Prodigals and Finding God

progidal sonOver the next few weeks we are going to be moving into a new series looking at the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. This is a story that is very well known in general. But what is often true is that the most familiar stories are sometimes the least well known. Meaning that some of the most familiar stories are so familiar that they have lost their initial impact, shock, and experience.

This is what I hope to explore over the next few weeks. Because this story is shocking in what it reveals.

  • It shows a God willing to divide up his life for people to make the wrong choices.
  • It shows a God willing to accept and offer forgiveness before it’s asked for.
  • It shows how we can break the rules, and obey all the rules and still miss God.
  • It shows how our own righteousness and obedience to the law can distance ourselves from God just as much as running away.
  • And most of all, it shows a radical picture of God that differs from the unchanging, cold, distant entity in heaven; instead it shows a God radically open, relational, and filled with reckless love.

So that is where we are going for the next few weeks; looking each week at one of the characters in the story and how our lives might line up with theirs. But before we do that, why not spend sometime and slowly read and digest this story. Listen to it as if for the first time and discover not only who God is, but also who we are.

Luke 15: 11- 32.

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“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.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘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!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Dads, Dedications, and Decisions that Last a Lifetime

295563_10152669437890643_2115517437_nOn Sunday it’s a pretty special day for me as a parent. We are dedicating our little boy Asher. You only get to do that once…well actually we dedicated Hudson twice but that’s a story for another day.

As a pastor this is a really cool moment because you get to preach at your own little man’s dedication. But it also raises the question of what do you preach on at a dedication?

For Hudson, I preached on why I follow Jesus so that when he grows up he can listen to it and understand why mom and dad make the decisions we do. But on Sunday I want to share about something different because my boys are different.

On Sunday I want to explore a simple question: how can we live in such a way to leave a legacy? For me specifically it will be about how, as a parent, I can leave a legacy of love and grace in Asher’s life. But it applies much more broadly. How can you live in such a way to shape generations? To change people’s futures? That your lives echo into the future changing them?

That’s what we are exploring because my guess is that when we come to the end of our lives we won’t care about more money, better promotions, cleaner houses, or better vacations. We will care about what type of legacy we have left, whether we will be remembered and whether our lives mattered.

On Sunday we are going to figure out how to do just that. How to leave a legacy that lasts and lingers.

But before we get there maybe think back in your own life. Who has left a legacy there? How did they do it? What was it about their life that caused such an affect?

For me that was my dad. Even though he passed almost 3 years ago, he is far from gone. His life continues to leave a mark in mine. Even though he won’t hold Asher until heaven, his legacy will shape and change Asher just as it’s changed me. So the question is how do we live lives like that? And come Sunday we’ll find out.

Teaching My Son to Pray…

A few nights ago I had a really special moment with my son Hudson. I always pray over him every night before he goes to bed. In fact after I pray he often says, “again daddy”. And of course I pray again. What could be better for a parent?

Well I found “better” a few nights ago. As I was leaving his room he called out and said, “Wait Daddy”. So I came back and said “What’s up buddy?” He looked up at me and said, “Daddy I want to pray”. I was so happy and excited so I said, “of course you can pray. Why don’t you pray right now.” He looked down though and was kinda sad and said, “But I not know how…

And so I got the amazing privilege to teach my son how to pray because he wants to know how to pray. I told him how we pray to Jesus who is our friend. I told him how Jesus cares about all we care about and how he prays about those things. I told him how when we pray we give thanks for things too. And so he gave his first nighttime prayer a shot. Here is what he prayed,

“Dear Jesus, I pray for mommy and daddy, and thank you…them. I pray to not pee the bed. Amen”

Pretty great first nighttime prayer right?

But here is the point for us. Why is Hudson asking to learn to pray? Because he sees me do it every day with him. Because this is an action that has been modeled for him. This is why Jesus says, wise is the person who hears my words, and puts them into practice. This is why our faith is not about believing just the right things, but living a certain way. Because our practices show our beliefs. And so I got the amazing privilege of teaching my son to pray, because prayer has been a part of his life now for a while.

So the point is this: that if we want to pass along our faith, we need to start to practice it consistently. Because our friends, family, and neighbors notice. They see when you pray, when you bless someone, when you forgive and reach out. And as you do these things consistently they too might be like Hudson, saying, “Will you teach me” And trust me, there is nothing more beautiful than being able to teach your son how to connect with God.

So this week make sure you practice what you believe. Make sure you act and live out your faith with those around you. Who knows, maybe God will use your example and model to influence and change others. Because that’s what happened with me and Hudson.

Oh…and by the way…Jesus answered both our prayers that night and our little boy didn’t pee the bed…

Father’s Day Sermon

This week I’ve been thinking about this question: what makes a great father?

This is important to me as a father. My hope is that when Hudson looks back on his memories with me growing up, and all through his life he will see that I left a legacy. The question is how do you do that?

This is a picture of my dad with my son. And when I look back on my relationship with him I realize what a huge impact and legacy he has left with me. He was a great father through doing a few simple things. He gave me his time and attention. Such a simple thing but so difficult to fully do. He actually valued my input and treated me not as a child but as someone with value. This encouraged me and helped me to mature in a way I never realized until recently as I look back. Maybe the biggest thing he taught me though was about God.

My dad was a pastor but taught me so much about God in the way he lived, talked, and what he did. So on Sunday I want to share some of those lessons with you. I want to share about what my dad taught me about God and who He is and how it’s still shaping me today.

Maybe this week it’s a good time for you to reflect and think about what your dad taught you. But I also know that not all of us were blessed with dads like mine. In that case then,reflect on our heavenly Father and think about what he’s taught you…because the best dads in the world learn from him and live like him…