Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Pain and Pleasure

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  
1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB)

Oh the pain of it all. Words uttered in exasperation over life situations. Sometimes I feel as though I could shout them on a daily basis. 

The Israelites possibly proclaimed similar words as slaves in Egypt. Yet in the midst of their painful experiences, God was working to free them from their resistant foe. The Lord had explained to Moses the last of ten plagues that would severely affect the Egyptians and change Pharaoh’s heart. His instructions for the Israelites were to prepare a lamb to eat, along with bread and bitter herbs. The lamb’s blood was to be smeared over their doorway as protection from the angel of death. They were to be dressed and ready to leave Egypt while eating their meal in haste (Exodus 12).

Because of the urgency to leave, the bread was made without yeast. There would be no time for the bread to rise. Made only of flour and water, this unleavened flat bread would provide quick sustenance. It was to become a significant part of the memorial meal called the Lord’s Passover.  

Matzah is the name given to this bread and it is rich in meaning. It represents suffering, freedom, and faith. When eating matzah during Passover, the suffering of slavery is remembered while the recollection of newfound freedom is celebrated. All made possible because of a God who is able to do anything. Praise our faithful God! 

Suffering and freedom, pain and pleasure—even though opposites, these experiences generally go hand in hand. A step of faith links them. Faith in a God who supplies our needs. Trust in a God who knows our situations. Belief in a God who walks with us, even if in a valley of the shadow of death. Clinging to the Lord God in faith makes a distressing situation bearable. 

Over the last fourteen years, I have come to completely trust my Faithful Friend. I’ve experienced the pain and suffering of aging parents. I’ve encountered the agony of their deaths as their souls walked into heavenly freedom. I’ve lived a daily heartache for years with a prodigal child and made a joyful noise when she returned. I’ve walked down two wedding aisles, happily supporting both my son and daughter as they married the spouses God provided them. And the piece de resistance—the births of our two wonderful grandchildren. I was able to enjoy life’s pleasures because the Lord strengthened me through the pain. Oh the pain and pleasure of it all. 

Bittersweet happenings—bitter pain combined with sweet pleasure. Two sides of the same coin joined by faith. Faith in a God who never leaves us. He is the God who came to earth to live with us. He is Jesus Christ who experienced the excruciating pain of death for the pleasure of offering salvation to the world. He is the Holy Spirit who lives in us when we believe in Him. 

Jesus understands our pain and pleasure because He experienced both. He came to earth to demonstrate how to live through it all as He did. Trust Him as He takes you from suffering into freedom. He is able cause He is faithful.

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. 
Psalm 16:11 (NASB)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Thy Kingdom Come

Let your kingdom come.
    Let your will be done in earth
        as it is done in heaven.  Matthew 6:10 (GW)

I enjoy cloud gazing. The heavens declare His glory and I’m drawn to the sky. Our Heavenly Artist designs visions of color and clouds in magnificent ways. No wonder Scripture declares the return of the Son of Man in a cloud with power and glory. Even though surrounded by life’s grit and grim here on earth, are we mindful of the signs in the skies?    

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”  Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV)

Wait. What things? What is to happen before the Son of Man named Jesus appears? What signifies the end of life as we know it and the beginning of eternal salvation? 

The twenty-first chapter of Luke contains a rather extensive list of things to come before the fulfillment of time. Jesus sat in the temple with His followers warning of future happenings. He cautioned the listeners not to be misled by false saviors. Or run after those who say the time is near. He said not to be terrified when hearing of wars and disturbances. He gave them notice of nations rising up against each other and kingdoms in conflict. Earthquakes, plagues, and famines were to occur throughout the earth. Terrors and signs would appear in the heavens.

Not only did Jesus foretell these devastations to come, He warned of the destruction of the temple. The people had previously commented about its beauty which had led Him to explain its future ruination. When asked if signs would appear before this wreckage, Jesus told of all the things that would happen, beginning with the persecution of believers. 

He said, “Before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.”  Luke 21:12-13 (NASB)

An opportunity for testimony in Jesus’ name? I wonder if Jesus’ listeners panicked as I would have done upon hearing all these predictions. Even reading the words now, my heart races with fear. Aren’t there more peaceful ways for me to share my love for you? I could witness to my neighbor or the homeless out on the street. I could speak to fellow church members and family members about You. Instead I find myself getting wrapped up in the rifts of life. Before I know it, my focus is me and not You. And quite possibly an opportunity has slipped away. 

It’s hard to stand firm on the Word of God when life seems to be falling apart. People rail against anything godly. Evil clashes with good causing violence. Protests occur because no one willingly listens to another point of view. And fear mounts as the world seems to spiral out of control. Yet there are those people, in the midst of walking through a valley of the shadow of death, who use these opportunities to testify about the love of God through Jesus Christ. Will I be one of them?

Each day supplies ample occasions for reactions to various actions. We can focus on all the evil in the world and be overwhelmed with anxiety. We can concentrate on personal shortcomings and be overcome with depression. Or we can choose to turn to Jesus and experience peace. Whatever we choose, that will be our testimony. Will it be for our sake or for the sake of the name of Jesus?

Jesus came to earth to reveal a glimpse of the kingdom of God. He preached the gospel of salvation by calling people to repent and be redeemed through Him. He said none of us could be saved through our own accomplishments but that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27). 

Will we allow the clouds of despair to overshadow His glory? Or will we endure through our day to day situations as living examples of the love of God in the name of Jesus? He tells us we need only to lift up our heads and look to Him for strength. He also tells us the clouds are the dust of His feet. He is near.

So when your circumstances appear discouraging, look to the sky and notice the signs. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and receive His power. Let His heavenly glory live in the earth of you for His name’s sake. Your testimony about His kingdom will bring honor to our Heavenly Father. 

He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;  Psalm 23:3-4

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Standing in Glory

Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandments which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses arose with Joshua his attendant, and he went up to the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Remember that Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him go to them.” Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory and brilliance of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day God called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. In the sight of the Israelites the appearance of the glory and brilliance of the Lord was like consuming fire on the top of the mountain. Moses entered the midst of the cloud and went up the mountain; and he was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.  Exodus 24:12-18 (AMP)

God rescued His people Israel from Egypt so they could freely worship Him. Their journey from bondage to freedom required godly guidance. The instructions spoken to Moses by God were designed to protect the Israelites from the consequences of sin. With His commandments, this holy God yearned to draw people to His majestic power in faith and trust. 

God wanted the Israelites to have a written copy of His instructions so He wrote them on tablets of stone. And He called Moses to come up to the top of the mountain to meet with Him and receive them. The plan was for Aaron and Hur to remain behind with the people in order to handle any legal matters that arose while Moses met with God. 

Joshua attended Moses to the foot of the mountain. Then Moses continued up the mountain alone. Imagine climbing a mountain to meet God, the Creator of the earth, the Deliverer of the Israelites. What were Moses’ thoughts as he traversed up the mountain? Quite possibly he shook with fearful reverence. 

Upon his arrival, a cloud consumed the mountain. Moses stood in the glory and brilliance of a magnificent cloud cover for six days. What sensations did he experience? How far could he see? What could he hear? Was the air muggy, damp, cold? Did he sense God nearby or did he feel alone? Was he afraid? Did he lose hope?

Finally on day seven a voice called out to Him. It was God. What a moment. Picture the event that lasted forty days and nights. With God. Oh the emotions Moses must have encountered when he spoke with the Lord God who loved him. 

My family and I experienced a cloud cover that probably pales in comparison to Moses’s, but it was exhilarating nonetheless. We had the privilege of standing on the side of a road at the end of the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. The spectacular sunlit blue sky hemmed in the ocean rolling ashore. The mountain we stood upon overlooked a village. Exquisite beauty laid out before us. Without warning, we noticed a huge billowing cloud sweeping up and over the horizon. It moved rapidly. Within minutes, the cloud engulfed the panorama, leaving us breathless.

We stood still in amazement as the gray mist moved over us. The wind blew, the temperature dropped, moisture filled the air, and all we could see was each other. Before long the cloud moved up and away, over the mountain behind us, leaving us stunned and speechless. But what if the cloud cover had remained, causing some angst about our return trip? 

When I consider Moses meeting God on a cloud covered mountain top, I reflect on my own experience with a cloud at an Irish vista. I staggered in astonishment at God’s amazing creation. The incredible experience left me open-mouthed. Moses had to have been awestruck when God spoke to him from the glory of a cloud. But did he lose hope in the gloom as he waited for God?

As I think back on my supernatural event, I have an amazing visual to help me when times get gloomy. When things of this earth go awry and everything seems like a cloudy gray day, I must remember that God is near. He never leaves me, no matter what is going on around me. 

When it’s pouring down rain, the sun is still shining way up in the sky. When my circumstances are gloomy, Jesus the Son is still reigning within me and nearby. If you stand on a cloud covered hillside in Ireland, the beautiful landscape is still situated beneath the fog. Even if gloomy situations confine you, God yearns for you to trust Him. He wants you to know He is near because the clouds are the dust of His feet (Nahum 1:3).

For I know that the Lord is great
And that our Lord is above all gods.

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all deeps—

Who causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightning for the rain,
Who brings the wind from His storehouses;  Psalm 135:5-7 (AMP)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ruins, Repairs, and Restoration

Ruins dotted the tranquil landscape. Here a lone tower, there an old fort. Off in the distance four walls stood with no roof. Near the road towered an old cathedral surrounded by scaffolding. Relics from the past loomed in the midst of an everyday existence. The terrain held an ethereal sense of an ancient world stepping into modern day.

My family and I recently traveled parts of Ireland by car. Visual reminders of the past scattered throughout the countryside, in villages, towns, and cities. Archaic designs commingled with contemporary living, linking lifestyles thousands of years apart. For us native born Americans, it was difficult to grasp such historical grandeur. Most of Ireland’s ruins are three times older than our own country. Our stunned minds needed clarity. 

While touring an old cathedral and monastery, we questioned the guides about the ruins. They explained that over 800 antiquities could be found throughout Ireland. Too many to restore. The government owns and decides which relics to repair. The biggest and most famous ones undergo restoration as they bring in money through tourism, which in turn helps to pay for repairs. Both inside and outside of many structures, we witnessed a number of renovations in progress. 

As I stood gazing at the scaffolding for reconstruction inside a cathedral, my mind filled with thoughts of godly restoration. How many people scattered across the world have broken hearts? What troubles have invaded peoples’ lives? Who feels as though their lives are ruined? Whose souls long for godly repair? 

Later that day God gave me a glimpse into lives torn apart by a teenage boy’s suicide. A young lady who served us in a pub opened up and poured out her heart’s pain from his death. She talked about the devastation experienced by family and friends. How a whole village came together to support each other. But she never mentioned God. I told her I would be praying that God healed their broken hearts. These people required more than renovations. They needed soul restoration from God. 

When left unattended, buildings fall into disrepair. Structures collapse, weeds flourish, and creatures inhabit the place. Gloom and doom fills the empty space. Likewise, human beings can experience the agony of abandonment when living apart from the God who created them. 

Life’s hard knocks inflict wounds. Those wounds, if left untreated, can lead to a dull mind, depression, and worse. The ugliness soon covers what once was beautiful. Lost and alone, many people are lead to destruction. 

But God stands ready to restore. He doesn’t look for the biggest and best to repair. He doesn’t want a select few to be renewed. He loves everyone unconditionally and desires relationship restoration with all His people. He yearns to forgive and recreate repentant hearts. 

Has heartache wounded you? Is your life in ruins? Are you feeling lost and alone? There is a God who repairs repentant hearts. His name is Jesus Christ and He offers forgiveness to all who turn to Him. Allow His gracious mercy to renew you from the inside out. Experience restoration with Jesus. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Illustrated Messages

The Word in Pictures

May you be encouraged by the Word of God and His heavens. 




Sunday, June 17, 2018

Our Father

Father, Daddy, Pop, Dad, Papa—names describing a male parent. These titles birth intense sensibilities for every person. The emotions expressed can be good, bad, or indifferent. A father’s legacy, whether present or absent, loving or cruel, can last a long time.  

My daddy loved me and my sisters. We loved him. He dispensed persistent, loving discipline with gracious imperfection. He provided the essentials of life, including a firm foundation of faith. Through his example, we learned about our loving Heavenly Father. Partnering with our mom, he led our family unit. At times our relationships lacked civility, but blood and God linked us. Even though both our parents now reside in heaven, my sisters and I share a special bond because of their example of God’s love. 

While on earth, Jesus exemplified the essence of a father/son relationship. Love and trust bound them together. Through prayer they communed. Jesus lived to demonstrate this love to everyone. Once when surrounded by faithful followers and curious onlookers, He told the story about a father and his two sons (Luke 15:11-24). Through this story of redemption, Jesus articulated the merciful love of a parent for a child. The parable’s earthly example of a father represents our gracious Father in heaven.

As the story goes, a father had two sons and loved them both. He provided for them daily while also planning an inheritance for them after his death. When the younger son asked for his share before that dreadful happening, the father granted his request. Before too long, the son took the money and ran off to a distant land. While suffering extreme heartache over his son’s absence, the father waited with hopeful expectation for his return. 

Meanwhile the son’s lifestyle ranged from reckless extravagance to abject poverty. Not until deprived of everything did he realize what he had left behind. Hungry and humbled, he decided to return home to his father as a hired servant.

On the way home, he contemplated his choices and their consequences. He had learned a hard lesson. He desperately desired forgiveness. What would he say to his father? How would his father respond? 

As he neared familiar territory, he spotted his father running toward him. Uneasiness intensified in his gut. He thought about turning around. But where would he go? He had nothing. Even though he felt unworthy, he continued walking. He would ask his father to make him a servant. At least he could eat. 

Before the son could speak, his father’s compassionate arms hugged away any fear of rejection. Tears of relief flowed from two sets of eyes. The son declared his sinfulness. The father granted amazing grace. A changed heart called for a celebration.

The Prodigal Son is a beautiful story of restoration because of a father’s love. But many people have never experienced love from a father. Celebrating dads on Father’s Day may be agonizing. Even praying the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples can be difficult as it begins with ‘Our Father’. Yet Jesus prayed this way. Why? 

Jesus knew the love of His heavenly Father. He yearned for others to know the Father’s love. When Jesus prayed the prayer now called The Lord's Prayer, He began with the unifying phrase of ‘Our Father’. It connects everyone to the Creator God. We are His children. He is our Heavenly Father. He longs for everybody to know Him as a merciful Father. No matter what we’ve done, He waits in hopeful expectation with open arms to offer grace. Amazing grace. 

We are His children. He is our Father. He loves us. Jesus loves us. 

No matter if your father is dead, absent, cruel, or lovingly alive, you are worthy because you have a Heavenly Father who loves you. He created you. He knows you. He yearns for you, His child. Run to Him. Receive His grace. And build a relationship with Him through daily prayer.

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  Matthew 6:10-13 (NASB)

Surely you are still our Father! Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us, still you would be our Father, our Redeemer from ages past.  Isaiah 63:16 (TLB)

And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.”  Romans 8:15 (TLB)

And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father.  Galatians 4:6 (TLB)

Amazing Grace with lyrics......

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Soothe My Soul, Lord Jesus

I stared out the small window from my seat in the plane. Clouds, only clouds. Without warning, our jet tossed and tumbled. The pilot confirmed we were experiencing turbulence. How could he land a plane surrounded by dense white mist and powerful unsteady air? My stomach lurched as fear gripped me. Am I in good hands?

Oh the ‘what ifs’. What if the pilot makes a mistake? What if we crash? What if I never see my children and grandchildren again? What if I don’t die on impact? What if I’m maimed forever? What if, what if, what if?

I’m sure Jesus’ disciples felt the same way as their boat pitched and plunged in a terrible storm. Waves crashed over the boat, filling it with water. They cried out for Jesus to help them, but found Him asleep at the back of the boat. They shouted, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to drown?” (Mark 4:38)

A swirling worried mind can be overwhelmed with fear. Any sense of calm is completely overpowered by angst. Until we intentionally utter the name JESUS. Jesus. Jesus.  

The Lord is near to all who call 
upon Him, To all who call 
upon Him in truth.  
Psalm 145:18 (NASB)

Come, Lord Jesus. Calm my fears. I cry out to you in truth. You are my God and Savior. I trust you. You are faithful. Amen.

Jesus responded to His frightened disciples saying, “Why are you afraid, men of little faith?” To the wind and sea, He spoke, “Hush, be still.” All at once they sailed on serene water as serenity invaded their souls. The disciples were completely astounded by the man who stood before them.

Jesus replaced my panic with peace. As I breathed deeply, my cloudy mind began to clear. Before long, tranquility resonated within my spirit. Even though we continued to fly into clouds, my apprehension dissipated. Amazing. 

I offered thanks when the wheels of our plane touched the ground. Thank you, Jesus! Smiles washed away worried looks as we landed safely. Sighs of relief expelled around me. In hindsight, passengers could say we were in good hands. I knew whose Hands carried me.

Children of God should confidently say we are in good Hands everyday. We serve a Sovereign God who rules supreme over all things. Over cloudy skies and stormy seas. Over our everyday situations. Can we trust Him? You bet we can! Even when our minds muddle causing cloudy vision, God our pilot sees everything clearly. He is our faithful God who desires for us to have complete faith in Him.

When trouble surrounds you, praise your Heavenly Father. Worship Him in spirit, truth, (John 4:23) and crisis. In the midst of confounding confusion, God can change chaos into order. 

Look past your panic into the peaceful face of your God. He loves and cares for you. You are in good Hands!

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.  Psalm 22:11 (NASB)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,  Romans 10:8 (NASB)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5 (TLB)