Lost Sheep, Lost Coins, Lost Sons

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I was up into the late-night hours last night working on a paper for my grad class. When I hit submit I thought, “I doubt it’s an “A” paper, but it’s a paper.”  I was studying the Parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32 Jesus’ story of a father and his two sons. The younger son asked his father for his share of the inheritance of his father’s estate. He took that money and blew it on “wild living” (13) then found himself starving and in the humiliating position of feeding pigs.  He decided to go home and ask to just be a hired hand for his father. “But,” Jesus said, “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” (20). Before the boy could get his repentant speech out, the father had called for the best robe, ring, and sandals for his son. This, he declared was cause for a celebration, so a feast was prepared in the young man’s honor.

If this parable stood alone in the Scriptures the church will still have a wonderful story expressing the heart of God the Father to welcome repentant sinners back into a full relationship. But Jesus added a couple of other stories that broaden the picture.

Jump back to the beginning of chapter 15 – there are the parables of the lost sheep (3-7) and the lost coin (8-10), where a shepherd and a woman search diligently until their lost things are found. Then in both cases, the seekers rejoice and call for a celebration. Jesus ended both parables by stating that heaven also rejoices when one sinner repents.

The point of all three parables is that God the Father values the lost and it delights His heart when they are found. That’s why Jesus came “to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Beloved, are you lost today? Not geographically, but spiritually – separated from God. The heavenly Father sent His own Son to seek you from the high vantage point of the cross and bring you back. Do you love someone who is lost? Keep praying dear friend, God is actively searching for them, scanning the horizon to bring them home to Himself. God loves and values lost souls. Like you.

For The One Who Loves a Prodigal

I wrote this almost 5 years ago and just rediscovered it. God’s timing is impeccable. I need this message now more than I did then. Someone else may need it too. It’s for those of us who love a prodigal.

Acts 8:26-40 records the account of Philip and the Ethiopian (go ahead and read it-I’ll wait right here for you). Philip met an angel of the Lord who sent him on a mission. “Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip met an Ethiopian who served in the court of the queen of the Ethiopians. Scholars contend that he was a God-seeker who had not converted to full Judaism. He was returning from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship. He was riding in his chariot, reading from Isaiah – about the “sheep led to the slaughter,” and did not understand what he was reading  Enter Philip who clarified the Scriptures to the man, and from them, shared the good news about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit worked through The Word and Philip’s words and the man received Christ and immediately was baptized.

I want you to zero in on verse 29: “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.'” This phrase in Greek means “Go to that chariot and ‘stick with it.'” I thought about someone I love that I’ve been praying for many years and how I wonder if they will ever “get it.” The Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Stick with them.” In our human nature, it is easy to become weary and want to just give up on difficult people. But if God has set them in your life, no matter how stubborn they are, He has called you to “stick with them.” That means more than tolerating them. That means: Keep praying. “The prayer of a righteous man [woman, parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, pastor] offered in faith . . . is powerful and effective” (James 5:15,16). Keep loving. “Love always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:7,8). Keep forgiving. “I tell you, [forgive] not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Then trust God to do the rest. “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). 

Years later my prodigal is still a prodigal, but I’m sticking with them because God is faithful. Beloved, whom has God called you to stick with?

Come Home

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Quick!  Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet (Luke 15:22).

When I was a girl I always loved to dress up in my mom’s things, especially her jewelry.  She had a beautiful necklace that I adored with blue and green stones all around it that caught the light with a thousand sparkles.  I played with it constantly.  When I put it on, I felt so beautiful and elegant – just like my Mama!

Little girls in mama’s jewelry.  Little boys in daddy’s shoes.  Children love to borrow their parent’s things because they want to be just like them.  But somewhere along the way, those children grow up and reject what they once emulated.  They don’t want to be like their parents anymore, they want to be their own person and live their own life.  That was the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  This young man wanted life on his terms so he demanded his share of the father’s estate (essentially telling his father that he wished the old man was dead) and left for the world beyond his father’s house.  But wild nights and parties with friends soon exhausted his supply. Alone and hungry, he decided to return home. He was a defeated man and didn’t even think himself worthy to be his father’s son.  But his father had never counted his son out.  He had looked for him every day.  And when he saw him, he ran to him. He told his servants, “Bring the best robe . . . and a ring” (Luke 15:22).  The best robe was the father’s robe, the ring was the father’s ring.  The overjoyed father was claiming his son again.

I don’t know where you’ve wandered or how long you’ve been away.  I don’t know what worldly things you’ve wasted your life on.  But I know that God has been watching the road, ready to welcome you home. Take one step toward Him Beloved and He will run to you. Come home child – Your Father is holding a robe and crown of Righteousness for you (Isaiah 61:10, 2 Timothy 4:8).

In the Hard Places

“There you will be rescued. There the Lord will redeem you.” Micah 4:11

“How did I get here Lord? This is not where I’m supposed to be!”

Sometime we find ourselves where we don’t want to be. It may be in a physical place or a season of life, but it is unexpected, uncomfortable and, at times, even unbearable.   I have been in physical places that were so discouraging and depressing that I felt hopeless. I have been in seasons of my life that were hard, frightening, and lonely; I felt like Paul who said, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor.. 1:8b). I am sure that you have too. These places and seasons come to all of us.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve wondered, “Lord, how did I get here?” The Word of God gives us the answers. The Old Testament prophet Micah preached to the people of Israel and Judah some seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus. He proclaimed the judgment of God against the sinfulness of the people, and told them of coming disaster from the hand of the Lord. He identified some key issues that brought them to this place.

He rebukes them for their sin, proclaiming “All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sin of the house of Israel” (Micah 1:5). Sin separates man from God, and also separates us from God’s best for our lives. It has been rightly said that sin will take you farther than you meant to go, keep you longer than you meant to stay, and cost you more than you meant to pay.

Another reason for the places we find ourselves is deception. The people in the ancient world were dependent on the religious leaders, who often distorted the words and laws of God, leading many astray.   But we have Truth written for us in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and apply those truths to our lives. If we are not studying the Word of God, if we let others define truth for us, we will always be led astray.

Micah also recognizes the problems we face when we forget who God is and what He has done. In Micah 6, God asks through the prophet, “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you?”(6:3), and then reminds them of His redemption, faithfulness and love. God is full of grace, mercy, compassion, tenderness and love so vast that we cannot fully comprehend it. When we forget that, when we doubt His love and care, we wander off in search of the things He longs to give us. We find ourselves in difficult places and seasons.

Stepping out of the book of Micah, we find another reason for the places and seasons of our lives Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into a life of slavery, but God was always with him, and He used Joseph to save countless lives, including the lives of those same brothers, from a seven-year famine. Joseph recognized God’s hand, telling his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to…[save] many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Sometimes God allows difficult season and places to accomplish a much greater purpose that we can’t see in the moment.

But God is faithful to His children, and when we are lost, He seeks us out and brings us back home. That is the heart of our key verse. And that is the heart of our Heavenly Father, as Jesus demonstrated in a parable He told in Luke 15: 3-7. He tells of a shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine safe sheep to go after the one sheep who has wandered away. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (15:6). The shepherd had ninety-nine other sheep, but his heart would not let him abandon the one who was lost.

Your Heavenly Father has the same heart for you. Whether you are in a place you never expected nor wanted to be, or you are in a season of life that is hard, painful and seemingly unending, God has promised He will find you there and bring you safely home. In truth, He doesn’t have to look very hard, for He never left you, even when you wandered away. His promise is and always has been: “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5, 9). Wherever you and I go, if we are God’s children, He is with us. Even if we are lost because of rebellion. Even if we are so far away from His fold that it seems impossible to get back. No matter where we roam, in physical places or seasons of life, God’s heart never leaves us. He never forgets about His children.

Are you in a difficult place? Are you in a hard season? Whether it was your own wandering or the providential hand of God, trust in His faithful love for you. Turn to Him and call His Name, then watch for His rescue. There is no place that His love will not reach.

Faithful Lord, my Good Shepherd, You have promised to always be with me. Even when I am in hard places and seasons, You are there. Father, help me trust in Your love and know that wherever I am, I am never far from Your heart. Amen.