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Scripture of the Month- Psalm 126:2-Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

Silent Prayer

Luke chapter 15 is a chapter that has three stories, three parables that all use the word “lost” in their title.  The first is the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  The second is the Parable of the Lost Coin.  The third is the Parable of the Lost Son.  It is true that there is a sense that something or someone is displaced or lost in all three of these stories, but there is also a flip-side to all three.  In all three, something was recovered or restored.  That’s what I want to talk to you about today, God’s Recovery and Restoration abilities.

The first story is the story about a lost sheep.  In the story, Jesus talks about how when a shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one, how when one strays away from the rest, the shepherd goes looking for him.  The one that was missing meant something to the shepherd.  The one that was lost from the herd was of great concern to the shepherd.  The one who was missing mattered. 

Sheep get lost because of foolishness. 

They aren’t wired to be strong and independent.  They aren’t the fierce predator type.  They are animals who aren’t self-reliant at all.  They need a shepherd.  Sheep aren’t too bright. 

This is a true story:  Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell to their deaths in a ravine but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived.   

So, are you picturing what happened?  Some shepherds neglected their flock while they were eating some breakfast and the sheep started to roam.  One sheep wandered off a cliff and 1499 other sheep just followed along.  So, here we have sheep after sheep after sheep walking over a cliff with the four hundred sheep who went first winding up on the bottom of a pile on with 1100 other sheep landing on top of them, using them for a cushion while crushing the 400 sheep below.
(Sounds like Friday night football to me, but whatever)
It was estimated that local farmers lost $74,000.00 that day!
So, sheep aren’t too bright.  The other challenge for sheep is that they are directionally challenged.  They are just easily lost.  Shepherds have to constantly be redirecting the sheep in order to keep them from wandering off. 
It is dangerous for sheep to wander off.  When an animal threatens, a sheep can’t run too fast.  Sheep don’t have claws.  They don’t have fangs.  They aren’t equipped with venom.  They can’t spray an animal with anything to ward them off.  They don’t even look scary.  They can’t arch their back like a cat and look as if they are going to pounce.  They can’t hiss like a snake to try to appear ferocious.  They can’t bark like a dog to scare their predators away.  About all they could do would be to let out a guttural phrase, “Get baaaaack!”  They are defenseless. 
The shepherd and the sheep are metaphors for Jesus and us.  We don’t have the knowledge we need to live well.  We don’t have what we need to protect ourselves adequately.  We aren’t wired to live independently from God.  We need Him.  We matter to Him.  He pursues us when we wander away.  He doesn’t want us following the culture off a cliff.  He doesn’t want us vulnerable to Satan and the things of this world which threaten to overtake us.  There is a sense that things aren’t right with our lives when we are dislocated from Jesus, the Shepherd.  Out of love and concern, He came on a rescue and recovery mission over 2000 years ago, and His mission hasn’t changed.  Sheep belong with the shepherd.  We belong with God. 

The second story in Luke 15 is the story about the lost coin.  The coin wasn’t like a penny or a nickel or even a quarter or silver dollar.  It was extremely valuable.  It was a silver coin.  The woman in the story had ten silver coins and lost one.  A few Wednesdays back I did a whole evening on the symbolism in a Jewish wedding and how it points to Christ and the church.  I mentioned that when Jewish women got married, they wore a headband or headdress with coins in it to signify that they were married.  It was kind of the ancient version of the wedding ring.  I can only imagine losing a diamond out of my ring.  It would cause me some anxiety.  I would turn over every stone looking for the stone that was missing from my ring, right? 

The house where the woman with the lost coin was, was dark.  She would light a lamp to try to find it.  She would get her broom and sweep the room in hopes of recovering it.  It was precious to her.  She wasn’t going to be satisfied with just trying to replace it with another coin.  She wanted the coin that was given to her by her groom. 

She didn’t want to lose the coin.  She hadn’t meant to lose the coin.  It was an accident.  It was just a result of carelessness.  Maybe she should have removed her headpiece before she started to cook dinner or maybe she should have removed it when she began to clean or do some other household chore.  Something so precious should have been protected, but maybe she was in a hurry or got busy and forgot she even had it on. 
To find the coin would mean she could put it back in its rightful place.  It belonged with the other coins.  No wonder the woman in the story was rejoicing when she recovered the lost coin.   

The third story is about a rude, self-absorbed and arrogant son.  He was lost because of sinfulness. He demanded his inheritance from his father before his father had passed away, and he deliberately chose to leave his father’s home.  He didn’t build a house just over the ridge.  He went as far as he could go to get away from his father’s oversight which meant he left his father’s protection, provision, love, and care. 

He left and went crazy.  He not only lost all of the benefits of being in the father’s house, but he nearly lost his mind.  If it looked good, he ate it.  If it smelled good, he inhaled it.  If it felt good, he did it.  If it glittered, he bought it.  He lost all his money on what the Scripture calls “wild living.” 

His sin left him homeless and hungry.  He got a job feeding pigs.  It was only when he found himself in the mud and muck of the pig pen that he “came to his senses” or that he realized what he had squandered.  It was only then that he admitted that he had been wrong, that he had been selfish, that he had been stupid.  It was only then that he understood all he had forfeited just because he wanted to live his own way.  He remembered how good things were before he chose sin over the father’s love, and he wanted to go back home. 

What would his father think about that?  What would that look like?  Was it even possible?  He rehearsed a speech to give to his father, and he started walking toward home.  He was going to offer to come home as a servant.  He didn’t expect to live as a son.  How could he and his father have the kind of relationship they once enjoyed?   Imagine his surprise when he caught a glimpse of his father’s house and he saw his dad on the porch.  He saw his dad take off running toward him and then felt his dad’s embrace when he hugged him to welcome him home.

The son began his speech, and the father interrupted him as he yelled to the servants to put a ring on his son’s finger and sandals on his feet.  He ordered the household cooks to get a special dinner started and requested that a party to celebrate his son’s return be quickly organized.  In fact, in the story, the father likened the return of his son like someone being raised from the dead.  He said in verse 32:  We had to celebrate and be glad, because my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”

What can we take away from these stories besides the points that have been made along the way?  Whether you lose something because of foolishness, carelessness or sinfulness, God wants to help you recover that which is lost, and God wants to restore that which is broken.
What is it that can be lost when we wander away from God?  Our dreams can be lost.  Did you once have big plans?  Have you given up on a dream; something you know you are supposed to accomplish?  Have you let others or Satan or even yourself talk you out of moving forward?  What is your dream?  Is it to start a business?  Is it to own a home?  Is it to go back to school?  Is it to achieve your education?  Is it to write songs or to write a book or to become a public speaker?  Is it to mentor young people?  Is it to be a missionary or to start teaching a Bible study?  What is your dream?  Maybe God wants to restore some dreams this morning.  Maybe God is daring you to dream again.

God is a Dream Giver.  He is the God of endless possibilities.  Not even the sky is the limit with God.  He can give you dreams for your future that are bigger than anything you would dream for yourself.  It happened multiple times in the Bible.  God would tap people on the shoulder and show them a future that was beyond their wildest imagination, and as those people walked in fellowship with God, He made their dreams come true.

Do you think maybe God brought you here today not to restore a vision of any dream you have ever had, but to challenge you to receive His dream for your life?  He wants to give someone a God-sized dream this morning.  His dreams are better dreams.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God has incredible plans and dreams and hopes for us, and we discover them inside of a relationship with Him.  Maybe your dream was lost not because it wasn’t the right dream, but because you didn’t pursue it with God’s wisdom and in God’s time. 

Maybe you have lost direction for your life.  Maybe at one time you knew where you were going, why you were going there, and you knew how to get there.  Maybe you have taken a wrong turn that has become the long turn, the long way, and has taken you out of your way and off track.  Maybe you aren’t sure what your purpose is for life anymore because you have gotten sidetracked with senseless stuff or serious stuff or just stuff.  Maybe you are just getting by, just existing, just breathing, sleeping, working and going through the motions.  Maybe you no longer look ahead toward a future and have goals and plans, but you are just living from day to day.

Maybe you have lost direction because you have followed the wrong leader.  Maybe you have wandered in behind some other sheep that has been walking toward a cliff.  Or maybe hanging with the wrong crowd has taken you down the wrong road, and before you knew what was happening you found yourself way off course and far away from the Father’s house. 

As Christians, we’re told in Romans 12 not to let the world squeeze us into their mold.  We are to be molded or conformed to the image of Jesus.  He did everything right and in the right way and in the right time.  But as we wander away from God, and the things of the world start to get ahold of us, they start to squeeze out our spiritual life and pressure us into looking like the world rather than like Jesus.  It happens slowly and often over time.  Sometimes it happens before we are even aware it is happening.  It doesn’t feel like a squeezing or a pressuring in the beginning.  In fact, it often feels welcoming, like an embrace.  But before you know it, we have been squeezed so tightly by the things of the world that all of our spiritual breath has been squeezed out of us and our lives have taken the shape of the world.  And I think we can all agree, even if you aren’t a believer, that the world is in bad shape. 

Maybe you have simply lost your joy.  It can happen.  Joy is a vital gauge on the dashboard of our lives as believers.  When our joy meter starts to read low, we need to be concerned because the quality of our joy will impact the quality of our daily lives.  Maybe the things that once gave you great joy are no longer feeding your soul.  Maybe your spiritual appetite has waned. Jesus connected our daily spiritual life with joy in John 15:10-11: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. . . . These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”  Notice whose joy it is that we can possess.  It isn’t our joy.  It is the joy of Jesus that remained unbroken even in the face of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
Maybe our loss of joy is connected to a lack of obedience to keep God’s commands.  Obviously, when we live outside of His will, we will have trouble and be discontented.  Maybe joy has been withdrawn from your life because you have tried to handle life’s challenges on your own rather than abiding in God’s love, strength and joy.
The Psalmist prayed in Psalm 51:12 for a restoration of joy in His life.  God is the real joy giver because the quality of His joy is enduring.  
We may need to recover our dreams.  We may need to recover our direction.  We may need to recover our joy.  We also may need restoration.  God wants to restore that which is broken in our lives.  What is it that might be broken?  The two big ones are about relationship; relationship with God and others.  Have we been like the sinful son who has purposely ran from our Heavenly Father?  Have we written God off and sought to get as far away as possible from Him?  Have we chosen sin over the Savior?  Are we sitting in the muck and mire of the pig pen and are now just waking up to what we have done?  Have we been selfish and stupid?  Did we think we could do life better without God? Do we wonder if there is a way back, a way home?  Can we picture the possibility this morning that God is on the porch waiting for us to appear over the horizon?  Can our relationship with God truly be restored?  Have we gone too far?  Have we sinned too much for the Father to still love us?

I can tell you this with confidence:  Regardless of where you have been, what you have done, or how long you have been away, God wants you home.  The only thing that can keep you from God’s love is you, yourself.  The only thing required for you to come home is for you to realize you need Him.  You need His forgiveness.  You need His help.  You need His provision.  You need His direction.  You need His embrace.  If you can admit you need Him, He is waiting for you.  “Yeah, but preacher you don’t know what I’ve done.”  Ok.  But I know Paul was a murderer.  He was actually a terrorist of sorts.  David was a murderer and adulterer.  Moses was also a murderer.  Peter was a backstabbing liar.  Rahab was a prostitute.  Matthew was a thief.  Noah got drunk and had incestuous encounters with his daughters.  Jonah ran from God’s call.  The Samaritan Woman had failed marriage after failed marriage after failed marriage.  All of these people were welcomed by God and mightily used by Him.  Anything you are willing to confess, God is willing to cover.  You can have a restored relationship with God today.  Isn’t that good news?

What about our relationships with others?  Have we burned bridges?  Can fences be mended?  Have we so broken trust with lies, deceit, manipulation, jealousy, selfishness, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, jealousy and resentment that we can’t see a way forward with our family and friends?  What if restoration was possible?  What if broken relationships could be restored?  Could it be that the Dream Giver, the Direction Giver, is also the Restorer of Broken Relationships?  What if God could give us the grace to forgive people or the courage to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged?  What if, as God transforms our lives, people we have written off or people who have written us off will find the grace to welcome us back?  It’s all possible when we allow God to take control.

Maybe it isn’t a relationship that needs restored.  Maybe your health is broken.  Maybe your reputation needs repaired.  Maybe your finances have been wiped out.  And maybe you’re even responsible for that which is broken.  Maybe you have done things to your body that have created health concerns. Perhaps your bad reputation is the result of your own behavior and the way you have reacted to life’s events.  It’s possible that your financial hurdles were set up by you through reckless spending and buying on credit. Even then, I have good news for you.  God can make a way out, up and onward for you.  God can restore.

And when God recovers things for your life and when God restores things in your life, He throws a party.  When you experience God’s recovery and restoration there is great celebration.  And here is the thing, life with God becomes an ongoing party, an ongoing celebration as He does work for us and in us that gives us reason after reason to celebrate.

R and R.  Rest and Relaxation are nice, but they don’t hold a candle to recovery and restoration.  What is lost that needs to be found?  What is broken that needs to be fixed?

You can rejoin the fold.  You can regain your life’s direction.  You can recover your joy.  You can have your relationships with God and others restored.  You can come home.  Whether you are a sheep who went astray or a son or daughter who went their own way, God can bring recovery and restoration to every area of your life.   

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