Note: The January Quiet Time is based on the parables of Jesus. The devotionals for Jan. 1-14 is based on the Parable of the Lost Son; read the entire parable today.
Luke 15:11-32 (ESV): And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,  but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Luke 15:1 (ESV): “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
Certain stories are worth retelling, though their meaning may be slightly different when told to different audiences. My favorite story that I love to retell is what my father told his Hindu doctor, when told that he had only 4 months to live because of terminal lung cancer.
But going back to today’s passage, isn’t it amazing that if Luke hadn’t included the oft-cited Parable of the Lost Son in his Gospel, no one would’ve known about it? When this story was first shared by Jesus, his listeners were all Jews consisting of “tax collectors and sinners,’” and “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law” (15:1-2), respectively. The legalistic older son represented the latter who mercilessly judged the reckless younger son who represented the former. However, when Luke, the Gentile writer, retold this story, it was addressed to Theophilus (1:3), “the normal title for a high official in the Roman government” (Barclay). So, in the context of making appeals to the Gentiles, the older son represented the Israelites who had no love for the Gentiles whom the younger son represented. Subsequently, the original message aimed at the Pharisees—“Don’t be judgmental”—was now applied to the entire Israel; and the promise of God’s love and acceptance of Jewish sinners was now extended to the Gentiles who saw that Israel’s God was universal. And that’s a story worth retelling!
As for my father, he said, “You say cancer; I say no problem. I like Jesus Christ. God blessed my life; I go when God calls.” The Hindu doctor, instead of being offended, was moved, saying, “I am happy to be here, to be in the moment with you because people do not respond this way with this kind of devastating news.” When I retell this powerful story, I say it like this: “My dad’s apologetics was quite simple: When you get terminal cancer, then, tell the doctor, ‘No problem because of Jesus.’ That’s nothing like my apologetics, full of clever arguments that may titillate the mind but not much else.”
As we start the New Year, let’s really live for Jesus, building many memories worth sharing with our loved ones.
Heavenly Father, I praise you and glorify You on this first day of 2015. My heart is full of gratitude and thanksgiving because of Your continuous and ceaseless love toward me in Christ. May this year be full of special memories in my walk with You, so that I can tell of your greatness to others.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 1
Lunch Break Study
A very popular god among the Greco-Romans was Dionysus, the god of wine. Believing that god was in the wine, its followers consumed much wine to get intoxicated. John, now living in the Greek city of Ephesus in Asia Minor (Turkey today), wrote his Gospel to appeal to the Greeks.
Read John 2:7-10 (ESV): Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.  When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom  and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Hosea 14:7: “They shall return and dwell beneath my (God’s) shadow; they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.”
Eph. 5:18-9 (ESV): “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,. . .”
Question to Consider
- What was John implying by including this story in his Gospel (the only gospel writer to do so) to reach out to the Dionysus-following and wine-drinking Greco-Romans?
- Utilizing these passages, how would you communicate the gospel to those who are chasing after worldly pleasure at the expense of knowing God?
- Paul says that we “are a letter from Christ . . . known and read by everybody” (2 Cor. 3:2). If you are the wine from Christ, known and drank by people who see you every day, how would it taste? What areas do you need to improve so that they will say, “Ah the good wine!”
- John is implying that Jesus makes better wine than Dionysus; that is, while the consumption of literal wine only leads to debauchery, being filled with another kind of wine, the Spirit, will lead to security, joy and growth.
- Much like a hangover after a night of drinking much wine, the worldly pleasure outside of the will of God only leads to more problems, like loneliness, emptiness and broken relationships. But when we live in God, under His protection, we can truly be content and joyous.
- For me, when I preach, I need to be more calm and collective; I need to be more patient with my children and wife (again!).
As you wrap up the first day of the year, share a moment through which God spoke to you today. It doesn’t have to be loud or spectacular, but something that caught your attention, however brief.