I Used To Think | …that I was stuck in a hole and that there was no way out. When I turned my back on God and the faith as a teenager I felt a bit of remorse and fear but was drawn to the temptations of the potential (of the world) in front of me. I knew about life in a safe and secluded setting but wanted to experience life outside of the cocoon. The world beckoned me, drawing me into it’s deceptive lie that all would ‘be ok’ when I turned my back on God. Read more here
Watching the prodigal live the lifestyle they have chosen away from the faith can be so difficult. So many times we put the blame on ourselves believing we did not raise them properly. And then today, when we interact with them we feel that we need to force them into belief. Did you by chance notice the emphasis on “we” or rather “us” in the previous two statements?
When we turn the focus on ourselves we start to believe that the situation at hand is our burden, and ours alone. What keeps us in this overladen state of mind is the guilt of feeling as though we did not do enough and can never measure up. Hmmm does that sound familiar? Have you ever listened to prodigals express their feelings of inadequacy of not being able to measure up as a reason to not return to the faith? (I find it interesting that the enemy uses the same weapon of not being able to measure up on both parents and their children while making it appear that the feeling is completely different for each person.) Read more here: A Strategic Relationship .
John 10: 1-5 I Am the Good Shepherd
10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
1 John 4: 1-6 Test the Spirits
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
The two passages shown above were extremely important to me when I first came back to the faith (by the power of the Holy Spirit). For over 25 years I had been listening to the voice of the thief. I was used to hearing an accusing voice (sometimes multiple voices) day in and day out, telling me I was not good enough or that I did not do something correctly. The voice nagged me every waking minute. At times that voice would lull me into believing something was true only to laugh at me when I failed. Living in a world of lies and deception was extremely taxing. Read More Here: Hearing His Voice.
Typically in a Christian household, young children are exposed to the faith by their parents through the word and their actions. The process of sharing the faith is much like that of a farmer or gardener preparing the land for a harvest. Starting with fresh soil, the seeds are planted, fertilized, then watered and lovingly cared for in hopes of producing a fruitful harvest. As we all know, not all seeds that are planted grow and mature into a strong, rich crop. Some seeds never take root or start out strong but then die off while others morph with other seeds that are not of the same variety producing a completely different plant that was hoped for.
Planting the Seeds
Scripture tells us that this process can happen to us all, that we are all susceptible. Read Luke 8: 14-16 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Read more here: The Refining Process
I love my father so much and I know that I am fortunate to be able to have an incredible relationship with my father. In our day, the definition of fatherhood has been greatly diminished with the rise of absentee fathers, women choosing not to marry but having children on their own and divorce in families. As far as our Heavenly Father is concerned, fatherhood and being a father is especially important. When you count the number of times that the Bible (Bible Gateway Online ESV) references “father” or “fatherhood”, the term is referenced 1621 times. The also word provides us with a wide variety of examples on what it means to be a father. Our Heavenly Father shows how important the role of fatherhood is to him by the sheer number of times it is mentioned in the Bible.
My father played an important part in my life and still does today. When I was young I remember my father as always being there, he was like a rock or solid foundation for me. Whenever I felt down, my father would encourage me and remind me “who” and “whose” I was. When I walked away from the faith, I knew that he loved me despite the heartache I caused him. When the Holy Spirit enabled me to return to the faith, he joyfully greeted me with open arms. Today we have the most special relationship and when my father, mother and I get together, we rejoice at how the Lord is at work in our lives. My father is also the “theological editor” for Faith Family Reunion. As editor (and father) he has been my teacher as he shows me how to express the unconditional love of our Triune God and how to convey this message in writing.
The following devotion is a kind of conversation between my father and me. We were discussing the impact of the Heavenly Father’s endless love demonstrated in Jesus Christ and how this affects our lives. The daughter’s response is a bit more reflective on the experiences and memories of the love of her parents, while the father’s response focuses more on the theological perspective of this love.
Torn Between Love and Frustration
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Father Response: In the preceding passage Paul focuses on human expressions of love in daily life. He calls to our attention that actions, no matter how grand and noble, are empty gestures of human endeavor. When suffused with human love however, actions which otherwise would be sterile and empty, though helpful in meeting human need, are transformed to serve not only physical need but also build up individuals for readily dealing with the stress and strain of daily life.
Daughter Response: When I walked away from the faith, I still felt my parents’ love. I knew deep in my heart that both of my parents loved me very much. When I became old enough, I moved away from home. I believed that the separation from them would heal the disappointment that I felt I was to them. Despite the distance, the feelings remained. Though we were separated by thousands of miles, my parent’s love continued to show through the cards they sent me on Christian holidays, phone calls and notes in the mail that always ended with “I love you”. The little gift packages my mom sent throughout the year and visits from my parents kept the physical bond of love alive.
Psalm 26:3 ESV
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.
Psalm 31:7 ESV
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,
Father Response: The kind of love mentioned before has its source in that of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us with an endless love in his life, death, and resurrection, so that we can love. Ultimately our love has its source in the love of heavenly Father manifested in Jesus Christ, his Son, and communicated to us by the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the word and the administration of the Lord’s Supper.
When I look back, I did not fully understand how powerful the love of the heavenly Father is in enabling me to love my wife and children. As I have gained insight into the reality of his overpowering love however, I have come to recognize its tremendous relevance to my relationship with my children, some of whom at the present time are not members of the church.
Daughter Response: I knew I was hurting my parent’s by my lifestyle. But, the faith at this time was nothing to me. I knew there was a God, but I was not sure who he was and if he was just the God of many religions and beliefs. I still had a sense of who he was because of the way I was raised in the faith. Every time I had contact with my parents, the truth of who God truly is was shared with me. My parent’s never gave up on me but over the years their love shown like a beacon of light. Something about the love they showed me kept me wanting to stay in touch with them. Their love drew me like a magnet.
Ah Ha Moment Awakened
Psalm 86:12-13 ESV
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
Father Response: The psalmist praises the Lord God from the bottom of his heart because of his faithful love. He demonstrated this love by delivering his life from death. In this deliverance he recognized the hand of the Lord his God. For us today it is so easy given our culture to see only the surface of reality and forget that the creator God is in charge, whose goal is that sinners repent and live. Everything he does is for this purpose. When we view life and our daily experience this way, we are open for his grace through Christ and join the psalmist to praise the heavenly Father with our whole heart.
Daughter Response: When I hurt my back, my active lifestyle came to a halt. Forced to slow down, I stopped to think and then heard that still small voice telling me it was time to change. At the time I did not realize that this was the voice of the Holy Spirit, inviting me to come back to the faith. The voice was right and I listened. I pulled out my confirmation Bible, the one my parent’s had sent me perhaps years before. I anxiously opened the book, pouring through the pages looking for answers. I did this each day and felt a sense of peace come over me as I read the words of truth. I was reminded of how my life had been before I believed the lies of the world. The love my parents and Christ had for me overwhelmed me. I was beginning to understand.
Psalm 40:15-16 ESV
Let those be appalled because of their shame, who say to me, “Aha, Aha!” But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
Father Response: It is possible to love life on the basis of our human perspective and be closed to the Lord’s point of view. When this happens, we perceive others as competitors, challengers, even enemies. This is the point the psalmist makes. People around him consider his difficulties in life as judgment on his “perverted” life style. So they say, “Aha, Aha!” You had it coming. Again those who seek the Lord rejoice in his goodness. Those who experience his salvation, say continually, “Great is the Lord!” These are the two realities in life. When we cut ourselves off from the Lord and live life focused on ourselves, we see all others as competitors or even enemies. When our life by the power of the Holy Spirit is focused on the Lord, others become our fellow creatures and more intimately our brothers and sisters in the faith. We will together with all of the heavenly Father’s creation rejoice in his grace and goodness.
Daughter Response: When I think back, I am filled with a sense of wonderment by my parent’s acts of love toward me when I was away from the faith. The love they shared with me reminded me of our family life together. I always had warm memories as a child growing up in a Christ centered home. In my family’s case (so many situations are different), I believe these memories were part of the reason I felt welcome back. I was loved and felt an endless love from my mom and dad.
Prodigals are often hard to reach. Something has turned them away and most times we are not sure ‘who’ or ‘what’ caused this reversal away from the faith. Oftentimes the prodigal that turned away from the faith may not even have had or experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, only ‘knowing’ about God intellectually. The entire faith thing may just seem like a far off concept to them.
As a believer, we know what it means to be in relationship with our Heavenly Father. We experience an incredibly beautiful and harmonic exchange with the Triune God. Our relationship, as we grow in the faith, becomes a symbiotic interconnection that is fulfilling to our innermost being. We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to realize his power as he works in our lives. The way, the truth and the life is presented to us in the word and sacrament then lived through us each day. Wow!
During the week, I have continued in my reading of the book of Psalms with commentary by Luther (Reading the Psalms with Luther). Typically I read a few chapters then turn to the book of Proverbs and read through several sections, a pattern I often find myself following every time I read the Psalms. The combination of the words from both books of the bible are a great encouragement: (1) the Psalms provide examples to us on how the Lord interacts in our lives in each and every situation then (2) the book of Proverbs, packed with wisdom, shares how we can obtain it.
This week as I read through the Psalms and then Proverbs, the subject of ‘worry’ seemed to jump off the pages at me. As I read the words, I was reminded that worry is another tool of the enemy. Worry, or ‘fretting’ as used in the passage is a great distraction that takes our focus off Jesus Christ. In Psalm 37: 3-8 ESV we see how the words encourage us to trust in the Lord, to commit our way to him instead of worrying:
I was chatting with a friend of mine over the weekend. We had just attended a weekend women’s conference and were comparing notes: things we had learned and our takeaway of the meeting. She was sharing with me her sadness about her son and his walk in darkness. Since she knew that I had been a prodigal, she asked me what started my downhill spiral, had it happened all at once or gradually over time? I began to share my story with her of how, at the age of 13, I turned my back on God. My personal journey away from the faith began with the feeling I was not good enough, that I did not fit in and that I was not perfect. The process was slow and happened over the course of a few years. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1kQyIpW
If you are a parent of a prodigal then you know what it means to wait. Waiting is hard, especially when you are waiting for your child to come back to the faith. In life, we are always waiting for something, for the day to begin or the day to end. As we read through the word, we also find that there were many before us that also had to wait. In Genesis, God told Abraham that he would be the father of all nations and that his offspring would come from his wife Sarah. At the time, Abraham was in his late 70’s or so and his son was not born until he was over 100 years old. In 2nd Samuel the author writes that it was David’s desire to construct and to see a house built for the Lord, but David had to wait. In the end his son Solomon was the one that saw the plans through. Read more: http://bit.ly/1emvdHS