Insights from Seminary

As many of you know, I started seminary at Liberty University this past semester.  I’ve shared bits and pieces of major takeaways on the blog’s social media platforms, but the bulk of the learning has really been shared in the local church ministry setting.  Today, though, I’m sharing an assignment with you. Actually, as I type this, I’m doing the assignment. 

The assignment?  To write a blog!

The class?  Research, Writing, and Ministry Preparation (or, as my schedule shows, RTCH-500). 

Every student in the same degree path is required to take this class within their first two semesters…and here we are!

Part of the class focuses on Hermeneutics (fancy word for studying the Bible).  Another part of the class focuses on presenting information in the Turabian Style (like APA or MLA but on steroids….and yes, it’s as invigorating as it sounds). Then, a final part of the class brings me to this assignment: spiritual formation. Yes, spiritual formation can still happen even though I attend remotely!

I know, there are naysayers who don’t believe that true spiritual formation can happen in virtual settings, but then again, that’s probably not you since you’re the one reading a Christian blog right now 😊 The book we used, Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age, puts a lot of those objections to rest, or at least gives them a run for their money.  It is well worth the read if that’s something you’re into.

Who doesn’t love killing two birds with one stone?! (Apologies to my animal rights activist friends, it’s the best phrase I have at the moment, but I’m happy to be more inclusive…or exclusive as it were…if you have a suggestion you know how to find me).  #worksmarternotharder

OK, so back to this book and the assignment. 

We were asked to reflect on what we read (students are still being asked to do that, apparently) and share two main takeaways that we want to bring along with us on our walk into ministry.  I actually think that my selections can have broader implications than just to the seminarian or pastor so I’m hoping that you can glean something worthwhile as well.  I’ve always said here that I won’t ever share guidance that I wouldn’t or didn’t actually follow myself so you can be rest assured that any takeaways will be incredibly practical. 

A Perspective Shift

The first takeaway is more of a perspective shift than something which ought to be carried out.  That said, I think this shift can greatly inform future actions.  Also, I’ll note that the general sentiment is not new to us, but the authors present it is such a way that I have a new appreciation for how we fit into God’s plan. Here’s what they have to say:

As far as Scripture is concerned, growth is growth…God did not establish two separate laws of growth—one governing flowers and trees and another governing the Kingdom and the church. Growth in nature and growth in the Kingdom, the church, and the Christian partake of essentially/virtually identical patterns that require ecological connections and reciprocal interactions expressed as nutrient exchanges. In nature, the connections and exchanges are organic, while in the Kingdom and church, they are spiritual. In nature, the exchanges involve physical nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) In the church and Kingdom they involve spiritual nutrients (milk and meat of the Word) exchange through interactions with one another.[1]

Lowe & Lowe, Foundations of Faith in a Digital Age

If we keep this general framework in mind, we can apply what we know about growth to any of the organic metaphors in Scripture (i.e., I am the True Vine John 15:1, Body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12:27, etc.), which I think is probably what most of us have tried to do for an extent.  After all, we understand the idea that a metaphor is meant to refer to something else so we glean what we can from the imagery provided. Here, the authors explain how the growth metaphors work.

Taking it one step further, I think it’s not only important to understand individual spiritual growth and corporate spiritual growth, but also how the two should be necessarily reciprocal to one another.  There should mutual benefit whereby one strengths the other, so that neither is one always sucking the life out of the other nor is one always a consumer. 

No. This won’t do. 

Think of your best friend.  Not the one that always only texts when there’s drama.  Not the one you have to mentally prepare yourself to have a latte with.  The friend that you are happy to be around.  The one who is equally excited to see you.  The one who you exchange gifts with just because.  That’s what our relationship to the church should be like and vice versa.  Here’s how the author describes it with, you guessed it, another metaphor:

Psalm 1:1-3 draws a comparison between the ecology of trees and the righteous person–who like the tree is “planted by streams of water” and “yields its fruit in its season”. Trees do not grow alone; they grow as they connect to and interact with a greater ecology that provides part of the nourishment and nutrients needed to sustain life and produce growth. The tree also contributes to the ecology in which it lives by adding nutrients to the soil and atmosphere and by hosting birds who will build their nests in its limbs.

All of this the psalmist understands, not only about the ecology of trees but the ecology of the righteous person who does not flourish alone but as he or she is planted within a defined ecology. Righteous people avoid the detrimental social ecology described in Psalm 1:1— “council of the wicked,” “path of sinners,” “the seat of scoffers” — and places themselves within the beneficial ecology of the law of God and of God’s people who follow that law…

The flourishing trees and the righteous give evidence of health and vitality through observable indicators that confirm growth while also confirming the viability of the natural or spiritual ecosystem that produced them.[2]

Lowe & Lowe, Foundations of Faith in a Digital Age

Isn’t that incredible?! I don’t know why I never thought of our life in the church in such a way before, have you?  In some sense, my analogy to your best friend was flawed; it still focused on individual-to-individual relationships.  Here, we see how we are part of something bigger, something more lifegiving while we also serve to give life to it. Kinda like how Penn State alum are all part of a massive group of people who bleed blue and wear white to a football game once a year…but not.

So that’s the perspective I’m taking away from this class.  It’s much more wholistic than what I had going on in my brain prior to seminary. 

Now, and much more briefly, here’s an action step as my second takeaway:

I am intentionally going to work toward keeping human interactions human. 

Sounds easy, enough, right?


How many  hand-written letters did you write last month? Year?

When was the last time you didn’t text your sister when you wanted to tell them something? 

Technology is AMAZING and a timesaver in soooo many ways, but if we rely just on technology then we are missing something.  Perhaps facetime works best instead of coffee dates because of busy mom lives.  That works for a season, but don’t allow that to be diluted even more to only emoji-filled texts. 

Believe me, this message is for me more than anyone.  I would rather do almost anything at all then pick up the phone, but human interactions are necessary. As the authors mentioned, “technology alone cannot maintain human relationships and should not attempt to replace them.”[3]  So what does this mean for me, personally? 

If I’m shepherding a group of leaders at church then I need to be intentional about connecting with each of them individually outside of a group chat. If I’m hosting an online study, I need to create opportunities for interaction: interaction with me, with the content and between the participants themselves. I need to connect with the participants outside of the zoom, even if its just another zoom.

But, maybe your connections look differently.  Maybe they look more like mine when my ministry hat is swapped for my mom hat. 

Maybe you’re consistently opting for grocery delivery orders (guilty!) as opposed to getting out and have an opportunity to interact with, extend grace to, or bless someone.

Or, maybe you stick to streaming home workouts, but never interact with other health-minded adults irl. I’d say I’m guilty of that one, too, but tbh, I don’t work out at all and, at the moment, I don’t seem to have a shortage of health-minded friends…but you get the idea. 

Technology is great, but in moderation. 

Now, to wrap up today’s blog I’m going to leave some advice for a future seminary student. Yes, this is also part of the assignment, just bear with me and don’t despair! This tidbit will serve all of us well, whether we are pursuing higher education in ministry or not. My advice is borrowed from another book we used in class: Surviving and Thriving in Seminary. It’s straightforward, life-altering, life-giving, and usually easier said than done.  Ready for it?

Spend time with God.[4]

I just wrapped up the entire Simply Still Series so I won’t revisit everything we reviewed over the last few weeks, but think about it: how much time do we really spend with God.  Not for God. Not learning about.  Just with.

John 15:1-5 teaches us how Jesus is the true vine, and we are to abide in Him.  We can actually apply the brief growth teaching from before to this metaphor as well.  How does one abide?  One is consistently with. Vine branches don’t just pick and choose when they get to be on the vine.  They are in a constant state of mutual benefit with the vine itself. 

How can we remain in Him if we don’t spend time with Him?

In His Presence?

In His Glory?

Praising Him for His work on the cross? For the mercy He shows us, not because we are worthy but because He is? 

While we can certainly present petitions, sorrows, and thanks to our King (and we should!), there is also something to be said about just being with Him. Not asking for a single thing; just being an open vessel to receive whatever the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us, as opposed to coming forth with a pre-populated agenda. 

Friends, if the idea of meeting God with a blank slate is scary to you, try just starting with 5-minute intervals.  Also, check out an earlier series on Meditating Biblically.  There’s a lot of suggestions there for those who desire to plunge into more intimate times with God.  If you’re not there yet, that’s OK.  Take what you can and leave the rest.

Well, friends, if you’ve stuck with me this long I appreciate you coming along for the ride of this assignment! As some of you know, I went to Asbury this week so I’m praying through what to share from that experience. It’s a lot to digest, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing about bits and pieces of it in my next few posts!

All my love,


[1] Stephen D. Lowe and Mary E. Lowe, Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 42.

[2] Ibid., 29-30.

[3] Ibid., 91.

[4] H. Daniel Zacharias and Benjamin K. Forrest, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 42.

Simply Still Series: Is Keeping the Sabbath Still for Real?

I used to think that the idea of “keeping the Sabbath” was totally old fashioned and didn’t relate to me in any way whatsoever. I was so wrong!  While Sabbath keeping is deeply rooted in Jewish law and tradition, it couldn’t be more relevant to modern Christian living and being still. It is still very much for real!

Before I delve into various aspects of the Sabbath, today and over the next few weeks, let’s take a moment to establish the concept of a Sabbath rest as part of God’s design for creation.  The Creation account in Genesis declares:

On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Genesis 2:2

In this way, one way to look at the Sabbath is as a physical time of rest.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean napping, binge watching Yellowstone (although I’m totally guilty of that!), and taking relaxing baths.  It is not a rest as in merely abstaining from activity. Rather it is an intentional action which results in a much deeper, soulful, fulfilling time of replenishment.  This type of rest is known as menuha in Hebrew. Rabbi Heschel explains:

Menuha, which we usually render with ‘rest’ means much more than labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity of any kind.  Menuha here [in Genesis 2:2] is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive.  This must have been the views of the ancient rabbis if they believed that it took a special act of creation to bring it into being, that the universe would be incomplete without it.  What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.

Rabbi Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

Since the creation story is indeed seven days long, and not six, that necessarily stipulates that rest is also part of what was intended to be created.  Rabbi Heschel goes on:

We would surely expect the Bible to tell us that on the sixth day God finished His work.  Obviously, the ancient rabbis concluded, there was an act of creation on the seventh day.  Just as heaven and earth were created in six days, menuha was created on the Sabbath.  After six days of creation, what did the universe still lack? Menuha. Came the Sabbath, came menuha, and the universe was complete.

Rabbi Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

We’ve established that rest was intentional. However, it was also so important that God Himself partook in it, regardless of His own strength or actual necessity for such a pause.  I doubt God actually needed to rest, as we often think of the word, but He did it anyway. He did it within the confines of what was intended for the created order. How can such a realization change the way we think of rest?  Would anyone dare judge the Lord’s need for rest as weakness?  Perhaps, there is wisdom in the stillness. Perhaps there is something more to this Sabbath rest as implied by the Rabbi.

The act of resting is also intended for us.  With that truth in mind, we can also know that God wouldn’t intend rest for us if it wasn’t possible. 

So why don’t we rest when we know we ought to? While there are likely many reasons, some of which we’ve explored together in the Be Still Series, I think much of our apprehension to rest comes from a lack of trust in Him.

While we can say we trust the Lord, its an entirely different ballgame to actually align our lives in such a way which demonstrates our proclaimed trust.  It is this very concept which we will explore next week, followed by additional thoughts on how we can incorporate a Sabbath mindset into our everyday lives. 


Father God, thank you for giving us an example of not only how we should live our lives through your Son and written Word, but also how we should rest. I admit that sometimes I worry about not being able to accomplish everything I want to accomplish, so I forego resting as I ought. I need to trust you more, knowing that if you desire me to rest, I will be able to accomplish everything you desire me to accomplish while still being able to press pause and press into you. Help me trust you more.

In Jesus’ Holy & Precious Name,


Prodigal Series Day 20: Good Father, Wrapping Up

Let’s think back to where all this started: people who thought they knew more about the Kingdom of God than Jesus did asked how He could eat with sinners. As we’ve seen, our merciful and gracious God invites everyone into His house.  As such, eating with sinners doesn’t contradict God’s teachings at all; it reinforces them.  If God forgives and Christ forgives, as in this story, and we are called to be Christlike than we should do the same.

How else can this parable inform our actions?  Well, while of course it is comforting to acknowledge the reality that we are all forgiven when we repent and are welcome in the Father’s house, we must not stop at accepting that mercy. 

We must extend it to others.  Yes, God is revealing aspects of His character here, but in doing so, it begs us to implement the same.

If God welcomes sinners home, then certainly those who trust in God should do likewise. If God has compassion, then certainly those who love God should be compassionate as well.

Just like we were called to be like Jesus who was the perfect younger brother without the disobedience and the perfect older brother without the pride, we are also called to be like the father.

We should not just be the one who is forgiven, but also the one who forgives.  This may mean allowing myself to get a little uncomfortable, check my ego at the door, and surrender to how God wants me to live as His follower.

Let us not just be the ones who are welcomed home, but also the ones who welcome others home. 

Let us not just be the ones who receive compassion, but the ones who offer it well.

God’s compassion is described by Jesus not simply to show how willing God is to forgive, but to invite us to become like God and show the same compassion to others.

We’ve covered so much ground together!

Where do you see yourself in this parable? Ask God to reveal that to you.  Where is your distant country?  Are you there now?  Do you need to turn from it and to God? Have you turned away from sin, but still need to accept forgiveness? 

If you have been delivered from a distant country, spend time praising him this week for that!

Tomorrow will bring another short testimony and then our time in this series will come to a close.  Before we get there, though, take 4 minutes to watch this video. You’ll be grateful you did! I’d love it if you leave your reactions in the comments.

Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

The Prodigal Series Day 19: Good Father, Our Father

Today, we are going to bask in the glory that is God, our good, good Father.  Isn’t it incredible that this God we have, the creator of heaven and earth, has chosen, first and foremost, to be a father?!  He could have literally picked any role He wanted to, and yet He chose to be a father. 

He’s OUR father.  That doesn’t just mean you and I, or the just people we congregate with on Sundays, if that’s something we do.  It means ALL believers of ALL time, past, current, and future!  He is the Father to all of us! When Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father…” he was connecting all believers together with Himself in three syllables. (Jesus didn’t say, “Say, My Father,” but rather the 1st person plural, “our”).  Here’s a little tidbit for you:  Until Jesus taught us how to pray, God was only “Father” in the Old Testament.  The “our” was introduced by Jesus. 

There’s something to understand about our Father’s love though: it doesn’t force itself on us.  We can choose to walk in the light with Him or not.  If he compelled us to love Him, that wouldn’t be very remarkable at all.  That would be a dictatorship as opposed to a reciprocal relationship and would take the beauty out of knowing Him.  His love is there for the taking if we choose it.  Remember the sun metaphor? God’s love does not depend on our repentance.  It is there before we repent.  The father invited the son into the party before he apologized, and Christ dies while we were still sinners.

Consider this quote from Arthur Freeman:

The father loves each son and gives each the freedom to be what he can, but he cannot give them freedom they will not take nor adequately understand. The father seems to realize, beyond the customs of his society, the need of his sons to be themselves. But he also knows their need for his love and a home. How their stories will be completed is up to them. The fact that the parable is not completed makes it certain that the father’s love is not dependent upon an appropriate completion of the story. The father’s love is only dependent on himself and remains part of his character.

Arthur Freeman

So here we have a situation where we can accept God’s love or reject it.  We know neither how the younger son fared at the celebration nor how he lived with his father after his return. We also do not know whether the elder son ever reconciled himself with his brother, his father, or himself. But we do know that the father was merciful. By knowing this and not the rest from what Jesus tells us here, we have further proof that God’s mercy is extended whether or not we are ready to accept it.

So what does all this mean for us?  There’s a very specific call to action for those who desire to apply this particular teaching to their lives.  Are you here for it? Let’s discuss tomorrow.



Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

The Prodigal Series Day 18: Good Father, An Open Invite

Today is going to be a short one!  So far we have seen how the father didn’t respond as expected when it came to his younger son’s departure and return.  He also would have turned some heads when it came to how he responded to his older son as well.

Remember last week how we highlighted how disrespectful the older son was? Well, given how we now know how patriarchal Middle Eastern society was, how do you think it should have gone over once the older son got his two cents in?

Not very well at all.

Again, the father could have met his son with physical blows in response to how the son addressed him and rejected the party invite.

Did he do this?

No!  He tenderly responds with, “My son…”

Despite the hissy fit, the father STILL wanted him at the feast.  The father wanted BOTH sons there.  It didn’t matter how they sinned.  He wanted BOTH of his children, which, as we saw, represents two ways to sin.  The “traditional” sinners AND the Pharisees! Together! At the feast! 

The father wasn’t about to disown the younger, but he wasn’t about to disown the older, either. As long as the older could swallow his pride, he could enter the feast.  In fact, his pride was the only thing standing in the way between him and celebrating with His father! The choice was all his.  In turn, it’s also the very the same choice Jesus was presenting to the Pharisees. 

It’s the same choice we have today. Can we swallow our pride so we can truly be in the presence of our Father?

You see, the father’s love was offered wholly AND equally to both sons.  Both were wrong, but both belong to him.  Jesus isn’t pitting the two brothers against each other.  He isn’t saying one is more or less right than the other.  He is leveling the playing field by saying both are wrong.  The father alone is the righteous character in this story.

If the father isn’t segregating by types of sin than neither should we.  He alone is the one who is righteous enough to judge and save!

Yes, different sins carry different consequences, but let’s stop thinking we are better OR worse than someone because either they or us sin differently. If God allows both into His presence than so should we….and we should do so in love, not apprehensively or resentfully, because that is not the example we have playing out here. 

We are almost done with our time together in this series, but first I have a bit more to share with you.  Join me tomorrow? 

Until then,


Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Here’s a playlist created just for this series! Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home.

Prodigal Series Day 17: Good Father, A Runner

Well, we know how the father left things when his son abandoned him.  But how about when the son returned?  It’s this second father/son interaction we are focusing on today. 

With the father acting as gracious upon his son’s return as he did when the son left, we can notice that the son’s poor choices and disobedience were bookended with the father’s mercy and grace. 

The father doesn’t ignore his son.  He doesn’t wait for him to come to him, with flat affect and no emotion.  He RUNS to his son!

We know from Jesus and Luke’s storytelling that this father was very wealthy with landholdings and servants.  Do you think a man of that stature would have run to anyone? Not a chance!  Such frolicking would have been reserved for children or young men engaging in sport.

Middle Eastern patriarchs did not run.

Not only did the father disregard what would have been acceptable behavior, he also totally preempted his son’s apology by extending forgiveness right on the spot! Remember how the son had a whole plan of how he would redeem himself by becoming a servant?  Not even his best laid plan could compare to what his father had in mind!

Nothing is good enough for the son! The father isn’t holding past transgressions against him.  Not in how he left and not in how he squandered money.  It’s ALL water under the bridge. 

Some scholars maintain that the robe the father calls for was either the father’s own robe or a robe only reserved for distinguished quests.  Nonetheless, we see him pulling out all the stops.  If, indeed, it was the former, that would be completely representative of the son’s reinstatement into the family.

In either case, the father is sending a clear message: he is not waiting for debts to be paid (which would have been customary as we learned in week 1) or for the son to grovel.  No one needs to earn their way back into that family.  Their place is secured just in the very fact that they came back.  The father’s love never went away so nothing had to be done to earn it back.


I’ll provide proof in the text later in the week, but for now consider this analogy:

Does the sun still shine on cloudy days? Of course. We are simply beneath the cloud covering so we can’t perceive it to be so.  If you were to take a flight on that same cloudy day, for example, would you notice the light above the clouds? Yes! Again, of course!  We have no bearing whatsoever on the sun’s ability to shine. Rather, we are more or less inclined to perceive it’s reality in relation to our proximity to it.

So it is with the father’s love.  It is there. It’s not going anywhere, yet sometimes when we travel to distant countries, far from our Fathers house, it can seem as though that is not so.  The enemy will even try to trick us into thinking its gone forever or until we pay some price.  That’s simply not true.

Grounded in love, the father restored the son and then some.  This is especially ironic since the son added insult to injury when he left.  The father though? He responds with grace on top of grace.

The fattened calf is another prime example of the father’s extravagant love.  That would have been the choiciest meat and reserved for only the finest of occasions.  This feast would have been one that had the whole town talking.  It would be Page Six material for sure.

Let’s consider all of what we went over the last two days so far in light of who Jesus was talking to: the sinners he was eating with and the Pharisees.  He would have been challenging their current mindset with this story: God’s love and forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin or wrongdoing. Intentional acts of ill will? Harm? Murder? Self-sabotaging? Addictions? It doesn’t matter to God. All are welcome home.  

In the father’s home there is always abundant room with food and grace to spare.

No sin is a match for His grace.  Incase that is something you need to hear today: no sin is a match for His grace.  Go to Him! Let Him welcome you home! 

If you have time, sit with that for a bit today.  Tomorrow we will look at the 3rd way the father surprised the listeners.  There’s a valuable lesson in it for us.

Until tomorrow,


Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

Prodigal Series Day 16: Good Father, An Example

As a quick reminder, we are going to start to look at how the father figure challenged norms in how he responded throughout the parable.  In turn, we should be inspired to respectfully and appropriately challenge the norms of our society, opting instead for the more kingdom-mindful response.

Remember how the younger son was totally out of line to ask for the inheritance?  We discussed this in week 1 together.  Not only was it utterly insulting and against traditionally accepted behavior, but it required the father to uproot his life in order to make good on the request of him. 

Now, let’s look at the other side of the same coin, shifting our focus from the son to the father.  This response to the inheritance request will be the first response we look at together. Since we know the father figure is a stand in for our heavenly Father, by shifting our gaze upon Him, we are implementing a foundational practice while reading Scripture.

Focusing on what Scripture tells us about God is a significant rule of thumb, because the Bible is ultimately a story about God, HIS redemption story, His purposes, and HIS ways.  The misgivings of other characters are secondary plot lines and should serve to highlight the goodness and righteousness of God!

OK. Back to the parable at hand…

So when looking at the father, there’s a few things to understand.  First, this was an intensely patriarchal society. Respect for elders, particularly parents, was of monumental importance.  How should the father have acted within the confines of traditional Middle Eastern society?  Physical blows. That’s right! Physical retaliation would have been what was expected of the father and acting accordingly would have been totally justified, given the magnitude of the son’s request. 

But what did he actually do? 

He gave up what was his, apparently with neither hesitation nor animosity.

This would have been unheard of! Patriarchs would never have responded so patiently in the face of dishonor and rejected love.

What do we do when someone hurts us?  I know what we should do…but if we are truthful, we oftentimes don’t act as we should.  We may not necessarily downright retaliate with forthright pain or sinister schemes most foul, but perhaps we give the silent treatment? Gossip to others about it?  Harbor resentment (like the older brother)?  Love a little less? Perhaps we either self-soothe so the rejection doesn’t sting as much or avoid the person all together. 

Here, with the father’s example, we have a better option.  He bears the agony himself and maintains affection for his child.

Does this sound familiar?  When else can we think of a time our Father bared the agony in silence?

For the rest of today, and hopefully beyond, prayerfully contemplate how to use the Father’s example (both fictional and actual) to inform more biblically-based responses to nefarious words and actions.  Let the Word change where we need changing!

Tomorrow we will look at the next way the father went against the tide of normal expectations. 

Until then,


Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

Prodigal Series Day 15: Good Father, A Story within a Story

Welcome to week 3! This week really highlights the positive aspects of the story.  We are spending the rest of our time together focusing on the Father, and He will leave you in awe. 

I’d like to introduce you to a pair of inter-related parallels which can be better appreciated now have a fairly good handle on the text. 

Back in week one, I suggested that the prodigal son parable was a parallel to Jesus’ own ministry.  The parallels don’t end there!  Let’s push ourselves a bit more and extrapolate further.  Let’s also consider that this is not the only story of exile in the Bible, right?  We have the exile motif all throughout the Old and New Testaments.  There’s even a whole book dedicated to exile: the book of Exodus. 

We not only have another exile-type narrative in the Prodigal Son, but we have a narrative which is actually a microcosm for the entire Bible!  Think about it! The entire Bible is one entire exodus story…a story between two gardens (in Genesis and then in Revelation), wherein God is revealing how His lost children find their way back home to Him through Jesus. 

Remarkable!  The Prodigal Son is a stand-in for the entire Bible! 

OK. Ready for one more parallel?  Let’s take this same metaphor one step further.  If the Bible is the story of how God’s children get reconciled back to Himself, which is also the story of the Prodigal…then the Prodigal is also totally reminiscent of the entire human race. 

We are lost.  We need to be found.  Going back to the Father through Jesus is how we get there.

See, I told you this “basic” story is more than it appears, even after many readthroughs! Have I made good on my promise to teach something new on an old story yet?  I hope so!  If not, you are certainly wiser than I am!

And believe it or not, we are still not done with uncovering what we can glean from the parable (even when the series is over, there will still be way more we haven’t touched on!).

Last week we learned how this is actually the story of two lost sons, not one.  This week I want you to consider something else entirely:  it’s a story about a father’s love. 

We are going to explore just how well the father loved by looking at his reactions throughout the parable.  You see, he really challenged norms in three main ways, and we are going to spend a day on each of those ways before wrapping up at the end of the week. 

The next three days will be relatively short teachings, but they will offer lots to reflect upon for the reader who yearns to apply biblical principles to their life. Sound like a plan?

See you tomorrow!

Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

Prodigal Series Day 14: Older Son, An Open-Ended Ending

What we are going over today is often overlooked, but its really not our fault! The ending of the parable differs depending on which version we read.  Don’t get me wrong, the tried and true translations end in the same way, but if you venture into a storybook or children’s version you will surely notice some differences.

Some don’t mention the older brother at all.  Others do, but picture him going arm-in-arm with his father and brother into the party. 

But did that actually happen? 

We actually don’t know because Jesus doesn’t tell us.  It’s an open-ended ending, with the older brother left in an alienated state. 

Wait, what?!  The obedient son is left outside of the feast while the “more” sinful son is joyously celebrating inside? Yep. That’s exactly how this is playing out.

The Pharisees surely would have seen this as a grave injustice.  Afterall, they do everything correctly…right?!  We know, that not really the case.

Can the Pharisees enter the party (i.e., the Kingdom)?  It depends. 

Will they admit their wrongdoings and repent, or will they remain Pharisees, so close yet so far from the celebration?  They are so close they can see it.  They can smell it.  They can hear it.  But will they join?  That’s totally up to them and their next move. It’s not the older brother’s wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast.

As we wrap up our second week together, let’s reflect on these words from Timothy Keller:

The heart of the two brothers were the same. Both sons resented their fathers authority and sought ways of getting out from under it. They each wanted to get into a position in which they could tell the father what to do. Each one, in other words, rebelled but one did so by being very bad and the other by being extremely good. Both were lost sons. Neither son loved the father for himself. They were both using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him, either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently.

Timothy Keller, Prodigal God

Remember: regardless of how we rebel, God is there to accept every single one of us who turn back toward Him.

Next week, we are going to put together everything we have learned so far. We are going to recognize what all this tells us about the father figure, which, in turn, will teach us how we ought to respond. 

See you back here tomorrow for the last portion of our time together? I sure hope so!


Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

Prodigal Series Day 13: Older Son, As Jesus?

Now is the time we are going to take a closer look at the other two parables in Luke 15 that have to do with something of value being lost.  In doing so, we will be equipped with some keen insight into this story of the two lost brothers. 

In the first parable, we have a shepherd who goes out to find his lost sheep.  That seems reasonable enough.  Then, we have a woman who searches for a lost coin.  In both instances, something is lost and someone sets out to find it.  By the time the listeners heard the third story, they would have expected to hear the same pattern, but it never comes.  No one searches for him. Why? 

Jesus is highlighting what didn’t happen so the audience could process what should have happened.  As rabbi, Jesus was certainly familiar with old testament scriptures.  He would have known about another story way back in Genesis about another set of brothers.  In that case, the older brother was also proud and resentful, and yet he was told that he was his brother’s keeper.  It’s the story of Cain and Abel. 

The elder brother in the story should have gone after the younger brother and restored him back into the family.  Likewise, the Pharisees should go after the sinners and bring them into their spiritual family as heirs to the kingdom.  Yet, they do not, and this older brother doesn’t either. The younger brother gets a Pharisee for a brother instead.

Can you see where this is going? 

We have a perfect older brother in Jesus.  He is sent by the Father to reveal God’s love for all His children and to offer Himself as the way home.

Just as we saw last week that Jesus was the younger brother without being rebellious, now we see that He is also the older brother without being resentful.  He does His Father’s bidding and seeks to find those who are lost to bring them back home.  Amen?!  Amen!

Today, spend some time praying about how you can be more like Jesus as the perfect younger brother and perfect older brother.

There’s one more aspect to the older brother I want to introduce you to. It’s how the parable ends…or doesn’t end, rather.  What do I mean by this?  Let’s review it tomorrow!


Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.