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Posts Tagged ‘restoration’

Giving God me was a moment in time—a five year old with cropped hair and knobby knees raising her hand in Sunday school. It was one of the rare Sundays my family attended church, but I met Jesus there and took him home in my heart.

That sweet encounter put me on the road to my forever home. I was as good as signed, sealed, and delivered to heaven’s doorstep.   But, that day was also the beginning of a relationship—one marked by trial, misunderstanding, faithlessness, and inexplicable, beautiful love.

free woman

I’ve discovered that giving God me was more than the promise of Life. It’s a decision I choose to make—or not–each day and moment-by-moment. Some days I succeed. I loosen my grasp on my expectations…my fears…my hurts…my vulnerable places.

But there are times the struggle is painfully hard and I hold stubbornly to my life—unwilling to give up control of thoughts…circumstances…relationships. It’s a spirit fight—like Joshua and the angel—waged in weakness when needing God’s strength; borne out of mistrust while having experienced God’s goodness.

Three years ago, I engaged in the battle of my life. It rocked my family to the core and sent me to a place of such pain and confusion that life lost all promise and hope. I wasn’t sure I would survive the anger…the loss…the heartache.

And I wrestled with God—unwilling to give all of myself to Him. I didn’t always realize He was there with me in the filth, the dirt—holding onto me while I pushed Him away. I refused to look at Him…certain I didn’t deserve the love engraved on His palms. I shouted…I wept…I doubted my Savior. Still—He remained.

In the moment I finally gave all of myself? I realized complete freedom for the first time. Giving all of me to God was the exchange of chains for freedom,  self-condemnation for Christ’s acceptance, and the brokenness of the past for transformation in His mercy.

Friend, are you wrestling with God right now? Can I gently remind you that He guards you…protects you…loves you—even when the journey seems dark and lonely. Despite how you may feel, you are not alone. Why fight against God when He will do battle on your behalf? We know Christ intercedes for us in heavenly places—the victory has been won! Let’s give all of ourselves to Him today!

 

Scripture for Reflection

Gen. 22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” (MSG)

 

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“The great battle of our spiritual lives is ‘Will you believe?’  It is not, ‘Will you try harder?’ or ‘Can you make yourself Worthy?’  It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only he can do.”

-Jim Cymbala

I’ve read about Chrissy.  Raised as a pastor’s daughter in a loving home, she deserted her faith and family.  For two years, Chrissy’s parents lived a nightmare–unsure their beloved child was safe or warm–and wondering  if she would ever return home.

One evening, Pastor Cymbala asked his congregation to intercede on Chrissy’s behalf.  And those gathered at church that night lifted their voices to heaven beseeching the heavenly Father to rescue one who had been stolen.  Two days later, the lost daughter knocked on her father’s door.  She was finally home.

This story is an incredible encouragement to me.  It gives me hope for my own prodigal.

While he wasn’t born into a pastor’s family, our prodigal’s story began in a Christian home.  We prayed over our child, dedicated him to the Lord, and read scripture together.  His gentle spirit responded to God’s and this precious blonde haired, blue eyed child invited Jesus to be his savior when he was almost five years old.

Our shy little boy told other children about Jesus…raced to the car in his red AWANA vest eager to go to church…and began growing in his own faith.  Several years later, one life altering moment shattered everything in Benjamin’s life.  Unaware of the his pain, my husband and I were confused by the sudden change in Ben’s personality and choices.

This was the moment that opened the door and allowed the enemy access.  He stole one who rightfully belongs to God.

Since then, I have battled on myknees.  I have begged God to loose the chains…to “replace the heart of stone”…to return our prodigal to us.  Still, the enemy holds fast–reluctant to give up the child we claimed for Christ before he was ever born.  But I am convinced there is more to this story…that God has a better plan for Ben…that one day God will replace the deadness in my boy’s eyes with the light of joy and that words of praise will flow from the lips of the son who now utters words that deny His power.

As my brothers and sisters in Christ, can I be vulnerable with you?  After not having seen Benjamin for several weeks, yesterday we stopped by the apartment where he is staying.  We stood awkwardly in the doorway…invited him to dinner…asked about his plans.

Giving each of us a hug he quietly asked, “Can you please leave?”

Reluctantly walking down the rickety iron steps, I imagined our unspoken conversation.

Why are you here?  Don’t you realize I’ve cut you out of my life?                                                                                                     

Yes, son, but we love you just as God does–without condition.

I feel so alone in this life.  teddy-828506_640                                                                                                                                                           

You don’t need to walk this road alone.  We are here–and there is one whose loving presence is ever-constant. Call out to Him, my son.  He will never leave you or forsake you!  

But the words were never spoken and my son sleeps on the floor of a one room apartment.  What does he eat?  Is he safe?  And I wake during the sleeping hours to pray.

And today I follow Jim Cymbala’s example.  Friends–in all humility can I lay my heartache before you?  Would you please pray for Benjamin?  I believe he is at a critical juncture and I am pleading with God that in his mercy He will do a work in Ben’s life..that he will set the prisoner free…that he will rescue that which has been lost.

If we share in the same journey, would you also gift me with the opportunity to pray for your prodigal?  Let’s pray our prodigals home!

Scripture for Reflection

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.  (Isaiah 59:1)

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:30-31)

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:3)

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

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Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

“Do something radical this week–live like you believe.”  There were some nods, nudges, and Amens  before God’s people bowed their heads for a final prayer.  Help me live like I believe.  

Then I remember yesterday’s stroll in the orange and yellow dappled woods outside of Divide.  The children were on a journey of discovery…Mom, look at this!  But my mind had been captured by the struggles of a dear one and I wondered–even shook my fist– at a world bursting with beauty and struggle, joy and grief, blessing and affliction.

Separating from my family, I lay beneath the aspen trees.  The sounds of father, boy, and girl slowly give way to the rustle of raindrop-shaped leaves. And I grieved over the young man–praying, hoping, wishing for more for him.  More living. More loving. More of the Lord.   But, the prayers have been slow to be answered and I think of the contrast between the two trees I see raising their arms to heaven.

One stands tall–its patterned bark and amber colored leaves offering tribute to the Artist.  An arm width’s distance away, another aspen stands –blackened patches and burn scars testifying to a lightening strike.  There are no leaves.  No signs of vitality.  But its roots dig deep into the   life- giving earth and it awaits the quickening of a new day.  A day of restoration…renewal…redemption.

Just by being, we bear the scars of the world.  But, dear friend, God proves Himself greater…more powerful…and true to His promises. The risen-Christ is living proof.

 Lord,help us live like we believe!

Scripture for Reflection

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”   (Rev. 21:3-5)

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Standing on the outside, looking in…the screen joins bold color with life as sharp as glass.  I can’t bear the pain in the cries of women mourning over bleeding children as smoke from the rockets spreads across cities.  Still,  the truth of those lives…that reality…that brokenness cannot be hidden in the grey and black of destruction.

And then, I turn the channel.  My stomach recoils at the world’s mess and I wonder when He will make it right.

Standing on the outside, looking in…the familiar sound of her voice travels from one tower to another and I smile at her German practicality.  My dear auntie has cancer–again–and I feel heat and tears mingle as I glance into the corners of her life.  I can see them, though she has quietly swept them into a forgotten corner–fear of the unknown…a sense of aloneness…the looming question of  ‘Why’?

In a moment, there is only the hum of the dial tone and my heart aches for the trial she–and so many others–battle until they fade away.

Standing on the inside, looking out…I begin to feel the hard edges of the day tear at the tender places of hope, joy, and peace.  And  I am reminded that this world, this reality, and these trials are temporary.

Dear one, He is doing more than we can know or even imagine.  One glorious day, Christ will return and this world will know the true Peace Maker.

And even now, when we can no longer rely on our bodies for health or our loved ones for understanding, He is with us.  He never leaves us.  He always understands the ‘Why’.  And His strength remains forever..even as we fade.

If the hidden places in your life and mine are full of grief, emotional or physical pain, or misgivings about the shattered world around us then let them shout for His mercy and restoration in a “thirsty and weary land” that we might see His boundless glory displayed in our small lives.

 

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A social outcast, Mary Magdalene was the bad girl of Galilee.  Women warned their sons about that woman and respectable men turned away in embarrassment at her knowing smile.  Mary was hopeless.  Rejected.  Irredeemable.

A beloved son rejected his father and his God for the false pleasures of the world.  Having ruined the family name, the young man returned home an impoverished and downtrodden fool…the stench of wild living still clinging to him.

Known for his religious zeal, Saul served as coat valet during a murderous rampage of  Christian converts.  Children cowered in his presence.  Families mourned.  A self-proclaimed executioner, Saul was guilty.

What do these people have in common with each other?  With a beloved friend or relative?  What do they have in common with us?

His name is Jesus Christ–the Savior sent to restore the rejected and rescue the irredeemable; the Shepherd commissioned to guide wayward children home to the Father; and the Lamb offering His life for those who are guilty.

Be encouraged!  Christ came to save the prostitutes, prodigals, and perpetrators.  He came to save the sinners.  He came to save you and me.  No sin is too great nor soul too tarnished to be outside the grasp of a loving God.

Verse for Reflection

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross.    (1 Corinthians 2:8-10)

Action Step

Who did God put on your heart as you read this devotion?  Are you struggling with the idea that God offers love and forgiveness to you?  Or have you been praying for a friend who hasn’t yet met the One who sets us free from our sins?  Tell the Lord about it and then give Him that concern, thought, or prayer for today.

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The four men encouraged their friend, “We’ve heard of his miracles—healing you will be a simple task.”  Resolute, they hoisted their companion and his bedroll on their shoulders.  Navigating the crowded streets of Judea without dropping the bundle became increasingly difficult as they neared the house.  Men, women, and children; rich and poor; religious leaders and rebels pushed and prodded to gain access to the one called Rabbi.  There was no more room and no way to get any nearer.

Unless….well, it was a longshot.  Without hesitation, the men gathered the mat and its contents; maneuvered up the stairs to the roof; and with bare hands ripped each tile from its place.  Finally, they glimpsed him below—there, in the midst of the crowd, preaching.  Would he resent their boldness?  Grow angry at the desperate need of their friend?  Glancing nervously at one another, they slowly lowered the bedroll and the man lying upon it at Jesus’ feet.

Undisturbed by the interruption, Jesus glanced upward and then at the weeping, paralyzed man.    “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

Like the paralyzed man and his friends, Jesus calls us to live a life of faith.  We can go boldly before Him, lay our “mat” at his feet, and rest in the knowledge He will meet our needs.  Put aside your burden today, dear friend.  Trust in Him for restoration.

Scripture for Reflection-“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.”   Mark 2:11-12

Action Step Make a list of five areas, concerns, or struggles you are managing today.  Pray about them and give them to God–all day long.

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