Archive for August, 2016

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ church
Monday, August 22

Read: Matthew 7:24-29

Matthew 7:24-29
New International Version (NIV)

The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Consider: “Yes, but in the real world…” We’ve all heard that. It’s often the opening phrase of a statement from someone who is struggling with the ethics of Jesus Christ. Have you ever heard that approach? Have you ever used it? Well, for most of us, if we haven’t actually said it, we have wondered, “Does that work in the real world?”

When we read Jesus’ teachings on meekness, peace-making, enemy love and turning the other cheek, we can’t help but wonder if they really apply to our world. In day-to-day human interaction, in family relationships, in business and industry, in relationships between communities and nations, it just seems like Jesus’ teachings don’t apply to the real world.

Jesus’ teaching is stunning. It is challenging. It offends us (even if we won’t admit it). If anyone besides Jesus would say those things, we’d dismiss them as naïve or castigate them for being soft and weak when it comes to injustice. Some of Jesus’ words are just hard. Hard to understand. Hard to put in perspective. Hard to live.

But we can’t ignore them. We can’t say that the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t apply to the “real world” or we are calling Jesus naïve. We’re saying that he doesn’t understand life.

We don’t want to go there, so often we try to make Jesus’ words more palatable. We believe that meekness is for safe environments only. It can be practiced among decent people. We believe that we can love when that love is returned. When it is not, we fall back on “loving” by the world’s rules and values.

So when we listen to Jesus instruct us as to how we should live, we have to come with open eyes and attentive ears. We have to humble ourselves enough to admit that we don’t understand the “real world.” The One who created it does. And he understands the world that he wants for you and me and for all of his creation.

Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount by saying…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…but everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7:24, 26)

Pray: “Lord, your teaching on meekness, peace-making, enemy love and turning the other cheek are a rock upon which you want me to build my life. This goes against my engrained way of thinking and judging. Help me to begin to see your real world in the way you see it.”

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ church

Wednesday, August 24

Read: Colossians 2:6-15

Colossians 2:6-15
New International Version (NIV)

Spiritual Fullness in Christ
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]

Start

Consider: Many of the people who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion mocked him.

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him…. In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Matthew 27:39-44)

The people thought they were seeing the epitome of weakness and failure. The one who had been proclaimed to be a king was reduced to this. All they could see was something to spit on because, in reality, they could not see.

After the fact, the Apostle Paul saw it clearly. And what he saw was quite different. Something else was being exposed and defeated.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

“Powers” and “authorities” in the New Testament usually referred to the empires, governments and corrupt systems of the day. These demonic powers ruled by might, intimidation and violence. Jesus ruled by meekness, exposing them and leading to their utter destruction.

So Christians don’t see strength in the sword. We see strength in the cross. We see power in a manner that is unintelligible to the world. The power of love has brought down empires and saved the world. If we miss the humility, meekness, power and love of Christ, we fall into the trap of depending on the wisdom and “strength” of this world.

Pray: “Thank you, Lord, for making ‘a public spectacle’ of sinful ‘power,’ exposing it for all its weakness. Today I humble myself to live in the true sacrificial power of the cross—the power of the love of Christ. Help me to see like you see and to love like you love.”

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone with God daily devotional

by Pastor Phil Stout – JAXNAZ church

Read: Matthew 5:1-3
New International Version (NIV)

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes
He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Start

Consider: You may want to take another look at the passages we’ve read from the New Testament this week. You may want to scan the observations we’ve made, because they all point to one of Jesus’ central teachings…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3)

The kingdom does not belong to…

The “ninety-nine” who won’t admit that they are lost (Luke 15:1-7).

The obedient son who feels morally superior to his promiscuous, but repentant, little brother (Luke 15:25-32).

Those who feel no need for a spiritual “doctor,” believing that they are already whole (Matthew 9:9-13).

The one who looks at the “other” with contempt (Luke 18:9-14).

No, not them. The kingdom of heaven belongs to “the poor in spirit.”

This is the starting point—the very first phrase—in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and it is the starting point for all of Jesus’ teaching. If we do not recognize our own spiritual poverty, if we will not humble ourselves, if we will not ask God to change us from what we are, the kingdom of heaven will be unintelligible to us.

As Jesus sat on the hillside and told the people what it would mean to follow him, his very first sentence explained the attitude we must bring. He spoke about the position we take in order to hear him and to follow him. He blessed us who go to him as “the poor in spirit.”

Pray: “Lord, your call to acknowledge my spiritual poverty is also a promise to me. Thank you for assuring me that I will be blessed by you.”

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Read: Luke 18:9-14
New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Start:

Consider: Sometimes Jesus’ parables are subtle. You have to look for the nuances. Not this one. Nothing subtle here. Jesus told a parable that sticks a finger in the face of anyone who embraces a sense of moral superiority. And because it is so black and white, it’s easy to dismiss. After all, who of us would stand in church, point to someone else and pray, “Thank you, God, that I’m not like that jerk! Thank you that I’m so much better!”

Of course, we would never do that. But when Jesus spoke in such stark terms, he was trying to rattle us—trying to help us see something about ourselves that may be shocking.

So let’s do a little personal inventory. Let’s talk about our feelings toward others. I’m not referring to rational discourse. I would never say I’m superior to someone else. But how do I feel?

How do I feel about people of other ethnicities? How do I feel about sexual minorities? How do I feel about people of other religions or those with no religion at all? How do I feel about people who hold politics that are completely at odds with my political convictions? How do I feel? How does Jesus want me to feel?

He wants me to feel love. Oh, I know that love is an action and can’t be reduced to a feeling. But let’s be honest, unless I’m willing to feel love toward all humans—willing to see the Image of God in them—I’m never going to act like Jesus.

This parable sticks a finger in my face and compels me to be honest about my love for God’s image-bearers. If I’m honest, it may cause me to fall on my knees and say…

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

And that will lead to my liberation.

Pray: There are many written prayers that have become a part of Christian worship down through the years. One is called “The Jesus Prayer”…

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Another has become a part of common Christian liturgy…

“Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”

These are good prayers to pray if we approach them in the right way. Don’t see them as self-condemning. See them as the liberating prayers that are taken to the One who loves us more than we can imagine—the One who is eager to forgive and has already forgiven.

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Read: Luke 15:25-32

Luke 15:25-32
New International Version (NIV)

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Start:

Consider: On Monday we looked at one of the most beautiful names for Jesus—“the friend of sinners.” Of course, that didn’t sound beautiful to everyone. Those who found their identity in being morally superior to others didn’t like those “others” to be loved and cherished simply for who they are. They wanted those “others” to earn it, like they thought that they had earned God’s favor.

What Jesus saw in those Pharisees and teachers of the law (15:2), he addressed in this third parable. He pointed out the thinking of the “older brother” who couldn’t handle the grace and mercy his father gave to his “morally inferior” brother.

Of course, that’s the difference between us and Jesus Christ. We want to feel like we’re righteous. We know we’re not perfect, so we’re tempted to find our “righteousness” in comparing ourselves with others. The older brother said, “Look, I never disobeyed you or gave you a moment of trouble, while he was out spending your money on prostitutes! How can you possibly rejoice over that?” (15:29-20).

We’re always trying to make ourselves appear to be righteous. And, as I said, that’s the difference between us and Jesus. He chose the opposite.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It’s amazing that the only one who was willing to claim total unrighteousness was the Righteous One. And he did that for you and me.

So, as is the case in so many of Jesus’ parables, he flips our world upside down. The “bad guys” become the good guys and the “good guys” have to realize that if they would only bring their unrighteousness to God, he would change everything.

This is mercy.

Pray: “Lord, I can barely comprehend what it means that you ‘became sin’ for us. I only know that it humbles me. I am reminded that without your grace I have nothing and I am nothing. But your love for me compelled you to a sacrifice of mercy that is beyond my understanding. Thank you.”

Time Alone With God – Daily Devotional, August 8

Time Alone With God – Daily Devotional

Written by Phil Stout, Lead Pastor of JAXNAZ church

Read: Luke 15:1-7

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Luke 15:1-7
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Start:

Consider: As happened so many times in Jesus’ ministry, he found himself teaching and sharing parables to two different—and very contrasting—audiences at the same time. Before Luke shared with us Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep, he told us who was listening—those who were considered to be the worst of sinners (including tax collectors) and those who saw themselves as the righteous ones (the Pharisees and the teachers of the law).

Knowing who Jesus was talking to, helps us understand the point of his parable…

“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (15:7)

On its own, that statement doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t we rejoice more if people kept their lives pure? Wouldn’t we be happier about ninety-nine people who did it right than we would be about one person who finally got it right after making a mess of things?

Well, we know there really is no such thing as a person who does not need to repent. But Jesus was looking at “ninety-nine” Pharisees who were convinced that they didn’t need to. And because they couldn’t see their own need for repentance, Jesus knew that they weren’t ready to see what God wanted to do in their lives. So the shepherd went to those who knew they were lost.

By the way, this story contains a powerful truth about Jesus. And if we don’t understand it, we don’t know who God is. It comes from the mouths of the Pharisees who muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:2).

That’s where we get that beautiful name for Jesus—“a friend of sinners.” That name should be our name as well.

Pray: “Lord, thank you for loving me. Help me to love others—regardless of their actions—in the manner that you love them. Keep me humble before you. I realize that if I’m ever convinced that I no longer need to change, I close the door on the work that you want to do in my life.”

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Tuesday, August 9

Read: Luke 15:11-24

Consider: The three parables of Luke 15—the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son—all end in celebration. There is one simple reason for that. What was lost was finally found.

Now if a shepherd loses a lamb or a woman loses a coin, it’s pretty obvious that something is missing. But when it comes to seeing that we ourselves are lost, we can be pretty slow (or too stubborn) to see it.

The son who left his father had no clue that he was lost. He kept going the wrong direction, picking up speed and running farther from home. He thought he was doing a pretty good job managing his life. He experienced great tragedy, sorrow and loss before “he came to his senses” (15:7).

What was obscured to the son was obvious to the father. We see that when the son returned and the father exclaimed…

“This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (15:24)

Our Father never stopped waiting for us. He never wrote us off as being unredeemable. He never gave up on us. But he had to wait. He couldn’t (and wouldn’t) force us to come home. He waited and waited. When we were humble enough—when we came to our senses—it became possible for the lost to be found and the dead to be raised.

Pray: “Lord, the thing that can draw me away from you is my delusion of self-sufficiency. When I forget that I am lost without you, I’m tempted to wander into strange lands. Today I walk with confidence because I walk with my Father in the direction you take me.”

Daily Devotion: Do You Have the Mind of Christ?

Daily Devotion: Do You Have the Mind of Christ?

by Wil Pounds

Start:

“Have you the mind of Christ?”

Do I see the beauty of a holy life as Jesus saw it? Do I see lost people through His eyes? Do I understand the eternal purpose of God with the same conviction that Jesus had?

The apostle Paul said, “We have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). What are the implications of having that mind?

In contrast to the pagan false “wisdom” Paul sets forth the wisdom from God, “That is found in the righteousness and sanctification and wisdom of God in Christ. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

In God’s magnificent wisdom, He has been “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe,” and the message preached is “Christ crucified.”

The unregenerate, sensual person who lives his life as if there is nothing beyond the physical “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised” (I Cor. 2:14).

In contrast Paul says the believer in Christ has “received” not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely give to us by God” (v. 12).

We have the mind of Christ because we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Therefore, since we are new creatures in Christ, our habit of mental activity needs to be like that of Christ.

The apostle Paul uses the word “mind” signifying the exercise of the mind, including our emotional and spiritual responses creating activity. It refers to understanding, intelligence, and mental presence. It is the whole knowledge of Christ including emotions and volitions based on thought.

Perhaps John 17 reveals the mind of Christ in its rare beauty. “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life’” (John 17:1-2). That is the passion of God incarnate. He came to reveal the Father and give eternal life to all who will believe on Him. In the mind of Christ, we understand the cross. Only then will the passion our preaching be “Christ crucified.” “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

The mind of Christ is revealed in the cross. In the mind of Christ we see “the beauty of holiness.” Christ came to reveal the holiness of the Father and the sinfulness of sin. The cross of Jesus exposes our sins, and we stand condemned before a righteous God. The cross reveals the mind of our Savior who knew no sin and became so identified with us that He gave Himself as the substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. The mind of Christ reveals an attitude of self-emptying and humility so profound that He would empty Himself “taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men” and give Himself a ransom for sin. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Jesus saw everything in perpetual relationship to His Father. He saw the whole universe related to the Father and for that reason He gave His life in obedience to Him. The master passion of Christ Jesus was to glorify His Father in saving sinful man.

“We have the mind of Christ” when we see the Father in all of His holiness. “We have the mind of Christ” when we sin as it breaks the heart of a holy and righteous God. We have the mind of the Savior when we understand the penalty for sin must be paid in full by a divine, sinless substitute. “We have the mind of Christ” when we feel the passion of His soul in submission to the will of God, even unto death.

If I have the mind of Christ, I can see the infinite beauty of holiness as He saw it when He clothed me in the robes of His perfect righteousness. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do I have that same passion to see lost people as He saw them? If I have the mind of Christ, I will pour out my life in obedient sacrifice and believe and trust in Him.

Hear my prayer, oh God. I give my mind to you; let me think the way Christ thinks. Help me make the choices the way You would choose. I want to do what You would do and feel as you feel. Help me to obey You—even unto death!

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: “How Can God Not Freely Give Us All Things?”

Daily Devotional: How Can God Not Freely Give Us All Things?

Written by Wil Pounds

Start:

Since God is for us, who then can possibly stand against us?

The Psalmist wrote, “In God I will trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalms 56:11)

The prophet Elisha demonstrated to his companion that God is for us and can be depended upon to take care of His people. The enemy sent an army with horses, and chariots circling the city. The servant was filled with panic. “What shall we do?” Elisha counseled, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed, “‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17-18). God blinded the enemy and provided deliverance (v. 19).

The question that haunts many people I meet is not the fact that God is able, but is God really for us? Does He really care? Would He do the same thing for us? How can we know that the great sovereign God of the universe is actually on our side today?

God has already answered that question once and for all. We never have to ever question God’s love for us again. “He who did not spare His own son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Since God loves us, He is also for us.

The apostle Paul takes us back to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB 1995).

God has demonstrated His vast love for us even while we were His enemies by sending Christ to die for us (Romans 5:8). That is love. That is God’s love for the sinner. And since I am a sinner, this qualifies me.

“God delivered Him up for us all.” Christ died as my substitute on the cross. He died for my sins. That is how much God loves you and me. Only in the death of Jesus Christ can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us and wants His best for each of us.

Because this is absolutely true without doubt, then “how will He not also freely give us all things?”

God loved us enough to give His very best. God loves us with an infinite love. There is nothing in the universe more precious to God than His own Son.

Romans 8:32 tells us God spared not His own Son in order that He might save us. It is at the cross of Jesus that we see demonstrated the love of God. He loved us to the extent that He made Christ the Divine Substitute and laid on Him all our sins. God did not spare anything. He poured out on His own Son His wrath against our sin.

God’s love for us is beyond measure. Jesus loved us so much that He was made sin for us and actually bore the wrath of God against sin as our substitute (2 Cor. 5:21). He died in our place (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:6, 8). God delivered Him up to death on the cross that we might be spared. Jesus bore the wrath of God that we might never have to bear it. God delivered Jesus up for us. God loves us so much that He spared not His own Son (Isa. 55:4; Acts 2:23; John 1:29).

The apostle argued that if God loves us this much, then He will most certainly not withhold anything we need to fulfill His eternal purpose of redemption.

He used a verb describing the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22:16. “You have not withheld your son, your only son.” When asked where was the burnt offering for the sacrifice, Abraham answered, “Isaac, the Lord will provide . . . In the mount of the LORD it will be provided” (v.14). And God did provide the ultimate sacrifice at mount Calvary.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

What are “all things”? “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28). He is making us like Jesus Christ.

God causes “all things” – your desperate circumstances, your crushing trials, your unbearable persecutions, and your extreme hardships in life – to make you conform to the character of Jesus Christ. And He will continue to use these things in your life to accomplish that good.

Out of God’s great love, He will “freely give us all things.” Jesus Christ was the greatest Thing God had to give. Since God did that, is there anything He can possibly withhold? (Phil. 4:19)

The cross proves the generous grace of God. Since God gave the greatest of possible gifts in the giving of His Son, we can depend upon Him to give us all the lesser gifts.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: Time Alone With God

Daily Devotional: Time Alone With God

by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ

Read: Luke 15:11-24

Luke 15:11-24
New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Daily Devotional Start

Consider: The three parables of Luke 15—the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son—all end in celebration. There is one simple reason for that. What was lost was finally found.

Now if a shepherd loses a lamb or a woman loses a coin, it’s pretty obvious that something is missing. But when it comes to seeing that we ourselves are lost, we can be pretty slow (or too stubborn) to see it.

The son who left his father had no clue that he was lost. He kept going the wrong direction, picking up speed and running farther from home. He thought he was doing a pretty good job managing his life. He experienced great tragedy, sorrow and loss before “he came to his senses” (15:7).

What was obscured to the son was obvious to the father. We see that when the son returned and the father exclaimed…

“This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (15:24)

Our Father never stopped waiting for us. He never wrote us off as being unredeemable. He never gave up on us. But he had to wait. He couldn’t (and wouldn’t) force us to come home. He waited and waited. When we were humble enough—when we came to our senses—it became possible for the lost to be found and the dead to be raised.

Pray: “Lord, the thing that can draw me away from you is my delusion of self-sufficiency. When I forget that I am lost without you, I’m tempted to wander into strange lands. Today I walk with confidence because I walk with my Father in the direction you take me.”

Daily Devotional: The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Time Alone With God

Read: Luke 15:1-7

Daily Devotional: The Parable of the Lost Sheep

The Parable of the Lost Sheep
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Daily Devotional Begin:

Consider: As happened so many times in Jesus’ ministry, he found himself teaching and sharing parables to two different—and very contrasting—audiences at the same time. Before Luke shared with us Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep, he told us who was listening—those who were considered to be the worst of sinners (including tax collectors) and those who saw themselves as the righteous ones (the Pharisees and the teachers of the law).

Knowing who Jesus was talking to, helps us understand the point of his parable…

“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (15:7)

On its own, that statement doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t we rejoice more if people kept their lives pure? Wouldn’t we be happier about ninety-nine people who did it right than we would be about one person who finally got it right after making a mess of things?

Well, we know there really is no such thing as a person who does not need to repent. But Jesus was looking at “ninety-nine” Pharisees who were convinced that they didn’t need to. And because they couldn’t see their own need for repentance, Jesus knew that they weren’t ready to see what God wanted to do in their lives. So the shepherd went to those who knew they were lost.

By the way, this story contains a powerful truth about Jesus. And if we don’t understand it, we don’t know who God is. It comes from the mouths of the Pharisees who muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:2).

That’s where we get that beautiful name for Jesus—“a friend of sinners.” That name should be our name as well.

Pray: “Lord, thank you for loving me. Help me to love others—regardless of their actions—in the manner that you love them. Keep me humble before you. I realize that if I’m ever convinced that I no longer need to change, I close the door on the work that you want to do in my life.”

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