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!