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Lenten Devotional – Day 36 – Jesus’ Witness to Pilate

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “… (Jesus said) ‘Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.’” John 18:37b

Bonus Reading:  John 18:33-38a

The true significance of Christ’s comments to Pilate is simply lost on Pilate. He has other things on his mind. They are things he thinks are far more important like saving his career. His attention is squarely on himself and what impact this trial will make on his future.

But God does two things to turn Pilate’s attention to the innocent man standing before him.  First, Pilate’s wife sends him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of Him today in a dream” (Matthew 27:19).  Second, God sends His Son to speak to Pilate directly.

Jesus says, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” This is a challenge to Pilate: is truth important to him? Obviously, he is taking great risks to set an innocent man free, but does he want to hear the truth Jesus came to bring?

Many times in our lives Jesus’ still, small voice speaks to us through the clamor and clatter of our daily lives. Are we willing to put it all aside to listen to the One who offers us eternal life?

Pilate gives his famous reply, “What is truth?”  Sadly, he isn’t interested in what Jesus has to say, he just wants to end the discussion.

Jesus offers you and me words of truth and eternal life. But how often do we dismiss Him and cut Him off like Pilate did? How often are we distracted by earthly things we think are more important?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for speaking words of truth to me. Forgive me for cutting You short. Please speak, for Your servant is now listening. Amen.

Lenten Devotional – Day 35 – Power Struggle

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law.’ …”   – John 18:31a

Bonus Reading:  John 18:28-32

Only John’s Gospel shows us Jesus’ trial before Annas the former high priest. Then John leaves out Jesus’ official trial before Caiaphas the high priest. Instead, he jumps straight to Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate.

This trial is very strange. Jesus is brought into the official residence of the Roman military governor, but the Jewish authorities refuse to enter. Though they have no problem railroading the innocent Son of God to His death, they are careful not to defile themselves by entering the home of a Gentile. So Pilate is forced to go back and forth between Jesus and them.

The trial is a bitter power struggle between Pilate and the Jewish authorities. Pilate quickly concludes Jesus is innocent and wants to set Him free. But finding himself in a very precarious position with the emperor, Pilate must handle this case very delicately; he especially cannot afford to lose control and see a riot start.

On the other side, the Jewish authorities are desperate to have Jesus executed, but they are not in the position where they can do it themselves. Years before, the Roman governor had removed the right for the Jewish authorities to inflict capital punishment. So if they want Jesus dead, they have to convince Pilate one way or another.  So we see the battle begin—with Jesus’ life hanging in the balance.

The truth is that God is in control of what He is doing for each of us by Christ’s crucifixion, as we shall see in the coming days.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all around us people are plotting and scheming for control. Many times we too want to find some way to control events happening in our own lives. Remind us that You are firmly in control so we may rest in Your hands and watch You work for our good. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Palm Sunday – Before the High Priest

Lent 1Key Bible Verse: “When He had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’” John 18:22

Bonus Reading:  John 18:13-14, 19-24

After His arrest, the guards bring Jesus to Annas. This former Jewish high priest had been deposed by the Roman governor in AD 15.  His five sons had each taken a turn succeeding him and now his son-in-law Caiaphas is high priest.

Annas questions Jesus about His disciples and His teaching, but Jesus’ silence protects them. So Annas turns to Jesus’ teachings. The high priest hopes he can trip up the Son of God and find a basis for a charge against Him.

Jesus will have nothing to do with this. He has always been honest with the Jewish authorities, never saying anything in private He didn’t say in public. He tells the high priest, “Ask those who have heard Me.” That leads an officer of the high priest to strike Him with his hand.

At this point you might expect Jesus to meekly take the abuse, but He doesn’t. He turns to the officer and confronts him, “Why did you strike Me?” Again, we see Jesus completely in control. He stops the proceedings to call the officer to explain why he struck Him.

Annas showed he was willing to ignore the truth and twist it against Jesus. Is integrity and truth important to you like it was to Jesus? Or are we willing to distort the truth if it goes to our advantage?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You humbled Yourself to be struck by an officer when You had only told the truth. Forgive us for setting aside Your truth when we don’t think it is convenient. Give us faith, courage and trust to do what is right in Your eyes. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 34 – Peter’s Denial

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this Man’s disciples, are you? …” John 18:17a

Bonus Reading:  John 18:15-18, 25-27

Peter has no reason to be in the high priest’s courtyard. Jesus already told the disciples what the outcome of His trials would be. But Peter wants to see for himself, so he enters the courtyard and waits with the guards in the darkness to learn the outcome of the trial.

But Peter can’t hide. He is recognized at the door by a servant girl, near the fire started by the guards to warm themselves, and finally by a relative of the soldier whose ear Peter had cut off. With his life in peril and no way of escape, Peter’s courage melts away and he swears oaths and calls down curses on himself as he tries to distance himself from Jesus of Nazareth.

How often are we guilty of Peter’s sin? One moment we profess our loyalty to Jesus, the next we deny Him by what we say and do. We forget the price He paid to set us free.

The crow of the rooster brought Peter back to Jesus’ words. With shame and pain he recalled the prophecy Jesus had made, “The rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times.” He went out and wept bitterly.

We share Peter’s weakness. We are so confident in our strength, yet we stumble for the least reason into fear, unbelief and self-preservation. But Jesus paid the full price for our sins of denial, and for His sake we are free.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, with shame I admit the countless times I have denied You. Forgive my sin and strengthen me in true faith, that rejoicing in Your salvation, I may fearlessly tell others of Your great salvation.  Amen.

 

Holy Week Services – 2015

Holy Week - 2015

 

Palm Sunday (March 29) – 11:00 am

Maundy Thursday (April 2)- Communion – 7:00 pm

Good Friday (April 3) – 7:00 pm at Koppel UMC

Easter Sunday (April 5) – 11:00 am

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 33 – Jesus’ Arrest

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’”  – John 18:4

Bonus Reading:  John 18:1-12

Jesus has led His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Out of the darkness we see lanterns and torches winding their way across the Mount of Olives toward the Garden. Judas leads Roman soldiers and Jewish officers. Jesus knows what is about to happen. But He doesn’t cower in the corner; He goes out to them and asks whom they are seeking. They reply, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus answers with three short words, “I am He,” and the power of His words knock Judas, the soldiers and the officers backward. Firmly in control of the situation, Jesus orders the guards to let His disciples go. The soldiers obey, and they flee away into the dark.

Not only did Jesus protect His disciples, He also made one last attempt to reach Judas. In the dark hour to come, when Judas would be overwhelmed with guilt, Jesus wanted him to remember this moment. Jesus was not a helpless victim swept away by Judas’ kiss. Jesus was in complete control. He permitted Himself to be arrested, tried, condemned and crucified. He could have stopped it at any time. But because of His love for the Father and for each of us, He will not end it but carry it through to its completion—and our ultimate salvation.

Because He loves us so much when those powers of darkness were trying their worst, so He also loves us when those powers of darkness come after you in your life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for stepping forward to suffer death for our sins, even death by crucifixion. Give us courage and confidence in the dark hours of our lives to remember that You are still completely in control. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 32 – The High Priestly Prayer

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: “When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You.’” John 17:1

Bonus Reading:  John 17

Jesus has finished His Last Supper and offers a special prayer before leading His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. We call it the High Priestly Prayer because Jesus our great High Priest offers prayers for Himself, His apostles, and all who believe in Him.

Jesus first prays that God the Father would glorify Himself through Jesus’ coming death. The Roman cross was never connected with glory; it was a symbol of shame and dishonor. St. Paul would call it a “stumbling block to the Jews” and “foolishness to the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22). The Jews stumbled over the idea that God would let His own Son suffer and die on a cross, rather than sit in glory on a throne. The Gentiles thought it foolishness that you could receive salvation through someone else’s execution.

Jesus prays to His Father to keep His eleven disciples in His Name. He is about to leave this world, so He asks the Father to keep them in faith, that believing they may share the one true Gospel, which brings salvation by God’s grace through faith for Jesus’ sake.

The final part of Jesus’ prayer touches us, and all who have heard and believed the words of the apostles. May we glorify Him by trusting in Jesus as our only Savior from our sin and death, and tell others of His great and incomparable love.

Prayer: Lord God, as You glorified Your Son Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection, keep us in Your Name through this true faith, and bless us to share it with all those around us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 31 – The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  (Jesus said) “… ‘You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.’”  – John 16:20b

Bonus Reading:  John 16:16-24

The disciples’ heads are spinning at everything Jesus has said to them at His Last Supper. Now He tells them, “A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” They want to know what He means, but are afraid to ask; maybe they’re more afraid to hear the answer He would give.

But it shouldn’t be a mystery. For months Jesus has told them what will happen in Jerusalem. He warned them He would be handed over, beaten, scourged and crucified. He told them He would die and on the third day rise again. Now all His predictions are about to come true. They will be sorrowful, but their sorrow will turn to joy.

The disciples aren’t all that different from us. All of us would prefer to see joy and happiness all through our earthly lives, and none of us is too happy when sorrow, grief, weeping and lamenting come around. We try so hard to deny those things will happen to us, that we miss the tremendous comfort in Jesus’ promise of the resurrection.

Jesus has died and risen again. He promises to come again to restore this fallen creation, and to change our mortal bodies so they will be glorious, immortal and eternally perfect. That fact of Jesus’ resurrection coupled with His promise to give us new eternal life at His return can give us a lasting joy that no one can take away— no matter what sorrow and loss we suffer in this our earthly life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your victory over our sin, death and hell. Thank You for the promise Your resurrection brings—eternal life with You. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 30 – Troubled Hearts

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  (Jesus said) “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1

Bonus Reading:  John 13:36-14:7

What a confusing, depressing night! Their Lord and Master washes their feet like a slave; He tells them the unthinkable that one of them will betray Him. Then Jesus tells Peter, the boldest of the Twelve, that this very night, before the rooster crows at sunrise, Peter will deny knowing Him. What a confusing, depressing night! Looking around at His disciples, Jesus knows just how troubled and shaken they are.

He knows how we get shaken up too. He knows the circumstances that crush us, problems that confound us, and the pressures that weigh on us. Yet through it all He is always at our side. Jesus tells us to turn our eyes away from our problems and focus our attention on Him. Believe in God the Father and believe also in Jesus. He assures us that we will not always live in this world of hurt, pain and sorrow, but He is preparing a safe, joyous and wonderful place for us to live with Him forever.

We know where we are going because Jesus is the Way to heaven. He came to this earth not to be our example to guide us to heaven by our good living, but to earn heaven for us by His perfect life, innocent death and glorious resurrection. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Perhaps these devotions find you or someone you love drawing near to death. In the midst of our sorrows, fears and anxieties when we focus on Jesus His mighty word calms our fears and stills our hearts.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bring peace to my troubled heart and mind, and give me the Spirit that I may believe in You always. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 29 – The Betrayer

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  (Jesus said) “… ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’” John 13:21b

Bonus Reading:  John 13:21-30

“One of you will betray Me.” Judas must be totally shocked by Jesus’ words. One by one the disciples ask a question that floats around the table. With rising suspense Judas watches the question work its way around the table to him—and he even joins his voice to theirs: “Is it I, Lord?”

If Judas’ voice didn’t give him away, what Jesus does next will make it crystal clear. He dips the morsel of bread and hands it directly to Judas.

Have you ever stopped to think about how Jesus turned the tables on Judas?

At this moment the betrayer is at the mercy of the One he was going to betray. Jesus holds Judas in the palm of His hand. With a word Jesus can betray Judas to the other disciples, who are armed with several swords. Jesus is in complete control; He can betray Judas. Instead, our Lord sends His betrayer on his way: “What you are going to do, do quickly.” As Judas rushes out from the danger, the other disciples have no idea what Jesus means.

Which one of us hasn’t betrayed another—gossiping secrets that should never have been shared or exposing another’s shame just to flatter our own self-righteous pride? How often have we in effect handed Jesus’ over to His enemies by our sinful actions or our silence?

Judas walked out into the darkness. But in this same darkness Jesus will still reach out to him one last time when Judas leads the soldiers into the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Him. Jesus still reaches out to you and me with hands that bear the mark of the nails.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your steadfast love is amazing to me. Keep reaching out to bring me back from my sins. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – The Fifth Sunday in Lent – Washing an Unclean Disciple

Lent 1Key Bible Verse:  “… (Jesus said) ‘You are clean, but not every one of you.’ …”   –John 13:10b

Bonus Reading:  John 13:1-20

Jesus has preached His last message to the crowds. Now He spends one final night before His suffering and death with His disciples in the upper room, preparing them for what is about to happen.

In the middle of supper Jesus does something totally unexpected. Taking off His outer garments He goes around the table washing the disciples’ feet one by one, the way the lowliest slave in the household would. It is a demonstration of His absolute humility, love and care—a demonstration He will repeat for the whole world the next day on the cross.

For Peter it is too much. He objects and receives a firm correction from Jesus: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” Then Peter goes to the other extreme asking Jesus to wash all of him. Jesus points out that the one who has had a bath does not need to bathe again, only to wash the part of him that is unclean.

Jesus is pointing to Judas, the one who has abandoned his Lord and become unclean and is even now awaiting the chance to betray Him. The other eleven are forgiven, cleansed of their sins because they still walk in the light by faith; Judas has rejected that light and walks in darkness. Very gently Jesus reaches out to His lost disciple in an unforgettable demonstration of His love, forgiveness and acceptance. It’s a demonstration He wants Judas to remember when he is gripped by guilt and remorse for what he is about to do.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive my wandering heart. Help me to see Your great love for me and remember what You have done to save me. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 28 – How Can the Christ Be Lifted Up?

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: (Jesus said) “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself. ” John 12:32

Bonus Reading:  John 12:33-50

The crowds are confused. Jesus has told them He will be “lifted up,” and they know exactly what He means. Being “lifted up from the earth” was a familiar phrase describing death on a cross. But they all know the Christ remains forever, so how can Jesus be the Christ if He will die on a cross?

It’s easy for us to share that confusion too. God’s light doesn’t always make sense to our sin-darkened minds. Jesus simply tells them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.” Satan is always trying to overtake us, trying to snatch away the light from us.

One of the tools he uses is the confusing things that happen in this life, things that don’t always make sense to us. Often our search for answers leads us to question God and doubt His love. Jesus just encourages us to walk in Him. He invites us to lay those questions at the foot of His cross, to focus instead on the extent of His love for us. It’s a love that moved Him to lay down His life in terrible suffering that we might be forgiven.

We don’t understand every reason for everything that happens to us. And we won’t always find all the answers to all our questions,
but we don’t have to. We only need to walk in Christ’s light and keep looking to Him. At the right time He will make everything clear.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I don’t always understand the things I see around me. Help me to come to Your Son’s cross, that there I may know Your love and receive Your strength. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 27 – My Soul is Troubled

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  (Jesus said) “‘Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say?  ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.’”   – John 12:27

Bonus Reading:  John 12:27-33

Jesus has just told His disciples why He has come to Jerusalem: He is to suffer and die for the world. But the thought is not easy for Jesus to face. He says, “Now is My soul troubled.” We see that turmoil again when He falls on His face in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
(see Luke 22).

Here He prays, “Father, glorify Your Name.” He doesn’t ask the Father to save Him from the cross but to use His suffering and death on the cross to glorify His Name. He wants people to look at the cross and believe that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” In Gethsemane God will send an angel to strengthen His Son, but here He speaks to Jesus. “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

We all come face to face with overwhelming situations and struggles in life—heartbreak and loss, grief beyond telling, the shadow of death—whether our own or that of a loved one.

Jesus has come to this hour in His life to be the answer to the overwhelming situations in each of our lives. He will be raised up to draw all men to Himself.

This was done so that in Jesus Christ each of us might find the answer to our problems, the courage for the trials we face and the victory over Satan who brought all these situations upon us through his temptation.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You glorified Your Name in the sufferings of Your beloved Son Jesus Christ. Glorify Your Name through me as You give me strength and courage to face the difficult times in my life. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 26 – Keep This Life or Lose It?

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: “And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’” John 12:23-24

Bonus Reading:  John 12:20-26

Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph. The disciples were convinced He was about to establish His throne in Jerusalem, so Jesus had to teach them a tough lesson.

Christ Jesus stood alone, the only man whose life on this earth was perfect and worthy of earning heaven. But unless He died on the cross in our place He would remain alone, and we would all perish eternally in hell. By dying in our place, taking our sins on Himself and paying the full price God’s justice demanded, Jesus would save us all, and open wide the gates of heaven.

Our earthly life is similar in many ways. If we wish to selfishly save our earthly life, we will lose it. But if we hate our earthly life in comparison, longing for that better, heavenly life, we will keep it for eternity. Thankfully, Jesus leads the way for us. He did not love His earthly life so much that He was not willing to lay it down on the cross. No, He was looking forward to a better, eternal life with us—a life made possible only through His suffering, death and resurrection.

It’s a good time for us as individuals to stop and examine our attitudes toward our lives, as well as our willingness to leave them all behind for Jesus and the eternal life He gives.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for offering us eternal life through Your Son Jesus Christ. Help us all to hate this life in this dark, sinful world that we may keep our lives eternally in Your light. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 25 – Out of Control

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him.’”   – John 12:19

Bonus Reading:  John 12:12-19

The great Festival of Passover is near. Huge crowds make their way across the countryside toward Jerusalem, and our Lord Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, riding on a donkey.

The Pharisees throw up their hands in fear and frustration. They say to each other “You see that you are gaining nothing.” The situation is totally out of control. But again they will not stop to consider Jesus’ claims. They only react in frustration and fear of what Jesus might do with the huge Passover crowds gathering around Him in Jerusalem.

It is fascinating to compare their reaction to that of the crowds. The crowds cry out to Jesus, “Hosanna,” which means “help” or “save.” And they are right. The Lord Jesus is the mighty Son of God, who has come to battle Satan, sin, death and hell. He alone can save us from our bitter enemies.

As we begin this week of Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins, we notice He is completely in control. We will notice He is in control through this entire week—clear up to and including His arrest, trials and crucifixion.

That’s important to remember when we look at our own lives. Often we are as fearful and frustrated as the Pharisees, realizing situations in our lives are totally out of control. We can throw up our hands like the Pharisees, or call upon Jesus as the crowds do, remembering that Jesus is still in control, sitting at the right hand of the Father and guiding all things for our good.

Prayer: Lord, please help and save us, especially when circumstances are at their worst and totally out of our control. Remind us that they are never beyond Your control. Amen.

 

 

Who Was St. Patrick?

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

Who was St. Patrick?  Why is there even a day named after him?  What is a sermon idea that can be useful from this man?

Why is Patrick Called a Saint?

In the first place, all believers are called saints (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 14:33) so that is nothing new but normally we don’t meet people in church and says “Good morning Saint Bob” or “Hello Saint Martha, how’s it going?”  This man had a great history and there is every reason to call him Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick is called the patron saint of Ireland and for good reason.  Some have even called him the Apostle of Ireland.  He is given credit for being the first bishop of Armagh or what is called the Primate of Ireland.

The truth be told, he didn’t banish all snakes from Ireland because there is no evidence of there ever having been snakes on Ireland in the first place due to its post-glacial history.   Although his father was a Christian deacon, he was more than likely a deacon for tax incentives so as to avoid the heavy British taxes at the time.  There is no solid evidence that the family was overtly Christian.

A Prisoner to a Christian

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

When St. Patrick was only 16, he was captured by Irish pirates and held captive for six years before he was finally able to escape but from what he wrote, he believed that God spoke to him and told him to return to Britain, which he finally did.

He apparently had another revelation from God while in Britain in which an angel supposedly told him to return to Ireland as a missionary for Christ. Instead of leaving right away, he trained for the ministry for more than 15 years before leaving for Ireland.  After his ordination as a priest, he went to work with another missionary to help Christians in Ireland so it is blatantly false that St. Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland…he simply went there to help those Christians who were already living there.  This happened in the last half of the fifth century and by the seventh century, he had already become known as the patron saint of Ireland.

The day of his death, March 17th, is the occasion of the holiday called Saint Patrick’s Day.  In Ireland it is a holy day of convocation but also a national holiday and celebration for Ireland itself.

The Shamrock and the Trinity

The legend is that St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, as a symbol of the Trinity when trying to explain the Three Persons of the Godhead.  The fact that the shamrock is green seemed to fit the idea of the rebirth of the individual as well as the idea of eternal life.  The appearance of three things with living organisms has always fascinated St. Patrick who saw it as a symbol of the Trinity and reminded all of the earth’s inhabitants that God is everywhere present or He is at all times everywhere.  There is some truth to that about the nature of God since there is no place a person can flee to escape or avoid the presence of God (Psalm 139:7).   In other words, you cannot hide from God; just read Jonah’s story!

Today’s Saints

There are still unreached people groups in the nations of the world where the gospel has not yet been preached and one wonders if St. Patrick were still alive today, where would he go?   Would he go to Ireland again or back to his native Britain?

That he was in inspiration for Ireland and his passion for the Word can, hopefully, inspire us to go where God would have us bring the gospel, even if it’s next door.  We are to bring the good news of the gospel to those who are presently separated from God by their sins (Isaiah 59:2) as we once were.  Should not St. Patrick’s passion to preach the gospel and to leave all that is familiar to him at least inspire us to go to those we know who are not yet saved?   This means those co-workers of ours, our family members, our neighbors, and even those on the street who have yet to hear the bad news of the wrath of God that abides on those who have rejected believing in Christ (John 3:36b).  Therefore we should be compelled to tell them since we ourselves were spared from God’s wrath and at one time were enemies of God (Rom 5:10).

St. Patrick's DayLet His Passion be Ours

If someone were willing to leave the comforts and familiarity of their own home for the sake of the gospel and with the purpose of recusing the perishing, should not our own hearts burn within us for the same purpose (Jer 20:9)?

Since God saved us by someone else’s proclamation of the Word, shouldn’t we feel a sense of obligation to tell others?   The answer is obvious.  Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 that “God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 

As ambassadors of Christ, we represent the King of the kingdom and as ambassadors, we must leave the comforts of our own home or land to take this message of hope into all the world as the only possible way that they might be saved (Acts 4:12).

If we do not go, who will?  Must we depend on others to enter into the fields to labor for His glory?  Can we not see the desperate condition of a world that is headed down the broad path to destruction (Matt 7:13) and tell them that “the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matt 7:14)?

Conclusion

Let St. Patrick inspire us to leave our own comfort zone and take the gospel to others in the hopes that they might be saved.  Were we not “a brand plucked from the fire” (Zech 3:2)?

Should we not help “save others by snatching them from the fire [and] to others show mercy” (Jude 1:23)?  The Prophet Amos reminds us again, as Zechariah did, “You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire” (Amos 4:11).

Let us use St. Patrick’s passion for the Great Commission to help inspire us in the rescuing of the perishing.

 

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

When many people think of St. Patrick, the first things that come to mind are shamrocks, leprechauns, and maybe pinches for people who don’t wear green.

 

What’s easy to miss in these celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day is the fact that the real Patrick was a devout Christian and a missionary.

 

Patrick was a Roman Briton, born to wealthy parents.  His father was a deacon, but Patrick wasn’t particularly religious.  Around the year 430, when Patrick was sixteen, Irish raiders kidnapped him.  Patrick became a slave, watching his Irish master’s sheep.  In his loneliness, he turned to the God of his father and entrusted his life to Jesus Christ.

 

Six years later, Patrick escaped from the Irish and returned to his family—but soon afterward, a dream changed his destiny.  He saw an angel, and the heavenly messenger told him to go back to Ireland.

 

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

For fifteen years Patrick studied theology and Scripture; then he returned to Ireland not as a slave but as a missionary.  He used familiar Irish symbols to explain Christian theology—the three-leafed shamrock, for example, became a metaphor for the Trinity.

 

According to tradition, Patrick died on March 17, 493.

 

Of course, we call him a saint now and have reduced the remembrance of him each March 17 to a vague and often corny celebration of all things Irish. 

But maybe what’s really worth remembering on that day is the example of an individual who not only understood the strength of forgiveness, but the transforming power of the gospel to turn those who don’t know God into His very sons and daughters.

Lenten Devotional – Day 24 – Anointed for Burial

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.’” John 12:7-8

Bonus Reading:  John 12:1-8

Mary is very grateful to Jesus. She has heard His wonderful words and received her brother Lazarus back from death. As her family gathers around the table with Jesus and His disciples for dinner, she pours an expensive ointment over Jesus’ feet and wipes it with her hair.

Her generosity should be an inspiration for Jesus’ disciples. But it only stirs the darkness in Judas. He complains how the ointment was worth nearly a year’s wages and that the money should have gone to the poor instead. But Jesus stands up in her defense. He boldly commands Judas to leave her alone. She has done this to honor Him, and the scent of that perfume will linger on His body throughout His trials, crucifixion and burial in the coming days.

Do we have Mary’s tremendous sense of gratitude and love for our Lord? Do we really appreciate what He has done for us, what He has given to us, and the promise of a glorious future because of Him?

How striking to compare Mary’s devotion with that of Judas—who has replaced his devotion to Jesus with a love for money. For, as John tells us, Judas had no intention of helping the poor with that money. He only wanted to get his hands on it—as he had stolen money from the disciples’ moneybag many times before. Sadly, in the next few days he will do far worse for a much smaller amount of money.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, stir up in my heart true love, gratitude and appreciation for all Jesus has done for me. I pray in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Lenten Devotional – Day 23 – One Man Must Die

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:   “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ … So from that day on they made plans to put Him to death.”  – John 11:49-50, 53

Bonus Reading:  John 11:45-57

In Lazarus’ resurrection on the fourth day, Jesus performed an undeniable miracle greater and more widely known than healing a man born blind. Since this miracle took place near Jerusalem word spread quickly, which the Jewish leaders found to be particularly troubling. But they never stopped to ask if they might be wrong, if Jesus might possibly be the Christ.

They only knew many people were seeing Lazarus and believing in Jesus. Gathering their Council together, they searched for some kind of answer—something they could do to stop the madness.

Finally, the high priest broke through it all. He alone seemed to realize there was only one solution: Jesus must die. If Jesus continued living, the entire nation would be destroyed. And from that moment on, the Jewish leaders sought Jesus’ death.

But God had long ago reached that same decision. In fact, John tells us that Caiaphas did not say this on his own, but the Holy Spirit inspired him to say it. It was the truth. If Jesus would not die on the cross for the sins of the world, then the entire Jewish nation would be destroyed, and with it you and me and all people. If this one man died, then all of us could live.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, what amazing humility You showed in being willing to be put to death to save me and all people. Give Your Church true faith and gratitude that we may tell Your story to all people. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Fourth Sunday in Lent – Our Resurrection and Life

Lent 1Key Bible Verse:  “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’”  – John 11:25-26

Bonus Reading:  John 11:1-44

Jesus is about to do one of His greatest miraculous signs. He receives a frantic message to come to Lazarus who is gravely ill. But Jesus remains where He is. His disciples think Jesus is avoiding Jerusalem where the crowds had tried to stone Him a short time ago. But Jesus waits two days before finally heading out for Bethany, a small village near Jerusalem. Thomas tells his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

Jesus finally arrives after Lazarus has been dead four days. Martha says, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus had a reason for His delay. Jewish rabbis believed a person’s soul hovered over the body for three days, and then finally departed when decomposition set in. By waiting for the fourth day, Jesus would be performing a miracle none of the Jewish leaders could deny.

Sometimes we get confused by the struggles in our life. Like Martha we plead with the Lord to help, but when we need Him most He seems to delay, or not to hear. But Jesus has a purpose and a plan for everything He does for us.

Jesus told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus proved that by raising Lazarus from the dead—and by His own resurrection on the third day. When we are discouraged, beaten down and depressed, we can look to Jesus and know our future is secure.

Prayer: Lord, give me confidence in Your victory during the dark days when I need You the most. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 22 – Don’t Call Me a Sheep!

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:   (Jesus said) “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me.” … “and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14, 15b

Bonus Reading:  John 10:11-39

In today’s reading Jesus identifies Himself as our Good Shepherd. This, of course, means that we are like sheep. That automatically says two things about us: we are helpless creatures, and we have powerful enemies against which we are defenseless. But are the crowds willing to admit this—that they need Jesus to be their shepherd?

Jesus tells them He will freely lay down His life to save them from their enemies. He will lay it down on Good Friday when He is nailed to the cross and gives up His life for the sins of the world. But He will take it up again on the third day when He rises in glorious victory.

The crowds hear this great news, and find themselves divided yet again! Some say He has a demon, or He is insane. But others, thinking how Jesus healed the man born blind, ask, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Jesus made some very bold statements about Himself and the work He came to do. Few are as powerful or as comforting as these words. Jesus Christ has been pleased to take us as His very own sheep, and will guard us, protect us, lead us to good pasture, care for us in body and soul and finally lead us through death to life everlasting.

Jesus stretches out His hand to you today. If you are His sheep, listen to His voice, He will protect you from all enemies and guide you safely home to paradise. He promises that nothing can snatch you out of His hands.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for offering to hold me firmly and safely in Your hands. Let me never wander away in unbelief. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 21 – Am I Blind?

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’” John 9:39

Bonus Reading:  John 9:24-41

Over and over again Jesus’ light shone over the people around Him through His words and His countless miracles. But the Jewish leaders refused to see. Despite a thorough investigation into Jesus’ healing of the man born blind, they can find no way to disprove the miracle. Still, they refuse to believe the evidence right before them.

But Jesus isn’t ready to give up on them yet. If they won’t accept the evidence, maybe they will listen to the man who had been healed. In eloquent testimony the man told them, “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” But again, they stubbornly refuse to see the light and answer, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” Then they threw out the man born blind.

Hearing that he had been thrown out, Jesus found him and revealed Himself to him. Jesus told those around Him that He came to give sight to the blind, and blindness to those who see. Some Pharisees heard Him say this and asked if they were blind. Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

That is a terrifying thought. These Jewish leaders had seen overwhelming evidence time and again that Jesus is the promised Savior, God’s Son, yet they refused to believe.

How much evidence have we seen? How many Bible readings have we heard in services? How many times have we received Holy Communion? Do we believe?

Prayer: Lord, You know the darkness within each of us, take away my blindness and help me see Jesus clearly through the eyes of faith. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 19 – Divided

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such things?’ And there was a division among them.”  – John 9:16

Bonus Reading:  John 9:1-16

Leaving the temple grounds Jesus passes through Jerusalem. Along the way His disciples point out a man born blind. They ask if his blindness is a result of his parents’ sin or his own. Jesus rejects both claims, and says this man was born blind so the works of God may be displayed in him. Then Jesus gave the man sight.

When word reaches the Pharisees there is a sharp division among them. Some immediately reject Jesus because He healed on the Sabbath day. Blinded by their tradition they are unable to see God’s great purpose for the Sabbath—to let people rest from their labors and let God work in their lives. Others realize the magnitude of the work Jesus has done. Like Nicodemus before (see John 3), they know no sinful man could perform such a mighty miracle. So a division arises among the Pharisees.

Jesus continues to divide people today. Some listen to His words, consider His miracles and are led by the Holy Spirit to the certain faith that He is God’s Son, the Savior of the world. Others ignore the plain truth and take issue with the way Jesus taught and the demands they think He makes on their lives. They doubt His relevance and prefer to live their lives their own way.

God grant us His Holy Spirit to know Jesus as God’s Son, our only Savior and Lord, and to follow Him through all.

Prayer:  Spirit of God, strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ my Lord, and give me firm confidence when others are divided over Him. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 18 – Whose Children Are We?

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” John 8:59

Bonus Reading:  John 8:45-59

Now the crowd could prove whether they were truly children of God as they claimed, or children of the devil as Jesus had said. Would they come running to the Savior for forgiveness and life, or cling to the dark lies of Satan? John tells us their grim decision: “they picked up stones to throw at Him.”

You and I go to church and in Baptism God made us His very own children. But how often do we live as if we weren’t? How attentive are we when we hear or read Jesus’ words? How closely do we follow Him in our words and actions? Are we willing to pray “Your will be done?” or do we only want to accept Jesus on our own terms?  Are we as quick to turn on Him as the crowds were?

Jesus miraculously hides Himself and leaves the temple grounds. The time for His death is drawing near, but He will not die at the hands of an angry mob under a pile of rocks at the temple. He will be dragged outside of the city at the hands of the Roman soldiers and nailed to a cross.

Even today Jesus’ words often bring a violent reaction. If we are walking in darkness we are not always excited to hear the truth. But Christ promises to wash away our sins and restore us in faith. He will guard and protect us and finally bring us to our eternal home where we will always walk in His light.

Prayer: Lord, give courage to all Your faithful people who bring Your light into our dark world. Empower me to turn from the darkness and share my faith as You guide and protect me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Lenten Devotional – Day 17 – Tightening the Screws

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:   (Jesus said) “‘You are of your father the devil.’ …”  – John 8:44a

Bonus Reading: John 8:31-45

Jesus stands firm. But His enemies are standing firm too. The only way He can save them is by bringing them out of their darkness into His light. So Jesus first offers a promise, then He tightens the screws.

He begins with the promise, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But in pride and arrogance they claim they are already free.

So Jesus explains their true condition, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” They just aren’t getting it. So, slowly, Jesus knocks each prop of self-righteousness out from under them.

They claim to be Abraham’s children, but they are not because Abraham would have welcomed Him, not seek to kill Him as they are.

They claim God is their father, but if they were God’s children they would love Him and receive Him as God’s Son.

There is only one reason why they cannot stomach what Jesus is saying: their father isn’t God; their father is the devil!

Just as he murdered Adam and Eve by his lies, and brought darkness and death on all God’s good creation, so are they now seeking to murder Jesus— God’s only begotten Son.

How could Jesus have been any more clear and to the point?  Their thoughts and desires, their words and their deeds were making that very clear.

And what about us?  Jesus asks you and me to examine our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions. Do they look more like God or like Satan?

Who is your father?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I was born a child of Satan through my sinful nature, but You gave me new birth as Your child in Baptism. By Your Spirit empower me to live as Your child and love what You command. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

In the Bleak Midwinter…

Gloucester Cathedral Choir - In the Bleak Midwinter

Gloucester Cathedral Choir – In the Bleak Midwinter

A favorite Christmas carol uses the words of the poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti.  (Click on the image at left to hear the Gloucester Cathedral Choir and congregation sign this beautiful carol.)

Set to a wonderful, expressive melodic line by Gustav Holst, the first verse reads:

In the bleak midwinter,
frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter,
long ago.

This Winter, in many places throughout the United States, the words of this old hymn have painfully come to life, as unrelenting cold and recurring snow storms slowly envelope familiar streets and walkways in layers of snow and ice.  Many folks are finding it difficult to get about for work, for food, and for other basic necessities of life, venturing out only when they must.

In such dangerous conditions, it is advisable for most of us, and essential for some, to remain safely indoors whenever we can.  Church attendance is one among many areas that suffer as a result.

Winter in Switzerland, by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)

Winter in Switzerland, by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)

With regular Church attendance no longer a priority for many, the congregations of many small local Churches have also dwindled over the years as faithful members age, and few move in to bolster their ranks.

As is true for many of us individually, local Churches can little afford to miss regular financial infusions as they strive to continue doing God’s work in their communities.

Many years ago, the offering envelopes that Central Church provided to its members in January for use throughout the year bore a short message on the front reminding members that although you might have to be away from your local Church for a week or two, its expenses continue to accumulate.  As a matter of basic stewardship, our members were encouraged to send in their tithes and offerings regularly, even when they couldn’t be in Church themselves.

While Central Church is located in a somewhat sheltered river valley in downtown Beaver Falls, three of our sister Churches are located in the more exposed surrounding countryside.

While recent conditions have substantially impacted attendance at Central Church, our three sister Churches have been forced to cancel their Sunday worship services for the past two weeks.

During this midwinter, as the frosty winds are blowing and the “Earth stands hard as iron”, please remember your local Church with your prayers, your presence (when you safely can), your gifts, and your service.

Lenten Devotional – Third Sunday of Lent – Die in Your Sins

Lent 1Key Bible Verse:   “Again Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the Light of the world.’ …”   – John 8:12a

Bonus Reading:  John 8:12-30

Jesus’ enemies want Him dead. Has He pressed too hard? Is it time to lighten up or compromise to find common ground? No! Jesus knows there is only one way for them to be saved. So He presses even harder. He declares, “I am the Light of the world.”

Instead of backing down Jesus draws a line in the sand and says, “Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” But to those who reject Him, He says, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and you will die in your sin.”

Their hearts should be stirred, but instead they stubbornly refuse to listen. In idle curiosity they ask each other if Jesus’ talk of “going away” means He will kill Himself. Jesus answers, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know that I am He.”

When they lift Him up and nail Him to the cross, they will know who He is. The miraculous signs at His death: the darkness, the earthquake, the torn curtain in the temple and His glorious resurrection will make it clear to them that Jesus is the mighty Son of God, the promised Messiah.

Which side of the line are you walking on? Are you truly walking in the light of Christ or the darkness of this unbelieving world?

Jesus warns all of us that our time is short. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Today is the day to live in Christ through faith, rather than die in your sins.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, bring me out of the darkness of my sin to the light of Your Son Jesus Christ. I pray in His Name. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 16 – Caught in the Act

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “… ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?’” John 8:4b-5

Bonus Reading: John 8:1-11

Unable to arrest Jesus in front of the crowds, His enemies look for a chance to turn those crowds against Him. They bring a woman caught in adultery and set their trap, “Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” Certainly the crowd is ready for a stoning. Jesus will lose popularity if He stands in the way.

Jesus answers them. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He was the only one qualified to be her Judge, the only one who has the right to throw that first stone. One by one they drop their stones and walk away.

Jesus tells her, “Go and from now on sin no more.” She can walk away unpunished because He has taken her guilt and sin upon Himself, along with the punishment she deserves from God for that sin. She goes away free while He prepares to suffer in her place on the cross.

We don’t like to admit it, but each of us is a sinner like that woman. God catches us in every single one of our sins, and we deserve something far worse than being stoned to death. We deserve the fires of hell under the wrath of God.

But Jesus Christ steps forward to take our condemnation on Himself and pay the full price for our sins as He suffers and dies on the cross. On Judgment Day we will walk away free. He will not condemn us either.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You set me free by being condemned in my place. Help me show true gratitude by forgiving others and sharing Your salvation with them. Amen.

 

Time Flies – Remember to Adjust Your Clocks!

Daylight Saving Time Clock

As we move deeper into Lent, here is a quick reminder to adjust your clocks for Daylight Saving Time!

 

 

When we change our clocks

Today, approximately 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time in at least a portion of the country. Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe some form of daylight saving.

Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time.

In the European Union, Summer Time begins and ends at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. In the EU, all time zones change at the same moment.

Spring forward, Fall back

During DST, clocks are turned forward an hour, effectively moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.

 


United
States


European
Union

 Year 

DST Begins
at 2 a.m. 

DST Ends
at 2 a.m. 

Summertime
period begins
at 1 a.m. UT

Summertime
period ends
at 1 a.m. UT

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014

March 9

November 2

March 30

October 26

2015

March 8

November 1

March 29

October 25

2016

March 13

November 6

March 27

October 30

(The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.)

 

When in the morning?

In the United States, clocks change at 2:00 a.m. local time.  In spring, clocks spring forward from 1:59 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

In the European Union, clocks change at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time.  In spring, clocks spring forward from 12:59 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

 

Some U.S. areas

For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona.  The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states.

 

A safety reminder

Many fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks because Daylight Saving Time provides a convenient reminder.

“A working smoke detector more than doubles a person’s chances of surviving a home fire,” says William McNabb of the Troy Fire Department in Michigan.

More than 90 percent of homes in the United States have smoke detectors, but one-third are estimated to have dead or missing batteries.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 15 – Can’t Take a Hint

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “They (the Pharisees) replied, ‘Are You from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.’” John 7:52

Bonus Reading: John 7:32,45-52

The Jewish leaders hear the crowds wondering if Jesus might be the Messiah. They decide it’s time to act. So they send the temple guards to arrest Him. But it isn’t Jesus’ time yet. Impressed by the authority of Jesus’ words the guards return empty handed. The Light will keep shining a little while longer in the darkness.

Jesus is trying to break through the darkness of the Jewish authorities through their temple guard. If these men are willing to listen to Jesus, perhaps the chief priests and Pharisees will follow their example. But the leaders harden their hearts and accuse the guard of being deceived like the crowds who must be under a curse.

If they won’t listen to the guards, perhaps they will listen to one of their own. Nicodemus speaks up.

He suggests they give Jesus a fair hearing rather than blindly condemning Him. Instead, they turn on him with two exaggerations. First, they claim none of the authorities believe in Him—though at least Nicodemus does. Second, they claim no prophet ever came from Galilee, but they overlook Jonah who was from Galilee. They attempt to close ranks against Jesus through intimidation and lies.

We often plant our heels in the sand and refuse to budge no matter what anyone might say, no matter what the church might say, no matter what God’s Word might say. But Jesus suffered and died for our stubbornness just as He did for all our other sins.

God continues to work through His Word and Sacrament to break through our persistent unbelief and move us to understand and accept the truth.

Prayer: Lord, forgive my stubborn pride, and move me to true, sincere faith. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 14 – Time is Running Out

Lent 3Key Bible Verse: “Jesus said, ‘I will be with you a little longer. …’”  – John 7:33a

Bonus Reading: John 7:33-44

People are divided over Jesus. Some believe in Him. Others don’t. Many are undecided.

Jesus warns them to make up their mind: “I will be with you a little longer.”

I learned that lesson the hard way when I was 19. One Friday afternoon my boss handed me my paycheck on the way home. A couple hours later he collapsed at his bowling alley and died.  My chance to talk to him, learn from him, and reach out to him was gone forever.

Soon Jesus will be gone. He will die on a cross and be buried. After three days He will rise again, but the vast majority will never see Him again—only a few select believers God will choose to be witnesses of His resurrection to the world.

The clock is ticking for us too. Each of us has only a limited amount of time before we die and our chance to find salvation through faith in Jesus Christ ends forever. But often we are content with the way life is going. Or we think it doesn’t matter what you believe, God will be satisfied if you just try to live a good life.

But that is a false hope and a false comfort.

God has provided only one way to save us, and that is through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus satisfied God’s holiness and justice by taking our sins on Himself and suffering and dying in our place on the cross. No one else could do it.

Now is the time to come to Him and walk in His light.

Prayer: Lord, draw me to You while there is still time. Shine in my life that others may turn to the Light of the world, while they still have time. Amen.

Lenten Devotional – Day 13 – A Little Knowledge

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “… When the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from.”  – John 7:27b

Bonus Reading:  John 7:25-32

Some of the Jerusalem folks think Jesus is paranoid. Others won’t even consider whether He might be the promised Messiah.

Why? Because He is from Nazareth, and no one is supposed to know where the Messiah comes from. The funny thing is this: they don’t know.

Jesus only grew up in Nazareth; He was born in Bethlehem. But Jesus is the eternal Son of God who came down from heaven and was born in Bethlehem to save us. Using their little knowledge, they are content to write Jesus off and live in the darkness of their thinking.

Being content with a little knowledge is dangerous. Consider those who are content to know Jesus was born at Christmas and died on a cross, but that’s all they care to know. They don’t know that He lived and died to save them from God’s wrath and rose again to give them eternal life.

We live in a time where people believe—and try hard to persuade us to believe—that reality is what we think it is. And what may be true for you isn’t necessarily true for me. Once I am satisfied with my sense of reality I don’t have to dig any deeper.

Being content with a little knowledge is not just a dangerous thing— it’s deadly!

Each of us is a sinner who needs God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. He is the only Savior, the only way we can escape God’s eternal wrath and live forever in heaven.

This Lent God calls us to keep digging deeper and see the whole story of Jesus’ suffering and death for our salvation.

Prayer: Lord, forgive my being content with a shallow knowledge of My Savior. Open my mind to want to learn more. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 12 – Judging by Appearance

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  (Jesus said) “… ‘Why do you seek to kill Me?’”  – John 7:19b

Bonus Reading: John 7:14-24

The darkness of unbelief hangs like a thick blanket over the temple grounds. For the first half of the festival it looks as though the darkness has driven away the Light—Jesus is nowhere to be seen.

But midway through the festival He steps into the temple courts and begins shining His light for all to see. Jesus immediately addresses the reason He stayed away for the first half of the festival. He asks the religious leaders why they want to kill Him for doing a good deed.

Unaware that Jesus is talking to the Jewish leaders, the crowd thinks He is talking to them. Since they aren’t seeking His death and are unaware of their leaders’ thoughts, they reach a false conclusion: they accuse Him of being demon possessed!

When He hangs from the cross they will reach another false conclusion: Jesus was a fake and God is using the cross to show the world Jesus of Nazareth is not His Son. They will have no idea God is giving His only-begotten Son to die for the sins of the whole world.

Judging by appearances and jumping to conclusions is something we often do too. We are offended by our neighbor, so we condemn him before we even learn his reasons. Jesus warns, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Stop a moment and reconsider Jesus Christ.

Did you start this Lenten season thinking of Jesus as only being meek and humble? Have you begun to see His strength, commitment and courage? Stick around, because as Jesus once told Nathanael, “… You will see greater things than these” (John 1:50b).

Prayer: Father, forgive me for judging by appearances. Open my eyes to see Your Son as He is—my powerful Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 11 – Silent Fear

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him”  – John 7:1

Bonus Reading: John 7:1-13

Even though the crowds thin around Jesus, He won’t stop preaching and sharing the Gospel. He remains in the north in Galilee, avoiding the southern region and Jerusalem where the Jewish leaders are waiting to kill Him.

But His brothers notice this and think He is being unwise. If He wants to make a name for Himself He needs to go to Jerusalem where He will actually have an audience. At first glance it sounds like they are really interested in His ministry and want Him to succeed. But then we read John’s comment, “Not even His brothers believed
in Him.”

Jesus remains behind when they leave for the festival. It must be surprising to the crowds when Jesus doesn’t show up at the Feast of Tabernacles. Each day they come to the temple expecting Him, but He is nowhere to be seen. The people wonder and whisper about Him. Some say He is a good man; others think He is misleading the people. But no one speaks openly for fear of the Jewish religious authorities.

Do you have the courage to speak of Jesus in your family and among your friends and coworkers?

As we will see, many of the people who saw Jesus’ great miracles and heard His powerful words were more afraid of losing their place in society than of displeasing the God who will be their Judge on the Last Day. For this sin, too, Jesus is on His way to the cross for our salvation.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see You with new eyes this Lent so that Your light may shine through the darkness of my mind. Give me courage to speak of Your great salvation with boldness, joy and confidence. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – The Second Sunday in Lent – Hidden Darkness

Lent 1Key Bible Verse: “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil’”  – John 6:70

Bonus Reading: John 6:66-71

In sadness Jesus watched the crowds turn and walk away. Now He turns to His twelve chosen disciples and asks if they want to leave too. The Lord won’t force them to stay at His side; He won’t force you and me to stay either.

Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” The Holy Spirit led Peter to this great confession.

But Jesus knew Peter wasn’t speaking for every one of the disciples. He knew all too well that one of them had turned away, even though he was still standing by Jesus’ side. None of the other disciples was aware, but Judas had secretly rejected Jesus’ Kingdom of light and allied himself with the prince of darkness. The darkness had so deceived Judas he thought Jesus would never know what was in his heart.

Judas’ darkness is in each of us too and can deceive us as thoroughly as it deceived him. On the outside we can be active in our churches. Yet deep in our hearts we may have grown cold to Jesus. It’s so easy to go through the motions of faith, while our hearts turn away to the darkness like Judas.

Jesus calls us to stop and examine the depths of our soul. Are we sincere in our faith, or are we servants of darkness going through the motions? It’s a matter of life and death and heaven and hell for us just as it was for Judas.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, remove all that is false and impure from my heart, and fill me with the fire of faith in Jesus Christ my Savior. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.