Open Arms

The Prodigal Son isn’t just about returning home, it is also a story about forgiveness, redemption, clarity, service, celebration, and community.  The idea of church had always been a struggle for me.  I found myself judging the church closely, as if it were supposed to be perfect, and when I found evidence to the contrary, I held a grudge against it. I suppose I am like the older brother in this way; believing myself to be ‘holier than thou’ and thinking everything around me should be fair, while fulfilling unattainable expectations.  When my father passed away recently, it became all the clearer to me that I have been wrong about church. That it was never supposed to be perfect, but instead like a family that protects, helps, and guides its members, and at the very least creates a place that is safe…

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In The Garden

Funerals are a sacred event in the life of the church. People attend funerals for many reasons. One of the primary reasons that we gather together during the death of a loved one is to remember our faith and find comfort in the presence of God and one another.

Often at funerals, we turn to music to express our faith and to find the comfort and faithful reminder we need in times of mourning and trials. One of the most popular hymns often chosen in times like this is In the Garden by C. Austin Miles.

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Luke 15:20-32

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

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Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From whence does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved,
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade
    on your right hand.
The sun shall not smite you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and for evermore.

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All Kinds Of People

The Israelite nation had been delivered from captivity in Egypt. They had wandered in the wilderness, led by God, to the land that had been promised to them. In the wilderness for 40 years, God used the difficulties they would face to help the nation become a righteous nation. They were given the law and taught how to be God’s people. They had arrived at the final place where they would camp before entering the promised land. After many years, they were home.

Before moving into the promised land, Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, sent spies ahead…

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Remember God’s Words

One day, while at home with my daughters and while my wife was at a workshop, one of the girls was being persistent in asking to do something. I told her we would not be doing what she was asking to do that day. I also reminded her that I knew her mom had already said, “No” before she left home. She quickly told me, “Well, Mom is out of town.”

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I Hope You’ll Come Home

After graduating college mid-term, my very first professional job took me out of state to Hutchinson, Kansas.  I moved to a new city, my very own apartment and a brand-new job.  It was exciting, it was scary, and it was me starting a new place to call home.  I remember buying a few new household items and a stick or two of furniture – but it was mostly cobbled together hand-me-downs that I used to make my tiny apartment feel like home.

I missed my family and missed my friends; many were still in college. There was a lot to learn at my new job, a new city to explore and friends to make, but I can still remember counting the days until I could drive home to visit…

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Homecoming for the Soul

When was the last time something inexplicable happened to you?

You could chalk it up to “luck” – whether good or bad – or you could take it as “a sign.”

I keep the Bible on my desk as a reminder to read it.  I do this with many things.  I keep vitamins on my kitchen counter.  I keep dirty clothes right next to the washing machine.  I keep “to do” sticky notes in my car.

The result?  I often push the vitamins off to the side, the laundry piles up like an abstract sculpture, and the sticky notes get stuck under fast-food napkins.  And the Bible?  Sadly, I often forget to just pick it up and read it… because I’m “busy.”

That Bible caught my eye one evening as I was leaving the office.  I stopped and thought, “I keep saying I’ll read it tomorrow, so before I leave, take 30 seconds, just pick it up, start flipping the pages, stop them with your finger, and read whatever scripture you’re pointing at.”

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When God Ran

I grew up going to Sunday night youth at my church. It was a special time when the youth of the church would gather to play games, have Bible study, and worship together. Many of the things I learned during Sunday night youth shaped and molded my faith.

It was during Sunday night youth worship that I first heard Benny Hester’s song, When God Ran…

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Luke 15:25-32

“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

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