What About Me?!
The Prodigal Son
Sibling rivalry is nothing new. The very first set of siblings, Cain and Abel had a problem with sibling rivalry. Well, at least one of them did. And the basis of their problem was jealousy. Kids tend to be competitive when it comes to getting the attention of their parents, whether its Heavenly or earthly.
With Cain and Abel, one brother thought God was showing favoritism to the other. The same is true in the story of the Prodigal Son. The father in the story of the prodigal son had 2 sons and a lot of property.
A few years earlier, the younger son decides he wants to set out on his own, to make his way in the world. He asks his father for his inheritance in advance and, once he receives it, sets out to make something of himself. Things don’t go well. When the young son sinks as low as he can, he finally decides to go home.
Back home, his father never lost hope. Every day, he watched down the road, praying for his younger son to return safely home. Then one day, his prayer was answered. The father was so grateful, he called his servants to prepare the fatted calf to celebrate his homecoming. Now, a parent can understand the excitement and happiness of the father. However, kids (and even adults) feel bad for the older son. He worked all those years as the good and faithful son and what does he get for it? Not the fatted calf! Hard to teach this to kids but let’s try.
First, the story was told by Jesus to tell all those who had wandered away from their Father that He is watching at the gate for them, hoping one day He sees his lost child coming down the road. And when He finally sees His lost child coming, oh the excitement! God the Father wants ALL His wandering children to come home to Him.
What about the good son, the child that is always with the Father? Rather than a big celebration, that child had all the memories with his father. All the time the good son spent with his father was something the prodigal could never, ever enjoy. The younger son missed so much all that time he was gone. While the father was excited his young son returned, he had a deep affection and respect for his older son.
Children have an opportunity to develop a deep, loving relationship with their Father no matter how young they might be. If older children, or even you, have wandered away from your Father, it’s never too late to go home. Even if you have been away from your Father for many years, He’s still standing at that gate, watching for you to come back to Him!
1. Are you the older child or the younger child in God’s life?
2. If you have strayed from God, are you only a little ways away or are you far, far away?
3. If you have strayed, whether a bit or a lot, what can you do to return home?
4. How can you help your children remain close to God?
5. How can you use this story to help your children in their lives?
I used to live about 5.5 blocks away from my church. I wanted a church that was very close to my house when I was seeking a new home for worship. The fact the church is a member of the denomination in which I grew up was an added bonus. I wanted a church that allowed me to walk a short distance when I wanted to take part in any events. I didn’t want distance or transportation to be an excuse for not taking part in church activities.
Meetings, Bible studies, classes, funerals, flowers and more, all I had to do was put on my shoes (and a few other clothing items) and walk or ride my bike straight down the street. Oh, yes, my church was not just 5.5 blocks away, it was 5.5 blocks straight down the street. Nice, huh?
Things aren’t always so easy for other people wanting to worship. In some countries, worshippers must come together in secret. In some places, they must travel for miles to worship. No matter the obstacle, people overcome whatever is necessary to gather with other Christians to do what many of us take for granted.
The men in today’s story did whatever they needed to do to get their friend, their paralyzed friend, to Jesus. They believed with all their hearts that Jesus could (and would) heal their friend if only they could find a way to get the friend into the building and into the presence of Jesus.
They tried all the conventional means of entry and found their way blocked. This didn’t stop them. They became creative. Climbing up on the roof and bringing their friend, on his bed, up with them, the men made a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down to Jesus.
Now, imagine for a moment you’re in this worship service, attending this event. Suddenly, a hole opens in the roof and a man on a bed is lowered down and placed in front of Jesus who is in the middle of speaking to the crowd. Better still, imagine something similar taking place during Sunday worship in your church. Right in the middle of the message, a group comes in, begging the pastor to pray for their sick friend.
I remember the time a woman in one of my Bible studies groused at me for commenting when a cell phone rang while I was speaking. I only made a quick joke to relieve the tension but this woman felt I was unprofessional in my conduct. Tell me, where does it say a pastor must be oblivious to life when it happens right in front of them while they are speaking?
How would your pastor handle a similar situation? Would they immediately begin praying for the sick friend, encouraging others to come forward to pray also? Or would they tell the group they needed to wait until AFTER the worship service? I know what we would like to BELIEVE they would do but be honest, what would they really do if their well-prepared message was interrupted in such an abrupt manner?
Jesus, well, He stop what He was saying, what He was doing and turned His attention to life! As He did many times during His ministry, He quickly pointed out that the faith of the men, including the paralyzed man, had healed him. Jesus forgave their sins and told the man to get up and walk. The man rose, picked up his bed and walked out.
Of course, the religious leaders were appalled. Who did Jesus think He was, forgiving sins? They had just witnessed a paralyzed man healed and all they can focus on are the words Jesus used to accomplish the task. WOW!
Sometimes we get so caught up in rules and the way things are supposed to be done that we lose sight of life taking place right in front of us. Are you missing opportunities to minister to others because you are concerned about rules, about the appropriate time, about what other people might think?
Perhaps it’s time to concern yourself more with what God thinks. You might be very surprised what you are able to accomplish!
1. When in the past have you hesitated to do the will of God because you were more concerned about what others would think?
2. Have you ever hesitated to do God’s will because you thought it wasn’t the right time or place?
3. Do you get caught up in rules and legalism?
4. What would you think if your Sunday service was interrupted like Jesus was interrupted?
Doing the Right Thing
The Good Samaritan
Hard to imagine but this was a shocking story when Jesus shared the parable of the good Samaritan. The people in Jesus community, His audience, thought Samaritans were less than nothing. There are different stories concerning the origin of the Samaritans. One part of the story is consistent. The Jews despised the Samaritans, felt they could do nothing good. They were thought to be liars, thieves, and worse by the Jews.
Jesus told the crowd a story about a man being robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the road. Two men, highly thought of in the local community, just walked on by the dying man.
Then a Samaritan man came upon the injured man. It’s the Samaritan who stopped and offered aid and comfort to the poor man. The Samaritan was the one that did the right thing in the story. The people listening had to be terribly confused. They would never believe a Samaritan capable of doing such a good deed.
That’s the whole point of the story. It’s not enough to say the right things. It’s necessary to follow those words with action. We must also DO the right thing. And a good place to begin doing the right thing is by ridding ourselves of misconceptions about people, groups in our society.
We still have Samaritans in our midst, people who, through no fault of their own, are outcasts, about whom terrible things are thought AND said.
In telling this story, Jesus makes it clear that things have changed. God is a God of ALL people, a God who loves all of us and Jesus came to save us all, even the Samaritans!
1. Who are the Samaritans in society today?
2. How do you feel about these people?
3. What do you say about them, without even thinking about it?
4. What message are you sharing about modern Samaritans with your children?
5. How can you offer a more positive message to your children?
6. What are you going to do, right now, to begin?
You Only Think You Want It
John and James
Does this story remind you of your kids? James and John ask for a big, REALLY big favor. They want to sit beside Jesus, one on each side, when He, and they, get to Heaven. Gee, that’s not much to ask! Jesus is quick to point out that there is a high price to pay for those seats and He doesn’t think James and John are prepared or qualified to pay that price.
The other disciples become angry when they hear them talking. Jesus puts an end to this discussion when He explains that the first will become the last and the last will become the first. Then Jesus says one of the most wonderful things. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
In our society today, many people are focused on status. They want bigger and better. They want to impress. It isn’t enough to keep up with the Jones. We have to outdo them. This definitely is NOT what Jesus would do!
How do we instill a sense of servanthood in our children today? How can we help them understand that people are more important than things and status is fleeting? I suppose the best way is by following Jesus. We need to set an example for our children. We need to help them make the right decisions. We need to make certain they understand the price that must be paid, not always in cash, for the things we want. Then, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of these lessons in our lives as well.
1. How do you teach your children there is a price to be paid for the things they want, a price other than monetary?
2. How do you remind yourself of the price to be paid for the things you THINK you want?
3. Do you model servanthood in your life?
4. Have you ever talked to your children about servanthood?
5. How can you become more servant conscious in your life?
Oh, I’m Good Dirt!
Parable of the Sower
I find great reassurance in today’s verse. I didn’t always find reassurance until a professor in seminary pointed out the math of this verse. In the verse, 75% of the seed the sower plants bears no fruit. Only 25% of the seed planted comes to fruition. Why does this reassure me? Jesus is telling me that even He only expects a 25% fruition rate on all the seeds of faith He plants. WOW! I feel much better about my returns.
Of course, I have to be practical. I plant a vegetable garden every year. In fact, I dabble in urban farming. For me to produce the crops I want to harvest, I know I must plant more than I need. Already this year, 3 of my baby tomato plants have been eaten. I also know some of my seeds won’t come up or won’t bear fruit.
This lesson is the same whenever I share a Christian message, whether in class or a blog post like this. Only some of those receiving the message will bear fruit. In other words, only a few of you will ever act on any of the Lenten lessons in this book.
What about you? Do the distractions of life stop you from acting on the lessons, like birds pecking at the seeds? Are you unprepared for the material because you fail to pray before you begin or never take time to read Scripture or devotions, like the seeds landing on soil that wasn’t prepared for planting? Or are you the one with a hardened heart, reading the words and then grumbling about the material and refusing to take the message to heart?
Based on Jesus’ math, only 25% of you will read these daily lessons, take it to heart and act on it. Tell me, are you good dirt?
1. If you aren’t good dirt, how can you improve?
2. What prevents you from taking the lessons to heart and bearing fruit?
3. How does your attitude affect your family?
4. How can all of you change so you become good dirt?