Garments of Grace; The Prodigal’s New Clothes

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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Many look at the story of the prodigal son, in this week’s SS lesson as a story about one man in the church and one who was out. However, it is interesting in the end, the one who is out comes in and the one who is in goes out. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance before he leaves. What the son is saying to the father is, “I want all your blessings but I don’t want to live under you roof and abide by your rules.” I don’t think the prodigal son is alone in his way of thinking. Remember earlier in these lessons we spoke of Joseph’s brothers being jealous of the special coat that their father had made him. His brothers wanted all the blessings Joseph had, but did not want the intimate relationship with their father that Joseph had. Do we do the same today? Do we ask God to bless us while we are willfully ignoring His commandments? If so, we are just like the prodigal son who said, give me my inheritance and I am going to go live somewhere else where you can’t tell me what to do. Unfortunately the inheritance only lasted as long as the relationship. Lesson learned: The relationship is the inheritance!

 

When the son realizes this, he heads for home. Now feeling unworthy of the relationship or inheritance, he seeks to become a hired hand. His Father would have none of that. While the son is a great ways off, the father runs to him and hugs and kisses him. I am reminded of a story in the Great Controversy, of a religious leader during the dark ages, making a ruler stand out in the snow before he would forgive him. What a gross misrepresentation of my heavenly Father! My Father does not make people stand out in the snow before He forgives them. He runs to where they are and hugs and kisses them, and welcomes them home.

Meanwhile the other brother who stayed at home is not the least bit happy to see his brother return. It makes him so angry he leaves the house! When you read his argument you see he thought all these years he was working for all he had. Come to find out it was all a gift given to him and not of works.  The son who stayed home benefited from grace as much as the one who ran away.

On my trip home from Tulsa I ran into weather problems in Dallas-Fort Worth, where I was to make my connection flight. My flight was cancelled and I ended up spending the night on the chapel floor at the airport. I was frustrated because I lived in the Dallas area for ten years and still have many friends there, but I could not ask them to come get me in the storm which included tornados.  So I laid down on the airport floor with my laptop case for a pillow. I had just begun to feel sorry for myself, when I realized, that many people more noble than I sleep on hard floors every night. People more noble than I had just lost their homes and even lives in the Joplin tornado. People more noble than I sleep on the hard ground under bridges every night! I realized my nice comfortable apartment back home in Tampa is not something I have earned or deserve. It is a gift from God! I then realized that the nice little chapel floor in the airport was not a curse, but rather a gift of grace from God. A gift that I had not earned or deserved.

Since I could not sleep well, I prayed for the prayer requests coming in from my Facebook. Surprisingly they came in all night long. That morning I woke up feeling the presence of God in that chapel more vividly than when I am even at home. I realized my gift from God’s grace is a relationship with Him and not a comfortable place to sleep. I realized I was just as much my heavenly Father’s son while sleeping on the airport floor, as when I will be resting in my heavenly mansion.  Interesting…..Jesus was just as much His Father’s Son while laying in a manger as He is now sitting on the throne in heaven.

Garments of Grace; A Brand Plucked From The Fire

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

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On my current vacation to my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a couple of things made me think of this week’s SS lesson  memory verse. “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment” (Zechariah 3:4

When I fly I love to have the window seat. I have flown a hundred times, and each time we taxi down the runway and takeoff, while other seasoned passengers read their magazines or lull off to sleep, I am looking out the window thinking “man this is cool!” I never cease to be amazed by the wonders of aviation. Each flight is as exciting to me as my very first one. I love looking down from above and recognizing places and streets on the ground. Sometimes though when we are coming into a city to land, even a city I am very familiar with, it takes a while for me to recognize the highways and streets, especially if I don’t know which direction we are entering the city from.  I do remember my first flight over Chicago, I saw Wrigley Field, and was so moved by the historical masterpiece that when I got home, I planned a road trip with my friend Tom, to go back and see it. So I don’t think the lady really understood what a sacrifice she was asking me to make, when she asked  if her little boy could have my window seat. I boarded the American Airlines jet in DFW to make the final leg of my journey to Tulsa. I headed to seat 30F. A window seat I had reserved months in advance. When I got to my seat, the young mother in the isle seat, asked if her little boy, about 5 could have the window seat. I complied. After all, I have flown a hundred times before, but I was looking forward to seeing my favorite city of Dallas from the sky again. Who can say “no” to a cute little kid? So the mother moved over a seat, letting her son take the window seat, and I took the isle seat.

Not long after take- off, the little boy closes the window and falls asleep! I started to ask the mother if we could change seats since the boy was not looking out the window any way. I did not. I just sat there and thought, how could the mother ask me to give up something the boy did not even really appreciate or was not using. She obviously did not appreciate my sacrifice. Then I thought of all the sacrifices God has made for me. Do I appreciate them all? Do I use all the gifts God has given me? God has given me some wonderful experiences that should strengthen my faith, but do I sometimes doubt? Then I am just casting those experiences aside, like the boy seemed to be casting my window seat aside. God has promised me strength in time of temptation. Do I sometimes cast those promises aside for the sake of sin? God has given His life for millions to be saved, but will they accept and appreciate that sacrifice? This made my little sacrifice seem so tiny. After all, I would not have seen anything I had not seen before.

 

Soon we landed in Tulsa. I walked outside of the Tulsa International airport, into the city of Tulsa, and suddenly it was like I had never been gone. I have always found that amazing. I have not lived in my hometown for about 18 years now. I visit about once a year. This last time, though it has been more like a year and a half. Still, when I get back home everything is familiar again. It is like I have never been gone. My favorite restaurant, Chimis, is right there at 15th and Peoria where it has always been. My school has changed since I attended 27 years ago but the neighborhood looks the same. So does my old church, though the sanctuary has been remodeled over the last 45 years, and there are a few new smiling faces. Still, its home. It is familiar, and no matter how far I have travelled, and no matter how long I have been gone, the moment I get back, and see my family and friends, it is like I never left. I wonder, when I sin, and ask Jesus’ forgiveness, and He wipes away my sin, and gives me that robe of righteousness that He sacrificed so much to give me, does He look at me as if I had never sinned? Even after I have wandered away so far and for so long, when He welcomes me home, is it as though I had never been gone? Yes. I think so!