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The Prodigal Sons – Pastor Tim Keller Sermon

The Prodigal Sons – Pastor Tim Keller Sermon

Be sure to check out this sermon (click on link above on post title) on the famous parable. The story (see text below) in itself is very compelling just from reading it. Yet, taking into account elements of the culture of Biblical times, this parable becomes an even more powerful tale of the human condition and the majestic love of God. Also, we often focus on the younger son but here in this sermon, Tim Keller also points out the lostness of the older son as well. As we enter into the Christmas season, perhaps, this story could be one point of reflection on the amazing love of God for humanity as revealed through the birth of Jesus and His mission on Earth.

Luke 15:1-2, 11-32 (NIV)

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“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.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your propertywith prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

image source at the top of post: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/93/Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/184px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

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Kirsten Powers, reluctant follower of Jesus

Kirsten Powers, reluctant follower of Jesus

Here is a story that might encourage all you small group Bible study leaders out there.

Every one has a unique story about how they come to trust in Jesus. In the case of Ms. Powers,  a former political operative turned political pundit, it started with hearing some thoughtful preaching and eventually joining a Bible study. She concluded her article: The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me—whether I liked it or not.

Excerpt:

I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don’t remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, “It’s true. It’s completely true.” The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.

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Never read (just) a Bible verse

Never read (just) a Bible verse

When it comes to understanding the Scriptures, one of the things that helps is to look at the verses before and after a verse that you are trying to figure out.

Go ahead and click the link to read the full article from Stand To Reason.

Excerpt:

This works because of a basic rule of all communication: Meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. The key to the meaning of any verse comes from the paragraph, not just from the individual words.

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Part VII – Prof. Ben on Preaching

Part VII – Prof. Ben on Preaching

Witherington offers a half-serious top-10 list of advice for preachers.

Perhaps, we will need to come up with a top-10 list for small group Bible Study leaders!

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Part VI – Witherington on Preaching

Part VI – Witherington on Preaching

Excerpt:

Preaching instead should be Scripture based, text based, not needs based. The preacher is not called to be a pop psychologist serving up chicken soup for the soul, pablum for the masses. He is not called to be a sensitivity group leader. He is called to break the bread of life for a starving people, open the Word of God for the unenlightened, share the living water in a dry and weary land. Only the real thing will feed their real need, and slake their real thirst.

Though preachers have a huge responsibility to be faithful to the Lord in expounding the Scriptures, small group leaders are NOT given a pass on sticking to the text!

As Bible study group leaders, though we want to encourage personal sharing among the members, we too, like a preacher, have as the primary task to help the group understand the meaning of the text.

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Part V – Ben Witherington on Preaching

Part V – Ben Witherington on Preaching

In this post, Witherington makes the case that the appearance and demeanor of the preacher matters. Some excerpts:

As the rhetoricians will tell you, you need to establish rapport with your audience at the outset, and if you have some ‘inhibiting’ factors to establishing that positive rapport, then you need to overcome your ethos liabilities.
………
At a minimum he should be clean and neat. Preferably he should look like what he is about to do actually matters. ‘Casual is as casual does’ Forest Gump might say. But there is nothing casual, off-hand or simple about the Gospel and its proclamation. While I am at it, there is nothing casual about worship.
………
I am saying we should come looking our best, whatever that is, whether simple attire is the best we have, or formal attire is the best we have. We should give God our best.

Being a small group leader may not be as public and there are fewer eyes on the facilitator, nonetheless, it is important that she/he take that responsibility seriously. Thus, paying some attention to your appearance and demeanor sets a good tone for the group.

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Witherington on Preaching, part IV

Witherington on Preaching, part IV
Excerpt:

This of course means good sermon preparation is necessary. Good reading of good resources, good meditation and reflection on the Biblical text, good clarity of expression when you have grasped the meaning of the text, and so on. If your thinking is muddled about a passage, then by all means find another one you can be clear about. Muddled thinking leads to bad exposition and poor sermonizing. The issue is not usually ‘is the text clear’, but rather ‘is the preacher cloudy’ and doesn’t see through his clouds to the clarity in the text.

Though a small group Bible study leader does not have as large an audience as a preacher and as high a level of training as a pastor, the small group Bible study leader should have the same kind of willingness to prepare conscientiously.