You Can Live A Better Story

A month ago, I invited you to support a ministry I deeply believe in. RescueNet, a faith-based nonprofit organization was dispatched to Haiti in order to help in the relief effort.

Well, just today, I received word that the organization was lauded on a television program for their work. To see the video clip, click here.

Through your financial support, you made a difference in the lives of many Haitians!

Everyone wants to make a difference, they want to live a better story.

In today’s reading, we’re going to take a closer look at how we can actually do it!

TODAY’S READING

Leviticus 7:28-9:6
Mark 3:31-4:25
Psalm 37:12-29
Proverbs 10:5

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Leviticus 7:28-37. Although the explanation of the various sacrifices and offerings seems complicated, compared to the surrounding cultures, if was relatively simple and straightforward. Not only that, but Israel’s worship rituals conspicuously lacked anything associated with invoking omens from the entrails of sacrificed animals, human sacrifice, self-mutilation, the use of human blood, sexual and fertility rituals, sacrifices to the dead, or any other manipulation of occultic powers. Sacrifices were offered as a means of receiving forgiveness, or a response to God’s goodness, and nothing else. All of these were significant differences from the surrounding nations.

Leviticus 8:8. The Urim and Thummim were used to determine God’s will in a given situation. Unfortunately, no one is sure what they looked like, although many scholars believe they were either two small plates, one signifying “yes” and the other signifying “no” or two stones—one light and the other dark.

Leviticus 9:2. In Aaron’s first duty as high priest, God commanded him to offer a bull calf as a sin offering. Not so coincidentally, Aaron had fashioned a bull calf out of gold for Israel to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. I’m not sure what this means, but perhaps God was reminding Aaron of his constant need for forgiveness or he was taking Aaron back to his gravest sin so they could move forward in a different direction together.

Mark 3:31-35. Jesus’ remarks in this section are astonishing. Whoever does God’s will is Jesus’ brother, sister, and mother. The implications of this statement are huge! This is good news for people who come from unhealthy families or single people or people without any family at all. It also carries responsibilities for married couples and healthy families—to welcome other unattached believers into their family. This also defines the relationships that should exist within the church. We’re family! We care about each other and we help each other.

Psalm 37:21-26. According to this passage, the trademark of the righteous person is generosity. It seems to me this applies not only to giving to churches and religious non-profit organizations (which didn’t exist thousands of years ago), but as a way of life.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Thus far into 2010, my co-pastor Eugene and I have been exploring with our church what it means to live a better story. In fact, Living A Better Story is our theme for the year.

Deep down, I think all of us want to live better lives. Lives of significance. Lives that make a difference in other people’s lives.

Jesus’ example of the sower and the seed is one of the key parables in the Gospels. A farmer sows seed in his field, which is composed of rocks, thorns, a hardened path, and fertile soil. Although every area in the field is given the opportunity to be fruitful, only the rich, fertile soil produces anything of worth.

Most people (including me) read Jesus’ explanation of the parable and interpret it from the perspective of the sower: Jesus commissions us to sow seeds indiscriminately and leave the results to him.

But today, I began asking myself, what’s the condition of my field?

When I compare myself to the different types of soil, I find myself in every one of them.

All too often I ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit or the clear message of Scripture. I ultimately prove that my field definitely includes a hardened path that runs through the center.

Other times, I feel inspired to serve God or make changes in my behavior. I want to do the right thing, but my passions run elsewhere or I just lose focus. Those areas of my life resemble the rocky ground.

My greatest challenge involves the thorny soil. I get so busy, so self-absorbed, so caught up in my plans that I forget about other people and my relationship with Jesus.

And yet, by God’s grace I still see fruit. It’s a glimpse of the better story that I seek.

Here’s my point: Living a better story usually occurs in rich, fertile soil. God produces the fruit, but I control the soil. Living a better story—fruitfulness—begins with cultivating the fallow ground of my heart.

I’d love to give you a formula for cultivating your fallow ground, but it looks different in all of us.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What’s the condition of your field? How do you cultivate your heart so you can live a better story?
  3. “Followers of Jesus should be the most generous people in the world.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Has that been true of your experience?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “You Can Live A Better Story

  1. elna

    The sacrifices was also different in that it used the animals that was ‘idolised’ by the surrounding nations, ie rams, bull’s.
    This is probably also the reason that Joseph told his family to move to the land of Goshen. The Israelites ate one of the major deity’s of the Egyptians.

  2. Mike

    I confess that my contribution to the kingdom is scant. I think it may relate to my care to do things right so in attempting to do right my focus is on self and not others. Like the ancient Hebrews attempting to keep all the law their focus became myopic and they missed opportunities to be light. Am I the only one failing to be a seed that produces much because I am attempting to be a good keeper of the law? Yet Jesus, and the Psalm would have us forget self so completely that we only see others and then jump to meet their need, TRUSTING that God will fill all our needs as well. Well, this is my crisis of faith.

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