The Prodigal Son

It is amazing, is it not?

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

Verse 20 “So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.”  Luke 15:11-13…20-22.

God’s grace and love is amazing, is it not?  It is astounding to me the levels of despair, depravity and darkness a person can go to.   God loves me and you so much that He freely gives us our own will and ability to make choices.  He loves us so much that he lets us run to the end of our own devices so that we can see for ourselves what life is like without Him.   How fortunate you are to know His grace and how sad it is for those who have not experienced that same grace.

 So he got up and went to his father” Verse 20.  And yet when a person comes to their senses our heavenly Father welcomes him or her back.  We read here in Luke Jesus is explaining to the people the level of the depth of God’s love to us sinners who are saved by His grace and redeemed by the cross. Folks keep on keeping on and don’t look back for God has His hand on you and He will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5.

 

Now go out and make disciples…

Isaiah 58:6-7: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?   Verse 12: “You will be called Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

It is Tuesday after our Memorial Day celebration remembering those who gave up their lives for our freedom in this great country the United States of America.  As I reflect on this I am reminded of the scriptures in Galatians – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1,

 OUR freedom came at a cost in this country.  Men and women still die protecting our rights and freedom today.  2000 years ago Jesus died for yours and my freedom from sin and death once and for all.  When Jesus said on the cross “it is finished”, (John 19:30), He did it for us permanently.  He took on all of our pain and frustrations as well as all of our sin.

 When the prophet writes, “is it not to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke and set the oppressed free?” he is challenging the church to bring this message out to others now.  It is a question that is asked in the present tense.  Jesus states this even more clearly in Matthew 28:19-20 when he says, “go make disciples of all nations.”

 How are we handling our freedom here in our country and in our faith walk?  Are we being responsible and handing it out to others sharing Christ with them?  God has promises for us when we join in with the acts of our local churches dedicated to bringing this delivering message to our communities. 

 “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. “…not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:12-14.

God has a plan for you and wants to use you to reach out to others for His plans and purposes.  It may be as simple as offering a word of kindness to someone in need or assisting your neighbor who is burdened.  Now go out and have a blessed day today as you share Christ.

Follow Me!

John 21:16-19 “Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!””

Follow Me!

The Lord had just called Peter to a new level of leadership that very few people will ever receive in their life. Essentially Peter is commissioned to go forth and lead this new church with the message of God’s love and forgiveness through Christ crucified with the promise of eternal life, and yet Peter does not realize what he has just been given.

Follow me the Lord says; three times Peter had rejected Jesus when Jesus was on trial.  Three times Jesus asked Peter “do you love me?”  In each question, Peter’s words are being challenged and Jesus is saying to Him, if you love me do as I command.  Jesus knows that deep down Peter wants to serve and please the Lord but he still must sort out his insecurities to get to that place of total abandon to Jesus from his own agenda.

Peter, do you love me?  Has Jesus asked you that question?  Have you responded with hurt and offense as Peter did when He asks you to do that very hard thing that we are being called to achieve (note that Peter is worried about what will happen to John)?  At times in our own sense of justice we think that things ought to go easier and we ask the Lord, what about him Lord?  Why do they have it easier than what you have given me to do?

Peter received his commission on that beach. Then he was restored from his sin of claiming to not know Jesus, and then he is told to lead this new church. Yet Peter’s insecurities are still surfacing at this critical juncture in the early church.

The process of sanctification is slow and tedious. Our calling into Christian ministry is not based on being perfect but on being obedient and willing. God will grind off the edges of our personalities and sin if we keep our hearts resolved to serve and stay tender to listen and learn from Him in this journey of living out this Christian witness. Remember His words: Follow Me is an invitation to walk close and serve  Him with reckless abandon.

“Lazarus, come out!””

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.     Mark 16:8-11

Lazarus, come out!

Jesus’ disciples refused to believe that He had risen from His tomb. Men that He had taught for several years didn’t believe that He had been resurrected. The Lord had told them before that when He was crucified, after His death He then would return.   Even though they witnessed the many miracles, their faith dissipated. They were spent emotionally and spiritually.  Do you know how that feels being spent like that?

Jesus showed Thomas, (John 20:24) the wounds on His side so that he might believe. And Thomas then immediately believed when he saw the Lords wounds. How many of us are like Thomas? How many of us have seen miracles and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but still doubt Him? Thomas had seen Jesus perform many miracles, but He couldn’t believe that Christ had risen from the tomb.   There is no shame in the doubt, it is simply our human struggle.  Jesus knows that, and that is why He keeps reassuring us that He is with us always.

Is God stretching your faith today?  Are you being tested in your senses and in your belief.  That is what happened to the disciples on that dark day of the crucifixion.

When Jesus called His friend Lazarus from the grave He caused quite a stir in the community, “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”” John 11:43. Are you spent right now? Is God bringing you to a place where you can only trust in Him?

Maybe He is preparing you to call people forth from their darkness and death for His sake as Jesus did for Lazarus.  Be Blessed Today my friend.

 

He Has Risen!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”      Matthew 28:5-6

He Has Risen!

Jesus had risen from the grave just as He said He would; He kept His word.    Has Jesus given you specific promises for your life? Has He made a promise to you some months or years ago and now you are wondering if it is going to come to pass?   Because of the resurrection, I have hope—in eternal life and in His other promises as well. We are in Christ; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have this hope because we believe. However, the world wants to extinguish this hope and pour water on the flame of our hope and faith.

The risen Christ has given us a promise that conquers all fear and brings hope. However, to walk in this, we then must make a decision of our will by taking old thoughts captive and trust in the Lord to lead us.

When I become fearful in my heart, I need to go looking for Jesus and the only way I can find Him is to enter into a conversation with Him. He promised His disciples as He was commissioning them in Matthew 28:18-20 “I will be with you always till the end of time.” There are times we need to remember this promise. He is with us even in the struggles and the pain when we doubt that He is real. He is real, He is beaten death and He is alive in the world and in our hearts.  He Has Risen!

 

Is Jesus calling you to come closer?

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.”  Luke 19:5-6.

We read here that a wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus is being called out by Jesus to come closer.  Zacchaeus had made a great effort to see Jesus and he even exposed himself by climbing up a tree and then when he hears his name called, he gives up everything to follow Jesus.  My question is what would compel a man to do such a thing?   What compels someone to give up those worldly things that meant so much to him?

Jesus shows His heart for those who want salvation and redemption.

Zacchaeus recognizes that his heart aches for real meaning and love and purpose.  By Jesus calling out Zacchaeus by name in front of a large crowd indicates that Zacchaeus was ready to follow the maker of his soul.

Jesus knows my heart and He knows your heart.  He knows what we yearn for and what we need.  He knows that we are afraid at times to cry out.  We may be afraid to give up all to follow Him for fear it may be harder than that with what we contend with now.   The reality is when we do surrender it all, He takes the load and does make it lighter.  We just need to surrender and let go.  Is Jesus calling you to come and follow Him closer?

Zacchaeus responds with what appears to be compulsion but the reality is that he is overcome with a burning love and desire to serve his Lord.  He recognizes that this man Jesus knows his soul and then Zacchaeus comes to the realization that he wants more than what the world has to offer him. He then surrenders to the Lord.

Is Jesus calling you to come closer?

Have a blessed evening and come and join us on Sunday morning as we visit more about Zacchaeus and Jesus.  Pastor Michael Angelo Pilla

Y0ur Faith In The Scriptures

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3:14

Your Faith In the Scriptures

God imparts righteousness to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ. However, the concept of becoming righteous without any work or effort on our part is a rather difficult thing to grasp in our own power. We simply cannot become holy unless we believe, and we believe because God reveals the truth of the gospel to us by His power. We cannot even believe without revelation from Him, for He is the Author of our faith. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3).

Abraham believed God and we must believe Him too. We, too, must have faith in order to receive the blessing of Abraham, which means that God will imparts righteousness to anyone who truly believes in Christ. Our faith is counted as righteousness, for we receive Christ by faith, and not by sight (trying to earn holiness or right standing with God by our own efforts). We cannot establish our own righteousness. We can only inherit righteousness by faith in Christ. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…(Romans 3:22). Abraham heard God and trusted in Him, and then he left his country in obedience to the Lord. He did not know where God was leading him, yet he still obeyed. Like Abraham, we must follow the Lord wherever He leads us. We trust in Christ to save us from our sins. But do we trust him to direct our lives? Do we submit to God’s will, or are we led by our own will?

How are you doing in your trusting of the Lord? By faith, you and I have been given the Spirit of God. Abraham listened to God’s spoken Word; however, we have His written Word, which speaks to us. Our faith is counted as righteousness, and we are given the Spirit of God because of our faith in Christ.

Do you believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and its promises? 1st Thessalonians 1:5 “because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”

 

Ask God’s Spirit To Give You New Life

I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’“ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.    

Ezekiel 37:8

Ask God’s Spirit To Give You New Life

This passage in Ezekiel is a picture of the Power of God and the Word of God. In His vision, as he prophesied, the Holy Spirit breathed new life into a valley of dead Israelites.

Contextually, this was a message of hope to them because they were exiled in Babylon—and God wanted them to know that Israel had a future beyond their present state of captivity and exile. The “hand of the Lord” would deliver them and they would return to their land. Thus, this word of the Lord was given so that they would know that restoration was in their future—and new life was going to be brought to a valley of dry bones (an exiled and despondent Israel).

God can also breathe new life into our dead situations and circumstances. Sometimes, we may feel as if we are in a valley of bones or in a situation that needs a miracle to restore it. We may feel impatient and even try to deliver ourselves from our difficulties.

Without the Holy Spirit indwelling in us, we would no longer have His life flowing in and through us. We would be “dead and hopeless” creatures without the presence of God. If we aren’t connected to the Vine, then the Holy Spirit cannot lead us or work in our lives. Our spiritual life would be dead without Christ, for without forgiveness of sins, we wouldn’t ever be able to receive the Spirit of God. Without Him, the Spirit of God wouldn’t dwell in us. Physically, we need air, water, and food to remain alive—and spiritually, we need the Holy Spirit’s presence and power flowing through us to work in our lives.

Jesus states, “Anyone who thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). If you are feeling discouraged turn to Christ and let the rivers of “living water” flow in your life. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.

 

Receiving Vision

I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem… Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”     Nehemiah 2:12, 13

Receiving  Vision

God gave Nehemiah a vision and a burden to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. However, Nehemiah didn’t tell the people of Jerusalem right away as he waited for just the right time to reveal what God had put in his heart.

God used Nehemiah to help restore Israel after a period of exile. Nehemiah begins to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. However he experiences intense opposition, but he presses on any way. Even though the enemy taunted him from the outside, Nehemiah didn’t give into the oppression, for he knew that God had given him the vision to rebuild the wall and restore Israel. Like Nehemiah, we must not let critics, mockers, and slanderers affect us. Don’t fret because of evildoers who oppose and persecute you, for this is the enemy’s way of trying to distract you from fulfilling God’s plans.

There will always be people that oppose and persecute. In fact, Jesus even rebuked Peter for complaining. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan! He said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”(Mark 8:33).

We cannot allow the unspiritual to affect our calling from the Lord. They do not know God. And they do not understand that their opposition and defiance doesn’t change our faith. What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? (Romans 3:3). He who belongs to God hears what He says. Jesus said in John 8:47“The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” When God gives you a vision, remember that any work that you do for Him will be opposed, because you have an enemy—Satan—he will attack you because he doesn’t want you to please God or win souls to Christ. He will try to destroy your faith so that you will please God. We cannot allow the enemy to distract us from God’s work. Walk in faith today and trust in the Lord.

Be blessed today, Pastor Michael Angelo  Pilla

God Will Give You Success

I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”     Nehemiah 2:20

God Will Give You Success

When we get a vision or a word from God, there is a period of weeks or even months when the details fall neatly into place. Everything is running smoothly and then spiritual warfare sets in. The enemy attacks us with a cunning strategy to discourage, delay, defeat—and to ultimately destroy our plans. He might cultivate doubts, which we think are just reasonable objections to the task that God has called us to do.

We need to know the heart of God and His voice in order to oppose this warfare. We must be rooted and grounded in God’s Word so that when the attacks come we can handle the enemy’s onslaught. Too often, men and women who have been called by God question Him at the first sign of opposition. However, as you study the Bible, there was always opposition. For example, when Jesus was born, Herod had all male babies murdered that were two and under. Thus, we need to stand firm because we know that God has called us to be ambassadors for Christ. Opposition to God’s plans will always exist and come in many forms, but stand on His promises, and stay encouraged.

People are thirsting today for vision and leadership that is inspired by God. As leaders inspired by God, we cannot quit. Because we have faith, we take “steps of faith” even though we don’t know how things will work out. The Lord will go before us and He will bring circumstances and events into our lives that surprise us. We may receive an answer that we don’t expect. And we may not see or understand why God moves as He does, but these circumstances are actually answers to our prayers.

God wants to move in people’s hearts and change lives. He wants us to hear His voice and execute His plans so that we can lead people to Christ. We are His ministers of reconciliation, for we are His ambassadors, and we will carry out His Great Commission! We may not build a wall in the way that Nehemiah did, but we will help build His kingdom. He will support you because you are a “kingdom builder.”