Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4).
Prayer of Confession
Confession is formative. It trains us to recognize the ways our hearts have become de-formed and how Christ is at work bringing redemption in our lives. Pray with this in mind.
Gracious Father,we confess that we often cling to the idol of self-sufficiency. We conceal our weakness and faults, presenting only our best sides to one another. In doing so, we obscure the beauty of Your grace in our relationships and community. We hide behind our schedules and personalities as excuses to serve ourselves and neglect our neighbors. O Lord, cover our sin with the blood of Jesus. Amen.
Take a moment to confess your sins, knowing that he hears you.
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: In deliberate parallel to the opening words of Genesis, John presents God as speaking salvation into existence. This time God’s word takes on human form and enters history in the person of Jesus. Jesus speaks the word and it happens: forgiveness and judgment, healing and illumination, mercy and grace, joy and love, freedom and resurrection. Everything broken and fallen, sinful and diseased, called into salvation by God’s spoken word. Jesus, in this account, not only speaks the word of God; he is the Word of God.Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: The Exodus is a powerful and dramatic and true story of God working salvation. The story has generated an extraordinary progeny through the centuries as it has reproduced itself in song and poem, drama and novel, politics and social justice, repentance and conversion, worship and holy living. It continues to capture the imagination of men and women, especially men and women in trouble. It is significant that God does not present us with salvation in the form of an abstract truth, or a precise definition or a catchy slogan, but as story. Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
This section of the Devo focuses on the passage(s) for Sunday’s sermon. Use it to reflect upon the ways Christ has been working in your life this week. Makes a great midday reflection, or group discussion guide. Follow along with our Parables Reading Plan + Study Guideas we all read the Parables every day this Fall.
Read: Matthew 13
Parables are stories with intent. They communicate deep and complex realities in a simple way. Understanding them is relatively easy, yet it is only in living within their reality that their rich complexity is experienced. Why is that?
Jesus doesn’t give us a full explanation. He only says that those the secrets of the Kingdom are given to some and others don’t have ears, eyes, or hearts to receive His Word about how the priorities of His Kingdom subvert, counteract, and even restore our own. Maybe it’s good to also ask:Howdo stories work?
It’s something worth considering if we really want the parables to work in our lives. Parables drop us in the middle of a story, engaging our imaginations, showing us reality rather than telling us about it. After all Jesus does not say: “If you exegete the Old Testament promises, you will understand the doctrine of the Kingdom,” but rather: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man, a seed, a widow…”
All Scripture works this way, really. Take Paul’s letters. Yes, he tells us about certain doctrines, but in doing so he assumes the storyline of the Old Testament: Creation, the Fall, our sin-soaked longing for Redemption, and the promise of a New Creation. The parables assume the same storyline for us. So why is it so difficult for us to SEE?
Our struggle is one of biblical illiteracy. It’s not that we don’t know how to read the words of the story. We might be able to quote the story by heart, distilling it into arguments or comforting thoughts, but we haven’t truly read any of the parables, any Scripture until we can read our passage as part of the storyline of Scripture, till the beauty of what God is doing to redeem all things in this particular passage shoots our hearts through, till it gets us on the inside at the core of who we are.
Education isn’t the issue here. We don’t need to excel intellectually to “truly get the parables.” Instead what we need is what Mike Card calls a “studied biblical imagination” that takes advantage of knowledge, and fits us into the storyline of Redemption.
But we cannot be halfhearted in our attempt. Not a molecule of us can be left out. This shouldn’t surprise us, should it? Don’t our most basic intuitions about how to live in this broken, beauty-of-a-world tell us that it’s all or nothing?
So it is with the parables: we are either fully open the reality the parable is sharing, or we are not. We hear the meaning, or we do not; we see the spiritual reality, or blindly eye a pretty image (Matt. 13:13-15). We must learn how to receive stories again, learn how to see and hear Jesus. The Parables, then, show us how to enter the kingdom as children who are forgetting our childish desire for others to think us “mature” and instead delighting in the sheer mystery of grace.
PRAY How might we receive the parables in Matthew 13 differently if we saw them as part of an intricate storyline of redemption that God is writing? How might your life overlap with that storyline?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered… I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Ps. 32:1-2, 5)