Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Seeking Truth

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NASB)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 (NASB)

Carvings of numerous idols stood in various sites throughout the city and it provoked him. Paul’s spirit roused with anger and distress—people need to know the Truth. In the synagogue he reasoned with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. In the market place he talked to anyone who listened. Surely God’s Word and his personal experience would reveal the Truth, confirming authentic Biblical history to the present.

Paul also conversed with the intellectuals of the day. The people of Athens as well as visitors enjoyed discussing life’s meaning through old and new ideologies. Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were among the crowds, questioning Paul about truth (Acts 17).

Before moving on with Paul’s witness to the people in Athens, let me give you some tidbits of knowledge about Paul and each of the groups he encountered. Paul (formerly Saul) was a very learned Pharisee who studied under Gamaliel, a Jewish Rabbi and leader in the Sanhedrin (Jewish court system). Because of his zeal for God and the Jewish law of his ancestors, Paul persecuted followers of the Way (believers of Christ) before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).

Some of the Jews he reasoned with in the synagogues were possibly Pharisees or Sadducees. The Pharisees were middle-class business men who served the people of Israel. Only a few Pharisees sat on the Sanhedrin, yet the common people supported them. Pharisees regarded the written Word of God as well as oral tradition with equal authority. They believed in resurrection and an afterlife. 

The Sadducees were wealthy aristocrats who served as chief priests and high priests, securing a majority in the Sanhedrin. Their prime concern for Roman rule and politics left little consideration for religion and the common man. Sadducees denied God’s involvement in everyday life as well as the existence of the spiritual world. They refused acceptance of the resurrection of the dead or an afterlife. Needless to say, these two groups opposed one another.

The Epicureans enjoyed pleasure and avoided pain. They sought knowledge to avoid fears and superstitions of religion. These philosophers thought every thing in the universe existed as atoms, so they concluded that the gods had no interest in man. They believed both body and soul to be perishable, therefore no afterlife. Life held no virtue, death offered nothingness. The Epicurean epitaph written on gravestones read I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care.

The Stoic philosophers believed logic and reasoning facilitated the search for truth. They presumed that controlling their actions meant living a virtuous life. These men believed gods existed to direct the universe and intervene in men’s lives, thereby believing in fate. Even though the Stoics accepted the existence of a soul after death, they thought only those favored by the gods lived in heaven. 

Consider these various beliefs and then suppose how lives were lived accordingly. Are these ways of thinking any different than today’s beliefs? There is truly nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). People continue to search religions and philosophies for truth and the meaning to life. 

Imagine the questions deriving from all those beliefs. Does truth exist? What is the purpose of human life? Do gods exist to intervene in the lives of man? What is the nature of the soul? Does life end at death or is there an afterlife? Is there really a God of the universe?

Paul preached before this huge crowd of people with different beliefs. He challenged their views as he proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection. Because they delighted in discussing new ideas, their ears were pricked. Eagerly they took him to the Areopagus (meeting place where philosophy, religion, and law were discussed) to hear what he had to say. 

Paul spoke to the religious aspects of their life as well as the objects of their worship. He mentioned an altar he had noticed with an inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’  And he said, “Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

Paul then addressed their false beliefs in light of the truth of the gospel message. He declared:
  • The Creator God made the world and every thing in it.
  • The Lord of heaven and earth does not dwell in man-made temples.
  • The Giver of life and breath doesn’t need the service of human hands.
  • God created from one man all of mankind, determining their life times and dwellings.

Paul said the God of the universe fashioned it all that we might seek Him, even grope for Him, in order to know Him and have relationship with Him. He announce the existence, the movement, the very life of humans is in God and from God. He proclaimed the knowledge written by some of their own poets who pronounced, ‘For we also are His children.’

Paul continued by stating if we are His children, then we should not think of God and His Divine Nature as an image of gold or silver or stone made by man—He is God, the maker of heaven and earth. He sent the God-Man into the world to save the world through His sacrifice on a cross. Paul then declared that God supplied proof of salvation to the world through this very Man whom He raised from the dead.

Scripture says some listeners sneered while others claimed a desire to hear more. Mentally put yourself in the crowd before Paul and envision your response. In fact, close your eyes wherever you are, gather your thoughts, and assess your way of thinking. What would God say to you about your beliefs? 

I can’t read God’s mind, therefore I can’t begin to suppose His communication to you. But I do know, without a doubt, He created you in His image (Genesis 1:27), He loves you enough to die for you (John 3:16), and He calls you His child (John 1:12). Will you call Him your Maker, Redeemer, and Father today?

Listen with ready ears and an open heart to Casting Crowns's "Voice of Truth".....

What is God saying to you about His Truth and your way of thinking? Please feel free to comment below.

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 (NASB)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13 (NASB)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NASB)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Believe It or Not

"This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." Acts 17:3b

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NASB)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 (NASB)

Empty hearts long for meaning. Restless mortals yearn for peace and satisfaction. Mankind pursues education, religion, power, position, money, drugs, alcohol, sex, food, acceptance, or whatever for contentment, only to eventually face futility. Humans hunger for identity with something or someone. And souls created by God search for more…….

Saul identified with his surroundings, education, and beliefs, using his influence to excel in life. But his veiled eyes missed the core of life’s meaning. His focus on religion and outward appearances generated a restless heart UNTIL he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Suddenly everything changed, even his name. And God called Paul to make a change in the world. 

In the city of Thessalonica, on one of his mission trips, Paul reasoned with those like him, steeped in the education of Scriptures for religious means. He opened the Word of God and revealed the evidence of Christ. He probably even shared with them his experience on the road to Damascus. Some chose to believe while others resisted by inciting riots. As violence and attacks on followers of Christ escalated, believers sent Paul away to safety in the middle of the night. He and his mission partner, Silas, arrived in Berea where they entered the synagogue. And they shared the same good news of Jesus Christ with the Berean Jews as they had in Thessalonica (Acts 17).

Scripture says the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians. They desired righteousness and decency. These Bereans received and believed with eagerness the gospel of Christ. Daily they searched the scriptures for truth and many believed in Jesus. 

The souls of the Berean Jews discovered Truth. They found peace in God their Creator and Savior. They gave no resistance, surrendering to God and accepting His Word. Yet even though their hearts found fulfillment in Christ Jesus, other restless souls sought to destroy their new-found peace. 

Upon hearing that Paul proclaimed the Word of God in Berea, some of the defiant Thessalonians traveled to the region. They desired to agitate the crowds and stir up trouble. Why? What bothered them so much that they would disrupt the lives of other people? Was it the name of Jesus, Paul’s witness about the Messiah, fear of the unknown, jealousy, what? What would cause such an uprising of rebellion? 

Consider these questions as we continue on this soul search together. We’ll travel with Paul as he takes the good news to Athens and confronts a diverse group of people with a plethora of beliefs. I’m sure he joyfully left Berea as he remembered how their hearts eagerly received Christ Jesus. 

Is your heart open to receive Truth like the Bereans? Or does emptiness flood your soul? Don’t despair. Keep searching for Truth. God promises you’ll find Him. 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:13-14a (NIV)

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 (NIV)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Soul Search

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NASB)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 (NASB)

The newly formed mob launches an uproar in the city. Jealousy flows from their hearts. Their mouths spew wickedness. Hostility spills over from their souls into the streets, sowing seeds of hate. Unrest plants itself in multiple minds. Violence grows. Evil spreads like wildfire. A ripple effect swallows up empty, wandering souls. Chains lock. Prison bars latch. Darkness falls like a heavy wet blanket, obscuring light from the captives. Life appears meaningless.

Meanwhile, in another city, different souls search for life’s meaning through the intelligence of philosophies. Various ideologies range from self-indulgent pleasure to long-suffering tolerance. The wanderer even investigates different religions and worships manmade idols. More drifting souls come up empty as they search for truth and a monument rises TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

As a resident of this earth, most likely you’ve seen or heard of such situations. The above scenarios have played out in this world for ages, even the modern-day. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In fact, the above mob scene and the searching intellectuals actually occurred during the apostle Paul’s missions trips to Thessalonica and Athens as he traveled the middle east to spread God’s good news (Acts 17).

And what is God’s good news? It’s the evidence of the Christ (Messiah) who suffered on a cross, died, and rose from the dead. Messiah offered Himself as a sacrifice to God to save mankind from their sinful and wandering ways. And Paul said to the crowds, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”

Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. Paul personally experienced Him when Jesus revealed the Truth to him on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians (Acts 9). Encountering the Truth of Jesus Christ set Paul’s soul free. Paul’s chains of pride, education, and heritage fell away as he encountered the humility of the Resurrected Savior. Eventually he recognized and knew without a doubt this Jesus. He desired others to also know this Truth. 

“This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said and immediately lives changed. Some Jews, Greeks, and leading women believed and joined Paul in his mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. But others resisted and incited riots. And the battle of the ages began.

Are you searching for Truth? Have you resisted Jesus the Christ? Does your soul long to find fulfillment and rest? 

Together let’s join Paul as we journey through the discovery of this Way, this Truth, and this Life of Jesus Christ. Prepare to do battle in prayer as we ask Jesus to break away the chains that bind and to reveal Himself in a mighty way to this lost and dying world. 

Enjoy this bouncy tune by The Grace Thrillers entitled "Tell Me the Story"
Or this more traditional hymn, "Tell Me the Story of Jesus"

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cast Your Burdens Upon the Lord

Give ear to my prayer, O God;
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Give heed to me and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted,

I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
“Behold, I would wander far away,
I would lodge in the wilderness.      Selah.
“I would hasten to my place of refuge
From the stormy wind and tempest.”  Psalm 55:1-2, 6-8 (NASB)

David cried out to God with these words as his family existed in chaos. One of his sons violated his own sister and another son eventually killed the rapist, his own brother. The murderer fled, hiding three years from his father—and David’s heart yearned for his son Absalom. Angst and worry completely distracted the king of Israel and weakened the stability of his people. Violation of God’s laws separated this family and affected the entire kingdom. 

The falling-out of father and son threatened the safety of the king and Israel. A struggle between Absalom’s men and David’s men ensued, yet David begged for his son to be brought home unharmed. Fear for his son’s safety consumed David. His restless and distracted core shouted complaints, unsettling his soul. Where would he find relief? (2 Samuel 13-19)

Hannah wept bitterly from her inability to have children. Distress and oppression wailed up inside of her. Longing for a son highlighted her feeling of emptiness. Humiliation accompanied her as she carried the stigma of barrenness impressed upon her by the culture. Her soul wallowed in pain as she lived with agony and walked in shame. Where would she find relief? (1 Samuel 1-3)

Job lost everything (children, servants, livestock) except his wife in one day, yet his mouth uttered no complaints. When sore boils covered him from head to toe, his wife told him to curse God and die. Still he refrained from sinning. When he sat in misery with his friends next to him, he eventually cursed the day he was born. He called for darkness to lay siege on his mother’s womb and a cloud to settle over the day of his birth. His cries poured out like water and he became restless, filled with anguish and lacking peace. Where would he find relief? (Job 1-3)

Have your life experiences overwhelmed you to the point of complete anxiety? Are you so distracted by problematic circumstances that you are filled with fear? Have you voiced complaints about your situation to anyone willing to listen? Where will you find relief?

From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture overflows with story after story of people in need of relief. And time after time, God displays His power in the lives of these people through word and deed. He offers grace and mercy, peace and rest to all who truly surrender their situations to Him. Anxiety can be traded for relief. 

Relief is peace. Peace is God. God is relief. David, Hannah, and Job knew God and understood what He offered. So they turned their complaints toward God, poured out their heartfelt sorrows, and received relief. 

David said, “As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me. I will trust in You.” (Psalm 55:16-18, 23)

Hannah said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” And Eli, the priest, sent her away in peace. (1 Samuel 1:11,17)

Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Through a discourse of back and forth with his friends about God, Job eventually declares, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

All three of these Biblical characters had a relationship with God and still they complained about their situations, allowing distraction to momentarily draw them away from Him. Yet they knew where to find relief. They prayed to God their Refuge and trusted Him with their circumstances. 

Have you ever dreamed of turning away from your situation and running? If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all probably desired to flee. But running away won’t bring peace. It will only magnify the sorrow. 

Run to the God of relief, shout out your misery, and place your trust in Him. Take David’s advice and cast your burden upon the Lord. He will sustain you and give you peace (Psalm 55:22).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Christmas Rainbow

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (TLB)

One angelic starlit night God launched His plan for the world’s re-creation. Sin had pervaded the earth since its initial creation. Depravity grew like weeds across the land. Animal sacrifices offered up to God for the Israelites by the Jewish priests were just that—sacrifices. These rituals did nothing to wipe away the wrongdoings of the chosen people. Evil saturated the hearts and minds of all mankind. A perfect sacrifice was needed to cover the continued acts of transgression with forgiveness. A sinless Savior was provided. 

With perfect timing, the divine Father of mankind stepped onto earth’s stage in the form of His very own creation. A baby boy miraculously born to a virgin uttered His first emerging cry one starry night and thirty-three years later this grown-up man voiced His last shout of accomplishment on the cross. To the human eye it seemed death ended the plan. Yet God’s vow to restore His creation arose in victorious resurrection three days later. 

Belief in the name of Jesus Christ and receipt of the forgiveness of sins ushered in new life to anyone opening their hearts and minds to God the Savior. This wonderful Re-Creator God still supplies deliverance and restoration to all who believe and receive His mercy and grace. Abundant life now and in eternity are promises of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So why then do we struggle to live restored lives? Why do we allow fear instead of faith to invade our hearts, minds, and souls? Are we standing on the promises of God or focusing on the circumstances of life? Do our physical situations steal our spiritual joy?

I pondered all these things as Christmas approached. Would our family revel in the reason for the season and give thanks to God for sending Jesus our Savior? Or would we allow dissension, discord, disease, and death to cancel out our celebrations? Would the cloudy, wet, and rainy weather override hope of a picture perfect frosty white Christmas? As December rains flooded areas of the United States, the possibility of an ideal holiday diminished for many. Would the gathering gray clouds of life cause humanity to respond with sorrow or joy as the celebrations of God’s fulfilled promise drew near?

Christmas morning brought the answer to my questions. Dismal overcast skies threatened to dampen holiday joy until I noticed a rainbow in the sky. Gasping with surprise and delight, I ran to get my phone to capture this event (surely the shepherds and wise men would have taken pictures of the angels and stars if they had owned a camera). 

A Christmas rainbow—the fulfilled promise of a Savior wrapped in the age-old promise of a covenant-keeping God. A Christmas rainbow—sign of a faithful God who watches over His people with loving care.  A Christmas rainbow—a colorful reminder of a joyous life in Christ even as clouds engulf us. A Christmas rainbow—wow God, a beautiful gift to behold! Thank You!

For the free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone; and along with this gift comes the realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live good, God-fearing lives day after day. Titus 2:11-12 TLB