Prodigal Love

Art by Aaron and Alan Hicks

“In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” Ephesians 1:5-8

Prodigal love is lavish love. It is love freely and seemingly recklessly given. Today’s gospel lesson told of the reckless, seeming wastefully spent love of a father on a son who who had squandered the inheritance he received from his father and had returned broke and broken. The father’s prodigal love cared not what looked appropriate as he ran to wrap his son in his embrace and welcome him home. Robing him in fine clothes, feeding him a feast, and serenading him with celebratory song–all fit for a prince, not a wayward son. Such was the father’s prodigal love.

Such is the love of God for me…and for you. It is the same prodigal love. God the Father did not spare His beloved Son. That is why Jesus came to earth–to give his life, freely, recklessly, without reserve. His life for ours. On the Cross He wore our sins so that we might be robed in His righteousness. He comes running to find us wherever we are and to fold us into His embrace. He tells us He has prepared a home in Heaven for all who believe in Him, who return to Him and accept His prodigal love.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened…I will give you rest.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

We may be prodigals, but we have an even greater Prodigal Father!

A New Creation

You[will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
   and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-2 ESV

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to theLord,”
   and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32: 1-5 ESV


17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[ the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV

As beautiful as these orchids are, they pale in comparison to the beauty of our status before our Almighty God, the Creator of the world–we are forgiven through faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ. Isaiah spoke of this forgiveness. The Psalm writer wrote about this forgiveness. St. Paul wrote about our status as a “new creation.” No sin is dark enough. No circumstance is hopeless enough that God’s mercy cannot reach you. During this season of Lent our Lord calls us back to Himself. He calls us to turn away from our idols and to look at Him alone–even as He looked upon us as He hung from the Cross with love to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. May the beauty of God’s Word strengthen you and give you hope this day.

Boundless Love

Jesus, Thy boundless love to me no thought can reach, no tongue declare; Unite my thankful heart to Thee, and reign without a rival there!  Thine wholly, Thine alone I am; be Thou alone my constant flame.

O grant that nothing in my soul may dwell, but Thy pure love alone; oh, may Thy love possess me whole, my joy, my treasure and my crown!  All coldness from my heart remove;  my every act, word, thought be love.

This love unwearied I pursue and dauntlessly to Thee aspire.  Oh, may Thy love my hope renew, burn in my soul like heav’nly fire!  And day and night,  be all my care to guard this sacred treasure there.

In suff’ring be Thy love my peace, in weakness be Thy love my pow’r; and when the storms of life shall cease, O Jesus, in that final hour, be Thou my rod and staff and guide, and draw me safely to Thy side!

Hymn text by Paul Gerhardt, 1703-91

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.”  Ephesians 1:7-8

Lord God, Heavenly Father, thank you for your boundless, endless mercy and love which you poured out upon us through your dear Son, Jesus Christ!  You never stop forgiving us.  You never stop loving us even when we are at our most unloveable.  Help us to remember the gift of grace you gave to us at our Baptism that continues to bless and benefit us each and every day.  Accept our humble thanks and praise.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

Saturday Spiritual Sensibilities

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:30-32

Only by the Spirit of God am I able to speak lovingly, forgive freely, and listen sincerely.   My sinful nature, by contrast, on its own can do nothing but dwell and swell with negative thoughts that eventually erupt into hurtful words that tear down rather than build up.  I need St. Paul’s reminder of who I am–I am one who has been sealed, marked, stamped with God’s Holy Name as one belonging to Christ crucified.  I often fail to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving because sin is still a part of my life, but God’s grace and mercy is endless.  He forgives me in Christ and He enables me to begin anew–loving, listening and forgiving.  Thanks be to God!

 

I Am Content

I am content!  My Jesus ever lives, in whom my heart is pleased.  He has fulfilled the Law of God for me, God’s wrath He has appeased.  Since He in death could perish never, I also shall not die forever.  I am content!  I am content!

I am content!  My Jesus is my head;  His member I shall be.  He bowed His head when on the cross He died with cries of agony.  Now death is brought into subjection for me by Jesus’ resurrection.  I am content!  I am content!

I am content!  My Jesus is my light, my radiant sun of grace.  His cheering rays beam blessings forth for all, sweet comfort, hope and peace.  This Easter sun has brought salvation and everlasting exultation.  I am content!  I am content!

I am content!  At length I shall be free, awakened from the dead, arising glorious evermore to be with You, my living head.  The chains that hold my body, sever;  Then shall my soul rejoice forever.  I am content!  I am content!

Hymn text by Johann J. Moller, 1600-1733

“And He [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  Luke 24:46-47

God’s Face

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“‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
   the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’

Numbers 6: 24-26

Lord God, thank You for turning Your face towards us through Your Son Jesus Christ who always kept His face turned on You.  Even on the Cross when You turned away from Him because He was covered with the filth of all our sins He turned to You and asked You to forgive us.  And You did.  We don’t deserve anything good from Your Hand, but because of Jesus You lavish upon us Your never ending goodness and mercy and love.  How great is Your love for us!  May we share Your peace with those we meet this day.  For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.

Friendship

 

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“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4: 29-32.

Lord God, thank you for friends.  May we cherish them, seek the best for them, and speak well of them always.  Thank you for being our friend.  For loving us when we were unloveable, forgiving us when we did not deserve it, for saving us from sin and death.  By your Holy Spirit help us this day to be a friend to the friendless and to love them even as we have been loved by you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Without A Doubt

DSCF006519 So when it was evening on that same day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were [meeting] behind barred doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, [i]Peace to you.” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy. 21 Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].” 22 And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven [because of their faith]; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained [and remain unforgiven because of their unbelief].”

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later His disciples were again inside the house, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, though the doors had been barred, and stood among them and said, Peace to you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but [stop doubting and] believe.” 28 Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me].”

30 There are also many other signs (attesting miracles) that Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name.  John 20:19-31 Amplified Bible

 

Without a doubt God gives us what we need to hear about who He is, what He’s done, and what He continues to do through the lives of those who believe in Him.

We may not be given all the answers to all the questions that we have, but we have enough.

Doubts come to us all at some point.  Like Thomas we want proof such as nail holes and a spear gash that we can touch and see.

And yet, we do have tangible signs of His presence in our lives–the Waters of Baptism, the Bread and Wine and His Word which is living and active. These all do wonderful things to us and for us in our lives of faith.

We may have our doubts, but God has us firmly in the palm of His Hand!

Thank You Lord for giving us Your Word which never fails!  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit that gives us insight into Your truth and strengthens our faith.  Continue to draw us to You through Your precious Word, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

God-Affirmer

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

“Count yourself lucky,

how happy you must be–

you get a fresh start,

your slate wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky–

God holds nothing against you

and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,

my bones turned to powder,

my words became day long groans.

The pressure never let up;

all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;

I said,

“I’ll make a clean break of my failures to God.”

Suddenly, the pressure was gone.

Everyone of us needs to pray;

when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts

we’re on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,

keeps danger far from the shore,

throws garlands of hosannas

around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;

I’m looking you in the eye

and giving it to you straight:

“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule

that needs bit and bridle to stay on track.”

God-defilers are always in trouble;

God-affirmers find themselves

loved every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.

Sing together everyone

All you hones, hearts,

raise the roof!”

Psalm 32

~Paraphrased by Eugene Peterson

in The Message

Lord God, because of the gracious work of Christ on the Cross and the gift of faith you have made me a God-affirmer.  By the power of the Holy Spirit I can acknowledge you as Lord of my life.  When my sins wear me down, I can come to you freely, confess them, and receive your unburdening forgiveness.  I can shout Hallelujah, Praise You God!  Thank you for your “island” security and your promise to never leave me alone.  I love you!  Amen.

No Place Too Far

Photo by Charl Christiani

Photo by Charl Christiani

Nehemiah’s Prayer

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.  I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house have committed against you.  We have acted very wickedly toward you.  We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

* * * * *

“Remember the instruction you gave  your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

* * * * *

“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.  O Lord, let your ear be attentive to this prayer of his servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your  name.  Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

Nehemiah 1:5-11

Flung far from God by my own sins and prideful rebellion,

by my own willfulness and stubbornness,

my refusal to acknowledge Him

in all my ways

there is One

who humbles Himself before

His Father’s throne

and pleads on my behalf,

‘Father, forgive her.

I gave my life for her.

You raised me from the dead

so that I could intercede

for her and give her life.’

The ears of the Father tune in to His Son’s

request

and arms that are not so far off

embrace me,

enfold me

bid me come

to Him

to trust Him with all

that I have,

to clean up my mess,

and make me whole.

Lord God Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing me near to You through the sacrifice of your dear Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for listening to His intercessions on my behalf, for hearing His cries on the cross, ‘Father forgive them, forgive her.’  There is now nothing that can separate me from Your great love.  Lord, I pray for those today who feel that they are to far flung, to far gone, to beyond hope.  I pray that Your loving arms will reach out to them and comfort them with your words of forgiveness and hope.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.