When we read Luke 15 we come to this passage of a story of two sons. One is a shameful son who ask for his inheritance before his father dies to burn it on shameful living. And you have another son who serves faithfully with his father.
When the shameful son figures out his foolish choices he heads back to his father asking to be treated as a servant. But his father embraces him as his loved lost son and celebrates his return.
The other son who has served with his father can't even call his brother, "brother" (Luke 15:30) is outraged when his father accepts the person he has already rejected.
If you have spent any time in the church you have heard this story. But the more I read this passage the more I see how our Father God wants to relate to us and how we relate to Him. It shows how our Father views us and how we view Him. It exposes His heart for us and exposes the true nature of our hearts to ourselves.
We have a loving Father who deeply loves His children. But some of us failed so much, so openly we feel that we should not even be called a sons, but treated like a slaves. Others of us publicly are called sons and have no seen fault but hidden in our hearts we carry a relationship that functions more like a slave with his master.
One entering in repentance to the Father. The other avoiding a celebration with the Father.
One broken. The other hard.
One asking to be a slave. The other living like one.
I look at this passage and I see myself. Not only as a prodigal son who has sinned but also as the other son who acts like a slave.
God has been working on me the last few years on what it means to be a son. He is teaching me what it means to be in his family, not just a servant in his household.
I am longing to grow deeper as a son. Being a missionary it is easy to step into being a slave/servant in the house of God. But God has so much more for us. We don't fully understand His deep love for us. We don't fully understand how much He accepts us as His beloved children.
Where do you see yourself? Are you a son or a slave? Where are you standing with our Father?
Wherever you stand I do pray you would walk with me on this path of intimacy going deeper in our relationship with our Father. For sure down this path there will be times where we will need to let go of things through repentance. We must understand that with intimacy comes exposure. Anything that is hidden will be brought into the light. But their will be acceptance. We will have no greater joy than in the loving arms of our Father.
Let us hold the hand of our Father as we journey down this path. I don't fully understand where He will take us or what is ahead. But let us trust our Father. He knows what is best. He can see down the road. He knows the way.
Come let us walk with our Father.
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2. What are the major personal road blocks that are slowing or stopping you from your growth? What are they and WHY are they there? Sometimes we have bad behavior and/or destructive patterns that is setting us back. When we have bad fruit, we need to look at the roots.
In Isaiah 5:24 it says, "...their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty...."
When we got bad fruit that is repetitively happening in our lives and we can't stop it. The root of it is an un-Biblical truth that has taken root in our belief system. We need to identify and pull out the lying root and replace it with a Biblical truth.
YWAM has a teaching on the Belief Tree. I found a blog that explains more on this. Please take the time to read this over. Click here to read it.
If you can't identify the reason why the road blocks in your life are there, then you can't overcome them. Dig at the roots to change your fruit.
So the question I have for you (and myself) is what is God's vision for 2013 and beyond for you (and me)? When we get a hold of the vision God has for us, it will pull us into the discipline needed to follow through the plans God shows us to grow and the power to overcome the road blocks that stop those things from happening. We need to have a vision! And that vision comes from God.
What does God have planned for you?
I believe that there are some people who are reading this that you have made plans and they have failed. You came up with visions and they died. You have never overcame your road blocks, but they have overcame you. For those of you out there, you need to go to the vision source. You need to go to the One who came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). Jesus is your answer.
Go to Jesus the start of this year and stick with Him through out. Most of the time He will bring others to help you get past the obstacles you are facing to experience His plan for you (Jer 29:11). He will give you a vision. Ask Him.
May our God who overcame death and the cross be the Over-comer for you in your life in 2013
We just got back from Thailand and were making plans for our move there. We as a family decided to give more then half our clothes and a bulk of our furniture to victims of the flood.
A day or so after the flood the Mayor came on TV with more than half the city destroyed and with no running water for over a month to come said, "We can't celebrate Christmas with so much destruction." It was dark times.
When Jesus was born it was also dark times in Israel. They had a power crazy man over them with the name of King Herod. Roman oppression was strong. And once Herod figured out a baby who would be called "King of Kings" would be born in Bethlehem he had all the baby boys under two years old killed. Much mourning took place that night.
Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt to hide Jesus from Herod until his death. They lived there as refuges in a strange land with people who were very ungodly who spoke a much different language.
Christmas is about Jesus coming and being a light in a dark world. It was dark times then as it is dark times now. But our hope is in Jesus.
Just as Christmas lights light up the night, Jesus is the Light that shines into our darkness and gives hope.
It is in the dark times we need to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus.
You may be facing financial difficulty. You can't find a job. Look toward the Christmas Light.
You maybe facing the soon death of a loved one. He gives hope to the mourning.
A man walks into a elementary school and kills 20 children and 6 adults and then kills himself when he hears the police coming, all within 10 minutes. Jesus is our hope.
The most important time of all to celebrate Christmas is in the dark seasons of our lives. May the Light of Christmas (Jesus) shine bright in your Christmas season.
We are the children of our Father and He is holding our hand.
At the time my daughter Michaella was 3 and a half years old. I was learning (and still learning) how to be a father. But I knew that if I am walking with her either in the mall or through the field it is best if I am holding her hand. Why? For a number of reasons.
1) She could trip. If I am holding her hand I could pull her up so she wouldn't fall on the rocky ground.
God wants us to hold His hand. It is an acknowledgment that we are safer in His hands.
As we walk through life we don't always know how to proceed. We sometimes loose our footing and could fall. But if we are holding God's hand he can pull us up. We find security in the hand of our Father.
Our Father doesn't promise us that we will not walk through rocky fields. But He will be there to help us guide the way. He will hold our hand.
There was also times when my daughter doesn't want me to hold her hand. She wanted to do it herself even if I warned her a number of times that it is best that she will hold my had through the rocky field. As a father I can see what is about to happen. She could trip and loose her footing and then fall. She scraps her knee and / or her hand. She then cries. Who does she cry out to? She cries out to her daddy. I then could pick her up and hug her. I would clean her wounds and then warn her that it is best to hold my hand in the rocky field.
Sometimes we insist to not hold the hand of our Father. He has warned us to stay near Him and to hold his hand. But we want to do it on our own. But when we fall and we cry out He is quick to pick us up, comfort, and clean our wounds.
2) She could get lost. In Asia there are a lot of people everywhere you go. When we are in a mall I want my daughter to hold my hand so she doesn't get lost.
Sometimes as we are walking throughout our life we can be distracted by all that is around.
We don't focus on our Father but focus on the movement of life around us.
Our Father wants us to hold His hand so we can stay focused on where He is taking us. He knows where we need to go. He knows how to get there.
I have seen my daughter not hold my hand in the mall and wants to go ahead of me. I would call for her but she wants to be upfront, heading the way. Then I would see her go off in the wrong direction, missing the place where we are heading. I had to call to her, but at times I had to run and get her and then guide her back to where we are going.
There are times we want to run ahead of our Father. And in most cases we run in the wrong direction.
Even if we know were we are going, we don't know how to get there. Our Father does.
Are you holding the hand of the Father? We are His children. He is our Protector. He is our Guide. He knows the way.
Let us hold the hand of the Father.
Now Jesus is known for calling God His Father. All throughout the gospels you can find Jesus saying, “My Father.” But here in between the verses above he never says, “My Father.” Why?
I believe Jesus in this portion of scripture is teaching us the way of the Father. We are called to grow and become more like our heavenly Father. I saw 9 things in this passage that Jesus is trying to show us about our relationship with our Father. I would like to share them with you.
1) We are called to LOVE like our Father (Matt 5:44). Jesus says that we are to love our enemies. We are called to love those who use us and persecute us. Do we love those who, in short, hurt us? You maybe asking yourself, “How can I do that?” Just think of how much we have hurt God. Every time we sin we are hurting Him. Yet He still chooses to love us. He asks us to do the same. God is asking us to love those hurt us. He would never ask us something that He didn't give us the ability to do.
2) We are called to BE LIKE our Father (Matt 5:48). How are we not like the Father? Are we working on those areas that we are not like Him? I believe the other points will help us to be more like him.
3)We are called to GIVE AND RECEIVE like our Father (Matt 6:1-4). Do we give in secret and prepare for His reward openly? He has called us to give though our deeds and actions, not for public recognition, but as a way to express love to others and our Father.
God also wants us to know how to receive from Him. More will be touched later on that one.
4) We are called to TALK with our Father (Matt 6:5-13). Our Father longs for the time alone with us in that place of intimacy. He deeply desires for us to pull the time away to be alone with Him to share with Him our deepest joys and desires. He also longs to share with us His deepest joys and desires for us.
When was the last time you had that intimidate time with our Father? Is He calling you now?
5) We are called to FORGIVE as our Father (Matt 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is the bedrock in our relationship with our Father. We are called to forgive. Again, through God's grace we have been given the ability to forgive those who have hurt us. That could be your spouse, friends, parents, sibling, whoever.
Is there someone you haven't forgiven?
I believe I need to say that forgiveness is a process. Depending on how deep the wound the longer the process takes. But know that forgiveness is a choice. We can choose to forgive. I also believe in the process of forgiving we also receive the healing from the offense.
6) We are called to FAST with our Father (Matt 6:16-18). During fasting we get closer to God. It should be a time of intimately and receiving a deeper understanding of Our Father. Back during the time of Jesus people would fast so they could look holy to others. In short put on a mask to look good.
How many Christians put on their “Christian mask” and who are not being real? We do it to look good to others.
Christianity is not about looking good, it is all about intimacy with Our Father and sharing that with others.
When was the last time you fasted with Our Father?
7) We are called to TRUST in our Father (Matt 6:24-34). Do you worry about your kids? Or how about to get all those bills paid? Or maybe for some of you it was you worried about what you were going to eat. My question is, what are you looking at? In verse 33 it says, “...seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Are you looking at your problem, or the problem Solver? Are you looking at your business our His business? Are you looking up to Him, our down to your lack?
We don’t need to worry. You will be tempted to worry, but you don’t have to. Choose to trust in Him. Even when everything looks black and there seems to be no way out, Our Father can open a door that was before unseen. If He can feed 5000 off of 5 loaves and 2 fish (Matt 14:13-21) He can meet your need.
This one speaks to us personally.
8) We are called to ASK from our Father (Matt7:7-12) Do you ask from our Father? I don’t mean about asking Him to have you win the lotto. I mean asking Him about those things that He wants for you and that are good for you.
If you are asking for help with your character, habitual sin, or wisdom on what to do with your kids, your job/business. He wants to help.
If you need help paying the bills, saving your marriage, or need food on the table He wants to give.
There are a lot of times we don’t ask Him to give to these needs. Sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask. ( James 4:2)
9)We are called to SHINE OUR LIGHT to glorify our Father (Matt 5:13-16). Does your light shine in a way that God gets the glory? Or by the way you live your life does people become attracted to One who transformed your life?
By the way we live our lives are people becoming attracted to our Father? If not, we must wonder if we are living “The way of our Father.”
God is calling us to the way of our Father. Hear His call and let us follow Him.
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While waking me Dave Ian stated, “Don't go outside. Two NPA (New People's Army) soldiers just walked by. They are in the house where the girls are staying. They are there drinking coffee with the owner of the house.” Dave Ian did not raise his voice. We were in a one room nipa hut made out of a wood frame, wood floors and walls, and coconut leaves for a roof. Whatever we said could easily be heard outside.
With me being the only white man in the team and for kilometers around, it was especially important that I know about the NPA soldiers. We were told that there was tension at the time between the Philippine Army and the NPA. If they were to find an American in the tribe things could go bad quickly. They could think I was some informant, or an American soldier there to train the Philippine army. It just would be best if I kept quite and wait for two NPAs finished drinking their coffee and then move on to the next village.
It was October of 2000 and I was 27 years old. When growing up I would have never had thought I would have become a missionary, living the in the Philippines. Now here I am in a tribe who does not speak my language with two Communist NPA soldiers outside doing their patrol. What would happen next? Only God knew. I just wanted to do what God had for me. I wanted to do His will. Whatever the cost.
My mother told me a couple of stories when I was in Bible school. The first one was when her grandmother, my great grandmother, told her one time that she will have a son and he would be a preacher.
That happened before my mom was married. My great grandmother would never see me. She died before my mom was married and before I was born.
The second story was when I was a baby. My mother visited a Assemblies of God church and the pastor prophesied over me and said that I would be in the ministry.
Now that was something my mother never told me while growing up. We were not the church going family. But it seemed even before I was born God had a plan. Now if I was going to fulfill that plan that would be up to me.
I grew up in a poor family in Colorado. We never really had much money going around. I had two sisters, one older and one younger. I remember my father was a janitor when I was a small boy. He worked at an office building of a trucking company. And my mother she was a cook at a restaurant.
After my grandmother died and my grandfather remarried we moved into my grandfather's house since he moved into the house of his new wife. My mother was still cooking but at that time my father was out of work. I remember the day my mother told my sisters and I that we didn't have food for tomorrow. Shortly after that my sisters and I decided that we would dig through trash for soda pop cans to recycle to get money to buy food. It would not be our first time we dug in trash for soda cans. We usually do it to get some pocket money to buy candy. But this would have been the first time to feed our family. It was the first time where this was not just for fun, but it had a purpose.
We collected cans all day. Going from one dumpster to the other pulling together all the cans we could find. We then went to the local grocery store where you have the cans weighed and they pay you based on the weight of the cans. Even through we collected all day we only received a little over one dollar.
From the counter I held the one dollar and a few coins. It was so small. What could we buy to feed our family of five?
With my two sisters I walked to an employee at the grocery store. She seemed to be in her 30's and I asked her, “We are a family of five. My mom and dad and my two sisters here. We have no food and we only have this.” I was showing her our dollar and a little change. “What can we buy to feed our family?”
She was shocked and taken a back. She didn't know what to say at first, but then she told us to go with her. She took us to an aisle and she gave us a one pound bag of beans. The cost being a little over one dollar. That was around amount that we had.
I will not forget the shame I felt walking home. I felt so low, so helpless. Poverty has chocking hold on a person. When one doesn't understand their identity in Christ, then poverty can also give you a feeling of worthlessness. And on that walk home, that is what I felt.
When we got home and mom came home from work we gave her the bag of beans and told her what we did. What we found out was that when mom was a work she borrowed some money to buy food. But later that night I could hear my mom crying.
In the school district that we lived in we went to school in a upper class public school. Overall it was considered a good school district to be apart of. But I was treated differently.
The school included me and my younger sister into a special class. This class was for those who had learning challenges. This class was for those who were considered slow and needed extra time to try to cope up with the others in the class. They called it “Special Ed” or “Special Education.”
But there was something I noticed that this class had in common. Everyone in this class was poor.
Kids are usually not to kind in elementary school. As a kid you want to fit in as much as you can. But when you go to the “Special Ed” class you where considered stupid and other kids don't have any problems pointing this out. So along with being poor I went to a school full of rich kids who looked down on you because of your poverty and your stupidity. It was not a place to build ones self esteem.
And then I will not forget third grade. My mom was in a few meetings with my teacher along with my sister's teacher (she was a year younger then me). I knew the talks had to do with how we were doing in school, but I didn't have any idea what the plan was about.
After we were released for summer break my mom sat down with my sister Phyllis and I to tell us that we will be repeating our respective classes for the following year. Phyllis would be repeating the second grade again and I was facing the third grade for the second time.
I felt so inadequate. I felt stupid. Phyllis and I cried and pleaded with our mother to not allow this to happen. But the decision was final. I loathed the idea of going back to school. Knowing that I would be doing third grade once more. And I would never forget the first day.
In that elementary school they had the third and forth graders share a class. Everyone was back and sharing what their families did during the summer. I wasn't sharing that much. At the time no one knew that I would be repeating my year.
Then at one point of the day they asked all the fourth graders to go to a different classroom for something and the third graders to stay back. I remember all of my former classmates getting up and calling to me. They were telling me to follow them. But I was to stay. I just looked down at my desk and felt the shame.
After my second round of third grade my special class started giving me this test. And after a while I would take a different test, but it was a lot like the last one. About every 3 to 6 months I remember taking all of these test. I really don't have any idea what they were. I found them kinda fun, so I would just do them.
Years later my mom told me what the test were. They were IQ test. The reason why they kept on giving them to me was because I was scoring very high. It was like there had to be a mistake, so they would give me a different IQ test. But every time they gave me a IQ test I would score higher then the last. But in my 4th grade and starting into 5th grade my reading level was poor.
During that time of my life my family ended up moving 3 times in one year. With all the moving my school records were lost in the shuffle. I was now in 5th grade and was attending Denver Public School district. In my elementary school I was no longer one of the poorest kids in the school. But I was still different. That difference was that I was white where it seemed that most of the kids where black.
Since my records were lost in the shuffle between schools, the school district didn't know where to put me. They didn't know my reading level, math level, or anything. So to figure it out they gave me a test. That's right, they gave me an IQ test.
With all my experience taking IQ test I stored high. So they put me in the highest reading level, along with math, and so forth. It was in 5th grade in a poor school district is where I learned to read. It was expected of me. The whole school was full of poverty background kids. So that was no longer a problem. It was only in high school I found this out. But until then I was still fighting with feelings of inadequately.
At the time I really didn't have much of an understanding of God. But I do remember praying at night. I would pray laying in my bed. Would my life ever make a difference? Would I always be poor? Did God have a plan for me?
There are times in our lives that some of us struggle with God's calling on our lives due to where we have came from or something we have done. We put ourselves in a box or someone else has based on what they think of us. And when God asks us to step out of that box we don't feel we are able to. We define ourselves by the walls of the box and not in the borders God has created for us.
In Judges chapter 6 God had a calling for a man. His calling was to lead the nation of Israel out of bondage under the Mindianites. These were people who were oppressing the Israelites and God's people where praying for freedom. That freedom that they would be crying for would come through a man. And his name was Gideon.
Gideon at the time was hiding in a winepress trying to thresh wheat. He was hiding because he was scared that the Mindianites would take his food. But the wheat needed to be threshed to get the husk off of it. But that usually took the wind. Down in the winepress there was no wind. So Gideon was working a lot harder to thresh the wheat in the winepress then he would if he was in the open where the wind blew.
Then God spoke to the man, hiding in a winepress, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor (Judges 6:12)!”
Just think about it. When we look at ourselves, we see one thing. But when God looks at us he sees something else. And it is this something else that God was calling out of Gideon.
Well I guess the “mighty man of valor” didn't grab the attention of Gideon first. What first got to him was, “The Lord is with you” part.
Gideon's reply to the statement was, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Mindianites (Judges 6:13).”
It was clear that Gideon didn't realize he was talking to God. He thought that this was a man talking to him. And he was not believing in the statements God was making about him.
Then the purpose of why God was addressing Gideon came out. What was God's reply to all of this doubt and unbelief? “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Mindianites Have I not sent you (Judges 6:14)?”
When Gideon is hiding, God is sending. When Gideon is doubting, God is believing.
Look at Gideon's reply now that he understands it is God who is speaking, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house (Judges 6:15).
Right away Gideon starts defining for God the borders of his box. And in Gideon's mind, that box is weakness. He comes from a weak clan. He comes from a weak family. And Gideon sees himself as the weakest of them all. He feels completely powerless. Powerless to change his situation, let alone those around him. This was something that Gideon was not just saying, but believing and living. He was hiding in a winepress out of fear.
A lot of times we close the door on what God has for us. We don't believe what God says He would like us to do because of the box we define ourselves in.
God wants to break the boxes in our lives that are holding us back. He wants us to live the lives He created us for, not to live the life we have defined for ourselves.
When growing up and after I came to know Christ, I defined myself by the box that was there for me. That box was formed by what others thought about me, how I grew up, my family background, etc. But God started to break down my little box. And when that happens, that is when the real ride starts.
Questions to ask:
Read Judges 6:1-16
What are some clear struggles Gideon was facing? Practical and in his belief system?
What were Gideon's walls in his box?
What is God speaking to you about any walls in your life?
What God spoken to you about the purpose He has for you?
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Dustin has been serving as a missionary for 23 years. Here is where he places some of his teaching, thoughts, and updates.