Finally, the prodigal's father reveals God's heart for celebration with his children. The father declared a feast to celebrate their reunion. I can see his joyous exuberance with his son, talking and laughing together. God is like this with us. In my youth, great times with my dad helped me capture God's heart for celebration. I vividly recall sitting in a rowboat watching my dad fly-fish along a pristine river in northern Wisconsin. Or the times he made breakfast, while camping, with the aroma of bacon and eggs over an open fire overlooking a lake. I sensed a quiet spirit of celebration in my dad that prepared me for capturing this side of God. The television classic Bonanza, which I faithfully watched as a kid, also spoke to me. Ben Cartwright was a great dad to three sons on a beautiful ranch in the west. They were wonderfully connected: Ben and his sons worked and played together. They mended fences, stacked hay, and drove cattle. They took long rides on horseback while taking in the beauty of their ranch. They shared meals, laughed freely, and told stories. Through it all ran a warm current of shared celebration. God is like this with us. Jesus' parable of the king's wedding banquet for his son (Matthew 22:1-14) also speaks of God's heart for celebration with his children. The king sent out his servants with the message: "Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast." God is both Father and King who has made special preparations for celebration in this life and the eternal life to come. When earthly kings prepare to celebrate, they spare no expense in tapping into their great resources. How much more true is this of Christ, our divine King, whose resources are endless. He has spared no expense for eternal celebration--beginning with the incredible cost of his death on a cross. We can get in touch with our eternal Father-hunger--and act on it. We can answer God's beckoning calls for intimacy. As we do, he draws near to us. (James 4:8) He reveals his great love, humility, forgiving spirit, and heart for celebration with his children. This will compel us to bond to our Father even more. Having done this, Paul called him "the glorious Father." (Ephesians 1:17) He also wrote (2 Corinthians 6:18) "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
Is God your father? Are you his adopted son...his adopted daughter? If not, the way to become adopted by him is through Christ. Paul wrote through him we "have access to the Father by one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:18) Jesus proclaimed "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) He also said,"...your Father in heaven (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13) And we will "make our home with him." (John 14:23) Here is a suggested prayer:
Jesus, I accept you as my God, Lord, and Savior. Thank you for dying on the cross for our sins. I confess my sins to you. Forgive me. Send your Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to live in my heart. Help me, empower me to become like you. I want to follow you and serve you. Show me the way. Thank you for loving and accepting me. Thank you for adopting me into your home so I can live with you forever. In Jesus' name, amen.
Good next moves would be to look at the Nicene Creed and explore the life of Christ by reading the Gospel of John in the Bible. Watch the striking movie "The Son of God" produced by Roma Downey who also plays Jesus' mother, Mary. The book, "Basic Christianity" by John Stott, would help you understand the dynamics of the Christian life. Anne Graham Lotz's book "Just Give Me Jesus" speaks to our daily lives. I also suggest "Mere Christianity", a classic by C. S. Lewis with a more philosophical approach.
For a book on building relationships...my ebook "How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody" (Moody Publishers). The first two chapters examine bitterness, its sources, deadly effects and healing. Other subjects include building self-esteem in Christ, unhealthy competition, character verses personality, true and false guilt, making harmful comparisons, the power of small groups, clothing our minds with humility and wisdom when dealing with others.
"Pistol" Pete Maravich holds the NCAA basketball scoring record for highest average per game in a career (44.2). His book "Heir to a Dream" looks at his life and faith.
Check out the movie "Chariots of Fire" which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Music Score. It's a true story about Eric Liddell who won a gold medal in the 400 metres race in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France. His rich character and faith are clearly shown. Later, he served Christ in China for years where he died in Weihsien internment camp during WW2. Until the end, Eric strove with great compassion to lead and strengthen other prisoners including women and children.