Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Prodigal Returns

Chapter Fifteen of the Gospel of Luke begins with Jesus telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, then the parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the parable of the Prodigal Son. All three focus on the joy of finding that which was lost, and more specifically, the rejoicing in Heaven over each sinner who repents.

As I read the story of the Prodigal Son, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own journey toward my Heavenly Father. I suppose each and every child of God can do the same. Reading this Parable brought to mind the months before I placed my faith in Christ. Our stories are similar. Like the younger son in the story, I took for granted all that I had been given. Just as he left his home and family, thinking that with his share of the family fortune he could find happiness in a distant land, I walked away from my home and family, searching for that elusive “something” that would give me the peace and joy that I longed for.

The Prodigal thought that all he needed was money to make his dreams come true. Off he went, searching for those greener pastures that he believed would satisfy his heart’s desires. Aren’t we all the same? Doesn’t mankind come up with countless ways to try and fill that God shaped vacuum that we are all born with? God gives each of us life and breath, opportunities and countless blessings. Yet in our blind, spiritually dead condition, so many of us end up in the swine pen, having failed to arrive at that place of promise, being led there by selfish motives and ignorance of the truth.

In my own swine pen experience, I awoke one day to realize what I had thrown away. The reality of my loneliness was like a cold lump in my gut. I staggered under an overwhelming sense of shame and regret, realizing the foolishness of my decisions, and the conviction that I was a sinner without hope. I can relate to that wayward son, as he sat in the muck, impoverished of body and spirit. He had thrown away what was good, and spent all he had, only to end up with nothing, no one, and nowhere to go.

And like the Prodigal, I too had a change of heart, a turning away from the selfish, foolish path that I was on, toward the outstretched arms of my Heavenly Father. For both that wayward son and myself, there was a happy ending; a homecoming where we were welcomed into an embrace of mercy and forgiveness. But it didn’t have to turn out that way. For countless others, their swine pen experience is only another step on the road to perdition. Instead of realizing their folly, being humbled and seeking forgiveness, they become bitter, or desperate, or further deluded to the true nature of their situation. Their hearts, instead of softening toward God, become hardened. Their final destination is not an eternity in glory, but one of never ending separation from the grace they shunned.

Only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring us “to ourselves”; that is, to see our true state as lost sheep in need of a shepherd. Had God not intervened and awakened me from my death stupor, I would have carried on, blindly stumbling toward a lost eternity. Instead of a worldly sorrow, however, the Holy Spirit brought true conviction for my sin. His work in a heart brings one low, so low that you lose every shred of pride. Like the Prodigal, you are ready to confess all, admit that all is due to your own folly, and come begging for mercy, even to be as a hired hand in your own father’s house.

Repentance leaves no room for pride. It casts it out as the stumbling block to salvation that it is. When we, like that lost son, are brought to our senses, we know that our only hope is the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ. Like that boy, we bow the knee, admit our sin, and seek to be brought into the Father’s favor.

And like the father in the story, our Father is quick to embrace, quick to forgive, and quick to rejoice in our newly found, newly saved state. We were, after all, dead. Dead in our trespasses, without hope. But now we are made alive in Christ, and clothed with His robe of righteousness which covers all of our sin stains. That muck of sin and despair, like the muck that the Prodigal wallowed in, filled with grief and regret, is washed away by the blood of the Lamb.

Thank God for His marvelous grace! Thank Him for his kindness that leads us to repentance! If you are His, thank Him that He did not leave you to continue down a path of destruction, but like the Prodigal, He brought you to your senses, and welcomed you home with joy and celebration. Pray for those that you know who have yet to be brought to life, who continue blindly down that broad path to eternal death. Pray for God’s grace to stop them in their tracks, and send them into the safety of His welcoming embrace.

But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15: 22-24)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Giving Thanks

Yesterday was the day that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Where I live, the the weather was beautiful. In fact, the whole weekend was the epitome of autumn perfection. My family came for dinner, and even though it was a lot of work for dear old gramma (that's me), it was well worth it.

I don't really mind the work of a big meal, if it means having my family gathered around the dining room table. Those are the moments I am most thankful for. Watching them all digging in, and listening to the varied conversations and laughter, I was content. Truly I am blessed. So many things to thank God for. The list is endless.

Yesterday I also received an email from a friend whose wife is seriously ill, and has been for a long time. I have been encouraged by this couple who, even in the midst of their sruggle, have taken the time to encourage others and pray for my family. I know they are thankful for their blessings also, though in their current situation, I know it must be difficult to focus on anything positive. There are things, though, that I know they will always be quick to give thanks for. Some of these are:
  • the grace of God in their lives, in the midst of trials
  • the shed blood of Jesus Christ for their souls
  • the promise of their heavenly inheritance, an eternity with Christ
  • the love and presence of God, though not always felt, that is always there and never failing
  • the mercy shown to them in God's gift of salvation.

I know they are, and always will be, thankful for these things, because they are the things that all of God's people are thankful for. They are the things that carry us, and override every other situation in our lives. As I was reminded of today, no matter what we go though in this life, good or bad, at the end of the day, there is only JESUS.

If you want to know more about this couple's struggle, click on this link:

(For Ike and Carol, with love)