Too often we assume that church is supposed to be a “perfect” place full of “good” people. We feel like we would love it if our church was made up of 250 copies of ourselves, full of people who think and act like we do. Truth is, the less people are like us the harder it is to love them. People are messy and carry the streak of sin; sadly enough, that includes you and me...
Too often we assume that church is supposed to be a “perfect” place full of “good” people. We feel like we would love it if our church was made up of 252 people who think and act like we do. The truth is, the less people are like us, the harder it is to love them. People are messy and carry the streak of sin; sadly enough, that includes you and me.
Blogger Tim Challies presented “a Heavenly Perspective of the Prodigal” using Luke 15 to illustrate the depth of our Savior’s love for His desperate people. Some realize they are desperate and others don’t, and maybe never will.
As you read Mr. Challies’ description of the Parable of the Lost Sheep ask yourself: Does every sheep know that it needs a Shepherd?
Luke 15:4a - A Shepherd’s Anguish: The Shepherd’s heart skips a beat. Something is wrong! One of his sheep is missing! This is a Good Shepherd who knows that His sheep is missing. It is the speckled one, the one with the bent ear. The Shepherd had cared for the mother, was there when the sheep was born, he has loved this sheep, provided for it as He watched it grow. And now it’s missing! He worries because the Shepherd knows that sheep are not nature’s survivalists. They are absolutely dependent on the Shepherd.
Luke 15:4b - A Shepherd’s Quest: Sheep wander. Sheep are wolf-bait. It’s not a compliment to be called a sheep, and yet, it is the description of us in the world. The Shepherd does not leave sheep to be devoured, He cries out, “My flock will never be complete without this ONE!” The only measure of success is to find and rescue it.
Through all of this what does the sheep consider? Nothing. What does the Shepherd consider? Everything. He is the one who leads, loves, listens and searches until He finds that ONE sheep.
Luke 15:5-6 - A Shepherd’s Joy: What joy when He finds the sheep! He doesn’t rebuke or punish it. He is not disgusted by it and doesn’t say the sheep has to work its way back. He does not berate or hold a grudge. He doesn’t tell the sheep it made Him look bad. Instead, He is full of joy! God loves to seek, speak to, and save the lost.
Jesus is talking to us – the church! God saves sinners!
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
Note the contrast in Luke 15 – on one hand there are the tax collectors and sinners and on the other are the Pharisees. The tax collectors and sinners are the people who are seen as “bad”. They know they are "bad" and they know that most people don’t want them around. But Jesus not only accepts their hospitality, He actually enjoys their company.
Then there are the Pharisees. By worldly standards, they are considered the “good” people. They make sure that everyone can see how "good" they are. They want you to know they are holy and obey rules with a flare. When the Pharisees see Jesus with the taxes collectors and sinners they think that He needs higher standards.
Even then, the “good” people didn’t want to spend time with the “bad” people because it might ruin their hard-earned reputation. They want to protect their “goodness” at any cost.
Today, you and I have much the same choice to make: are we the sinners or the Pharisees? Although the “titles” might be different, the premise is still the same. Do we worry that if we spend time with certain people, it might diminish our reputations? Who are the “sinners and tax collectors” in your church and community? Whose reputation are we afraid will tarnish our own?
Are you willing to spend time with those whom Christian culture deems unacceptable? Maybe you are nice to them on Sunday morning, but do you have them in your homes? Do you let them around your children?
We are so grateful that we have a Savior who extends grace to us. It should be our joy to help others out of the mess they have made. It is the very joy of angels!
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
Do you make it your purpose to seek out sinners? If God cares so much for the lost, how can you ignore them? Do you long for His sheep? Do you welcome them in your fold? Do you have confidence in the character of the Shepherd?
Consider your own “lostness”, fellow sheep. He sought us out and drew us to Himself. When we recognize how lost we are, offering grace to fellow lost sheep seems far less daunting.
Do you know a prodigal who has wandered from the fold?
It is not because of confidence in ourselves to reach out, but in the Good shepherd who loves to rescue!
These notes were taken from Tim Challies’ talk, “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”. If you find that you are struggling with loving another in your church, please ask someone to help you. If you would like, you can contact me at email@example.com for prayer, accountability, and resources.
I am so grateful for the blessing of being invited to MOPS, being brave enough to go, and the ability to remember how God sees me….but this was not always the case…
I am so grateful for the blessing of being invited to MOPS, being brave enough to go, and the ability to remember how God sees me….but this was not always the case…
“MOM: The toughest job you will ever love.” That was a cute little inscription on an embroidered cloth with sweet little flowers on it that my mother gave me when I found out that I was going to be a mommy for the first time. At the time, I knew motherhood was going to be hard and different than anything I had ever done in my life. I had no clue what I was about to go through or what the journey would look like. Being a mother helped me realize who I really am and that it was okay to need help sometimes.
I still remember the day I realized that motherhood was meant to be done as part of a community. Our new little family was out getting pizza (because I needed to get out of the house!) and we ran into a sweet friend from church. She saw our brand-new baby girl and smiled and then looked at me and said, “How are you doing?” I thought, “You should definitely give the standard ‘fine’ so as not to show that you are terrified and struggling.” But the truth was she already knew, she understood that I needed fellowship with other ladies, that I needed a place to ask questions, that I needed someone to tell me that I’m doing a great job, that God has equipped me to be a great mom, and that everything is going to be fine. She knew that I needed a place where I would be reminded that Jesus came to redeem all our mistakes, that His grace covers ALL, and that He chose me to be this sweet baby girl’s mama on purpose! That day she listened to my struggles and my joys and then she invited me to MOPS, Mothers of Preschoolers. A place for all of this and so much more!
I’ll be honest, it was a little awkward at first. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to socialize and how far I had let myself go emotionally. I convinced myself, “I’m fine! When you become a mom this is just the way life is!”
Did I know that because I had been a mom before and other moms had told me that?! NO! I had no clue! When you are recovering or rehabilitating from anything it hurts to get back to “doing good.” But going MOPS helped me to see who I really am and that even though I was (and still am) an imperfect mess, God uses me for His glory and to lead my children in His ways.
I started to see myself the way that He sees me. I am His chosen treasure (Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 2:9), I am the daughter of The King (Galatians 3:26), transformed by Him for His glory (Romans 12:2), who has been given a gift to invest in her family (Proverbs 31:11-21), who does not have to worry about anything (Philippians 4:6-7) and who is a blessing to her family (Proverbs 31:28).
God reminds me every day that there is no greater value I can be given than that of being a wife and mother and now I get to share that same love and encouragement with other moms that come to MOPS!
If you are a mother of a little one, or know a mother of a little one, we hope that you will consider attending yourself or inviting someone to try Mountain Christian Church MOPS! It begins August 21st and meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month from 9:15 am – 11:30 am. At MOPS, our desire is to deepen relationships, encourage confidence as mothers, wives and women, and grow together spiritually. Contact Michelle Aigner at 263-0951 for more information.
What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal. Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have...
What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal.
Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have. We decide that what God has provided simply isn’t enough for us. To make it all the harder, we have an enemy who instinctively seizes the opportunity to amplify that craving. And this is US, you and I, fellow sojourners and believers in Christ! This is why too often leaders fall, marriages fail, and relationships are severed.
The desire to wander is the apex where sovereignty and free will meet.
Harvey described this phenomenon of the Prodigal as “the saint who goes sideways.”
This Prodigal is the Fool described in Proverbs - deeply entrenched in rebellion, the one who dismisses God and replaces heavenly authority with his own. He is right in his own eyes, and no one – not even the holy, loving, powerful God – can tell him differently. The Fool has begun to believe that he is right, that his ways are right, and that everything he does is right.
Wayward is the destination that the Fool pursues, wayward is where the Fool will wind up. Pull back the curtain of a prodigal, and you will find the Fool. For the Fool wants to make choices that have no consequences and to have an autonomy that needs no accountability. The Fool is not particularly interested in the pain of the one who passionately pleads with them; creating a terrible imbalance, for the Fool will exploit neediness and humility.
This may seem terribly depressing, but take heart, God’s grace is far more tenacious than any sinner.
His grace has the power to pull one out of the blackest pit.
If you are struggling to love a prodigal in your life, know that you are not alone, God is relentless in His pursuit of the lost. Harvey said, “God deals with restlessness by exhausting our attempts to rest in anything but Him.”
So, what can you do? Begin by recognizing that the family loves the prodigal far more than they are loved, and because of that, our love has to be rugged. If it is not, if our love does not have teeth, then the prodigal is armed to exploit us.
What is this rugged love? It is never minimizing or denying what is happening; never simply hoping things will fix themselves. Instead, our goal must be to reflect the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is strong enough to face the satanic slope of evil.
Naming evil is important, but more than that, we must overcome evil with good. As the prodigal slips farther and farther from the Father of Light, their world becomes the shadowy realm of reckless self.
Express love intentionally and do not enable sin.
When we love a prodigal, we sometimes imagine stories in our mind about how we will win them back. We imagine ourselves as so loving, so patient, so kind, so understanding -- of course they will be won back! But we must remember that we are not the Holy Spirit. Do you trust yourself or can you trust God? If we confine our ideals of love to something that we can confine, we will find them way too small.
There is a paradox in Scripture which was described as “redemptive release”. God will pursue us as He releases us. He knows that there are times that we must be allowed to chase what we want only to find what we need. Think about it – the prodigal son did not sit around the house playing video games. He had to leave to realize how very much he wanted to be with his father.
It’s hard to wait, and our Savior is moved by your suffering as you wait for the prodigal and persevere. Really, you have only one of two choices - you can persevere or be poisoned.
Your hope cannot be in the prodigal but in what the Lord may or may not be doing.
Draw your eyes to our Lord. Let Scripture speak to you louder than any other of the voices muttering in your heart. This relationship with a prodigal may never be reconciled, but you will never lose your relationship with our Lord. God may wait until it seems too late, but we will not know His plans on this edge of eternity. By persevering in faith, you are testifying that He alone is the one worth trusting.
Will you trust Him as you wait for your prodigal to return to the Lord and give glory to Him?
This is a tiny thumbprint of the takeaways from Dave Harvey’s lectures at the IBCD Conference. If you have a prodigal in your life, I would love to pray with you, share some resources, and walk with you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Traveling in a van full of biblical counselors is bound to be an experience where you can learn wisdom and see grace in action. The Lord recently provided me with this treasure trove of blessing as we headed out to California for a conference on how to love prodigals with gracious truth. Throughout the trip...
Pilgrim Life with Other Believers
Traveling in a van full of biblical counselors is bound to be an experience where you can learn wisdom and see grace in action. The Lord recently provided me with this treasure trove of blessing as we headed out to California for a conference on how to love prodigals with gracious truth. Throughout the trip, I was conscious that I was surrounded by gifted brothers and sisters and as I reflected on the experience I appreciated anew. They haven’t written books or are not paid to speak to groups of people, but I was profoundly affected just to be with them. I was blessed by their spiritual gifts as well as their practical ones.
It isn’t the platform, but the wisdom of the Word that takes root in the soil of our hearts. How conscious are we to weed out the thorny seeds of pride? Those prickly spikes that cause us to mutter to ourselves, “Yeah, I know that” and shut our ears. Or worse, we wait for the other person to be quiet so we can blast out a response. The truth is that we don’t know. We might have an inkling of salvation, of prayer, of the Gospel, of doctrine, you fill in your favorite blank here, but there is always more to learn. Mary said, “It is when we turn away from God that we turn to our own selfishness.” Each person has something to add or share, a blessing to bestow. But often we miss it because we are too focused on ourselves.
Mary was full of prayer, full of wisdom, and quick to laugh. She was the one who found us incredibly affordable restaurants that delighted us with delicious food. We enjoyed our meals together no matter what table we were gathered around. There were breakfasts cooked by rotation in the morning at the house we stayed in, eating out, and on the last day, we were lavishly hosted by three other New Mexican sisters. I think Pam summed it up in her prayer before the meal when she said, “Oh, Father, what a taste of heaven it is to eat with brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Pam would look for ways to encourage us. She would listen, pray, and watch. Pam is a quiet woman of wisdom. When Vera said, “It takes experience to express the wisdom of Psalms”, it was a vivid description of Pam.
Vera is a sweet saint who took the time to appreciate the aesthetics around us and call our attention to our Lord’s attention to detail. She was drawn to flowers in particular. How much I would have missed if it hadn’t been for her! Did you know that there are trees that bloom purple flowers? There are stalks of fuzzy green stems, there are yellow flowers with orange triangles, bushes with red leaves and white berries, and I actually saw lemons on the tree! How creative is our God!? I wanted to take pictures, but it would never have done justice. Vera’s husband, Keith, said, “A photographer can only capture what he sees, but it is God who can see the full picture.” Keith is a retired fire-fighter who protected the little band of women folk under his care. He calmly drove us through the crazy California highways. We raced each other to get into the IBCD bookstore first each day.
Keith and Vera have provided marriage counseling at their church for several years, but I am struck by their humility. They are so hungry to learn more.
Carmen added a spark to our group. She was the one to see the humor in situations and point them out. She noticed if someone was on the fringe and was quick to serve. After the first day of the conference, she talked about the prodigal in her life. Carmen shared how hard it is to balance love and truth as she prayerfully sought ways to engage. She said, “If I am unwilling to look for ways to enter her world, how will she ever trust me?”
Each person in the van that week had gifts to share, in abundance. By listening, engaging, and simply being aware, God opened my eyes to see their gifts and appreciate them afresh. How can you be more aware and more appreciative of those around you as they share their practical and spiritual gifts with you this week?
Check back next week as we share more about Elizabeth's experience at the 2018 ICBD Conference!
An afternoon by the pool .. a weekend at the cabin .. a lazy day in your hammock, or an evening out on the porch swing .. these are the essence of leisure, of rest, of summer. And while I hold firmly to the maxim that “the only two things in life that are not overrated are God, and rest”, I also believe that...
An afternoon by the pool .. a weekend at the cabin .. a lazy day in your hammock, or an evening out on the porch swing .. these are the essence of leisure, of rest, of summer. And while I hold firmly to the maxim that “the only two things in life that are not overrated are God, and rest”, I also believe that leisure is most delightfully life-giving when it is nourished by a good book.
As you enjoy your summer, here are three books that you might consider making a part of your plans. They will give an outsized spiritual return on your investment. They are short books - easy to pack for travel - with chapters that can typically be read in one sitting. And yet, they get to the heart of spiritual matters quickly, and invite you deeper into the springs of God’s refreshment.
Tozer thunders like a modern-day prophet, rousing us from the midst of our sleepy evangelical world. Several of his works are rightly seen as classics. The Root of the Righteous is one of these. May it be well-used of God to stir you, with chapters like “The Great God Entertainment”, and “Faith Is a Perturbing Thing”. Hear his incisive diagnoses, written in 1955(!), and see if they don’t ring true: “The present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.” May you be drawn to seek Him more, with “Love of the Unseen Is Possible”, and “Something Beyond Song”.
It is Piper’s sub-title that really orients you to his approach right away: “Making the most of three dangerous opportunities.” This is no glum recital of shame-inducing regulations. In typical Piper fashion, he grounds everything in the glory of God, and in our soul’s search for it’s deepest satisfaction. He begins with a foundation of what money, sex, and power are all about. They are gifts from God, meant to be used for His glory and our joy. Then he addresses the dangers and opportunities of each one, in turn. In the end, he encourages us in how we can deploy the potentials that are latent in each of these three temptations. “Money, sex, and power exist ultimately to show that God is more to be desired than money, sex, and power. That is, paradoxically, how they become most satisfying in themselves.”
If you’ve ever felt like you’re completely tapped-out after 5 minutes in prayer, than this may be the book for you. If you’ve ever felt like your time in the Word was dull, than this will open the door to a new approach. As Whitney says in diagnosing our prayer doldrums, “The problem is not that we pray about the same things; rather, it’s that we say the same old things about the same old things.” And really, the remedy is obvious, right? Where else should we turn, to learn to pray, than to the Bible?! And whose words and thoughts ought to fill our minds, and guide our petitions, more than God’s?! In the end, this little book is simple, yet profound. I find that Whitney’s approach spurs me on with the freedom to follow the Spirit in prayer, while also guiding me by the wings of God’s Word. It is brilliantly dependent upon both.
What are your favorite Biblical summer reads? Share in the comments!
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The Military Bible Stick is designed specifically to bring God’s Word to men and women deployed in the U.S. Military. It’s a small digital player pre-loaded with the New Testament and Psalms specifically selected for our troops. If you would like to support this opportunity beyond your regular giving, make a separate check to MCC, with “Military Bible Stick” in the memo. Contact Chris Willadsen for more information.
We have a terrific opportunity to spread God’s love and his Word to the international students attending UNM. MCC has been working with ISI for many years helping international students as they arrive in town for the new academic year.
Volunteers are needed in several capacities:
Picking students up at airport, temporary homestays, or helping with apartment hunting
Help at welcome center
Furniture movers, pickup and distribution
Prepare dish for volunteer/student lunches (sign-up sheets will be in the foyer)
These activities will run July 31-August 17, pick the times that work best for you. There are also opportunities that span the entire school year as well:
Assist with English program
Student friendship partners (meet monthly with student)
Please contact Vince Tidwell or Stan Schug for
more information or to get involved.
The door is open to share the Gospel in our public schools! Come and be a part of Bible Club! The trainings are from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. either
August 4th at Mountain Valley Church
August 11th at Monterey Baptist in Albuquerque.
Contact Gail Salazar at 980-6890 or email at
email@example.com to RSVP.