Saturday, April 13, 2024



Solar eclipse photo by NASA

The long-awaited 2024 solar eclipse, with views of totality from parts of Mexico, 12 US states, and Canada, has come and gone. The contiguous United States will not experience another solar eclipse for two decades, and that event will be visible only from Montana and North Dakota. Even though my home state could see only 60% of totality, I still find myself basking in the afterglow of this amazing celestial phenomenon.

The day before the eclipse we were at our favorite beach, where we enjoyed beachcombing for shells and fossils, swimming in the pool we had all to ourselves, and spotting dolphins feeding and breaching the waves. That evening was a spectacular sunset, ablaze in deep red, orange, and gold contrasting against the cobalt blue of the shimmering waves.

It was as if God were teasing us with a preview of His artistry before the main event! That night’s stargazing was no less dramatic, unobscured by clouds or moonlight. It reminded us that a solar eclipse can occur only during a new moon, but that only an occasional new moon causes an eclipse. The tilting of the moon on its axis causes it to pass slightly below or above the line between the earth and the sun during most new moons, but all three celestial bodies must be aligned for an eclipse to occur.

On the day of the eclipse, we considered viewing it from the beach, but ultimately decided to return home, as we live further north where more of the sun would be obscured by the moon. Equipped with our certified eclipse glasses, we chose a prime spot in the back yard behind the ballroom where we practice most mornings. From this vantage point, no buildings or trees hid the sun from our view.

We arrived there shortly before the eclipse was predicted to begin. As we settled into our lawn chairs and decided to catch up on our daily Bible readings, I was struck by how God’s creation came alive all around us, in this spot I merely glance at most mornings when I open the door to ventilate our practice area.

Birds were chattering in the trees behind us. A stunning butterfly, orange with white spots outlined in black, flitted over as if to welcome us. The ground beneath our feet was carpeted with lush greenery, topped by delicate white and lavender blossoms that attracted velvety honeybees, their translucent wings whirring in the air. Nearby, industrious ants paraded in and out of their hills like a miniature army guarding their fortress.

How appropriate that among our readings was a warning to be a self-starter like the ant, not needing someone in authority to nag us until we get the job done!  (Proverbs 6:6-11). And a description of the fertile Promised Land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey! (Numbers 13:27).

At the scheduled start time we looked up through our eclipse glasses. Sure enough, there was a tiny black spot on the lower rim of the sun, around 5 o’clock on an imagined watch face, as if a mouse had nibbled on a wheel of Gouda cheese!

We took turns reading and viewing, awestruck as the dark spot grew. Over the course of an hour, it blocked increasingly more of the sun’s light, until the partially eclipsed sun resembled a crescent moon. Then the dark area receded, leaving the sun’s rim at around 2 o’clock on the watch face. Meanwhile, we felt a noticeable drop in temperature and light, a welcome relief from the Florida sun. The birds grew silent, only to chirp again once the eclipse abated, as if awakened from slumber.   

God continued to speak to us as we read the Bible, linking His handiwork to His Word (Psalm 19:1). We read Jesus’ prophecy that the End Times would be heralded by false prophets, wars, persecution of God’s people, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and “fearful sights and great signs…from heaven.” (Luke 21:7-11).

A perusal of the news headlines that evening seemed to reflect that prophecy. A tragic example of a false prophet was a young woman arrested for shooting into cars on a Florida highway, because “God told me to start a shooting spree during the eclipse.” There were new rumors of war between China and the Philippines, imprisonment of 11 Christian leaders in Nicaragua, the third earthquake in as many days, and the US Centers for Disease Control calling a meeting of all state public health leaders to warn them to prepare for human bird flu.

An “eclipse festival” in Texas, already a disaster because of oversold tickets, performers being unable to reach the venue, overcrowding, and exorbitant food prices, was canceled right before the concert and eclipse because of forecasted severe storms, tornados, and hail.

During the eclipse, we also read about how the sun grew dark for three hours while Jesus hung on the cross to pay for our sins (Luke 23:44), followed by the light of His glorious resurrection, appearance to the disciples, and ascension (Luke 24). Now all who trust Him have eternal life! (John 3:16).

Praise God that He is Light (1 John 1:5), Who has overcome the darkness of sin, death, and hell! (Luke 1:79; John 1:5; Acts 26:18; Romans 2:19; 2 Corinthians 4:6). The headlines are disturbing, but we can have faith in Christ’s promise to deliver us from the wrath to come! (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Viewing the eclipse – such a stunning example of God’s artistry and power – reminds us that He controls the cosmos and oversees the minutest detail of each of our lives. He alone can work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Glory, praise and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ, Light of the world (John 8:12), and bright and shining Morning Star! (Revelation 22:16).

© 2024 Laurie Collett

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Signs in the Sky: Solar Eclipse

Photo by A013231 2010
 On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible across Central and North America, beginning over the South Pacific Ocean. Mexico’s Pacific coast will experience totality around 11:07 a.m. PDT. The path of the eclipse will continue from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The eclipse will enter Canada in Southern Ontario and exit continental North America on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT. The next total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States will not occur until 2044, and it will be seen only from parts of Montana and North Dakota.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, partially or totally blocking our view of the sun. Because the intense light of the sun can burn our retina, scientists urge us to never look at the sun directly, but only with special protective glasses, whether during an eclipse or at any time.

This solar "sign in the sky" reminds me not only of the End Times, in which we now seem firmly entrenched, but also of our relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ. He, Who is Light, can be compared to the sun, while believers are like the moon, able to reflect His light but not to generate any of our own. His radiance is so intense that we cannot look at Him directly and live.

A solar eclipse may serve as a warning not to insert our own sense of self-worth or pride between our world and our Lord. If we do, we can no longer see His light, and we get in the way of others around us by blocking them from His light. May believers therefore maintain a proper perspective of Him as the pure, holy, righteous Light of the world reflecting from us to others, allowing us to be lights for Him in this dark, wicked world.

This thought, and the barrage of news headlines suggesting that the labor pains of the End Times are growing stronger each day, led me to repost the following:

The Signs of the Times -- increasing earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, deadly disease, famine, wickedness, false prophets (Matthew 24-- truly seem to indicate that we are in the End Times!  Prophecy also tells us to watch for signs in the sky (Jeremiah 10:2; Daniel 6:27; Joel 2:10; Luke 21:11; Acts 2:19)

On November 19, 2021, was the longest partial lunar eclipse in 530 years, visible from North and South America, Australia, and parts of Europe and Asia. It was accompanied by a blood red moon, as prophesied first by the prophet Joel (2:31) and then repeated in Acts 2:20: 

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come. 

A comet that could be hailed as “Comet of the Century” flew around the sun on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, was given up for dead, but then emerged and was predicted to be best seen in all its glory on Christmas Day!

Signs in the sky will herald the second coming of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-27). He will appear in the heavens like lightning (Matthew 24:27,30) in His triumphant return to defeat the enemies of Israel at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16), and ultimately conquering Satan, sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). All those who have placed their trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will accompany Him in the armies of saints (Revelation 19:14).

Our Lord Jesus Christ said to look up when we see the signs of the times (Luke 21:28), for our Redemption is near! At any moment, but at least seven years before the glorious second coming described above, the trump could sound, heard only by believers. We shall be changed in an instant (1 Corinthians 15:52), caught up to meet Christ in the air, to spend eternity with Him in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:49,54) that will never age or feel pain or sorrow.

To date, the most radiant and long-awaited sign in the sky was the Star of Bethlehem, illuminating the birth of Jesus, the Word Himself made flesh (John 1:14), and guiding the wise men who sought the promised Messiah (Matthew 2:2-9).

When will His second coming be? No man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), but only God the Father Himself. Yet we are told to be vigilant and aware of the signs of the times (Matthew 24), which encourage us and strengthen our resolve to keep our hearts in Him (Matthew 6:21; John 15:5) and our lamps burning with the flame of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 26:1-13).

The comet that made a hairpin loop around the sun on Thanksgiving Day 2013 passed so close that some astronomers wondered if it would survive the encounter. Reports on Thanksgiving night proclaimed that the comet was destroyed, as it was no longer visible.

But on Black Friday morning, the headlines read: Hold the obituary! The comet has emerged from behind the sun and has begun to brighten. According to the initial predictions, it would reach its peak brilliance in December, even though its brightness to the observer already increased 25 times between November 13- 21! It may be ranked as one of the brightest comets of the past 50 years, and at its peak, it might even be visible in broad daylight!

For best night-time viewing, astronomers advise seeking rural areas, free from the light pollution of cities. The comet is most radiant against a backdrop of total darkness, seen without distraction from manmade lights. However, they strongly warned that only experienced observers should attempt to view the comet as it whipped around the sun. Although there is no danger in observing the comet itself, staring directly at the sun can result in blindness as infrared rays painlessly burn the retina of the eye.

As the comet approached the sun, the scorching heat and gravitational force of the sun presumably gave rise to a long, brilliant train, although this was not visible from the Solar Dynamics Observatory where NASA was focusing. Initial predictions were for the comet to climb noticeably higher in the north-northwest sky from December 21-31, and by Christmas Day, to no longer rise or set, but to remain above the horizon all night long.

By now you’ve no doubt guessed why I was so amazed by this comet, for it reminds me of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Its flight so close to the sun is like the proximity of Jesus Christ, Son of God yet God Himself, to God the Father. Even in His earthly ministry, Jesus and the Father were one (John 10:30), and now He sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Romans 8:34).

Even though Jesus told His apostles that He would rise from the dead (Matthew 20:19; Luke 24:7), they lost all hope after His burial and crucifixion (John 20:19). But just as He said He would, Christ rose again on the third day, that all who place their faith in Him would live with Him forever! (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

How appropriate that the comet’s approach to the sun occurred on Thanksgiving Day! What better reasons do we have to be thankful than for the Word becoming flesh to pay for all our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2;4:10), to give eternal life to those who trust Him (John 3:16), and now to intercede for us with the Father? (Hebrews 4 :14-16)

Yet not all are thankful, for many are lured away by the world and have not yet seen Him as their Lord and Savior. Even those who are saved can see Him more clearly away from the distracting glare of worldly light pollution (Romans 12:2). He is the Light of the world (John 1:9; 8 :12 ;9 :5 ;11:9) Who shines brightest against the darkness of our sin (Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

The astronomers warned us not to look directly at the comet as it approached the scorching light of the sun, but to safely enjoy the view of the comet at night, When Jesus walked among us, bringing light to a world darkened by sin, looking at His face was no doubt the best blessing imaginable (2 Corinthians 4:6). Yet man cannot look directly at God the Father because of His supreme glory and holiness (1 Kings 19:13; Exodus 3 :6; 19 :21).

The astronomers initially predicted that this comet’s appearance to earth would culminate with an amazing display on Christmas Day, when it would neither set nor rise, but remain above the horizon all night long. Thanks to Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), as celebrated on Christmas Day, those who trust Him are no longer in darkness (Isaiah 9:2). We have seen the bright light of the Morning Star!  (Revelation 22:16) He alone will light the New Jerusalem in continual radiance and there will be no night, nor any need for the sun (Revelation 22:5). 

How fitting that this Christmas Day comet was named Comet ISON! The name is an acronym for the International Scientific Optical Network, which discovered the comet in 2012. But to my mind, this is a contraction of I AM THAT I AM, the self-existent Name of God (Exodus 3:14), and GOD THE SON, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13; 1 John 4:15, etc.), the Word from the beginning (John 1:1) and eternally our Lord (Hebrews 13:8).

Not that we need any sign (Matthew 12:39to have faith in Him, for the facts of His death and resurrection are sufficient! (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Even though Comet ISON disappeared from view, we have faith – the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) – that Christ reigns forever. Look up, and remember the Word made flesh, Our Redeemer, and His promise to return!    

May we all remember to look up, for our redemption draws nigh! 

© 2013 Laurie Collett

Edited now and in 2021 and reposted from the archives


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Salvation’s Eternal Blessings



Image generated by AI (Image Creator)
As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday and every day, may we praise God for the eternal blessings linked to His Son's death, burial and resurrection. Believers receive an abundance of God’s gifts the moment we are saved, and those rewards continue and grow throughout our Christian walk. But the best is yet to come –  eternal blessings we will enjoy in His presence forever more!

Because of God’s mercy (Psalm 136Titus 3:5 Hebrews 4:16), we are spared from the punishment sinners deserve and will suffer throughout eternity (Luke 16:19-31), apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ..All our sins, past, present and future, are forgiven (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). We will not have to account for our sins at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), for Christ was the perfect sacrifice Who has already paid our sin debt in full. We are not doomed to eternity in hell (Matthew 10:28; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5; Matthew 23:27-32; Acts 2:25-32; 1 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:21).

Because of God’s grace, we have eternal life. Whether we die physically, or if we are still living when Jesus returns and we are Raptured (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), we will ultimately live forever in a glorified body (1 Peter 1:3,4,23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26)  that will never sin, age, get sick, or feel pain or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:41-49; Revelation 21:4).

We will live forever with Christ in Heaven, in a special mansion that Jesus is preparing specifically for each believer (John 14:2-3). We can’t begin to imagine the delights of the New Jerusalem, with gates of pearl, walls of precious stones, and streets paved in gold. The river of life and the tree of life provide complete healing. But by far the most exquisite delight of Heaven will be experiencing the love, the glory, and the physical presence of Christ Himself, His brilliance alone illuminating the city (Revelation 20:10-23; 22:1-5).

We will be forever reunited with our loved ones in Christ. Heaven means never having to say goodbye. We will have all eternity to spend with our family and friends who trusted Christ as their Savior. All the saints of all time – Abraham. Mary, Paul, Peter, John, just to name a few – will be there for us to share in their experiences and learn from them (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Can you imagine what it will be like to see those saints whom we helped know the Lord – whether we led them through the sinner’s prayer and watched them trust Christ, or even if we didn’t know while on earth that our witness had any effect?  People saved through missionaries we helped support financially or in prayer, or people who read a tract we left on a restaurant table, may all run up to us and thank us! Even better, we’ll realize the impact others had in leading us to Christ or encouraging us our Christian walk, and we’ll get to thank them in person!  
We will know Christ as He is. No longer will we look at Him through a glass darkly; we will see Him face to face and comprehend His majesty, glory and wisdom (1 Corinthians 13: 9-12). Mysteries will be revealed and truths known. We will no longer have to accept only by faith that He works all things together for our good, for He will show us how He orchestrated every detail and apparent mishap in our lives not only for our good, but for His glory (Romans 8:28).

We will receive eternal rewards at the judgment seat for believers. We will not have to give an account of our sins, for they are already forgiven and paid for by His shed blood. But He will review everything we did with our life since we were saved, as well as opportunities He gave us but that we did not use to tell others about Jesus, to encourage and teach other believers, and to glorify God. For every good thing we did with the right motive, we will be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3: 11-14).

Based on this judgment, some believers will receive crowns, which we will give back to Him because of our awe and love for Him (Revelation 4: 4,10). These rewards and crowns will determine positions of responsibility in His Kingdom when He returns to earth to rule in perfect justice and peace for 1000 years (2 Timothy 2:12Revelation 20:6).

Throughout all eternity, we will pursue meaningful and enjoyable projects and fields of study to challenge and delight us, and we will have the joy of worshipping Him with all our talents and all our being (Revelation 5:8-14). What could be better than the unending joy of being in Heaven, in His presence, with all that He has lovingly designed especially for us?

© 2013 Laurie Collett

Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Communion for the Believer: Past, Present and Future


God’s Triune nature, reflected in triplets of Scripture, is echoed in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-21; Luke 22:7-30). For JesusHis apostles, and born-again believers, this sacrament remembers the past, celebrates the present, and expresses our sure hope for the future.

Thanks to Christ’s completed work on the cross, all of us who trust in His deathburial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) have eternal life with Him. We are saved by His grace through our faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). So taking part in communion, like being baptized or joining a church, can’t save us.

Why, then do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Because He commanded us to -- to remember His sacrifice, to fellowship with Him and one another, and to look forward to His Second Coming. Paul summarizes how Christ told us to do this (1 Corinthians 11 17-34): in a spirit of truth (v. 17-19), sharing (v. 20-22), and self-examination (v. 27-32). He warned the church to address division (v. 18), heresy (v. 19), and revelry (v. 21-22) before they could take part in this sacrament, so that they would not receive the judgments of weaknesssickness or even death (v. 29-32).

Paul heard directly from Jesus about the Lord’s Supper and its significance (v. 23-26), because he was not present at that meal; he told it to the church at Corinth; and thanks to his first letter to Corinth being preserved in the New Testament, he also shared it with all believers thereafter. Jesus took the elementsgave thanks to the Father, and distributed the elements to the disciples.

When observing communion, we should follow Christ’s command to the disciples to take the bread, eat it, and remember that it symbolizes His body, broken for us to pay all our sin debt (v. 23-24). Similarly, He told His followers to drink from the cup, to remember each time they drank that it symbolizes the new promise of His blood washing away our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25), and to look forward to His second coming (v. 25-26).

Communion therefore involves remembering Christ’s past, completed sacrifice for us (John 19:30; Hebrews 7:21-28)celebrating our present salvation through that sacrifice (1 Corinthians 15:1-4); and anticipating that glorious moment when we will break bread with Him in Heaven (Revelation 19:9). The three essential elements of the communion sacrament are not only the bread and the fruit of the vine, but also a cup to containdistribute, and share the grape juice.

The cup may symbolize the cup of Jesus’ suffering, which He drank to the dregs to redeem us; our body as the earthly vessel filled at the moment of salvation by His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22); and the sharing by all members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) in His blood, shed for our sins to redeem and cleanse us.

Jesus commanded all of His disciples to drink from the communion chalice with Him, acknowledging that they would drink the cup of suffering for His sake, including the baptism of martyrdom for some, but that it was up to His Father to assign specific positions of responsibility in his Kingdom (Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39). Similarly, all born-again believers will suffer for Christ’s sake (1 Peter 4:12-19); some will be martyred; and some will receive heavenly leadership positions based on earthly service (1 Corinthians 3:10-14).

The sacrament of communion looks back to Jesus’ perfect, completed sacrifice, His broken body, and His shed blood (1 Corinthians 11: 23-25). Communion also celebrates our ongoing, present relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Each time we partake of the bread and fruit of the vine, whether in a church service or at our own table, we have fellowship with Him, we affirm the new covenant, and we become more like Him by assimilating His Word (John 6: 51-58).

Jesus told His followers to eat His flesh and to drink His blood, not in a literal sense as the Catholics believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, where the wafer literally becomes His body. If that were the case, everyone who took part in communion would be guilty of crucifying Christ all over again. Thank God that when Jesus said “It is finished,” (John 19:30) it truly was! His perfectpricelessagonizing sacrifice paid the debt in full for all our sins (John 1:29), pastpresent and future.

Many of Christ’s followers could not accept this saying and abandoned Him because of it. Jesus of course was not speaking of cannibalism or any other literal interpretation, but of the need for His followers to desire Him more than our daily food (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4); to become assimilated with Him (Romans 12:5Galatians 3:28) by ingesting His Word as our daily bread; and to be nourished completely by Him, physicallyspiritually, and eternally (John 15:5).

As born-again believers participate in a communion service or even as we break bread at our table, we commemorate what Christ did for us and thank Him that we presently are a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:1). But we also anticipate with glorious hope (1 Peter 1:3) His Second Coming, when we shall experience the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), when He shall again drink the fruit of the vine with His followers (1 Corinthians 11: 26).

To partake Biblically in communion, our participation should involve not only the sacrament itself, but also the self-examination before and the worship following, which symbolizes our fellowship with Christ and His church as we hold hands in a circle, give thanks in prayer (Matthew 17:27), and praise Him in song (Matthew 17:30; Mark 14:26).

As we share in communion, may we remember how He saved us, thank Him for our abundant life with Him now (John 10:10), and look forward to eternal life with Him (John 3:16) in Heaven!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Are You Like the Prodigal Son or the “Good” Son?


God’s Triune nature as FatherSon, and Holy Spirit is illustrated in patterns of threes found throughout Scripture. As we saw last week, Jesus told three parables about the loss of a treasured animalobject or 
person, and the rejoicing that follows when the lost treasure is found (Luke 15).

The third and most detailed of these salvation parables, often referred to as the Prodigal Son, shows most clearly that to be found, we must first confess that we are lost; we must want to be found; and we must know the person who will find us. Jesus taught this parable not only for the benefit of the sinners who knew they were lost, but also for the Pharisees and scribes 
who thought they were superiorself-righteous, and in no need of help (v. 2).

The parable has three main characters: a father, his younger son, and his older son (v. 11-12). We can safely assume that the father, like the scribes and Pharisees Jesus was attempting to reach, was a religiously observant Jew. The younger son disowneddisrespected, and disgraced his father in three ways.

First, he disowned his father by demanding that he give him his portion of the inheritance (v. 12), which was essentially the same as telling his father that he wished he were already dead. Second, he left Israel and traveled to a pagan nation, thereby disrespecting his father, his heritage, and Jehovah God. Third, he disgraced his family by wasting his fortune on the pleasures of sin (v. 13).

This chain of three events resulted in his extreme poverty, which in turn led to three consequences of his sins. Because there was a great famine in the foreign country, he had to enter into bondage as a slave; he defiled himself by having to feed swine (considered by Jews to be unclean (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8) because of the Mosaic law); and he was about to die from hunger, for no one would give him so much as a corn husk to eat (Luke 15:14-16).

But then, miraculously, a threefold process of salvation began. First, he “came to himself” (v. 17), realizing how far he had fallen. Second, he admitted three things: that he needed his father to save him, that he had sinned against God, and that he was unworthy to be his father’s son (v. 17-19). Third, he reached out to his father in three ways: he was willing to humble himself by being his father’s servant; he journeyed home to his father; and he confessed his sins to the father (v. 18-21).

The parable then illustrates how God seeks out the sinner who takes the first step toward Him! The father had been on the lookout for the son from a great distance, he had compassion the moment he came into view; and he ran to meet him (v. 20). No doubt the scribes and Pharisees gasped in shock when they heard of this behavior, in stark contrast to the typical Jewish patriarch who would maintain his reserve and dignity and wait for the son to fall prostrate at his feet!

Instead, this Father hugged his son’s neckkissed him, and forgave his sin (v. 20-22). Because of His grace, He answered the son’s prayer far beyond his expectations (Ephesians 3:20), accepting him as His sonwriting off his debt (of having squandered part of the family estate), and clothing him with the finest robe, a ring, and shoes (Luke 15:22). He brought forth the fatted calf that was being kept for a special occasion, sacrificed it, and had it prepared for dinner (v. 23).

The Father rejoiced over his son with a great celebration that included not only feasting, but also music and dancing (v. 23-25), because He received him from danger to being safe and sound, from death to life, from being lost to being found (v. 24-27).

But sadly, the tale does not end here, but turns instead to the elder son. John MacArthur refers to this parable as the “Tale of Two Sons,” because the fate of the elder son is as much at stake as that of the prodigal. The elder son was a “good” son, hard-working in the field (v. 25), serving his father for many years, and saying that he never disobeyed any of his father’s commandments (v. 29).

No doubt the scribes and Pharisees listening to this story identified with the elder son, for they worked hard at being “good” Jews, prided themselves on their years of religious works and service (Matthew 23:1-7), and thought they were self-righteous (Matthew 5:20) and able to keep the law perfectly.

Yet Jesus criticized them for following the letter of the law, tithing even the tenth part of their garden herbs, while being far from God in their hearts and lacking judgment (discernment), mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23-29). They had substituted their own traditions for God’s law (Matthew 15:1-10); they did not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah Who was God’s Son; and they had no true love for God or for one another (Matthew 23:13-15).

So the scribes and Pharisees were correct in identifying with the elder son in the parable, for all were far from the Father’s heart. When he heard of the great celebration over his long-lost brother, the elder son got angryrefused to take part in the feast, and criticized his family -- his brother for wasting the family fortune on prostitutes, and his Father for celebrating the prodigal’s return rather than his own self-righteousness (Luke 15: 28-29).

Perhaps this part of the story pricked the hearts of some of the scribes and Pharisees, if their consciences were not already too seared (1 Timothy 4:2). Did any of them recognize that they were angry with Jesus and His followers, that they had no joy over the salvation of others or the opportunity they had to be saved by trusting Jesus, and that they were judgmental to Jesus and His followers (Matthew 12:2,14,24), when judgment is solely the province of God? (James 5:9; Matthew 7::1-5; Romans 12:19)

But instead of rebuking the elder son, the Father sought him out, begged him to join the party (v. 28), and explained the situation. He told the elder son that he was continually in the presence of the Father and exposed to His loveteachings and blessings; that he was still the rightful heir to all the Father owned; and that it was appropriate to celebrate his brother’s safe returnrestoration to the family, and regeneration from spiritual death to life (v. 31-32).

During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke predominantly to the Jews, so I believe the intended parallel here is to the relationship between God and His chosen nation of Israel. God continually sought out Israel despite her unfaithfulness, begged her to be faithful, and patiently explained the nature of their covenant relationship, as we see throughout the book of Judges and elsewhere, as well as allegorically in the book of Hosea.

Jesus blessed the Jews with His presence during His earthly ministrypromised that He would return as their King even though they rejected Him during His first coming (Mark 15), and found joy even in the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12:2). He knew that His suffering at Calvary would open the gates of Heaven to all, Jews and Gentiles (Matthew 12:18-21), who placed their faith in His deathburial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6).

This parable therefore speaks to all three classes of mankind: the Jews of Israel, the Gentiles of all other nations, and the Church, representing all, either Jew or Gentile, who receive His freely given gift of salvation by trusting Him (1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32)..

Knowing that the Father in the parable represents the Triune God -- FatherSon, and Spirit – we should ask ourselves whether our relationship to Him is more like that of the younger or the elder son. Do we know, like the prodigal, that we strayed far from God and were doomed to hell (John 3:18); that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9); and that we want the blessings of forgivenessabundant life, and eternal life (John 3:16) that only He can provide?

If so, we have the living hope (1 Peter 1:3)  that God, in His mercylove and grace (2 John 1:3) has forgiven us (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:9), credited us with the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22; 4:6,11; 5:17,21) and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)His children (Romans 8:16-21), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and joint heirs with Christ! (Romans 8:17)

But if we are more like the elder son, we must let the Father change our hearts before it is too late (Luke 13:25-28). How many in churches today are like the “good” son, dutifully occupying the pewtithing, and calling themselves Christian, but having no relationship withfaith in, or love for the Father, His Son, and the brethren?

Trusting in our own good works to get to Heaven will forever separate us from the Father (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). Believing in our own self-righteousness is like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). Instead of joypeace and love that comes from trusting the Father, we will be consumed by angerbitterness and hatred. The choice is freely available to all, so may we all open our hearts to our Lord Jesus Christ and turn from death to life today!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Three Found Treasures


Three Found 

When I was six, I traveled with my parents to Houston, where we visited Neiman Marcus, a fancy department store. I remember being entranced by so many beautiful shiny things! Sparkling crystal, baubles encrusted with glass jewels, golden plates, and gowns shimmering in sequins and beads all caught my eye.

Before I knew it, I had wandered off from my parents, and they were nowhere to be found! I ran around frantically, calling out for them, but there was no answer. Devastated, I broke into uncontrollable sobbing. A kindly woman approached me and asked what was wrong.

“I’ve lost my parents!” I exclaimed.

“What do they look like?” she asked.

“Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “I’ll know them when I see them.”

All is well that ends well, and my parents were just around the corner, apparently caught up in some treasure hunting of their own. But that was long before the days of children being kidnapped in malls or the need to be paranoid every moment they are out of sight.

Remembering this story made me realize that to be found, three things must happen. We must first realize that we are lost; we must want to be found; and we must recognize the person who will find us.

God is a Triune BeingFatherSon, and Holy Spirit, and that nature is reflected in patterns of threes found throughout His WordSalvation is the central theme of Scripture, so it is not surprising that Jesus spoke three parables about salvation in which a lost animalobject or person is found (Luke 15).

The chapter opens with Jesus teaching the publicans and sinners, namely those thought by society to be wicked beyond help. But many of them realized their own sorry state, and therefore came near Jesus to hear His words of wisdomcomfort, and healing (v. 1).

This ministry grouping of three is diametrically opposed by a judgmental grouping of three: the Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus for associating with the baser element of society. The religious leaders of that day, who should have been most receptive to Jesus as the Son of God, instead were gossiping about Him, accusing Him of receiving sinners and of defiling Himself by eating with them (v. 2).

Jesus then teaches three parables aimed at the repentant sinners, the religious leaders trusting in their own self-righteousness, and all readers of the Gospel thereafter. Each of these parables has three elements: the lost treasure; those not considered lost; and the One Who finds the lost.

Jesus later describes Himself as the Son of man Who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). In three verses He states that He came to call not the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32). Until we know that we are lost in our sins to the point of death (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13)that we have no righteousness of our own (Isaiah 64:6), and that we  need to repent (Acts 3:19; 5:31), we cannot be saved.

The first parable tells of a shepherd whose priorities seem somewhat unusual by worldly standards. He leaves the bulk of his flock – 99 of 100 sheep – to fend for themselves in the wilderness, while he goes looking for one lost sheep until he finds it (Luke 15:3-4). An earthly shepherd who did this would be considered somewhat daft, as he would leave most of his livelihood vulnerable to being eaten by predators, falling down a cliff, or wandering away from the flock.

But thankfully, our Lord Jesus Christ is the GoodGreat and Chief Shepherd (John 10:11-18; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4) Who is everywhere to save His flock from danger, and Who will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)

Like sheep, people are also vulnerable to three types of danger. In spiritual terms, these are being devoured by the devil (1 Peter 5:8), falling into temptation because of our sinful flesh (1 Corinthians 10:12), and wandering away when we are lured by worldly pleasures (James 1:14-15; 2 Timothy 4:10), namely the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

Sadly, we are unaware of our exposure to these dangers until we are saved, and we can’t be saved until we know we are lost. In the parable, therefore, the Shepherd, Who is Christ Himself (Psalm 23) makes the lost sheep His highest priority, not resting until He can safely place it across His shoulders Luke 15:5).

Praise God that He goes to such great lengths to seek us out once we want to be found (James 4:8; Ezekiel 34:11), to work on our heart, and to save us through His grace! (Ephesians 2 8-9) But He does this only if we come to the end of ourselves (Psalm 40:2), know we can’t make it to Heaven on our own (Habakkuk 3:19), and realize we need the Saviour! (1 Timothy 1:15) Then He saves us by our faith in His deathburial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven.

Once the lost sheep in the parable is found, there is great rejoicing by the Shepherd, His friends and neighbors (Luke 15:5-6).Jesus explains the parallel to the joy in heaven over one sinner that repents of his sin and knows that he needs the righteousness of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 1:11; 3:9). Those who rely on their own good deeds to get to Heaven far outnumber (in the parable, 99 to 1) those who trust only in the Saviour (Matthew 7:13).

But these “good” people bring little joy to heaven even if they appear to lead moral and just lives on earth (Luke 15:7). Anyone who relies on keeping the law to get to heaven is doomed to failure, because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and whoever has broken the smallest part of the law is considered guilty of transgressing all of it (James 2:10). Any joy over their “good” deeds is short-lived, for their destiny is eternal separation from God in hell (John 3:18) unless they realize they are lost so they can be born again (John 3:3-8).

In the second parable, Jesus tells of a woman who drops everything she is doing to find one silver coin she has lost from her stash of ten. She lights a candlesweeps the house, and seeks diligently until she finds the missing treasure (Luke 15:8). I believe this parable gives further clues to God’s loving and thorough process in saving the lost sinner.

God gave us His Word as a light for our path (Psalm 119:105), for saving faith can only come by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Often, part of the process of our realizing how losthelpless, and needy we are involves God sweeping away the clutter that hinders our dependence on Him. These weights (Hebrews 12:1) may be idols of money, power, health, relationships, and even family, for if these give us too much satisfaction, we may not realize we need God (Matthew 19:24).

Which brings me back to my childhood anecdote – I knew I was lost, I wanted to be found, and I knew whom I was seeking. I had no worries that I would fail to recognize my parents. But when I grew up, I spent much of life feeling miserably lost and wanting to find truthpeace and joy, yet not knowing the only One Who could save me. Like so many, I was a “seeker,” looking for truth in all the wrong idolsphilosophies and false teachings (2 Peter 2) until the only Way found me (Acts 17:26-27).

In the parable, there was great rejoicing by the woman who found her lost coin, and by her friends and neighbors, just as there is by the angels in heaven (Luke 15:9-10) every time a lost soul is found! We shall also see this next week in the third parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

 © 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives