// Return of the Prodigal \\

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Lk 15:11

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.

The ‘certain’ man is wealthy, with a house of abundance, best robes, gem encrusted rings, many servants who all live well, stock for celebrations as well as business. In fact each of the parables indicates Jesus is addressing a wealthier class than just the poor – a man with 100 sheep; a woman with ten coins as a headdress.

Lk 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.

The younger son’s request prompted the father to divide the inheritance to them both, so both the elder and the younger received their inheritance at the same time. We will be blessed when we are in the father’s house. What we do with those blessings is our decision. The way we steward our inheritance is very important. It’s amazing how large the doors are that swing on such small hinges. Esau was happy to sell his birthright, his inheritance for a bowl of stew. His destiny, his double portion of blessing, his priesthood in the family, all gone because he preferred to satisfy a carnal appetite in a small moment of time. What price do we place on our soul? What value do we place on our God-given destiny? This is only measured by what we will sacrifice for it.

Lk 15:13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. Lk 15:14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Lk 15:15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

Separated from the Father the prodigal becomes joined to a citizen, a cruel taskmaster who didn’t even feed his employee, maybe only offering him shelter. Now he learned the gracious father he had wanted to escape from, was like heaven compared to the cruelty of the tyrant he was now joined to. The crowd shuddered as Jesus spoke of a young nobleman being degraded to feeding the despised and forbidden swine.

Lk 15:16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

His father had given him everything, but he had in turn given no-one anything of his inheritance. He had only spent it on his own pleasures. Now he was reaping as he had sown – no-one gave him anything.

Lk 15:17

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

There is a day when all of us ‘come to ourselves’. We remember who we really are. Being distant from God and His house causes us to forget who we are and behave differently than we did when we were in the House. When we come to our own self, and accept who we are, we begin the return to the Father. He knew that to return to the father, he needed to return to the House. The Father and His house go together. The Father didn’t leave the House. He always remained at the House. All of us find the Father in His house. He knew he had to make a journey back to the house. He knew that even the servants in the House were far better off than he was away from the house. They had good food and food to spare! Church should definitely be a better place in life than anywhere else. Every pastor and leader should make church the best experience in town. There should be abundant provision, acceptance for sinners, parties, restoration to their best life & celebration. People who have been in church should be able to come to their senses realizing they were far better off in church than they are anywhere else.

The crown of sorrows is the sorrow of remembering better times and how our own actions have forfeited them.

Lk 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,

He was completely confident in his father’s character being filled with mercy. He knew his father’s love would not have failed, nor his faith given up. He knew his father’s generosity would not forbid him at least a servant’s lifestyle.

He rehearses his prayer of repentance, summoning humility to frame his words.

He realizes that to sin against his father is to sin against heaven and God Himself. How did the son sin against his father? By shaming him by the way he lived; by wasting the money he had demanded from the father; by leaving the house to escape accountability.

Lk 15:19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

True repentance must accept that we are not worthy to be called sons of God. Let God call us worthy. He simply wants to be accepted back into the house and the covering of that house.

His earlier prayer was ‘Give me’. Now his prayer is ‘make me’, which is a vastly different to his first.

Lk 15:20

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

When we begin to return to God He moves towards us, even when we are still a great way ‘off’. When we come into visibility before God, He has compassion. God ‘runs’ – moves swiftly to those who come to Him, and kisses and embraces the returning sinner. Mercy is the environment in which true repentance takes place, not in a condemning atmosphere.

Lk 15:21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

The prodigal doesn’t even get to the part of his rehearsed speech where he asks to be just a hired servant. The Father stopped him short. He would only receive him as a son.

Lk 15:22

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.

There is no announcement of forgiveness, just simple actions and this is how God shows forgiveness, with actual real events, like healing, deliverance. Just as sin has consequences, so does forgiveness. To say that a person is forgiven but will still need to suffer the consequences of sin is folly. When Jesus healed the palsied man, he announced him forgiven, adding that healing and forgiveness were the same.

The best robe is the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The Lord is our righteousness, not our own goodness. We are righteous with Christ’s perfect life. He lived his perfect life so we could receive it as our own. This is God’s great gift to anyone who simply comes to the Father. It is Joseph’s robe of favor, a thousand colors of grace, attracting the blessing of God and the shrieking hatred of the world, even brothers. It is the robe of worship, which is a privileged gift from God to sing praise and enter His Presence. It’s the robe of armored clothing protecting us from the snares, schemes, and arrows of the enemy.

The ring is Joseph’s power of attorney to act on behalf of the King. A person wearing such a ring could punch it into a clay tablet at any place of business and it was like a credit card. It would be accepted as payment. It could be used to transact legal documents. It could be used to establish rights and privileges in political affairs and authority with government officials. We are given the name of Jesus immediately when we return to the House. It is His authority given to us, neither earned nor merited. It is the ring of belonging to the royal family.

Servants had no sandals. God gives us sandals to lift us above the level of the unshod servant to the status of sons. In the Old Testament, Moses was told to remove his sandals in the presence of God. Here in the New Testament sandals are fitted on our feet because we have the standing of Christ in the New Testament. Under the Old Covenant people could only stand on their own righteousness and that was not enough, even for a holy man such as Moses. We stand before God, in Christ, not in our works. Astonishingly, we have been granted the same standing before God as Jesus Himself, seated with Him at the right hand of the throne of God.

Lk 15:23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; Lk 15:24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. 

The House of God should be the place of a continual party with returning prodigals being greeted with grace, blessing and celebration.

See you in church!

// PRE-DESTINATION \\

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Eph 1:5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Every single person ever born and ever will be born has been predestined to be adopted by God, to be born of God, according to His good pleasure. He takes no pleasure in anyone perishing. It is neither His will, nor His pleasure for anyone that He predestined to be His child, to perish. And He has predestined everyone to be His child.

2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is … not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

For this Scripture to mesh with the abundance of Scripture proclaiming that ‘whoever will may come’, and ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’, it is obvious that even though God has predestined our adoption He has never overridden our choice as to whether or not that will actually happen.

It’s always been His plan, but whether or not it becomes our plan as well is left to our choice. Also it is incumbent (far too soft a word), upon us who have received this predestined adoption, to bring as many others as we can into the same state, through every means possible.

Some of our friends have imagined that Paul is saying that our acceptance of Christ was predestined, and, unfortunately, those who don’t accept Christ, was also predestined. This violation of Scripture voices arrogance from the ‘chosen’ and charges God, who is Love, with the severest of discriminations. The weak believer will wonder if they are part of the chosen few. The non-believer can only conclude God is diabolically prejudicial.

Ultimately, there can be no Day Of Judgement if we had no choice in the matter of our salvation. God would be evil to judge us for things He was fully aware that He made us do. To force someone to do something and then to judge them for that action is inconsistent with any notion of justice. His plans for people are His predestination. All of us have the chance to receive His magnificent plan for our lives and begin living it out.

I know there are always those who ask, ‘what about those who have never heard, to have the opportunity to choose?’ A more pertinent question may be ‘what are we doing who have the Word of Life?’ Should we not be sharing Christ, building the church, sending preachers, supporting broadcasts, television and radio, so that people who have never heard do have the opportunity to hear and believe.

See you in church (with a friend)

// INNER HEALTH \\

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Phil 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Phil 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Our hearts (attitudes, desires, trust and emotions), and minds (thoughts, memories, conscience, imaginations), need guarding because this is what comes under the severest pressure. Our only defence is the peace of God which acts as a fortress against all incoming troublesome thoughts and attitudes.
Mental health and emotional well-being come by relieving anxiety from our minds and hearts. This is achieved not through medication but every day through prayer. But this is not just prayer, because prayer on its own can be simply the pleadings of worry. Thanksgiving must be part of our prayer life and our all day speech. Complaining is the language of victims and is the fastest route to a negative mindset which in turn leads to our minds being ill at ease and depression. The person who takes pains to appreciate others and be grateful will find their hearts and minds in far better health than the prayer-less, cynical complainers. Following our prayers comes His peace.
His peace is totally unreasonable. There is no logical reason why we can be peaceful under dreadful circumstances, yet we are, because of His Presence upon us. This beautiful serenity pervades our hearts and minds with sanity and a bright perspective on whatever comes our way.
Cast all your cares upon Him!
Why?
Because He cares for you!

See you in church.

HOPE ROARS

‘Cause I’m Happy….’

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Happiness

The opposite to depression is happiness.
If a person is happy, they are not depressed.
However, happiness should not be confused with laughter.
The circus clown is often the saddest person in town.
Depressed comedians are proverbial.

Pr 14:13
Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.

Depression has become epidemic.
WHO predict depression will be the most common major disease by 2020.

Wikipedia – The recent hit pop song “Happy” is a neo soul and funk song on which Pharrell Williams’ falsetto voice has been compared to Curtis Mayfield by critics. The song has been highly successful, peaking at number one in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and 19 other countries. It has sold over 5.6 million copies in the United States  and over 1.52 million copies in the United Kingdom, and has reached number one in the latter a record three separate occasions.

Happiness is popular because so many want it, and yet happiness remains so elusive.

Depression and Stress: Several studies have found that high levels of religious commitment correlate with lower levels of depression and stress. [David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, The Forgotten Factor in Physical and Mental Health: What Does the Research Show? (Rockville, Md.: National Institute for Healthcare Research, 1992), 76-78
“Australian Psychologist”
Volume 34, Number 1
March 1999
Editor: Christine Lee
University of Newcastle
The World Health Organisation’s global burden of disease research indicates that unipolar major depression was the leading cause of disability worldwide in 1990. Furthermore, it predicts that, by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of death and disability across the world. (Page 49)

The deepest happiness available to any of us is fellowship with Christ.
This communion brings a smile to our soul unobtainable anywhere else in the Universe.
This is being right with your creator, rather than wrong with Him and feeling separated from Him because of our offences against Him.
This joy is the joy of fellowship with Christ Himself.
This is the secret place of Psalm 91.
No-one can remove this or steal it away.
This happiness remains in spite of everything and anything.
It is the wine of fellowship with God Himself.
When we should be drowning in depression, we can be happy in an overcoming attitude because we are connected, fused with a supernatural fusion to Christ Himself the One who rose from the dead, overcoming all hell, hades, demons, sickness, sin and shame.

Dr Martin Seligman is the world’s leading authority on optimism and happiness. He wrote a ground breaking book – Learned Optimism (Knopf, 1991) and followed that up with (amongst others) Authentic Happiness (Random House, 2002).

In Authentic Happiness (page 177 & 178) Seligman wrote this about the importance of optimism for achieving high performance:

‘The pessimist views bad events as pervasive, permanent and uncontrollable, while an optimist sees them as local, temporary and changeable. Pessimism is maladaptive in most endeavours: Pessimistic life agents sell less and drop out sooner than optimistic agents. Pessimistic undergraduates get lower grades, relative to their SAT scores and past academic record, than optimistic students. Pessimistic swimmers have more substandard times and bounce back from poor efforts worse than optimistic swimmers. Pessimistic pitchers and hitters do worse in close games than optimistic pitchers and hitters. Thus pessimists are losers on many fronts.’

Optimists are people magnets. People like to be in the company of an optimist. Emotional Intelligence author, Daniel Goleman’s research proves that optimistic leaders more easily retain talented people compared to leaders who more often display negative moods.

Optimism and associated good moods create positive feelings about work. Good moods have also been proven to greatly improve people’s speed in; understanding complex information, making effective decisions and thinking more creatively.

Optimism builds resilience. Pessimists as more likely to give up sooner or not to try at all, compared to optimists.

Nelson Mandela is often mentioned in surveys of inspiring leaders. To go through all that he did as a prisoner on Roden Island for over 20 years and come out a free man with no apparent diminishment of his belief in the basic good of all people, shows optimism at its most inspiring.

There are a number of roadblocks to happiness that all of us have to deal with if we want some joy in our lives.
I certainly don’t underestimate the power of depression in people’s minds and lives. I have faced and fought my own battles with depression, but also I have discovered how to minimise the impact of negative thoughts and emotions and how to promote positive emotions.
Positive feelings alone are not the root of happiness. If our character is right and our spirit clean, joyfulness is inevitable in our emotional life. To try and medicate our way out of depression and into good feelings doesn’t deal with the roots of the problem.

The truest and most accurate translation of the word ‘Blessed’ when Jesus is presenting the sermon on the mount, is ‘Happy’.
We have a problem with this because we think this is too light a word compared to the word blessed, which sounds so much more sacred.
However, Jesus came to bring us into happiness, not by waving a major wand, but through us being obedient to God.

Happy weekend friends & see you in church!

Ps. Phil has authoured 14 books, one of which is about HOPE.  A must read for anybody suffering with depression or feelings of hopelssness.  You can order a copy by clicking on the link above.

 

Meditations on the Holy Spirit

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1 Samuel 16:1

1 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided myself a king among his sons.”

How long will you mourn for something God has moved on from. The Lord is far more ruthless than we are about moving on from what we have been attached to, and those things we are sentimental about.

When we mourn over things that God has moved on from we are not honoring Him. Jesus identified our condition of resistance to change;

Lk 5:39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”

The quicker we can change gears and move on from the past the quicker we will be able to possess our future.

As long as we are pining for what was, we will not be able to celebrate what is, and be paralyzed from entering into what is to be. How long are we going to take to get over something that we have lost? How long to leave the past and move into a new future? Saul was old anointing. How long will we mourn for the old anointing, the old revival, how it used to be? This prevents us from possessing the new oil, the fresh anointing.

The prophet was to fill his horn with fresh oil, new oil, for a new leader, a new day.

God is never taken by surprise. He always has someone he has prepared, waiting in the wings.

Before David was born, God formed the future King in the womb for the destiny of ruling a nation and carrying the presence of God to His generation.

God provides for Himself. Our role is to simply recognize what he has prepared. Even though Saul was rejected he still reigned for many years to come, resisting the new move of God that was emerging.

The interesting thing is that although the Lord agreed to the people’s request for a king, albeit with warnings and reproaches that they had rejected Him, nevertheless here he now continues the new form of kingly government with a choice of his own rather than having enough proof He would now revert the nation back to the way it was, a theocracy. There is a definite warp and woof in the will of God, where our human desires, purposes, plans, failures and successes are woven into the divine and sovereign will.

This transfer of power to the new king, was not because the previous leader had died, as with Moses and Joshua, but because Saul had failed to do the will of God. Disobedience has a higher price than we can imagine. God’s choice of David was because he ‘would do all the will of God’

Acts 13:22 …‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.

See you in church

CREATION SHOUTS!

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Rom 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

Before creation, the ‘invisible God’ was not clearly understood, but ‘since creation’, even before Jesus, God was not without a vivid, crystal clear witness to His character, in creation, in which He is understood, through all that has been made. From giraffes to bananas, from the smallest of ants with all their industry to the mighty humpback whales finding their ways to mating grounds, with all the engineering marvels of blood circulation in our body and the irrigation of the Earth, our breathing systems, the symbiosis of a thousand eco systems. The list is too long and breathtaking, altogether too marvelous to take it all in. I am speechless at the flight of a small finch. Not tens of billions of dollars could make one, let alone bring the personality of these creatures to life. And then man himself, with all the glory of his intelligence, his dance, songs, art and rhythms, discoveries, inventions and adventures. His own self aware ‘self’, which is no-one else’s, never was and never will be. We are all uniquely ourselves and conscious of that fact. Where did that ‘me’ come from?

We have been created!

Once we were not. Now we are. We did not make ourselves. Neither do personalities evolve. We either are or we are not, and all of us know, we are, we exist, regardless of how many feeble mind gymnastics we want to attempt to explain our being and creation some other way. God is there and He is here. This is the truth we desperately want to suppress, because if He is, then we are accountable, and responsible, and answerable for what we have done with what He has given us. But creation reveals a creator who loves, in the colors, the scents, the nutrition yet not purely utilitarian, but beautiful in taste, scent and feel. The rains, the sun, the oceans, the mountains, the sheer breathtaking pleasure of the beauty of it all is love. The pleasures of companionship and union with others, grace to breathe fresh air and to be able to think, deduct and decide, freely without constraint. We understand that God is

1. Powerful – to create all that is, calls for immense resources of ‘life’

2. Big – Earth’s oceans, mountains and lands with all it’s inhabitants are big enough. Then there’s an unending universe, with uncountable galaxies of solar systems with stars far larger than ours, and some planets with caves large enough to contain our entire solar system;

3. Generous – so many unneeded creations and creatures, so many varieties, colors, flavors, scents, textures, kinds and species;

4. Intelligent – Engineering, like gravity, evaporation, seed, inter-activities of each part, molecules and atoms, such immeasurably clever and un-discoverably brilliant designs;

5. Loving – The rain falls and the sun brings light and heat for life, the endless fruits, vegetables, trees, fish, bird, and sources of food for us with exquisite tastes reveal a caring, loving God desiring to make our lives exciting, interesting and beautiful.

The painfully lame excuse that because God doesn’t show Himself, we are therefore justified to not believe in Him fails outright, in light of all creation surrounding us every day.

See you in church

Phil