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It Has Purpose!

As I sat on the edge of a prickly field in Pendleton, Oregon visiting family, I am again, in awe of God! In my morning devotions, I was directed to Luke 15, specifically verses 11-32, the parable of The Prodigal Son. I have read this numerous times, heard it preached and teached, (ok, it is really ‘taught’ – but it rhymes) it is packed FULL of wonderful principles. We can look at it through the eyes of the wayward son, through the frustrated older brother and the father, oh the father! Today I see it through new eyes, a fresh perspective; this is what Holy Spirit showed me, this is what I am learning. (Stay with me this is good)
The parable begins with “Jesus continues…” What was He continuing? Looking at the prior verses, there are two parables above, First: ‘The Lost Sheep’ Jesus ends the mini story with “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (v7) Then, the second Parable of the Lost Coin, He too ends with “there is rejoicing … over one sinner who repents.” (v10) Jesus is teaching on repentance. Even then, I go back further, the first verse of the chapter; it says, (Looking for where they were, who was there) “Tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Him.’ But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NIV, emphasis mine, can you hear the ‘hissing’ in their muttering!) The principal pulled forward: Do WE position ourselves to listen or so distracted with criticism, perhaps MISS what Jesus is saying. (Ouch!)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son: In brief rundown: A father has two sons; the younger decides to leave, demanding he gets his inheritance NOW! It is given, he takes off and treks far away completely wasting all his money on wild living. When his pockets are empty, a famine hits, he’s hungry – he finds work at a farm, his boss puts him to work feeding the pigs, he sees what he is tossing to the pigs, being so hungry, even THAT looks good! The story comes to a pivotal point when “He finally comes to his senses…” (v17, complete sermon in those few words) He says to himself, ‘even at home, dads hired servants get better than this, I will go home to dad and tell him; “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, I am not worthy to be called your son, please take me on as one of your hired servants.” Here’s the key verse (to me) Verse 20, “So he returned home to his father.” As he nears home, the father sees him, so excited the father takes off running, meets him, embraces and kisses him. The son begins his speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son …” Not getting to finish, his dad turns and calls to the servants “Get the robe, the ring, sandals, and kill the calf we’ve been fattening up – let’s celebrate! My son who was lost is found!” (The story goes on; the older brother notices the celebration, he begins throwing a smaller ‘pity’ party version – the dad comes out and tells him to get over it, all I have is yours already!)

I want to reach down and unpack a few things: I noticed as Jesus told this story, there is no reference to the father speaking any words to the younger son; we only hear a one-sided conversation. When the son returns and gives his dad his speech, the father does NOT reply to the son but calls to his servants. The father gives no verbal response – but only ACTION. His dad’s forgiveness is action-filled, he gives him a ring, robe, sandals and a BBQ. (The significance of each for another time).

I also noticed, the son refers to his dad’s servants, and his dad calls to his servants. Each time they both use different words. The son (see verses 17, 19) uses (in the Greek) ‘misthios’ meaning ‘wage earner.’ The father (v22) uses ‘doulos’ – meaning, ‘one whose will is consumed with the will of another.’ The son was going back ‘for the paycheck’ – NOT to be taken over by his fathers’ will. Let that sink in. HOWEVER, (pause) I am fully convinced, that as the son saw his father’s response, no words, just action – regardless of how empty his stomach was, everything changed! Actions speak LOUD! Action can detour any conversation, there were no ‘follow up’ words, ‘BUT DAD…’

I see also that good intentions only profit – IF we act on them, while the son was still in the pig pen, ‘he said’ – he not only ‘said’ but also he got up and went TO his father. He could have continued in the pen and rambled on and on and on, the neighbors could hear him lamenting over at their place! But he truly repented – repentance is not just turning away FROM, but in the same movement – it is turning TO! It has purpose! Repentance took him away from his icky pig pen, and home TO his father. His dad couldn’t do anything about his son’s situation until he came home. (Read THAT again) Yes, Jesus is teaching about repentance.* (See defined below)

The prodigal son, YES, he messed up, but took notice of his situation, was humbled, responsible and sought resolution, (RIGHT AWAY, ‘when he came to his senses’ – there was no delaying, sat on it – wrote ‘Dear Abby’ – consulted his friends) – he put action to his personal repentance. This father put his forgiveness into action as well. What about us, are there circumstances that have us in the pig pen, whether small or fills the back 40. Do we need to quit just talking about it, but get up and DO! A purposed turning from and turning to (God). Or perhaps, we need to offer forgiveness to another, oh we may not need to throw a robe over their shoulders and put sandals on their feet, but we may need to back up our forgiveness with action. Point to ponder – remember, the father gave his son his portion of the inheritance, but upon returning, the father had MORE to give, – our God has and IS more! And sometimes, God allows us to go the full run of our sin, to truly appreciate the MORE of HIM when we come home!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Repentance means a change of place, or condition, to exercise the mind, to relent, a true change of heart toward God. The OPPOSITE of repentance: To continue. [The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament] Those who, conscious of their sins, are intent on obtaining God’s pardon. [Thayers Greek-English Lexicon] To change one’s purpose [ Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament] Perceiving one’s prior opinion, feelings, or purpose was wrong, taking on the sense ‘to regret’ – in so doing, a change is made. [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament] Interesting side note: ‘Prodigal’ in the Greek means: Extravagantly wasteful because of “loose living.” [ Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament]

Pictured above, the sunny skies over Pendleton.

 

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HE IS HOLY!

 

 

God has been challenging me with my worship of Him. When gathered with others, I tend to just get in line, and follow the flow.  I stand, sit, and bow my head.  I join in the choruses, clap to the beat, and smile at my neighbor.  I offer a hardy ‘Amen’ when finished and we take our seats.  I love my church family!   Isn’t it interesting though it seems of recent years, we sing mostly about ‘our’ journey, we hear it on the radio and bust it out at church.  Songs filled with I -me – we – us.  We sing of all the great things He has done for us (which He HAS) we sing of the deliverance He brings us (which He DOES) we sing about how we are made new, loved and free, (which we ARE) these are good, these are right – but what about just worshipping Him for WHO-He -is.  He is Holy, Holy, Holy!  I am learning it is not just, ‘what’ He is – it is WHO He is!   Worship is not about us!   Where is the reverence, the holy hush, the drop to your knees in awe?  (Frankly, I know if I did drop to my knees, I’d get stuck and couldn’t get back up, but I’d enjoy the view, looking up, seeing …HIM!)

God said to Moses, “Do not come any closer, take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) Reverence. Holy reverence. Do we come to God with such respect, admiration that we take pause, (remove something) or do we come rushing in out of breath excited to join the party, that in doing so, we fail to see HIM! (OUCH, as I pull down my balloon!)

We are told numerous times in the Word to seek His FACE, never are we told to seek His ‘hand.’ We are like a child running up to daddy, forgetting to acknowledge daddy is home, forgetting his presence, and only wanting to know what He has for us, “Do you have a gift for me?  Surely you do!  What’s behind your back?”  We are excited about the gift, rather than acknowledging the Giver! How about we slow it down, – like the psalmists make us take notice with ‘Selah.’  May we take pause.

Yes, Lord, Your love finds me, Your mercy follows me, Your grace covers me, I am SO thankful!  But what if, what if I were to stop and turn and just WORSHIP You!  Hands raised, not raised to be picked up (tomorrow) but today I raise my hands just acknowledging YOU are worthy!  You are King!  You are Holy!  You are GOD!

NOW, as I hop in my car, turn on the radio, I can bebop to the beat, sing along about the love of God,  “Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine, I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away…” (By the way, I love this song, but God’s love is not ‘reckless’ – He is not reckless – He is deliberate, He is relentless, He is consistent).

Renewing my sense of reverence and awe. Taking pause, catching my breath, bowing low and honoring Him!  “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His footstool; He is holy.” – Psalm 99:5

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Look Again

While hanging my husband’s dress slacks for work the other day, I had the pants upside down by the hem in my hands.  I was lining them up to hang properly when I heard (that inner whispered voice) “Look again.” Quickly dismissing it, I placed the hanger on the bar in the closet, then “Look again.” So I did. Although what seemed to be balanced in my hands, further down, the slacks were all catawampus.  The sure-fire way to hang them for ‘wrinkle-free results’ was not going to happen.  How often do we jet through life with the same mindset, “That’s good enough” dismissing any warnings, then, later on, we find out we were not properly prepared, and a few wrinkles show up?

Multiple times in the Word we are exhorted to listen for God’s instruction, not only listen but DO what He says, “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you.” (Deut. 5:32-33a) “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17) King David writes, “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32:7) As he pauses, (‘Selah’) The Lord responds, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Next verse, v8)  Do we take pause?

Jesus said: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) Holy Spirit will teach us, just like He did the disciples, He speaks, guides and instructs.  Are we listening?

Oswald Chambers wrote: “Whenever there is doubt, stop at once. Never try to reason it out, saying, “I wonder why I shouldn’t do this?” God instructs us in what we choose; that is, He actually guides our common sense.” I might add, “If we let Him.” How many of us in hindsight – recognize THAT was God!  Wouldn’t it be great to see Him …before.  He is wise, He is practical (and wrinkle-free).

I was recently asked, “Is everything a devotion to you?”  I hope so.  I want my walk with Jesus to be so intimate that everything speaks of Him.   May I echo the words of the Psalmist: “I will come and proclaim Your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone. Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” – Psalm 71:16-17

Looking again.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Looking further: 1 John 2:27; Jeremiah 33:2-3; Isaiah 30:21; Isaiah 54:13; John 6:45; 1 Thess. 4:9; Psalm 86:11, Psalm 119.

The Merciful Patience of God

I have been studying Romans, it can be a tough doctrinal book, lots of talk of righteousness, judgment, propitiation, spiritual sonship, and throw in the paycheck for sin, well, let’s flip over to Psalms and read of green pastures and quiet waters.  (Selah)

But I have to say, reading Romans 2:4 caused me to take pause. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT)

God is patient.  There are two major words used in the NT for patience, first hupomone (Greek) – bearing up under, motivated by hope, it is being patient in circumstances and with things. (See Hebrews 12:1)  But Paul is emphasizing the other – makrothymia, a most beautiful word, used only 14x in the NT.  One is in Galatians 5:22 among the God qualities listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit.  It is most often translated as longsuffering, it is relational, patience with people (sometimes the long and the suffering trip over each other when dealing with others) and yet it is motivated by mercy.  What a picture it paints, ‘longsuffering’ – meaning self-restraint before proceeding to action. Mercy. The quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so.  Mercy!

It is evident in mankind’s cycle that we misunderstand God’s judgment, with the seeming lack of it – thinking we will ‘get ours’ in the end.  However, we fail to see and or acknowledge God’s patience!  His patience does not overlook.  His patience offers opportunity.  As mentioned above, patience is before – I believe this is what Paul is talking about:  “It simply sees further than man. It has the end in view. It has true insight which knows best.”*

Man misuses God’s patience.  Many seem to operate under an invisible banner of GRACE – thinking, God has, is and will extend His grace, with the attitude “After all, I’m a Christian, I have God’s favor!”  Oh you do and He will, but carrying that mindset to everything, including our repeated disobedience, as if a warm blanket to cover and excuse our behavior, the behavior we KNOW is not God-honoring.  If we were to really take a hard look at it, we treat God as our ‘clean-up boy.’ (Spiritual clean-up on aisle 3).  Folks we become grace-abusers.  I have been there, done THAT! I ended up face down in the muck and mire. (I’ll take that ‘Selah’ now!) God gave me what I didn’t deserve, (grace) held back what I do (mercy).  God’s holy coordination in action!

God is wonderfully kind, tolerant and patient with us!  May we NOT take it for granted, abuse it or misuse it!  His merciful and gracious qualities are intended to turn us!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.”– Hebrews 10:24)

*Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (hupomone) the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)

Deception

We often hear, read and make our own conclusion that Eve was deceived. By the serpent.  Even Paul declares such to young Timothy “And it was not Adam who was deceived by satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result.” (1 Timothy 2:14 NLT)  However, today when we think, deceived we think of blatant ‘get in your face’ and tell you outright lies in order to get you to think or do differently.  Yet this is not what I see in the Genesis story – although often we were taught this in flannelgraph story time. The teacher places the serpent right up to Eve’s ear while making hissing sounds, as the melodrama of lies unfolds. Lies.

First, Eve wasn’t even there when God gave Adam the rules of the Garden, Genesis 2: God put the man in the Garden, and told he was to work it and take care of it (tend it) and then told, you are free to eat from any tree in the Garden – EXCEPT- the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, you shall NOT eat.

THEN (v18) God formed Eve.

Jumping to chapter 3 – the crafty serpent asked Eve “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  Not necessarily deceptive, asking a question.  Her response: “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.’”  (bold emphasis mine) Hm… there were ‘2’ trees specifically mentioned in the middle of the Garden (see 2:9) and God never said Adam could not touch it!  He HAD to touch it to tend to it, maintain it, as was his job.  Did Adam give these instructions to Eve?  “Ok, here’s the deal, see those two trees over there – over there in the middle – we are NOT to eat from those (let’s keep this simple) and don’t even TOUCH them!”  Obedience, having a clear understanding of the instructions and abiding accordingly.  Did Eve have clear instructions, or was her response to the serpent her interpretation of God’s word? (Not an excuse, just observation)

The narrative continues … the serpents reply to Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good & evil.” (3:5) then, “When the woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” She ate. She shared. Interesting, Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food & pleasing to the eye – just as it was designed!  See 2:9 “the trees were pleasing to the eye and good for food” – There is a principle for us: We too [humanity] see things ‘good and pleasing’ even by God’s design – BUT… God-may-say-“NO!”  Also, when Eve reached out and touched the fruit, did she take pause? Was there a ‘Hm… I touched and didn’t die.” Thus rationalizing, nothing happened (yet) causing her to go forward since there wasn’t instant consequences. There is always a progression.

We see at the end of chapter 3, as God prepares to send Adam and Eve out of the garden, “and God said, ‘the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil..’” (v22) Is this what the serpent said?  Yes. Did he lie?  No.

So all this to say, (looking at what Paul wrote to Timothy) – deceived – means Eve was ‘beguiled’ – to seduce by use of misleading methods. What was the serpents method?  He asked Eve a question, causing her to rethink what she was told and to doubt God’s word, “Did God say?”   Deceived as in ‘get in your face and blatantly lie? No –  he got her to doubt God.

We need to KNOW the misleading methods of the stealer, killer, and destroyer!  (Probably not good grammar) Deception may not be a blatant lie presented to us, but a subtle question causing to rethink and doubt.  If we rethink, in our human mind, creatively rationalizing (let’s be honest) without correct reference to God’s word (and heed) – we WILL get it wrong every time. Folks, if we have a question, let’s go to the source, God Himself in His word!

Peter tells us to ‘be watchful, sober-minded.’  Paul also, ‘be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.’ In doing so we ‘put on’ God’s stuff so we can stand (not hide in the shadows) but STAND against the schemes of the devil, in order that satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:10-11, 2 Corinthians 2:11) Go God!

May we not assume we are ‘deception-free’ because we are too sharp to not spot a lie, but get us rationalizing, doubting?

Oh yeah!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” –Hebrews 10:24)

 

* Some point out the narrative  (Genesis 2:17; 3:4) stresses ‘surely die’ (die, die – in the Hebrew, ‘mooth – mooth’) that it can convey:  1) Spiritual death and 2) Physical death. Perhaps, it could mean both here. Since God said ‘when you eat of it, you will surely die.’  God knew Adam would eat the forbidden fruit.  Sadly, Adam didn’t pick up on the ‘when’ and was not on his guard. (Lesson to us, how often we read ‘when’ in God’s warnings). Generally, in Hebrew literary style as a whole, repetitive words are for emphasis. In today’s culture, we capitalize, highlight, underline or print in BOLD to make a point, the ancients repeated the word. “I love, love chocolate!” (well, maybe not THAT)

But we cannot stop here, God in His most gracious love, sent man and woman out of the Garden because of His mercy.  “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.” (3:22b)  FOREVER in that broken, fallen relationship, dead in spirit, “So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden.” The rest of God’s story?  It’s alright, I have a plan, a plan to restore. Jesus.

Note: I choose to not capitalize serpent or satan, or devil, he (lil ‘h’) is not worthy of the grammatical rule of a proper noun.

Keepers of the Light

Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” (Jesus, Luke 11:35-36 NLT)

Wow.  I have been studying, thinking and praying through these verses, and again, “WOW – I’m undone. ”  This is what I felt God was showing me.  When we are FILLED with the light of Christ, it will affect our whole being – we are wholly bright (holy bright).  In Jesus’ prior words, He speaks about hiding the light under something – the light being hidden.  Within the context (connecting His words to the rest of the story) He speaks (in short) about folks needing to know He is greater than Jonah the messenger (and the message) He is greater than the wisdom of Solomon. (vss. 29-32) His light is GREAT and is divinely placed in public view, now we too are to keep it (Him & His message) in public view. He is Light. (John 8:12) We are keepers of the Light.

When I think of darkness, my mind automatically goes to the creepy things that go ‘BUMP’ in the night, or the evil that runs rampant in our world, and the demonic slithering around a corner.  All are true (sadly), yet the word Jesus uses paints a slightly different picture in this context. Darkness, (‘skotos’) is based around the thought of ‘shadiness’ – a covering so impeding, a faint image is only seen, it is obscure, lacking detail – just an outline.  Now put that in context to Jesus’ words:  Application: You think you got it right? Is my behavior read in such a way that HIS image is not clearly seen? Do people see a good BRIGHT picture of Jesus in me?  Do my choices shade the message of the gospel, obscuring it, fogging it up for others?  Do I allow my dark corners to bleed into the light, making my shine not so bright? (OUCH!)

In Jesus’ warning, ‘make sure’ (other translations; ‘see to it, take heed, watch out’) in the Greek it is a ‘present imperative’ – meaning, it is ONGOING – a constant watching!  Folks, we need to keep alert!  Also, “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. ‘You’ is singular, Jesus may have been talking to a crowd, but He was speaking to the individual!

May we be aware that the standard that we are presenting is not of our own making, Solomon wrote: “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (HA!  Sorry, that’s GOOD – Proverbs 26:12) May we strive to continually take inventory of our mindset, belief system and judgments that fuel our behavior. May we shine – JESUS shine in and through us, not we shine so brightly He is missing, just like city lights keep us from seeing the stars.  We don’t get to decide where the light should go, or who deserves it.  We let the light shine, and the Light and Love of God take it from there. (Go Holy Spirit!)

Remember when Jesus prayed for the blind man (Mark 8) He first spits in the guy’s eyes, (yup, really!) then asked if he could see anything, the blind man responded: “I see, but not very clearly, people look like trees walking around.” Jesus again placed His hands on the man, and then the man could see clearly.  Jesus wants a clear picture!

No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” (v.33)

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 

A Quiet Place of a Mother’s Heart

There is a cute story of a young mom putting her soon to be five-year-old son to bed.  As she tucks him in, she comments this is his last day to be four.  All year he had been cheerfully showing folks four fingers on each hand. She asked if he understood, he enthusiastically replied, “YES!  Tomorrow I’ll be a handful!”  Yes, yes indeed, a handful.

Motherhood.

Our hearts have ached – agonized – celebrated and PRAYED. There are hours of holding and scolding, cleaning and crying. Yet at the end of the day, as our head lies on the pillow, our heart swells with LOVE.

Mary too knew of this, following the ever so zealous shepherd’s visit, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Our children by no means compare to the Savior of the world, and by golly, they may never even reach the waiting list among the names of the Saints, but we moms like Mary, treasure and ponder our children.  Mary is a great example, her right upfront response to motherhood, “I am the Lord’s servant.” (Luke 1:38)  Her choices allowed her (yes, painful at times) to see God’s entire plan play out.  May I too choose so wisely!

Motherhood.

The quiet place of a mother’s heart, treasuring and pondering.

Happy Mother’s Day

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)