Sunday, September 8, 2019
What you imaging when you see God in heaven as a father? Is He looking at you with His arms crossed? Or is He staring at you with love in His eyes?
The story of Lee Nailling
He was an 8-year-old boy who desperately needed home, love, and family, but was on the “Orphan Train” with his two younger brothers. In the early 1900’s there were thousands of kids that had been abandoned—orphaned by the war or epidemics—and they needed homes. They were loaded on trains in large groups and “viewed” at stops in rural areas like livestock at an auction. Potential parents evaluated health and even examined teeth. If selected, the children went to their homes. If not, they got back on the train. As for Lee, he got back on the train over and over again. His mother had died, his dad couldn’t take care of him, and now separated from his two brothers… it looked like the rest of his life would be the worst of his life.
It would be great if I could say that Lee’s story ends with his father being in one of those crowds inspecting the children, looking with desperation for his sons… but that’s not the case. But it is the case with you!
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” –Ephesians 1:4-5
God loves you… there is a part of you that God deeply loves and admires.
He wants to be with you. He wants to make you family!
For most of us, we know too much about our faults and too little about the love of God.
At the heart of family is an experience with a father’s love.
How about you? What is your experience when it comes to the love of a father? For most of us, our earthly dads—even the best of them—come up short when it comes to representing the love that comes from God the Father’s heart toward you! It’s possible that with an experience of God the Father’s love, the rest of your life could become the best of your life.
The Prodigal Son
There was a father with two sons. The youngest decided he didn’t want to wait for his dad to die to obtain his inheritance, so the father divided all he owned between them. The younger son headed off to find adventure. He was living the dream, was the life of the party, but when his money ran out, so did his friends. His big dream turned into a nightmare and loneliness. He finally found a job feeding pigs and got a pig’s view of life, and the pigs had it better! They at least had food; he had nothing and nobody. This is when it hit him:
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!’” –Luke 15:17
But how do you go home to a father you have offended so deeply? How could you ever make up for telling your dad that you wished he was already dead… that you would rather be away from him than with him?
It wasn’t that he was so sick of the pigs that set his heart for home, it was his remembering what home was like that made him sick of the pigs. He remembered he had a loving father at home. There was family there… there was love there. It was the awareness of what could be; it was a picture of a better life that was within his grasp that captured his heart and caused him to long for that place called home.
Isn’t this the story of all of us in some way? We have this inner longing to be loved and valued… and we may try things or run after success in order to feel valuable. Is it possible that while we are running after some dream of adventure and love, we could actually be running away from a loving father?
All the way home, the son rehearses his apology. He had been walking slowly, filled with regret, but his dad was running. The closer his father got, the more he could see that there was not the disappointment he had feared he would see in his father’s eyes; there was extravagant love there. There was inexpressible joy coming through his father’s tears. How could this be?
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.
Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” –Luke 15:20
This story is a vivid picture of a loving Heavenly Father who gives extravagantly!
HE GIVES LOVE.
Filled with love and compassion… that is what God looks like.
The father didn’t give his prodigal son a lecture; there was no “I told you so.” So it is with our Father.
When you stopped thinking about God…He never stopped thinking about you!
God’s thoughts about you are more than can be counted… and they are good!
The God-kind of love—Agape Love—is a love that sees. This father saw his son, looked beyond the dirty clothes, the shame on his face, all the mistakes he had made… and he loved!
God the Father is not looking down at you, He is looking for you!
I lived too many years of my life not understanding the way God loves, not understanding that there is nothing I can do that can make Him love me more, and there is nothing I can do that can make Him love me less.
He loves because He loves, because He loves, because He loves.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” –Romans 8:38
Paul was convinced… how about you?
Has the love of God made the long journey from your head to your heart?
“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” –Ephesians 3:19
Your completeness in life is linked to your experience with the love of God.
GOD GIVES AFFECTION.
“And while he was a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion,
he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” –Luke 15:20
Why did the father kiss him over and over again? His son probably smelled of pigs and was filthy. He had walked away from his dad and their entire family. He was a mess, full of shame and regret.
What did the son have to do to deserve such extravagant love? WHY ALL THE KISSING?
BECAUSE HE CAME HOME! His desire turned into action! He came to his senses…
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself… ‘I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’” –Luke 15:17-18
“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out. Then times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord.” –Acts 3:19-20
Your success in life is not determined by the amount of mistakes you make or do not make.
Your success in life is determined by how well you make your comebacks.
One of the biggest lies of the enemy is: If you get cleaned up, then you can come to God… but He doesn’t want you when you are jacked up! LIAR!
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time for us sinners. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” –Romans 5:6, 8-9
In-between all the kisses and hugs, the son starts his rehearsed apology… I know I blew it, sinned … I’m not even worthy to be called your son. His father interrupts him with gifts and a party to celebrate his return.
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quickly! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the fatted calf, we must celebrate with a feast!’” –Luke 15:22-23
The father wanted everyone to know that his son was not only accepted into the house… he was restored to his rightful position as SON! The father was not obsessed with what the son had done; he was obsessed with who the son was: Not just a son… HIS SON!
And this is the way God is with you! He is not obsessed with what you have done; He is obsessed with you!
We all, like lost sheep, have gone astray. God’s lavish heart comes looking for us because the call to be His children is higher than the fall.
It has always been and will always be God’s delight to look at us and say, “WELCOME HOME!”
The rest of Lee Nailling’s story:
Love found him, family was looking for him… and so is it is with you.
The rest of his life was the best of his life… he found love, found family.
Conclusion – So how about you?
For some of you this is your comeback moment. For all of us, it’s time to experience the heart of your Father that wants to lavish you with acceptance, affirmation, and restoration today.
God’s love for you is bigger than your mistakes! Don’t let your mistakes—big or small—keep you from the intimacy God has invited you to! Like the younger son… and like me… simply turn to your Father!