VIDEO No One Loves Like My Dad

Luke 15:11-32

Stories are powerful. And Jesus knew it. Of all Jesus’ oral teachings recorded in Scripture, a full one-third are in storytelling form. Some of the world’s most enduring stories came from Jesus, a master storyteller who easily commanded crowds of thousands. More than fables or fairy tales, parables make spiritual truths relatable to people across every demographic of society. In this series, Nate Heitzig explores some of Jesus’ most profound parables.

Song for Dad

How Are You?

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34

Charla was dying, and she knew it. While she was lying on her hospital room bed, her surgeon and a group of young interns poured into the room. For the next several minutes, the doctor ignored Charla as he described her terminal condition to the interns. Finally, he turned to her and asked, “And how are you?” Charla weakly smiled and warmly told the group about her hope and peace in Jesus.

Some two thousand years ago, Jesus’ battered, naked body hung in humiliation on a cross before a crowd of onlookers. Would He lash out at His tormentors? No. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ ” (Luke 23:34). Though falsely convicted and crucified, He prayed for His enemies. Later, He told another humiliated man, a criminal, that—because of the man’s faith—he would soon be with Him “in paradise” (v. 43). In His pain and shame, Jesus chose to share words of hope and life out of love for others.

As Charla concluded sharing Christ to her listeners, she posed the question back to the doctor. She tenderly looked into his tear-filled eyes and asked, “And how are you?” By Christ’s grace and power, she’d shared words of life—showing love and concern for him and others in the room. In whatever trying situation we face today or in the days ahead, let’s trust God to provide courage to lovingly speak words of life.

By:  Tom Felten

Reflect & Pray

What difficult and humbling circumstances are you facing these days? How can you rest on Jesus during this challenging season?

Jesus, I praise You for Your example of grace and humility. Please help me reflect these qualities in my words.

Off The Hook

We often talk about being spiritually engaged, but when it comes to sin, what we need is detachment.


hook  fish

Have you ever battled a 230-pound tuna? I do every day, and I bet you do, too.

Let me explain. On July 19, 2013, Anthony Wichman, a 54-year-old fisherman from Kauai, Hawaii, snagged a 230-pound Ahi tuna, hauled it into his boat, and then hooked it through an eyeball. The enraged beast took one more dive, causing the line to tangle around Wichman’s leg, capsize his boat and pull him into the Pacific Ocean. Somehow Wichman managed to use his waterproof cell phone to call for help, and the Coast Guard arrived with a rescue helicopter crew. Later that day, the grateful and untangled fisherman was reportedly recovering from rope burns and bruises. I assume the fish was turned into a delicious meal or two.

How to Get Hooked

It’s a strange story about the fisherman who got hooked by one whale of a tuna. But in my mind, this story captures how the Bible describes sin: I think I’m the master of my little boat, pleasurably trolling for fish, when—BAM—I get hooked by something beyond my control.

Some people struggle with obvious ways of getting hooked, like addictions to drugs or alcohol. Personally, I’m hooked by more socially respectable but spiritually lethal sins—pride, lust, anger, greed, unbelief, or contempt for the poor, to name a few. Someone belittles or ignores me, and I’m hooked by resentment. I get hit with some bad financial news, and I’m hooked by greed and selfishness as I wrap my arms more tightly around my little treasures. Some people can’t think straight about political or spiritual issues the way I do, and that hooks me with self-righteousness and anger. Suffering and pain cross my path, and unbelief tangles around my soul, dragging my faith overboard.

Of course, I’m not just the victim of these scenarios; I choose to get hooked. In a sense, I want to get hooked. It happens so regularly that at times I wonder: Is it possible to live a hook-free life? I don’t expect temptations to disappear, but is it possible to face life’s big tunas and slowly become a less “hookable” human being?

According to the good news in Jesus, the answer is a resounding yes. The New Testament claims that growth in Christlikeness gradually frees us from getting ensnared by sin’s power. This good news was so embedded in the early church’s understanding of following Jesus that they adopted a special word for it—apatheia.

That sounds like apathy, the state of “I couldn’t care less,” but that’s not what those early Christians meant by apatheia. The term originally came from a group of ancient non-Christian Greek thinkers called the Stoics. These men had a few good ideas, including the claim that the “good life” must involve facing unruly passions like envy or anger while remaining unfazed. Stare them down, and train yourself to remain calm, cool, and collected, refusing to let them hook you.

Apatheia isn’t just the ability to detach from unruly passions; it’s the invitation to attach our lives to the God who loves us.

The apostle Paul had direct contact with Stoic philosophers at least once. (See Acts 17:18-32.) He spoke to them about God’s power by quoting the Stoic poet Aratus’s line “For we also are His children,” although Paul was referring to the one true God of the Bible, not the pantheistic concept of Stoicism.

Later, some key Christian leaders basically said, “Nice work, Stoics, but we’d like to take your version of apatheia, filter it through the Bible, and offer our own rendition.” As an example, a fourth-century Christian leader named Evagrius said that apatheia “creates a state of deep calm based on obedience to the commandments of God and the practice of virtue.” That squares with the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:12-14: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts … For sin shall not be master over you.” Becoming a Christian means that God has unhooked us from the sinful patterns that entangle and knock us overboard.

But because they knew Jesus, those early Christians added a crucial element to apatheia—love. Unlike their Greek counterparts, they couldn’t stop talking about apatheia and love in the same sentence. Apatheia isn’t just the ability to detach from unruly passions; it’s the invitation to attach our lives to the God who loves us. Paul makes clear that the Christian life isn’t just about avoiding sin; it’s also about union with Christ, being “dead to sin” and “alive to God in Christ Jesus,” and living your whole life “not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:11, Rom. 6:14).

Back to our fisherman. Once the Coast Guard helicopter arrived, he could have brushed away the hand of his rescuers and said, “Hey, no worries, rescue crew. It looks bad, all tangled up in my own line that’s attached to a massive, enraged fish with a big hook (mine) gouged into its eyeball, but have no fear. I’ll just stay calm and serene as I untangle myself, right my boat, push it to shore, and carve up some tuna steaks for dinner. Really, I got this.”

Of course, that’s not what happened. I imagine Wichman gladly acknowledged his need for help, joyfully taking the hand of the rescuer who cut the line and drew him out of the ocean. I also imagine that in that moment of deliverance, Wichman felt nothing but joy, relief, and gratitude. He wasn’t hooked by the tuna—or by anger or greed or selfishness or lust. He had one thought: Thank you for setting me free. That is Christian apatheia.

No one lives an untethered life. So take your pick: Hook into your favorite sins, or allow God the Father to gently draw you to Himself.

Apatheia occurs when we’re so surrounded by and immersed in Christ’s mercy and our need for His mercy that it gently unhooks us from temptation and draws us to God the Father. This is a work that starts with God’s grace. Evagrius stressed that we “have been brought into apatheia by the mercy of Christ.” In the third century, Gregory of Nyssa said, “We are led to God by desire, drawn to him as if pulled by a rope.” In other words, no one lives an untethered life. So take your pick: Hook into your favorite sins, or allow God the Father to gently draw you to Himself.

The Power of the Nail

For the follower of Christ, apatheia involves a lifelong process of engaging in spiritual practices that help us break from sinful habits and bond with Jesus. One early Christian, John Cassian, said this process was like driving a nail out with a nail. Take the ugly, bent, rusty nail of sin and drive a shiny, straight, new nail of virtue right through it. Squarely face your sinful habits, receive Christ’s grace and forgiveness, and then drive them out by replacing them with the new way of Jesus, the One who offers us a new heart with new and holy habits.

Consider the old rusty nail called greed. I have a special relationship with it. I’m extremely frugal (okay, some people call me cheap), but here’s how greed snares me: I worry about money a lot. Rather than trust God’s care for my finances, I constantly imagine silly worst-case scenarios where I’m flat broke. So I cling tenaciously to my little pot of cash and churn with anxiety. This greed restricts my ability to receive love from God and pour out love for others.

Those early Christian leaders had a straightforward remedy for this situation: Give. Take the nail of financial generosity and drive it through that rusty old nail of greed until you break its hold on your heart. Then you will acquire the fruit of apatheia—a peaceful, Christ-tethered heart that gets drawn closer to Him.

John Cassian, a fourth-century theologian, used a phrase from the Beatitudes to define apatheia— “Blessed are the pure in heart.” He said this referred to those who are single or simple in their heart’s focus.

Or take the particularly nasty nail of anger, a sin that Evagrius called “the most fierce passion.” Throughout the gospels, Jesus says things like “love your enemies,” “forgive others their trespasses,” and “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” In other words, get unhooked from your anger and bitterness. Take the bright, straight nail of forgiveness and drive it through that bent but tenacious one of bitterness. Then do it again, and again, and again.

That’s the only way Jesus finally freed me from my long battle with resentment after a deep hurt. I must have hit the nail of forgiveness at least 500 times, praying alone, praying with others, starting and then halting the process of letting go. I can’t recall the exact date, but at some point, I hit that nail one more time, and the anger was gone.

Help from the Unhookable One

Of course, there’s something more powerful than swinging my little hammer—the presence of Jesus. The author of Hebrews describes Him as the “One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). In other words, Jesus is the world’s first and only unhookable human being.

I love the portrayal of Jesus in a 17th-century painting titled “Christ Before the High Priest,” by the Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst. In a dark room illuminated by a single candle, Jesus stands before the high priest, who sits and points an accusing finger in the Lord’s face. His critics should be in total control. But Jesus, His robe askew and hands tied, is utterly calm. His accusers are building their case to crucify Him, but Jesus is in control. And, amazingly, the Lord’s eyes radiate not anger, resentment, hate, or fear, but the tenderness of love, even for His enemy. This is perfect freedom. This is apatheia.

Every time I gaze at van Honthorst’s painting, I think, I could never do that. I am much too hookable. So I don’t just need Jesus’ example on how not to get hooked by sin. I need Him. I need His mercy and power. I need to cry out, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner, a deeply flawed and hooked man. I need You to rescue me.” Thank God, as the author of Hebrews urges, we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).


By Matt Woodley 

Illustrations by Jonathan Bartlett


A Day of Reckoning

So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God. — Romans 14:12

The Bible makes it plain that we shall, each one, have to give an account of ourselves. It will not be your wife, your husband, your parents, your neighbors, church members, or preachers—it will be you yourself that you will be giving an account of in that great day. No other statements will be allowed. I guess the Corinthians are still around today. How many people walk out of church and make comments such as: “Well, what did you think of that sermon?” “How did you like the preacher?” Are we not back to Corinth again? My friends, do you come to judge God’s servants or do you come to place yourself under the judgment of God’s Word? What a difference there is in those two attitudes.

In a worship service, to paraphrase Soren Kierkegaard, it is God who is the audience, the congregation, the performer, and the preacher. God is the one to judge. We who are covered by the blood of Christ will be forgiven, but we are still accountable and will face the day of reckoning.

Question to ponder: What is frightening and what is comforting about the accountability of believers?

More and More, Less and Less

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.John 20:22

In our churches today we are leaning too heavily upon human talents and educated abilities. We forget that the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God is a necessity, not only in our ministerial preparation, but in the administrative and leadership functions of our churches.

We need an enduement of the Spirit of God! We sorely need more of His wisdom, His counsel, His power, His knowledge. We need to reverence and fear the Almighty God. If we knew the full provision and the spiritual anointing that Jesus promised through the Holy Spirit, we would be far less dependent on so many other things.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists—and most of the other “ologists”—have their place in our society. I do not doubt that. But many of these professionals now have credentials in the church, and I fear that their counsel is put above the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I have said it before, and I say it now: We need the Holy Spirit more and more, and we need human helps less and less! JIV048

[T]he Holy Spirit is the source of all spiritual power. He and He alone can…make us count for God and humanity, and the great purpose of our existence. HS321

Love Creating Love

Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place … there they crucified Him.John 19:17-18

Although the love of God is clearly laid out in the Old Testament, why did humankind have to wait so long to have the message spelled out in such clear terms as John uses: “God is love” (1Jn 4:8)? People could not see this sufficiently clearly until they had looked into the face of Jesus. In the life of Jesus is the clearest revelation that God is love.

So few of us open ourselves to the love of God. We have more fear of Him than we have love for Him. There is, of course, a godly fear (or reverence), but that is not what I mean. If we fail to comprehend how much we are loved by God, then there will be no energy to turn the machinery of our lives in the way they were meant to turn.

Whenever I doubted the love of God as a young Christian, I was told I should go to Calvary. I never quite understood what that meant until one day I complained to God that He could not really love me; if He did, He wouldn’t let such things happen as were befalling me. He gave me no answer but showed me the Cross. And as I saw His Son dying there for me, the scales fell from my eyes and I found love for Him flowing out of His love for me. I discovered what 1 John 4:19 means: “We love because He first loved us.”

Love for God is not the fruit of labor but the response of our hearts to being loved. It is not something we manufacture; it is something we receive.


O God my Father, save me from believing that my problem is “I don’t love You enough,” when the real problem is “I don’t know how much I am loved by You.” Let the scales fall from my eyes right now and let me see—really see. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Jn 19:16-30; Eph 2:15-16; Col 1:19-22

What is the result of the Cross?

Spend some moments in prayer contemplating the Cross.

A Way That Seems Right

There is a way that seems right to a man,

but in the end it is the way of death.—Proverbs 16:25

Things are not always what they seem. Proverbs warns that we can be deceived into believing we are going down the right path and yet be heading toward death, the opposite direction from God’s will. People do not naturally seek God or pursue righteousness (Rom. 3:10–18). Only as the Spirit awakens our hearts to the Person of Christ are we able to desire God’s will. If we make decisions apart from the guidance of the Spirit of God, we will be like a ship trying to sail without a compass. We will do what makes the most sense, based on our own wisdom. But what looks attractive may actually lead to sin, ultimately destroying what is precious to us, for our most profound human thinking is mere foolishness to God (1 Cor. 1:18–20). Only God knows the way that leads to life, and He wants to lead us to walk in it (Matt. 7:13–14).

Don’t assume every opportunity that arises is from God. Satan will disguise himself as an “angel of light,” and his invitations will seem to be in your best interest (2 Cor. 11:14). Yet his way leads only to death (John 8:44). The word of God will be like a light to your path, guiding you in the ways of righteousness (Ps. 119:105).

It can be perilous to follow a path that seems right without first consulting the Holy Spirit for guidance (John 16:13). Take time to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction when you face decisions. He knows the full ramifications of your choices. The Holy Spirit will assist you to understand truth and to experience abundant life. Trust Him as He leads you.