Sons & Daughters

by Melissa Parkhouse

I want to share a testimony this week:

I was feeling distant from God and wanting to be closer to Him.  So I came up with all these strategies and things I could do to close the distance I felt between God and myself.  I had all these elaborate, frankly legalistic, plans for what I was going to do to fix things- modify my behavior, change things up, just so that I could once again feel closer to Jesus.

Have you been there?

“I’m going to do more bible study!”  “I’m going to fast!”  “I’m going to DO all these things to EARN the attention of my heavenly Father.”  As I wrestled with this distance I was feeling in my heart I FINALLY cried out to God and this is what he spoke to my heart:

“Daughter, all you had to do is turn.”

It made me think about a story in Luke 15, about two sons who didn’t know how much their father loved them.

The first son, the younger son, left home and squandered his inheritance on unfulfilling pursuits, hoping that it would solve some ache in his heart.  He ended up broke and feeding pigs- And he concluded that it would be better to return home and beg to be a slave than to expect that his father would care for him in his mess… So he heads home to beg for a place as a slave in his father’s household.  Check out how his father responds:

Luke 20:15 says this, “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him”

Are you like the younger son?  Have you made mistakes and committed wrongs and you cannot imagine God the Father being willing to take you back until you’ve cleaned yourself up?  Would you rather work for a place in your heavenly Father’s household than accept his love and compassion for you?

There is another son in the story that you need to know about:  The older brother.  Your standard first born, extremely responsible, he worked diligently for his father and you wouldn’t have a clue that something was wrong until you see how he responded to his younger brother’s return.  His immediate response was accusation:  vs 28

“ ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’”

And the father’s response is powerful: “Son, everything I have has always been yours.”

You can continue reading this story for yourself in Luke 15…

Are you like the older son?  Striving to do all the right things and keep up appearances?  Do you fear that you won’t measure up, so you keep hustling to earn your place in God’s heart?
Now let me ask you this:  Did the father’s love change for either of his sons?

No.

So what happened?

They didn’t believe that they truly were his beloved sons.

Beloved sons want relationship with their father.  They don’t fear when they mess up and they don’t keep their father at arms length by perpetually performing well in order to show how valuable they are.

Beloved sons receive the love of their father and are confident of their place in his heart.

This week I forgot my place in God’s heart as his beloved daughter.  So I behaved like the older brother, trying to earn the love and affection of my Heavenly Father.

I needed to be reminded of the Father’s love for me.

This last Sunday we took communion together.  Communion is beautiful symbol of the good news of sonship.  When we were far from God Christ came and shed his blood so that not only would we receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life, but adoption into family.  So if you’ve run away from your heavenly Father and find yourself in a mess, or find yourself striving instead of resting in the Father’s love for you, today take this moment to be reminded of this:

You are the apple of his eye and the delight of his heart.  He has endlessly longed for and pursued you from before time began. He saw you as so valuable that you were worth sending his Son Jesus to save YOU.

Take a moment and, agree with the Father by faith- “I am your beloved son.  I am your beloved daughter.”

And turn your heart to the Father…

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Embracing Silence

by Dani Maddox

On most days, you can find me corralling a 6-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 15-month-old. The school year has begun and I am now homeschooling the two older ones. Along with taking care of the kids, I also take care of household duties—cooking, cleaning, paying bills, etc.

My husband and I live in and manage a 34-unit apartment complex, which includes duties such as finding tenants, collecting rent, dealing with tenant issues, cleaning vacant units, and taking care of the facilities.

We also recently purchased a fixer-upper to use as a rental, so we’re in the middle of remodeling.

I volunteer, plan parties, cook meals for friends, grocery shop, read books, attend small groups, chauffer kids to events, go to playdates, make calls, write blogs, etc. etc. etc.

In other words, I’m busy. If you’re like me (which I am sure you are), you are busy too. We are a busy society.

And if our schedules aren’t chaotic enough, we use every spare second we have to text our friends and update our statuses on social media. We take advantage of every moment of every day…and our to-do lists still don’t get completed!

Since when did busyness become a virtue? We practically brag about how busy we are nowadays, as if that is where our value comes from. Or maybe we use it as an excuse. The fact is, this is nothing new. In Luke 10:38-42, we read about a woman named Martha who has gotten caught up in the same mindset:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It’s not as if being busy and taking care of our households is wrong, but oftentimes we neglect what is most important. Jesus says that Mary chose what is better, and that was to sit in His presence and listen.

Have we, too, forgotten to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen?

I am very fortunate to have given birth to a rather needy baby fifteen months ago. Why, you ask? Since the time of her birth, I have been forced to sit in a dim, quiet room, silently comforting and feeding my baby for 20-30 minutes at a time several times a day.

At first, this was torturous for me. I had so much stuff to get done! And here I am just sitting getting nothing accomplished! I was left in silence to sit and think.

Then something amazing happened—I heard from God.

I began to cherish these moments where I could leave all the distractions, all the housework, all the clutter and never-ending to-do lists behind and just be.

Sometimes God would use this time to comfort me during days of turmoil. Sometimes He would reveal deep heart issues within me. Many times He opened my eyes to wisdom that could only be found in Him. And I didn’t even have to do anything special. I wasn’t sitting in my chair thinking, “Ok. Focus on God. Just focus on God.” No. He was already right there with me, waiting to spend time with me.

As our church enters a time of fasting this week, I want to challenge each of you to set aside time in your day for silence before God. I’m guessing that most of you know the importance of this, but how many of us are actually practicing this? The thing that bridges the gap between knowing something in your head and truly knowing something in your heart is experience. We need to experience the power and the benefits of something before we truly grasp the importance of it and have the motivation to continue in good works and good habits.

So let that be my encouragement for you: Even if you don’t feel like sitting in silence for 20-30 minutes a day, do it anyway. It doesn’t have to be in a dark room, either. Perhaps you can sit out in your garden or go on a hike. And then see what God does. I bet He’s been waiting to spend time with you too.

 

Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

 

God is Healer

by Vicky Hull

God heals, and there is no doubt or question in my mind that He does.  Who God chooses to heal is not a mystery to most of us, but when people start getting healed, the faith of others is revealed and belief in Jesus becomes a high priority.  Over the years, I have seen many people have been healed from multiple ailments and experienced healing first hand, with myself as the recipient and years later as the person praying has been greatly encouraging.

Several years ago on a cold icy morning while trying to catch one of the kids before leaving on the school bus, my feet came out from under me on the way down the icy step and my bottom and back were very sore for over a month.  Thinking everything was fine, a trip to the hospital was not necessary in my mind but walking a little easier and being more careful was the answer.

A couple of years went by and life was back to normal, when one day the back pain began and progressively become worse.  After dealing with the pain for a while, the time had come to visit the chiropractor. The ex-rays revealed a previous break on the bottom bone of the spine.  My thoughts immediately went back to the icy steps when the doctor asked me when it was broken.  A broken back would explain all that pain from two years ago. Once the adjustments corrected the problem, the doctor said any time I lifted anything heavy it would have to be adjusted again.

Several years later, a new problem stemming from the broken back came up, at least one day a month my bed held me captive due to severe pain. After spending a couple of years missing at least one day of work each month, symptoms becoming more frequent, desperation set in.  One Sunday in February 2012, after the preacher was done with his message, the prayer team came to the front of the church to pray for people.  At this time my back was recovering from one of its down times, so I went forward for prayer.  One of our elders, Ron and his wife Virginia, were available so approaching them for prayer was easier than ever! The couple asked what the need was and they began to pray and anoint my head with oil.

The healing was not instant, or maybe it was that day,  but Monday was when it hit me that my back did not hurt anymore!  My husband had been unable to touch my lower back for years due to the pain, but this day was different, he was able to rub it for the first time in years!  Since that day there are no limitations on what I can do, or lift, and it has not given me another problem since then.

Our God is so faithful and He loves us no matter how imperfect we are!

Have you ever heard the term “Hurt people hurt people”? Well this week another part of that was shared at youth group, “Healed people heal people”. Only God can heal people but when He uses one of us to do the praying to usher in His healing, what a blessing it is.

On Wednesday nights our youth group meets and the leaders have the opportunity to love on the kids who attend, it blesses the leaders, as well as the kids each week. Although last Wednesday was no different than any other youth meeting to start with it, became one of the most unforgettable to several of us!

Jarrid (our youth leader) had begun the night as usual by sitting everyone down and welcoming the kids to youth group.  After the introduction, he explained the game or team building project for the night, and the kids moved from their chairs to the activity.  I was sitting in a chair to the side, and one of the kids approached me and said one of the other kids needed me. There was a girl who was on crutches from an injury from cross country running and had no feeling in her leg. The girl was struggling with the crutches and was quite frustrated with the entire process of using them.

Starting out the conversation with a big hug, I asked what she needed.  She asked for prayer for strength to get through her injury. After asking what happened to her leg, she said it was a pinched nerve causing her leg to be numb.  So we started praying for healing and strength. After praying, I asked her how her leg felt; she put some weight on it and said it was tingling. She became more expressive as her excitement grew.  Watching her face as her healing was being revealed to her was priceless. She began to laugh and cry and laugh some more. Handing me the crutches sparked a burst of energy as she ran out into the hall telling everyone about how God healed her leg!

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”.  

My prayer is that God will wake up the world with signs and wonders of his goodness and faithfulness so that no man will turn away from him ever again.

Amen.