Mothers for Prodigals

Thursday, February 27, 2014

GOD'S STRENGTH and PEACE


My heart is heavy this morning as I contemplate all the trouble in the world, especially the Ukraine. BUT our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me." (John 14:1) AND He also says, "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)

In case we are not hearing the words of our loving Savior, He says again in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Read the words from 1 Kings 19 about the trouble the prophet Elijah encountered. He had just battled at an altar with false prophets, and won because his faith was in the one true God......


Elijah Flees to Horeb

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord Appears to Elijah

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

The Call of Elisha

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.


Read also from Psalm 29.....


 Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
 
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in holy array.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord is over many waters.
 The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
 The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
 The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
 The Lord sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people;

 The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Perfect Love





A heart....in the snow! I gasped delightfully with surprise. And it’s Valentine’s Day. I grinned on the inside and outside after stumbling upon this little wonder on our deck. My husband explained how he made those prints the night of February 13, but then our dog messed it up after running through it. The nighttime temperature solidified in ice the imperfect yet beautiful heart, and I still felt loved.

Considering my husband’s work of art brought to mind my imperfect love for God. Do I love Him with my whole heart? What other loves distract me from loving God? Does He forgive my imperfection?

No, I don’t always love Him completely and yes, He forgives me because no matter what I do, He still loves me. Perfection covers imperfection—hallelujah! Thank you, God, for forgiving my imperfect love for you. Thank you, Jesus, for covering over my many sins. Help me love you with my whole heart. Give me an undivided heart!

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NLT)
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 1 John 3:1 (NLT)
...and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (HCSB)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT)
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lessons in the Snow


Off in the distance the blue yonder finally showed up, revealed by the parting of the clouds. It’s always been there, but the clouds created doubt about the sun’s ability to shine. Do we see Jesus, the Son of God, in the same way? Do the unpleasant circumstances in our lives cause us to doubt that the Son is even there? 

As I walked my dogs through the snow and ice of our recent snowstorm, the evidence of God’s presence became reality. He’s here, right now! He’s never left me, no matter what my situation. It may look gray and frightening, but He’s right beside me. 

Using the weather and my natural surroundings, God guided me to a deeper understanding of His truth through these three spiritual lessons: 1) blue sky and sun symbolize God’s constant presence even when cloudy, 2) underneath physical beauty may lie danger, 3) a warm covering protects from wind and cold. Using the Old and New Testaments, I want to share with you what God taught me outside on a wintry snowy day.

Several inches of ice and snow covered everything outdoors and big billowy clouds filled the sky. With my two dogs leading the way, I watched my every step while carefully trudging over slippery spots. Suddenly a bright light appeared and I glanced upward to see the sun peeking through gray clouds. As I rounded a corner, I looked up again and saw blue sky. Awww—I knew it was there. For three days, the overcast sky rained down sleet and snow, but now, the clouds gave way to the warm sun heating up the earth and me. 

As the sun warmed my outside, the Son of God warmed my heart. Actually seeing the sunlight gave me reason to rejoice, but it also opened me eyes to reality. The sun always shines regardless of the weather and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is always available to us. But we tend to forget about His presence when we allow circumstances to cloud our vision. The fact remains—when only clouds are evident, the sun still shines daily. Another fact endures—when our lives appear gloomy, the Son is still shining everyday. Do you believe He is near to you? Do you trust that He rains down His love upon you? Be encouraged by the hope of blue sky and sunlight and listen with your heart to what He says about His abiding love and grace.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)

Light is sweet,
    and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
Ecclesiastes 11:7 (NIV)

No longer will violence be heard in your land,
    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
    and your gates Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.

Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.
Isaiah 60:18-20 (NIV)

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3 (NIV)

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Malachi 4:2 (NIV)

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Rev. 3:20 (NIV)
Continuing on our walk, I noticed how ice on the trees turned into water droplets and icy patches on the ground changed into slushy puddles. Everything glowed as the sun glistened off the wet snow. It was beautiful until I almost tripped. Then I realized ice still remained underneath the snow; danger lay beneath the beauty. Suddenly I remembered a news report—many people were without power, tree limbs were falling on houses, and several people had died because of the cold. What looked appealing to me wreaked havoc on others. Sometimes we get caught up in the allure of things/people/places and forget about possible risks. Beauty can mislead us into thinking all is well.

God then brought to mind some Scripture that spoke to my thoughts. On his journey to the promised land, Abraham and his nephew, Lot, had acquired many processions of livestock and precious metals. Because of the great amount of flocks of animals, their herders began to quarrel. So Abraham suggested they separate, allowing his nephew to choose first which direction to go. Lot looked around and chose the lush countryside of Sodom (eventually God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the evil within them—read about it in Genesis 18-19). Lot saw only the area’s outer beauty, not realizing danger existed within its borders. Are you deceived by glamour and magnificence? Have you ever considered the dangers lurking nearby? Read below a portion of the story about Lot’s choice found in the thirteenth chapter of Genesis.

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.  Genesis 13:10-13 (NIV)  
In the New Testament, Peter reminds us to be aware of the concealed dangers around us. He says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV) 
Even though the sun melted away the remnants of a snowstorm, the air remained cold and the wind blew colder. I gave God thanks for the warm wrappings of my coat, hat, and gloves. Knowing I walked toward a warm house caused me to rejoice in my many blessings and God’s love. It doesn’t matter whether my life seems flawless or is in shambles, I serve a God whose love and grace strengthens me for another day. My faith in Jesus allows me to trust Him, no matter what I see before me. What about those that know no grace, those that haven’t accepted the love of Jesus Christ? What do they do when the cold forbidden dangers surround them and there are no warm loving arms around them. Where do they go for comfort? 
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.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 (NIV)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)


I hope my lessons in the snow help you to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is always near to you, no matter how cloudy your circumstance. He hears you when you call to Him. Even if hidden dangers lurk nearby, He is available. He desires a loving relationship with you. He’s standing at the door to your heart. Listen—I hear a knock. Go ahead, we can talk another day—go answer that call.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Offerings of Angst and Honor



What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you wake up? What thoughts plague your reasoning and prevent sleep at night? What troubles your thinking process throughout the day? 

How you ever stopped to consider all the notions that run through your head? We all deal with problems at one time or another. The difficulties may be with ourselves or a family member. Hurdles might happen at work or we could be battling something beyond our control. How do we handle all the troubles that come our way? Do we brood unhappily or do we meditate quietly with purpose? 

Focusing on negative circumstances in life causes the human condition to appear dreadful. Everything has a tinge of gray around it and our vision becomes clouded with misery and sorrow. Slowly life spirals uncontrollably towards depression while hearts despair. We’re no good for anyone, not even ourselves. 

When we meditate with hope and praise the name of our Heavenly Father, we’re enabled to release our angst to God. He hears our prayer and fills us with strength. Even if our circumstances remain the same, our anxiety turns to joy. Our minds rest at night and we realize God’s in control throughout the day. Our aching hearts beat with the praise of a child who has just landed in the arms of a loving Father. 

Again I ask you—what concerns you? What things in your life frequently bother you? Be still right now and take a moment or two to be silent before God! Control your running thoughts and give Him your grieving heart. Know without a shadow of a doubt that He loves you. Focus on His truth, goodness and faithfulness. Allow your troubles to fade as you praise Him for who He is. Trust Him to take care of you and your situation. Experience deliverance from adversity and sing with gladness before a God that hears your cries. Give Jesus thanks for setting you free!


Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy. 
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
    will come and worship before you, Lord;
    they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
    you alone are God.

Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
    you have delivered me from the depths,
    from the realm of the dead.

Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
    ruthless people are trying to kill me—
    they have no regard for you. 
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
    just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
Psalm 86 (NIV)


Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre, 
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord. Psalm 150 (NIV)



Offerings of Exaltation

Let the drumbeats of our praise send the devil away,
When the adoration of our Savior over us holds sway.
We sing with gladness as before Him we pray,
Christ Jesus, we glorify you!

We lift our voices high when joined together in praise,
As a community of believers our worship we raise,
Committing to stand firm for all of our days,
Christ Jesus, we magnify you!

Away with our troubles and all worldly cares,
Because we realize our worries are snares.
Instead we offer our faithful prayers,
Christ Jesus, we give thanks to you!

Deborah Crawford  2/9/14

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Mountain of God

Purple majesty off in the distance, the rise and fall of a distant tree line, jagged edges and rugged terrain—this picture of beauty displays itself when I venture on the highway toward the mountains of North Carolina. I love the mountains and my heart soars when I approach the Appalachian chain. What is it about the heights of an impressive landscape that give us pause to gaze in awe?



Staring at the topography, we possibly gain a greater understanding of a Creator God. Maybe our hearts feel closer to God as we near the mountains. Perhaps it’s the fact that believers in Christ make their hearts His home, and seeing the mountains convey awareness that God is in our midst. Conceivably mountains call us home. 



Whether Greek mythology or Jewish Scriptures, mountains reflected the majestic quarters of unseen power for ancient people. The gods of the Greek myths supposedly resided in a palace on Mount Olympus. The Old Testament Israelites believed that God’s coming kingdom would inhabit Mount Zion, the mountain of God that symbolized God’s dominion over the whole earth. Regardless of what anybody believed, mountains revealed (and still do) a fortress of refuge and strength. 

The word “Zion” means “fortification.” The fortress of Zion actually surrounded the city of Jerusalem, and eventually
Jerusalem itself was referred to as Zion. When David captured the fort of Zion (walls and all), it was renamed “the City of David.” Once David’s son, Solomon, built the temple in Jerusalem, the name Zion grew in meaning to refer to the temple. Eventually the land of Judah and the people of Israel were known as “Zion.” Is it any wonder that the name “Zion” later took on a New Testament meaning of God’s spiritual kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God? Even Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, referred to Christ as the Cornerstone of Zion (1 Peter 2:6).

Jerusalem and the city walls, the temple, the land of Judah, the Israelites, the kingdom of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God, Jesus our Cornerstone—all referred to as Zion and it means fortification. God Himself was, is, and will be a refuge for His people. Jesus Christ, Immanuel—God with us—came to earth to live among His people and revealed the kingdom of God. After Jesus’ resurrection, He sent His Holy Spirit to reside in the hearts of believers. God is in our midst and He is our refuge. 




That’s why a view of those prominent mountains takes our breath away. Not only do we see strength, but we feel it in our souls. We know who God is and believe He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). We should not be afraid of anything.

                                          
Read Psalms 46 and 48. Know that God dwells with us, offering sanctuary and safety. He is our fortress, a mighty fortress, and He will never fail us! Offer God your thanksgiving and praise; He is most worthy of adoration and honor. Let’s glorify our Lord together through His Word. 


God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells. 
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire. 
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”                                                                                                                                                                              
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46 (NIV)



Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
In the city of our God, His holy mountain.
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion in the far north,
The city of the great King.
God, in her palaces,
Has made Himself known as a stronghold.

For, lo, the kings assembled themselves,
They passed by together.
They saw it, then they were amazed;
They were terrified, they fled in alarm.
Panic seized them there,
Anguish, as of a woman in childbirth.
With the east wind
You break the ships of Tarshish. 
As we have heard, so have we seen
In the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God;
God will establish her forever. 

We have thought on Your lovingkindness, O God,
In the midst of Your temple.
As is Your name, O God,
So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;
Your right hand is full of righteousness.
Let Mount Zion be glad,
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
Because of Your judgments.
Walk about Zion and go around her;
Count her towers;
Consider her ramparts;
Go through her palaces,
That you may tell it to the next generation. 
For such is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will guide us until death.
Psalm 48 (NASB)