Thanksgiving Visitor: An Original Short Story

I am reblogging this story, which I wrote several years ago, for Thanksgiving…enjoy!

thelordspromise

The man walked slowly up the long driveway, his hands trembling from the cold, he had no gloves, and his head was uncovered. He had forgotten how cold it could get in November in Kansas.

His mind raced as he trod heavily, avoiding patches of ice, ice that had formed the night before with a biting, wet rain. He wondered whether he would be welcomed, or remembered, because he had been away so long and people tend to forget those who no longer fill their lives, even those who they have loved, because time changes things.

He noticed the long row of oak trees, ancient now, yet still sturdy, their branches coated in ice and snow, bending, not breaking from the weight of a cold, hard winter, and he smiled at the tenacity of nature. The barn had a new coat of paint, bright red, and the color burst through…

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The Power and Importance of Biblical Prophecy

Prophecy is woven throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments.  Prophecy is an important message from God that confirms His existence, underscores His power and authority over life, confirms the purpose and redeeming death of Christ, and prepares us for the confusion and deception that heralds Christ’s return.

Prophecy establishes the truth and power that is God.  No other religion or deity claims the power of prophecy, that is the foretelling of things to come that have thereafter been historically established to have taken place. God knows all, sees all, and manages all that we see, feel and experience.  This is His right and power as the creator of the universe.

Prophecy foretold the coming of Jesus Christ, and His rejection and death at the hands of men who could foretell the weather but could not see the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy before their very eyes.  It provides foolproof verification of who Christ is and what He offers us through His redeeming death on the cross.  His identity is confirmed through prophecy and His purpose is set forth for all to see…all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Prophecy also provides us armor, protection, education and readiness so that when the world is fraught with deception and false religions, when evil men arise calling themselves prophets and miracle workers, when religious and world leaders come together and promote a new religion masquerading as that of the Bible, we could know the truth.

God has taken great steps to inspire the prophets and guard His word throughout thousands of years.  The fact that the Bible today is still in the same form and offers the same message as it did for thousands of years (despite the false claims of many that it is a mythology book created, altered, and amended by man—what a widespread deception by Satan!), that its message is intricately interwoven among dozens of prophets over that time, from different cultures, different ages, different perspectives and yet telling one unified story is commanding evidence of its divine origination and importance for our lives.

As the world get more and more confusing…up is down, black is white, yes means no, and godlessness is spiritual…we have the Word to sustain us, keep us balanced and at peace.  We also have the power of prophecy to see through the fog and understand what is in store for us.  This is why the Bible instructs us that even though all around us is crumbling, that  we should “not let our hearts be troubled.”     He is coming back, just as was prophesied. The balance of power is not held by man but is firmly held in the strong and sure hands of God and His son Jesus Christ!

It’s Time to Come Home

Christianity is unique among religions in that the supreme being invites a close personal relationship with believers.  God is a “father” instructing, correcting and loving His children.  The Bible often refers to God this way, and in fact Jesus referred to God as His father.  This is intentional and significant because it defines the relationship that God wants for us with Him.

The nature of the parent-child relationship is more close and special than any other that exists.  Friend, girlfriend, wife, nothing compares to the unconditional nature of that relationship, all accepting, all supporting, the purest love.  Anyone who has raised a child understands this supernatural bond.

Of all the lessons in the Bible, the story of the prodigal son most illustrates this point.  Set forth in Luke 15:11-32 (NIV), Jesus tells the story of the man with two sons.  One is devoted, the other rebellious.  The rebellious son leaves, and his father does not stop him.  This son squanders his inheritance, his life turns to ruin, and he ends up tending hogs where the slop looks more inviting than his own meager meals.  At his lowest he sets off for home, unsure of the reception he will receive after so long away and after having turned his back on his father and family.  The reception he receives is noting less than miraculous…fine robes, a feast, no questions asked about where he had been, just a joyous reunion filled with amazing love and acceptance.

This story perfectly illustrates the nature of our relationship with God.  We are the rebellious son.  We are headstrong, foolish, and demanding of instant gratification no matter the cost.  We do not want to wait for the glory that God has awaiting us nor do we wish to be restrained by the rules God has laid out for us…we know best.  Like the wild and immature son, we wish to squander our inheritance now, with no patience or vision for the future.  God sees this in us, as the father saw the recklessness of his son, and God lets it happen.  He will not force us to love Him and obey Him and accept His rules.  True love cannot be forced.

My favorite part of the story is the journey home.  He has been gone a long while, is likely in rags, thin and frail and disheveled.  He is after all homeless and living on the street.  Yet Jesus tells us that, “while he was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion and love for him.”  His father, who had not seen him for years perhaps (the Bible does not say how long although we can deduce that it was quite a long time), recognizes his lost son though in torn clothes, shoe-less, from a long way off!  Clearly he was anticipating his son’s return since the day he had left!  And only a loving, caring parent could recognize their child no matter how they looked, no matter how long it has been since they were last together.  I know that I recognize my children’s cries, their walk, their mannerisms and can pick them out in any crowd.

Like the father in this story God is waiting on you to come back to Him.  He sees you have been rebellious and selfish and sinning, and he let you do your thing because He cannot force you to live a life He wants for you.  Yet He is confident that when you realize that a life of sin and pleasure, without God, without his commanding guidance, without His peace, you will turn around and head home.

And when you come home, you can be certain that God will embrace you, wrap you in the finest robes, feed you the best food, take care of your every need, like the loving father that He is, without any questions and recriminations.  You can shed your old life at His feet, and be transformed back into the child of God you always were meant to be because that is how you were made by Him.

God has patience for us…He loved us so much that He sent His son, Jesus Christ to die for us. So that believing in Him we might again have eternal life with the father.  He gave us a way home! If you are out of answers, tired of trying to fight life’s battles alone, at the bottom spiritually, physically, emotionally, then the answer is simple.  Turn back and head home.  The prodigal son was never asked “where were you,” or “how could you,” or even “I told you so.”  He was wrapped in love, his father rejoiced, and the son’s life immediately improved for the better.  Turn around.  I did, and it was the best journey I ever made.

 

 

The Dangerous Lure of the Social Gospel

There has been a growing trend in America in the past 20 years to promote and encourage what is often called the “Social Gospel.”  Proponents of this movement focus on Christ’s teachings about helping the poor, giving  possessions to those in need, and chastising the rich, elevating these fragmented teachings to the forefront of Christianity. Oftentimes this effort is coupled with politics and used to exploit Christ and His words to support environmentalism, socialism, communism and even the modern progressive movement.   Presidents have quoted the Bible to advance social policy on more than one occasion.  Major religious leaders have also been recently making statements against Western wealth, the concentration of wealth, and the West’s emphasis on materialism as a primary focus of teaching.

While it is true that Christ spoke the very words attributed to Him by those advancing the Social Gospel, care must be taken not to try to take teachings out of context, or more significantly make certain teachings the core of Christianity that were never meant to define the key purpose of Christ, His life and His atoning death on the Cross.

Jesus Christ certainly brought comfort to the poor and sick, and He chastised leaders for caring more about the Law than their faith, which resulted in people acting as if they were Godly but were in fact sinners who ignored the plight of many of their neighbors.  However Christ did not come to start a movement to create a better society, save the environment and achieve world peace.  Why? Because as sinners Christ knew and God knows that we are incapable of the acts and deeds that would create an earthly utopia.  That instead, by first believing in Christ and working to change our lives, we would then change our behavior as a consequence and thereby prepare ourselves for the glory of Heaven.  Christ came to save us!  We are the object of His love, not the earth, which will be destroyed, and which those who believe will gladly abandon to take refuge in a glorious Heaven.

While those who live by faith are expected to demonstrate a changed countenance and heart by their acts and deeds, faith must come first.  The Social Gospel encourages good deeds alone as a means to achieve some feel good personal ideal, and confuses people by teaching them that their main focus must be on making a better world as if Christ came to do that, which He did not.  The Social Gospel substitutes the real Gospel for emotional manipulation and political theories that seek to change behaviors to conform to ways men want them to be (those who lead the movement) rather than the way God wants them to be.  God wants us to love Him with all our hearts, mind, bodies and soul.  He wants us to believe in Christ and the Cross, to change our lives from within (not by good deeds alone), and then to spread the Good News through our personal testimony to others.  None of this is found in the Social Gospel.  Instead a dangerous emotional manipulation is taking place to replace the true Word of God with a feel good, focus on the world message.  It is found woven through the Church, the environmental movement, film, television, books, school curriculums, and political platforms.  Most concerning is the appearance of Social Gospel preachers who lead large churches, write influential books, and are blinded to the severe damage they are  causing contemporary Christians.

I am a proponent of helping the poor.  I believe we should be peaceful and compassionate.  We should love our neighbors and be generous.  However no sinner can ever truly exhibit this behavior unless first they have given their life to Christ and gained true faith, a faith that overcomes sin and death and is transforming.  This critical message is not part of the Social Gospel, rather it is relegated to the back room while the political, financial, and egotistical desires of men seek to turn the Word backwards and encourage behavior that ultimately will never transpire without God.

In these trying and confusing times we must be discerning, Biblically focused, and keenly aware that many who lead are teaching a false message.  Read the scriptures, all of them.  Hold leaders accountable.  Protect yourself from emotional manipulation and use Christ as your rock.  Few will weather the storm of false messages and false prophets.  Those who do will earn their promised reward.  Stay strong, be courageous, and never lose faith in the one true God.