Monday 27 June 2011

So, what's a Prodigal?

This was the question I asked myself the other week when I woke with an urging to read Luke 15. I couldn't even remember what was in Luke 15, but knew I needed to read it. Luke 15, is all about lost stuff: a sheep, a coin and a son. In each parable that Jesus speaks, He tells us that that which was lost comes back and there's great rejoicing.

However, it was the third parable in the chapter that really got me thinking. Here it is in full:

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring[b] out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”


We know the story. The young son wants his inheritance straight away and goes off, spends it all, loses it all, ends up so depressed and low that he is envious of the food that the pigs are eating. He then comes to his senses, and realises that the least of his father's servants is treated better than he is, they all have clean clothes, good food and a roof over their heads.

He makes the decision to return home and beg for a job, hoping that he can get some empathy from the one he turned his back on. This is where we realise that Jesus is showing us what our Father in Heaven is really like.
The son makes his way back home and has a speech ready, but as soon as his father sees him, his father "ran and fell on his neck and kissed him."
In the time when Jesus walked on earth, a man running like this was simply unheard of. Men of wealth and title never ran. Ever. They were graceful, wore long robes and walked everywhere.
For the father to run, he was doing something that was out of character. He was so overjoyed that he picked up his robe and ran (note that he didn't jog, he ran, he was bursting with excitement!) towards his son.
To put it in a modern context, imagine if the Pope was to arrive somewhere and suddenly see a long lost friend in the distance, and he started to run towards the friend, such was his delight at seeing them again.

That's the sort of reaction the father had to the lost, prodigal son. He was undignified in his joy for his son who had returned.
He threw a party for him. He killed the fattened calf and gave him a robe and a ring, accepting him into the family again.

This is what God thinks of you. He is undignified in His love and delight, when you make a move towards Him, He runs with open arms, kisses you and embraces you as His son or daughter.

The great thing about this parable is that Jesus tells us the reward for those who don't stray, who stay in the family and do the Father's will. They receive the full inheritance of the Father, not a portion, the full amount.

So the message here is that God is so overjoyed in love for you, that He is undignified in His joyous response when you have been away from Him, and unmatched in generosity when you stay with Him.

This Sunday, we are having a Celebration in the Exchange. How excited are you that you are going to meet a God who is undignified in His love and joy for you? are you going out of habit? are you going out of expectation? are you going to be undignified?

In 2 Samuel 6 v 14, David danced before God with great abandon when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to the city. King David danced in the Presence of God.

If God is so delighted to see you that He's undignified in His response, and King David was so delighted to see God that he danced undignified before God, are you ready to dance undignified before God?

Oh, in answer to the title, a Prodigal is "A person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way." So when you blow it all, every thing you have, every chance you think you've been given, God is delighted when you turn to Him. He is undignified and He welcomes you back with great joy.

Monday 20 June 2011

Cast your burdens

Good morning all, a word of encouragement from Papa.

I was wrestling and worrying over the usual kind of stuff that clouds the mind (work, health, money "insert your worry here") and I asked the Father to help we unwind the tangle of thoughts.

I was feeling a little unworthy of approaching the throne because well I'm a bit sloppy at the edges so I asked for the burning coal to touch my lips, accepting the grace & mercy provided through the sacrifice of Jesus and relying on the promise of his word - I chose to draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having my heart sprinkled to cleanse me from a guilty conscience.

The answer I got was really quite simple which I suppose is often the case but potentially transforming if applied. I sensed the Father stand beside me smiling, he put is arm around my shoulders and as we walked a little he nuzzled His fist into my head laughing saying 'don't worry about these things, I'll look after this stuff. You focus on pursuing me' Basically seek first the kingdom of God.....and all these things will be added unto you.

So, the word is, don't focus on the darkness, pursue the light and this will chase off the darkness. Love casts out fear etc. Don't expend your energies trying to avoid and fight, the battle belongs to the Lord. Cast your burdens onto Him and focus on the good, he will tackle the enemy/our worries on our behalf. Avoiding evil isn't enough because it leaves a vacuum which can be occupied by 7 other evils - we need to pursue good.

I hope you find this of practical value. Peace, peace in your inmost being.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thanks to Gerry K for sending this out over the weekend.

Friday 17 June 2011

Living your life backwards

A wise man once said that you should live your life backwards. You should write what you want your obituary to be and then live your life so that you can achieve it.

There's a grave in Mt. Jerome cemetery that faces the entrance to the crematorium. This grave contains the remains of a man named Gideon Ouseley, who died in 1839.
While waiting outside the crematorium a few months ago, I noticed his grave and the obituary that was written on it. I'd never heard about this man but, obviously there was something amazing about the life he lived if his peers and relatives deemed it appropriate to leave this memory of him. My heart leapt when I read what was written:

Gideon Ouseley
Departed this life May 14 1839
In the 78 year of his age
He was a zealous laborious and self denying minister of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the United Kingdom, and during nearly half a century, he was ceaselessly engaged in his masters work
In Ireland especially in it's towns and villages, fairs and markets
Regardless of personal ease fearless of danger
Uninfluenced by the policy of those who are prudent in their own sight
He persuasively called on men to repent and believe the gospel

There was something amazing about the relationship this man had with his Lord. He was an unconventional preacher. He once stopped at a funeral and translated it word for word, from latin into Irish, so that the people at the funeral could for the first time understand what was being preached. He told them to "listen to this" when there was something he felt the Lord was speaking specifically to them.
Afterwards, the priest said he must be an angel because no man could do what he had just done. Men and women were added to the kingdom because of this.

Gideon preached all over Ireland and was accompanied by a man named Charles Graham. At one time, they visited Kilmore, where men of God had gone before including John Wesley, yet they didn't refer to the past.
In Gideon's biography, it is said that they "were so full of their own spiritual and soul saving work that the only utterance of theirs, recorded by Dr. Coke, referred to the present, not to the historic past. Graham writes: 'The Lord be praised, this country is all on fire. Travelling preachers, local preachers, leaders and hearers are flaming with the glory of God'".

This is but one incident of what happened in Gideon's life. In Jeremiah 29, The Lord God said:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

When you think about what is going to happen in your life, what you want to achieve and what you want to be remembered for, why not ask God what His plans are? He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows that there are things that He created you for, that can't be accomplished by anyone else. He knows that He made you who you are for a reason, and that part of that reason is that you are much better at being you than anyone else!

Gideon Ouseley led thousands to Christ, and they were all over the island of Ireland. Galway, Cork, Drogheda, Enniskillen, Dublin were just some of the places he ministered and many people of different class and culture were influenced by his teachings.

Lets seek God for the plans He's made for us. I want to be able to say "The Lord be praised, this country is all on fire" Just like Charles Graham did. When we go after what God is giving us, we can know that we are going to have an influence over this land that will go on for generations. Gideon Ouseley has been preaching from beyond the grave for 172 years now, just because of his obituary!

So the question is; dare to be a Gideon?

If you want to read more about Gideon Ouseley, his biography, "Gideon Ouseley: The Wonderful Irish Missionary" can be downloaded here in various formats free of charge.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Jacob's Dream

Last Sunday's Celebration was an occasion where God decided that He wanted to do something different in Trinity. We had a guest speaker, Noel Kenny, from Liberty Church in Dublin 8, and Noel spoke from Genesis, focusing on Jacob.
I've learned that there are no such things as coincidences when God is involved so I wasn't surprised at Noel's topic, as I'd been learning about Jacob earlier in the week. Reading from verse 10:

10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel;[a] but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”


We learn about Jacob's dream. In this dream, he sees a ladder reaching up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, and the Lord standing at the top. The Lord spoke and Jacob named the place Bethel when he woke, because it is the house of God.

There are a number of things to consider from this:

Firstly, Jacob was asleep when he had his encounter with God. So often, we try to make time for God in our lives by moving things around, by giving Him a few minutes in the morning or talking to Him on the bus on the way to work, or even making sure we have our 'quiet time' every day. It's great that we do this, but I love it that God decided when to talk to Jacob and He did it in his sleep. There were no distractions, just the two of them. Jacob probably didn't expect this at all but many Christians will admit that the times when God caught them off guard were the most intimate and special times they've ever had.

Secondly, there were angels ascending and descending on this ladder. Jacob was in a place where God was not only talking to him but God was working, His angels were descending to Jacob with new missions and tasks, words and blessings, wisdom, encouragement and whatever else God wanted Jacob to have. The angels were also ascending back into heaven, something they only do when their task has been completed. They were doing their work in Jacob and then returning to the Father for a new mission.

Thirdly, God spoke using the name He reserved for those whom He had an exceptionally close relationship with in the old testament: "I am". Jacob knew that this was definitely God and not a fancy dream he was having as a result of eating too much cheese before he slept. Jacob also knew how much God treasured him, as he was given the same promise that Abraham, his grandfather, had been given: His descendants would be like dust and spread in all four directions.

After all this, God then told Jacob that He would be with him wherever he went and that He would keep Jacob. God had told Jacob that he was safe and that nobody was going to harm him. When God tells you He's going to keep you, you know you are in a place of exceptional blessing. (Anyone reading this who knows God as their saviour, has been given this promise too!).

When Jacob awoke, he had a sudden realisation that:
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
It's funny how we sometimes realise that the Omnipotent, Omnipresent God is in the same place as us! Jacob decided to name the place 'Bethel' which literally means 'House of God', and he built a pillar using the rock that had been his pillow which he then anointed with oil.

Isn't it interesting that Jacob used his pillow as a pillar? He knew that the place where his head was at was where God had met him. His head had been free of distractions when he had his encounter with God. The place where he had this encounter was given a new name, but here's the question:

Was it the physical place which had been called Luz that received the name of Bethel or was it also representative of Jacob himself?

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he says in chapter 6:
"19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[c] and in your spirit, which are God’s."


Since Jesus died for us and opened up a new line of communication between us and the Father, we have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the house of God. We are constantly in a place of intimacy where God is sending His angels on missions in each of our lives. He is providing us with each of the tools we need to complete the tasks that are ahead of us and has ensured that we have full, uninterrupted access to Him at all times.

God is no longer standing at the top of the ladder. He came down the ladder and did everything He could possibly do to enable us to have a perfect relationship with Him. He doesn't need to speak from on high any more, now He can whisper. He isn't far away any more, now He dwells inside us. He goes everywhere we go. He does the same for us as He did for Jacob. He wants you to know that He's with you, like He was with Jacob, for keeps.