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The Father’s Heart

The Prodigal Son is a parable just about everyone has heard. We know how one son asked for his inheritance early and left home to go see the world. Like a lot of people who have won the lottery, he thought the money was unending. He spent it on frivolous things and soon the money ran out while he was far from home. With a famine in the land, he found it hard to find work or food. He soon was breaking the Jewish customs and sacrificing what he believed just so he could eat. He decided that he was better off going home and being a servant of his father’s than to be in his current predicament. While he was a long way away, the father saw him, ran to him, celebrated his return and threw a party. The older son, who was working the fields heard the commotion, found out what was happening and grew angry about it.

In this story, we like to identify with the son who left home and was welcomed back. We love knowing our Heavenly Father is looking for us and will welcome us back no matter what we’ve done. The story is about the older son too. He’s the one who stayed doing what he was supposed to. He’s the one who didn’t lose all his father had worked for. Yet he was the one out of everyone who was angry that a big deal was being made about his brother who had wasted his inheritance. He didn’t like that his brother’s poor behavior was being celebrated. He lost sight that it wasn’t a celebration of bad decisions, but that the brother had made a right one after so many wrong ones. He had returned to where he belonged.

Have you ever thought how different that story would have turned out if it had been the older brother on the porch rather than the father? Would he have sent his own brother away? It’s so important that you and I have our Heavenly Father’s heart. We should celebrate like Heaven does when the lost find their way home. We should welcome people with open arms when they’ve reached the end of their rope and have a repentant heart. Matthew 18:14 says, “Now you should understand that it is never the desire of your heavenly Father that a single one of these humble believers should be lost” (TPT). The Father’s heart is that no one should be lost, so He rejoices when one is found. It’s time we all shared his love for the lost and rejoice with Him in these moments.

Photo by Anna Claire Schellenberg on Unsplash

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Celebrate Success

I’m the type of person who shuts out the world when I get focused on something. I put my head down and give my attention to what it is I’m concentrating on. Many times I won’t hear anyone talking to me and I won’t talk to anyone else until the job is complete. If I’ve got a todo list, I cross it off when I’m finished and move on to the next thing on the list. The longer the list, the more serious I am. If there are other people around, and they’re not helping, I get frustrated. They can be a distraction from the work I’m trying to do. My attitude can be, “Either help or get out.” Then, when everything is done, I can breathe easy.

I tell you that because that’s how many of us are. We put our head down and work because we have responsibilities, but i want us to look at something today. The most famous parable Jesus told has to be the Prodigal Son. We’ve heard numerous sermons on it focusing on that son, but there are two sons in the story, and i believe Jesus was speaking to that son as much as the other. You see, he was the firstborn and had all the responsibilities on his shoulders. He didn’t go off and party. Instead, he put his head down and worked. Even when his brother returned, he didn’t hear the music or notice workers had left the fields because he was so focused. In fact, he was upset that people were playing when they should have been working.

I love the father’s message to him in Luke 15:32. He said, “It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed” (TPT). Like him, you and I need to be reminded it’s ok to stop and celebrate successes. Part of the responsibility of the first born is to know when to celebrate. It’s a heavy burden to be the first born, but there’s also a time to rejoice. God wants us to understand that we need to celebrate successes when they come. Life is not just about crossing things off our todo list. It’s about celebrating what God is doing along the way. What has God done for you lately that you need to celebrate?

Photo by Ambreen Hasan on Unsplash

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Quit Feeling Sorry


Have you ever felt sorry for someone? It could be a friend, family member, or a stranger on the street. If you’re like me, you feel sorry for people fairly often. I hate seeing people getting knocked down by life and not having the will or the strength to get back up. That’s usually the type of person I feel sorry for. I have a momentary thought of “Man, I hate that for them,” then my attention gets diverted, my life goes on, and I forget about their pain. I hope I’m not the only person this happens to.

Now let me ask you this: have you ever felt compassion for someone? Despite what you might be thinking, they’re two different feelings. Compassion is more than feeling sorry for someone’s situation. It does something about it. Compassion is a combination of pity and love. It motivates you to not just have a momentary thought, but to do something about their situation. Compassion is love in action, and I believe we all could use more of it. Jesus didn’t just look at people and had pity on them. He had compassion and it moved Him to action.

I believe we are to follow that example. We shouldn’t just feel sorry for others. We should have compassion and act. Here are several verses where Jesus had compassion and acted or taught about it.

1. A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.
Mark 1:40-42 NLT

2. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14 NLT

3. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luke 7:12-15 NLT

4. “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. 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. ’ “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. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 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 15:20-24 NLT

5. Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.
Matthew 15:32-36 NLT

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Run To The Poor


One of the most well known parables of Jesus comes from Luke 15:11-32. It’s the story of the Prodigal Son. Before you quit reading, I want to look at this story a little differently than before. As you know, he took his inheritance early, moved away, and wasted it on wild living and prostitutes. In verse 16, he was so broke and hungry that he had to feed pigs and even their slop looked appealing to him. The end of that verse tells us everything: “But no one gave him anything” (NLT).

Here’s a guy, who when he had money, was throwing it around. He was surrounded by people who enjoyed him buying their drinks, paying for their meals, and throwing parties they would attend. When he was broke, hungry, and homeless, those people were nowhere to be found. Why? Because we despise people who are poor. We enjoy being around people who have money and are generous with it, but we tend to hide from the poor, especially if we know them.

Think about it. Even his own brother despised him because he was poor. In verse 28, it says, “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.” When his father asked why, part of his excuse was that his brother had squandered his money. When the chips are down, sometimes even your family avoids you. Most of us have been at this point in our lives. Broke. Hungry. Hurting. What happened? As the country song by Tracy Lawrence goes, “You find out who your friends are.”

Proverbs 14:20-21 rejects the kind of behavior that runs to the rich and hides from the poor. It says, “The poor are despised even by their neighbors, while the rich have many ‘friends.’ It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor.” To me, the parable of the Prodigal Son is as much about us running to the poor as it is about our Father running to us when we confess our sins. If you know someone who’s had a bad turn of events, quit avoiding them, and find a way to run to them in their time of need.

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Wait Patiently

  
Have you ever felt like you were meant for more than you’re doing right now? Does it feel like God has been ignoring you or isn’t keeping His promise to you? It’s hard to wait for God to put you where He promised to place you. It’s even more difficult to feel stuck in the mundane when you know there’s more to what God has promised to do in your life. So what do you do? Will you give up on your calling? Will you try to force your way into it by making things happen yourself? Or will you wait patiently?

When I think of giving up on my calling, I’m reminded of the Prodigal Son. He was tired of waiting for his inheritance. He didn’t think the day would come when he could be in charge of his father’s household. So he did the unthinkable. He asked for his inheritance and decided to show his father he was capable on his own. After he squandered his inheritance, he had too much pride to go to his father to admit he wasn’t ready. After a lot of time slopping hogs and living destitute, he made his way back to his father’s house.

When I think of trying to force my way into my calling, I think of Abraham. God had called him to be the father of many nations with descendants as numerous as the stars. After 25 years, he gave up and decided that he would fulfill it himself. He took his wife’s maid and got her pregnant. God revisited him to remind him the promise was going to come through his wife. Because he rushed things, he created an Achilles Heel for his descendants that remains to this day.

When I think of waiting patiently, I think of David. God called him to be king while he was tending sheep. David understood that he wasn’t ready to fulfill his calling even though he had been called. He looked at where he was and saw that God could use his current situation to help him be better at his calling. Even though the fulfillment of his calling was many years later, he stayed faithful where he was until the right time came.

Each of us have one of these three choices in our lives. I personally believe God is getting us ready for our calling in the mundane. Psalm 78:70-72 says, “He chose his servant David; he took him from the pastures, where he looked after his flocks, and he made him king of Israel, the shepherd of the people of God. David took care of them with unselfish devotion and led them with skill” (GNT). The skills David learned while watching sheep gave him the skill to be the best at his calling. What skills are you learning now that will help to fulfill yours? The right choice is to wait patiently for God to move. Just keep tending sheep in the mean time.

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Faithful Friends

When life gets hard, you find out who your true friends are. Hard times have a way of weeding out acquaintances and fair weather friends. There are those who will stand by your side through the darkest night and those who will abandon you the moment bad things start coming your way. It’s hard to tell them apart until your faced with adversity. Proverbs 18:24 says, “Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers” (GNB).

As you read that, I’m sure names are popping in your head. You can think of those who abandoned you, but you can also think of those who have stood by your side. It’s easy to get mad at those who have fallen by the wayside, but the truth is, you don’t have to be mad at them. You don’t need those kinds of relationships in your life. Let them go and wish them well. Don’t hold grudges against them because it may mess up your lifelong relationships.

We like to think of the parable of the Prodigal Son as a story about returning to God, but I believe it’s also about friendships. When he had his inheritance and was living recklessly, I’m sure he had a lot of friends. When his money ran out and the famine hit, where were those friends? No one offered him shelter. No one offered him money. No one offered him food. He realized that the friendships he developed were poor ones and he thought of home. He realized he hadn’t been a good friend to them.

He learned that friendships and relationships are a two way street. Relationships that are one way, don’t last. He went back to the relationships that mattered and they accepted him back. While hard times can take away friendships that are one way, they can also drive us back to the ones that matter. If you haven’t been the type of person who was loyal to others, ask for their forgiveness and try to work things out. If you’ve found a friend that is more loyal than a brother, reach out to them today and thank them for being in your life. 

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Heaven’s Hound

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In the late 1800’s Francis Thompson wrote a open called “The Hound of Heaven”. I know I probably read it in high school, but I can’t remember much more about it than the title. When I think about God and His relentless pursuit of us, I think of that poem. I think of how God isn’t content to leave us alone. He sniffs us out, finds us and chases us until we are His. He wants nothing more than for each one of us to know Him and to be with Him. He goes to whatever lengths He has to in order to get our attention. He risks everything just so we can see His love for us.

Throughout my life, I’ve read and heard about Jesus asking the crowd, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?” He answers the question with, “Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” He draws a parallel with God who does the same with us. God isn’t content with 99 sheep in the pen. He’s looking to have every one rescued when they’re lost. He will go and search until He finds that one and brings them back.

I remember as a kid thinking, “I’d leave the one. I’ve got 99 others right here. Why would they leave them to go after one?” It didn’t make sense to me because I never had sheep. I still don’t have them, but I do have pets. Shepherds love their sheep like you and I love our pets. I’ve seen it over and over when someone loses a pet. They post it on Facebook. They put out flyers with “Reward” written at the top. They drive around the neighborhood calling out to that pet. They don’t give up until that animal is home. Why? Because a pet is a member of the family to most people. Imagine how much more they’d search if it was their own flesh and blood.

You and I are not animals. We are members of God’s family. We are made in His image with His craftsmanship. We are members of His family. Romans 8:15 tells us that God has adopted us as His own children. When one of us wanders off or strays, He goes into search mode. He sends out the warnings. He calls out to us in a desperate attempt to find us. He leaves all that He has behind because He would trade it all just to have us back. It doesn’t matter if we did something stupid and that’s why we got lost. It doesn’t matter if we purposefully did it like the Prodigal Son. All that matters to Him is that we get home.

Just like a hound sniffs out what he’s looking for, God comes looking for us until He finds us. He’s given up everything He has to rescue us. He’s paid the reward in advance so that we could go home. He sacrificed His Son to pay the cost of our sin. There’s nothing we could ever do to keep Him from wanting us to go home with Him. There’s no sin strong enough to break the work done on the cross. If you’re lost today, stop and listen. God is calling out to you. He’s looking for you and He won’t rest until you’re where you belong at home with Him.

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