Summary: 4th in 4-part series Kingdom Stories. Looks at the story of the Prodigal Son for what we can learn about ourselves, about religion-as-usual, and about God.

Unrealized Expectations

Kingdom Stories, part 4

Wildwind Community Church

David K. Flowers

April 1, 2007

Have you ever felt like the guy who said, "I can face anything but the future--and certain parts of the past and present!" I think none of us can face the past unless we know we are forgiven by the grace of God. I think none of us can honestly face the present unless we know we are strengthened by the presence of God. And I think none of us can face the future unless we are certain of the love of God. It is God’s love and grace and presence I want to talk to you about this morning.

I have always thought of church not as a place for perfect people, but as a place for people who have looked their imperfections squarely in the face. And rather than deciding, “Oh, everybody’s flawed, everybody messes up and sins,” I think church people are those who say, “I don’t want to die as flawed as I am right now. I want to improve. I want to strive for more.” There’s definitely a perception out there that Christians think they are perfect. But I don’t see that here. What I see here is Christians who know how imperfect they are, and come together every week to celebrate God’s perfection; who know how much they lack in goodness, and come to celebrate and learn about God – the only one who is really good. I see people who know they are flawed and won’t accept it as the status quo in their lives; people who realize that in order to get better, we need something more than self-help – we need God’s help. And it’s not just God’s help we need – it’s God’s heart. I need my heart of criticism to be replaced with God’s heart of kindness. My heart of lust to be replaced with God’s heart of love. My heart of contempt to be replaced with God’s heart of compassion. My heart of greed to be replaced with God’s heart of generosity. That’s the deepest need in my life, and Wildwind Church is about people who share that need and ask God to meet that need.

Ezekiel 11:19 (GW)

19 I will give them a single purpose and put a new spirit in them. I will remove their stubborn hearts and give them obedient hearts.

When it’s at its best, the church is a group of people who are allowing God to give them a purpose, to put a new spirit in them, to remove their stubborn hearts and give them obedient hearts!

Whether you come out of a bad church background, or whether you just have never had much exposure to the church, I want to seriously welcome you, and actually commend you for coming. It’s not easy to come to a church. You might have fears that you’re going to be asked to do weird things, or have public attention drawn to you. (That’s not going to happen.) You just don’t know what to expect, and everybody fears the unknown. So thank you for weathering that storm today and making your way here. I hope when you leave here today, you are glad you came, and that you would choose to join us again next Sunday on Easter as we start our new five-part series, “Stuff Jesus Changed.” I think because Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose from the dead, a lot of stuff about life can be really different. In Stuff Jesus Changed we’ll look at spiritual bondage, guilt, loneliness, suffering, and decision-making. I hope you will join us.

We’re wrapping up a series called Kingdom Stories today, looking at stories Jesus told about this place called The Kingdom of God. Remember those words of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Clearly Jesus’ desire was that God’s kingdom would come to this earth – that God’s will would be done here just like it is in heaven. So since the Kingdom was so important to Jesus, since he claimed to be from there and bringing it to this earth, we have been looking at what we can learn about the Kingdom from the stories Jesus told to illustrate it. Those stories are called “parables.” A parable is just a story used to illustrate some kind of spiritual or moral principle. Jesus was a master storyteller, and I intentionally saved one of his best-known and best-loved stories for Friend Day.

Luke 15:11-32 (MSG)

11 Then he said, "There was once a man who had two sons.

12 The younger said to his father, ’Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ "So the father divided the property between them.

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