Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Farming Faith

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5 (TLB)

Faith is a process. It takes training to stand strong in faith. Being faint of heart doesn’t cut it. Perseverance and patience provides strength to weather the storms of life. And the Lord supplies all we need.

As I walked the road of distress over a child making poor life choices, God sent His people to encourage me. He lifted me up from the miry clay and supported me through the loving arms of friends and family. Even though I ached for a restored relationship with my daughter, He soothed my soul with His solace. His balm gave me confidence to trust Him with our future.

You might be experiencing similar distress over a prodigal child. Or you might be battling the cancers of today, literally or figuratively. God is not surprised by your troubles and He stands ready to raise you up when you call to Him (Jeremiah 33:3). Even if you have doubts, call out His name—Jesus—and believe He will answer you (Mark 9:24). 

Can we really believe in this God of miracles when doubt and despair torment our minds? Yes, we can! We can trust the one true God when we intentionally work at it. We work out our faith, like cultivating crops. Just as we need food for physical nourishment, we need faith for spiritual sustenance. 

Consider how a farmer tills the land in preparation for the growth of crops. Then give thought to the farming of faith for spiritual growth. I hope this analogy gives insight to the process of increasing faith in God.

  1. Cultivate the land, working the dirt to soften and loosen up the soil. Work out faith, breaking up damage caused by scars and pain. Plowing prepares soil for seed and a heart for God. 
  2. Dig deep into the soil, allowing space for strong roots. Investigating the truth of God’s Word contributes to core values. Delving deeply arranges soil for extensive roots and positions a heart for a firm foundation.
  3. Water, sun, fertilizer, and God increases growth of seeds, producing fruit. Daily feeding our faith with the Word of the Lord increases wisdom and trust in God. Everyday sustenance provides physical and spiritual reward. 
  4. Prune back overgrowth and dead-head plants. Get rid of all conflicting thoughts, worry, and fear that crowd out the truth of God’s love for you. Remove hindrances and obstacles which prevent the growth of plants and the increase of faith.
  5. A weak plant needs the support of a stake placed in the ground next to it. Jesus stands beside us to strengthen and lift us up when life is hard. Reinforcement provides a strengthened plant and a comforted heart. 

Growing literal fruit, vegetables, or flowers takes time. Producing spiritual fruit takes time as well. Be intentional about belief in God, cultivate faith through God’s Word, and trust Him to produce fruit in your life and the lives of your loved ones. He will be faithful to you as you work out your faith in Him.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
Psalm 1 (NIV)

In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
    that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice:
    I obey your precepts.

You are my portion, Lord;
    I have promised to obey your words.
Psalm 119:55-57 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says:

“Restrain your voice from weeping
    and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the Lord.
    “They will return from the land of the enemy.
Jeremiah 31:16 (NIV)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Satan Separates; Jesus Unites

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39

Below is a link to the eighth chapter of Romans.....

“I haven’t seen my grandchildren in a year,” she said to me with tears in her eyes. My heart ached with her. She explained how her son had allowed his wife’s controlling nature to detach him from them. Because he chose not to keep the relationship alive with his own parents, they now suffered the consequences of separation from their flesh and blood, their grandchildren. 

I continually hear these accounts of heartache. Families separated by an in-law, an outsider, someone joined to the family who refuses to join with the family. The rejection of their spouse’s family bond destroys blood ties. It drives a wedge between the son or daughter and their parents. The parents grieve as if a death has occurred. Separation is the death of a relationship and it is devastating. 

For a time I experienced this sort of death. My own daughter allowed a boyfriend to influence her and pull her away from us. Her relationship with him clouded the love and joy we once experienced as family. Our family ties severed. Sorrow and anger filled the void. Death pervaded our lives. 

But thanks be to God for His love and mercy. When I fell to my knees in agony, calling out for help, He answered. He revealed Himself through His earthly followers. At work and church, through phone calls and letters, I received encouragement from family and friends. They poured the love of Jesus into me through Scripture and prayers. Their obedience to God’s call strengthened me, enabling me to live with hope day by day. I learned to place my trust in Jesus and boldly stand in dismal circumstances. And I prayed with confidence for the fulfillment of God’s plan in my daughter’s life.  

Separation of any kind hurts. It’s a tool of the devil to destroy families and relationships. But nothing, not even Satan, can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus. The Bible tells us so. 

We don’t have to exist as defeated creatures. His Word declares we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. He unites our hearts with Him and with others who answer His call to serve through encouragement. Hope fills our souls as we look to Him and the future. Thanks be to God

Lord Jesus, I pray for all families experiencing separation. May your love unite them to You and give hope. In the mighty name of Jesus, AMEN.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Answer

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  John 8:10-11 (NLT)

One of the most stunning illustrations of grace in Scripture is Jesus speaking to the woman caught in adultery. Dragged out into the streets by prideful judging Pharisees, she’s cast before a crowd surrounding Jesus. The lawful religious leaders yearned to punish the woman as well as scrutinize Jesus’ reaction to her sin. Harassing Him, they asked, “What are you going to do, Master?”

Her humiliating tears wet the earth as Jesus broke the silence. “Did anyone condemn you before they left,” He asked, revealing the absence of her accusers. Condemnation stopped dead in its tracks and turned away. He said, “I don’t condemn you either. Now go and sin no more.”

Wait a minute. What happened between the nags of the Pharisees and the offering of grace to the woman? What caused the religious leaders to turn away? How did Jesus’ response to their questions affect the religious leaders, the crowd, the woman? Read the passage below from the New Living Translation of Scripture and discover the answer. 

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  (John 8:1-11)

The vain teachers of the law who seized the adulterous woman and paraded her before the crowd around Jesus assumed the role of judge and jury. They secretly desired her punishment of stoning to take place in the streets. They put Jesus to the test, attempting to trap Him into a ruinous reply. Shock and surprise lit the faces of everyone when Jesus responded. 

He quietly stooped to the ground and wrote with His finger. Possibly these words appeared in the sand—MERCY and GRACE—while hate loudly spewed from conceited condemning lips. Suddenly silence gripped the crowd when Jesus stood up and spoke. “Okay, if you’ve never ever done anything wrong, then pick up a rock and hurl it at her.” Jesus knelt back down and wrote in the dust. Did the word FORGIVENESS appear?

Ashamed the Pharisees slumped their shoulders and slipped away one by one. Only Jesus and the woman stood in the midst of the silent crowd. His answer to her crime, “No one condemns you, not even Me. Now go, and don’t sin anymore.” 

Wow. The law demanding punishment existed for years, yet the Man before her unexpectedly spoke mercy and grace. He withheld punishment and offered unmerited favor. In other words, she didn’t get what she deserved. Instead she got what she didn’t deserve. Grace overpowered law. Double wow. Thank you, Jesus!

Did she render thanks? Did she turn away from her sin? Jesus offered her mercy. Did she receive His forgiving grace? Did she obey His command to sin no more? Scripture doesn’t answer all those questions, but the Word exemplifies a compassionate Savior, overflowing with grace and mercy! Have you encountered Him?

Look at another illustration of God’s forgiveness. Read the excerpt below from the fifteenth chapter of Luke about another sinner’s encounter with merciful grace.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (verses 17-24 NIV)

Again God demonstrates mercy and grace, love and forgiveness through Jesus’ parable of The Prodigal Son. The lost son repented and his father offered compassionate grace. 

Both stories are similar as mercy and grace prevail. They differ because one person repents first, the other person is told to sin no more. Different people, different scenario. Same Savior, same answer. “I love you and I don’t condemn you. Receive my grace and mercy and stop sinning!

Have you encountered our compassionate Savior Jesus Christ? He meets you in your weakness. Have you received His forgiveness and mercy? He freely offers His comfort. Have you turned away from sin? He waits patiently for your obedience. Seek the truth of God’s Word and accept His gracious answer. Live in His exemplary love!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Even So

Will God ever answer my prayers? I’ve prayed and prayed for my son to return home to the family that loves him, to the God who died to save him. I’ve prayed and prayed for my sister to be cured of cancer, to be free from this evil disease. I’ve prayed and prayed for God to take away this sin that penetrates my heart, to release me from captivity. Have you prayed such prayers? Have you experienced frustration, exhaustion, and sore knees from the lack of answers? The solution is a new focus and a heart adjustment.

God longs to give us the desires of our hearts. But like a loving parent, He waits to give us those gifts when we can fully appreciate them. Our Heavenly Father knows our needs. He knows when we need them. Does a responsible loving parent simply give gifts to make a child happy or does the parent first teach the value of the gift, more importantly the love coming from the giver?

Years ago when my children were preschoolers, my husband worked regularly out-of-town for a year and a half. He flew home on Friday nights and returned to the airport on Sunday afternoons. We all suffered through the separation. Because my husband carried guilt for his lack of parental presence, he brought gifts home for his children. It seem to ease his conscience, but eventually he realized a problem. Instead of running to welcome their daddy home, our children began asking, “What did you bring us? Where are our presents?”

Whack—a shot in his heart. Desiring gifts rather than longing for their daddy. I can only imagine the stabbing pain my husband suffered. He put a halt to the gift giving and ultimately our children’s greetings changed. Instead of uttering self-seeking questions, screams of devotion erupted from their lips when he picked them up for hugs. 

God is the same way. Our loving Heavenly Father longs for us to yearn for Him, not His gifts and promises. He desires to give us our desires, but He knows we must first love Him, the Giver of all things.

Even if we pray and pray and pray to no avail (it may seem), we need to love and praise His holy name. Even when our world appears to be falling apart, we need to love and praise His holy name. Even so, in the midst of agony and silence, we need to love and praise His holy name. 

He doesn’t leave us alone with nothing. God our Father offers His Presence. He stands beside us holding our hands and strengthening us. He stretches our faith until our hearts are completely His. Then and only then can we understand His love and receive His gifts. 

Almighty God is the perfect Parent. He is a good God. He is the gracious loving Savior of the world. Like my husband, He longs to be loved by his children. Like my husband, He longs to bless His children with gifts. His plans for our lives are better than anything we can imagine.

God wants both sinner and saint to love Him. Drop your expectations, your pretenses—simply love Him, fully trust Him. Shrieks of joy will arise from your heart and flow from your lips as you run into His devoted arms. His overflow of blessings will astound you!

As you meditate on the Scripture verses below, consider reading the complete chapters. Allow God’s Word to penetrate your heart and release your soul. And then, if so led, post your thoughts. I’d love to hear what God is sharing with you!

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.  Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:27-31 (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)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Unite Us, Lord!

Alienation, isolation, conflict, and strife,
Marks of a world, wounded to the core.
Separate lives, self-involved, diverse interests, thoughtlessness,
Imprints of division. 

What can unify and join
Estranged human beings?
Who merges different views and experiences,
Fusing pain with the glue of love?
Only a compassionate God with merciful eyes
Looks upon His creation
And relieves suffering, 
Forgives sins.
Christ Jesus unites mankind. 

Detachment, agony, sorrow, and woe,
Signs of a heart daily tormented with grief.
Distractions, secrets, hindrances, selfishness,
Etches of division.

What can bind and unite
Divergent beating hearts?
Who merges various impulses and desires, 
Linking partitions with an adhesive of grace?
Only a loving God with forgiving eyes
Looks upon His children
And relieves distress, 
Offers tenderness.
Jesus Christ mends hearts.

Unite my heart with Yours, Lord,
Enter every room.
Wipe clean the filth of transgressions,
Take away the threat of doom.

Join me with your people, 
Cleanse our every thought.
Fix all eyes on You, Lord,
Our hearts with blood You bought. 

Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11).

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)

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)

Only our loving Heavenly Father can mend broken hearts and unite His people to live like Him. Turn your eyes to the One who forgives and praise His holy name. Let's serve Him together!