A Lost Sheep Comes Home

Nick scuffled along the darkened street.  He gave a discarded pop can a vicious kick.  His hours at work were being cut again.  He was already having difficulty paying his rent.  What would he do?  What could he do?  And what was the purpose anyway?

Nick cursed to express his frustration.  “What is the _____ use of even trying?  Why am I even on this _______ Earth?”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Nick had graduated from college with honors years ago, but the technology in his area of expertise had changed rapidly.   Soon he was having to compete in the job market with younger, more skilled applicants.  He had taken classes, of course, but there was nothing that he could do about his age.  Some employers were required to pay him for his years of experience, which meant that he was forced to compete with applicants who had less experience and would require a lower salary but had more tec savy than Nick.  Now, at 57, Nick was employed as a custodian and was barely able to make ends meet.  And his hours had been cut!  “What was the use?  Why continue in this rotten life?”

Suddenly, a door opened about half a block up the street.  A beam of light emerged lighting the way for several people to enter the building.  Curious, Max found his way to the open doorway and looked in.  A church!  People were gathering for a Saturday night service.  Max entered and took a seat near the back of the room.

The worship service had begun.  Immediately Nick felt the warmth of love permeate the building.  It was obvious that these people loved God and that He loved them.  Nick remained seated and slumped over, but he let the love envelope his being.  He was so hungry for love.

The pastor began his message with a passage from Luke 15. 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

The pastor continued to address the congregation:  “You may wonder why you are here this evening.  Let me assure you that you are here because God has drawn you here.  You, like the lost sheep, have wandered away from God.  You are struggling to live on your own in the wilderness of sin.  Tonight God has left the ninety-nine to go after you.  He wants you safe in His flock.  Will you acknowledge your sin of trying to live life on your own, and surrender to His love?  He wants to tenderly care for you.”

Nick raised his hand and prayed the heartfelt prayer with the pastor.  Immediately he felt peace, joy, and love engulf his very being.  When he rose from his chair, he truly felt like a new person.  He walked out of the building with the others.  When he reached the street, he raised his fist in the air, gave a “whoop” of victory and did a little dance with his feet.  He was loved by God, Himself!  Of that he was certain.  He didn’t know what the future held, but he know Who held the future.


Love for Unlovely Leann

Leann opened the garage door.  As she had expected, her husband, Roy, was in the garage tinkering with his race car again.  “Can you help me move the sofa,” she called.  “I need to vacuum behind it.”

“Just a moment.  I am almost finished here,” came Roy’s response.

Leanne was still waiting a half an hour later, so she left the vacuum where it was in the living room and went to the kitchen to fix super.  “All he ever thinks about is that car,” she muttered.  “It’s like he’s married to it!  I feel like I am nobody to him.  I feel like Leah in the Old Testament.  Jacob loved his other wife, Rachael, instead of her.  I need love!  I want to be true to my husband, but where can I find the love that I need to feel like my life matters?”  She half prayed, half cried aloud the question.

When Roy finally came in, Leann gave him her usual tongue-lashing, then each sulked until time for bed.  Roy was engaged in his own thoughts:  “She thinks that I don’t love her.  Well, truth be told, maybe I don’t.  Look at her!  What’s to love?   She is still in her sweats.  Her hair looks like she combed it only once this week.  The food she fixes is just a bland as she is.  She ought to be thankful that I haven’t left her.  A guy has to have a little excitement in life.  She is lucky that I have my beautiful, shiny red car.”

A few nights later Leann had a dream.  In the dream she was approaching a man, walking slowly toward him.  Music was playing in the background.  As she got closer she recognized the man.  It was Jesus, but not the Jesus she had seen in the paintings.  This Jesus had closely trimmed hair and beard, and was wearing a modern-day tux.  She realized then that she was wearing a lovely bridal gown.  She was getting married!  And the groom was Jesus!  As she continued to slowly approach Him she saw that He was looking right at her, and He was smiling.  His hands were extended toward her.  But it was His eyes that drew her most!  They were filled with compassion and love!  His gaze seemed to engulf her, to overwhelm her.  It was like nothing she had ever experienced!  Then Leann woke up!

She sat on her bed for a long time, head in her hands, trying to relive every precious moment of her dream.  “Yes,” she thought.  “I am a part of the Bride of Christ.  I have asked Jesus into my heart.  He is my Savior and He is my Lord.   But never before have I experienced His love as I have done in this dream–a life changing experience.  I am loved!  I am not just loved, I am deeply loved by Jesus who is with me all the time even when Roy is in the garage.”

She opened her Bible and her eyes fell on the passage in Colossians 2:10.   “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  Wow!  She thought and checked some other translations:  “When you have Jesus, you have everything that you need!”  She jumped up and did a little dance.  “I don’t have to change Roy.   He doesn’t have to be my source of love.  I have Jesus.”  She danced around a bit more.

Leann dressed carefully and fixed her hair in an attractive manner.  She went about her day with a new enthusiasm and joy.  She was loved!  She was loved by none other than the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!  She was loved!  She was loved!  On line she found a new dish that was simple to prepare and had it steaming on the stove when Roy came home.

Roy noticed the difference immediately.  “Wow!  Leann looks radiant!  She’s beautiful!”   He went over, lifted the lid on the pot, and took a deep breath.  “This smells delicious!”  I can’t wait to taste it.  I guess my car will have to wait tonight!”  He took Leann in his arms and gently kissed her.

Dare to be a Daniel

Image result for picture of a teen praying in his roomDaniel, age 16, and his sister, Sarah, age 10, sat on the first bench in the court room.  This was the day they had both dreaded and eagerly anticipated.  Today they would be adopted.  It had been more than two months since that horrific day when both parents had been killed in a head-on collision with a semi truck.  Both children had been left at a friend’s house while their parents shopped for Christmas presents.  Their parents never returned leaving them without parents, grandparents or any close relatives.  They were truly alone in the world.

Sarah had been quickly placed with a family that had a girl close to her age.  She was excited about the prospect of having a sister for the first time but Daniel, because of his age, had been harder to place.  Finally, a childless, professional couple had come forward.  They had agreed to adopt him because he was a good student and a football player.

Sarah and Daniel quickly embraced and promised to write, then tearfully parted.  As they drove toward Daniel’s new home, his new parents laid out their expectations:  “We expect you to keep your grades up.  We expect you to excel in athletics no matter what it takes, get high ACT scores, etc. etc.  We are willing to keep you until you are ready for college but we are not going to devote any of the family finances toward your college education.  That education, you must get through academic and athletic scholarships and student loans.  We expect you to be a credit to the family name.  We are both lawyers with lucrative practices.”

“What about God,” Daniel asked.  Do you folks believe in God?  Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?”

Daniel’s mother had answered after an awkward pause.  “You may keep your beliefs as long as they do not interfere with your performance.”

The next few months found Daniel doing well in his new school although he was nowhere near the top of his class.  His new father had suggested that he find a copy of last year’s ACT test so that he could study before taking it.  Daniel’s real struggle was in football.  He was not nearly as big or as strong as some of his teammates so he seldom got to play on the junior varsity team.

One day his dad came to him with steroids that he had gotten from a physician.  He insisted that Daniel begin to take these to improve his strength.  Daniel knew that this was wrong.  “Give me another month.  If I don’t get on the first string, I will give them a try.”

Later Daniel’s new mom joined his dad in front of the TV.  “Daniel is up in his room listening to that Christian music again.  He is probably praying in there.  I heard him tell his new friend that he was praying that he would get to play in the next game.  Do you think we should have a talk with him.  This religion stuff could cause him to be less competitive and miss his chance.  We have learned when you see an opportunity you have to go for it regardless of others who may be in your way.”

“No.  Let him alone for a little while.  He will soon see that that religion stuff doesn’t work.  It just isn’t practical in real life.”

His new parents were right about one thing.  Daniel was praying, and he was not only asking God for help with his classes and sports.  He was praying for his new parents:  “Show them the truth, Lord!”

It was at the Friday night game two weeks later that the breakthrough came for Daniel.  The team’s kicker twisted his ankle on the first field goal attempt.  Daniel was put in the game as his substitute for the extra point conversion after a touchdown.  He prayed as was his custom as he walked on the field.  His kick went straight between the goal posts!  His next two attempts to score points for the team were also successful.  When the game was over, his team had won by five points (one field goal and two extra point conversions after touchdowns, the points that Daniel had made for the team.)  The team carried Daniel off the field.

When Daniel showed up at home after the game his mom met him at the door with a letter addressed to Daniel that she had opened reporting an ACT score in the 90th percentile!   His mom said, “Daniel, Dad and I have been thinking that we would like to go to church as a family.  Do you know a good church that we could attend?”

In all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined [Daniel] he found [him] ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.  Thus, Daniel continued   [in the king’s service].  Daniel 1:20,21