February 28, 2011

Where are You at When the Party Begins?

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’” Matthew 15:18 (NIV)

Last week, we answered the question, rightfully I hope, where do we go when the party is over? Now let’s look at where we are when the party begins.

In reviewing Luke 15 and the parable of the Prodigal Son, we’ve already seen that the younger son, filled with pride and lust, set out to live it up with all his premature inheritance. He squandered it and wasn’t happy when consequences caught up with him. Fortunately, he came to his senses, returned home and received forgiveness from the hand of his father.

When the party of self-indulgence and plain stupidity was over, he came home to find grace and mercy in abundance and a new party began. This party was one of rejoicing over a lost soul who had found his way back home! And it wasn’t just a small gathering with hot dogs and chips! It was a full blown, rock and rolling, open the barn door and invite the neighbors for a BBQ shindig, complete with loud music and dancing!

I love those kinds of parties, don’t you?

However, as we read about the older son, we discover one minor, teeny-tiny detail. Big brother wasn’t in a partying mood. In fact, he was appalled at the merriment. He was furious over the favor and his blood boiled! Now the obvious question is why?

I have a younger brother and our visits are far and few as he lives in Texas. He also has a heart to match the size of the state he lives in and during the times when I do see him, my heart has a party! Now I can honestly say if his heart wasn’t right causing him to stay away, when he did come home, the party in our lives would be even bigger. Why? Naturally, I’d not only be thrilled, but relieved at his return as well. Not so with our prodigal big bro.

What was his problem? I mean wasn’t he the good kid? Didn’t he do all the right things? Didn’t he care? Obviously not. In fact, while his little brother was the openly rebellious child, big brother was the silent-sinner type.

I heard a story once about a little girl who wouldn’t sit down when asked by her parents. They repeatedly insisted she sit down, finally after a few parental threats the little girl complied but not before announcing with arms folded across her chest, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I am standing up on the inside!”

That was the older brother. Sitting down, working hard, appearing compliant on the outside, but all the while, standing up on the inside. There was no way he’d set one foot toward those festivities. He was mule-headed and indignant. Why should his little twerp of a runaway brother get all the honors and him, the good kid, get nothing? Well, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And the break was great. When the father came to plead for his presence at the party, he snapped. All the animosity he harbored inside spewed forth like lava from a volcano. He erupted all over daddy and refused to budge. With a stomp of his foot, his true heart was revealed for all to see. Bubba had a serious heart problem and he couldn’t hide it any longer.

So how’s your heart doing today?

Are we bitter over a brother who catches a break, when we’ve worked our fingers to the bone without so much as an “Atta-boy” pat on the back? When someone throws a less-than-deserving friend a party, do we climb up on our “full of self-righteousness” high horse and refuse to participate? Why? What kind of statement does that really make?

In fact, it just occurred to me that while the older brother refused to take part in the party for his younger sibling, not too many people noticed. In fact, did anyone truly notice his absence? Who was really hurt by his no-show? The answer is sobering. Just one. Only the Father.

I think I’ll stop there and let the Holy Spirit take over, starting with my heart first!

Ready to party when you are!
Barbara

February 22, 2011

When the Party is Over.

“But when he came to his senses…” Luke 15:17a (NASU)

You wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. The weather is perfect, the birds are singing and the coffee is a delight to your senses. As you prepare for the day, you mentally rehearse each event that has a place in your schedule. You leave the house early and the traffic is a breeze. Everything goes your way at work/school and there is a smile on your face as you return home. You don’t burn dinner and get to watch your favorite television show without one interruption. Man, oh man, life is good!

Against all odds, your week progresses in the same way. The only annoyances you face are minor and not even worth mentioning. You make all your appointments, complete all your chores and even squeeze in a few extra phone calls for good measure.

Then the phone rings with your test results. The check bounces to your mortgage company. The kids get sick at the same time. You hear rumors of layoffs at work. The car transmission dies two days after your warranty expires. The shower leaks and floods three rooms. Someone doesn’t like the way you looked at them. Your best friend moves to France and family trouble erupts like a volcano. Wham! Just like that – all of the sudden – the party is over.

With all the trouble heaping on your head like burning coals – what do you do? Where do you go when the party is over?

Our Sunday morning Bible study class has been reviewing the Luke 15 parable of the Prodigal Son. Our literature is based on John MacArthur’s book by the same name. I highly recommend it.

To recap this poignant prodigal story, we begin at the beginning: a man had two sons. One was young, rebellious and anxious to be free from the authority of his father. The other was older and appeared to be obedient and respectful – working hard and acting responsibly.

It’s widely known that the younger son demanded his share of the family estate and then left town for those proverbial greener pastures. That is, greener until the money ran out and the friends left. It was only when he was reduced to feeding pigs that he saw himself as the fool he was. It was not a pretty picture. The party was over.

Hungry and humiliated, this young son groaned, what do I do now? Where do I go? The answer appeared but only after, according to Scripture, he came to his senses. So where did our runaway decide to go when the party was over?

Home.

Sometimes life breezes along like a dream. Yet eventually a storm comes our way and the party is over. Other times, we make our own fiesta based on what we want, what feels good to us and without a second thought to anyone else. However, at some point, the money disappears, the friends evaporate, and once again, the party is over.

When this happens in your life – where do you go when the party is over? Might I suggest you go home? The young son did. He went home to his father. He went home to face the music. When the son “came to his senses,” he realized that maybe dad wasn’t so wrong, wasn’t out to get him and really did love him. Surely, a man this good would have pity on his own flesh and blood. And if he didn’t – well he couldn’t be any worse off than he was in the pig sty. Repentance compelled him to find out - was there forgiveness and life back at home?

Well, when our broken-hearted un-hero hit the front yard, he wasn’t prepared for the reception he received! Dad about knocked him over running out to meet him. For miles on a long dusty road, the son rehearsed a speech that he only got halfway through before Dad had to burst out in celebration. Bring the robe! Bring the ring and the sandals! Put on the feast! It’s party time! The son received more than he ever dared to hope.

I find it fascinating and life altering that when things in my life cease to be perfect, when speed bumps pop up, when sink holes open in the middle of my path – when the party is over, I can always go home. And when I do come home, my Father is there, ready to scoop me up and provide comfort. I find one party ends only to discover a better one waiting right around the corner.

And believe me; my Father knows how to throw a party! Where are you in your party life right now? What kind of party is it? Is it one of smooth sailing that occasionally occurs in life or a self-made soiree that will end as abruptly as it started leaving you in the cold - wanting. In either case, how long will you take to regain your senses and then where will you go?

Is that music and dancing I hear?
Barbara

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

“We love, because He [God] first loved us.” I John 4:19 (NASB)

Here we are once again – Valentines Day. During the next 24 hours, the hearts of many will be elated by specific displays of love from the single red rose to the most grandiose bouquets. Already this morning, I have witnessed a marriage proposal. (And she said yes!)

Also during this day, many hearts will be broken, perhaps due to a forgotten gift. More still because there is no “special” someone in their life to produce a gift or some expression of love for them. I think now of my Uncle Walter who tomorrow, will bury his sweet wife of more years than I have been alive. Today is a reminder of a love lost.

Yet, today I lose all thought of candy (which my waist-line doesn’t need) and flowers. I’ll put aside any thoughts of small boxes containing shiny treasures or being whisked away for some romantic dinner. I will dwell on the thoughts that have riveted through my head for the last several weeks. I just want to fall more in love with the One who loves me most.

For the record, I live secure in the love my husband has for me. Our love has grown over the last 20 years and is still as sweet as it was in the beginning, actually it’s sweeter! But I still desire to love him more, to treat him better as the years come and go and be the godliest wife that I can be for him. Ladies, my Romeo deserves it – big time! It’s just that there is one little thing that could help or hinder my love for him – the intensity of my love for my God. The more I love Him, the more I am capable of loving others, including my husband.

Today, I confess to you that I do indeed, love my Lord, my Father, and my Redeemer. But I fear, like those to whom a stern letter of warning was written in Ephesus, I have left my first love. Okay, maybe not left entirely – but certainly I am guilty of letting the embers of my love get a little cold. Anyone out there feel the same way?

Admittedly, I had high hopes for 2011 but thus far it has not been smooth sailing. Now that’s not to say – it’s been horrible – it has not. But life has just gotten in my way more than expected and I guess I let my guard down. The next thing I know - wham! Need I say more?

As I write this to you, I feel my heart lighten up. It’s true, confession is good for the soul. There is a smile on my face and I can’t wait to tackle this day. You see, I’ve already confessed my sin to my Father, and now to you. I am immediately assured of His forgiveness and eternal abiding love. I just need to learn to push “life” aside a little more in favor of simply loving the Lord God Almighty with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength. Then He will see to it that life will work itself out and I will truly be able to love my neighbor as myself! Why am I such a slow learner? Sigh!

Before I leave you today, I do want you to know that in the name of Jesus, I love each one of you. Because I love my Jesus, I love writing these snippets from my life to hopefully encourage you in yours. I mean, it always helps me to know that I am not the Lone Ranger in my circumstances and it’s possible to overcome them in the name of the Lord.

Also, this month marks the beginning of YEAR 9 that I’ve been “writing out loud” for His glory! How long will it last? I don’t know – only Abba Father knows. I pray I will just be faithful.

In closing, whether you are married or single, attached or not, let ME wish you a Happy Valentines Day. Rest assured in God’s all powerful, gracious and lavish love for you (read I John 4:7-21). Then like the jewelry store ad says: Keep your heart open and love will find its way in!

From my heart to yours,
Barbara