Week One: Lost Sons | Luke 15:11-32

Day 1: The Lost Sons

Luke 15:11-16
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.”

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When Jesus was trying to make a point the disciples couldn’t seem to understand, he would often expand by telling them a story. This week, we’re going to read the story about the lost sons.

As you read this story this week, try to put yourself in the shoes of the father and the sons. Which son do you relate with the most? How does this story change or widen your picture of God’s grace?

Day 2: Undeserved Favor

Luke 15:17-21
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.'"

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’”

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When the father sees the son, he drops what he’s doing and runs to his son, embraces him, and kisses him. His love for his son is so overwhelming that his son’s response is to say, “Father, I don’t deserve this.”

Sit in our Father’s presence this morning, and remember: this is how much God loves you. No matter what you’ve done, or what you will do, nothing can make God love you less or more than he already does. His love is perfect.

Day 3: Unfair Grace

Luke 15:22-30
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’”

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When the younger brother returned, the father was so excited he threw a party—and not just any party. It was a feast. The son had returned and that was worth celebrating.

However, the older son didn’t seem to agree; he wanted fairness and justice. The younger son hadn’t worked as hard as he had, and not only that—he wasted all of his inheritance! Didn’t his father care that he had been working hard day in and day out, and his younger brother had done nothing to deserve his love?

Do you relate, in any way, to the older brother? Do you expect God to see people the same way that you see them? Thank God today that his heart is unlike your own, and for his unfair grace he gives to everyone—including you. 

Day 4: Unending Love

Luke 15:31-32
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

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The father points the oldest son back to his grace, and reminds him of this essential truth—God’s grace is for everyone. Someone else receiving grace doesn’t limit what he can do for you. God’s love isn’t like a piece of pie with only so many pieces to dish out. His love is unending, immeasurable, incalculable.

How does this picture of God’s love impact you and the way you love others? How are you challenged to love people more like God loves people?

Day 5: The Prodigal in You

Luke 15:11-32
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week TWO: By Any Means | Mark 4:1-20

Day 1: Stories Demand a Response

Mark 4:1-9
Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

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The beauty of Jesus using stories to teach greater truths is that they draw us in, cause us to reflect, and demand a response. This week’s parable of the sower is no different.

The use of seed as a figure of God’s giving life has Old Testament roots (see Isaiah 55:10-11), and the point Jesus makes illustrates a very sobering truth: while the God’s grace is available to anyone, the responses of those who hear it will vary. The power was not only in the good news, but in the depth of those who received it.

What do you do when bad news comes? When someone betrays you, when you make a mistake, or when unexpected circumstances come your way? Your responses might reveal the condition of your heart, or the soil in which God’s grace has grown. Today, ask God to reveal to you the depth of your root system, and to help you grow deeper and closer to him as you continue to pursue his ways.

Day 2: Concealing or Revealing?

Mark 4:10-12
Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say, they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’”

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Here Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, referencing that parables both conceal or reveal what’s in our hearts, depending on whether we’re open to hearing what the story is teaching us.

Are you open to hearing Jesus’ message for you, and for others? Before rushing to the next thing today, spend some time thanking God for how far he’s brought you, and for his unending grace.

Day 3: Shallow Roots Won't Last

Mark 4:13-18
Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.”

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What are you struggling with these days? What’s bothering you? Are you letting it eat you alive? Are your circumstances threatening to destroy your mind and the work set out before you?

Endure. Spend some time today being honest before God about what you’re struggling with, and then invite him into it. Ask him to continue to give you endurance as you continue to chase after him.

Day 4: The Key to Endurance

Mark 4:19-20
“The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

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Has your concern for the things of God ever been crowded out, our pushed to the side, by material things? Of course it has! We’re human.

But the key to endurance and living a life of faithfulness is fixing our eyes on Jesus, and what he has done for us. Don’t let the lure of wealth and the desires of earthly things crowd out what God wants to do in you and through you.

Day 5: Reflect

Mark 4:1-20
Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say, they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’"

Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week THREE: Talents | Matthew 25:14-30

Day 1: Do This Before You Compare

Matthew 25:14-18
"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money."

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This week, we’ll be looking at the parable of the talents, bit by bit. The servants take different approaches—those with five and two talents go to work and earn five and two more talents, and the one with one does nothing but bury his money in the ground, and when the master returns, the results are made public.

Today, before you look to your right or your left and compare yourself to what other people have, ask yourself: what has God given to you? What resources, talents, and gifts has he given to you to use for his Kingdom? What things come naturally to you, what abilities has God given to you? What privileges have come your way?

What are you doing with them? How are you using them to advance God’s mission and serve others?

Day 2: What to Do With What You Have

Matthew 25:19-21
“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’"

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It’s easy for us to look to our right or our left, comparing what we have to what others have. This is a sure way to never even recognize the good and beautiful things God has given to us.

Notice in this story it wasn’t about how much was given, but what each individual did with what God gave them. When those who were given a small amount were faithful with little, the master gave them more responsibility. It wasn’t about what they started with, but what they did with what they were given.

Have you been guilty of looking to others and wishing you had what they did? Thank God today for what he’s given you, and ask him to show you how you can be faithful with what you have.

Day 3: Trust the Master

Matthew 25:24-27
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’"

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The third servant is treated very differently from the first two. He explained to the master how he saw him as a harsh man, using it as an excuse for why he didn’t reap what he didn’t sow, and that he didn’t gather where he could not winnow. He didn’t trust the master.

Do you struggle to trust God with what you have been given? Is there any area of your life: your time, service, gifts, resources, financials, where you’re holding back from trusting God? Are you reluctant to share what you’ve been given out of fear that God won’t provide?

Day 4: Releasing Your Grip

Matthew 25:28-30
“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"

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The lack of faith in the third servant left him exposed—Jesus’ warning here is to make use of what God gives you, and to be faithful with it.

Today, write out one way you can release your grip on the gifts you’ve been given, and make a plan for how you can use your resources for God’s Kingdom and glory.

Day 5: Reflect

Matthew 25:14-30
"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week Four: PHarisee & tax collector | Luke 18:9-14

Day 1: Pride's Bitter Pill

Luke 18:9-12
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’”

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The scene Jesus describes in the temple begins with a Pharisee addressing God, but he doesn’t thank God for his grace. Instead, he thanks God for his own righteousness. It’s as if he’s saying, “I praise you, God! I’m so good and wonderful. I’m better than other people, more holy than them, more righteous. I’m especially better than this tax collector.” He’s not thankful for anything God has done, but for what he does. His pride alienates him from others.

Maybe you’ve never been this blatant about it, but have you ever been around someone else and thought, “Well, at least I’m not like ________”?

Confess your pride and self-righteousness to God today, and ask him to humble you when pride wells up in your heart.

Day 2: The Tax Collector's Response

Luke 18:13-14
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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The tax collector humbles himself before God, and where the Pharisee boasted in his own works, what we see from the tax collector is the opposite: humility, dependence, faith.

Jesus is warning us here: pride before God is a danger to ourselves and to others around us. Pride isolates us, alienates us, and destroys us. Ruthlessly eliminate pride from your interactions today—with God and with others. Ask Jesus to humble you where you need humbled, and to remind you of his mercy and grace.

Day 3: He Will Lift You Up

James 4:6-10
And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

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The New Testament writers emphasized Jesus’ words, both here and in 1 Peter: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The tricky thing about humility is that once you’ve mastered it, you have to re-learn it all over again. Humility is a lifelong pursuit to come to God in brokenness instead of arrogance.

How are you doing when it comes to humility? What would others say about you? Ask two people today (who will tell you the truth) how you can grow when it comes to being humble. Before you seek to defend, listen to their words.

Day 4: Dress in Humility

1 Peter 5:5
And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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One of the sure ways we can tell how we’re doing when it comes to humility and pride is how we relate to other people. How’s that been going lately?

Think through the last three interactions you’ve had with others. What do they reveal about your character? Where did pride puff up and dominate your thoughts and your words? Seek forgiveness where you need to ask for it, and grant forgiveness where your pride has held you back from releasing someone else.

Day 5: Reflect

Luke 18:9-14
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week Five: rich Fool | Luke 12:13-21

Day 1: More and More and More

Luke 12:13-15
Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide my father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

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In this exchange, notice that Jesus replies to the man’s practical dilemma involving money and his father’s estate not by giving him a practical answer, but by going straight for the heart.

Jesus doesn’t address the surface: this man clearly had an issue with greed. Jesus’ warning covers more than money—the strong desire to acquire more and more possessions and experiences.

Is this desire in you? To seek more and more, measuring life by how much you can own? How much is enough? Today, be honest with God about greed in all its forms, and ask for his help in seeking his kingdom above your own.

Day 2: Stuck in the Here and Now

Luke 12:16-20
Then he told them a story:

“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have enough room to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’"

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The story of the rich man here points to something that’s within all of us: we lack the ability to see with an eternal perspective, and often get caught up in the here in now.

Do you see your circumstances—good, bad, and everyday ordinary—with an eternal perspective, or do you focus on the here and now?

One really simple way to do this? Take a look at your bank account. What do you spend most of your money on? Where are you saving? Ask God today to show you his perspective on the resources he’s given to you, and how you can have a more eternal perspective with your money.

Day 3: Focus on the Relationship

Luke 12:21
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

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Did you notice throughout the parable this week how many times the rich man says “I”? Go back and read Luke 12:16-20, and look at how often the rich man refers to himself.

When we’re consumed with ourselves, it’s not only hard to see others’ need in front of us, but also what God is asking us to do with our lives and with our resources.

Have you been focused on ‘storing up earthly wealth’ and neglecting your relationship with God? Confess it to him today, and spend some time thanking him for all he’s given to you.

Day 4: A Key for Contentment

Luke 12:6-7
“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid, for you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

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Just before the story of the rich fool, Jesus encourages his disciples while warning them about hypocrisy. This is relevant to what he tells them later about wealth: when our identity is firmly rooted in Jesus, we don’t strive or live to earn more, do more, achieve more. We’re content with what we have, and know that God loves us no matter what.

Do your actions point to this truth? Do you know that you’re truly loved, no matter what you earn or achieve?

Thank God today that he knows the very hairs on your head, and for the grace you’ve done nothing to earn.

Day 5: Reflect

Luke 12:13-21
Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide my father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story:

“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have enough room to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week Six: Dishonest manager | Luke 12:13-21

Day 1: Backed in a Corner

Luke 16:1-4
Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’”

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In this parable, Jesus turns his attention to stewardship, telling a story of a dishonest manager. Have you ever been backed into a corner, caught in the act of something you knew was wrong, and called out for it? What was your response? Did you confess, or try to cover it up?

Reflect today on the manager’s response to his boss. What does your reaction reveal about your heart when you are most exposed and/or vulnerable?

Day 2: Children of the Light

Luke 16:5-9
“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

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Reflect today on Jesus’ strong words to his disciples: those who don’t follow him are more shrewd in dealing with people than those who follow him. As people who follow Christ, how we treat people, interact with others, and use our time, money, and gifts to benefit others should look drastically different than those who don’t follow him.

Is this true of you? None of us are perfect, and we all have a long way to go as we seek to look more and more like Jesus. Identify one area of your life today where you can improve in being more generous with what you’ve been given, and take that step today.

Day 3: Faithful in the Little Things

Luke 16:10-12
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?”

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If you’re waiting for permission to do more with what you have, you’re likely not going to get it. Jesus’ words here are applicable for all of us: what we do with what we have now is an indicator for what we would do if we had more.

Have you been slacking off lately with what you’ve been given, using the excuse of lack of position, authority, or resources? Remember Jesus’ words: if you’re faithful in little things, you’ll be faithful with large ones.

Day 4: No One Serves Two Masters

Luke 16:13
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

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Jesus knew the grip money had on our hearts; that it was God’s chief competitions to our affection and allegiance. Ultimately, he knew that with each of us would either be loyal to him or our possessions. There’s not enough room in the human heart for both.

Are you enslaved to money right now? What would it look like to take one step today in being loyal to Jesus instead of your possessions? 

Day 5: Reflect

Luke 16:1-13
Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week seven: Good Samaritan | Luke 10:25-37

Day 1: Jesus Changes Everything

Luke 10:25-27
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

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In this exchange, an expert in the religious law wanted to know what he needed to do to be saved. When Jesus asked him what the law said, the man quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. The fourfold reference—love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind—makes it clear: when you follow God, all of it comes together.

Following Jesus changes everything about your life, not just a part of it.

What part of your life is the most difficult for you to surrender to Jesus? Make time to share that with someone today, and ask him or her to pray for you and keep you accountable, and make sure they know what questions they can ask to make sure you’re being honest.

Day 2: Who is Your Neighbor?

Luke 10:28-32
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road."

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side."

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The religious man asked a question that revealed his heart: who has to be my neighbor? Instead of wondering who all could be considered his neighbor, he wanted to know the limited audience to whom he needed to love.

Jesus launches into a story, and it’s no coincidence that the first two people he uses to illustrate his point are religious people. In other words, knowing the law and God’s word will not automatically make it matter—what matters is the posture of your heart.

How do you respond when you see someone in need? Is your heart’s posture one of helping and serving, or do you pass him or her by?

Day 3: Compassion Turning into Action

Luke 10:33-35
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’"

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This story from Jesus is rich with meaning, and the fact that the man is from Samaria is no small detail: Jesus is pointing out that those they would have thought would help this man didn’t, and the one they would have despised (the one from Samaria), stopped to help.

Jesus’ primary concern is, over and over again, the posture of the heart; compassion turning into action. Compassion for the Samaritan becomes a concrete expression of love.

Today, be on the lookout for who and how you can show love to someone in need today. Then, when the opportunity comes, don’t hesitate.

Day 4: Have a Willing Heart

Luke 10:36-37
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

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Notice that in the religious man’s response, he doesn’t acknowledge that the one who showed mercy was the man from Samaria, but only, “The one who showed him mercy.” Being a good neighbor and loving people well requires only one thing—a willing heart.

Is there anyone in your life that you’ve discounted or mistreated? How can you learn from who you have disregarded in the past? Who do you need to show mercy to today?

Day 5: Reflect

Luke 10:25-37
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road."

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side."

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’"

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week eight: Unforgiving Servant | Matthew 18:21-35

Day 1: 70 x 7

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!"

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When Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone, he likely wasn’t expecting Jesus to say what he did. But Jesus’ point illustrates a bigger truth: in the Kingdom of God, forgiveness goes further than we’re ever comfortable with.

If there’s someone you’re holding out on forgiving, spend time today reflecting on Jesus’ words: how often should we forgive someone who offends us?

Seventy times seven.

Day 2: How Quickly We Forget

Matthew 18:23-29
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.“

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt."

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment."

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full."

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It’s interesting, isn’t it? The man who sought forgiveness and received it immediately forgot about it, and demanded fairness from the person who owed him.

When someone sins against you, what is your immediate response? Anger? Bitterness? Retaliation? Justice? Remember: our sin against God is great, and through Jesus’ finishing work on the cross, we received grace we did nothing to deserve.

Day 3: Scandalous, Undeserved Grace

Matthew 18:31-34
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt."

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When we become aware of just how great our sin against God is, and how much mercy we’ve received from him, withholding grace from other people becomes impossible—we know we’re all on the same page: imperfect sinners whom Jesus died for.

If someone mistreats you today, don’t hold it against them. Remember God’s scandalous, undeserved grace for you, and grant others the same.

Day 4: Give it to God

Matthew 18:35
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

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 When we store up unforgiveness and bitterness, it destroys not only our relationships, but also our souls. If you’ve been storing up bitterness against anyone—even if it is justified—confess it, and then release it. Give it to God.

Day 5: Reflect

Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!"

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt."

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt."

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment."

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full."

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt."

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

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Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?

Week nine: mustard seed & yeast | matthew 13:31-35

Day 1: Like a Mustard Seed

Matthew 13:31-32
Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

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There’s an important Old Testament reference Jesus is referring to of a mustard seed that grew into a tree, from Ezekiel 17:22-24. Here, the Davidic house was one where people could come to find calm, and shelter. Like the mustard seed, it started out small but grew in size.

God takes little things and makes them big—the smallest of seeds can become the largest of garden plants, that can grow into trees.

Is your life about building the Kingdom of God, or your own kingdom? Remember that the only thing we can take into eternity is our relationship with Jesus.

Day 2: Like the Yeast

Matthew 13:33
Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

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The parable of the yeast and the dough teaches us an essential truth about the kingdom of God: it always starts small. Jesus’ point was not to be deceived by its seemingly small start.

Are you pouring effort or time into something or someone that feels small right now? Unnoticed, or seemingly gaining no traction? Don’t be discouraged. God can take our small efforts—our behind-the-scenes, mundane work—and turn it into something beautiful.

Stay faithful.

Day 3: Why Stories?

Matthew 13:34-35
Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”

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Jesus quotes Psalm 78:2 here, explaining to his disciples why he used stories when speaking to crowds. Scripture tells us he never spoke to them without using stories.

What have you learned from this series? What stories have stuck out to you? How has your perspective of Jesus changed?

Day 4: Share Your Story

Psalm 78:1-4
O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
For I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
Stories we have heard and known,
Stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
We will tell the next generation
About the glorious deeds of the Lord,
About his power and his mighty wonders.

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All summer long, we’ve been looking at the stories Jesus told others to convey a deeper truth about who he was and what he was coming to do.

What’s your story? What has Jesus saved you from? Are you passing down your story about what God has done for you to those who are coming behind you?

Pray today for an opportunity to share your story, and be generous with it.

Day 5: Reflect

Matthew 13:31-35
Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of dough.”

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like this when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”

________________________________________

Reflect:

  • What do you notice that you didn’t earlier in the week?
  • What is God teaching you through this passage?
  • How will you respond?