"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
September 21, 2011
For the past couple of weeks I've been writing about some of the parables that Jesus used when teaching. One of the things that I love about the parables is the fact that the message is relevant to every generation that reads them. The ones who were there in person to hear Jesus sharing these stories could relate, as well as those that have read the scripture during the different eras and time periods since. The world may have gone through numerous wars and changes during the past 2,000 years, but the messages that Jesus shared has remained pertinent and relatable for all generations.
Probably the most loved and well-known parable is that of the prodigal son; and it happens to be one of my very favorites. When Jesus tells this story, it seems as if He's talking about a real family that He personally knows. He tells it in such a way that you can visualize it as you read it. And whether or not this particular scenario has occurred within our own family, it's something that a lot of us can relate to either personally or indirectly.
(Luke 15:11-31) "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. 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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of the country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to feed his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father."
Jon and I were recently watching a TV show and a single mother was celebrating her 40th birthday with a big family party. Her 18 year old daughter was 2 hours late arriving, then left after only staying a short time. It hurt the mother's feelings and she was upset with her daughter for not wanting to be there. As the daughter was leaving, the mom followed her outside and spoke out of her anger and basically said, "You are being really inconsiderate of me, and I don't understand why you made other plans for tonight when you knew we were having a party to celebrate my 40th birthday!" Later after everyone left, she was helping her own mother clean up and her mom asked her, "Do you remember my 40th birthday party?" "Sure! You looked really pretty and it was a lot of fun." Her mother reminded her that she was not even there for the party. She had been a teenager at the time and thought it was more important to be out with her friends that night instead of coming to her mom's 40th birthday party.
Sometimes it's easy to forget wrongdoings we've done in our past when looking at what others are doing today. And it's easy to think that what our kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews are doing is much worse than anything we've ever done. We seem to forget our own failures and shortcomings from the past and judge the sins of others as being much worse than anything we ever did. And perhaps we're right; yet none of us have a perfect past. There comes a time when a lot of teens, especially after high school or college graduation, want to show their independence and head out on their own. They think that they know better than their parents and are smart enough to make it on their own. And some succeed, while others don't. Some are like this prodigal son, who thought he was mature enough to handle getting his inheritance early and heading off alone. Perhaps he had never left his home town, so traveling to another country sounded fun and exciting. He may have thought, "It's boring here in our community and nothing exciting ever happens! I've heard that there are lots of entertainment and opportunities in this other country, so I'll go there and life will be full of adventure!" I'm sure it broke his father's heart to give him his share of the estate, and he probably spent hours and days trying to talk his son out of going. The dad may have had an idea of the future heartache awaiting his boy, but knew that he would never be satisfied or content until he tried things on his own. Words of advice and wisdom probably went along with the handing over of the money; and I'm sure tears were shed as he watched his excited son pack up and head out. Perhaps the father remembered mistakes he or his siblings had made in the past and knew that it was going to be a rough road ahead of his son.
Apparently the son partied and had a good time for a while. And with his wealth, he was likely surrounded by lots of new "friends". But when you're not working and squandering your money away, the day comes when all your wealth is gone. It was at that time that he realized all his new friends only wanted to be around him as long as he was buying and had unlimited money. But when he was broke and needed help, no one was there to bail him out or help him. The son was flat broke, and a famine took place throughout the whole country. He may have wandered around for several days before finally finding a farmer willing to hire him to feed his pigs. I don't know if you've ever been around pigs much, but they are stinky and dirty! They like to wallow in mud, so it was likely very muddy and a huge mess in the field where the son had to go feed them. He had no money for food (perhaps the farmer was allowing him to sleep in the barn in exchange for feeding his pigs) and was to the point where the pods that the pigs were eating looked good to him. That's desperation!
Many times, people have to reach a place of desperation before they're willing to make any changes in their lives. They may not like the situation they're in, but they're unwilling to do anything about it until they're backed into a corner with seemingly no way out. Only when they're forced to act or have no other solutions will they do something and make a decision to change. The son began thinking about home and realized that his father's servants had it better than he did. They were looked after by his father and had plenty of food to eat. They may have worked hard during the day, but they were treated with respect and had a bed to sleep in at night. The son thought that he had have ruined his chances of ever been accepted back as his father's son, but if he could at least be hired back as a servant he would be better off than he currently was. He was desperate enough for change that pride was no longer an issue. He was willing to humble himself and go back to his father's house and ask to be a hired hand.
"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. The son said to him, 'Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."
Since the father saw his son coming from a long way off, I think he must have spent his days looking down the road, just hoping for a glimpse of his son walking down that road towards home. The son was smelly, dirty, mud caked on his legs, unshaven, barefoot, and likely wearing old, torn clothing, and skinny from having not eaten. But the father immediately recognized him and ran to meet him. He didn't wait for his son to be cleaned up to welcome him home, but threw his arms around him and kissed his son. Even though the son must have felt relief at being welcomed by his father, he still must have felt guilty for leaving and coming home such a mess. He repented and gave his apology, "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father didn't make him grovel or give him a long speech about his wrongdoings or lack of responsibility. He called to the servants and told them to quickly bring the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
I recently heard a quote from a sermon that said, "The father didn't want to expose his son and his sinfulness so when the boy came home, he called for the servants to bring the best robe and cover the shame of his son who still smelled like the swine he had been feeding. He called for shoes for his feet and told them to kill the fatted calf. The fact that the calf had been fattened meant he had been expecting that boy to come home. He had the celebration all planned and ready. He was watching and waiting for him, and your Heavenly Father is watching and waiting for you."
"Meanwhile, the older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
The older brother was upset that the father was making such a fuss about this brother showing up, after having thrown away everything he had been given by their father. He was the one who had stayed home and had been faithful to help his father out day after day, without disobeying orders or rebelling. Yet the father had never even given him a goat so he could throw a big celebration for all his friends, yet the fattened calf was killed and a big feast prepared when his wild, disobedient brother showed back up at home.
Did the father throw the big celebration for his youngest son because he loved him more than the oldest? No! The youngest had wasted all his inheritance and the all that the father had would be given to the oldest son for he said, "everything I have is yours". Yet the father had gone through months, possibly years, of not hearing from his youngest son and didn't know if he was dead or alive. But the sense of relief and the joy of knowing that this lost child of his had come home gave him a reason to celebrate. Notice that the father didn't just leave his oldest son sitting outside while he gave all his attention to the youngest. He didn't think, "Well if he's going to pout, sulk and have a bad attitude then we don't need him in here anyway!" But he took the time to leave the celebration and go plead with him to come inside and join the family. And I believe he did join in the celebration and was reunited with his younger brother. What a day of rejoicing that was for the father and the rest of the family and household!
Spiritually, there are many that are like the prodigal son. They feel that they can make it through life on their own and don't need their Heavenly Father to watch over them and protect them. And it's only when they reach a point of great desperation that they will finally humble themselves and acknowledge that they need to go home to the Father. When they do, they will find that He has been looking down the road, watching for them daily, hoping to catch a glimpse of them heading towards home. God doesn't care how dirty, stinky, or tattered we may look, but He will run towards us and throw His arms around us. God doesn't desire to expose our sin, guilt, shame, or despair; but He will cover us with His forgiveness and wash us white as snow. The minute we repent and acknowledge our sin, "Father, I've sin and are not worthy to be called Your child," He will forgive us and throw a celebration in our honor. Perhaps God calls all the angels over and says, "Hey, look who just came back home!" and a big party is thrown in heaven in our honor. No longer a prodigal, we are fully accepted back home as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father!
The story of the prodigal son sounds almost the same as the lost sheep. I wrote last week about how frustrating it would be for the other 99 sheep to see a celebration in honor of the one who ran off. After thinking about it, that's probably not a good attitude to encourage.
When we pray for our enemies, one of the best prayers we can offer is, "Lord, please help me to help them come to know you." But if they do join the fold, and turn to God, would we join the celebration, and share a steak with them? Or would we be jealous that they are celebrated and honored?
Easy Coconut Cake
1 yellow cake mix, prepared
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (15 ounce) can cream of coconut
1 large bag coconut flakes or fresh coconut
Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 baking pan. Prepare and bake yellow cake mix according to package directions. While cake is baking, mix sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut in a bowl until smooth. After cake has been removed from oven, immediately poke holes in entire cake using a fork. Slowly spoon the coconut/milk mixture on the cake making sure it seeps down into the holes. Spread coconut on top of cake. Let cool and refrigerate. The cake will keep for several days in a refrigerator.
When one of my nieces was around four of five years of age, my sister went to a fabric store and took her kids with her. They had a kiddie corner, and she left her daughter there to play while she shopped. Her son was a baby at that time, so she kept him with her. She stayed within range so she could keep an eye out and watch her little girl.
My sister overheard her daughter talking to another little girl. She was asking the other girl if she went to church and if she knew Jesus.
On the way home, she proudly told her mom, "I witnessed today to another girl at the store."
My sister said, "I know you did. I heard you and am very proud of you."
My niece asked, "How much are you going to pay me?"
My sister had to explain to her that witnessing is something you do because you love Jesus, not because you want to be paid for it!
Weather forecast: God reigns and the Son shines. (seen on a church sign)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon