Home from a Far Country

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32, Jonah 1:1-3, Luke 15:8-10
You will never be happy until you surrender to the Lord because you are designed for a relationship with God. He will make you restless until you find your rest in Him.
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It's been estimated that every year in North America, somewhere between 1.3 and 1.5 million young people run away from home. Fortunately, within 24 hours, about 20% of those come back. Within a week, about 75% come home. Some never come home. You know many of God's children are right now awol from his family.

Are you running away, friends? Perhaps it's time for you to Reclaim Your Faith. Being in the world, I had to always have more - more to drink, more to steal - I was always looking behind my shoulder. I do know that it was an empty feeling and, at times, there were even thoughts of suicide because nothing really made me happy. I continued living my life very dangerously. I couldn't walk out the door without drinking.

I couldn't step out the door without getting high. My mother was talking to me telling me she was praying for me and how she wanted me so much just to get back involved with the church. And deep down inside I wanted to, but I was a walking zombie - I didn't even know myself. And finally, it caught up to me. I got hurt at my job.

I didn't know what to do with myself. The company soon had to lay me off because I was of no use to them. I had surgery on my back and, though it helped me, it didn't last for long before the doctor said, and I agreed with him, I couldn't carry on. Being at home and I had nothing to do, God started speaking to my heart more. The morning of April the 18th everything changed in my life.

I felt this presence of God all over me. I felt like I just wanted to scream out and cry and ask God to forgive me and to save me from myself - my wretched self. And I was suicidal. I didn't have a respect for life and now all of a sudden I wanted life. I wanted God in my life and I didn't want the things of the world any longer and I made a decision right then and there - I did not take a drink that day.

I did not smoke. I did not take any pills. And by the time my wife came home that afternoon I was a mess. I was sweating, I was crying, I was trying to tell her everything that I was going through and how God was going to save my life and how I was giving my life to God and I was sorry. I couldn't read very well, but I started reading and I started studying and I started praying - and everything that I learned as a child, it was still right here in my heart.

Here I was all along thinking that the world would give me freedom and it led me to enslavement and then when I gave my life to the Lord, now I have freedom. I have happiness. I have joy. I have a marriage. I have my children.

I have life. My name is buddy harper and I reclaimed my faith. Amen. I met that brother a little while ago at one of our evangelism training programs. We heard so many incredible testimonies.

Once again, friends, we're very thankful that you are here for the 'Reclaim Your Faith' program. And I hope those of you who are here - part of the live audience - will be praying in your hearts. As I said, I realize that in some respect, I might be talking here to the choir, but we know statistically there are a lot of people that are going to church that are just hanging by their fingernails and we want to encourage you who are in the church to hold on to that plow and not look back. And then there are some of you that have maybe drifted away - we're thankful that you're here, we're thankful that you're watching, and the Lord is calling you. You know, one of the stories in the Bible that always amazed me is the story of Jonah.

How a prophet of God - I mean, you've got to be a church member to be a prophet of God - could think you could run from God. Jonah chapter 1, verse 1, "now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, The Son of amittai, saying, 'arise and go to nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.' But Jonah arose to flee to tarshish from the presence of the Lord. And he went down to joppa, and he found a ship going to tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Jonah was running from The Father. God said for him to go east and he went west. How can you run from the presence of God? Where can I flee from your spirit? It might be some of you here are watching and you think that God doesn't see you.

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth. God sees us wherever we go. Jesus said, 'I'm with you wherever you go.' You can't hide from God. And I hope you realize that the Lord - he chases after the ones he loves and he will make you restless until you find your rest in him. You will never be happy until you surrender to the Lord and to his will - because you are designed for a relationship with God.

And so, especially those, maybe who have grown up in the church and never really had a personal relationship, they're still looking for that meaning and so they try to find it out in the world. And they run from their Father's house. You know, I heard an amazing story from history about a gentleman named douglas corrigan. Now, he's from an earlier generation - my father's era - my father was a pilot and back when charles lindbergh flew the spirit of st. Louis across the atlantic, one of the mechanics that worked on that plane was douglas corrigan.

And corrigan, he was so inspired by what lindbergh did, that he thought, 'I want to set a record.' This was in the age when everybody was setting aviation records. He said, 'no one has flown from America to ireland yet.' And being irish he said, 'I'm going to be the first.' But he didn't have enough money for a plane. Well, he worked - he actually taught flying - he was a good pilot, he did aerobatic flying - you've heard of barnstorming? He was a barnstorming pilot and went to the county fairs and was very skilled. And finally earned enough money where he bought this curtiss robin plane. And it was a little broken down but he kind of patched it up and he applied to what was then the faa for permission to fly from New York to ireland.

And they looked at his plane and they said, 'no way.' They said, 'that thing won't make it. We've lost so many people trying.' And he kept applying and he kept trying and they said, 'no corrigan, that plane is not qualified. We're not sure you're qualified - you're a barnstorming aerobatic pilot - you're too risky.' Well, so you know what he did, he flew from long beach, California to brooklyn, new york, filled it up with fuel early one morning, filed a flight plan to go back to California and when he took off in the fog he circled around and headed east. Well, about 26 hours later he landed in ireland. And when he did, he told everybody, 'my compass must have been broken.

' He said, 'I got lost in the fog.' And they kept drilling him for the truth and he said, 'it was an accident.' Of course, they made a hero out of him because he was the first one who flew to ireland. He nearly died along the way. His plane gas started leaking into his old plane and he had to punch a hole with his screwdriver through the floor board because it was pooling up around his feet and it nearly caught the exhaust on fire - it was just above the water and barely made it - but he made it. And then, you know, from then until now have you ever heard someone say, 'he pulled a wrong-way corrigan.'? Football player catches a ball and goes the wrong way up the field. It's based on this fella who went - supposedly got lost going to l.

a. And ended up in ireland. Typically, when we're going that far in the wrong direction, it's deliberate. You know, we've been looking at some stories in Luke, chapter 15. We talked last night about the lost sheep.

And, you know, there's this story that you find here about - in verse 8 - "what woman, having silver coins, if she loses one, does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it. And when she finds it, she calls her friends and her neighbors together, saying, 'rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Now, the coin didn't know it was lost. A woman in Bible symbology - do you know what it represents? Typically a church. Sometimes in our churches we've got a precious lost coin and we must make an effort to light the lamp of God's Word and to sweep with that diligence and look through the community and find those precious coins that may not even know if they're lost. They used to be in the woman's house, but they've been misplaced somehow.

I wonder how many churches have some precious silver that's been misplaced. And then we go to another - the sheep, he wanders, he doesn't know what's going on. He just gets lost - a coin certainly doesn't know, but when you get to the last story, it's not an accident, it's deliberate desertion. The prodigal son. Luke 15, verse 11, and then Jesus goes on and he says, "a certain man had two sons and the younger of them says to his father, 'father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.

' So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and he journeyed to a far country and there he wasted his possessions with prodigal - or wild, wasteful - living." You know, I used to think what this meant was the boy said to his father, 'you know, I'm waiting for you to die so I can get my inheritance, but you're taking too long and your health looks really good, so can you just, you know, pay up now.' But it wasn't uncommon in Bible times for the younger son - maybe, especially if he was engaged - to get his inheritance to start his family - at least part of it. But the boy evidently didn't have any marital prospects and he didn't want to live under The Father's thumb. He evidently didn't get along very well with his brother and he said, 'look, I just want to get out from under dad's rules and regulations.' There was some tension - 'dad's too strict and old-fashioned.' You ever heard that? Boy, my mom and dad were so different. My dad was a republican, my mother was a democrat.

My dad was a redneck, my mother was a hippie. When I got in trouble my dad said, 'military school' and my mother said, 'he needs a free school where he can explore and find himself.' And so, like that prodigal, I ran away from home several times. And the last time, once I ran away living with mom - three times I was arrested as a runaway - started when I was 13 - last time I was 15 - and I wanted to get away from my dad's regimentation and rules and regulations so I could be free - you know what I think is really funny is when these young people tell their parents, 'mom, dad, I don't know how to break this to you but I've joined the marines because I need more freedom. I wanted to get away from mom and dad's rules.' So they joined the military. And so he says, 'divide to me the inheritance.

' Well, the first-born son, he gets two-thirds, the other son, he gets one-third and it doesn't take him very long before he liquidates whatever else he's got and maybe he leaves a note, maybe he says good-bye, but he leaves. And he doesn't just leave for the neighboring town where rumors might get back to his dad about what he's doing, but he goes into a far country. He wants to get as far away from the influence of his home, and maybe his conscience, as he can. The last time I ran away from home I was living in miami beach with my dad. I went to California and the reason I stopped there is there was an ocean in the way and I didn't have a boat.

I wanted to get as far away as I could so I could be free and discover myself. Well, I can relate a little bit with this story. It says, "while he was there in that far country" - he starts out - he seems to be really having a good time - he's got a little spare change, he's having fun with his friends, and he begins to run out of resources. After I first ran away I sold everything I had to my brother, took whatever other money I had - by the time I got to roanoke, Virginia, I got together with some people playing pool and drinking and gambling and I lost all my money and I got out there on the road with nothing. I continued hitchhiking to California.

Well, God in his providence allowed a famine to come. You know, sometimes when we run away from home, there is a period of enjoyment and pleasure - you'll have at least the illusion of freedom for awhile - the Bible talks about the pleasures of sin for a season - and he did have a little bit of a party with his friends and as long as he was willing to buy the drinks, he had friends. The Bible tells us that when you've got money you'll at least seem like you've got friends for awhile. But then it was all gone. He went to swipe his card and the cashier said, sorry, there's nothing left.

He said, 'I don't understand, I still have checks in my book. I should still have money.' And then there - simultaneous with running out of money, "there came a famine in the land and he began to be in want." Now, while that boy is in the far country, what is The Father doing? His heart is yearning after his son in this far country. He is praying for his son. I wonder how he's praying - how do you pray for your kids? 'Lord, keep them safe. Keep them well.

Watch over them. Bless them.' Sometimes you might say, 'Lord, bring into their lives whatever they need to be saved for eternity.' Can you think of a time in the Bible when there was a prophet who not just prayed for blessing but he prayed, actually, that God would send a famine? The Bible tells us in the book of James that Elijah was a man subject to like passions as you and me and he prayed that it wouldn't rain. He prayed in order to bring the people back to God that God would actually withdraw the rain because they were giving credit to a false God. And it took trouble for them to turn back to God. Have you read the book of Judges? It talks about whenever they were doing well they would forget the Lord and then God would withdraw his protection and there would be trouble and they'd turn back to God.

And so, when you're praying for the salvation of the ones you love, don't pray that God sends them trouble, necessarily, but you pray he sends them whatever they need to be saved for eternity. If you're praying that God just blesses them and makes them comfortable on their way to destruction are you really helping them? And so, maybe that dad was praying and a famine came to that country and he had nothing to eat. Maybe one of his former bar buddies is the one who had the pig farm and it says in verse , "and he went and he joined himself to a citizen of that country and he sent him into the fields to feed swine. Now, keep in mind, you've got Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, who is talking to Jewish listeners about this Jewish boy that goes into a far country and he ends up tending someone else's pork chops. That was as low as you could get.

In the Bible, if you wanted to talk about reaching the bottom - Jesus said 'you don't give that which is holy to the dogs and you don't cast your pearls before swine.' You know, it's amazing that you stay away from The Father's house very long, you can forget everything you learned and end up in the dumpster. My dad was very well off, had a nice home - a mansion, butler, maid, we ate with real silverware that was really silver. You know, I call plastic silverware now. It makes you feel better. But, when I started living on the streets and hanging around with the wrong crowd, pretty soon, you start imitating the people that you're hanging around with.

And I was living with street people - is really - that's what we were. And they'd sleep on the streets or wherever they could. I had this one friend, his name was little ritchie - he was very short - he was just under -feet, I think, and he had had rickets when he was young or something and he just never grew. And at night he would crawl into the goodwill box and sleep - you know, people would make clothing donations and he - it was a great bed - it kept him warm at night and he'd sleep there. But I remember him telling me one morning very early someone made a donation of pots and pans while he was in the box.

And I would have liked to have seen their faces when he started shouting. 'What are you doing?' But these are the - oh, these people I was hanging out with - you know, we slept in abandoned buildings, I was living in the mountains in a cave most of the time, but some of my friends were showing me the secrets of dining in the dumpster. And when I first realized that these people were getting food out of a garbage can, I thought that was absolutely revolting. But I watched - I was intrigued - from a distance. And I thought, 'really? You're kidding me.

You get food out of a garbage can? And you eat it?' 'Aw man, there's good stuff in here. You know, they've got cans they're just dented, they're fine. When you open them up, you still hear them pop - they're good.' And, you know, 'these bananas, the peel's still good - a little brown, that's when they're sweet.' And they were telling me all the - you know, the finer secrets of dumpster cuisine. That's a little too much information, but I noticed what happened to me is I kept hanging around with these people and pretty soon I'd get closer and closer to the dumpster, you know, I'd make sure there's no witnesses because that's not where we got our groceries when I grew up. And, but it got easier and easier for me to get closer and closer until pretty soon I would join them in an advisory capacity.

I'd say, 'over there, it looks like that's still good. That bread's still in the wrapper.' And then I got to where I would reach over the side - it smells awful - but, you know, if something was still in the container I figured it hasn't been here long, it's probably safe. If you get hungry enough, you'd be surprised. You'll eat just about anything if you get hungry enough. But I've never been hungry enough to eat beets.

Other than that first time I tried them. And then, pretty soon, I was climbing over the edge with the best of them and rooting around in a dumpster. And my grandparents heard about this - they lived not far away in desert hot springs and they told my father, 'did you know dougie is getting food out of the garbage can behind the Market?' And here my father lived in a mansion. How do you think that made my father feel when, you know, he grew up during the depression, was a pilot in world war ii, was part of that generation - worked hard so his kids would never suffer and he tries to raise them with the best education, best opportunity and then he hears my son is getting food out of a garbage can. How do you think our heavenly father feels when, after he has paid so much that you might live in a mansion someday, that we go to the garbage of the devil's dumpster for happiness? It breaks his heart.

And, you know, you can get sick doing that. I had a friend - found a great big ole block of cheese in the dumpster - and even though the cheese may have been good, you know, you'll get sick if you eat three pounds of cheese. So, he was out there feeding the pigs and he was so hungry that he wanted to eat the husks that the pigs were rejecting. You've got to be pretty hungry at a time like that. And even though he was becoming emaciated, it says, 'no one gave him anything.

' The world cannot satisfy what you really need. The world will not be able to satisfy that real hunger - that hunger for the bread of life is only going to come from The Father's house. And there are people out there that are going from one thing to the next so they're getting deeper and deeper in addictions and they keep having to up their prescription because they're looking for some kind of peace and satisfaction. You're never going to be satisfied, in this life, without Jesus. And you're going to find him in church - in spite of the people that may be there with their problems, in spite of all the flaws and the wrinkles and the difficulties, the church is the object on earth upon which God bestows his supreme regard, it is the apple of his eye, it is the people for whom, he died and he wants you in that group.

It is the crucible where we learn to be like Christ. So, while he was out there with the pigs, he started to think about when they used to get the fresh bread out of the oven at home and all the things he had taken for granted in his Father's house. He came to himself. It's like he woke up one day and said, 'what in the world am I doing?' He went to work and he smelled the pigs again for the first time and - I don't know if you've ever taken care of pigs - I have. I had some neighbors that had a little farm and they'd go on vacation and ask us to milk the cows and feed the pigs - I didn't mind milking the cows so much, but the only word I can think of to describe pigs is to tell you that they're pigs! And they smell awful and they have really bad habits.

And he, one day, went back to work and thought 'what in the world am I doing here? I am a Jewish boy feeding pigs!' He had an epiphany. He said, 'here my father has got servants, he's got silos full of food. There is bread in my Father's house. What am I doing here?' And he came to his senses. That's kind of like - sin will make you crazy.

Really. It's like Nebuchadnezzar, he was so full of pride, next thing you knew he was out of his mind. And it took seven years for him to wake up and come to himself and the first thing that came out of his mouth when he came to himself was, 'I praise the God in heaven.' Because unless God is your priority, you're not thinking straight. Really. I mean, it's like Moses before the children of Israel entered the promised land.

His closing sermon he said, 'let me make it plain.' No, I put that in, but this is essentially what he said. He said, 'I am setting before you, this day, life and good and blessing or death and evil and cursing. Which one do you want?' Now, when you put it that way, what would you say that you want? Do you want the life and good and blessing of being a Christian and in the church? In spite of the problems it's a lot better than being out here where there's the death and the evil and the cursing. And that's why Jesus is wanting to bless you. He begins his sermon with beatitudes because he wants to bless his people.

There is no happiness outside of The Father's house and no one gave him anything. Finally he came to his senses and he said, 'you know, how many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare? They've got extra, they eat to the full.' You know, whenever Jesus fed people it says they had leftovers. He'd multiply the bread and there were leftovers. Elisha blessed the vessel of oil there in 2 Kings, chapter 4 and the woman poured it and it just was overflowing. God blesses with an abundance and here he was wanting to eat the husks - the seed pods that the pigs were snorting through.

They've got food to spare. Jesus is wanting to give you that bread of life. "And I perish with hunger." You know, Jesus came into the world, very simply, John 3:16, he came into the world that you might not perish. And if you're not eating the bread of life at least every week - you should be every day - you will surely perish. You're going to be starving.

You know, in the last days, the Bible foretells there's going to be a famine in the land and it's 'not a famine for bread or a thirst for water' - this is Amos chapter 8 - 'but for hearing the Word of God.' And I think you might even find a famine, sometimes, among religious people - because there are so many counterfeit versions of the Word of God. People will read one little verse and then they'll talk about the latest magazine articles. People need to really get into the grist of God's Word. There's an abundance of truth in The Father's house 'and I perish with hunger.' You know, it's interesting when they woke up Jonah when he was running from God - oh, by the way, going back to Jonah - my mind bounces around like that - it's because I used drugs when I was young, so you just have to deal with it. Going back to Jonah, when he was asleep in the boat on the way to destruction, God sent a storm to save him.

And the Lord sent a famine to save that boy. And maybe some of you who have been out of the church, you've been going through some trials and wondering 'why is this happening?' And it could be because God loves you and he's trying to get your attention. Sometimes it takes a crisis and it might be a crisis in your marriage. It could be a crisis with your health or work, and God is saying, 'hello. Can I have your attention please?' And when the captain woke up Jonah, you know what he said? 'Arise o sleeper.

Carest not that we perish?' Jesus was once asleep in a boat during a storm and they woke him up and they asked Jesus the dumbest question in the world. They said, 'master, carest not that we perish?' Does Jesus care whether or not we perish? Why did he come into this world? That we might not perish. And if you've got Jesus in your boat, you're going to make it friends. He said, 'I perish with hunger, I will arise.' God told Jonah, 'arise and go.' Finally he said, 'I will arise and go to my father and I'll say to him, 'father' - he's got his speech prepared - how can I walk back and talk to dad after what I've done? Here I basically was so rude, disrespectful, didn't honor him, asked for my inheritance early? And then I took it and I'm coming back with nothing to show for it - he worked for years to get all that.' You notice the boy - earlier he wanted his father but he didn't want a relationship with his father - I'm sorry, he wanted his father's blessings - he wanted his father's resources, but he didn't want The Father. Now, I think everybody here wants God's blessings.

There are whole churches that are built around 'the reason that God exists is just to be a funnel of blessings for you.' Really, we exist for the glory of God. And the secret of life is not, ultimately, your happiness, it's your holiness. But your holiness will lead to happiness. And by the way, Jesus said it's more blessed to give than receive and the most important way for you to be blessed is to give your heart then you receive the greatest blessing. That's the only way you're going to ever be happy is by giving your life to Jesus.

'I'm going to arise and go to my father's house.' He's thinking about 'how do I ever face him again after what I've done?' You know, it wasn't until years later I was talking to my dad that I realized, you know, I had an older brother that was sick and I was the young, healthy one. My brother used to always say, 'life is not fair.' My brother had cystic fibrosis. He said, 'doug, here I'm smart but I'm sick and you're healthy but you're stupid.' Brothers can talk that way to each other. And when here I was the baby of the family and I ran away at 15 and I never called my dad, sometimes for months, and all he knew is I was living up in the mountains by myself. And I had no idea how hurt he was about that until sometimes - it was like 20 years later I was talking to him and this flurry of emotion came out.

He said, 'all those months when we didn't know where you were. We didn't know whether you were dead or alive.' And it finally dawned on me, 'boy, you know, now I'm a parent I get an idea of how much that really hurt him.' So this boy's heading home and he's thinking, 'how can I ever face him again after what I've done? I'll go and here's what I'll say. I have to confess. Father, I have sinned' - by the way, you must confess when you come to God. Don't be afraid.

Does he know anyway? Oh, you'll feel better if you confess. He already knows, you're not going to shock him. One of the first things you do is you repent. Tell God you're sorry and confess your sins and as soon as you do that, you give him permission to release the power of his spirit in your life. 'And I'll say, 'father I have sinned against heaven and before you.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' Who's worthy to be a Son of God? That's why John tells us in John chapter 3, 'behold what manner of love that The Father's bestowed on us.' He can't even explain it, he says, 'just behold it - that we should be called sons of God.' He's willing to give us a new name and bring us back into the family with the full stature of being sons. I'm not worthy. What is it that makes us worthy? It's only God's grace and his son Jesus Christ. 'I'm not worthy to be called your son, make me one of your hired servants.' Now, that is the attitude that we all need when we come back to The Father. 'Lord, I'm willing to come and serve you.

I don't deserve to be your son. I'll be happy as your servant. And so, he begins his journey home. He arose and he came to his father and it took a long way for him to plod. He probably didn't have any spare food in his backpack - had to beg along the way.

But he was shocked as he started getting near the family farm, while he was still a great way off coming over the hill and the silhouette of his form there is seen hobbling along. As soon as The Father spies him he runs to meet him. He doesn't make him wait - you know, some of us, I think, we'd say, 'well, I told you you'd be coming dragging back.' Arms folded on the front porch tapping our foot looking the other way. And say, 'all right. Was I right or was I right?' That's what I'd probably do.

We've got that speech, 'I told you so.' Or we'd make that statement in front of the spouse. 'Didn't I tell you that he'd' - but not this father. He can't even wait for him to come home. So that he won't be left with any doubt of his acceptance, he arises and he runs to meet him. You know, there's a promise in the Bible, it says, 'you draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

' Our Father in Heaven is so anxious for us to be saved - that means that as soon as we take some steps and we begin to move towards God and he sees us making an effort to come to him, what does he do? He will run to meet us. Now, how come that father didn't send out bounty hunters to find The Son when he first went away from home? Can you force someone to love you? And, you know, our father in heaven can't force you to come home. He's not going to force you to come back to church. You've got to come to your senses and take those first steps and say, you know, I believe this is where I'm supposed to be. There's bread in my Father's house.

And as you come, as soon as you make that first step, you draw near to God, he will draw near to you. You know, there are a number of Scriptures that are on that line. First you come and you come confessing - Jeremiah chapter 3, verse 14, "'only acknowledge your iniquity that you've transgressed against the Lord your God. That you've not obeyed my voice' says the Lord." He's pleading with Israel here, he says, "'return o backsliding children' says the Lord, 'for I am married to you.'" You know, not only here in Jeremiah, but in the book of Hosea, God not only compares it to a father and a son, but he compares it to a husband and a wife, and he says, 'you know, even though you've been unfaithful, even though you've gone after other Gods, I love you so much that I'll still take you back.' That takes a lot of love because, I'll tell you, you know, one of the most difficult things to deal with is when there's been infidelity in a marriage. Some people fold their arms and stomp their foot and say, 'that's the end!' But God's love is so incredible that he says to his people, 'even after you have spurned my love with someone else, return to me.

' He says to his people, "'return o backsliding children' says the Lord, 'for I'm married to you.'" And again, in verse 22, "return you backsliding children and I will heal your backsliding." You know, I think about the story in the Bible where Jacob ran away from home, he left the Father's house and then he comes home, but it's sort of different because Jacob leaves poor and he comes back rich. This boy leaves rich and he comes back poor. And the Lord still receives him. You know one of my favorite stories in the Bible - matter of fact, I don't know if I've ever read it without having my eyes puddle up - is the story of Joseph occupies the latter half of Genesis and Jacob's supreme love was for rachel and the first son of rachel - she couldn't have a baby for years - was this promised boy named Joseph and he just lavished so much love on Joseph - he loved him more than any father should probably love a son. In front of all his brothers he gives him this robe of many colors and just indulges him.

And then his brothers are jealous and so they sell Joseph. Father thinks he's been killed. Carried off as a slave to another land. Ends up not only being a slave but being a prisoner - and you can read the whole story there of Joseph and his trials - and all of a sudden how he goes from the prison to the palace in one day. And then finally he reveals himself to his brothers - that he's alive.

And you know what he finally says weeping? He says, 'is my father alive?' His heart was breaking to be reunited with his father. And he sends an army along with his brothers back and he says, 'bring my father.' And you've got that picture in the Bible finally, when Jacob realizes his son is alive and you can just picture Joseph getting out of his gilded chariot and Jacob getting off of his wagon and embracing and sobbing and hugging each other. It says they fell on one another and they kissed the neck. And just the joy of that reunion. How anxious is God to be reunited with you? You think that God's mad at you? Sin will destroy you.

It's not because God doesn't love you, it's the nature of sin. God doesn't need to be mad at you. Sin, it just self-destructs. And then, that's why time is of the essence. The longer that we wait to come back to The Father's house - we're living a very risky life that we're going to starve or end up like the pigs that we live with.

You know, you can come to your senses and wake up and have an epiphany and say, 'I need to arise and go to my father.' When you realize that, you need to act on it. It is dangerous for you to think that you can play with the gift of repentance and that it will come later at your call. God tells us in acts chapter 2, repentance is even a gift. And so the impression that you've got that you need to come back to church, you need to act on it when you get it because that's a gift of God. God is calling you.

And the longer that we say no to The Father's speaking to us and through his spirit wooing us, the volume can get lower and lower - it can be drowned out by all the other background noise so that you can get to the place where you don't hear it anymore. And so, if you hear The Father calling you, if you know that it's time for you to come back, don't wait for a better opportunity, now is the time. You know, I wouldn't be doing justice to this story if I didn't read the rest of what happens here, because the boy that ran away is not the only one that's having problems. There's a boy who stays home that has a problem in The Father's house. He comes to his father - verse , "and while he's a great way off The Father sees and has compassion.

He runs to him. He fell on his neck. He kissed him. And The Son begins his speech 'father, I've sinned against heaven and in your sight'" - how did Jesus tell us to pray when the disciples asked him? The first thing he said is, 'when you pray, pray in this manner, 'our father' he's telling us that not only can we love God like this - that we can approach him as a father - that we can expect him to love us like a father. With that patience and that mercy.

"'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But The Father, as soon as he saw that he was repentant and he confessed, he stopped him and he said to his servants, 'bring the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it. And let us eat and be merry.

For this, my son, was dead and he's alive again. He was lost and he's found. And they began to rejoice. Now, what does that robe represent? That's the robe of Christ's righteousness. It's interesting - Joseph's brothers covered their sin of betraying Joseph by presenting to The Father a blood-stained robe.

The only thing that Jesus leaves behind when he comes to this world - that they gamble over - is that blood-stained robe. What did Jacob give Joseph? A royal robe of many colors. In all these stories, this represents that robe of adoption, that robe of righteousness. The Bible says that the redeemed have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. And The Father is offering us purity, forgiveness, a new beginning, righteousness through the blood of Jesus.

He's offering that to everybody. If you come - you draw near to him he will run to meet you. And you can have a new beginning in The Father's house. And up 'til now, everything is going great, but the brother is upset. And so he hears all the feasting - the older son was in the field, verse 25, "and he drew near the house and he heard the music and dancing and he called one of the servants and said, 'what does this all mean?' And they said, 'your brother has come home and because he, your father, received him safe and sound, he's killed the fatted calf.

' And he was angry and would not go in." A preacher was talking about this with his congregation one time and he said, now, somebody in this story was very unhappy - who was the most unhappy in this story and one little boy raised his hand and said, 'the fatted calf.' But, obviously, that other brother wasn't very happy. He's in The Father's house, but he doesn't have the same spirit as The Father. He doesn't have that relationship. The Father came out to him - again, you see the love of The Father. He wants to reach him, he wants to be joined to him.

And he pleaded with him. Now you notice that you can be lost out of church and you can be lost in The Father's house too. So this message is really to appeal to everybody to come to The Father. He said to his father, "'all these years I've been serving you and I never transgressed your commandment at any time, and yet you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends. And as soon as this son of yours'" - it doesn't say 'my brother' - your son.

Whenever our boys are in trouble, Karen tells me they're my boys. "'Whenever this son of yours has devoured your livelihood with harlots you kill for him the fatted calf?' And he said, 'son, you're always with me and all that I have is yours' - you haven't realized the resources that are at your fingertips always - you've not been making the withdrawals that you can make from my bank - through prayer. Prayer is the key in the hand of faith that can unlock heaven's storehouses. "He said, 'it was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.'" Now, I told you this story is about rejoicing - this whole chapter. Rejoicing when that lost sheep is found.

Rejoicing when the missing coin is recovered. Rejoicing in heaven when the prodigal, who has been maybe out of the church and The Father's house for years, comes home. And there's likewise rejoicing with God when we come back to him. He is infinitely more willing to receive us than sometimes we are to come. He's paid so much that we might be forgiven - that we might have everlasting life.

Why do we want to go to that far country and dig in the devil's dumpster? It's never going to satisfy you. The only thing that's going to bring satisfaction is Jesus. You know, I remember hearing a story years ago about a boy that went to his father - grew up on the farm - and he said, 'I don't want to live on the farm, I want to live in the city' - and you maybe noticed here we've got the city, we've got the church - this is like the world and this is the church and - you've heard of the one-day church? This is the three-hour church right here. And that boy wanted the city life. He said, 'dad, look can you give me some seed money and I'm going to make good - I've got big plans.

Let me go to the city' and The Father reluctantly gave him some money and said, 'you're making a mistake.' He said, 'you've got to finish your education.' 'Naw, I'm wasting my time. I've got big plans.' And so he took all his possessions that he could and he took some of the money and went off to the city. He corresponded every now and then with his folks by mail - this was before e-mail and telephone - and made a mess of things. Lost everything. Got in with the wrong crowd - drinking.

Word reached the parents how he was now out on the streets. And after a couple of years of living in shame, he writes home and he says, 'you know, I'd like to come back and I'm going to be on the next train coming home. And you know that place where the track goes by our farm out there by the house and the clothesline?' He said, 'if you're willing to let me come home' he says, 'I'm going to ride by towards the station - I have to pass the house on my way to the station - if you'll just tie a white handkerchief on the clothesline, I'll know that means it's okay for me to come home. And if it's not there, I understand because I've shamed the family.' Well, as the boy was riding closer to the home, he was afraid to look out of the window. He didn't know what to expect.

His dad was kind of a stern farmer. There was another man sitting on the bench next to him on the train. He said, 'look, let me tell you what's going on.' He said, 'we're coming up around the hill there' he said, 'if you see there's a white hanky on the clothesline, let me know, because it's a signal.' As they got near the location, the boy was awaiting and the man said to his fellow passenger, 'I think you ought to look for yourself, young man.' The boy turned and he looked out the window and as they came around the crest of the hill, not only was there a hanky on the clothesline, there were sheets hanging from the tree, there were towels out there on the fence, there were tablecloths - everything that mom could find was hanging out there. The whole house was festooned with white. Has the Lord hung something up for us to know that he wants us to come home? Do you need to come home friends? Do you hear the holy spirit speaking to you, friends? Do you believe maybe it's time for you to come all the way home? To surrender everything to The Father.

You know, we only have a few moments left and we want to encourage, especially those who are watching, you can make a decision right now to do something and we pray that you'll do it. Please go to the website, 'faithreclaimed.com'. We have a decision card online that you can fill out and it will help you get into some Bible studies. We'd like to help direct you to a church family where you can get that new beginning. We just want to facilitate every way that we can because that father is waiting now with open arms.

And even those that are here in the auditorium - we have some ushers who are going to hand out cards. We may have to pick them up after our closing prayer. We believe there may be some here who need to make that decision. It's very easy - just fill out the information online and tell us that you're making a decision to come back to Jesus. It might mean you've never been baptized and it's time for that.

It might mean you need to be re-baptized, but we're too close to the end, friends to be forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, amen? There'll be rejoicing in heaven when you make that decision. And, you know, just before we close, I would like to pray especially with those that are here and those that are watching, that we can make that decision now. Loving father, we know that you are waiting with open arms for us to come. You promised if we draw near to you, you will draw near to us. Bless those who are watching - help them to Mark on their calendar right now to get a new beginning with you and your people and to come back to church - to reclaim their faith - also for those who are here in the live audience and those who are in the church, help us, not like that older brother, to be in The Father's house but no relationship with The Father - help us get that new beginning.

We thank you and pray in Christ's name, amen. God bless you friends, please go to the website 'faithreclaimed.com'

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