IF IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, THEN IT IS?

IF IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, THEN IT IS?

We’ve all heard the old adage that “if it’s too good to be true” then it is. However, I take issue with that aphorism, I say that if it is too good to be true it probably is, but not always.

2_good_2_b_trueLet’s take the following story as an example to the exception of this adage. Imagine that you have lost all your worldly possessions, you’ve lost your family and you have been living in the street for ten years. You have no income forcing you to beg for money and food, and you sleep for wherever you can find shelter. Let’s add to this sad scenario, a substance abuse problem. You have many illnesses related to exposure to the elements, poor diet and substance abuse problems. It all seems hopeless and it all seems lost! Surely, there is no hope.

You have been raised right, you know that you not supposed to steal or lie. Living on the streets has jaded you. The environment that you are forced to live in has taken away much of your humanity and your sensibilities. You find yourself committing crimes to survive and you find yourself committing crimes to sustain your substance abuse. You’re living a senseless life filled with despair and no hope.

Put yourself in that situation, assume that you do not know of the tender mercies of Christ. You’re sitting on the street corner in filthy clothes with filthy hygiene and you’re holding a sign asking for money. Someone comes up to you and talks to you while they’re putting money in your hand and they start to tell you about a person who came to earth and he paid the price for all of your sins, and of all the sins of all the people on earth. This man has felt everything that you have ever felt or that you will ever fill. This man has provided a way for you to not only get off the street and not only get into clean clothes but to get into heaven with the righteous.

truth_never_2_good_2_b_trueDoes this sound too good to be true? If you’re reading this Blog then you know where I’m going with this illustration, but really think what would be like to be in those circumstances and then you are introduced to Christ and his love and his boundless saving grace and mercy, wouldn’t that all seem just a little too good to be true? Well it’s not too good to be true. It is a fact. It is the most blessed fact or truth on the earth.

The story of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine contained in the Bible that teaches us about His Life and His teachings are true. Within the book covers of the Bible is the way to the truth and salvation, they are the pathways whereby we can receive eternal happiness.

Consider what the word eternal means? The word eternal means “without end.” So think what this means, happiness without end. To live with God and his son Jesus Christ is happiness forever, without end.

Even though we started off with the story of the homeless person that appeared to have no hope, each one of us are beggars, we all depend on the same God to give us life, we all rely on that same God to forgive us of our sins and through His grace and His mercy to live with Him throughout eternity.

We can all say that this idea is too good to be true. But it is true! So when you hear the old adage “if it’s too good to be true, it is” always keep in the back of my mind that sometimes it can be that good and still be true. When it comes to Jesus Christ, it is too good to be true but it is true. We all need to remember Jesus Christ our Savior, and our Eternal Father in Heaven love us unconditionally, they are perfectly willing to give us grace and mercy if we are willing to reach out to them.

 

Lessons Learned From the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Lessons Learned From the Parable of the Prodigal Son

It is no secret to any Christian that Jesus taught frequently in Parables. He used the Parable style of teaching so that those who heard Him teach, but were not ready to receive the message, wouldn’t be condemned. He taught in Parables so that those who had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to know and feel the message, could by taught important saving principles The Savior had to offer.

Parables are a symbolic way to teach. Like a metaphor, the symbols give us something to compare the teachings with which can greatly aid our understanding. With Parables you can learn lessons beyond what a superficial reading can teach you. In that vein, we will look at the Parable of The Prodigal Son.

The primary message is about repentance, mercy and forgiveness. Luke 15 begins with begins with the Parable of The Lost Sheep which is followed by the Parable of The Lost Piece of Silver. The Parable of The Prodigal Son brings up the rear with a little more detail about forgiveness than what is found in the first two Parables. The clear lesson to the first two Parables is the joy that the Father has when we repent and He forgives us.

The Parable of The Lost Sheep found in Luke 15: 3-7 is best summed up in verses 6-7. The Shepherd leaves the ninety and nine and goes after the one lost sheep. When he finds that sheep he says to his friends, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”

Then The Master goes on to teach, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

The next Parable, The Lost Piece of Silver, emphasizes the joy the woman had in finding her lost piece of silver. She wants to share the joy with her friends. Then comes the punch line in verse 10: “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

The recurring theme in Luke 15 is about sinners that were lost, then repented and were found through repentance by The Lord. Luke 15 teaches us also about the very great joy that our Savior and our Father in Heaven have when we repent and are found again.

Parable of The Prodigal Son

To drive the point home, the Master Teacher uses The Parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The lesson of repentance and forgiveness through God’s mercy is illustrated in this Parable, but there is more to learn from that Parable.

The great Parable tells of a man with two sons. One son was faithful and stayed with his father. The other son asked for and received his portion of his inheritance. He left his father and brother and went off to a far country and spent his inheritance over many years of riotous living with harlots. After the prodigal son had exhausted his resources, there arose a famine in the land and he had nothing to live on.

He went to work for a farmer and was given the job to feed swine. All that the prodigal son had to eat were the husks that were fed to the swine. This indicates the prodigal son was as low as he could get. After a while he “came to himself” realizing that even his father’s servants had more than enough bread to eat.

The thought occurred to him that he could return to his father and be a servant and have plenty to eat in return for his labor. He realized that he was no more worthy to be called his father’s son. He knew he had sinned greatly both before his father and against Heaven.

lessons_learned_from_prodigal_sonHe journeyed back to his father’s house. While he was yet along way off his father saw him returning. The father of the prodigal son had compassion upon his returning son. The loving Father ran to met his son and wrapped him up in his loving arms and kissed him.

The prodigal son confesses to his father “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

The loving father of the prodigal son instructed his servants to clothe him in the best robe and put shoes on his feet and a ring on his finger.

In celebration of the prodigal sons return, the Father’s household killed the fatted calf for a feast and they were merry. Rejoicing, the father said, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned from this Parable are emphasized in the preceding two Parables. The Lord our God rejoices in the sinner that humbly repents and seeks forgiveness. The father of the prodigal son celebrates the return of his lost son, restoring him with clothing and food in a joyous celebration.

The message of God’s mercy and grace is demonstrated in the act of forgiveness and also reinforced with the other two Parables in Luke 15. Again, Luke 15:7 in the Parable of the Lost Sheep we learn “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” And in the Parable of the Lost Piece Of Silver the woman finds the lost piece of silver and seeks to rejoice with her friends. Then in verse 10 it says, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

The sinner who humbles himself and repents will be forgiven. Our Lord and Savior is anxious to forgive and does so through His tender mercies. Along with His angels, He celebrates in the return of the lost sinner. It is deeply moving that not only does the Lord want to forgive but also celebrates and finds great joy in forgiving the humble sinner. These Parables, especially the Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us of humility, sorrow for sin, repentance, mercy, forgiveness and the joy that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ has in forgiving us and bringing us back into the fold.

There are more lessons to be learned from the Parable of the Prodigal Son that highlight other important concepts than the Lost Sheep and the Lost Piece of Silver.

The father had two sons. We have discussed the prodigal son but there is another son who at the beginning of the Parable was the righteous son. He stayed with the father (keeping the commandments) while the prodigal went off in living.

The faithful son was tending to the fields while the drama of the return of the prodigal son took place. He comes back to the house and hears music and sees dancing. He asks one of his servants what was going on? The servant responded “Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.”

The faithful son refused to join in the celebration. After a while, noticing that his other son was not in attendance, the father went after the “righteous” son. After finding the faithful son the Father asked him what was troubling him?

The faithful son replied “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:29-30)

lessons_learned_prodigal_sonFrom a natural man standpoint one can see his point. He was faithful and the sinner comes back after “sowing wild oats” and gets a big celebration. Perhaps we should make sure to rejoice in the good living of the faithful.

The father responds by saying “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)

In a sense, this Parable of the Prodigal son is a story of two prodigal sons. The second faithful son showed signs of not wanting to forgive. He showed a symptom of pride. But the good father taught him of the importance of finding the lost sheep and having joy in finding the lost sheep.

The Prodigal Son tells of a son who was rebellious and goes on to live a sinful life. Thankfully the son came to realize his sin and was humbled and sought forgiveness at his fathers hand.

The first two Parables talk of the joy of finding a lost sinner. The Prodigal Son takes it a step further and talks of a rebellious sinner. The Prodigal Son knew what he had and chose to take his inheritance and go after a worldly life of sin, lust, greed and riotous living. A sinner who has lived a life of sin and becomes humble and desires to repent needs to be saved from his sins through the mercies of the atonement of Jesus Christ. A rebellious sinner is a little more grave because they sinned against a greater light. Nevertheless, they can be, like the Prodigal Son, forgiven. The Lord rejoices in his repentance just like any other sinner.

We, like the faithful son, need to be willing to forgive the “sinner” just like our Savior is willing to forgive. That may not be as simple as it seems on the surface. After all, we are humans living in a world ripening in iniquity. Pressure abounds everywhere. Just trying to withstand the temptations we are faced with is a challenge.

Obviously we slip and fall from time to time and we are in need of The Lords’ forgiveness. The scriptures teach us to forgive others or to “forgive all men.” The Lords Prayer talks about “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

The Prodigal Son speaks of Gods mercy and joy in forgiving his lost sheep. It also speaks to us to forgive others their trespasses against us.

Troy Wagstaff © Copyright. All rights reserved.

Jonah And The Whale: A Story Of Hope

Jonah and the Whale A Story Of Hope

The prophet Jonah being swallowed by a whale and restored again to dry ground. What a story! Is it a true story or an allegory? What can we learn from this magnificent story as Christians?

If you consider an endorsement by our Savior when he referred to the sign of Jonah (referencing the three days and nights) then yes, the story of Jonah is indeed true. First of all the Old Testament talks about Jonah as a prophet in II Kings 14:25. Then in the New Testament, Matthew 12:39-41 The Savior talks about the life of the prophet Jonah. There are a few more references in the Gospels about Jonah.

That’s good enough for me.

If you are not familiar with the details of Jonah, read Jonah 1-4, a very short book in the Old Testament, but worth every verse. It is a powerful story, just one of the many that must have been a part of Jonah’s life, but the only one we know about.

The Lord command’s Jonah to go preach the gospel to Nineveh so that it wont be destroyed. Jonah refuses to do what the Lord told him to do and runs away, or at least tries to run away from the Lord toward Tarshish.

Jonah hops on a boat bound for Tarshish. Shortly after boarding Jonah goes to sleep and the tempest starts to rage. The people on the boat fear for their life. After a while Jonah confesses that The Lord is after him and tell the people to throw him over board and they will be spared. They don’t want to but eventually they throw ‘ into what seems to be a watery grave.

Silver Jonah and the whale charm

Jonah And The Whale

The Lord had prepared a big fish to swallow Jonah. For three days he was in the belly of a giant fish or whale. Near death, Jonah finally comes around to repenting of his rebellion. The Lord forgives him and has the fish deposit him on dry ground.

The Lord calls him to preach at Nineveh again. This time Jonah agrees to follow the direction of The Lord. Ninevah is the Capitol city of the wicked Assyrians. It is a huge city by the standards of the day. It was so big geographically that it took three days journey to pass through.

Keep in mind the Nineveh is a very wicked city (Nahum 3:1-5) and Jonah has to walk a day’s journey before he preaches the gospel to them. He preaches to them and they believe and repent. This includes their wicked King. They cover themselves in sack cloth and ashes which is a deliberate sign of repentance. The Lord forgives them.

Jonah leaves the city and climbs a hill over looking the now righteous city of Nineveh and builds himself a simple shelter to sit in while he watches to see if the Lord will destroy the newly repented city. He is very hot and dry. He see’s that The Lord spared the city as He said He would if they repented. The Lord provides a plant over night the grows to provide shade and comfort to Jonah. Jonah is grateful to the plant for its shade. The next day the Lord kills the plant and Jonah grieves for the loss of the plant.

The Lord explains to him that just as Jonah loves the plant, The Lord loves those thousands of people in Nineveh and spared them from destruction because they repented. He teaches Jonah a very important lesson. God loves all his children all over the world.

This is a fantastic story. Full of lessons one can apply to ones self for profit and learning. It teaches the principles of faith, hope, mercy of The Lord, repentance, forgiveness, God’s love for

His children and the power of one person with Gods help.

More than anything else, the virtues of Hope and Repentance stand out. When Jonah was in the belly of the whale he had faith and prayed to God for forgiveness of his sins in running away and rebelling against God. God forgave Jonah. In His mercy, God is willing to forgive those who repent. It requires faith to pray and ask for forgiveness from God. It requires faith to repent when you have been wicked all your life; Jonah was an inspired teacher. Jonah was one man in the midst of his mortal enemy but with Gods help, the power of one is the power of God.

God loved Jonah and tried to rescue Him from his sins. God loved the people of Nineveh and did not want to destroy Nineveh but God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. He gave the people a chance to repent through Jonah. Thankfully these thousands of people did repent and they were forgiven.

Strangely, Jonah still struggled and didn’t really want the people of Nineveh spared. That’s why he built a hut on top of the hill to see if they would be spared. As the days wore on Jonah was very hot with the sun beating down on him. God made a vine or plant to cover his hut and provide shade, a welcome relief from the heat of the sun. Then the Lord killed the plant and the protection from the heat was gone. The Lord provided a strong East wind and combined the elements to go against Jonah to drive the point home. Jonah mourned for the lost of the plant. The Lord explained to Jonah that as he grieved for the lost of a simple plant, God would feel bad for the loss of his people in Nineveh. The lesson was on love and that God loves all his people.

Whether the people are our enemies or criminals or otherwise bad people. God loves all His children. This was the last lesson we have record of, in which Jonah was taught a lesson. From this great story we see that God loves all His children. He doesn’t always love what they do or what the have become, He loves them and wants them back to live with Him someday. But they must change their ways, repent and live righteously.

This story is a message of hope. This story teaches us of Gods mercy and forgiveness provided we repent. This message shows us that even prophets are human and need to repent. If they being so righteous need to repent then so must we. But that is a part of that great hope we can have. It is a story of faith. It’s a great teaching tool teaching us that there are consequences to sin and unless we repent then we will reap the consequences of sin.

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