Going Deeper with the Message:

Prodigal God
by: Andrew Archer

This Sunday, we continued our series in the Old Testament book of Jonah. I shared how we are a lot like Jonah in that we tend to turn to God only when things get bad. However, in spite of our tendency to forget God, He remains faithful to keep his promises, gracious, merciful, and always ready to help us. What an incredible God He is!

As I was thinking about Jonah and God, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between this story and a parable Jesus told in the book of Luke about two sons and their father. The younger son asks for his inheritance and the father surprisingly gives it to him. The son then leaves for a far away country. While there, he lives very recklessly and squanders his wealth. To make matters worse, there is a famine in that country and he becomes so desperate that he feeds pigs and longs to eat what the pigs are eating. 

Just like Jonah, this younger son turns from a loving father to live life his own way. They each want to be in control of what’s going on in their life. And just like Jonah, as the younger son does this, his situation gets worse and worse until he eventually hits rock bottom. At this point, he realizes that he has no other options than to turn back and call out to his father. I’m able to see myself in both of these guys. Both in forgetting God when things are good and in waiting to reach out to Him until things get bad. 

The similarities between these two stories don’t stop there. In the same way that God is ready to rescue Jonah when he calls out to Him, we see the father from Jesus’ parable ready to do the same. Luke 15:20 says this: “But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.” Not only that, but the father throws a huge party for his son who was lost. Both the father, who is meant to be a picture of God, and God himself in Jonah, show an incredible amount of mercy and grace toward Jonah and the younger son. 

This story is often referred to as the prodigal son, but I think calling it the prodigal God is more fitting. Prodigal can refer to reckless spending and living, but it can also mean having or giving something on a lavish scale. Who gives more lavishly than our God? He rescued a runaway prophet and threw a party when He rescued a lost son. He is a Prodigal God who doesn’t hold back when it comes to pouring out mercy and grace.

Living out the Message:

Perceptions
By Barb Barnhart, Preschool Coordinator

My mom loves to play board games! Every evening, she and I can be found playing a game. Most often, we play Scrabble because it is her favorite game (notice that it is her favorite game.) Don’t get me wrong—I like to play Scrabble, but our perception of the game is very different. I play the game to survive. Mom plays the game to thrive. That is a nice way of saying that my mom is a determined-to-win player. Many games end with mom scoring 350 to 400 points. My score is nowhere near that. I have even established the Babzeann Rule of Scrabble (Babzeann is my family nickname!) If mom’s score is more than 100 points ahead of mine, I can place a word anywhere on the board, whether it connects to the other words or not. Any scrabble enthusiasts that have skills similar to mine may borrow my rule to use at the appropriate time.

Every person has their own perception. Perception is defined as a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something. This past Sunday, Andrew shared with us that a major problem that we have is that many only turn to God when things get bad. This response is often due to one’s perception of God. For some, coming to God for help or guidance is a sign of weakness. Others realize that God’s intervention is needed, but they think that they are not good enough. Still others try to avoid God’s intervention because He is seen as the disciplinarian.

Jonah’s perception of God was in conflict. Jonah was in conflict with God. He knew that God had a specific message for him to deliver and he chose not to deliver it. Jonah knew that his disobedience would bring a response from God. Yet in the midst of Jonah’s disobedience, God’s response was not “You’re bad, You’re bad, You’re very very bad!  Stop it!” His response was that of grace and mercy. As Jonah prayed, he recalled God’s promises, and God proved Himself as being faithful—for He saved Jonah.

Have you ever been in conflict with your perception of God? Have you relegated Him to be available to you only when things get really bad? This week, be challenged to recall the Promises of God. Realize that He is always here with us and for us. God is always ready to help!

Weekly challenge // Jonah repeated God’s words as he prayed. Find a verse that reminds you of a promise of God. Memorize it and make it a part of your daily life. In your time of struggle or discouragement, you will be reminded that God is near and always ready to help.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10