I would like to thank our sister Debbie, for sharing her Real Lives talk this past Sunday. Her personal story characterized God’s love so elegantly, in a way that could connect relationally with each one of us. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing your intimate story in a manner that glorified God and encouraged your brothers and sisters.
Our current focus on God the Father, set up nicely for a Real Lives service about the Father’s love. A love the is boundless and unmeasured, yet so personal and transformative. Our hope was that this service would be a “heart” service, and a time of worship in which we would all come to know our Heavenly Father’s heart more intimately.
Read Luke 15: 11-32
The parable of the Prodigal Son is loaded with content. But if we were to take only one thing away from this parable, I would suggest that one thing should be the overwhelming love that the father has for his two sons. One powerful sentence tells the whole story: “And he arose and came to his father, but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (v. 20).
Though the younger son was covered in dirty rags, the father immediately felt compassion when he saw his son. That is, he was so overcome that he had an immediate reaction, and he “ran” (a very undignified thing for the old man at that time), and literally embraced him and kissed him again and again and again.
The younger son had distanced himself (in a distant country) from his father due to sins of passion. However, the elder son who was still in the physical vicinity of his father, had separated himself due to his sins of attitude. Rather than celebrating his younger brother’s return, he became angry. He even refused to celebrate, despite his father’s encouragement to come and “join in” with the celebration.
Self-righteous, the older son overstated his performance: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I have never disobeyed your command” (v. 29). Never? Really? Sinless? Hmm. He was so convinced of his own goodness that he had built up barriers that prevented himself from loving his brother and that also hindered intimacy and fellowship with his father.
This parable is meant to give us all hope. Whether we are struggling today in ways that are more relatable to the younger son or the older son, we are to be greatly encouraged. This parable is about our Prodigal God – the lavishly loving God. If we are in a far away country because of our sins of passion, God is scanning the horizon waiting for us. If we have distanced ourselves like the older brother with our sins of attitude, our heavenly Father reminds us that he is always with us and all that he has is ours. When we understand our true condition, it helps us see how wonderful our God is, and how incredible his unrelenting love is for each one of us.
1. Which son do you currently relate with?
2. What behaviors/traits do you have in common with that son?
3. Do you have a personal relationship with God the Father?
4. What barriers are currently in place that are preventing you from accepting our Heavenly Father’s love for you? Who is ultimately responsible for those barriers being in place?
5. What will you do to prevent these barriers from remaining in place?
6. Are you ready to fully embrace your Heavenly Father’s love for you?
Below is the corporate prayer that we prayed together last Sunday during the service. Let us now pray this again privately in our hearts.
Prayer for the Father’s Love
Heavenly Father, you have loved us with unconditional love, and we thank you for this love lavished upon us. We confess that it is difficult at times to accept and believe that you love us so much. You allow us our own wants and we have gone our own way and rejected your will for our lives. Yet you patiently wait for us, trusting us to come back. You are mighty and powerful, but before us, you lower down to us yearning for our hearts. We are so important to you, and we ask now for your help to accept your mercy and grace. We thank you for your amazing love, for each one of us. Help us accept your love with our whole beings and to be confident of this because we are your children. For the sake of your Son who died for us, forgive us, cleanse us, and change us. By your Holy Spirit, enable us to live for you, and to please you in every way; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.