Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Prodigal Kids - Guest Post by Jim Fointaine


     Prodigal sons and daughters cause great heartbreak to their parents when they rebel. It’s not just the rebellion against the parents that causes them pain, though. It’s also painful for parents to watch their children willfully turn from God.

     But does a descent into sin mean there is no coming back? Does it mean there is no hope for the person who turned away? Absolutely NOT! God excels in the resurrection and restoration business. We all love comeback stories, stories where people screw up royally but then turn their lives completely around.

     So, if there is a love of such stories, why do we sometimes act as if people who turn away are beyond the reach of God’s grace and have committed the unpardonable sin? We can’t look at anyone as a hopeless case. We have to look at even the worst of sinners as a redemption project and someone worthy of God’s grace. Remember, Paul could not have been further down the wrong path. He was against Jesus and was a terrorist to Christians.

     But Paul explained God’s unconditional love, grace and patience shown to him when he wrote in 1 Timothy 1: 13 – 16,
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life

Paul wrote of God’s amazing grace and unlimited patience. God wants to show grace. God wants to show love. God wants prodigals to come home and He draws them to Himself with His love and grace.

     It must be the same with us. If we want the prodigals in our lives to come home, we can’t browbeat them. We can’t berate them. We can’t shut them completely out of our lives. Yes, we may have to let them go their own way, even if we know they are going the wrong way. Yes, we may have to speak God’s truth in love. We may even warn them in love before they go, telling them that they are headed down a dangerous path away from God.

     But prodigals need to know that the door has not been shut. Now, of course, we don’t affirm or condone the prodigal’s sin. Sin is sin, no matter who commits it. Prodigals need to know, however, that we still love them despite their sin and that, when they choose to come home, they won’t see us with our arms angrily folded or pointing a judgmental finger that says, “I told you so.” They need to know that they are coming home to nothing short of unconditional love and grace. Guilt trips never work. It is grace and unconditional love that will draw a prodigal back home.

     It’s like the story a prodigal daughter who left home soon after her father died. Night after night, the mother prayed and waited…but her daughter never came home. At her pastor’s suggestion, the mother printed off pictures of herself and wrote, “Come home” on the picture. She hung the pictures all over surrounding towns in tough places where she thought her rebellious daughter might go. One night, the daughter saw a picture of her mother with the simple message, “Come home”…and her heart started to be drawn home.

     She arrived early in the morning, surprised to find the door to the small apartment open…where she found her mother awake, praying, and crying. The mother threw her arms around her long-lost daughter, so glad she was home. The daughter, overwhelmed by her mother’s love, asked, “Mom, why did you leave the door open?” The mother responded, “Oh, Louise, the door has never been closed since the day you left. I left it open all the time expecting your return. I didn’t want you to find it shut when you came back.” That’s the way it is with God. Oh, you may think you’ve done something so bad that you can’t be forgiven. But you are NEVER beyond the reach of God’s grace! Forgiveness is always available because, when it comes to God and Jesus, the door is never closed. All we have to do is come home and ask.

     Do the prodigals in your life and mine know the same? Do people who have hurt us, disappointed us, angered us know that we still love them and have never stopped? Despite their descent into a sin-filled life that is not honoring God, do that know that amazing grace and forgiveness are still waiting at home for them?

     As with the Prodigal Father, the door of our hearts must always be ready to welcome them back home. We must be patient, as God was with us, praying and waiting for prodigals to come home. Like God was with us, we must maintain unconditional love for prodigals while they are away. And like God was with us, we must show amazing and undeserved grace when they come home. The prodigals in our lives need to know that home is a place where the grace and love of God is always waiting for them. So, whoever the prodigals are in your life, whether family members, friends, or church members who are missing, open your arms and your hearts…and always be ready to welcome them when they come home.

 


Jim Fontaine became the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Brimfield, MA in July 2016 after completing a 13-year pastorate at Burncoat Baptist Church in Worcester, MA. Jim has been married to his wife, Paula, for 24 years and has four children.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Christian Baby Talk

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 ESV

When my grandson was 18 months old he was in that stage where he imitated everything he saw or heard. If you put your hand in the air, so did he. If you laughed, so did he. If you gave a thumbs up, so did he. If you said hello, he tried to imitate it too. Though it didn’t come out quite right, you knew what he was trying to say. I’m not always sure he knew what all the actions or words meant, but in time he figured it out. It was sweet to watch him learn and grow in his abilities and vocabulary.


I take being a grandparent seriously. I sense a keen responsibility to invest time and attention in my grandchildren so they can become the happy, successful, Christlike adults I want them to become.


The same is true in how I view the new believers around me. Those of us who have been Christians for a long time bear a great responsibility to guide and mentor new believers as they stumble through those first awkward stages of faith. They may not always say it right, or do things right, but if we have patience and a little faith, we can help them become the mature believers they need to be.


Lord, give me patience with the new believers You have put around me. Help me encourage them in their faith journey by setting a godly example for them to follow. Amen.






Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. He has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Moving Past Church Conflict

Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:5

It was one of those meetings that I did not really want to attend. But I did not have a choice. It was part of my job as a denominational leader. The meeting was to help a church overcome a very significant conflict that had resulted in the pastor being dismissed. As a result, a significant portion of the congregation had left the church. The remaining members were in a lot of pain. They were discouraged. They were frustrated. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that this church had something like this happen. Several years before a similar event had happened and it had taken years to overcome the fall out.

When a church goes through such a situation, one of the greatest challenges is the lack of trust. Hurt people don’t trust each other. Sometimes they don’t trust themselves because they feel like they may have said or done something that made the situation worse. Though they often don’t want to admit it, there is even a certain lack of trust in God.

I think this lack of trust is one of the greatest things to overcome in a church that has been hurt. Though each situation is different, it is appropriate to create healthy accountability systems in an attempt to keep such situations from happening again, but there is no way to create a system that guarantees the problem will not reemerge. People make mistakes. By-laws, church constitutions, policy manuals can help set boundaries, but in the end, they lack the power to make people do the right thing. At some point, we simply have to trust each other. And we must accept the reality that from time to time our trust might be violated. We must be determined not to let the occasional violation of our trust in someone at church become the context of our entire faith experience.

That is easy to say. It is hard to do.

The only way I know to do that is to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only one who will never let us down. We must realize that the church is HIS church. He will build the church. He will make it what He wants it to be. If we focus on Jesus, it will help us move past the hurt and pain that sometimes comes with being a leader in the church.

Lord, help me focus on serving You and learn to release the pain that church conflicts have brought into my life. Help me be able to trust others again. Amen.


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. He has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Freckles

God, you are God; your words are trustworthy, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 2 Samuel 7:28

Not long ago my grandchildren got their first dog. His name is Freckles and he is a chichauchau mix. He is a tiny little thing who wants you to think he is a Great Dane. The first couple of times I met him, he growled at me, as if all six pounds of him could scare me off! In an attempt to make friends with him, I offered him his favorite dog treat. He carefully took it out of my hand growling under his breath the whole time. He wanted the treat but he was not yet ready to decide if he liked me. Eventually he decided I was cool and then would jump into my lap any time I sat down on the couch. 

Freckles reminds me of how many non-religious people act toward God. They want the blessings that a relationship with God offers, but they are not sure they really trust God. On the rare occasion they go to church, or pray, or think about God, it is while growling under their breath.

Eventually Freckles decided to take the risk and trust me. He quickly realized that not only was I trust worthy, but being a dog lover, I was pretty much always good for a little treat (or two!). 

When people first start feeling the drawing of the Holy Spirit, they are not sure if they can trust God. They may not know much about Him. Or perhaps they have heard some of their friends speak against God or the family of God, the church. They are not sure they can trust Him. But, if they can just work up the courage to trust God a little bit, they will quickly discover that He is not only trust worthy, but being a good God, He is waiting and ready to bless us in ways that we could not imagine.

Have you come to trust Christ yet? If not, today could be your day. Email me and I am happy to tell you more.

Lord, gives us the courage to trust You more and more. Amen.
———-


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. He has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Never Ending Vacation

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 


My wife and I love being grandparents. Not long ago we took our grandkids on a vacation with us. We had a great time together. On the last day of our trip our granddaughter said, “I want to stay on vacation forever!” I think all of us agreed with her, but reality would not let us stay on vacation forever.

I imagine most people share my granddaughter's sentiment. Vacations are fun. No work. No responsibilities. Someone else cooking the food and cleaning up the room and making the bed. Enjoying a variety of fun activities to endlessly entertain us. That is what vacations are all about. Who would ever want that to end?

But of course, all vacations do come to an end. Eventually we have to go back to work to save up money for our next vacation! At some point we have to demonstrate responsibility for our homes and families. That is what life is all about.


Sadly, some people have not learned this simple truth. They think they can just float through life without accepting responsibility for anything. They might get away with it for a while, but at some point the party comes to an end. It is better to learn how to accept responsibility early in life, find a job that is meaningful, care for one’s family well, set up a realistic financial structure, and find a church to join and become involved in. These are the ingredients of a happy life. While an endless vacation might sound tempting, it is just not how life works. Don’t wait to learn this lesson after everything has crumbled around you. Learn it now and then live the life God wants you to have.

Lord, thank you for the fun times You give us. Help us to also learn the importance of accepting responsibility for living a good and godly life. Amen.

———————
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. He has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: