Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Blanket of Love

Picture yourself standing under a tree and looking up to see three birds perched on a limb. As you focus on the birds, you see a multicolored mother bird covering her fuzzy little baby birds with her wings. What a beautiful example of the sheltering protection of an Almighty God!

Baby birds need protection from predators and the elements. The ideal place to be is close to their mother’s breast concealed by her wings. Little nestlings experience the clutch of love when gathered under the wings of their mother.  

The living illustration of a hen guarding her chicks represents the lavishing love of our Father God (1 John 3:1). His love includes protection and provision. His love covers our many sins. His love shields us from our enemies. His love grants us refuge under His wings. 

Sounds good yet this is not a literal understanding of God hiding us under His wings. What does it mean for God to cover us with His feathers? How do we know we are covered by the love of a Savior?

When we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, His blood covers our sins (Matthew 26:28). When we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, His love wraps around us like a banner (Song of Songs 2:4). When we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, His peace shields us in the midst of trials (Isaiah 26:3). When we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, His faithfulness secures His promises to us (Psalm 33:4). 

Scripture gives us the best picture of God spreading His wings to shelter us. As you read God's Word, picture yourself perched somewhere in your own place as He gives you refuge from the outside world. Know that His love covers your sins and His wings give you sanctuary from the storms of life. 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
  Psalm 32:1 (NASB)

The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”  Ruth 2:12 (ESV)
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  2 Samuel 22:31 (ESV)
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.  Psalm 5:11 (ESV)
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  Psalm 36:7 (ESV)
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.  Psalm 57:1 (ESV)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence. 
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day, 
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling—
    even the Lord, who is my refuge—
then no harm will befall you,
    no disaster will come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life will I satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.” 
Psalm 91 (NIV)


Covered by His wings of love
God looks upon us from above.
Sheltering us from storm and gale
Hiding us within His veil.

Washed anew by the blood He shed,
New self alive, the old one dead. 
When transgressors turn from sin
The shroud of forgiveness comes flooding in. 

God’s blanket of love surrounds with peace,
His children who willingly release
The cares and trials of everyday life,
Granting serenity within the strife.

God is a refuge for those who believe.
The woes of fear He can relieve, 
Covering us with His shield
His wings of protection are revealed.  

DDC 2/24/13

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Carrying Burdens

“Nana, I want to hold him,” she said. 

“Well, you’ll have to sit on the sofa and I’ll put him in your lap,” I responded.

My sweet granddaughter thinks she is so big and she’s only three. Her little brother looks so small to her and she thinks she can carry him around like her parents and grandparents do. He’s only 11 months old. We would never dream of just handing him to her to cart around, but with our help she can hold up the precious load. 

I can do it myself! A statement we’ve all quoted at some point in our lives. From toddlers to seniors, we consider ourselves self-sufficient. At times we believe ourselves to be big enough to handle troubles. The truth is none of us are able to go it alone, enduring life’s stresses. And if we try to shoulder a heavy burden, we’re sure to drop it at some point. That’s where God and loving friends come into our lives, if we allow them entry.

Peaceful, unencumbered times in my life occur when I lay my burdens at the feet of Jesus! He is faithful to come alongside of me, filling me with His peace. Sometimes He’s even carried me when I really couldn’t go any further. Praise God He is there waiting for us to request His assistance! And because He knows we need not only spiritual guidance but physical support, He’ll send people to us to be His hands and feet. 

Oh how sweet the times when acquaintances, friends, and family bear one another’s burdens and comfort each other! I’ve encountered many delightful moments in fellowship with friends and family. When I’ve needed help, they always show up and I believe God sends them. 

Over ten years ago I went back to work full time at a high school. I missed the weekly Bible studies I used to attend, and after making new friends, I asked if anyone wanted to pray and study God’s Word once a week before work. Thank God for positive responses. A group of us ladies began meeting early every Wednesday morning. As we studied the Scriptures, we began praying for our families, as well as staff and students at our school. It was refreshing to meet fellow Christians in the hallways, sharing faith in Christ and shining His light to others. 

During this time I encountered several of life’s daunting difficulties. My college-aged daughter began dating someone who influenced her in such a way that she withdrew from family and friends. Our once loving relationship shattered from extreme pain. Around the same time my dad encountered several problems after knee surgery and died. My world turned upside down, my tears began falling constantly, and I questioned God.

Those dear friends God blessed me with at work noticed my agony. Whenever they had a free moment, they would pull me into a room, shut the door, quote God’s encouraging Word, and pray with me. It was the cord I needed to hang onto a life worth living. These people of God helped me bear my burdens and lifted life’s load with the grace of God. Those encouraging moments enabled me to live one day at a time, waiting expectantly for God’s promises to infiltrate my life and heal my heart. Peace eventually surrounded me. I give all the praise to God Almighty for His wondrous deeds of love! He is faithful and He will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24)! The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen you (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

There are no sweeter words than the words of God. He’s given them to us through the mouths of humans who recorded them in the Scriptures. The Word of God has been preserved for thousands of generations and continues to provide solace for hurting hearts. Allow the precious promises from His Word to penetrate your soul as you read with your eyes, hear with your ears, and listen with your heart.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)
I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts. 
Psalm 119:63 (NASB)

It was so pleasant when 
    together we entered God’s house with the crowd.  Psalm 55:14 (CEB)

Oh, how good, how pleasant it is
for brothers to live together in harmony.
It is like fragrant oil on the head
that runs down over the beard,
over the beard of Aharon,
and flows down on the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon
that settles on the mountains of Tziyon.
For it was there that Adonai ordained
the blessing of everlasting life. 
Psalm 133 (CJB)

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
    from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. 
Psalm 68:19-20 (NIV)

“Cast your burden on the Lord—
    he will support you!
    God will never let the righteous be shaken!” 
Psalm 55:22 (CEB)

“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
    and have carried since you were born. 
Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” 
Isaiah 46:3-4 (NIV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

Praise God for His goodness and mercy! Thank you, Jesus, for blessing us with your presence and the gift of companionship. May we love You through our service to others. In Your precious Name, AMEN.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

From Grave to Grace

Are you wearing grave clothes? Does sin have you bound? Maybe someone close to you is trapped in wrongdoing. Do you know anyone locked away in the legacy of poor choices? Deliverance is needed and Jesus can deliver! He will bestow the grace that can raise us from the grave. 

Lazarus lay dead in a tomb outside of Jerusalem near the town of Bethany. His two sisters, Martha and Mary, had wrapped him in his burial garments and laid him there. News had been sent to their good friend Jesus. By the time Jesus got to Bethany and the home of His friends, Lazarus had been dead four days. Yet Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb to perform a miracle so that believers would see the glory of God. He declared, “Lazarus, come forth!” And Lazarus came out of the tomb bound from head to foot in his grave clothes.

Jesus performed a mighty miracle. He raised a dead man and people were astonished. He then made a statement to those around Him. He said, “Loose him, and let him go.” What? My goodness! If Jesus just raised Lazarus from the dead, couldn’t He unbind him from the burial wrappings? Why did He tell someone else to do it? Yes, Lazarus was alive (thanks to Jesus), but he was unable to free himself from the things that bound him. He needed assistance. Jesus rescued and released Lazarus from death, redeeming Him through grace. Now Jesus instructed his family and friends to help him gain complete freedom from the grave. (John 11:1-44).

Paul and Silas sat in a prison cell, their feet bound between heavy blocks of wood. They had been beaten and thrown in prison after commanding, in the name of Jesus Christ, that a spirit of divination come out of a young girl. She provided great profit for her masters until the spirit left her and now she could no longer tell fortunes. Their hope of earnings vanished and anger consumed these men as they seized Paul and Silas, desiring vengeance. 

Once in prison, Paul and Silas did not give into a defeatist attitude. Instead they began to pray and sing praises to the Lord, bringing Him glory. Suddenly an earthquake hit, the foundation of the prison house shook, the doors opened, and everyone’s chains unfastened. Immediately the prison guard drew his sword to kill himself until Paul informed him that no one had left. Trembling with fear, the guard asked how he could be saved. Paul and Silas said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” After receiving the word of the Lord, the guard cleansed the wounds of Paul and Silas, and then he and his household was baptized. Rejoicing greatly, the guard brought them into his house and fed them (Acts 16:16-34).

Both of these incidents were momentous for the people involved. They all witnessed miracles. These occurrences progressed from somber moods to generous blessings. These happenings shifted from grave to grace, thanks to the favor of God. He entered the lives of His people and liberated them from their captivity. Praise God! 

He then goes a step further. God impresses upon His people the need to assist each other, to carry one another’s burdens. Jesus directed people at a grave site to unloose the bindings of a resurrected man, allowing complete release from death. The jail guard felt a need to cleanse the wounds of freed prisoners and then feed them, providing strength to their bodies. What great examples of people exhibiting grace like Jesus, causing bystanders to see the glory of God! As the Word says, “Bear one another’s burdens — in this way you will be fulfilling the Torah’s true meaning, which the Messiah upholds.” Galatians 6:2 (CJB - Complete Jewish Bible)

Our Messiah, Jesus, lay dead in the tomb of Joseph from Arimathea. Joseph had asked for Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb where no one had ever lain. The women followers of Jesus saw the tomb and how His body rested, later returning with prepared spices and perfumes for the body. But on the Sabbath when they went back to the tomb, they saw the stone rolled away and the body of the Lord Jesus gone. The angels told the women that He had risen. After telling Jesus’ disciples about the missing body, Peter ran to the tomb and saw only the linen wrappings (Luke 23:53-24:12). Risen from the dead, set free from death? His grave clothes lay in the tomb as proof. Jesus was completely unshackled, victorious over life and death. Then and now He grants grace to any who believe. 

Are you bound by a stressful situation? Do you know of someone in captivity? Believe that God through Christ Jesus can redeem (buy back) you and/or your loved one from the grave and bestow grace. It’s then that followers of Jesus are called to put their beliefs into action, extending the grace of God to all in need. We must be a body of believers who lift each other up from the bindings of the grave to God’s glorious grace.

...the grace of God was upon Him...  Luke 2:40 (NASB)
...we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth...  John 1:14 (NKJV)
...grace and truth came through Jesus Christ... John 1:17 (NKJV)

Thank you, Father, for your free and unmerited favor. May we extend your grace to those in need of your mercy, living life like Jesus, helping to set captives free! In the mighty name of Jesus, AMEN.

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  Ezekiel 37:12 (NKJV)

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more...  Romans 5:20 (NKJV)
 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.  Romans 16:20 (NKJV)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

God's Pathway

“Cooper, keep walking!” I strongly stated, as he veered to the right for the tenth time. Oh, I thought, how frustrating. I just want to get back home and sit down a minute before fixing supper. Why can’t he stay on the path? Immediately God spoke to my heart—Debbie, have you always remained on the path I have planned for you?
My husband and I love animals and we have two energetic dogs, a golden retriever and a terrier mix. They live with us inside our home and need attention when we return from work. I enjoy the exercise, so I usually take them for a late afternoon walk. One day God used our walk as a spiritual lesson. 
My dogs and I tread the same trail almost every day for about a mile in our neighborhood. Fortunately our trek is on a sidewalk which helps prevent muddy paws and feet following a rain. One afternoon after a very long day at work, I began noticing how often my golden deviated off course. I’ve since noticed he always veers right and left, but that particular day I was annoyingly aware of every departure from “the straight and narrow.” My little terrier even tried to change course a couple of times.
I watched both my dogs while listening to God. They swerved to the left, checking out the smells, then swung to the right, marking their spot. Sometimes they completely stopped to get a sniff of the area. Only occasionally did they remain on the path for an extended amount of time. Distractions, noises, and smells received most of their attention, but they didn’t get very far because I had them on leashes. Still our walk took longer than I had planned, yet God didn’t waste a moment as He used the time to illustrate a life lesson. 
God helped me to understand how we humans sometimes deviate from the path of life. God has a plan for all of us, but He allows us to choose His way or our way. Even though He is faithful to always walk alongside of us, we may chose to stray from the path or become distracted, but remember, we’re NOT on leashes. When we’ve wandered from His way, our choices may bring us great harm. Yes, God gives us a choice in how to live our lives (like the prodigal son in Luke 15), and sometimes our decisions can take us far, far away from Him. And like the father in the story of the prodigal son, He waits with loving compassion for our return to Him. 
If you’ve ever gone astray and gotten lost along the way, don’t feel ashamed. Run to Jesus who anxiously awaits your return to His path. Or if you have a child, family member, spouse, or friend who has abandoned God’s pathway for their own way, lift them up in prayer to your Heavenly Father and wait with His mercy for them to come back home to Jesus. His arms are big enough to support all of us prodigals who choose to return and walk with Him. He waits with amazing love to pour out His grace upon our lives. 
God through Jesus Christ is faithful. He is gracious and patient with us, not wanting any of us to perish, but to live eternally with Him. He even desires for us to live for Him while we walk this earth. His words of mercy can be found in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Read God’s instructions and promises below.
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NASB)
For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your sons will find compassion before those who led them captive and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”  2 Chronicles 30:9 (NASB)
If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].  1 John 1:9 (Amplified Bible)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” 
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 (NIV)
And all God’s people said, “AMEN! Thank you, Lord Jesus!”