God’s Family

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Me:  Prodigal, who are you with today?

Prodigal:  This is Morky and Minnie and they are brother and sister.  We are spending time together.

Me:  Family is made up of more then just blood.  In fact there is such a thing as God’s family.

Prodigal:  Tell me a little bit about God’s family please.


Bill Hybels talks about God’s family in his book; Who You Are When No One’s Looking.

What does it take to do the will of the Father?  It takes courage to join a family that is misunderstood by the world.  It takes discipline to accomplish the tasks God has set out for his children.  It takes vision to overcome inevitable problems and to see what God is doing in the lives of his children.  It takes endurance to stick with your brothers and sisters when it would be so much easier to go your own way.  Above all, it takes love to hold God’s family together and to reach out and invite others to join it–tender, tough, sacrificial, radical love.

Our Church family and our Christian friends.   What a source of joy they are, but you know sometimes there is that struggle.  We start to fight with each other and view each other as enemies.  How sad our Father must be when he sees this.  I know that person might look at you as an enemy.  God looks at them with love.  So with that tender, tough, sacrificial, radical love, look at them with the eyes of our Father.  Take away that judgment in your heart today.  Really pray that God blesses that person and ask God if you are the person that should help bless them.

Romans 8:29

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.


Jennifer Van Allen






Running Low on Hope

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Me:  What happened Prodigal?


Prodigal:  I fell, and now I am down and discouraged.


Me:  We all get discourage now and then.  We all run low on hope.  I do have some encouragement for you though.


Prodigal:  Please tell me because I am in need of it today.


Charles Swindoll in his book Hope Again tells how to cope during these times.


Two words will help you cope when you run low on hope:  accept and trust.

Accept the mystery of hardship, suffering, misfortune, or mistreatment.  Don’t try to understand it or explain it.  Accept it.  Then, deliberately trust God to protect you by His power from this very moment to the dawning of eternity.

Why did God allow this to happen to you?  How many times have you asked God that question?  I know it is hard to accept.  Why can’t it be different?  We just have to accept at this point.  Maybe you tried to accept but you need to keep accepting it for the rest of the week.

Then remember that we can trust God.  We trust God in the hardship.  We trust God when we can’t understand.  We TRUST GOD.

Take a penny and look at it.  What does it say?  Trust in God.  Put it in your pocket and look at it everyday for next 7 days.  Trust.  That is your next step.  TRUST.


Galatians 3:6  Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”


Jennifer Van Allen







Me:  Prodigal, Please tell me what you are doing?


Prodigal:  I am getting a closer look at this carving.


Me:  Prodigal…not to be judging but that looks like an idol.


Prodigal:  How can you tell what is an idol or not?


Me:  I have a story that can help explain that.


Gary Heim and Lisa Heim in the book True North discusses idolatry.


The Bible teaches us that shame is the inevitable result of idolatry:  “But those who trust in idols, who say to images, “You are our gods, will be turned back in utter shame” (Isa.42:17).  Shame comes when we have failed to win the approval of our “god.”  If the Lord is our God, then we are freed from shame because we have his approval and acceptance-not based on our performance but upon the loving sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.  Any other god’s judgment is based on performance.  Those other gods may be self, parents, friends, employers, teachers, pastors, or community.

Reading this is not meant to make you to feel shame.  So please don’t.  It is just to give you a different viewpoint.  Maybe this is a good starting point in prayer today.  Ask God to show you if you have little gods right now.  Ask God to help you feel His approval and acceptance.  Don’t feel pressure to change this or that.  Don’t try to be a complete different person in the next five minutes.  Just have a good ole fashion chit chat with the man up stairs (that is God)  not the other man upstairs if you live in an apartment.  He has time, God’s schedule has an opening just for you!

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing.


Jennifer Van Allen







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Prodigal:  Hi, I am glad you showed up.  I want you to meet my guest, Ms. Mouse.  She is staying for awhile.


Me:  I am happy to meet you Ms. Mouse.  I was just dropping by to spend some time with Prodigal.  We usually like to share stories.


Prodigal:  Yes, I was just telling her about he stories.  Do you have one for us today.


Me:  No, I don’t have a story today but what I do have is a song by a country artist named Grandpa Jones.


It happened one day near December’s end,

Two neighbors called on an old-time friend,

And they found his shop, so meager and mean,

Made gay with a thousand boughs of green,

And Conrad was sitting with face a-shine-

When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine

And said, “Old friends, at dawn today

When the cock was crowing the night away,

The Lord appeared in a dream to me

And said, “I am coming your guest to be,’

So I’ve been busy with feet a stir,

Strewing my shop with branches of fir.

The table is spread and the kettle is shined

And over the rafters the holly is twined–

And now I will wait for my Lord to appear

And listen closely so I will hear

His step as he nears my humble place,

And I open the door and look on his face.”

So his friends went home and left Conrad alone,

For this was the happiest day he had known.

For long since his family had passed away

And Conrad had spent many a sad Christmas day.

But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas guest,

This Christmas would be the dearest and best.

So he listened with only joy in his heart,

And with every sound he would rise with a start

And look for the Lord to be at his door

Like the vision he had a few hours before.

So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,

But all he could see on the snow-covered ground

Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn

And he said, “Your feet must be frozen and sore–

I have some shoes in my shop for you,

And a coat that will keep you warmer, too.”

So with grateful heart the man went away–

But Conrad noticed the time of day;

He wondered what made the dear Lord so late

And how much longer he’d have to wait–

When he heard a knock and ran to the door,

But it was a stranger once more,

A bent old lady with a shawl of black,

With a bundle of kindling piled on her back.

She asked for only a place to rest,

But that was reserved for Conrad’s great guest,

But her voice seemed to plead, “Don’t send me away,

Let me rest for a while on Christmas Day.”

So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup

And told her to sit at the table and sup.

But after she left, he was filled with dismay,

For he saw that he hours were slipping away,

And the Lord had not come as he said he would,

And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood,

When out of the stillness he heard a cry,

“Please help me and tell me where am I.”

So again he opened his friendly door

And stood disappointed as twice before.

It was only a child who had wandered away

And was lost from her family on Christmas Day.

Again Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad,

But he knew he could make this little girl glad,

So he called her in and wiped her tears

And quieted all her childish fears,

Then he led her back to her home once more.

But as he entered his own darkened door,

He knew that the Lord was not coming today

For the hours of Christmas had passed away.

So he went to his room and knelt down to pray,

And he said, “Lord why did you delay?

What kept you from coming to call on me,

For I wanted so much your face to see.”

When a soft in the silence, a voice he heard,

“Lift up your head for I kept my word.

Three times my shadow crossed your floor;

Three times I came to your lowly door;

For I was the beggar with bruised cold feet;

I was the woman you gave something to eat;

And I was the child on the homeless street;

Three times I knocked, three times I came in,

And each time I found the warmth of a friend.

Of all the gifts, love is the best;

I was honored to be your Christmas Guest.”


For I was the one who crossed your floor,

For I was the one you gave something to eat.

For I was the one who found the warmth of a friend.

For I was the one honored to be your guest.

And all the while you thought it was just for me

It was also for the Lord you see!


Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ


Jennifer Van Allen



Multitude of Works

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Me:  Prodigal, you look very busy today!


Prodigal:  I am, I have been painting all day.  I started working early this morning and have not stopped until now.


Me:  I could tell you a story so that you could have a short break in your day.


Prodigal:  I am so exhausted.  I story would be great just to let me relax and not be on my feet.


James Gills gives a great illustration in his book The Unseen Essentials about the story of Cain and Abel.


Abel, the first of the Old Testament Olympians, provides a prime example of someone who agreed with God.  God commended him not only because of his sacrifice, but because of his faith.  From antiquity to eternity, Abel has a message for believers.  To have acted “by faith,” he must have heard God speak on the importance of offerings.  How else would he have known that only a blood sacrifice would do?  The Bible declares that faith comes in one way only–by hearing the Word of God.  From this, we can deduce that both Cain and Abel heard God.  He would not have rejected Cain’s offering, otherwise.  Abel moved beyond hearing.  He believed without question.  Without hesitation.  And he demonstrated his belief through his actions.

Another message speaks from eons past.  Abel offered acceptable and proper worship because his animal sacrifice was something for which he could take no credit.  In contrast, Cain’s offering was only from the land over which he had labored. (Remember that God had cursed the land after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.)  God’s approval cannot be earned through any work of the flesh.  “Only by faith!” cries the righteousness of Abel to our present generation.  Faith accepts God at His Word.

To worship God as he desires, we must choose to present our bodies to Him as a “living sacrifice,”  Paul writes in Romans 12.  If our obedience is but mere formality, an attempt to gain acceptance through a multitude of works, shouldn’t we, too, be rejected by the Lord?  Are we any better than Cain?  No, unless we, like Abel, worship Him correctly on the basis of a blood sacrifice.  We don’t need animals anymore–not since Calvary.  Just wholehearted faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The choice is ours, today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives.

You are working and trying to perform perfectly.  You are worn out and weary.  God does not want you to focus on works today.  He wants more faith.  He wants more actions on faith.


Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.


Jennifer Van Allen





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Me:  Howdy Prodigal!  Who are your friends?


Prodigal:  They are sailors sailing the open seas looking for treasure.  They stopped by and they want me to join them.  Do you think I would make a good sailor?


Me:  Prodigal the Sailor, that could work!  Before you go looking for your treasure on the open seas, it is possible you could find treasure here.


Prodigal:  Please tell me where!


Ravi Zacharias talks about a treasure we should be seeking in his book Jesus Among Other gods.


It is possible to hold a treasure in your hand but be ignorant of it and go for the wrapping instead.  This proximity to truth and distance from its worth is repeated innumerable times in our lives.  In Chesterton’s words, we hold the dust and let the gold go free.

No one saw this tragedy lived out more than Jesus did.  The masses came to Him frequently and left embracing lesser things while forfeiting the real treasure He was offering them.  He often expressed surprise at their shallowness in being unable to look beyond the surface.

Look beyond the surface takes seeing with the eyes of Jesus.  I am guilty of it.  Quickly making a judgment from just a couple of points I see on the surface.  Not taking the time to look forward.  Not taking the time to see the treasure.

I know this, Jesus has given you a treasure within your grasp.  There is also wrapping available.  The wrapping is catchy to the eye but seek the treasure instead.  Treasure is lasting.  Treasure is what Jesus gave you.  All other fancy wrappings will get old and end up in the garbage.  Trust God and take the treasure instead.


Galatians 1:6

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel


Jennifer Van Allen





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Me:   Wow Prodigal, what a voice you have!


Prodigal:  Thank you,  I am practicing for a performance.  I have the honor of using my voice to sing to others tomorrow.


Me:  I cannot sing at all but I will be there to support you!  While you take a break from your practice, you can listen to today’s story.


Gary Heim and Lisa Heim in their book True North talk about how we can all perform at times even if we do not sing for others.


In one way or another, we all try to be in control of our lives by performing for God and people instead of freely loving them from our hearts.  Performing is significantly different from loving or being responsible.  True love wants to give because we know we are dearly loved by Jesus, and therefore we want to bless others.  When we love, we know our limitations and can draw appropriate boundaries.  We’re secure enough in God’s love to be able to say yes and no to people’s requests.  On the other hand, when we perform, we hide behind masks of what we think people want us to be because we’re grasping for their love, approval, and acceptance instead of resting in God’s; we’re giving people more power than God in defining who we are.


I have performed plenty of times.  I don’t think we can get out of it hundred percent but I think we should not allow performing to control our lives.  How do we give people more power than God?  This is something God has been slowly testing me and showing me.  Just like you, we are all busy and have a lot of social demands on our plate.  I started years ago, praying about which social events that I should attend.  In doing this, interesting enough, God has made it very clear for me not to attend some social meetings.  He also made me go places, I really did not want to go.  When I would say no to some social events,  I knew without a doubt that by saying no that someone would get offended and someone would be upset.  Then I had a choice that God was giving me.  What is more important, this person’s approval or God’s.

I started to pray about it and wisdom was giving to me.  We cannot see the whole picture.  Maybe the timing is not right for this social meeting, maybe it would do more harm then good because God has to work on my heart or their heart.  Maybe God wants you somewhere else at that time.  Whatever the reason, when God tells us to do something and it will offend someone else.  We first make sure that it is God and then we have to put God’s approval first.  Otherwise we spend our entire lives performing for the approval of others and then we are not a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.


Jennifer Van Allen




Returning to the Land

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Me:  Howdy Prodigal, I love the rules!


Prodigal:  These are the rules of a good southern home.


Me:  Well, I have to agree with that.  I know you are southern Prodigal, but the story today is about another group of people called the Jews.


Prodigal:  Tell me a little bit about them.  Why is everybody so interested in this group of people?


Gary Frazier talks about the importance of Israel the nation.


I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land (Ezekiel 36:24)

To comprehend what an incredible act of God it is to preserve the beleaguered Jews throughout history and then return them to their land, consider this observation.

You cannot find the ancient neighbors of the Jews anywhere.  Have you ever met a Moabite?  Do you know any Hittites?  Are there any tours to visit the Ammonites?  Can you find the postal code of a single Edomite? No!  These ancient people disappeared from history and from the face of the earth.  Yet the Jews, just as God promised, returned to their land.

While the complete fulfillment is yet to come, the return of the Jews to Israel in 1948 was an astounding event unprecedented in world history.  Never had a decimated ancient people managed to retain their individual identity through almost twenty centuries and reestablish their nation in their original homeland.  The event was specifically prophesied, and it happened exactly as foretold.  It was clearly a miraculous act of God. 

Prophesy is true.  God made the earth and all that is in it.  He also knows the future.  It is amazing how he shares bits of information for us thousands of years in advanced.  I don’t understand all of the book of Revelation and what it all means but I do understand this.  Jesus is coming back.

Will he know you when he does?


Matthew 20:40-44

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this:  if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him

Jennifer Van Allen