Losing the lost, a prodigal season


Day 2 – Losing the lost, a prodigal season


Today we will piggy back off of Day 1, and look more into Luke 15 and the Lost Parables.

First, review Ecclesiastes 3:6 –
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;”

The word translated as “lose” in the ESV above, is translated a few different ways by other versions. Let’s take a look:
NASB – to give up as lost
NIV – to give up
HCSB – to count as lost
NLT – to quit searching

While many Hebrew scholars would argue for one text being more reliable than another, it gives us a good snapshot of what could be chosen from the original Hebrew word le-abad.
(Normally transliterated with various accents and such things that are missing here.)

The essence of the phrase is that there is a time when you had something, and it is now lost to you. There was a time of searching for it even, but that time has past. There is a time to search no more, to throw your hands in the air and say, “Done.”

In yesterday’s post we were seeking God. He was seeking us before we could even begin to consider Him. He is a seeking kind of God. But I do not want our desire to understand a seeking God, keep us from understanding the fullness of God. This week we will address again and again the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. We’ll get to know Luke 15 pretty well, so find a bookmark. When we look at Scripture, God not only gives us a clear Law/Gospel message. He also gives us pieces of who He is. This is vitally important when we look at the Word.

Let’s read Luke 15 and see who is seeking and who has reached “done.” –

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”


The people in the first two parables do not give up. There is no quitting in these stories. They search and seek until the sheep and the coin are found. In the third parable we get a bigger picture. The third parable helps us to see that there is a time to stop searching. We can reach and seek and search, but sometimes God calls us to stay home, and wait, as He, Himself has done.

Have you ever had that relationship with someone? Have you ever felt God speaking to your heart to just stop? To let it be? To leave that work to Him now?

Here is a hard truth that might be a stretch, but I think it’s worth exploring. There are passages in the Old Testament where our hebrew word for lose (le-abad) literally means “to destroy” and the root of the word (abad) can mean “to perish” even.

The prodigal Father knew the risks. He knew the heartache at the end of the prodigal road for His son. He loved Him, desperately, deeply. But He watched Him walk away. He let him walk the path of destruction. He knew that his son may even perish. He metaphorically raised His hands in the air and said, “done” or, maybe more appropriately, “Thy will be done.” He let him be lost. He did not give up on him. He gave Him up, so that He could be found.

Sometimes there are those people and relationships and plans and ideas in our lives that God calls us to say, “done” to. He does it for a purpose. Don’t misunderstand, God’s variety of done is never uncompassionate. We can pray and ask and seek Him, while He works on the details. Sometimes, we experience the pain of heartbreak, we see the one we love, or the plans we held so tightly to, fall into destruction or even perish.

Fear not. We have a God who knows infinitely better than we. Who has each of our names written in His book and Who is waiting on the road. Rest in Him.
Discussion questions:
Have you ever lost something dear to your heart or of value in another way?
Have you ever felt called to say “done” in a search or in a relationship or with a plan?
How did you do it? How can it be done well? (These things are not mutually exclusive.)

Seeking, searching, and being wholly savable

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 6 – Ecclesiastes 3:6

Day One: Seeking, searching, and being wholly savable
Day Two: Losing the lost, a prodigal season
Day Three: Keeping the younger version of myself
Day Four: Casting away, a lesson on change
Day Five: God of the waiting

Heart verse:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16




Day 1 – Seeking, searching, and being wholly savable


Let’s open to our Ecclesiastes passage first, so we are literally on the same page, Ecclesiastes 3:6 –
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;”

Today we’re going to seek. 🙂

Zaccheus…he was a wee little man. I relate to Zaccheus, as only another short person can. People my whole life have been identifying for me that I am short. Thank you, keepers of all obvious things.

The Bible tells us Zaccheus was short, not to torture the poor man, but so that we can recognize just how badly he wanted to see Jesus. I have been there. Baptized as a small infant, I had the benefit of the Holy Spirit welling up in me since tininess. I was buried and risen with Christ in the waters. Like Zaccheus, I heard about Jesus. I heard He did miraculous things. I heard He cared. I heard He forgave. I am forever grateful to my parents, my pastors, and so many others in my life who walked me through the stories of Scripture and built and planted and tended my faith. I believed and do believe 100%. It isn’t a belief problem.

But at some point in young adult life, I realized I believed in Jesus, but I wanted a closer look. I wrestled and climbed every tree I could find to see if God was walking down the road on the other side. Doubt for me as a prodigal, like so many others, wasn’t about losing my faith or walking away. It was about wondering whether I was wholy lovable or even worth the effort. I knew Jesus gave me redemption, a free gift, but could He redeem my past? Could He redeem each sin? Could He redeem all the places where I had stolen, and pretended, and forfeited everything that I claimed to be dear?

I wonder if this is where Zaccheus was?

Read Luke 19:1-10 –
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him,“Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus tells us a few really important things about Himself in this passage. And that’s the business we are about – seeking Him.

#1 – “I must stay at your house today.”

Jesus wants to stay. He wants to stay with Zaccheus and He wants to stay with us. We are worth staying with. I don’t have to question it, because He tells me it over and over again in Scripture. Read the following Scripture passages and highlight what in these passages reminds you that you are a worthy place for Jesus, not just to visit, but to stay.
Jeremiah 31:2-3
Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
     the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

John 17:23
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Jesus wanted to stay with Zaccheus, not because he was perfect. Not because he had it all figured out. Zaccheus didn’t even make any promises for rectifying his untoward indebtedness until after Jesus came to stay with him. Jesus loves Zaccheus, reaches out His hand, and tells him, “You are worth my time. Worth my energy. Let’s figure this out together.”

#2 – “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Ok, so Jesus didn’t say it, but those around Him give us the pleasure of a small window into Jesus with their statement here, and Jesus saw it to be worthy of recording. God-breathed Scripture didn’t leave it out.

He has gone…”

You can hear the gasping of the Saturday Night Live church lady. “Sinners??!!”
I have no patience for pointing and sin labeling. Jesus calls it like it is, but He doesn’t heap on shame in the process.

In Matthew 5:46, Jesus tells us with His own words –
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

What reward is in loving those without sin? Those who fulfill all our desires for us? Those who never sin against us? Jesus was talking hard stuff here. “Why wouldn’t I eat with sinners?” is Jesus’s response throughout Scripture. There is “reward” in giving to a relationship that isn’t perfect. Where the people aren’t just giving to you, but you are filling and giving as well. There will be heartache. Yes. There will be struggle. Yes, but there will be a life shared, and that, is infinitely better than fake perfection in relationship.
Jesus, himself, loves us in our sin. Don’t mistake, he doesn’t love sin. But He doesn’t love me more as I confess. He loves me the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We draw closer to Him in our confession and as we experience absolution, but chief of sinners though I be, He loved me in the beginning. He’ll love me at the end. He loves me in the middle.

#3 – “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

And here is the crux of the matter. This is how seeking works. Jesus- He seeks. Continually pursuing. Sending people and words into our life that guide us perpetually back to Him. He saves us as lost and condemned sinners. He saves us as we grow and learn throughout our life. He saves us in our darkest, and in our days full of light.

We seek Jesus because He loves us and that Spirit of Love rises up in us. We can also tamp it down. But when you read these stories of real people in Scripture, you begin to see and understand and rest in who Jesus is. You want to know Him more and more and more. You can’t stop seeking Him. It’s never enough Him.
Because He seeks us, we can be fully confident in ever seeking Him.

I’ll leave you with this week’s heart verse, Hebrews 4:16 –
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Approach the throne. Soak in the mercy. Seek some grace. Embrace the help.
He loves you. Keep seeking, sister. You are fully and wholly found.
Discussion questions:
Take a look at Luke 15. Which one of these “Lost” parables do you most relate to?
Read Luke 15:1 again – who was drawing near to Jesus? Highlight it. Over and over again in Scriptures, He invites people in to draw near.
Tell us about a Bible passage or a person in your life that made you want to know more about Jesus.

Another kind of refraining



Day 5 – Another kind of refraining
In looking through the Biblical uses of the word embrace, I came across this passage in Proverbs and felt I would be remiss if we did not address this topic in the space we have here.

Adultery.

It sounds like such a harsh word in our culture. Images of The Scarlet Letter come to mind. The word sounds labeling, to some people, maybe archaic, and to others shaming. Here is reality:

God cares about sex. He thinks it’s a good idea. He created it. He also cares about sex in the boundary of marriage. This is a hard line. If you were with us yesterday about boundaries and margins, this is a tight boundary. When I speak about this, please know that it is as a sinner saved by grace alone. I have been, as Paul says, “the worst of sinners.” I sit in no place of judgement. But not speaking is not an option, if it means someone will not hear the beautiful message of Grace that God has for us.

That said. Sex outside of marriage is dark stuff. It leaves devastation and destruction, fear and regret. Make no mistake, God redeems even this. Of course He does! But the world will tell you that you don’t need His redemption. That you do not need Him to stand in that place of forgiveness for this particular thing, after all it’s no big deal.

Hear me now: It is a big deal.

There are always aftershocks. Satan tells us that sex outside of marriage is no big deal and it’s only between two people. The reality is that these waves of emotional shocks, physical shocks, and raw consequences effect the whole people of God. And God cares…for one sparrow and His entire flock.

Read Proverbs 5:15-23 below and let’s see what wisdom we can glean from the Word, as well as some Grace…

Drink water from your own cistern,
    flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
    streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
    and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
    and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
    a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
    be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.”

This passage is gorgeous. How like God to use such beautiful language to tell us about something the world would degrade so often! He truly is magnificent. Let’s work through the passage just a bit.

  1. 15 – “Drink from your own cistern.”
Enough said. Not your own cistern at any given time. Not your cistern that feels right, but the one cistern that is your spouse in the one flesh relationship. And listen for the Gospel…drink from it, sister! Drink deep and share one another in the marriage bed.
  1. 17 – “Let them be for yourself alone and not for strangers with you.”
Marriage is between two people. Not 3, not 7, but 2 (Mark 10:8). This brings two specific issues to mind.

Privacy – be sensitive to your partner, no crass joking about your sex life or even over- sharing without permission. I’m talking about girl talk around the table too, not just men acting like boys. Be aware of how your partner feels about conversations about sex and use sensitivity.

Pornography – I believe strongly that God has a hard and fast boundary on this one too, and it is demonstrated in this passage. Porn invites other people into your sex life, with or without your partners permission. It is NOT ok. It is degrading to you, degrading to your spouse, degrading to the women and men on the screen. It does not build up in any way. Porn is not ok together as a couple, nor is it ok individually – married or single. No matter what age you are, porn messes with your brain, your future and your current sex life, and your relationship with God. If you have questions about this or need help, please let me know. As a therapist, I can explain more, and there are resources of grace to restore.

  1. 19b-20 …”be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?”
God’s way of addressing things always strikes me as utterly perfect, usually gentle, always very clear. “Why should you be…”

Yes, why?

God asks us why we would want to give up the abundant life for scraps on the floor. I have been there. It isn’t worth it. Ever. His plans, although a challenge at times, of self-discipline and unclarity, are always better. Always. Why would we embrace the forbidden, when we have the whole garden for ourselves. We trade our relationship of trust with Him and with our spouse or the spouse He has planned for us, for something that falls through our fingers like bathwater from a faucet.

Girls, he redeems even that. He redeems all of it. Hold on tight to that.

The Hebrew here offers us special insight, related to our Ecclesiastes study. The verb translated “be intoxicated” in verses 19 and 20 can also be translated “to be led astray” or to be led far off.* It is so easy to be cast away by another’s influence.
But I have Good News. The prodigal was where? Luke 15:20 tells us he was “a long way off.” Cast far away of his own accord and the shame built around him by the so-called friends he was entrenched with. Far off means nothing to God, though. He is the One who removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Far off is speaking His language. He reaches His hand in the pit of our present or the pit of our past and offers Life.

Life!

There is certainly a time to refrain from embracing. I hope this devotion speaks Life to you and not death and shame. He treasures you. You are precious. Beautiful to Him. Shout praises for His ever faithful redemption in the cross and empty tomb of Christ our Lord. And rest in His bosom. Rest in His Word. Rest in His shelter. When shame and regret press in. When we are called to refrain from embracing in this world, hold fast to Him, embrace the One who loves you more than anything.   


Discussion questions:
What is something your spouse or someone you love does for you that makes you feel valued and respected?
Have you ever seen the devastating effects of adultery? How were others around the situation effected? (You do not need to be specific.)