Have you ever lost something that you treasure? Maybe it was a family heirloom. Maybe it was a gold coin that you put in a “safe place” so you wouldn’t lose it, but you lost it because you forgot where the “safe place” was. If you’ve been around church for very long, you’ve heard the three parables that Jesus uses in today’s Bible reading from Luke 15: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.
I think we have named these parables incorrectly. The parables aren’t about what was lost, but rather the seeker who doesn’t stop seeking until what was lost has been found. With each story, Jesus says that there’s a party once what was lost was found. It’s a cause for celebration! Whether it’s a celebration in the neighborhood, in Heaven, or around the backyard barbecue pit, everyone celebrates with the person who found what was lost. Perhaps these parables should be named The Searching Shepherd, The Searching Woman, and the Searching Father.
Leaving ninety-nine sheep may seem pretty foolish. Think about it. What if while you’re looking for the one lost sheep, several of the other sheep wander off? Then you have to look for all the other lost sheep. You’re only down 1% of your original flock. Why not just count your losses? Why risk running into the bear that’s enjoying its fresh lamb chops? You still have ninety-nine sheep that need to be tended to. Yes, it seems pretty foolish to leave the ninety-nine. Unless you’re the one lost sheep. Once you find the sheep, you have to share the joy; it’s uncontainable and it doesn’t seem like the joy is complete until you share it!
You lose one of your ten silver coins. Where did you leave it? Maybe your other pocket? No, it’s not there. Maybe in a mug in the cupboard? No, it’s not there either. Where could it be? You’ve lost 10% of your coins. Ten percent of your savings. You’ve got to find it! So you turn on the lights and open the blinds. You make an excuse to rearrange the furniture so you can vacuum up the dust bunnies and look for that lost coin. And when you find it, you want to share your joy with your friends and family! You have to share the joy; it’s uncontainable and it doesn’t seem like the joy is complete until you share it!
One of your sons runs away from home, taking a third of your assets with him. (The older son gets a “double-portion” when you die, so the second son gets a third) You’ve just lost half of your offspring. This hurts a lot worse than losing one percent of your sheep. This hurts a lot worse than losing ten percent of your assets. You still have your older son who works alongside you. He never complains about the hard work he does out in the hot field.
Then one day, as you scan the horizon — just as you’ve done every day since your younger son left — you see something moving toward you. Is it a deer? Maybe a bear? As whatever it
But despite all of the disgust you feel, despite all of the disgust you smell, your heart melts as he falls at your feet. You throw your arms around him and give him the biggest bear hug ever! He’s home! He’s finally home! Your lost son has been found! He starts mumbling, asking something about coming back as a servant. What? How could you ever treat him as a servant? He’s your son! He’s always been your son. And he’ll always be your son! You shout to your servants! “We’re having a party! You, go grab the family ring! And you, go kill the best-of-show steer!”
One of your servants whispers something in your ear that rips away the celebratory mood. So you set out looking for your older son. You’re just as intent to find him as you were to find your younger son. As he angrily shares his heart you discover that he too was lost. He was right beside you all these years, but he was so far away. Your work is cut out for you. You have to build relationships with both sons to restore both of them back to their rightful place in your family.
That’s your Father’s heart! Maybe you rebelled and sowed your wild oats. Or maybe you sulked your oats in bitterness as you watched other people experience God’s blessings. Regardless of how, just like all of us, you rebelled. But your Father has been waiting. Not passively waiting, but actively waiting. Actually, He pursued you in your rebellion. It may seem like you ran so far away. He may have seemed to be so far in the distance. But He never lost sight of you. And He’s ready to restore you to your rightful place as His son or daughter.
Repent. Come back.
And watch Him celebrate!
The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 (CSB)
In yesterday’s Bible reading, we looked at Jesus’ comments on counting the cost and that not everyone who
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus says that God has hidden some things from some people and He has revealed some things to some people. (Luke 10:21-22)
Why would God hide things from some people? There is an element of God hiding things in order that we might seek them out. (Proverbs 25:2) But from yesterday’s reading, not all who want to follow Jesus really want to follow; they have divided loyalties. (Luke 9:59, 61)
Of course, we all have divided loyalties. The Seventy-two Disciples whom Jesus sends out in Luke 10:1ff return amazed at their authority over demons. They were looking at the fruits of their ministry instead of the root of their ministry, i.e., the One who gave them the authority. (Luke 10:19-20)
God occasionally gives us a glimpse of His glory. Yesterday, we read of Jesus’ Transfiguration. Peter made the understatement of the millennium, “It is good for us to be here.” (Luke 9:33)
Have you ever been shocked
Recently, someone close to me has needed medical help. God has given her a job where she has contacts with some of the best doctors in the country. Rather than a multi-month wait, God orchestrated one of the best of the best doctors to see her in a matter of weeks. If God chooses to heal her through this doctor’s hands (as opposed to a miraculous way, which we would also welcome!), she will have surgery next month to repair a repetitive stress injury.
I’m glad that God has shown me a glimpse of His glory through this situation, to see His hand move as He plays the Master Conductor bringing everything into alignment in perfect timing. We will rejoice regardless of how God chooses to bring healing, but we must keep our eyes on the Healer rather than the healing. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfected of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)
God cares for His kids more than we could think or ask (Ephesians 3:20). But more than the things He does for us, the most remarkable thing is that He adopted us in the first place. We sure didn’t deserve it! In
If you’re one of His, spend a few minutes today reveling in the remarkable, stunning reality that you were adopted, too! If you aren’t one of His, or if you aren’t sure if you’re one of His, please reach out to me today!
All that thrills my soul is Jesus
He is more than life to me.
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see
As a pastor, I receive emails from time to time asking me to complete a survey in exchange for a copy of an ebook. I completed one of those surveys this morning. To be honest, I really didn’t like my answers!
Today’s survey questions asked about my prayer life:
- How much time do you spend praying?
- What do you spend the most time praying for
? How often do you pray with other people?
- When was the last time you spent more than ten minutes in prayer?
- When was the last time you spent more than thirty minutes praying?
- When was the last time you spent more than an hour praying?
- How satisfied are you with your prayer life?
In today’s Bible reading from Colossians 4, Paul tells the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer. In light of today’s survey questions, I thought I’d dig a little into what Paul actually wanted his readers to do.
The English word devote is translated from a couple of different Greek words. But the words Paul uses in Colossians 4:2 are used elsewhere in a similar way. Here are a few examples.
- They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:14 (CSB)
- They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (CSB)
- Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the
temple,and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, Acts 2:46 (CSB)
- But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Acts 6:4 (CSB)
One of my Greek lexicons (a fancy word for a dictionary) says that this Greek word means,
1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one.
2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing.
3. to continue all the time in a place.
4. to persevere and not to faint.
5. to show one’s self courageous for.
6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly.
Another lexicon says this Greek word means, “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty—‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in.’”
Let me merge a couple of those definitions: To give unremitting care to something with intense effort, despite
In other words, “devoting oneself to prayer” is much more than “saying your prayers”. It’s much more than going through a list of prayer requests. In the context of praying with other people, it’s much more than merely updating the names of people and their needs on our corporate prayer list.
My answers didn’t fit very well with what Paul was telling the Colossians to do!
How would you answer those questions? Would you be satisfied with your answers?
So what are some practical things you can do today to change your answers to fit more with the actual instructions Paul was giving the Colossian church?
Write your answers in a journal. Then devote yourself to prayer.
Periodically go back and review your answers and see how God has grown you in the spiritual discipline of prayer.
 Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 662. Print.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that a mystery hidden through the ages has been revealed in Jesus Christ: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:6 (CSB)
The Gentiles are included! And not just included, but they’re co-heirs to God’s promise! God’s plans for His people weren’t limited to the Jewish people!
If you look back through the history of mankind, however, this mystery was hinted at in several places. Look at Rahab, the prostitute who concealed the Hebrew spies; she and her family were saved when God destroyed the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:23, 25) In his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew records three other women, all of whom are Gentiles: Tamar, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. The mystery, however, was that God’s plan — from before the foundation of the world — was that God would include the Gentiles, not just a few incidental individuals.
God has given us the ability to imagine some pretty spectacular things. And Paul concludes the chapter praising God for His ability to more than anyone can ask or even imagine. Including the Gentiles in God’s plans were outside the realm of most people’s imagination. But God did it.
You may have some big “asks”. Did you know that God can come through, not only according to your
There are so many things about God and His Kingdom that I don’t understand. And it seems the longer I walk with Him, the more I know… and the less I know.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about a partial hardening of the hearts of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25) I think what this means is that God has hardened their hearts — as He did to Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 4:21 — for a time, and all for His glory. And as soon as the set number (who knows what it is?) of Gentiles are saved, God will remove the veil that covers their eyes to see God’s Kingdom at hand. Until then, God will continue to graft Gentiles into the True Vine.
I’ll repeat what I said a few days ago: we need to approach things from a Biblical, God-centered viewpoint when we ask questions about God’s unconditional election of some people. (I say “unconditional election” because there is no condition that anyone can meet that would earn God’s approval.) If no one deserves salvation in the first place, and if only a miraculous work of God can save someone, then we can only plead for God to save our family members and friends who don’t (yet) know Jesus.
Yes, plead for their salvation. Plead for their sensitivity to God’s voice. Plead for a soft, moldable heart. Plead for God to overwhelm them with a sense of His presence so that they call out to Him. Plead for opportunities for you and others to talk with them. And tell them lovingly about how good God is. For what it’s worth, lovingly telling them what God is doing in your life and how their lives can be changed will probably work out better than continually beating them over the head with a 25lb Bible every time you talk with them.
To be able to answer the question of why God would save one and not save another is above my pay grade. I have to leave that up to God because I know that He is good and His ways are always right. I have to leave it up to God, but I have to be willing to be part of bringing them to Christ. Oftentimes, we are — at least partly — the answer to our own prayers.
You may be heartbroken about a child or grandchild who no longer goes to church. Or maybe it’s a sister or a brother. Maybe it’s a friend. People can become disenfranchised with
But also realize that it isn’t about going to church. It’s about a relationship with Jesus Christ. If someone dropped out of church, it may have nothing to do with church and everything to do with not having a relationship with Jesus; in other words, they aren’t saved! Perhaps your prayers should be, “God, please bring them back!” Or perhaps your prayers should be, “God please save them!”