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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14. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Kindness – Part 1

2 Timothy 1:8-18

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. 12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. 13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. 15 As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. 17 When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.18 May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ’s return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus.

As we continue to look at cultivating Christ like character we come to the fifth virtue in the fruit of the Spirit, Kindness. Kindness is something that not only goes against our current culture but is something our culture seems to have all but killed. I believe this is because kindness is rooted in service where our culture is rooted in selfishness. Kindness is not just an attitude but an action that flows out of our caring. So, as we think about cultivating Christ like character we need to remember that we have a kind King. One who served us by sacrificing His life for us. As His followers we too are called to care with kindness. Kindness is “love in action.” It’s the practical expression of love that is visible and active and not just emotional. But why should we be kind? After all, kindness is kind of risky. If we are nice to someone they might think, “Why is this person being so nice? What’s in it for them?” On the other hand, people could see our kindness and try to take advantage of us. Yet despite the risks we need show kindness to others for several reasons. First it is a command of God, Ephesians 4:31-32, says; “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Why would Christ command us to be kind because kindness cultivates relationships instead of killing them. Today we live in a culture that is more calloused than caring and instead of cultivating kindness we are more likely to be angry and bitter. Kindness is saying yes to the commands of Christ, its putting feet to your faith through obedience. Another reason we need to show kindness is that when we do we reveal the character of Christ to a watching world. Kindness is one of the simplest and yet most magnetic ways we can share the Savior. When we point our fingers and condemn people they get defensive but when we care for them with kindness instead of being guarded toward God they are open. Does the way that you treat people reveal your love for the Lord? What kind of witness does a watching world see in the way you treat others? Thirdly kindness is our response to the grace God has shown us. God didn’t just tell us He loves us, He proved it. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It’s not enough for us to say we love others; we must show it. Kindness is more than an attitude it’s an action. You don’t perform acts of kindness to earn God’s mercy and forgiveness; you perform good deeds because you have been loved and forgiven. When God saved you, He began to change you. You should no longer want to live like pagan people who don’t know God and only want to live for self. When you show kindness to a stranger, they are surprised. Why? Because that’s not normal behavior. Out there in this wicked world, it is every man for himself. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, a hard-knock life. But for those of us who know Jesus, we live by a higher standard, a standard that our Savior set for us. You see the world tends to give people what they deserve. But God is full of grace and mercy. Grace is God blessing you with that which you do not deserve. Mercy is God withholding the punishment you do deserve. The more you understand and appreciate God’s grace and mercy, the more you will want to show kindness to others. Kindness is really a reflection of how much you get the grace of God. The truth is that mean people don’t get God’s mercy. So, does the way that you treat people reveal that you get God’s grace or that you are missing the point of His mercy? Who do you know that needs to see the kindness of Christ? What if today you cleared a little room on your calendar for kindness and took the time to look for those who need God’s love.

 

 


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13. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Patience – Part 3

Galatians 5:16-24

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a]you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

After looking at the patience of God we come to the next way that patience is described in Scripture:

  1. Patience with People

If God is patient with us, then we should be patient with other people, but we can’t be patient in our own power. The answer to patience with people is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where Paul says, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Notice who Paul is talking to, He says, “brothers” these are fellow Christians. He is not calling pagans to be patient he is calling Christians. It’s here that we are reminded that without the power of Christ we are unable to be patient. I also want you to notice that Paul is calling us to be patient with people not just our situation. But which people are we called to be patient with, all people, everyone. This is where many of us want to object instead of obey as we say things like, “But you just don’t know what it’s like at my house or my work” or “But when someone drives like an idiot, I just get so mad” But it’s not about us it’s about our witness to a watching world. In 1 Timothy 1:15 – 16, Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” When patience is produced by the Holy Spirit and put into practice in the life of the Christian it serves as an example for those who don’t yet know Jesus. But what happens to our witness when we “lose our patience”? Well, if we call ourselves Christians when we lose our patience we do damage to the Name of Jesus Christ. When a Christian gets mad and throws a golf club it does damage to the Name of Christ. Patience really is just a reflection of our relationship with Jesus. When we exhibit impatience, it reveals that we have just taken back control of our lives. So, if you are a Christian and you struggle with being patient then your REAL struggle is in allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control of your life. You may want to blame your patience problem on people, but it’s time to take personal responsibility and not only recognize what is wrong in your relationship with God but to repent and let Him be in charge. This brings us to the last way that patience is described in scripture:

  1. Patience with God

The Bible talks about God’s people being patient with God by waiting patiently for the Lord’s return and not getting angry with the Almighty. James 1:2-4;12-18 and James 5:7-9 says, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” We need to wait patiently on the Lord because He is coming back soon. But it’s hard for us to sit still because many of us want to be in charge and call the shots. The truth is impatience is a form of unbelief. It’s what happens when we start to doubt God’s wisdom, His timing and the goodness of his guidance. We feel like nothing is happening because we are walking by our feelings instead of by faith. So, we conclude that God doesn’t care and we get angry and go off not just on God but we spray shrapnel everywhere, ruining all our relationships. We have two decisions to make.

  • We can choose to wait on God right where we are or giving up on God. What if instead of bailing, we view God waiting room as a place to build us up and mold us into the people He has called us to be. Second:
  • We can determine to go at His pace or be reckless and try to run the show. We need to learn to give God His place and keep in step with His pace.

Phillips Brooks was a great preacher in New England during the 19th century. He was nationally known for his sermons against slavery and His sermon on the death of Abraham Lincoln moved an entire the nation. His Yale lectures on preaching are still widely read and taught today. But you probably know Him best for a simple Christmas song that he wrote, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Even though he was a very well-known and powerful preacher he still struggled to patiently trust. One day a friend saw him pacing back and forth in his study like a caged lion. His friend asked him what the trouble was. His reply was classic. This great man of God who seemed to have it all together said, “The trouble is, I am in a hurry. But God isn’t.” We need to learn to lean on the Lord otherwise we will get restless and run ahead of Him. So how are you handling the frustrations of life? Are you impatient with God? Do you complain to God and demand that He intervene and remove your trials? Patience is willingly to endure times of trials by waiting on God and not murmuring against God because you know that even in the chaos He is still in control. Are you being patient with others and recognizing that they too are growing in grace and are not perfect. Where do you need the Holy Spirit to prune your life so that the fruit of patience can blossom and bless those around you?