The Lost Son, Older Brother and Running Father

Jesus often tells parables or stories which teach us something that is true about God, about us and how God and humanity interact. Here is one of them from Luke 15.

This is the story of a man who had two sons

“The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’” This would have been what he would have received after his father died. Essentially, the son is saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead.”

He takes this money, travels to another state and blows it all on wild living – sex, drugs, and parties. He utterly enjoys himself, until one day he realizes that he is out of money. Completely.

“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything.”

Then, he remembers that even the slaves in his Father’s house were better off than he was right then. He sets off for home with a script in mind – “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.”

“So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him.” He throws a feast and a great party for this son that has returned.
His old brother complains to his father – “‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’

Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”

This story paints a picture of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. The very same love and forgiveness that is available for us today.
As United Methodist Christians, we believe that God is at work in the lives of people before they recognize it. God was working in the life of the son, even at the beginning of the story when he asks his father for his share of the estate.

God loves us even when we are sinners.

God offers us forgiveness, even though we don’t deserve it.

We can decide to live as followers of Jesus or of our own way. It is that moment of clarity for the son there with the pigs. Life doesn’t have to be like this.

We confess our sins, receive forgiveness, trust in God and seek to follow Jesus. We are set free from the slavery of sin and are free to live as slaves to God. We are made right with God and begin to grow in love of God and neighbor.

Then, we seek to follow after God all of our days. We grow to perfect love of God and neighbor with the spiritual practice to worship, grow, give, serve and share. When we use these spiritual tools, we come closer and closer to God and care more deeply for our neighbor.

By God’s grace, it is possible for us to be delivered completely from slavery to sin and death and live completely as disciples of Jesus Christ. The amazing thing is that to live in this way, it takes people who know what it is like to live as slaves to sin. The only ones qualified are the ones who have experienced God’s grace and forgiveness.

The good news is that Jesus Christ sets us free from sin to live a holy life today.

The opportunity to live a holy life and to receive God’s forgiveness is available today. It is available for you and for me. All we have to do is ask.

One Day

Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee. I too...

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“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10, NIV

This verse reminds me of two things, which happen to be connected together. The first is an experience that I had in college at One Day 2000. Along with others from the college ministry of which I was a part, I traveled to Shelby Farms Park in Memphis Tennessee for One Day. This was one of the Passion Conferences and you can read more about it at this blog post – Remembering OneDay 2000-Sacred. Holy. His. This verse also reminds me of the song Better is One Day by Sonic Flood, who played at the One Day event.

More than these things, this verse brings perspective to my life when I get caught up in the details, tasks and minutiae of life. It helps broaden my perspective. Were you at One Day in 2000? I would love to hear from you in the comments. Also, how do you respond to this verse?

1 Chronicles 13:8 – Worship with All Your Might

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. 1 Chronicles 13:8, NIV

Yesterday we completed a two week series at Resurrection in which we looked at what it means to worship. I found this verse to be particularly timely and inspiring in light of this series. Doing anything with all my might is pretty intense. Yet this is what we are called to do in worship and in loving God.

Psalm 71:18 – Leaving a Legacy

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come (Psalm 71:18, NIV)

This verse clearly articulates the desire to leave a legacy of faithfulness and sharing good news to the generations that are coming ahead of us. I hope that I am declaring God’s power to the next generation today as well as years from now. This is a key task for me as a father and as a pastor. I hope to do this by raising my son in the faith and being intentional about offering mentoring and guidance to those younger than me.

In what ways do you share God’s power with the next generation?

Scripture Monday – Psalm 63:1

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1, NIV).

I love the vivid description of seeking God. Thirst is powerful in a land where there is no water. I aspire to seek God in this way, but I know that it is not true for me all the time.

This weekend I had the chance to witness the baptism of my niece, Jenna. Also, my brother asked if I would be a godparent, which I am honored to be. It was a great blessing to share in the day. The waters of baptism are a sign of God’s grace and quenching of our thirst for God.

Scripture Monday – Psalm 46:1-3

Castle Mountain, Alberta, Canada

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God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3, NIV)

These powerful verses remind me of God’s providence. Lack of fear in the face of the turmoil that is described here is amazing. It reminds me that what I face day to day may not be as dire as I sometimes imagine that it is. More importantly, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Thank you, God!