of The Message
My son and I
are sharing some thoughts through a series of messages on
the Parables of Jesus. It's amazing how many people are
not following Jesus Christ because they don't know what
Jesus taught. I want to encourage each of you to get acquainted
with His profound wisdom, and to start to understand the
mind and the thinking of Jesus of Nazareth. Begin by reading
the Parables He told. Jesus didn't preach sermons. He told
fictional stories, but they had a Heavenly meaning. The
Parable I'm talking about today is probably one of His most
You've all heard
the words "the Prodigal Son." Jesus created those
words in a Parable called the Prodigal Son. Now I'm sure
that most of you have heard these words, but many of you
watching our television program this morning from China,
the Arabic countries, or maybe Russia, probably haven't
studied the story. All of you have access today to a Bible
and if you will look in the gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter
15:11-32, you can read the story. Basically, it's a fictional
story of a very wealthy man who had two sons and the one
son became very self centered, which is not unusual for
a son of a very rich family. And as a selfish young man,
he made the demand of his father, saying, "I don't
want to wait until you're dead to inherit my money. I want
it now. Why can't I have it now?" And so he demanded
it. It is very, very challenging to deal with a demanding
person who gives orders and expects that the world owes
them a living. That's what this prodigal son did. The father,
being a very gentle man, was the kind of person that if
he sinned, it was on the side of grace and so he gave that
son his share of the inheritance.
is not just about a prodigal son. There are also prodigal
daughters. Each of us is a "prodigal" when we
have the "give it to me" attitude in our everyday
living, at work, toward family, government and God. What
did the Prodigal Son really want? He wanted freedom from
rules and regulations, from ritual. He wanted freedom from
being mastered by a family. He wanted to be free from boundaries.
Well, he got his freedom. And not knowing how dangerous
freedom could be without rules and boundaries, negative
temptations overwhelmed him in his irresponsible freedom.
"Give me... give me... give me"... that was his
attitude. "Demand... demand... demand"... that
was his matter of control. "Freedom... freedom... freedom...
I want it... Now I have it"! So, the Prodigal Son went
to a far country and he spent his money on his pleasures.
does this demanding spirit lead?
One day a famine
reached that far country to where the Prodigal Son had traveled,
and food became scarce. Then he discovered, of all times,
that his purse was empty! An empty
purse? Never had he been exposed to such a negative
possibility. His dad's purse was a deep one. It would never
be empty! When the Prodigal Son demanded and took all that
money, he didn't stop to think that he would ever face the
problem of an empty purse! An empty
purse, and he still hadn't found what he went searching
for. He found pleasure... but it didn't satisfy him.
He found travel... but something was still missing in his
life. He didn't know what it was but now his money was gone
and all he had to eat was the food in a pig sty.
Then the story
says, "he came to himself." What a profound sentence.
Have you ever come to yourself? Some of you probably still
have not come to yourself, meaning that you have not discovered
the true person within you and the true needs in life. That
is something quite different from seeking out only pleasures
and looking for fulfillment in the sensual department of
life. It suddenly dawned upon the Prodigal Son, "Here
I am eating with pigs, when at home, my father's servants
have more than enough to eat and they have a good place
to sleep. Why did I leave? What will happen if I go back?
What will my dad say? Will he tell me I've had it and to
get out? I don't know."
And so in the
story, as you probably know, the Prodigal Son decides to
return home. Note that his father never did search for him,
but he just watched for his return. "Someday my son
will come back." Many of you watch and wait in the
same way. You have a troubled child that is a prodigal who
has turned away from the values you taught him in your home.
Many of you listening are in that spot. You watch, you wait,
you pray, that the time will come when there will be the
telephone call or a doorbell or a letter or an email and
you will see your child coming back again. That’s
the way God waits and watches for us to come to Him.
of us is a Prodigal
This is all so
important that all of us are see that
each is a prodigal in one way or another or at some time
or another. It's true for every individual, young
and old, adolescent teenager, all of us can be prodigal.
It's not just persons either, you can apply this to institutions
that were founded, maybe as Christian colleges, a hundred
or two or three hundred years ago and today, they no longer
hold to the faith. Institutions can become prodigal. Even
corporations can get adrift from their mission statement.
And movements can lose their momentum when they decide to
expand and, in the process, cease to be what they were meant
The late Eric
Sloan was one of the great artists of the last century.
And it has been said of Eric Sloan that no one ever painted
the sky and the clouds like Eric Sloan. His most famous
piece of work is probably the nine story high painting inside
the museum of aviation in Washington D.C. It's phenomenal.
What a great artist. What a great life. But it’s an
interesting story. He told it to me privately when I met
him in New York City some years ago. I had heard that Eric
Sloan's paintings were on exhibit in the Hammer Galleries
and I went to see his exquisite paintings and elegant sketches
of clouds and sky, sunrises, sunsets, after the storm, over
the mountains, above the deserts. They are gorgeous.
Then Eric Sloan
told me his story. He was born in a very wealthy family.
When Eric was a young man, his wealthy father died and left
him with a million dollars cash in the bank. (That was sixty
years ago.) It would be like ten million dollars today...
all cash in the bank! It was his inheritance. He never earned
it. He never worked a day in his life. Wow. Now this money
is all free, so he's going to take it and enjoy it.
When I met Eric
Sloan, he was eighty years old. His eyes just twinkled and
he was a happy guy. But he said to me, "Dr. Schuller,
what you teach and preach about self esteem and possibility
thinking, is so true. But I had to learn that the hard way.
Do you know what I did? I took my inheritance and decided
I would enjoy it. So I traveled the country and I spent
it, I wasted it on frivolous and riotous living. Don't ask
me to explain what that was. I was a prodigal son. I left
the values of my father and my home. I embraced no religious
faith, no religious scruples. One day in a western bank,
I went to the bank to request cash to be transferred from
my fortune back east. The papers were exchanged. I had to
sit down and wait a long time. Finally, I was called to
the window. To my everlasting shock and horror, the banker
gave me the unbelievable news. "Mr. Sloan, I'm sorry,
but your money is all gone. There is nothing left."
I said, "It can't be!"
Then the awful
reality hit me, I realized all of my inheritance was gone.
I wouldn't get a second chance. My father was dead and I
didn't have a job. Despair, depression, I cannot tell you
what an emotional pit I was in. I hardly slept that night.
I wandered the next morning down the lonely street, quite
empty, quiet. It was Sunday. I was lost, confused, broke,
and in the pit of the darkest discouragement. Then I saw
a little church. I never went to church, but I walked in
and the minister began to speak. He announced the title
of his message and it hit me like a thunderbolt. He said,
'I'm speaking today on God's Providence,
Your Inheritance.'" Wow!
Providence, Your Inheritance
said, 'God has a plan for your life. He’s given you
talents, develop them. Discover your gifts. Opportunities
are there. He has been waiting for you to find yourself.
God has given you everything you need. God is providing.
God's Providence is His gift to you. That is your inheritance.'"
And Eric Sloan said, "I went out of that church alive
with hope for the first time in my life. I remembered that
I had done some dabbling with paints and brushes, so I now
went home and wrote beneath my easel these words, God’s
Providence is my inheritance. "Dr. Schuller,"
he said to me, "I am now eighty years old and many
people would say I'm a very wealthy man. Carved into the
wooden mantle in my Santa Fe, New Mexico home are these
words, God’s Providence is my
inheritance. And when I die, they can write these
words on my tombstone, "God's knows, I tried."
As we shook hands there in the Hammer Gallery, he was telling
me how much he enjoyed our ministry and that made me happy.
And I had a little prayer with him. Three days later he
leaned against a lamp post in Manhattan and slowly started
to sit down on the sidewalk and died. God was his Provider.
your purse is empty, come home
a prodigal, sometimes, someway, somehow, but every person
is always given some kind of a choice, probably it’s
when the purse is empty and then you begin to look at what
you can be, what you are. But do you know how to come home
if you are a prodigal? Maybe you haven’t even embraced
the kind of a faith that you’ve heard today. Maybe
it’s something you learned in Sunday school and you’ve
been away from it for a long time. Come home... and you
come home by coming to Jesus. Jesus said, "I am God
becoming real to the world." What is God like? Look
at Jesus. Study Him. Read His words. What you find there
is answer enough. Prodigal, come home.
Ticket to Heaven
In a message
my son preached some time ago, he shared my story about
the famous coach, Bear Bryant. Many of you have heard that
story how, on an airplane, Bear Bryant came to me and said,
"I want to shake your hand. I like your ministry even
though I’m not a Christian."
I answered, "You’re not a Christian?"
why he couldn't be a Christian. He gave me all the usual
excuses. He said he wasn’t good enough. He had sins,
never had the feeling, and he didn't know if he could believe
the Bible. So I answered his many questions and excuses.
Then I said to him, "Well, would you go to Heaven tonight
if you died?"
He said, "I
don’t know. I sure wish I would. I can't say...I don't
So I wrote out
a Ticket to Heaven, with the words of Jesus Christ who said,
"Anyone who comes to me, I will
in no way cast out." Jesus didn't have a lot
of rules and regulations. Religions put out rules. Muslims,
Christians and Jews put out rules, but Jesus didn’t
put out any rules. He just said, "Come ... come to
Me. I’ll take you in. Anyone who comes to Me, I will
in no way cast out."
And then I wrote,
"Jesus said it. I accept it." I turned the paper
to Bear Bryant and asked him to sign his name. He said,
"Ooohhh...I don’t know if I can sign that."
And I said, "Well, I don’t know if the plane’s
going to land either." And he said, "Give me a
pen. I’ll sign it." And he did.
That’s a true story. And he carried that piece of
paper with his signature in his pocket until his death and
his family found it in his pocket when he dropped dead of
a heart attack.
Well, my son
told that story and said, "I’ve had that ticket
to Heaven printed on a little blue card." He held up
the little card and said, "If any of you want one,
write for it, sign it, mean it in your heart. Don't sign
it if you don't mean it." Tens of thousands of Tickets
of Heaven were mailed out. This week we had a men's conference
here at the Cathedral and I met John Sterning, from Carbondale,
Colorado. John told me a very moving story which he said
I could share with you. In response to my son's message,
John had written and asked for three Tickets to Heaven.
We sent them. He wanted one for himself and when he got
it, he signed it. Then he had two teenage boys and he gave
them each a card. But they didn't sign theirs. They just
stuck them away. Not long after that, J.J., one of those
teenage sons was in killed a car accident. After a while,
John, the grieving father, had to sort out his son's belongings.
In one of the drawers in his son's bedroom, he found his
son's Ticket to Heaven, and it was
signed! He said, "When I found that, I could
overcome my grief. I could go on with life."
Ticket to Heaven
Come to Jesus.
What does this mean? Well, it depends on you. To start with,
it means to listen and learn from Jesus. You can forget
all of the other books that people are writing, and by reading
the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, you will find you are
on your way home.
Let's pray. Lord,
we are all prodigals, young or old, and we need You working
in our lives. You brought us here this morning for a reason.
We're ready to make a midlife correction. It's happening.
We're open. We’re receptive. We're ready to go home.