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Posts Tagged ‘prodigals’

I’m resting.

At least I’m planning to rest.

After 3 months of much travel all over the world and the U.S., many meetings and projects, and the June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer, I’m ready for some rest.

So I’m at my favorite place—the beach.  With intentions to rest, pray and read.  And maybe a little writing.

I, however, have a long way to go when it comes to resting.  REST was my “word” in 2011.  I spent a lot of time reading about rest in Scripture, and in other books.  I got some great insights.

So much so that I made it the theme of 2011 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.   For 11 weeks I wrote mini-devotionals about rest for last year’s Prodigal Prayer Day, and as I read over them, I realized how much I had gained from that study.  Though the letters in it are written to “lovers of prodigals,” it has great help and hope for all of us who could use a little rest.

So I put the devotionals in a book—a FREE E-BOOK.  I want you to have a copy.  And I would love if you would send it to your friends and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

So here it is—FREE to you:  Loving a Prodigal: Learning to Rest.  My gift to you.  For your Kindle, Reader, Computer. (Instructions included.)

So get some rest!

What about you?  How have you been able to rest?

C2010 Judy Douglass

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This is the ninth and final in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

 

We have prayed for Jon over the years. He has been estranged, then reunited with his dad, Louis. He and his girlfriend had a baby. Then they moved back to where he had lived previously. He returned to drugs and alcohol.

One day, high on drugs, he drove erratically down the highway. And caused a crash in which a woman was killed. He will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

Louis was devastated. How could this happen? Heartbroken. Is there no future for my son?

But days and weeks on his knees and in the Word, and Louis found peace. He writes:   “God’s majesty shrinks at no one’s behavior. Everything we know is for God. He uses every last thread of our lives. How he uses it? We only get to participate, not know exactly his will at any particular time… “

God’s grace was sufficient for Louis.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

God’s grace is enough.

These brief nine devotionals have perhaps (hopefully) opened up some new aspects and understanding of God’s grace for you. We looked at some definitions of grace, at who qualifies—those with no alibi, at how amazing it is, and how grace stoops to serve. We considered the voice of grace, the forgiveness of grace, the scandal of grace, and the grace-full Father.

We have barely scratched the surface on the height and width and depth of God’s grace. I have not intended to be exhaustive on this incomprehensible topic. But there are a few more things I want to mention.

Grace is an undeserved free gift, undeserved favor, and undeserved love.

And it is more than enough for any person, circumstance, tragedy, need.

God’s grace has made His love and salvation and provision—everything He offers—available to us. There is a catch. In order to live in it, we must receive it. And he gives us a little understanding of who will be able to truly access and experience that grace:

Those who are humble.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

This truth is repeated several times, and it is the first step toward accepting God’s grace–to understand that you don’t deserve it.

But that grace is abundantly sufficient.

We are saved by grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God freely gives the grace that save us—we can not earn salvation. And it is that same freely given grace that will save our prodigals. Keeping the rules, doing the right things, not doing the wrong things—none of this will save us or them.

Only grace is sufficient to save us.

Grace enables good works

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The good works, doing the right thing, not doing the wrong thing—these all matter and are desirable. But we can’t live that perfect life ourselves.

Only grace is enough to enable us to live like Jesus.

And today, when my son told me of another marriage conflict, my emotions took over. And at first I didn’t access that grace to speak kindly and to believe the best. Then God reminded me of what I had just been writing—the words above…

And His grace was more than enough.

What about you?  Where have you found God’s sufficient grace?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation. June 2 is our Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

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This is the seventh in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Not fair!!!

How many times has your prodigal said that?

How many times have you said that?

And how often is that our response to the scandalous grace of God?

Our Bibles are full of stories of undeserved grace.

David:

Faithful shepherd boy.  Courageous defeater of Goliath.  Chosen King of Israel.  One who wouldn’t raise his hand against Saul, God’s anointed, who was trying to kill him. Conqueror of  pagan tribes.   Author of the Psalms.  And, oh yes, adulterer and murderer.  Yet, He was “a man after God’s heart.”

Rahab:

Lived in pagan Jericho.  Prostitute.  Liar.  Yes, she saved the Israelites who came to spy out Jericho.  But did she really deserve to be in the line of David, and of Jesus?

Saul/Paul:

A righteous Pharisee.  A defender of Judaism.  A Hebrew of Hebrews.  Yet a persecutor of The Way.  Murderer of Christians.   By his own words, “the chief of sinners.”  But Paul is considered the greatest teacher—besides Jesus—of the New Testament.

How is it possible that God could use such sinners?

Grace.  Scandalous grace.

Jesus told story after story that reflected the same “unfairness,” the same grace:

The woman at the well:

Jews always avoided going through Samaria, but Jesus “had to go through Samaria.”  Why?  He had an appointment to keep, with a sinful woman.  Five husbands, now living with a man not her husband.  Jesus knew all this.  Yet He talked to her—a Samaritan, a woman, a sinner.  The shame of it.  He told her what he knew, but he didn’t condemn.  Instead he offered her living water and a changed life.

The parable of the workers:

Some started early morning, others midday, some at the end of the day.  And they all got paid the same—what they had agreed to.  What?  Unfair!  Those who worked one hour got paid the same as those who worked all day?  But the landowner said, “Are you envious because I am generous?”  (Matthew 20)

The thief on the cross:

An evil man, certainly, to have earned crucifixion as punishment for his crimes.  Yet, even as he is dying, he asks for mercy from Jesus.  Jesus could have said, “It’s too late.  You have lived a terrible life.  You are only repenting now because you are afraid.”  But no, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

How is it possible that God could condone such actions?

Grace.  Scandalous grace.

Is it fair that someone who has been a terrible parent has wonderful children, yet you, who has tried to do everything right, has such a prodigal child?  Of course not.

Is it fair that your prodigal, who has hurt you repeatedly, abused your kindness, rejected your love, should be forgiven and welcomed back?  Of course not.

But is it fair that we, imperfect, inadequate, unworthy as we are, should be forgiven, redeemed and bound for eternity with our God?  Of course not.

You see, we are addicted to fairness, to justice, to revenge, to earning our way, to performance.  Yet in reality, we truly don’t want God to respond to us based on those addictions.

We can’t help but be grateful that God is, in the best sense, addicted to grace.  Yes, to scandalous grace!  And He wants to pour out that grace on us, but also through us to those much loved, though hardly lovely, prodigals.

So, can we enter in, with whole hearts, to God’s scandalous grace?

What about you?  Where have cried Unfair!?  Where have you received grace?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation. June 2 is our Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

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This is the sixth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is a powerful story of forgiveness and redemption.   When Jean Valjean is released from a 19-year prison sentence for stealing bread, he is a hardened man.  Looking for a place to sleep, he is invited in by a kind bishop.  In the night, though, Valjean stole silver from the bishop and sneaked away.

In the morning the police brought him to the bishop, silver in hand.  The bishop’s response:  “So there you are.  I’m delighted to see you.  Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well?  Did you forget to take them?” And to the police:  “This gentleman was no thief.  This silver was my gift to him.”

That was the beginning of Valjean’s transformation.

Err on the side of grace

That story had a powerful impact on my response to our prodigal.  It coincided, in the darkest days of our journey with our son, with a strong word from God:  When you make mistakes with this boy—and I made many—err on the side of grace.

What?  What about consequences?  Of course there were consequences.  What about enabling?  No, we didn’t want to enable.  It takes supernatural wisdom to blend these things.

But God was clear:  Forgive.  Extend grace.  Seek reconciliation. Pursue conversation, not conflict.  Keep your doors—and arms—open.  It’s not a balancing of truth and grace—it’s a blending of 100% truth and 100% grace.

God is our model here.  When I want to make sure my prodigal experiences what he deserves, I think of how God has responded to my many bad choices:  Mercy.  Forgiveness.  Grace.

Keep on forgiving

His Word is equally powerful:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”  (Luke 23:34)

Philip Yancy, in What’s So Amazing About Grace,” writes: “Like grace, forgiveness has about it the maddening quality of being undeserved, unmerited, unfair….The gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness…grace is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations.  Grace alone melts ungrace.”

Henri Nouwen defines forgiveness as “love practiced among people who love poorly”  He goes on:   “…even as I have said [I forgive you]…I still wanted to hear the story that tells me I was right…I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving praise in return…for being so forgiving

“But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself….It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life….it demands that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged, and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and one whom I am asked to forgive.”

And again from Philip Yancey:  “…forgiveness is an act of faith.  By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am…I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy…Though wrong does not disappear when I forgive, it loses its grip on me and is taken over by God, who knows what to do.”

Finally, a word from Lewis Smedes:  “The first and only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgivenss….When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”

A Prayer of Forgiveness

Following is a brief prayer that you might want to pray, expressing your choice to forgive your loved prodigal.  You may have to pray it many times.

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your death on the cross.  Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small.  I am so grateful for your grace.

Lord, I need to forgive ___________, my loved one who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me.  It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused.  So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________.  Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.

By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________.  I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me.  I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person I love.  I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love.  Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed.  And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.

Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit.  In Jesus’ name.

 What about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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This is the fourth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Grace stoops.

God’s grace has stooped to reach us.

“We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Romans 5:7-8,MSG)

Do you realize how far God had to stoop to pour out His grace on us?

…from heaven to earth

…from deity to humanity,

…from holiness to depravity.

Chuck Swindoll reminds us:

Don’t miss the absence of conditions in the Romans passage above. God didn’t  look down and say, “When those scoundrels show the least bit of interest in  cleaning up their act, then I’ll meet them more than half way.” No, while we were  sinning and loving it, the Father stooped and extended supreme grace in the person of His Son.

 He didn’t ignore our sin. He didn’t excuse our sin. He looked past our sin and accepted us in spite of it. And so? Let’s go there on behalf of others. Embrace others in spite of how unworthy or how unlovely they are to you. (From “It’s Time to  Embrace Grace by Embracing the Unlovely”)

When do we say “Stop!”

Of course, we can feel that our prodigals are unworthy, and their behavior is surely unlovely.   After all, we have endured, waited, encouraged, helped, pleaded, wept.  At some point do we say, “Stop.  No more grace.”?

Not unless we are better than God.  He extends unending grace. He loves us and accepts us and keeps His welcoming arms open to our return.

But what about consequences?  What about standards in our home?  What about safety for our family?  What about requiring responsibility.  Yes, all needful and appropriate. But grace is still possible.

Swindoll adds:  No one expects you to excuse the sin of the unlovely, nor should you become their doormat. Extending grace doesn’t send the message that you approve of their behavior. And don’t fall into the trap of fearing that grace enables people in their sin. In fact, grace brings conviction to the heart of the sinner much more quickly than a rebuke.

How do you extend grace to a rebellious prodigal?

So how do you extend grace to a rebellious, unappreciative prodigal?  Perhaps there will be a major opportunity—like a repentant request to return home.  But most often it will be in little things—doing the unexpected favor, returning a curse with a blessing, taking them out to dinner, sending a note….

When Josh was still a minor living at home and would do something aggravating, I would do his laundry for him.  That was his responsibility, but I would say, as I put each piece in the washing machine, “I choose to bless you, not curse you.”  I don’t know if he was grateful for that grace, but it did wonders for me.

Bill Bright provided an amazing model for me in giving grace.  When a Christian leader would fall because of some immorality, most of the body of Christ would criticize, judge, reject, condemn.  But Dr. Bright would always be one of the first to call, to pray for, to listen to…to extend grace.

Can we stoop to give grace to our loved ones?

What about you?  What one act of grace could you do for your prodigal?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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This is the second in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Josh Bales is a great musician.  Kind of country.  Leads worship at a local church.  I’ve met him, but he doesn’t know me.  I listen to his music in my car.

My favorite is called “Only the Sinner.”  And my favorite line is “only those who have no alibi…Jesus saves.”

It’s a song about grace.

Those of us who love prodigals know all about alibis.  Those prodigals always have “alibis” or excuses or blame for someone else.  Surely they didn’t do it, whatever “it” is.  Falsely accused.  Unfairly caught.  Always an alibi.

But what about us?  Don’t we have alibis?  Excuses?  What we did—or didn’t do–wasn’t really wrong.  Little sins.

“Only those who have no alibi…only those who cannot hide their sin…Jesus saves.”

You see, grace is a gift.  It was paid for with the incomprehensible price of the death of the Son.  Then it is offered freely to you, to me, to our prodigals, to everyone.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15)

It overflows to the many.  To you.  To me.  To our prodigals.  But why do we not all live in that grace?  Why do our loved ones not experience it?

We only access that grace as we see our need for it.  It is a gift that must be received.  We keep offering alibis—reasons that we are worthy, proof that we are good, excuses for our little sins.

It is so hard to come before our God, admitting our weakness, our impurity, our unworthiness, our vileness.

Yet it is that humbling ourselves, confessing our sin, turning from our own way, that releases the outrageous, abundant, lavish, FREE grace of God to cover us, fill us, sustain us, free us, lift us, encourage us, strengthen us….

I know I often have to bring my alibis to the feet of Jesus.  When I give them to Him, He pours His grace all over me.

If it is hard for me to give up my alibis, I’m sure it is also hard for my prodigal.  And if my generous God freely gives His extravagant grace to me, how can I do less to those I love?

What about you?  Do you have any alibis that are keeping you from living freely in God’s grace?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

Weeks   1   2   3   4   5   6   7  8

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I have the privilege of praying for prodigals with a wonderful online community.  We pray all year for our own prodigals and for each other, and on June 2 each year we pray for thousands more on the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.  This letter is the first in a weekly series leading up to June 2.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

We are fast approaching our next June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.  In several months of asking God what our theme for this year should be, only one word came, repeatedly.  That word was GRACE.

In this first mini-devotional on GRACE, I will just try to convey the meaning and magnitude of this word, as it reveals God and His involvement in our lives and the lives of those we are praying for.  In the weeks to come we will look in more depth at how that GRACE is lived out.

Our theme verse:  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

We are blessed as we come to Him, for our need is great, deep and ongoing.  Thus we have a means to discover the reality of God’s grace in the intense crucible and classroom of our lives with our prodigals.

So what is GRACE?

In the dictionary, it is defined with words such as favor, goodwill, kindness, forgiveness, charity, love, mercy, clemency, pardon, leniency, reprieve.

Sometimes seeing the antonyms also helps us understand meaning:  animosity, enmity, disfavor, harshness, disrespect, dishonor.

We gain much greater insight into God’s definition of GRACE from the Greek lexicon.

The Greek word for GRACE is CHARIS, which has the same root as words for joy, thanks and gift.  Here are some definitions and descriptions:

That which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness.

Of speech:  goodwill, loving-kindness.

Favor of merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, strengthens them, increases them in faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of Christian virtues.

Living in grace:  the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace.

Gifts of grace:  beneful bounty, recompense, reward, resulting in thanks and gratitude

A few of the gifts Scripture tells us have been bestowed on us by the grace of God, delivered by the Lord Jesus and continually poured out on us and in us by the Holy Spirit:

Sufficiency for every need.

Redemption.

Incomparable riches.

Encouragement

Strength

Growth

So as we prepare our hearts for our day on our knees/faces on behalf of our own prodigals and thousands of others, may the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ be poured out on us abundantly.

GRACE to you, with love,

Judy

If you would like to be a part of our prayer for community, or to request prayer for prodigal in your life, please request an invitation here.  We would love to have you join us and would be grateful to pray for someone in your life needing a touch from God.

Weeks   1   2   3   4   5   6   7  8

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