Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lost Sons and the Loving Father

Last night at HUB, we did part two of God's radical love and pursuit of our hearts. We looked again at Luke 15 and the two camps of people. Notorious sinners v. Pharisees. Jesus was spending time, eating meals, and befriending "tax collectors and sinners" to the disgust of the Pharisees. Both groups need grace. Both groups are sinners. One of my RUF campus ministers at Furman would always say: "You're never so bad that you stand outside of God's grace, and you're never so good that you don't stand in need of God's grace." The notorious sinners feel that they don't deserve God's love and grace - but you're never too far away. The Pharisees feel that they have done enough good things to earn God's love and grace - but see grace is a free gift, you can't earn it. So, Jesus tells them three parables. Last week we talked about the first one: The Lost Sheep. Then he goes on to tell about a lost coin, and finally we end with the most detailed and gripping one, the Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. I think it would be better to call it the Parable of the Lost Sons or the Parable of the Loving Father.
It's incredibly hard to do this story justice in just a small blog post. So for the full impact, go ahead and read Luke 15:11-32. Don't have a bible? Check it out here on Bible Gateway:
The son looks his father in the eye and says I want my inheritance. Basically, the son looks his dad in the eye and says "I wish you were dead. I would rather have money from you than any form of a relationship." His father consents, gives him his inheritance, and the son goes off to a far country. He then spends all of his money, every dime. Soon a famine comes and after a series of events he decides he'll go back to his dad, apologize for everything, and ask to be hired on as a servant - knowing he doesn't deserve to be accepted back as a son. This is what I love.
Verse 20: “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."
Every single day since the son left, the father would walk outside, look down the long road, and hope that his son would return. His servants even knew about it. He would come out of his house and with hope ask his servants..."Have you seen him? Have you seen my son today?" "No, sir," they would reply. Embarrassed, they would look down and walk away. Everyday this same routine. "What about today? Have you seen my son today? Maybe today is the day he will come home?" "I'm sorry, sir, but we haven't seen anyone today."
And then "today" arrived. The Father walks outside and looks down the road. Off in the distance he sees someone approaching. Frantically, he asks his servants - "Do you see that?! Do you see someone coming up the road?! Do we have any visitors coming today??" With that, he takes off. Slowly at first and as the person comes more into view he realizes it's his son. Now he's sprinting. As he nears his son he throws his arms open and embraces his lost son. Kisses him. Beams at him.
The son begins his well planned speech. The one about how he doesn't deserve to be a son, but maybe he could be a hired servant. I loved how the father doesn't even acknowledge what the son is saying. He immediately begins calling servants to prepare for the biggest celebration of all times. A party to celebrate his son who was lost, but now is found; a son who was dead, but now is alive.
Enter: elder brother. Remember my changed title? The Parable of the Lost Sons. There were two sons. This elder son is filled with anger and bitterness. He lashes out at his Father - "All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!" Bitterness. Anger. Rage. His heart is so hard. There is not an ounce of joy that his brother has returned. He can't even say "my brother" he calls his brother "that son of yours."
Two lost sons. One loving Father. Notice how the Father leaves the party to care for his older son. He ran down the road for the younger son. You see, the Father always comes after us. He comes running after us when we have distanced ourselves from him. And he comes gently up to us when we have become a slave to our own hard hearts.
He is a loving Father and he will go to any lengths to bring us from lost to found, dead to alive. He radically loves us and pursues our hearts.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"I Want that Man"

Last night at HUB we talked about the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. I think this parable demonstrates the radical love and pursuit of God after our hearts. Jesus tells the parable in light of a situation at hand. The Pharisees are judging Jesus for hanging out with "tax collectors and notorious sinners." They are appalled that he associates with them and even eats meals with them. He then tells them a story of a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 to look for 1 sheep who has wondered off. When the shepherd finds the sheep, he throws him over his shoulders and carries him back to the flock - rejoicing that his lost sheep is found. Isn't it the same with us and God? When we wonder off, he goes searching for us. Notice: it isn't the sheep who turns around. This means it doesn't have to take until we come to our senses, start getting it right, and turn back to God. God comes searching for us. So no matter how far your feel from God, know that He is searching for you at this very moment. Jesus ends the parable expressing that more joy is felt over one repentant sinner than over 99 "righteous" men who do not repent at all. I love that oxymoron. You see "no one is righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10).
We then watched a video that has had over 16 million hits on YouTube. Watch it - I promise you'll enjoy it and it will make you think.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review

I have been reading a fantastic book this past week: Tina Fey's Bossypants. I literally laugh audibly every time I pick up this book. From another room, Matt wonders what I could possibly be laughing so hard at - it's hard to believe it's just from reading a book. She constantly pokes fun at herself...a quality that I truly admire. Have a little free time this weekend? Pick up Bossypants!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Glory to God

"This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him."
This Sunday at HUB we talked again about radical living. I shared two stories about two individuals who have endured very, very hard things in their lives. We all know such stories. The first I shared was about a women who went against doctors' recommendations that she abort her baby, the second about a young person having a parent die. Why did this happen? I know both of these individuals have asked God this question. Why did this awful thing happen? We ask our own questions...why did something happen in my life, or my friends life? Or why am I certain way or why am I not a certain way? Why are my parents divorced? Why aren't I taller/shorter, skinnier/stronger? Why don't I fit in with a certain crowd?
We read about a man who was blind from birth in John 9. The disciples wanted to know...was he blind because he was being punished for his own sins? Was he blind because his parents sinned and this was the consequence? The Message translation has Jesus saying back "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do." Or as the NIV translation said about the man's blindness - "This has happened so that the power of God could be seen in him."
Why do bad things happen to good people? It's a question asked so often. But look what Jesus says - "there is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do." God is bigger than the tragedy. God is good. God is at work. Jesus gave sight to this blind man. What about the other two people? Well my friend who lost a parent - she talks about that being the very event which led her to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She said if God could take something as awful as losing a parent and bring her to Himself through it - then that is a beautiful thing. She decided to "look instead for what God can do" through her loss - "the power of God can be seen in her."
And what about the woman who was told to abort her baby? You see she was a missionary and through contaminated food or water she contracted amoebic dysentery - meaning she had a parasite in her intenstines. She went into a coma and only through very strong antibiotics did she heal. But before she contracted the disease, she had become pregnant. Only they didn't find out until afterward. After the amoebic dysentery, after the coma, after the strong antibiotic. The doctors told her the baby was a hazard to her own health. The doctors told her the strong medicines had done irreversible damage to her baby. IF (and that was a big if) the baby survived, it would be severely disabled. She said she was going to keep the baby. She cited her Christian faith as her reason. During her pregnancy she almost lost the baby four times. But, on August 14, 1987 Pam Tebow gave birth to Tim Tebow. She decided to "look instead for what God can do" through her struggle - "the power of God can be seen in her."
To God be the glory forever and ever.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Another Book...Another Semester

I have just started reading Radical by David Platt. Two chapters down, several more to go. I'm not necessarily going to talk as much about the book at this point as I am about the idea of the word Radical. I've decided this semester to let the theme word for my talks with high schoolers and middle schoolers be the word Radical. Sometimes my talks are based on a particular book, book in the bible, or theme. For the first time, I'm letting just one word be the thread for my talks. The particular definition I'm using is "very different from the usual or traditional." The point? Jesus lived radically and calls us to live radically different from the world. Last night at HUB we discussed Romans 12:1-2 "And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Things of focus:
1. God wants us to give our bodies, our lives to him, completely because of all that He has done for us. I shared about how much I HATE wasting time. Literally, hate it. If I feel like I've wasted time or part of my day it just completely puts me in a funk. It's because I'm doing things for me. I'm living life according to me - and not giving my days and time to the Lord.
2. I want to live a life that's extraordinary. I don't want to just have an ordinary life. I don't want it to be predictable. Whether it's ordinary or extraordinary - This doesn't come from the things we do or have. It's not based on how much money we have or don't have, how great of a career we have or don't have, how great or not great our grades are, etc. It comes completely from why we do what we do and who we do it for. If we do things for ourselves, or the approval of others, or for fame/ will all disappoint. If I do them for the Lord, if I am motivated by my relationship with Him, all other things will fall into place. If I start and end my day with my eyes fixed on day goes from ordinary to extraordinary.
3. God wants to transform each one of us into a new person by changing the way you think. He wants to change the focus from ourselves and the world to him. He wants to transform us into who he created us to be. The more we know Him, the more we know our true selves. The more we allow him to transform us, the more our lives move from ordinary to extraordinary.
All of these things are radical: very different from the usual or traditional. The world tells you to live life for yourself. The world tells you to take charge of your own destiny. Deny yourself? Get a bigger picture than yourself? Give your life to Christ? It's radical - it's not what the world tells you will bring you satisfaction. But guess what...the world lies. There is only one truth, one origin for satisfaction, one source for real and life-giving joy - Jesus Christ. It's a New Year - instead of making resolutions to "be better" why not fix our eyes on the one who came to bring us life to the full.

Here's the video I showed last night. It's of Tom Brady - 3 time Super Bowl winner. 2 time MVP of the Super Bowl. He should have it all, right? Then why his question at the end? When the commentator asks him - So what's the answer? - I would refer back to our verse, Romans 12:1-2.
Tom Brady Interview