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Mission Devotional - February 9, 2016

Opening Prayer: O God, our Heavenly Father, help us to come to our senses today and return to you, whatever that may look like. And when we do, help us find you there to meet us: running, leaping, laughing, hugging, kissing, and celebrating. It is more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32

Journal: In what ways do you need to come home to the Father today? What do you think his reaction is to you? Do you dare imagine that it is like the one in Luke 15? Place yourself inside this story and experience the tender love of the Father.

Reflection: We all know the story. A father has two sons. The younger of the two comes and asks for his share of the inheritance, so the father gives it to him. The son then proceeds to leave the house for a distant land where he squanders his inheritance on wild living. When he reaches bottom, in the filth and stink of the pig sty, he finally comes to his senses and returns home, practicing his speech all along the way, hoping his father will have mercy on him and take him back. But the father had not been angry, in fact, the father had been waiting, watching, hoping, and dreaming of the day he would see his son on the horizon, coming back home. That's where it gets really good. That's where we begin to see the depths of the heart of this Father. Just look at the words.

While he was still a long way off. Don't you love this! I love it because the son hadn't arrived yet. The father loved him while he was still a long way off. In fact, that's where the father met him. He didn't meet him on the porch, and he didn't meet him inside the house. He met him out in the field while he was still a long way off. The son was totally loved and totally accepted by the father. I don't know about you, but that is a great comfort to me, because I haven't arrived yet either. I am still a major work in progress too. I'm still in process. I'm still on the way. In many ways I'm still a long way off. I'm still a mess, yet God the father loves me, accepts me, and meets me right there in the midst of it all. What a father!

His father saw him. I absolutely love this word! It is more than just a casual seeing. In fact, this word is used often to describe Jesus' type of seeing. It means to see into. It is a seeing that goes far beyond the surface, to the very heart. We all have such a deep longing to be seen. I know, I know, we are fearful and hiding most of the time, but, at our core, we really do long to be seen, to be known, to be accepted, and to be loved anyway. We are so tired of hiding. We are so tired of trying to make things look okay on the surface. We know better. We know what really lies underneath. But when we keep people on the surface in fear, we will never be truly known. And we were made to be known. The amazing thing is that the Father sees us, all the way to the core, and loves us anyway. He sees us and doesn't run away screaming. In fact, he does just the opposite.

He was filled with compassion. Instead of being repulsed by what he had seen, a deep love welled up in his heart. The words used here literally mean to be moved from the depths of your being. When the father saw the son (really saw him), he was deeply moved, from the depths of his heart, with love. Be really honest here. How do you think God really looks at you? When he sees you, what fills his heart? My honest answers are: disappointment, frustration, sadness, contempt, or, at the very least, indifference. What about you? Fill in the blank. When God sees me he is filled with ______. The truth is that he is filled with a love that comes from the depths of his heart. We are loved more deeply than we could ever imagine.

He ran. He what? Are you kidding me? God ran? God ran to me? He didn't wait. He didn't make the son come crawling back. He didn't stay on the porch. As a matter of fact, he couldn't stay on the porch. His heart just would not allow it. His heart would not allow his feet to be still, so he ran. That's what the whole incarnation is all about, by the way. God just couldn't stay away. He desires us so deeply that he runs to us.

He threw his arms around him. In spite of the leaving home, in spite of the time in a distant land, in spite of squandering his inheritance, in spite of the fact that the stink of the pig sty was still heavily upon him; he threw his arms around him. He didn't make him go inside and change his clothes first, he didn't make him take a bath and get cleaned up, he wrapped his arms around him. We all long to be deeply embraced: warts and all, stink and all, dirt and all. God longs to wrap his arms around us.

He kissed him. And not only did he kiss him, but the words literally mean, he kissed him much. He smothered him with kisses. He could not stop kissing him, so deep was his love and affection for his son. God has deep affection for us. God longs for intimate and passionate relationship with us.

So they began to celebrate. All of us deeply long to be celebrated. In fact, we long for it so deeply that we will be celebrated somehow by someone. We will work to make sure it happens, or die trying. Accomplishments, achievements, reputation, appearance, performance, etc. Unfortunately, when we seek to have our need to be celebrated satisfied by the world alone, it is like a dog chasing its tail. It is an endless cycle of need and desire. It is a bottomless pit. That is because we are chasing something that only God can give us. God celebrates you!!! He is delighted in you!!! Come home to him, whatever that may look like for you today. Come home and join in the celebration.

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

J. and C. are working in a Creative Access country for World Outreach. J. is developing an entry platform using sustainable technologies that will provide income and economic development among the people they are ministering to. Pray today for wisdom as they look critically at the pace and scale of the project for 2016.

KDEC or Kasr El Dobara Church is the largest evangelical church in the middle east. Started in 1948, it has grown to a membership of 8,000 members. Pray today for the ministry leaders of this church.

Closing Prayer: Father, thank you that you ran. Thank you that your heart was so full of love for our return that you couldn't get to us quickly enough, you couldn't keep your hands from our hair, or your lips from our cheeks. Thank you that that's the kind of Father you are. May we find ourselves in your loving embrace today. Amen.