Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.

God of My 20’s

On my drive home from visiting family last month for Thanksgiving, I realized something. All my nine nieces and nephews are in their 20’s and 30’s. Had to shake my head at that a little. Four of them are married, and three have children. Double head shake.

Thinking about them and the difference in my world during my 20’s and their current world, a thought for a blog series came to mind. The series, entitled God of My 20’s that will post every Monday beginning next week, is a chance for friends of mine to share their story of who God was to them in their 20’s. I invited a slew of men and ladies. Twelve accepted. So this will be fun.

These writers represent every age groups from their 30’s to theirs 70’s. So that means from Millennials to Baby Boomers, born anywhere from the 40’s to the 80’s. That’s a lot of living through a world of change. So the question, and there could be many, that I’m curious about is how does God show up over the decades in people’s lives. On a side note, those living today in their 20’s could be classified as Millennial or Generation Z. If these generation labels are another language or like me you need a refresher, follow this link: Generation Z.

An interesting note from that link is that Generation Z is the largest generation in American history. The God question is therefore a good question to be asking. What if we helped them answer it by telling our own story? I hope you’ll follow along. And maybe even share your own story here or in person. Who was God in your 20’s?

Are We Doing Church Right?

A friend (thanks, Pat) recently loaned me a copy of David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs To Change. If you’ve read anything by him, I’ll go ahead and suggest you haven’t read anything like this one. Platt chronicles his week-long journey through the Himalayas where he came face to face with some of the most difficult questions and challenging needs in the world. Because he’s reacting, you react. Because he’s questioning, you question. And nothing is outside the realm of analysis. Even the church.


In chapter six, Platt shares the lives of church leaders in the Himalayas. Their work is not easy. And it’s quite different than the majority of church leaders in other countries-vastly different from American churches. At the end of the day, he was asked to do some teaching and training. Here’s an excerpt of his thoughts about that time:

Over the coming hours, we walk through all kinds of pictures and passages in the Bible describing the church as God designed it. As I’m teaching and we are all discussing what we see in God’s Word, I am struck with a fresh realization.

Looking at the Bible to see how God has designed the church is exactly what needs to be done. As I had reflected a couple of days ago, these villages needed the church in them, but they don’t need an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.

As I walk through the Word with these leaders, it hits me that so many of my conversations about the church in America are often focused on cultural traditions that are extrabiblical at best and unbiblical at worst.

For example, as I read the Bible with these brothers and sisters, we don’t see anything about constructing church buildings or organizing church programs or managing church staffs, topics that so many church conversations in America revolve around. It makes me wonder, Why are Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches in America so focused on what is not in the Bible? As I ask myself this question, I can’t help but think that one of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this book describes it?”

American Christian, it’s a fair question. If you aren’t convinced, get a copy of this book. After you’ve read it, come back to the question. We must be open to the possibility that we are not doing it right. And if that’s true, what are we going to do about it.

Heard

(Introduction to a 5-part series collaboration)

Recently I had a brief conversation based on this statement: “I don’t know how to hear from God. People around me say they hear from God, but I don’t. I pray, and nothing. I feel like I’m doing something wrong.”

Due to the social context, that conversation was one-sided. That person’s tone and spirit has stuck with me. So much so that I’ve recruited some friends/thinkers to add many sides to the conversation. A team of five is writing blogs answering this question: How Do I Hear From God? You can read each post as they upload each Friday in November.

Besides me, here is a little bio introduction to the other four bloggers:

Dawn Stark: Mother of 5, Beach Lover, Manager of Philanthropy for Operation Blessing

Aaron Pilant: Father of 2, Lover of K.C. sports, Bradenton Police Officer

aaron

Erin Pilant: Mother of 2, Lover of Disney, Marketing Director for Chick-Fil-A

erin

Bob Morrissey: Father of 3, Lover of Detroit sports, Pastor of The Church at Clawson

bob

We don’t have to wait until November. Want to answer the question and start the conversation? Go ahead and leave a comment. Be Heard!

Review & Question

Last Tuesday afternoon I had time to spare. Nap was taken. Running a race the next morning. Wildcard Baseball not on yet. What to do in small town PA? I decided to visit about the only place I hadn’t yet checked out that seemed interesting. I went to the library.

It was 4pm; they closed in three hours. My only plan was to look for something that caught my attention and see how long it lasted. Here’s what I found:

I’m telling you this for two reasons: 1) Book review and 2) Personal question

Book Review

I had no idea when I registered for this half marathon that I would end up driving through Amish country. Having spent part of the morning in that area roughly 20 minutes away, it made complete sense that a portion of the religious section of the library revolved around the Amish lifestyle and beliefs. Remembering this national headline and reading the subtitle of this book, caught was my attention.

In about the right length of a movie-two hours-I knew the story of this family and this event in much more detail. I had learned. I had cried. I had grown. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a book, then what is?

Question

I’m keeping track of the books I’ve read this year. Yes, I added this title to the list. But I had to answer a question that might sound silly, but it was a real question in my mind. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve wrestled with it. Could I truthfully say I’d read that book? Yes, I read it for two hours. Yes, I knew the story. Yes, I knew the ending. I even looked up whether the author is still alive due to what she shared about her health condition. I knew a lot about this book and its author. But, I didn’t read every word of the book. I read as much as I could in two hours.

So here’s my question to you. If you’re a reader (definition: you read a couple of books a year), how much of a book must you read in order for it to count? 51%? 75%? 100%?

All my life, I’ve been the 100%er. Not no more.

For fun, let’s see your answer. You can comment on this post. Or return to the social media link you followed and post your answer. No shame. Be honest.

Twist on a Good Question

If you are in church leadership, it’s possible in some conference or workshop you’ve been asked this question: “If your church closed its doors, what would the community lose?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if your doors closed?”

Someone at my church recently shared they’d heard this for the first time. They responded like we probably all did the first time we were asked: Thoughtful, Challenged, Evaluating.


Last week I shared that question with someone else, but for a different reason. A comment had been made about my role at the church, to which I made a twisted connection with this question.

What if this question dropped from the corporate level to a personal level and every church member and staff member asked, “If I walked away from this church, what would be lost?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if I stopped bringing what I’m currently bringing to the table?”

Now that’s completely different. But what would happen if every child of God thought more about what they bring versus what they receive? What would happen in the community if believers said, “I’m here. I’m for you. I’m bringing what I got to the table. I’m not going anywhere. How can I help?”

Give ‘Em What God Gave You

It’s possible for someone in my position to ask myself this question more than others; but the reality is we all ask it, consciously or not: “Why is this person in my life?”

Reality also is we can ask that question from a negative or a positive place. The negative place might contain spoken or unspoken expletives. The positive place would not; they would be replaced with a better question, something like this: “How can I fulfill the reason God placed me in this person’s life?”

When you read John’s account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (chapter 4), you get the sense Jesus asked this better question. It’s most likely what prompted him to start the conversation. He needed something from her, yet he wanted even more to reveal to her she needed something that only he could provide. The Father had brought them together for a reason.

If you were to make a list of those people you believe God has put in your life for a reason, who would make the list? What if you wrote their names down and then added by each name what that reason might be? It could be something as simple as to listen. Maybe a slightly bigger reason of to recognize. What if like Jesus, God has given you something unique that, with his help, only you could provide for this person? According to Paul in Ephesians 2:10, God’s already given you what you need to fulfill your reason. Nothing stands in your way. Go ahead. Give ’em what God gave you.

“Which Way?”

I have a new favorite verse. At least for today.

“This is what the Lord says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths, “Which is the way to what is good?” Then take it and find rest for yourselves. But they protested, “We won’t!””‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6:16‬ ‭CSB‬‬

(Check out how these translations ask the question: ESV, NIV, NKJV “Where the good way is?” The Message paraphrases it as the “tried-and-true road.”)

The visual is so clear, yet we seem blind.

Rest doesn’t have to be that hard. Temptations draw us away convincing us rest is a myth. But according to God’s message through Jeremiah, rest has been found by all our preceding generations. In this day of great change and progress, God’s message is still the same:

“Stop hurrying about looking for a new way. Cease driving up and down the road chasing disguised lights of hope. Search out those who have heavenly peace. Humbly ask them the road to it. Join me on that road where rest awaits anyone who trusts rather than protests.”

That Person

I have them. You have them.

I am one. You are one.

That person…

  • …you are constantly battling the thought that they can’t do anything right
  • …you are tempted to believe is unforgivable
  • …you wish they’d just move on
  • …you wonder if there’s such a thing as too much grace
  • …you’re convinced doesn’t have a clue

That person(s) that you’re thinking about right now is your that person.

As a recovering judger and teller, I’ve labeled many people as that person. The more I own and understand that I’m also that person the fewer people I label. We have to resist labeling in our minds and hearts, and we need to be aware when we’re spreading our labeling to others by talking about that person. Not easy work.

How do we do this work? I’m doing it by asking myself three questions:

  1. How am I praying for that person?
  2. How will I stay engaged with that person?
  3. When’s the last time that person…
  • …had an arm around their shoulder?
  • …heard, “I forgive you”?
  • …believed they weren’t alone?
  • …experienced grace from another human?
  • …felt safe with those who knew them well?

It’s hard relationship work. But that person needs it. And as someone else’s that person, I need it.

When God Asks You a Question

When’s the last time you recall a conversation where a question was asked and the person replied, “Wow! That’s a good question”?  I’ve been on both sides of that, and mostly likely you have also.  Those are life-giving conversations.

Elijah had one of those conversations with God in 1 Kings 19.  In this case, Elijah got asked this question, not once but twice: “What are you doing here?”  Similar to God questioning Adam and Eve in the Garden and to Jesus asking Peter the same question three times, this conversation was a learning moment, one that gave direction to a wandering child of God.

Is there shame in wandering?  I’m guessing if there were God wouldn’t bother showing up to ask us a question.  He doesn’t show up because he’s lost or doesn’t know the answer.  He’s showing up for our benefit.  The answer to his question is for our learning, our misdirection, and our relationship with him.

Are you wandering?  Are you lacking direction?  Elijah had walked 40 days and nights and entered a cave where this conversation happened.  What if you gave God that much attention or space so that you could have a life-giving conversation?  What would it take to put yourself in position to hear when God asks you a question?