Faithfulness, Forgiveness, God's Power, Healing and Reconciliation, love, Marriage

Remember Your Witness

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Matthew 5:13 ESV

We are living through difficult and trying times. If the current situation we are experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic has done anything positive, perhaps one could say it has provided believers in Christ with a tremendous opportunity to show the world how and why we are different.

Turn on any news broadcast and you will see examples of panicked citizens from all over the globe letting their actions and decisions be ruled by emotions. Opportunists are attempting to exploit the situation to take advantage of the vulnerable, and even worse, some are using this ordeal as a means to push agendas and policies that at best are self serving, and at worst, downright evil. Regardless of your appraisal of the situation, you have to admit that no time in recent memory has there been a greater need for the body of Christ to set itself apart.

As it relates to the current situation with your prodigal, perhaps now is a chance for them to see a side of you that has been hidden. It could be the hurt and resentment built up as a result of their intentional acts of betrayal has overshadowed and prevented the grace and love, which flows from the Father, from also flowing from you.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 ESV

The way we conduct ourselves in times both good and bad, shape the perceptions others have of us. If you have put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as your personal savior, you have a witness and testimony that must never be forgotten. We are the physical hands and feet of our master while on this earth. God’s will is carried out by our actions each and every day. Either we submit and do as His word says, or we follow our own path, which likely will do little to advance the Kingdom. Your continued stand and increased show of love, grace and forgiveness, are kingdom building activities. Be constantly aware and mindful of this reality.

Call it what you will, but there exists in my heart a strong sense the Lord will be moving mightily in the hearts of many during these times. It certainly wouldn’t be without precedent. One can find countless examples from Scripture or throughout history where God brought about miraculous change, healing, and deliverance in the most desperate of circumstances. The stage has been set for similar events to occur. Are you ready, willing and able to take part? The world and our prodigals need our action. May we all look to Jesus as we seek to fulfill this mission.

Christian Walk, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Judging

Praying for your Prodigal

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)

Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah. It’s one of the most well known passages from the Old Testament. One that invokes feelings of awe and excitement. Even as a young child, I remember thinking how incredible it was that a grown man could stay alive in the belly of a giant fish. I wondered how Jonah could possibly survive in that horrific environment. Back then, the deeper meaning of Jonah’s story escaped me as my ability to discern the profound lessons of Scripture were quite lacking at the time. I assume this was likely also the case for many other children who heard the same tale. Sadly, growing older doesn’t necessarily make one wiser. Even for adults, the fantastic elements of this story can overshadow what is a vitally important message about pride, rebellion, and forgiveness.

In the beginning of the story, one learns of God’s great wrath, which had been built up towards the city of Nineveh and its inhabitants. These people had done exceedingly wicked in the eyes of the Lord and their time of judgement had come. Jonah was charged to enter the city and warn the inhabitants of their coming fate. Jonah however, decided he knew what was best. His anger and disgust with the people of Nineveh outweighed his sense of obedience to the Lord. For him, the Ninevites did not deserve a warning. They were not owed an opportunity to repent. Their evil was so great, it exhausted all the grace God was capable of providing, or so he thought…

As we continue to read, a theme of irony emerges. We see how Jonah had become actively engaged in open rebellion towards God, while simultaneously accusing the Ninevites of the very same thing. Along with the blatant hypocrisy, Jonah also thought he could hide from the Lord. But as we find out later, not even the depths of the sea could hide him from God’s presence and divine accountability.

While Jonah eventually acknowledged God and committed to do His will while in the belly of the giant fish, it’s unlikely he ever seriously contemplated the fate of the Ninevites. How unfortunate it was that he never stopped to reflect how desperate the people of Nineveh were for their eyes to be opened and their sins forgiven. Scripture doesn’t provide any evidence contrary to these assumptions, which leads us to conclude that for Jonah, the Ninevites were irredeemable and unworthy of compassion or mercy. In Jonah’s mind, they weren’t even worth praying for. Such a tragedy…

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?

Jonah 4:11 (ESV)

Throughout the course of your marriage stand, perhaps you have encountered the spirit of judgmentalism. Quite easy to identify, it portrays itself as holy and righteous anger. It enters subtly, and over time eventually consumes us. It also exists as an accusatory mindset whose constant focus is on everything our prodigal is doing wrong. Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to be filled with these thoughts and attitudes, we are prevented from obtaining a mind and heart filled with compassion. It is from this same spirit, the desire to pray and make intercessions for our prodigal is derived. To put it bluntly, you simply cannot have a heart of genuine love and mercy if you are constantly focussed on someone else’s sin. There are no two ways about it.

During the time of separation from my wife, the Lord greatly burdened me to lift her up in prayer. The reminders from the Holy Spirit were constant. Many times throughout the day I would stop what I was doing and retreat to a place of solitude where I would intercede on her behalf. These were usually very intense moments and often times filled with an abundance of emotion, energy, and focus.

Over time, I found the more I prayed for my wife, the less inclined I was to concern myself over things she was doing that were sinful, and in many cases, done intentionally to hurt me. Prayer helped to develop character in my life and provided the much needed boost of compassion and longsuffering that for far too long, I had been lacking.

While much can be learned from the story of Jonah concerning our judgmental tendencies, let us not forget the most important elements; the patience, compassion and longsuffering of our Lord. After years of shameless wickedness, God saw fit to show mercy on the people of Nineveh. Ultimately, it was Jonah’s righteous indignation and distorted sense of justice that took a back seat to God’s love and mercy. The eternal attributes of the Almighty eventually won the day.

As we continue to fight for our marriages and struggle with the constant battle of anger versus compassion, let us be vigilant in going before the Lord and praying for our prodigals. The more we are engaged in doing this, the less likely the evil one will gain a foothold in our own lives and prolong the journey towards restoration.

In Christ,

Tommy Larson

Anger, Christian Walk, Divorce, Forgiveness, God's Power, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Suffering, Waiting on God

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

It’s not always easy to recall the two years I spent running from the Lord, because those memories seem so distant and foreign to me. But, I share stories from that time because I know for so many standers recounting my path to restoration is helpful in order to better understand the heart and mind of a prodigal. My desire isn’t to rehash past events that bring about guilt and shame, but to paint a picture of how far God has brought me is such a short period of time. Thankfully, Thanksgiving of 2015 is one holiday experience I can retell but never have to relive.

Let’s take a glimpse back at November of 2015. Tommy and I had been separated for nearly eight months and were living in two households. I went to great lengths to distance myself from him, only communicating about matters that directly involved our children. Earlier in the month he appeared at one of our divorce hearings and pleaded with the judge for an extension in our case. The extension was granted and my desire to be permanently estranged from my husband was foiled. Needless to say, I was angry! I was angry at the judge for taking pity on him. I was angry at my lawyer for not convincing the judge otherwise. I was angry at Tommy for delaying the inevitable. But, most of all, I was angry that I wasn’t getting my way. My pride and rebellion was at an all-time peak, and anything that stood in the way of promoting my sinful lifestyle infuriated me.

I know Tommy felt the wrath behind my anger, even though he never openly communicated that to me. I intentionally ignored his messages and when I did respond, I kept the texts short. As Thanksgiving was approaching, the messages and phone calls between us increased. With every interaction, I could feel the tension mounting. We were met with making decisions about things we had never had to face in previous years and this was new territory for both of us. It was especially challenging because we did not have the same expectations regarding the holidays. 

Tommy wanted nothing other than to celebrate with me and the boys. He longed to take part in the Thanksgiving traditions we had created together over the past ten years. I would have probably been open to the idea of a joint holiday had Tommy been willing to go along with my wicked plans and not attempted to delay our divorce proceedings. But, my schemes went awry and I intended to punish him for his lack of cooperation. I was so blinded by my anger towards him that I couldn’t see his desires were genuine and good for our entire family. All I could see what that he was standing in the way of what I wanted, which was a declaration to end our marriage. Despite his request for togetherness, I chose to host Thanksgiving for family and friends in our home without him.

That year Thanksgiving was different. After the feast was over and my guests had left, a deep loneliness set in and the reality of my choices started to hit home. I was living life entirely on my own and it was solely based on my poor decisions. The company of my friends and family could not fill the void that I had hoped it would. In reality, Tommy could not fill that void either, but turning back to my marriage would have been a step in the right direction. I had fallen so far out of the will of God that I had tunnel vision. I was consumed with my will instead of God’s will and I was seeking the happiness that I felt I deserved. I was willing to do anything to please my selfish desires, and oftentimes in ways that were damaging and sinful.

Praise the Lord, God gave Tommy clarity to see right through the devil’s schemes. That Thanksgiving, Tommy continued to respond to me in love. I knew I had hurt him deeply, which was my intent, but he did not retaliate or respond to my sin with sin. The Father provided him comfort and love as well as great restraint, which didn’t go unnoticed. Tommy could have easily faltered in his stand due to the cirumstances, but his foundation for standing was grounded in the love of Christ. His absence from our family dinner wouldn’t deter his fight for our marriage. He knew that the Lord had more work to do in my heart, so he thanked God for the process and prayed for me that holiday weekend, as he did every weekend. Tommy’s spirit of gratitude wasn’t based around a day, but it was a lifestyle choice that he chose daily. 

The following Thanksgiving, we celebrated our first holiday as a restored family. I still get emotional as I reflect on the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit renewed my mind and set my feet back on the path to righteousness. The Father took our dead marriage and restored it back to life in a miraculous way that only He was capable of doing. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4-5

Dear friends, I know many of you may find yourselves in desperate family situations. Some of you may even question what you have to be thankful for in the midst of your crisis. I want to remind you of the Father’s may provisions, the greatest of all, a Savior. God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to take our place and bear our burdens on the cross. Let’s never forget to be grateful for the gift of the cross! We can also come to the Lord with thanksgiving knowing we serve a Master that is actively working and fully capable of performing God-sized miracles in our marriages. Despite the longsuffering, let’s be thankful for the process of transformation taking place in our lives, and let us continue to pray for our prodigals to make their way home to Him!