Mothers for Prodigals

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Word and Prayer

I will be unable to post this Sunday so this is the post for the week of June 2.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (NASB)
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.  Colossians 1:16-18 (NASB)
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.  John 1:12 (RSV)
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.  1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (NASB)
God, You are everything. You created the world and everything around us, everything. It all belongs to You; none of it is ours. You loan it to us while we abide on Your earth. Whatever You have given to us, I understand it’s Your desire that we use it for Your glory, so others who don’t believe in You may see You. 
Oh Lord, how I've failed You. I get so caught up in myself and my own life. Why am I so blind and deaf to You? You’re all around me. I see You in the morning moonlight and realize hope for a new day. I give You praise. I see You in flowering buds and recognize new life. I praise Your Name. I see You in the wind and feel Your power. I give You praise. I see You in the rain and drink in Your refreshment. I praise Your holy Name. I see You in the sun rise and feel the warmth of Your mercy and grace. I give You praise. I see You in the wintry frost and find comfort in Your loving warmth and rest. I see You in the colors of fall as the leaves drop to the ground, and understand that death must happen in order for new life to begin. Thank you, Jesus! Your Sovereignty reigns over the seasons of the earth. Praise You, Heavenly Father. 
I see You in the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ. Never has a man gone to His death with such willingness and humility. Your love poured out in silence before the Romans and the Jews as they cried out for His death. Your love poured out with purpose into the streets of Rome while bystanders watched Him carrying His cross. Your love poured out in pain as the nails were hammered into His hands. Your love poured out in forgiveness for all around Him as He breathed His last. Your love poured out in victory the day He overcame death through His resurrection, making a way for us to live with You eternally. Your love continually pours out in grace as He makes intercession for us before You. 
You have made Yourself known to all of us through our moral compass. Deep inside our souls we know there is a higher power. I know You as Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. You made Yourself known through Your covenant people Israel as You walked daily with them. You continually make Yourself known through Your Word, the holy Scriptures. I know You as Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. You forgive us of our sins each day when we repent before You. You walk with us daily through the trials and tribulations of this world; help us to have a resolved faith in You. 
Shine Your light through the Church, Lord, so that others may come to know You. You desire for us to point to You and Your finished work on the cross. You arose from the dead so that we may live free from bondage on earth and live eternally in heaven. We are to point to You in all we do, living our lives for You and revealing You to the world. 
You are the sum of all things, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May the world believe in Your name, Jesus Christ, and receive power to become children of God. We give You praise! AMEN.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spiritual Warfare

After studying the armor of God in Ephesians 6, I wrote a prayer based on wearing God’s armor and standing firm in His will. Using Ephesians 6 with other scriptural texts enhanced the Word of God and the benefits of obedience. I pray you’ll experience God’s strength and comfort as you daily resolve to follow Jesus.

 Ephesians 6:10-18                                    

Heavenly Father,

All praise belongs to You for You are holy and worthy to be praised. Bring Your Kingdom here on earth, Lord, for I desire to do Your will and work by Your side as Your warrior bride (Matthew 6:9-13). Come, Lord Jesus!

As the day begins, I ready myself for the task ahead, wearing Your attire! Around my core is Your Belt of Truth for You tell me in Your Word that You are near and all Your commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151). Because the issues of life spring from my heart, I guard it with the Breastplate of Righteousness that my heart may be covered with the blood of the Lamb. And I can say with the psalmist that You, God, are the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26). Lord, I maintain position wearing the Shoes of Peace, waiting and believing that out of the miry clay You set my feet upon a rock, causing me to STAND FIRM (Psalm 40:1-2).

God, I lift up that Shield of Faith, extinguishing Satan’s fiery darts while believing You are who You say You are and do what You say You do. I wait and trust in Your holy Name with rejoicing (Psalm 33:20-21). Father, when those darts and doubts assail me, I will take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, having the mind of Christ by wearing the Helmet of Salvation (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Dressed and ready, I wield that Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, being warned by the Holy Spirit and keeping Your every command (Psalm 19:7-11). I cast off the works of darkness and put on your armor of light (Romans 13:12). I trust You, Lord God, and stand steadfast, ready to serve (Psalm 20:7-8). 

Vigilantly, with praise and thanksgiving, I seek You and Your strength, Lord, with all my heart forevermore (Colossians 4:2, 1 Chronicles 16:11, Jeremiah 29:13). I resolve to follow You! Lord Jesus, I believe all things are possible with You, and where I doubt, help my unbelief (Mark 9:23-24, 11:24). Make me able to lift holy hands in praise to You without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8). I stand as a soldier of Christ ready to obey Your commands, for it is in Jesus’ Name that I pray. AMEN.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Look to the Lord

Many different situations and circumstances lie before our eyes. Storms of all kinds blow through our lives, leaving destruction in their paths. We encounter the following: sin, death, hunger, sickness, disease, physical ailments, mental illness, troubled relationships, neglect, abandonment, friendlessness, job loss, bombings, war, hurricanes, tornadoes, back-stabbing (someone you trusted talking badly about you without your knowledge), fights, misuse of drugs and alcohol, selfishness, pride. The list could go on and on and I’m know I’ve missed something, so consider your own condition. 

Whatever troubles lie before us, they block our view of the greater thing which is in knowing our Heavenly Father. I might add that sometimes the things that block our view of God are the successes and good things of life. We get caught up in them and forget to give Him praise for His many blessings. Forgive us, Lord! 

God is a personal God! Whatever our need is, He is able to provide. He is Eternal, Everlasting, Bread of Life, Carpenter, Beloved, Comforter, Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, Deliverer, Shepherd, Healer, the Great I AM, Light of the World, Lord of All, Physician, Redeemer, Savior, Friend, Faithful, The Word..... I KNOW I’ve missed some of Jesus’ names, so remember who He is to you, what He’s done for you, and give Him praise. He is who He says He is; trust Him. Take your eyes off of your condition and turn them to Jesus Christ. 

Study the following verse and let it resonate within your soul. I’ve supplied a list of words and synonyms related to the verse. Replace the various words with ones that work best for you, allowing God to speak new life into you! Look to the Lord and be blessed by His Word!

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
fix - focus, direct, point, train.
visible - noticeable, evident, apparent
invisible - undetectable, hidden, veiled, out of sight, obscured
temporary - nonpermanent, short-term, brief, short-lived, momentary, fleeting, passing.
eternal -  everlasting, endless, perpetual, undying, immortal, abiding, permanent, enduring, infinite, timeless
Give His praise!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stormy Elements

Is there a storm raging where you are right now? Does it feel as though hurricane force winds follow you wherever you go? Do you have a thunder cloud hanging over your head? Is your life cycling out of control as if a cyclone has you spinning aimlessly? Does life appear calm outside of yourself while inside an eruption is about to take place? Or are you in the eye of the storm experiencing tranquility while being surrounded by a ring of unrivaled rainstorms?

If you can answer “yes” to any or all of the above questions, then you’re in good company. The disciples of Jesus encountered the literal and physical storms of life. We, like them, can communicate a thundering affirmative answer to having tasted the tempests of life. In good company, you say? Really? It doesn’t feel so good! So how do we handle life’s deluge of disturbances and discouragements? What do we do when hemmed in by trouble? Let’s read several examples of the disciples’ experiences and see how they handled the gales of life. 

Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.  John 6:16-21 (NASB)
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.”  Matthew 14:22-33 (NASB)
In both accounts of Scripture, the disciples were in a boat on water, not solid ground. On both occasions, they were initially without Jesus when strong winds blew and the waves stirred violently. They were frightened and yet, each time when Jesus finally came to them, He said, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 
Before Jesus appeared to them, what do you suppose they were thinking and doing? Did their circumstances seem insurmountable? Were they distraught at the possibilities of danger? Did anxiety overcome them, resulting in flared tempers? Were they consumed with doubt for their safety? Did they focus solely on their surroundings or did they cling to the promises of God? Had they lost all hope? 
When life is topsy-turvy and chaos encircles you, what are you thinking? When storms roll in, are you filled with anxiety, doubt, and worry? Where is your focus: on your circumstances or God’s promises? Do you lose hope or do you trust God? Can you hear Jesus speak reassuring words of life to you or do you only hear Satan spew lies of hopelessness and death?
In the story from John, after the disciples received Jesus into the boat, they immediately landed on solid ground. Jesus gave them firm footing and they weren’t rocked to and fro. In the second story from Matthew, Peter began to sink when he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the storm. Sight overwhelmed his faith; the situation at hand gained control over God’s promises of old. 
We’re all guilty of doubt like Peter. Even though we may claim faith in God, we usually allow the visible dire conditions of life to overpower our belief. The sight of our situation causes us to falter in our faith. Why do we give disease, death, and discouragement dominance over our lives? Why don’t we allow life, liberty, and love from Jesus to linger in and around us?
God gives us directives in how to live our lives. Jesus desires for us to live free from worry and sin by giving Him our cares and troubles. We are to trust in Him and hold fast to His promises. We are to be vigilant in our faith by standing firm on the Word of God. Allow these Scriptures to infiltrate your heart and mind, giving you a firm foundation on Christ Jesus, the solid rock. Take your focus off the storm and turn your eyes upon Jesus!
...for we walk by faith, not by sight...  2 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB)
...casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  1 Peter 5:7-10 (NASB)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-39 (NASB)
No storm of disease, death, depression, distress, discouragement, disappointment, danger, or dread can keep us from our God. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! Fight the good fight of faith and believe in our faithful God. Allow Jesus to enter your boat and keep your eyes on Him.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Religion or Relationship?

We hear so much about religion: religious differences, religious freedom, religious fervor, religious people, religious this, religious that. Guess what? It’s not about religion at all, it’s about relationship—relationship with a personal Savior and His name is Jesus Christ. 

Religion places rules and regulations on people, trying to generate morality. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees and Sadducees were concerned with laws to create godly people. We too get caught up in our own religious duties, trying to earn our way to God with our goodness. When we regularly observe religious rituals, we tend to become prideful and judge others. Religion does not produce saints, only sinners. As Paul tells us in Romans,

There is no one righteous, not even one.
There is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away;
all alike have become useless.
There is no one who does what is good, not even one.
 Romans 3:10-12 (HCSB)

Paul goes on to say that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). He continues his discussion of sin in chapter 7 by saying that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it (vs.18).
We can’t save ourselves; we need a Savior. We need someone to show us how to relate to God. That’s the reason Jesus came to earth—to save us from our sins and to demonstrate the reality of relationship. Jesus lived on earth, testifying to His relationship with the Heavenly Father and with the people who followed Him. He exhibited true faith and desired true followers. Paul says in Romans 3:26 that God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. 
So how do we begin this relationship with God Almighty? The Bible spells it out for us loud and clear. Jesus quotes the Old Testament to His disciples in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us what Jesus said. Here is Luke’s version: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself  (Luke 10:27).
Jesus was quoting Moses who spoke to the Israelites: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (HCSB)
Relationship was explained thousands of years ago. In fact, God created Adam and Eve for relationship, but sin entered in. Our holy God cannot look upon sin, so He sent Jesus to exchange our sins for His righteousness. Once belief in Jesus takes place, the relationship begins in love. As Jesus says in John 14:12, 15, “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do..... If you love Me, you will keep My commands. True religion is relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ. He is the only way (John 14:6)!
Our Heavenly Father loves us very much. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus into the world to save us from our sins (John 3:16). Revel in His love as He delights over you: Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB) Just as He delights in us, we should take great delight in Him: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (NASB)

It takes time to develop relationships. Don’t we spend time getting to know our friends and family? Jesus wants to be your Friend; get to know Him daily through the Word of God. As Simon Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69 (NASB)

When we are in relationship with Christ, we don’t need to worry about the rules and regulations of religion. Because we know Him, we will desire to follow Him completely and we will delight to do His will. I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction lives within me. Psalm 40:8 (HCSB) We will follow the law of our Friend. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it. Psalm 119:35 (NASB) I’ll say it again....True religion is relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.