone you cared about who deteriorated before your eyes, and no one could help them. Pray for the Spirit to bring love and care to your life or the one you care about. Prayerfully remember, this parable ends well. It can end well for you, even at your lowest moment, when you continually turn back to God.

The Mainline Mustard Seed

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“'What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed...'" (Luke 13:18-19)

 

This little passage is immensely popular. It found its way into all three Synoptic Gospels (Mt., Mk., Lk.) and the Gospel of Thomas. One of the reasons for its popularity is because the early church felt like a mustard seed. Here was this little sect of Judaism, trying to make its way in the big, bad world. The early followers must have felt overwhelmed by the challenge to "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." (Mt. 28:19). Yet, that is exactly what they did, and their success was unbelievable.

 

We, in the Christian Church today, need to hear and trust in the same story. Christian Churches are on the decline. Even the Evangelical and many Mega Churches are struggling. People are too busy and not making faith a priority. Worse, many younger people are turning away from faith. This generation of parents is questioning their belief in the existence of a Deity, and they are voicing their questions, doubt and even unbelief to their pre-adolescent children. We are finding children who come to church struggling to believe. Imagine how little faith there is with children whose parents keep them from the doors of church. It feels like the Church is becoming a mustard seed again.

 

We cannot control the greater society, or the whole of Christendom, but we can have an influence on our little piece of the Christian faith. Your church can grow again. The recipe is simple. What is required is a renewed commitment. Live with your doubts and questions. Be honest about your faith struggles, but do it within the family of the church. Leaving the life of the church has never been the answer to help with a faith struggle. The church needs you now more than ever before, and you need the church. The Christian Church can grow again.

 

Like you, I believe in the mainline Church. I believe in the inclusive Church that proclaims love, compassion, justice, and service. Our message is as important today as at any point in history. The mainline Church is a mustard seed, but just like the early Church, it can grow large again. It takes your commitment. Your personal faith will ebb and flow throughout your life. Please lay a good foundation for your children, and let that begin with experiencing weekly worship. Together, the Church will grow again.

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