Christianity 201

March 12, 2016

Praying Prodigals Home

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20a “So he returned home to his father.

Today we pay a return visit to the blog Power Up! which is part of the Charisma Magazine website. This particular blog is updated weekly and features different writers. To read this at source, explore other articles on the blog, and then migrate to one of ten other blogs on the site, click the title below; for more info on the writer, click her name below the title or the links at the bottom of today’s article.

Trust in the Lord That Your Children Are Coming Home

by LaNora Morin

Throughout my years of ministry and travel, I discovered that countless parents were suffering silently over their backslidden children. Because of accusations and condemnations from the devil and the judgments and opinions of men, they felt guilty and ashamed. My heart would go out to them as they would share their grief and ask for prayer.

Little did I know that one day I would be the parent with the same problem. I felt so disqualified and responsible that my heart would break over and over again. Believe me when I tell you, I tried everything! There were times that I didn’t know if I could make it another day.

Through it all, I learned that there is no formula. However, there are some strategies that I learned from the Holy Spirit. I do not pretend to have all the answers and I humbly confess that I failed many times during the process. Yet, in God’s wonderful grace, I found His Word and ways to be flawless.

Before I could be effective in securing my daughter’s freedom, I had to be free from my own bondage of guilt, condemnation, accusation and judgments. Standing in my friend’s kitchen, I heard the words that set me free. We had been having a normal, friendly conversation, but then I turned our conversation down the same path of despair. I always seemed to say at least something about my prodigal daughter.

“Prodigal.” I hated that word. Defined as “spending recklessly, wasteful, extravagant waste,” the word summed up my daughter’s wasted life.

I couldn’t go a day without the topic coming up. I really couldn’t help myself even though I knew everyone was growing tired of hearing it. There seemed to be a foreboding threat hanging over my head like a dark cloud. It was always there—the knots in my stomach, the tightness in my chest. I felt myself braced for bad or tragic news every day.

My friend had patiently listened to me talk of my heartbreak. Finally, she said life-changing words: “Your daughter is eating just enough from your table to not realize she’s starving to death. If you will stop feeding her, she will realize she is in the pig pen.”

At that moment, I realized that I had been feeding her with all the spiritual benefits of my life. She never had to seek God for herself because I was always there with the answers to every crisis. Repeatedly, I bailed her out of circumstances that God, Himself, had set up. I thought it was love and mercy, but actually I had stepped into the role as “savior.” I had sought God for her and provided her with spiritual solutions. I gave her Scripture promises to help her get over each dilemma. I rescued her from the consequences of her choices time and time again.

That day I made a conscious decision to take my hands off and let my daughter experience the “pig pen.” It wasn’t going to be easy to watch her sink deeper into the mire. However, I knew that I had to be free from the role of playing “God” in my daughter’s life before she could see her deep need for Him. It wasn’t much longer after God set me free, that she came to her senses and realized she had a need for God that only He could satisfy.

Can you imagine the joy you will also feel the day your precious one comes back to the Lord? You will feel like you are dreaming. You have gotten so used to the nightmare of their captivity that you will hardly believe it.

I remember, in the midst of my darkest days, that I heard the strangest sound. I heard the sound of rejoicing. For a split moment, the Holy Spirit opened my spiritual ears to hear the sound of God laughing. Just in that instant, I had a glimpse of celebration in heaven. I thought, Can’t God see my tear-soaked pillow? Suddenly, I knew He was mocking His enemy and rejoicing in His triumph! The Lord can see what we cannot see. He can see that the enemy’s days are numbered and He laughs. I purposed in my heart to join heaven’s perspective and rejoice and praise Him for my child’s return.

With a faith for the future, I was then able to begin to speak words of life into the situation. When we agree with His Word and begin to declare it over our children, His creative power begins to move over the darkness of their lives and releases His light. I began to realize that as the parent, I have the spiritual right to enforce the kingdom of heaven and His will. My authority is God-given and is in partnership with Him. The power of that agreement renders a verdict upon the unjust trespassing of the enemy in the life of my seed!

I believe that it is no accident that you read this article today. I believe that the battle has raged long enough! Your children have a calling on their lives and it is time for them to be free from the snares of the enemy. You, as the parent, carry an authority and an anointing to unlock the prison doors. I believe the time is now! I am agreeing with you for the accelerated fulfillment of God’s will over your child’s life.


Adapted from the book 40 Days to Freedom: Prayers and Proclamations to Call Backslidden Children into Their Destiny by LaNora Morin of Fountaingate Ministries International, and Fountaingate School of Revival; used with permission.

 

August 12, 2015

Absalom, The Rebel

After several weeks away, regular Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon returns. We don’t indent his stuff like we do other guest writers, since we like to think C201 is his second home online!  Clarke is a pastor (and motorcycle enthusiast) in Ontario, Canada.

Loving the Rebel

How do you love the rebel in your life? I’m not referring to an enemy, but rather someone you love deeply. They have hurt you, or hurt someone you love, or you fear that because of their rebellious decisions, they themselves will land in a world of hurt. Do you say “you reap what you sow” and let them suffer the consequences of their decisions? Or do you mount a rescue operation and try to fix everything?

We see this tension being played out in 2nd Samuel 18 as the army commander, Joab, treated the rebellious Absalom in a very different manner than what his father, King David, would have. Absalom had rebelled against his father and led much of Israel to follow him instead. This led to David fleeing Jerusalem with his loyal armies who now stood ready to fight the numerically superior armies of Absalom. As David’s men went out to fight he gave some very clear instructions regarding the rebel son Absalom:

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:5

Though his son had rebelled, David’s heart was filled with compassion and hope for him. Joab, on the other hand, had a different attitude toward Absalom. We discover this when Absalom gets stuck in a tree and his misfortune is told to Joab:

Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying: For my sake protect the young man Absalom!. . . Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. 2 Samuel 18:11,12,14,15

Where David wants to be gentle with his son, Joab wants to eliminate the rebel. Where David wants to be compassionate, Joab wants to be practical, eliminating the possibility of any future rebellion. Where David wants to see no harm come to Absalom, Joab wants to ensure he never again harms another. David believes in second chances. Joab believes strongly in the Biblical affirmation that “you reap what you sow.”

So who is the better leader? And which one better reflects how you deal with the rebels in your life? Compassion or justice? Gentleness or practicality? “Let’s fix this,” or “you reap what you sow”?

Is there something we can learn from Joab and David here? At first we might not think so in that their lives seem to be in a greater mess than ours. However, their handling of the rebel points us to the One who really knows how to handle a rebel. Let’s take a look:

First, While Joab enforces consequences without compassion, God lets us sit with consequences because of love. Something we don’t see Joab doing is having any kind of conversation with Absalom. The opportunity is there to discuss the possibilities of repentance and reconciliation, but Joab does not go there. Instead he dishes out the consequences of rebellion with brutality, and, it would seem, out of hatred. On the other hand, God will let us sit with the consequences of our decisions, but when He does, He does so out of love. God does not rescue us from every bad decision like a “helicopter parent” but rather lets us learn from our mistakes. Learning from mistakes is important for our growth and our growth is important to God:

And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children— “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-11

God disciplines from a place of love. Do we lash out against the rebels of our lives like Joab, or do we let our loved ones sit with the consequences of their decisions out of love?

Second, while David was the absentee father who was not there for his son in a time of need, God is the loving Father who has made Himself present in our greatest need. We can imagine a very different ending for this story had David come across Absalom rather than Joab. But David was not there and was not able to help. At first David wanted to be with the army as they moved out, but they convinced him to stay behind because his life was more important than theirs. His life was too important to be put on the line. However, on hearing of his son’s death,

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33

In the end David wished he could have died in the rebels’s place. God is the One who did die in the rebel’s place through Jesus Christ at the cross. God is the One who made himself present to us, in Jesus, and even now through His Holy Spirit. Though it is a Biblical truth that we reap what we sow, it is also a Biblical truth that we reap what God has sown. He has sown and shown love, rescuing us from a predicament and calamity that we could never rescue ourselves from. Do we remain present in the lives of our rebel loved ones to rescue with a second chance when their predicament is too much for them? And do we have the wisdom to know when to rescue, and when rather to call off the helicopter so that a timely lesson may be learned? Do we love enough to put the hard work into thoughtful prayer and discernment?

But perhaps it is not David or Joab that you may relate to in 2nd Samuel 18. Perhaps it is Absalom. You are the rebel son or daughter who needs the Lord’s loving discipline. You are the rebel son or daughter who needs the Lord’s rescue and salvation. Absalom was the rebel son. Jesus is the obedient son who was obedient even to death on the cross. Your rebellion has its consequences. And Jesus suffered those consequences on the cross for you. Unlike Joab with Absalom, you are given the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation.

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV

 

July 1, 2015

Praying For Your Children

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
  Psalm 103:13 NIV

praying boy and dogEven if you’re not a parent, you might be a grandparent, Godparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, teacher, Children’s ministry leader, etc. Or perhaps you can use this as a checklist to see how you measure up yourself! This is a return visit to the blog Into The King’s Garden by Angel Koerner Bohon. Click the title to get the source for this and think of someone who has children in their sphere of influence you can send it to. (The text in each section alludes strongly to scripture passages you will recognize, but if you want to study them further, copy and paste into BibleGateway.com)

Virtues to Pray for Your Children

1. Salvation — “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isa. 45:8; 2 Tim. 2:10)

2. Growth in Grace — “I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

3. Love — “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.” (Gal. 5:25; Eph. 5:2)

4. Honesty and Integrity — “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection.” (Ps. 25:21)

5. Self-Control — “Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.”
(1 Thess. 5:6)

6. Love for God’s Word — “May my children grow to find Your Word more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps. 19:10)

7. Justice — “God, help my children to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.” (Ps. 11:7; Mic. 6:8)

8. Mercy — “May my children always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

9. Respect (for self, others, and authority) — “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect to everyone, as Your Word commands.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

10. Biblical Self-Esteem — “Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:10)

11. Faithfulness — “Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.” (Prov. 3:3)

12. Courage — “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.” (Deut. 31:6)

13. Purity — “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions.” (Ps. 51:10)

14. Kindness — “Lord, may my children always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thess. 5:15)

15. Generosity — “Grant that my children may be generous and willing to share, and so lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

16. Peace-Loving — “Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Rom. 14:19)

17. Joy — “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thes. 1:6)

18. Perseverance — “Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race marked out for them.” (Heb. 12:1)

19. Humility — “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to show true humility toward all.” (Titus 3:2)

20. Compassion — “Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.” (Col. 3:12)

21. Responsibility — “Grant that my children may learn responsibility, for each one should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5)

22. Contentment — “Father, teach my children the secret of being content in any and every situation, through Him who gives them strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

23. Faith — “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them.” (Luke 17:5-6; Heb. 11:1-40)

24. A Servant’s Heart — “God, please help my children develop servant’s hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.” (Eph. 6:7)

25. Hope — “May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

26. Willingness and Ability to Work — “Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

27. Passion for God — “Lord, please instill in my children a soul that ‘followeth hard after thee,’ one that clings passionately to You.” (Ps. 63:8)

28. Self-Discipline — “Father, I pray that my children may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.” (Prov. 1:3)

29. Prayerfulness — “Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

30. Gratitude — “Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:7)

31. A Heart for Missions — “Lord, please help my children to develop a desire to see Your glory declared among the nations, Your marvelous deeds among the peoples.” (Ps. 96:3)

 

July 1, 2014

Lay Your Burdens Down

With a few exceptions, we try not to “borrow” devotions from the same source more than every six months, but Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at DailyEncouragement.net are an exception. This is my personal “go to” devotional blog, and I try to make it the first click when my computer boots up in the morning, but sometimes email interrupts!  When I read this, I thought of the video I wanted to include with it, Chuck Girard’s Lay Your Burdens Down, and then realized a few days later that they had the same idea. There’s also a great illustration in the middle of this that I hope to remember. To read today’s devotion at source, including pictures and other suggested videos, click this link.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

In our final session at the chaplaincy training conference this week we heard Doug Clay share a message on coming to Jesus for our needs. He based his message on the story of the blind man in Mark 8 who came to Jesus to be healed and then came back a second time because he saw men as “trees walking”. Doug shared that this illustrated a persistence in coming to Jesus concerning our needs. One of the lines I really liked from his message was, “Starve your doubts and feed your hope”.

Following his message he asked the various leaders on our chaplain team to come to the front and then extended an altar call for any who may have come to the conference with a special need for which they wanted prayer. I think he was only expecting a few but long lines formed. As I observed the lines I thought of the burdens these people were bearing. For some it was a physical need, for others perhaps a matter in their marriage and family. For others it might have been a financial burden. Perhaps it was a special challenge or hard time for some in their ministry. Brooksyne and I sure recall going to meetings with a heavy heart due to ministry matters in past years.

As I observed the line I considered the burdens those we minister to are enduring. Encounters we have in the course of our chaplaincy, notes and prayer requests we receive from Daily Encouragement readers and those in our church and churches we have served. It was a long line in my mind as I considered specific situations people have and are experiencing.

One of our favorite writers is Robert J. Morgan, a pastor in Tennessee who shared an interesting illustration: he had been on a long trip and was travel weary as he walked through the airport. He was physically relieved when he spotted a long moving sidewalk and headed in that direction. It was here that the Lord spoke to his heart.

He had a bag in each hand but in his fatigue he didn’t even think to set them down. “I was still carrying my load while the moving sidewalk was carrying me. Not until halfway down the hall did I have the presence of mind to release my bags and let the moving sidewalk carry them for me.”

Can you can identify with Morgan’s illustration? In regard to my burdens I tend to set them down (trust) and then pick them back up again (doubt).

As we write this message today I consider several I know who face heavy burdens, part of the long line of people who need God’s tender touch.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” In Scripture God often emphasizes the unit of time we call the day.  In fact it’s the very first unit of time that is referred to in the Bible and the most frequently mentioned starting with Genesis 1:14.

Certainly each of us knows about burdens and we can readily identify with the Lord’s statement that “each day has enough trouble [burdens] of its own” (Matthew 6:34b). A commentary considers the meaning of the daily text in this way: “God daily carries us as a manifestation of His protective and sustaining care.” Such an interpretation brings to mind “Footprints in the Sand” written by Mary Stevenson during her teen years in 1936 as she endured major obstacles in her young life.*

What assurance His Word brings. Believing friend, God is bearing your burdens today, and wants to lighten your load. He loves you, and the trial you are presently enduring does matter to Him. He is faithful and He will see you through to the other side! Don’t try to shoulder your burdens for the heavy load will surely break you.  Instead lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross. Jesus will meet you there.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

*I didn’t want to edit the devotional, but I’ve always heard “Footprints” credited to Margaret Fishback Powers. Either way, the illustration applies. (At least a half-dozen people have claimed the poem was ‘theirs,’ Powers is widely considered to be the author of record.)

March 21, 2013

The Vulnerability of God

The Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15 (NIV)

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The 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….

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

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

Today’s reading is an excerpt from a sermon by a radical Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Radical is a bit of an understatement; you can read more about her and watch a video of her speaking to a youth rally at this Thinking Out Loud article from last July.   Nadia blogs at The Sarcastic Lutheran, where you can not only read today’s full text, but also listen to this brief sermon (about ten minutes) on audio. To do both, click here.  Nadia begins with a story of a time she thought her child was missing; and continues…

…[I]t’s vulnerable to have a child.  To create or adopt a child is to leave yourself vulnerable to a broken heart in the way nothing else can.  Which is why I started wondering this week about the vulnerability of God.

There is much talk out there about the strength of God and the mightiness of God and the awesomeness of God.  But what of the vulnerability of God?

That God would breath into dust and create us in God’s own image….that God would bring humanity into being as God’s own beloved children was to leave God’s self vulnerable to a broken heart in a way nothing else could have. What a risk God took creating us. Giving us enough freedom to be creators and destroyers.  Giving us enough freedom for us to make a mess of everything and act as our own Gods and to also trust in God and love each other…

…I’ve always heard this parable, one of the most famous stories in the Gospel, titled the Parable of the Prodigal son.  But out of everything we could say this story is about – why do we say it’s about the wasteful extravagance of the younger son? Why is that the focus when it’s not even that interesting?

I mean, It’s actually common for young people to leave home, waste their lives and their money for awhile until they have no other option but to come home to the parents they didn’t treat very well when they were leaving in the first place. Maybe we make this a story about the wasteful stupidity of the younger son because it’s a story we are more familiar with than the alternative, which is this: if the word prodigal means wasteful extravagance, then isn’t it really the story of the prodigal father?

Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to give his children so much freedom?  Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to discard his dignity and run into the street toward a foolish and immature son who squandered their fortune? Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the father to throw such a raging party for this kind of wayward son?

But, see, I love that kind of grace.

I personally love that Jesus tells this story of the prodigal father in response the to Pharisee’s indignation that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and prostitutes because, when it comes down to it, give me a church filled with awful sinners over a church filled with pious Pharisees any time.

Some of us might find the grace the father shows to the younger son to boarder on offensive, but the thing that really gets me in this story is how wastefully extravagant the Father is toward the older son.  The kid who never left him.  The one who has always done everything right.  The kid who is clean cut and went to college right out of high school and came back to work in his father’s business.  The kid who always signs up to do jobs at synagogue but resentfully notices all the slackers who show up and never help at all.  The kid who feels entitled. The kid who can’t stomach going into a party to celebrate the return of his screw-up of a brother.  I can’t stand that older brother even as I cringe at the ways I may be a little bit like him.  You know what’s wastefully extravagant in my book?: the fact that the Father says to that kid “all that is mine is yours”.

What risk God takes on us. Children who waste everything in dissolute living.  Children who begrudge grace being extended to people who so clearly don’t deserve it. But this is a risk born of love. God risks so much by loving us which is why, tonight anyway,  I prefer calling this the Parable of the Prodigal Father.

Because it is here we see that your relationship to God is simply not defined by your really bad decisions or your squandering of resources.  But also your relationship to God is not determined by your virtue.  It is not determined by being nice, or being good or even, and I struggle with this, but it’s not even determined by how much you do at church.  Your relationship to God is simply determined by the wastefully extravagant love of God.  A God who takes no account of risk but runs toward you no matter what saying all that is mine is yours. Amen.

Related posts at C201:

October 31, 2012

Pivotal Circumstances Bring Greatest Life Lessons

This month I was privileged to meet a fellow-Canadian blogger and writer, Diane Lindstrom in person.  Last week she shared a very personal post at her eponymous blog aka Overflow, under the title, Where There’s A Front, There’s a Back.  I thought it should be shared with more of you here, but you’re encouraged to click through and get to know Diane.


Jesus Prayed

Much of life is spent getting out of bed.  Fixing lunches.  Turning in assignments. Changing diapers.  Paying bills. Routine.  Regular.  More struggle than strut.

You thought marriage was going to be a lifelong date?  You thought having kids was going to be like baby-sitting?  You thought the company who hired you wanted to hear all the ideas you had in college? Then you learned otherwise.  The honeymoon ended.

But at the right time, God comes.  In the right way, He appears. So don’t bail out.  Don’t give up.  He is too wise to forget you, too loving to hurt you.  When you can’t see Him, trust Him.

So what does God do while we’re enduring the pain?  Mark 6:46 says, “Jesus prayed.”  He prayed for His disciples when they were in the storm.  And when He heard their cries, He remained in prayer.

He’s praying a prayer right now that He Himself will answer at the right time.
“Jesus is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25)

~Max Lucado from A Gentle Thunder

Life just doesn’t go the way you think it’s going to go…

…but there’s a front and back to everything – the bigger the front, the bigger the back. I truly believe that the most painful trials can yield the deepest healing and the greatest joy. When I think back on my life, I recall five extremely painful, long lasting struggles, yet each experience changed me because God was there and He heard my prayer.

1. When I was in university, life was “rolling along like a song” until my nineteen year old and healthy friend died in his sleep. It was the first time that I truly understood the fragility of life and I became very fearful about death. I had never experienced such anxiety and I wasn’t equipped to deal with the intensity of my feelings. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to the Lord and I began to memorize scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself. Eventually, I knew His peace,  I was able to accept my mortality and live each day more fully.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!   Isaiah 26.3  

2. My biological father left our family when I was two years old. My mother got married two more times but I never felt close to either man – I wanted to meet my real father and I spent the next twenty years, thinking of and looking for him. My mother cut my father’s face out of all the family pictures and she refused to talk about him. She was given my father’s address but she chose to withhold this information from me. My father died and my mother made a choice to never let me meet him. I had never felt so angry in my life. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to the Lord and I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself. Eventually, I knew His forgiveness and I was able to forgive my mom. 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4. 31,32

3. My third child was born at 11:00 pm. on August 22nd, 1988 and from that night on, for fourteen months, I experienced profound insomnia. My life fell apart. I wasn’t able to cope with three young children and I needed help. I went for counselling and slowly, I surrendered to the truth that I was not in control of my life. I ran to the Lord, I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I came to understand that I desperately needed God’s help every minute of the day. Eventually, I knew His faithfulness and I was able to surrender and trust Him. 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55.8,9

4. In 1988, my husband left our family and threw our lives into turmoil. It was the most unexpected and painful time of my life. I was devastated.  I felt like a complete failure. I felt lost. I felt angry and  sad. I ran to the Lord, I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I stopped allowing my feelings to direct my life. I began to live according to His Word, not my feelings. Eventually, I knew His strength and I was able to persevere through trial. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1.2-4

5. When my daughters were in their late teens, they went through a time of great rebellion and deep suffering. There were many dark nights for me. I lost perspective  – I couldn’t see a way out for them or for me. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I was able to step back and wait on Him. Eventually, I knew His hope and I was able to  give my daughters’ lives over to the One Who loved them more than I did. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10.23

PEACE

FORGIVENESS

SURRENDER

STRENGTH

HOPE

I’m a different person now and I am forever thankful that the bigger the front, the bigger the back. God hears my prayers and I know, without a doubt, that the greatest victories come out of the darkest times. The glorious truth is this:

Jesus is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.            Hebrews 7.24,25

~Diane Lindstrom

July 5, 2012

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

Even after his passing, the late David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge, continues to minister to many through the David Wilkerson Devotions blog, where this appeared under the title,  Don’t Waste Your Afflictions.

The book of Numbers contains a sad example of wasted afflictions. The five daughters of a man called Zelophehad came to Moses asking for a share in the possession of the Promised Land. They told Moses,

“Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and had no sons” (Numbers 27:3). These women were saying, “When all the others rose up against you with Korah, our father wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t in rebellion. He died in his own sin.”

This last phrase struck me as I read it: “He died in his own sin.” This meant that although their father had seen incredible miracles—deliverance out of Egypt, water flowing from a rock, manna coming from heaven—he died in unbelief with the rest of his generation. Of that generation, only faithful Joshua and Caleb survived the wilderness.

Obviously, these five daughters were born in the wilderness and they grew up in a family full of anger toward God. All of Israel’s testings and trials produced only hardened unbelief in their father and these young women grew up hearing murmuring, complaining and bitterness. At breakfast, lunch and supper, there was constant bellyaching, with never a word of faith or trust in God. Now these women had to tell Moses, “Our father left us with nothing—no hope, no possessions, no testimony. He spent those forty years whining and in bitterness, because life was hard. He died in sin, his life a total waste.”

What a horrible thing to have to say of one’s parents. Yet I must warn all parents reading this: Your children are watching you as you’re under affliction and your reactions and behavior will influence them for life. So, how are you behaving? Are you wasting your affliction, not only for yourself but for the generations that follow? I hope your heirs are being established in Christ as they hear you say, “I don’t like this affliction but blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I know many Christians who become more bitter and grumpy with every new affliction. The very afflictions meant to train and sweeten them, trials designed by God to reveal His faithfulness, instead turn them into habitual complainers, sourpusses, and meanies. I wonder, “Where is their faith, their trust in the Lord? What must their children think?”

Beloved, don’t waste your afflictions. Let them produce in you the sweet aroma of trust and faith in your Lord.

~David Wilkerson

January 17, 2012

One Thousand Gifts

One of the blessings of living in Christian community is the variety of people that you get to meet; the unique individuals who form the body of Christ.  A year ago here we introduced the ministry of Ann Voskamp, and included a short book trailer, but I thought you might appreciate hearing more of Ann’s story. She is the author of the bestselling Zondervan book One Thousand Gifts.

Part two:

December 22, 2011

Missionaries We Support

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I found this in a newsletter we sent out in the pre-blog days, circa 2006:

My wife and I support two local missionaries.

They are involved in front line ministry in a difficult part of our community where people are at their most vulnerable and where a variety of philosophies and beliefs circulate freely.   

It’s difficult work.    Their mission is to be salt and light and try to elevate the teaching of the Bible to a place of practical relevance to the felt needs of those around them, while at the same time trying to live out Biblical principles by example in the midst of close proximity to those who see them at both their best and worst moments; and then to encourage these people to consider doing the same.  

As I write this, they’re at school doing just that.

Perhaps you never considered that perhaps you are supporting local missionaries as well.

This post is one of three “think” pieces today at C201

May 28, 2011

Men Who Will Lead

I remember doing the Bringing Up Boys DVD course put out by Focus, and there was a statistic that when kids are old enough to choose, if they were brought up with a mom who went to church, there’s something like a 20-30% chance that they’ll continue the tradition; but if the dad went to church, it jumps up into the 70% range.  Wow!  Another argument for men to take a strong spiritual leadership role in the home.

And then, this week I was flipping through the blog of our local Salvation Army officer, and I came across his post Lead Me which featured the song below from Sanctus Real, and in its portrayal of wives looking to their husbands for spiritual leadership, and children looking to their fathers for spiritual direction, I was again reminded of the calling that rests on a man’s life within his home.

This is a message that all of us, married or single, male or female need to be reminded of.   Our churches put a great deal of emphasis on living out our faith in the broader community — at work, at school, in the marketplace, with extended family members, in the neighborhood — but really Christian living begins in the home.  In fact, let’s take it even a step further and remember that, in the title of an old Bill Hybels book, what counts most is Who You Are When No One’s Looking.

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

January 28, 2011

Introducing the Ministry of Ann Voskamp

We’re going to take a break today from the regular format to introduce daily devotional and Bible study readers to the ministry of Ann Voskamp, author of the just-published One Thousand Gifts.

First, you might want to get to know Ann’s website, A Holy Experience.  Make sure your speakers are turned on, as music plays underneath.  Or not.  I read one reviewer who valued Ann’s words so much, readers were advised to make sure their speakers were turned off!  I guess we each process things differently.

Second, read Ann’s story.  Some of you have blogs of your own and you’ve had that experience of creating an “about” page where you try to sum up your life journey in a few words for people who you’ve never met.  If not, open a word processing program or open a blank e-mail and take about fifteen minutes to craft your own personal “about” page.  (If you like the result, you can post it here as a comment!)

Finally, watch and listen to an excerpt from the book in this video.  Usually on days like this I embed a Christian worship video, but this time we’re going for a different kind of video that is so suited to Ann’s ministry. I realize not all of you are into poetry, but consider the following:

  1. The Bible devotes five books to wisdom literature, much of which is poetic in form.
  2. In many places that we don’t think of as poetry, the simple repetition of words (i.e. “Holy, Holy, Holy”) is following Hebrew poetic forms familiar to the audience.  There is a beauty to the language of scripture that our language, English, causes us to overlook.
  3. The Bible is filled with Psalms in places other than the book that bears that name.  Mary greets the angel’s news that she is the one chosen to bear the Messiah with the song we know as The Magnificat.  While it is largely a reiteration of various scripture; combined it becomes poetic.  The passage in Philippians about Christ’s humility (“Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus…”) is indented in most modern Bibles because it’s recognized as an early Church hymn.

So watch, listen and enjoy…

October 19, 2010

Prodigal Son: Seeing Yourself in the Story

It seems lately, every time I turn on the computer or pick up a book or magazine, I’m reading someone’s take on the story of the wayward son.   This simple narrative is multi-dimensional; a richness and depth bubbles under the surface awaiting discovery.

Here’s blogger Michael Krahn‘s take on it which he titled:

8 Traits Of An Older Brother

In our haste to name things, we often call the parable found in Luke 15 “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” but the parable is as much about the older brother as it is the younger. In fact some (like Tim Keller) would argue that it is actually MORE about the older brother.

If you grew up in the church – like I did – you are probably more like the older brother. Here is a list of traits that I can certainly identify with.

1. We think highly of ourselves

We think so highly of ourselves that we expect God to think like us instead of the other way around. Grace doesn’t work according to our logic. It doesn’t make sense to us that it does two things simultaneously:

1.     It overlooks wrong
2.    While it transforms repentant sinners

“It can’t do both – it’s not fair!  Prodigals can come back but we should never forget what they’ve done. If we do they’ll think they can do it again without consequence!”

2. We have a “good reputation”

We’re thought of (by others and ourselves) as “good”… not having major faults… not really struggling with sin. The reality is that we’re just better at hiding these things.

3. We take pride in our consistency

We’ve been here the whole time, going to church! We’ve had to sit through all the poorly performed worship songs, all the badly delivered sermons. Those prodigals need to do the same before we can see them as equals!

4. We save our freedom for future reward

Prodigals use their freedom to experience and consume. This is the path of self-discovery. Their thinking is that unused freedom is wasted freedom.

Older brothers resist using their freedom.  Instead we save it up, thinking of it as an investment that will compound like money saved inside a mutual fund, doubling in size every 10 years or so. Our thinking is that freedom used NOW is freedom wasted and that by saving and sacrificing now we’ll have more and will be able to get more later than we ever could now. Self-denial now in exchange for lavish self-indulgence later.

5. We need prodigals to make us look better

Older brothers need prodigals because they provide us with an easy comparison to rise above. “Your extravagant sin makes me look better – it takes the attention off my minor faults. Thank you!”

When the father says, “He was dead but now he’s alive!” we mutter, “I wish he was still dead. It was better for me that way.”

6. We harbor unacknowledged envy

When the prodigal returns, his life is turned upside-down because he discovers that his father loves by different rules than he does. He has been out doing all the things that the older brother, in truth, would also love to be doing but doesn’t because he believes he is storing up extra grace for himself.

Is this perhaps one reason why we too react badly when a prodigal returns? Do we harbor some envy at the life of wine, women, and song (or “wine coolers, firemen, and dance music” for the ladies) they’ve experienced?

It causes us to question: What has all my self-denial been good for?!?!

7. We think God owes us

Because of this we sometimes see grace as a bit of a rip-off. Partly because we don’t think we need very much of it, but also because grace dictates that obedience can never be a way to obtain rights.

If your perception of your relationship with God is that you think you’ve earned something or that you’ve done so much good that God owes you something, you are in danger. This is typical older brother thinking.

8. We are likely to be punitive

We take a punitive position on prodigals. We say that they need to pay for what they’ve done – in essence to pay their way up to our status level. But that’s not the way grace works. If it did it wouldn’t be grace.

On the rare occasion that a prodigal returns, do they see in you a father waiting with open arms or the scowling face of an older brother?

by Michael Krahn.

September 20, 2010

The Corinthians Love Chapter for Kids

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I’ve never done a devotional post here with children in mind, but I really enjoyed what Missy did with I Cor. 13 at her blog, It’s Almost Naptime.

Love waits without complaining.
Love is always kind to others.
Love doesn’t want other people’s toys or money or clothes.
Love never brags about what it has or what it can do.
Love doesn’t think it is better than other people.
Love uses its best manners, always and with everyone.
Love says ‘you first’ instead of ‘me first.’
Love doesn’t throw fits.
Love doesn’t tattle, nor does it laugh when others are sad.
Love doesn’t think it’s fun or funny to break the rules.
Love never, ever lies.
Love always hopes in God. Love believes that God is good, no matter what happens.
Love is a true friend, no matter what happens.
Love lasts forever and ever.

Read more about Missy and her blog here.  Since I wrote it, Missy continues to rock the blog stat charts with lots of moms reading daily.

July 15, 2010

Something, Anything

Today I had a brief conversation with a woman who was looking for a book containing The Lord’s Prayer to give to a couple of grandsons who are not (yet) part of God’s Kingdom.   The boys are both around ten years old.  Twins perhaps.   We looked at some picture books, but they seemed rather juvenile for age ten.  I made some suggestions that I thought were better, but of course, she already had her mind made up.

I thought it was interesting that, by extension, she thought that the boys not knowing The Lord’s Prayer was the situation to be remedied.   On the one hand, I can see how an older person, raised with elementary school readers which contained scripture portions, and a school day that began both with the national anthem and the prayer, would find it a bit of a travesty that a new generation of kids don’t know the words to Jesus model of communication with God the Father.

On the other hand, these kids need Jesus, not knowledge or awareness of a particular form.   It was almost a Protestant version of, “They don’t know the Hail Mary;” or “They don’t pray the rosary.”   The “Our Father” prayer is a beautiful prayer, taking into account so much of what conversing with God is all about.

But it seemed like a rather desperate — and even random — act.  “Give me something, anything…”

We were part of a group of seven people, so this particular exchange was rather atypical, but I wish I had told her this:   ‘Don’t give them a book, give them Jesus.   Tell them who He is and who He is to you.    Tell them there is something [someone] in their lives they are missing and point them in the direction of the Jesus of the Gospels, not just the prayer He taught.

Maybe buying a book is easier.

June 22, 2010

Emotional Taffy Pulling

A family in our town had their emotions pulled in different directions all in the space of a few hours.   At about 8:30 Saturday morning our friend Don received a call that his mother had died.   But at 2:00 in the afternoon he would be giving his daughter away in marriage.    Not only that, but the following day, his mother and father were to have a reception honoring 60 years of marriage.

Stretched.  Riding the emotional roller coaster.

We had a day today that wasn’t as severe, but still diverse.   We drove back to the town where my son’s university is to see about renting a loft apartment instead of living in residence.   I was ready to sign the lease right then and there on his behalf, but then we walked out to the car to “talk it over” and he announced that he wasn’t sure he even wanted to go back for his sophomore year of engineering.   Yikes.

My response was something approaching, “Oh yes you will;” while my wife tempered mine with something a little more compassionate.   We ended up driving home — one hour on the freeway in a pounding rainstorm for what normally takes about 25 minutes — and when we pulled in the driveway, he said, “You know, Dad; maybe you’re right.”

Timing.

I keep thinking about Romans 8:28, “In all things God is working for the good of those who love Him…”

Maybe there’s a better place for our son to live this fall and it took this to stop us from making a very expensive commitment.

But as this was happening, I started thinking about other parents who have had bombs drop on them.     Your daughter announces she is pregnant.   Your son announces he is gay.    Your husband tells you he invested the biggest portion of your savings in a business that is insolvent.   Your wife tells you she wrecked the car.

I don’t know what it is in your case.

I just know that you have to cling to to a number of basics at a time like that:

  • God is still on the throne of heaven
  • Nothing takes place on earth out of his line of vision
  • In the middle of everything, he is working for our good
  • Each day has its trials and its ‘graces.’  Tomorrow will be different again.

Some days rip you apart, though; don’t they?