Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7 NIV
Let me ask you this: Suppose you did all you could to make sure your child knew how to swim. Swimming lessons, life safety classes, even a few snorkeling classes. After all, you were once a lifeguard, and you know the ropes, so you took extra care to make sure she can swim. Then comes a day when you can take her to the lake to play with her friends. You are sure she knows what to do in the water, but you keep an eye out just in case. After all, even the best swimmers can get into the breakers, occasionally.
You start the bar-b-cue pit up, throw some doggies on the burner, some burgers, corn, a few other yummy treats. About the time you have that under control, you look up to see your worst nightmare.
She is drowning.
What do you do?
Now imagine this scenario: You tell anyone who is listening to call 911 while you strip down and get ready to rescue her. But all your friends and other people on the beach try their best to stop you. They tell you that she got herself into this, she needs to get herself out. They say all you will do is make things worse. They tell you if you go in after her, you might drown, too, or get hurt, or she may not want you to rescue her. What if even the lifeguard on duty tells you the same thing?
Will you stand on the shore and let her fend for herself? Will you stop and weigh the possible outcomes? Will you wait and consider the advice of everyone on the beach?
No! You will do all it takes, up to losing your own life to rescue her. She is your life, your heart, and your love. What kind of monster would ignore his own drowning child?
And what kinds of monsters give the advice that everyone gave you?
Now let me ask you this:
Suppose you did all you know how to do to make sure your beloved child knows Jesus Christ? You took her to church. You read the Bible to her. You prayed with her. You made sure she went to Christian schools. And when you look up, you see that she is drowning in a sea of bad choices? What if she isn’t even aware of the extreme danger she has put her soul in?
And just like the people on the beach, you get the exact same advice, even from people who serve the Lord.
Now, try to see this scenario:
When God created us, did He make sure we knew the ropes, and pitfalls to make sure we would always have eternal life with Him in Eden? Did He provide all we needed? Did He pour His love on us?
Imagine how it must have hurt when we rebelled and sinned. Imagine the heart-rending pain when He had to judge us, the earth, and the universe for all our sin?
Did He leave us to our own devices? Did He say, “They got themselves into this mess, they will have to figure it out?” Did the angels warn Him that, if he interfered, it would only get worse?
Did he write us off?
What did God do?
He came here in the form of a Man and took on the penalty for our sin. He bore the judgment of death on His self so we would not have to. He gave up His kingdom so we can inherit it. He loved us so much that while we are at war with him, He sent Jesus Christ to die in our place, to bear the wrath and judgment of God. Jesus, the God-Man, became all our sin so we can become all his righteousness.
That is what God did.
So, now I ask you; If you see your daughter dying of the very sin Jesus already paid for, what would you do?
It is in the Father’s heart to give his own life for the life of His beloved children.
It is in my heart to give all I have and am to help rescue my child.
It is in this father’s heart to be like the Savior who died for me. I will give all I have to see that my child lives with me in eternity in the presence of the Living God.
Examine your souls, Christian. If you are not willing to lose everything so that others may live, stop saying you are His child. Selfishness is the fruit of Satan.
This father will give all he has unto death if it means his child will live in eternity with Christ. How can I cross the street to witness to a stranger if I am not ready to give up everything for my own child? What hypocrite worries about pain in the face of need? What kind of abject spiritual poverty demands you leave your child to drown in sin?
Godliness begins at home, people. And if you cannot manage that, you have no business taking your brand of Christianity anywhere. I may have failed my daughter in the past, but while I have life, I have hope, and I will spend every ounce of both doing all I can to bring the Love of God to my drowning daughter. I cannot save her, but I know who can. I cannot redeem her, but I know who will. I cannot give up my salvation so she can have it, but I know the one who has already done this.
The greatest gift I have ever received is the love and grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the only thing I have left worth having in this life, and I will give that to her.
It is what is in this father’s heart.
Go and do the same.
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! – Romans 5:10 NIV
He was flat on his back, groaning. It wasn’t the pain that brought him back to consciousness. It was the choking dust. The pain came a few seconds later. The fear of never breathing again was overwhelming. This was the second time he had been thrown off a cliff. The wind had been knocked out of him, but, as he began to draw in that first, blessed, breath of air, the dust floating around him from the impact of his fall was choking him. The pain came when he tried to roll over and stand up. It felt like every bone in his body had been broken. He gasped for breath while he ran his hands over his body to check if his bones were not broken. Nothing broken, but it sure felt that way. It was a good drop from the edge of the cliff. It was a miracle he wasn’t broken to pieces and killed.
When his ears stopped ringing, he heard shouting from a distance above him. He staggered around in a circle until he could focus his eyes and look up. Steadying his stance, he looked up and saw the people who had thrown him off the cliff. They were shaking their fists at him, screaming curses at him, wishing death on him, and telling him he should never come back.
Less than a year ago, this had happened to him at another place. He was dismayed that it had happened again. Greater than the physical pain was the hurt that he had been rejected again.
He could just make out the towering spire of the temple, behind the screaming crowd. Leading that crowd was the Chief Priests of that community. They had contacted him and asked him to come. They had heard about him, and thought that he could bring about the changes needed in their community. Others had tried and failed, including the Chief Priests. One of the High Priests even told him that the Creator had given him a vision of how he was the person to lead that community into the future.
HE had accomplished much of what he knew the Creator had sent him to accomplish. The people had caught the vision he laid out. The changes came, not because of him, but because he shared the vision with the people. All He had to do was deliver the message the Creator had told him to deliver, and to do specific things the creator had told him to do. As long as he did this, things went very well.
There were a certain group of people he had to work the hardest with and for. They fought him every inch of the way. Still, change happened, and things slowly improved. One of the people in this particular group had the ability to hide his falsehoods in a web of half-truths, and cause people to believe his words. This was a slowly dripping poison that had the potential to destroy all he had accomplished. Still, he pressed on.
There was a monument in the center of the village that enumerated all the creeds of their forefathers. It was the forefathers that had founded this town, and the creeds that had held it together through good and bad times. These creeds stirred his heart every time he read them. He knew he was new to the walk, but he was determined to embody these creeds, and lead by example, just as the forefathers had done. He could tell that very few people in the village took the creeds seriously, and acted on them only when the High Priest happened to be looking. This frustrated him a great deal that such duplicity could live in the hearts of the villagers. Did they not understand that it was by the Godly leadership of the forefathers that this village even existed. Yet, here they were, willing to use them as a superficial tool. They spoke bravely of these creeds, but were too afraid to walk in them.
Eventually, he grew weary of the Chief Priests and the people swearing their dying loyalty to the creeds that they boasted of, and he grew weary of fighting the prophet of falsehoods. Instead of responding in the manner that the Creator had told him to do, he took matters in his own hands. He grew angry and impatient with the utter hypocrisy that seems to surround all religious people. He betrayed the trust of those who had asked him to come there. All his good efforts were undone in that single moment. It seemed that, once again, the Enemy of our souls had won another round.
He faced his accusers, and was charged, and was thrown over the cliff, and told never to return. All the work he had accomplished was in jeopardy of being destroyed because of him.
His heart was broken. He wept. He didn’t feel self-pity, just a deep disappointment. God had sent him here, and had worked a few miracles to bring him here. He had not done as the Father had told him to do.
As he wondered why God had arranged him to be here, the crowd suddenly grew silent. They covered their mouths and pointed at something behind him. The cliff formed a U-shaped wall around a valley. He was standing in the very back of the cliff walls, where he had been thrown off.
He turned around to see what all the silence was about.
Standing about 50 feet in front of him, in a semi-circle, blocking his escape, were the most hideous beings he had ever seen. These wraith leered at him and slathered their delight at his downfall. He heard the High Priest shouting to the people to turn away and go home. That he was getting the punishment he deserved, and they need to run away if they don’t want th wraith to chase them. Such was the beliefs of the village.
He recognized who these wraith were. He dared not speak their names, or listen to their taunting curses and laughter. But he knew them well. Their names were Fear, Doubt, Curses, Blame, Anger, Despair, and Destruction. He knew them very well, as they used to be the only friends he ever had before Jesus, the Son of God, had touched him, and healed his heart, about 8 months ago.
He knew that if he listened to them, he would consider their accusations and succumb to the temptations they offered. Their presence was strong, and their words very enticing. He shook with the effort of trying to ignore them. As they inched closer, he began to panic. He wondered if this was why God had sent him here. To be destroyed by his own demons, that he thought he had been delivered of.
He remembered what Jesus had told him at his healing: “God is not judging you. While life has natural consequences, you are forgiven, because I bore all your sin and disease and failings on the Cross, and have given you all that I am and have in exchange for your sin. Never let doubt and fear distract you. There is nothing in all of Heaven or in Earth that can ever separate you from His love, ever again. You are his child, now. Call on Me when you are in need, and I will answer.”
Despite his misgivings, in spite of his fear and doubt, he raised his hands and said:
“My Father, I come before you in the name of Jesus. I thank you that I am acceptable to you, because I am in Christ, and He is in me. I come before you with all confidence and boldness because of the sacrifice of Jesus. (Eph. 1:6, Heb. 4:16)”
“You are my Father, and I am your Child.”
“I thank you that nothing can ever take me out of your hand again.”
“Because of the Lord Jesus I am adopted into the Family of God.”, “Because I am in Jesus, I am an heir to the everlasting Kingdom, that, because of His sacrifice, he exchanged all He has and Is for all my sin; He had given me all He has.”
“God, my Father, I am seeking, first, YOUR Kingdom and Your righteousness, and you meet ALL my needs” (Matt.6:33)
“Because You are my Father, you reveal your perfect will for my life.” (Matt. 11:25)
“Because I love and trust You, I seek to do Your will.” (Matt. 12:50)
“Because You are my Father, I love Jesus, who You sent to be my Savior.” (John 8:82)
“Because I am in the Lord Jesus, and He is in You, I am in you, too. I will always abide in your presence.” (John 10:10, 17:21)
“Father God, I abide in Your glory, which was given to Jesus, who, because I am now in Him, He has given to me. You crown me with dignity and worth. I am the redeemed of Christ. I am all You say I am. Father, I glorify You in the Earth.” (John 17:22)
As he was saying these things, joy flooded his broken heart. He felt the presence of the Spirit of GOd arrive and fill his every fiber. He danced and sang praises to God, because of Jesus Christ.
While he was praising, a presence appeared right in front of him. He stopped moving. He didn’t make a sound. He just stood staring in awe at who was standing right there in front of him.
Jesus stood looking him in the eye.
The prophet fainted.
Jesus said, “Please, get up.” And he held out His hand to pick up this soiled little prophet.
Jesus dusted him off, and smiled at him, and gave him water from the jug He had been carrying.
The prophet was utterly speechless. Jesus grinned and gave him a friendly smack on the shoulder, and said, “Well, for once, you are speechless!”. Then Jesus laughed at his own joke. This made the prophet relax, and eventually, he was laughing along with Jesus.
Christ walked the prophet over to an outcropping of rock, under a shade tree. He asked the prophet, “Where are your little wraith?”, That is when the prophet looked around, as if he was finally taking in his surroundings. “Gone, Lord. GONE!!”, said the prophet. And he grinned. Jesus chuckled and said, “Of course, nothing can stand in the praise of the Father, and no attack from them can befall one who has faith in the promises.”
The prophet said, “But Lord, I know you sent me to that village. I have ample evidence it was you that sent me there. But I have been kicked out. I have failed you again, and now I don’t know why I am here. I just know you sent me.”
“So, what will you do now?”, asked Jesus.
“I don’t know, just wait for you to tell me what to do, I guess.”, said the prophet.
Jesus said, “You guessed right. Wait for my instructions. I have sent you to be where you are. Never doubt that.”
“But I really blew it, Lord!”, pled the Prophet, “How can I possibly carry on after such a colossal failure?” “What will I do?” “My behavior turned my confession in to a lie!”
Jesus answered, “Friend, you will learn from me, and of me. You will be made in to my image. One way or another, when this is done, you will resemble Me.”, “For now, know you are loved of the Father, and by Me.”, “I promised I will send the Spirit of God to you, and I have. Listen to the leading of the Spirit. Get used to hearing and obeying when the Spirit speaks. Stay your ground, and do not look to the left or right. Have faith.”
The prophet asked, “What about the Village?”
“You have no idea,” replied Jesus, “what your influence has done there. Let me worry about the Village, and let the Village decide how it will believe. I will turn your curses into blessings, and I will see that the seed you planted, where it was planted, will be watered and will grow at the hands of another. What you may see as a failure, I will turn into a blessing in the end. You just have to decide what you believe is true about me.”
The prophet knelt before Jesus and said, “My Lord, Jesus, I thank you for dying on the cross for me. You paid for my sins. You made it possible for me to come before the Father. You carried the punishment for my sin, so I would not have to carry it. You rose from the dead, so I could have a new life. You shed your blood for me and removed all my sins. Jesus, I worship you and call you my Lord. (I Cor. 15:3-4, Gal. 3:13. 2 Cor. 5:17, Heb. 10:19, Rom. 5:9)
“I thank you, Jesus, for bringing me in to the family of God. You are my Elder Brother, and God is my Father, and I worship you this day. You have made me to be an heir of Your Kingdom.” (Heb. 2:11-13, Rom. 8:17, Col, 1:12, Rev. 5:10)
Then the prophet stood kissed Jesus on both cheeks.
Jesus stood up and said, “My little brother, rest assured this is not the end of your walk with me. Remember when I told you that things would get really dark?”
“Yes, I do, Lord.” said the Prophet.
“What did I say to you when I told you this was coming?”, asked Jesus.
“You told me that, no matter what happened, I am to cling to you, and have faith that you will turn this darkness into bright daylight, and this curse into a blessing. That, in the end, I will serve you successfully.” The prophet answered.
“Then do not fear. Know I am with you. It is like your elder brother, Paul said, ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purposes.’ (Rom. 8:28). So know this, my brother, I have called you. I have prepared a way for you. Even when you fail, I love you and forgive, before you even ask. I will turn all your curses into blessings. Just stand your ground and keep believing.”
Then Jesus vanished.
The prophet stood there mouth gaping. He didn’t know what to do first, laugh, or cry. He was too blown away to begin walking again, so he sat on the rocks he and Jesus had sat on earlier. While he was thinking of all that had happened, he had a feeling that someone else was watching him. He looked up the cliff to see who it could be. Sure enough, there was a lone figure leaning against the rail at the edge of the cliff.
It is definitely worth a listen. You can read my babbling later.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Heb 13:2
The really nice thing that is coming out of my circumstances is, God is using my circumstances to pare me down to what I really believe, to seek that which I do not understand (About God), and to test the things I claim I believe.
One of the big tests and refining fires of God is to see if what I say I believe is: A. Godly (Is there a genuine Biblical basis for what I claim?), B. Not just in my head…”knowledge puffeth up.” Does this belief actually live in my heart. Does it walk, or just talk? C. Where this knowledge is weak, that I get opportunities to apply it in the “real” world. Nothing defines you better than your circumstances and opportunities those circumstances offer, to be like Jesus. In my weakness to obey, God is my strength to be obedient. That is when it lives in my heart.
I find the answers to:
Do I live the commands of Jesus Christ, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and my strength, and do I actually love my neighbor as much as I love myself?
Do I have the strength of character to take my eyes off my circumstances and look the Lord straight in the eyes? Do I have the courage to live out my love and faith in the midst of my circumstances?
I read in the Bible: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38 KJV
Here is a conviction that is being driven into my soul. That verse says that I am to give. It is an active tense verse that calls for immediacy of action. It begs a large question of me. Am I ever ready, and ever-present in my observation of life that I am waiting for the opportunity to give? If I give, am I being genuine in my love toward that person, or am I doing it out of “religious obligation”? When I give, have I already begun adding to my ledger the anticipation of getting something in return?
Why do I give?
My prayer is that God use the Holy Spirit to make me into the very character and likeness (I know, that was redundant), of Jesus Christ. He gave for two reasons: 1. Obedience, and 2. Love of God, and Love of Mankind. His LOVE is what led to His obedience. It was not a religious obligation, it was a genuine act of grace and love and mercy. He gave what He was rich in. He gave sacrificially.
Here is the big point God is trying to bore into my very thick skull. Give out of love. Give what you have. Jesus Himself did not have a home. He lived off the kindness of strangers, sinners, and the disciples. But what He did have, he gave even unto death.
Now comes the hard part. Being unemployed means not having the goodies I had when I was employed. And there may come a day soon, that I will be homeless. My Debtors are calling daily, some are suing, and, even though I have over 100 applications out there, I am getting crickets.
Here is WHY I am sharing this intimate detail with you: Those are my circumstances. I can tell you exactly what I would have done in my Pre-Christian life. I would have panicked, paced the floor, gotten angry and taken it out on my loved ones, and generally would have made an ass of myself.
What God is teaching me in these circumstances is that, He is able to carry me, and continue to change my character into the character of Christ.
So now comes the test.
Do I get so involved in how unlucky I am, how I am a loser because I am unemployed, because I cannot even buy my family the very basics of life? Am I so wrapped up in my apparently overwhelming circumstances that I forget that I am being made into the image of Christ?
This morning, while the Spirit of God was showing me these things, He asked me, am I willing to give as Christ gave? Of course, in my best legalistic, and Hyper-Calvinist voice, I reminded the Spirit, I have NOTHING! What can I give? I have to beg for just the basics of life!
It was then he reminded me that I belong to God. I belong because of the Salvation that I have accepted in Jesus Christ. God is teaching me, through my circumstances, that I can give to others even though I have “nothing”. What I do have is a lot of time and my body.
I have a heart that God has healed. I have a mind and heart for the downtrodden, that I never knew existed. I have eyes that can see the differences between a taker and a person in genuine need. When I see opportunities, do I respond with the Love of Christ, or do I keep my head down, my eyes averted, and focus on my own problems. Are MY circumstances more important that the Love of God?
Am I afraid to trust God that, when I approach a stranger, my giving will be a blessing from God?, That HE will be my courage, and my blessing? That it is HIs desire that I be just like His Son? Do I trust God that He will empower me and make me able?
Jesus becomes manifest in our lives when we obey Him, out of Love, and desire to be like Him. It is not a duty. It is not a forced obligation. It is an external expression of the Love of Christ being revealed in my heart. It becomes a gift from Christ when I give it to a person who happens to need a smile, a kind word, or a blessing.
My sins were very many. Do I love others with the same gratitude and joy that I love God for my forgiveness?
I have hands: I can open a door with a smile and a “God Bless You”. I can carry a package for someone, while I show love to that someone.
I have a heart: The Spirit of God will reveal to me the ones He wants me to touch, and when I am in doubt, I will touch anyway. Love and Grace and Mercy are more fresh and delightful when given with reckless abandon. It doesn’t mean you are stupid for going where no one else will go. It means you trust God to carry you because you are giving away the love God has shown you.
I have feet: I can walk however far it takes to help someone.
I have the Love of Christ: He said He has not come into the world to judge the world, but to save it. Do I look on the helpless, the needy, the lost, the ones who are lost in their circumstances, just to judge them unfit for my love, my mercy, my grace, my gift? Or do I see an opportunity to share the Joy, love, mercy, and grace God has shown me?
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7:47 NKJV The words of Jesus
Is my heart so hardened by my circumstances, or my “Religious Wisdom”, that I cannot see that it is my arrogance God is trying to cure? My sense of self-righteousness is broken on the rocks of those in need. My heart is being molded into the Character of Christ when I step out of my circumstances and learn to give, even out of my need.
“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.” Luke 7:44-46 NKJV – The Words of Jesus
Am I really willing to do for others what I say I am willing to do for Jesus?
I can push a shopping cart that an elderly person is struggling with. I can put a shopping cart away for a soccer mom who is harried by her circumstances. I don’t know what God is doing in her life, but maybe, just maybe, my act of kindness will be that one act that God uses to help her turn a corner.
We do not know what we are doing when we are urged to show kindness to a stranger. That stranger may be at a breaking point that my kindness will heal. This is a gift from God, and not of my own doing. A smile is medicine. A hug is security to someone so lost in their circumstances that they believe they are alone. Giving will soften a hard heart, both mine and theirs. Love has turned my cynicism into a willingness to believe that Jesus’ love will be translated to another person when I demonstrate it.
Am I willing to give love to the unlovely? Am I willing to give my time for someone I cannot even stand being around? It is easy for me to help people I love, or even like. It takes Christ in me to help me to love my enemies, pray for those who spitefully use me. It takes the courage only Love of Christ in you generates to kneel down and give water to someone who may be out to ruin you. Doing this in love is a blessing to them, and will soften their heart. Given for any other reason is poison.
My friend from England, an Engineer, used to tell me that I am such a jack-ass that I kick the door down, shoot everyone in the room, THEN try to determine who the bad guy is. He was right. Now, can God turn that behavior into someone who is willing to open the door, and give to everyone in the room, despite who is worthy of the gift? Yes. He can, He does and He will.
Do I wait for the Big moments. Do I want to be Moses, and be known as the friend of God? Do I want the lime light? Do I want the return on the gift instead of being willing to give out of my need?
I know myself well enough to know that I am always looking for the big moments. God will fill me with His love, grace and mercy, but my understanding of its significance is revealed in my behavior. Is there enough evidence to convict me of being like Jesus?
I praise God that I lost my job, if learning these things is what it takes to make me aware of the power and love of God.
My Prayer: My Heavenly Father. I praise your name. I glory in your mercy and grace. I pray, Lord, that you take all of us “Religious Bigots” and turn us into the very image of Christ. This especially applies to me. I am grateful you are turning my lip service into a real walk. I confess that I only had a head knowledge of you, before these circumstances. I glory that you love me enough to discipline me. I am grateful that, instead of casting me aside as completely lost, you sought me out to redeem me.
Glory to God. I praise your name. You are the helper of the hopeless, and the defender of the weak. You are my Lord. Jesus is my Savior and my Lord. Thank you for turning my heart of stone into a heart that loves. Keep me constantly in your eyes, and deliver me from my own foolishness.
I pray because I am bought with the price of Jesus’ blood, and am redeemed by His sacrifice.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Cor 6: 19 – 20
Jesus did not come into the world to make bad people good. He came here to make dead people live.