Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28, 2009

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." Luke 15:22-24
What do we get when we receive the lavish love of the Father? That is, in addition to the lavish love!
The first thing is the robe!
When the wayward son returned, the father called for the robe.
This son had been feeding pigs. In fact, more recently, he had been wrestling the pigs for food. I don't know if you have ever been near a pig pen, but it is not a place where you want to hang out. Growing up in hog country, I am very familiar with the smell of a hog farm. It is a very distinctive smell - or should I say diSTINK-TIVE? I would wonder if the father may have smelled the son coming before he saw him coming!
Needless to say, the son was ready for a change of clothes!
In addition to that, let's look at the significance of the robe.
Throughout Scripture, the robe is a symbol of righteousness. Righteousness means that we are made right with God. Being made right with God means that we are restored to right standing before God. It denotes a transformation in our moral nature. It shows that the guilt from our sins has been removed and the penalty of our sins have been satisfied.
For the son, this meant that he was better after he returned than he was before he ran away! Because of the lavish love of the father his post-pig days were going to be better than his pre-pig days!
Even better, the robe meant that the son would be admitted to the party. Trust me, you don't want to party with a person who comes straight from a pig pen. Talk about a party pooper, well........
Since the party was in his honor, it is good that he got to go in!
When you and I were connected to the lavish love of the Father, we got a robe! We were given the righteousness of Christ that cleansed us from the filth and stench of our sins and prepared us for the party! The robe enabled us to be in a right relationship with the Father and enjoy more of His lavish love! And as long as we have the robe, we have the connectionn with the Father and there will be plenty of parties to follow!
Have you put on the robe of righteousness? Are you rightly connected with the lavish love? Will you be prepared for the party?

September 27, 2009

"Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:1-2
So, do you?
Will you?
Do you have a plan?
Every believer should! So should every church!
What am I talking about?
I am talking about having a strategy and a plan for "welcoming sinners and eating with them"?
What are you doing to connect with lost people?
What is your church doing to make connect lost people with your church?
Are you building bridges to connect lost people to the lavish love of God or are you erecting barriers?
Two of the guys who have done it the best, like Jesus, have been subjected to severe criticism. Bill Hybels and Rick Warren have built churches with a ministry strategy to welcome sinners and connect them with the lavish love of God.
Over the past quarter of a century Willow Creek and Saddleback Churches have reached tens of thousands converts, developed tens of thousands of disciples, seen thousands called into ministry, sent millions of dollars to foreign missions and planted hundreds of healthy, growing local churches around the world.
Despite those massive footprints in Christian history, they have been accused of compromising and being shallow and selling out in order to get numbers. Most of the criticism comes from people who resemble the Pharisees and religious leaders, small minded people leading small ministries. They have managed to make "seeker sensitive" into a negative concept and built fellowships that are "seeker resistant".
As I have been camping out in Luke 15 this month, I have been reminded of how passionate Jesus is for reaching lost people. He came to show us how to connect lost people with the lavish love of the Father. That sounds a little "seeker sensitive" to me.
Given the choice of building a "holy huddle" populated by the saved, sancitified and satisfied, I'll take the criticism for daring to "welcome sinners". I'll take the heat from narrow-minded traditionalists who can't seperate the methods from the message.
I like the attitude of a young pastor friend of mine who once declared, "I'll do anything short of sin to reach lost people."
If the mindset of the Pharisees and religious leaders had prevailed and if Jesus had bowed to their criticism, I would still be "eating with sinners" - as a sinner.
What are you doing to "welcome sinners"? How sensitive are you to the lostness of people who haven't been connected with the lavish love of the Father? Are you building bridges or barriers?
As for me, at the Judgment I'll hope to stand in the line somewhere behind Bill and Rick - hopefully surrounded by a bunch of former sinners who were reached through my "seeker sensitivity".