Beginning on Ash Wednesday
(February 13, 2013), daily devotionals are offered by members of
Swansboro United Methodist Church. Look here for a scripture, a
reflection on that reading, and a prayer during each of the 40 days of
Lent. We encourage you to read the scripture either from your own Bible
or by using the link to that verse provided, prior to reading the
reflection on that reading.
The 40 days between Ash Wednesday and
Easter Sunday are representative of the 40 days Jesus spent wandering in
the desert wilderness all the while being tempted by Satan. Fasting and
repentance helped Jesus overcome the temptations of Satan.
(Sundays are not counted as days of Lent, but are considered mini "Easter's" and therefore are celebrated.)
(Sundays are not counted as days of Lent, but are considered mini "Easter's" and therefore are celebrated.)
| Week 5: March 25 - March 30|
Read John 12:9-19
The travel from Bethany to Jerusalem, just two miles away, turns into our Palm Sunday Parade for our King of kings. Jewish people are coming to see Him, who has raised Lazarus from the dead and accomplished many miracles. Although the disciples did not yet fully understand Jesus' mission for all of God's children, they saw many Jews becoming believers. As we read and reflect on what Jesus Christ calls all God's children to do, let us praise and worship our Lord constantly.
Lord, give us the courage to praise you to all the world for it is through you that we grow closer to God. Amen
Read John 12:20-36
Jesus was always teaching, right up until the time that he gave his life up....for us. Time on earth was short for him in this passage and he knew it. He didn't have time to be signing autographs for the newest of fans. Everyone must have wanted to see this miracle performing rock star!! He has walked on water, healed the blind, sick and lame and raised Lazarus from the dead ! They stand on their toes at every venue, leaning left and right just to catch a glimpse of him. But Jesus keeps moving forward....and they are left behind to whisper, speculate and to say to those who didn't arrive in time, "We saw him!"
Jesus takes this opportunity to teach us that we don't have to be left behind. We can be with him always. But we can not just be a fan.....we must be a follower. And to do that we must die to ourselves. In doing so, we will never be alone. We dwell in Christ Jesus and He in us. And not only will we be found in Him, we will be in the lives of others that we are called to serve. Jesus is everywhere we go! So what will it be brothers and sisters.......are you going to be a fan or a follower? We GET to choose! What a privilege! Lets all choose to follow Christ and serve him every day.
We come to you today on our knees, as servants. We are so humbled by your gracious acts of love. That you would die for us.....to save us from this world. We want to be with you always....today, tomorrow and for all eternity. Your word tells us that you are here with us....still. Wash us clean Lord....so that we may serve you. Empty us of ourselves.....so that me may do your work. Divine appointments are lined up for each of us today Lord. Please open our eyes as wide as we can, so that we might see you there....in the midst of those who maybe aren't even fans yet! Help us lead them to You. Use us as your followers. And all the praise and glory goes to you! Amen
Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35
As we anticipate Jesus “laying down
his life,” we first hear this familiar story of Jesus “laying down his robe” to
wash the disciples’ feet. We live in a culture that talks a lot about love and
it is a familiar theme throughout the passion narratives as we look at the
cross as one of God’s supreme acts of love for humanity. While I would not
argue that the foot washing story is in fact about limitless love and servant
hood, Jesus also gives us a model of friendship. Jesus says, “No longer do I
call you servants…you I have called friends” (John 15:15). And then, he doesn’t
merely talk about it, but he lives it out – in his actions, in his intimacy, in
his death and resurrection. Let’s be honest – feet are gross. They are nasty.
They stink. Such an act typically would have been an expression of inequality,
ie, the disciples’ inferiority to Jesus. But, Jesus levels the playing field,
abolishes the inequality, reverses roles and models friendship based on mutual
service. In the same way that love is a
transforming power over death, so is friendship. Jesus inaugurates a model of
friendship based on mutual service, generosity, and limitless love. What would
have been a humiliating act became a reverent moment among friends.
The story reminds us that it is
oftentimes through friendships that we come to know God. The story invites us
to give thanks for the relationships in our lives, those friends with whom we
have shared some of life’s most intimate moments. The story challenges us to
risk our very selves, holding nothing back as we trust in transformative love.
Dear Lord, May we have the courage to embrace Jesus’ limitless love as we seek not only to
speak the language of friendship, but live it in our lives.
Read John 18:1-18
John gives us a very human and spiritual account of Jesus's arrest. Thinking they were on a very dangerous mission, the chief priests, Pharisees, brought with them a garrison of Roman soldiers (about 600). They were prepared to do battle.
In the all-knowing power of God, Jesus knew what was taking place. He simply asked, "Who are you looking for?" They said Jesus of Nazereth. And when Jesus said, "I am He." The power of God fell on them, they went backwards and fell to the ground.
John wants to make sure we understand that the mighty Roman force did not take Jesus. Jesus gave himself to them, as he did for all of us.
Dear Lord~Thank you for saving all of us sinners.
William Calvin Baker
Read John 19:38-42
| Week 4: March 18 - March 23|
Read Psalm 118:1-2
There are times I thank the LORD everyday for his presence in my life. Even when things on earth seem to overwhelm me, I know the LORD is with me and I am so thankful for his enduring love which helps me through the stresses of life. As the Lenten season unfolds in our preparation for the celebration of our Savior, Jesus Christ who gave his riches up to become poor, so he could save us from our own deaths; we should give thanks for his enduring love for us. HE is always with us even though there are times we are not with HIM. This lenten time is a season for reflection and enduring love for HIM as HE does for us.
O LORD, thank you for your love and being there for us during the hills and valleys of our lives. As we go through this lenten season, we are humbly grateful for your enduring love and forgiveness in which we truly are undeserving, through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Read Psalm 118:3-18
The Psalmist recognizes that God’s Love is constant through the thick and thin on life’s journey. Even when feeling trapped and alone with no escape in sight the Lord God’s steadfast love prevails. Looking to man for guidance and strength is temporary and prone to failure at any given time with no guarantees. Keep God in the moment. Experience true Joy in the purity of love God offers in all situations and be led to an everlasting Life Eternal in the Heavens.
God, it is right to give thanks and praise for the Joy experienced in Your Love today. Amen
Read Psalm 118:19-29
Although Jesus was rejected by many; even his own people he became the “cornerstone”. The most important part of the church. The cornerstone is the foundation stone, holding the structure together.
God has given us this day to live and to serve Him......be glad! Amen
Read Luke 19:28-34
This Lenten season is not about me; yet, I am writing about my experience as I travel to the cross through devotionals this 40 days.
Today's scripture tells us that Jesus was near Bethpage and Bethany at the hill of the Mount of Olives. He sent two of his disciples to the village, saying "You will find a colt tied there which no one has ridden. Untie him and bring it to me. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?', tell him 'The Lord needs it.'" ... When they arrived at the village it was just as he had told them...as they were untying the colt the owner asked "'Why are you untying the colt?' They replied, 'The Lord needs it.'"
Once I was saturated with my needs and my wants; slowly, I evolved to seeing someone besides me. I have committed myself to morning prayers, lifting up names of others for God's notice, for His healing and blessings.
One day recently as I began to pray there was a void, nothing, an empty silence in my mind and heart. No thought spoken or silent came to me. From this realization, I sat with closed eyes...waiting...waiting... silence surrounding me (even my kitty cats were still.)
In this stillness, my spirit began to say: "Lord, God 'create in me a clean, pure heart, renew a right spirit within me.' 'Search me, O God, see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in your way.' 'My sins are ever before me.'"
The image of the cross comes to me. It is not an empty cross. There is Jesus with His head bowed. Like the pictures we see of His baptism when the heavens opened and beamed down - this was the phenomenon of light which comes to me. Then a voice saying"This is my beloved son, Janice. I did this for you." Tears fell from my face...knowing that when Jesus got on that donkey and rode into Jerusalem, He knew that He was riding to the cross.
Can you imagine? Can you see in the cross a personal experience? It is told that St, Augustine said if you were the only person in the world, He would have made that journey to the cross "just for you."
We know why; don't we? We want mercy when our hearts are broken from the mistakes we have made. Because of GRACE (God's Riches at Christ Expense) we experience His mercy. We do not get that justice which we deserved. His marvelous love and mercy woos us to become His. Thanks be to God!!!
Precious God: We love you and lift our voices to worship you. Help us to always remember Jesus' journey to the cross - least we forget whose we are and why we are called to be - your disciples. Amen
Read Luke 19:35-40
As Palm Sunday approaches and our anticipation of Holy Week heightens, I look back at the ministry and works Jesus did. The joy and elation his believers and followers must have felt and expressed as he traveled by donkey and her colt back to the Holy City. The fanfare displayed by the laying of cloaks and palm branches in his path. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:38) But still, fear remains. Fear remains in the religious and political leaders. The pharisees cry out, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" Jesus replies, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40) An earthquake, and that is what comes.
It's between the parades that
we don't do so well.
From Sunday to Sunday
we forget our hosannas.
the stones will have to shout
because we don't.
Dear Lord, Let us remember the gift of life that you gave us during this most Holy season. Let us not be afraid to proclaim your name and shout, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!". Amen.
Read Luke 19:37-40 & Psalm 118:21-23
| Week 4: March 11 - March 16|
Read Isaiah 43:16-21
Isaiah 43, Verse 19, states God's comforting promise: “Behold, I will make all things new”. He tells us not to brood over the past and the mistakes of the years gone by. He is doing a new thing in our life. This promise is woven throughout the Biblical passages that tell us “I will make a new covenant”, “I will give you a new spirit”, “You will sing a new song”. And Paul tells us “If anyone is in Christ Jesus, they are a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come”.
From personal experience I can tell you that anyone who has been involved in restoration, particularly restoration of an old historic home that has lost it's grandeur, needs a lot of imagination, time, and energy. You have to be able to look past all of the rotting wood, chipped paint and broken pieces. You have to love the rundown home and it's possibilities, as you imagine it's original beauty and get excited about the end result. We can compare our lives like the old rundown home. As the years go by we can accumulate layers of anger, bitterness and hurt. We have broken pieces that need repair. But God looks at us with great love, seeing past our ruins, and imagining the great potential in us. He fixes all of the brokenness and puts on layers of grace, peace, joy, and love. God is in the restoration business. He is giving us new life. Let us be excited about the possibilities that God has in store for us!
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your unending love and your ability to do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or even think. During this season of Lent, help us to reach out to others so they can know you and be comforted by your promise of restoration. Amen
Read Psalm 126
4 May we be refreshed, Lord,
as by streams in the desert.
5 Those who sow in tears shall reap joy.
6 Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sewing,
but they return singing with the harvest.
GOD calls you and me to follow Him...even to the desert just as he did our Lord Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. It is not a place anyone wants to be, but it is there that we learn to depend on GOD for our very life. In the desert, we feel lost and alone, but GOD is there with us. GOD will refresh us as the rains fill the streams in the desert. GOD see our tears of sadness and our weeping. So, especially during Lent, we must begin to plant the seeds of GOD's love...We who truly are obedient to his call must be willing to be his messengers. We must share the Good News that Jesus died to save us. Each of us must confess our sins and ask for his forgiveness....then he will forgive us and we will know that he has redeemed us. We are saved by his precious blood shed on the cross. He is our Savior and Lord. Only through Jesus do we have the victory over sin and death. We can and will sing his praises at the harvest. Thanks be to GOD!
Father GOD, thank you for your constant love and saving grace. May we continually look to you for strength as we stuggle though the deserts in our lives. May we be able to see the joy of the harvest that you have planned for us. Amen
Read John 12:1-8
The Annointing at Bethany~~~
The land was filled with the plot to kill Jesus. With the coming of the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to visit with Lazarua, Mary and Martha. Martha cooked dinner for Jesus, and Mary annointed Jesus's feet with pure nard, a rare ointment imported from India. Jesus realized that this was His last rite preparation for His death.
Judas Iscariot, the disciple that betrayed Jesus, rebuked Mary saying that the money could have been used for the poor. Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for my burial. The poor you always have with you but you do not have me."
Lord, help us to keep you first in our priorities. Amen.
Read Philippians 3:4-14
In this lesson, Paul was speaking of his former life under the law as a Pharisee and a persecutor of his people before his conversion. Of course he is writing to the people of the community of Philippi, where Paul established the first church on European soil. He was aware of the difficulties they were going to face in staying true to their faith. Paul seems to be reassuring them that their trust in the law is not enough,"not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ" 3:9.
I struggle with my own faith from time to time and I can only imagine what it must have been like for the new christians in Phillippi to remain faithful when at that time it was a dangerous thing to do. Being a witness for Christ today is a much easier thing to do, I'm sure, ...but, why then are we so afraid to do it?
Father, I pray your forgiveness for my spiritual laziness, and my lapses in faith. Help me, dear Lord to be a better, more visible witness for you. In Christ's name, Amen.
Read Isaiah 12:2-6
Have you ever gone through a tough period in your life and emerged on the other side of it victorious? The relief, the joy, the thanksgiving were heartfelt.
The prophet Isaiah gives a glimpse of a restored Israel with instructions on what the people should say: songs of deliverance and thanksgiving, in the language of Exodus as Moses and the Israelites sang: "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation."
Isaiah continues with a liturgical rubric, instructions on what to do: "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make know his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted." We can surely do that. We are reminded during this period of Lent of God's gift to us -- His Son, our salvation. Thanks be to God.
We should "Shout aloud and sing for joy," for God is with us in all the periods of our life, the difficult as well as the easy.
You are my strength and salvation. I will thank you with all my being and sing joyfully your praises.
Psalm 43 is an expression of the grief and sorrow of a sacred soul being trapped in a human body. A spiritual cry to our God, longing for Him to stand strong before us, to be present within us and to protect us from the cruelty of this earthly life. The author knows he is in this world, but not of it.
In the first verse he pleads for vindication, he wants God’s protection from loveless, deceitful and immoral people. I believe we have all felt that way at times in our lives. We seem to get so focused on other people and what they say and think of us, that we lose sight of what really matters. This world can seem so mean.
In the second verse he pleads for Godly enlightenment. He comes to the conclusion that his soul will find no rest, until he takes his focus off himself and others, and places it back to the face of God. In God and God alone we will find our peace and our hope restored. Then he (and we) can find our strength and joy again, by praising our Lord and King.
Dear Lord~We love you and praise you. Thank you. Amen
| Week 4: March 4 - March 9|
Read Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
It seems that bad news surrounds us, whether internationally, nationally, locally, or personally. How do we deal with bad news? Sometimes our responses are tempered by distance and depth of relationship. Happenings in Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea, Newtown, Connecticut, flooded towns in New Jersey to people we have never met are tragic, and we respond to these in many different ways. We pray for them, some work on relief efforts, we send care packages and money, and we talk among ourselves about the continuing tragedies in the world.
What happens when we are impacted by a tragic event happening to someone we love, a co-worker, a close friend or ourselves?
Feelings of deep sadness, abandonment, loneliness, helplessness, depression are common, aren’t they? But we only have to read and believe Psalm 46:10.
The word "still" means to “let go” or “release”. Let go of the pain, the feelings, the sadness, and let God have it. That’s not an easy task. We are programmed to keep moving, keep working, keep driving, keep volunteering, and keep everyone happy. These are not necessarily bad things, but first and foremost, we need to get our bodies to be still. Find a place where God is your only focus, no outside influences allowed. No interference. You might do this by praying, singing, meditating, or just being completely silent. However you decide to be still, keep at it, fight the demons who try to dissuade you otherwise, and acknowledge that He is in complete control. Be reminded daily of God’s irrepressible care of the world.
Remind us constantly that You are in charge of all that we do. Remind us to be calm and listen, despite all the deafening sounds in our heads. Remind us that You and only You know what Your plan is for us. As a broken Jesus gave us life, it is You that promises to make all things work for the good of those who love You. Amen.
Read Joshua 5:9-12
In today’s verses from Joshua, we see the end of the Israelites 40 year sojourn in the wilderness. God has neatly bookended the story of his people's Exodus from Egypt from that dangerous night when they readied for flight by eating the first Passover meal to their final celebration of the remembrance feast of Passover in their new promised land, Canaan, "a land flowing with milk and honey". God disciplined his people during these wilderness years and made sure they remembered the humiliation of their years of slavery in Egypt.
The quarrelsome and often faithless amongst the Israelites were noisy complainers who too frequently looked back on the years of bondage in Egypt remembering not their captors’ cruelty but only the fresh cucumbers, melons, onions and garlic they had left behind (Numbers 11)! Daily, God's generous overflowing providence in the form of manna made sure that they always had just enough to eat. This first Passover in the new home becomes a celebration that God has kept his promise and delivered this generation to the promised land. Then "on the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the new land and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year."
Where in your life have you been blind to the "manna” that God has lovingly, faithfully offered in the form of grace to you? Like the Israelites yearning for a return to captivity if only they could have melons and cucumbers aren’t we just as faithless to yearn for more while ignoring the abundant life God has given us? This Lent, this most holy time of Christian preparation, remember the manna times in your life where God has provided just enough, and give thanks.
Loving God, the creator of all the delicious bounty of your beautiful creation, we thank you most of all for the soul food with which you nourish us each day. Amen.
Julia Batten Wax
Read Luke 15:20-21
& Psalm 32:1-7
There is an activity called "Newspaper Pains" that I have used with the UMKids to help them understand "The Story of the Found Son". I asked the children to hold a page of newspaper at arm's length, using both hands and keeping the papers straight in front of them. It was not until after holding that newspaper 90 seconds did the paper feel heavy.
When we've done something wrong, it's like carrying a weight. Even a little weight gets heavy if we hold it a long time. The good news is that we don't have to carry it. We can ask God to forgive our sins and He takes the weight from us! God is forgiving always!
The groaning will be replaced with a song of JOY!!! May the words of 'Prodigal Song" written by Laura Story from her CD, "Blessings" be a prayer of joy to you today.
"He is watching and He is hoping. Thou His arms are weary. His arms are still open and His prayer so softly spoken, 'Please come home'. Amen
Read Luke 15:25-32
To put this story in it's proper context, we need to go back to Luke 15:1-2. There we find Jesus has been associating with people whom the self-righteous scribes and pharisees had labeled "sinners". Jesus, according to them, had no business visiting with them, or eating with them. Jesus responded to this by telling 3 stories; The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son.
In the first two, Jesus ended the story saying, "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, then many righteous, who need no repentance."
In the story of the lost son, who returns and is graciously received by the loving father, ends quite differently. The elder brother returns home to find a celebration in progress. He is told that his brother has returned and welcomed by the father. He becomes angry and refuses to go inside.
At this, the father goes outside to plead with him to come in, but he is rebuffed. The elder brother commends himself, and condemns his brother, "Who has squandered your resources with prostitutes." The father says, "We must celebrate, he was dead and is alive, was lost but is found." I know personally the joy this father is feeling, since we have experienced it with one of our older sons. What a joy to see the change God has made in his life! The elder brother has been invited to share the joy of the father's grace. Will he accept?
"Come sinners to the Gospel feast, let every soul be Jesus' guest. You need not one be left behind, for God hath bid all human kind." (hymn #616) Amen.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
who ARE you?
16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! 17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
A book by its cover?
We all learn at various ages—and if you are like me, sometimes the lesson is learned over and over—that you cannot adequately, fairly, and correctly judge people by only the apparent, visible, and outward signs, especially in the short term. The other lesson the Apostle Paul teaches in these verses is the human transformation possible only through Christianity rebirth.
The typical connotation of prejudging others is that this surface evaluation is usually negative. That is, our negative evaluation turns out to be wrong. But we must also be vigilant for the ‘false positive.’ That is, our initial, good evaluation may later be disproved. These seem to bother me more. I am so happy to find the ‘real’ person is better than I first thought, but am so unhappy to learn that the person is undeserving of my praise.
The good news [for me] is that the more I learn and know Jesus, the more joy, love, and worship I have! Halleluiah! ☺
Oh Jesus! What a joy our lives become when we shed the old and accepted, learn to embrace and believe in you, and truly and faithfully live for you, our God; Jesus our way; and the amazing, enlightening Holy Spirit resident in us. Amen!
Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Ministers of Reconciliation
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,* not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Today is a day of ‘religious’ confrontation. Rival believers face-off with screams of ardent emotion to promote their view and demean their opponent’s view. Hostility will rage. One group seeks revenge and retribution for an earlier battle. There will be victory and there will be defeat. There will be pride and there will be desolation. Are we talking about Israelis and Palestinians? Tibetan monks on fire? Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland? Polygamous Mormons and the authorities? Shiite versus Sunni? NO….today is the day Duke travels to Chapel Hill for the final game of the regular basketball season.
We are called to be ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors for Christ to bring unity where there is diversity, reconciling the world to Christ and not counting their trespasses against them. …and…we are to do this with true love and humility (remember, NC State has beaten them both this year).
In this turbulent world, Lord, give us hearts of love to seek peace and unity with all people so that Your Kingdom may be known on this earth. Amen.
| Week 3: February 25 - March 2|
Read Isaiah 55:1-3
Have you ever noticed that when you consume soft drinks or sweetened liquids you often come away more thirsty and unsatisfied than before? Listen, God is offering the best stuff on earth and heaven and it isn't Snapple, it's Love. Yes, a lasting covenant that promises to nourish you and fill you up properly. No money? No worries! It's prepaid through Jesus Christ. There is no expiration date. What are you waiting for? Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.
Thank you God,
for sustaining us with the spiritual food and drink we require. With it we grow into the strong and faithful children of your desire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Bren Butler Feutz
Read Isaiah 55:4-9
The world into which Jesus was born and died was a world of foreign occupations, unsympathetic governors and a religious hierarchy which was not, to the most part, sympathetic to the needs and desires of the people.. The vast majority of the people were poor, uneducated and at the mercy of their superiors. Into this atmosphere, through readings from the Torah, people heard wonderful words of restoration and promise—words of a Messiah who would come to free Israel from foreign domination and free the people from their bondage to their foreign oppressors..
Isaiah, especially, writes of “The Suffering Servant” who will suffer for His people and a God who pledges himself in tender, unswerving, enduring love to his people. A God who will restore Israel and , also, send Jehovah's “Servant” to be the Messiah King. In the stirring words of Chapter 55, God, through a vision to Isaiah, promises to restore Israel and bring peace and love through the Messiah, “Suffering Servant”, Prince of Peace: various names for the Savior.
In Isaiah 55, we read wonderful prophecies of Christ: His promise of “Living Water”; eternal life; renewal of the everlasting covenant and others. What wonderful hope these words must have been, especially the promise of eternal life through Jesus who identified himself as the great I AM, the SON OF GOD. Isaiah, the prophet, even saw “...a new heaven and a new earth...”. Is it any wonder that when Phillip joined the eunuch and found him reading Isaiah the prophet, Phillip “began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus”(Acts 8:35). Christ and His salvation are an important part of Isaiah's prophecy.
Dear Lord, Thank you for these wonderful words that we find in Isaiah 55. Thank you for words and promises come to life in our Lord Jesus Christ whose Death and Resurrection we celebrate this Easter. And, especially Lord, we thank you for your promise of eternal life through Christ's death and resurrection. Lord Jesus, Thank you for Paying the price for our salvation. Amen.
Read Psalm 63:1-4
David was hiding from his enemies in the barren Desert of Judah; he was intensely lonely during this time. He longed for a friend he could trust to ease his loneliness. He cried out ‘God I thirst for you’ and later ‘in a dry and parched land without water’.
We don’t have to be located in a barren desert to feel lonely or feel we have no friends, but when these feelings overcome us, we too can call out to God, “God I thirst for you”.
O Lord, my Savior, teach me your ways. My hope is in you all day long. Amen.
Sharon & Peter Gante
How blessed we are that the Lord not only provides for us but that he provides the best for us (i.e., fat and marrow which was considered delicious!) We are to remember his gracious ways and meditate on them during those long hours of the night when we are awakened with the cares of the world. We are to remind ourselves that his strong right hand upholds us and we rejoice and follow him.
We thank you, Father, for the beautiful example of the psalmist who knew your goodness and mercy and who encourages us to seek after you. We are blessed to know that you are our comfort in the night and our strength. We bless you for our joy and our salvation. Amen.
Read Mark 8:34-35
With the birth of our first grandchild, I am reminded that babies come into the world very self-centered. She wants what she wants and she wants it now. As the child grows, she will become more aware of others’ needs and wants, but still will be usually basically self-centered. As we come to know Christ, we become aware of His plan for our lives to put the needs of others first before ours. But still, we are deeply concerned for our family, our friends, and our circle of acquaintances. All this is very good, but the graduate degree of Christian learning is expanding our love to strangers who are hurting. This is difficult to do because we are basically self-centered. But as we become the avenue of love and concern for those around us who are not in our “circle,” we feel the intense love of God as it flows through us to them, which in turn, can draw them to Christ.
Lord help us realize that taking up our cross means giving up our self-centeredness and use me to love the unlovable stranger around me. Amen.
Read Genesis 17:15-16
A NEW MEMBER OF THE FAMILY
The late afternoon sun beamed through the hospital windows as I watched with joy as my best friend, Janie, cradled her newborn son. But the scene was far from peaceful. While Janie was gently holding her tiny baby in one arm, with the other she was frantically dialing her rabbi, the caterer, and her friends and relatives in anticipation for Ethan’s briss, or circumcision ceremony, which would be held in only a week. Ethan’s circumcision would be happily done in public with friends and family there to welcome him as the latest member of the Jewish faith, fulfilling Abraham’s promise to God thousands of years ago. As Christians, we do not celebrate a baby boy’s circumcision; usually it’s done with just the parents (looking the other way), a nurse and a doctor. But when David was born, we made the same frantic plans for his baptism, arranging the date, making flight arrangements and setting up places for family to stay. Because, as with Ethan’s briss, David’s baptism marked his entrance into another family, the family of Jesus Christ. And this ceremony also came with a promise, made by family and friends, that we would raise our son to be a child of God.
In a way, the season of Lent is also about promises. As Janie and her family promised to raise their child in the Jewish faith and we promised to raise David as a Christian, so we as believers must promise every day to circumcise our hearts and spirits, cutting away those things that keep us from full commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ and setting aside every day of our lives as a promise to live out our faith commitment as children of God.
Lord, thank you that I am your child. Help me to remember those promises I have made to you, and that others have made on my behalf, as I live out my life as a member of your covenant family. Amen.
Read Genesis 15:1-12
God said to Abram, "Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
Your very great reward."
Very simply God was saying, "I am your God."
God has promised to every one to be our God even in our times of disbelief and questions. As educators we encourage the children to ask questions. In first grade we model for them the words, 'I wonder,' to help them generate questions. Asking questions is normal, yet can be offensive, especially if we don't have the answer. Abram was concerned about his offspring, his future. God promised he would be "father of all who believe." God had the answer.
I was afraid before my wife's passing. I could not grab hold of what my future would be without her. We had been married for 35 years…best friends, companions, soul mates. And yet I knew the end was near. I threw myself into, what I call, "retail therapy." I was shopping every day, bringing home bags of items that were attractive, new, yet, unfulfilling. My peace was in a shopping bag. I knew His peace, his love, and promises. Yet I was afraid of the future. After she was gone from my presence, I shopped more until one day I awoke to the reality of His love for me through the voice of a friend. This friend simply said,"Michael, He is waiting for you to trust Him again." I did begin to trust Him again. There were less bags to bring home, less items to put away, and more time to be with my God.
God help us to know you are our King, our reward, our Father and to never let anything in this life separate us from living for You. Amen.
Read Genesis 15:17-18
Signified by a flaming firepot, we read of God's covenant with Abraham which provided him assurance of land, descendants, and a worldwide blessing. The dramatic action here was on God's part. Abraham's part was to believe and trust in God's promise, which must have been hard to comprehend, since Abraham was elderly in years and had no descendants at that point. A message for us in this passage is that God is faithful to His promises, he chooses us, and He knows what our future holds.
On a personal note, I often reflect on the irony that we now are living in North Carolina, close to our daughter and grandchildren. My father, in his later years, spent much time on the golf courses in Southern Pines. Being a Pennsylvania native he always said he would love to live in North Carolina some day. None of us could have imagined that his descendants would be living here. I share this because today, February 19th, is the day that his earthly journey ended, and he is close on my heart.
Our Heavenly Father, we are impatient. Our lack of patience is reflected in our modern day culture of "Instant On" and "Instant Gratification", where with every act we expect an immediate response. But our relationship with you is a process that requires a patient trust. Please guide us to trust in your plan for us and about the virtue of patience. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Read Psalm 27:1-6
After having served in the Marine Corps for nearly 26 years, I found myself in the middle of the Iraqi war for my final tour. As soon as I arrived in our desert camp, a siren pierced the air, warning of an incoming scud missile attack from Saddam Hussein's army. We ran for the bunkers and quickly donned our field protective masks and suits. Intelligence reports indicated that the missiles may be armed with chemical warheads. Fear was written on the faces of some of the Marines in the bunker – particularly the very young. I reassured them that they were safe, and reminded them to rely on their combat training and the protective gear they were provided. Soon the look of worry faded from their faces as they began to relax and gain confidence.
During combat, many of us Marines turned to the Lord and His word for comfort and support. Our combat training gave us confidence that we could defeat the enemy, but it was our trust in the Lord that gave us the confidence that we would be safe and protected.
You don't have to be in a combat zone to experience fear. There is much to be afraid of in the world we live in today. Long-standing companies are closing their doors. Jobs that were once considered stable are now questionable. Our children are no longer safe from harm in our nation's schools.
But David assures us of God's protection in Psalm 27: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
As we go through this Lenten season, let us reflect and remember that the Lord is always with us. The Lord will protect us and provide us comfort in all situations. The Lord will never leave us or forsake us.
Dear Lord: We are so very grateful for your never-ending love and protection. Thank you for always being by our side during the difficult and fearful times in our lives. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Read Psalm 27:7-14
David’s greatest desire was to live in God’s presence each day of his life. David, the great king of Israel with power and prestige, wanted to be in God’s presence more than anything else. Like each of us, David did not have an easy life. Who does? The older one gets the clearer the reality of the statement, ‘Life is difficult; life is not fair’, becomes.
From being hounded by Saul to dealing with a rebellious son, plus his own indiscretions, David learned to seek God’s face. And he has instructed us to do the same. In other words, learn to turn to God, to pour out the situation, to seek God’s will and God’s way, and to wait. To wait, the most difficult thing to do.
In seeking God’s face, David expressed a desire to learn more about God, about himself and about the problems in his life. In seeking God’s face, David was asking for God’s protection, His mercy and His resolution to the situation. Most of all in seeking God’s face, David was confessing his absolute reliance and dependence on God. That no matter the problem, David knew that it had all gone through God’s hands first before it touched him. David knew that God had his spiritual good in mind at all times. With such confidence, David was able to wait! Not in resignation, David waited with a strong heart and faith, knowing that no matter the circumstances he would live each day in God’s presence.
Dear Lord: Help us to have the patience to wait for all of the good (and bad) things that you have in store for us until the end of time. Amen
Read Philippians 3:17-4:1
We are all familiar with the old quip of “would you say the same thing and act the same way if you knew that Christ, or your mother, were standing right behind you?” The full implication, of course, is that we all say and do some things that are not Christ –like and of which we are not proud when considered in retrospect.
Paul, in this passage, expresses to his beloved friends in Philippi, his fervent desire that they conduct themselves as shining examples of Christianity. He also knew that there were many around them every day who were “enemies of the cross of Christ”. And he knew that those individuals could so easily drag his friends into shameful things exposing their carnal desires. It is amazing that what Paul wrote about some two thousand years ago is still so absolutely applicable today.
But, Paul does not leave us to wallow in our shame. Instead, he reminds us of the great hope we have because we are already citizens with Christ in heaven. And Christ will not let us be tested or tempted beyond our capability to withstand. Paul does not say that avoiding evil or leaning on the strong arm of Christ will be easy, but we are assured that Christ will take our weak bodies and make them strong. The instructions are given right up front; ”Pattern your lives after mine”. Be an ardent example for Christ. We wear his name; we should make certain that we act like it.
Father: please give us the grace to be more like you in every way. Amen
When reading this scripture several things stood out. First is the warning the Pharisees gave Christ in verse 31, ”Go away for Herod wants to kill you!” Did they give him this warning because they wanted him to leave because his teachings were different than theirs or out of respect for him as a good and Godly person? The second thing, in verses 32 and 33 Christ says that he would continue to heal and force out demons. This he will do until his time on earth is finished. This reminds me of the last time I saw Billy Graham preach before a large crowd. He had to be helped to the podium, he was shaking and I was thinking, would he have enough strength to give a message? As he began to speak you could see him get stronger and stronger. He gave a powerful message of God’s love and salvation. In the last verse Christ knew that the people of Jerusalem would turn him over to the authorities to be crucified. What a heavy burden our savior carried for you and me!
Many of us will recognize the Lent Season and may give up something or do something as a covenant with God so we may have a closer relationship with him. As Christ continued to heal and cast out demons let us continue to share God’s word to all who will listen not just during Lent but until our time is finished here on earth.
Lord, we ask for your strength in us that we may continue to grow in faith, hope, and love. Show us ways that we may share your love and hope to all your people. Amen.
| Week 1: February 13 - 16 (Lent begins)|
Read Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
In these verses, Jesus cautions that without purity of intention, none of our actions are holy. He describes the correct manner of doing kind deeds, of praying to God, and of fasting so as to not be purposely seen and admired - which is what our Lord condemns. We must avoid the temptation to be hypocritically ostentatious in all things. Jesus does not forbid “publicity” but rather the spirit that “desires” publicity!
Jesus also says to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth.” This is not meant to discourage thrift but to discourage hoarding for selfish purposes or being consumed with amassing an abundance of earthly treasure. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also.”
Dear God, help us to be humble. Guide us in the right spirit of doing good works for you and for others. Help us to have purity of intention in all we do. In your precious name we pray. Amen
God Our Protector
9 1 Whoever goes to the Lord for safety,
whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,
2 can say to him,
“You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”
9 You have made the Lord your defender,
the Most High your protector,
10 and so no disaster will strike you,
no violence will come near your home.
11 God will put his angels in charge of you
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
to keep you from hurting your feet on the stones.
13 You will trample down lions and snakes,
fierce lions and poisonous snakes.
14 God says, “I will save those who love me
and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
when they are in trouble, I will be with them.
I will rescue them and honor them.
16 I will reward them with long life;
I will save them.”
Psalm 91 is known as the Psalm of Protection. As a religious song,
this Psalm is commonly invoked in times of hardship. Super bowl football
fans will recall linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens wearing a
black t-shirt with Psalm 91 on its front in the after game activities.
In addition to being a song of protection, Lewis says it is surely the
prayer of someone who has taken refuge in the Lord. “If my effort can
give you hope, faith, and love then so be it and today was about me
giving everything I got. No matter the circumstances that you may be
going through, just push through it.”
The “Jesus Prayer” said from the earliest times in the monasteries of the early Latin church fathers …
Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11
How do we celebrate the people and gifts in our lives? Perhaps the first step is one of REMEMBERING that all we have is gift despite the fact that we think we have earned and deserved all that we have. God asked the Hebrews to remember that their ancestor was an alien, or in our language today, perhaps an illegal immigrant. Secondly, God asked that we return to Him a small portion of the gifts he gives to us. He asked that it be OUT OF ABUNDANCE that we bring our gifts - not whatever resource or time or energy is leftover. And lastly, He asks that we join with those WHO ARE STRANGERS IN THE LAND and bring them into the celebration of His goodness. Though this passage was written thousands of years ago, that same God still asks that we recognize and honor the Giver who welcomes all into His love and asks that we share our bounteous blessings with others.
God, help us know deep in our hearts that all we have is yours. Give us grace both to share with joy and give you the glory. Amen.
Read Romans 10:8b-13
For salvation comes from trusting Christ – which is what we preach – is already within easy reach of each of us; in fact, it is as near as our own hearts and mouths. For if you tell others with your own mouth, that Jesus is your Lord, and believe it in your own hearts that Jesus Christ is your Lord, and believe in your own heart that God as raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation.(TLB)
Keep it Simple
I have been working with technology and teachers for several years now, and recently one of my workshop participants said to me – Why do we always have to make everything so complicated? Can’t you just give me a simple 1-2-3 without all of the confusing verbiage? I have composed a “one pager” with the bare bones instructions. The concept of salvation does not have to be complicated!
Receiving salvation is simple direct, personal and public. Have you ever been asked, “How do I become a Christian?” These verses in Romans 10 give you a beautiful answer – salvation is as close as your own mouth and heart. People think it must be a complicated process, but it is not. If we believe in our heart and say it with our mouth that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved.
William Wilberforce, the 18th century abolitionist and man of God, once wrote that "Christianity can be condensed into four words:
Admit - Christ as Lord
Submit - To Christ as Lord
Commit - Our lives to doing His will
Transmit - The Love of God to a dying world
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for YOUR forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite YOU to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow YOU as my Lord and Savior. Amen