4/21/17: Don’t Give Up on the Prodigal

•April 21, 2017 • 1 Comment

Years ago, while on my way to or from work, I heard the following on the radio. I think it was shared by Pastor Chuck Swindoll. After reading the original this morning in Luke 15:11-32, I recalled this version of the Prodigal Son story.

I know it’s hard, but we can’t give up on our prodigals. God loves them and they are suffering outside the hedges of His safety. And as long as they are alive, there is hope. God is still in the transformation business. We must care for them in prayer the same way we would care for them if they were physically sick. Prayer is effective. James 5:16b says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, so our prayers matter and make a difference. We must keep on praying and believing. We must confess the deliverance we believe God will bring about in the lives of our prodigals. Speak healing. Speak deliverance. Speak restoration. Speak transformation. Speak the 180 degree change. Speak of the testimony and new ministry that will come from the life of the new creature in Christ the prodigal will become. Remain hopeful like the father in the story, looking every day for the Prodigal’s return.

The Prodigal Son – in the Key of F

Feeling footloose and frisky, a featherbrained fellow forced his father to
fork over his farthings.  Fast he flew to foreign fields and frittered his
family’s fortune, feasting fabulously with floozies and faithless friends.
Flooded with flattery he financed a full-fledged fling of “funny foam” and
fast food.

Fleeced by his fellows in folly, facing famine, and feeling faintly fuzzy, he
found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy foreign farmyard.  Feeling frail and
fairly famished, he fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from
the fodder fragments.

“Fooey,” he figured, “my father’s flunkies fare far fancier,” the frazzled
fugitive fumed feverishly, facing the facts.  Finally, frustrated from
failure and filled with foreboding (but following his feelings) he fled from
the filthy foreign farmyard.

Faraway, the father focused on the fretful familiar form in the field and
flew to him and fondly flung his forearms around the fatigued fugitive.
Falling at his father’s feet, the fugitive floundered forlornly, “Father, I
have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor.”

Finally, the faithful Father, forbidding and forestalling further flinching,
frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a
feast.

Faithfully, the father’s first-born was in a fertile field fixing fences
while father and fugitive were feeling festive.  The foreman felt fantastic
as he flashed the fortunate news of a familiar family face that had forsaken
fatal foolishness.  Forty-four feet from the farmhouse the first-born found a
farmhand fixing a fatling.

Frowning and finding fault, he found father and fumed, “Floozies and foam
from frittered family funds and you fix a feast following the fugitive’s
folderol?”  The first-born’s fury flashed, but fussing was futile. The frugal
first-born felt it was fitting to feel “favored” for his faithfulness and
fidelity to family, father, and farm.  In foolhardy fashion, he faulted the
father for failing to furnish a fatling and feast for his friends.  His folly
was not in feeling fit for feast and fatling for friends; rather his flaw was
in his feeling about the fairness of the festival for the found fugitive.

His fundamental fallacy was a fixation on favoritism, not forgiveness.  Any
focus on feeling “favored” will fester and friction will force the faded
facade to fall.  Frankly, the father felt the frigid  first-born’s frugality
of forgiveness was formidable and frightful.  But the father’s former
faithful fortitude and fearless forbearance to forgive both fugitive and
first-born flourishes.

The farsighted father figured, “Such fidelity is fine, but what forbids
fervent festivity for the fugitive that is found?  Unfurl the flags and
finery, let fun and frolic freely flow. Former failure is forgotten, folly is
forsaken. Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortune.”

Four facets of the father’s fathomless fondness for faltering fugitives are:
      1) Forgiveness
      2) Forever faithful friendship
      3) Fadeless love, and
      4) A facility for forgetting flaws

Timothy E. Fulop , Assistant Dean of Faculty, Columbia Theological Seminary

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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4/20/17: Something Has to Happen to You

•April 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We tend to measure our lives by the big events: births, weddings, graduations, starts of new jobs, vacations, surprises, deaths. We especially remember where we were when we heard bad news. I was in my first grade class when President Kennedy was shot; our teachers were crying and the school sent us all home. I was in Mrs. Payne’s fifth grade class when Dr. King was assassinated. The teachers took us into the multipurpose room to

watch filmstrips of Dr. King’s life and all that was going on in the Civil Rights Movement to date. I was getting ready for work on the morning of September 11, 2001 when my son, Matthew, told me to turn on the television because “somebody’s flying planes into buildings in New York.” And I remember where I was and who called or delivered the news about the passing of my daddy, my mom, my brother-in-law Nelson, and most recently, my sister-in-law Jean.

Yes, we are jarred into reality and all the rest of the world somewhat stops for us temporarily when something big and bad happens. Our routine is shaken and we have to think about things and deal with things we wish we didn’t have to touch. But all the things that have to be done are necessary, and if we haven’t taken care of details before the crisis, those details rush to the top of the pile and all have to be handled now. Too late for putting things off.

That brings us to the title of this devotion. Dr. Varner, the pastor who delivered Jean’s eulogy, said something quite profound in his remarks. He said, “Be sure something happens to you before something happens to you.” Unfortunately, some of us live as though nothing will ever change. We figure life will somehow just take care of itself, and it’s not until something drastic happens that we finally try to jump into action. It’s too late then to express those last thoughts, do that last deed, or have enough money for whatever the need may be. Since nothing has happened to change us, now that something bad is happening, we’re either stuck, sick, or showing our dirty laundry to the world.

But the preacher was talking about more than having all your ducks in a row for the inevitable rainy day. Has the ultimate “something” happened to you before something (death) happens to you? Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart allowing Him to be your Savior and Lord? When everyone hears the startling news of your demise, will they know you’re in Heaven with God because the life of Jesus was evident in your life? Will people look at how you spent the hours in your days and say, “Yep, she lived her life for Jesus,” or “No doubt, he lived his life for God”?

Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Be sure this happens to you before something happens to you.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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4/14/17: Today!

•April 14, 2017 • 1 Comment

Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” Luke 23:43. Jesus spoke these comforting words to one of the thieves who was being crucified with Him. This criminal had the good sense to use one of his last breaths to say to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” All the bad, good, and indifferent things this man had done didn’t even enter into the conversation. The only thing this guy wanted at the end of his life was to be remembered by the Master.

Today is a paradoxically sad and joyous day for my family. My sister-in-law, Jean Elliott Anderson, transitioned into Glory just a few hours ago. My fondest memory of Jean was her genuine smile. She literally lit up any room with it. Something else that was as evident as her smile was her genuine love for Jesus. Whether at home or on vacation, Jean never missed her quiet time with her Lord. We will miss her tremendously, but I’m sure she wouldn’t trade her new residence for anything. You see, today, Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross became real for Jean. I can just see Him smiling at her, reaching out His hand to grasp hers, and saying, “Hey Jean, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Jean’s times with Jesus will never end now. She’s rejoicing around the throne of God with her beloved husband Supe, her mom, her dad, and all her other friends and relatives who preceded her in that journey. We’ll pause to celebrate her life at her homegoing celebration in a few days, and then we’ll get back to the business of living, but not without taking with us the richness our lives have gained because we know the testimony of the life of Jean Elliott Anderson. Like Jean, we can be more dedicated to our own quiet times. Like Jean, we can smile and laugh more. Like Jean, we can be dedicated to our family, our friends, and our church. And like Jean, we can look forward to one day when it’s our “today,” the day we’ll hear Jesus say to us, “Hey Daughter [or] Hey Son, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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4/10/17: Living for Our One Moment

•April 10, 2017 • 4 Comments

On July 20, 1992, my daddy died. He had lived for several years with Alzheimer’s disease that had stolen his precious memories. He remained a sweet old man though, and Mom nor we children had any intention of placing him in a convelescent facility as long as we were well able to care for him. I often tell people that he stayed with us, not because he knew us, but just because we were nice people.

Even though he no longer recognized his earthly family, he never forgot anything about the Bible. In fact, he would go into the back bedroom every afternoon and teach a Bible lesson to the imaginary people he had started to see. My only explanation for this phenomena is that memories of life events are held somewhere in the brain and Alzheimer’s effects the brain; but knowledge of the Word of God is housed in the renewed spirit where no disease can enter.

Eventually, several strokes took Daddy’s life. At his funeral, my brother, sister, and I spoke his eulogy. As I stood to say my words, I remember being struck by one overwhelming revelation: my daddy had lived his entire life for one moment. That moment had happened four days before when he entered into face-to-face presence with God. The Word – Jesus Christ the Savior, Who Daddy had so treasured and emulated before us, raised us to trust and believe in, and shared with his congregations – the “Word [that] was made flesh” stood before Daddy and welcomed him to the place He had prepared for him. (See John 1:14 and John 14:2.)

As we enter into this holiest week of the Christian experience, I see once again how my daddy’s life imitated Christ’s. Our wonderful Savior lived His entire life for the moment of His death. Oh, but what an efficacious death was His! His death satisfied God’s wrath against sin. His death takes away the sting of our deaths. Christians actually celebrate the death of our leader because His death crashed through the barrier that kept us from God the Father.

Now here’s the most exciting news of all: once the penalty for sin was paid, Jesus no longer needed to stay dead, so He rose! Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (NKJ). And Jesus has passed that “rising” on to us as well. Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (NKV).

This resurrection season, may we have a renewed commitment to live for our one moment.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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3/24/17: The Check-up

•March 24, 2017 • 5 Comments

I went to the doctor for my annual check-up. I expected to skip in and out of there with the same glowing report as I always get. “Mrs. Elliott, you’re in great shape. I’m proud of your diligence on your treadmill, your heart is strong, your eyes are bright, and you’re doing fine. See you next year.”

Not so fast. I should have left after the new nurse complimented me on looking much younger than my real age. But since I had paid my deductible, I stayed to hear what the doctor had to say. After the usual pleasantries, he started with, “Well, you’re overweight and you’d do well to lose about 15-20 pounds.” (What? How do I do that? I’ve never had to lose weight before. Do I even have the will-power?) “And your blood pressure is high,” he continued. (What? Isn’t high blood pressure an old person’s disease? What’s happening?) “You’ve entered peri-menopause (get me a fan), we need to watch you A1C numbers because of the diabetes that runs in your family, and those pains you’re experiencing in your arms and lower back are nothing to x-ray. They are simply a sign of…” and then he had the nerve to say it, “…the fact that you are getting older.” Yikes.

Well, my doctor told me what to do, prescribed some stuff, and scheduled some additional work and a follow-up appointment. Now the ball is back in my court. Since (as my pastor says) the only disease I’m trying to catch is old age, I intend to be diligent about all the doctor has told me to do to keep my physical life healthy.

Through this I have noticed that it’s actually a lot easier to keep my spiritual life healthy. With my body, I now really have tons of things to think about: work exercise into my super busy schedule, eat more fruits and vegetables, watch the salt intake, drink water, take the meds, get enough sleep, and cut way back on the caffeine. I have only one thing to do spiritually – keep in touch with Jesus. God’s prescription is nothing I have to time or calculate. As long as I have my spiritual blue-tooth in my ear (which includes easy stuff like prayer, Bible study, and church attendance), He can buzz me when it’s time for some kind of action, and I can buzz Him when I need to check-in. It’s a 24/7/365 attachment.

Colossians 1:10 “…live a life worthy of the Lord and  …please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God (NIV).”

See your doctor and keep your body healthy, but also don’t neglect your spiritual health.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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2/21/17:Close Enough to Trust

•February 21, 2017 • 3 Comments

img_0785          The second chapter of John opens with Mary, Jesus, and Jesus’ earliest disciples attending a wedding. The opening verses read, “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” John 2:3-5 (NKJ)

          This mother/Son exchange is precious because it reveals the relationship Mary and Jesus shared. By the time of this story, Jesus is 30 years old and on the cusp of the start of His public ministry. Joseph has disappeared from the Biblical record and it’s assumed he has died. If that were so, Jesus as the eldest son would have taken over the responsibility of taking care of His mother. So Mary is used to communicating with Him when faced with a dilemma. Running completely out of wine would have been a social tragedy and for some reason, Mary really cared. Notice that Mary didn’t ask Jesus to do anything; she simply presented the problem to Him. Although Jesus’ initial response seems to suggest He didn’t want to help, we find later that He did solve the problem (see verse 9).

Let’s not look at the miracle for now but focus on Mary’s comeback to her Son. Once she presented the problem to Him, she turned to the servants and said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary had complete trust that simply presenting the problem to Jesus meant that it was handled. She fully expected Him to take care of the situation. The reason Mary could approach Jesus this way was because of the closeness of their relationship.

Do we approach Jesus with this kind of trust? We can approach Him as Mary did if we are close to Him as well. Our closeness with Him increases our understanding of Him, enhances our trust in Him, and enriches our communion with Him. What a blessing to know we can trust our Savior to the point of simply communicating our problems and being certain that He will handle everything.

___________________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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2/20/17: See as Jesus Sees

•February 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

images-3          The Bible records the story of a time when over 5,000 people were fed by Jesus with a meal that only started out with five loaves of bread and two fish. Now these “loaves” probably weren’t even loaves of bread as we would think of the sliced kind that we pick up in a supermarket. The loaves that day were probably more like dinner rolls about the size of a regular hamburger bun. To even break something that size into four, starting with five, you’d still only end up giving 20 people a piece large enough for a couple of bites. And dividing two fish (we may be talking anchovy-size here) would fill even fewer stomachs.

          So as notable as this miracle was, a crucial subplot was working in the background. You see, this miracle occurred at the end of a missionary trip from which the disciples had just returned. After hearing the disciples’ exciting report about how they had preached, healed the sick, and cast out demons, Jesus must have seen that they needed to rest and possibly continue to debrief. However, as they tried to retire to a deserted place for this much-needed retreat, the multitudes discovered their whereabouts. Like persistent paparazzi, the crowd caught up to them desirous of Jesus’ attention.

Despite Jesus’ original plan for the disciples’ rest time, He saw that the people wereimages-1 like sheep without a shepherd and He had compassion on them. However, looking at the same crowd, the disciples saw something quite different. They saw an intrusion upon their time, and invasion of their privacy, and an imposition on their resources. As the day got later and later, they finally told Jesus, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” Mark 6:35b-36a (NKJ).

Jesus countered, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37a (NKJ).

The disciple’s comeback showed that there was something they completely missed. “And they said to Him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?’” (vs. 37b). Hungry people deserve compassion (what Jesus showed them), not a long walk to town (what the disciples had previously suggested). These were the same disciples who had just returned from
their ministry trip preaching, healing, and casting out demons. Was healing and demon-casting less difficult than the common, everyday event of feeding people?

People’s needs come in all shapes and sizes. Are we seeing the needs Jesus sees, or are we missing the chance to show our Lord’s compassion because we’re busy looking to do something we deem to be greater and more spectacular?

___________________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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