So, are you a tax collector or a sinner? I know you don’t want to be one of the scribes or Pharisees, but those are all the people in the audience today. And you definitely want to be here when Jesus starts telling stories.
Turnaround stories. Repentance stories.
The King James Version calls a tax collector a “publican,” which sounds vaguely British, like a friendly chap who runs a family pub. But two thousand years ago it meant someone who took your money and gave it to Caesar. Not a popular guy. Right up there with a sinner.
And these really are sinners, make no mistake. “Notorious and especially wicked” (AMP), they’re “outcasts” (GNT), flat out “bad people” (WE).
Maybe so, but they’ve come to hear Jesus. I like them already.
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. Luke 15:1
They aren’t looking for a handout or a healing. Aren’t even trying to nab his autograph. They’ve come to absorb his teaching. To experience his love and grace in person.
But… Luke 15:2
But what, we wonder? Why stop now?
Luke wants to be sure we don’t miss what’s unfolding here. While we’re watching supposedly bad people do a good thing, some supposedly good people are about to do a bad thing.
…the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered… Luke 15:2
We know these guys: the teachers of the Law of Moses, also called “scribes” (ESV). And the Pharisees? They’re the ones who make sure the Law is kept.
They really should be the Good Guys of the Bible. But they’re too busy “grumbling” (CEV), “complaining” (AMP), and “whispering among themselves” (NIRV).
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2
The food isn’t the problem. It’s the fact that Jesus is hanging out with these undesirables, extending friendship to them, and yes, breaking bread with them.
Right now, though, he’s telling stories. Parables, if you prefer. We’ll jump over the first two—The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin—and go straight to the one that perfectly demonstrates this week’s theme: Embrace Repentance.
There was a man who had two sons. Luke 15:11
One sentence, and we already spy trouble on the horizon. Two sons in the Bible? Oh brother. Cain and Abel. Jacob and Esau. We’ve seen this movie.
The younger one said to his father,… Luke 15:12
No surprise there. Younger siblings always make the best rebels.
“Father, give me my share of the estate.” Luke 15:12
I can almost hear the father sighing. He knows this boy, knows he is going to waste every penny of his money.
Everything about this son’s words reveals his less-than-admirable character traits. He’s demanding, greedy, selfish, and impatient: “Give me now the part of your property that I am supposed to receive someday” (ERV).
Personally, I love Eugene Peterson’s take: “Father, I want right now what’s coming to me” (MSG). He’s going to get what’s coming to him, all right!
Alas, the father knows this son will only grow up when he falls down.
We hear no arguments, no slamming doors, just a parent who must do the hardest thing of all: let go.
So he divided his property between them. Luke 15:12
This was “his wealth” (ERV), “his assets” (NET), “his living” (ASV), not his spare change. In fact, the father “divided all he had between the two sons” (WE).
One word comes to mind: sacrifice. The Father may not be named in this story, but we know Who he is.
Not long after that,… Luke 15:13
Don’t you know this son is wasting zero time? “A few days later” (NLT), he has itchy feet. “As soon as he could convert his share into cash” (CJB), he is gone, gone, gone.
…the younger son got together all he had,… Luke 15:13
And he had a lot, because he had a generous father. Even so, the young man “packed up everything he owned” (CEV), apparently with little thought of returning.
…set off for a distant country… Luke 15:13
Uh-oh. This can’t be good. Not this “foreign land” (PHILLIPS), this “far country” (ESV). Some of us (my hand is up) have spent a long time in the far country. It’s not a happy place, but it can look that way from a distance.
…and there squandered his wealth in wild living. Luke 15:13
Squandered is right. He “wasted everything he had” (GW), “living like a fool” (ERV). Been, been, been there. Born to be “wild” (NLV), and all that.
When I began speaking for Women of Faith some years ago, the speakers gathered to discuss our messages and see how they might all fit together. We were encouraged to begin with a strong opening line, at which I brightened and said, “Great! I know just what I’ll say: ‘I once slept with three men in one night.’”
Girlfriend, the looks on their faces!
Then and now, I don’t say such a thing to shock you; I say it to show you that God can choose anyone, and God can use anyone.
Thirty-some years ago, when I was living and dying in the far country, no one would have said, “Now, that girl will be teaching the Bible someday.” No way.
You wouldn’t have pictured it. I couldn’t have imagined it. Yet God already planned it.
He knows the end of our stories, beloved, and he isn’t finished writing yours.
After he had spent everything,… Luke 15:14
Just as we feared, the prodigal son has “used up his resources” (CEB), and has “nothing left” (GW). That’s the far country for you. Drains. You. Dry.
…there was a severe famine in that whole country,… Luke 15:14
We’re talking “a mighty famine” (ASV), with “no food anywhere” (NCV). Oh dear. That would get this girl’s attention for certain.
…and he began to be in need. Luke 15:14
Actually, he’s been in need all along, but only now is he starting to realize it, “to feel the pinch” (CJB). He hasn’t hit bottom yet, but he can see it from here.
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. Luke 15:15
He isn’t simply working for the guy, “he attached himself” (CJB), downright “glued himself” (AMP). When we get desperate enough, we will take a handout from anyone, do anything we have to do, just to keep our chins above water.
See the sinners in Jesus’ audience, nodding their heads? They get this. They’ve done this. They feel for this young man.
The scribes and Pharisees, meanwhile, are shaking their heads. Not only have they never been there, they wouldn’t even think of making the trip. Their compassion for the young man is nil. Serves him right.
We dare not think that way, beloved.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating,… Luke 15:16
Yuck. Doesn’t look very appetizing. Nothing but “husks” (ASV) and “bean pods” (GNT). Yet he’s “so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop” (MSG).
Won’t anyone come to his rescue?
…but no one gave him anything. Luke 15:16
Hard to watch, isn’t it? Every parent of a prodigal knows the agony of seeing a grown child make one bad move after another, digging themselves deeper and deeper into a pit.
A pig pen? It doesn’t get much worse than that. It’s time, Lord. Help him, please.
When he came to his senses,… Luke 15:17
His senses literally spring to life. (I’ve always wondered if his sense of smell kicked in first. Pigs? How did I end up here?)
Once “he came to himself” (ESV), our prodigal “realized what he was doing” (NCV), and “began to think clearly again” (NIRV).
…he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” Luke 15:17
As the fog lifts, his first thoughts are of home. And of his father. If you are the parent of a prodigal, be encouraged: your son or daughter has not forgotten you.
This young man knows what must be done. We hear no hesitancy in his voice. Only conviction.
“I will set out and go back to my father…” Luke 15:18
He is looking homeward as he declares, “I will arise” (DRA), “I’ll go at once” (GW), “I’m going back” (MSG). Though the word repent isn’t in this story, we hear it running in the background, like a soundtrack for a movie. Repent, repent, repent.
Now he begins practicing his homecoming speech.
…and say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” Luke 15:18
Bless him. He is humbled in his lowly circumstances, humbled in his flesh, and humbled in spirit. He knows he is a sinner now.
“I am no longer worthy to be called your son…” Luke 15:19
I’ve said those words. Perhaps you have too. Lord, I’m not worthy to be your child. Yet he calls us his children. Undeniably. Absolutely. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
I can change my name, dye my hair, move to the other side world, but I’ll still always be the daughter of Curt and Betty. Always.
Even so, the prodigal son is willing to be less than a son now.
“…make me like one of your hired men.” Luke 15:19
Our mouths hang open in wonder, watching this Bad Boy become a hero, right in front of our eyes. Not because he’s big and strong, but because he’s humble and weak.
So he got up and went to his father… Luke 15:20
He’s a man of his word now. He said he would go and he is.
It’s a long road home, made especially hard when his hands are empty, and his stomach is growling, and he is wondering what kind of reception he might find.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…Luke 15:20
Oh, Lord. You always knew he’d come home.
“He was still at a distance” (GW), yet the father caught sight of him. No wonder: he never took his eyes off him! He’s been watching that road since the day his son left.
…and was filled with compassion for him; Luke 15:20
No anger, no judgment, only grace. He is “moved with pity” (AMP), he is “stirred by mercy” (WYC), and he is “filled with tender love for his son” (NIRV).
Jesus is telling this story, hoping we will get the Big Picture. If we want to know how our heavenly Father will treat us when we turn back to him, this is it. This is what repentance looks like. And this is what forgiveness looks like.
…he ran to his son,… Luke 15:20
I can never read those words without tearing up. Love, on the run.
I don’t think the son is running, though. No, I think he’s trudging with his head down, dreading seeing the disappointment in his father’s face.
Then he hears the sound of feet, pounding against the hard ground, and looks up in time to see the love shining in his father’s eyes before he’s enveloped in the man’s embrace.
…[he] threw his arms around him… Luke 15:20
The father’s strong arms are wrapped around his emaciated son’s body and he is hugging him for all he’s worth. Since we had no mention of a shower, we can only assume this grown boy has piggy bits stuck to his clothes.
Does the father mind? He does not.
I’ve asked parents of prodigals if their son or daughter returned home smelling of cigarettes and whiskey and who knows what, would they still throw their arms around that child? They would, without a moment’s hesitation.
…and kissed him. Luke 15:20
This isn’t a sign of affection; it’s a stamp of approval. This is my son. This one. Mine.
What has the son done? Turned toward home. That’s it. He repented.
What has the father done? Everything. He saw, he loved, he ran, he embraced, he kissed. He let his son go and welcomed him home, without a harsh word or any mention of punishment.
Notice the son hasn’t spoken yet. Hasn’t said his little speech, hasn’t asked for forgiveness. But has he demonstrated repentance? Yes, indeed.
Now come the words, which the son needs to say and the father needs to hear.
The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:21
Just like he practiced it, word for word.
Has his father already extended forgiveness? Yes. But saying the words is important for both of them. It’s why we confess our sins, even though God already knows what we’ve done and what we are going to say.
Even so, this father cannot wait to bless his child.
But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.” Luke 15:22
Whether it’s the father’s own garment, “or a ceremonial robe for an honored guest” (EXB), it’s the “finest robe in the house” (NLT).
And he’s not done yet.
“Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” Luke 15:22
That’s “the family ring” (MSG), so no one will doubt his “sonship and authority” (EXB). And the footwear? Well, servants go barefoot—sons wear sandals.
“Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” Luke 15:23
This young man didn’t go from feast to famine—he went from famine to feast! Though the mother in me worries about him eating too much too soon, the father has good cause to celebrate.
“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:20
All that matters is he’s home.
That’s what our heavenly Father wants for us as well. Come home, dear sister. Wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
Now, it’s your turn:
Time for another true confession from your Lizzie: it’s four o’clock in the morning. My eyes are crossed and my fingers are stiff from too many hours at the keyboard. But I cannot bear to be late again with this week’s blog, and wanted to be sure to post it before sunrise.
Rather than me expanding on the questions below, might you answer one? If you’re reading this via email, simply click on the Embrace Grace Bible Study headline, and it will take you directly to my website, where you can Post a Comment at the bottom of my teaching. Thanks so much for your willingness to add your voice to mine.
Now, here are this week’s questions from Embrace Grace:
Has the Lord revealed to you an aspect of your life that might require a change of heart or a shift in direction? If so, how will you respond?
If you struggle with the need to be perfect, what makes it difficult for you to accept God’s grace—and your imperfection?
What would true peace look like in your life?
Bless you for taking time to share a bit of your story. I count it a blessing to encourage you at any hour!
Your sister, Liz
I have always enjoyed your watching your videos and reading your books. I haven’t read your devotionals here before but wanted to spend more time reading and thinking about the Bible, especially during this Lenten season. As I think about one aspect of my life that might require a change of heart I think about my commitment to our church council. I have been on the council for at least 6 years and chairperson for 2 and 1/2 years. I felt it was time to get off of council and spend time supporting my husband with his “ministry” on a Sunday afternoon. He has a “Cancer Philosophy Clinic” which is really counseling and at the same time some of the ladies from the church have a “medical cafe” that is really just a support group for cancer patients and their families. I haven’t been involved in these although my husband has been doing them for more than 3 years and goes to many places in Japan. Most of the places I would not be involved in but I could help out at the one by our church. I have been involved in various ministries over the years at my church but really don’t know where or how God wants to use me. I need to spend time listening to him and what his plan for me is. I would appreciate prayer as I seek to find how he wants me to serve him through the church.
I have always ‘tried’ to be good.. I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘bad girl’, but in saying that I have never considered myself perfect or sinless. I understand we all fall short of the glory of God, including myself. I’m in desperate need for the grace and forgiveness of God just as much as the next person! However, I’ve always struggled to see how my life parallels with those in some Bible stories, such as this one. I want to feel just as wanted and loved as the prodigal son was by his Father.. But I don’t want to screw my life up anymore than it is to do that.. But I don’t want to be considered the prodigal’s brother who resented his brothers repentance and favour either. So I guess I’ll just continue to try and be the ‘goodietwoshoes’ that I probably look like, but in my own way seek my Fathers love and acceptance and be joyful for all others who find it too. I wonder if this makes sence to anyone?? It can so so hard to describe one’s heart. But I love God so much and I try so hard to do His will, even though many, or should I say most times I fail to achieve. Thank goodness for God’s Grace – for the goodies and the baddies! 😉
Dear Colleen, you are definitely making sense. You are absolutely loved by God every bit as much as the father loved his prodigal son. And you don’t you have to go to the far country to experience God’s grace! I would gently encourage you to let go of the idea of “goodies” and “baddies.” There ARE no goodies. None. God’s Word makes that abundantly clear: “No one is good–except God alone.” Any righteousness we have comes from him. Any goodness we have is his goodness working in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to live in a pig pen to see that we need Jesus–every day, every hour, every minute. I think living in that awareness is what helps us remain grateful for God’s grace. Trying to be good still puts the burden AND the credit on us. Giving God the glory when he does something good through us is where true JOY lies. Hugs to you!
Thanks Liz:) Yes , you’re absolutely right.
As much grace as I have been given in my life in spite of my “been there, done that” past, I sometimes find myself not having as much compassion as I should toward others who are still “in that”.
It is not that I have forgotten where I came from, it is when it seems like such blatant rebellion toward God that frustrates me into being in danger of being judgmental. Yet, who am I to judge? We live in a society where the devil has free reign and Christianity pales in it’s shadows. I think fear in my case sparks discord in my heart toward such rebellion. I was not a Christian during the worst of my “bad girl” period, but even in my Christianity I am the prodigal child in the areas of sin that I struggle with. It is being laid on my heart to be more compassionate toward others, being confident that God knows their hearts and if I may be used as a tool in bringing someone back home, I need to be ready and willing to show that person the same love that I was given on my journey home.Christ died for us while we were still sinners, not when we had it all together.
I pray that I continually have a repentant heart, because as sure as I have life, there is sin within it. Everyday I try to stay focused on the prize set before me of eternity, but I think it is time for more compassion in what I see in my peripheral vision range. We all, as Christians, set our sights on heaven , yet cannot get so caught up in our own walk that we forget to cheer on those around us. I am not the brother who is mad how the father is toward the prodigal son when he does return home, I am one who is cheering him on and celebrating with tear filled eyes at the reunion. I just know I need a softer heart for those who are still “out there”. Once you know the truth of God’s word things become black and white with right and wrong. The Pharisees became so rigid with “right” that they became self righteous and worked their way right out of God’s favor. I never want to become so rigid in trying to get things right that the love isn’t there for those struggling, or for myself when I do not measure up.
God’s love is greater than all of my imperfections, sin, shortcomings, as well as everyone else’s so we (I) need to accept the beautiful gift of Grace that we have been given and keep on keeping on with a repentant and loving heart.
That’s wonderful what you wrote! Yes, I too need to have a more compassionate heart for those ‘still in it’.. Thank you.
Our son (who is married with two beautiful young sons) is living a life of extreme luxury and is in a state of indulging his appetite for physical wants. He is farming and he has gotten himself so over his head financially yet he continues to buy on the “never never plan”. I have had many sleepless nights crying out to God to open our son’s eyes to the path of destruction he is on. Yesterday while speaking to a dear friend who has a prodigal daughter (who has gotten caught up in a life of drugs) she told me I need to just “let go and let God”. While I can continue praying for my son I need to surrender him to The Lord to allow Him to bring our son to the place where he turns his life over to The Lord. I will trust in The Lord and I will praise Him for what He has done and will continue to do in our son’s life!
It’s so hard to accept grace when you feel like you need to be perfect. It’s especially hard when you have family members who watch your every move because you’re the only Christian they know. Any misstep is immediately noticed and remembered. I’m so glad that God can forgive my imperfections and that he helps and guides me everyday to be the light for others to see.
Dear Liz, I love your writings, fiction or Bible studies. They are easy to read and yet demand further thought. I remember at least one time crying out to God, “I need to know you love me even if I never do anything for you ever again”. I realize now, that what I do has nothing to do with God’s love for me. He loves me! I have struggled with a need to be perfect in everyone’s eyes because when you are a people pleaser that’s what you do. Unfortunately when I became a believer that didn’t die immediately, it is a day to day struggle. After many years of walking with the Lord I have to say that repentance comes a little quicker than my early walk because I have gotten into agreement with what Jesus has said. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my burden is light.” And I say to Him, “Here I am again, Lord, in need of forgiveness, for where can I go but to You, the One God has sent.”
Dear Ms. Liz:
So many times you reach me just where I’m at. If you were sitting next to me I’d hug you tight. Thank you a million times over for sitting up late working on this. I’ve been struggling for a few days with what my mother called the “gloomies.” Your words soothed my aching heart today.
I long for peace in my life. I would not have to get up early and rush off to a job that I hate and feel like it hates me back; I could relax and be rested in that all is well; I could spend time doing the assignments that God gives (purpose driven life); no more trying to please a dozen different hostile people in hopes of keeping a paycheck; time for my fur kids, my family of origin, family of my own making, sitting in the porch with a cup of tea and breathing. Just breathing…
I hope you receive a special blessing today. Know that I whispered a prayer for you!
Having been a prodigal and the Mum of two prodigals, this means So Much to me !!!!!
God Bless you Liz !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Honored to encourage you, Lynn!
I feel like the prodigal son today. I have repented for our over-spending and asked for God’s help with our finances. I don’t feel God’s embrace. I am struggling because I don’t know what God wants me to do. I am trying to be silent and listen. I am discouraged but I continue to say “My hope is in you Lord”.
Oh, Gina, by listening and waiting and putting your hope in the Lord, you are SO doing the right thing. Even if you don’t “feel” his embrace, rest assured he continues to hold you close. A revisit of the blog on Embrace Faith might be helpful just now. Praying for you.
This so aptly describes the true “shock and awe” of our spiritual battle. The shock of who I was…so filthy when I was living in the world and flesh. And now the beautiful awe of being washed by Jesus Christ. I remember when He first took off my dirty robe and replaced it with His robe of righteousness. Thank you Liz for all you do for our Father and us!
As a pastor, I daily struggle with my own imperfections, but I know the God who made me loves me. At one time in my life I was far from ‘pastor material’, but God took my hand, lifted me up and let me begin again. God’s grace is never ending and His mercies always ready for us. When I feel overwhelmed with the work of ministry, I need only remember who I was and I am able to begin again. Thanks for the reminder.
At Mass last Sunday, the priest’s homily tied together all of the conversion stories from the readings: Isaiah, the disciples becoming “fishers of men”, and Saul becoming Paul. I realized that the one thing these stories all had in common is that when God called to them, they said “YES”, even though they felt unworthy. Isaiah said, “Here I am! Send me.”, and I asked myself if that is my answer to the Lord every day (sad to say, it is not). So my plan for Lent is to try to say “YES” to God, starting with joining a Lenten small faith group that I had previously declined to join because I thought I was too busy. At that moment I realized that I had better not be “too busy” to say yes to God, and here was my chance to accept the grace that was being offered to me on a silver platter.
Thank you for your weekly Bible study posts – I recently found you through A Holy Experience, and have been looking forward to them every Wednesday 🙂
Bridget, I LOVE your plan to say “YES” to God! Can’t wait to hear what you learn in your small faith group this Lenten season.
Like Lynn J., I too, have a son who is eating a bit too well. Well, not too well, just lots and bad choices in his diet. He has one son. I do pray for them, expecially my grandson who has no idea how to eat good foods. Doesn’t like “good” foods. I guess I also have to let go and let God. Thanks for doing this blog. It makes me think and makes me keep my thoughts on the better things of life.
I just read some chapters in Job, and now your Bible Study on repentance. I am not sure what God is saying to me, but I know that He is working in my life. Thanks for taking your time to write to us, your honesty beforeGod, and your humor.
Oh, THANK-YOU, Liz, as the mother of a prodigal, I WAS SO BLESSED by your encouraging words this morning! This is something a struggle with everyday–keep having to leave it with God morning by morning!
As I was scrolling down to the bottom of the comments I thought I was reading my own story when I read Lynn Zensen’s note! Except my son has 2 little daughters! Thank-you AGAIN for your encouraging words to us moms! God has given me His Encouraging Word, but it is always good to hear it again from others! God’s Richest Blessings on You, Mary
Just this morning I was thinking about the year 1995 when my husband left me and our sons. Lets just say I went a little crazy for the next few years after. My son Jeremy was only 15 years old. I wasn’t there for him when he needed me the most. Now he is 33 & is struggling to give up his addiction to whisky. I am here for him now but I so wish I could go back and be there for him then.
Thank you for today’s study!
I truly understand, Cherrie. Maybe I need to write a chapter called, “Release Regret!” So many of us are there, ready to embrace grace on one hand, yet hanging on to regret with the other. I believe with all my heart that to truly embrace grace means to LET GO of all those shoulda/woulda/coulda thoughts, and LET GOD do what he does best: forgive, cleanse, renew. He is working in Jeremy’s life right now, just as he worked on the prodigal son’s. Praying with you, dear sister.
Peace to me is peace in my family between my two children. My daughter calls me a Pollyanna but I firmly believe there can be peace between them. Of course what I often forget is that we are not promised freedom from problems or worry..and oh how I worry. But we are promised peace in the midst of the storm. I have to remember to look upon the Cross and to gaze upon my dear Savior’s face to find peace. Happy Lent!
Thank you Miss Liz. You take a familiar passage and bring it to life. Bless you for allowing Our Holy Father to use the gifts He has given you to encourage and strengthen His children. Much needed reminder of what it looks like to receive and bestow grace. Thank you.
I have been a prodigal and I have a prodigal. However, I have a very judgemental nature and though I’ve been there, have not been very compassionate with my own daughter. My daughter has brought friends home, unshowered and smelling of stale cigarette smoke. I was repulsed and hardly able to carry on a polite conversation. God has been really working on me about this. He has shown me the sin of my attitude and judgement. My goal is now to show my daughter the love of Jesus so that whatever her view of church and God that she developed during her childhood would be wiped clean and she would see that God only wants her heart.
It was not easy reading your blog and being reminded of the grace of the prodigal’s father. Then I realized that the story is not about me as a parent, but God as my parent and how he has lavished his grace and forgiveness on me. Knowing that compassion does not come naturally to me, each day I pray that God will shape those characteristics in me that he wants us to have: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. With his help, I have come a long way. In fact, when my daughter asked me to get a matching tattoo with her, I did it! 🙂
Thanks so much for your encouragement and real life lessons,
Bless you, Jeanne, for giving us an honest glimpse of your journey. You are SO on the right path. What a teachable heart you have!
Thanks for sharing your heart in this weekly posts, Liz. I wish I would have the book you have written, because I like the way you lead us through Scripture. I began to follow your posts through Holy Experience/The Romans Project.
I was an open person…but it seems like ages ago; now it is hard to open up to anyone. I have been hurt in the past and I have been “trained” to listen to others, so it has become increasingly difficult to speak about what is really going on with me.
Today is the first day of Lent, and as I was reading Joel 2:12-17, I was reminded that there is still time…time to turn to Him, time to seek Him, time to be me before Him. As I reflected on your third question, I wrote in my journal “true peace would look like a deep sense of being loved, beyond the knowledge I have, not based on my understanding (because I don’t have it), only based on His Word.”
Thanks again and God’s blessings.
This is profound, Raquel. Basing our hope on His Word alone is where true wisdom lies. Well done, sister.
Wow what a reminder this is to me. I feel sometimes like I am that prodigal child. Having been raised in a christian home and always gone to church I find myself today at a lose for what to do with my life. I am recently divorced and trying to make it on my own. Holding down one full time job and another job part time and there just isn’t enough hours in a day. I am so thankful for God’s grace!! It has carried me through many a rough day. I have had many people judge me because of my divorce including my children, but couldn’t tell them all there was to the story as I don’t want to turn them against their dad. So because of this I have become the bad person in the situation and he the victor. Sad to say it’s the Christians that have hurt me the most. I am just thankful for God’s grace and that he doesn’t condemn me but loves me in spite of my faults. Thanks for your weekly devotions.
Cindi, what a good mother you are! God sees what others do not…and He will lift you up and honor you for your love and sacrifice.
“Christians” can hurt us the most. But then Joyce Meyer says sitting in a garage doesn’t mean you are a car and sitting in a church doesn’t mean you are a christian. Who knows our hearts but God? His opinion alone matters. And He loves you! Dwell on that, write it on the bathroom mirror, paint it on your wall…remind yourself every day who you are in Christ and that rocks!
This is the best news in town, for ALL of us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 THANK YOU, Jesus!
Thank you, Liz, for your posts. They have drawn me in and ministered to me in the deep places. What a gift the Lord has given you! I haven’t read any of your books yet but I plan to change that soon.
I do struggle with perfection, always have. But the Lord is helping me see it really as a pride thing, as a sin, and I’m slowly changing with the help of the Holy Spirit. I am willing [to change] and He is able [to change me] so I now live hope-filled.
When I fall short, or just plain fall, the Holy Spirit scoops me up and strengthens and encourages me. Learning to listen to, and lean on, the Holy Spirit has helped me more than I can express.
Again, thank you for your words of anointed insight from His Word that bless, encourage, and strengthen His children. God bless you!
“Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” Luke 15:22
It was several years after my return as “a prodigal” when I learned the significance of the ring. He was given power and authority again. This ring meant power, under the authority of his Father’s seal! Praise God, the “Lifter of my head.”
thank you so much for your wonderful insightful accounts of stories in the Bible. I can just imagine them so much more clearly in my head after reading some of you work.
HMMM.. letting go, man that is a tough one for me. It has probably been the most difficult thing in my life that I have constant issue with and over.My change of heart would be if I could just learn to keep that same mountain top experience feeling even though sometimes I find myself down in the valley. I want to learn that God is in the valley too. Yes, like a lot of us, I struggle with the need to get it right, be perfect, do the right thing. I am so grateful that my God loves me even when I do the wrong thing and I don’t have to be perfect. I was once told by a counselor “you will never know peace in your life until you learn to live by the Gospel and not by the Law” And for me , that is a struggle every day. Amen to that..Have a good day girls.
Your counselor is spot on, Donna: the Gospel leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But the Law leads to just the opposite: hatred, sorrow, unrest, impatience, unkindness, unrighteousness, faithlessness, harshness, and lack of control. Let’s stick with that Good News!
I have at last given up the struggle to be perfect, the need to please everyone (which is impossible) and have let go and surrendered to God. As I did this I felt like the waves of the ocean, trying so hard to get somewhere, but came crashing into the shore, into the rocks. Then I discovered I had crashed into the Rock, the Cross and that’s where I belong. He is perfecting me in His sight and letting Him love me is where I feel peace at last.
Struggling. Have run to my Heavenly Father begging forgiveness (and receiving it) but struggling to forgive myself. Struggling to forgive someone for cheating on me multiple times. Struggling against anger and, yes, bitterness. I want my former husband to find forgiveness in God alone, and it breaks my heart to see him so far from God. I want to be whole and healthy again and find peace. And right now, it seems pretty distant. I know I am a child of the King, but cannot forgive myself for living so far from Him for so long. Now that I’m reaping the consequences, it’s hard to believe I’ll ever find healing and wholeness again. The story of the prodigal son is my story. I am thankful to be reminded of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.
Hi Kim, Your post touched my heart. It took me a long time to learn that when I find myself not forgiving myself and letting go of what God has forgiven, that that is condemnation and the voice of the enemy talking to me. Now I tell him to”go away and get lost in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” and he shuts up and leaves because he has too. Sooner or later he comes back but we go through the same thing again. But the more I listen to the love voice of God, even when he says “You know honey, don’t do that, it will hurt you” the more I learn that the condemnation voice is the one I must ignore. It gets easier. Keep surrendering and telling yourself the truth from His word…you’ll keep growing and healing and getting closer and closer to your Father. You are His precious child and He loves you so.
As for the one who cheated on you, leave him to God…he is His child to handle in His own way. Praying for your peace. Cathy
Follow in the prodigal son’s footsteps and come home, beloved. God is already running in your direction, with healing and wholeness in his arms.
Thank you for being an obedient servant of the Lord. Your writing blesses me and tears fell as I recall the long journey to a forgiving Father.
Thank you for staying up late for us! It is *so* appreciated. You say the nicest things, and the photos add so much to the written words.You help me to really think about what went before, what is happening now, and what is yet to be. A truly peaceful day would be a day when the whole world would be calm. No bad news!!! Until then, I will keep leaning on Our Lord. xoxoxo
“a change of heart or a shift in direction”
My sister-in-law, a girlhood friend and even schoolmate, died two weeks ago. She was a lovely person but always seemed to keep me in a box, away from her other friends.
With her passing, I found that she did this with many people like a child who doesn’t want the applesauce to touch the potatoes on her plate. It may seem odd, but I have just realized how this has affected much of my life and I find myself looking around for that shift in direction.
I am thinking about the son dressed in his Father’s clothes, wearing his ring, accepted in a new way, wondering a bit who he really is, accepted, beloved.
Praying for you, Elaine, as you sort through all that this deep loss means in your life. Your assessment of the prodigal son is very insightful. Bless you for sharing.
Hi Liz, What a beautiful person you are! Thank you so much for your openness and grace in sharing your testimony, struggles and triumphs. Because of your honesty and humor, it has helped me look deep inside and realise no matter what I’ve done in the past (which has been lots) I’m God’s girl and he’ll never stop loving me. Your question about ‘if you struggle with the need to be perfect….I guess I’ve always felt very insignificant and not good enough. Trust has been a huge one for me and I’m happy to say I’m trusting God and others more and more and being more open and honest about those ‘ugly bits’ of me. No matter what others think of me…God’s love and grace and mercy is unfathomable. So thank you Liz for being YOU!! God bless you… 🙂
When I am the weakest, He is my strength & my song!! Many thanks, Liz, for your love & caring–all the hard work that goes into this ministery. May God bless you richly dear sister–HIS love is endless & so precious!!
I hope u were able to rest during the day.
Another great soul searching lesson. From the first day of my salvation too today, (47 years later) God is always revealing aspects of my life that needs a change of heart or a shift in direction. I am so thankful that God never showed me all my imperfections at the same time, it would have overwhelmed me. I did not respond to well to Gods correction when I became a christian, but now I praise him for revealing to me the imperfectios in my life because with his help I can correct them and grow closer to him.
I have never struggled to be perfect because I know it is an impossibility, instead I do my best at whatever God has called me to do. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head and other times I smash my thumb.
There was one area in my life that took me 17 years to surrender to God. I had monster hate towards several people and all I wanted was revenge, I was told I had to forgive them, yeah right. After many years of hearing the word, reading the word and the Holy Spirts conviction I finally forgave them and began praying for them. That was the day I truly understood Gods mercy. Only when we realize the enormity of our forgiveness can we begin to forgive others.
This is SO true: “Only when we realize the enormity of our forgiveness can we begin to forgive others.” Yes, yes, yes, my sister!
My “change of direction” will be to run to Him and seek His arms of approval and confirmation of love. As you wrote in the book, I don’t need to measure my worth through a friend’s eyes, parent’s eyes, teacher’s eyes, or even my husband or kids. Only His opinion matters. I am sure I will run kicking and screaming sometimes as I have always been trying to be perfect and pleasing those around me. My continual “yes” response to everyone has blocked me from living the life I could truly have. This will be a huge change in my life but will learn to lean on His word as in Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand, Do not fear; I will help you” Peace would be a mind and heart free from the strongholds that threaten me everyday…on a snow covered mountain with a book by Liz Curtis Higgs and a cup of coffee. Thanks Liz for your devotion to us, you have touched my heart and stirred it up to dig deeper. Your amazing energy and strength bless me,.
The Lord has revealed things in my life that require a “change in direction”, the times I try to keep heading my way are hard, difficult, and often painful. When I respond in obedience, turning, it may still be hard, it may still be difficult, however it is always far less painful on my heart and spirit and mind. I’m still trying to listen, to know when I need to turn.
Perfection is also something I’ve struggled with. How can I accept God’s grace when I am too busy judging myself? When by my judging I am in essence trying to take God’s place as if I have the authority to judge? It’s much easier, much more peaceful, to humble myself before God with my imperfections and focus on allowing Him to change my heart.
True Peace in my life is when I am kneeling at the cross of Jesus. I don’t know any other way to explain it. I’m still trying to learn it. To hold onto it. To train my mind, to be self-disciplined, to seek it out and think about it daily.
This chapter really spoke to me, this blog brought tears to my eyes. As a daughter. As a mother. And fills my heart with thankfulness for Jesus.
Thank you again Liz for taking the time to write this study.
Thank you for being SO honest and SO real. I have avoided others who called themselves Christians for many, many years, because I felt so judged. My need for the approval of others took priority, and I didn’t feel that I was ever good enough. Over the past 18 months, God has become more intimate and real to me as I allow him to heal my broken places.
Here is the statement that changed my life once I “got” it: Who I am in Christ is more important than anything I could ever do for him. I am learning that simply showing up, being present for another, listening from the deepest part of my heart is more than enough. I have learned that the healing is not in the doing. The healing is in the be-ing.
What a relief to know that God is not the guilt-inducing, booming voice in the cloud God of my childhood, but is in fact a loving father who knows exactly what I need to heal. A loving creator who knows what will bring out His best in us, and the only true source of healing. I now understand that I don’t have to prove myself worthy or good enough. God already said I am. God showed me that I didn’t need to fix anything, I simply needed to face it.
I am learning that the parts of ourselves we keep hidden, out of shame or fear, are seeds of promise. When we expose them to the light of God’s mercy and healing, we have the opportunity to grow compassion and understanding.
My past did not ruin me. No experience is ever wasted. My heavenly Father knew that the very things that made me feel vulnerable, afraid and alone would someday become a source of strength and healing. He knew that by experiencing fear, I would someday be capable of courage, and that by knowing sorrow and failure, I might learn compassion.
I have come to know that we are never alone. God is always with us, patiently waiting for us to take his hand and lead us safely home.
Bless you, dear sister, for sharing all these rich gems with us. Each one sparkles; this is my favorite: “Who I am in Christ is more important than anything I could ever do for him.” Amen and amen.
I am reminded that I set my expectations too high. I need to be who Jesus called ME to be and let Him deal with everybody else. My words and my actions need to please Jesus and that’s what bring others to Him. I need to not set my standards on every one else, although that is really easy to do. I just want every one to do what is right!!
It’s not my job to police them, but to love them with the love of the Father.
My prodigal son was not talking to us or letting us see our new grandson whose mother he had not married though they lived together. Much heartache, tears…well the same distressing scene most mother’s and father’s of prodigals have endured. Finally one day God told me quite clearly, “I love him more than you do.” After that, I let it go. We never changed our stance on his behavior but loved him dearly and prayed. One day he came to his senses and is now a great man of God. So hand those prodigals to the Father who is Love..they are safe there.
In the last 11 months I have had 3 back surgeries and severe physical pain, emotional and spiritual too come to think of it! lost my job of 37 years due to excessive medical time off, had to stop teaching and serving at church, lost health benefits, lost income, lost the respect which was part of my job. I have been humbled and stripped of all the things that seemed to make me important. Dreams I believed He planted in my heart have either been put on hold or are dimming. I did not think I was proud but just maybe I was. Or maybe we are simply in a period of refining. I don’t know. Tears have flowed and I have wondered what I have been doing wrong. Can’t come up with any clear answer. But this is the peace that passes all human understanding. That no matter what, I am His daughter and in the end, even if I never figure this out on this side of Heaven, I know with all my heart that He has a good plan for me. I KNOW that He loves me and I will come out better for all of this. I will look more like Him and less like the old me. And in the end it all fits and to Him be the glory! That’s peace and I love it!
Over the past couple of years, after dealing with health issues and several surgeries, etc. I have learned that true peace only comes from God. No matter what I’m facing, God is right there with me. He carries me through tough times. Spending time daily, reading His word, praying, listening, and giving my burdens over to Him – resting in the fact that God is in control and has a plan for me, brings amazing peace -His peace!
Liz I am so thankful for your time given to us . I am learning much. I am so very thankful for God’s grace. It is to easy to spend time in a foreign place. I too have been redeemed.
Liz I know I’m a little late commenting but I read this over–lov all the comments and each has helped me as I’ve seen myself in so many of them. The verse that stands out to me and brought tears when he saw his son afar off—the Lord is watching and waiting–for us to come to realize where we are—-we have nothing without him. Lov this study Liz —thank you for helping us see the scripture in a different light–with you.
Wow, can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the women of Easter. Thanks for taking time to do this in the midst of all your busy-ness and travels.
Liz – I cried as I read your teaching and the comments. This is so me. I am struggling to find my way home. At times it seems like I’m almost there and I fall. At times I find myself standing on the “outside”….afraid to go in….afraid of rejection…..afraid of being turned away. I am unworthy.
Precious Linda, please read the story one more time. God is running to meet you. If you fall, he will catch you. If you lose the strength to go on, he will carry you home. He will not reject you, turn you away, or consider you unworthy. His unconditional love is an expression of who HE is, and is not dependent on who YOU are.
“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children…” 1.Psalm 103:17
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
You can trust him, Linda. Faith isn’t about feeling or even about reasoning. It’s about believing with your whole heart, despite any evidence to the contrary. It’s saying “YES” when everything inside us shouts “NO.” It’s telling the enemy of our souls to take a hike and standing absolutely on God’s Word: “Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8
Praying for you right this minute, dear sister. And I am not the only one. You are loved.
I’ve been going through a tough spot. I wrote this to you yesterday.
Today, I have read your book Embrace Grace. I have to laugh. It was quite the picture this afternoon. We, my three boys and I, shoveled the driveway out here in the snowy north. My boys wanted to stay outside. The sun has been out beautiful the last two days. I pulled out a lawn chair and sat in the driveway reading your book with the sun basking on my face. It was quite the picture and made me feel like we officially belonged in this non-native north country!
It was such a gift, though, to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, being surrounded by the white snow and reading about how much the God of the universe loves me. The words, the truths, they filled me with the warmth of His love. I am eternally grateful for the cross where my sins became as white as the snow and I was wrapped warm in His loving embrace. I am eternally grateful for you – who writes so beautifully the truths my heart longs to hear and fights to believe. This is a book that I need to read again, and again and again.
Now that I’ve made it pretty, now I can make it gut level real. (Yes, real work in progress here) I realize just how far from grace I have drifted. In the previous chapter you had written something about a ladder or a wall. Both… Both… It hurts so much… The fear that has been pent up in my soul from not believing and trusting the truth, but instead listening and resting in people rather than in the word of God. (Yes, I do know what Romans says about that – that’s why I’m all the more thankful for Jesus today – because I should be eaten up and destroyed forever. Praise be to God, I am not! Your book is washing my war wounded soul. Can you believe I am loved? I’ve known it! I’ve half believed it and really believed it for others. Slowly, I’m letting it soak in it at heart level for me.) Recently I’ve been trying to be good enough and have tried to keep people from getting too close so they can’t see how messy I really am. Their judgments – the condescension – the pain – it all just hurts too much. I’ve been down the road of pious judgment one too many times and my weak knees just give out and I crumble. Shifting sand isn’t it – when we listen to others? Christ is the only solid rock. Christ alone. His word alone is truth and power. But oh, how to stand?
Oh I want to be done with the look strong, work hard and don’t let them get too close. The impacts of striving while isolating … well let’s just say not good… for anyone…. The freedom to live broken, yet still be loved and not abandoned, to stand firm against the chipping tide of lies. Can it really happen? Can you really keep your heart soft and vulnerable reaching out in love instead of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. I feel like I’m tasting it for the first time. It is hard, yet sweet and it is undoing me… or maybe the undoing was God’s breaking of the ladder and walls… Either way I’m undone….
But God, right? He puts us back together… Not quite like humpty, dumpty…
He makes us new and He makes us right with Him and He helps us to trust, really trust the truths of His word and stand firm….
Would you please pray that God would work this miracle in me?