Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Receive Joy



JOY - means delight and jubilation
J - JESUS
O - others
Y - you
It’s an acronym, if lived, that will prompt an overflow of gladness in our lives. But we typically don’t prioritize our lives in that way. We usually think first about ourselves, either in puffed up arrogance or pitiful humility. Our circumstances receive most of our attention, especially when they are gloomy and hopeless. Then our lives usually spiral out of control in topsy-turvy fashion. 
Y - you
O - others
J - JESUS
YOJ - means nothing
Suddenly joy seems to be an elusive concept. What do we do? Where can we find joy? The book of Nehemiah holds an answer for us. 
Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NASB)
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are about the return of the exiled Israelites from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra gives an account of the rebuilding of the temple and Nehemiah describes the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. The walls had once allowed watchmen to survey the landscape for great distances, peering out at any visitor or invader approaching the city. Now the returned exiles were full of grief at the sight of their city and walls in ruins, and they mourned. 
What had happened to the Israelites? Why were they returning from Babylon and standing before the ruins of their promised land? A bit of history might help us to understand their trials. Beginning with Abraham, the Israelites journeyed with God through the land of Canaan to the promised land. Whether they were in Egypt, the wilderness, or somewhere else, God tried to guide and direct them with His laws. He loved them very much and called them to be a special group—a separate people—to shine for His glory. But they wanted to be like other cultures with their many gods and their kings. The Israelites didn’t want to be unique and serve their Creator God; they wanted to be ordinary. But being ordinary opened their lives up to anything. Over the years they were invaded and taken into exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians. It’s here that the Scripture text from Nehemiah lies—the return of the exiles from Babylon. They returned to their land to see the destruction and devastation that had taken place. They had been invaded and the walls of their precious Jerusalem broken down, opening them up to anything coming upon them. 
As Nehemiah tried to lead the exiles in rebuilding the city walls, their enemies determined to discourage the reconstruction. Nehemiah prayed, “O God, strengthen my hands.” And as he continued in prayer, even though facing opposition, God strengthened him to complete the walls. Once the temple and walls were rebuilt, all the people and Levites with Ezra and Nehemiah gathered as one at the city square where the book of the law of Moses was read. When the people heard the words of the law, they began to weep. Prior to the reading, they had moved away from the words of their Heavenly Father, the God who created and loved them. Now their hearts were ready to hear the word of the Lord. ....all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. Nehemiah 8:1 (NIV)
They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. Nehemiah 8:8 (NIV) It was read and translated, giving understanding and new meaning to God’s word. The words brought them to their knees and they wept at the hearing of God’s word. 

Nehemiah reacted....Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NIV)

Nehemiah told the people to stop mourning and weeping because the day was holy to the Lord. He added that they shouldn’t be grieved because the joy of the Lord is their strength. Nehemiah prompted the people to rejoice instead of shedding tears, thereby gaining strength.

Have you ever felt like the Israelite exiles? Does it feel as though your life has been ravaged and destroyed? Do you feel as though you’re in a place where you don’t belong? Does it feel as though all your defenses are down and hazards keep coming in waves over your life? 
Have you rebelled against the calling of the Lord? Have you wanted to be like others in the world rather than stand alone? Have you tried to manipulate your own life rather than follow the perfect plan of your Lord and Savior? Do you feel as though your life has been invaded and destroyed by marauders? 
Well, go back and read the Old Testament law and then read about the New Testament grace. Unlike the exiled Israelites, we have both testaments and we have Jesus. Will you pick up the word of the Lord and read His words? Don’t grieve over it and be sad! Be glad and rejoice, giving Him praise for His Word. Let it invade your heart and strengthen you with joy every day, but especially at Christmas. 
Christmas time is a season of rejoicing because our Creator Lord came to us in human form. He chose to be near us in the very same form that He created us and we should praise such a loving God. Our situations may not be happy and our circumstances may be dire, but we have a God who loves us very much and desires to fellowship with us through relationship. Don’t lament over your lot in life, but revel in the joy of the Lord. It is your strength and others will see it and know that the Lord is near. So receive joy, glorify God, and share with others the love of the Lord.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Good News


The apology notes were handed out to us all at the same time. My husband, my son, my daughter-in-law, and I began reading the personal words written to each of us. The silence filled the room as tears filled our eyes. Passing the kleenex box around, a pleasant awareness arose within us all—our daughter, sister, sister-in-law had figuratively “come home.” 

For four seemingly endless years God received my prayers for my prodigal daughter. Even though the circumstances appeared hopeless, my Heavenly Father God continually soothed my grieving heart. And oh, what pain my sorrowful heart endured. Each Christmas brought dread instead of joy. When the five of us gathered together as families tend to do over Christmas, tensions built, arguments ensued, and misery occurred. Whether we were together or apart, the suffering within my heart continued throughout the year until the next dreaded holiday. Life felt terrible for four years until Christmas 2008 when we unexpectedly received the handwritten apology letters. We praised God for new life.

As the tears subsided over the return of our daughter, our son and daughter-in-law handed us a gift. My husband let me open it and inside we discovered a positive pregnancy test. Oh my—a grandchild! The flood gates opened and we passed the kleenex box around again. And again we praised God for new life.

The good news overwhelmed me. My years of mourning suddenly became a celebration. The realization of a restored relationship with my daughter blessed me beyond belief. Then to discover that our future held a double blessing in the birth of a grandchild—what a blessing!

New life—at some point we’ve all celebrated it. Over two thousand years ago, a new life was celebrated by Mary and Joseph, the angels, shepherds, and wise men. Jesus was born and the good news spread. I’m confident that happy tears flowed. Those who knew the word of God realized that the long-awaited Messiah had come. God kept His promise (as He always does, on His own time schedule). 

New life arrived from heaven to earth to fulfill God’s Word. New life arrived from heaven to earth to live with humanity. New life arrived from heaven to earth to ransom captives. New life arrived from heaven to earth to restore relationships. Praise God for new life. Praise God for Jesus!

Receive the good news. Celebrate new life this Christmas. Celebrate Jesus. No matter if your situations are filled with dread or full of joy, celebrate! God is faithful to His promises. He will answer your prayers and you will experience new life in Him! Praise God for new life! 

Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30 (NIV)
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. Proverbs 25:25 (NIV)
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10 (NIV)
“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” Acts 5:20 (NIV)
Thank you, Lord God, for your Word. Thank you for the birth of your son, Jesus Christ. Thank you that we can celebrate the good news of new life. We praise you for new life! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter's Faith


Several weeks ago we talked about mustard seed-sized faith (post on 11/3/13). And Jesus said if we had mustard seed-sized faith in Him we could do anything. For a moment in time, Peter, one of Christ’s disciples, had that tiny amount of faith and was walking on water toward Jesus until he looked around and saw the wind stirring. Fear gripped him and he sank into the water, calling out for Jesus to save him. Read the story below from Matthew 14:22-34.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (NIV)
“Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Can you imagine Jesus, the Son of God, addressing that question to you? What would be your response? How would you conduct yourself in His presence?
Jesus asked Peter that question as He caught hold of his hand to save him from drowning. Let me say that again—Jesus asked Peter that question as He caught hold of his hand to save him from drowning. Let me say it in a different way. Jesus saved Peter in the moment that Peter’s faith faltered. Jesus is near to us and ready to save us, even as our faith wavers. So why do we doubt? 
Do we doubt because we are already caught in a disastrous storm and all seems hopeless? Do we doubt because our plans for our lives have failed us? Do we doubt because we can’t see any evidence of God working in and around us? Do we doubt because we don’t know the One who created us and loved us enough to die for us? Do we doubt because our relationship with God is half-hearted and we don’t trust Him?
Why did Peter doubt? He regularly walked with Jesus, hearing the words of our Lord and witnessing His miracles. My goodness, on the very day that Jesus saved him, Peter and the disciples witnessed Jesus healing the sick and miraculously feeding 5000 people with only five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:14-21). How could someone who had observed the wonders of God doubt at all? Why would a follower of Jesus have any doubts?
Peter doubted because he took his eyes off of Jesus. He had just heard Jesus say to the disciples, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter, still a little unsure, said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And the Lord said, “Come.” With assurance Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus. But when he looked around, seeing wind and waves, he became frightened. Peter doubted because he allowed visible circumstances to distract him. Jesus happened to be nearby, but Peter chose to focus on danger rather than look to Jesus. 
Have you ever observed the wonders of Jesus Christ and then later begin to doubt? Have you looked to Jesus in prayer and then turn back to gaze with worry over your situation? Why do we doubt a God that is near to us? Why do we have such little faith? There are many reasons but could one reason be that we serve a big God and expect big things to happen? Do we think that only important things (in our eyes) matter to Him? Do we assume He doesn’t have time for our small problems? 
Jesus came to save us all. We matter to Him. Our situations matter to Him. When we only look for big miracles, we miss small marvels. What about the smile you receive from a stranger when your day seems dark and gloomy? How about the hug from a special needs student when everything about your day is going wrong? What about the assisting hand that comes to your aid when you drop your purse and everything spills out? How about the meals brought to you when you experience a death in the family? What about the emails and cards sent in the mail when your husband is told he has cancer? How about the encouraging words from a friend that arrive at just the right time?
God is near to you, in large and small details. He’s ready to grab your hand when you’re drowning. He cares. When circumstances are worrisome and doubts prevail, turn your eyes toward Jesus and realize He is near. We only need to believe with eyes of faith and discover, like Peter, that Jesus comes to save us even as our faith is faltering. We can say with the father of a demoniac, whom Jesus healed, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Can you hear Jesus saying to you, “All things are possible to him who believes”? (Mark 9:22-24)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holding onto HOPE


We all have our routines; we know the drill. Morning, noon, and night we live, work, and play everyday until it becomes commonplace. Sometimes things go smoothly, sometimes the days are rough. But over all, our lives habitually progress through time with little change until.......an interruption occurs, an intrusion that seems to put a halt on a typical day. 

The phone rings and your sister relays news that your father is in intensive care in the hospital, and she adds, “You better hurry.” Or a brother calls saying your mom fell and broke her hip. Or a family member informs you that your sister-in-law has cancer. Or you look out the window and see your son falling from a tree, cutting his leg open on the way down. Or your daughter-in-law calls, letting you know that your granddaughter had a seizure at school. Or your dad comes home from work early because his boss fired him. Or your adult child calls you with fear in her voice because her husband threatened to commit suicide. Or a hurricane blows through your area, destroying your house and everything you owned. Or your husband serves you with divorce papers after thirty years of marriage. Or you’re suddenly faced with the outcome of a choice you’ve made and you worry it will forever define you. 

What do you do when grief barges into your normal life? Where do you go when bad news knocks at your door? How do you react when tragedy enters your everyday routine? 

That phone call, that bad news usually sends shock through us. Everything seems to stop. We forget what we’re doing at the moment and focus solely on the news at hand. We get a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Fear begins to rise up in us and over us as if everything just got dark. Our palms get sweaty and our hands begin to shake. Breathing intensifies and our heart rate goes up. Stress overtakes us and tears begin to fall as we begin to panic. Worry sets in and we can’t even remember our normal life before the news. Our worst fear has been realized and we are at a loss as to how to move forward. 

Why do we allow bad things to take us directly to stress instead of straight to God? Why do we almost fall to our knees in pain, hopelessly filled with heartache? We sense that our life is out of control and we don’t know where to turn. We’re confused, worried, and full of fear. 

Jesus tells us in Scripture not to worry and fear. Do we listen? If not, why not? Jesus is the Word of God that gives us hope (John 1:1-5). Why don’t we rely on Him? He is part of the Godhead that created this universe. He is the Sovereign Lord over everything. We should run to Him when things are out of our control instead of losing control of our own senses. If we believe in the God of the universe, why do we not believe in His power? Instead of falling to our knees in pain and helplessness, why don’t we fall on our knees in awe of the One who is our help? Why don’t we immediately turn to Him instead of fear and worry? Does fear and worry help us? No, they only cause us to fret, cry, wring our hands with nervousness, and lose hope. So if we need help, where do we go? Scripture tells us in Psalm 121. 

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night. 
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
  (NASB)

Our situations may not change, they may even get worse. But God is our help. He gives us strength to cope with our circumstances. He comes alongside us and says, “I love you. Those things that concern you, concern Me. I understand and I care. I am here for you.” Do you believe Him? Read the words of David and trust that God cares for you.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
Psalm 138:7-8 (NASB)

Instead of falling on our knees in pain, let’s humbly fall to our knees in prayer to God, our Creator and our Savior. Instead of worrying, stressing, fearing, or trying to fix things when faced with trouble, let’s go straight to God in prayer and tell Him our situations and how we feel. He is waiting for us to talk to Him, and He desires to help us. In His Word He offers strength, peace, and joy to those who ask and He is faithful to do it. He is a man of His Word and on Him we place our hope. Read, believe, and trust in the God who loves you.

He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Luke 18:2 (NASB)
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11 (NASB)
Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (NASB)
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27 (NASB)
God speaks through Scripture; hear and believe Him. Others that have experienced God give us their testimony to God’s power in personal quotes below. 
“We need more Christians for whom prayer is the first resort, not the last.”  ---John Blanchard

“Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.” ---Oswald Chambers

Don’t give up on the situation that surrounds you and don’t give in to worry and fear. Trust Jesus with your life because He cares for you. Turn to Him in prayer, holding onto Him and the hope He offers to you!

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB)

Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 (NASB)
We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. 1 Timothy 4:10 (NASB)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

THANKSGIVING


This year Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 28. Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It became an official Federal holiday in 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States)  Thanksgiving for most Americans involves giving thanks, prayer, and spending time with family.  
As God’s people, shouldn’t we be thankful to our Heavenly Father every day of the year? Why do we take for granted the favor God has bestowed on us? Are we even aware of our blessings or do we focus solely on our lack of resources and uncomfortable situations? Let’s turn our hearts toward the God of heaven, the One who created us all, and express our gratitude. Let remembrances of His blessings cause you to be thankful every day throughout the year! Raise up your thanksgivings and praise Him with His own words from Scripture!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations,
"The Lord reigns." . . .
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. . . .
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel
From everlasting to everlasting!
1 Chronicles 16:30-31, 34, 36 (NKJV)


Use the acrostic below to give Him praise!
T - Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:13 (NIV)

H - I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. Ecclesiastes 3:12 (NIV)
A - Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. How right they are to adore you! Song of Songs 1:4 (NIV)
N - Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Psalm 149:1 (NIV)
K - Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
S - “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:2 (NIV)
G - Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp. Psalm 147:7 (NIV)
I - May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. Genesis 28:3 (NIV)
V - Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Psalm 20:6 (NIV)
I - May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you. Psalm 25:21 (NIV)
N - May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 2 Samuel 2:6 (NIV)
G - But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Psalm 5:11 (NIV)

Here is the Thanksgiving acrostic again with the bolded words (from above) that I think embody an attitude of gratitude. Meditate on these words and His words from Scripture, instilling within your soul a grateful heart full of His peace. 

T - thanks
H - happy
A - adore
N - new
K - kindness
S - salvation
G - grateful
I - increase
V - victory
I - integrity
N - now
G - glad

He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.

Psalm 103:9-11 (NKJV)

I thank my God always for you because of God’s love and kindness given to you through the Messiah Yeshua, in that you have been enriched by him in so many ways, particularly in power of speech and depth of knowledge. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (CJB)

We praise You, Jesus, for your blessings to us!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What is Truth?



Deborah, I have something to tell you,” I hear my Savior say as I read His words in Luke 7:40. The risen Christ desires to talk to me.....and you. Am I listening? Are you listening? Can you hear Him speaking? Open His Word and your heart and receive the truth from Jesus Christ who is the Word (John 1:1-5). “   Your name    , I have something to tell you,” says Jesus.
Who do you listen to? What words grab your attention? Words can give life and they can bring death. Some words are just noise, empty and lifeless. Some words prove to be true over time and other words are definite lies. Words come and go like the winds of change, and they blow all around us as they have done for hundreds of years. Do you follow the latest philosophy of the world or do you believe in the truth of the Word of God that stands the test of time and continues throughout eternity?
The world gives us many words in many different forms through many different people. Some give us cause to listen and others we simply ignore. Believers in Christ live in the world like everyone else, but Jesus says believers are not of this world. Instead He claims they should be kingdom-minded, believing on the Word of God. Take a look at these two words: WORLD & WORD. They are very similar except for the letter L. Let’s say the letter L stands for the lost. Now look at the two words.....the lost are in the world, but they are not in the word which is truth. Jesus Christ is the Word (John 1:1-5) and He is the TRUTH (John 14:6).
KNOW JESUS, KNOW TRUTH; NO JESUS, NO TRUTH! 
Too many times those of us that believe in Christ try to make the words of Jesus compatible with the truth of our reality. We should instead reconcile our reality with the true words of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself stated that He came into the world to testify to the truth and He said that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him (John 18:37).
Jesus came to earth to glorify His Father in heaven and accomplish His mission (John 17:4). But before He left earth, through His death on a cross, He explained all things to His disciples. He gave them truth. They didn’t fully understand it at the time, but Jesus promised to send a Helper, the Spirit of Truth or the Holy Spirit, to guide them in truth and help them to stand firm on His words (John 15:26).
The book of Acts begins with Jesus returning to the Heavenly Father after His resurrection. And true to His Word, He kept the promise He made to His disciples and sent a helper, the Holy Spirit, to strengthen them and give them full understanding of the Word (John 15:26). Once the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they powerfully stood on the word of God, performing miracles like Jesus and spreading His gospel of good news (Acts 2-3). 
When we receive the Holy Spirit, we too will gain understanding of the true words of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then we will be able to bring Jesus into our reality, and by listening to Him, we will know truth. What is truth? The truth is the word of God and Jesus Christ is that Word. Hear and believe the word of God.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)
Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Isaiah 8:20 (NIV)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31 NASB)
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Ephesians 5:6 (NIV)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Revelation 3:14 (NIV)
The words of Christ Jesus to His disciples before His crucifixion are recorded in John 14-17. He spoke truth to His disciples and He told them about things before it all happened. He speaks those same words to us that will believe on His name, and even though we read it in hindsight, these words are for our future as well. So read His words and know truth. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is speaking to you and me. Are you listening? 
Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 (NIV)
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.” John 16:1 (NIV)
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” (John 16:12).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. Mark 13:22-23 (NIV)
Are you deceived by the words of the world or are you able to discern the truth using the Word of God? The quote, “A lie repeated enough becomes the truth,” is often attributed to both Vladimir Lenin, the first Premier of the Soviet Union, and Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. The original basis of Lenin’s and Goebbels’ thought is believed to have come from William James, known as the father of modern psychology, who said, “There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.” These men deceived many people and led them astray. Scripture tells us about such people.
For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:18 (NIV) 
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 (NIV)
On the other hand, there are people like Dr. Billy Graham who desires to speak truth. In fact, during the month of November he has been delivering what the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is calling his "last message to America."  A billboard over Times Square in New York City tells the story: "With all my heart, I want to leave you with truth." (If you haven’t already, click on these words and visit his website.) So again I ask: are you deceived by the words of the world or are you able to discern truth? God’s Word is alive and that Word is Jesus Christ. Don’t be deceive by flattery and falsehoods. Believe in and stand on TRUTH.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5 (NIV)

“The words of God which you receive by your ear, hold fast in your heart. For the Word of God is the food of the soul.” ---St. Gregory I

“The best protection against Satan’s lies is to know God’s truth.” ---Anonymous
“Everyone may be entitled to his own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to his own truth.” ---Doug Groothuis
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 (NIV)
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 (NIV)
Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
Psalm 86:11 (NASB)

Listen to truth, live in truth, and speak truth! You will hear from Jesus and be blessed by God!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Evidence of Truth



“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)
What a hard Scripture to read; it definitely doesn’t leave the reader with a joyful feeling. Why would Jesus tell this story to His listeners? The setting and those people that surrounded Jesus may give us some clues as to the reason Jesus told this story. 
In the book of Luke, as in the other gospels, we find Jesus with His disciples going from city to village, preaching and proclaiming the kingdom of God. When crowds gather, He tells many parables, including The Sower and the Seed and The Good Samaritan (Luke 8). As time goes on, crowds begin to follow Him and He performs many miracles, like feeding 5000 people, casting out demons from the possessed, and healing many sick and deformed people (Luke 9). He and His disciples travel through many villages, dining with friends as well as some Pharisees (Luke 10-11). 

Tensions build as Jesus doesn’t seem to comply with the norms of society or solely rely on the religious rules. Instead He spreads love and mercy while freeing people from sin and shame. Jesus offers grace to those who open their hearts to Him which disturbs many of the religious elite. Herod, a Jewish ruler, desires to kill Jesus and a few Pharisees try to warn Him. Read below the dialogue that takes place.
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Luke 13:31-34 (NIV)
Jesus longs for all to draw near to Him and believe in Him, but many refuse His grace. Besides Herod wanting Him dead, many scribes and Pharisees plot to kill Him. Yet as He continues His mission of spreading God’s love, many tax collectors and sinners are forgiven and freed. His parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son (Luke 15) explain the grace He gives when one truly seeks Him and repents of sins. Still the religious elite are infuriated. It’s here in Luke 16:19-31 that Jesus tells the story of the deaths of a rich man and a poor man. The poor man named Lazarus went to heaven because he believed God and the rich man went to hell because he rejected God.
The rich man begs Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about hell. Abraham responds by saying that Moses and the prophets summoned people to believe God and reject sin. Did they listen to them? He continued by saying that they would not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (which is a very prophetic verse). Can’t you hear Jesus sadly calling the rich man by name as He tells him that He longed to gather him up in His arms? 
Throughout His travels, Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God with words and actions. He spread His love, grace, and mercy to all who would believe. He told parables, performed miracles of feeding multitudes, cast out demons, healed the sick, and raised the dead. He quoted Moses and the prophets from the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament). Some followers believed and others refused to accept His grace. Why?
I can’t answer why people that knew Jesus in the flesh didn’t believe in God and accept Jesus as their Savior. I can’t even answer why people still don’t believe in the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But I can say that the evidence is right before our eyes. It’s in creation and it’s in the Bible, the holy book that has stood the test of time. Jesus is so loving and patient with people, desiring that they repent and believe in Him, that He continues to give signs of hope in this age in many ways. He displays signs that declare His resurrection from the dead and signs that proclaim He is alive. 
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m going to stop with the words and display a picture of hope. Look at it and believe in the One who gave His life for you, to save you from your sins and set you free. Don’t be like the rich man! See the evidence of truth and believe. 

               Cross formed on 9/11 when Twin Towers fell in New York City



Sunday, November 10, 2013

He Bore Our Cross



For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 
For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 1 Corinthians 1:17-19 (NIV)
Yes, the cross is foolishness to some people and life to others. But it is central to the Christian faith and the power of the redeemed. Jesus Christ died on a cross for all of mankind, bearing all the sins of the world. The cross causes us to face our own sins and weaknesses, humbly on our knees before a sinless God, and we don’t always want to face the truth. Taking the first step toward redemption may not be easy; sometimes we have to lose everything before we go down that road with Christ. But once we do, the chains fall off and we walk in freedom. The prodigal in us seeks forgiveness and we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. 

Billy Graham, the evangelist, turned 95 on November 7 (If you don’t know about Billy Graham, google his name and discover a mighty, yet humble, man of God). For his birthday, Mr. Graham spoke a message about the cross to America. Truly it’s a message for the world. Billy’s son, Franklin (the prodigal that Billy and his wife, Ruth, prayed for continually, and who now follows in the footsteps of his father) asked for people to help them share this message with contacts through social media. 

I have decided to answer that call to assist the Graham family in spreading the message of God. THE CROSS may be Billy Graham’s last message, and he has felt compelled to speak specifically about the cross of Christ ever since his wife died. You can watch it online at the following website:
  
http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/the-cross/

Please give it a few moments to get started and be patient if it stops every now and then. Watch it with a friend and pass it on to others. It’s God’s message through Billy Graham to the world. Receive the word and believe with faith. Hope is found in Jesus Christ!

I also posted a message about the cross back on April 29, 2012. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it in my blog archive....go to 2012, then April, click on The Cross. 

Our Lord speaks about the cross in His Word through the writers of the New Testament. Here is what Mark, Paul, and Peter had to say about the cross of Christ:

[ The Way of the Cross ] Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8:34 (NIV)
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)


Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for me!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mustard Seed Sized Faith


When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? What is faith and what does it have to do with believing in God? Must I have faith in order for God to work in my life? Will He answer all my prayers if I have faith? What can I do to have more faith in God? 

We’ve probably all struggled with faith at various times in our lives. Even the disciples of Jesus grappled with the idea of faith and they walked with Him daily. Several times Jesus told them their faith only had to be the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6). Really? Do you know the size of a mustard seed? Take a look and consider the proportion of your faith. 


Jesus says that’s all the faith you need. Do you believe Him? The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Will you ask Him to increase your faith? Let’s examine the lives of some New Testament people with mustard seed-sized faith and discover what happened to them.

1 - When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. 

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”] Matthew 17:14-21 (NASB) 
2 - When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:14-29 (NASB)
3 - As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”  And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: “See that no one knows about this!” But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land. Matthew 9:27-31 (NASB)
4 - On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19 ESV
These verses contain so much information that a complete interpretation would be impossible in this post. We’ll discuss the four stories above while focusing on three topics: God’s power, His mercy, our faith, and thanksgiving. Our God is a big God who created heaven and earth; He is capable of anything. His mercy flows from the love He has for His people; in blood, mercy poured down a cross that was meant for us, not Him. Our faith may be small or it may be large, but Jesus says if it’s only the size of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for us. By the way, a mustard seed grows into a sturdy sizable tree. Faith’s beginnings may be minute, but with added belief, it will grow substantially.
In the first story, Jesus talked to the disciples about their faith. He said it only had to be the size of a mustard seed and then nothing would be impossible for them. But Jesus didn’t mean for them to put faith into their faith; He meant for them to put faith in God, and His intent for us is the same. Our God is the Creator of the universe. He gave us all life. He desires to bless us as a father longs to bless his children. If we have a big view of our big God, then we will find ourselves trusting Him more and more with our lives. We’ll soon believe that all things are possible with Him, transforming our mustard seed-sized faith into God-sized faith. And like the two blind men, we will be able to hear Jesus saying, “It shall be done according to your faith” (Matthew 9:29). 
The second story is a different account of the first story, concentrating on the power of Jesus. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). Jesus responded by saying, “If You can? All things are possible to Him that believes” (Mark 9:23). Before this father stood Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Man of miracles. Did the father realize that he spoke to the One who created him, his son, and the crowds that surrounded them? Do we realize who He is when we speak to Him through prayer? Our Creator God has no limitations; He is God! No situation, no issue, no prayer is bigger than He. Scripture tells us that He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20). He is able!
The third story immediately focuses on the mercy of God. Two blind men, realizing who Jesus was, followed Him and cried out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus asked them if they believed He could heal them and after they answered with a resounding yes, they were healed. All four Biblical accounts describe people who need God’s help, but before any miracle happens for them, they loudly call for the Lord’s mercy upon them. Even though it means the same thing, the father with the possessed son asked the Lord to take pity on them. Speaking the words ‘take pity’ or ‘have mercy’ humble us before a powerful God. It gives us pause to acknowledge God for who He is, giving Him adoration and praise while recognizing His many attributes, such as power, provision, and protection. Filling our lives with praise to Him gives us a prospective of His righteousness and our sinfulness. Then in humility we sinful beings beg mercy from our holy King, and He answers our faith-filled requests.
Similarly, the fourth story contains elements of the power of God, His mercy, and the faith of individuals, yet it adds another component to our relationship with the Almighty God. All relationships, even with God, should include thankfulness. Of the ten cured lepers, only one turned back to speak praise and thanksgiving to the Healer. We humans enjoy receiving thanks for the gifts we give; shouldn’t we also reason that God Almighty delights in and deserves thanksgiving and praise? Our thankfulness will please the Lord God.
What’s the size of your faith? God tells us He can work with mustard-seed sized faith. So believing yet sinful human beings should acknowledge a powerful God in humility, begging for His mercy while trusting in His ability. God’s Word teaches us that there are no limitations to what God can do. But if we have any doubts, we can pray with confidence, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” And our loving Savior will compassionately reply, “It shall be done according to your faith.” 
Will the Lord find faith on earth when He returns? He will when we strive for faithfulness, ask for more faith, give thanks, and believe the words Jesus declares to us:

“...if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. Matthew 17:20 (NASB)

“If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. Luke 17:6 (NASB)

LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US AND FORGIVE OUR SINS. WE GIVE YOU THANKS FOR YOUR MANY BLESSINGS UPON OUR LIVES. JESUS, INCREASE OUR FAITH IN YOU. WE BELIEVE; HELP OUR UNBELIEF! IN YOUR PRECIOUS NAME, AMEN!