If I had only one chance – week 3

Go back to last weeks post by clicking here.

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So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:

You are loved.

You are not lost.

You can go home.

Your story matters.

you can go home

You can go home to God, the Father.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
    call on Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for He will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 niv

My thoughts first turn to the story of the prodigal son.  The younger of two sons, he decided he wanted to strike out on his own, perhaps try life ‘his way’ for a while.  Maybe he thought he knew more than his father.  Or perhaps he was just tired of the boring old rules.  Then again, maybe the young son was woven together with the thread of an adventurous untamed spirit.  For whatever the reason or the cause he asked his father for his share of the inheritance and struck out on his pioneer journey rather well to do for a young buck, I suppose.

God knows.  And He let Him go His own way.

We know the son’s way did not turn out to be the best way.  All had been lost – squandered really – on wild living.  What was he thinking?  Or was he thinking at all?  Perhaps he was simply living moment to moment as we tend to do when we are young and unafraid.  Did he get trapped somewhere along the way in the lies of the world, his own self-destructive thinking and the jeers and taunts of the enemy of his soul?

God knows.  And He watched all along waiting for Him to come back.

He did go home, didn’t he?  And isn’t that about the most fantastic and beautiful point of this story?  The younger son coming to his senses in the pig pen of despair actually thought it was a good idea to go home!  What did this prodigal know to be true, which would make it at all reasonable to think he should turn back before final destruction became his story?

  • He wanted to live.
  • Home was good and secure.
  • He deserved consequences.
  • He wanted to receive discipline.
  • His father loved him.
  • His father was merciful.
  • It would be better to live at home as a servant than to perish in a far-off land.

Luke 15.18 You can go home

He wasn’t simply correct about what he thought to be true, but the Father’s love and mercy were exceedingly abundantly beyond the son’s expectations.  There was a genuine repentance offered, forgiveness extended and celebration erupted upon the son’s return home.

For a long time that parable seemed to be just a story.  It was such for me until I needed it to be real and true.  I hope I never forget the time a counselor asked my husband and I if we could actually let a son go and not try to rescue him in the middle.  Could we simply wait and pray for him to finally come home?  Did we trust God that much?  I can testify God’s Word is true and dependable.

You can go home to God.

And even as my heart smiles at the remembrance of this beautiful Jesus parable, my mind wanders to another scenario.  A woman, who had left her homeland as the wife of a man and mother of two sons.  Her name was Naomi.

She hadn’t squandered an inheritance in riotous living.  At least there’s no indication she was wrong to follow her husband away from Judah and into the pagan land of Moab.  Her husband had taken his family out of the famine in Judah seeking to provide a better life, at least this is what it seems to me.  Their actions are not for me to judge for had I been in Naomi’s shoes I most likely would have been the one asking to leave for greener grass.

God knows.  And He allowed His children to go anyway.

But when we open the book of Ruth, we quickly learn that Naomi was left with two foreign daughters-in-law only.  Rather than the pleasant name of Naomi, she adopted the bitter name of Mara because of the devastation to her family.  I wonder if she felt judged.  Did Naomi assume she was receiving the punishment from God of her family’s choice to flee God’s people and homeland?

God knows.  And He provided ahead of His daughter’s return home.

So, when Naomi heard the good news of  God’s restored blessing on her homeland of Judah, she packed her bags, grabbed her daughters hands and headed down the road for home.  What did Naomi believe to be true, which would cause her to turn back at the end of such loss?

  • The Lord God Almighty was good.
  • Home was safe.
  • Her people would receive her back as a widow.
  • God’s law would make provision for her as a barren widow.
  • It was better to go to God empty-handed and bitter than to let shame keep her in a far-off land.

Ruth 1.6

I recognize at least a bit of my own spiritual journey in this story of Naomi.  Not that I’ve physically walked in Naomi’s shoes.  However, in a spiritual sense, I might be able to relate to Naomi’s journey back home to her God and the people of her God.  I certainly know the sickening anguish of recognizing my inability to save myself or my family from a famine season.

There’s a very real truth to Naomi’s story.  She and I both learned we must acknowledge the goodness of God and turn back to Him, both physically and spiritually.  A faith relationship, which will endure trials, requires full surrender to His sovereign place as Provider and Defender.  God is truly our only Security.  He is our King and He is worthy of our obedience and praise!

You can go home to God.

Finally, my thoughts turn to Peter, Jesus’ disciple.  Peter was the one Jesus called The Rock, which meant Jesus saw the true identity for which God created Peter.  Jesus saw Peter’s potential and God’s purpose for Peter’s life.

When I think of Peter, I think of a roller coaster.  He was up at the pinnacle one moment and swerving down into a spiral the next.  And yet, Peter was full of adventure and ready to throw caution to the wind for the sake of following Jesus.  After all, Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on top of the waves.  He was the one who rightly answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”  (Mark 8:29)

Jesus knew.  And He encouraged Peter to be bold.

However, it was Peter’s zealous devotion and hot-tempered responses which tripped him up time and time again.  When I think of Peter as a follower of Jesus, I truly believe his heart was in the right place.  I believe he was fiercely loyal to Jesus.  And I think he just couldn’t fathom God’s outlandish plan to allow His own Son to be crucified, to die and to be buried in a tomb.

Jesus knew.  And He corrected Peter out of love.

Out of Peter’s lion-hearted love and devotion he swore to Jesus in front of all their friends he would never rebel, deny or turn against Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Peter had no doubt of his absolute allegiance to Jesus.

Jesus knew.  And He let Peter fulfill prophetic words of denial.

So, when Peter was at his absolute lowest point feeling like a total failure, who was it called him home?  Who had already set up camp on the beach and had a charcoal fire burning?  And who called out from the shore with a fishing tip?

It was Jesus resurrected who sought out his friends and Peter, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  As soon as John announced, “It is the Lord!”, Peter got dressed, jumped into the water and swam to the shore.  What did Peter know about Jesus, which would cause him to throw himself in the water the way he did?  What did Peter believe to be true and anxiously desire to go immediately to Jesus?

  • Jesus was good.
  • Peter was deserving of consequences.
  • Peter could trust Jesus’ correction.
  • Jesus was forgiving.
  • Jesus was Who He said He was all along.
  • Peter could trust Jesus more than he could trust himself.

John 21.9 You can go home

Even though I imagine Peter once again acted impulsively by dressing and then swimming to Jesus on the shore, I also believe his response illustrated Peter’s sincere love for Jesus.  I believe Peter’s desire for another chance with Jesus was only exceeded by Jesus’ desire to restore Peter to his true God-given identity as The Rock.

And so maybe you’ve heard (or maybe not) Jesus met Peter face to face with a re-enactment of Peter’s greatest failure.  Except that with Jesus present in Peter’s most painful memory, Peter was able to state victoriously his full allegiance, love and devotion to Jesus, his Friend and his Savior.  It was Jesus’ idea to restore Peter.  Jesus set up the scenario.  Jesus entered into the place of Peter’s greatest shame and failure.  Jesus walked Peter through to the full defeat over his shame and set Peter free to fully serve the One to whom he pledged all his loyalty and devotion.

 

You can go home to God.

He sees you.

He knows you.

He’s waiting to restore you.

What are you waiting for?

Ponders:

Please, don’t take my word for it.  Read what God has to say about going home and His response to your ponderings about returning home to Him.

Luke 15:11-32

Ruth 1-4 (it’s a short book)

John 21 

  • What other scripture passages give you comfort regarding your relationship with God?
  • Will you ask Him to accept you back home?  Can you believe He’s standing at the door with the light on waiting to wrap you in love?
  • And if it’s someone else you love who is far from the Father, will you pray with me for this very much loved prodigal to turn toward home?
  • Which scripture passage do you pray or will you choose to pray on behalf of this dearly loved one?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

 

Saturday Share with Anna Smit

Welcome to Saturday Share!  

Saturday Share coffeeThe purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  If we still have breath to tell our stories then our race isn’t finished.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:2-3 NIV

I am honored to welcome back, my feature Saturday Share writer:

Anna Smit

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Free Indeed

by Anna Smit

 

John 16: 8 – 11 (ESV)
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.

Growing up in the church, I was deeply convicted of my sin – every little sin. But what I didn’t begin to experientially understand until I returned from my Prodigal journey, was that Jesus came not just to convict me of my sin, but He also came to convict me of His righteousness.SS Anna John 16.8

When I returned from my more than twenty years as a Prodigal, it was the first time in my life I think my heart truly began to understand the depth of God’s mercy to us. Here He was not wagging his finger at my many, many sins, but welcoming me into His Presence to be covered in His healing wings and held tightly in His loving arms. Just as the Father ran toward His Prodigal Son and hugged him tight before he could get his confession out.

In the months and years since, God has grown my understanding of this mercy and He continues to do so. His mercy is available to each and every person who calls upon His Name. And when He then looks at us, who He has adopted through the declaration of our faith in Christ Jesus, He no longer sees us (and our many, many sins), but He sees His own Beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased, covering us.

Colossians 2:13 – 15 (ESV)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

It was the peace of God descending upon my wounded, hardened and grieving heart that led me to return to His open arms.Overwhelmed by His love for me and deeply remorseful of my sin, I confessed each one He convicted me of – not just to Him, but also to the Body of Christ around me.

Now, I am learning what it is to seek God with my whole heart, including the pain and hurt that lies buried beneath. No, our sinful and wounded heart do not stop our Messiah from completing the good work of healing He has begun in us – for if that was so, not one of us would ever be able to stand before His throne, complete and whole. For in Him alone, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.

Revelation 21: 6 (ESV)
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the water of life without payment.

Now, as a returned Prodigal I pray that God would keep convicting me of my sin and lead me to open confession and repentance as I lean into His righteousness. For it is through this the unbelievers in my own life are beholding the depth of my Savior’s kindness and love for them also. It is revealing to them and to my own wounded and deceitful heart that Christ has not come for those who can (outwardly) stick to the rules, who have it all together, but rather for the weak and broken sinners – for every single one of us.

SS Anna Colossians 2.13.pngFor, it is in our confession and repentance that Christ becomes visible. It is then we move from being a Pharasitical cup kept shiny clean on the outside, to being what we truly are – a very real and sinful church being furiously pursued by the relentless love of its Savior. Then the world will see the grace and love of God entering weakness and empowering lives holy and pleasing unto Him. They will see the sanctifying work of Christ in and through us, moving to complete the work He has begun in us.

The biggest blessings I have received from Christians since returning Home are from those who have dared to be honest about their sinful turning, their doubts, and fears. From those who aren’t ashamedly hiding the suffering they have walked through in the past and are walking through now, but who are openly sharing of God’s working in them through the healing process. The truth and grace present in them has stripped me of so much shame, a shame that helped push me down my Prodigal path all those years earlier.

1 John 1: 5 – 7 NLT
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

I am slowly beginning to experientially understand the call to boast in our weakness. It is this that shines the Light of our Lord into the lives of the lost too. For our Savior has not only come to open our eyes to the sin in our life but also to awaken our freedom from sin, fear, and shame. A gift that is freely available to all men and women in Christ Jesus.

SS Anna Revelations 21.6The death of our Savior upon the cross has already paid in full for our every sin of the past, the present and the future. No, we don’t confess our sins to earn our righteousness. We confess our sins to experience the freedom wrought by the finished work of the Cross.

And rooted in this Truth we can rest securely in the true Source of our salvation. We can shine the Light of God’s grace brightly for all to see. We can overflow in an open confession and repentance to the glory of His mighty Name.

Psalm 65: 2 – 4 (NKJV)

2 O You who hear prayer,
To You all flesh will come.
3 Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.

4 Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.


Will you join me in prayer today?

Oh Father God, thank You so very much for walking to that Cross weeping for us and crying: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Forgive us for all the times we have turned away from both the truth of our sin and of Your righteous covering. Forgive us for turning away from the unbelievable gift You wrought as You lay bleeding on that Cross for us.

SS Anna Isaiah 61.10Father, lead our souls to greatly rejoice and exult in You, our God. For You have clothed us with the garments of salvation through Your Son’s bloodshed at the Cross; You have covered us with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Convict us of this beautiful truth, Father (Isaiah 61:10 (ESV).

And place brothers and sisters around us who openly confess and repent of their sins and embolden us to be these people too. Help us to convict each other of Your gift of righteousness, by boasting in our weakness. Grow a deep yearning in us for Your living Word. Open our hearts with Your Holy Spirit as we read the Scriptures that we might truly see and live in the freedom that is already ours in Christ Jesus.

Pursue us with Your kindness as You have promised to do.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

Enjoy listening to Anna recite her poem: Outstretched Arms

Passion – Whole Heart – featuring Kristian Stanfill

 

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SS Anna head shot

Anna is a returned Prodigal of more than twenty years. In September 2017, she opened Beloved Prodigal, answering God’s call to encourage and strengthen family and friends of Prodigals in the Word and the testimony of their fellow believers. Recently, upon facing a relapse of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she released this ministry to her Team of writers to begin sharing of God’s love and grace from her place of weakness at her old blog Joy of the Spirit Within. Her vision is to see God’s Light lift the cloud of shame hanging over those suffering from mental illness. Anna would love to connect with you on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Lavish Grace & Steadfast Love

Prodigal, what does it really mean?

I’ve pondered long over this English word and its meaning for a number of days now.  Knowing how the word is most often used I felt sure I knew the definition.  So, without looking it up in a dictionary, I wrote out my own definition of the word prodigal.Genesis 3.9 esv BP

From my journal: one who has wandered far from home; one who set out to have his/her own way leaving their upbringing behind; taking one’s belongings and setting out alone.

Wanting to be accurate, however, I decided to consult the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.  Maybe you already know, but I was a bit taken back by the true and actual definition of the word.

prodigal: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure: lavish; recklessly spendthrift; yielding abundantly: luxuriant.  synonyms: extravagant, profligate, spendthrift, squandering, thriftless, unthrifty, and wasteful.

My eyes locked onto the word {lavish} and my heart skipped a beat.  Instantly I was reminded of the Lord’s tenderness toward me a few years back as He chose {lavish} to be my one-word focus for that particular year.  I wondered then if the word was actually found in scripture and was delighted to find this precious truth nugget in God’s Word.

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.  Ephesians 1:7-8 niv

During that year, as I prayed and asked Holy Spirit to be my teacher regarding His idea of lavish, Holy Spirit placed in my heart an acronym for the word based on the truth of our Christ bought identity found in Ephesians 1:1-13.

Loved

Accepted

Victorious

Innocent

Secure

Holy

For the entire year, and still to this very day, the Lord continually reminds me of His lavish grace for me, and the true identity He has given me as an adopted daughter purchased by the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I myself am the prodigal daughter of the good King.  Additionally, I am the prodigal mother of prodigal sons for whom I pray continuously.  With gratitude and anticipation, I often ask Father for their return home and into their true identity as sons of God, knowing He did this very thing for me.Lavish-ly loved daughter BP

Today though, I continue to ponder the word prodigal with even greater enthusiasm because of the word’s true meaning.  Instead of a focus on leaving or turning away, the true focus of the word is extravagant spending and luxurious gifting.  Who but God is the epitome of extravagance in sending His own Son to be the perfect Sacrificial Lamb in our place?

It is my honor to be a guest writer with Beloved Prodigal today.  Please click here to finish reading my story of Lavish Grace & Steadfast Love with the Beloved Prodigal community of Jesus followers and prayer warriors on behalf of many prodigals.

 

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  Isaiah 55:6-8

If I had only one chance…

Just recently I was asked this question:

Now that you’ve journeyed with Jesus many years what do you want younger sojourners to know?

There are so many things I want you to know.  It is the delight of my heart to get to share the path with beautiful creations of God.  Yes, I’m talking to you.  No matter who you think you are or what you believe or how far you’ve wandered, you are a beautiful creation of God.  So, may I ask that you don’t disqualify yourself from this small window of opportunity I have to share four simple truths with you?

My hope before the Lord is for Him to make useful – to redeem – my many wanderings off the path and my eventual returns to the straight path.  I hope one day to be able to glimpse an aerial view of my journey from birth to death.  Assuredly, my life path will reveal anything but a straight line!

psalm 139.1.2.3.7.png

So, for this short part of our walk together, I want to encourage you with four simple truths.  And as we head our separate ways in just a few moments, I want to challenge you to explore these truths for yourself.  There’s absolutely no need to take my word for it.  I can’t convince you of anything.  However, there’s power in sharing our stories so I am compelled to do that.  More importantly, the Spirit of God is the best teacher as the Word of God is alive and useful in convincing us of truth.

So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:

You are loved.

You are not lost.

You can go home.

Your story matters.

I believe and I want you to know that everything in the course of our whole life journey submitted into God’s Hands is productive and beneficial.  Our Creator wastes nothing of our experience in molding and shaping us into the image of His dear Son, Jesus, our elder brother.  All we need to do is listen for the sound of Father’s voice calling our name… and turn our face toward His voice.  He’s already on His way to you.

And He chose us to be His very own, joining us to Himself even before He laid the foundation of the universe! Because of His great love, He ordained us, so that we would be seen as holy in His eyes with an unstained innocence. For it was always His plan to adopt us as His delightful children.  Ephesians 1:4-6 tpt

You are loved.

Ephesians 1

How do I know?

I know.  I have God’s Word on it!

You might argue that I don’t know you. I don’t know where you’ve been.  Maybe you would counter with the truth that I don’t know what you’ve done in the past or how you are living today.  I pretty much know the arguments by heart because most of them were my own arguments to refute the idea God could love me.

All of those arguments are irrelevant.  Not to be offensive and not because I say so, but because God says so.  His Word, written in the book known as The Bible, is really His love letter to you.   Through this tangible loving and living Word, He beckons you to know of His great love for you simply because He knit you in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139).

Ephesians 1.7.8 eojas.png

I’ll catch up with you here next week.  I hope you will want to rejoin me here for a walk in the truth of God’s Word.  My story will be here and Holy Spirit will be our teacher in truth and love…

Until next time this is my prayer for you and me:

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray 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 his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ 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 name that is invoked, 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.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

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Future walks on our pioneer journey:

You are not lost.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:9-10 esv

You can go home.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 niv

Your story matters.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

Psalm 51:13 niv