Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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24 The Pouting Prodigal – Part 1

Luke 15:22-32

22 “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. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 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. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 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. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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!’”

So far the parable that Jesus has been sharing with the Pharisees has focused on the father and the prodigal son but now in verse 25 we are introduced to the older and seemingly more pious son. This is the son that the Pharisees would have approved of, he was responsible and hardworking, he was the son that followed the rules. Yet what we discover is that while he was good at following the rules he also had a rift in his relationship with the father. When confronted with the celebration over his brother’s return we discover that the pious older brother was really a pouting person. It’s the father’s party that reveals his real heart, and while we may be tempted to admire his hard work we also have to recognize his hard and unforgiving heart. At first it’s the prodigal son who appears to have the problem, but when we chose to look at the attitudes as well as the actions we quickly discover that both sons had a hard heart problem. While the younger son had a possession problem the older son had a pride problem. While the younger sons heart problem was lived out in a lifestyle of rebellion the older sons was seen in a self-righteousness attitude. The older son served the father faithfully his whole life, but it was out of a sense of duty not desire. He was driven by rules instead of relationship, obligation instead of a heart of obedience. Like many of us he made it about followed a list instead of loving the father. While he never left his home physically, it’s clear that he had a dysfunctional relationship with his father as well as his brother. The older son represents religious people, those who while they may not have sinned against God by running off to pursue a rebellious life are participating in a prideful and pouting life instead of a life of praise. These are the Pharisees who have reduced a righteous life to that of following the rules and warming a pew. Who when it comes to really celebrating what God is doing in the lives of others, refuse to rejoice. These are the party poopers, and I wonder what percentage of God’s family fall into this category? It’s easy to see the rebels but do we see the self-righteous? I am convinced that there are probably more critical “older brother” Christians in the church than there are those guilty of the younger son’s sin. It’s here in Luke 15 that we see two things:

  1. The Characteristics of a Pouting Son.

After working hard all day in the fields, the older brother arrived at his house to hear the sound of music and celebration. When he inquired as to what was going on he learns that the party was in celebration of his younger brother’s return. It’s at this point that he became angry and refused to join in the joy, choosing resentment over rejoicing. In his attitude and angry statements we see several common characteristics of a pouting prodigal starting first with:

  • An angry spirit of grumbling

Verse 28 tells us that he became angry, in fact the word used indicates that he flew into a rage. Instead of rejoicing with his brother he resented him, choosing instead to protest the party with an attitude of anger. But this was not righteous anger it was resentful anger. When his father came out to plead with him to participate in the party, he began to grumble and complain. Saying, “I’ve never left home and spent all my money on prostitutes, and you’ve never even killed a little goat for me!” It’s the pity party, poor me mentality. Why didn’t he join in the party, because his focus was on self not on the celebration. Instead of worship he chose whining, instead of joy he gave in to jealousy. It’s often easy to recognize the pious older son because when given the opportunity to praise they often pout, grumbling and gripping is their go to. They are slow to celebrate and quick to complain.  They usually begin a sentence, “Now I don’t mean to be critical but…” and then that’s exactly what they do, they criticize. Instead of celebrating and joining in the joy they get caught up in complaining. These are the grace grumblers and often they will use spiritual disciplines to communicate their disapproval, disciplines like prayer. Instead of using prayer as a means of connecting with the father they use it as a means to be critical, prayer becomes a way to piously point out other people’s problems. Their righteous life is really just a façade of faithfulness, because when the praise is not pointed at them they pout. Are you hiding behind a façade of holiness? It’s easy to get angry with these critical Christians but we need to remember that the Father loves them and we must too. The father loved both sons equally, and was willing to pursue both of their hard hearts. His response to the pouting son was to go and plead with him to join the party. Yet like many pouting prodigals he chose to be miserable and remain on the outside. What he really missed was the miracle of God’s mercy because he didn’t think he needed it. He chose to rely on the rules and missed resting in the relationship. I believe that one of the greatest challenges to the church is not the prodigals but the pouters. The ones who say things like, “Pastor, I don’t think we ought to clap and lift our hands in church, if we are not careful we’re going to become charismatic.” Yet the irony of their words is that often these are the same people who will go to a football game and lift their hands in the air and shout “Touchdown!” They are ok celebrating college football but not Christ. They are ok getting excited about sports but not the Savior, because somehow things are going to get out of hand if we celebrate in church. This is the son who was so afraid of going out on a limb that he never got near the tree. It’s not hard to spot the pouting prodigal, they are constantly complaining and seldom happy. Instead of responding with rejoicing they chose resentment and bitterness. What about you, do you celebrating or complaining over those who come home?  Are you celebrating Gods party or sitting on the pity potty?

 


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5. From Heartbreak to Hope – Part 2

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”19 “What things?” he asked.“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Not only was it a heart-breaking experience but second it was a:

  1. Heart Examining Experience.

It’s here in the bitter brokenness of life, that Jesus shows up to walk with us through the worry and the wounds. When Jesus showed up to provided solace to these stricken saints, we see the truth of Matthew 18:20 illustrated: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” Sadly they did not recognize Jesus, and often neither do we, because we become so focused on our misery that we miss the Messiah. Are you missing His presence because you are giving priority to your problems? I often wonder how many miles we have journeyed with Jesus unaware of His presence. As believers in Jesus Christ we never walk alone.  Jesus doesn’t just walk with them, He also talks to them, asking two questions to get them to open up. So, they pour out their sad story to a seeming stranger because he is willing to listen. Do you realize we have a Lord who longs to listen, yet many of us never talk to Him. It’s here that we see the compassion of Christ as He listens to their sad story. He could have started by chastising them for their feeble faith. But Jesus doesn’t start with a lesson He starts with listening. It’s here that the Lord provides a lesson on how to deal with people as they go through difficult and dark times, how to help those who have lost hope. They need companionship not criticism; they need a listening ear not a lecture. The Lord love them by listening, and so should we, there will be time later to point them to the way of hope, to the One in whom hope is to be found, but first things first. So often in my parenting I have made the mistake of advising instead of asking. Of pointing out the problem without ever listening to the person. So as Jesus askes His first question, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”it stops them in their tracks. Scripture says that they stopped short, with sadness written across their faces. As their feet falter, their faces fall. They’re sad because they are caught up in the circumstances of the cross instead of the reality of the resurrection. They are focused on the crucifixion and not the cure. In their minds, Jesus was gone, and all their hopes with Him. Why were they depressed because they were living like the Deity was dead. Do you realize that anxiety is really atheism in action? What are we advertising when we live in anxiety, it’s not the Almighty. What about you are you advertising your fears or your Heavenly Father? They are so caught up in their circumstances that Cleopas is almost critical of Christ, he can’t believe that their walking partner does not know about what had been going on in Jerusalem: “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”They accuse Christ of being clueless. How like us when we go through turbulent times, feeling like God has no clue about our crisis. It’s almost laughable, as we accuse Jesus of not only not knowing what we are going through but not getting it. Yet wasn’t Jesus the one who went through the suffering? He not only gets it He is the One who got it, so we wouldn’t have to. We need a proper perspective on pain, the disciples were spectators to the suffering, Jesus was the participant in the pain. When we focus on the junk it’s easy to miss Jesus. What are you focused on today? Are you focused on the problems or His on His presence?


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4. From Heartbreak to Hope – Part 1

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”19 “What things?” he asked.“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Last time we saw three very different reactions to the resurrection. We saw those that ran to Jesus, those who rushed to tell others about Jesus and those who rejected Jesus. Today as we continue in our series, “Living in the reality of the resurrection” we come to the familiar story of the Emmaus experience. A story which highlights the living hope found only in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this to his friends at Corinth, “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.”1 Corinthians 15:19-20. Yet on that first Easter day that living hope was far from being established in the experience of these two men. Today I want you to put yourself in their shoes and try to feel what they did as they set out on this seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s here that we see them go from heart break to hope. But the story starts first with a:

  1. Heart Breaking Experience

Heart break is something every one of us has in common, because we have all experienced the crash of unmet expectations. From not being asked to prom or asking and being rejected to the dad than never said “I Love you.” Some of you have been gutted by a grief that won’t seem to go away. Drowning in the “deadly Ds” of life – doubt, disappointment, depression, disillusionment, defeat, and despair. These were all evident in Christ’s followers as they tried to deal with His death. Even the radical reports of Christ’s tomb being empty did nothing to alter their thinking and excite and energize them; it only caused more confusion. Their entire world had fallen apart. These two despondent disciples sum up the situation with these words, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”Often hope is like a light bulb, full of promise and potential, and while it can bring light that chases away the darkness it’s also very fragile and when dropped easily shatters. That’s where some of you are at today, instead of holding onto hope you are living in the heartbreak. Like the lyric in the song “Tell your heart to beat again” you feel, shattered like you’ve never been before the life you knew in a thousand pieces on the floor. Human hope is a fragile thing, and when it wanes and withers it’s difficult to revive. Hopelessness as a disease of the human spirit is desperately hard to cure. When you see someone you love and care for overtaken by illness, which goes on, and on, despair sets in. It almost becomes impossible to hope for recovery. We become afraid to hope because of not being able to cope with another letdown. These two men had erected a wall of hopelessness all around them, trapping them in the torment of their own misery. A wall with only one door, the door that leads to despair. “We had hoped …”What they were saying is “We don’t expect it now, but once we did. We had it, this thing called hope, we were holding it but then they ripped it from our hands when they crucified Christ. For a brief moment we believed, and we held hope but now it’s gone.” May be that’s where you’re at today, someone or something has come between you and your relationship with God. If so then listen up because the heart-breaking experience is only its beginning. While the story may start with heartbreak and sadness it doesn’t end in sorrow. There is light even in the dark and difficult times because our hope is not based on our circumstances it’s based on Christ. If your struggling with heartbreak and hopelessness take some time to today to reflect on the resurrection. Instead of focusing on your feelings and fears focus on His faithfulness and forgiveness.