What is one fond memory you have of either your father or a father figure in your life?
Gene shared the story of the remarkable father and the prodigal son, along with three characteristics of remarkable fathers.
The first characteristic is that remarkable fathers often possess unconventional wisdom.
Have someone read Luke 15:11-19.
In this passage, Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son to a diverse group of people. He speaks of a son who has grown tired of life at home. He wants to go far away and live how he pleases, so he boldly asks his father for his part of his inheritance now, essentially saying to his father, “You’re worth more to me dead than alive.”
Even though it would have been controversial, and the father had to know it wouldn't end well, he did what the son requested. Sometimes parents have to make decisions that are hard. He had determined that his son had finally reached a point in his life that he wasn't going to learn in any other way.
The Bible says in Hebrews that God disciplines those He loves. Sometimes our Heavenly Father lets us go through tough stuff as a way of helping us grow when we've demonstrated we can't grow in any other way. God says, "You want to be the god of your universe for a while, well I'll step back and see how it goes. You pack your bags and go off to a distant land for a while."
Sometimes God allows us to bottom-out physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or relationally. It's tough love, and we’ve all been on both the giving and the receiving end of tough love.
Share a time you’ve had to give tough love.
The son goes through all of his money, his entire inheritance, wasting it all away on parties and prostitutes. He has let go of the values of his family and is making choices that are harmful to him. Soon his whole life is spinning out of control. The son ends up broken, penniless, and bankrupt. He ends up doing something no Jewish man would do: he gets a job feeding pigs and is so hungry he wishes he could eat the food he is giving to the pigs.
These feelings lead him to think, “What I wouldn't give for a second chance. What I wouldn't give for a fresh start and new beginning.” Gratefully, our Heavenly Father does some of His greatest miracles in the pigpens of our lives.
When is a time in life you’ve been in transition, looking for a second chance, a fresh start, or a new beginning?
Have someone read Luke 15:20-29.
The boy decides to go home and beg for forgiveness. He is willing to be a servant rather than a son, if only his father will take him back into his household.
Then the craziest thing happens, while the boy is still a long way off his father sees him and is filled with compassion for him. The father runs to his son, throws his arms around him and hugs him and kisses him.
The second characteristic of a remarkable father is that he possesses an expressive love.
The most important characteristic of a remarkable father, a father who portrays what God his like to his children, is the ability to instill in a child the sense that he or she is truly, deeply loved.
Three practical tools to express love are a look, a word, and a touch.
A simple look can convey a range of emotions. The father saw the son; he made eye contact with him as he ran to embrace him.
Words are powerful, and all children need re-enforcing words that let them know they are treasured and loved, and you believe in them. If we are honest, we are all like children in this way. We want to know that we are loved, that the people we care about believe in us.
Not everyone had a remarkable dad, a dad who demonstrated love with loving looks, embraces, and words, but regardless of our upbringing, today we have a remarkable Father who loves us.
In the story, this remarkable dad says for all to hear, "This son of mine was lost, but now he is found." He is speaking words of affirmation.
Who in your life who needs your forgiveness or needs to hear how much they mean to you?
Have someone read I John 3:1.
Scripture teaches us how much our Heavenly Father loves us, and God has given us the Churchin, in which we can experience community with other believers who will encourage us and believe in us.
Through this story we see this remarkable father not only possessed unconventional wisdom, and expressive love but was also full of extravagant forgiveness. In Middle Eastern culture, if a son wasted his inheritance, he would not have been received with open arms. Instead, the people in the village would go with the father and smash vases before the son as a symbol of shunning and ex-communication.
But this father did the opposite, embracing his son, forgiving him and celebrating his return. Many of us know what it is like to feel the consequences of our bad choices. We might not know what it is like to be shunned by a community, but we have had someone turn their back on us, someone we cared about who chose to exclude us from their life. Maybe we have done this to someone else.
Jesus tells us this story in Luke to give us a picture of how much God loves us, how much he longs for us to run to Him and experience his total and complete forgiveness. We don't have to be perfect and wait until we have our act together. We can come to Him messy and broken.
Forgiveness is costly. It requires giving up the right to feel slighted, loving people who have hurt us or let us down. It is messy and difficult, but who of us has never been in a place where we have needed that kind of forgiveness? When we choose to forgive, we give people a picture of what it is like to have a Heavenly Father who is anxious to forgive.
What can you do to create an atmosphere in your home that signals to your kids, family or close friends know that if they return they will receive extravagant forgiveness?
Have someone read Luke 15: 31-32.
Jesus said there is rejoicing among the angels in heaven when one sinner turns God's direction.
If you're a follower of Jesus, but you've been stuck in guilt, shame fear and feelings of unworthiness and disappointing God, remember that God ran to you and He has never let you go. He's right there with you. It's time to stop running away and run into His arms.
Gene shared the quote "It's never too late to be who you might have been." It's never too late to become God's best version of you, the you that He had in mind when He made you.
In what area of your life do you want to become God’s best version of yourself? What is the next step you can take to make that a reality?
Break into groups of two to three people and share something that spoke to you in this study, something that you feel you should address in your life. Pray for each other to have wisdom and courage to love expressively and forgive extravagantly.