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2022 Lenten Devotional

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Ash Wednesday, March 2 - Psalm 51:1-17

 

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
   and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
   a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being;
   therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
   wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
   and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and sustain in me a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
   O God of my salvation,
   and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
   if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God,

 you will not despise.”

 

What is Lent? It is a time to dig deep into who I am -- “A sinner when my mother conceived me” (verse 5 above).  Starting on Ash Wednesday, I have 40 days to take a good hard look at my heart and soul and ask myself some important questions:  Who have I been? Who does God want me to be?  And why have I put so much distance between the two?is face

 

The easy way through Lent would be to spend the next 40 days thinking about Easter eggs, white lilies and candy, and the new outfit we’ll wear to Easter service. But King David, in this Psalm, suggests something much more productive; he provides the perfect blueprint for a personal journey of reconciliation, renewal and restoration.  After all, Lent is not easy for Jesus; there are dark days ahead for Him.  The ultimate sacrifice He makes for us will not truly resound in our hearts unless we acknowledge the very reason He made it -- the depth and breadth of our sin.

           

            Pray with me:  Blessed Father, help me to finally face the sins I haven’t owned; the fears I haven’t told you; the regrets I haven’t shared; and the pain and anger I can’t seem to leave behind. I know that Jesus cannot heal me if I haven’t given Him all the parts of me that need healing.  Give me the strength to confront all of it, today and throughout this season.  Help me to gather it all up and place it at the foot of the cross, that I may walk these next 40 days beside my Savior as He saves me.

 

Thursday, March 3 – Psalm 91:1-2. 9-16

 

1 You who live in the shelter of the Most-High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.”

9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
   the Most-High your dwelling place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
   no scourge come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
   so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
   the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honor them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation.

 

“Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation.”

 

            It’s not a stretch to feel that these troubled days we’re living in don’t offer much in the way of security!  How soon before the next Covid variant comes along?  What financial crisis is just around the corner?  What new political winds will threaten our democracy? What other surprises are out there waiting to pull the rug out from under us?  What has become of the truth?  When did brotherly love leave town?  When will common goodness and kindness start winning again?

 

            So, what is left to count on?  God is!  The closing words of Psalm 91 are brimming with promises for those who love God.   We will be delivered, protected, answered, kept company, rescued, honored, satisfied, and saved.  And all we have to do is remember to call to Him.  What more could we possibly ask for?   This chaotic world, with all of the uncertainties in it, is no match for our God!

 

Friday, March 4 – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
  a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
  a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
  a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
  a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
  a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
  a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
  a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

 “ For everything there is a season,

 and a time for every matter under heaven…”

 

            Solomon wasn’t just wise; he was also quite the poet!   These beautifully flowing verses from Ecclesiastes remind us of the many complex seasons of life; the ever-shifting moments that we all share in our common human experience.  They are each important; they each have a place; and they march in a rhythm set by God.  Everything under heaven is subject to His perfect timing. 

 

The problem arises when we don’t always like God’s schedule and would prefer to control things ourselves.  Some of us may think we might be better at planning all these moments, so that things are running in a way that suits our particular fancy.  We want what we want, and we want it now.

 

At times like that, a bit of introspection might be in order.  Believe it or not, we don’t know everything God knows.  We don’t have the wide-angle lens He has.  He is light-years ahead of us, working out things in our future that we haven’t even started to imagine.  So when something isn’t happening fast enough for you, give it to God (and don’t keep taking it back).

 

These words from Solomon are actually quite reassuring, when we get over ourselves and remember that the One who is in charge is the same One who created time in the first place.  Every perfect moment of our lives is a precious gift.  When we know in our heart that God has worked them all out for our good, we can simply enjoy them, and give Him all the glory! 

 

Saturday, March 5 – John 12:27-36

 

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

 

 “Now my soul is troubled.  And what should I say - - ‘Father, save me from this hour’?

No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

 

            These are difficult verses to read.  We can almost hear the pain in Jesus’ voice as He says these words, knowing that his crucifixion is coming soon.  His human side must have been dreading what was ahead, but He also knew what God had called Him to do, and instead of Himself, He thought of me and you. Even though it would temporarily separate Him from the Father, Jesus loved us enough to take our sins onto the cross with Him so we would never have to.

 

            Jesus clearly knew His purpose.  Through it all, he remained faithful to His Father.  He looked past the pain and torment and saw generations of Christians just like you and me, following God’s call for us, and living in His love.  You and I are blessed to be among those generations who were baptized into the body of Christ.  Every one of us has a God-given calling.  We must search our heart, discover what it is and accept it, just as our Savior did.  It may be hard.  It may be scary.  We may fear that we are inadequate.  But we must remember that those fears have a history.  Those fears are the reason why Jesus endured the horrible things He did.  He suffered and died and rose again so that we could face our fears head-on, knowing that every one of them has been faced before and defeated.

 

Sunday, March 6 – Luke 4:1-13

 

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
   and serve only him.’”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
   to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
   so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

 

“Jesus answered him, “It is written …”

 

            As Christians struggling to do the right things and live a Godly life in a world full of evil, it’s a good bet that you and I have spent our own share of time in the wilderness.  Perhaps we haven’t faced the same level of temptation Jesus did in these verses, but we’ve all known temptation.  And most likely, we haven’t always risen above it as well as Jesus does in this reading.  So it might be important to look at the one phrase that Jesus repeatedly uses to respond to the devil: “It is written…”  All Jesus needed to do to hand Satan his walking papers was to confront him with the Word of God.  And that’s a pretty good example for us.  No matter what kind of temptation gets thrown in front of us, we can be certain that there is an answer in Scripture.  Those answers come straight from an all-knowing God, and they will always lead to better choices.

 

            Given the multitude of temptations out there, perhaps it would do us well to have those answers ready.  How well do you know Scripture?   The Season of Lent is a wonderful time to get to know the Bible.  Choose one of the Gospels and spend some time each day reading through it.  There are 34 more days in Lent, and I guarantee you won’t be sorry.  There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God, and that really annoys Satan!

 

Monday, March 7 – 1 John 2:1-6

 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  3 Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4 Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5 but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

 

“…whoever obeys his word, truly in this person

the love of God has reached perfection.

By this we may be sure that we are in him:  whoever says,

 “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.”

 

There was never a man who walked this earth who was more confident of his Father’s love for Him than Jesus.  He was the ultimate example of someone in whom God’s love had reached perfection.  And it was Jesus’ certainty of that love that enabled Him to do such amazing things: to obey God’s every commandment; to put himself last and others first; and to have the compassion to encourage and forgive no matter what.  Jesus lived his life in obedience to the God who loved Him.   God’s abiding love, alive in Jesus, gave Him everything He would ever need to live out His calling, all the way to the cross.

 

Our Father has planted the seed of His love in us as well.  When we allow that seed to take root in our heart, we too will find ourselves empowered. When we fully realize how much God loves us, and learn to be confident in His perfect love, there is nothing we can’t do.  The Apostle John knew this, and the words in these verses are a wonderful reminder to those of us who sometimes forget who we are.  We are children of a God who cherishes every one of us unconditionally.  When we are confident of that truth, like Jesus was, everything we do will be a response to that love.

 

Remember who you are.  Remember how much you are loved.  John says that when we do this, we will walk just as Jesus did.  Now none of us should expect to walk on water, but resting in God’s perfect love for you, you can be sure you’ll be walking in the right direction.

 

Tuesday, March 8 – Psalm 17

 

1 Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
   give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
2 From you let my vindication come;
   let your eyes see the right.

3 If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
   if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
   my mouth does not transgress.
4 As for what others do, by the word of your lips
   I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths;
   my feet have not slipped.

6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
   incline your ear to me, hear my words.
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
   O savior of those who seek refuge
   from their adversaries at your right hand.

8 Guard me as the apple of the eye;
   hide me in the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who despoil me,
   my deadly enemies who surround me.
10 They close their hearts to pity;
   with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
11 They track me down; now they surround me;
   they set their eyes to cast me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion eager to tear,
   like a young lion lurking in ambush.

13 Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them!
   By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
14 from mortals—by your hand, O Lord—
   from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them;
   may their children have more than enough;
   may they leave something over to their little ones.

15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
   when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

 

 “Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
   give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
   let your eyes see the right.”

 

            The Season of Lent is one of the best times to work on our prayer life, and if yours is like mine, it probably needs some work.  King David starts Psalm 17 with an important requirement for an honest prayer life.  We must have “lips free of deceit”.  So what does this mean?  It means that, before we ask God for anything, we must be honest with ourselves about what is in our heart. And no one says that’s easy!

 

It takes a level of confidence and spiritual maturity to bare our heart in this way. We might be a bit worried about what we we’ll find.  But it’s important to realize that the things we pray for are often driven by the reasons we pray for them, and those reasons may not always be pure.  We must be more interested in God’s idea of right and wrong than we are in our own.  God may know that giving us what we’re asking for isn’t the right answer.  Perhaps giving us what we want might hurt someone else in the process.   He will surely know when we are asking for the wrong reasons.

 

Examine your heart before you pray; make sure that your lips are free of deceit. Then go to God with a heart ready to be corrected if necessary.  And never forget that God always, always knows best.

 

Wednesday, March 9 – Job 1:1-22

 

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did. 6 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.

 

 “…Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

and naked shall I return there;

the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;

 blessed be the name of the Lord.”  In all this

Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.”

 

            If things weren’t bad enough for Job in these beginning verses, they got much worse!  Job was struck with painful boils; his wife turned against him; and his best friends accused him of being so evil that he deserved God’s wrath.  But through it all, Job did his best to remain faithful to God, and in the end he was greatly rewarded.  God not only restored all of Job’s losses, He blessed him with twice what he had before.

 

Although most of us will never have to endure what Job did, we all have suffering in our life. There will be countless times we won’t understand why things have to be so hard and so painful.  It may seem like it will never end.  We may wonder where God is and why He doesn’t answer our cries for help. But we can draw some helpful lessons from these verses.  Job had no idea why all this was happening to him, but he kept his trust in God.  He continued to acknowledge his dependence on God and never turned away from Him.

 

Whatever trials befall us, whatever hardships we endure, we must never forget that God is always in control and loves us enough to work everything out for the good.  He may not remove the difficulties we face, but He will surely help us face them.  He is always there and He always cares, even when we can’t feel it. 

 

Thursday, March 10 – Philippians 3:2-12

 

2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— 4 even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

 

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection

 and the sharing of his sufferings

by becoming like him in his death, 

if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 Not that I have already obtained this

or have already reached the goal; 

but I press on to make it my own,

because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

 

What is the goal of your Christian life?   Do you have one?  Are you getting closer to achieving it every day? These are questions we should all spend some time considering. Many of us might draw a blank. We may not know where we’re headed. Without a rudder, we can wind up dead in the water.

But if we have an answer to this defining question, it can clarify everything we do in our life. The words above give us Paul’s answer.  He wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, share His sufferings, and become like Him in His death.  Paul made it his life’s work to achieve those goals and it was far from easy, but most of us would say he succeeded.

 

God has a plan for each and every one of us.  When our goals match God’s plan, we are giving our life to Him, and it is powerful.  It’s undoubtedly why Paul was able to live with such firm purpose.  He was under no illusion at any time that he had reached his goal, so he pressed on, again and again, until the very day his life was over.  Paul’s goals were God’s goals, and he pursued them with an active faith that never gave up.

 

You and I are on our own journey of faith.  So I ask again: Do you have a goal for your life?  Does it match God’s goal for you? And are you, like Paul, willing to press on, again and again until you reach it?

 

Friday, March 11 – Psalm 27

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
   whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
   of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me
   to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
   they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,
   my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
   yet I will be confident.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
   that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
   all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
   and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
   in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
   he will set me high on a rock.

6 Now my head is lifted up
   above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
   sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
   be gracious to me and answer me!
8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
   Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9     Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,
   you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
   O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
   the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
   and lead me on a level path
   because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
   for false witnesses have risen against me,
   and they are breathing out violence.

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
   in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
   be strong, and let your heart take courage;
   wait for the Lord!

 

“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
   in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;
   be strong, and let your heart take courage;
   wait for the Lord!”

 

            “Whom shall I fear?”  “Of whom shall I be afraid?”  “I will be confident.”  “He will hide me.” “He will set me high on a rock.”  “My head is lifted up.”  “You who have been my help.”  “The Lord will take me up.”  What comforting words these are.   If anyone ever knew what it was like to be protected by God, it was David, who seems to have spent half his life one step ahead of Saul, trying not to get killed!  Few of us will ever know that kind of danger, and yet, don’t we all have our own personal kind of fear?  Don’t we all want to feel protected and safe?

 

            The next time fear rears its ugly head in your life, remember David’s words from Psalm 27.  The Lord is indeed your light and salvation, the stronghold of your life.  He will indeed protect you. Some days, it may seem a long time coming, but maybe God wants you to learn something.  Maybe He wants you to draw closer to Him, as close as David did.

 

            You have God’s promise to be with you always.  Like David, you “shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”.  Just be strong, let your heart take courage, and wait for Him!

 

Saturday, March 12 – Matthew 23:37-39

 

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets

and stones those who are sent to it!

How often I have desired to gather your children together

as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,

but you were not willing!”

 

            It’s hard not to imagine the pain and regret that must have been in Jesus’ voice when He said these words.  His passion on the cross was approaching, and the time in which the people He loved were to turn around and follow Him was almost gone.  We can feel His grief over what had become of Jerusalem.  Its name literally meant “city of peace”, and yet it had long been a place of violence against God’s prophets.  Its people were God’s people, and yet they were rejecting the Messiah for whom they had waited for all of history.  And still Jesus longed to gather them together under His wing. But they were not willing.  Sometimes I wonder if He felt as if He had failed, and it breaks my heart. 

 

            Sadly, there’s a good chance Jesus looks down on us and the state of our world and says the same things.  How many prophets have we killed?  How many of us refuse to turn around and follow Jesus?  Like the people of Jerusalem so long ago, we too are God’s people, but we don’t always act like it.  And yet Jesus loves us still.  At this very moment, Jesus wants nothing more than to gather us together under His wing.  Are we willing?

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Sunday, March 13 – Philippians 3:17-4:1

 

17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.  1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

 

“…their minds are set on earthly things. 

But our citizenship is in heaven,

and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior,

the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

            Paul sent these encouraging words to the early church in Philippi, the very first Christian church in Europe, which Paul and his companions had established on his second missionary journey.  It was a dangerous time to be a Christian.  Paul wrote these words in a Roman prison, to thank these new Christians for their gifts, and to encourage them to stand firm in their faith. 

 

Although we are Christians of a different time, these verses ring true for us as well.  There are enemies of the cross all around us.  We ourselves set our minds on earthly things – all those shiny treasures to which we attach more worth than they deserve.  As such, we are too often guided by our own desires, rather than love for others.  We give in to the parts of our human nature that separate us from God, and deny Jesus with our misdirected priorities.  Paul reminds us of what we too often forget -- that Jesus redefined our citizenship. This world is no longer our home; we are now citizens of heaven.  We must live in accordance with heavenly values.  We are to be different!

 

Pray with me:  Lord, keep my eyes on heaven.  May I always look and feel like an outsider here.  May others see me as different -- a stranger in a foreign land.  May I never feel truly at home until that blessed day when I am finally there.

 

Monday, March 14 – Psalm 105:1-15

 

1 O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
   make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
   tell of all his wonderful works.
3 Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually.
5 Remember the wonderful works he has done,
   his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,

 6 O offspring of his servant Abraham,
   children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

7 He is the Lord our God;
   his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He is mindful of his covenant forever,
   of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
   his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
   to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
   as your portion for an inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,
   of little account, and strangers in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
   from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
   he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones;
   do my prophets no harm.”

 

“O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
   make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
   tell of all his wonderful works.”

 

            God gives us so much for which to be thankful!  In these verses David holds up the many blessings God showered on His people throughout Israel’s history.  And God is still showering us today with blessing after blessing, each and every day of our lives.  Unfortunately, we often become so used to God’s gifts that we are in danger of taking them for granted.  Perhaps we turn our attention to other things: our challenges; our complaints; our desire for more of what we want, when it isn’t what we need.   We develop amnesia and forget how much God has given us.  David would not have us do so. 

 

            Life is defined by our perspective.  How we choose to look at it is up to us.  I have a plaque in my home that says it well: “The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.”  Whatever is going on in our lives today, let’s give thanks to the Lord. Let’s call on his name. Let’s sing praises to him. Let’s tell of all his wonderful works. 

 

Pray with me: Dear Lord, open our eyes that we might see all you have given us, and open our mouths that we might sing of all your glory.  Amen.

 

Tuesday, March 15 – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

 

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

 

“So if you think you are standing,

watch out that you do not fall. 

 No testing has overtaken you

that is not common to everyone.  God is faithful,

and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength,

but with the testing he will also provide the way out

so that you may be able to endure it.”

 

            As a mom, I love my children with all my heart, and I’m sure I would forgive them no matter what they did.  But that doesn’t mean they should take my love for granted and do anything they want, with no thought as to whether it is right or wrong.  In the same way, God’s love and forgiveness, which we receive through Jesus, should never be mistaken as an excuse to be less than we can be. 

 

            In these verses, Paul is reminding the Christians in

Corinth that their ancestors thought they were standing because of their covenant with Yahweh, but due to their unfaithful behaviors, they fell.  Paul warns the Corinthians that they too are in danger of falling, and we should heed the same warning. 

 

Paul provides three pieces of encouragement.  First, any temptation we experience has been faced and overcome by others.  Second, our God is faithful and will always be there for us when we need Him. Third, God will always provide us with a way out. He isn’t out to break us, and He will not test us beyond our strength.   As Christians, we will be tested from time to time.  In those moments, we must remember to call on Jesus for strength.  We must never entertain delusions about our human capabilities; we are not standing on our own. 

 

Wednesday, March 16 – Luke 13:22-30

 

22 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

 

“He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door;

  for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.’” 

 

I don’t know about you, but I have always found this concept of a “narrow door” to be awfully disturbing!  I would much rather it be a nice wide door, easy to find, and open to anyone who has been a “good person” and has “tried hard to do the right stuff”.  I don’t want to think of such an important door being difficult to get through.  I prefer to picture a loving God, standing there with a big smile on His face, welcoming any and all who have given life a good shot.

 

            But that’s not how this works.  Salvation is not meant to be a casual subject, a matter of mild interest on our part.  The narrowness of the door is defined by Jesus. We certainly don’t get to stroll through when no one’s looking.  There are requirements, and God is in charge of them.  Our salvation cannot be an afterthought; it must be the focus of our life.  It must govern everything we do: how we spend our time; what we do with our money; and how we treat others.  And since these are all things we’re not very good at, we must devote ourselves to the One who is.  Jesus is the only key to the narrow door – knowing Him, depending on Him, and having a personal relationship with Him is the only way in.

 

            So don’t get comfortable thinking you can make your own way.  Your entry depends on the very outcome of your encounter with Jesus.  Take up your cross and follow Him.  It is indeed a narrow door, and you’ll never get in unless you can truly say, “I’m with Him.”

 

Thursday, March 17 – Psalm 63:1-8

 

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
   my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
   as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
   beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
   my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
   I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
   and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6 when I think of you on my bed,
   and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
   and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
   your right hand upholds me.

 

 “Because your steadfast love is better than life,
   my lips will praise you.”

 

            The love of God was more precious to King David than his own life, and he sings of that love throughout these verses.  His words have much to tell us about what is important and what is not.  No matter what kind of life we have, how many possessions we own, how many friends and loved ones we have, it is all worth nothing without God’s love.  Only God’s love is steadfast; everything else can dissolve into nothing in a moment.  God’s love is the only thing that can save us.    It is the only thing that is able to sustain us in hard times.  It is the only thing that will ever give us true joy. 

 

            As we approach the final days of this Season of Lent, we will be reminded again of exactly what God’s love is and does.  We will see the tremendous cost it paid and the awesome victory it won. God’s love is everything there is!  May we learn to treasure it as King David did.  And may we never, ever take it for granted.

 

Friday, March 18 – Revelation 3:1-6

 

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. 3 Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. 6 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

 

“I know your works; you have a name of being alive,

but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. 

Remember then what you received and heard;

obey it, and repent.”

 

            At the outset, I should admit that I find the Book of Revelation extremely intimidating.  According to my Bible, Revelation was written in “apocalyptic” form – a type of Jewish literature using symbolic imagery to communicate hope to those in the midst of persecution.  That explains why the language is so packed with symbolism that I’m never sure I know what I’m reading!  Fortunately, the verses above seem to be somewhat straightforward.  John is telling the early church in Sardis that, despite their public image of being alive, they are becoming more and more spiritually dead.  Their works are not perfect in the sight of God because they have forgotten some of the teaching they received, are no longer obeying it, and are in need of repentance. This sounds to me like a universal problem in the church – aren’t all churches struggling to maintain a devout spiritual life?

 

            Given the current craziness of these Covid times, and the endless isolation we’re navigating, it isn’t hard to see how we could become at least spiritually asleep, if not dead.  Our ministries may still be active, but are we performing them in the likeness of Jesus?  Are we serving strangers or brothers and sisters?  Are we merely providing food, or are we nourishing souls?  Are we simply clothing bodies, or are we sharing God’s love?  Hard questions, but necessary, if we’re going to ensure that “social distance” doesn’t become “spiritual death”.

 

            Pray with me:  Lord, fill us anew with your Spirit and bring us to new life.  Remind us who we are and why we’re here.  Help us to serve as Jesus did, so that your love and goodness will be clearly seen in all that we say and do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, March 19 – Matthew 1:18-21, 24a  

 

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

 

“When Joseph awoke from sleep,

he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him;

he took her as his wife.”

 

How amazing is the faith of Joseph? Just a simple carpenter, like any other, going about his business, humbly living each new day as an ordinary Jewish man. And then, out of nowhere, here comes God and shatters all of Joseph’s expectations of the future. He is called to a level of obedience he could never have imagined.  By faith alone, Joseph dropped his own plans and put himself at the service of an unmarried girl, pregnant with a child who wasn’t his, a role that would surely bring him ridicule. The devout faith of this simple man, taking Mary and Jesus into his home, loving and protecting them, is extraordinary. Where would we be if Joseph hadn’t listened to the angel and done what the Lord commanded him to do?

 

Are you open to letting God break in on your life?  Are you sensitive to the quiet movements of God’s spirit?  Will you listen to His dreams for you?  Will you put aside your plans and obey, even when it’s complicated, as Joseph did?  We are always blessed when we listen to God.  God used Joseph’s “yes” to change the world, and He can do the same with yours.  

 

 

 

Sunday, March 20 – Isaiah 55:1-9

 

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
   come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
   and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
   and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
   listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
   my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
   a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
   and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
   for he has glorified you.

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake their way,
   and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
   For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
  so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

 

In this reading, God’s people are in exile, and Isaiah’s task is to get them to return to Jerusalem, their homeland, and rebuild their city and the temple. They had become settled and had forgotten their purpose -- being faithful servants of God.  Isaiah certainly had his hands full.  God’s chosen people often acted as if the Covenant was one-sided. There were many times when they thought they knew better than God, and they wanted to have things their way.  There even were times they thought they didn’t need God at all.  Sound familiar?

 

Isaiah’s prophetic words in these verses could just as easily be said to us.  Lest we forget, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways.  They are higher than ours.  We don’t get to put God in a box, bending Him to our will.  When we stop listening to God and go our own way, we usually wind up running in all directions seeking after things that have no value.  That never ends well.

 

If we don’t seek the Lord, we cannot listen to Him.  And if we don’t listen to Him, we cannot obey his will.   Our thoughts and our ways pale in comparison with God’s.  We have no clue what is best for us.  It is time to stop, look, and listen.

 

Monday, March 21 – Romans 2:1-11

 

Therefore, you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

“Do you imagine, whoever you are,

that when you judge those who do such things

and yet do them yourself,

you will escape the judgment of God?”

 

            If we had to make a list all of the failures of our human flesh, in order, by volume, it’s a sure bet that hypocrisy would be at the very top.  All of the sins that are so likely to annoy us in everyone else are probably the same ones we would most see in ourselves, if we’d turn our eyes inward for a change.

 

            Hypocrisy has been around a long time, and judging from these verses, Paul must have seen it in the early church in Rome.  But surely this is a universally convicting message.  Human nature is timeless, and there is no shortage of hypocrisy among us today.  During this Lenten season, while we are taking some time to recognize and repent of our sins, we should give Paul’s message some serious thought because it’s a good one.   We don’t have a leg to stand on if we’re calling out others for things we are doing ourselves.  And when we judge others for sins we have in common, we will be judged accordingly.  Right now, however, you will have to excuse me, for I seem to have a plank in my eye!

 

Tuesday, March 22 – Psalm 39

 

I said, “I will guard my ways
   that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will keep a muzzle on my mouth
   as long as the wicked are in my presence.”
2 I was silent and still;
   I held my peace to no avail;
my distress grew worse,
3     my heart became hot within me.
While I mused, the fire burned;
   then I spoke with my tongue:

4 “Lord, let me know my end,
   and what is the measure of my days;
   let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a few handbreadths,
   and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
6 Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
   they heap up, and do not know who will gather.

7 “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
   My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
   Do not make me the scorn of the fool.
9 I am silent; I do not open my mouth,
   for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
   I am worn down by the blows of your hand.

11 “You chastise mortals
   in punishment for sin,
consuming like a moth what is dear to them;
   surely everyone is a mere breath.

12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord,
   and give ear to my cry;
   do not hold your peace at my tears.
For I am your passing guest,
   an alien, like all my forebears.
13 Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
   before I depart and am no more.”

 

 “Lord, let me know my end,
   and what is the measure of my days;
   let me know how fleeting my life is.”

            Today we join David again, as he spends some time in prayer.  We hear him speak about the brevity of life and the need to live it wisely. These are not David’s thoughts alone.  Haven’t we all pondered these things?  Life is short; we are not told the number of our days. The reality is that our time here can end at any moment. 

 

So how can we make the most of our time?  None of us would say, “I’d like to waste my life!”, but we spend so much valuable time chasing after things that don’t matter.  What are you doing with your life? Are you living for yourself or for others? Are you securing your home here on earth, or are you just passing through?  Are you gathering the kinds of treasures that dissolve into nothing? Or are you investing in a relationship with Jesus, through which you will be blessed forever?  When we count the wrong things as precious, our hope is not fully in God, and our life will be sorely lacking.

 

            We cannot know the future.  We cannot measure our days.  But we do know how fleeting our life will be.  And we can make it count only by living every moment for God; by remembering that this is but a brief stop, on the way to a forever home, the likes of which we cannot even imagine.

             

Wednesday, March 23 – Luke 13:18-21

 

18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

 

“What is the kingdom of God like?

And to what should I compare it?  

It is like a mustard seed that someone took

and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree,

and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

 

These verses are some of the most familiar in the Bible and can be of great encouragement to you and me, as disciples of Christ. The general expectation among the people of Jesus’ day was that the Messiah would arrive as a great warrior-king and leader, freeing the nation of Israel from the Roman occupation and restoring it to its former glory.  But God had other plans!   Jesus said his kingdom was going to begin quietly.  Like the tiny mustard seed that grows into an enormous tree, the kingdom of God would eventually push outward until the whole world was changed.  The church of Christ started with a few disciples, and now there are 1.8 billion Christians, believers of diverse cultures and experiences, just like the tree with the birds of heaven nesting in its branches.

 

God wants us to help Him keep it growing. As disciples, we have our own seeds to sow.  The simplest word of hope can save a life.  A passing smile can heal a heart.  A hand to hold can cure loneliness. These humblest acts of Christian love can be seeds that will take root in the heart of an unbeliever and help grow the kingdom of God.  It doesn’t take mighty acts of great power; our tiny seeds can literally change the world!

 

Thursday, March 24 – 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5

 

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— 3 if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

“…we look not at what can be seen

but at what cannot be seen;

for what can be seen is temporary,

but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in

is destroyed, we have a building from God,

a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 

 

            Trying to follow Jesus while surrounded and challenged by so much evil, it’s easy for Christians to become disillusioned.  It’s tempting to throw up our hands and conform to the world; to say, “what’s the point?!”; to take the lazy way out and do the easy things; to reach for the low hanging fruit.   

 

Paul knew this.  But his life was transformed overnight when Jesus saved him, and Paul knew that he was called to be a different kind of man, at all earthly cost.  His suffering far exceeded what you or I will ever experience, and yet he endured to the very end.  He traveled the world, spreading the word of God; he told truth to power; he encouraged fellow disciples; and he followed his Savior no matter how hard it was.  He is an awesome model for you and me.

 

            Paul’s words above answer the vital question of who we are going to be and what we are going to accomplish as Christians -- what is it that we truly value? -- the temporary things of earth that can be seen, or divine things that cannot be seen but are eternal. A devout Christian life can be hard, but God was there helping Paul every step of the way, and He is there for us too.

 

 So ask yourself this question; ask it constantly and answer it truthfully to keep you on track -- What is it you value?   Are you building an earthly tent that will be destroyed, or are you investing in the ultimate prize – going home to be with Jesus. 

 

Friday, March 25 – Luke 1:26-38

 

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most-High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 

“…nothing will be impossible with God.”  

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord;

let it be with me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her.”

 

            To the people of her day, Mary was not noteworthy or outstanding in any way.  She was a young, poor girl in a small, unremarkable town, far from the center of her people’s worship.  Nothing about Mary made her likely to be of use to God for any major task.  Nothing, that is, but her devout faith and her willingness to listen and obey.  Because of Mary’s trust in God and in His plan for her life, our broken world was able to receive its only real hope, and generation upon generation of believers just like you and me, throughout time eternal, will be saved.

 

            God has a plan for your life too.  Haven’t we all heard that little voice, or had that persistent urge to do something for the kingdom of God that we are a bit afraid of?  Don’t we all think to ourselves, “I’m not smart enough”, or “confident enough”, or “talented enough”, or “faithful enough” to make a difference?  Well don’t fool yourself any longer!  Mary likely had those same thoughts, but she put them aside and said “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”

 

            During this season of Lent, search your own heart.  What calling have you received but been afraid to answer?  What task might God be asking you to do?  Imagine for a moment what might happen if you listen and obey!  Nothing is impossible with God!

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Saturday, March 26 – Luke 15:1-10

 

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

 

“I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven

over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous persons

who need no repentance.”

 

Luke 15 begins with society’s ever-present concern for the company we keep. We live in a world that makes too many faulty judgments about who “counts” and who doesn’t; who is “good” and who is “bad”; who is “in” and who is “out”; who is “clean” and who is “unclean”; who is “worth our time” and who is not.  But in response to the charge that Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners, His response was, “Obviously!” The very first verse of this reading tells us why: “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen.” They knew they were in need and were drawn to Jesus because they sensed that He could help them. Jesus came for everyone: the poor and the rich, the sick and the healthy, tax collectors, sinners, and even the Pharisees -- those in the margins of society, and those who thought they owned it.

 

These verses invite us to find God’s image in everyone, particularly those who seem lost or unworthy because, if we were honest, we would count ourselves among them!  We worship a God who tenderly searches for sinners and then joyfully forgives them.  Each individual is precious to God, and should be to us as well. He grieves over every loss, and rejoices when his lost children are found and brought into the kingdom.  And that’s where we come in.  When we passionately share Jesus’ love for the lost, and diligently seek them wherever they are, we too can rejoice when they come to the Savior.

 

Sunday, March 27 – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

 

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:

everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

 

            Paul wrote these words to encourage the people of the early Church, but they can also encourage us in our faith walk.  The verses suggest some good questions that we can all ask ourselves: “Am I different from the person I would be if I hadn’t accepted Jesus as my Savior?”  Do I have a more enlightened perspective?  Do I look at the world through different eyes?  Do my words and actions reflect a changed heart and soul?  Is God able to work through me in new ways?  Do I share His love in new ways, each and every day? 

 

            Being in Christ will not make us perfect.  We will still have moments when we suffer temptation; days when we will struggle to do the right thing.  But revisiting these questions again and again might serve to keep us on track, and these remaining days of Lent are a perfect time to do so.

 

            Pray with me:  Sweet Jesus, I am so grateful that you saved me.  I want to be more and more like you.  I want to live my life in service to others.  Help me to reach out to them the way You reached for me.  Regenerate my heart.  Make from me, each and every day, a new creation, through whom others can see Your love and experience the transforming power of God.

 

Monday, March 28 – Philippians 3:4b-14

 

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

“…this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind

and straining forward to what lies ahead,  

I press on toward the goal for the prize

of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

            If ever there were a life radically changed by an encounter with Jesus, it was Paul’s.  At one point, Paul had a comfortable life and a successful career as a devout Pharisee, spending every waking moment pursuing and persecuting Christians. But then one blessed day he ran into Jesus on the road to Damascus and things were never the same again.  Paul was saved.  He became a new man and began a new life, spending his time and resources pursuing Jesus instead.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that life was no longer easy for him. Pail wrote this letter while he sat in prison in Rome. But he never gave up and he never lost his purpose.

 

Paul wrote this letter, and many others, to encourage new church communities that he loved.  In these verses, he talks of everything he had once considered of value; the things that had once increased his status in his eyes and the eyes of others – his background, his heritage, his education, and his religious and political convictions.  He had once considered all of that as gain, and now, he considers it as loss.  What Paul cares about now is serving his Lord and Savior; pressing on toward the goal – the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  Good advice for us as well. 

 

As we examine our lives and our faith during this holy season, let’s forget what lies behind – all the “gains” we once thought we were making.  Let’s consider anew what is true loss and what is true gain.  Let’s adopt the same goals Paul did and strive forward to the real gains that lie ahead.  Press on, my friends!

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 29 – Psalm 53

 

1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
   They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
   there is no one who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven on humankind
   to see if there are any who are wise,
   who seek after God.

3 They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
   there is no one who does good,
   no, not one.

4 Have they no knowledge, those evildoers,
   who eat up my people as they eat bread,
   and do not call upon God?

5 There they shall be in great terror,
   in terror such as has not been.
For God will scatter the bones of the ungodly;
   they will be put to shame, for God has rejected them.

6 O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
   When God restores the fortunes of his people,
   Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

 

“God looks down from heaven on humankind
   to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.

 They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
   there is no one who does good, no, not one.”

 

            The first thing that occurred to me when I read these verses was to wonder what God thinks when He looks down from heaven on the likes of us!  It’s a scary thought.  Does He see any who are wise, who seek after God?  Or have we all fallen away?  What have we done to the world He trusted us to take care of?  Do we care enough about each other?  Are we building walls, or are we breaking them down?  Are we walking in step with Jesus, or have we completely forgotten who we are?  God does indeed look down from heaven upon mankind, -- upon you and I.  We may wish, at times, to forget He’s watching, but He never forgets about us.

 

 God doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  If we were, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus to save us.  But shouldn’t we be giving it our best shot?  In this psalm, David longs for the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, when God will restore the fortunes of his people, at which time there will be great joy.  Don’t we, too, long for that?  What are you and I doing, right now, to hasten that day?

 

Wednesday, March 30 – Luke 9:10-17

 

10 On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured. 12 The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so and made them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

 

“The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve

came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away,

so that they may go into the surrounding villages

and countryside, to lodge and get provisions;

for we are here in a deserted place.’ 

But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’”

 

            In this familiar story, the disciples came to Jesus with their concern about where the crowd of people would get something to eat. Jesus provided an unexpected solution: “You give them something to eat.”  And like most of us do, they focused on what they didn’t have, instead of what they did.  Their apparent lack of resources blinded them to the power of God.  They saw only five loaves and two fish, and forgot the most important truth -- that God can make something out of nothing.

 

Just like the disciples, we too are tempted to believe that we have nothing to offer in the face of overwhelming need. Millions of people are hungry, and all we have is a few canned goods. Millions of people are infected with diseases, and we have nothing to offer but a few dollars. Millions of people have lost their homes and all we can come up with are some prayers and a few blankets.

But that’s just it -- we do have, and God will multiply!   Once we see how inadequate we are, and give all we have to God, He will use us to meet the needs of our hurting world.  We have enough, because God is enough!

           

Thursday, March 31 – Isaiah 43:1-7

 

But now thus says the Lord,
   he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
   Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
   and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
   nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
   I will bring your offspring from the east,
   and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
   and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
   and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
   whom I created for my glory,
   whom I formed and made.”

 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.”

God has called each and every one of us by name.  It constitutes a kind of adoption ceremony that tells us we are His.  He knows who you are, He has redeemed you, and you are His precious child. He doesn’t promise that the way will be easy or without danger, but He does promise that we will be neither overwhelmed nor consumed.  And He always keeps His promises!

 

This reading from Isaiah reminds us that believers in every generation have seen fire and flood, and all that is larger than ourselves, but none of it is larger than our God.  All of our fears and longings have already been defeated.  Jesus lived a human life so that He could experience and understand our deepest emotions.  There is nothing that can happen to us that Jesus hasn’t already fought and defeated.

 

No matter what you are going through, never forget that your Loving God is always, always with you – feeling what you feel, urging you on, and telling you, “You can do this!”  God is with you!  If you are feeling scared or lonely, it’s only because you’ve forgotten that.

 

Friday, April 1 – Isaiah 43:16-21

 

16 Thus says the Lord,
   who makes a way in the sea,
   a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
   army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
   they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild animals will honor me,
   the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
   rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21     the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

 

“Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.”

            In these verses, God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah, telling the Israelites not to dwell on the tribulations of their past history.  He counsels them to “not remember the former things, or consider the things of old”, because God is going to do a new thing.  It seems to me that this is a universal human tendency – to get lost in the mistakes we’ve made; our pain and loss and regrets.  It is so easy for us to get mired in the past and forget that all of that is gone now.

 

            It is perfectly fine to learn from the past, but we mustn’t get stuck there. The future is full of potential.  It is being written by a God who is already there, who loves us, and who wants the very best for us.  We must always remember that God is about to do a new thing in each of our lives. 

 

So forget the former things, the things of old, and look ahead to the amazing possibilities God is creating for you right

now.  Yesterday’s a closing door; you don’t live there anymore. *

 

(* from a song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey)

Saturday, April 2 – Psalm 126

 

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
  then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
  shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

 

“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
  shall come home with shouts of joy

carrying their sheaves.”

 

            The cycle of sadness and joy is vividly reflected in these verses from Psalm 126.  The Jewish people had been in exile in Babylon for fifty years.  They had dreamed of the day they could return to Jerusalem, where they had been happy and free.  They had longed to worship again in Solomon’s temple.  But they couldn’t imagine when that day might come.  The verses remind us that great joy is often preceded by a season of tears, as if those tears are seeds of sorrow that will one day bring a crop of joy.

 

            In this somber season of Lent, we too might remember better days.  We too might long for a time when we were happy and free.  As we journey through these last days of the season, we know what is ahead for our Lord, and we grieve for Him and regret our part in it.  But we remember that tears sown in faith will bring a true harvest of rejoicing.  We remember that our blessed Savior, bearing our sin and grief, was the ultimate seed sown in sorrow.

 

            Lent is indeed a season of tears.  The passion of our Lord is coming closer, and it will be painful and unbearably sad, but it is not the end of the story.  A grave cannot contain our God’s love, and there will be shouts of great joy!

 

Sunday, April 3 – John 12:1-8

 

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard,

 anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.

The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

 

In this reading, Lazarus’ sister Mary, surely still grateful to Jesus for raising her brother from the tomb, takes a pound of perfume made from pure nard, anoints Jesus’ feet, and wipes them with her hair.  This is an incredibly loving yet shocking gesture on Mary’s part.  Nard was imported all the way from the mountains of India and was extremely expensive.  And women in that culture never let their hair down in the presence of any man but their husband.  Mary was acting out of deep love and gratitude that couldn’t have been expressed more humbly.  She may have known that Jesus would soon give His life, so she seized the moment and honored Him with her whole self – down to the last strand of her hair.

 

Mary knew that Jesus was worthy of extravagant love.  She treasured Jesus more than her possessions, her pride and her reputation.  Our opportunity to serve Jesus could come to an end at any time.   Mary’s gesture of love reminds us that now is the time to seize the moment. Today and every day let’s remember what Jesus did for us and do something extravagant for Him!

 

Monday, April 4 – Hebrews 10:19-25

 

19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together,

as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,

and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

 

            These verses are from a letter to the early Hebrew Christians, who were undergoing fierce persecution at that time and may have been struggling with their new faith.  The verses encouraged them to hold together and support one another as a community in Christ. 

 

These wise words are still powerful today. We too struggle with our identity, our sin, our doubts, and our fatigue.  We too need to be reminded that we are in this together.  The Christian life is meant be active not passive, full of “love and good deeds”. It is also meant to be lived in community.  There is nothing more helpful than the encouragement of other believers.  We need each other, to avoid going it alone, to keep moving forward and avoid getting off track. That inspiration we get from each other can feed our souls when we most need it.

 

Consider your brothers and sisters in Christ: Whom have you fed lately?  Whom can you encourage today?  Who needs your care and concern?  We are called to continue Jesus’ mission to reach the world with the Gospel.  Let someone know they are not in this alone!

 

Tuesday, April 5 – Psalm 20 

 

1 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices.

4 May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfill all your plans.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
  May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

6 Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.

9 Give victory to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.

 

“Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
  but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.”

 

David knew what the kings and the people of his time trusted in - human strength and the possessions that were used to flaunt it: chariots and horses.  If he were writing this Psalm today, he might name nuclear weapons, tanks and drones.  Unfortunately, it is our human nature, then and now, to put our trust in such items.  But the problem is that kind of strength doesn’t last.  Firepower is transient; throughout history, nations have risen to military power and easily fallen to defeat. 

 

In these verses, David draws a strong contrast: “Our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.”  Chariots and horses, nuclear weapons, tanks and drones will never save us!  Those who trust in them are brought down.  It is only when we trust in God that we can stand upright, hold our ground and triumph. 

 

God alone can preserve a nation or an individual.  God alone has the power that lasts.  God alone gives eternal victory.  Make sure your trust is in the one and only undefeated King – Jesus Christ! 

 

Wednesday, April 6 – Luke 18:31-34

 

31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

 

“But they understood nothing about all these things;

in fact, what he said was hidden from them,

 and they did not grasp what was said.”

 

            Time and time again, the apostles just didn’t get it!  But who can really blame them.  They had never known anyone like Jesus; no one had.  Would we have understood?  Could we ever have imagined that anyone would love us so much that He would be willing to suffer the inconceivable pain and humiliation that Jesus suffered for us?  Would we ever have thought anyone could understand our weakness with such forgiveness as to endure our punishment, just so that we wouldn’t have to?  Would we ever have believed that anyone could be so selfless that they would die a horrible death in our place?

 

            But we do know these things.  Unlike the apostles, we have the benefit of knowing the whole story. There’s no pretending we don’t!  So let us not sugar-coat it, or skip over the hard parts.  In these next few days, let’s spend some time considering the magnitude of what our Savior did for us.  Let’s face the hard truth and confess our part in it.  Certainly, we can do that for Him!

           

Thursday, April 7 – Hebrews 2:1-9

 

Therefore, we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, 4 while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will. 5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 

6 But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
8 subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
   you have crowned them with glory and honor…”

Think about this: the entire purpose of Jesus’ incarnation was in order to suffer a death that would lead to eternal life for you and me.  And in order to serve as a true example for us, Jesus had to experience all of our human sufferings and temptations.  His ultimate resurrection finally broke the slavery we experience over our fear of death.

 

These verses from Hebrews show us that this is exactly what God planned for all along.  Christ chose to be clothed in human flesh, come here to this broken place, and live a life just like ours. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to pay the full and final price for our sin.

 

The question above deserves some thought: “What are we human beings that God cared so much for us?”  What are we indeed?!  Unlovable, yet He loves us.  Unforgiveable, yet He forgives us.  Infuriating, yet He is patient with us.  Unworthy, yet He values us.  Clueless, yet He keeps on teaching us.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Given who we are, where in the world would we be if our God was not who He is?!

 

Friday, April 8 – Hebrews 2:10-18

 

10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason, Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
   in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

 

“Because he himself was tested by what he suffered,

 he is able to help those who are being tested.”

 

Today we continue with yesterday’s reading from Hebrews, and are again reminded of all that Jesus shared with us.  He came to earth as a human being, born in a stable and raised by parents of humble means.  He grew up as an ordinary Jewish boy in a modest town. He experienced all of the joys and sadness, trials and temptations of human life, and because of that, He “gets” us.  He understands our weakness, our fears, our worries and sadness.  There’s nothing in life or death that we can possibly face that He didn’t face already. Jesus is a true brother to us in every way. 

Knowing these truths can greatly help you to endure.  When you commit yourself fully to Jesus, you can go to Him time and time again for strength and comfort. Jesus has that special kind of sympathy that comes from having suffered the same burdens you have.  He is ready and willing to walk with you, feel what you’re feeling, and help you to defeat your hardest trials. He is personally available, whenever you need Him. 

Saturday, April 9 – Leviticus 23:1-8

 

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: These are the appointed festivals of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations, my appointed festivals.

3 Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements. 4 These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, there shall be a passover offering to the Lord, 6 and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. 8 For seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation: you shall not work at your occupations.

 

“Six days shall work be done;

but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest,

a holy convocation; you shall do no work:

it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements.”

 

            What if you could have an entire day -- 24 uninterrupted hours of complete rest -- to devote to what is most important?  What if you could have this every single week? And what if it was a special gift from God? Well you can!  And it is!

 

            Did you ever wonder why God rested on the seventh day?  Certainly, He didn’t need to rest; He simply wanted some time to sit and enjoy His creation.  And He wants you to do the same.  God created the Sabbath for our good.  Jesus said this himself when He told the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  God created us, and He knows that our soul needs rest, refreshment, and fulfillment.  We can only obtain these things when we spend time with Him; and what could possibly be a better use of our time?!

 

            Celebrate this gift.  Honor the Sabbath.  Get some well-needed rest.  Read your Bible.  Listen to Christian music.  Pass some heartfelt time in prayer.  Sit still for a while, think about all you have to be grateful for, and thank the God who loves you.

 

Passion/Palm Sunday, April 10 – Luke 19:28-40

 

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

 

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,

“Teacher, order your disciples to stop.

 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent,

the stones would shout out.”

 

Just picture it!  What a beautiful day it must have been -- Our Lord’s triumphant arrival in Jerusalem.  Jesus, in all humility, riding on a borrowed donkey.  People spreading their cloaks on the ground to make way for the Savior King.    The disciples and all the others following along, announcing the truth of who Jesus is and what He has come to do.  The crowds shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”   The time had come for the world to know that Jesus was the Messiah. 

 

The truth had to be told, even if God’s non-human creation had to proclaim it.  If everything else had been silent, even the stones would have shouted out.  We humans aren’t the only creation that proclaims its creator.  The wind blows God’s love.  The ocean pounds the beach with His power.  The birds sing of God’s goodness for all to hear.  The mountains rise in glory to proclaim His might.  The sunlight warms the earth with each new day.  Thunder resounds, and the clouds open, showering the world with life-giving water.  Flowers and trees pop open with bright colors and feed the animals. All of creation, singing together to announce Jesus, the Savior of the World! 

 

Jesus’ time had come, and there would be no silence on that day!

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Monday, April 11 – Isaiah 42:1-9

 

1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

    I have put my spirit upon him;
   he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
   or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
   and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
   he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
   until he has established justice in the earth;
   and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5 Thus says God, the Lord,
   who created the heavens and stretched them out,
   who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
    who gives breath to the people upon it
   and spirit to those who walk in it:
6  I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
    I have given you as a covenant to the people,
    a light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
    to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
   from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
   my glory I give to no other,
   nor my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have come to pass,
   and new things I now declare;
   before they spring forth,
   I tell you of them.

 

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

    I have put my spirit upon him;
   he will bring forth justice to the nations.

 

            Sometimes called the Servant Song, these verses from Isaiah give us wonderful insight into the ministry of Jesus.  The first verse assures us of the very thing Jesus’ enemies could never accept, that He came from God, as God’s special servant.  And Jesus was fully endowed with all He would need for His world-saving ministry.  The last phrase of verse 1 tells us the mission of the Servant – “He will bring forth justice to the nations.”  We might think that Jesus’ mission was only to save His people from their sins, but this reading reminds us that God isn’t done saving until He restores justice to the world, until He make all things right.

 

            We too are part of this Servant Song.  So how might we, as God’s people today, fashion our actions and behavior into ones befitting servants of God?  How might we help establish justice on earth as it is in heaven?  How might we be servants in whom God delights?

 

            God has given us everything we need to be “a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”  It is time for us to participate in this “new thing”.  Are you ready?

 

Tuesday, April 12 – John 12:20-36

 

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say —‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

 

“Whoever serves me must follow me,

and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

 

            We are now well into Holy Week, and Jesus is explaining yet again why He is there and what He came to do.  His “soul is troubled”.  He is obviously dreading what He knows is ahead, but He knows that He has “come to this hour”, and He wants only for God to be glorified.

 

            So where do you and I fit into this moment?  It’s pretty clear that Jesus is standing on a turning point, and you and I are being asked to make a choice. It is a choice that will truly determine everything!  Will we take the easy path, back into a fallen and broken world, or will we follow Jesus all the way to the cross?  Will we pursue our earthly goals and dreams, or trade them for God’s goals and dreams?  Will we be distracted by the noise of the world, or will we listen to the voice of God?  Will we allow the world to define who we are, or will we allow God to use us to affect the lives of others for the good?

 

            Jesus clearly says, “Whoever serves me must follow me.”  The moment is upon us.  It is time to make a choice, and we are given only two – follow Jesus or not.  Which choice will you make?

 

Wednesday, April 13 – Hebrews 12:1-3

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

 

“…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight

 and the sin that clings so closely, 

and let us run with perseverance the race

that is set before us, looking to Jesus

 the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”

 

            No one ever told us that the Christian life would be easy.  There are hard choices to make, conflicting motives and priorities to sort through, and moments when pushing ourselves to do the right thing is a battle.  There will be times when it seems like we are running the race in a cement overcoat!  But these verses remind us that there is a “great cloud of witnesses” all around us.  There are fellow Christians, some in our past, some in our present, and some in our future who have and will encourage us in our walk.

 

            Who are these witnesses in your life?  In the past, mine were my Mom and my next-door neighbor while I was growing up, who modeled a life of Christian love and kindness toward everyone.  Later on, it was my husband, who was born again before I was. He was instrumental in my coming back to Jesus, and he shows me every day the joy that is found in serving God.

 

            We will feel discouraged from time to time.  We will get weary. But we must not turn back.  We must look around us for those who are in the fight with us.  Must of all, we must look to Jesus, who gave it His all!  Jesus is already at the finish line just waiting to welcome us home.

 

Maundy Thursday, April 14 – John 13:1-17, 31b-35

 

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

“I give you a new commandment,

that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”

 

            It may seem like a worn-out cliché to say, “It’s all about love!”  But what more is there to say?  On this night of the last supper, Jesus himself wrapped it all up in a ribbon of love.  Everything He did, and everything He asks us to do, is simply an expression of love – selfless, caring, compassionate, sacrificial, and unconditional love. The same kind of love with which God showers us every moment of every day.  It is a new way of relating with each other, grounded in Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and made clear in the example Jesus sets for us.  When love is the center of our faith and inspires everything we say and do, it is contagious.  The world sees something they want – a joy of living that only serving God can bring.

 

            Tomorrow, our Lord and Savior will complete the act of love that surpasses all.  He will go the cross on our behalf and change our lives forever.  Let’s honor Him with spreading that love around.  We too can change lives.  What better way to thank Him for His?!

 

Good Friday, April 15 – John 18:1-19:42

 

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.  So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

25 And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

 

“When Jesus had received the wine,

he said, “It is finished.”

Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

 

            In this last moment of His human life, Jesus knew that His time in the world, and the call to which He had always responded was finally complete.  He had done every last thing the Father asked of Him.  He had gone to the cross in our place and paid the debt for us – that burden of debt we owed to our creator because of Adam’s sin.  In that glorious moment, Jesus’ blood washed us clean once and for all time.  With His last breath, Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED!”

 

            So what exactly was finished?  Perfect obedience was yielded as the ultimate example for us.  The righteousness of the law was finally satisfied.  The enemy was defeated.  The prophecies were fulfilled.  Peace was made.  The power of sin was destroyed.  New life began.  The curtain between God and man was torn.  All walls crumbled.  And love won.

 

            Jesus has finished his work.  All that is left for you and me is to believe in Him with our whole heart and soul, and let that belief guide us.  IT IS FINISHED!  Praise God.

           

Vigil of Easter, Saturday, April 16 – Ezekiel  36:24-28

 

24 I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28 Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

 

“A new heart I will give you,

and a new spirit I will put within you;

and I will remove from your body

 the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

 

            It is the Vigil of Easter; what can we do on this somber day?  These verses from Ezekiel give us some significant truths to meditate on, some good questions to consider:

 

Where are you in your walk at this moment?

What has this Lenten season meant for you?

Where has this journey of faith taken you, and how can you live it, going forward?

 

The verses say, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  This is a spiritually transforming promise; a new covenant.  Instead of the law working from the outside in, God has given us a new heart to work from the inside out. We are regenerated.  God has transformed us.   We can now become the kind of people we were never able to be in the past.  Our old hardened and willful hearts are gone. 

 

There is still a world out there in need, and you and I have brand new, pure and loving hearts. What will you do with yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

Easter Sunday, April 17

Resurrection of Our Lord – John 20:1-18

                                                           

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

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