Oh, how our God loves us!
“…the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:2 (NKJV)
In the Gospel of Luke 15:2, Jesus is mocked for His love. Yet, He responds to mocking hearts as He always does; with love. He tells the story of The Prodigal. It’s the perfect picture of His intentions. By definition, prodigal means... spending resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant. Love (by God’s definition) is meant to be spent extravagantly.
Timothy Keller, Author of The Prodigal God, describes God perfectly, whereby He lavishly displayed His extravagant love for us through the sacrifice of His only Son. Jesus willingly, freely, and purposefully gave His life for us on the cross so that we might live with Him throughout eternity.
Again … Oh, how our God loves us.
Meet Michael, Kevin, and John.
They are all self-described prodigals of a reckless variety. Each one had a chance (even several) at a new life but continually walked away, wasting what they had. Why?
“I partied, used drugs, used women, drank heavily, and was never a good father to my children (ages 4 to 19). I had been in rehab programs before but never changed. One day I had a ridiculous argument with my girlfriend. It got out of control and I no longer knew myself. I attacked her physically; something I had never done before. The police were called and I ran from her place to my Dad’s home. I was just about ready to leave his house when something hit me. I couldn’t make myself move forward off the porch. So, I walked back in the house and told my dad I was done. I was just going to stay put and let the police arrest me.” ~ Michael
“I have the same story as Michael, minus the violence. My step-father often abused me when I was young, but I wasn’t violent. I just always thought I could handle ‘one beer’ or a single hit of weed. That slippery slope of thinking that I was ‘in control’ (provided I talked-a-good-talk) was what messed with my head. Every time I thought I knew what I was doing I landed back in another program, starting over. I have been through so many I’ve lost count. It got to the point that no one would believe me when I said I was clean, not even me. Because of that, I lost the relationships I had with my kids.” ~ Kevin
“I drank to the point that I would become violent, lose consciousness, or both. The first incident was in 1977 when I was in the military and was arrested for pushing an officer. I submitted to a military-based rehab. For the next 40 years, this became a repeat story. I have been in and out of programs, even suffering a stroke that left me unable to speak. For periods of time I would attend church and live a peaceful existence, but I hit my ultimate low when I blacked out from a drinking binge, only to wake up and discover I had hurt my wife. To this day I have no memory of that attack.” ~ John
[Interesting tidbit: John’s son and daughter are graduates of the Mission’s programs. Today, John’s son is Michael’s mentor.]
We hear these stories all the time.
We even become part of this story when people choose to leave the Mission before they truly get the help they need.
The Fresno Rescue Mission offers men, women, and children loving environments with services and programs, along with essential elements, to meet the most basic needs they might have. Yet, there isn’t anything we could offer that is more important than the love of Jesus and the truth of salvation. It is by receiving Christ that people discover the lives they were intended to have. When they fully come to understand what Jesus was sharing in His story of The Prodigal, they discover the celebration being thrown in their honor. Michael, John, and Kevin are all celebrating in that honor today.
“ It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again,
and was lost and is found.” Luke 15:2 (NKJV)
When asked about their favorite Scripture verse and what God is saying to them through His Words, they replied:
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
"God’s wrath was, and is, justified. My anger never was. God set aside His judgment on me because Jesus paid the price for my sins. He removed my anger and gave me a new life. I can’t even begin to explain how humbling and honoring that is, all at the same time. All I know is that I can now live for Him and have peace with the people I love, all because He loves me. Wow!” ~ Michael
Philippians 3:10, 13-14
"Today, I walk in His victory. The truth of Scripture ignites a passion in me I never knew before. I watched my kids discover it, and now I understand what they have come to know. We all fell in love with Jesus!” ~ John
James 4:8, Proverbs 8:3-4, Psalm 32:8
"God draws me close to Him, He helps me hear His voice and find words that give my life meaning. He instructs me and keeps me focused. Today, He has my attention. It’s hard to turn away from the truth once you recognize it.” ~ Kevin
Stories appeared in the October 2017 edition of Lighthouse News.