Day 646: The Lesson of the Prodigal

We often approach God with preconceived ideas of how he will receive us. For example, if we have done something to grieve his heart, we may feel that he loves us but will be slow to forgive.

Jesus clears this up with the parable of the prodigal son. The story goes that the young man “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” (Luke 15:20 NKJV).

I believe the prodigal came home because of his history with his father. He knew his father’s character. He had been a much-loved son and was desperately hoping that he would not be upbraided or condemned for his sins if he returned.

Notice how the prodigal’s father received him in his pitiful condition. The young man was intent on offering a heartfelt confession to his dad. Yet when they came face to face, he didn’t even get a chance to fully confess. His father interrupted him by running up to him and embracing him.

The young man was only able to blurt out the beginning of his speech. “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’” (Luke 15:21).

His father didn’t even wait for him to finish. To him, his son’s sin had already been settled. The father’s only response was to issue orders to his servants. “Put a robe on my son, a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Prepare a feast! We are going to celebrate. Everyone rejoice! My son is home.” He knew his son’s heart. He knew he had fully repented.

Sin wasn’t the issue to this father. The only issue in his mind was love. He wanted his boy to know he was accepted even before he could utter a confession. That is the point God wants to make to us all. His love is greater than all of our sins. “The goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Day 645: The Power and Simplicity of Prayer

Don’t you love listening to a child pray? Many of us can remember praying as children. It was simple then because our young hearts approached God with sweet, unguarded directness. “Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon a little child.” As we grew up, our prayers changed. We looked to parents or other believers or church leaders for direction on the mature and ‘right’ ways to pray.

Sadly, many of us now find that the pure, clear communication with God we had as children has collected some static along the way. The business and perils of life have polluted our ability to speak to God and hear from him. Structure and intimidating labels like ‘intercessor’ and ‘prayer warrior’ have crept into our church culture, adding to the pressure. We’ve lost our own voice, and prayer now feels like a chore.

If we could only hear the heart of our Lord! “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:9 ESV). “Turn and look,” he says, “I am here, beside you. Just call on me; no instruction or skillset needed.”

No matter how you pray — quiet meditation, songs of worship, journaling prayers, tearful conversations — the soul connection is the same. People around the world are praying right now. They are shouting, chanting, whispering in cathedrals and tents, penthouses and prisons. Some like to walk and pray; some can only sit and silently mouth the words. It doesn’t matter to God. What he loves is that we are acknowledging his presence and sharing what is in our hearts with him. As my friend Pastor Carter Conlon says, “To me, praying is as natural as breathing.”

Consider the words of David: “You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:3-4).This beautiful chapter is a poem of praise to a God who knows us intimately and wants our companionship. Here I am. Talk with me.

Does your heart long to return to that sweet, unadorned relationship with God? Do you desire a prayer life that anchors and sustains you? You can have it today. Begin with an open heart and simple, honest words. He will meet you there.

Day 644: The Last Bank in America

As you are committed to the work of God on the earth—choosing to invest in people, even those who are difficult to love—the Lord is placing something in your hand. He is unlocking his provision to you as well as through you. He is giving you an authority and strength that is supernatural.

You will count it all worthwhile when you realize that everything God allowed in your life was purposed to bring you to a place where one day it is nothing but Jesus! The mercy of God is bringing you to a place where your message will be all about him, the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

In a spiritually bankrupt age, you will be God’s stimulus package to stir up society everywhere you go, simply by letting God be God in you. There will soon be no other bank people can go to, no other ATM, no other institution that can be trusted. However, there will always be a testimony for Jesus Christ. There will be a people inside of whom God has put the deposit of his Holy Spirit.

I am confident that you will be among those who hold forth the Word of life, not merely speaking about God’s keeping power but rather being a visible demonstration. Something of God will be birthed deep within your heart: a refined faith in his faithfulness. It will be the pure gold of confident faith in a God who has not only spoken to you but who lives within you.

As Paul wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV).

In the coming days, when all else begins to fail, you will offer more hope than any theory, philosophy or bailout package that could ever be proposed. As people continually come your way, you will soon discover that the ‘last bank in America’ is you! Always open, and the supply is endless.

Day 643: Getting Real With God – Part 2

Sadly, great numbers of Christians do not know God’s voice. Some can go for months, even years, without ever receiving an intimate word from the Lord in their inner man. Oh, God did speak to them at one time; but over the years, they’ve learned to silence his voice in their hearts. Others have been turned off by so much foolishness among those who believe that every word that pops into their minds is divine. Such people boast, “God told me”; yet the ‘word’ they hear is only their covetous flesh taking voice!

If you want to know and hear God’s voice, be ready to have him speak of cleansing before he speaks of direction. Many Christians want God to tell them how to hold on to what they’ve earned, how to provide for their family, how to keep their business or career afloat. The truth is, though, before God gives us a word of direction in any of these matters, he’ll speak to us about his commandments.

“These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17 NKJV).God will first speak to you about your actions at home with your spouse and children, about your quick temper, your grudges, your unforgiving spirit. He’ll point out every hidden, secret thing in your life; and he’ll lovingly tell you, “I want to be your adviser, your counselor, your guide, your protector, your provider. I want to walk with you through every trial and hardship. I want to favor, bless and keep you by my Spirit. But first, you must get honest with me about the hidden idols in your heart. Right now, you’re holding on to them, but you must give them up! We simply can’t walk together unless we agree on these matters of your heart.”

“Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).Honesty and transparency before God is the first step toward peace, harmony and blessing.

Day 642: Getting Real With God – Part 1

In desperation, David cried out, “Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Psalm 130:2, NKJV). This sounds to me like the plea of a dying man. David obviously wasn’t just uttering “thought prayers.” He was face down on the ground, broken, contrite, pleading from the very depths of his heart, “O holy God Jehovah, you must hear my cry! I can’t go on any longer. My sin is ever before me, and I’m sinking with fear and dread. Please, God, have mercy on me.”

David knew his soul needed a release, and he turned to God alone to find that release. He concluded, “I’m in such a dire condition, only the Lord can help me now. I can’t rely on counselors, friends, even family. My only hope is in prayer, so I’m going to cry out night and day until God hears my plea.”

Have you ever been as desperate as David was? Have you shut yourself in with the Lord, falling on your face and crying out to him? Dull, quiet, lazy praying won’t accomplish anything. If you’re not unburdening your soul to God, you don’t really want healing; you want out of discomfort or guilt. David testified, “I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Psalm 38:8-9). You have to cry out, as David did, “Lord, hear my plea! I’m not letting go of you until you answer!”

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). His eyes are upon us…his ears are open…he is near…he saves us!

We can pour our hearts out to God with complete abandon. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Call on him. He is listening eagerly for your voice.