Monthly Archives: November 2008

THE ANGELS SING

 

Luke  2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”                                                               

             I’ve made it a point not to determine the validity of something on whether or not I’ve actually experienced it.  There are lots of things outside my circle of experience which I consider to be reality. . . in spite of the fact that I have not experienced them and do not understand them.  When scientists speak of a “parallel universe,” I have difficulty understanding how folks like that would have difficulty accepting the existence of anything we cannot “catch or can” within our finite understanding.

         The subject of Angels is one of those “things.”  I believe they exist, largely because the Bible says they do and that they perform a very vital and important function.  And Jesus believed in them.  That’s really all the “authority” I need to consider their existence to be real. But I don’t claim to have ever known or seen any of them “up close and personal.”

         Once, when my children (Brad and Jo Lynn) were very small, we were having a little bedtime story and a prayer before “tucking them in” for the night.  Jo and I were talking, and Brad had finished his “serious” for the evening and was apparently ignoring us now, deeply engaged as he seemed to be in a little book of his own.  She was six and Brad was five.  She asked me: “Daddy, will I be an angel when I go to Heaven?”

         “Sweetheart, as far as Daddy’s concerned, you’re an angel right now.”  I sort of viewed it as the inevitable postponing of “nightey nite,” so I touseled her hair a bit, chucked her under the chin, pulled the covers up around her and kissed her on the cheek “good night.”

         She wasn’t at all satisfied with my answer, so she posed the question again. She always would do that, and still will until this very day if necessary.  This time, I realized she had something on her mind and I didn’t want to ignore or mislead her.  I was in seminary at the time, and so I began to try to explain that angels were a special kind of God’s creation and they had special assisgnments and were messengers (that’s what angelos means in the Greek language.)  ‘Eu angelos’ (which evolved into our word for Evangelist) is the word which was attached to those who spread “The Good message.”

         I realized I was giving her more information than she (or I) had wanted or could fully comprehend.  So, I did a double-take and asked why she asked the question.

         “Well, Daddy,” she said, “I don’t know how to fly.”

         Brad, who’d seemed to be completely pre-occupied reading something, closed his little book and with stern five year old authority he answered his big sister’s question:  “Awwwwww, Sissie!  All you’ll have to do is flap your wings.”

         Decades later, that remains one of this dad’s most priceless memories of their innocent childhood!

         I’ve never met an angel.  But I believe they are among us and around us.  Jesus did, too.  And they were the heavenly “messengers” who broke the news about Jesus birth in Bethlehem.  Even if you’ve never met one in person, the message they delivered can still produce light, and joy, and life and hope in a world which is as dark and twisted as it was when He first arrived.

I hope you join with the Angels in singing:  “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, Peace, Good will toward all men.”  

~God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student    ~donkimrey  ><>   ><>   ><>


 

        

 

 

 

                                                                

                                                          

THE COMPANY HE KEEPS

  

 Luke 1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

  34″How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

 38″I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. 

          Jesus was called a “friend of publicans and sinners.”   And we’re told that the “common people heard Him gladly.

          He was one of them.  He is one of us.

         As I’ve reflected once again on the beautiful narratives of the Birth of Christ, I’ve wondered about the people who were “cast” in such an important  drama.  Why do you suppose God chose Mary?  Or Joseph? What kind of “background search” or audition would be conducted to find a suitable person for such an important role as hers?  Even though Joseph’s part was sort of in a “supporting” role, he must have been the right man for the job.  It is obvious that wealth was not a criterion for any of the positions.  Mary was very poor.  Simple.  Unsophisticated.  Probably unknown, by anyone outside her family, her neighborhood.  Going by customs which existed at that time and in those places, she was probably much too young to even obtain a ‘learner’s permit!”  Overlooked and ignored by almost everyone. . . except by God.  He placed value upon her simplicity, humility, purity.  Her complete willingness to do His will.

         There was no worldwide search for the most beautiful, likely candidate for the role in which Mary is cast.  Beauty, notoriety, wealth, impressive credentials and accomplishments simply did not figure into the equation.      

         God has identified Himself forever with the downtrodden the simple, the disenfranchised. When introducing the one who ultimately would claim the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,”  God did not confer with Heads of State.  He didn’t need or heed their advice or wealth or power.

           Think for a moment about the SHEPHERDS…WHO WERE THEY?  Not famous athletes, that is for sure.  Nor well-known scientists or scholars or Nobel Prize winners.  They were as ordinary as the guy who runs your grocery store.  Or works behind the counter at your post office. They did not dwell in an impressive, “high-rent district.”  When we’re told later that they were “abiding in the fields,” it means literally that they LIVED out there.  They did not have nice homes or convenient nine to five job with benefits.   They were certainly not high paid executives with obscene salaries, benefits and ‘golden parachutes.’  They were simple,honest and ordinary folk.  

          And wouldn’t it have made more sense if God had taken advantage of modern technology?  GPS, the internet, CNN, Around the world around the clock instant international exposure for example?  The ingredients our scientists have only recently begun to understand and use WERE IN EXISTENCE THEN.  And, really, since God inhabits eternity, time as we view it is inconsequential to Him.  He can remember the future.  From His standpoint, the past, present and future can all be viewed simultaneously…It would have been a simple matter for Him to speed up time, or slow it down, so that our high speed internet and sophisticated means of communicating globally instantly could have just as easily been at His disposal then, as well as now.  He could have summoned the greatest leaders of all time (along with their influence and wisdom)  and brought the greatest news team imaginable to break the “Story.”  He could have used the most advanced technology in existence today, as well as the unbelievable improvements that are “in the pipe,” or still germinating somewhere in the distant future in brilliant young minds.  He did not do that.

          While we’re “just thinking” let’s include The SHEPHERDS…WHO WERE THEY?  Wouldn’t it have made more sense if God had taken advantage of modern technology?  GPS (Think what an ‘addition’ that woud have been if He insisted on bringing the “Wise Men” to the birthplace!) the internet, CNN, Around the world around the clock…The ingredients our scientists have only recently begun to understand and use WERE IN EXISTENCE THEN.  

         Infinite possibilities were available.  But what God COULD have done is not what He did!  That was not the way He wanted to do things.  In my opinion, He deliberately chose the plain, simple, ordinary, poor, neglected and overlooked in order that no one anywhere could ever feel unworthy of His attention and care.  He’s often chosen the “weak things of the world to confound the wise.”  He’s done that routinely, as a matter of fact!  And continues to do so to this hour!  If, in your eyes or the eyes of others, you have considered yourself the “least likely” of persons God would choose and use. . . It may surprise you to know IN HIS SIGHT, you may be the Most likely person through whom He decides to work tomorrow morning.  That is the way He works.  And whom He uses and how He uses them and when and where is His decision, not ours.

         It was never as if He did not care for the “up and out.”  But if He’d used such to break the news of His Son’s Birth and then spread it like wildfire after He was later crucified and rose from the dead. . . Some of us would have excused ourselves.  We would likely have said: “I don’t have that kind talent.  Or that much money.  Or that much influence.  Or that much personality.”  And, you know very well as I do, that if we had by our own ingenuity managed to “pull off” such a production, we’d have claimed the credit.  We’d probably have had the choir of angels trumpeting our praise instead of His.

         When God chose those whom He used in this drama, it is another evidence that His magnificent Grace encompasses all.   None are “unworthy” or “useless” in His sight.

       If you’ve ever doubted that fact, and if it is true that ‘repetition aids learning,’ you may want to read that last sentence again.  And again!

       I’ve long believed the truth of the Incarnation, though I’m left in jaw-dropping awe when I try to fathom the depth and meaning of such an event.  But another very beautiful lesson we can learn from the accounts of the Nativity, is that God chose to use common, ordinary, simple people to make His point and get His message across.  And He used (and uses) them thereafter to take the message of the Angels to everyone else: “Unto you is born, this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student  ~donkimrey             

       

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?


 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 The Living Bible)

     If there is any truth at all in the Gospel, when we stop to think seriously, the birth of Christ is the most significant event in history.  Before He came, people of faith looked forward to His coming.  The Jews, God’s Chosen People, were picked for an assignment, namely:  To be a “Light to the Nations,” and to predict and prepare for the coming of MESSIAH.  Tomorrow morning our calendars will look back upon His arrival as though that were the central point in human history.  

     HE WAS ACTUALLY HERE, IN PERSON, AT A SPECIFIC TIME AND PLACE IN HISTORY! 

     If Jesus had not been born, none of the facts in the Christian faith would mean anything.  All the beautiful and good ever accomplished in His Name would be of no consequence. . . if, in fact, they’d ever have been accomplished in the first place, apart from the motivation He provided.  As confused and chaotic as the world seems to be today, none of us can begin to imagine what it would have been like without His influence.

     It might take an enormous effort, but if we could for a while sweep aside the irrelevant, the “chaff” . . . beautiful, sweet-smelling and sweet-sounding stuff, but “chaff” nevertheless. . . perhaps we could see, and hear, and understand what Christmas is really all about.   Or, better yet, WHOM Christmas is about.

     Before you get really caught up in the insane red and green rush to find the best buys in the latest fashion fad or the hottest contaminant-free toy and the absolute last minute “must-haves” at the mark down counter, wouldn’t it make immense sense to just stop?  And think?  Before you allow another opportunity to elude you, wouldn’t it be wise to stop and ponder?  And wonder? And experience what Christmas is really about?

     May the fullness and richness of the blessing of Christ be upon you and yours at Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and all the days of your lives 

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student  ~donkimrey~

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“TIS THE SEASON”

 

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving thanks.

 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; 
       come before him with joyful songs.

 3 Know that the LORD is God. 
       It is he who made us, and we are his [a] ; 
       we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving 
       and his courts with praise; 
       give thanks to him and praise his name.

 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; 
       his faithfulness continues through all generations. *


          We’re entering a season filled with wonderful possibilities for any thoughtful, worshipful person.  Unfortunately, both occasions coming within days of each other(Thanksgiving and Christmas) have been seized by a world-view which knows or cares very little about spiritual significance.  It is all now about profit.  “Get all you can and can all you get.”  Admittedly, there’s something captivating about the sweet, sentimental carols, the frosted, faded memories of Christmas lights and the pungent smell of evergreen trees and days gone by. But in our intoxication with the superficial, we risk losing sight of the profound.  The  “cha-ching” of the cash registers is sweeter music to the merchants’ ears than “Away in a Manger.”  The compulsion to find the latest, greatest toy, or fashion statement, or sophisticated electronic gadget seems to overpower our need to worship and plays havoc with our already over-burdened budgets and our common sense.

 

            As for Thanksgiving, I still value the stories of the early pilgrims feeling a need to express thanks for their very survival and for “harvest home.”   Scripture teaches that the “attitude of gratitude” should be constant, in good times as well as bad.  A very cursory, quick check of your Bible Concordance lists many places where “thanks, thankfulness, thanksgiving,” or related words appear.  I hope you have opportunity once again to read (and meditate upon) the beautiful One Hundredth Psalm.    

          Actually, the Bible teaches that our attitude of thankfulness should be constant. . . not just for one day, however well-intentioned we may be. . . .not just when things go the way we like.     “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).  Writing to the young church at Philippi (4:6-7), Paul told them a very important part of praying was that “with thanksgiving you should  let your requests be known unto God,” and as a result of praying that way, “the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ our Lord.”

          We’ve grown accustomed to finding the “Christmas story” in the Gospels.   In this time of “thanksgiving,” and as we turn toward Christmas, how do you like Paul’s additional reason for gratitude: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” (II Corinthians 9:15)?  What’s it all about?  Christmas.  The Message.  The Gift.  And Paul, who was far more articulate and intelligent than I, was at a complete loss for words.  No matter how he stuttered and stammered, he could not adequately, accurately describe the “Gift” God had given that first Christmas.  He tried to put into words the value of the “GIFT” which God has given. . . but simply could not pack such meaning into the limited language with which he tried to communicate.     

       I know I can’t, either.  But I’m trying.  As I’ve done before, I’m trying to examine the Scriptural accounts and inviting the Christ to recreate in me a proper sense of wonder.  A proper attitude of a grateful sinner toward the loving Saviour. 

        For your own soul’s sake, may I urge you to take time to do that.

My prayer for you is that you experience a joyous, meaningful Thanksgiving and Christmas with those whom you love.  And that you’ll know the joy and abiding peace which comes with knowing the Prince of Peace.

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student.

*Psalm 100 (New International Version)

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 byInternational Bible Society

    


THE PRODIGAL SON: THE OTHER BROTHER

PLEASE READ LUKE 15: 27-32 FOR THE CONCLUSION TO THE STORY JESUS TOLD ABOUT THE LOST SONS.  

 

            Don’t forget the other brother   there were TWO sons.  The younger one earlier in the story went off to a “far country” (Jordan and Syria were pretty close by.)  If the kind of harsh judgment and cruel intolerance existed in the ancient Middle East then as it does today, probably Iran or Iraq would not have been first choice for a young stallion who was a footloose, fancy free, eligible bachelor in search of a good time.   Perhaps Egypt, or one of the countries along the Mediterranean coast, where the “jet set” hung out, was where he headed.…As long as the money lasted; he lived it up & lost a small fortune along with the last shred of his self respect.  The other brother stayed home.  The real “hero” in the story is the man German cleric and theoligian Helmut Thielicke called “The Waiting Father.”

            Instead of walking around singing under his  breath: “I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you old rascal you,” straight up, straight out: the younger brother asked for his inheritance.  Both sons got their inheritance. (15:12).  The Prodigal immediately cashed in his chips and then high-tailed it out of town a “far country.” Jesus didn’t say where that was.  

          It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out how the younger brother felt.  He may have just gotten bored.  He was young.  Selfish.  Impatient.  Cocky.  Immature.  Irresponsible.  “I want what I want when I want it” was about the highest level of his social achievement at the time.  And when he got some money, it sounds like he quickly and completely became one ‘wild and crazy guy.’  

          In the last couple of studies, we got a picture of how the younger brother “messed up.”  And what triggered his desire and determination to “come back.”  When he finally hit “rock bottom” he also came to his senses and came home.  In a beautiful word picture, Jesus shows what Biblical repentance is about and how glad the Father is when his son returns. 

          But that doesn’t paint the picture in its entirety.

           When the father threw a spontaneous “welcome home son” party, the older brother was so upset and angry he wouldn’t even go into the house.    In this light, his true character surfaces as self-righteous.  Judgmental.  Petulant.  When he got his ‘nose out of joint, he pouted and acted like a spoiled brat.  Sibling rivalry took the form of enraged jealousy.   (15:28 -29)…”All these years    (we do not know how many) I worked for you like a slave.”  Does it come out now what a sweet, loveable, loving son he is?  All the time, he’s been secretly resentful of his Father.  

             When he stayed outside the house, I couldn’t help wondering if this weren’t sort of typical of his conduct. Perhaps he often took to standing over there in the shadows… eavesdropping on conversations.  Rifling through mail and personal, private belongings.  I’ve seen the type. Sneaky.  Resenting his brother.  He was so upright and uptight.   He was at home all the time, but was simply doing his duty, expecting recognition and reward and resenting his brother. If word ever leaked back about the ‘T.P.’s’ wild shenanigans, you can almost imagine the Older Brother saying: ”I knew he’d never come to anything good.  Let him rot in the pig pen or the penitentiary…Why should I care? “  I can almost hear him defending his callousness saying like Cain:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  And I want to tell him: “Nope.  But you are your brother’s brother!”

             He should have been happy his brother was back, if for no other reason than just for the fact it made his Dad so very happy.  He resented the brother for returning.  He clearly deeply resented his Dad for welcoming him home.  His attitudes are always near the surface: Self-righteous.  Self-seeking, self-serving. 

 

            He automatically assumed the worst of his brother.  (15:30)   Even though the father had officially given his sons the money, the older brother said:  Your Son Wasted all of YOUR money on prostitutes.  The Bible doesn’t’ say that; it merely says he wasted his substance in ‘riotous living.’  Have you ever noticed how some people automatically assume the very worst in others?  And sometimes that gives you an insight into how they think . . . who they really are behind the mask they wear. . . what they themselves would do, if given the opportunity.  They’re the kind who accuse others of the dark secrets and skeletons concealed in their own lives.    “O.B.” unloaded on his father and revealed that he thought the worst of his brother:  His dad, almost delirious with joy that the ‘long lost son’ had finally returned, went out to see what the problem was.  (15:30) The older brother spoke of him as his son of  “Yours”…didn’t even address him as “my brother.”   

          The younger one went out and had himself a rip-roaring good time!  Don’t forget that while the younger brother was away, the other brother got to live on the farm rent-free.  Room and board  were provided. He had a steady job and a sense of security and well-being.    No great risk or sacrifice was involved, apparently.  It seems to me he was ‘making out like a bandit.’ And it still wasn’t enough for him.  Have you noticed how selfish, greedy people never have enough?  They want theirs and yours.  Sibling rivalry is as old as time.  From Cain and Abel to Dickie and Tommy Smothers…It seems an undercurrent of jealousy runs in some families.  Sometimes it can become dangerous.  Occasionally, even deadly.

          Do you know what?  Can you face a harsh fact of life?  Let’s suppose you found yourself in the role of the “younger brother” and have had a lapse of your faith.  For whatever reason, you left ‘home.’  “Messed up,” maybe big time.  Finally realized what it had cost you, came to your senses, and decided to return to God.  Return to Christ.  And His Church.  The truth of the matter is this:  Some of your siblings (and, sadly, religious professionals aren’t exempt from this weakness) will not be delirious with joy at your return.  That is their problem, not yours.  So long as the Father welcomes you home (It is, after all, His Church), you can rejoice that you made the right decision. 

        Rejoice in the fact that HE WILL ALWAYS WELCOME YOU HOME.

And it IS HIS HOME.  AND YOU ARE HIS CHILD!

God’s servant, your friend, brother and fellow student                    ~donkimrey


        RANDOM AFTERTHOUGHTS:  The younger was probably the more likeable of the two brothers.   You’d  have enjoyed hanging out with him.  He was the life of the party.    

           This is my final posting on The Prodigal, one of God’s ‘COMEBACK KIDS.”  The studies for the next few weeks will concentrate on the birth of Christ.  Again, the questions for which I’m seeking answers are:  (1.) Why did God choose this place for the entrance of His Son into earthly history?  (2.)  Why did God select the cast of characters? to play out their roles in this drama.   (3.)  Why did He decide on this particular time in world history?  Wouldn’t it have been easier, say, if He’d done it in our time with instant international access and exposure through the internet?    

           IN PREPARATION for future postings, I have been considering: Simon Peter,  King David, Samson, Jacob/Israel, and others.  I believe it’s a pretty common occurrence in Scripture, for someone to fall or fail, or get knocked off stride. . . and then triumph over adversity and return to a place of service.  My study of Sripture has convinced me it is not a study of “man’s quest for God.”  That is not the case at all.  In most instances, I feel the opposite has been true.  Man, by nature, rebels, resists, defies, denies God and goes to all kinds of clever ruses to elude Him.  The reality is that G OD IS THE ONE WHO DOES THE SEARCHING, THE PURSUING.  THE RESCUING.  THE FINDING, THE CLEANSING, FORGIVING AND RESTORING OF THOSE WHO WERE LOST.  He never gives up on His “sheep,” even when they stray away and stay away. 

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THE PRODIGAL: WELCOME HOME, SON

       “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself: ‘At
home, even the hired men have food enough, and to spare.  I will go
home to my father and say: I have sinned against Heaven and am no more
worthy to be called your son.  Please take me as a hired hand….

          So, he returned to his father.  And while he was still a
long distance away, his father saw him coming and was filled with
loving pity and ran out and embraced him. . . his father said to his
slaves:  ‘Quick, bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him.
 And a jeweled ring.  And shoes….And kill the calf we have in the
fattening pen.  We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine
was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.

           So the party began.                                                                                                                                                                        

 Luke  15:17-24  THE LIVING BIBLE

        We spent a good bit of time discussing how the Prodigal finally “came to his senses” and came home.  And we listened to the speech he composed and rehearsed on his way back.  Surely, like some of us, he was very sorry and ashamed of his performance.  The highest point of the story, it seems to me, was when the Waiting Father rushed out to meet the Prodigal and hushed the son before he could finish his prepared speech.  Without scolding, he said:  “That’s not necessary my boy!  Let’s have a party.  Let’s celebrate!  My son, Welcome home!  Welcome home, my son!”

          If Jesus had been giving a play instead of telling a story, this is the point that would have probably brought the house down.  It would certainly have been the highlight of the play for me.  Isn’t it amazing how Jesus told such simple stories so beautifully and powerfully to make His points? Jesus was saying, “your Father in Heaven is like that.  You come home, and He’ll come out to meet you.  Be done then with self-recriminations.  Accept His gracious invitation and “Welcome Home, Dear Child.”

          I never learned to whistle loudly like a pro.  When I played baseball, I used to envy the guys who could fold their tongue up in a contorted fashion, or put a couple little pinkies in the corners on their mouths, and cut loose with a shrill sound that could wake the dead.  From dead away centerfield, they could rattle eardrums in the stands. My DAUGHTER can do that with the “best of ‘em” and every mom or dad who attends her sons’ athletic events in Atlanta will agree in stunned silence, ears ringing after such an exemplary demonstration.  You ever of ‘Whistler’s Mother?’  Meet ‘Whistler’s father!”

          At a time like this, I’d love to be able to whistle like that.  In coming out to meet the boy, embracing him lovingly, throwing a feast, Jesus was telling us something wonderful about God:  We don’t need to be estranged from Him.  He never wants that.  Never!   He always wants us to be where we should be, and be welcome in the security of His love.   He forgives freely.  And he doesn’t hold grudges!  I tell you something:  That realization is thrilling!   It’s enough to cause applause that would rattle the rafters and create loud, long, uproarious standing ovations!  “T.P.” didn’t need to leave in the first place.  He didn’t have to stay away for so long either.  When that boy, ragged, broken, dirty and ashamed, came stumbling home, he was restored to his family position (the ring served as a symbol of that) and was guest of honor at a party on a Happy Day for the Father.           

          Earlier in my life I had the opportunity to work in a series of meetings with Dr. Calvin Thielman.  He served for many years as Senior Minister at the little church Ruth and Billy Graham attended in the village of Black Mountain in North Carolina.  Along with the great Dr. W. A. Criswell, I suppose he sort of served as “co-pastor” to the Grahams.  Calvin was a marvelous preacher.  I understand that he unofficially provided material for some of Dr. Graham’s work and some of the other associate evangelists.  I can easily understand why.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Calvin referred me to a Scottish minister, Alexander Maclaren’s book, Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush.  It contained a story about Flora, a young woman who left home under less than happy circumstances.  She and her Dad, Lachlan, were at odds, and the young lady thought she could do better out on her on.  It didn’t work out that way. Finally, after years in London, ill and close to desperation, she made up her mind to go home and “face the music” and perhaps try to mend some fences before it was too late.  I pick up the story as she makes  her way back home.   Hesitantly: 

          All the way along the glen the last words of the psalm still rang in her ears, “Rejoicing shall return,” but as she touched the footpath to her home, courage failed her. Flora had written about her dead mother, but no one could speak with authority about her father. She knew the pride of his religion and his iron principles. If he refused to let her come home, then it had been better for her to have died in London.  A turn of the path brought her within sight of the cottage, and her heart came into her mouth, for the kitchen window was a blaze of light. One moment she feared Lachlan might be ill but in the next she understood, and in the greatness of her joy she ran the rest of the way. When she reached the door, her strength had departed, and she was not able to knock. But there was no need, for the dogs, who never forget nor cast off, were bidding her welcomewith short joyous yelps of delight, and she could hear her father feeling for the latch, which for once could not be found, and saying nothing but “Flora, Flora.”

         “She had made up some kind of speech, but the only word she ever said was “Father,” for Lachlan, who had never even kissed her all the days of her youth, clasped her in his arms and sobbed out blessings over her head, while the dogs licked her hands with their soft, kindly tongues. 

           “‘It iss a peety you hef not the Gaelic,” Flora said to Marget  afterwards; “it iss the best of all languages for loving. There are fifty words for darling, and me fither would be calling me every one that night I came home.’”         

            That’s sort of like the point Jesus was making.  You don’t need to be hesitant.  If you’ve been “away from home,” your father wants you to return much more than you want to return.  What more encouragement could you need to begin your journey back to faith?

  God’s servant, your brother, friend and fellow student,  ~donkimrey

          A concluding thought:    I’m probably going to complete this present study next time.  After the first of the year, I’l introduce some more of God’s “Comeback Kids.”  I’m serious about wanting you to find out how they did it.  And when you do that, I feel very confident that someone, somewhere, sometime is going to say: “If they can do it, so can I.”In the meanwhile, my heart and mind are focusing on Christmas.  I hope you’ll do the same.  Specifically, I’m asking myself several questons, for which I hope to find some answers in Scripture.  (1.)  Why did God cast those people (Mary. Joseph. The shepherds? The wise men?)  in what was undoubtedly the great centerpiece of history?  Not a celebrity among them.  Not a single Ph.D. or Nobel Price winner!   (2.)  Why did God pick that PLACE in time and history?   (3.) Why did God decide to introduce His Son in that barren, nearly desert land?  Couldn’t He have selected a more scenic backdrop for this great drama?   Think about it.  Share your thoughts with me.  Watch what that will do to your own appreciation for the introduction of the Light of the Word into the darkness that existed “in those days.”

 

 

THE PRODIGAL: THE HOUR OF DECISION

Introduction:  THE CONTEXT FOR THIS STUDY IS LUKE 15:10~31.  EMPHASIS IS PLACED MOST LARGELY ON VERSES 14-19, WHERE WE COME UPON A NOT SO PRETTY PICTURE.  I SUGGEST AGAIN THAT YOU READ THE SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNT PRAYERFULLY FOR YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WORRY ABOUT WHAT SOMEONE ELSE MAY THINK.  YOUR INSIGHTS AND DISCOVERIES WILL PROBABLY BE AS VALID AS ANYTHING ANYONE ELSE FINDS   . . . AND THEY MAY BE EVEN MORE VALUABLE TO YOU BECAUSE THEY’RE YOURS!   ~dk

          I keep reminding me of my reason for doing this site, namely: to provide reason for hope, assurance of your personal worth in God’s sight, and help for anyone who may have felt lost or forgotten or worthless to find the “way back home.” 

          The story Jesus told about the “Waiting Father” with two lost sons, is a wonderful story about such possibilities.  While we aren’t familiar with the customs of the ancient times, it’s very clear in Jesus’ mind that the younger son in his story had committed some grievous offenses.  Not the least of which was breaking his Dad’s heart.  The points must not be lost:  (1.)  We are more often like one of the sons. . . either the one impulsively or deliberately doing wrong, leaving “home” and wasting his life living selfishly or recklessly with complete disregard for his father or the consequences.  Or, (2), perhaps, we fit more into the role of the self-righteous son who stayed behind sitting in harsh indignation and self-righteous judgment of the brother who “wasted” his life and still managed to work his way back into the Father’s good graces. I mean, after all, wasn’t he the law-abiding, church-going, respectable “rock?”   

          Have you ever experienced or observed sibling rivalry that’s degenerated into angry envy? 

          For the third figure, Jesus paints the picture of the waiting father as being very much like our Heavenly Father.  Patient.  Loving.  Forgiving.  Welcoming us back and not holding our sins/mistakes against us.  Even trying to reconcile the wild, rebellious “young buck” with the cautious, calculating older brother. 

          The story is a powerful picture of another “Comeback Kid.”  You can put your own name and face in any place where it fits.

          As I reflect, I keep looking specifically for (1.) reasons he “messed up” (That’s my attempt to find a apt ‘catch-all’ term that describes a wide variety of major and minor sins on our part.).  (2.) How he made his “comeback.” And (3.) how, therefore, I also may “come back” when I’ve failed, fallen, gotten tripped up, pushed, shoved, crushed or beaten up in defeat, ground up, chewed up & spit out or whatever.

          After the last post, this thought emerged and weighed heavy on my mind.  THE PRODIGAL HAD TO MAKE A DECISION.  That is so obvious I almost overlooked it!  Think a bit.  T.P. felt bad.  Really bad!  As he well should have.  He was as low as he could go, and he could have just stayed there and wallowed and rotted in self-pity.  And been forgotten for all time!

          As unlikely as it may seem, this scene became the setting for what Dr. Billy Graham would later call: an “hour of Decision!”  Without the benefit of a mirror, the young man took a long, honest, hard look at himself and did not at all like what he saw.  He understood perfectly what he had become and where he was headed.  At that precise moment, something clicked inside:  “That’s enough of this nonsense!” he must have said.  “My Father treats his hired help better than this.  This is not where I belong, and I’m not going to stay here a moment longer.  I’m going home.”

          That was his decision.  The speech he composed there and rehearsed on the way home was secondary.  The main thing is: “He DECIDED.” He put his will in gear!  It was never enough that he felt bad, or was ashamed or heart broken.  Emotion does not have a lot to do with his “comeback.”  Reason wasn’t the final factor that did it.  Any rational person would have agreed he’d made a mess, and T.P. could have said “you know, you’re absolutely right!” and stayed in the mess.  It had to do with volition at this point.  The DECISION was made at the level of his WILL.  And when he realized the gravity of the wrong he’d done and the mess he’d made of his life, his regrets (emotion) affirmed what his mind (his reason) confirmed.

           Added together, that produced the smartest decision he’d made in a long, long time.  Perhaps the smartest decision he’d made in his life.  I can see him slinging the slop bucket across the pen, sending the pigs squealing, giving them a “permanent wave” (I actually heard an old Southern preacher use that once as a sermon title!).  Maybe he’d actually been inside the pen “slopping the hawgs,” and I can see him summoning strength and joy he’d forgotten he had, and with a happy whoopee,  vaulting over the fence, pausing only long enough to get his bearings. . . and striking out for HOME!

          But if you think HIS joy was great, wait till you see his Father’s reception.  And wait until you hear Jesus say: “There’s joy in heaven over the lost son’s return!”

          Whatever mistakes I may have made for whatever reasons, feeling bad about them is not all that needs to be done.  Guilt.  Bitter shame.  Remorse. . .  None of it is worth a trough full of hog slop!  I need to make a decision.  When the Bible uses the word: “Repent,” that is what the writer has in mind.  I need to sop going in the wrong direction.  The Military says it exactly: “Halt!”  Dead in your tracks. “About Face!”  Then “Forward march!” in the opposite direction. 

          Life has a way of forcing us to make decisions.  We get hemmed in and must decide to do something about our situation.  If you’ve run out of options and all it seems you deal too often with are dead-ends, that just may be God’s way of making you face yourself.  And helping you to “come to your senses” and decide to return to Him.

A servant, a brother, friend, and fellow student              ~donkimrey~

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