Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prayer Changes Things...My Ruthie!

I see bunny ears and ponytails, snacks, a yawn here and a yawn there, and tired eyes…but all beautiful children in the eyes of the Lord! I’m thankful for the last two weeks in which I have worked as a teacher’s aide helping some special kids make their way thru the school day. I’m even more thankful for my own children and the precious gift God has given me…especially for my girl Ruthie. It’s not that I love Ruthie more than my two boys, but my girl…she has Autism. I have to love her differently at times as I continue to try and understand the world as she sees it.

Even though I have enjoyed my time working, I have missed my quiet moments in the morning with my best friend Jesus. So last night, tired and exhausted, I reached for the closest Bible. It was my daughter’s…Ruthie’s NIV children’s Bible. As I flipped the pages, I noticed a large amount of underlined passages…from beginning to end of this great book. I began stop and read the underscored sections. After some time, I began to cry for I realized the overwhelming amount of importance God’s word meant to my Autistic daughter…a child who socially has a difficult time with relationships. I clasped her Bible tightly against my chest as my eyes now cried a river of salted drops.

When Ruthie was diagnosed nearly three years ago with Autism, I grieved severely. I wondered often how she could have a personal relationship with Jesus, if she had this inability to interact socially without my constant prompting to get her to converse with others or answer a question, how could she talk with Jesus. I cried out to God…I’m talking on my knees wailing like a baby…that Ruthie would know Jesus and know this man I had fallen in love with at her age. Yes, often times I begged Him. Do you think God heard my prayers? My answer finally came last night when I open the pages of her Bible. Never give up! Prayer changes things! Thank you Jesus, Ruthie's big daddy, for dancing with your girl and my Cinderella!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

One tough week...praying for the grief

Well this week has been a tough one. I have asked God, “Why?” so many times. A young man…a senior in high school…took his own life. I cried many tears for the parents of this beautiful young man…their only child. My own son attended youth group with James. He didn’t know him well, but he knew him. I know his mom. I’m not super close friends with her, but I know her. She is my sister in Christ…a bond which can never be broken.

When I first heard the news, I was working at our local elementary school…except the person who told me didn’t say the name of the boy. I was deeply saddened with a rush of tears that welled up in my eyes and goose bumps that rose from within which sent a chill through my entire body. At that moment, I thought how much I hated Satan. I couldn’t shake the dark agonizing thoughts the last hour after hearing the sad news.

When I got home, I had a message from my friend Lori on my phone. I sensed the sound of urgency in her voice so I called her immediately. She proceeded to tell me the sad news. All I could say was,

“No…no…please tell me it wasn’t him!”

I already knew a lot of details, but now there was a face…a face I knew and watched play the drums on Sunday morning. I felt sick, sad, and remained in what seemed a somber trance like state for several hours.

So I did what I always do when sorrow is great, grief seems to be winning, and it feels as if Satan won…I turned my eyes upon Jesus…I looked full into His wonderful face…and the things of this Earth grew strangely dim…in the light of His glory and praise… and peace… it rested once again on my heavy shoulders if only for a moment and I was reminded how sweet it is to trust in Jesus.

I’ve prayed like…well…a maniac…this week. You see, you can’t help but think of your own children in a situation such as this and then you think of all the children James knew…his close friends. Well, I just know my God is an amazing God who has so much grace…more than we could ever fathom…and loves His children tremendously. He is a spendthrift when it comes to love and forgiveness and because of His great love we cannot be consumed for He has already won the victory over Satan.

Its Easter week and today, Palm Sunday, the day they cried, “Hosanna!” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. During the sermon, I was reminded of Jesus who was taunted while he hung in excruciating pain upon the cross between two nails in the palms of his hands…all for me…all for you…all for James. He could have said things back. He could have stopped it all in an instant, but he didn’t retaliate…he chose to give forgiveness. We should never judge the amount of grace God chooses to give. Remember…we have all sinned and fall short…way short…of the expectations of God. This is why we need Jesus. And just as Christ forgives us, so also we too need to forgive others.

Let your tears flow and allow the Redeemer to catch the salted drops in his cupped hands. He takes those tears and turns them into healing. He breathes love into the hurt and makes life worth living once again. He longs to hear your voice cry out to Him. When life seems hard and the sun seems to shine no more, climb into the lap of Jesus and sit awhile with Him. He gives us beauty for the ashes of life…the oil of joy for mourning…and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Please kids…keep singing to Jesus!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Prodigal God

I was tired. I felt like I could sleep until noon, but I was excited to meet God this Sunday in worship. I missed church last week due to my travels to Pittsburgh to visit family, so I was even more determined despite my weariness to keep my date with my Savior this Sunday. As I drove the winding roads with my three children in the car and the pitter pat and splat of rain drops hit the windshield, I prayed beneath my breath for God to allow me to hear what He needed me to hear during the service.

The opening hymn was, Amazing Grace, my favorite. The song brought my eyes to tears as I gazed upward at the stain glass cross prominently before my eyes in the front of the sanctuary. How amazing is the grace He lavished upon this sinner. I couldn't sing the third verse. I was overwhelmed by His precious love affixed to my soul.
The Gospel lesson was all about the prodigal son (Luke 15), but all I heard was the prodigal God. I heard other things...good things...soul stirring things...but our God prodigal? Hmmm...I just couldn't shake the phrase from my mind. So as usual, when my mind won't let go (I often believe it is the prodding of the Holy Spirit); I had to do some research to make some sense of this phrase...prodigal God.
Prodigal defined on as an adjective means wasteful or recklessly extravagant, giving and yielding profusely; lavishly, abundantly; profuse. Prodigal defined as a noun is a person who spends, or has spent, his money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift. I saw some familiar words pertaining to God...lavishly, abundantly, extravagance, but yet still couldn't see the correlation clearly of God as prodigal.
I went a step further and looked up synonyms for prodigal. I found these four words...profligate. lavish, copious, and bounteous. Let's break these words down.
  • Profligate = recklessly extravagant
  • Lavish = giving in great amounts to expend or give without limits
  • Copious = large quantity or number, abundant, plentiful...having, yielding an abundant supply...exhibiting abundance or fullness.
  • Bounteous = giving or disposed to give freely, generous, liberal...freely bestowed, plentiful, abundant.

I was beginning to see just what a prodigal God meant. it is so fitting for the Lent season. Simply stated as best I prodigal God in extravagant reckless abandon sent His one an only son Jesus to live as man and as God to save a sin sick world. He didn't want to do it, but He did to lavish His love upon us, His children.

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. In accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."

Ephesians 1:7-10

My prodigal God gives lavish, abundant, love without limits and far greater than I could ever imagine, fathom, or understand until that glorious day of my Bridegrooms return!

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

I John 1:1-3

My prodigal God is a very generous God!

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he pured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

Titus 3:4-7

My prodigal God gives freely!

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Romans 3:24

The fullness of my prodigal God is seen through his son Jesus Christ and my hope and prayer is the same as Paul's...that we as saints, children of God, might also realize we too have access to the same power which raised Christ from the grave!

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."

Ephesians 1:18-23


Dear Heavenly prodigal God,

Thank you for your lavish love and amazing grace which you abundantly bestow upon me, your child, even when I don't deserve it. Thank you for abandoning your son Jesus Christ to be born to die, go into the depths of hell, and be raised from the dead, and sit at your right hand...for me...that's how much you love me...that's how much you love all your children. Please help me to always remember there is nothing you cannot forgive. Help me God to turn from evil ways and be drawn to the springs of living water which are abundant for my taking. Oh God, let me thirst for you!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Invite and Receive

He walked for miles. His legs tired, sandals worn, and body full of aches from his travels. Despite how his physical condition may have bogged him down, he continued to press on remembering how he was once blind, but now could see. He wanted others to feel the scales fall from their eyes and rejoice in the knowledge left to us after the ascension of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was determined to make it back to Jerusalem for Pentecost and met up with Luke and others aboard a ship in Mitylene to rest his weary feet. He chooses not to stop in Ephesus and sailed by the city. But his heart remained with Ephesus and after arriving in Miletus, Paul, I’m sure hard pressed by the Holy Spirit, changed his mind and felt the need to speak to the church at Ephesus. Paul sent a messenger with an invitation to the elders of the Church in Ephesus to please come to Miletus and meet with him.

Based on: Acts 20:13-17


Some of you might ask,

“What does this have to do with the state of the church and how we as the church (believers in Christ Jesus) need to “step it up” and love each other better?”

Let me tell you…it has everything to do with loving one another inside the church walls and beyond! What caught my attention most was that Paul sent a messenger and invited the elders from the church in Ephesus to come to Him. When is the last time you sent an invitation by word of mouth or by mail asking for someone to come to your home? How about just calling someone to meet you for a cup of coffee, tea, or maybe lunch? Fellowship my friends, is something we cannot do without. How can you know the needs of another unless you have communication? How can another pray for you if you never speak your needs?

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another –and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25

I am also struck, after some research; it was not easy for the messenger to get this invitation to the church at Ephesus. The messenger would have had to cross the gulf by boat and then continue on foot by land and then back! The same said for the elders at Ephesus once they received the invitation. But, with what seems to be no hesitation, the elders in Ephesus went to see Paul immediately for Paul only spent one night in Miletus.

It is so much easier for us to send or give an invitation today! We have phones and the internet which make people easily accessible not to mention the transportation systems available to us! Why do we not take more time to get to know one another and invite each other into fellowship?

It’s all about relationship folks! Even our Lord Jesus Christ invites us into fellowship with him!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

Do you see and hear an invitation here from Jesus?

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”

John 7:37-38

Not only must we invite others into fellowship we must also receive an invitation from another giving the invite our top attention and priority. It is so easy for us to allow the things of this world to consume us. We give excuses of little value as compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing better our Abba and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul even stated in Philippians 3:8.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”

My hope and prayer for all is that one might not live this life without receiving Jesus as Lord. One way I might help those who may not know the Lord is to share my own faith in a more personal way…inviting another to fellowship with me. There’s that word again…invite! I don’t have to slam the person with scripture or legalistic judgmental damnation, but I would do it in such a way that love abounds and joy overflows even during trials. In this way, it might bring a person to question me why I am the way I am…to which I would respond,

“God made me alive with Christ. It is Christ in me the hope of glory.

Colossians 2:13 & Colossians 1:27

Many of my friends all over the United States know fellowship is important to me. I miss some of them dearly and miles have separated us. I’ve always said that fellowship is the only thing that we can take from this world to heaven with us. I figure the more people I get to know here…the more I’m going to know in heaven. What a comfort and cause of celebration when I will be reunited with those who have gone on before me and those I don't get to see as often!

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

Revelation 19:9