“The Care & Feeding of Prodigals” April 21

 

The Care & Feeding of Prodigals - Do you have a prodigal in your life? If so, how are you responding? Are you helping or just helping them stay reasonably comfortable in their pigsty?Do you have a prodigal in your life? If so, how are you responding? Are you helping or just helping them stay reasonably comfortable in their pigsty?

And from our other readings:

What is death? Why do we call an unbeliever spiritually dead? What is the second death?

And what about you … Are you a talker or a doer? Talking about God isn’t living for God. Talking about winning souls is not sharing the Gospel. Talking about prayer is not prayer.

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 7 & 8
Psalm 49.10-20
Proverbs 14.22-24
Luke15.11-32

 

The Care and Feeding of Prodigals

 

Luke 15.11-32:

Prodigals, Older Brothers & Us

 

Yesterday I talked about the danger of having a “ho-hum, I’ve heard that before” attitude about the stories in the Bible that are familiar to us. Today’s reading is another very familiar story, that of the “prodigal son.”

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 

So often when we read this well-known parable, our minds go to all the prodigals we know. Or maybe we think about our own testimony, how we were once prodigals. Certainly, those are important things to think about.

We need to identify those prodigals we know so we can pray for them, but we also need to take a closer look at some of the other important points in this parable.

Let’s start with the father in the story, how he responded, not just to his son’s homecoming, but also to his prodigal years.

Perhaps you have a prodigal, a son or daughter you have prayed for and wept over. You probably look forward to the day you can say, “My son (or daughter) was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).

We often fret and push and prod our prodigals to repent and come home. And, all too often, instead of letting them spend enough time in the pigpen to come to the end of themselves, we keep “feeding them”—bailing them out of many of their problems, not understanding that the “hunger” they are experiencing is God’s method of helping them come to their senses.

14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

This father was watching for his son, but he didn’t go after him, he didn’t send him money or help him in some way when he was “down on his luck.” It’s important to remember, the father in the story represents God who knows everything that is going on in the lives of His prodigals, yet let’s us go our way and lovingly allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions.

A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the back of fools (Prov. 26.3).

It was the consequences that brought the prodigal son to his senses.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

But his father saw him coming and ran to meet him. Instead of making him one of his hired servants, he threw a party to celebrate his return. His older brother’s response, however, was quite different.

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

The older brother represents the Pharisees and others with their self-righteous, self-sufficient attitudes. But sometimes they’re easy to miss. Continue reading

“Housewife or Superhero?” April 19

 

"Housewife or Superhero?" Do you think you're too grown up to be a superhero? Today in the book of Judges, you will meet Jael, a housewife turned superhero.Do you think you’re too grown up to be a superhero? Today in the book of Judges, you will meet Jael, a housewife turned superhero. What does her story possibly have to do with you and me?

And in our New Testament reading, great multitudes were following Jesus. What an evangelistic opportunity! But instead of encouraging them to pray a prayer and accept Him into their hearts, he wanted to know if they had counted the cost of following Him and whether they were prepared to love Him so much that their love for father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even love for themselves would seem like hate in return. How do we reconcile that with what goes on in many evangelistic circles today/

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 3 & 4
Psalm 48.9-14
Proverbs 14.18-19
Luke 14.25-35

 

Housewife or Superhero?

 

Judges 3 & 4:

Housewife Turned Superhero

 

The book of Judges contains some very interesting stories to say the least!

One of the more surprising, especially if you haven’t read it before, is the story of Jael and her tent peg! God used a “housewife,” a “tent-wife” in this case, to destroy Israel’s and God’s enemy with a hammer and a tent peg. Judges 4:

¹ When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.

A Prophetess named Deborah was judging Israel at this time. She had assured the people that God would give them victory over Sisera and Jabin’s army, but when Israel’s commander, Barak, refused to go to battle without Deborah, she told him, God would still deliver them, but he would get no glory for the victory. Instead, a woman would get the credit. Verse 15: Continue reading

“Is it regret or repentance?” January 3

 

Is it regret or repentance? - Life can get messy. If you’ve lived more than a few years, you know that’s true. Much of that messiness is the result of our own choices. Those messes, the consequences, are often what God uses to get our attention. As a result we experience sorrow and regret. But not all our responses are what God desires.

What does God desire in the midst of our messes? A feeling of sorrow or something more? And what kind of response leads to real change?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 5 & 6
Psalm 2.7-12
Proverbs 1.10-19
Matthew 3.1-17

 

Is it regret or repentance?

 

Matthew 3.1-17:

Genuine Repentance

 

prayer repentance

Verse 3.8 says, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.”

When we sin we are to repent and go to God and anyone else we have sinned against and seek forgiveness. When we do 1 John 1.9 says:

“He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

But what is repentance? Genuine biblical repentance includes sorrow over our sin and a willingness to admit and take responsibility for our actions. We don’t earn forgiveness because we do things to somehow atone for our sins, but when we have genuinely repented, there will be a change in our behavior. At times, that should include making restitution for wrongs done.

 

Sorry Because of Consequences

 

Too often we are only sorry because we don’t like the consequences of our sin (broken relationships, punishment, or losses of different kinds), rather than experiencing godly sorrow and genuine repentance. Godly sorrow is a brokenness over our sin. Like David, it’s a realization that we have sinned, first and foremost, against God.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight (Ps. 51.2-4a).

Sin is a failure to trust and obey God and a sign of rebellion against Him. We’re going our own way, trusting in ourselves, determined to have life on our own terms. Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change of direction. We turn 180° from going our way to going His way. So while change does not earn us forgiveness, it is the fruit of genuine repentance.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Genesis 5 & 6:

Total Depravity

 

It didn’t take long for sin to take its toll, did it? Chapter 6.5-6 says:

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”

This is sometimes called “total depravity.” Even though sin doesn’t make us all as bad as we could be, it makes us all as bad as we need to be to deserve an eternity separated from Him.

God is still grieved over sin today. All too often we mistakenly believe that when we sin, Continue reading

“Is your state of mind tied to your relationship with God?” October 9

 

State of Mind

What is your state of mind? Is it full of anxiety or is there peace? Are you meditating on some wrong done to you or how God has blessed you? Are you content or striving for more? Your state of mind leads either to peace or to turmoil. But more importantly, what does it say about your relationship to God.

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 3 & 4
Psalm 116.15-19
Proverbs 27.2
Philippians 4.1-23

 

Is your state of mind tied to your relationship with God?

 

Philippians 4.1-23:

Pray & Be Thankful

Yesterday I talked about some of my favorite passages in Philippians. Today I want to share a few more:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“Be anxious for nothing …” is a command, not a suggestion.

Worry is sin! Ouch, that hurt since I have a couple of things weighing on my heart right now.

We’re told not to be anxious, worried, fearful and fretful about ANYTHING! Instead, we are to pray about everything and be thankful, and when we do, the peace of God, which often makes no sense to the world, will stand guard over our hearts and minds. What a great promise! But it’s a conditional promise—dependent on our faithfulness to choose not to worry and to pray and be thankful, instead.

The more we come to know Him, to trust in His sovereignty and goodness, the more His peace will guard our hearts and minds. In other words, the level of our peace depends on the quality of our relationship with Him.

Think About This

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Instead of playing the video tape in your mind about that hurt, that sin, or that wrong done to you, meditate on what God says about your situation: how He’ll use all things for good (Rom. 8.28-29), how He takes care of His own, including any retribution that needs to happen (Rom. 12.17-21), how we can be joyful in trials (Jas. 1.2-5), and how, out of His love for you, He died in your place so you could extend His love and mercy to others, even your enemies (Matt. 5.43-48).

So how do we grow in our ability to trust in Him and to live the way He’s called us to live? It starts with our thinking.  Continue reading

December 22 “The Righteous Judge & the death sentence” + LINKUP

The Righteous JudgeImagine your loved one had been struck and killed by a drunk driver. And now that driver is standing before the judge. He is sober now, but he’s haughty and unrepentant, even defiant. How would you feel if the judge said, “It’s ok. You’re free to go. No big deal”? You wouldn’t think he was good. You certainly wouldn’t think he was a righteous judge.

Today’s Readings:
Nahum 1-3
Psalm 145.17-21
Proverbs 30.16
Revelation 12.1-17

 

Nahum 1-3:

God the Righteous Judge

Chapter 1 verses 3 and 7 sum up this book:

3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.

7 The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.

Imagine your loved one had been struck and killed by a drunk driver. And now that driver is standing before the judge. He’s sober now, but he’s haughty and unrepentant, even defiant. How would you feel if the judge said, “It’s ok. You’re free to go. No big deal”?

You wouldn’t think he was good. You certainly wouldn’t think he was a righteous judge.

God can’t be good and be a liar. He can’t be a righteous judge and give evil a pass. There is a debt to be paid for sin in the court of heaven and it must be paid. For those who put their faith and trust in what Christ did on the cross, it has been paid in full, but for those who reject the truth, the penalty is death.

But death is not the end. We will all live forever. The question is … “Where?”

Death is separation. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden they experienced death. The first death was their separation from God. The second death, the process of physical death, began as they were driven out of the garden and barred from eating from the tree of life.

But there is a third death, separation from God for eternity in a place called hell where Jesus said, the fire is never quenched and the worm does not die (Mk. 9.43-44).

God is good, a stronghold to those who trust in Him, but because He is also the Righteous Judge of heaven and earth and He will one day judge sin and evil.

Romans 3.23 and 6.23:

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Have you ever stood before God, the Righteous Judge, in prayer? Have you admitted that you owe a debt you can’t possibly pay—that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and that there is no just verdict other than death. Romans 10.1-4:

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Have you put your complete faith and trust in what Jesus did on the cross? Have you accepted His payment for your sins? Romans 10.8-13:

 

 

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Have you done that? Have you admitted your guilt? Have you acknowledged Him as Lord—Master, Savior? Have you truly surrendered your life to Him?

If not, don’t let another Christmas season pass without understanding, acknowledging, and accepting the very reason He was born in that stable so long ago.

Why not pray now? There is no magic formula. You don’t need to be in a church. There are no special words. Just talk to Him in your own words and acknowledge the things I have talked about here.

If you do, please email me (contact info below) and I’ll send you some information about where to go from here. Please include a mailing address. I will not use it for any other purpose.

 

prayerPsalm 145.17-21:

All who call upon Him

Verse 18, “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

What an amazing thing Continue reading

October 9 “Peace, anxiety & the state of your mind”

fear worry anxiety headacheWhat is the state of your mind? Is it full of anxiety or is there peace? Are you meditating on some wrong done to you or how God has blessed you? Are you content or striving for more? The state of your mind says a lot about your relationship to God.

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 3 & 4
Psalm 116.15-19
Proverbs 27.2
Philippians 4.1-23

 

Jeremiah 3 & 4:

Return to Me!

Even in the Old Testament, it was always the heart, the inner man, which God was most concerned about. We see several examples in these two chapters. Chapter 3:

12 ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD;
‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you.
For I am merciful,’ says the LORD;
‘I will not remain angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your iniquity

God wants a relationship with us, not just obedience:

20 Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband,
So have you dealt treacherously with Me,
O house of Israel,” says the LORD.

Chapter 4:

4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
And take away the foreskins of your hearts.

18 “Your ways and your doings
Have procured these things for you.
This is your wickedness,
Because it is bitter,
Because it reaches to your heart.”

God wants our hearts because it’s out of the heart that everything else, including true worship, flows. Continue reading

April 21 “Care and feeding of prodigals”

How are you responding to your prodigal? Are you helping or hindering?

And what about you … Are you a talker or a doer? Talking about God isn’t living for God. Talking about winning souls isn’t sharing the Gospel. Talking about prayer isn’t prayer.

prodigals

Today’s Readings:
Judges 7 & 8
Psalm 49.10-20
Proverbs 14.22-24
Luke15.11-32

Judges 7 & 8:

Gideon’s 300

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1.27). We see the truthfulness of that verse in the story of Gideon. It would seem like foolishness to send 32,000 men home and keep only 300 to fight an enemy who were “as numerous as locusts” and who had “camels without number.”

When we feel the weakest and the least able, or even foolish in comparison to some people, who are full of the world’s wisdom, that’s when God can use us in the greatest way if we will trust Him to direct us. Continue reading

April 19 “Hammers and tent pegs and you”

What do hammers and tent pegs and a “tent-wife” by the name of Jael have to do with you? Are we too quick to write-off some of the stranger Old Testament stores as irrelevant for today?

hammers and tent pegs

Today’s Readings:
Judges 3 & 4
Psalm 48.9-14
Proverbs 14.18-19
Luke 14.25-35

Judges 3 & 4:

Just a tent-wife

The book of Judges contains some very interesting stories to say the least!

One of the more surprising, especially if you haven’t read it before, is the story of Jael and her tent peg! God used a “housewife,” a “tent-wife” in this case, to destroy Israel’s and God’s enemy with a hammer and a tent peg. Think about the courage it took. What if he had awaken while she was getting a good grip on the hammer? What if she had missed and just managed to awaken him? Can you imagine the fear she might have felt?

What can we learn from Jael’s story or any passage of Scripture, especially when it seems so removed from our life experiences?

Try dialoging with the Lord. Ask questions like. What are You trying to tell me through this passage? Is there a promise here I can claim? Is there a command I should obey? Is there a principle I need to put to work in my life? Is there an example I should follow? And then reread the passage. Continue reading

February 15 “Life, death & sacrifice”

sacrifice

God asks us to offer up ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12.1). How freely do you give yourself? Do you hold back parts of your heart and life for your own use or do you offer it all to Him?

Also today, read about loving death and rejecting life.

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 1 & 2
Psalm 22.22-31
Proverbs 8.32-36
Matthew 27.27-54

Leviticus 1 & 2

Our once and for all sacrifice

Well, here we are starting a new book. Leviticus is the third book of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), also called the Books of Moses.
Three of the themes which run through this book are: God’s holiness, mankind’s sinfulness and the need for a sacrifice. Of course, the sacrifices offered here in Old Testament times were only temporary coverings for sin. They point to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ, the only sinless, perfect, once and for all, sacrifice.

What we offer in return

I noticed several things as I read these two chapters. First, twice in chapter one the Israelites were told to bring an animal “without blemish.” These were to be the best of the herd or flock. They were not to say, “Well, we might as well sacrifice this one, he’s probably not going to make it anyway.” They were to give Him their best. Continue reading

January 3 “The fruit of genuine repentance”

fruit of genuine repentanceToday’s Readings:
Genesis 5 & 6
Psalm 2.7-12
Proverbs 1.10-19
Matthew 3.1-17

What does genuine repentance look like? Is it merely a feeling of sorrow or something more?

Genesis 5 & 6:

Total depravity

It didn’t take long for sin to take its toll, did it? Chapter 6.5-6 says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”

This is sometimes called “total depravity.” Even though sin doesn’t make us all as bad as we could be, it makes us all as bad as we need to be to deserve an eternity separated from Him.

God is still grieved over sin today. All too often we mistakenly believe that when we sin, we are only hurting ourselves, or, at worst, it’s just against another person. But sin is first and foremost against our Holy God! Continue reading