Thursday, November 16, 2023

            Return is part of our vocabulary.  We return unwanted merchandise to retailers. We return to our favorite restaurant.  We return the favor whenever someone does something nice or kind for us.  We often have to return to the Lord.  We can easily walk away or stray from our relationship with Him.  One benefit of a church homecoming is we can come home to Him—we can return to the Lord who loves us, saves us and seeks us.  Peter certainly knew about spiritual returns and second acts.  We remember that he denied Jesus’ three different times—yet the Lord held out His hand and welcomed Peter back home.  The apostle might have had that experience echoing in his memory and heart as he wrote about straying and returning.  In his own words, the apostle wrote, “For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).  Peter may have envisioned himself years earlier when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write these words. 
            Going “astray” is a reality.  The word “astray” means wandering and roaming.  Peter quoted from Isaiah 53—a passage we often refer to as the “Calvary of the Old Testament.”  It is easy to roam away from God.  Just as a cat, dog or even sheep might wander away from home, people can wander too.  Our natural inclination is to bend away from God, to turn from God and to roam in a way of our choosing rather than His leading.  Sin blinds us and deceives us into wandering further and further down pathways that lead us increasingly further from the Lord.  Apart from His grace, call and providence, we would never find our way to the Lord.  We would never embrace Him or run to Him.  We would continue, unabated, roaming away from Him. 
            Followers of Christ can have seasons and moments where they wander from the Lord and the ways He has ordained for them to go.  Believers can begin to trust their instincts more than God’s leadership and follow their eyes more than the vision that God has set before them.  The only solution is to come home—to come back to the One who gave His all to give us all we could possibly need.  You may be in a season of life where it simply is time to come home—to come back to the Lord and to embrace Him again in faith and surrender.  It is not possible to walk with God and walk away from God at the same time.  Jesus gave us this truth when it comes to the ways we walk.  The Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  The gate and road of life are narrow.  They open only by Christ and they lead only to Christ.  And if we come home to the Father, we come only through Christ.  There is no other way. 
            You may be at a moment in life where you remember better days and sweeter times when you walked with the Lord and enjoyed the Lord.  But now there is an emptiness in your life.  You may have roamed away from the Lord in search of something else only to discover that these other things leave you empty, thirsty and alone.  To roam away from the Lord is not a trivial matter.  It is neither comical nor quirky.  Roaming from the Lord is a transgression against the holiness of God.  We might tend to dismiss a season of roaming as something trite and pedestrian.  But roaming is a felony—a capital offense that places a division or separation between God and us.  If we discover that we have roamed away, then it is time to set our eyes and hearts toward home and return to the Father.
            Peter referred to the Lord as “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  We cling to Christ and let go of the things that have charmed us, beguiled us and deceived us.  We find our resting place and home in Christ and Him alone.  Our greatest fulfillments and security are found living in Christ and with Christ.  He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).  We do not often think about giving ourselves gifts.  But the best gift we can ever give ourselves is coming home to the Lord—dropping everything so we can run to Him.  The prodigal son in the story Jesus told in Luke 15 finally realized that everything he wanted or needed in life was at home—under the watch and keep of his father who ran to greet him.  Often, a season of roaming reveals to us that everything we have wanted is found in what the Lord offers us.  He never leaves us thirsty, hungry or hurting. 
            Peter knew all about homecomings, returns and second chances.  He seemed to want those very things for anyone who read his words.  He may well have written with you in mind.  Perhaps his words are the nudge you need to recalculate and recalibrate your life in the direction of home.  Remember the words of the prophet Joel who wrote, “Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13).  Have a great Thursday!  Make plans to join us for Homecoming this Sunday—high attendance in Bible study at 9:45am, worship at 10:45am, bringing supplies for the Cabarrus Pregnancy Center, catching up on your tithes and offerings and bringing some food for our homecoming lunch after worship.  It will be a wonderful day!

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