Chapel message: Come to God just as you are

Jodi Hickerson of Mission Church in Ventura, California, used Jesus' parables to show God's love for us.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow / Chapel stream

The lost sheep.

The lost coin.

The prodigal son.

Jesus told these famous parables in Chapter 15 of Luke to demonstrate His love for us.

Jodi Hickerson retold them Monday morning in Chapel at Grand Canyon University to put them in an easy-to-understand, modern context and further demonstrate that limitless love.

First, the Programming Director of Mission Church in Ventura, California, emphasized that Jesus’ message was for everyone, from the self-righteous to those with self-inflicted wounds.

“If you are alive and sucking air in the room today,” she said, “Jesus told these stories for you.”

He was especially focused on sinners, and vice versa.

“The people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus,” Hickerson said. “And He liked them.”

Each of the parables still has meaning for us today, Hickerson said.

She showed a funny video of a sheep being pried out of a gap in cement, then falling right back into it.

“He would not approach us like, ‘Stupid sheep,’” she said. “He’s never going to shut you out.”

Hickerson had her own story that mimics the lost coin: Her mother once lost the diamond from her wedding ring while cleaning the house and rejoiced when her 8-year-old son found it in a window sill.

The 10 coins in Jesus’ parable were considered just as valuable because the woman probably received them on her wedding day. God paid a high price for each one of us, she said, and He’s not going to rest no matter how many times we are lost.

“He thinks you are so valuable,” Hickerson said, adding that too many people don’t believe it and feel like “clearance rack material.”

But the parable that really hits home is the one about the prodigal son, who was welcomed back by his father even though he had squandered everything he had been given. That was incomprehensible to people of that era.

Hickerson emphasized that God doesn't expect us to clean up our lives before coming to Him.

Hickerson posed a series of questions aimed toward understanding how Jesus feels about prodigals – or, as she put it, “The broader definition encompasses being lost, being foolish, being rebellious.”

“So how does Jesus feel about us when we walk away?” she asked.

NEXT CHAPEL SPEAKER (11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 31, GCU Arena)
Steve Carter, Mission Community Church

“How does Jesus feel about us when we have wrecked our lives with our own choices?

“How does He feel about us when we’re rebelling – when we’re hiding, using, numbing, lying, cheating?

“How does Jesus feel about us when we … get … lost?

“Do you know that it’s not a one-time thing?

“Do you know that you get to come home again and again?”

The last two questions have special significance, considering the addiction issues that plague the world today. Hickerson said people in recovery tell her that living in addiction “is like pouring water into a bucket with no bottom,” but she added, “There comes a time in every single one of our lives when we have a come-to-our-senses moment, when we look up and think, ‘What am I doing here?’”

Bella Rea and the Worship team performed before Hickerson's talk.

That come-to-Jesus moment is the beginning of our freedom, she said. The saving grace of the prodigal son was that he blamed himself, not others, for his downfall, and she laughed at the notion of the father running toward his son.

“An ugly dad run. You know dads don’t run all that good,” she said.

But still a run, not a walk or anything resembling rejection.

"Jesus is saying, 'This is what God is like.'"

Jodi Hickerson

“Jesus is saying, ‘This is what God is like.’”

Hickerson pointed out that the Bible is filled with similar references and mentioned two in particular.

There’s Isaiah 40:11:

He tends His flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
    He gently leads those that have young.

And Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Hickerson made sure her mostly student audience understood how much God values them.

Hickerson put it in perspective:

“I think so many people got this picture of God – they think He’s, like, judging and condemning in heart, or shaming and rebuking in heart, or punishing and condemning in heart, but, listen, that’s not it!

“… Notice Jesus didn’t say, ‘Hey, come to Me, all who are winning and thriving. Come to Me, all who are living their best life now. Come to Me, all who are perfect and polished. Come to Me, all who have gotten their lives together first. Come to Me, all who are killing the game.’

“No, Jesus says, ‘Come to Me. Are you weary? Are you burdened? Are you worn out? Come to Me! I am gentle, I am humble in heart.’”

She strung together a long list of Bible verses to show how God feels about us:

“Before you were born, you were special to Me. I knew you before you were conceived in your mother’s womb. With My own hands, I have fearfully created every detail that makes you unique. I have watched you every day of your life, so I know you. I know where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. If you only knew the thoughts I have toward you. Did you know that My thoughts for you outnumber the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world?

“You are the apple of My eye. I have engraved you on the palms of My hands. You did not earn My acceptance by anything you have done. You can’t take credit for it. It is a gift from Me. So it is not what you do that makes Me love you, for compared to what I deserve, your righteous acts are like filthy rags. But it is My love for you that makes you precious and honored in My sight. I created you for My glory, and I will never abandon what I have formed and made.”

Also part of the Worship team is Grayson Kredit.

One of the things Hickerson loves most about the story of the prodigal son is that he showed up so disheveled and humiliated.

“He didn’t have time to, like, stop somewhere and shower real quick, get a change of clothes and freshen up,” she said. “… And this father runs and puts his arms around a dirty, smelly, embarrassed shell of a son that he once knew.

“This is the picture of Jesus. Jesus will meet you where you are, not where you pretend to be.”

She compared the celebrations at the end of each parable “like a heaven party.”

“There’s a crazy party for you … for anyone who comes home.”

Contact Rick Vacek, Senior Manager for Internal Communications, at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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