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

God Chooses Two Seniors to Bless His Son!

Image result for picture of simeon and baby jesusSimeon was well known around Jerusalem as one of those who were eagerly looking for the Promised Messiah.  He was familiar with the hundreds of scriptures that spoke of this Promised One and had devoted most of his life to their study.   He knew that this Deliverer would be the “seed of a woman” (Genesis 3:15), the descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:3) and of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16).  He also knew that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).  His faithfulness to these scriptures and his faith that they would be fulfilled, had caused the Father God to give him a promise by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing this Deliverer with his own eyes.

And so it was on a morning just like all the rest, that Simeon felt an urgency in his spirit to go to the temple.  There he met an unremarkable couple about to dedicate their eight-day-old baby boy and offer the prescribed sacrifice.  Although there was nothing out of the ordinary about the couple or the baby, an amazing confirmation came in Simeon’s spirit.  This was not just a baby boy.  This was THE Baby Boy, the Promised One, the Messiah.  Simeon could not contain his joy!  He took the baby in his arms and began to prophesy: “Now Lord, You can let your bond servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of Revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”  Simeon’s prophecy clearly indicated that not only would this Baby bring salvation to Israel, but that this Baby would be a light to the Gentiles all over the World as well!  Oh, the joy that Simeon must have felt at that moment!  His life of faithfulness had been amply rewarded!

Just as Simeon was returning the Baby to Mary’s arms, Anna, another senior citizen, entered the room.  Anna was well known to those who frequented the temple since she served with fasting and prayer day and night even though she was at the advanced age of 84!  The same Holy Spirit that had spoken to Simeon to identify the Christ now spoke to Anna!  Much to the amazement of Mary and Joseph, she also began to praise God that He had revealed His Messiah to her!

Although most of those living in the area at the time of Christ’s Birth were totally unaware of the momentous occasion, Simeon and Anna had sensitized their spirits to hear from Holy Spirit, and they were amply rewarded.

Image result for Picture of Anna and Jesus

No Room in His Heart

Image result for picture of the stable jesus was born inJoel, the inn keeper, pulled out his bag of gold and dumped the contents on the table in front of him.  Things were going well for His Inn now that the tax season was here.  People were returning from throughout Israel to Bethlehem to register in their hometown for the tax.  That, of course, meant that they would have to find a place of lodging somewhere in the little city.  Many still had families in the area, but there were also lots of folks that had no family nearby.  It was winter, and even in Israel, the temperature dropped at night.  All this meant more gold for the only Inn in town, and for Joel.

He smiled broadly as he counted the week’s profits.  Certainly, he had to acquire more help to keep the rooms tidy and clean, but he had been able to get several youths to work in the rooms, and they had not expected high wages.  Yes, it was a very good season, so far.  He looked at the map of the Inn.  There was still an area that was unoccupied, the King’s Suite so to speak.  He kept these two rooms vacant so that he could offer special lodging to royalty should any come.  The King’s Suite would bring plenty of gold.  Andrew, one of the teens he had recently hired to clean rooms, had questioned this practice, especially if it meant turning needy folks away.  The King’s Suite was the only area vacant for the coming evening.  Joel expected some argument from Andrew.

Sure enough, just as Joel had returned the coins to the bag, a tall, lean teen knocked on his door. It was Andrew, and he was breathless, “There is a couple outside.  They have come all the way from Nazareth, and have been on the road for several days.  The man has been walking while the woman rode a donkey.  She especially looks tired and VERY pregnant.   Please, can’t we open the King’s Suite to them?   They look like they really need to rest, and there is something very special about them.”

Joel was indignant!  “What?  Let commoners into the King’s Suite?  Then it might take several days to clean the suite and return it to its present grandeur.  No!  Absolutely, not.  We are full!  Tell them to go elsewhere.  Maybe a family in the area can take them in.”

It was a crestfallen Andrew that returned to the young couple.  “Our boss says we are full.  But wait!  The stable!  Would you be interested in using our stable?  I could put in a lot of fresh straw.  There are only a few sheep in there right now.  They are recovering, and can’t be out on cold nights.  We could get hay for your donkey.  It will be warmer than being out in this wind.”

Andrew got the couple settled in the warmest spot in the stable before returning to his duties in the Inn.  It was several hours laterwhent he looked out and saw a light coming from the stable.  “The candles, the straw!…Was the stable on fire?”  He ran out to check.

What he saw amazed him!  The baby had arrived.  He was wrapped in the extra blankets Andrew had provided.  Also in the stable were the shepherds that used the area for their sick sheep.  They were kneeling in front of the couple.  One of them grabbed Andrew’s cloak and pulled him down.  “Get down, kneel down.  This Baby is the Son of God!  The angels sent us back here with the message that He had been born.  There must have been fifty of them!  We heard the most beautiful music.  Look at the glow on the Infant’s face!  Isn’t this all just so amazing!”

After a few minutes, Andrew returned to the Inn.  He tried to awaken Joel to come and see the New Born King but, of course, Joel could not be bothered.  Just as Joel had no room in his inn, he had no room in his heart for generosity, compassion, or faith.  While he looked for an earthly king, he missed the birth of the King of Kings.

The Mary No One Knew

Image result for picture of mary the mother of jesusMary sat on the corner of her bed with her head in her hands, and tears streaming from her eyes.  How excited she had been six months ago when the angel had visited her with the news:  She was to become the Mother of God!  Then when she began to experience the changes in her body:  the fullness, the morning sickness, the weight gain, she realized that the words that the angel had spoken were actually coming to pass.   She knew that she if she was to keep her secret she must leave home.    She had gone to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who had also been pregnant.

How exciting it had been for both of them when Mary had entered the house!  Elizabeth had immediately recognized that Mary was pregnant, and not just with any child but with the Son of God!  Mary had burst into prophetic song!  “My soul magnifies the Lord…For behold, all generations will call me blessed!”(1)

Mary had continued to stay with Elizabeth during the last trimester of  Elizabeth’s pregnancy, helping the older woman in every way that she could.  When she returned to her home, her morning sickness had gone, but she had another problem:  weight gain just in certain parts of her body.   Her mother was the first to become suspicious.  “Mary are you pregnant?  Did you and Joseph…?”  Mary had glowed with her response.  “Yes, Mother, I am pregnant, but it isn’t Joseph’s child.”  Her mother’s face had fallen.  If it wasn’t bad enough that her daughter had not waited until marriage, now it seemed that she had…, well, she had not even been faithful to Joseph, her fiance.

“No, Mother, it isn’t Joseph’s child, it’s God’s child!”

“Well, of course it is God’s child.  We are all God’s children.”

“But, Mother, this is God’s only Son, the Promised Messiah!  An angel came and talked to me one night.  The Holy Spirit came and overshadowed me.  I am still pure, because this is God’s child!”

Her mother had coughed!  “Well, if this doesn’t beat all the excuses I have ever heard!!  You are pregnant, and instead of owning up to your sin, you are lying about it!  Just think how this sounds!  Has anyone ever even heard of anything like this happening before?  I want you to pack up your things and leave, Mary.  You are a poor example to your younger siblings!”

Mary had next gone to Joseph.  He he had been devastated. “I thought that you loved me, Mary!  I wondered why you went off to Elizabeth’s house.  Now I know what you were doing there!”

Mary had taken hold of Joseph’s arm.  “Please, don’t you understand how special this is!  God has chosen us to be the parents of His Only Son.  I need you to stand by me now, or I will be on the street, maybe even stoned.”

Joseph had pulled his arm away!  “Ha!  You want me to protect you!  If this really is God’s child, don’t you think that God will protect you?  You don’t even believe your own story!”  Joseph answered coldly as he walked away.  However that very night Joseph also had an angelic visitation, and that changed everything!

Mary continued to sit on her bed.  She had made little progress in packing her things.  So much for “all generations calling me blessed,” she remarked ruefully.  She thought about Joseph’s observation that God would protect her.  Yes, she thought, Joseph is right.  If this is God’s son, God will protect Him and me.  God presence is all I need.  A spirit of peace and a rest of faith came over her.  Exhausted, she slept.

The next morning Mary arose, poured some water from the pitcher into the basin, and washed her tear-stained face.  Then she glanced out the window.  Joseph was running toward her house, and there was a big smile on his face!

(1) Luke 1:46,48

Light Dispels the Darkness

Image result for Aerial night view of the rocky mountainsThe Holy Spirit flew over the darkened, mountainous area at the speed of light.   He seemed to be everywhere at once. “So much darkness, so much lack of knowledge, so little of the light of love!”  His movements were watched with keen interest by the Father God.  His communications to the Father were not verbal, not audible, but rather spirit to spirit.

The Spirit slowed and circled downward, not unlike an eagle dropping out of the sky.  From this lowered altitude, the darkness appeared to be broken with tiny points of light.  The Spirit began to hover, flying slowly back and forth, over the area.  In response to the prayers of the Saints, He began to brood over the land.  His brooding changed the hearts of men, melting the hardness, dispelling the unbelief, cultivating them to receive the Seed.  As He brooded, The Father spoke again as He had done in the beginning:  “Let here be light!”  Though they could not be seen from such a height, members of the Lord’s army, each carrying a tiny torch, were infusing the area with light.  The soldiers gathered together and the light intensified as hearts were ignited to burn with His fire.  The area over which the Spirit had flown grew bright.  The Son, the Holy Seed,  was revealed, and He claimed the softened hearts of the men.  The darkness was dispelled.  The area was established in the light of God’s Kingdom.

However, the Spirit, the Father, and the Son were not finished, because much darkness remained.  Hills and valleys were still under the power of the “god of darkness–the god of this world.”  The Spirit would continue to brood.  More soldiers carrying torches would be sent out to ignite flames in the darkened places.  Their task was not complete until all the darkness had been dispelled from the land.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.  (Colossians 1:13)