• Tony Birkhead

Messy Grace Week -5

To get grace you have to be willing to give it!


What’s the latest picture you put up on Instagram or another social network?

Why do you think pictures mean so much to us?

Why do you think Jesus used these word pictures in His teaching?

We live in the age of the snapshot—we’re always taking photos, not just of significant moments, but of everyday things, too. Jesus loved pictures—specifically, word pictures. We call these word pictures parables. A parable is a simple story that answers a difficult question. And in the parable of the prodigal son, we have a really difficult question being asked: How does God really look at the lost?


Luke 15:11-32

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’””


Read Luke 15:11-16.

This parable begins with a son who is from a good family, a good home—it seems like he’s had every opportunity in life, hasn’t he? But there’s something very wrong.

What is this son really saying to his father?

Imagine you were the father in this story: how would you feel if your son tells you, “I want my share of the inheritance?”

Here, this son is saying to his dad, “give me the share of the property that belongs to me.” But, there’s a catch—in order to inherit something, someone has to die. What this son does is horrible. He is telling his dad, “I wish you were dead… I’d rather have your riches than a relationship with you.” This son’s actions are a terrible insult. He not only dishonors his father, but he disgraces and disowns him, too. A father in that culture would have slapped his son across the face, kicked him out of the house and called the entire community together to tell them, “This man is no longer my son; he is no longer welcome in my home or in this community.”

What does the father in the parable do instead?

What does this teach us about God the Father?

Although the son is dishonoring, we see a father who responds with love. The father says, in essence, “Even though you love my stuff more than me, I love you more than my stuff.” He is a father full of grace, even though he knows things aren’t going to go well for his son.

Read Luke 15:16-24.

The boy has gone from the penthouse to the pigpen—he squandered his inheritance, every penny. He’s learning the hard way that the world will take everything you have and give you nothing that you need.

Why is it important for us to understand this?

Can you think of a time in your life when this truth about the world really hit home for you?

This boy had lost everything except one thing: the love of his father. And so he realizes, “I have to go home.” He knows the door will be open.

What is different about the younger son now? Is he coming back only because he’s broke?

What does the father do when he sees his son coming? Why does this matter?

In ancient Hebrew culture, it was considered completely undignified for men to run anywhere. They wore long-flowing robes, and to run anywhere they’d have to hike up their robes, showing their undergarments. But the father doesn’t care about being dignified—his love for his son is stronger than any concern about propriety.

Look at verse 20. What are we seeing here in the father’s response to his son?

Have you ever had a moment when you felt like this younger son? Overwhelmed by the grace, love, and forgiveness that someone else showed to you?

In this verse, we see the beauty of a father’s love and the power of a father’s grace and the joy of a son’s return. This is how God the Father treats everyone who decides to come home. When the lost are found, God rejoices and celebrates. But that doesn’t mean everyone shares in His joy.

Read Luke 15:25-32.

Why is the older son so angry? Does his anger surprise you?

What does his interaction with his father reveal about how he sees himself?

This son is just as lost as his younger brother—he just doesn’t realize it. Where his younger brother was unrighteous, this son is self-righteous.

How does an attitude of self-righteousness affect our relationship with God?

What self-righteous people tend to do is look at the unrighteous and wonder how they could possibly get right with God. But they look at themselves and fail to see why they need to get right with God.


  • Which of the brothers do you identify with the most? Why?

  • Do we rejoice when the lost are found? Why or why not?

  • How might God want to change us in light of His amazing love for the lost as seen in this parable?


Thank God for His grace that He gives to older and younger sons alike. Pray that His grace would transform your life and would lead you to share His grace with others.


Luke 15:11-32

15:11-12. Jesus turned to the family setting for his concluding parable to illustrate why He associated with sinners. The story was told succinctly with only the points Jesus wanted to make elaborated. A younger son demanded his share of the estate and got it. There is no indication of why he wanted it or why the father so quickly gave it to him. Later we will see the older brother’s attitude and surmise sibling rivalry here, as in the Old Testament stories of Jacob and Esau and of Joseph and his brothers. The younger brother’s portion was only a third of the estate if the entire estate were divided. By law, the older brother got a double portion (Deut. 21:17). Although this well-known parable (vv. 11-32) is usually called the parable of the prodigal son, the other son and the father are also important characters. It was unusual, but not unheard of, for a father to settle his estate before his death. Since the older son got a double portion of his father’s estate, the younger son’s share would have been one-third of the estate.

15:13-16. The younger son had no intention of returning to his family. It is impossible to know whether his foolish living included “prostitutes” (v. 30), or if that was just an angry accusation made by the older brother. The irony of the penniless younger son’s new job was that pigs were unclean animals to Jews (Lev. 11:7). He was at rock bottom in his new life.

15:17-19. It took extreme poverty and hunger to prompt the younger son to come to his senses and realize that, in spite of all he had done, the correct course of action was to return and become one of his father’s hired hands. To do so, however, it would be necessary to confess that he had sinned greatly and was not worthy to be called his son. This is a vivid picture of a person “hitting bottom” and finally realizing the magnitude of his sin. The younger brother came to his senses: The day laborers on his dad’s farm had enough to eat. Note how this ties the story back to the beginning of the chapter and the theme of sinners. No longer are we using animals or objects to talk about the lost. Now we have gotten down to basic facts. People are lost. People need to realize their lost condition and admit it. The younger son’s first step is saying, “I am a sinner.”

What is a sinner? An unworthy person. One who deserves nothing. Yet a sinner wants something. So the sinner searches for someone who loves the unworthy, who is willing to help the undeserving. The sinful younger brother had forfeited his position as son. He had no more claims on his father, so he applied for a new job—day laborer. Humans have the capacity to change. We do not have to remain in the pigpen. We do not have to continue to live as sinners. We can become responsible for our lives. We can quit our riotous living. We can come home.

15:20-23. Focus shifts from son to father. That the father saw his son coming from a long way off indicates that he habitually looked for his return. Perhaps the normal parental reaction to the younger son’s return would be anger or at least deep disappointment, but this father’s response displayed: (1) compassion, (2) love (threw his arms around his neck and kissed him), (3) celebration (a feast), and (4) joyful restoration of status for his son (a robe of distinction, signet ring of family authority, sandals worn by a son, in contrast to barefoot slaves). Even the joyful welcome did not deter the son from his determined course. He repeated the plea he had rehearsed. Somehow the last line never came out; the job application as a day laborer was never made.

15:24. This is the point at which the parable ties in to the two previous stories about God’s joy in saving the lost. The father’s celebratory attitude depicts the way in which God the Father receives repentant sinners. This contrasts with the contempt the Pharisees and scribes displayed for sinners who came to Jesus (v. 2). How could the father act like this? Did he not know what the son had done? Of course, but the son had been given up for dead. This was resurrection time. He was lost. We found the precious treasure for which we have hunted. The lost sheep is back. Certainly a lost and found son is worth much more than a coin or a sheep. What a picture of the Father in heaven. How He does celebrate when the lost are found, when sinners repent. What compassion and love He shows. Why does Jesus associate with sinners? Because heaven loves them and waits patiently for them to return and repent so the celebration can begin. Heaven’s citizens are repentant sinners.

15:25-30. Instead of the story ending on a note of joy and celebration, as might be expected, the spotlight shifts to the older brother. Unlike the father’s positive attitude, the older brother (1) was surprised at the return of his sinning brother, (2) was offended and jealous at the father’s celebration, (3) became angry at the father’s forgiving love, (4) declared his own self-righteousness, and (5) focused on his brother’s sinfulness rather than his newfound repentance. Jesus’ representation of the religious leaders in the character of the older brother was a scathing rebuke of their self-righteousness.

15:31-32. The rebuke of the religious leaders continues. They did not understand (1) the opportunity for a close relationship with God, (2) the generosity of His grace, (3) His joy at the salvation of sinners, or (4) the profound transformation of conversion. Perhaps most crucial of all, however, is the reminder of kinship to the sinners intended in the phrase this brother of yours. The religious leaders refused to accept their Jewish brethren, the “sinners,” as the older brother in this story.



The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

James 4:14

Well, okay then. That whole “mist” thing sure puts everything in perspective doesn’t it? So many of us have dreams buried deep down inside our hearts. Things we want to do that no one knows about. Talents far from being used. And yet, we don’t have time to waste.

What are YOU going to do with your life? Hold grudges or offer grace? Nurture your pain or allow God to bring it purpose? Make it about you or about others? Take risks or give in to fear? What is holding you back from chasing your God-sized purpose? When the struggle gets real, the loneliness wants to consume you, the critics speak up, and the doubt creeps in, make a choice. Not one choice — but repeated choices day after day.

Who and what will you listen to? Who has a say in where you go and what you become? Who gets to decide what you do with the one and only life God gives you on this earth? I hope and pray that it’s your Creator and you, and that it isn’t other people’s opinions, fear, pride, insecurity, comfort, etc. (hint: if this makes you cringe it might be time for a heart check. I’ve been there.) Pursue Jesus and the good works he’s prepared in advance for you to walk in above all else. The clock is ticking.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Revelation 1:17-18

King Jesus is alive and glowing with power, like the sun (Revelation 1:12-16). He is sovereign, which means possessing supreme or ultimate power. He is worthy of our adoration, our worship, and our lives. But before all of these, he’s also worthy of our hearts. Jesus is worthy of our worship and our lives—he’s also worthy of our hearts.

Yesterday, we considered our response to King Jesus in light of the Apostle John’s reaction to him. He literally fell at Jesus’ feet “as though dead.” But what happened next? King Jesus “laid his hand on me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Jesus is for you! Jesus displayed his heart toward his worshipper. The King’s heart is for us. It is not hardened by power, but compassionate. His work on the earth has brought salvation to us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). And his reign extends that grace! He still reaches down to pull us up, still places his mighty hand upon our shoulders, in love.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

This was the verse God used to set the direction for my life many years ago. Study. Do. Teach. It was a warm summer day and I sat in the sandy shallows of the Missouri River, begging to hear from God. Cool water washed over my feet as I read my favorite books in the world, Ezra and Nehemiah. But it wasn’t until chapter seven, verse ten that those words had life and fire breathed into them. I am sure, though, that while God spoke to me in a special way that morning, those three words form a larger model for following Jesus.

See, there’s a natural flow in a believer’s life starting from salvation. When God saves us we are awakened to His majesty and Jesus’ beautiful grace, this draws us to Him. We’re given a deeper desire to really know Him rather than simply knowing about him. We are lovingly convicted of sinful patterns in our lives and repent; that is literally to turn around and go the other way. The evangelist’s fire also forms in our belly to tell everyone of the transformation in our hearts, minds and lives! This flow, which Ezra stated so wonderfully, is meant to shape our entire lives: we should “set [our] hearts to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel”.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

In closing his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul highlighted some essentials of the Christian life—devotion to prayer, an attitude of gratefulness, and wise dealings with unbelievers. Reminding us to make the most of opportunities to share our testimony, Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).

The apostle knew the tongue’s power for good and encouraged using words to influence others for Jesus. James took the opposite approach, describing the harm tongues can do. He likened them to sparks that set a forest on fire or a restless evil that can poison (James 3:5; James 3:8). Sadly, we see this truth lived out in the media, workplace, families, and even churches.

Consider how we respond when we hear about a stranger who has ruined his personal life, carried out ruthless business practices, or brought public condemnation on himself. Our first response is often criticism and judgment instead of compassion or sorrow.

But we can learn from Jesus’ example. He asked the Samaritan woman simple questions so she’d recognize her need for living water (John 4:7-26); He invited Himself to the house of the hated tax collector (Luke 19:1-10) and He stood between the adulterous woman and her critics before gently bringing correction (John 8:1-11). Jesus’ words were seasoned with grace.

As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must learn to speak graciously. Let’s make it our habit to use a kind tone of voice, courteous approach, humble spirit, and edifying words.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17

Jesus calls us His sheep, and we know that the Shepherd’s primary objective for His sheep is that they flourish. He wants His sheep to be well-fed. He wants them to be well-cared for. He wants them to be content and satisfied. It is the joy of the Shepherd to lead His sheep to green pastures and still waters.

Jesus also has given His sheep a great promise. He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27–28). There is great security in knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd. We are under His protection.

Did you know that God loves to bless you? Did you know that God loves to pour His grace out upon you? Did you know that the Lord enjoys working in your life? He wants to bless you more than you want to be blessed. He wants to answer your prayers more than you want them answered. He wants to speak to you even more than you want to be spoken to. And He wants to use you even more than you want to be used. He loves you. Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). It is His joy, His pleasure, to give you the kingdom.

And what is that kingdom? The Bible says the kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy and the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). He wants His righteousness, peace, and joy to permeate every level of your life.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

Luke 15:32

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