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Fathers of the Bible — God

15 All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, 6 and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ 7 I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.

8 “Or what woman who has ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ 10 I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”

11 He also said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.[e] 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants, questioning what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15nger worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants, questioning what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15

Dear God, I’ve been waiting to get to this one because this one is you. I almost didn’t want to categorize this as “Fathers of the Bible” because you are so much more than my father. You are more than what Adam was to Seth, Abraham was to Isaac, or even Joseph was to Jesus. But Jesus used this father to describe your love for me so I thought I would take some time to see who this father is and what I can learn from you about where my priorities should be as a father to my own children.

First, I suppose I can look back and see consistency in this description of you and how you treated your people in the Old Testament. You gave them freedom. You gave them rope. You allowed them to go their own way and you would hear their cry when they came back to you. Over and over again, you really were this father. I’m surprised I haven’t heard more preaching or teaching about this, but it’s true. With very few exceptions, it’s true.

Second, I wonder if we haven’t mistitled this parable. Should it be, “The Father with Two Sons,” because this is about how you handle all of your children, not just those that act out in rebellion? In fact, this reminds me now of the master who hired people throughout the day and gave them all the same wage regardless of what time they were hired. That parable was about you too. You are not just the father of the prodigal. You are the father of all of us, and we all have a unique relationship with you.

So now let’s look at this parable. This might actually be a multi-day prayer because I don’t want to gloss over any parts of the story. But here are some thoughts about this whole chapter at first glance

  • It’s interesting that Luke is the only one who gives us this story. It’s not in the other two synoptic gospels.
  • Much like John 3:16 is part of a rant that Jesus goes on with Nicodemus, this parable is one of three told in conjunction with one another and they should all be considered together when looking at the context.
  • I might be getting too specific here, but we’ve always thought of Jesus telling the tax collectors and sinners this story as well as the Pharisees and scribes, but when verse 3 says, “Then Jesus told them this parable:” it’s a reference to the Pharisees and scribes muttering about him being around the sinners. Luke’s intimation is that this was directed not at the sinners, but squarely at the Pharisees and scribes.
  • In all three stories, something is lost, and then there is a celebration when it is found. Not just relief, but exuberant joy!
  • Each story intimates that the lost one who returns gives you more joy than the righteous that stays. It makes me wonder what kind of rejoicing there was in heaven in the Old Testament times when Israel would repent and return to you.
  • The third story about the man with two sons is much more complicated than the first two. I suppose stories involving people would be inherently more complicated than stories involving a lamb or a coin.

So what can I surmise about you when I combine these three parables with who you exhibited yourself to be during the Old Testament times?

  • You really like us and want us around. You value our presence! You miss us. It’s not just that we worship you. Yes, in each case, you are the authority (over the lamb, the coin, or the son), but when they return you don’t demand anything in the moment. You just celebrate.
  • Your agenda for us seems to be for our good. You want us around because you know it’s better for us if we are with you. The lost sheep will surely die on its own. The coin will never live out its purpose. And the son will die in misery and spiritual/emotional emptiness. When all three return, your joy is centered around the fact that it is good for them that they returned. And your joy is complete in their wholeness and the restoration of relationship.
  • In terms of the story of the father and his two sons, your ego doesn’t play a role in your responses to the boys. You allow them to rebel. You allow them to insult you. You honor the concept of free will that you gave us all the way back to the beginning. This might be the biggest difference between you as a father and me as a father. None of your decisions appear to be based on how what is happening will impact you. Everything appears, instead, to be centered on how it will impact your sons.
  • Jesus seems to imply that you are more interested in the state of our heart than the words we’ve conjured up. The younger son was broken and had come home to submit to his father’s authority. That’s all the father needed to know. That’s all you need to know. It’s not about what fancy words I conjure. There isn’t anything magical I can produce to earn your forgiveness. There was no way for the son to atone for his sins, but you weren’t looking for atonement. You just wanted repentance, humility and submission. And you knew that this son was now set for a better life after having come to this point.
  • Then there’s the older son. I’m sure the Pharisees (the audience for this parable) were tracking with Jesus and maybe even buying into the idea that you would celebrate the return of the younger son. Maybe they were starting to soften their stance on Jesus trying to evangelize and bring to repentance the tax collectors and sinners. But much like Chekhov’s gun, Jesus had planted an almost forgotten character in the story who must be addressed. He wasn’t just a character of virtue and obedience to contrast with the younger son. He had his own issues.
  • Forgetting the lesson that Jesus has for the Pharisees in his decision to link who they are with this older son, I want to look at much at how you responded to the older son as I did this younger. And it’s pretty simple. Only two verses (31 and 32):

“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.”

Again, I think I’ve read this wrong over the years. I’ve always thought of this little speech as a scolding, but that’s not what Jesus says. He represents you as sayin to the Pharisees, “Hey, you have been good and everything I have is coming your way. But I love that person over there. They are my child to. You referred to him as ‘this son of [mine].’ Well, he isn’t just my son. He is your brother. It’s time for you to love him and celebrate with me because he is alive again. He was lost and now is found.” Jesus wasn’t taking anything away from the Pharisees and scribes that day. He was imploring them to join him in reaching out to and loving these tax collectors and sinner. He wanted them to welcome them.

So what does this have to say about me and who I am as a father? What can I learn from you, my Lord and my God?

  • Not always, to be sure, but I have probably made too many parenting decisions based on how their behavior impacts me, my ego, my feelings, my reputation, etc.
  • While it is good for me to reach out (see the shepherd looking for the lost lamb or the woman looking for the lost coin), it is also right for me to let them come to conclusions on their own. Especially as adults, I cannot force my will upon them.
  • Sibling rivalry is real and I need to deal with each of my children differently while still loving both equally. And if I can somehow get them to have empathy and even mercy for the other–at least a wishing for the best for them–then that should be pursued.
  • You never lightened the consequences for the rebel. Whether it was the Israelites in the Old Testament or the son in this story, you never made the results of his actions easier on him. As a parent, it is very hard to watch our children suffer, even if they brought it upon themselves. But if we get in the way then it can short circuit whatever lesson you might have for them in the experience.
  • You are their father as much as you are mine. Since they are adults now, at this point, I am their spiritual brother and I should care more about their relationship with you than their relationship with me. Yes, they still need the love that an earthly father can give as long as I am alive, but this is no longer about them submitting to me. My goal should be for them to submit to you.

Father, it looks like I ended up doing this all in one sitting after all. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for being the God you are. Jesus could have taken this parable in a lot of ways, and I’m grateful for the portrait he painted of you and for me to follow. Help me to be the son you need me to be for your glory’s sake and not mine.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Luke 15:25-32

Luke 15:25-32 [NLT]
“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!’”

Dear God, the older son won’t understand until he’s a father himself. Being the father of two children, I see this parable a little differently now. Granted, these aren’t real people, and Jesus is only giving us the details he wants us to know to make his point about God’s love for the most, but I still have to wonder what the relationship like between the boys? Did the older brother have bitterness towards his brother that had nothing to do with the father’s actions? He probably did.

I also wonder what the older son was seeing in his father while the younger son was still gone, and if his father’s obvious love for the younger son angered him. Did the older son see his father as naive? Weak? Foolish? Again, I’m looking at a literal family dynamic here and not at the relationship we have with you.

But now that I say that, do those of us who are Disciples and believers get angry with you over what you allow our sinful world to get away with? Do we hate our sinful brothers instead of waiting on the porch with you, watching for them to come home? Do we secretly resent your plan for the world and think you foolish?

Father, thank you for what you’ve taught me through being a father. Thank you for the pain and strain. Thank you for the redemption and growth. It’s been hard, it’s been great, it’s been fulfilling, and it’s ripped my heart out. I’ve needed all of those things to happen to shape me into who I am becoming through your guidance. Help me to continue on this journey as a father, as a brother, as a friend, and as a Disciple.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Luke

 

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The Prodigal Son — Luke 14:11-24

Luke 15:11-24 NIV
[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. [21] “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [22] “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. [23] Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. [24] For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Dear God, before I get into this story, I want to do my best to identify all of the art panels, small as they are, in the border of this artwork. Starting at the top left:

  • Broken chains
  • “HOME” or, if you look at it the right way, “LOVE”
  • Two arrows pointing to the cross
  • U-turn
  • Cross
  • “My son was dead and alive again”
  • “He was lost and is found”
  • “!!!!!!!!!!” [kind of cool to have those following the two lines from the father.]
  • “You went after worth [??] and become worthless”
  • Star of David [before a psalm]
  • “Before I formed you in the womb I knew year”
  • “Only remember and be satisfied.” [this seems to be the last of three messages from God to the son.]
  • Three tears
  • A dove [images of God’s forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit before the son’s response]
  • “We believe and we are blessed.”
  • A running figure
  • “If I ascend to heaven you are there. If I make my bed in hell you are there.” [YOU ARE THERE emphasized both times. Interesting that he is bringing the psalms into the son’s thoughts with this and the part about the womb.]
  • Crown
  • “The children the promise [??] as offspring” [couldn’t tell what that third part said, but I think it comes from “The children of the promise are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”]
  • A key
  • A lock
  • “And I run down that aisle”
  • Musical notes
  • Regular star surrounded by circles [other stars]
  • “[??] mute or deaf or seeing or blind” [I think this is a reference to Exodus 4:11 Exodus 4:11 NIV
    [11] The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?]
  • Alpha and Omega in Greek letters
  • “The greatest of these is LOVE”
  • Heart with an infinity sign in the middle of it.
  • “Wonderful counselor, almighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace.”
  • “No!”
  • “Please” [If read clockwise, No! is first. If read left to right, please is first.]
  • Broken heart
  • “And I will make a new covenant with you.”
  • “!” [exclamation points on opposite corners of the border]
  • Crying eyes
  • ?? [Can’t tell if this is dove or flame, but I’m pretty sure it is the Holy Spirit either way]
  • “And those he predestined he also justified and those who he called he also justified and those whom he justified he also glorified [Romans 8:30]
  • “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two”
  • Clock pointing to 3:00
  • A cross and I think it says, “Here!!” across it.
  • Arrows all pointing to the middle of the image
  • A heart that says, “Give,” in the middle
  • ??satisfied by the call of others less wild.” [I think I found this reference. It’s from a song called “Wedding Dress” by Derek Webb. The phrase from the song is, “I am so easily satisfied by the call of lovers less wild.” The chorus says, “I’m a prodigal with no way home…” so I’m pretty sure this is the artist’s reference.”] [a second note is that this part about being satisfied is across the image from the part about being “satisfied” on the other side of the border.]
  • “Son you are always with me and all that is mine is yours.”
  • A flower
  • A cross in the middle of something I can quite make out
  • An image of crying eyes that says, “Tears stream down your face,” with an arrow at the bottom of the image pointing upwards and the word, “UP!”

So that takes care of the border. Now what did this artist decide to show me in the image itself?

  • A lot of triangles over the house [I wish I knew if there is a significance to the triangles over the house. A bunch of representations of the Trinity?]
  • The father’s house [It’s a fairly modern representation of a house. I’m surprised it doesn’t have a more prominent front porch.]
  • There are several people cheering
  • The father seems to be represented in motion with arms outspread and then arms around the boy
  • It almost looks like there are angel wings as part of the father’s arms.
  • The boys hair melds into the father’s beard
  • The boy is in modern clothes
  • The boy’s jeans are dirty and the bottoms are frayed.
  • I think the boy is barefoot.
  • The boy’s head is buried in the father’s chest.

What the artist has done to communicate so much through not only the main image, but also through the border is great.

It was about 17 years ago that I sat down and tried to find a father/husband in the Bible who was worth emulating. After looking at all of the men I could find, I ultimately landed on Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, and the father in this story. Since this is a parable in which the father represents you, I just focused on Joseph. But maybe I should focus on this father since it gives me an insight into you and your nature.

As I look at this story, I notice the part where Jesus says, “Not many days later.” I know this isn’t a real story–it’s a parable–but I wonder what those days between the bequeathing and the leaving would have been like. Was the money not enough for the boy? Did it not bring him the happiness he thought it would.

Ultimately, the story is about the father letting the boy go. That is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. Let them go and then wait. And sometimes we have to wait a long time.

There is a DC Talk song called “The Hard Way” that’s chorus says it all: “Some people gotta learn the hard way. I guess I’m the kind of guy that trying to find out for myself. I had to learn the hard way, Father. I’m on my knees and I’m crying for help.”

Father, for the prodigals out there, make their paths to you as straight as possible. And for the fathers (and mothers), help them to believe.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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