A Great Series on the Two Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

My pastor recently lead our church through a six-part sermon series on the Parable of the Prodigal Son (better titled the Parable of the Two Lost Sons). Yes, six weeks...and it was outstanding!

The series was inspired by the book Prodigal God by Tim Keller and the many lessons within this powerful story told by Jesus.

This is a section of Scripture I have read many times. I have even heard multiple sermons on it. But Keller's book and my pastor's sermons unpacked the story in a way I had never known. There is so much to be learned from the characters within the story (the younger brother, the older brother, the father) and the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Check out the series on the church's website. Listen, enjoy, and be inspired!


Can You Relate to the Two Lost Sons? (Luke 15:11-32)

I recently read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. It is a wonderful book that studies in detail the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which would be better titled the Parable of the Lost Sons.

Both sons were lost. The younger wanted to get his inheritance early and live it up. He wanted to be free of the rules and restrictions of his home and community, and he traveled to a distant land and lived a life of personal pleasure, a life of sin and spending. He was self-centered and lost.

The elder son was lost too, although he stayed at home. He sought to be moral, live by all the rules, and do all the actions expected of him. He believed he had earned the father’s love and was owed his inheritance. He didn’t like it when his brother came home and received a welcome back party by the father. The older brother was self-righteous and lost.

I see the same heart attitudes of the younger brother in myself. I can be self-centered and want my freedom. I can think real happiness is out there, outside the bounds of God’s laws. Can you relate to the younger brother?

I mostl closely relate to the self-righteous elder brother. I can think I have earned God’s favor and I deserve rewards from him because I obey him. I can be jealous of others when they are honored and I am not. I can refuse to make personal sacrifice for the good of others. Can you relate to the elder brother?

I see myself throughout this parable? Can you see yourself too? How?


Marks of True Belief in Christ #6

Continuing from J.C. Ryle’s Old Paths,

He that believes on Christ has an inward testimony of his belief. It is written, that ‘he that believes on the Son of God, has the witness in himself.’ (I John 5:10)…I cannot shrink from declaring my own firm persuasion that a true believer always has inward feelings peculiar to himself – feelings which are inseparably connected with his faith, and flow from it – feelings of which unbelievers know nothing at all. He ‘has the Spirit of adoption,’ by which he regards God as a reconciled Father, and looks up to Him without fear. (Romans 8:15) He has the testimony of his conscience, sprinkled with Christ’s blood, that weak as he is, rests on Christ. He has hope, joy, fear, sorrow, comfort, expectations, of which he knew nothing before he believed. He has pocket evidences which the world cannot understand, but which are better to him than all the books of evidence in existence.”

Do you have an inward testimony of genuine faith in Jesus? Deep down within you do you know you are saved?


Learning to Trust Through the Story of Joseph

Here is another section from chapter 9 of my book.

The story of Joseph, recorded in Genesis chapters 37-50, illustrates how God is firmly in control even when the difficult circumstances of life may indicate otherwise. Joseph learned that God controls everything, despite Joseph’s wrangling with pride, being sold into slavery by his brothers, suffering the lies of Potiphar’s wife, rotting in prison, being forgotten by the cupbearer, and enduring years of famine in Egypt. Joseph powerfully testifies to God’s sovereignty when he says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Despite incredibly trying circumstances over many years, Joseph learned that God is faithful, that his ways are the best ways, and that his purposes will be accomplished. He learned to trust God.

I’m sure my attitude would have been quite different from Joseph’s. I probably would have doubted God all along the way, struggling with anger and the temptation to turn my back on God. I can learn a lot from Joseph’s example.

Can you imagine the faith and excitement Joseph experienced when he became second in command of all of Egypt? Can you picture his face when he realized his family was standing in front of him and he had opportunity to sell them the food they needed to survive? Joseph must have laughed with joy as he finally understood God’s purpose and plan. He must have cried tears of gratefulness as he saw how God had used him to save so many, including his own family (the future nation of Israel), from starvation. By persevering in times of trials, Joseph learned what it meant to trust God.


Marks of True Belief in Christ #5

Continuing from J.C. Ryle’s Old Paths,

He that believes on Christ overcomes the world. It is written, that ‘whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.’ (I John 5:4) A true believer is not ruled by the world’s standard of right or wring, of truth or error. He is independent of the world’s opinion. He cares little for the world’s praise. He is not moved by the world’s blame. He does not seek for the world’s pleasures. He is not ambitious of the world’s rewards. He looks at things unseen. He sees an invisible Savior, a coming judgment, a crown of glory that does not fade away. The sight of these objects makes him think comparatively little of this world.”

Have you overcome the world? Do you look most to things unseen?

Marks of True Belief in Christ #4

Continuing from J.C. Ryle’s Old Paths,

He that believes on Christ works godly works. It is written, that ‘faith works by love.’ (Galatians 5:6) True belief will never make a man idle, or allow him to sit still, contented with his own religion. It will stir him to do acts of love, kindness, and charity, according as he sees opportunity.”

Do godly works mark your life?


Our Tendency

Here is another section from chapter 9 of my book.

Not only do we have the privilege of growing up in Christian homes, we also live in a wealthy country. We do not face many of the challenges that are common in this world. We eat three meals a day and have no experience with severe hunger. We live in safe and comfortable houses and do not know what it is like to be homeless. Most of us live in safe neighborhoods and do not fear crime or harm as we play in our yards.

The struggles we face are relatively simple compared to those of many people in this world. If we get sick, our parents take us to the doctor. If we struggle in school, our mom or dad help us study for the next test. If we need advice, we stroll into the kitchen and ask our parents for their counsel.

But even minor trials are opportunities to learn to trust God. When we have a big test in Spanish, an interview for a part-time job, a sprained ankle, or just been cut from the basketball team, we have opportunities to learn to trust our heavenly Father. It is through these types of situations that God prepares us for more significant challenges in the future. They provide the first steps in learning to trust God on our own.

The key is to make sure we trust God. As church kids we often trust our parents, our pastors, our teachers, and ourselves more than we trust God. Because we seldom experience significant trials on our own, we tend to look to the godly individuals in our lives for support and guidance to the neglect of looking to God.

Don’t misunderstand. Our parents, pastors, teachers and friends are wonderful resources that God uses to help and guide us. We need to take full advantage of their wisdom and counsel. We would be crazy not to. But we must realize that God is the one we must ultimately trust and God is the one who directs and leads. He uses many different means to do this—the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and godly individuals in our lives—but he controls them all.

Jerry Bridges says, “Another pitfall we need to watch for is the tendency to trust in God’s instruments of provision rather than God Himself. In the usual course of events in our lives, God provides for our needs through human means rather than directly…But these human instruments are ultimately under the controlling hand of God. They succeed or prosper only to the extent God prospers them. We must be careful to look beyond the means and human instrumentalities to the God who uses them.”

We need to develop a personal conviction to trust God above all else. When trials come, our parents’ faith won’t give us enduring trust in God. Likewise, we can’t look to the godly adults in our lives to carry us through every trial. Only God can do that. Trust has to spring from the depths of our own convictions about him. We can be confident that God will use our parents and other godly individuals to help us, but we have to learn to ultimately trust God himself.

The goal of this chapter is to help us learn why God is worthy to be trusted and how to trust him in every circumstance of life.

Marks of True Belief in Christ #3

Continuing from J.C. Ryle’s Old Paths...

He that believes in Christ is a holy person in heart and life. It is written that God ‘purifies the heart by faith’ (Acts 15:9) and, ‘Whoso has this hope in him, purifies himself.’ (I John 3:3) A believer loves what God loves, and hates what God hates. His heart’s desire is to walk in the way of God’s commandments, and to abstain from all manner of evil. His wish is to follow after the things which are just, and pure, and honest, and lovely, and of good report, and to cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.”

Is holiness the longing of your and are you growing in holiness in your daily living?


Marks of True Belief in Christ #2

I continue with J.C. Ryle’s thoughts from Old Paths…Mark #2

He that believes in Christ has a new heart. It is written, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things are become new.’ (II Corinthians 5:17) ‘Whosever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’ (I John 5:1) A believer has no longer the same nature with which he was born. He is changed, renewed, and transformed after the image of his Lord and Savior…True faith and spiritual regeneration are inseparable companions.”

Do you have a new heart? Have you been changed by the power of God?

Marks of True Belief in Christ #1

In Old Paths J.C. Ryle outlines seven marks of true belief in Jesus Christ. He seeks to describe key indicators of genuine faith in Christ. Let’s look at #1.

“He that believes in Christ has inward peace and hope. It is written, ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 5:1) ‘We which have believed do enter into rest.’ (Hebrews 4:3) The believer’s sins are pardoned, and his iniquities taken away. His conscience is no longer burdened with the load of unpardoned [sin]. He is reconciled to God, and is one of His friends. He can look forward to death, judgment, and eternity without fear. The sting of death is taken away. When the great [judgment] of the last day is held, and the books are opened, there will be nothing laid to his charge. When eternity begins, he is provided for. He has a hope laid up in heaven, and a city which cannot be moved. He may not be fully sensible of all these privileges. His sense and view of them may vary greatly at different times, and be often obscured by doubts and fears. Like a child who is yet under age, though heir to a great fortuned, he may not be fully aware of the value of his possessions. But with all his doubts and fears, he has a real, solid, true hope, which will bear examination, and at his best moments he will be able to say, ‘I feel a hope which makes me not ashamed.’ (Romans 5:5)”

Do you experience inward peace and hope?


Finish Strong

At my school we have 12 days left in the year. We are so close to the end…yet we have so much to complete in the final days.

The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and so many of the games are coming down to the final few possessions. The winners of the final few minutes seem to be the winners of the game.

The NHL playoffs seem about the same. Many games extend into overtime, with the final goal determining the winner.

The end matters! Yes, it does matter how we start and how we labor over the course of the school year. But, it is vital that we end well.

Finish strong! Don’t just coast out these final weeks. Seek to excel to the glory of God. Do your best on your last few projects and papers. Study hard for your final exams. Encourage your friends to do the same.

Stay in God’s word. God to Him for strength as you labor. Lift up your requests and needs to Him in prayer.

Finish strong!


The Mom Video

Have you seen this video? It creatively highlights the exhausting job of a mom!


Imagine...A Christian Parent Considering the Future

What do you long for your children? When you think of your child's future, what comes to mind? What will he be like? What will she accomplish? Are you exited or afraid? Are you full of faith or worried?

I would love to get your feedback on this video. What thoughts did it bring to your mind? How did it affect you?

Here is the link to the video on YouTube.

Right and Wrong Views of our Father God

What is God like? How does He act? What are His attributes?

What has been your working understanding of God? How do you naturally think of Him and His interactions with you and others in the course of everyday life?

What does Scripture say? How do your thoughts and Scripture compare?

Recently I came across a good resource by Neil T. Anderson that included a list of lies we can believe about God and the truth that counters each lie.

It reminded me how easy it is to be deceived, even in something as important as our view of God. I was sobered to think of the potential problems that can stem from a wrong understanding of God and His ways, but I was excited as I considered the truths to counter specific wrong beliefs.

Here is a link to a church website that summarized Dr. Andersons points. Take some time to work through the list and look up the Scripture references.

Have you believed any lies? If so, counter the lie, reject and the false belief, and embrace the truth about our Father God. Let your heart be warmed, your mind at peace, and your faith strengthened as you consider the amazing, loving, powerful triune God who adopts us into His family.

To Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen!


The Biggest Wake Up Call Ever

Have you been one of the many millions of individuals to catch Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent performance on YouTube?

My wife showed it to me, and I’ve watched the seven minute clip in fascination multiple times. What captivates me? What has stunned so many? Why is this story so compelling?

What was your initial impression in the clips leading up to the song? What were you expecting when Ms. Boyle walked on stage and talked with the judges?

…then she sings….

The second judge to speak, Amanda Holden, says something profound and humble. She said that was “the biggest wake up call ever.” She said it right after referring to the entire audience being against Ms. Boyle and all (including the judges and me) being cynical. But what did she mean?

I was challenged to not judge a person by his or her outward appearance and by first impressions. But I do it all the time…the tall person must be good a basketball, the parents with the screaming child in the restaurant are negligent parents, the man in the sharp suit has it all together…

I quickly look at the external and make conclusions. I even assume I’m right. I think the wake up call is that I am frequently wrong.

What does God look at? How does He judge a person? Scripture says He looks at the heart. He cares about the inside – the thoughts, the motives, and the intentions. This doesn’t mean He ignores the external, but it does mean He starts with the heart and cares most about the true person on the inside. And He always gets it right…no wake up calls.