Monthly Archives: June 2015

“Shepherding Your Family Toward God”

I was in Ohio on Father’s Day, helping Molly, Jake, Lily, and Norah make the move from Des Moines to Cleveland.  We visited a church on that day.  If you are interested in reading my brief summary of the pastor’s message, “Shepherding Your Family Toward God,” please read on.

“Shepherding Your Family Toward God”
By Armand Tiffe
Cornerstone Community ChurcH
Mayfield Heights, Ohio
Sunday, June 21, 2015

Text:  John 10:1-15

Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd, in contrast to false teachers.

On this Father’s Day, we fathers think of our roles as fathers.  We can draw fathering parallels from this discourse.

TO SHEPHERD YOUR FAMILY TOWARD GOD. . .

WORK AT KNOWING EACH OF YOUR CHILDREN INDIVIDUALLY.  (v. 3, 14)
Jesus had an intimate relationship with His Father.  We fathers should have a personal relationship with each of your children.  Spend time with your children.  Be with them.  Include them on your errands and with your chores.  Call each from work.  Influence always comes through relationship.

SET THE EXAMPLE.  (v. 4)
You cannot take your family where you are not walking yourself.  Be a spiritual leader.  Model godly behavior.  Root out your own selfishness.  Your children are observing your example.  Lead them toward God and godliness.

ENTER THROUGH THE DOOR OF SALVATION.  THEN, SEEK TO LEAD YOUR CHILDREN THROUGH THAT SAME DOOR. (v. 9a)
A father should be born again to be led by the Holy Spirit.  And, then, lead your children to a saving faith in Christ. It’s not just praying a prayer. You need a genuine conviction about your sin.  You need to repent of sin.  And everyone, including your children, will see evidence of your growing faith and sanctification.  Salvation comes from the Lord, but, fathers, don’t underestimate your role in each child’s salvation.  Pray for their conversion.  Speak to them about the necessity of being right with God.

LEAD YOUR CHILDREN TO THE PASTURES OF GOD’S WORD.  (v. 9b)
Think about Psalm 23.  Lead your family to still waters and on the path to righteousness.  Take your children consistently to church, God’s chosen instrument for changing the world.  The church provides spiritual nourishment.  Engage your children in spiritual conversation.  Talk about God and spiritual truths as a natural part of your home.  In Deuteronomy 6, God, through Moses, commands parents and grandparents to talk about God ALL OF THE TIME.  Take advantage of teachable moments.  Each conflict and problem is a teachable moment.

SERVE EACH OF THEM SACRIFICIALLY.  (v. 11, 15)
Satan comes to steal and destroy.  Jesus laid down His life for His followers.  We fathers must serve children sacrificially and willingly.

GUARD EACH CHILD FROM SPIRITUAL DANGER.  (v. 12-13)
A hired hand cares only about himself; he is an irresponsible shepherd.  Passive dads are irresponsible shepherds.  We fathers have a responsibility to God for how we shepherd our children.  Be discerning. Put on the full armor of God.  Teach your children about the importance of good spiritual companionship.  Be alert to tempting environments.  Pray regularly for their spiritual safety.  What kinds — how much — TV and movies and music?  Don’t approach this legalistically, but still explain yourself biblically.  Kids, don’t fight your Dads in this regard.  They have your spiritual wellness in-mind.

“Every Good Gift”

I write a monthly column for our church, Waukee Community Church.  If you would like to read my June edition, “Every Good Gift,” in Generosity Matters, please read on.

“Every Good Gift”
By Dr. Bob Stouffer

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

GOD owns it all.  Even — and especially — our lives are not our own.  God gave us life.  We give our lives BACK TO GOD.  We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, holy and pleasing to Him (Romans 12:1).

GOD is also the source of our financial resources.  And we are to be managers of GOD’s financial resources.  We do not “own” money.  Any financial blessings come FROM GOD.  James rightly concluded that “every good gift and every perfect give is from above. . .from the Father of lights. . . .” (1:17).  As such, we must acknowledge Him as the giver of our time, talents, and treasures, giving ourselves and those gifts back to God.  He gave us the talents which allowed us to generate financial resources.

Recently, Pastor Dave did a great job of dedicating Megan and Peter Jaques’ son to the Lord.  As Hannah presented Samuel back to the Lord, Megan and Peter offered their son Tobias back to the Lord.  As P. Dave indicated in that dedication, Jesus spoke very fondly of children:  “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

So how do adults receive the Kingdom of God like a child?  We should give like children give.  I have known children to give ALL of their birthday and Christmas monies for causes they embrace.  They hold their hands open to causes which God places before them.  What happens between childhood and adulthood which causes us to clench our fists tight around “our” financial resources?  Sure, young children have difficulty grasping the concept of money, so adults may believe them to be foolhardy in their generosity.  Perhaps it’s because they know there will always be resources from Mom and Dad when the objects of their giving are right.  And such should be the attitude of adults:  We serve the Father of lights, the giver of every good gift, and, when he is guiding the child or adult who gives, there will always be enough financial resources from which to give.

Make sense?  Then, make cents and give generously like a child, and you will inherit greater blessings in the Kingdom of God!

Every Good and Perfect Gift Comes from Above

“What’s the Difference?”

On Sunday, June 28, 2015, I attended Pastor Jeff Boge’s Grace Church in Akron, Ohio, and I was treated to (1) the first message in his new sermon series on “true Christianity” and (2) a remarkably succinct and clear commentary on the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of gay and lesbian marriage on Friday, June 26th.  If you are interested in either/both of these topics, please read on.

“What’s the Difference?”
By Pastor Jeff Boge
Grace Church
Akron, Ohio
Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summary and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

This is a new series beginning today.

We will be celebrating what the Bible says about the core beliefs of the Christian life.

We want to stare at the original of the Gospel to recognize the counterfeit “gospels.”

This is going to be a great conversation.

What are the hills upon which we must die, according to God?

Let’s go to Galatians 1:1-9.

Paul was an Apostle with authority.  Jesus founded the church.  Paul is speaking on behalf of Jesus.

The Galatians were running from the true Gospel toward false teaching.  The Galatians has allowed false teachers into their midst after Paul left them.

False teachers are “cursed.”

Everything is rooted in the true Gospel.  The book of Ephesians includes God’s teaching of the Gospel through Paul.

Ephesians 2:1-10 details the true Gospel.  We sin.  Christ is the only Savior.  We repent and receive the free gift of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and His Resurrection from the dead.  It is by grace that we are saved, through faith, not by works, lest we would boast in ourselves and our efforts.  You cannot earn salvation.  God is faithful to forgive your sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  The Gospel is “Jesus only!”  Do not add to, subtract from, or substitute for the true Gospel.

Know the Gospel. Study the original.  Run away from the counterfeits.

How do I recognize a false religion or Gospel?

When you see the following indicators, you will see a false religion or Gospel.

A FALSE RELIGION. . .

TEACHES SALVATION THROUGH EFFORT.
The true Gospel is a free gift purchased by Christ’s efforts.  It’s not what I have done.  It’s what Jesus has done.  Because we can’t get our acts together, Jesus came to us.

PRODUCES PRIDE (SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS) OR DESPAIR (DUE TO FEELINGS OF INSECURE UNWORTHINESS).  So the Christian dumbs-down the behaviors which will “make” him a Christian.  Some people keep lists, i.e., of non-drinkers and non-smokers.  Or unattainable, ambiguous platitudes guide the insecure Christian, only confusing and frustrating the person even more.  The true Gospel leads the Christian to humility, confidence in Christ, and security.  Someone lay His life down for me.  That’s humbling.  God looks at Christ’s actions when He looks at you.  The true Gospel is about what God has done for you, not what you have done for God.  Boast in the works of Christ!  Give your life to Jesus because He gave His life for you.

IS MOTIVATED BY FEAR AND GUILT.  God is an angry God who must be appeased.  Good things happen to me because I did “such and such.”  God is an inspecting God.   He’s waiting to “get us.”  We attempt to keep  God at bay.  The true Gospel is about God’s works out of love.  The true Gospel is about relationship.  We are children of God.  God is not out to get you; if that is so, He would have gotten you already!  You give to the church because you realize that He has given ALL to you.  Your response to the true Gospel is to love God.

Paul was “astonished” that the Galatians had so quickly deserted the true Gospel.  Paul and Jesus spoke very bluntly about false teaching and belief systems.

Other faiths include practices of giving, prayer, and right living.

Christianity is different.  By faith alone in Jesus Christ are we saved.

Answer two questions to find the true Gospel and “religion.”

How do receive salvation?

And how does that answer to that question pertain to my relationship with God?

Engage others gently and respectfully.

Some of you are dying to know what I have to say about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which legalized homosexual marriage in all 50 states on Friday.

Grace Church’s position?  Nothing has changed for our church.

The same Gospel we were charged to deliver on Thursday is the Gospel we are charged to deliver on Friday, today, and hereafter.

The calling of this church is to build the Kingdom of God.

Abortion, pornography, adultery, divorce, and materialism have been legal in our culture.  Now, the courts have made homosexuality legal in all of the states.

The darkest hours of our culture are the brightest hours for the church.

God is still in control.  Jesus has already conquered Satan and death.

Lost people are lost, and that’s why we must keep delivering the true Gospel.  We are not ashamed of the Gospel.  The Gospel is the same today as yesterday.  We sin.  Take the plank out of your eye.  We need a Savior.  Jesus is that Savior.  Call on His name, and you will be saved.  You cannot earn your way to God.

Receive and live the simple Gospel.  It’s not political.  It’s not legal.  It’s about God.

“Suffering Servant”

I had the privilege of opening the Word of God with the men of CrossTrainers at the Valley Community Center in West Des Moines on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. If you would like to read my exposition of 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, “Suffering Servant,” please read on.

“Suffering Servant”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer

CrossTrainers

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Opening

2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Commentary

  • Far greater labors
  • Far more imprisonments
  • Countless beatings
  • Often near death
  • Forty lashes, less one, 5 times
  • Beaten with rods 3 times
  • Stoned
  • Shipwrecked 3 times
  • Adrift at sea a night and a day
  • On frequent journeys
  • In danger from rivers
  • Danger from robbers
  • Danger from Jews
  • Danger from Gentiles
  • Danger in the city
  • Danger in the wilderness
  • Danger at sea
  • Danger from false brothers
  • In toil and hardship
  • Many a sleepless night
  • In hunger and thirst
  • Often without food
  • In cold and exposure
  • Daily pressure from anxiety for all the churches
  • Weak
  • Made to fall

According to commentator David Guzik, “Many people have hard lives but are in no way servants of Jesus. But for Paul, all these perils and hardships were freely chosen because he could have lived differently if he wanted to. But he didn’t want to. He wanted to serve Jesus, and if these hardships were part of serving Jesus, he would accept them. . . .The perils of Paul’s life were really plenty enough to kill any man, but no one could kill him until God finished His purpose for Paul on this earth.”

Suffering

For some reason, God led me to teach about suffering today.

Jesus taught about and knew suffering.

Mark recorded in Chapter 8 verse 31,

And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

The Apostles knew suffering.

. . .they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:41)

Specifically, we have already established that the Apostle Paul knew suffering:

Consider his famous passage from Romans 5:3-5:

. . .we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Also in Romans, Paul wrote,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (8:28)

And:

17 . . .if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:17-18)

And in his second letter to the Church of Corinth, Paul wrote,

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:5-6)

To the Philippians in Chapter 1, verse 29:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. . . .

To the Philippians in Chapter 3, verses 8-11:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

To the Colossians in Chapter 1, verse 24:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. . . .

To Timothy in Chapter 1, verse 8:

. . .do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. . . .

Peter knew suffering.

He wrote:

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (1 Peter 2:20)

Also:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. . . . (1 Peter 3:14)

And:

. . .rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)

In addition:

. . .let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19)

Yet again:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)

James knew suffering:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

I’ll allow the writer of Hebrews to get the final biblical word on suffering:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (2:10)

Questions to Ponder

  1. The Bible is obviously replete with teaching about suffering in life. Why do we do everything in our power to avoid suffering?
  1. “. . .do good and suffer. . .endure, [and] this is a gracious thing in the sight of God”?! (1 Peter 2:20)
  1. How do you respond to someone who asks, “If God is a loving God, why does He allow good people to suffer and bad people to prosper?”
  1. For the joy set before Him, Jesus went to his death on a cross. James reminded us that we should “count it all joy” (which includes suffering). How are you able to find joy in suffering?
  1. Have you ever – or do you know someone else who – suffered for Christ?
  1. In what sense are we glorified through suffering? (Romans 8:17-18)
  1. How do we “attain resurrection from the dead”? (Philippians 3:11)

Closing

“At the Nicene Council, an important church meeting in the 4th century A.D., of the 318 delegates attending, fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith.” (Sermon Illustrations, emphasis added)

Someone asked C.S. Lewis, “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why not?” he replied. “They’re the only ones who can take it.” (Sermon Illustrations)

Helen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” (Sermon Illustrations)

Martin Luther offered these incredible truths on suffering: “If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: ‘O, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!’” (Sermon Illustrations)

Oswald Chambers, the famed writer of My Utmost for His Highest, wrote, “Suffering is the heritage of the bad, of the penitent, and of the Son of God. Each one ends in the cross. The bad thief is crucified, the penitent thief is crucified, and the Son of God is crucified. By these signs we know the widespread heritage of suffering.” (Sermon Illustrations)

On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it: “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” “It is no mean thing to be chosen of God,” [Spurgeon] wrote. “God’s choice makes chosen men choice men…We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice.” (Sermon Illustrations)

Billy Graham wrote, “Suffering teaches us patience. These words were found penned on the wall of a prison cell in Europe: “I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent.” (Sermon Illustrations)

Allow me to close with the poetry of an unknown author:

“Out of the Darkness
Out of the dark forbidding soil
The pure white lilies grow.
Out of the black and murky clouds,
Descends the stainless snow.
Out of the crawling earth-bound worm
A butterfly is born.
Out of the somber shrouded night,
Behold! A golden morn!
Out of the pain and stress of life,
The peace of God pours down.
Out of the nails — the spear — the cross,
Redemption — and a crown!” (Sermon Illustrations)

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray. . . .

FLAME ON!

Resources

Guzik, David. http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/4711.htm
The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. 2001.

The Holy Bible. The Serendipity Bible.

Sermon Illustrations. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/s/suffering.htm

“Kissed Him Much!”

I preached a version of the following message, “Kissed Me Much!” at Cedar Christian Reformed Church in Cedar on Sunday, May 24, 2015 and at The Good News Chapel in Oskaloosa on Sunday, May 31, 2015. If you would like to read the content of my message on God’s extravagant love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, please read on.

 

“Kissed Him Much!”
By Dr. Bob Stouffer

[Title taken, in part, from The Rev. Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon No. 2236, Preached on December 27, 1891]

Reading of the Text:

Luke 15:11-32

Commentary:

The context of the parables in Luke 15:  Looking for, finding, and restoring that which is lost.

The three parables are Jesus’ response to the Pharisees criticizing him for keeping the company of sinners.

God actively seeks out whatever or whoever is lost.

One lost coin (of 10)

One lost sheep (of 100)

One lost man (of 1)

Each human being has great value in the eyes of the Lord.

Prodigal — “extravagant”

The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller

The younger son is the “irreligious” son.

He asked for his third of the father’s current wealth.  (Two-thirds were due to the older brother.)

In asking for his inheritance, he is essentially saying, “You are dead to me!”

What father would give the inheritance to a son in this situation?!  I know my Dad wouldn’t grant me such money!

The son quickly finds that, apart from God, there is no hope.

The son finally thinks more about his father than his own need.

The younger son is willing to give up his rights as son to be a servant to his father — true repentance — since he rehearsed AND eventually delivered this same statement to his father.

He was willing to become a slave to righteousness.

He was going to offer himself as a living sacrifice to the father.
The father saw the son.
God saw the son.  God sees us.

He RAN TO his son.

The younger son took responsibility for his sin!  Isn’t that refreshing?!  We live in an age of non-accountability.  Our apologies are non-apologies, i.e., “I’m sorry if I offended you.”
The father hiked-up his robe, exposed his legs, and ran to his son!

He embraced his son, even though the boy must have stunk to high heaven from pig manure!
Famed 19th Century British Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon commented that the father “kissed him much.”

How could the father have acted upon his son’s return?
Yet the father accepted his son’s sacrifice!
The father gives what the son does not deserve (grace); and, (in mercy), the father withholds that which the son did deserve (judgment).

THAT is “Amazing Grace”!
And the father lavishes his younger son with gifts!
The father places the ring of sonship on his son’s finger!

The father fits his son’s feet with the Gospel of peace!

The father drapes the robe of dignity, honor, and acceptance around his son!
The father kills the sumptuous fatted calf for a grand celebration!

His son was lost, but now he’s found!

Everyone is celebrating – everyone but one.

The father found that his older son is also a “prodigal.”

His older son was extravagantly legalistic. Pharisaical.

If the younger son was “irreligious,” the older son was “religious.”

The older son was outwardly righteous, but inwardly abominable.

“I am a slave” for you, he said to his father.
Apart from Christ, he was a slave to his own righteousness.
From God’s perspective, the older brother was as overly proud as his younger brother was overly humble.

His was an attitude of entitlement and narcissism.  “It’s all about me.  You owe me,” he was essentially saying to the father.

That’s a modern phenomenon now, isn’t it?!

But the father loved his son.  He went to the son.  He called him “child,” a term of endearment in the culture.

The father pleaded for the older son to “come in.”  Did he?  NO!!

The Pharisees never did “come in.”

This son might have been physically present, but he was “lost.”

If a man abides in Christ, he will bear much fruit; apart from Christ, we can do NOTHING.

How does the story end?  Brilliantly, Christ doesn’t allow the story to end.  He puts the dilemma at our feet, and we must choose ourselves.  Wisely or unwisely?  Such is our choice.
Did the younger son remain repentant and grateful for his father’s grace?  We hope so, but such is no guarantee.
We must welcome repentant sinners back into fellowship!

When we are truthful with ourselves, we must say that we all have a bit of the prodigal sons in us from time-to-time — one moment, unrepentant in our declaration of independence from God — the other moment, unrepentant in our self-righteousness; we declare, “Thank God I am not as sinful as that man or woman!”

Testimony
Regarding The Parable of the Prodigal Son. . .
. . .I have a testimony of God’s grace!
MOLLY

“I can’t believe I still love you!”

HANNAH
Hannah’s mother was pregnant at 14 and delivered Hannah at 15.

Hannah was. . .
Adopted

ADHD

Learning issues

ODD

Bi-racial

She was extremely disobedient as a child,
Spanking didn’t help.
She slammed her bedroom door repeatedly (until I removed the door)!

She was beyond rebellious in junior high.

She snuck out of the house on multiple occasions (until we nailed her bedroom window shut)!

Hannah was asked to withdraw from my Christian school!

She was physically combative with Cheryl. . . .

She was verbally abusive and vulgar. . . . One day, she screamed obscenities at me, and said “I’m not the goodie-two-shoes Christian girl you think I am. . . .”
It was SPIRITUAL BATTLE!

I read the book, Daughters Gone Wild, Dads Gone Crazy, twice during these trying years!
What changed everything?

In humility, I came to the Lord daily in prayer.

I was forced to ask myself, “With Hannah, how was I like/unlike the father in this parable of the prodigals”? In my case, the FATHER became repentant. . . .
I came to the end of myself and my “power,” and I gave the situation COMPLETELY to God.

I quit yelling at my daughter. My prior anger had only legitimized her angry responses; she no doubt thought, “If Dad solves his problems with yelling, I can yell back as well.”

I don’t know what I would have done without the many men and women who surrounded Cheryl and me.
I will never forget my lunchtime prayer with Kirt Eldredge in the Clive Panera Bread. . . .
I wrote letters to Hannah. . . .<Here> are the binders I hope to one day turn into a book of encouragement to the parents of other prodigals.

God did a work in her heart. She came to her senses, just as the prodigal son had come to his right mind.

Hannah turned to God. It was a spiritual turnaround!

She experienced success in mentoring special needs students in her school.

She experienced success in track! <Des Moines Register article and photograph> What a Saturday of her junior season – three state championships and a second place finish! Ironically, she became her most humble in the arena of her greatest competence!

But the roller coaster ride wasn’t over completely.

In August before her senior year of high school, Hannah came to her mother, sobbing. Hannah was pregnant.

We were devastated.

A Division-I track scholarship probably became unrealistic.

But I didn’t think about track more than a day.

Instead, I thought of the pride I had in my daughter. She chose life for her baby, even though the birth father was advocating for abortion.

She took good care of herself and her baby, as she determined whether she would keep the baby or choose adoption.

Hannah found out she would be delivering a girl, and she was able to process the agony her own birth mother had gone through at 15 years of age.

She chose to keep Gracelynn!

She chose to graduate early and begin working during second semester of her senior year of high school.

She enrolled in classes at DMACC.

She transferred after a semester to Grand View. She re-started her track career and was named the conference indoor track and field athlete of the year as a freshman! She qualified for nationals during the outdoor season!

She kept working at Boys and Girls Club of America. . . .

She took on a part-time position with Young Lives. . . .

She figured out a way to finish school in three years and two summers.

She won a $3,800 scholarship this month for an essay she wrote!

She has a wonderful boyfriend who loves Gracelynn – Kenny Simmons is a triple-jumper! He finished 2nd in the nation during the Memorial Day weekend!

We believe Hannah will be entering the work world in the fall of 2016 as a DEGREED social worker or juvenile court officer!

THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE WHEN GOD IS INVOLVED!

I have given a father’s perspective on a prodigal child.

If you want my wife’s perspective, I do have copies of the book Cheryl wrote on the subject:
Forever, For Always, and No Matter What 
Cheryl displays Hannah’s handwritten note on her bathroom mirror: “Thank you for not walking out on me.”
During her greatest trials with Hannah, Cheryl also reminded herself of truth from Isaiah 43:1-3, which is also prominently affixed to that same mirror:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you:  And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

I like to think that the father of the prodigal son contemplated this same passage when praying for the safe return of his son!
Are you dealing with a prodigal right now?

You are not alone, if you are dealing with a prodigal child.

Are YOU a prodigal?

Take the initiative, act, and run back to your heavenly Father.

He will show you mercy and grace. He will forgive you. He will love you.
Closing

In closing, I would like to tell the Story of Paco, a story I hope is true.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story called “The Capital of the World.”  In it, he told the story of a father and his teenage son who were estranged from one another.  The son’s name was Paco.  He had wronged his father.  As a result, in his shame, he had run away from home.  

In the story, the father searched all over Spain for Paco, but still he could not find the boy.  Finally, in the city of Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed an ad in the daily newspaper.  The ad read:  “PACO, MEET ME AT THE HOTEL MONTANA.  NOON TUESDAY.  ALL IS FORGIVEN.  PAPA.”

The father in Hemingway’s story prayed that the boy would see the ad; and then maybe, just maybe, he would come to the Hotel Montana.  On Tuesday, at noon, the father arrived at the hotel.  When he did, he could not believe his eyes.

An entire squadron of police officers had been called out in an attempt to keep order among eight hundred young boys.  It turned out that each one of them was named Paco.  And each one of them had come to meet his respective father and find forgiveness in front of the Hotel Montana.

Eight hundred boys named Paco had read the ad in the newspaper and had hoped it was for them.  Eight hundred Pacos had come to receive the forgiveness they so desperately desired.

This beautiful story illustrates the great truth that Jesus was driving at in His famed Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Just as there are many, many Pacos in Hemingway’s story, so there are innumerable prodigals in the world.

In truth, all of us are prodigals.  All of us have run away from God.  “All of us,” as the Scriptures say, “like sheep, have gone astray.”  (Isaiah 53:6)

Fortunately, God has not given up on us.  Persistently and indefatigably, He searches for us.  He never gives up on us.  He longs day and night for us to come home.  And if and when we do, He is overjoyed.  He loves us.  He forgives us.  He restores us.  He fêtes us.

I hope you have come home to the Father.  I hope you know the peace and joy that comes with having been forgiven by God.  If not, my friend, the Father’s invitation to come home still stands.  Even now, He is waiting for you. (Jackson)
Closing Prayer

Let’s pray. . . .

Resources

Guzik, David. “Commentaries on Luke.”

The Holy Bible.  English Standard Version.  2001.

Jackson, Cleo E. “All Is Forgiven,” March 7, 2011, http://www.cleoejacksoniii.com/my-ongoing-thoughts/all-is-forgiven

Spurgeon, Charles. Sermon No. 2236. Preached on March 29, 1891

Stone, Charles.  Daughters Gone Wild, Dads Gone Crazy:  Battle-Tested Tips from a Father and Daughter Who Survived the Teenage Years.  2005.