Observations Of A Prodigal #5

Prodigal

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20

 

Sin’s A Domino!

Sin affects in many ways. We sin against God and man at the same time. Even if we don’t directly sin against man, our sin still affects our relationships with man and certainly every sin affects our relationship with God. Sin is the domino that sets off a ton of other dominos. This young boy learned that principle. His sin was not limited to a single relationship but multiple ones. I’m sure any of us can look back with great heartache and see the ways our sin has affected the way others respond to or treat us. It can leave a huge hole to climb out of!

Possessing Or Possession?

The boy’s perspective changed drastically. It’s amazing how some time, distance, hardship and heartache can do that! Initially, he thought he was somebody because of what he had instead of who he was. However, it’s who has us, not what we have that counts. For a while the possessions possessed him and now that they were gone, so was his self-esteem. His self- worth was in the dumps. But then again, how many us are right there with him? We somehow have forgotten that our worth is not based upon our choices but upon our birthrights! Once a son, always a son. This young man was worthy because he was a son not because of what he had or had not done. We must remember this. Our worth as a child of God goes beyond any goof-up, mistake or sin. We must make every effort to remember that it’s not so much about self-esteem as it is esteeming God highly. When we do that properly, we will understand how much we mean to Him too.

Far-Sighted?

I’m near-sighted, which means I can only see things close to me. I use glasses for this problem. I believe that this father was far-sighted because he could see the son a long way off, recognize him and respond to him! He also didn’t care about the stuff that was near, like the stench, the mud, or the dirt. So here’s a father running rather undignified, to his son with no concern for himself, his attire, or his protocol. It’s his son! And nothing is going to get in the way. Nothing! He’s been watching, waiting, and praying for this day and now it’s here!I love the fact that the son seems to be walking but the father is running. I love the fact that the father throws his arms around him and kisses him. These are all initiated by the father. The son simply receives all the father wants to give him. How much more the incredible picture of God running to us, taking the first steps in embracing and kissing us.

Full, Not Half.

The father was filled with compassion. He could have been angry, upset, bitter or any number of other justifiable emotions. Yet, he is full, not partly or half but full of compassion. The word “compassion” means “with suffering”. Ever heard: “this is gonna hurt me more than you”? That’s the case here. Every time we turn from God and go our own way, God’s heart breaks.

It Is Over!

The father was filled to overflowing with compassion. In his mind, the whole ordeal was over the moment he saw the boy again. The same is true with us and God. It’s over when he says it’s over. Some times we can’t get over it and there are definitely others that can’t get beyond it but God always does. It’s over before you even know it!

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

Think back on a time when there was a domino affect because of some sin you committed.

Is there something that has happened where others have not been able to let you live down or forgive you for? Have to been able to forgive them for not forgiving you?

Where do you find your self-esteem? How is your level of esteem? Where does your self-image find it’s roots?

How do you look at yourself? Does your image line up with what God says about you?

How does your self-worth issues affect your decision-making? Your response to others and to God?

What are you expecting from God? How do you think He’s going to treat you? Do you trust His heart?

What needs to be over in your life? Why not confess it and let it be so?

How’s your compassion for others?

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Observations Of A Prodigal #2

Prodigal And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together…Luke 15:13

Making plans?

So how was it knowing that he would be the one leaving the household?  It would take his dad a little while to collect the money because things are usually sold after one dies, not before, to distribute the inheritance. I’m wondering what life was like for the son while he was at home waiting for all this to wrap up? He’s probably making all kinds of great plans, with grandiose dreams of how great life is gonna be once he gets out of the old man’s house. It’s gonna be great to be free, at least that what he thinks.

It’s gonna be great somewhere else!

How many times I’ve thought these same kind of thoughts? Wouldn’t it be great to be somewhere else, doing something, maybe anything else but this? What about the rules or legislation or politics that I have to endure? Is this really the life? It really is quite easy to give in to those dreams of “what if” or “what about” or “wouldn’t it be great”? I have found though, that the grass isn’t really that much greener “over there” wherever “there” is. It’s easy to fall into that trap when you don’t take some time and reflect upon what you do have. Satan is a master at diverting our attention. He’s always waving a carrot out in front of us. We must not take our eyes off the prize in Christ Jesus! When we fail to look around and be thankful, we become embittered because we feel like we’re being cheated. One way or another, we feel like we’re missing out on something. But be sure of this, Satan is NOT showing you the whole, big picture!

Normal routine?

I guess life sort of continued as “normal” for the young man. Not really a lot mentioned here, except that after a few days, the boy gathered all he had and left. What seemed like a graduation day for the son seemed like a funeral for the father. But then life went on, right? Sure the grass got cut, the cattle were fed,  and the “normal” routine continued. But life was anything but normal! Life was listless. I’m sure the father mustered up enough energy to get up in the mornings, only to spend most of his day praying, watching and waiting.

Praying. Watching. Waiting.

Is this not what God does for us? Not that He sleeps but He watches, waits and Jesus prays for us. He longs for us to be where He is. Don’t get me wrong, God is a seeker, the Ultimate Seeker, but there are times when He waits. He doesn’t move because He is waiting for us to move. We’re the ones that leave; we’re the ones that need to return. There have been countless times when God has sought me; we can all attest to that truth in our lives. Sometimes God just waits.

The problem?

What is the problem? The party is going, the lights are flashing, the music is blaring, but there’s only emptiness. There is no joy where there is no life. There can be a multitude of other things but you cannot have joy where there is death. But the party’s just begun! It’ll pass; this feeling of emptiness, it’ll pass. Fill it with any number of pleasures. The only thing is that the pleasures just numb.

Numb-er 1

Numb. That’s’ where all this leads. Numbness. Perhaps that’s where it all began? Numb to the ones that love you, numb to the God who gives you life, numb to the world around you? Why? Because you had to be number 1. You had to have it all, now! You had to push other people aside and not care about their feelings or even their life. It became all about you. It’s kind of funny that when we’re focused on the wrong number 1 it always leaves a 0 (hole). If God’s not number 1, we will be the 1 whose “numb-er”.

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

What kind of plans have you made outside of asking God? What things have you dreamt in your heart that have grown and developed that are not blessed by the Father?

Do you feel free or bound right now? In what ways are you acting as a slave of the world instead of a Son of The King?

If you could be anywhere else, doing anything else, what and where would it be? Do you believe you are doing what God desires for you to do? Why do you want something different?

Has Satan been trying to distract you from your purpose in life? How and what does he use to do this? How can you better defend against such thoughts, schemes, and plans from him?

In what ways have you not been thankful for what you have? In what ways have you taken advantage of the from God?

How does it feel to know God’s watching, waiting and praying for you? Is there someone God wants you to do this for?

Do you feel empty inside? With what are trying to fill the void? How focused are you on you? Are you number 1 in your life?

What words come to your mind when you think of describing the younger son? How about the Father? What colors come to mind?

If you were filming this movie, where it would be taking place? Who would star in the lead roles?

Observations Of A Prodigal #1

ProdigalThe younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ Luke 15:12

Many of us would never think to just go to our dads and demand from them our share of the inheritance. I mean, inheritance is simply an after death issue. When I read the story of the prodigal, I see a couple of things that just blow me away!

First is the audacity of the youngest son. Come on, dude! How selfish can you be? How arrogant, insensitive, careless, can you be? It’s like he’s basically saying to his dad: “You’re as good as dead to me already.” Wow, can you believe that? He’s all about himself. It’s not that his home life is bad, it’s just that he thinks there more to life than what he has. He somewhat feels like he’s missing out on something. And he doesn’t have time to wait for the old man to kick the bucket to get his share of the stash.

If this was my kid, I’d have to fight a response out of anger and certainly I’d be heartbroken. I doubt seriously that I would make arrangements for him to take anything. What had this father done to deserve this kind of treatment? What was that was so bad about the father’s house? Nothing. The issue is not the father’s house, supply, care or anything like that. The issue was son’s heart. The son simply did not love the father the way he should. He had no respect, no care, no love. If it’s one thing I’m learning it’s that you can never make someone love you. It will never work. Love is a choice. We choose and are chosen in love.

This brings me to the second thing that just blows me away. It’s the father’s response. The father goes out and begins to sell off his stuff to meet the sons’ request. And not only the youngest son’s share but the oldest too! The father gives both boys their inheritance now. It’s like the father died. He sacrificed not because he was obliged to but because he loved his kids. The father could have had the boy taken out and stoned for being a rebellious child. That was the law of their culture. But Jesus pulls a fast one here. He shows a Father who doesn’t demand we love Him but is willing to give us the option to love Him back. The father puts no stipulations on the money, no terms for the boy, just gives it to him and allows him to choose his own way. This is a love that simply astounds! One that would never let me go but allow me to leave if I so chose.

I find that it’s quite easy to live the prodigal life. It’s easy for me to demand of others, to try and make them love me. It’s easy to demand of God and for me to not love Him back. It’s easy to forget what the Father has provided for me. It’s easy to think life would somehow be better somewhere else. However, it’s just not true. The prodigal life is not one demanding so much of an inheritance for me as much as it is not desiring to remain with the father. There are far too many times when I just feel like rushing out into the world and doing my own thing. Far too many times I feel that I’m somehow missing out on something. But time after time, I hear God simply say; “it’s your choice. I love you but I can’t and won’t make you stay. I just want you to choose to love me back. I’m your Father and this is where I will be.” And thankfully, His kindness is enough to lead me to repentance!
EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)
If you were making this a movie, what city would this be filmed in and why?

What is it about the grass on the other side that makes it look so much greener for you?

What lies have you bought that make you believe life would be better elsewhere, doing otherwise?

What Truth do you know to fight and dissolve those lies?

How would you respond if your child demanded their inheritance now? Would you give it to them…or really give it to them?

What characteristics or character qualities do you see displayed in just the first couple verses alone?

How would you say you’ve been like the younger son?

What does the father’s response reveal to us about how God treats us and how He wants us to treat others, especially in a family situation?

What character flaw do you think the younger son had that led him to the prodigal life?

What character flaw do you have that could lead you down the same path?

The father’s response was nothing short of gracious and certainly full of grace. How can you better respond to those around you who are demanding and selfish? To those in your family? To those in your church family?

Devotionals For Leaders: Garden Of Weeds

garden of weeds

…our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. —Romans 6:6

Sin is not something we can manage. Try as we may to maintain it, sin will grow like a weed in a garden and that weed must be plucked out, killed, destroyed, lest it take over. We must come to this decisive moment on our own, though. There has to be a time when the beauty of the flowers, the fragrance of their blossoms become more desirable than the beauty of the weeds. Sure weeds have flowers and perhaps even a fragrance but nothing compared to that of the glorious rose! As tired as we may become of seeing the weeds grow, there has to be a time when we do something about it.

Paul speaks of dealing with the weeds of sin throughout the book of Romans. Taking a verse like Galatians 2:20, Paul declares his own identification with Jesus on the cross to the demise of sin. But in Romans 6:11 Paul gives a very clear statement that we must “ consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We must look at things a certain way; ourselves a certain way.

If the beauty of the weeds in our lives is still attractive, it is because we have failed to envision a Garden for which we were created. We have been duped into looking at the fruit of one tree instead of the Fruits of the Garden. To get back to the Garden Life, we must identify with another tree first and that is the cross of Christ. Otherwise, sin will eventually overtake our entire being.

As leaders we must be as ruthless about sin in our lives, perhaps more than we are with anyone else. We cannot control or maintain other people’s spiritual diets, habits, or struggles but we can deal with our own. And we must. Paul says that there is only one way to deal with sin and that is to destroy it. We cannot pamper, cater, feed, nurture, hide, or pretend anything about sin. It is deadly; therefore must be destroyed in our own lives. Jesus died to destroy the nature and power of sin, thus we need not submit to it any longer.

Oswald Chambers said:

Pull yourself up, take some time alone with God, and make this important decision, saying, “Lord, identify me with Your death until I know that sin is dead in me.” Make the moral decision that sin in you must be put to death.

Final Thought: Sin will not grow at the foot of the cross.

Ephesians 4:17-24 Day 4 Lent

17 day 4With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

There’s a new way to live. You don’t have to live like you “used” to live. Sometimes this requires breaking away from people, relationships, habits, or jobs that are associated with the “old” life. 

Confusion is not from God. God is clear and direct but also mysterious in some things; not confusing. God has given many clear directives about living and life. Following those directives will help clear up any other confusing things. Sometimes I may want a “why” before doing what god wants and that’s what I would call “confusion” but God says to “do” and then the confusion will evaporate. 

Before Christ, there was no power to see the Light. Christ has come and allowed there to be Light in that darkness. People have to choose to turn on the light in their lives. 

It’s easy to simply “wander” in the wilderness. Look at the Israelites. Wandering is for lost people. People of Christ should not wander for they have purpose and meaning in life. If we wander it is because we have been drawn away by the delights of this world.

Have I closed my mind, hardened my heart to anything God is saying to me? Am I living with any sense of shame? Am I finding pleasure in the wrong ways? Am I practicing the wrong things? Christ has called me to a different life and these are questions I must address continually as life moves along.

It is important to take the things I learn about Christ and His life and put them into practice.

Learning is demonstrated in actionable ways.

Christ wants me to live out my faith, to put Christ on display through how I live.

Throw off the old, put on the new. The idea is there has to be a transition from old to new. There has to be a letting go and a taking up. There has to be a putting “off” and a putting “on”. This is the principle of Replacement. Everywhere God tells us to get rid of something, He also tells us to take on something else.

If there is a void in our lives, it is because we have failed to replace something old with something new. 

Renewing your mind and thoughts each day is important. It is essential to the life that overcomes.

Allow new thoughts, perspectives and directives to come from the Lord as you embrace each new day. 

God created me to be holy and righteous and therefore it is possible. It will not happen because of my “self-will” but by His Spirit and power I can become all God created me to be: holy and righteous.

 

Quiet Time: Thoughts And Reflections 1 John 2:2

Quiet Time

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world —1 John 2:2

Jesus being my “propitiation” means that His sacrifice of Himself satisfied God’s anger and wrath of sin, thus opening the door for all to walk through into a relationship with God by faith in Christ alone.
As a missionary for Christ, this is to be the message preached, that the world can be saved through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ because He alone is what satisfies God’s wrath of sin. This gift of grace extends to all who believe. There is no limitation to whom can be saved because of what Christ has already done.

Jesus is not caught up in some battle for a nationalistic belief, personal preference, or racist bias. However, He is seeking that all would acknowledge Him in unwavering allegiance as the Lord of all because He is the Lamb of God who took away the sins, not just of my own, or a city, or nation but of the entire world. A missionary committed to the Lord is one who is devoted to that message being preached throughout the world.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I cannot take on my own persuasion as to where to to whom the gospel is preached. Much like Jonah, some may have a tendency to hold onto prejudices and want to let people die apart from God’s love. Yet God sent His son to die and be the propitiation for the WHOLE world. It’s not about me preaching what I like or want to share. I must share TRUTH and the TRUTH is that God sent His son for everyone, not just the people I like.

George Lockhart

 

Quiet Time: Thoughts And Reflections

Quiet Time

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him —2 Corinthians 5:21

Sin isn’t just about doing the wrong things but having the wrong “being” within. What does that essentially mean? It’s not just being wrong but having the wrong nature controlling and residing within. That “wrong” nature acts and lives in defiance to God. This “sinful nature” is so not because of a list of actions done against against God but because it seeks to live independently of Him. Jesus died to redeem our sinful nature not simply pay for the many “sins” I’ve committed. He died for “sin”, He became “sin”, which is in my blood and nature but through His blood and nature, now redeemed.

It is easy to talk in the realm of things we can touch, see, and hear and we name those “sins”. Jesus however died for the nature of sin which no one but He can touch. I don’t become a Christian because I can deal with my sin but because Christ has dealt with it and deals with me. I am not made a saint of God because I have overcome sin but because Christ has overcome me. I am not made right with God because I have somehow managed to touch Him but quite the contrary, He has touched something with me no one else can ever touch; my sinful nature and turned it around!

When Jesus died on the cross, He did so for the entire human race making the world right with God once again. Everyone doesn’t experience this reality because they choose to live in a pseudo-reality. God’s work is done and everyone who chooses to ignore that continues to operate under a different system known as “law”.  God satisfied His Law through the grace-filled offering of Jesus Christ. Accepting the free gift of salvation is what activates the redemptive work within, changing a soul and allowing the full experience of God’s power and nature to operate within a life. Nothing aside from God’s grace, His redemptive expression, exhibited in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ can change a soul.

For more on this topic, read My Utmost For His Highest