Lenten Devotion
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March 15, 2019, 10:00 AM

Lenten Devotion Friday March 15, 2019


Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. -Philippians 3:17 

The Apostle Paul instructed the Church at Philipi to examine his life.  They were to look at how Paul lived his life and do likewise.  I wonder how many of us could say the same thing?  It seems that everyday in the news we hear about some leader or person of influence who has failed morally or ethically.  Just in the past few weeks we have seen those who were supposed to be setting a godly example for others become exposed for actions that are as far from God as one could get or imagine.  We have seen those who were in trusted leadership positions betray that trust by blatant abuse to those who were under their care.  Sad to say the least and tragic, long-lasting effects are sure to be one result of such sin.

Paul goes on to warn the Philippians of those who would lead the fatifhul astray...For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. -Phil. 3:18

Paul's was greatly saddened by those whose lives did not align with the calling of Christ on ones life.  When we live for self, when we make sure our needs are met first before any others, when we gossip and ridicule others or think ourselves superior in anyway to someone else we live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Jesus told us, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Lk. 9:23)  Following Jesus, as Paul knew all too well, means dying to self daily.  It means putting others before self and imitating the life that Jesus modeled for us.

Paul goes on in Philippians to instruct us how to identify those who would be enemies to the cross of Christ...Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Phil. 3:19).  Paul says that it will not end well for these enemies of the cross of Christ, that they are focused on self and they take pride in things that are ungodly because their mind is set on things of this earth (culture, society).  Paul told us in Romans how to avoid such destiny...Do not be comformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

During this Lenten season let us strive toward a renewed mind, the mind of Christ.  Let us be transformed daily into who He wants us to be by allowing Him to mold and make us into the disciple that strives to daily die to self and follow the example of Jesus.  Always remembering...But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Phil. 3:20).

Sorry that the last few days devotionals have not been available.  We were experiencing some outages because of the wind storms.

 




March 13, 2019, 4:00 AM

Lenten Devotion for Wednesday March 13, 2019


Lent provides forty days for us to behold Christ and His cross, not only to understand it more deeply, but also to cast our soul’s toxic waste upon it. I invite you to imagine Lent as a season when Jesus heals and restores what sin has destroyed in our souls, families, and congregations.

Damiani, Aaron. The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent (p. 63). Moody Publishers.

 

I’m a sinner! There, I said it, I admit that I still struggle with things in my life that are not pleasing to God. Paul said in Romans 7...So, I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

 

The Apostle Paul agrees, for he also said that he is a sinner, that he has struggles. He admitted it, he confessed through the pages of Scripture for all the world to see in his letter to the Church in Rome. I think Paul might have known what David had said in Psalm 32 When I kept silent, (about my sin) my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

 

When we try to hide our sin or ignore the effect it has on us, we end up in a lot of trouble. When we avoid acknowledging our sin before the Lord we find ourselves in the midst of crisis upon crisis. Paul lamented that he was a wretched man and asked who would be able to rescue him from the hole that he found himself in.

 

David, in Psalm 32 said,Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Through his confession David received relief and forgiveness. Paul answers the question of ‘Who will rescue me from this body of death,’by stating, Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

Thanks be to God! That Jesus took my soul’s toxic waste upon Himself at the cross and offers His healing and restoration when I come to Him in confession. This is what Lent is about, it’s about taking time to contemplate deeply what Jesus did in our stead upon the cross. This journey to the cross is about coming to a deeper understanding of God’s love expressed to us by His sending His Son to be our sacrifice. May we humbly confess our weakness so that others can see the glory of God through His love and forgiveness as we worship in community.

 

 




March 12, 2019, 7:00 AM

Lenten Devotion for Tuesday, March 12, 2019


We need Lent because repentance is not just a prayer. It is a posture. We need time and space to become repentant people, to experience the depths of Jesus’ forgiveness. Our default posture is to use Jesus’ forgiveness like we use the car wash: as a fast, convenient solution to a surface problem. The truth is that the cleansing process needs to go much deeper, like a thorough spring cleaning. It cannot be rushed. (Damiani, Aaron. The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent (pp. 62-63).

 

     In Matthew 6 Jesus gives His disciples instructions on prayer and fasting. He teaches them to pursue the things in this life that have eternal significance and not to obsess over what tomorrow might bring.

     

     We are all familiar with the ‘model prayer,’ some may refer to it as ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ or simply the ‘Our Father.’ In this example of how we are to approach the Father in conversation Jesus gives us the basics that should be a part of our discussions with the Lord. For example, we need to approach the Father as our Father. Jesus taught us to address God as not just ‘my’ God, or ‘my’ Father, but as Our Father, which signifies that God is to be worshiped and adored in community.

     

     As a community we approach our Father and acknowledge the He and He alone is holy (Hallowed/Holy are You, God). We are to acknowledge that His will, His desires, His kingdom should be first and foremost, not our will or desires or our kingdoms (Your kingdom come, Your will be done).

 

     Next, we ask Our Father to provide us with what we need for the day. ‘Give us today our daily bread...’in other words, ‘Our Father, would You please be our supply, be our provider, be our portion for this day.’

 

     After acknowledging that He is holy, that we come before Him in community with others to seek His will, His kingdom and asking Him to be our supply for the day; Jesus then teaches us to ask Our Father to cleanse us from the wrong we have committed. ‘Forgive us our debts(sin, rebellion, trespasses against Holy God). The next part is the tough part...Jesus teaches us to pray, “as we also have forgiven our debtors,” (those who have done wrong to and against us, those who have hurt us, disregarded us, etc.).

 

     In verse 14 & 15 of Matthew 6 Jesus states,For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is a difficult thing for some. It appears that Jesus is teaching us that if we don’t forgive others when they do wrong against us, then God will withhold His forgiveness from us.

 

     In this season of journeying to the cross together in community as the Body of Christ, let us be reminded of the suffering, the torture, humiliation, pain and death that Christ went through on our behalf so that we could be in a position to receive forgiveness from Our Father for the sin we have done. Let us take time to reflect on Christ suffering for us.

 

     Today, take time throughout your daily routine to ponder, meditate, think deeply on what it took for you to be able to be forgiven. Take time to humbly acknowledge your sin and to lay the burden, guilt, and shame of your sin at the feet of Jesus. Take your time, don’t rush this, allow God’s forgiveness to sink down deep within you, allow Him to cleanse your heart today and you will find that when we realize the depths of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness forgiving others is not as difficult as it once seemed.




March 11, 2019, 4:00 AM

Lenten Devotion for Monday, March 11, 2019


 

Consequences and Confession

     1 Chronicles 21:1-17 is part of the recommended Scripture readings for this first Monday of Lent. In this passage King David takes a census to find out the number of fighting men under his reign in Israel. In verse 1 it states, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.”

     Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ temptation in the desert as recorded in Luke chapter 4. We saw how Satan tempted Jesus to have something that God did not want him to have at the time (Turn the stones into bread), after all, Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days.

     Eating bread after a time of fasting is not wrong in and of itself, but to break the fast before God’s timing and to ‘turn the stone to bread’ by His own power, Jesus would be saying to the Father, “I can take care of myself in my own power, and I don’t really need you right now.”

     In the same way, taking a census, in and of itself, is not wrong. God had Moses count the people in Exodus 30 to avoid a plague and establish a tax to support the tabernacle, God had Moses count the people again before forming an army to conquer the inhabitants that were in the promised land before they went in to take the land (Numbers 1:2). So, taking a census was not necessarily sinful or in rebellion against God.

     David, however, was not told by God to take a census, and if we examine this further, we find that David’s motive for taking the census was so that he could rely on the number of fighting men that he had instead of trusting and relying on the power of the Lord to give victory in battle. David wanted to rely on his own power instead of trusting in God.

When Jesus resisted the temptation of Satan to turn the stone to bread, He said, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) Because Jesus trusted God to provide for Him, He was able to feed multitudes with 2 small fish and 5 small loaves of bread, He was able to proclaim that He is the Bread of Life who can eternally meet mans’ hunger for true life.

     David, on the other hand, did not fare as well. Because of David trusting in his own strength at the moment of temptation, many suffered and died. If you read on in the passage in 1 Chronicles God gives David 3 choices, 1) three years of famine 2) three months of devastation from the enemies of Israel or 3) three days of the sword of the Lord. David chose #3 because he knew of the great mercy of the Lord and did not want to fall into the hand of his enemies.

God’s judgment was swift and harsh, 70,000 died and Jerusalem was almost destroyed by an angel of the Lord. David, when he saw the devastation cried out, “Please let Your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” (v. 17)

     As I was reading this I am reminded that when we give into temptation it is not only we who suffer, but also those around us. For you see, sin; my sin, your sin, affects others as well. Today, may we be convicted by the Holy Spirit of the sin in our lives that keeps us from serving the Lord and may He bring us to a place of confession and repentance so that we can walk with Him in the light of His love and serve those whom He has called us to serve.

     As David repented of his sin, he goes to build an altar to the Lord. The place David builds the altar is the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. The reason that this is important is because the threshing floor of Ornan where David builds this altar becomes the same place that one day David’s son Solomon will build the Temple, where one day a man named Jesus will come to proclaim this Temple as a house of prayer for the nations.

     God redeemed David’s sin and used it for His glory and God redeemed our sin by sending His Son, Jesus to take upon Himself the punishment we deserved so that we could be seen as righteous in the Father’s eyes. Glory be to God for His indescribable Gift!




March 8, 2019, 4:00 AM

Friday March 8...Death & Life



Today's Devotion is written by Patrica Tull.  She is an author, pastor, professor and theologian 

Death and life dominate the Lenten lectionary in March, beginning on the first day with Abram’s childlessness and the promise of continued new life through both his wives (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16), along with the psalmist’s mysterious saying that “to him shall all who sleep in the earth bow down” (Psalm 22:29), Paul’s description of God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17), and Jesus’ observation that “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Death and life reappear throughout the month, along with the sense that things are not as they appear. What appears to be alive will die; what appears to be dying or dead will spring up to new and fruitful life.

On March 8, the mute skies, which moderns consider inanimate, proclaim a living word (Psalm 19); and Jesus tells his opposers, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).

On March 15, a deadly serpent in the wilderness becomes a sign of healing (Numbers 21:4-9); sick people, growing “near to the gates of death” (Psalm107:18) are healed by God; people “dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived” are “made alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-2, 5); Jesus comes so that those who believe “may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The following week, March 22, as prophet, psalm and epistle describe deep metanoia as changes in heart through learned obedience (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:5-10), Jesus explains his own death, and with it the death of many people and movements, in this way: “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” (John 12:24).

On Passion Sunday, March 29, the prophet describes himself as awakened daily to listen to God, who will vindicate him from destructive enemies (Isaiah 50:4-9a); the psalmist seeks divine deliverance from scorn and horror, from being forgotten “like one who is dead” (Psalm 31:9-16); Paul describes Jesus’ having set the example for Christians by humbling himself, obedient even to the point of death (Philippians 2:5-11). The month ends with Mark’s passion narrative, with its story of the woman who, anointing Jesus with pure nard, “anointed my body beforehand for its burial” (Mark 14:8).

Death and life, the Scriptures repeatedly proclaim throughout this month, are not what they appear to be. In fact, the reason we think of death as a tragic ending, and as diametrically opposed to life, both theologians and scientists tell us, is that we are thinking individualistically. Theologically, for Christians, death only leads to new life, whether it is the little death of suffering and disappointment that often prefaces a joyous reversal, or whether it is physical death, the path to eternal life.

Scientifically, everything living is created from what has died. Every element of our bodies has been recycled endlessly from ancestral beings, and will continue to live on in future generations. Though the unique being that is “me” only occurs once, this unique being is, physically, socially, emotionally, philosophically, religiously, ethically, part of the much larger stream of life that began with creation and extends long beyond ourselves.

This understanding of life as a collective experience, which we share even in death, means that for each of us, and for all of us together, there are things in this world not only worth living for, and living well for, but things worth laying down our individual lives for. If so, though death is ever with us, we need not fear. The things worth dying for are also the things for which we might take smaller risks: speaking out to neighbors and in the public square about right and wrong; facing jail to draw attention to injustice; working harder with less pay for causes worth our efforts.

Because we love both life itself and others who have died, death brings sorrow. Yet ultimately, for the faithful, all this talk about death in the lectionary offers liberation. It reminds us that our goal is not to live long (though that is nice) nor to become great (though that is nice, too), but rather to live well, and when the time comes, to die well, attentive to what we are handing down to our children and their future children. It sharpens our priorities. And it inspires gratitude.


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