Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Showers of Grace

Hope raised her surrendered hands in praise of the One who created her, asking forgiveness for her sin. God rained down His mercy upon her. With arms lifted high to the glory of God, she dripped profusely with the generosity of God the Creator, Jesus the Savior, and Holy Spirit the Advocate. Tears of joy streamed down her face as the flood of Jesus Christ’s love and grace marinated her soul. Peace enveloped her!

Showers of love and grace—available for everyone. God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). 

Our Creator, the Lord God, desires relationship with us, His creatures. God the Potter holds and molds us the clay in His hands (Jeremiah 18:6), if we are willing. It is our choice whether to turn toward God or turn away from Him. Will we be pliable in His hands or unyielding to His gift of grace? Reflect on the following Biblical account of God’s grace and man’s choice.

Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve, stood before the Lord with offerings from their vocations (Genesis 4). The farmer Cain brought an offering from the fruit of the ground and the shepherd Abel offered the first and finest of his flock. Because God sees the heart, Abel’s sacrificial offering pleased Him while Cain’s random offering displeased Him. 

When he realized God’s dissatisfaction with his offering, Cain’s mood changed. He sulked and got angry. The Lord said, “Why are you angry? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t, sin is waiting at your door to rule you, but you must control it.”

Losing control of himself because of jealousy, Cain found Abel, started an argument, and eventually killed his brother. The Lord later questioned Cain saying, “Where’s your brother?”

Cain said, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord responded by telling Cain the ground cried out with his brother’s blood and he would no longer be able to cultivate crops from the land. Cain’s farming days were over. And God said, “You will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”

Cain, who killed his brother, cried out, “My punishment is too much and as I wander, someone will probably kill me.” (Why do we always think of ourselves first? Forgive us, Lord!)

The Lord promised sevenfold vengeance on whoever slayed Cain. Then He offered Cain, the murderer, a mark of grace so no one would kill him. Yet Cain focused on self-pity and went out from the presence of the Lord. He separated himself from God, settling in the land of Nod. 

The word nod denotes moving to and fro, wandering back and forth. Cain in Nod—can you feel his agitation and restlessness? Could he find peace? The one who pitied himself is to be pitied!
Sin’s consequences are real; sometimes concealed and other times obvious. Misdeeds create unrest in our souls. How do we handle the effects of sin? Do we leave the presence of God and attempt to settle in Nod, a land of uneasiness and anxiety? Or do we run to the loving arms of our Savior Jesus Christ and surrender to His Sovereign will, repenting of our sins and finding peace.

Cain left the presence of the Lord and wandered in Nod, the land of the fugitive. His separation from God created a restless spirit. Why did he walk away from God’s gracious presence? Would you? I wonder if he ever realized the error of his ways and turned back to the Lord.

Hope realized her sinfulness and repented. She submitted to the will of her Heavenly Father in complete surrender. The Lord filled her willing spirit with peace and grace. She walked, maybe even ran, toward the gracious presence of the Lord. Would you? 

The apostle Peter said, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NASB)

Sin crouches near us, waiting for us to stumble. When we stumble, Satan attempts to separate us from God, filling our minds with anxiety and unworthiness. If he can take us to the land of Nod (restlessness), he’s won half the battle.

But remember—Jesus won the victory! He surrendered Himself, even unto death on a cross, so that we might have life abundantly (Philippians 2, John 10:10). If we have believed on Jesus’ name and received Him into our hearts, we have the power to overcome the devil by submitting to God Almighty. Repent and run to the grace-filled arms of Jesus Christ. The land of Nod will quickly become a distant memory and your spirit will find rest in the Lord.

Over the next week, pause and consider our God of grace and mercy. He offers grace to all through the blood of Christ Jesus (John 3:16, Romans 3:24). Will you accept His gift of grace or wander restlessly in Nod? Are you Cain or Hope? 

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NASB)

Return next week to learn of the Potter’s plan for your life and bathe in His showers of grace!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

God's Perfect Path

If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.” Isaiah 31:21 (GNT)

“Cooper, keep walking!” I sternly said as he veered to the right for the tenth time. My frustration yelled loudly to anyone listening. 

Our two energetic dogs, Cooper, a golden retriever, and Lucy, a terrier mix, spend long boring days in our house while my husband and I work. When I finally return home and mention a walk, they jump with excitement. Once leashed for their walk, they make a beeline for the door and suddenly we’re dog-trotting up the road. 

One afternoon following a stressful day at work, I tried to rush our walk. I longed to get back home quickly and rest awhile before fixing supper. But Cooper’s plans conflicted with mine as he strayed off our beaten path.

In the midst of this difficult walk I heard God saying, “Debbie, have you always stayed the path planned for you?” SIGH.

My dogs and I tread the same trail in our neighborhood almost every day. Fortunately our mile-long trek is on a sidewalk which helps prevent muddy paws and feet following a rain. This particular day I impatiently noted how often Cooper deviated off-course, especially as he chose to walk in the mud created from three days of rainfall. Lucy even tried to change direction several times. 

Continually both dogs “departed from the straight and narrow” way, getting their paws filthy. “Eight feet to clean when I get back,” I groaned loudly to anyone who might hear and sympathize with me.       

“I hear you, Debbie, and I care, but pay attention. You’re walking a living lesson and I want you to understand it,” God lovingly spoke to my heart. 

Putting aside my irritation, I finally began listening to God while focusing on the actions of my dogs. They swerved to the left, checking out smells, then swung to the right, marking their spot. At times they completely stopped to sniff the area. Other times my golden ventured far ahead of me until I reined him in. Occasionally they both remained on the path for an extended amount of time. Distractions, noises, and smells captured most of their attention, but leashes restrained them. Even though our walk took longer than my plans, God did not waste a moment. He used the time to illustrate a valuable life lesson to me.

Just like my dogs, I sometimes deviate from God’s plan for my life. Occasionally I’ve journeyed away from God’s perfect pathway, refusing to listen to His voice. Instead of jerking me back on course, He’s granted me choice. Allowing distractions rather than the Lord’s voice to seize my attention, I’ve prolonged my journey back to Him. With no leash restricting me, I’ve opened doors to possible danger. Even as I wandered, He waited patiently on the sidewalk for me to join Him.

Jesus used several parables to explain deviation from God’s perfect path. In the fifteenth chapter of Luke, He demonstrates in detail God’s way to rescue and restore us. He first told the story of a man owning one hundred sheep. When one wandered away, the man left the ninety-nine in search of the lost one. He didn’t return until it was found.

Next Jesus described the determination of a woman who lost one of her ten silver coins. She persistently and carefully searched her entire house until she located the lost coin. Saving the best story for last, He narrated the story of The Prodigal Son. 

     He said, “A man had two sons.” (verse 11 NASB)
     The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the inheritance.” (verse 12  CEB)
     After the father divided his wealth between his sons, the younger one gathered everything together and journeyed into a foreign land. He wasted all his money in promiscuous living, becoming destitute. Hiring himself out to one of the citizens nearby, he fed pigs and realized they ate better than he did. Suddenly he came to his senses and began walking the path toward home. His father, waiting expectantly, saw him off in a distance and eagerly ran to greet him.
     The son said to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” (verse 18 CEB)
     But the father said, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. (verse 22-24 CEB)

What happens when we stray from God’s pathway? Maybe we get muddy and dirty or possibly we get lost and eat with pigs. But if we come to our senses and return to Him, God will welcome us home with open arms. He’ll even throw a party! He lovingly reminds us in 2 Chronicles 30:9b, “The Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.” (NASB)

Hearing Jesus’ stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son demonstrate the love God has for his lost people. Because He loves us so, He waits with passionate patience for our return when we veer off His perfect path. 

My dogs and I continue to enjoy daily walks. Once in a while they get sidetracked and I get frustrated. After all, I’m only human and they’re only dogs. But I try to continually remember the lesson God taught me. No matter how distracted we get or how far we stray, He patiently waits for us to come to our senses and rejoin Him on the path that leads home. And if we listen closely to His directions for our lives, we may hear Holy Spirit lovingly whispering to us, “Here is the road. Follow it.”

     Thank you, Lord, for teaching me the way of life. In your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in your right hand. (Psalm 16:11 CEB) 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shout the Good News

I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (CEB)

This is the verse of the day from Bible Gateway and I stand firm on this word!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Follow the One Who Protects You from Falling

To the one who is able to protect you from falling,
        and to present you blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence, 
to the only God our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
        belong glory, majesty, power, and authority,
            before all time, now and forever. Amen.
Jude 24-25 (CEB)

Thanks be to God and glory to His name for His goodness and salvation offered to sinners through Christ Jesus!

Sinners—who are the sinners? We are the sinners, all of us. Every one of us have fallen into pits of trouble, walked onto paths of destruction, or chosen the ways of sin. 

God’s word in Romans 3:23 clearly states that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Those words are hard to hear. We look at others and readily see their failings. We willingly point them out to anyone who listens. Yet we don’t like to be reminded of our own shortcomings, and we certainly don’t want anyone else to know what we’ve done. 
God knows! He knows everything. He’s our Creator and He knows everything about us. If you don’t believe me, believe Him. God spoke these words through King David. 
Lord, you have examined me.
    You know me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
    Even from far away, you comprehend my plans.
You study my traveling and resting.
    You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.
There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord,
    that you don’t already know completely.
You surround me—front and back.
    You put your hand on me.
That kind of knowledge is too much for me;
    it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it.
Psalm 139 (CEB)

God knows us and still loves us, more than we can imagine. He loves us sinners while knowing our thoughts, words, and deeds. Why? How can He love us so much? 

Remember those convicting yet truthful words from Romans 3:23—all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Well there’s a BUT that follows in the next verse and it refers to grace. Romans 3:24 states but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus (CEB).

God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son to die in the place of sinners, and those believing in His name will be saved (John 3:16). God gives grace through Jesus Christ, the sinless sacrifice. Jesus willingly took upon Himself all our horrible sins. The wounds inflicted upon Him are my sins and your sins. And by those wounds, we are healed when we repent and believe in the Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture confirms it.

This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all. 1 Timothy 1:15 (CEB)

He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2 (CEB)

God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (CEB)
He was pierced because of our rebellions and crushed because of our crimes. He bore the punishment that made us whole; by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (CEB)

He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin. By his wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (CEB)

What wonderful words of truth! It’s the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The news we see and hear around the world is full of gloom and doom. But this news of salvation by a sinless Savior, who willingly took upon Himself the sin of the world, is incredible and timeless. It’s news for all! He chooses to offer love and grace to sinners (Romans 5:8) and forgiveness when sinners repent of sins. 

But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. 1 John 1:9 (CEB)

Worship Him for His love and saving grace! Here’s a link to the song “By His Wounds” sung by Steven Curtis Chapman, Brian Littrell, Mac Powell, and Mark Hall. The images are graphic but they speak truth about Jesus. (The pictures are from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”).

Jesus presents us blameless before God when we sinners repent; He covers our sins with His righteousness. And He lives through Holy Spirit to daily protect us from falling back into sin, if we listen to His voice. He is available to us and His righteousness goes before us. He says:

If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.” Isaiah 31:21 (GNT)

He says to us like He said to the men He chose as His disciples, “Follow me!” They made the choice to follow Jesus. Will you too follow Him?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

He Knows Your Tomorrow

Imagine waking up in a foreign land, a captive of your enemies. You hear a prophet declaring God’s will for your long-term stay in the area. He says to settle down, build houses, start families, and pray for the welfare of the people within the enemy territory. He concludes with God’s proclamation about a return to your homeland in 70 years. Then he adds God’s announcement of good plans and a hope for your future (Jeremiah 29:4-14). What is your reaction? 

This scenario really happened back in 586 B. C. when Judah was taken captive by Babylon. God through Jeremiah told the people to settle down and plan on staying for a while. True to His word, God worked within the powers and authorities of the land and Judah returned to their homeland to rebuild after 70 years. The Sovereign Lord knew what would happen to His people. He knew their tomorrow. Did they trust Him with their future?

I wonder how many Israelites followed the Lord’s instructions and how many fought His perfect plan. Their situation looked grim and yet God issued an opportunity to survive and thrive. With their familiar surroundings destroyed many miles away, God offered provision for their present time and plans for their future lives. 

Are you in a situation where life seems hopeless? Maybe you’re dealing with the death of a loved one or the agony of having a prodigal child. Possibly you have no job or your job provides no real purpose for your life, only a paycheck. Perhaps you live in fear for your life or you’re experiencing complete aloneness. Whatever your circumstance, all is not hopeless. HOPE abounds in the God who created you, died to save you, arose to abide with you, and loves you with a merciful love. His name is Jesus. Is He trustworthy; can you trust Him with your life?

Yes, our Lord and Savior is most definitely trustworthy. His Word reminds us of His reliability. Meditate on His truths and apply them to your situation. Prayerfully submit yourself to His ways and trust His good plans for your life. Know that He knows your tomorrow.

Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 2 Samuel 7:28 (NIV)

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 (NIV)

The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. Psalm 111:7 (NIV)

All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause. Psalm 119:86 (NIV)

The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. Psalm 119:138 (NIV)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:13 (NIV)

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain. 

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16, 17-18 (NIV)

“When I awake, I am still with you.” What a comforting thought—He is always available. God is with us and His word tells of His faithfulness. Our Sovereign Lord is in control of our lives whether we believe it or not. 

The Omnipotent God knows your every move as well as His own plans for your daily life. He knows your tomorrow. He is faithful. Trust Him with your future.

In prayer I surrender to You, O mighty God:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)     AMEN!