Contradictions

purple flowers

Contradiction…we all know and understand the meaning behind this word.  Two things that oppose each other.  In English class we call them antonyms.  The two words that mean the opposite of each other.  The usual purpose behind a debate is caused by two or more people that have different usually opposing ideas that they not only feel very strongly about but also think is the only correct way to think.  We see this in our government on a pretty consistent basis these days.  Contradictions are not usually our favorite thing to discuss at a party, and yet the Bible has some contradictions that when looked at on the surface make no sense but when put into practice make perfect sense.

 

Here are a few:

  1. Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

How can we find our life if we lose it?  Usually when I lose something, like a sock in the wash, it is lost.  We do not try to lose things on purpose so that we can then find them.  What was Jesus’ original intent when He spoke these words?  If we deny Christ in hopes of saving our lives, we lose the hope of eternal life.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, we gain the hope of eternal life.  Living a life surrendered to the will of God the Father will find the true purpose and the true meaning of life.  True purpose in life is not found in doing my will, but rather surrendering my will to the Father and doing His will.  Yes, a contradiction.

  1. Proverbs 11:24 “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want.”

This one is certainly an enigma.  When we give we grow richer and when we withhold we are in want.  So many in our culture strive to have the best house, the best car, the best clothes…Three generations from now or even at our funerals will our house and our car be the things that are remembered?  Rather, when we attend funerals no one usually talks about another’s possessions but their character.  When we are generous with our love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…we grow richer.  When we are stingy with our kindness being so focused on meeting our own needs, we suffer.  It seems when I notice the needs of another and freely give of my time and talents, my heart grows richer.  When I fail to notice the needs of others and am so focused on my own needs, I feel even needier.  Loving those that do not deserve it or encouraging those that may not reciprocate fills my heart with more joy than keeping that love for myself.  Notice the pain in someone’s eyes and love them.  Notice the loneliness in someone’s life and be their friend.  We should be giving so freely that when it seems the cup is empty, God has refilled it with more than we had to start with.

  1. Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.”
  2. Acts 20:35 “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What is the conclusion of the whole matter?  Live a life of contradiction.  Give when it seems there is nothing left to give, and God will reward you.  “Moreover, it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2).  Will we be found as a faithful giver or a faithful withholder?  God has so richly given to us, should we not follow His example and be faithful givers.  Generosity (giving freely) is not always money.  We all have an endless supply of love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…why not give it all away.  Live a life of contradiction.  Jesus did!

A lesson from a Chainsaw

 

fallen tree

I had to go to Weingartz to get my chainsaw checked out.  I am eagerly anticipating putting in a garden this year, but since we live on an old Christmas tree farm there are a few trees that are in my way. There was also a beautiful flowering tree right in the middle of this plot of land that needed to be cut down.  Cutting down this flowering tree was a big job and I had to make sure I did it before it began to bloom, otherwise, I would have many second thoughts.  The evergreens were on their last leg (or branch) and looked rather spindly.  The flowering tree will live on as the fence I need to put around the area to keep out the raccoons, groundhogs, deer, rabbits, and whatever else thinks it might just want to make supper out of my garden.

Anyway, back to the chainsaw.  I got it stuck a few times, and was having trouble with the chain. I thought I had it fixed, but being a bit of a newcomer to the chainsaw gang, I went to Weingartz for a bit of advice.  Sure enough once it was taken apart and put back together, the reason for the chain problem was clear.  After a new bar, new chain, and a tiny screw were used, the chainsaw worked like a champ.  My blade was crushed and my chain was missing a few teeth.  As I was paying, the service tech said, “It will be a lot easier to use now and won’t be so much work.”  I knew exactly what he meant, because it had become a lot of work.

The spiritual application to this story came as I was cutting down and cutting up more trees for my garden.  (Manual labor is a good medium for me to think, but I sure am sore.)

Psalm 116:1, 2 “I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my plea for mercy.  Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore, I will call on Him as long as I live.”

I read these verses and was overwhelmed.  God wants to listen to me.  God created me for relationship with Him.  As I kneeled in prayer that morning tears running down my cheeks, I thanked God for wanting to have a relationship with me.  Who am I that the Creator of the Universe would want to have a relationship with me?  Not only does He want to have a relationship with me, but He also wants to listen to me.  Again, I say, “Who am I?”  How often have my prayers been repetitive pleas?  How often have my prayers been incomprehensible except for the understanding of my all-knowing God?

“Psalm 119:9-16 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes…In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.  I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”

The key to being pure here is God’s Word.  This is more than sexual purity.  This is purity from sin.  How do we keep ourselves pure from sin?  Guard, not wander, store, learn, delight, meditate, and not forget God’s Word.  The more time we spend reading God’s Word, the more it infiltrates our thoughts and our actions.  We are hearing from God.

As we spend time in the presence of God through prayer and Bible reading, we begin to act like Him and talk like Him.  When I meet a friend for coffee, I usually allocate at least one hour to spend listening to them and talking with them.  If I met someone for coffee and ten minutes later got up and said, “It’s been nice talking to you.”  They might have a few choice words for me.  Spending time with God each day developing a relationship with the Creator of the Universe through prayer and Bible Study should be the most important part of our day, and yet it often is not.

 

Martin Luther said that the busier he got, the more time he spent in prayer.  On exceedingly busy days, he would get up early and spend three hours in prayer.

God wants to hear from us.  He told us this in His word.  God also told us to delight in His word to help our lives stay pure.

When I took my chain saw back out to the trees, the words from the repair man came back to me. “It will be easier to use and won’t be so much work.”  True to his word, it was easier and not so much work, and the chain didn’t come off anymore.

So will be the days of our lives.  When we start our day cultivating a deep and intimate relationship with our Savior our Christian life will be “easier and not so much work.”  We will still face temptation.  We will still face trials.  Yet, when we start the day focused on our Savior, His Word will come back to us.

Not only will the Christian walk be “easier and not so much work,” but also we will have an intimate relationship with the Savior of the Universe.  I want to be first in line for that!

What are you on a quest for?

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Have you ever been on a quest?  I love a good adventure.  I love to read about an adventure in a good book, watch a good adventure on TV, and hear about another’s true life adventure.  Life in its greatest sense is an adventure.

Life with God is an even greater adventure.

We never know when we trust Him where it will take us, who we will meet, or the challenges we will have to overcome.  Yet, so many refuse to trust Him because they are afraid of the risk.

Afraid of the unknown.  Afraid of the adventure that will lie before them.

Afraid of the cost.

We get into our comfort zones and refuse to leave them.  Not willing to “move from the boat to the water.”

We keep an unseen ledger sheet in our heads and our hearts and every cost is weighed out by what is to be gained.  Too many times our fear of the cost outweighs the risk of our faith.

What would it cost vs. what we would gain revolves in a never ending battle in our hearts and our heads.

So what if:

  1. We confessed our sins and our faults to others. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).

When we have secret sins that would mortify anyone if they knew about them, do we confess them?  What would it cost us if we openly and honestly confessed our sins?  (It’s not like God is asking us to publish our sins on every form of media possible.  Rather, He is asking us to be open with a few people that will hold us accountable.  Plus, those we have hurt or offended must be included in this process so forgiveness can be granted).  We may lose our dignity.  We may lose our reputations.  We may lose favor.  When we keep on sinning or cover up the sin, it becomes a cancer that eats away at our very souls.  We never have the chance to be healed from the sin “that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).  Confession brings about healing.

  1. We loved as Christ loved us. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8).

The cost of love is sometimes the highest cost of all.  “But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  The love of God cost Him His Son’s life.  Why?  “To cover a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus’ righteousness became our righteousness.  What if we loved someone else so much, our love covered their sins and changed them from an ugly cancer to a new creation in Christ?  We do not have the ability to save them, but our love may be what causes them to seek Christ.  Remember Jesus’ love for the woman at the well.  What about the woman caught in the act of adultery?  What about His faithful love for us?  What if our love covered a multitude of sin in someone’s life and they were radically changed?

  1. We had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had so much faith in who God was that they were willing to tell the King, “Whether we live or die, we believe that God is God.”  That is the faith of a mustard seed.  That is the faith that moves mountains.  Faith, that whether our prayer is answered how we pray it or not “Whether we live or die,” still believes that God is who He says He is.  Then thanking Him for the work that He is doing in our lives through every situation, we resolve to walk through faith “making known His deeds among the people.” (Psalm 105:1).  Sometimes deliverance does not come the way we pray, because God is doing a different work in us than answering our prayers the way we pray them would allow.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace.  It was many years, before Joseph saw the hand of God in the situation he had been placed. Yet, he never changed who he stood with…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Through all the trials that Joseph endured, God changed him.  The boy who boastfully proclaimed his dream of ruling over his brothers and strutting around like a proud peacock in his coat of many colors was transformed through his years in Egypt into a humble man who was able to confidently say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20).  The cost of faith is great.  We may never know like Joseph the good that God can bring from an evil situation, but we must always be confident that if we are walking by faith and able to pass the tests of morality and humility as Joseph did, God will mean it for good.  We must have faith!

  1. We had the meekness/humility of Moses. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Now the man Moses was very meek (humble), more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

Humility often costs us our pride.  We may have to confess our sins.  We may have to admit someone else is right.  We may have to swallow our pride and say that both opinions are right, but I choose to let your opinion or your way stand.  Humility is costly, but pride is costlier.  Humility may cause momentary pain, but pride usually costs us relationships.  Look at the cost of Satan’s pride.  Look at the cost of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.  Look at the cost of Peter’s pride. (Before the cock crows three times, you will deny Me.)  Humility causes momentary pain with long term benefits.  Pride causes momentary satisfaction with long term pain…not just for us but for those we lord our pride over.  Will humility be your banner or will pride be your grave marker?

  1. We had the courage of Peter. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’” (Matthew 14:28).

For each of these things – confession of sin, self-sacrificing love, faith, and meekness – courage must be used to execute them.  The boat seemed safe.  Ask the other disciples if they felt safe in the boat?  Ask Peter if his risk of fear vs. courage was worth the sensation of looking at Jesus while walking on the water?

We are all on a journey, a quest.  We all must answer the questions: What is the cost?  What is the gain?  The journey with Him is the choice we must all make.  What are the things we must pack as we go on this quest of following God?  Will you take with you confession of sin (vulnerability and authenticity), self-sacrificing love, faith, humility, and courage? Or will you take secrecy of hidden sin that eats away like a cancer, selfishness, doubt, pride, and fear?  Will you reach for momentary pain and long term benefits or momentary satisfaction and long term pain?  Only you can make the choice.

Preparation Precedes Boldness

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Preparation is one of the keys to success.  Taking a test requires study.  Driving a car, driving a bus, or flying a plane requires time behind the wheel and the study of safety rules.  We all want a mechanic who is prepared.  What about a surgeon who is prepared?  Or the beautician that cuts our hair.  The soldier that goes into battle puts on his night vision goggles, helmet, bullet-proof vest, steel toed boots, guns with pockets full of ammunition, and communication devices.  This external preparation would be of no use if there was not months and years of preparation before use of them in the field of battle.

Our God gives us the same directive in Ephesians 6:10-19.  This is the “Armor of God” passage.  Most of us are familiar with it and conceptually understand the value of putting on the armor of God, but do we intimately in the corners of our heart understand the need for this.

Here is a list of the commands from God:

*Be strong in the Lord v. 10

*Put on the whole armor of God v. 11

*Take up the whole armor of God v. 13

*Stand firm v. 13, 14

*Fasten on the belt of truth v. 14

*Put on the breastplate of righteousness v. 14

*Put on the shoes of readiness of the Gospel v. 15

*Take up the shield of faith (in all circumstances) v. 15

*Take the helmet of salvation v. 17

*Take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God v. 17

*Praying at all times in the Spirit v. 18

*Keep alert v. 18

Would a soldier go out into battle without preparation?  Would a soldier go out into battle without full military gear?  Yet, Christians are going out every day without full preparation or full military gear.  We would think a soldier stupid if he stepped on the battle field without his gun, his helmet, or his bullet-proof vest.  Why do we as Christians think it is acceptable to go into the world unprepared?

Every day is a battle.

In this passage we are reminded twice to “Put on the whole armor of God.”  Repetition by God equals importance.  When we start our day, do we prepare ourselves for battle?

Do we realign ourselves with truth by reading God’s word and “fastening it onto our belt?”  I have been trying to write a verse or two out on a card that I keep with me to meditate on or use as a prayer for others to remind myself often of God’s truth.

The breastplate of righteousness reminds us to put into our heart things that are right.  As we go through our day, what do we allow our hearts to go back to?  What is right or what is wrong?

The gospel is the foundation of our relationship with Christ.  Are we focused on what Christ did for us and ready to share that with others, or are we focused so much on the cares of this world we forget what great things God has done for us?

As this part of the passage closes we are reminded of the value of prayer.  For what are we to pray?

*Making supplication for the saints v. 18

*Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him to be bold in proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel (v. 19).  Wouldn’t this also be applicable to us?

 

What happens when the soldier’s communication lines are scrambled, broken, or dropped due to a loss of signal?  He is unable to communicate with the base.  What happens when we fall into sin?  We have an interrupted communication line with our Savior.  If we do not put on our full armor, we are unable to communicate with God about the needs of the saints.  We are also unable to communicate with God regarding the need for boldness in sharing the Gospel.

When you wake up, put on the whole armor of God.  Then go about your day praying for the needs of others and a boldness not only for yourself but also for other Christians to share the Gospel so we can say with Paul,

“That I may declare boldly, as I ought to speak.”  (Ephesians 6:20).

Repetition = Importance

Grandpa Dad Danna Danielle crop

My Grandpa Lichty had a knack for telling stories.  He remembered an amazing amount of details and something always reminded him of a story.  The details he shared were so vivid that no one would ever dream of telling him maybe one of the facts was not true.  I remember listening to him telling story after story, but I do not remember the stories.  I can still hear his voice, but the stories have long since faded from my memory, which makes me very sad.  Even if all the details were incorrect, it would be so nice to share some of those stories with our daughters. What I can share about my Grandpa is his love for his family and his dedication to the Lord which I saw through his tireless service at the church.

Throughout Scripture, we are reminded “not to hide them (God’s Word) from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Psalm 78:4).  I am amazed at how often God encourages us to talk about Him and His glorious deeds.  Repetition equals importance.  God reminds us frequently through different authors the importance of sharing what God has done or is doing in our lives.

“…You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).  I often wonder what caused the corruption of complaining as the Israelites wandered in the desert after their miraculous escape from Egypt.  I wonder if the Israelites had been so busy talking to their children about the great things God had done for them while they sat around the campfires, walked on the pathway of sand, got up in the morning, ate their meals, went to bed at night…if they would have had time to complain about the myriad of things they found to be unhappy about.  When we rejoice over the goodness of God, the difficulties pale in comparison.  The joy in our hearts bubbles over with such gusto that complaining and negativity become unwelcome bedfellows.  The sound of our own voice complaining tastes like the bitterness of sour milk to our souls.

Why is it so important to talk at all time in all situations about what God has done?  “…Which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” (Psalm 78:5-7).  As we read the Old Testament this is seen repeatedly.  We see that those that forgot the works of God and did not share those great moments with their children were corrupted by sin.

As we marvel at the good things God has done in our lives, it serves a dual purpose.

First, our children hear us talk about the effect of God in our lives.  What God is teaching us.  How we are growing.  How God is convicting us of sin. How we are growing through the situations we are put in and how to practically apply the truths of scripture in our everyday lives.  It will be so much easier for them to follow the Lord on a daily basis if they see it lived out in front of them on a daily basis.

Second, it serves as a reminder to us about how God is working and has worked in our own lives.  I have a failing memory, and I think if we were all honest with ourselves we would all admit this is true. Yet, as we rehearse the goodness of God, the work of God in our lives, and the transformations that have taken place in our lives because of our walk with God; it would remind us no matter where we are, God is with us.

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2).  It has often been repeated, “We are one generation away from apostasy.”  It is not for lack of churches, lack of Bibles, or lack of Christian literature.

Rather, it is for a lack of authenticity, lack of hypocrisy, and lack of intentionality.

So where do you fall?  It is not just our children we should be sharing with.  Barnabas shared with Paul. Paul shared with Timothy.  Are you sharing all the great things God has done? Or is your walk with God a ritual rather than a living, growing relationship with your Savior?  Maybe we can evaluate ourselves by our words.

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.  We recount your wondrous deeds.” (Psalm 75:1).

So if I could eat some corn-on-the cob with Grandpa right now, I would share with him all the great things God has done in my life and in the lives of our daughters.  Would he feel his legacy of service and love for the Lord was carried on and the seeds he planted lived on to the fourth generation and then would he say as only Grandpa can say, “Well, Danna, let me tell you…”

Seeds and Fruit

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I am excited this year to have a garden.  Now that we live on 5 acres there is plenty of room to have a garden.  Growing up as a child in Cedarville, we had a large garden.  I did not like all the work that went into having a garden.  I did not like weeding the garden, picking the produce, or cleaning the produce; but I did like eating it.  I did not realize how good that homegrown produce was until I had eaten store bought produce and realized the flavor was so much richer when it could be picked with my own hands and eaten when it was ripe and ready to be plucked from the plant.  I had a small garden years ago, and the year we moved from there I had the best tasting strawberries I can ever remember.  The flavors were so rich and bold.  To say the least, my winter has been spent dreaming about tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, etc.   I realize it will take time for some of this to all take shape and produce a harvest, but the anticipation of what is to be is exciting.  The quest between my dreams of this great tasting produce and the plot of ground it must come from is going to take some work. I have a few more trees to cut down, a lot of ground to till, a fence to build, and seeds and plants to plant.  Then comes the maintenance of the garden through watering and weeding until one day, the fruit of my labors can be enjoyed.

In the end, I can do everything in order to enjoy the end result: the fruit or vegetables; but I cannot actually make the produce or the plant grow.  I can plant the seeds, I can make sure the soil is amended perfectly, but the end results are in God’s hands.  I have two options.  I can sit by the piece of property I have picked for my garden and wait and pray for the produce to appear.  My second option is to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and make sure I keep the weeds out of the garden.  It seems rather obvious which one has a higher likelihood of producing some produce to enjoy at the end of the season.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (I Corinthians 3:6, 7).  So many things in life can be related to this analogy of a garden.  These verses remind us that we must do the due diligence of evangelism at all times with all people, but the end result is in God’s hands. God is the only One that can prick someone’s heart and bring them to Himself.  God is the only One who can convict someone’s heart to cause them to turn from their sin.  No matter how hard we try or pray, the end result is God’s.

When we fully realize this concept, it removes a weight.  It defines our responsibility.  When we try to produce the fruit ourselves and make the results what we think they ought to be, it produces a burden on our hearts.  This level of responsibility that we take on ourselves also shows our lack of faith in God.  Only God can give the answer to our prayers.  Only God can give the results to our labors.  Only God can cause the fruit to grow. In the garden and in our lives, God produces the end result in His timing.  When we truly trust Him for the end result, our faith increases and the burden of the end result is removed from our shoulders and placed on the shoulders of our Savior.  The enigma of Matthew 11:28-30 takes on a whole new light.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Our responsibility is defined. Our yoke is defined.  But the burden of ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of our Creator and not us, this makes our burden light.   We must plant, or we must water, but we must let God give the increase.  The fruit is sweeter and the taste is much richer.  To God be the glory.

The Prodigal Son

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The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 has always fascinated me and touched a chord of familiarity with me that was always convicting.  IF there had been a third brother, what would his response have been?  Let’s rehearse the story.

The younger brother decides that life on the farm is pretty boring and wants to go out and live recklessly.  He is seeking some adventure.  The older brother stays at home dutifully fulfilling his responsibilities.  At the bottom of the social rung eating with and feeding the pigs, the prodigal son finally comes to himself and realizes his grave sin.  He realizes that it would be better to be in the presence of his father as a servant than to not be in his presence at all.  When he returns home, we see a beautiful picture of the father filled with compassion watching and waiting for the return of the prodigal.  The father does not wait on the porch with a look of scorn on his face, rather he runs to his son with compassion and love.  The truly repentant son confesses his sin to his father and shows in his manner, attitude, and words his humble and heartfelt apology.  This was not a placating “I’m sorry.”  This was a gut wrenching, open and honest apology to his father.  Immediately, the joyful father begins preparations for a party to welcome home his son.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch the older brother gets wind of this party.  “But he was angry and refused to go.  His father entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends.” (Luke 15:28, 29).

Jesus compared the older brother to the Pharisees.  They were trying so hard to be perfect (“whitewashed tombs”) on the outside, but on the inside they were “filled with dead man’s bones.”  (Matthew 23:27, 28).  They along with the older brother were going through the motions of Christianity and missing the entire point.  External righteousness does not equate to internal righteousness or a living walking relationship with God.  External righteousness misses the entire point of the life God created us to have.  I have missed this point for so long.

For so long I have read this story of the prodigal son and identified with the older brother in the story, “Yeah, he’s right.  That prodigal son should not have received a party.  He was wayward and sinful and rejected his father and did what was wrong.  Why should he get a reward for unrighteous living while the older brother got nothing?”

Finally, through hours of prayer and the Lord pouring His love into my heart and patiently teaching me, I finally got the point.  Not just the point of the prodigal son and the older brother, but the point of our life with Christ.  “Son, you are always with me…” (Luke 15:21).  The older brother did not leave the presence of his father, but the prodigal did.  However, as we compare the response of both the prodigal and the older brother, the prodigal realized the extreme blessing in being with his father and the older brother did not.  God created us to have a relationship with Him.  He sent His Son to die for our sins so our relationship with Him could be repaired and we could spend an eternity with Him having relationship.  Obedience is important and will automatically flow out of a right relationship, but the bottom line is a real relationship with God.

The older brother in his external righteousness missed what the prodigal figured out while he was with the pigs:  it is not about right external living it is about relationship.

Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking on the form of a servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death…” (Philippians 2:7, 8).  Jesus died because He wanted to have a relationship with me, with you, with each of us.

The prodigal wanted to be in the presence of his father.  The older brother wanted praise because of his righteous living.  The proper attitude does not happen until we “Deny ourselves, take up His cross and follow Jesus.”  (Matthew 16:14).

IF there had been a third brother with the proper attitude, he would have been waiting with his father on the porch binoculars in hand peering down the path with a prayer on his lips.  When they spotted the prodigal, the third brother would have said, “Dad, go greet him.  I’ll get the party preparations started.  Our lost brother is now home.”  There would have been joy in the return and the party preparations not self-righteous jealousy.

“Son, you are always with me…” (Luke 15:21).