Friday, January 22, 2010

The Lost (Older) Son: Part 2

I just thought I would share this other thing that came to light as we studied this story last night at Bible Study. And before I start, way to go McNary folks for not reading ahead and spoiling the surprise! Such discipline!

Anyway, here is the thing that jumped out at me last night. It was verse 28.

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.

Someone asked why the father leaves the party. Well, the obvious answer is that he is trying to get his son to join the party. But this time, all the pieces fell into place. Let's take a look back at Luke 15.

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'

Notice a similarity? The shepherd leaves the 99 other sheep to find the one who was lost. The father leaves a raging party to go look for his son. His lost son. And it isn't the son you would think.

The older son wanted a party. In my last post I said that he should have gone and looked for his lost brother. I still think that is true. But I see another way he could have had a party. He could have let his father find him and bring him home. Had he accepted the invitation to come in, he would have had everything he ever wanted.

Because remember what the father does when he finds things? He celebrates! He was already celebrating his younger son coming home. Now he wanted to celebrate his older son doing the same. He was trying to throw his older son a party.

Imagine that party! Imagine the rejoicing of God when the whole family gets together.

So what do I take from this? The joy of God is found when we go find lost people and bring them home. The joy of God is found when we accept his invitations for us to quit slaving in the fields and join the party. The joy of God is found when we begin to experience his heart for the lost. The joy of God is found when we rejoice in someone else being found.

I love this stuff. I really do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Lost (Older) Son and the Heart of His Father

I am writing this at the risk of giving away the "answers" at my Bible Study on Thursday but I just couldn't wait.

One thing I absolutely love to do is study the Bible with other people. I regularly learn all kinds of things from the people I am studying with, even if they have never looked at Scripture before. It is one of the beauties of Bible study.

On Monday night, my staff partner Mike, and I were looking at the second part of the parable of the lost son in Luke 15. Here is the text we were studying:

25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

Now, I have studied this passage many many times. But I have learned that even if that is so, God can still reveal something new to me. This was one of those times. There is much to talk about in this passage. I just want to focus on the new thing I saw.

It has long been clear to me that the older son had a screwy relationship with his father. Somehow he got the idea that in order for his father to love him and celebrate him, he needed to work and slave away in the field. He also had to do everything right. So rather than actually be a son and have a relationship with his dad, he was out in the field.

It occurred to me that the son didn't really know his father. Because if he did, he would have known that his father was an incredibly generous, forgiving, and loving man.

He would have also known what kind of things caused his father to celebrate and throw parties.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus tells a story of a shepherd that loses a sheep. He searches for it and finds it and throws a party with all of his friends. Then Jesus tells a story of a woman who loses a coin. She searches all over her house for it and when she finds it, she throws a party for all her friends. Then in the first part of the lost son story, the father throws a massive party because his son has been found.

The common theme? God celebrates when he finds things that are lost. The spiritual interpretation Jesus gives is that there is a massive party in heaven when sinners repent and turn to God.

So if the son had really known his father, wouldn't he have known that his father absolutely couldn't get enough of finding things?

Instead, he spends all his time working and slaving away and doing all the right things trying to get his dad to notice and celebrate. But it would appear that his dad doesn't care about all that. He cares about having his lost son come home.

So maybe the older son should have gone looking for his brother. Maybe then he really would have understood his father and entered into the joy of the party. I think Tim Keller talks about this in one of his books but it just clicked for me as I was looking at this.

So maybe when we want to deepen our relationship with God, the answer isn't found in doing more of the right things. It isn't found in slaving away. It isn't found in going to church more or reading the bible more, though those are really good things to do.

If we want to know our Heavenly Father in a deep way, to be close to his heart, to experience him in a new and fresh way, then maybe we should go looking for lost people and help them come home.

I feel like something very significant happened to me while I was studying that passage. God, help me put flesh and bones on it and experience the joy that you feel when someone comes home. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Urbana 09

So I was going to write a whole post on my experience at Urbana 09 but instead, I would like to share with you two highlights from the plenary sessions.

The first is from day 3. Oscar Muriu, a pastor from Kenya spoke. This is maybe the best beginning to a talk I have ever heard. It seriously kicked my butt and I hope it kicks yours. What do you think?

Money and Power: Oscar Muriu from Urbana 09 on Vimeo.

The next one is from the next night. Sunder Krishnan is a pastor in Toronto. This was probably the best teaching on prayer I have ever heard. Yes, I am using a lot of superlatives but it really was that good. Enjoy.

Pray Big and Pray Bold: Sunder Krishnan from Urbana 09 on Vimeo.

If these make you interested, you can watch the rest of the stuff from Urbana here

Ok. That is all. Carry on.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Have a Hilarious Life: Part 3!

Well, it is about time for another installment of my never-ending series chronicling the misadventures of an InterVarsity staff-worker.

Part one involved a canceled ferry to Catalina Island, an overnight stay on the floor of a church with 40 other staff, and a 4am wake up call. And no one complained or even questioned it.

Part Duex involved a last minute attempt to cross the midwest where the next step never seemed to be known until, well, the last minute. To be fair, it wasn't an official "I have a hilarious life" but it will be an honorary member of the club.

And now, part 3.

Every three years, InterVarsity puts on a giant student missions conference in St. Louis called Urbana. (It used to be held in Urbana, Illinois. Hence the name.)As a staff for IVCF, I get to help put it on and work at it. This year I was going to help with the morning Bible Studies. Staff need to show up a day early for a banquet and training.

A few days before I needed to leave, I started to hear reports of bad storms hitting the midwest. That would worry some people, but not me. Can anyone name anything I can do to change the weather? Nope. Didn't think so.

I left my house for the airport on the day after Christmas dark and early at 4am. Usually, when there is a big IVCF conference, you can count on running into other staff. This time was no different. I actually ran into someone who was with me during the part 1 debacle.

That should have been my first warning.

There were no problems for the next 6 hours. I watched some of Lost season 5 on the plane and tried to sleep a bit. As soon as the plane landed in Chicago I checked my messages and got one telling me the flight to St. Louis had been canceled. Now, this has never happened to me before and honestly, I don't really know what to do about it.

The other staff and I tried to get on standby for the next flight but as the afternoon continued, two things happened. Each upcoming flight got canceled and more and more staff joined our posse. By about 6pm, we had over 20 people with us and no hope of flying for at least another day.

Some in our group were frantically trying to figure something out. I was not one of them. Welcome to my problem solving strategy. I was sitting reading a book most of the time waiting for someone to come up with an idea. I am not saying this is the best way to handle things. It isn't. But it was what I did and would you know it, someone came up with something.

An overnight bus ride leaving from Grand Central Station at 11:55pm. 20 bucks. Let's do it.

We hopped on the train to Chicago where we hung out for the next several hours. I ate really bad pizza, tried to sleep on a bench, listened to music from Glee, and played freecell on the dirty floor.

The bus was a double decker and we heard people comment that they had never seen so many people on it. I think there were upwards of 36 of us at that point. After a scuffle involving a drunk passenger that ate up a half hour, we were on our way. Miraculously, I was able to sleep for some of it.

I made it into my hotel room in St. Louis exactly 24 hours after I left.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I didn't receive my checked luggage for two days? That will put a damper on any trip. I spent a good deal of energy trying not to physically exert myself or lift my arms up.

While I was in it, this whole thing seemed hilarious, ridiculous, and frustrating. But when I stepped back and had a little perspective, this didn't seem that rough. There are TONS of people who have been in way worse situations than that and I do not envy them at all. Take, for example, my new staff friend from the Bay Area who got his luggage on the last day of the conference. That was a full five days after he left for it. Now that sucks!

So now my misadventures have taken the form of boats, trains, and planes! Bring it on automobiles! BRING IT!!!!

Stay tuned for my decompression from Urbana.

Happy New Year!