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
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59:16)
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.
Lord, we confess our sin. Although You never fail us, in our moments of trial and testing, we quickly question your character and promises—forgetting your past faithfulness. Our wisdom, rather than your Word, has been our lens for judging what is real. Although you have given the supreme sacrifice for us in Jesus Christ, we doubt your love when you ask us to give things up. We have been weak in our trust and love. Please forgive us and heal us and deliver us by your mercy. 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: Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus. 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: Luke 15:11-32 + Psalm 103
There is perhaps no more beloved parable than the tale of The Two Sons. We can all resonate with one or all of the characters, because we have all of us been in their place. A child has run off. We ourselves have run off. Our self-righteous pride has caused us to judge and condemn another.
Our deep resonance with the story is good. It’s meant to move us emotionally. And yet, because we are centuries removed from the ancient culture in which it was first heard, we must try our best to hear and see this parable as Jesus’ audience would have.
This means that we must inform our biblical imagination,so that the soil of our minds can be made ready for the world-inverting surprise in this yarn to take root in our hearts.
You’ve read the story. You know what happens.The younger brother blows it. He realizes he’s lost the right to be called as son, yet he’s willing to become a servant if it means he gets to come home. He rehearses his speech. The lines are set, but he doesn’t get more than a few words out before the overwhelms him with mercy (hesed) and forgiveness. It’s like Psalm 103 in story form: His sins are removed as far as the east is from the west. But, nice as this scene is, there’s still more to the story.
Mike Card notes, “Whenever someone is pictured as repentant and receiving grace, Luke paints someone in the shadows who simply hates the fact that God acts in such ways. Mercy is the salvation of some and, inexplicably, the damnation of others. The older brother in the parable is a hater of hesed.”
The older brother is bitter. He’s been keeping score, and he’s right! Do you see that? The older brother is right. He has been slaving away for all these years. And here is the key to understanding this parable: Jesus’ audience would have easily sided with this brother. The father’s response to both brothers would have left them thunderstruck! He had done what was right, hadn’t he? He had stayed by his father’s side while his fool-of-a-son had run off and brought immense shame upon his family!
But this is the scandal of the gospel, the scandal of grace. It turns out that the story of the two brothers is a story of hesed, a story of someone who deserves nothing but gets everything! But it’s also the story of a fool.
The first hearers would have thought the father a fool. A fool to give away a big part of his retirement, a fool for waiting by the road for his son to return, a fool for getting so excited by this predictable return, a fool for his believing his fool son’s lines once again, and a fool in throwing a party for this kid who didn’t deserve a second chance.
But what if his foolishness isn’t foolishness at all? What if he is displaying what the Apostle Paul would later call “the foolishness of God” which, as it turns out, “is wiser than the wisdom of men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
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.
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:2-4)