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But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:32

You see the stories. A child is lost. Parents beg for help and the safe return of their precious child. Teams of law enforcement personnel and volunteers form quickly to find the child. News reports are issued and everyone, everyone is called on to look for the child.

In far too many cases, the scenario ends sadly, but in those situations where the child is found safe there is great celebration. Tears of joy and ‘high-fives’ abound. Heartfelt ‘thank-yours’ come from parents and family members. The child is home, safe and in the arms of those who love him/her.

In the spiritual realm there is also much rejoicing when a ‘child comes home’. Think of the jubilation we feel and multiply it a thousand-fold in heaven. What is significant in the story of the prodigal son isn’t what happened so much as what we don’t find.

There is no questioning about the prodigals sincerity upon his return. No period of ‘probation’ to see if he really had changed his ways. No consequences laid out before the party could happen.

Note the wording in the NIV. ‘But we HAD to celebrate.’ There was no question in the father’s mind. No second thoughts. No apprehension. A celebration had to happen and the sooner the better.

Too often, we who are steeped in years of ‘church-iness’ are cautions in our acceptance of those who ‘return home’. Oh, we celebrate initially because that’s what you do, but at the first sign of a slip-up we tend to think ‘well, you can’t really change those kind can you?’

Too often we require steps to spirituality to prove the life-change in a person before we accept them ‘back’ into the fold. Remember too that the prodigal represents one that was in the ‘fold’ at one time and left. By today’s standards we would think of him as a once-upon-a-time church-goer who’d left the faith, tarnished our good name and then returned for forgiveness.

When a sinner comes home to the Father it doesn’t matter if he comes for the first time or comes after going astray. The Father welcomes him back with open arms. There is no question in his mind that the ‘prodigal’ will fail. It’s a given. The Father is never surprised by our sin. Never shocked by our lack of obedience. Never amazed when we choose our own way.

On the other hand, he is never unwilling to take us back when we come home. All of us are prodigal sons and daughters. All of us can come home again regardless of why we went astray.

PRAYER: Father you know me better than I know myself. You know how easy it is for me to stray from you. You know how hard it is to accept those who have gone astray. Thank you for forgiving us in spite of our ability to be obedient to you. Empower me with your Spirit to live according to your word. Amen.

I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (CEV)

It was far from my finest moment. There certainly was no compassion, no grace or no acceptance in my actions. I was totally out of line.  It was several years ago now, but the memory is still fresh in my mind. The neighbors were having marital issues and the husband came over to talk to me and try to get information that he could use against his wife.

To be honest I don’t remember much of the conversation even though it went on for close to two hours. What I do remember is that at some point he made a comment about how his (soon-to-be) ex-wife could never be forgiven for what she’d done to the marriage. I wasn’t thinking. I intended to put a hand on his shoulder and reassure him that his statement wasn’t true. What I did instead was more of a grasp and push. He looked scared. I was embarrassed. I apologized of course and later we laughed about the scene.

While the physical parts of my actions are most likely not practiced by many, each of us has been on one end or the other of a good ‘holy shove’. You have a loved one that you see self-destructing. The most frustrating part of it is that ‘they should know better’ but they just keep going down the same road. So, you shake them up. Not physically of course (I hope), but with your words, your attitude, your ‘sharing the gospel with them’ and ‘setting them straight’.

In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul lays the foundation for how we treat others. Our actions towards each other are to be marked with love and unity. That is the key for our evangelism. That is the key for discipleship and discipline.

We were called as Christ-followers to make disciples, not converts. Disciples take time. Disciples grow due to relationship. Disciples follow our Godly example not our theological knowledge. Discipleship takes patience. Not any patience by the way, but the patience of Christ.

The patience of Christ is seen in the story of the prodigal son. Daily the father watched the road leading home. Daily he heard stories of his son’s antics and failures. Daily he prayed for his safe return. On that glorious day when a familiar shape walked down the road towards him he didn’t have an ‘I told you so’ speech ready. There was no list of the young man’s failures and a ‘how could you do this to us’ tongue-lashing. There was only love and celebration.

Patience with ourselves and others isn’t possible without the patience of Christ in us. It’s easier to be patient with the jerks in life when I fully realize what Jesus went through for me. It’s by his patience that I seek to treat others. But that still isn’t easy. I want change now. Change in your life. Change in mine. Change comes slowly in God’s world. We serve a ‘crock-pot’ God and live in a microwave world.

Attitude is the key to life change. If those who are struggling see us as patient, loving and caring people who truly seek their good they will respond as God works in their lives. Ours is not to change lives. Ours is to provide the direction and atmosphere for change.

If you are dealing with someone who you’d like to give a good shoulder shake, remember to act according to the love of God and patience of Christ. If you’ve been on the other end of the emotional ‘shoulder-shake’ realize that Gods way is a way of firm gentle calling, not shaking. Like the father in the prodigal son, he’s daily calling you home and searching the path for your approach. He loves you no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done.

PRAYER: Father God, help me to exhibit your love and Christ’s patience in my life as I travel this journey. Forgive me for the emotional ‘shoulder shakes’ I’ve had a part in. Heal my wounds from the shoulder-shakes I’ve endured. Thank you for being patient with me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. Isaiah 61:7

He didn’t have it all wrong. He’s gone down in history as being selfish, greedy and unforgiving, but the brother of the Prodigal Son had a point….sort of. He just took it a little too far. While his motives may not have been quite right and his heart was set on his own profit, the ‘other son’ had a few things going for him.

He was a model son, at least until his rebellious, stubborn brother showed back up on the scene. He’d worked hard for his father. So much so that dad had time to spend his days scouring the hillside for a sign that his ‘little boy’ may be coming home.

He was certainly faithful. While his younger brother, the brat, was off carousing with women, bringing shame and embarrassment to the family and squandering away his fortune, the ‘other son’ was home protecting the dignity and status of the family name. No doubt everyone in the community knew about the goings on of little brother. They no doubt looked at ‘the other son’ with pride. “What a fine, outstanding young man, especially in light of…you know who.”

For all the good and understanding he had, the ‘other son’ lost sight of one thing, the promise. In Jewish society the inheritance was normally split up into thirds. The oldest son would get 2/3 of the inheritance and the other son would get the other 1/3.

The prodigal son took his inheritance and wasted it. When he returned home he was greeted with open arms by the father. He was treated to a celebration and given a place of honor. Scripture implies he spent the rest of his life as a son. What he didn’t get was an inheritance. That was the consequence of his spend-thrift lifestyle.

Isaiah tells us that God’s people will receive a double portion of the inheritance. Because of Jesus we are not ashamed. Because of Jesus we are not disgraced. We are promised a place of honor and celebration. As we travel this journey called life we may encounter much pain. Some of that pain may be the result of our own poor choices. We may bear the scars and consequences of bad decisions. But that won’t affect our inheritance because that inheritance is secure because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our ‘sonship’ was sealed when the seal on Jesus’ tomb was shattered by His resurrection.

The ‘other son’ should have realized what each of us should realize as well. Our inheritance is secure. Sometimes we have to wait a long time to receive an inheritance. But once we do, it’s well worth the wait.

The obstacles that hinder you on this journey called life may seem insurmountable, but remember this, as Christ-followers we will not be ashamed. Because of Jesus we will not be disgraced. The enemy will constantly try to remind you of your failings. Don’t let that liar put you down! We are children of the King and in Him our inheritance is secure. No one can take it from us.

PRAYER: Holy Father. I thank you for the promise I have that because of Jesus my inheritance with you is secure. I’ve made many mistakes. I struggle to do the things that I know I should do. I earnestly desire to be free from the pain of my own consequences. Help me to be patient in life. Empower me to live for you so I won’t squander away my life on temporary things that only bring happiness for a short time. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

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