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
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
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: Matthew 11:19 + Luke 15:11-31 + Malachi 3:7
Yesterday we noted that the father’s foolishness wasn’t really foolishness at all. Not really. Not in the economy of God’s Kingdom where fools receive hesed (mercy) but those who hate mercy receive correction.
Our passages today reflect this theme. In both Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels the religious leaders criticize Jesus for being a friend to sinners. The context of Matthew 11:19, however, is Jesus speaking to the crowds among whom are some of the religious leaders who wanted Jesus to “mourn” (Mt. 11:17), to play by their rules. The fact that he defied their expectations led some to conclude that he was foolish, “Maybe this guy’s not all we made him out to be.”
Here’s a paraphrase of how Jesus responds, “You can’t make up your minds, can you? John came neither eating or drinking, but preaching repentance that led people into God’s mercy (hesed). But you rejected him because he was too mournful and wouldn’t dance for you. He was too odd for your tastes, so you said, ‘He has a demon!’ Now, here I am eating and drinking with sinner, yes, but their are turning and receiving God’s mercy (hesed), but now you want me to mourn? And, if I don’t, then you call me a glutton and a drunk? Make up your mind. Or are you just bitter ‘elder brother’ types who hate hesed no matter what form it takes?”
You see what’s happening, right? The Pharisees, scribes, and other sundry religious folk are the elder brothers. They have many hoops which they want their wayward younger brothers to jump through in order to come home.
But what does God, the father, say, in Malachi 3:7? Simple words which you can imagine the father in the parable saying to himself again and again as he lingered by the road and prayed his lost son would return,
“Return to me, and I will return to you…”
They are words which, again to use you biblical imagination, you can picture the father whispering to himself as he watches his elder son working in the fields with a chip on his shoulder. “Return to me, my son, and I will return to you.”
Both sons are prodigals. Each of their own kind. But God’s disposition is the same toward them both: “Return…Come Home! I am waiting for you my beloved child.”
Questions to Ponder: Which kind of prodigal are you? How does God’s call to return apply in your life?
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.
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. (Revelation 21:23-24)