Guns . . . so controversial

I try really hard to never “attack” anyone on this blog or even make anything sound like I’m coming against any person. Instead I try to always keep my thoughts toward ideologies and such. This post may sound directed toward one person because of recent Facebook posts, and for that I’m sorry. But the sentiments are for just general and not meant to be attacking anyone. So, with that said . . .

There is a train of thought that believes that those who are pro-gun or own guns are fearful and/or angry. It’s a train I can’t get on and don’t believe, and I think those who truly embrace that ideology don’t really know true gun owners and their hearts. The majority of my friends own guns, use guns and/or collect guns. Not many (if any) are stock piling them. In fact, if you do the research, I’d venture to say that the stockpilers are those who own guns illegally or intend to use them for harm. Even if guns were banned from the United States, these folks would own and misuse deadly weapons.

Personally, I don’t know one angry or fearful gun owner. None of them live looking over their shoulder waiting for an opportunity to use a gun. However, like me, a person who doesn’t own a gun or choose to use a gun, they are cautious and vigilant, aware of their surroundings. I’m personally glad to know that there might be 25 people in a crowd of 100 who have a concealed carry. I know that should a crazy person come into the room threatening to injure innocents, they would be prepared. And I also know that if they could keep people safe without ever firing their weapon, all of my gun carrying friends would do so. Evidence shows that many times merely holding the “bad guy” at gunpoint until the authorities arrive is enough.

I’d like to ask those who are anti-gun, “Do you lock your doors at night? Do you lock your car at the mall or even in your drive?” If you answered yes to any of those three questions, I can’t help but wonder, “If you think my friends own guns because they are afraid or angry, are you afraid or angry when you lock those doors?” Because I lock my doors for the same reason my friends carry guns, not out of fear or anger, but because I want to be safe. My locks are because I am vigilant, because I know that there are people who don’t know Christ. There are people who are fearful and angry. I feel bad for them, but not bad enough to let them rob my house (hence a lock) or shoot up my family (hence a gun). If they allow me to help them (stop their behavior long enough for us to share love and respect), I would do that. But the church in Charleston, SC tried to share love with the young gentlemen who came into their service and it didn’t stop his behavior. Had he decided not to shoot up the place, those folks would have loved him into some self-esteem and understanding of how to live at peace with others. Instead, so many needlessly died. One gun on one church member could have probably held this young, troubled man at bay and perhaps allowed him to begin a healing process. Instead, even if he discovers the truth that his hatred and bigotry was wrong, he will always have to live with the blood on his hands. Jesus can forgive him, but will he ever be able to forgive himself?

Disarmament will only lead to government tyranny and giving power to the “bad guys”. You can hate guns. You can choose to not carry a gun. But to ask other sane, able bodied, caring people to lay down theirs is not only arrogant, but detrimental to your own safety. Believe me if you are in a movie theater and a gunman walks in, you’ll be thankful if the stranger sitting next to you ignored the “no concealed carry” sign when he came in the door.

Jesus is My Lord

The phrase “the Lord” has bothered me for years. I can’t even bring myself to say it. It sounds so patronizing to me. I’ve never understood my hesitation with the phrase. I only know that every time I hear it or see it, it sets off alarms inside of me. Yesterday, I finally discovered the root of my problem.

Now, before you read any further, I want to make sure you understand this is MY problem. I don’t think that those who use the phrase are blasphemous or disrespectful. This is simply my revelation into what makes me “me” and hopefully food for thought for those who might stumble across this blog and read it from time to time.

Yesterday I saw a sign that used the phrase, “the Lord.” I don’t even remember the rest of the sign because that phrase nagged at me. I didn’t think badly of the church that used the phrase, but I have a terrible time with it, and my thoughts were focused on the “why” of my struggle. It didn’t take very long for my decades long problem to finally find it’s source.

I discovered that in my life I am not comfortable using the article . . . Jesus cannot be THE Lord, it’s imperative that He is MY Lord. Obviously my problem can’t have it’s roots in any Biblical sources because the phrase is used at least 434 times in the New Testament alone (gotta love the internet searches). However, on more than one occasion Jesus described Himself as Lord, but seldom used the article (at least in the English – I’m not a Greek scholar, so I don’t have a clue what it might be in the original tongue).

Putting “the” before Lord will be used by much of the Christian world, and it will be perfectly acceptable. However, much like the ancient scribes could not write Yahweh without first washing their hands, I must reserve the word for the times I am talking about a personal relationship. Jesus Christ is My Lord and Savior, and I am grateful.

Thanksgiving Reflections (not necessarily Thanksgivings)

These are some thoughts I’ve had today that I would normally post on Facebook, but I don’t want to clutter anyone’s timeline with negativity on a day when even I want to see positive Thankful thoughts . . .

  • Does anyone else want to make a list of grammar corrections to send to NBC for the parade commentators . . . you know, things like subject/verb agreement . . . ?
  • I can’t trust someone who comes to America and refuses to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, it is a national holiday. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can be thankful.
  • I’m protesting stores being open on Thursday, but putting stuff in my online shopping cart. Is that hypocritical since some IT person is working today because you know all of us protesting the stores being open are going to overload the Black Friday sites?

I may add to this list as the day goes by . . . but it will probably be kept short because I really am thankful!

So you want to hear God’s voice . . .

I get that from folks all the time . . . “If I could just hear God’s voice, if I only knew exactly what He wanted me to do . . . ”

Today as I contemplated that phrase, even in my own life, I sort of heard God’s voice! But what it said won’t be too impressive to most who aren’t hearing Him speak right now. Because what I believe I heard the voice of God say is, “Why should I say more to people who don’t listen to what I’ve already said?”

That really smacked me right in the face. In those times when I feel like I can’t hear God, how many of those days am I ignoring something He’s already told me. He gave us this wonderful book with all kinds of instructions and life lessons. There are stories to show us how NOT to live our life as well as so many that demonstrate the right way to do it. There are bold instructions on living throughout the entire book, how much do I ignore?

And what about those people who don’t even bother reading it? Why does one think they will hear the voice of Christ when he or she doesn’t even bother to read the things our Father has already entrusted us with?

God wants us to have the best life possible. He came to bring life filled up to the top and running over, but we can’t have it if we aren’t listening to the One in charge give us the full plan.

I encourage you to get into the Word this week. Find some of the things in there you aren’t quite living up to and just do it! Then do another one next week. Don’t forget to invite the Holy Spirit to help you with each thing you do (or you’ll be doing it in vain). And remember that the number one thing you have to do to hear God’s voice is to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Until you do that, that’s pretty much the only message you’ll hear.

What to do with the refugees?

I’ve had several people ask me about my Christian perspective on the current situations with the refugees entering the United States. It’s a difficult thing to process. As Christians we want to help people. On the other hand, most of us are terrified at the thought that we may be opening our doors to people who want to threaten, torture and kill our children and families. What is the “right” thing to do?

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Jesus calls me to love MY enemies, the ones who have personally injured me, those who persecute me. (Matthew 5:43-48) I believe He told me this because He knew that hatred would eat me alive from the inside and keep me from Him.

However, I also believe the Bible also says that we should not befriend the enemies of God. (James 4:4) I believe it’s not my place to judge who the enemies of God are. But when people say outright that they are God’s enemies, when they violently and maliciously attack the followers of God, then they have announced to the world that they are God’s enemies, and I am not obligated to befriend them. I will not Hate them because that only damages me, but I also will not befriend, condone or protect them. I feel bad for the innocents in the midst of those who are murderers, but I don’t think it’s right to put our children in danger in order to protect those children. If we could help them without putting our own families in danger, that would be great. The Bible says that the one who doesn’t help his own family is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8) I believe protecting my family falls under that. I just don’t see how to protect my family and our country without excluding some innocents. It’s sad, but until they come up with a more foolproof solution, I believe excluding all refugees from countries where professing enemies of God want to immigrate from is the only answer.

[edited and added to on 12/5/2015] The other problem I have with the refugees is the story of the Israelites not following God’s command to rid their country of those who worshipped other Gods. I know it sounded cruel, but the Bible says that the reason God commanded it is because the evil of those nations had “reached it’s fullness.” Much like the Israelites, I fear that America isn’t strong enough to withstand the temptation to follow other gods. Edmund Burke said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Looking at the level of faith in the United States, I don’t believe we are following Christ closely enough to overcome those who would like to bring another “god” into our country. Already people are being led astray by those who call themselves Christian but are clearly not. Americans are being lured into Islam, and even paganism. The only thing not growing (as far as I personally can see) is Atheism. The enemy must finally have realized that we were all created for God. He must know that atheism is not attractive, but following a “god,” even a false one, is. Until the church steps up and becomes the church, gets outside the walls and starts loving people to Christ, we are not ready for foreign refugees, most especially those whose mission is to destroy Christianity (even though it can never be destroyed) and proselytize a nation who has “forgotten the heights from which she has fallen.” [end of edit]

The Bible does not ask us to lie down and be doormats. It does not ask us to invite in those who want to destroy God’s people. It asks us to care for those who have lost their way and are looking for the way back to God. Those I will help. There are plenty of downtrodden already in our country. I think once we have every single person in America in a decent home and making a modest living then we can start inviting in these others, but we have plenty of “angels unaware” lying on our streets already. Bringing in new ones won’t make us better people, it will just make the few who are already helping people stretched even thinner

The Woman’s Head Covering

Every year I read 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. Most years I read it more than once, and every time it bothers me. As a woman should I wear a head covering. I see those denominations that wear doilies on their head and I wonder, “Do they have that part right?” The thing is, I’ve never felt convicted about it as I pray. Not once have I ever felt the Holy Spirit telling me to cover my head. It’s just when I read this passage or see someone from one of those churches that I wonder.

So today I read it again. But this time instead of stopping at verse 10 and then starting again at verse 11 like it was something new, I read it all together. And today this is the message I saw.

In verses 1-10, Paul is describing the reason that a woman wears a head covering in ancient Israel (and probably the reason they wear the head covering in the middle east today). It’s these verses that make me wonder, “should I cover my head?” In verse 11 Paul start, “But in the Lord . . .” He’s telling us something new, something that would have been foreign to his readers. They were just beginning to learn about what it was like to be “in the Lord.”

Before the Lord, Jesus Christ, the people believed that woman was completely dependent on man, “that is why she should have a symbol of authority on her head.” What if there should be a paragraph break between verses 3 and 4? What if Paul meant for us to know that the man should submit to Christ, the wife should submit to the husband and God is the head of Christ, but verses 4-10 are a description of what was happening during that time?

But in the Lord we are not independent of one another. Everything comes from God, so we are really all dependent on God, and God gave us our natural covering, our hair. Then Paul says that there are some that will still want to argue about this. Bottom line is that the argument would have come from the good “Jews.” They probably had a problem with women coming from other cultures without a head covering. The Jewish leaders were often trying to get Paul and the Twelve to convince new converts to follow Jewish customs. He’s not telling them to change their customs . . . I think that’s why it’s so vague. But he is telling them to pray about it. Each person should decide for themselves if a head covering is important.

It’s definitely not an issue that I anticipate fretting about. It’s a “rule,” legalism. I refuse to argue about anything other than Jesus Christ death being the only payment for salvation . . . and even that I don’t really argue . . . I’d really rather show love, pray and let the Holy Spirit convict those who need to change their views.

So you want to be blessed . . .

All the time I hear from people that they don’t believe in God because they see too much evil. Others want God’s blessings, they don’t understand why God isn’t giving them more because they believe and pray.

Most Christians understand that salvation is a free gift. Even the ones who appear to be working for it. You can check out Revelation 22:17; Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8 and more. Christ died for you, no strings attached . . . you just have to open the gift.

But what about blessings? So many folks think that blessings are guaranteed, like God is a great big in the sky Santa Claus. Blessings won’t come because you share memes on Facebook. But the Bible does say that God wants to bless us.

Deuteronomy 11 is one of the most obvious chapters that describe blessing. In verse 13 and 22 God says, “If you faithfully obey the commands I’m giving you . . .” verses 26 and 27 tell us, “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse; a blessing if you obey . . .; a curse if you disobey.” God’s chosen people, the nation that Christians have been grafted into (Romans 11) were told that blessings come with obedience. Why do Christians today think that will be different for us?

Matthew 5 and Luke 6 give us some of the most famous ways to be blessed. Nearly every Christian has heard of the Beatitudes. And while some translations, use the word “happy” rather than blessed, I don’t believe the two words are synonymous. These promises of blessings aren’t one we like to hear. Blessed are the pure in heart, the poor in spirit, the hungry, the persecuted, the merciful and more. Most folks don’t want to live in any of those categories if that’s what blessedness requires. Additionally, the “blessings” Jesus mentions aren’t the same as the list of the prosperity preachers. There’s no mention of financial abundance in this list, only that we’ll be satisfied, comforted, filled and shown mercy.

2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that being blessed means we’ll have enough. James tells us we are blessed when we persevere. John 13:17 says we will be blessed if we do the things that Jesus has asked us to do.

Throughout the centuries people have twisted the Words of God. They picture God as a genie forced to do whatever His followers command. They take John 10:10’s promise of abundance and assume Jesus meant rich. Unfortunately for those pursuing wealth and the perfect life as a Christian, they will be disappointed every time.

Jesus promised peace and mercy. He promised an abundant life, but what if that means a beautiful life worth living. He promised if He is my shepherd, I’ll have everything that I need . . . not everything I think I want.

In Luke 11 Jesus said that we are blessed when we obey. 1 John 2:5 tells us that Jesus knows we love Him when we obey. In Jeremiah 7:23 God says that “Obey me and I will be your God. . . walk in obedience and it will go will for you.” Over and over our Heavenly Father is clear that obedience brings blessings.

Fortunately, He is a loving and gracious God, so we are sometimes blessed even when we aren’t obedient. God is faithful even when we aren’t. But to expect blessings without obedience is to be an ungrateful and rebellious child. That is the story of the prodigal son.

If you are waiting for God to pour out His blessings, I recommend you obey. Start with the obvious things He talked about in scripture, things like the big 10. Find a place to worship each week with a group of believers so you can “not give up meeting together” and obey Hebrews 10:25. Read His Word daily so you can be obedient to the many verses that tell us to obey His Word. You can’t obey what you don’t know. God is waiting to bless His children, but He only gives us what we can handle. Fortunately, He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He loves you and wants to bless you.

Born with a Deadly Disease

There are a lot of questions in Christianity that have no really great answers. I think God describes the reason for this in Isaiah 55:9: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The biggest problem with the questions that we have is that we try to find answers from a human perspective rather than a Kingdom perspective. Plus, we just don’t have the mind of God. We can’t fathom all that He knows and understands.

For instance, one of the great questions of the faith is this: “Why does God condemn “good” people to hell?” and “What if they’ve never heard about Jesus?” A lot of these questions begin with “If God is a loving God . . .” These are good legitimate questions! And while we can’t possibly know the complete and full answer (because my mind cannot fathom the knowledge and wisdom of God), the scriptures do give us some clues.

Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” That puts our “goodness” into perspective. What looks good to us as humans does not look good to God. In fact, it still looks filthy. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” I guess if the only requirement for heaven was “goodness,” heaven would end up looking a lot like earth. Even with all the descriptions in Revelation, and Jesus’ word pictures in the Gospels, we really don’t understand the beauty and perfection of heaven.

There’s a phrase someone came up with that goes, “God doesn’t send people to hell, people choose to go there.” That’s really a very true statement. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. He wants everyone to repent. I picture Jesus looking like He must have when He stood outside of Jerusalem almost in tears. In Matthew 23:37 He said, “How I have longed to gather your children together . . . but you were not willing.”

Just the fact that Jesus was willing to die to “make us white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) should be evidence enough that God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell. As for those who have never heard of Jesus . . . I don’t personally know anyone like that, and the truth is I can’t personally worry about that. All I can do is try to make sure that everyone I meet hears about Christ, and since God said He doesn’t want any to perish, plus He said that because of the beauty of creation men are without excuse (Romans 1:20), I trust that God will take care of anyone who truly never had the opportunity to know about the Savior. How God does that is none of my business. I think that’s part of the reason Jesus told Peter “If I want John to live forever, what business is that of yours? Just follow me” (my paraphrase of John 21:22) It’s not my place to worry about who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s only my job to concern myself with following Jesus, and while that will often entail helping someone discover “the way,” I need not worry about who will and who won’t find Him.

Perhaps a human way to understand it would be to realize that everyone is born with a disease. It’s a disease that eventually kills. It’s a slow death, and the life here on earth with the disease, like most diseases, can sometimes be agonizing. On the other hand, there are those with the disease who feel so good, they won’t acknowledge they have the disease. No one would even believe they have it until it takes them. Either way, their fate is the same. Whether a person has lived a good full life or an agonizing, pitiful life, he or she will end up eternally dead.

However, there is a cure for the disease. Anyone who takes the antidote will live forever. Everyone on earth is made aware that they have the disease, and everyone is offered the antidote. But some don’t want the cure. They don’t believe they have the disease or they do, but they are afraid of the antidote. Some just want to tough it out, while others believe they can overcome the disease on their own. The good news is the antidote works even at the very last moment! The bad news is some refuse it even as they take their last breath.

The One who created the antidote mourns for every single person who won’t take it. He literally gave up His life to create this cure for the most deadly disease known to mankind. He is heartbroken at the thought of losing even one person to the disease. You see, He gave up His life to create the cure because He loves every single person more than we can imagine. He thinks of each one as His best friend.

This is the condition of mankind. We are all born with a deadly disease called “sin.” No one is exempt. In order to get to heaven, it’s necessary to take the “antidote” for the deadly disease. That would be accepting the blood of Jesus Christ as the “cure” for your deadly disease. God does not “send” anyone to hell. He weeps over those who refuse the cure. He mourns for those who refuse His gracious gift. He offers it freely to everyone, but many refuse His free offer.

Teen to Parent and Back at ya’

One of my young Facebook friends posted the following list:

WHAT I WITH MY PARENTS COULD UNDERSTAND
– When I hang out with a boy/girl it doesn’t mean he/she is my boyfriend/girlfriend

– School is hard and I’m trying my best

– I’m a teenager, I don’t always have the best attitude

– I try to make the best decisions for myself

– I’m young and want to have fun

– If I’m out all night it doesn’t mean I’m drinking or doing drugs.

– Not all my friends can be a bad influence.

– I feel useless whenever they compare me to other people

I posted a reply:
WHAT PARENTS WISH TEENS COULD UNDERSTAND

– If the boy/girl you’re hanging out with doesn’t make you a better person, we don’t care if it’s your official “squeeze”or not – we’re trying to help you become the person Christ created you to be

– Sometimes when you think it’s your best, we see more potential in you than you see in yourself. We don’t mean to push you too hard, but if you could see what we see . . .

– You haven’t lived long enough to make the best decision. That’s why God gave us parents. And believe me, I remember thinking I was making a good decision . . . time and experience will reveal what the “best” really is

– I want you to have fun while you’re young too! I just don’t want that fun to ruin the rest of your life.

– Most really bad things happen after dark. Most of them were never planned. Most of them are complete accidents. I believe that you don’t plan to do anything stupid. Almost no one ever does. But again . . . I have more experience . . . I’ve done my share of stupid. . . you will too. Being in early just keeps you from doing someone else’s share too!

– Of course not all of your friends are bad influences! But most of the good influences have parents who have a tight rein and they have a curfew. (hence the last explanation)

– Please forgive me when I compare you to another person. I don’t mean to. I hate it when people do it to me. Please know that it’s just frustration because I don’t know how else to help you see how wonderful and precious you are! I don’t want to see you be hurt, and I only want the best for you. Please act in such a way that I can loosen the reins and trust you more. It’s what I want to do, but until you realize my experience with life gives me an edge, it’s going to seem like I’m against you. I’m not!!! I love you!!! I only want the most wonderful, blessed life for you!!!!

Slave or Son

Friday morning I was reading Luke 15. It’s a familiar story, one that most of you know already. It’s often called the “Parable of the Lost Son” because it follows the stories of the “Parable of the Lost Coin” and the “Parable of the Lost Sheep.”
Let me read a bit of it for you: READ Luke 15:11-20

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

So, how many of you have heard this story before. While some sitting here KNOW for a fact, they fit the bill of the younger son, many of us can’t imagine being like this. That’s pretty bold, asking for your inheritance while you father is alive and well. And according to those who know more about ancient Israeli culture than I do, the boy should have been stoned to death or at least disinherited because he was basically saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.”

But just like the sons in this story represent you and I, the Father in this story represents God, so this father was a man with extravagant love. He loved bigger and better than most fathers, so he gave his son the inheritance he asked for. 1/3 of all of his father’s possessions were now in the hands of the younger son. Did you notice the father was pretty wealthy? Giving this son 1/3 of his estate didn’t seem to put a dent in his way of living.

But the son did what most spoiled kids will do. He didn’t know how to handle his instant wealth, and it didn’t take long for Him to squander it, waste it, basically throw it away. Before he knew it, this wealthy young man was living on the streets. Jesus even tells us it was worse than just being homeless. He had to feed pigs (much like you and I being forced to feed and keep alive rabid dogs), and either he was still wasting his funds or his wages to feed those pigs was pathetic because he was so hungry he wanted to eat their slop.

When he finally comes to his senses, he realizes that if he was a servant on his father’s estate, he’d have a better life than the one he’s gotten himself into. So he packs up and returns home. All the way home he’s hashing his apology over in his mind. Over and over again, he plays the scene. He’ll grovel at his dad’s feet. Let his father know how sorry he is, and relinquish his status of son. He definitely doesn’t deserve to be called a son anymore after his bad behavior.

But every scenario he played out on that long walk home didn’t prepare him for his father’s reaction. Picture it. He’s a good ways off, starting to regret his decision, wondering if he should just turn around and walk back the way he came. He looks up one more time before deciding whether to go eat crow in front of his family or return to the pig slop, and he sees something. Someone is running. His first thought is that something bad must be happening. Is the barn on fire? You see, Israeli men with any kind of status didn’t run.

And then it dawns on him, his father is running toward him. This man who has already shown extravagant love by giving him his share of the inheritance is running toward him. Running! No, it can’t be. He’s already disgraced his father enough. The young man is now in tears because he knows he’s going to be welcome. When his dad reaches him, he realizes he should have met his dad half way, but he’d been so stunned to see his father running, he’d just stopped in his tracks. When his dad hugged him, he didn’t even return the embrace right away. With tears in his eyes, he slowly puts his arms around this man who has shown him nothing but love all of his life, a man who has gone out of his way to bless him, and he is even more humbled than before. In the midst of his weeping, they begin to walk back toward the house. Finally just before they get to the front door he remembers his little speech, and he says to his dad:

21 . . . ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But dad says nothing, just commands the astonished servants to prepare a banquet in the son’s honor. And they get it ready fast! There’s already a huge party going on before the older brother gets out of the fields for the day.

That’s the son we hear about the most. And that’s because every one of us has been that son. We’ve all needed to see our Heavenly Father run to us out of love. Some of us haven’t wandered quite so far from home before we returned to Abba’s arms, but each of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior have fallen into those arms of love regretting the way we’ve wasted the blessings of our inheritance.

If you’ve never accepted Christ, or asked him to be your Savior, but never realized how much He loves you, I encourage you to read that story in Luke 15 over and over until you realize that God, the Father is running to meet you. He loves you more than you can imagine, and nothing you’ve done can keep you from Him if you’re willing to humbly return to Him.
But today, I want to focus on the second son, the one who stayed at home. I think that even more of us sitting here today are like this second son. Let’s pick up the story in verse 25

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

The older brother isn’t quite as excited about the younger brother coming home. Some might think that it’s because the younger son was always spoiled while the older brother always was made to do all the work. But the father in this story is God, and God treats us all with the same love, he is just and good.

As I read this passage in the New Century Version this week, I began to realize the older son’s problem. In the NCV verse 29 says

“I have served you like a slave for many years.”

And I knew that was his problem, and the problem of many in our church today. There is a lack of passion and love in the church today. Not just this church, but churches all over the world, and the problem is the condition of the younger son . . . people are serving God like a slave instead of a grown son . . . the kind of child who has matured and become a friend.
Have any of you adults ever worked for your parents? I did for a while before and after I was married, and I never felt like a slave. We were almost partners in business. I worked like the business was mine and did whatever I could to make it better. I never felt as though I was being mistreated or like I had to do something I didn’t want to do. And I’m confident this son in the parable was treated at least that well.

But too many times people inside the church act like they are slaves. They forget that Jesus said

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father.

No wonder those outside the church don’t want to become Christians. Who wants to become a slave? But if we lived more like we are friends of Jesus, people might want to meet our friend. Earlier in the service you sang, “I am a friend of God.” But do you act like a friend of God or do you live like a slave.

I’m guessing the older son was more worried about getting the work done than spending time with his Father. He said that he obeyed all of his Father’s orders. Did you notice? He considered all of his father’s instructions to be orders. Is that how we look at the Word of God, as a book of orders instead of a letter full of love and encouragement from our extravagant Father?
He complained that his father had never given him even a young goat to celebrate with his friends, but I wonder if he ever gave his father an opportunity to suggest a party. Did he ever laugh and joke with his dad, make friendly conversation? I have grown children, and I don’t treat them like they are my kids anymore. Now they are my friends. And if you think about it, obviously his dad had this calf in the barn that he was saving for some kind of celebration. He didn’t even know for sure the other son was coming home. So that calf wasn’t being saved for the younger son.

What if that calf had been the one the older son was supposed to use to celebrate, but every time he talked to his dad it was all business? By the time he’d finished, his dad had forgotten to even mention the calf in the barn just waiting for a party.

The whole story forces us to evaluate our relationship with our Father. What does it look like when you talk to your heavenly Father? Do you talk to Him like a friend or servant reporting in for the day?

What does your Bible Reading look like? Do you read the Bible like it’s a love letter from your best friend, or do you read it as if it’s directions from your commanding officer?

Why do you serve? Why do you behave the way you do? Do you “try to be a good person?” Or are you like a child who loves and respects his father so much he wants to imitate him?

Today is World Communion Sunday. There will be a lot of people who are celebrating communion today as an obligation. Many think that if they miss communion they lose their place in heaven. Others think of it as something that just makes the service too long. Those folks have chosen to be like the older son, the one that had opportunity after opportunity to become best friends with the Father, but chose instead to be the slave. They don’t realize that communion is a celebration, a meal with the family that represents the father running toward us with open arms.

Communion is the celebration that the younger son accepted and the older son rejected. Jesus is the lamb that was killed for this celebration, and our return to the Father is the reason for the celebration. When we take the bread and the juice as if the Father just broke protocol and left all His dignity behind to run and meet us on the road with a big hug, then we are entering into communion the way it was intended. Just like the younger son, we need to confess. But the story tells us the Father blew right past the confession and on to the party. That’s because like the father in the story, God has already forgiven you and is running toward you with open arms.

I invite you to come to the party today, the celebratory meal that reminds us of Jesus’ death on the cross and gift of unconditional forgiveness. I hope that today you will not be like the older son and reject the Father’s invitation. Did you know that you can come forward to take the elements and still be refusing the Father’s invite if you aren’t coming out of a sense of friendship and gratitude? The Father loves you. He gave His Son in your place, and He is celebrating because He’s so happy you are His friend!