Mothers for Prodigals

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!