This past Sunday I had the chance to visit a new church in Raleigh called Hope Church. The worship was AWESOME and the preacher had me crying laughing within the first five minutes. From the amount of people overflowing in that church (and I assure you, it is not a small sanctuary), I knew this place had it going on. Not to mention, this was the fourth service of the sermon! I always get excited when the preacher starts talking about something that has been on my heart because I feel like God is really delivering this sermon just for me. I find myself getting frustrated sometimes when the topic of the day is tithing or having a healthy marriage or something that just “doesn’t apply to me.” As I’m writing this now, I’m humoring myself with the thought that anything Jesus says, no matter the topic, wouldn’t have the ability to speak to me. And this is the thing, even if the message wasn’t exactly what I had thought it was going to be, it doesn’t matter. There are tons of people who are waiting to be fed and many yearning to be healed and maybe today was their day to have the exact prescription they had been praying for. Sometimes, we are being fed without even realizing it. For instance, I still find myself thinking of qualities I want in a husband from when we discussed the perfect spouse in church one day. I probably was thinking that day, “Seriously? I’m like 18”, but now, I find it extremely useful in weeding out who God wants in my life. And although we go to church to be fed and blessed and have that sweet fellowship with other believers, sometimes it is just a way of showing God, “I’m giving you this time today. I wanted to sleep in and have Bojangles in bed, but showing up is the least I can do.” We deceive ourselves by thinking those little acts of obedience and showings of our faith do not add up to big things. Making these small steps keeps us on the straight and narrow, and these days, let’s be honest, that is very tough to do.\nThe story that we discussed on Sunday was the Prodigal son, which is in Luke 15. The story talks about a son who has gone away from home, abandoned his foundation and distanced himself from his father. He ran away to find what he thought was the “good life.” He searched for belonging in the things of this world, hoping that they would fill this void he felt. Luke 15:13 says he “squandered his estate with loose living.” He squandered it, the Bible says! He didn’t just spend a little bit or buy one too many cases of beer, he spent EVERY penny!!! Does this show you how much he was longing to find something that satisfied him? But it continues to say that once He had spent everything and there was a famine in the land, he decided to return home. You would think that after everything the son did, all the money he wasted and the way he completely left his father, his dad would be mad! But this is the INCREDIBLE part- His father ran to Him! It says his dad held his arms wide open, hugging his son with every ounce of strength in his body! He didn’t yell or ask questions but rather immediately asked to find a robe for his son and for the servants to prepare a feast. You see, this is the thing, the dad didn’t care what the son had been doing, where his money went, where he had come from or the time he had wasted; he just knew one thing, he was delighted to have his son home. \nGuess what friend? This is exactly how our sweet God feels about each one of us. He doesn’t care what we have tried to fill our cup up with before or how many times we have disobeyed him, he just wants to hug us, to welcome us back, to prepare a feast because we are back. There is no precursor to returning home, no duty we must complete, no physical thing we must prepare and no circumstance that can keep us from being worthy in His presence. I think so often that it is not God that keeps us from coming home, but ourselves we are scared to face. Reality seems too painful, the hurt seems too deep and the regrets of the past are like whips we use to remind us that we have messed up. But what we must remember is that we were NEVER worthy in the first place-God knows we make mistakes. Heck, He expects us to! That is why we have the most wonderful thing every created, offered or available to us in this life: Grace. Grace to cover our past. Grace to help us in the present. Grace to prepare our way in the future. Grace saved us then. Grace saves us now. So, BE ENCOURAGED!!! Your homecoming party is awaiting you. There is so much good to do in your life and grace covers the bad so my friend, don’t worry for a second. Besides, you won’t want to miss the best feast of your life, the rob that clothes like no other and there is no one that can give a hug like Jesus.