We Share in Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus told us that God is light and doesn’t have any darkness in him. Now we are telling you.

    If we say that we share in life with God and keep on living in the dark, we are lying and are not living by the truth. But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away. If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.

    If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his message isn’t in our hearts. 

—I John 1:5-10

 

 

Shine From Heaven

 

 

 

 

The day was about to draw to a close.

As I was on my way to pick up our son at a restaurant, I noticed the setting sun on a lake nearby.

I couldn’t resist—I pulled over and parked my car.

Walking toward the railroad tracks that run parallel to the water, I could hear dozens of birds above me, preparing to find the perfect tree to rest in for the night.

The splendor before me was shared by every detail of the moment–the sun’s bright glow fading to a radient peach, then to a soft cream color enveloped by dusty gray.

The trees and marshy grasses framed the water, the distant shore and the sky with sharp, dark shadows.

Days end as they begin.

Sunset or dawn, the sun is bright on the horizon.

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke these words as he was filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking to his newborn son:

You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God.
   You will go ahead of the Lord
     to prepare his road for him,
  to tell his people that they will be saved
      by having their sins forgiven.

Our God is merciful and tender.
   He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us
    and to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death,
      to guide our steps into the path of peace. —Luke 1:76-79


For all of us, God has caused the brightness of salvation to be available.

Without Jesus, we live in a dark shadow of death.

With Jesus, there is eternal peace with God.

Do you know this peace today?

 

 

 

 

Obey the Will

 

 

 

Looking through my kitchen window, I could see a small bird hopping from branch to branch.

Obviously hungry, he was hoping to catch some insects that were flying about.

I don’t often see birds come so close to the window.

I’m sure a good part of each of his days is spent looking for food.

He has to have it to survive.

Once Jesus was speaking to His disciples:

My food, Jesus said to them,
         is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do. —John 4:34

 What is food?

Something that nourishes us.

So, was Jesus saying that obeying the will of His Father and finishing the work He had given Him to do was what nourished Him?

How does that apply to us?

Is the true spiritual nourishment that we need found in obeying God?

 

 

 

God Is Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus said to her,
         Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans do not really know whom you worship; but we Jews know whom we worship, because it is from the Jews that salvation comes. But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is. —John 4:21-24

 

 


  

 

 

 

Give Yourselves to God

 

 

 

Very early this morning, I was outside at my workplace.

Living in a climate that is warm throughout the greater part of the year, the lawn is lush and green, though it is the end of January.

Even so, the trees here must lose their leaves and begin a cycle of death and rebirth as their empty branches climb cold and gray into the winter sky.

Such was the case this morning.

Each day, I spend some of my time at work outside, usually going from one building to another.

I happened to notice something unusal in a tree not too far from me.

The thought that it might be a pink cloth of some kind entered my mind, although having a cloth wrapped in the branches of a tree would be highly unlikely.

Walking over to it, I was totally shocked.

It had been raining, and there before me was a beautiful plant, blooming vibrant flowers in gradient shades of pink, sprinkled with delicate drops of water.

Not having a camera with me, I left quickly to get my cell phone to snap a few pictures.

Within moments, someone else had stopped to do the same.

Here, growing up within dead-looking branches, was a marvelous work of art–God’s art.

What a contrast it was!

Lifeless and gray, the tree branches stood wet and empty.

Full of color and vigor, the plant did not let the branches get in its way–it simply grew up between them.

Before we knew Jesus as our Savior, our existance was truly lifeless. What we knew as good could not compare to what living in right relationship to God affords.

Yet, God met us in the empty state that we were in, and brought something beautiful in its place.

Something unusually vibrant; something set apart.

A new life.

A different life.

One that stands in contrast to the old one.

Since He has forgiven us, giving us a new life, shouldn’t we want to live it for Him?

 

Sin must no longer rule in your mortal bodies, so that you obey the desires of your natural self. Nor must you surrender any part of yourselves to sin to be used for wicked purposes. Instead, give yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life, and surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes. Sin must not be your master; for you do not live under law but under God’s grace. —Romans 6:12-14

 

Prepared For Us To Do

 

 

 

For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith.

It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift,

so that no one can boast about it.

God has made us what we are,

and in our union with Christ Jesus

he has created us for a life of good deeds,

which he has already prepared for us to do.

—-Ephesians 2:8-10

 

He Answered Me

 

 

 

 

 

I had a doctor appointment today.

The appointment had been selected several weeks ago.

Arriving early, I signed the roster and sat down in the waiting room.

Clean and pleasant, a television and several magazines were available to help patients like myself pass the time.

Waiting to see a physician is expected.

That’s just the way it is.

As patients with various needs are seen, medical professionals must take whatever time is necessary to help them in the best way they can.

Sometimes, that means going a little "overtime," resulting in a longer wait for the next person in line.

I am thankful to have a doctor to go to.

I am also thankful for something else.

God provides no waiting rooms for when we need to see Him.

In fact, no appointment is necessary.

He is always available, any time of day, seven days a week.

He is never out doing hospital visits.

He is never detained in surgery.

When we need to speak to God, He’s right there.

That doesn’t mean that we might not have to wait for certain prayers to be answered.

God may have us wait in preparation for what is coming next in our lives.

But when we cry out to Him, however, we don’t have to find our place in line.

 

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me;
      he freed me from all my fears. —Psalm 34:4

 


Peering Through a Mist

 

The view from my front yard changes dramatically when fog sets in.

Like blankets floating on some days or like peering out from within a cloud on others, the mist changes what is seen clearly and what is not.

So many times we find ourselves saying, "I don’t understand why…."

Why did this happen?

Why didn’t that happen?

Why do I feel this way?

Why don’t I feel that way?

How could God love me?

Does God really love me?

There will come a time when we will understand as we enter the presence of our Father in Heaven.

Until then, it is okay to ask.

 

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! —I Corinthians 13:12  The Message

 

 

Counterfeit Faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was very funny.

But then, again, was it?

I watched an online, homemade video of a frog looking at the screen of a smart phone.

The phone was displaying a game where images of life-like ants appeared to crawl on the screen.

Being very attentive to what was before him, the bumpy, green creature does something surprising–he pounces at the phone in an effort to eat the "ants."

Not daunted by the abrupt sensation of flat glass against his mouth, he tries to eat the counterfeit insects over and over.

Frogs and people have a lot in common, don’t they?

We might not lunge toward a television screen in an attempt to eat the food being displayed on a cooking show, but we go after what is counterfeit many times, nonetheless.

In spiritual matters, it is very tempting to believe what is false, even though it may look real.

I personally have friends who say they do not believe in God at all.

For them, the belief that God does not exist looks real and convincing.

Others that I know are embracing a faith that does not include Jesus Christ.

That belief looks like the "real" choice to them.

The problem is, there can only be one real truth.

Is God real? Yes or no.

Did God send His Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins? Yes….or no?

We must each make a decision about what we believe.

We must examine the facts and open our hearts to God.

God loves us with a perfect, genuine love.

There is nothing counterfeit with Him.

The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.–I Timothy 1:5  The Message

 

 

 

 

 

Go

 

 

 

It was a beautiful Sunday morning.

The birds were excited, singing and chirping.

A squirrel hopped in the yard.

A cloud of fog hung near the ground.

I decided to take a walk on my lawn and over to the farm across the street.

When I came inside, I noticed that I had green seeds stuck to my pants.

After some research, I think they are called Desmodium Cuspidatum, or commonly, Stick Tight.

They attach themselves to a surface and travel.

I would imagine they are spread to many places because of their adhesive properties.

Thinking about spreading the gospel came to mind.

When we tell others about God’s plan of salvation through Jesus, seeds are sown.

We won’t know where those seeds will go.

We won’t know every person they will affect.

Like the seeds stuck to my pants, the knowledge of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins will travel, first to one and then another and another.

Is there someone you could talk to this week about Jesus?

What seeds could you sow?

 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. —Matthew 28:19-20

 

 

 

A Time for Everything

I am thinking of a conversation I had with someone at a meeting yesterday.

The person I was sitting beside was in need of surgery.

In fact, they might have already had the surgery, except for one thing.

What do you suppose that one thing was?

High blood pressure?

Lack of insurance?

Fear?

No.

None of the above.

If I understood them correctly, a filling had come out of a tooth.

Surgical procedures would be delayed until this was fixed.

The surgery needed was of an orthopedic nature, far removed from the teeth.

Since I am not a medical professional, I can only assume that a problem in one area of the body could complicate the repair of another, quite different, area.

Once the teeth were taken care of, then the doctors would be able to tackle the other needs.

There are times when I think God works this way, as well.

We want so desperately to have healing in a certain area of our lives.

We want the suffering to stop.

“Can’t we take care of this now?” might be our prayer.

Instead of getting an affirmative answer from God, we are told that there’s something else that must be attended to first.

It may seem far removed from the problem at hand, but nevertheless, it is God’s judgment of the situation that prevails.

We want “C” to be whole and well, only to find that God says that “A” and “B” must be dealt with first.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:”

God’s timing, sequence and order are perfect.

Even when we don’t understand.

The LORD Looks at the Heart

 

 

 

 

What’s it really like to see people through God’s eyes?

We hear that said enough, but what does it truly mean?

As humans, we are limited to the physical confines of our abilities in assessing others.

They look hungry, tired, or sick.

They look happy, fulfilled or excited.

They seem nervous, scared or shy.

They seem confident, educated and well versed.

Honestly, though, do we really see them?

How does God see them?

He is not limited by any confines whatsoever.

He knows each person’s story from beginning to end.

When someone is angry, He knows why.

When someone ACTS happy or like they have everything all together, when inside, they are brokenhearted and frightened, He sees and knows the truth.

Nothing is hidden.

Could we, in our frailty, really withstand seeing others as God sees them?

No.

Not in our frailty.

But we could in God’s strength.

Feeling another’s hurt, lack of confidence, confusion or doubt is heavy business.

Yet, God can give us the power to see another’s needs more clearly in order to be a part of their healing.

It’s almost as if He allows us to look through a special lens, crafted just for that moment and situation, enabling us to see someone else in a new way.

Think of it like this:

Suppose I board a bus to ride across the city. As I am sitting quietly reading a magazine, a man who is coughing steps onto the bus at the next stop. I glance up and assess the situation as best I know how, with limited concern. I may think, "Wow. That’s quite a cough. A lot of people are sick this time of year," and I continue reading the magazine.

But suppose that, right behind me, sat a doctor who was catching a ride for a few blocks to the local hospital. As soon as the coughing man boarded the bus, the doctor began to assess his situation and thought to himself, "That man has pneumonia—I’ve heard that type of cough so many times. I think I’ll ask him if he’s recieving any treatment right now….."

Would I have been cruel and unfeeling not to percieve the coughing man’s true condition?

No.

The doctor did know, however.

In fact, the doctor could have explained quietly to me that the coughing man was actually quite ill.

Then, we both would have known.

I want to be available to God in such a way that He will "lean over" and say, "See that man over there? This is what’s wrong. This is how I want you to help him."

Wouldn’t I want someone to look at me and see beyond the look on my face or the words I say?

 

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

—from I Samuel 16:7

 

 

Get Up!

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 7:11-17 is a particularly precious passage in the Bible to me.

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

  They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”  This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

First of all, we read that Jesus saw this grieving mother "and His heart went out to her."

Have you ever been as heartbroken as this woman?

Maybe you have lost a child, a spouse or a parent.

The grief is insurmountable and all-encompassing.

If you have hurt like this, do you think that Jesus’ heart went out to you?

He said to the mother, "Don’t cry."

Have you heard His voice saying those words to you, as well?

When Jesus came up to the coffin, He touched it.

Imagine—the Son of God placing His hand on the wooden box and the people who carried it becoming still.

Still in the presence of Jesus.

Jesus, the Maker of all things.

Then, He says those words.

Those wonderful, precious, fantastic words—-"Young man, I say to you, get up!"

Words of power.

Words of authority.

Words of love.

The dead man then sat up and began to speak.

(Wouldn’t you like to know what he said?)

Then, Jesus gave the young man back to his mother.

He restored what had been lost.

He brought life where there was none.

He healed the body of the son and the heart of the mother.

Do you believe that Jesus can heal your heart today?

There is coming a time when each of us will hear the voice of Jesus, calling us to join Him in eternity.

When He says to you and me, "Get up!" we will.

Death will have no hold on those that belong to Jesus.

Luke 7:11-17 is a particularly precious passage in the Bible to me.

My own dear son was killed in an accident six years ago.

Did he hear the voice of Jesus?

I believe He did.

And one day, when I hear it, too, Jesus will give my son back to me.

Jesus—the Maker and Redeemer.

Praise His Holy Name!

 

 

 

Live a Life Worthy

 

 

As I drove home in the darkness tonight, I thought about my day and what I had experienced.

Sitting in silence and deep in thought, the events of the day had quietened my mood and brought me to a place of reflective consideration.

This afternoon, I had met with a friend who had recently had a baby. It was the first time I had seen her little newborn.

The tiny form in the car seat was a fresh, new life only just beginning in this world.

I was greatly blessed with four tiny babies earlier in my life.

I still remember….

The soft cheeks of my baby boys pressed against my face.

The distinctive scent of baby lotion;

The back and forth, back and forth rocking into the night.

Knowing this, how should I live my life now?

 

Right after that, I attended a celebration of life gathering in memory of a friend’s spouse who had died one year ago today.

My grieving friend planned the gathering and their son sang a song that had been special to his father in the time just before his death.

This man loved God tremendously and even in illness, he praised Him.

Living life to its fullest, doing what God wants you to do, was conveyed to everyone there.

He had lived that kind of life.

Knowing this, how should I live my life now?

After the celebration, I spoke with someone who felt that God might be calling them to become a pastor.

They seemed to be earnestly seeking direction.

Knowing this, how should I live my life now?

 

Paul had this to say to the believers of Colossae:

 

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. —Colossians 1:9-14

 

 

His Strength

 

 

 

Sitting in front of my office computer, I began to tear the perforated edges off some sheets of paper.

Pulling them apart, I began to think about what I was doing.

I knew in advance where the weakest part of the paper was, even though it was barely noticeable.

The tiny, tiny holes that separated the fibers caused the strength of the page to be compromised.

Given just the right tug or pull and the entire side of the sheet could tear right off in a clean, precise edge.

If the paper had not been perforated, I would not have been able to tear it as easily.

What about me?

Where are my weaknesses?

Are there areas where I am the most vulnerable to spiritual attack?

Are there places that are not tightly connected to God’s strength?

If I stopped reading the Bible, would that cause a spiritual perforation?

If I no longer listened to music that praised God, would another small break in the fibers occur?

What if I stopped praying?

Decided to quit attending worship services?

Never took part in a group Bible study?

What then?

Would there be less strength in the face of pressure?

 

Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
 Look to the LORD and his strength;
   seek his face always.–I Chronicles 16:10-11

 

 

 


 

 

The Full Light of Day

 

 

 

 

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
   shining ever brighter till the full light of day.–Proverbs 4:18

 

It’s dark.

Really dark.

The night is almost over and the sun will soon be appearing on the horizon.

When it does come, it is faint at first.

Dimmed beams become flooded with more and more light as the moments pass by.

As the morning progresses, the bright sun shines powerfully, illuminating everything.

Listening for God’s guidance, do our paths become brighter and brighter as we seek to follow Him?

 

A Man’s Heart

 

 

 

 

Who am I exactly?

Who are you?

Our thoughts?

Our words?

Our actions?

What is in our hearts?

Do other people see what’s inside by watching us?

Listening to us?

Trusting us?

Or maybe….

Rejecting us?

Testing us?

Who am I exactly?

Who are you?

 

As water reflects a face,
   so a man’s heart reflects the man.

–Proverbs 27:19

 

 

 

He Covers the Sky With Clouds

 

 

 

When I read the news, I get overwhelmed sometimes.

At any given point, because of technology, I can be informed of trouble and turmoil from around the world and in my community.

When I think of my friends, I can feel overwhelmed sometimes.

I just found out a few days ago that a friend has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

When I think of my family, I can feel overwhelmed sometimes.

Their concerns are my concerns, because I love them.

Sometimes, it just feels like too much.

How can I possibly take in and handle all the problems I am aware of?

In trying to, I find that I can’t.

I can’t carry every bag in the grocery cart, but I can carry one.

I can’t care for every stray dog in the world, but I adopted two.

I can’t give money to help every child that lives in a struggling country far from mine, but I can choose to help just one.

God doesn’t expect me to handle all the problems all the time.

In fact, He wants me to trust Him to handle them.

He may want me to pray, make a phone call or visit, give a gift or simply sit and listen.

What He wants me to do is to follow His leading.

All the events, all the attitudes, all the concerns–they are scattered about in the world like dozens of clouds floating across the sky.

We see them; they are there, ever moving and changing.

But catch one?

No.

We may only observe.

God is in charge of the clouds.

If you have so many things happening in your life today that it seems overwhelming, maybe it’s time to sit down for awhile and consider:

What problems are you concerned about?

What role does God want you to play in each one?

Which ones should you be involved in?

How does God want you to pray?

The clouds above us—we can’t catch them, manage them, create them or make them go away.

But God can.

 

  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
   make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
   he supplies the earth with rain
   and makes grass grow on the hills.

Psalm 147:7-8

 

 

 

 

Bring Joy

 

 

 

Hear, O LORD, and answer me,
   for I am poor and needy.
 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
   You are my God; save your servant
   who trusts in you.
 Have mercy on me, O Lord,
   for I call to you all day long.
 Bring joy to your servant,
   for to you, O Lord,
   I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:1-4

 

If you could rewrite this prayer of King David tonight, how would you word it?

It might be similar to this:

Oh, LORD, please hear me when I pray.

Please answer me.

I feel such great need right now.

Guard my life!

You know that I am devoted to You.

You know that I trust in You.

Please save me!

You are my God.

Please have mercy on me—I’ve been praying and calling on You all day.

Would you please bring joy to my heart?

I am lifting my very soul up to You.

 

You could personalize your prayer.  God knows what you need:

Oh, LORD, please hear me when I pray.

Please answer me.

I feel such great need right now. (finances, relationships? career?  Tell Him about it.)

Guard my life! (What has been attacking you lately?)

You know that I am devoted to You. (Talk to God about your devotion.)

You know that I trust in You. (Think about ways that you show this trust.)

Please save me! (What do you need saving from tonight?)

You are my God.

Please have mercy on me—I’ve been praying and calling on You all day.

Would you please bring joy to my heart? (Talk to Him about the joyless areas of your life.)

I am lifting my very soul up to You.

 

God knows.

Why not talk to Him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Precious in the Sight

 

 

On this day, twenty-five years ago, my mother passed away.

I was standing beside her as she lay in the hospital bed.

A good friend was standing at her other side.

If you have had a loss like this before, you will understand my words.

My mother was a Christian.

She was going to be with the Lord and I was going to be on this Earth without my mother.

When she died, I didn’t know what to do.

I sat down in a hospital room chair and picked up a Bible.

Psalm 116:15 was before my eyes.

I didn’t remember having read it before.

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints."

This scripture is engraved on her tombstone.

God did not leave my mother.

He was right there all the time.

There will be a reunion for believers in Heaven.

What a tremendous moment that will be!

I cannot imagine the complete joy we will experience when we are reunited with those we love.

 

Thank You,God, for the gift of eternal life, forever with You.

 

 

 

 

His Way is Perfect

 

It’s a gorgeous place.

A little more than half an hour’s drive from my home.

Natural beauty abounds among the trees and hills.

At one particular place near the water’s edge, a tree has grown in an unusual way.

If growing straight and tall is the perfect way for a tree to grow, well, this tree is imperfect.

With it’s trunk curved out over the water, the tree is strikingly different.

Was it a storm that caused it to bend?

When it was a young tree, was it harmed in some way?

I will never know.

What causes our imperfections?

Not just those of appearance.

The imperfections of who we really are inside.

The anger.

The jealousy.

The greed.

The selfishness.

Our sinful nature betrays us and rises up to cause us harm.

Because Jesus died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sin, we can be forgiven.

Our response to the storms of life may have tempted us to become bitter and bent.

When we were young, a crisis may have given us an opportunity to yield to selfishness or anger.

Knowing that God understands our frailty and accepts our repentance, we can come to Him with our need.

Only God is perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion for Him

 

 

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, three parables are written.

They all carry the same subject—being lost and becoming found.

It begins with the parable of the lost sheep, continuing with the parable of the lost coin and ending with the parable of the lost son.

With the example of the lost sheep, the shepherd goes in search of that one.

The owner of the lost coin searches intently, lighting a lamp and sweeping the house until it is found.

In the parable of the lost son………would you expect that it would state that the father left all he had to go in search of the young man?

After having read the first two examples, one might think that this would be the case.

But it is not.

We see no indication that his father searched for him at all.

In fact, he let his son go.

I personally feel that it is quite possible that the father warned the son about what might be the result of unwise living.

I think, too, that there must have been heart felt statements like, "Why must you leave? This is unnecessary! My love for you is great!"

What we do know is that the father saw his son returning when he was still a far distance away.

Did the sun set on every evening that the boy was gone, finding the father standing in the amber shadows, praying for his safety and longing for his return?

When he did recognize him walking far off, was the father angry at what his son had done?

Was he bitter over the lack of respect, the squandering of family heritage?

No.

Instead, we read that he was, "filled with compassion for him."

Before his son spoke, the father, "ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

Doesn’t this sound like unconditional love?

Doesn’t this overflow with forgiveness?

The son then says to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

At this point, the sentiment of the previous two parables appears again.

The shepherd says,  "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep."

The owner of the coin says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin."

Now, the father exclaims, "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."

These three parables point to restoration with God.

As our Heavenly Father, He does wait for us to return to Him when we rebelliously reject Him.

Does He not also go "in search" of our hearts, causing circumstances to point us back to Him?

His ways are limitless as He persues us.

Even so, He does not force us to come back.

How His heart must break that we are not at "home" with Him, but instead, out squandering our lives.

What rejoicing there is in Heaven, though, when even one of us returns!

If you have wandered, know this—–God is waiting.

He is also persuing.

He wants you to come home.

Why not open your heart and ask for forgiveness.

It’s not too late…

 

 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 men.’  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. –Luke 15:18-24

 

 

 

 

Wonders That Cannot Be Fathomed

 

 

 

It’s warm throughout most of the year where I live.

Occassionally, a blast of northern air will make its way toward the equator and temperatures will drop.

At work last week, someone alerted me to the fact that ice had formed on a tree outside one of the buildings.

Of couse, I walked quickly to see such a sight…

There they were–drops of frozen water clinging to the branches.

This may seem somewhat trite, but considering that the high temperature is forecast to be 81 degrees in a couple of days, the fleeting appearance of ice was noteworthy.

Blooming flowers, icicles, tropical weather, snow—-they are all miracles.

Every day is a miracle, but I often fail to see it as such.

We are alive. (that’s a miracle)

We hear the words, "I’m sorry." (that’s a miracle)

We see a lost person come to know Jesus. (that’s a miracle)

God blesses us with a front row seat to see and experience the great and marvelous things He has done and continues to do.

This is so much the case that we cannot fathom His wonders.

Change hot weather to cold, just like that?

Change the attitude of a heart in an instant?

Accept a sinner’s cry for forgiveness?

Hear every prayer?

God can do it all.

 

 

 

Not Yours, But God’s

 

 

 

"It won’t be you."

The words she spoke seemed to fly directly from my ears to my heart, where they have taken a place of residence, coming back to my mind over and over as God directs them to.

A Christian friend at work had spoken these words while we were standing outside in the early morning.

Relating how God was working in the life of someone she cared deeply about, she was exhorting me with the fact that God would be the one to work similarly in the life of someone I cared about.

God.

Not me.

As I carry on my usual tasks, the words come—It won’t be me.

When I am feeling concern-–It won’t be me.

God has brought great encouragment to turn my thoughts to His power and love in the past week that could only be from Him.

"Coincidences" of my attention being drawn to a particular topic of scripture, "random" happenings and obivious changes in areas of deep concern all point to the faithful, caring hand of God, working–ever working–to draw us closer to Him and to show His great love and presence.

I am sitting in awe tonight as I contemplate what He is allowing me to see in His word and in the words of others.

Some time ago, I noticed something growing from the cracks in the wood of a bench in our front yard.

Beautiful and yellow, the growth was a surprise.

Unexpected life emerging from something lifeless–a board on a park bench.

God can bring life-giving change to any situation.

The battles we face are His.

As we pray, He is listening.

He will win the battle.

How He does it may come as a surprise.

He will bring about the change—-

It won’t be me.

 

 

 

Even in His Illness

 

 

 

 

Last night, I was reading about King Asa in the Old Testament.

He had been a king who was devoted to God.

Nearing the end of his life, he seemed to act in an unusual way after developing an illness:

The events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.  In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.–2 Chronicles 16:11-12

This passage is both saddening and unsettling to me.

When reading it, don’t you just want it to say, "In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. His disease was severe and he sought help from the LORD and he was healed." ?

It saddens me because this man who trusted God did not seek healing from Him.

It is unsettling to think that someone who knew God’s power firsthand seemed to develop a hardened heart and suffered greatly for it.

I have thought about this in the context of my own life.

When there is a difficulty to be dealt with, do I just go to people to get help or do I go to God?

Even in my trouble, do I neglect to seek Him?

Do you?

 

Wisdom is Better

 

 

 

Careers, like most anything else, can come and go with economic prosperity or lean times.

It is nice to have a career.

I have one, in fact, but it’s not who I am.

It is what I do with a large amount of my time, but it’s still not really me.

"Chasing" after the next big step and a greater salary has never been paramount in my mind.

It’s really not what is most important.

Knowing God is.

True wisdom comes from God and no where else.

If you are living in an impoverished situation today, yet you are filled with Christ-like wisdom, you are truly rich.

The funds that you may have can come and go, but the wisdom that is granted to you becomes a part of your being, growing and becoming stronger.

A wise person is certainly rich, though perhaps not as the world would consider one to be so.

What about you?

Are the trappings of wealth causing you to sidestep what God really wants for your life?

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll recognize this as true—you with open minds;
   truth-ready minds will see it at once.
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money,
   and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
   nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.

—from Proverbs 8  The Message

 

To a Thousand Generations

 

 

 

The old chapel had been there for many generations.

I was not aware of its existance until just a few days ago.

The history of such an ornate building was fascinating.

Names were engraved in stones near the entrance.

Why were they there?

Were they faithful members of the past?

Walking inside it, gazing at its walls, ceilings and doors, it felt like stepping into a moment of history.

Those that had built it have surely long since left the confines of this life and gone on to be with God.

We who are left view only the tangible evidence of their service to Him in the stones that were laid in its construction.

Yet, within my heart another message is heard.

Faithful men and women of the past believed in God in that area.

A place of worship was desired and constructed by the labor and funds of those living in that day.

Their testimony of trust in God has not ceased, even in their passing, for as long as its doors are open to visitors, so will the offering of their labors be evident.

What will I leave behind someday?

I may not have aided in the construction of a chapel, but my presence on Earth will be marked by who I was and the relationship I had with the Lord.

As each generation goes by, God is present, beckoning each one to return to Him for salvation.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.–Deuteronomy 7:9

 

To All Men

 

God is drawing my attention to a specific area in His word.

Just days ago, I was considering a passage in the book of Titus.

Once again this evening, God placed some verses from this book in front of me.

God is faithful to instruct us for our own edification and also for the good of others that He places in our scope of influence.

We may be drawn to a particular scripture one moment and the next day find that it holds the exact answer to something we are suddenly faced with, whether it be a personal need or the need of another.

Here are the verses He is bringing me back to:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,  while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. —Titus 2:11-15

I needed to see this tonight.

The words of these sentences have taken on a greater meaning now as I consider them again.

How thankful I am to know that God is there.


 

 

Your Strength

 

 

 

 

 

But I will sing of your strength,


   in the morning I will sing of your love;


for you are my fortress,


   my refuge in times of trouble.

 

  O my Strength, I sing praise to you;


   you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.
 

–Psalm 59:16-17

 

 

God knew that my heart was troubled last night.

I had many things on my mind.

Going to a Bible website, a single scripture was displayed on the home page.

I read it.

Later, I was praying about my concern.

Thinking of a book that I had been given about three years ago, I got it out and began to read.

The author very clearly stated that during a difficult time in her life, she would pray specific truths from four scripture passages every single day.

The second scripture passage listed was the same one that I had just read online.

Suddenly, I knew God was answering my prayer with this same scripture.

Several times last night, I would speak that point of truth or say it in my mind.

He gave me those words from the Bible to encourage me.

It did not happen by chance.

God is powerful.

His word is powerful.

He is my fortress in times of trouble.

He hears me when I call to Him.

He does not leave me.