Lent Devotion April 11-The Day of Silence

April 11 Lent Devotion

The Day of Silence

Matthew 27:62-64

 

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’  So, we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

 

The Sabbath, the day after Jesus’ crucifixion and everything is quiet. I wonder if those who plotted to have Jesus killed were silently breathing a sigh of relief. Had they gotten away with actually putting to death the one who claimed to be the Son of God.  Then they remembered his prophecy, “In three days I will raise from the dead!”  Maybe they better take out some insurance.

 

This day is like no other.  This is the day God sleeps in the tomb.  This is the day where evil seems to triumph.  And as this day draws to a close and Easter morning dawns, all creation holds its breath to see what will happen next.  What will God do with a crucified Christ.  The last few days have been painful particularly Friday afternoon when the one so many had pinned their hopes on was put to death.  Now things were dark, ominous and fearful.  But to paraphrase Tony Campolo, “It’s Saturday! All Is Quiet but…. Sunday is Coming!

 

The question for the priests and Pharisees was what to do with a crucified Jesus.  The question for us is “What will we do with a resurrected Christ?”

Matthew 28 begins Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. If you don’t know the rest of the story read it today.

 

Prayer

 

Thank you Father that through your Son Jesus you have taken away the sting of death.  Please take away our fear and empower us live our lives as truly immersed into you and to serve you boldly. Amen



Lent Devotion April 10-True Suffering

Lent Devotion 4-10
True Suffering
 
If you’ve ever seen the movie Passion of the Christ, there is probably a scene that may make you turn your head away because it is so gruesome. When Jesus is beaten after His arrest, it’s hard to watch. Even though I know what I’m watching is a Hollywood production and not real, it makes me cringe. At first I thought they should’ve toned it down a little, but then I realized that it served a purpose.
 
Our brains aren’t capable of wrapping themselves around the spiritual suffering Jesus went through as He gave His life for us. But we do understand physical suffering. And I think that depicting those moments where Jesus was having His flesh ripped open gives us just a little bit of understanding of the torment Jesus went through on our behalf.
 
Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Those words only describe in physical terms the suffering Jesus endured for us. I can’t imagine what it was like to take on Himself the punishment for every sin ever committed by every person. But it gives us a glimpse of the love He has for us.
 
Today is Good Friday, where we focus on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. As you pray today, praise God for the love it took for Christ to suffer so much for us.


Lent Devotion April 9-Loyal to Jesus

LOYAL TO JESUS
Bob Archer

 

People often choose their church over Jesus. This sounds so terrible, but it is true. Many congregations exist for years without having Jesus in their midst. What they don’t realize is that being connected to Jesus brings life and glory. We must love the Lord Jesus so much that He doesn’t doubt that we are more loyal to Him than our church.

 

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  II Timothy 2:15

 

 “Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” Psalm 25:20-21

 

Dear God:  Give us your guidance, as we put our trust in Jesus.  Help us to choose your Son over anything else in this world. Amen



Lent Devotion April 8-Glorious Victory

Lent Devotion April 8
Glorious Victory
 
I don’t know about you, but I remember this day a year ago. It was the date of the national championship game in basketball. Virginia finally had a chance to win it all. In their two previous games, there was a point late in each game where the statistics said they had less than a 10% chance to win. Both times they came back and pulled out an amazing victory. Part-way through the second half of the championship game things looked good. But then with 22 seconds to go they found themselves down by three. According to statisticians they had just a 24% chance to win. Better than the previous two games, but not good. That’s when I went to bed. I just couldn’t watch anymore.
 
When I went to bed it seemed like there was no hope. But a little while later my wife came in and told me I should get up and come back in to watch. At that point there were just a few seconds left in overtime and the Hoos had a comfortable lead. Finally there was victory to celebrate. And everything seemed to change. The terrible upset loss that ended their previous season and hung like a storm cloud over them as they were taunted and derided all year seemed just a distant memory.
 
Sometimes defeat and disaster seem inevitable. Jesus’ disciples certainly thought so. When Jesus was arrested and crucified, they scattered and hid in fear. They wondered how they could’ve been so wrong. But a couple of days later, everything changed. Death gave way to life; despair gave way to hope; grief gave way to joy. Jesus was alive! And that brought the promise of eternal life to those who follow Him.
 
One of my favorite hymns is Victory in Jesus. It says,
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.
 
That’s a greater victory than any athletic team has ever achieved. After the win, Coach Bennett quoted Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” That’s what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. And it’s a joy that lasts for eternity.
 
As you pray today, thank God for the incredible victory over sin and death that we have because of Christ.


April 7 Lent Devotion-The Earth Shakes

April 7 Lent Devotion
The Earth Shakes
Matthew 27:51-52
 

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. Matthew 27:51-52

 
As I write this, the world is living in a lot of fear.  The coronavirus has almost brought the world to a complete halt.  Just this morning the PGA announced the suspension of all tournaments at least through the first weekend of April.  This follows every major sporting association doing the same, even Disney and Universal have closed their parks.  The stock market is plummeting.   People have questions, “How will this play out?” When will this end?” How will it affect me and my family?”  “What lies ahead?”

 

For the faithful that answer is immersed in the wonderful promises of God’s wondrous love. Though that love may seem hidden, as it was at the time of Christ’s suffering and death, God is always with us – even beyond death. As if to announce that promise in no uncertain terms, Matthew 27 tells us that at the time of Jesus’ death earthquakes shaking open tombs and saints being raised from the dead. Death is defeated and the promise of life everlasting is given to us, regardless of the road we are on at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 



Lent Devotion April 6-Carrying Your Cross

Lent Devotion 4-6
Carrying Your Cross
 
I’ve always been intrigued by Simon of Cyrene. He’s the man who was pulled out of the crowd by Roman soldiers and ordered to carry Jesus’ cross up to Calvary, when a beaten and battered Christ presumably didn’t have the physical strength left to do it. We don’t know much about him. We know his hometown and that he was a Jewish man who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his sons Alexander and Rufus. That’s it.
 
He carried Jesus’ cross up the hill to what was called the place of the skull, where Christ would be nailed to it and left hanging there to die.
 
Jesus had instructed His disciples in Matthew 16:24-25, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
 
When people of that time were told to take up their cross, they know they were being asked to be willing to face death. But the promise is that if we’re willing to lose our life for His sake, that’s when we’ll find REAL life. Simon wasn’t given a choice about carrying the cross. But we are.
 
In our world today, we will probably never be asked to risk our life for the sake of Christ. But we may be asked to sacrifice in other ways. It may be to give up our time to serve others. It may be to give sacrificially of our finances to spread the Gospel. It may be to go on a mission trip to help lead people to Jesus. It may mean talking to your co-worker or classmate about your faith. But we’re going to be followers of Christ, we have to be willing to go where He leads us and do what He asks us.
 
As you pray today, ask for the strength to take up your cross and truly follow Christ—wherever that may lead.


Lent Devotion April 4-The Foundation of Our Relationship

April 4 Devotion
The Foundation of Our Relationship
ISAIAH 53:5
Boyd Knott

 

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

 

As we look toward Easter Sunday and celebrate our Risen Savior, God’s Greatest Gift to Us, it comes to mind what our Jesus had to go through for you and me.  The Crown of thorns placed on His head, being whipped, nails penetrating his wrists and ankles, a spear pierced His side and the agony He must have endured.

 

Isaiah 53:5 tells us He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.  Jesus allowed Himself to be pierced by the sword, by nails into his body, by a crown of thorns to bring us spiritual Peace with God (FORGIVENESS). 

 

His death on the cross made a way for us to have a relationship with God.  He did it, scripture tells us, for you and for me.  We need to be Thankful for the LOVE of our GOD and Jesus our RISEN SAVIOR.

 

 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I can’t imagine what your Son, Jesus went through and how you had to look down and see His pain and all this was done for your Love for me and the world, to wash away our sins and sinful ways so we could have a relationship with you.  I thank you, Lord, for loving us so much and for your forgiveness of our sins.   In Jesus Name I pray, Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOYAL TO JESUS

 

People often choose their church over Jesus. This sounds so terrible, but it is true. Many congregations exist for years without having Jesus in their midst. What they don’t realize is that being connected to Jesus brings life and glory. We must love the Lord Jesus so much that He doesn’t doubt that we are more loyal to Him than our church.

 

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  II Timothy 2:15

 

Psalm 25:20-21  “Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.  May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A HOUSE DIVIDED

 

Esther was born/placed in history much like our modern time of government – corruption within the structures of individuals in power. Harman opposed the Jewish nation and everything it stood for during this period of history and one particular individual named Mordechai.  So much was his hatred that he devised a plan to the Jews killed under false reports to King Ahasusrus. Esther was the wife of the king, the rules of approaching the king unannounced could result in death for her – she faced certain death if she approached him. Mordechai advised Esther that she should approach the king to plead the cause of the Jewish nation/people.  She however was very reluctant. Then Mordechai put this question before Esther, “who knowth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14 (KJV)  With her faith in God she boldly answers this question risking her life by approaching King Ahasusrus.  Such action resulted in the saving of the Jewish people and punishment of Haman. As individuals we could possibly face the same question today in our own lives, without seeking God’s desires how do we know that service(s) we can provide for the kingdom of God?

 

Dear God help us to gather strength in our weakness to boldly do those things you would have us to do.  In Jesus name we pray. 

 

————————————————————————

 

I PETER 2:24   “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might  die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.”

 

 

As we go through life, here on earth, we are going to experience a lot of both good and bad times. Many will deal with health problems, sickness, and pain. We all will mourn, when losing loved ones, and the unexpected, sudden loss of a family member or friend.  We may have financial problems or trouble with family and friends that weigh heavy on our hearts. But as we know Jesus Christ told us that even though we are believers we will still have our trials to face while living.  But know this – one day “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away.”  Rev. 21:4

 

As we celebrate Easter, and our Lord’s resurrection, we can sit in our sanctuary and look up at that beautiful cross and know that no matter what life may throw at us, we can have the peace, contentment and joy in our hearts, knowing that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, bore our sins on that cross and believing that By His wounds – we have been healed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LENT DEVOTION FOR SCOTT:

 

Each of us has asked the following questions. Who am I? What is my purpose in life? What does God want or expect from me?

 

We eat, drink, gamble and gossip, we seek out the most mundane entertainment, surrender to television and social media, attend party after party; most everything we choose to do is our way of avoiding our own questions.

 

Identify the divisions, hobbies and habits that distracts us from answering these questions.  Then take practical steps to rid ourselves, of it or find ways to reduce it from your life.

 

Are you preoccupied with eating and drinking;  then fast regularly.  Do you watch too much TV or spend too much time on social media?  Then set time limits.

 

Do you spend time in idle chatter or gossiping about others?  Then choose to control your tongue.  Lift others up don’t tear them down.

 

Do you spend too much time socializing? Then cut back on parties and events that distract you.

 

Spend time in prayer and reflection the three questions. Divest yourself from the things that prevent you from learning Who you are?  What your purpose in life is and how does God want to use you?



Lent Devotion April 3- Deal of the Century

Lent Devotion April 3
Deal of the Century(ies)
 
I come from a family of bargain hunters. My grandparents spent their retirement years going to yard sales, negotiating the prices, and then re-selling the items after they fixed them up. A nail here, a little glue there, and some polish allowed them to earn two to three times what they paid. My wife has been blessed with the patience to cull through every rack at the local second-hand stores to find nice clothes for a fraction of their original price. Some of them even have the tags still on them.
 
Then there’s my Dad. My Dad waits for sales at CVS, brings the coupons he gets from the Sunday paper (of which he buys two each week), along with his CVS “Extra Bucks,” and will walk out of the store with $20-30 worth of toothpaste, razors, and shampoo, etc., paying only a couple of dollars. Sometimes, through rebates and the “extra bucks,” he actually leaves with more money than he walked in with. When the checkout clerks see him coming, some of them shake their heads in dread, while others smile—interested to see the deals he’s going to get that day. I know the family appreciates it—we almost never have to spend money on toiletries.
 
When you can buy things and come out with more money than you went in with, that’s a great deal. But it’s nothing compared to the deal we celebrate at Easter. We come to God with nothing to offer but our sin, and we end up with forgiveness and eternal life.
 
Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If someone sold you a 30-room mansion for a dollar, it wouldn’t compare to that.
 
As you pray today, thank God for the incredible blessing He makes possible through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.


Lent Devotion April 2-Compelled to Carry

April 2 Lent Devotion
Compelled to Carry
Matthew 27:32-33
 
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). (Matthew 27:32-33)
 
Ray Boltz was a popular Christian singer back in the 1980s. One particular song that was popular particularly as Passion week approached was called “The Lamb”, it was sung from the possible viewpoint of Simon of Cyrene who the Bible tells us was compelled by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus. The key phrase in the song is “Watch the lamb.” If you haven’t heard it go online and listen it is a moving song.
 
Reading this scripture brought it to my mind, and I began thinking about what it must have felt like to be forced to carry a burden of another. We really don’t know his thoughts, but we do know that there are times we carry burdens for others.
 
There is, I believe, a special brand of grace that is given to those who allow their hearts to be open to the burdens of others and the needs of a broken world. This kind of spiritual gift can be nurtured in our hearts and minds as we as we seek to live faithfully in the wondrous love of Christ. And as we do that the key is to “Watch the Lamb.”


Lent Devotion April 1-April Fools

Lent Devotion 4-1
April Fools!
 
I’m not a big practical joker, but I’m a baseball guy, and baseball is a practical joker’s sport. It might be because of the pace of the game—it’s slower than most and allows time between plays to think about ways to haze the rookies, or what you can do to get back at the teammate who put Atomic Balm in … well, never mind….
 
There are the age-old pranks such as the hotfoot, where a player’s cleat is set on fire (while he’s wearing it), and the gum bubble on the hat, as well as sending new clubhouse staff looking for the left-handed fungo bats. The Detroit Tigers recently sent their new batboy on a search for the key to the batter’s box that involved the umpires and the Mets’ manager. The batboy, a college freshman named Braeden Ward, said, “I can’t believe I fell for it. I’ve played baseball my whole life. I’ve lived in the batter’s box. I played tricks like that on the freshmen in high school.” He knew it wasn’t right, but when the circumstances were manipulated the right way, he went for it hook, line & sinker.
 
When it comes to sin, the same thing can happen. Satan makes the situation look so convincing that we go completely against what we know in our heart is right. Other times we know what’s right, but Satan uses our feelings overcome our reason. Often this happens when someone we love is doing something wrong and our feelings for them change our minds about what’s right and what’s wrong.
 
We know better, but we let ourselves be convinced differently. As Caleb Kaltenbach says in his book Messy Grace, there’s a tension between grace and truth, and we can’t let one drop in order to hold on to the other. We’re to be full of both, just as Jesus was (John 1:14). We have to show unconditional love, but we can’t allow ourselves to change what we know is right. Because there’s a lot more at stake than a little bit of momentary embarrassment or being laughed at by our teammates.
 
As you pray today, pray that God will help you to be filled with grace AND truth.


Lent Devotion March 31-Life is Not Fair

 
March 31 Devotion
Life is Not Fair
Matthew 27:21-23
 
 
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
 
The idea that life is fair is a fable. Jesus had committed no crime. Barabbas was a thief and insurrection. Fairness would dictate the release of Jesus and the crucifixion of Barabbas. I like the line in the Princess Bride when the grandson complains that the story plot his grandfather is reading him is not fair. His grandfather answers, “Whoever said life was fair?” God certainly did not. The Bible is full of stories where people were treated unfairly. In the case of Jesus versus Barabbas it is easy in our hindsight to see the reason, or the “why” in this seemingly unfair verdict. If Barabbas had died instead of Jesus, we would all still be lost in our sins. Salvation would only be a pipe dream. Jesus came for this express purpose, to be treated with unfairness. The unfair condemnation of the crowd, nailed Jesus to the cross, but God’s compassion transforms that unfairness into grace and mercy.
 
Harold Kushner in his book When Bad things Happen to Good People wrote “(In) our responding to life’s unfairness with sympathy and with righteous indignation (allowing) God’s compassion and God’s anger working through us, may be the surest proof of all of God’s reality.” So why linger on the thought of this is unfair, rather look to see what God will do in this situation.


Lent Devotion March 30-Are You Persecuted?

Lent Devotion 3-30
Are You Persecuted?
 
When was the last time you were persecuted? Maybe you’re surrounded by people who are of a different political bent; maybe you’re a teenager whose parents enforce rules that seem totally unreasonable; maybe you’re a Hokie forced to live in the middle of Hooville. We tend to have delicate sensibilities when we feel oppressed. I saw a license plate the other day that had a VT logo and said 15STR8. I probably would’ve felt a little persecuted had the Commonwealth Cup not finally made its return trip to Charlottesville last fall.
 
But that’s about the limit of our persecution. We might have to deal with a little ribbing at work or at school if we pray before we eat, or if we decline to go along with the crowd if they’re doing something that goes against our beliefs, but that’s about it. Even the cases we’ve seen in the news about Christians who run businesses refusing to do things that conflict with their faith being sued are new and relatively rare (at least for the time being).
 
And yet, many American Christians aren’t really open about their faith out of fear of the reaction they will get, most of which wouldn’t really qualify as persecution. Maybe we need to be more willing to risk the possibility of a negative response by being more open about our faith with those around us.
 
In Matthew 5:10, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Many first-century Christians were facing beatings, jail, and even death because of their faith. Paul wrote a number of his letters to the churches—letters that make up a big part of our New Testament—from a jail cell he was in because of his faith.
 
Hebrews 10:32-34 urges Jewish Christians, “Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever (NLT).”
 
How would you your faith stand up if it meant “terrible suffering?” How would your faith stand up if you were threatened with beatings or jailtime or having your home or business taken away?
 
As you pray today, think of one area in your life where you can be more open about your faith, and pray for God to help you to have the strength to overcome fear—even in the face of persecution.


Lent Devotion March 28-Talking About Jesus

Talking About Jesus
Bill Gibson

 

Talking to others about Jesus seems to be something many of us have a hard time doing. Not knowing what to say or how to say it is very difficult for us. Sometimes fear of rejection is the reason to be silent. The devil tells us that they might not want to hear the Word and they will reject you. It’s better to remain silent. We all should not be afraid to speak up for Jesus and live our lives to please Him no matter the end result.

 

Jesus said “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His father’s , and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).

 

Prayer:   Father God give me the strength to stand up for You no matter the obstacles that are in the way. Thank you that You are always faithful to me. Help me to be faithful to You. Guide me through the many trials of life so that I might lead others to You and Your Holy Word. Watch over us all and protect us with your Word. For we pray in the Holy name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen. 



Lent Devotion March 27-Not Far Away

Lent Devotion March 27
Not Far Away
Mark 12:34
 
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
 
It is easy to put black hats on people. When we read the New Testament about the Pharisees it is easy for us to picture them as bad guys. After all Jesus calls them hypocrites, snakes and whitewashed tombs full of bones. But in this instance, Jesus says this young Pharisees was not far from the kingdom. The reason for this is that this Pharisee saw that there was a difference between burnt offerings and loving your neighbor and loving your neighbor was better.
 
Jesus gives us a great example here of not labeling people and not lumping people into a category. And although we do not know for sure, it is very possible, that this young man did come to know Jesus as his Savior. He may have been part of the crowd on the Day of Pentecost. It doesn’t matter where a person is in life, God’s word can penetrate a heart and bring them to him. The writer of Proverbs writes that God says I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

So, here is to not be throwing black hats on anyone but let’s show everyone the love of Christ. We may not be able to read hearts like Jesus, but we can treat everyone with compassion.
 
Prayer: Father, please help us to have compassion for all who seek you. Help us keep and open mind towards those who seek you.


Lent Devotion March 26-Peacemakers

Lent Devotion 3-26
Peacemakers
 
I love all sports, but one of the more interesting ones to me is hockey. Maybe it’s because I never had the chance to learn to ice skate. There were no ice rinks anywhere near the places I lived growing up, so the first (and only) time I was ever on ice skates was when I was 24, and I almost broke my ankles.
 
One of the things that’s interesting to me about hockey is the role that fighting plays. In football, basketball, or baseball, if you throw a punch you’re immediately ejected from the game. You’ll probably be suspended for a game or two as well. But in hockey you go to time out for five minutes (I wonder if the referee tells them to think about what they did while they’re there, like my mom did when she sent me to my room). And if you watch, the officials won’t even try to break up a fight until someone is down on the ice. It’s just part of the culture. My daughter and I went to a Caps-Rangers game a few years ago and during the first intermission they showed a video of one of the players explaining “Proper fighting technique and etiquette.” I learned that it’s OK to pull a guy’s sweater over his head and punch him, but you’re only allowed to hit him with your fists, not your stick or equipment. At least there’s a line you’re not supposed to cross!
 
But nowhere did it talk about, you know, NOT fighting. Being a peacemaker seems to be a lost art these days. Our politics have become so polarized that high percentages of people say they can’t even be friends with people they know are on the other side of the political aisle. There’s anger and vitriol, and even though some politicians will repeats platitudes about being the one to rise above the fray and uniting people, it usually only applies as long as you agree with them. Otherwise you’re a hateful bigot who secretly wants to push old people in wheelchairs over cliffs.
Jesus said in Matthew 5: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
 
Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean that we don’t have principles or take a stand on anything. But it does mean that we focus our disagreement on principles and practices, not people and personalities. We should be able to talk about things rationally and calmly—even lovingly—without hating the people we disagree with. And ultimately, we need to realize that it’s the eternal things that truly matter—not what law passes or who wins an election.
 
Being a peacemaker means we don’t assume that people who disagree with us on policy—or even principle—are evil people who just want to do harm. We look for common ground and don’t assume wrong motives in those with whom we disagree.
 
If there were ever a time for more Christians to be peacemakers, it’s now. In our culture, that difference will stand out and give us the opportunity to shine the light of Christ in a powerful way.
 
As you pray today, think of areas in your life where there is conflict, and ask God to help you be a peacemaker.


Lent Devotion March 25-True Forgiveness

Lent Devotion March 25
True Forgiveness
Mark 11:25

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
 
I just finished a book “Arnie & Jack” about probably the greatest rivalry in golf, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. If you watched the two in their later years you probably thought that this was a great loving relationship, and it was in later years. That was not the case though in the early and main part of this rivalry. Both men wanted to win, and both wanted more than anything to beat the other. Arnie’s Army hated Jack with a passion and yelled many hateful things toward Jack. Arnold could have stopped it but didn’t. Several times in major tournaments when they were paired together their desire to beat the other made them forget about the rest of the field and cost them the tournament. There were many years that two refused to play in the other’s tournament, sort of “if you won’t play in mine, I’ll won’t play in yours.” situation.
 
The thing that turned the relationship around was in 1993 when Nicklaus, whose Memorial Tournament always picked a past golfer to give honor to for their contributions to the game, made Palmer the 1993 honoree.

The two had often coated their disagreement with words but it was this act of love that began the forgiveness process.
 
In any long-term relationship, there are many things that people do that hurt others. They may be small things, being late, a harsh word said, or just being judgmental with a frown. These things hurt and even though the other apologizes, we brush over it with a “That’s all right, there is nothing t forgive. But the hurt still lingers. The way to forgive is not just with words but with loving action.
 
Solomon wrote, Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12
Prayer: Help us Lord to forgive, not just with words but from the heart as your Son forgave us.


Lent Devotion March 24-Doing Something

March 24 Devotion

Doing Something

Colossians 3:12

 

This year for Lent I gave up sweets, desserts.  Now I love doughnuts, cookies, cakes, sweet bread, (Great Harvest Bread Company makes the best Cinnamon Chip Bread) ice cream and pie.  My joke is always I only like two kinds of pie, hot pie and cold pie.  So giving up desserts is not a small thing for me.  Then, I was reading a devotion where a woman was eating lunch with a friend and it came time for the dessert and she said, “No I can’t.  I gave up dessert for Lent.  How about you?  What did you give up for Lent?” Now this is where the story gets interesting.  The woman replied, “I used to but I’ve had a change of heart.  I decided that instead of giving up something, I would do something.  Send a card to a shut in, make an overdue phone call to a friend or relative.  At first it seemed like a task, but I come away feeling better about life.”

 

Now there is certainly not anything wrong giving up something for Lent, if you have I hope you will find it a blessing.  I certainly have.  But there is also something said about doing something positive.  The things we do become habits and if we can establish a positive habit during this time of year that would be a good thing for us and for the kingdom.

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to establish positive habits in my life.  To not only be a hearer of the Word but a doer. Amen



Lent Devotion March 23-Purehearted

Lent Devotion 3-23
Purehearted
 
How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, his(her) heart was in the right place?” It usually refers to someone who had the purest of motives, but their efforts either failed miserably. An attempted compliment came out wrong and ended up as an insult; an effort to do something nice for someone backfired and caused them pain; a medical treatment ends up making the situation worse. We mean well—we acted out of a pure heart—but the results are harmful or even disastrous.
 
We’ve all had situations where our heart was pure, but our actions or words caused real problems. I know I have. But while my heart is pure some of the time, there are so many times that my heart is far from pure. I’m hurt and I respond with sarcasm; thoughts of revenge flash across my mind when someone cuts me off in traffic (but then, what would I do? I drive a Honda Fit.); I get asked to do something I don’t want to do and my mind starts trying to think of a way out of it. My heart is not always where it ought to be.
 
In Matthew 5:8 Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
 
Jesus spent a lot of time calling out the religious leaders who pretended to be devout and spiritual, but whose hearts were far from God. He referred to them as “whitewashed tombs.” I can’t think of a better description of outward piety that hides inner spiritual rot. The problem is that sometimes we can be that way too.
 
And becoming pure in heart begins with realizing and coming clean about how impure we really are—and how much we need to be purified by God. We can’t become pure in heart until we realize we aren’t there yet. That’s why we celebrate Lent—to help us get an honest spiritual “x-ray” to see how pure our heart really is.
 
As you pray today, pray for God to reveal the areas of your life that need to be purified, and ask for strength to begin to become pure in heart.
 
 


Lent Devotion March 21-The One Who Heals

The One Who Heals
Johnny Parks

 

I PETER 2:24   “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.”

 

As we go through life here on earth, we are going to experience a lot of both good and bad times. Many will deal with health problems, sickness, and pain. We all will mourn when losing loved ones and the unexpected, sudden loss of a family member or friend.  We may have financial problems or trouble with family and friends that weigh heavy on our hearts. As we know, Jesus Christ told us that even though we are believers we will still have our trials to face while living. But know this – one day “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away.”  Rev. 21:4

 

Dear God: As we reflect today on the one who makes all things right, help us to come to you even when hard times hit us, to thank you for your Son’s presence.



Lent Devotion March 20-Prone To Wander

March 20 Devotion

Prone to Wander

Matthew 26:31-32

 

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

 

In the well-known hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” Robert Robinson wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”  In some form or other, we are all “prone to wander” from the faith, from the church, from God. Perhaps it is because of a hurt that wasn’t healed.  Perhaps it was some point of faith or scripture that we were taught that didn’t hold up to the things we encounter as adults. Maybe it is just some sorrow we experience, the loss of a loved one.  Or perhaps it is just a slow pull of the world over the course of months or years that we fall away.  It could be some sin that holds us in our grasp.

 

Regardless of the cause, this one thing is true, Jesus is familiar of all the ways we wander.  Judas wandered, perhaps because of greed.  Peter the others because of fear.  But Jesus knew ahead of time what they would do.  Yet amazingly he says to them, “After it is all over, this is where I’ll be, come on and meet me there.”  And that is the invitation that he gives to us.  He is ahead of us and he is waiting.  He is calling us home all we need to do is to come back to him.  Robinson concludes his hymn this way, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.”

 

Prayer:

Go the Good Shepherd, we like sheep have wandered off.  Thank you for waiting for and searching for us. When we walk away from you show us that you do not forsake us.  Amen



Lent Devotion March 19-More Mercy

More Mercy
Lent Devotion 3-19
 
“We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, on the street, in competition, a man faces you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.”
 
That quote from the Cobra Kai Sensei in The Karate Kid has stood out to me enough that 36 years after I first saw the movie, I didn’t even need to look it up (though it may just mean I watched the movie too many times over the years). What’s funny to me is that Martin Kove, the actor who portrayed the merciless karate instructor, recently reprised his role in a commercial for Quickbooks. Supposedly, the character has changed his ruthless ways. He blamed his old mentality on not being able to handle the books for his business easily. Now, he says, those problems are gone and he’s renamed his dojo Koala Kai. He’s overheard urging a student, “More mercy.”
 
That’s a great hook for a commercial, but it’s also a great motto for dealing with others. In Matthew 6:7 Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” In the real world, mercy requires strength. It takes a great deal of inner strength to overcome our natural tendency for revenge when someone hurts us, and offer mercy instead. But Jesus said that in order to be shown mercy, you have to be willing to offer it to others.
 
And when you think about the incredible sacrifice that Christ made in order to offer us mercy and forgiveness, it’s the least we can do to show Him our gratitude.
 
As you pray today, think about the people you need to offer mercy to, and ask God for the strength through His Spirit to be as merciful to others as God has been to you.


Lent Devotion March 18-Honoring the Gift

March 18 Devotion

Honoring the Gift

Matthew 26:7

 

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.  “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. (Matthew 26:6b-10)

 

When I moved out on my own to take my first ministry, my parents bought me a set of Melmac dishes.  Anyone who is not old enough to know, this are basically hard plastic dishes.  I used them all during the time I lived by myself and after Pat and I were married we used for several years.  In fact we used them even though we had a really nice set of china, Pat had received when we got married, we had a nice set of depression glassware that her Mom gave her and a set of depression cut glass dishes.  I don’t really remember but probably the number of times we used those three sets of dishes we could probably count on two hands.  Instead we used Melmac, then Correllware and now we have a rather nice set of dishes.  But all those years those dishes set on shelves and in china cabinets relatively unused.  I surmise that you have probably done the same thing.  You use the old thin towels because the good ones are for company, You hold on to something because it has value rather than using it for its purpose.  It might even be a gift that the giver wanted you to have to enjoy rather than put it on a shelf somewhere.

 

Jesus understood the heart of the giver and gave her joy because he accepted the gift from her heart to his.  When he gives us gifts might we do the same.

 

Prayer:

Lord you received the gift of precious ointment with love, and you gave your life with love. Help me to honor all your gifts. Amen



Lent Devotion March 17-Every Day A Holiday

March 17 Devotion

Every Day A Holiday

Matthew 26:3-5

 

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.“But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26:3-5)

 

Have you ever noticed that during the Christmas season that people are generally nicer, more cheerful?  Have you ever said or thought, “I wished every day was a holiday!”? There is something about holidays and special event days that tend to make people more understanding, more forgiving, more inclined to gift the benefit of the doubt.  That holiday spirit was not what caused these calloused men to not arrest Jesus an put him to death, it was their fear of the common person.  The people who were amazed at Jesus’ teaching.  The people that were healed or had loved ones healed my Jesus’ compassionate healing. It was their fear of an uprising that stopped them.

 

And sometimes, during those holiday seasons, we too check ourselves because we don’t want to cause a disturbance.  But what if we began to treat everyday as a holiday?  Maybe you would be more understanding with your children. Perhaps you would be more forgiving of the person who cuts in front of you.  Or maybe you would be more attentive and kinder to a spouse as if it were or anniversary.  Maybe write down the things you are grateful for like you do on Thanksgiving. Be more generous to the underprivileged. Can you imagine a world like that?

 

Prayer:

Dear Father, you have created everyday as a special day for us to live in. This is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it. Amen!



Lent Devotion March 16-What Are You Hungry For?

Lent Devotion March 16

What are you hungry for?

Matthew 5:6

 

My Grandmother was a very, very patient woman. She was a great cook, and did everything from scratch. And she would work hard to make a fantastic dinner that would feature, for example, pork chops. And my Grandfather would sit down, look at that incredible spread and say, “I was hungry for (or I had my mouth set for) fried chicken.” And my Grandma would get up without a word and make him fried chicken. She never complained, but those pots and pans hit the stove with a lot of gusto. He’s lucky he didn’t get a frying pan upside the head!

 

Granddad had a great meal in front of him, but he hungered for something else. And while we might shake our heads at the audacity (and stupidity) of that, we do the same thing to God. God offers us the best life we could possibly have, but we hunger and thirst for other things; things that, at the time, look more appetizing. Revenge looks better to us than loving our enemies. Selfishness seems more appealing than putting others’ needs first. Lying often looks far more pleasing than the truth. But the life that God offers when we follow His standards is so much richer and ultimately more satisfying.  

 

In Matthew 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

 

When we crave a certain food, we often go unsatisfied. And even when we get what we want the hunger will return. It’s never really fulfilling. If you’ve given up certain foods or beverages for Lent, you’ll (re)discover that truth eventually. But when we develop a hunger for the things of God, we’ll always be full.

 

As Easter approaches, pray that God will help you to truly hunger and thirst for righteousness.



Lent Devotion March 14-A House Divided

A HOUSE DIVIDED

Roscoe Faris

 

Esther was born/placed in history much like our modern time of government – corruption within the structures of individuals in power. Haman opposed the Jewish nation and everything it stood for during this period of history and one particular individual named Mordecai.  So much was his hatred that he devised a plan to the Jews killed under false reports to King Ahasuerus.

 

Esther was the wife of the king. The rules of approaching the king unannounced could result in death for her – she faced certain death if she approached him. Mordecai advised Esther that she should approach the king to plead the cause of the Jewish nation/people.  She however was very reluctant. Then Mordechai put this question before Esther, “who knowth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14 (KJV)  

 

With her faith in God she boldly answers this question risking her life by approaching King Ahasuerus.  Such action resulted in the saving of the Jewish people and punishment of Haman.

 

As individuals we could possibly face the same question today in our own lives, without seeking God’s desires how do we know that service(s) we can provide for the kingdom of God?

 

Dear God, help us to gather strength in our weakness to boldly do those things you would have us to do.  In Jesus name we pray. 

 



March 13 Devotion-I’m Sorry

March 13 Devotion
I’m Sorry
Luke 23:34

 

Over the years, different scholars and critics have tried to give explanations for why Judas betrayed Jesus.  After all Jesus chose the 12, so did he choose Judas because he knew that Judas would betray him?  Was Judas predestined to betray Jesus?  If Jesus needed someone to betray him then it really can’t be Judas’ fault that he did. Right?  Was Judas just a bad person? According to John in his Gospel (John 12:6) Judas was a thief and used to help himself to the money. And if it wasn’t for Judas would there have been a resurrection?

 

I don’t know but put yourself for a second in Judas’ shoes.  You are standing before God on the day of Judgment what do you say? That question were once put before a Sunday School class of fifth and sixth graders, and they gave many of the answers I have given you until they got to one little boy, the smallest in the class, he simply said, “I’m really sorry. I had no idea what I was doing.  Please forgive me.  I would never done it if I had understood who He was.”

 

Obviously, I have no idea what Judas knew or did not know when he betrayed our Savior.  I do not know how his conversation with God went or will go.  But I do know this, I often do things that I don’t understand, there are a myriad of things that I know I cannot justify before God but thanks to Jesus Christ there is no argument stronger than to simply seek forgiveness.

 

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

 

Prayer

I am sorry Lord for what I have done.  Please Forgive me.  Amen

 



Lent Devotion March 12-Take Up Your Cross

March 12 Devotion
Take Up Your Cross
Matthew 16:24-25

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

 

Everywhere you go you see people wearing crosses.  It may be an earring, a necklace, or some other kind of adornment. It is almost like it is some sort of talisman or good luck charm.  In Biblical times a cross meant exactly the opposite.  If you saw someone with a cross, you would think “that poor fellow” or “I wonder what he did to deserve that.”

 

For Jesus it was a symbol of the sacrifice he was making for us, the life-giving sacrifice he made for us.  Today crosses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  When a nurse puts on her scrubs to care for a sick person, she is taking up a cross.  When a policeman pulls on his bulletproof vest to go out and protect us, he is taking up a cross.  When a mother stays up all night rocking a sick child she is taking up a cross.  Anytime we sacrifice or deny ourselves for someone else we are carrying a cross.  What sacrifice for someone else are you making today?

 

Prayer

Thank You Jesus, for sacrificing your life that I might have eternal life with you and the Father.  Help me to sacrifice that others might know your love.  Amen.

 

 

 

 



Lent Devotion March 11-The Power Source

The Power Source
Matthew 5:5

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mother Theresa
Jackie Robinson
Jesus

 

There are probably several common traits come to mind when their names are mentioned, but you would never characterize any of them as weak. They each had (or have, in Bennett’s case) an inner strength that steeled them in times of adversity.

 

They weren’t weak—but they were meek. The two concepts get mixed up at times, but they are very different. Meekness is choosing to be completely dependent on God’s power instead of your own. It’s recognizing that real strength is found only in Him. And it’s that meekness that allowed these people to do amazing things—because it’s was God’s power on display, not theirs.

 

It takes God’s power to respond to hatred peacefully and with love. It takes God’s power to devote your life to serving the destitute while living among them. It takes God’s power to ignore injury and racial epithets and death threats. It takes God’s power to endure merciless beating and a torturous execution to pay for the sins of the ones who are shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

 

Jesus said in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Those weren’t just words to Him. They were a way of life. And it’s thanks to His meekness that we have life. That’s what we celebrate at Easter.

 

As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for us, pray that God will give you the determination to live a life of meekness.



Lent Devotion March 10-Self-Sacrifice

March 10 Devotion

Self-Sacrifice

Proverbs 27:17

 

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

 

Self-sacrifice and Discipline have never been my strongest traits.  Even back when I was in high school taking geometry, the teacher wanted to see our work, but I could get to the right answer without doing the work.  So my thought was, why do I need to take time to put all of that work in when I have the right answer.  My teacher never could get that across to me and consequently as I moved up to harder math, I was unable to continue.

 

Now since that time, I have learned that I can practice self sacrifice and discipline if I so desire.  I have also found that if I have someone who is committed to the same journey that I am taking it is much easier

If you gave up something for Lent, about this time you are probably beginning to think, “Is this really worth it?”  Well, believe me it is important for your walk with Christ.  It will deepen it and bless you.  But let me encourage you to not make this journey alone.  Share with others who are close to you what you are doing.  This will help you stay the course. If you can find someone to share the journey that too will help.

 

As the writer of Proverbs says, “Iron sharpens Iron.”

 

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” Jonah 2:9

 

Dear Father in Heaven: Be with us in this journey.  Help us to be grateful and praise you for this opportunity to sacrifice.  Amen

 

 



Lent Devotion March 9-A Broken Heart

A Broken Heart

Matthew 5:4

 

Jesus is known for saying things that sound contradictory or paradoxical. One of the best examples is in Matthew 5:4 where He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” On the surface it sounds like He’s saying, “Happy are you when you’re sad.”

 

But it goes deeper than that. The word translated mourn is the strongest word for grief in the Greek language. It refers to a grief that causes such deep emotional and physical anguish that it can’t be hidden. It’s so strong that there’s no way to “put on a brave face” or “keep a stiff upper lip.” When people ask how you’re doing, there’s no way you can even say, “I’m fine.”

 

When we experience such loss that it drives us to our knees in prayer—when we HAVE to lay our burdens at Jesus’ feet because we’ve collapsed under their weight and can’t possibly carry them another step, we’ve gotten, as Kyle Idleman says, “to the end of ourselves.” And it’s when we get to the end of ourselves that we really find God. And that brings joy that is stronger than our circumstances.

 

Another aspect of the mourning Jesus is referring to is when we get to the point that we mourn over the sin in our own life, as well as the sin in the world. When we become nonchalant toward sin, our hearts become harder. God wants us to get to where sin grieves us—it breaks our heart. That draws us closer to Him, and helps us cultivate His heart in a greater way. And it causes us to develop more of an aversion to sinning.

 

Mourning is never enjoyable, but it can provide comfort and peace beyond what we ever thought we could have if it causes us to turn to God. As you pray, thank God for the comfort He provided, and ask Him to help you to develop His heart for the world, and that your heart would be broken by the things that break His.



Lent Devotion March 7-Our Purpose in Life

Our Purpose in Life
Mike Lynn

 

Each of us has asked the following questions. Who am I? What is my purpose in life? What does God want or expect from me?

 

We eat, drink, gamble and gossip, we seek out the most mundane entertainment, surrender to television and social media, attend party after party; most everything we choose to do is our way of avoiding our own questions.

 

Identify the divisions, hobbies and habits that distracts us from answering these questions.  Then take practical steps to rid ourselves, of it or find ways to reduce it from your life.

 

Are you preoccupied with eating and drinking; then fast regularly.  Do you watch too much TV or spend too much time on social media?  Then set time limits.

 

Do you spend time in idle chatter or gossiping about others?  Then choose to control your tongue.  Lift others up don’t tear them down.

 

Do you spend too much time socializing? Then cut back on parties and events that distract you.

 

Spend time in prayer and reflection the three questions. Divest yourself from the things that prevent you from learning Who you are?  What your purpose in life is and how does God want to use you?

 

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us… Hebrews 12:1

 

Dear God,

Help us as we struggle to give ourselves to you. Help us reflect on who you want us be and divest ourselves from the things that hinder



Lent Devotion March 6-The Company We Keep

March 6 Devotion

The Company we Keep

Matthew 9:10-11

 

My mother used to always instruct us to be careful in picking our friends.  “You are known by the company you keep.” she would say.  And I always tried to live by that choosing carefully the people I would hang around with. Now my mother taught us that because she wanted to protect us and because she wanted the best for us, but I am not sure that would be the advice that Jesus would give.  In Matthew 9 we read these words about Jesus’ choice of friends: While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11)

 

The Pharisees were scandalized by the company that Jesus kept.  The normal way we read this is, “Those old narrow-minded Pharisees.” But it wasn’t only the Pharisees that saw tax collectors as the “scum of the earth,” most everyone did.  They were known as those who cheated people, they were traitors, working for the Roman government.  They were almost universally hated, at least in Judea.  They did not want to share a meal with these sinners and were horrified when Jesus did.

 

The question for us is, “Who do we not want to share a meal with? To be seen with.” Jesus was never concerned about the company he kept.  He sees all of us as sinners in need of wholeness and healing.

 

Prayer

Dear God:  Thank you for sharing yourself with me, a sinner.  Thank you for seeing beyond what I do to who I am.  Thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to treat others the same way.  Amen

 



Lent Devotion March 5-Being Broke(n)

Lent Devotion March 5

Being Broke(n)

Matthew 5:3

 

Have you ever been broke? I think most people would say they have. I know I’ve said it. My wife and I will occasionally regale our kids with stories of the early days of our marriage when we could only afford to eat out twice a year. On our anniversary and my wife’s birthday we would go to Chi-Chi’s. We’d go on about how we didn’t have money for cable, and services such as Netflix were only a dream (and how we couldn’t have afforded it even if it had been around). We were broke.

 

And I think most people who use that term mean something similar—that they only have enough to cover the barest necessities.

 

In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In the original language, the term “poor in spirit” refers do being broken, destitute, having absolutely nothing to offer. In financial terms it would mean not having a penny to your name to even pay for food to sustain you. It’s being at rock bottom, as we say in Celebrate Recovery.

 

So in effect, Jesus says that it’s good for us when we get to where we’re spiritually broke; when we get to where we’re spiritually destitute. How can that be good for us? Because it’s when we get to that point that we become humble and realize that we’re totally reliant on God.

 

Lent is about preparing our hearts as we look toward Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross, where He provided for us what we could never produce for ourselves—forgiveness. And that starts with recognizing that spiritually we’re broken and in desperate need of His love and mercy.

 

The Sidewalk Prophets sing:

 

Make me broken

So I can be healed

‘Cause I’m so calloused

And now I can’t feel

I want to run to You

With heart wide open

Make me broken

 

‘Til you are my one desire

‘Til you are my one true love

‘Til you are my breath, my everything

Lord, please keep making me.

 

May that be our prayer today.



Lent Devotion March 4-Swine Flu

March 4 Lent Devotion

Swine Flu

Matthew 8:28-32

 

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”  Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding.  The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So, they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 

 

Whenever I read this account from Luke, I am reminded of one of my favorite puns, “This is the first case of swine flu.”  Ok I have told it ad nauseum, but I do think it is important that we recognize that Jesus sent the demons into the pigs. There are several times in the gospels that Jesus drove out demons, but this is the only one we have where we are told Jesus actually allowed the demons a choice of where to go? 

 

We all deal with demons in our lives, whether we realize it or not.  It may be the demon of addiction to alcohol, or drugs.  It might be pornography, it might be gossip or a sharp, caustic dinner. Only Jesus can drive out our demons, we cannot do it on our own.  It is important that we turn these things over to him.  And to realize that He will do this because He loves us much more than he values anything else.  So, let the swine fly.

 

Prayer:

God and Father, thank you for your love and care.  I am thankful that you are more powerful than any demon.  I thank you that you love me more than anything else.  Help me to turn over the demons to you and your strength.  Amen

 



Lent Devotion March 3-Living Sacrifices

Living Sacrifices

 

A recent headline in the Babylon Bee blared, “Local Man Declares Self Tax-Exempt as Temple of the Holy Spirit.” The story quoted the man as saying, “Our tax code protects organizations that perform religious activities, and my entire life is a living sacrifice. If our government is serious about religious freedom, they’ll recognize the tax-exempt status of this temple of the Living God.”

 

Can you imagine the IRS doing an audit of that? Picture an auditor coming to examine your life to see if it really is a living sacrifice, as Paul challenged us in Romans 12:1. He said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Paul had just spent a lot of time talking about the incredible grace and mercy of God—how He was going to save Israel following her sinful rejection of Him, and was going to provide salvation for Gentiles too. And in light of God’s incredible mercy, Paul tells us, the only proper response is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Our entire life is to be dedicated to Him.

 

Can you imagine an auditor inspecting your life to see if you’re really living up to that—if your body really IS the temple of the Holy Spirit? Can you picture him going through your calendar and your receipts and your web browser to find out if you’re worthy of your tax-exempt status? Or talking with your coworkers and neighbors to find out if you really do shine the light of Christ in the lives of those around us? We might find that we don’t actually qualify. Someone said the worst thing about a living sacrifice is that we tend to crawl down off the altar.

 

Now, the Babylon Bee is a satire site—the story isn’t true. But I have to admit it made me wonder if someone could get away with it. I asked my brother, a former auditor with the IR—I mean the Treasury Department—why we hadn’t thought of that before.

 

Lent offers us the reminder of the fact that Christ made His life a sacrifice on our behalf. How can we offer Him any less?

 

Pray that God will help you to make your life a living sacrifice, and that you won’t crawl off the altar.

 

 



Lent Devotion March 2-Unlimited Power

Unlimited Power

Matthew 4:5-7

 

When Jesus started his ministry, he began running.  Right out of the gate he has to tap into the power of the Spirit.  The power is used, not to perform miracles, but to resist the Devil’s temptations.  From the pinnacle of the temple, Satan throws down the gauntlet trying to get Jesus to use his powers in a glorious display.  But Jesus isn’t going to buy into that temptation. 

 

It is common to want to be prominent, to have others look at you with awe.  Note the number of athletes and celebrities that are striving for that one moment.  But it’s not just celebrities we to, are tempted by the siren voice calling us to be the one others lookup to.

 

Jesus said and practiced, the spiritual truth that I have not come to be served but to serve. (Matthew 20:28)

 

To serve others is something that is easy to say, right up to the moment when we are tempted to seize the opportunity to be the one that is up front.  It is at that moment that we, like Jesus and the apostles after him, need to rely on the Spirit’s power to resist the temptation. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Prayer:

Father, when I am tempted to be first, to be out front, to be the one on top of the power structure… Help me to be like Jesus and resist the Devil’s trap.  Amen



Lent Devotion February 29-Connected to the Story

Connected to the Story

Matthew 4:1-4

 

In Matthew Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He spent 40 days there fasting and praying in preparation for this battle. Interestingly, the Israelites spent 40 years in the desert wandering because they yielded to the first temptation that came their way.  Satan’s first temptation came in the form of a question, “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’” (Matthew 4:3) 

 

Interestingly in all three temptations, Jesus’ answers all allude to Israel’s wandering in the desert.  We, too, are connected to the larger story in Scripture. How have we been tempted?  How have we survived temptation – or not? When have we felt the presence of God or fed on the bread of heaven?

 

Making these connections to Scriptures larger story leads us to wisdom and strength for our journey.  We can know that in the deepest, darkest hours of our temptation, we are not alone.  We are held in the hand of one who has made the same journey. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

 

And every week we are nurtured by meeting around the table of the one who was the bread of life.

 

Prayer

Dear God, our Sustainer, we ask you now to help us prepare to meet with other fellow wanders around your table tomorrow.  Help us as we examine ourselves that we might recognize our weaknesses and enable us to overcome the temptations that face us. Amen


Lent Devotion February 28-The Power of Repentance

The power of repentance

I really have to get a “no solicitors” sign at my front door.

 

The other day a gentleman came to my door and asked if I wanted an estimate on some work to my home. I’m planning to have some work done among the services they provide, so I said yes. When he asked for a time that worked, I told him what worked for me. The man then made a call and handed me a phone to set up the appointment with their office. I told the man on the phone what worked for me and he said OK, and then asked if my wife was going to be home at that time. When I said I didn’t know, he wanted to change the timing of the visit. Obviously, they were hoping at that visit to get us to commit to having them do the work, which we don’t do. I absolutely hate high-pressure sales, and I don’t make decisions like that on the spur of the moment. We’re planning to get several estimates from different companies, and then decide together what we think is best. So it didn’t matter if she was there for their estimate. When I kept saying, “No, I gave you the time that works for me,” the man kept trying to change it, and it didn’t take me long to get frustrated. So, finally I said, “I’ve given you the time that works for me. If you don’t want to do it, then let’s cancel the whole thing.” And I hung up the phone and gave it back to the man at my door. I told him that the appointment was cancelled, closed the door, and went back inside.

 

After my frustration level began to come down, I started feeling guilty for being so abrupt with the man at the door. He had been nothing but nice, and I was very short and blunt with him, and just closed the door with him standing there. And I realized that I hadn’t been very Christlike. To make matters worse, I answered the door wearing my Celebrate Recovery at CACC t-shirt (I was definitely going to have something to confess in small group the next week).

 

I tried to downplay it and rationalize it in my own mind, but God put it on my heart that I needed to apologize to the guy. Yet when I looked outside, he was gone from my street.

 

A couple of hours later I had to go out, and I had prayed that God would help me to be able to apologize, and when I stopped at the end of my street, who was standing on the corner waiting for a ride? The guy who had been at my door. I called him over and apologized, and thankfully he was really nice about it.

 

What was amazing was the tremendous sense of relief and peace that came with that. It had been gnawing at me for hours, but once I apologized and made amends, I didn’t give it a thought the rest of the day.

 

Step Ten in Celebrate Recovery says, “We continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” It’s amazing the peace that comes with repentance and a simple but heartfelt apology.

 

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” We receive forgiveness when we repent to God, but our soul begins to heal when we confess and apologize to those we’ve hurt.

 

Lent reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made to provide us with forgiveness. But don’t miss out on the healing that comes when you confess the wrongs you’ve done to others and make amends.

 

Is there someone you need to apologize to? To make amends to? Is there a grudge you’ve been holding on to that’s disrupted relationships in your life? Pray for God to give you the courage to face it. You’ll be amazed at the peace God provides when you get it out in the open and apologize.

 



Lent Devotion February 27-The Lenten Celebration

The Lenten Celebration
Eddie Harlow
 
Lent is the season of reflection leading up to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It reminds us of the sacrifice of our Savior. It is a time to put self aside and focus on the renewing of our spiritual relationship with God. It is marked by fasting, sacrifice, and reflection.

During this period, you will meet Christ in the stillness of your soul and He will commune with you. This is the desired relationship of God since the creation of man. This relationship is always present, but we must open our heart to receive this gift. Take this special time of the year to let the world and our daily struggles take a backseat to Christ. Bring Him to the forefront and enjoy the peace and joy you can only realize through this spiritual blessing.

 

Ephesians 3: 20 – 21 NIV Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

 

Prayer

Christ, we pray that you would fill our hearts with the renewed spirt of your love and sacrifice. Continue to make us mindful of the promise of eternal life, the gift you gave us through your death and resurrection.


Lent Devotion-Ash Wednesday

Lent is the season of reflection leading up to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It reminds us of the sacrifice of our Savior. It is a time to put self aside and focus on the renewing of our spiritual relationship with God. It is marked by fasting, sacrifice, and reflection.

 

During this period, you will meet Christ in the stillness of your soul and He will commune with you. This is the desired relationship of God since the creation of man. This relationship is always present, but we must open our heart to receive this gift. Take this special time of the year to let the world and our daily struggles take a backseat to Christ. Bring Him to the forefront and enjoy the peace and joy you can only realize through this spiritual blessing.

 

Ephesians 3: 20 – 21 NIV Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

 
Prayer
Christ, we pray that you would fill our hearts with the renewed spirt of your love and sacrifice. Continue to make us mindful of the promise of eternal life, the gift you gave us through your death and resurrection.