Posts Tagged “Luke”

1 Very early on the first day of the week, at dawn, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, two men in shining clothes suddenly stood beside them. 5 The women were very afraid and bowed their heads to the ground.

The men said to them, “Why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen from the dead. Do you remember what he told you in Galilee?”

Luke 24:1-6 (NCV)

As I read this passage this morning, verse 5 struck me – “Why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead?” This is the New Century Version translation of the more familiar translation “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Sometimes reading from a different translation allows the Word of God to speak to us in different ways. We know this verse relates to the women looking for the dead body of Jesus to anoint it with spices. The angel’s words were the first announcement that Jesus had risen from the dead – “why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead?” In other words, “Jesus is not dead, He is alive so you won’t find Him in this place for the dead.”

Jesus is not dead, He is alive. And you won’t find him in this place for the dead.

We serve a risen Savior, praise God! His life means that I too can find life. It means that you can find life, no matter how horrible – or dead – your circumstances are.

As I read this passage this morning, it was as if God were saying… “If you want more of me, don’t look for me in the dead areas of your life…Don’t focus on those things because they are dead. I’m alive – look for me among the living.” I’m not saying that God doesn’t come to us in our darkest circumstances. I’m saying that finding Him means looking away from our dark circumstances toward His goodness.

You may feel like there is little in your life which is good right now. That’s a lie from the enemy, my friend. Seek even the smallest good, focus on it, and thank God for it, and then ask Him to open your eyes to the greater goodness around you. I have no doubt that if you do that consistently, God will reveal Himself to you in greater and greater ways. Yes, focusing on the smallest good is a discipline that must be learned and developed – but it is doable and you can do it.

That first smallest good thing might be simply an unexpected smile from someone who crosses your path, an unexpected beauty (in nature or in a painting, for example), or an unexpected joy (perhaps from a song or phone call). That good thing is among the living and it is where you will find your Savior.

I am reminded of the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Written by Hellen Lemmel in 1922, you can find many versions of it on Youtube – performances from the current decade by artists and groups such as Hillsongs, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Alan Jackson and more. I listened to many of them, but chose this version by Loyiso Bala, Neville D and Ivan Siegelaar. Listen to it. Allow it to seep into your soul and lead you into finding the smallest good thing and then the greatest good thing – Jesus.

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We sure do have it backwards!

Part of the message I preached at our church last Sunday was about making worship a priority in our personal lives in 2016. I encouraged all of us to interrupt our busyness to focus on the Lord more regularly. I talked about how that would impact our corporate worship on Sunday mornings, but more importantly how it would impact our relationship with the Lord and our ability to carry the miracles He wants to birth through us. And I admitted that personal worship is an area in which I’ve become lax. Ouch!

So all week the Holy Spirit has been whispering to me “let’s do what you preached about on Sunday – let’s set aside some time and worship.” “How about today – can we do it today?” It’s been a positive urging, not a nag. It’s the Lord saying “come away with me, my love” (Song of Solomon 2:13b, paraphrased).

Finally tonight I did just that. As I sat with my head back and eyes closed, listening to a song about how much God loves me, sometimes singing along, sometimes not…my mind began to say “you know, you could be sorting that big stack of mail while you listen to this.” And then “You’re really wasting time just sitting here – you can listen to the music while you wash the dishes in the sink.”

And then it hit me – we sure do have it backwards! Our society has it backwards. Society values doing above all things. We have been programmed to think that doing something is better than sitting with the Lord. Even in our time with the Lord, we tend to think we need to be doing something – reading, studying or actively praying for needs.

When God’s highest priority is for us to worship and to listen. Jesus told Martha when she was so worried about getting everything done that Mary, who was sitting at his feet, had chosen the “better part” (Luke 10:42, NIV). For years, I regularly prayed, “Lord, show me the better part.” And over time, I became a worshiper. I learned how to choose the better part… But somehow that got lost in the busyness of last year.

There will always be tasks to do. There will always be things to keep us busy. There will always be things we’re leaving undone. That was as true for Mary as it is for us. But Mary chose to sit at the feet of the Lord. The Holman Christian Standard Bible says that “Mary has made the right choice.”

Wow did I have a challenging year last year. It seems like I was always trying to decide what the “right choice” was in situations for which I had no knowledge, training or wisdom. The right choice in each of those situations would have been to step away from them and sit at the feet of Jesus. (I’m afraid I didn’t make that choice as often as I should have. But you know what? God still loves me with a passionate love! I am loved by God with an everlasting love – even when I don’t make the best choice all the time – and so are you!)

We must go against our culture and training to choose the better part – to choose to relax into worship instead of sorting the mail or doing the dishes. Instead of spending more time at work or helping to plan the next great evangelism outreach. All those things are “needful” but as Jesus told Martha, we are “fussing far too much and getting [ourselves] worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42, The Message Bible)

One of my goals for 2016 is to stop fussing so much, to stop angsting over decisions – to make them and trust that the Lord’s got it – whatever it is. Choosing the “better part,” the only thing that is “essential” is what will make that goal achievable. So my bigger goal is to worship me. Want to join me?

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Zoey Grace, moments after her birth.

Zoey Grace, moments after her birth.

At 6:24 on 4/26 – 6:24 in the morning on April 26 – a lullaby rang through the halls of St. David’s Medical center.

That lullaby was an announcement to the world of the birth of Zoey Grace Martinez.

This was Zoey’s birth day – the day of her birth.

There was rejoicing in the hospital when we heard the lullaby because we knew what it meant. Zoey had breathed her first breath of life outside her mother’s womb.

There is Rejoicing in Heaven

I was reminded that Scripture says that there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner turns to the Lord (Luke 15:7). Rejoicing over my birth! Rejoicing over your birth! Wow!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

What a miracle that first breath is. In the womb, a baby’s lungs are filled with amniotic fluid. Near the end of pregnancy, the baby actually breathes the amniotic fluid in and out as they take practice breaths. Were they to do that outside the womb, they would drown. But inside the womb, somehow it prepares them for breathing air soon.

Then, suddenly, the baby enters the world and instantly they can breathe air. What an amazing and miraculous thing! “We are fearfully and wonderfully made,” Scripture says (Psalm 139:14). The New Living Translation puts it this way:

13You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT)

As you read the passage, do you feel the loving care of the Creator as you were created? The angels rejoice when we are born again…but it was the Lord who carefully knits us together before we were born.

Profoundly Impacted

I was blessed to be in the hospital room while Zoey’s mom was in labor and in the halls of the hospital, right outside the nursery window waiting as Zoey was born. And I was profoundly impacted. God revealed His love for me in a way that was fresh revelation for me. And I was blown away by it. I want to share that revelation with you. I hope you are changed by it as I’ve been

He Loved Us First

About eighteen hours prior to her birth, the long labor process began. I was one of about a dozen people at the hospital, watching, encouraging, praying and rejoicing.

I watched as Zoey’s mom would have painful contractions and Zoey’s dad would come over and rub her back to help her through the pain. The contractions would come more frequently and then less frequently. She eventually got pain medication and then the day just went on and on…and on and on.

I couldn’t help but see the relationship between our physical birth and our spiritual birth. Just as there are labor pains that bring physical birth there are spiritual labor pains that bring spiritual birth.

When I think back to my own coming to the Lord, I remember the ebb and flow of the process. There would be a spark of interest, then there would be a kicking against the truth. And there would be a drawing near to God and then a pushing away…A drawing near and a pushing away. All the while Phil was there trying to coax me along, helping me over the trouble spots. It took quite a while for me to be born again. For a long time, I just wasn’t ready to be born. But the Lord kept calling me. I’m so thankful that God is persistent.

Zoey wasn’t ready to be born for a long time either. Her poor mama was in labor for eighteen hours. During that time, what really impressed me was how very much her parents loved her. What they were willing to go through just to bring her into this world is a testament to the love they have for her – even before she was born.

Scripture says that “While we were still sinners Christ loved us.” “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) That’s how God showed His love for us. He loved me first, and He loved me fully and with His life. He loved you first – fully and with His life.

Again, the spiritual implications have just blown me away. Seeing what these earthly parents were willing to go through…seeing their love in action – love that is so imperfect compared to the love of God, love that is so shallow compared to the love of God – seeing that gave me a glimpse of how very much God loves His children.

Extravagant Love – How Can I Ever Be Afraid of the Future?

He not only forms each of us in our mother’s womb, miraculously creates us so that we can breathe air the instant we leave the womb – He not only created us for our first birth, He then bought us back after we had sold ourselves into slavery. He paid the price so that we could be born a second time – free from the condemnation and ultimate consequence of our sins. Christ’s suffering on the cross was another sort of birth pains, another sort of labor pains. He hung on the cross while God heaped the sins of the world upon Him…so that I could be set free from those sins…so that I could live not just 70 or 80 or 90 years here on earth, but for eternity.

That’s love in action.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him, whoever hopes and trusts in Him, should not perish but would have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) 

“But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Well, there’s one other thing that I experienced that day that is so over the top it has led me to ask – it has held me in the place of asking – with the Apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) In other words – “Since God loves us so incredibly, how can I ever be afraid of the future?

“This One’s Ours”

I’ve never been a baby person. Phil and I are childless by choice. Shortly after Zoey was born I sent pictures to Phil and he said “Sandy, All babies look alike.” And I said, “I know…but this one’s different.” The truth is that I was experiencing so much love for Zoey and I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew that “this one’s different.” Not different in terms of her outward beauty – she’s a baby. Yes, she’s an adorable baby, but objectively, she’s just a baby like any other baby. But there was nothing objective about Zoey. Somehow she was different. It took a while for me to verbalize it, but when Phil said “All babies look alike” I knew what it was. This baby – baby Zoey – is different and the way she’s different is that she is ours.

“This one is ours.” That’s the phrase that kept going through my mind. “This one is ours.” It is impossible to put into words the full implication of that phrase, but it embodies a fierce love and protectiveness and so much more. “This one is ours.”

Now Zoey is not mine in any sense of the word. I’m the great aunt that lives a couple thousand miles away. (Or put more specifically, a thousand dollars away, because that’s about what it costs to visit her (oh – and her mom and dad and other family members.) By the time she’s 16, I’ll be lucky if I see her a dozen times. And given my lousy track record for sending packages, she’ll be lucky to get a dozen packages from me.

Still, I couldn’t get the phrase out of my mind… “This one is ours.”

And God continued to impress upon me His great, great love for us. That He looks down…or over…Scripture says He’s with us all the time, so it’s not really a looking down. But God looks at us and says “this one is mine.” “This one is mine.” “I created that one,” He says, “and I went to great lengths to buy her back.” “She’s mine.”

And I’m blown away.

How much does that God  love me, and how much would a God like that protect me, lead me and care for me? A God who has already done what he’s done, gone through what He’s gone through for my birth – how far would He go to help me? And knowing that He feels toward me much the same way I feel toward Zoey, only to a significantly greater degree than I feel toward Zoey – He says “This one’s mine” – knowing that, how can I ever be afraid? How can I ever not trust Him?

Leaving Me is Not in His DNA – He Can’t Do It

Zoey, about one day old

Zoey, about one day old

Scripture says He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). I don’t think He can, even if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to, but I don’t think he could leave us or forsake us even if He wanted to. Is there anything God can’t do? That’s a question theologians can argue, but I don’t think He can leave us or forsake us. Because He looks down and says “This one’s mine.”

Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. (Jeremiah 31:3, NLT)

“This one’s mine.”

If God is For Us…

A few days after returning home, I came to Romans 8 in my Bible reading. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Let me translate it in light of my recent experience and all of Scripture – “if God who loves us so passionately – if the God who looks at me and says ‘This one’s mine’ – if that God is for me – and we know He is – what does it matter if anyone else is against me?”

Friends, every time I feel overwhelmed or scared for the future, I return to that moment when I realized that God says “This one’s mine” and I am filled with peace and joy.

If you’ve trusted Jesus as your Savior, you’re His, too. He rejoices over you. Rejoice in Him. And rest in His peace knowing He will never leave you and He will move heaven and earth for you.

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14“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.

15But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

What a crazy, crazy few weeks it’s been. Phil and I found ourselves in the middle of commitments at work that were a combination of poorly made agreements on my part and life just being life…only on steroids for some reason. All leading up to a seemingly hard deadline of a trip to visit my niece on the birth of her first child.

Well, I’m on the plane to visit that niece now. A day late and still without the deadline met (technically the due date is still about 5 days away, but with me gone, it’s not going to get met). Phil remains at home diligently making progress and I’ve had to explain missing a deadline to the customer. In the meantime, both Phil and I have been working crazy hours and sleeping little for the past three weeks.

It was all coming to a head yesterday as I tried to do some project planning with Phil. I kept using the wrong phrases when referring to different elements of the project. A few sentences in, I looked at him a bit discouraged and said “I’m sorry. I’m going crazy.”

His answer was simple and profound. “Well don’t. Going crazy is totally optional.”

What?

“Going crazy is totally optional!”

It is, you know! Every day, in every situation, we choose how to respond. We choose love or hate. We choose compassion or turning a blind eye. We choose anxiety or trust. Going crazy is optional – we can choose to trust God instead.

Phil went on to point out to me that “going crazy” is really another form of worry. Ugh! And I thought I’d gotten so good at not worrying!

13When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.
Luke 4:13 (NLT)

Yep, the enemy had simply left me for a while – until the next opportunity came – the next time I was overworked and overtired. (It’s easy to give up worrying when life is going according to plan and I’ve been practicing so it’s becoming easy not to worry when faced with the “normal” level of things not going according to plans.) I’ve also gotten better at recognizing the signs of worry, enabling me to choose trust instead of worry. So I guess it only makes sense that the enemy would change his disguise and come at me looking like “craziness” (i.e., chaos) instead of worry.

But as Phil pointed out, “going crazy is totally optional!”

So I began to choose peace. I continued to work diligently but I added faith into the mix – I chose to trust God to enable me to complete the tasks or give me grace with clients. Or find me a new clients or a new job if this project causes me to lose all my current ones! After all – all provision comes from His hands and He promises to provide. I don’t want to limit Him by lacking faith that He will provide or by prescribing how He should do it.

You know what! It works! Yes, sometimes I have to remind myself every few minutes to grab ahold of faith instead of craziness. But when I do, I find that the peace of God settle around me. And I find that the need for those faith refreshers stretches from every moment to every few minutes…to every half hour…to every hour…to …

Friends, going crazy is totally optional! Will you join me in choosing peace? Will you join me in choosing to trust God? It is a wonderful way to live – and it honors God more than you think.

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2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (NIV)

This is the prophecy of Jesus given to Isaiah more than 700 years before Jesus’ birth. During a Bible study last week my husband pointed out something that my attention had never been drawn to before. Notice that first phrase – “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” We all know that Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph, yet in the prophecy of His birth, the Lord describes Jesus as being born to “us.”

Immediately after Jesus’ birth, the event was announced like this:

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:1-14 (NIV)

Again, notice verse 11 – the angel didn’t describe Jesus as being born to Joseph and Mary, but to “you.”

Jesus birth was always intended in the heart of God as being a gift to the world. It was a gift to me and to you. Unto “us” a son is given; a Savior has been born to “you.” You and I are part of that “us” and part of that “you.”  Jesus has been given to us. He is our gift.

Enjoy your gift this Christmas – eternal life, bought for you with the precious blood of a Savior who loves you beyond measure.

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In the Parable of the Lost Son, we’ve looked at the repentance of the prodigal son and the compassion and love of the father. That leaves the final character in the parable, the older son. I’ll start with the parable to refresh your memory of the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

Of the three characters, I find the older son to have the saddest story, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. He has been the obedient son. He stayed home and worked for the father during the years that his younger brother squandered his inheritance. Obedience is a good thing. Unfortunately in this case, it’s squandered obedience. The older son had a wonderful opportunity to grow in his relationship with the father during that time, but it doesn’t appear that he did. He clearly didn’t absorb the nature of his father – he showed neither compassion, love or mercy when his younger brother returned home. He was not ready to forgive. In fact, upon learning that the party was to celebrate his brother’s homecoming, he refused to go into the house.

He lacked a servant’s heart, instead using the phrase “all these years I’ve been slaving for you” to describe his efforts. The word translated “slaving” literally means “in bondage to.” The younger brother was enslaved to sin during his years of riotous living. The older son was enslaved to sin of a different kind. He had become a slave to his sense of duty and his belief that it was his own efforts that would earn him his father’s inheritance. He served his father out of obedience, not out of love. He was obedient out of duty. He viewed himself as working for his inheritance. What a drudgery those years must have been!

But there’s an even sadder element to his story. Read again the words of the father:

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
Luke 15:31 (NIV)

“Everything I have is yours.” The son had at his disposal all that belonged to the father and he never availed himself of it. He didn’t even realize it was his.

Friends, our heavenly Father says the same thing to us “Everything I have is yours.” Notice the words “everything” and “all” and “all things” in the following verses:

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done…19And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6, 19 (NLT)

2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:32 (NIV)

“Everything I have is yours,” says the Father.

Remember, the parable is an illustration of spiritual principles. The younger son is a perfect picture of willful rebellion and then humble repentance. The father beautifully illustrates the loving and compassionate Father we have in heaven, ready to forgive and celebrate with us. Now we have the older son, who I’m afraid is very much like us sometimes. We so easily fall into the trap of serving the Lord out of duty.

Obedience is important in the Kingdom of God, but it must be obedience out of love for all the Father has done for us and gives us. Obedience out of duty creates in us the same attitude it created in the older son – bitter jealousy.

The Father’s message is “Everything I have is yours.” Let’s not live like slaves but as the son or daughter who has been given the Kingdom.

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Studying the Parable of the Lost Son, in my previous blog we focused on the namesake of the parable, the lost or prodigal son. He is only one of the three main characters in the story. Today I want to study the actions of the father. First, let me repeat the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

It’s important to understand what it meant for the son to ask for his father for his inheritance. It was exceedingly hurtful and humiliating. Many fathers would respond in great anger at such a request. The son was saying “your money is more important to me than you.” The son was disgracing the family. I have no doubt that it was a very difficult thing for the father to hand over the son’s inheritance to him knowing that he would squander it. Yet he did that, perhaps also knowing that the son had to come to his own understanding about life and his father’s love for him.

Verse 20 tells us that while the son was still “a long way off”, his father saw him. I’m guessing that the father had an eye trained on the lane down which the son would return. That throughout his daily life he kept looking, watching and waiting. The father is a picture of our heavenly Father. I love knowing that he watches and waits for each sinner to return. That He hasn’t turned His back on them, but longs for them to return, just as this father longed for his lost son to return. God waits patiently, turned toward so that when we make the slightest move toward Him, He is there.

The lost son’s father was filled with compassion for his son. He wasn’t full of criticism. He wasn’t full of self-righteousness. He wasn’t ready to punish. He was filled with compassion. The son was undoubtedly dressed much differently from when he left. Having lost all his money and having been slopping pigs, his clothing would not have been the same as when he left with his inheritance. But it wasn’t only his clothing that had changed – his demeanor had changed at least as much. He was now defeated. And he was now repentant. And his father was filled with compassion. So much that he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. What a display of affection! What an act demonstrating his love and forgiveness.

And he didn’t stop there. Before the son even finished what I’m sure was his well-rehearsed speech, the father began to direct the servants to begin the celebration.

“Bring the best robe.” – The best robe most likely belonged to the father. He was effectively saying – welcome back, what’s mine is yours.

“Put a ring on his finger.” – The ring was a sign of the father’s authority and he was giving it to his repentant son.

“Put sandals on his feet.” – Servants were not given robes, rings and sandals. The father was making it clear that his son was part of the family.

“Bring the fattened calf. Let’s celebrate!” – The father was expressing his joy. His son was once lost, but now he is found. The father was mirroring the response of all of heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:7; see my blog Helping Others Find Faith – Bringing Joy to Heaven.)

Jesus, in telling the story, was teaching about the Father’s love. This is the love the Psalmist wrote about:

10He [God] does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve….13The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:10, 13 (NLT)

It is the love Paul wrote about and prayed for the Ephesians:

18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)

All of heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. God is watching for us to turn. He is waiting to run toward us and…

Put a robe around our shoulders – his robe of righteousness,

Put a ring on our finger – giving us His authority,

Put sandals on our feet – clothing us better than fields of lilies, and

Celebrate!

What a loving, gracious and forgiving Father we have!

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The Parable of the Lost Son, or the Prodigal Son as many call it, has three main characters: The father and his two sons. There are significant lessons that can be found when viewing the story from the perspective of each character. In this first blog we’ll look at the story through the eyes of the prodigal son. First, the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

The story begins with the words “Jesus continued.” This parable follows two other parables that make the same point – there is great rejoicing when a sinner repents.  I blogged about that in Helping Others Find Faith – Bringing Joy to Heaven.

The Parable of the Lost Son provides a visual, earthly picture of that same theme. The lost son is a perfect example of a rebellious, ungrateful, perhaps spoiled young man. He doesn’t want anything to do with hard work. He wants what is “rightfully” his, and he wants to do with it whatever he wants, with no consideration for others or his own future. I’m guessing many of us were in that same mindset to one degree or another at some point in our lives. It is the essence of our sin nature – it’s all about me. I want what I want and I want it now and I don’t want anyone (especially God) telling me what I can and can’t do with it.

So the father gave his son his inheritance and the son set off for a “distant land.” I’m reminded of Jonah who, in his desire to escape God’s will, ran as far away as he could (Jonah 1:3).

After squandering his inheritance, he found himself with no money, no place to live and nothing to eat. Jobs were scarce because the economy had crashed while the son was spending his money.

The Bible Exposition Commentary on the New Testament brings out this important point?

Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery (John 8:34); it promises success, but brings failure; it promises life, but “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The boy thought he would “find himself,” but he only lost himself! When God is left out of our lives, enjoyment becomes enslavement.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1

And that’s exactly what the lost son was experiencing. In his desperation, “He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.” (Luke 15:15, NLT) He’d gone from being the son of a man of means to living high on the hog (as they say in the south) to feeding the hogs. What a transition!

In the muck and mire of the hog pen (what a place to find a Jewish boy!), Scripture says the son “came to his senses.” The King James Version translates it as “he came to himself.” The lost son found himself – his true self. You see, we were not made for sin. We were made, created, to bring glory to our creator. We were made to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” according to the Westminster catechism. The lost son returned to the person he was created to be, recognized how far removed he had become from that person, and made a decision to return. He had been to the distant land and wanted to return home.

The definition of repent is “to change one’s mind.” That’s what the prodigal son did. He changed his mind. His selfish attitude became one of humility, as evidenced by his words and actions:

18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 (NIV)

The son had no expectation that his father would rejoice upon seeing him again. He had no expectation of a great welcome home party. He had only the humble request that he be allowed to work as a hired hand. He came to his senses and repented. He changed what he was doing and returned to his father. And there was great rejoicing.

Just as there is great rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents and turns to his or her heavenly Father.

Notice, though, that there would have been no party if the son hadn’t changed his behavior as well as his thinking. If he had simply acknowledged in the hog pen that his dad was right but he was still going to live his own life. True repentance requires a change in behavior as well as thinking. Do we sometimes fall after committing to that change. Yes. But it is in continually returning to the Father that we find our salvation.

What strikes me the most about the change in the son is the great humility required to return to the father and say “I was wrong. I’m not worthy to be your son. Will you hire me as a lowly servant?”

Lord, develop that attitude in my heart in a greater way. “I was wrong. (I am wrong.) I’m not worthy to be your daughter. Will you accept me as your lowly servant?”

Of course, our loving Father says “Yes. Child, come. And let’s celebrate together. Here, let me give you freedom (in the way of complete forgiveness) and then let me give you the Kingdom.”

Wow! What an exchange!

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7In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Luke 15:7 (NLT)

Jesus concludes His parable of the lost sheep with these words. He tells us that all of heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. In fact, they rejoice more over the one who returns than the overwhelming majority who simply stay the course – finish well. My life is largely focused on finishing well and helping others to do so. My focus isn’t on the lost. It’s how I’m wired. It’s how I’m gifted. But that doesn’t excuse me from praying and participating in the seeking of the lost.

If my desire is to bring God joy (and it is), can there be a better activity to participate in? It sure doesn’t sound like it from this passage.

But as I said, I’m not wired for evangelism. I’m wired for teaching. Nevertheless, I can add activities to my everyday life that support evangelism without taking away from my spiritual passions and giftings. Here are some ideas:

  • Pray. Yes, this is the most obvious, but praying for the lost isn’t something I do regularly (forgive me, Lord). Discipline yourself to pray at those times when your mind tends to wander – for example, while driving or while doing household chores. There are a number of ways we can pray:
    • Pray specifically for the hearts of those who don’t know Christ to be softened.
    • Pray for specific people, by name.
    • Pray for God to put others in their path who will spark their interest in the spiritual realm.
    • Pray for the circumstances in their lives to bring them to recognize their need for God.
    • Pray for evangelistic activities that are occurring, such as Billy Graham’s broadcast, America My Hope, and local evangelistic outreaches (even if they’re done by other churches).
    • Pray that God would use you to spark an interest in Christ before attending events or functions where non-believers will be present.
    • Pray for courage to speak out for Christ and to have that word aptly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11).
    • Pray to live a loving, joyful, righteous life.
  • Smile. Laugh easily. Confound their stereotype that Christians are serious and boring. I have to work at this. I am a serious person by nature. Yet I know God wants me to smile more. I want the peace and joy I experience in Him to be evident to others. One way that happens is by smiling and laughing.
  • Be friendly as you go about your everyday. It’s easier for God to open a door when you smile and nod to that person in front of you than when you’re staring down at the groceries in your cart or at your cell phone to read your friend’s latest Facebook post
  • Be helpful. When you see someone struggling to reach something in the store and you can get it for them, do so. When they’ve dropped something on the floor, help them pick it up.
  • Don’t be rude, distant or distracted. That feeds the stereotype of the self-righteous Christian. Be present in whatever situation you find yourself.
  • Be a good-finder. That’s a Zig Ziglar-ism. Be a good-finder in those around you. When your internal attitude is to be critical of that person near you – because they’re too unkempt or too fashionably dressed, because they have too many tattoos or look like a person that would never have a tattoo, because they’re too fat or too skinny, because they’re too loud or too timid, because they’ve filled their cart with junk food or the most expensive offerings in the store – when that thing (called sin) rises up in you to begin to be critical of that person, stop. Be a good-finder. Look at the person and ask God to show you the good in them and then pray into that. Perhaps even compliment them on it. Are you in your grunge clothes and the fashionably dressed person walks by and you’re tempted to be critical because she obviously spends too much money on clothes. Stop. Sincerely compliment her on her sweater or shoes or hair. You get the idea. Criticism doesn’t open the door to share Christ. (And it closes a door to God.)
  • Rehearse the Gospel. Be ready to share the Gospel in a number of different ways and in different timeframes.

15Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16But do this in a gentle and respectful way.
1 Peter 3:15-16a (NLT)

  • Follow God’s promptings. If you’ve asked Him to use you, He will. If you are willing to be used. It’s one thing to pray; it’s quite another thing to be obedient when God gives opportunities in response to those prayers. I know that I have ignored the Lord’s promptings to pray with or speak to a stranger. (That’s where praying for courage comes in.) I want to follow God’s promptings. How amazing is it that He even asks me to be involved in eternal things? Pretty amazing I think. And humbling. Let’s be obedient and following His promptings.

What other ideas do you have for incorporating evangelism into your everyday life? Share your ideas on our Facebook page or as a comment to this post. Let’s help one another bring joy to all of heaven!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

November is the official start of the holiday season in our house – Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas follows quickly behind it. I love reading the book of Luke in November because it tells the Christmas story so well. It’s the book that will be our New Testament focus this month. Near the end of the month we’ll begin to read the book of Revelation – God’s final words to us.

Our readings take us through the Old and New Testaments over a two year period. We’re winding up our two years this month and next, so here at Apprehending Grace we’re already thinking about our 2014 plan. If you have any thoughts about how you’d like us to organize the readings, let us know. Comment on the blog, send me an email or past a message on our Facebook page.

The following buttons will open PDFs of the November/December bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the Sept/Oct 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The November Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Enjoy your reading! We’d love to hear what God speaks to your heart. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for November is below.

2013-11Nov RecRdg

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

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