Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Enduring or Persevering?

Greta wearily puts the phone down on the table, her memories of good times with her daughter fading daily. Her child’s choices constantly disrupted the untroubled life they had once known. “I can’t do this anymore, God, when are you going to fix things around here?” she cries as she collapses in the chair, covering herself with a blanket. As darkness falls, she drags herself over to the kitchen to prepare supper for her husband and two other children. How can I go on, she thought.......

Greta hangs up the phone as a tear hits the floor. Her daughter’s ranting now dominated their lives. “God, I KNOW You have a plan and a purpose for our lives. Help me to focus only on You as You work out the details of our lives. I trust you with my daughter’s life.” She perked up her mood as she determined to provide supper for her family.....

These two stories center around the same conflict, yet the issue is addressed differently. Greta is just hanging on (enduring) in the first story, but she is standing firm (persevering) in the second story. Do you endure or persevere? To endure means suffering with tolerance and perservering means to endure while continuing with a course of action. I’ve endured through hard times, feeling as though I hung on by a thread. During my endurance, God taught me perseverance. Using my friends as representatives of His truth, He spoke to me through His Word. Hear Him speak from Isaiah 45:19 (NIV):

I have not spoken in secret,
from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the LORD, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

We can trust our God who boldly speaks to us of truth, right? SO why don’t we go to Him first instead of trying to fix things ourselves? Human nature binds us, or does it? Read what John 8:32,36 (NIV) has to say to that....Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free......So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. And Romans 8:2 (NLT) says....And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

We don’t have to drag ourselves around simply enduring the pain; we are free to continue on in life with a work of perseverance until the victory is gained. AMEN. And remember - Christ the VICTOR is on our side and He works by our side. Oswald Chambers calls it “spiritual perseverance” saying it is “a call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated”. That work involves praying, watching, waiting.....O. Chambers goes on to say “But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, “because you have kept My command to persevere...” (Revelation 3:10). Continue to persevere spiritually.”

Hannah Hurnard wrote a powerful soul-searching allegory about a young woman named Much-Afraid who needs to learn the art of perseverance. As Much-Afraid begins her journey up the mountain, the Shepherd takes her on a detour through the desert. In the desert, she discovers how beaten and bruised is the grain that becomes the finest flour for bread. She learns how clay must become submissive in the hands of the potter in order to be shaped into an exquisite vessel. 

She realizes the glorious, shining jewels she admires have been melted, smelted, and refined in the hottest heat so that all the imperfections can be lifted away. And she stumbles upon a lonely flower in the desert that survives near a camp of desert dwellers because of a tiny hole in the pipe leading to their water tank. The flower spoke to her saying, “Behold me! My name is Acceptance-with-Joy.” 

Much-Afraid begins to understand that the Shepherd has a purpose for her life and declares, “He has brought me here when I did not want to come for His own purpose. I, too, will look up into His face and say, ‘Behold me! I am Thy little handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy.’”

Our own journeys and experiences with loved ones may be very disappointing right now, even hurtful, but God’s plan is already victorious for those believers of Christ who persevere. Can we accept His path with joy? 

Here’s a promise from Romans 8:28 (NKJV)...And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 

Believe this promise from Ezekiel 11:18-20 (NKJV) for your loved ones... And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. 

Let the following passages strengthen you just as they gave me courage to persevere in my desert places....Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you - Psalm 37:5 (NLT). Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you - 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT). I can do everything through him who gives me strength - Philippians 4:13 (NIV). Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT).

Because of God’s great love and abiding grace, He enabled me to pour out my feelings into my writings, making me believe that all would not be in vain. He has given me a ministry that I pray encourages you. I share my poem with you, urging you to do more than endure - PERSEVERE!

Blessings in the Barren Land

There are blessings in the barren land.
The desert is all aglow
Of willing hearts and helping hands
That help make God’s love flow.

He’ll take each one of us personally
To the place of abandonment,
And there we’re emptied of ourselves,
Our wills to His are bent.

The threshing-floor may be the place
Where we’re beaten, broken, bruised,
Until as the finest flour
For bread can we be used.

God may unveil us as lumps of clay
Upon the potter’s wheel,
Where we must submit to His every touch;
His Hands will stamp His seal.

The fiery furnace may be the test
Where our dross will be burned away.
Tossed and afflicted by blistering trials
Will forge glorious jewels one day.

As we walk along this wilderness trail,
Solitary feelings submerge.
Others who have experienced the promises of God
Hold our hands as these sorrows we purge.

God intends for us to climb mountains
And rise to heights of glory.
From there we’ll be equipped and ready
With others to share His love story!

DDC February 20, 2006

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Praying in "Tortoise Formation"

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV)

Before going into battle, soldiers must have a strategy. The Roman military had a strategy of working together using a formation called “the tortoise”. In this formation, rows of soldiers closed all gaps between each other and held their shields (which were four feet long and three feet wide) at the edges. The first row put their shields in front of them to protect the front of the formation, while soldiers on the flanks held their shields by their sides. The troops in the middle balanced their shields on their helmets, overlapping them and protecting “the tortoise” from above (like a shell protects a tortoise). If they remained together in this formation, they were almost unbeatable. (This information came from a pamphlet called "The Armor of God".)

In a similar way, our faith is designed to blend with the faith of other Christians, drawing us together and strengthening us to care for one another. When we resolve to stay close to each other, when we stand in agreement, we will be powerful. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

As MPs, we mothers have a common purpose: prayer for ourselves and our families. Our specific concern is for our prodigals, and in that we have the power of agreement. Using, the word “agreement” ranges in meaning from mutual understanding to binding obligation. I believe we are agreeing MPs. Jesus is saying to us in Matthew 18:19-20 (NJKV): “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

In this Scripture, the word “agree” is rooted in a Greek word from which we get the English word “symphony”. It means “to be in accord or in harmony” or “to make one mind”. Reading that information reminded me of another Scripture from Philippians 2:1-2 (NKJV): Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Jesus was in agreement or harmony with His Father. He never set out on any mission without first consulting with His Father in prayer. Jesus and the Father were one, and Jesus prayed that all believers would be one with them - John 17:20-21. We need to agree in prayer with God and each other. And remember - when we don’t know what to pray, Jesus intercedes for us - Romans 8:26-27.

God has given us MPs three very special Scripture verses full of promise. Read them and believe.

1) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NKJV)

2) Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:5-7 (NIV)

3) This is what the LORD says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”declares the LORD.
“They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future,” declares the LORD. “Your children will return to their own land. Jeremiah 31:16-17 (NIV)

He has also put us together to pray and even though we may be miles apart, I believe God honors our agreement in prayer. SO get in “tortoise formation”, pray with boldness (Proverbs 28:1), be persistent (Luke 11:5-8), remain steadfast (Hebrews 6:19), and stand firm (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Allow the following Scriptures to strengthen your soul and your prayers. Pray until victory is accomplished. Believe in the victory because God is faithful to His promises. He will do it!
  • Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. Exodus 14:13 (NIV)
  • Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you. Leviticus 26:8 (NIV)
  • “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17
  • After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14 (NIV)
  • ...but the people who know their God shall prove themselves strong and shall stand firm and do exploits [for God]. Daniel 11:32 (AMP)
  • Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.....Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Chronicles 15:58, 16:13 (NIV)
  • Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
  • He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:10-11a (NIV)
  • About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-26 (NIV)

Prayer and praise go hand in hand. Remember that the word “agree” is rooted in our word “symphony”. As we commit to pray together, let’s also agree and sing in harmony “Standing on the Promises” with belief in the promises.

1. Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Thro’ eternal ages let His praises ring; Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain: Standing, standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.

2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living Word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God.

3. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord, Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, Standing on the promises of God.

4. Standing on the promises I cannot fall, List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call, Resting in my Savior as my all in all, Standing on the promises of God. AMEN.

(written by Russell K. Carter)

Heavenly Father, You know our hearts. We cry out to You for our families. For those that know You, we ask that their faith be strengthened. For those that have drifted from You, we pray in one accord, believing in Your promises, boldly asking You to bring our prodigals home. Cause them to return to their senses and turn their hearts to You. We stand firm, watching and waiting for victory! In the mighty name of Jesus we pray. AMEN.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Do You Recognize Him?

“God, I am miserable. How could you let this happen? Life was good. Everything seemed perfect. How could you do this to us? It’s not fair! And I’ve been praying - where are you?”

Have you ever given God a tongue-lashing? Been there, done that! Even the psalmists railed out against God at times, as in Psalm 74:1, 3, 7-8, 9-11 (NIV).

1 O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.
9 We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!

God is big enough to handle our anger, hurts, and disappointments, but is it deserved? God created man in His own image for companionship; He did not create puppets to be handled by the puppet master. He gave us a free will and He works through our choices. Thank God that He gives us this promise from Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Working through our choices takes time, God’s time, not microwave time. Watching and waiting are rather difficult concepts because we don’t want to exercise our patience. Thank God that He uses His patience with us.

Remember Job and all his troubles? What would you do if that were you? Read what his friend Elihu tells him in Job 36-37. In chapter 36:7, 15 Elihu states, “He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous...He delivers the poor in their affliction....” Does that sound like an absent God?

Elihu states in chapter 37:14, “Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Now substitute your name in place of Job and hear God speaking to you in Job 38 - 40:2. What a mighty God we serve! After reading of His marvelous works, did you find yourself feeling like Job in 40:3-5? Repent and receive His loving forgiveness. Then stand still and consider all of His works in creation and in your life.

To help you remember God’s works in your own life, read Psalm 77 as Asaph is comforted by the memory of God’s redemptive works. Our souls are consoled when we recall how God has worked even in the midst of our anguish. Now begin your worship of a God who loves you. Remember, then, to praise his workmanship, which is so often celebrated in song. Everybody sees it; nobody is too far away to see it. Job 36:24-25 (The Message)

Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered. Psalm 40:5 (NKJV)

O LORD, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep. Psalm 92:5 (NKJV)

The works of the LORD are great,
Studied by all who have pleasure in them.
His work is honorable and glorious,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered;
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
Psalm 111:2-4 (NKJV)

Could the God of heaven and earth who sacrificed His own Son for the whole world forget you in your own trials? His eyes are on you and He displays His splendor every day as a reminder that He is near. The psalmist in Psalm 74:9 says, “We are given no signs from God.” But he was angry. He also failed to look around and recognize God who gives us plenty of signs. Are we paying attention?

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse... Romans 1:20 (NKJV)

Close your worship of our mighty God with Psalm 148 (NKJV):
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all you stars of light!
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.
He also established them forever and ever;
He made a decree which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth,
You great sea creatures and all the depths;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills;
Fruitful trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and flying fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.
And He has exalted the horn of His people,
The praise of all His saints—
Of the children of Israel,
A people near to Him.
Praise the LORD!

Thank you, SW, for reminding me to recognize Him everywhere!!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

God's Plentiful Grace

“It’s happened again. I’ve lost another piece of diamond jewelry,” I shouted, “and I don’t have time to look for it because I have to go to work.”

Earlier as I ran downstairs to eat breakfast, I realized that the turtleneck shirt and sweater I had on were going to wreak havoc on my internal temperature gauge. I had to change. Running back upstairs, I hurriedly threw off the sweater. I tried to be careful removing the turtleneck because of my earrings. Grabbing another shirt out of my drawer, I ran to my bathroom, opened the closet, set up the ironing board, and pressed the shirt. As I put it on, I realized my left ear was missing an earring. “Shoot, I don’t have time for this right now.” I screamed aloud.

I looked down and there on the bathroom floor lay my earring jacket (I love my little diamond earrings because I can vary the look with three different earrings jackets). On the floor of my bedroom I found the back but no earring. Frantically I looked around my bedroom and bathroom. No earring. I began looking some more until I glanced at the clock. Skipping breakfast and leaving for work, I knew what I would be doing when I got home.

All day I battled my thoughts, trying to believe my earring would be found. When I returned home, I QUICKLY let my dogs out and then picked up my Bible. I read from Luke 15 (the chapter about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son or prodigal). I focused on verses 8-10: “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

“That’s gonna be me, right God?” I asked, and began my search. Off and on I hunted for my earring four hours (yes, I fixed dinner and washed dishes) with no success. While watching TV with my husband, I prayed, “God, in the scheme of things, it’s only jewelry. But he gave me those diamond earrings 25 years ago. Please help me find them.” An hour later I dressed for bed in my bathroom. Flipping my night shirt over my head, I heard a clink and looked on the floor. MY DIAMOND EARRING! NO WAY!! YES WAY BECAUSE MY GOD CARES!!!

I have no idea where it came from and I’ve given up trying to figure it out. I’m claiming another small miracle (like the diamond story I shared on 1/16/11 in Committed to Jesus) from the God who loves me. SO if He cares about me and my diamonds, as well as lost sheep and lost coins, then He cares about our lost children. Read Luke 15 and listen to heaven’s celebration over the return of the lost.

Now read Isaiah 43:5-7 (our MP verses) and believe:
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!‘ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Do you believe? Do you have just a little faith? Read Matthew 17:14-21 and hear Jesus’ instructions about faith to all of His disciples (that includes us)......He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Here’s another story about faith from one of our own MPs. She hopes everyone will draw strength and hope from her testimony.

She walked outside to her car with her three boys. It had been a wonderful church service and she had sacrificed the offering of her tithe to the One who is always by her side. With everyone buckled up, she turned the key to start the car and nothing happened. She tried it again and nothing. Deliberately determined not to freak out, she prayed silently, “OK God, I know you can take care of this situation and I need to get my family home. Besides I just paid my tithe and I know you are pleased.”

Now she had a chance to show her boys how to respond with faith during a crisis. As she was telling them how nothing is impossible with God, she looked in her rearview mirror and parked directly behind her was a tow truck. A TOW TRUCK IN THE CHURCH PARKING LOT - it was as if someone waved a magic wand and poof - a tow truck appeared! NO WAY!! YES WAY BECAUSE HER GOD CARES!!! And she proclaims, “God’s grace is sufficient.”

Are you convinced just how much our God cares for us? The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:6-7: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your care (your anxiety) on him because he cares for you. He cares that our cars are working, He cares about our lost jewelry or coins, He cares about lost sheep and prodigals. Even if your belief is as small as a mustard seed (do you know how tiny a mustard seed is???), go to Him and put Him in remembrance of His Word - Isaiah 43:26. Believe in His promises because the Word says in 2 Corinthians 1:20: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

God’s grace is sufficient and plentiful! It says so in 2 Corinthians 12:9 - But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.