Coming Home to Father

Rembrandt’s, “Parable of the Prodigal’s Son”

“He was yet a great way off, his father saw him.”

Luke 15:20

The boy had, in the far-away country, a vision of his old home. As he sat there and thought of his dishonor and his ruin, there flashed before him a picture which made him very home-sick. The vision brought back the old home in all its beauty and blessedness. There was plenty there, while here the once happy, favored son was now starving to death.

It was a blessed moment for the prodigal. It was God’s message to him, inviting him to return home. When a child is stolen away from a lovely and tender household, it may be kept among wandering gypsies or savage Indians even to old age, but there are always broken fragments of sweet memories that hang over the soul like trailing clouds in the sky — dim, shadowy memories of something very lovely, very pure, reminiscences of that long-lost, long-forgotten past, when the child lay on the mother’s arms, and was surrounded by beauty and tenderness.

So there is something in the heart of every one who has wandered from God that ever floats about him, even in sin’s revels — a fair, ethereal vision, dim and far away perhaps, but splendid as the drapery of the sunset. It is the memory of lost innocence, of the Father’s love, the vision of a heavenly beauty possible of restoration to the worst.

When the prodigal reached home he found his vision realized. His father was watching for him — had long been watching for him. It is a picture of the heavenly Father’s loving welcome of every lost child of His that comes back home. Thus He receives the worst who comes penitently. Our sweetest dreams of God’s love are a thousand times too poor and dim for the reality. A great way off God sees the returning prodigal, and runs to meet him. No matter how far we have wandered, there is a welcome waiting for us at home.

JR Miller

 


I have had to edit Pastor Miller’s comments a bit, but absolutely nothing to its original content or integrity. Whatever he has written carries the content he was realizing. I posted this on BB because of his sincere message and burden.

–Pastor Bryan 

 

 

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Change (for the Unchangeable)

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I stagger over the patience of God for my soul. Sometimes repeated forays into sin become all I can see. I am the prototypical sinner, and it’s hard to believe anyone else could be as stubborn as me. But grace is always found, when I return to Him.

I do know that growing up has much to do with time spent with Him. Coming into Jesus’ presence, by faith, is my ‘life task.’ I know this to be true.

“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts,
    who tremble at my word.”

Isaiah 66:2

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Filthy Rags

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18 “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, New Living Translation

“How can you be so inconsistent? I feel like there are two ‘Bryans,’ I don’t understand how you  can live like this.” This is what a dear friend said to me recently. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to answer. It was a bit embarrassing, but I couldn’t respond. Later, the Spirit ministered to me while praying about it.

I realize I should have said this: You’re absolutely right, I am a bit of a flake. But you only see the veneer, deep down  I’m much worse than you will ever know. I can’t defend my actions, and I desperately need a Savior. Would you pray for me to work this out?”

The daily struggle with sin is sometimes more visible than we would like. Even as a believer I can and do sin. That should surprise no one, and yet, I am the most surprised when sin breaks out. (Inconsistently is a factor in Bipolar disorder, but it’s more than that.)

In Romans 7 we are confronted with a man  who is constantly disappointed in himself. It can be wrenching to read—partly because it is so real. It describes us too well. At times it is like looking into a mirror.

Romans 7 describes what is wrong with us, who are attempting to keep the law from our own efforts. We slide into this from grace when we attempt to stand before God in our self-righteousness. We have a strong tendency to do this at times. We venerate holiness, but we fall woefully short. We aspire, but cannot attain.

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.”

Isaiah 64:6

We have a problem when our heart doesn’t match our actions. It gets a little hairy when our sin is visible to others. We feel like hypocrites and taste guilt like it was sour milk. We’re certain we’ve shamed Christ in some irrevocable way. Now a lot of this can be satanic, he is “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev 12:10). We should neutralize his influence with the Word.

Whenever we stand before God, we should never come with our list of great things we have recently done for Him. It won’t be accepted. They are at best, filthy rags. They’re not fit for a King’s court. But yet we keep coming, parading our dirty rags. Self-righteousness is repugnant to a Holy God. I wonder when we strut into His presence if the angels don’t ‘roll their eyes?’

“The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”

Charles Spurgeon

We forget that only Christ’s righteousness is accepted. Heaven is satisfied with His atoning blood that covers sin. The tension we feel in Romans 7 is there because it turns us away from our self-effort. Our ‘confusion’ over this chapter indicates the depth of our attempt to be righteous on our own.

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They Are Bread for Us! [Challenges]

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Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” 10 Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.”

Numbers 14:9-10

Exactly, how do we see our challenges? During the time of Moses and Joshua, and when the land of Canaan [still out there] had yet to be conquered, was still waiting, this happened. But there were many [most] who wanted out. In their limited experience, they saw some serious problems– disaster, becoming a slaughter. They were terrified.

An attempt to stall this insurgency, a few speak up. They call it what it is– rebellion. The people [enmass] begin to organize. More a mob than a crowd, things get nasty. Moses stands up, and speaks loud enough to be heard. [He is not a public speaker.] And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

Many times we have to choose. The decision to follow Him is almost always dangerous. It requires daring ideas, and is against much of we label common sense. People will always speak doubtful things, and we find little support for our faith to launch out.

Bread is there to build us up. It is good food that might strengthen us. It becomes the metaphor for strength that increases. I grew up with “Popeye” eating spinach out of a can. He found lots of energy, with amazing new abilities. [It almost persuaded me to eat it.] The enemies in the land may seem to be formidable, and without the presence of God they were.

But we are really strengthened by our foes. That which did not weaken us, but only made us stronger. What is bread? Why it is “the staff of life.” In 1 Corinthians 16:9, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”

Victory is never easy. It would be easy if it is always found in a can of spinach. But it is not. It is exclusive to the “presence” of God. Our foes will only fortify us. And that’s a promise for you.

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The Scum of the Earth, [Identity]

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“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”

1 Corinthians 4:11-13, NIV

The apostle Paul isn’t ashamed to be called ‘scum.’ He realizes that this is his ‘standing’ in this world’s opinion. He is regarded as a nobody and of little value. A tension exists between the believer and the world system. The expectations that the world has is part of the package that we have been given. The message of the Cross is the ultimate foolishness. Jesus told his own disciples that:

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

John 15:18-19, NLT

 The world hates us because we belong to Jesus. It is his reproach we bear. We should not see the trial and sorrows as our issue, and we shouldn’t get upset by the world’s snub. The tension is real and we can expect being ostracized. In fact, we should anticipate it.

Hatred is a hard word. And the stigma should humble us— it has a supernatural orgin. We shouldn’t expect otherwise. To follow Jesus means we will only experience what he is already gone through. Some of us will follow him even to martyrdom. The hardships and challenges do not invalidate our walk, rather they confirm what he said would happen. The world is under seige by Sattan,  the unband it is his spirit that controls the unbelieving world.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

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Father of all comfort, please come to your servants who are suffering for their faith in you. Meet them and hold them close to you. Give them boldness and awareness. Seek them out and make them your witnesses in a hostile world. Give them the Spirit of Jesus and help them overcome by their love. ~In Jesus Name, Amen

 

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Bitter Water, [The Cross]

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24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him.”

Exodus 15

In this brief narration we have a graphic portrait of the condition of many within the Church today. The situation is becoming critical and its effects are devastasting. Some call it ‘crossless Christianity,’ ‘cheap grace’ or the ‘new cross.’ The writer of Exodus 15 calls it ‘bitter water.’

The children of Israel had begun to murmur. They demanded water for the long and hot journey through the Sinai desert. Coming to the ‘springs of Marah’ they discovered it bitter and undrinkable.

Moses responds directly to directly quell this potential rebellion. He begins to cry out to the Lord (what else can you do?) and begs the Lord for wisdom. He must know the next step.  So Moses cried out to the Lord for help,”

There was a tree, a piece of wood, and when that wood was tossed into the waters, the water were made sweet.

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Today– people are waiting— searching for water. And never, ever has there been such a desperate search. They stampede to any new well on the horizon, and they search for anything.  Any well will do. Most will seek there lives away, only to perish at the ‘end.’ They’re chasing a mirage.

The Church is to be a well, an oasis in a dry and desperate land. But the water is becoming ‘bitter.’ We have defiled it with ‘sin and self.’ Friends, please understand— the ‘bitterness’ of our ‘uncrucified’ flesh pollutes our wells. We have poisoned our own selves.

We need ‘the cross.’ It is a sweet source for our ‘bitterness.’

We must return to ‘the old rugged cross.’ We need to embrace its reality again. Jesus, himself said this: “Whoever doesn’t bear his cross, and follow me cannot be my disciple.’ Those who followed after Him needed no preacher to interpret.

Rome had a nasty habit of executing her criminals publicly. Everyone who had listened to Jesus Christ had seen people crucified.

One Roman general, after suppressing a Jewish rebellion crucified 2,000 men at one time. The roads into Jerusalem were lined with crosses of dying men. This was done purposefully and publicly.

Every man and woman would see the terrible price of resisting Rome. This would result in death, and there are no halfway about it. A cross is a radical thing. There is nothing ‘halfway’ about it. It demands ‘no less than all.”

The Cross is in danger of being misinterpreted’ today. Our cross seems somehow different. It seems softer, and more padded, it doesn’t rub us the wrong way.” It allows us much: our favorite habits, our prideful ways, and our self-centered ideas. It would seem that what we call ‘our cross’ has a built-in ‘life-support’ system that keeps our old man alive just a little bit longer.

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Dr. A.W. Tozer in an article entitled “The Old Cross and the New” wrote:

“The new cross is not opposed to the human race, rather it is a friendly pal, and if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun, and innocent enjoyment. His life motivation is unchanged, he still lives for his own pleasure, only he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious films, instead of singing bawdy songs, and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is on a higher plane morally, if not intellectually.The new cross does not slay the sinner, but redirects him.”

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for an abrupt and violent end of a human being.

 “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”

2 Corinthians 13:5

Are we really carrying the cross of the Bible? Is our faith real? Are we carrying the real cross? We cannot be really His disciples unless we do so, and we are apostate if we do not.

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Mark 8:34

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A Jubilate Discipleship: Psalm 95

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A Psalms Study

“Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord.
    Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let’s sing songs to him,
because the Lord is the great God,
    the great King over all gods.
The deepest places on earth are his,
    and the highest mountains belong to him.
The sea is his because he made it,
    and he created the land with his own hands.

Come, let’s worship him and bow down.
    Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us,
because he is our God
    and we are the people he takes care of,
    the sheep that he tends.

Today listen to what he says:

Psalm 95:1-7, NCV

Such joy: it just bubbles through the words. This is a psalm saturated with excitement. These first seven verses are ‘carbonated joy.’ They pronounce an excitement of a living God that excels in every way. These are simple words made to escort us into a true worship, unlike any other. We might use the word, “jubilant” when hearing this psalm. And we wouldn’t be far off.

“The Lord is the great God,” and He is the King of any ‘so-called’ gods. Everything concerning the earth is His doing– for He created it, with His own hands! And our creating God is also our Shepherd, tending and caring for us as His very own flock.

These verses extol our God, to the point of exuberance. It channels us to the point of worship upon our knees, with the realization of the greatness of God. But this Psalm continues for four more verses.

Today listen to what he says:
“Do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were at Meribah,
    as they were that day at Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me
    and tried me even though they saw what I did.
10 I was angry with those people for forty years.
    I said, ‘They are not loyal to me
    and have not understood my ways.’
11 I was angry and made a promise,
    ‘They will never enter my rest.’”

Psalm 95:7-11

There are two parts to Psalm 95. The first is of jubilant worship. But the second part emphasizes a solid obedience. The phrase, “Today listen to what he says:’ welds these two sections together.

Worship must always lead to obedience. You can do ‘cartwheels’ on Sunday morning, as long as you follow Him on Monday.

The issue is an history lesson that goes back to Israel’s days of Moses and the days following the Exodus. Because they were so hard and stubborn, they would wander for forty years in the desert. Their continued ‘stubbornness’ not only closed off the Promised Land, but also closed off their relationship with God— a relationship that would’ve been ‘jubilant’ and  profound (at the same time). They missed out on verses 1-6 and settled on verses 8-11. How tragically sad.

There is a thread that works through scripture called “the rest of God.” The book of Hebrews uses in 12x usually as a warning:“Now, since God has left us the promise that we may enter his rest, let us be very careful so none of you will fail to enter.” (Heb. 4:1).

 “Let us try as hard as we can to enter God’s rest so that no one will fail by following the example of those who refused to obey.”

Heb.4:11

To be in God’s rest is to be in harmony with Him. It is a mixture of confident faith mixed with a careful obedience. When you combine these two, you have the recipe for joy.

I believe this rest is the believer’s place of joy, peace and confident faith. It obeys because it really wants to. It is Psalm 95:1-7 in action. It is for the jubilant Christian.

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