Present Tense Prodigals

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“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.

Luke 15:20-21, NLT

The Parable of the Prodigal Son has typically been taught as a ‘once upon a time’ event in the life of one wayward youth. We understand it to be such. The prodigal returns to his Father, case closed. It is a remarkable story that resonates to every broken believer.

But what if I told you that this parable is present tense. That we are continuously wandering, spending our inheritance and living off the wealth of our Father. We feel bad about this, we repent and return, only to embark on another foray into sin of our own choosing. It happens all the time.

My point is this. We seem to be always the prodigal. We never seem to outgrow this. We are constantly coming to our senses, and returning home. We seem to never get the point that our personal sin as eternal consequences. We live like there is no tomorrow, except we have to sober up and realize we have wandered far from our home.

The story of the prodigal is written to us who have repeatedly (that means very often) find themselves a good distance from where we should be. We find ourselves feeding the pigs again. We abhor our choices, and wonder again if our Father will take us back just one more time. Reason says ‘No!,’ but faith says ‘Yes!’

God’s love for us is greater than all our evil wanderings. It extends to the ups and downs of our vacillating discipleship. He sees it all and fully accepts us as His returning son. We will never tire out His constant love. We can feel ashamed of our recent behavior, but that changes nothing. We belong to Him, even if we feel wretched.

There are belivers who are overwhelmed by their sense of sin. Some of this is inflated by the devil. And yet they feel estranged from the Church. They know what they’ve done, and they can find no excuse for their actions. They’ve wandered again (for the 100th time).

The Father’s love is not subject to your obedience. It is not a meager thing doled out in some stingy manner. It is given outrageously to each son or daughter without limits. Rascals are included. God is not a miser.

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

Luke 15:22-24

‘One, and your done’ doesn’t apply to your heavenly Father. His love for you can’t be reduced to this level. Pick yourself up, leave the pigs, and come home again.

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Please, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

 

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“You have given me many troubles and bad times, 
       but you will give me life again. 
    When I am almost dead, 
       you will keep me alive.”

Psalm 71:20, NCV

“He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Isaiah 53:3, NASB

Everyone hurts sometimes. We all will face our sorrows. But there are times, when our pain pounds us intensely. Sometimes it seems that we need God’s Flexeril. When we need it, as a muscle relaxer (for a strained back) it is useful. But if we abuse it and don’t really need it– it suddenly turns into a deep problem.

Sorrow is the effects of a hammering emotional or spiritual pain. I have never spoken out about this, but my wife and I had a daughter who died— stillborn. She was doing great, up to a week before her due date. We knew that in seven days, we would be able to see her– face-to-face.

But that was not to be. Elizabeth Grace Lowe died from strangulation (from her own umbilical cord.) Nothing could have been done. My wife had noticed a moment of very frantic activity, as Elizabeth fought for her life. We plummeted from ecstatic joy to a devastating sorrow in minutes. It came “out-of-the-blue,” totally unexpected. We both were completely undone.

“For the Lord will not reject forever,
For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.
For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.”

Lamentations 3:32-33, NASB

There is pain, but there are promises. There is sadness, but there are psalms. There is a blessing on all those who grieve. This topic deserves far more attention than this simple post. (But fools always want to play the lead in “Hamlet,” and I guess I’m not immune.)

There is such sorrow in this life, much more than the human heart can possibly contain. But our Savior has a title (one of many.) He is the “Man of Sorrows.” He is the one “on point.” He leads us through such intense hostility. He guides us when things get very dark.

There are a few things that I want to communicate to you. These have come out of great darkness.

  1. God takes the full blame for our pain and sorrow. He doesn’t shift the blame, or deny His presence in our sufferings. Sometimes you need to adjust your theology.
  2. Jesus has fully shared our sorrow. All that you are feeling right now, He feels. If you feel you are at a minus 10, then He does as well. As you suffer, He is your shadow.
  3. Nothing is ever wasted. We really shouldn’t treat these moments of sorrow as a waste. Have you ever wondered at Jesus’ ‘economy’ after the 5000 were fed?  He assigns value to the leftovers. The disciples pick up their baskets and collect everything up again. Nothing will go to waste.
  4. This pain, this sorrow is the “intensive crash course” in becoming a person of mercy. You now will always walk with a limp. At times the scars will be quite visible to those who can really see. This will become forever a healed wound (but a wound nevertheless.) It helps to seek out others who have walked this same path. I don’t think I will ever fully trust a person who doesn’t walk with a limp.
  5. You will need (but maybe not accept,) the transformation of your suffering into glory. This will take some time, and it almost feels like your not progressing at all. I encourage you to re-think the above points. The Holy Spirit is working, perhaps behind the scenes.

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“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 147:3, NLT

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”

Isaiah 61:1, NLT

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Lost Sheep: A Love that Will Pursue You

We live in difficult times, and it is easy to lose your way.  I have discovered that Christian believers can be as broken and lost as anyone else.  The One who shepherds our souls is working to retrieve us and bring us to safety,  looks for us and brings us home.  I really like the following passage, especially in Eugene Peterson’s wonderful paraphrase, in the Message.

Luke 15

The Story of the Lost Sheep

 1-3By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

 4-7“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.’ [The Message]

I suppose that we chose to what we are theologically aligned to. But in this case, there are two distinct poles. The lost, and those who wouldn’t ever dream of being lost. They all see the world in a different way. Are you a ‘lost sheep?’

If we want to, we can grasp the world by the right way. If you can’t come as a sinner, then you will undoubtedly come as a “pharisee,” full of pride and self-righteousness. You must make the decision all by yourself.

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Sifted, Like Wheat

Threshing Wheat

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31-32

I’m thinking about failure;  it is something that I am really, really good at.  In my almost 54 years I just realized that I’ve experienced more weak moments then strong.  I have easily failed more than I have succeeded. I am embarrassed by this. I have figured that I’ve sinned, and failed more as a Christian, than I ever did as a pagan sinner. And things show little sign of improving.

Simon Peter is about to undergo a trial so intense and difficult, that unless Jesus intervenes it will probably destroy Peter.  The only other blatant attack where Satan seeks permission is in the life of Job. It is reasonable to believe that the forces of hell are concentrated on Peter.

You and I undergo some of this onslaught ourselves.  We go through periods of intense trial.  Everything just falls apart, and we lose hope.  I’ve had several periods like that, a tornado from hell bears down upon my life.

There is remarkably good news in this.

  • First, Jesus is praying for me to endure.  He is the faithful intercessor for my soul.
  • Second, He gives us a modicum of understanding by warning us of the approaching storm.  Peter is told ahead of time of what was going to happen.
  • Third, the wheat will be sifted.  Sifting or the harrowing of the grain is a good and godly activity. It is a good thing, as it builds your faith.
  • Four, you will survive to strengthen your brothers and sisters.

All pain and failure gives us a mandate to serve others. Our weakness gives us a spiritual license to become a shepherd of mercy and hope.  (You could say that you are now a licensed minister.) We can ask for nothing more; it is a good and profound work.

In love’s work, only the wounded can truly serve.

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