Monthly Archives

September 2017

Bible Scriptures, Ministry

God’s Grace to the Sinner & the Saint

The story of the prodigal son, which is found in Luke 15: 11-32, tells of a young man who squanders his inheritance through wild partying and reckless spending.

But after losing everything, he resorts to taking a job feeding pigs. He’s so poor when a famine hits that he steals chow from the pigs in order to quiet the rumblings in his own stomach.

Hitting rock bottom, the story indicates that this young man finally “came to his senses,” realizing that even the hired hands on his father’s farm were in a better position than he was in that moment.

He set out to go back to his father, and on his way plans what he will say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”

But before the young man could even get the words out, his father, seeing his son approaching in the distance, starts to sprint, embraces and welcomes his child home.

Imagine the look on his young son’s face when he felt his father’s arms wrap around his frail body.

The parable is such a beautiful metaphor for the redemption and reconciliation that awaits anyone who turns away from wrongdoing and seeks a relationship with God.

It serves as a great reminder that the almighty God always, always meets us where we are.

Anger after years of devotion

Meanwhile, in verses 25-32, the eldest son — the one who committed his life and made the choice to doing his father’s work — is fuming, becoming angrier as he witnessed his younger brother receiving the royal treatment.

I can just hear the disgruntlement begin to percolate.

Who does he think he is showing up after all this time?
He thinks he’s so special.
What about me? Look at everything I’ve done for Father!

The older son, like a petty child, refused to take part in the festivities to celebrate his little brother’s homecoming.

Seething, I’m sure, the Bible says he “refuses to go in.”

In another surprising act, the father leaves the party and goes outside to reason with the older son.

Bible scholars believe that ancient hearers might have expected the father to discipline the elder son; instead, the father listens to his son, and in a loving and understanding tone attempts to impart wisdom as the sounds of revelry reverberate in the background.

The elder son laments:

Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

Was the older son hurt? It sure sounds like it.

Was the older son bitter? You bet.

In his mind, he had devoted himself to doing what the father wanted, and wasn’t so much as thanked for his devotion. He believed he was entitled to the better treatment. He was superior, he thought. But, in fact, he was wrong.

The father, gracious and all-knowing, saw otherwise. Because the younger son was “dead and is alive again” and “lost and is found” this warranted a celebration.

The parable teaches us what is important to our Father in heaven — and that is, when a lost soul comes home. Commitment and devotion are pleasing in the Lord’s sight, too. But when our motives are self-centered, as is shown by the elder son,  this bothers God. And it should also bother us.

Which ‘son’ are you?

At times we are that lost child as is the prodigal son, the one who strays. The one who squanders everything. The one who then grovels back to God for forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the other hand, especially for those who’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for some time, it’s easy to follow the pattern of the elder son, who grew bitter, jealous and prideful after years of dedication.

Which one are you?

I believe the older son could have prevented his unrighteous response.

At least, I’d like to think he could.

And here’s how I believe those in ministry and in other leadership roles can avoid resentment while in service to others:

  • Be open about your shortcomings and confess your sins. No one is perfect. Not even the most devoted Christian. Routinely humble yourself before God, and a trusted spiritual mentor, as you examine your heart and actions. Romans 3:23 NIV says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moreover, no one “should claim to be without sin,” according to 1 John 1:8 NIV.
  • Show compassion. God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, according to 2 Chronicles 30:9 and Psalm 86:15. Throughout the Bible, God rescues and forgives his people when they turn back to Him. In the same way, Jesus showed compassion “when he saw the crowds… because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV) What this world absolutely needs from those who are faithful to God, is more compassion, more love and more grace. After all, that is what God showed us because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)
  • Share your testimony and minister to others. If you’re a believer, then the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 applies to you. We are called to baptize and to teach others. Holding a pastoral role, in whatever capacity in your local church, puts you in a position to regularly share how God has changed you and is currently shaping you. Don’t miss out on that opportunity by using your leadership role to talk only about how “great” your life is or what blessings God is bestowing on your life or barking orders about what other church members “need” to do. Rather, use it is a platform to elevate the love and mercy God extends to anyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus. Share your story. As a result, I pray, as the Apostle Paul writes in Philemon 6, that your partnership in the faith “may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”
  • Stop thinking you’re better than someone else. The Apostle Paul urges believers in Romans 12:3 (NIV): “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” He is referring in this passage to roles in the church, but the advice is appropriate for any situation. The statement could’ve certainly helped knock some sense into the elder brother in an ancient parable that continues to teach modern-day believers the value of right-sized thinking in times when all seems ….”unfair.”

Share your thoughts! How do you guard against disgruntlement, discontent and bitterness while serving in ministry or other leadership roles in and outside the church?

Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 8: Has Your Love Grown Cold?

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold... Matthew 24:12

This was the scripture that led the discussion at a recent midweek service. It was a topic that immediately struck a cord because I had been thinking about disobedience and sin — the things that can separate us from God.

The scriptures and questions that followed probed my heart, and I’m sure others in the room.

They were the kind of questions that I think were meant to make you stop and think about whether you were in right standing with the Lord.

The pastor comfortingly urged us to explore the questions, honestly and with intentionality.

You see, what keeps us in communion with God is our heart. We can be doing and saying all the “right” things, the religious things, but if our heart’s not really focused on the Lord and His will for our lives, then it’s all just facade.

A heart for God follows the pattern of 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Indeed, there is an urgency to get right with God. You’re alarmed by unrighteous behavior. And you’re concerned that a misalignment with God leads to disconnection with Him.

For this reason, I want to share my notes with you from that night, in hopes that you, too, will allow your heart to be pierced.

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. It’s time to reclaim your First Love.

Let’s explore…

  1. If the Bible did a quick body scan of your thoughts and heart, would it register as ‘devoted’?
  2. When was the last time you had a deep dive in God’s word, the Holy Bible?
  3. When we read the Bible does it ‘read’ you back? The Word of God should be a mirror. James 1 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror.” In other words, are you letting the Bible change you, or are you walking away having no sense of your condition before God? Just like a woman checks her appearance before walking out the door, so should the Bible govern your attitudes and behaviors at all times and help you “course correct” before you get off track.
  4. Are you reading the Bible simply for information — or transformation?
  5. Don’t violate the boundaries that God has set for your protection, or you will succumb to evil desires. You will eventually lose your identity in Christ and start to reflect the world.
  6. Love grows cold when there is an increase in obscenity, debauchery, perversion, laziness, selfishness, pride, and disobedience to God’s Word.
  7. When there is an increase of man there is an decrease of God. In other words, if you’re constantly putting your needs and desires before God’s expect a lesser degree of holy living and God’s blessings to follow.
  8. When your spirituality is compromised, one’s love for God grows cold.
  9. Even as a self-proclaimed Christian/disciple of Christ, you can be physically present in church even though your heart has departed from God a while ago. Is your heart still aligned with pursuing righteousness?
  10. Is Satan ‘doing’ you in? Sin can make you feel weighed down, “spiritually fat,” and out of shape. According to John 10:10, the enemy’s only intent is on stealing, killing and destroying you. However, the good news is that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is here to give you life in abundance!
  11. Are you obedient?
  12. Do you weigh your life on a righteous scale? Or do you weigh your life on a worldly scale?
  13. Are you spiritually able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit? Or are you falling behind? What’s holding you back?
  14. What are some habits of Godly living? Daily time with God, meditation on the scriptures, exhibiting fruits of the Spirit, sharing your faith, etc.
  15. Is your spiritual life a bestseller?
  16. Do you add light or darkness in your relationships? Is your inner spirit dead or alive?

I certainly hope you have found these questions and insights into God’s word heart-probing and that they help you reach higher spiritual ground!

Any questions or insight on staying close to God despite the increased wickedness in the world? Weigh in in the comments section below. Remember this: There is always hope in Jesus Christ! So please don’t despair. Blessing to you, my friend!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith

Devotional 7: Does God Promise Us a ‘Good Life’?

The short answer is ‘no.’

God does not promise us a “good” life. But we can certainly offer Him a life that is “good,” by becoming a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing” to Him, according to Romans 12:1.


There’s one important thing you learn in journalism school and that is balanced reporting.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about answered prayers.

I shared how God was refining my character during a time of waiting, and how, eventually, God made a way for that prayer to be answered.

What I didn’t touch on is this: Your prayers won’t always get answered. And if they are answered, it may not be in the form you had hoped.

There’s a common misconception in the Christian community that God “wants” to bless us.

But is that true and, more importantly, is that biblical?

First of all, it’s important to distinguish what that word “bless” means. To one person it means material gain and to another it pertains to spiritual benefits, such as peace, eternal life with God, healing from past sin, comfort in times of trouble, etc.

That latter description would be more accurate.

Does God have plans to prosper you?

An often quoted scripture to espouse God’s desire for blessing is Jeremiah 29:11-14.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.

Taken out of context, this is a great feel-good scripture.

In America, we often make the mistake of translating this passage to mean we’ll get that bigger house and fancier car, or that we’ll rarely face a deadly sickness, or that we’ll land that next big career move, etc.

Thanks to the rampant “prosperity gospel” preached today, we are always at risk of applying scriptures to the superficial.

But, be assured of this, when God speaks He has something much bigger, more eternal, in mind: our salvation.

The Jeremiah promise can certainly be applied to modern-day believers, but it’s important to read the passage (or chapters) in its entirety.

The prophetic message was to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who continuously wandered away from the truth and worshiped other gods.

The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to tell the Israelites how they were royally messing up in the eyes of the Lord, and to turn from their wrongdoing — immediately, or else.

Have you ever outright resisted God’s commands?

The people of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel, whom Jeremiah is addressing in this passage, were an obstinate people, resisting God’s standard.

Still, the Lord cared for them. And God continually sent prophets to warn them when they forsook God in favor of a lesser, often handmade, deity.

Jeremiah described it best in chapter 25 verse 3:

For 23 years — from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon King of Judah until this very day — the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” (emphasis mine)

Did you catch the last part there?



God says to “turn,” “do not follow,” “do not provoke,” and “…then I will not harm you.”

There is a condition attached to God’s protection that is made clear in this passage before we even get to the promise that so many of us like to quote in Jeremiah 29.

What’s the lesson here?

Simply that, in order to apply Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (God’s protection from harm, spiritual prosperity and so on) to your present-day life, it’s imperative to also adhere to Jeremiah 25, which dictates a number of offenses on the part of the Israelites which we are susceptible to doing as well.

Therefore, if you want to slap the Jeremiah 29:11-14 bumper sticker to your life, go right ahead.

But be aware of the conditions, according to Jeremiah 25:

  1. Don’t ignore God. If you hear His voice, listen, pay attention and do what He says. Where do you “hear” God’s voice? In his Word, of course. The Holy Bible. Simply read it and apply it your life. While you’re at it, be careful not to cherry pick scriptures, but seek to understand a passage in context.
  2. Turn from your evil ways and practices. (For an overview of specific sins that can separate you from God’s protection, read Galatians 5: 19-21; Mark 7:20-22; Revelation 21:8; 2 Chronicles 33:6)
  3. Do not follow, serve or worship other gods. Other ‘gods’ include another lesser deity but it could mean yourself, a spouse/significant other, children, a celebrity, material possessions, profession/accolades, a t.v. show, etc. — anything or anyone that takes precedence in your life more than serving God.
  4. Do not provoke God to anger. Do a search for what may ‘provoke’ God and refer back to the scriptures on sins mentioned earlier. You’ll find that many acts in the Bible incited God’s anger, including casting spells, speaking to the dead, lack of worship, and sexual sins.

As the book of Jeremiah suggests, a “right” relationship with God — obedience to Him — must always precede any kind of blessing.

To live a “blessed” life, you can never go wrong by patterning your life after his son Jesus, who was without sin.

And that, my dear sisters, takes effort, not perfection.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced a time when repentance led to a spiritual or material blessing? Please share in the comments section below!