Crisis and Celebration

Lost. Just saying the word brings crisis.

My mind immediately races back in time and remembers the trauma of losing my teaching Bible. Yes, the one with years of notes and well-scripted outlines. This Bible was given to me when I accepted the call into full-time ministry and had become a trusted teacher, friend, and ministry partner.

For months, I searched my office, home, car, and the rooms where I taught. I literally searched the same spaces again and again hoping to find my lost treasure. Losing this Bible brought heartache, sadness, anxiety, and at times anger. In a real sense, it created a crisis and brought trauma.

But this story didn’t end in crisis. As hard as it is to believe, a year and a half after I lost my Bible, I received a phone call from a stranger that shared the following details.

One day, while a man was walking on the side of the road in front of the church, he FOUND a Bible lying in a ditch. He picked it up, carried it home, and, for more than a year, read through the text and handwritten notes.

One day, this stranger became convicted about having the Bible since it had the name J. Steven Layton pressed in gold on the cover. After a bit of research, they discovered I was on staff at Fultondale First Baptist Church. Thus, I got a phone call from him.

A time and place was determined, and my Bible was returned. Words can hardly describe the joy and celebration that occurred as my lost treasure as was found.

More than 25 years later, I still find great joy in reflecting on the lessons learned, telling the story of the providence and power of God in making His name great through treasures lost and found.

Today’s reading and reflection tell the stories of crisis and celebration, lost and found. Sinners, sheep, coins, and children provide subjects to guide our study and contemplation. These parables symbolically depict the central theme of Luke’s Gospel, God’s love for His lost children and the joy experienced when they return home.

Times of crisis and celebration provide key opportunities to share God’s story. God declared in his Word, the Bible, that all lost and in need of a Savior. His Word also provides instruction on how to journey from lost to found.

Here’s the simple truth:

We must understand that God loves us and has a purpose for our lives. The Bible says it this way: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”  (John 3:16-17).

The Bible tells us God gives eternal life to as a gift: ”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:32).

We also learn from the Bible that we can live a full and meaningful life right now: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10).

We also discover that it’s God’s plan for us to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)

We learn in God’s Word that, as we search for meaning in life, our sinful nature keeps us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. We learn we’re all sinners by nature and by choice: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

And we find out we can’t save ourselves: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The bad news is that because of our sinful nature we deserve death and hell: ”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans. 6:23).

But God’s plan doesn’t end here. Although He’s holy and just and must punish sin, He loves us and provides forgiveness for our sin. Jesus said, “I’m the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The Bible teaches us that Jesus is God and became man: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).

We also learn that Jesus died for us on the cross: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

As God’s story continues we discover that Jesus was resurrected (arose) from the dead and is alive today: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 4:25; 6:9-10).

Today, God, through His Holy Spirit, calls us to Himself according: “Jesus answered, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:43b-44).

So what’s the bottom line? Like the lost son, we have a heavenly Father who loves us and is longing for us to come home. He’s provided a way and is ready to celebrate when those who are lost change their hearts and minds to follow Him.

You may wonder, what’s the rest of the story concerning the lost Bible? As I received my Bible from the stranger, I provided him a new leather study Bible and a certificate to have his pressed in gold on the cover.

I wish I knew how God had used this copy of His Word to advance His kingdom, but I never saw or heard from the stranger again. I wish I could say that by reading God’s Word this lost son found his way home, but I may never know.

This I do know. God’s Word tells us Hebrews 4:12 that “the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”

My prayer remains the same—that this man, his family, and the lost find salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. May God find us faithful as we search, share, and celebrate when the lost find their way home.

Note: The above outline is a great place to start in marking your Bible to use as a tool in sharing God’s Story with others.

Reflection Questions

  1. Jesus spent time with and ministered to sinners to demonstrate and tell the good news leading to abundant life. Am I following His example or am I spending my whole life with the righteous?
  2. Have I become unaware or unconcerned of the lost around me and their need for salvation? Do I seek them with the same intention that the author sought the lost Bible? Do I rejoice and find joy when they repent?
  3. Which son in the story best represents my life? Why?
  4. Who do I know that is in a time of crisis or celebration that needs to hear the message of the loving father?
  5. Do I need to make any corrections in my life or journey toward Christlikeness based on this devotion?

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Devotional Reading: Luke 15:1-32