Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Prodigal Returning

 I want to share some thoughts today About the Prodigal son, a story I'm SURE IS
well known to each of you. For those who may not know it or those who need a refresher, here it is:
[Luke 15:11-24]
And he[Jesus] said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father,  'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had  and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country,  and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country,  who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate,  and no one gave him anything.

"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread,  but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father,  and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father.
 But while he was still a long way off,  his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
 But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.
And bring the fattened calf and kill it,  and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again;  he was lost, and is found.'  And they began to celebrate.

Here are a couple of points that stuck out at me:
1. the son is saved, he's a son not  a servant. the point is, even children of God can mess up big time! I know it from my own experience. all we need to do is put distance between us and God and we allow the enemy an opportunity to get at us.
the bible says:
 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
[1 Peter 5:8-9]
Satan wants us to fall into sin and be ineffective in our Christian life and he will take every opportunity, he and his unholy horde, to tempt us and try to get us to put enough distance between us and God to allow the enemy of our souls access to our lives. that's why we need to be vigilant  and why we need to watch and pray. The enemy will try to convince us that it will be fun to step away from god for a while and do some other things, but those who have fallen into sin know it's not fun. Maybe at first it is but it's a downward spiral.  when I got out of the mess I was in I wondered how I could have  let my life get into such a state. One of  The answers is this: sin is deceptive. It likes to pass itself off as something harmless,there is often a false sense of security that what we are doing is really not so bad. i used to justify it by saying
noone knows what I'm doing  I'm not harming anyone  but god knew and I  knew he didn't approve.

2. I'm sure the prodigal didn't overnight decide that he wanted his share of the inheritance. This was something just not done in that culture even in ours. It was extremely rude and the father could have severely reprimanded him  for even suggesting it,  but he didn't'. The point is,  if the son had rejected that sort of thought  the moment it cropped up,  the whole sorry scene wouldn't have occurred. the same happens with us. Sin starts in our thoughts  and moves on to words and actions,  and, if it is not dealt with  it can really mess up our lives, just like a little fire that starts and begins to spread, if someone doesn't put it out it  can do a whole lot of damage.
3. The prodigal realised how bad his situation was,  but to return was his  own choice. he could have chosen to stay where he was  feeding pigs and slowly starving to death, but he made a choice to return to his father.  When we are brought face to face with our sin  what we do then is our choice. we can cry out for mercy to god and repent  or we can stay in our sin, which may lead to our choosing to abandon our faith altogether.  Our story differs from the prodigal son in at least one point, the moment we call out to god he is there  we don't have to take the walk back on our own, God will help us to get our lives back in balance, there will be a time of restoration, and he is the one who restores us  and helps us to change our ways.

4. The prodigal's father wouldn't take him back as a servant and neither does our father.  we serve him because we want to thank him for  his incredible love for us, but we are god's children not just slaves. Jesus said:
You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 

5. The father welcomed the son right back into the family.  There was no period of probation  to see if his behaviour had changed, there was no stern lecture "you better change your ways, this is your last chance!"  The father welcomed him back gladly.  I want to look at that scene a bit closer  before we conclude:
[Luke 15:17-24]
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion,
and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him,
 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants,  'Bring quickly the best robe,
 and put it on him,  and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

the son hadn't gotten far in his repentance speech when the father started giving orders to the servants and ordering a celebration. Notice what the Father gave the son?
1. A robe.
our Father takes our filthy robe of sin and replaces it with a clean robe of righteousness.
.  the bible says it this way:
 He himself[Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
[1 Peter 2:24]
and this:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the  righteousness of God. [2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 NRSV]

2. The ring:
The significance of this didn't hit me until I read one of Max Lucked's books. The ring, in olden times, was used
to seal important documents, the emblem on the ring was dipped in wax to form the seal. The father was showing  that the returned prodigal has the right to  speak for the father. And we are our Father's ambassadors here on earth. We speak in his name when we tell people of his great love for them. Can you think of other times when we represent God?

3. The party:
the bible says this:
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

There was a celebration in heaven when you first gave your life to god and there will be one when you go  home. God doesn't cancel that party If we get tangled up in serious sin. We may wonder if we will be welcome in heaven because of the bad things we did,but no, god is merciful and if we truly repent he will restore us   And our sins will be removed as far as the east is from the west,and that celebration in heaven will happen when we get there.

I want to speak a word of encouragement  to anyone caught in a web of sin. Jesus says:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  [Revelation 3:20]

Jesus was speaking to THE Laodicean Church whom he called a dead church. yet though they had sinned by compromising with the world  and they were proud and puffed up, Jesus offers them mercy. He is standing at the door knocking.  No matter what you've done or where you've been  he is standing at the door of your heart waiting for you to open the door. And if you feel that you can't break free enough even to do that, cry out to him and he will come to you and take you by the hand and he will affirm his love to you and help you get started on the journey of repentance and reconciliation. One of my favourite verses says
He heals the brokenhearted   and binds up their wounds.
[Psalm 147:3]
We may not feel worthy to come to him, we may feel so sin-stained that we can't approach him, but the truth is we aren't worthy. god's grace is a free gift that we couldn't possibly earn even if we lived as close to perfect as we can. but the enemy wants us to feel so unworthy, so brought low  that we may choose not to come to our father because we can't see how he would possibly accept us. he is waiting for us to cry to him, so we need to call out to god,  tell him how unworthy we feel pour out our hearts to him and allow him to heal us. The words in the original language of that verse Psalm 147:3 imply a surgeon stitching up a wound.  It may be painful but once it's done we will be fully healed and restored.

If we can it might be good to ask someone to pray for us through this process.  We don't have to go into specifics  unless we feel lead to,  but it's good to have someone praying for us  and prayer is powerful.

if you're in a situation like this, I would really encourage you to read "When godly people do ungodly things"  by Beth Moore.  that's where I got a lot of my ideas
for this message.  I want to share a message that  one of my followers tweeted today:
No matter how far you have fallen....#YOU can begin again.
God bless you all.

[These are just for you and God to talk about privately, if you want to]

1. Why do you think that putting distance between you and god allows the enemy access to your life?
2. Why  do you think that  Satan works so hard to stop us being effective for god?
3. We saw that sometimes we can let our feelings of unworthiness separate us from god. Can you think of other times when we should disregard our feelings and go with what we know is true ?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 some thoughts, a devotional


i wrote this devotional this morning. I didn't take much time to edit it because I wanted to put it here today so it's probably not as well written as my other things. Anyway here it is:

 “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God.
[Isaiah 40:1]

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
[Psalm 23:4]

Your Word has given me new life.
 This is my comfort in my suffering.
 Psalm 119:50

When I felt the Lord telling me to write a devotional  on 9/11 for our Christian radio show Power Praise, I felt unqualified to do it, since it wasn't my country that was attacked and though we can feel sympathy for those who lost their lives and for their families, it's not the same for us as it is for the people of America and especially the people of New York.

But I was reminded how I felt the night of the Christchurch Earthquake which I know has nothing to do with 9/11 but bear with me just a bit.

I remembered thinking about the tragedy and wondering where god was in all this. I know God is all-powerful, so why didn't he stop it from happening?

 Then God reminded me of the little miracles. The people who shouldn't have survived but did. The people who were supposed to be at work in the buildings that were worst hit but somehow weren't where they were supposed to be. the survivors that were found when all hope was gone.

the same could be said for 9/11.  What happened then was terrible and tragic  but there were tiny beacons of hope that shone through.  People who got out of the buildings  thanks to the bravery of the firefighters  and with god's help. People who were supposed to be at the twin towers  Who didn't get there for whatever reason.

It's hard to find the words to say to explain why god allows things like this to occur.  THERE are things happening that we won't  fully understand this side of heaven.  Yet there are things we do know, things that we as Christians can hold onto  Though the world is going crazy around us. We need to hold onto these things because it's going to get worse before it gets better.
Let me remind you of some of these things.

1. God loves us. the bible says:
 "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.
2. He is with us when we suffer
and he understands how we feel.
The bible says:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
[Psalm 23:4]
and this:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
[Matthew 28:20b]
3. Our life on earth is temporary.
 The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to
 the great glory that will be shown to us.
[romans 8:18]
4. The future we have in God is far more wonderful than we could imagine:
As the bible says:
 but just as it is written,


I hope that something I said has encouraged you today. remember that God does understand how you feel so you can tell him whatever is on your mind.
 May god be with you today.