Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Daily Devotional Lent’

Lenten Devotional – Day 19 – Mystifying Moments of Some Magnitude

Lent 3Scripture: Isaiah 43:19

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

In a foreign country, how do you cope with day to day living…how to eat, travel, act, and most of all, be messengers of God’s love in a ‘wilderness’ when you stand out like a sore thumb? God provided in abundance when Nancy and I moved to Sierra Leone as UMC missionaries. God sent us a devout Muslim, Musa, to help with the maintenance of our oversized home.

Our daily custom was to have devotions, study the scriptures and pray. No pressure for Musa to renounce Islam, no disrespect for his long-held beliefs, only a daily time was set aside for a devotional time together. On his own accord, Musa went with us to church every Sunday, and his Muslim faith was solid, so we thought.

During one fateful Sunday morning worship service, Musa stood up and announced “I am Musa Sundai. I am a Muslim, but I want to become a Christian and know more about Jesus Christ!” Muslim Musa became a Christian!

How did all this happen? We were not forcing him to change; yet God was acting through us, and we didn’t know it. Living Waters flowed through what we thought was wilderness. Funny how God works sometimes.

Prayer: Papa God, thank you for the Living Waters of our lives in places and ways that we don’t even know. Use us in the way that makes a wilderness fruitful and in all the ways that build up your kingdom. Amen.

  – Kip Robinson  |  Henrico County, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 18 – My Hero – My Mother

Lent 3Scripture:  John 7:37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It took me years to realize that I am who I am because of my mother.

Though I will never hold a candle to her, she is the voice in my head and in my heart. When I find myself in trouble, I wonder – what would she do? I rarely call to share my predicaments, as I know she would never get into the position in which I found myself. Whenever I have been in deep despair, I am lifted up and renewed by her faith, determination and love of life. She helps me see that nothing is insurmountable – there is always hope and a way to get through it.

My childhood memories are warm and loving with the sound of her singing hymns throughout the house. She defines the phrase ‘bloom where you are planted’ and quickly turned each place we moved into our home. I believe her priority was to make sure her family was safe and happy.

To this day, she constantly changes and improves her surroundings, encouraging things to grow; outsmarting garden invaders. Any request from her family, church or

community is quickly met. She is indefatigable and lives life to the fullest every single day. If I had a tenth of her spirit, I would consider myself blessed.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us learn from the many lessons given us every day from those we love and who love us. Help us to be renewed by the Living Water poured out for us from each other. Amen.

  – Kathi Wise | McLean, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 17 – Molecular Theology

Lent 3Scripture:  Revelation 22:2

down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Many biblical writers used the phrase “Living Waters” to describe Yahweh’s sustaining presence for creation and the life of the people. That literary model spans even to Revelation where the tree with leaves for the healing of the nations is planted by the river of life. Their phrase holds true even when we look at water at its molecular level.

Most children learn at some point in their school science class that the chemical formula of water is H2O where two atoms of hydrogen bond with one oxygen atom. Pure hydrogen fuels rockets. Its combination with chloride and fluoride creates acids that can burn skin. Combustion cannot occur without oxygen and breathing pure oxygen for long durations can be toxic at certain pressures. Nevertheless, these elements combined with carbon, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus form nearly every biomolecule on the planet. These elements make not only water but also sugars, proteins, fats, and nucleic acids that compose 99% of each living cell.

Lent is the time where we examine the elements that compose our being.

Our traits, habits, and talents can appear caustic and debilitating when isolated. Allowing one part of our self to override our relationships can indeed prove as explosive as pure hydrogen and oxygen. When we let the Creator fuse all our elements into wholeness, our lives gush with Living Water.

Prayer: O God, who ordered the elements to form stars and my own body, transform the seemingly explosive elements of my life into the molecules of Living Water that your joy may be complete in me. Amen.

  – Adam Graham | Atlanta, GA

Lenten Devotional – Third Sunday of Lent – Where is Our Oasis?

Lent 1Scripture:  John 4: 10-15

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

In the early 70s, I found myself far from home in my first year of college at Duke University. I marveled at the beauty of the campus and relished staying up all night playing cards, listening to music and enjoying life with few rules  or restrictions. There were parties, fun athletic events, classes, homework and stimulating intellectual challenges.

However, over the course of several months I began to feel profoundly lonely. I was not fitting in with my roommates and their lifestyle and found it difficult to find my niche. I was in a beautiful setting, surrounded by diverse fellow students, yet thirsty for connection and meaningfulness.

One fall Sunday, feeling emotionally down and spiritually adrift, I attended worship services at the Chapel. I had visited before but neglected to make it part of my college experience. I suppose not going was a bit of rebellion. Now, in keeping with my new found freedom, I was choosing to go and searching for an oasis.

As the service began, I felt my neck tingle as the magnificent choir processed in, bringing forth the cross, the light of Christ and a familiar hymn echoing with a thousand

voices joining as one. I don’t recall the sermon, but I do remember feeling safe in Christ’s arms, unconditionally loved, and no longer alone. Christ’s Living Water quenched my thirst and renewed my weary soul.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for reminding us to seek your Living Water when we find ourselves in the desert places of our lives. Amen.

  – Bob Brooks | Fredericksburg, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 14 – Forever New!

Lent 3Scripture: Philippians 3:20-21

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Although I am blessed with many new wonders of contemporary medicine that were science fiction when I was a boy, I am struck by the fact that human nature has not basically changed since biblical times. In our daily lives, even as Christians, we still struggle with our old sinful brokenness and alienation from God and each other. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, we must remember that in fact God has indeed done an astounding NEW THING in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus which is Good News for the present and the future.

Recently taking my “adopted” grandson, Trey, out to lunch, I was amazed at his boundless energy as he bounced from seat to seat, all the while gulping down his food. Suddenly, I realized that I was tired just looking at him. Having survived open heart surgery, I know that my body will never equal his in this world.

Thankfully, I look forward to Christ’s ultimate victory when He will make all things new. My lowly body will be changed to be like His glorious body as St. Paul promised. Yes! In the New Jerusalem, I will be changed from old Reverend Bill to new Bouncing Billy as I leap for joy in God’s forever new life.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, when we are tired and feel old, even worn out, renew us to serve you. Help us to trust your promise of new life, which we will know even more fully in your eternal kingdom. Amen.

  – William Nash Wade | Strasburg, VA

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 14 – Simply Stated

Lent 3Scripture:  John 4:13-15

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Recently, I was on a mountain retreat. Like other retreats, the time had come to leave that idyllic setting and ‘spiritual high’ to return to the dry-faith spells that were sure to follow. Afterwards, one image stayed with me, a rock garden focal point with a stream flowing through it.

The rocks were gray plastic bags; the stream was draped blue fabric dotted by twinkling white lights. Yet, they served to remind me that I live between the Garden of Eden and the promised River of Life described in Revelation 22. Impressive, but that wasn’t all. Behind the rocks and stream was a very large wooden cr Seeing it, I remembered that Christ Jesus is with me every moment regardless of what any day brings.

God, through Isaiah proclaimed, “I am about to do a new thing . . . do you not perceive it?” Jesus, in his conversation with the Samaritan woman, assured her that through him she can have water that will quench her thirst into eternal life. The Living Water of Christ Jesus is the ‘new thing’ God was and is doing.

If God can use plastic bags, fabric and a simple wooden cross to speak to me, then surely God isn’t limited to retreats to renew us whether we are on the mountain, down in the valley or somewhere in-between.

Prayer: Holy One, help us to seek and to find the Living Water of Christ wherever we may be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

  – Chris Suerdieck | Emmitsburg, MD

Lenten Devotional – Day 13 – Relationship not Religion

Lent 3Scripture:  John 4:7-15

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

After twenty-two years of marriage spent as a corporate wife and stay-at- home-mom, I found myself divorced with no finances except child support and twenty-two year old job skills. In my depression, God made two things very clear to me.

First, He would take care of my children and me. Second, I was to enroll in college as a full-time student and become a teacher. If I did the work, he would provide the tuition and funding necessary. My family and friends said what I really needed was not four difficult years of study and sacrifice but a few courses to prepare me for an immediate job and an income.

As a Christian, I realized during this stressful time that what I had was religion and not a relationship. I needed a renewal and a personal relationship with God meaning that I would trust him completely and have faith in his guidance. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, I was offered Living Water, and like her, I gratefully accepted this gift.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your offer of Living Water and a richer and more fulfilling life with you at the center. Amen.

  – Carolyn Lee Purdy | Harrisonburg, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 12 – Streams of Living Waters

Lent 3Scripture:  Revelation 7:17

For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Florida may be known as the Sunshine State surrounded by water, but throughout the state, there are swamps with standing, stagnant water! A fresh moving stream, a river or a lake are welcome sights. So it is in our lives. During some phase of our lives, we may feel like we are living in a swamp.

Several years back, I felt like I was living in a swamp. In April that year,  my sister passed away the evening after I had spoken to her over the telephone. She lived in Milwaukee, and I was not able to be with the family because I  was caring for my sick wife. The following year in October, my mother-in-law passed away in New Mexico. Again I was not able to be with the family due to my obligations at home. A month later our daughter passed away in Georgia.

Again, I was not able to be with the family due to caring for my sick wife. A year later my dear wife of 59 years passed away.

Had it not been for Christian friends, my church family, and my faith in God, I would have felt alone and sinking in a swamp. Instead, I was surrounded by streams of Living Waters. I was refreshed, encouraged and strengthened knowing that God through Jesus Christ was with me, sustaining me, refreshing me as I was led into streams of Living Waters.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for being the provider of all streams of Living Waters through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  – Sam Ramirez | Lakeland, FL

Lenten Devotional – Day 11 – Refresh My Soul

Lent 3Scripture: Hosea 6:3

Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.

It’s been a good day, but I’m finding it hard to praise the Lord.  Why is this?  I should long to praise him, and if it is hard on the good days, what about the really tough ones? I need to press on to know the Lord more and more. He is faithful and will come to us just as the showers refresh the earth.

Sometimes the drought seems too extreme to conquer, but God can do it. My fleshly feelings don’t need to dictate if I am close to the Lord. I need to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Through his Holy Spirit that is living and active in me, I can truly, wholeheartedly worship him. I need the Lord to send those spring rains that refresh my soul and cause me to exude praise for Him for what He has done.

Prayer: Lord, help me to press on and press into your amazing love and truth even on the days when I am not feeling close to you. Help me to bask in your goodness, trust in your provision, and take comfort in your ways. It will be a new way, but I just need open eyes to perceive it and a willing heart to experience it. Amen.

  – Amy Williams | Skopje, Macedonia

 

Lenten Devotional – The Second Sunday in Lent – Water, Water Everywhere

Lent 1Scripture: Psalm 23: 2-3

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

On the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, there was water everywhere, but none deemed safe to drink. We often take the availability of safe drinking water for granted. When that availability is interrupted, it becomes a priority of survival to seek out distribution points for water shipped here to then be rationed to us. As our physical survival instincts take control, the need for both physical water and spiritual water become more apparent to us.

Sure, a bottle of water in the miserably hot and humid post-Katrina recovery effort gave temporary relief needed to continue on, but more importantly, we experienced the restoration of the mind, body, and spirit gained from the love shared by the many brothers and sisters in Christ who used both their God  given talents and spiritual gifts to bring us that Living Water of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the 23rd Psalm we read, “…He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.”

As many fellow Christians came to help, they shared the calm of the ‘still waters’ through their love, a love that helped restore my soul and the minds, bodies, and souls of the many left suffering after the storm.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for being the Living Water we need to quench our spiritual thirst in both the good times and the bad times. We pray this in your precious name. Amen.

  – Denny Engle  | Gautier, MS

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 10 – Lost and Found

Lent 3Scripture:  Isaiah 43:19

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Our world is just too heavy to carry around sometimes. Separated families at our southern border, troubling global issues and family trauma erode my sense of well-being, leaving me barren and dry. I lamented to my husband that I had lost my sense of joy and couldn’t find my way out of the despair that I felt.

Grudgingly, I dragged myself, grumbling the whole way, to a destination family reunion off the coast of British Columbia where the mere sight of the ocean cut through my despair and the words ‘I’ve found my joy’ tumbled from my lips. The Spirit welled up in me as I drew in deep breaths of salty air. The majesty of the water, rocky cliffs and soaring eagles spoke clearly, reminding me that I believe in the Living Water of Christ’s power over despair. I soaked the magnificence in as if I had been dying of thirst, and I was.

Prayer: God, thank you for your steadfast love! Thank you for embracing us exactly where we are and reminding us that all who believe in you have access to flowing rivers of endurance and strength in our deserts of despair. Amen.

  – Deborah Moseley | Indianapolis, IN

Lenten Devotional – Day 9 – Well of Sharing

Lent 3Scripture: John 7:38

38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

I have often been accused of being addicted to computer games. I can understand the accusation, as I do have a strong fondness for them. They challenge my mind and present endless puzzles to solve. Anytime you see me sitting idle, I will have my cell phone in my hand working a puzzle or coloring a picture. I have even demonstrated how my coloring on my phone can significantly reduce my blood pressure.

I recently took three days off from the world. I took time off from my job and my family to travel to a respected place to be with 150 other women on retreat. This was a time of prayer, of laughter, of singing, of sharing meals and swapping stories. During that time, I found little need to search for and play a bunch of games or solve puzzles. I had the mystery of life in front of me which is infinitely more stimulating. As I drank from the well of sharing our stories, I knew that I was drinking from Living Water.

Prayer: Holy and Gracious Water Giver, in this time of fasting and reflection, remind me that doing without is only a portal into something bigger and better. As I look forward to Easter, showing me ways to let go of some of my worldly feasts that I may invest my energies in your service. Amen.

  – Susan Keith  |  Rutherfordton, NC

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 7 – A Different Kind of Baptism

Lent 3Scripture:  Titus 3: 4-5

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

During my junior year, I studied abroad in St. Andrews, Scotland, a delightful town right on the North Sea. Early on, my friend Jocelyn and I found ourselves wanting to settle into a routine.

On our first Sunday morning, we suited up and began the mile-long walk to church in frigid January air. Scotland is a rainy place, so we thought nothing of it when we walked outside to find a storm. We felt prepared with our umbrellas and rain jackets. We were going to church come hell, or perhaps more likely, high water.

Scotland is rainy, but that morning was different. Our umbrellas flipped inside out ten times because of the wind and soon became entirely useless  against the heavy rain. Eventually, we noticed we hadn’t seen anybody else out for a morning stroll. Nonetheless, we carried on!

Upon arrival, we discovered a sign on the door informing us that the church’s meeting had been moved to the afternoon. I don’t remember if we laughed or cried, but I do remember that I was so drenched that I looked like I had jumped into a swimming pool!

It was baptism by torrential downpour. Grace came in the form of laughing at our misfortune, receiving the kindness of a fellow misinformed churchgoer who drove us home, calling it quits, slipping back into our pajamas and promising to try again next week.

Prayer: Loving God, your kindness washes over us in all kinds of ways; please open our eyes to receive your gifts in their many forms. Amen.

  – Kelsey Miller | Nashville, TN

Lenten Devotional – Day 6 – A Free Gift

Lent 3Scripture:  Revelation 21:6

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

In Revelation, John writes these words of Jesus, “I am the Alpha and Omega

…. all who are thirsty will be given the Living Water of life to drink.”

I know of this thirst and have experienced this Living Water. As a young mother with a toddler and a baby, I was part of a small group of mothers at my church. We were thankful for a time of fellowship and the free child care that was provided.

In our several years together, I came to know Jesus in a more personal way.  I found the God of the universe to be a loving God, sending his Son to earth to show me how to love others and understand that I was worthy of his love. I felt Jesus’s forgiveness and was filled with a renewed peace. I knew that Jesus would always be with me and with my family – until the end of time. We named our group Omega because it fit.

Years have passed, and my children are grown. My thirst to know God continues. My experiences in this little group began to equip me to face the uncertainties of the world and a desire to teach and tell others of this Living Water.

Prayer: God of the universe, thank you for your saving Living Water, a free gift of your love and grace. I know this gift will last until the end of time, and for that, I am grateful. Amen.

  – Deb Broadwater | Moneta, VA

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 5 – Greener Grass

Lent 3Scripture:  Psalm 23:1-3

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

It was 2012. I had been married less than a year. I wasn’t satisfied with what I had and wanted more. I was never satisfied with where

we were, what we had, or what we were doing. I always wanted something more. This thirst for “more” created constant conflict with my wife since she could tell I was never satisfied with our life together.

I attempted to quench my thirst with things of this world, and they always left me wanting more.

I ended up in a spiritual and relational desert. My

marriage was dry and struggling. My “bucket” was empty and dry. I wasn’t drinking from the right source, and I had nothing to give. This caused the buckets of my wife, and our marriage, to be empty as well.

Then I saw someone I love go through a divorce. God revealed how earthly pursuits had left their marriage dry and broken. Then, I realized what could happen to us. I hit my knees and asked God to fill my bucket with enough to fill my wife’s bucket as well. He did with abundance!

Now, I regularly drink from the spring of Living Water. He fills me up, and it overflows into my marriage. He gave us renewal, eight incredible years of marriage and many more to go!

Prayer: Father, like sheep, we often wander astray. Forgive us of our foolishness and remind us today that the grass is greenest where you water it. Amen.

  – Andy Lemmon | Brandon, Mississippi

 

 

Preparation for Lent – A Mardi Gras Prayer

Mardi GrasToday is Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) and Carnival (“Farewell to Meat”), which precedes Ash Wednesday and Lent around the world, even where Lent has ceased to have much religious meaning.  It was natural to develop a festival, a “last fling,” before the prayerful fasting and abstinence of Lent.

How can we give this day before Ash Wednesday some religious meaning for us?

It may be that we are going to a Mardi Gras party and there will be much feasting.  Our country may celebrate Carnival with gusto.  Perhaps we can have a special family dinner together, with meat.

Lent 4What’s important is that we let our feasting anticipate our fasting.  One way to do that is to begin to focus on the meaning of the day, when we first get up. 

It can create a sense of anticipation all day, that something very new is about to begin tomorrow.

We can prepare for whatever we will do, no matter how purely “social” or simply ordinary our day will be.  Knowing why we go to a party, or enjoying the planning or preparation for a special meal, will add much meaning to this day.

Our Prayer

In these or similar words, we can pray in the spirit of this day.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord. 

 

Preparation for Lent – A Mardi Gras Prayer

Mardi GrasToday is Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) and Carnival (“Farewell to Meat”), which precedes Ash Wednesday and Lent around the world, even where Lent has ceased to have much religious meaning.  It was natural to develop a festival, a “last fling,” before the prayerful fasting and abstinence of Lent.

How can we give this day before Ash Wednesday some religious meaning for us?

It may be that we are going to a Mardi Gras party and there will be much feasting.  Our country may celebrate Carnival with gusto.  Perhaps we can have a special family dinner together, with meat.

Lent 4What’s important is that we let our feasting anticipate our fasting.  One way to do that is to begin to focus on the meaning of the day, when we first get up. 

It can create a sense of anticipation all day, that something very new is about to begin tomorrow.

We can prepare for whatever we will do, no matter how purely “social” or simply ordinary our day will be.  Knowing why we go to a party, or enjoying the planning or preparation for a special meal, will add much meaning to this day.

Our Prayer

In these or similar words, we can pray in the spirit of this day.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord. 

 

Preparation for Lent – What Can I Do Before Lent Begins?

Lent 2Anything worth doing is worth preparing for.

Just imagine that this Lent is going to be different from every other Lent we’ve experienced.  Imagine that there will be many graces offered me this year.  Let’s even imagine that God is going to help transform our lives, with greater freedom, greater joy, deeper desires for love and service.

If we want it, we will choose it.

Lent will be this wonderful season of grace for us if we give ourselves to it.  And, we will give ourselves to it to the degree we really want it badly.  So, in these days before Lent, we need to prepare our hearts.  We need to prepare by realizing how much we want to grow in freedom, how much we need to lighten our spirits and experience some real joy, and how much some parts of our lives really need changing. 

So, preparing our hearts is a process of preparing our desires.  This means practicing our sense of anticipation.  If I imagine Lent as an “ordeal” or a time I dread in some way, then I’ve already predisposed myself to not get very much out of it.  These days before Lent are a time to start anticipating something wonderful that is about to happen.

Our Focus:  On what God wants to give us.

Our sense of excitement and anticipation will grow more easily if we begin to imagine what God wants to give us.  There is really something coming that we can truly look forward to.  If we get too focused on ourselves, and what we are going to do or not do, we could risk missing the gift God wants to give us.  We have to keep aware of the fact that grace comes from God.  This is about God’s great desire to bless us.  Then, it is easier for us to imagine that what we really want to do is place ourselves in a space to receive what God wants to give us.

Not starting from a dead stop.

LentTaking some time to get ready for Lent will ensure that we aren’t going to miss the first week or two of Lent, because we are just getting started.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but we want to be ready to really take off on that day, rather than just beginning to think about Lent on that day.  Part of what makes a vacation or a special anniversary so special is the build-up to it. 

Before we get to Ash Wednesday, we should start asking ourselves some questions and we should start with some preparations.  “What does God want to give me this year?”  This question may require that I slow down a bit and listen to my inner spirit.  For example, even if I’m very busy, I realize I’m hungry when I hear my stomach start “growling.”  “What am I going to be doing on Ash Wednesday?” 

Too often, Ash Wednesday is like every other day, except that I manage to get to church and get ashes on my forehead.  Is there anything else I can do on Ash Wednesday?  How will fasting and abstaining happen for me, for my family on that special day? 

Lent is not something I need to do alone.

If I have a spouse, or children, or some close friends, or distant e-mail companions, I can begin now to talk about how we will support each other in this Lenten journey.  The anticipation and the preparation is transformed with the companionship of family and close friends.  We shouldn’t be deterred by the fear that our spouse or children or friends “won’t be into it.” 

Jesus said, “Fear is useless; what’s needed is trust.”  Let’s begin now to tell others about our desires.  Let’s help support others’ expectations.  Let’s help others see that Lent doesn’t have to be something I avoid, and certainly can’t be reduced to “giving up candy.”  We can help our loved ones to begin to imagine what they could receive from God in these days.

Ash Wednesday is a great place to start with our planning.  “What are we going to eat?”  We shouldn’t be embarrassed if we really haven’t fasted in a long time, or perhaps ever before.  We can plan to intentionally have only one full meal on Ash Wednesday.  We can make that meal very meaningful and symbolic. 

Lent 4Getting ready, means getting my house ready, too.  And, it can mean lots of choices.

The symbols in our home, and the concrete choices we make can shape the way we will begin Lent, as individuals and as a family.

And, it doesn’t take much time.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare for the beginning of Lent.  It just takes desire and focus.  God can do so much with that.  We can give God more of a space to touch our hearts if we begin to establish some simple patterns. 

We could  wake up each morning, and for something like a half a minute to a minute, stand by the edge of our beds, and just ask the Lord for the grace to let this day be one in which I long for the beginning of Lent.  Perhaps we need to ask for specific helps or graces to get ready to begin Lent. 

Whatever we try to say, our Lord can understand the Spirit trying to speak through our simple words. And all it takes is the time to find and put on our slippers. 

And each night, in the days ahead, we can practice giving thanks to God before I go to bed.  This simple pattern, in the morning and evening can stir our spirits to look forward to and prepare for Lent, as a season of grace.

May our Lord bless us all on this journey ahead.

 

Lenten Devotional – Easter Monday – Wounds Run Deep

EasterKey Bible Verse:  “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? …”  – John 21:15a

Bonus Reading:  John 21:1-19

We are often cut to the core by our own sins, by the hasty words and hurtful things we have done and by our failure to do the good things God put it in our power to do. The scar of our personal failings can run very deep in us, just as the scar of Peter’s three denials ran deep.

After His resurrection our Lord went to work right away healing that wound. Luke tells us that Jesus made an appearance to Peter on the afternoon of His resurrection (Luke 24:34). And in today’s reading John records another special conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Easter 2On that dark night in Jerusalem Simon denied His Savior three times. Now, on this bright morning at the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus leads Peter to confess his devotion to His Savior three times. Then Jesus gives Peter a glorious promise. In the future, when Peter’s life is in danger for Jesus’ sake, he will not weaken in denial. Simon Peter will remain faithful in his confession and die as a martyr of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died and rose again for your sins—each and every one of them. They are all forgiven. This is something He constantly reminds you through His Word, through the waters of your Baptism and by the body and blood He gives you in worship— the price He willingly paid for your eternal salvation. His Holy Spirit will keep you strong in the confession of His Name, until our Lord welcomes you into paradise.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, let Your light continue to shine in this dark world, that with boldness and confidence I may live for You, until You come again and scatter the darkness forever. I pray in Your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Easter Sunday – The Light Shines

Easter - Resurrection SundayKey Bible Verse:  “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ …” John 20:16a

Bonus Reading:  John 20:1-18

After the long, dark weekend, Mary Magdalene left early Sunday morning to go out to Jesus’ tomb. Already filled with grief and sorrow she saw the tomb broken open and Jesus’ body missing.

She ran to tell the disciples someone had stolen His body. Peter and John ran out to investigate, then went back into hiding to consider what they had seen. Mary stayed behind at the tomb, overwhelmed with sorrow.

Have you ever stood at a graveside totally lost and immersed in unspeakable grief ? Imagine Mary’s pain, totally shattered by the brutal murder of her Lord.

But Jesus had already told His disciples how the story would end. This was a day of joy and victory; it was not a day of grief and loss. And so Jesus came up to her and at the sound of her name on His lips, the light burst forth and scattered the darkness of Mary’s grief.

When we stand by a loved one’s grave, this is a moment to remember. On the Last Day our loved ones who are now separated from us, hidden in the darkness of the grave will stand before us shining. Their voices that are now still in death will be music in our ears once again when the Light comes to raise the dead and vanquish the darkness forever.

We will see Jesus with our own eyes just as Mary did on that great day of resurrection. And we will shine in that glorious light forever and ever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for bursting out of the tomb on this glorious day, revealing our future and that of our loved ones who have died in faith. Give us joy, courage and hope as we await that glorious day of Your return, and help us share it with all. We pray in Your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 40 – Holy Saturday – Out from the Darkness

Holy SaturdayKey Bible Verse:  “So they (Joseph and Nicodemus) took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.” John 19:40

Bonus Reading:  John 19:31-42

Good Friday is drawing to its close. With the Passover quickly approaching, Pilate orders the legs of the crucified men to be broken so they will die quickly. The legs of the two criminals hanging at Jesus’ side are broken. But since Jesus is already dead His side is pierced with a spear instead and out flows blood and water—proof that the King of the Jews is truly dead.

That’s when a secret disciple of Jesus steps forward. Joseph of Arimathea is a prominent member of the Jewish high court who did not agree with their decision to put Jesus to death. He boldly steps out of the darkness and asks Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body. Pilate grants it.

Another secret disciple joins him. The Pharisee Nicodemus who had snuck through the darkness of night to talk to Jesus now steps into the light and helps Joseph lay our Lord’s body to rest in Joseph’s new tomb.

But it is only a rest. Death has no hold over Jesus’ body. It cannot even touch His body with the stain of decay. On the third day He will rise to life and live forever.

One day you and I will be laid in our own graves. But for all of us who trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, our future will be the same as His. Our bodies will rest in the grave until He returns; then Jesus will raise us to share paradise with Him forever.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank You for hallowing our graves through Your rest in the grave. Fill us with joy and confidence—even in the face of death—so that we will see You with our own eyes when You come to wake our bodies from death.  Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 39 – Good Friday – Paid in Full

Good FridayKey Bible Verse:  “So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.”  – John 19:16-17

Bonus Reading:  John 19:16-30

Jesus shows remarkable strength in His first three hours on the cross. Even while He is suffering for our sins, His focus is not on Himself, but on the people around Him. Seeing His enemies He pleads, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a). He promises the repentant criminal at His side, “Today You will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43b). He provides a disciple to care for His mother after He is gone “Woman, behold, your son!” and to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26b, 27b).

Then at noon comes the darkness. Luke tells us the sun stopped shining. Jesus hangs alone in the darkness silently suffering God’s wrath at the sins of the world. Finally, after three hours He cries out in agony, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46b).

By three in the afternoon, it is over. God the Father has unleashed His full wrath—not a single one of our sins has gone unpunished. John tells us, “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said, (to fulfill the Scripture) ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28). And “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). There is nothing left for us to pay. We are free, and the doors of heaven are open wide to us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Jesus offers His last confident prayer: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46b).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, on the cross You suffered the wrath of God for all of our sins, and paid the price in full. Receive our thanks and gratitude for Your amazing sacrifice and the life that is ours because of Your death.  Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 38 – Maundy Thursday – One Last Card to Play

Maundy ThursdayKey Bible Verse:  “Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing Him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”   – John 19:4-5

Bonus Reading:  John 19:1-16

Pilate has one last, desperate trick up his sleeve. It’s a long shot, but it’s his last chance to set Jesus free. He orders our Lord to be flogged. Many died from such a cruel scourging; others died later from the complications of those severe injuries. Pilate thought the scourging might just satisfy the blood lust of the Jewish authorities.

Maundy Thursday - PilateAs Pilate had Jesus brought forward it was a pitiful sight to behold. Jesus had been beaten severely. A crown of bloody thorns was on His head and a blood-soaked, purple robe was draped around His shoulders. Clearly, the Jewish authorities could not consider Him
a threat now.

But once they had gotten a taste of Jesus’ blood, the authorities had only one thing to say, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

Tonight we gather in church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and receive His true body and blood. We remember Pilate pointing and saying, “Behold the man!” We remember John the Baptist pointing and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We remember this body was beaten and nailed to the cross for us. This blood was shed by the scourge and nails for us.

And because Jesus offered His body and poured out His blood in our place—as our Substitute—we are forgiven and free.

“Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19b).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You freely offered Your body and blood for our salvation. Move me to receive it in gratitude and joy, and to serve You throughout my days. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 37 – Pilate’s Gamble

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” John 18:39

Bonus Reading:  John 18:38-40

Pilate won’t listen to Jesus; he is too busy trying to work this out himself. How can he force the Jewish authorities to accept his decision to set Jesus free? Maybe one of the local customs might do the trick.  It was implemented to improve Roman-Jewish relations. At the Passover feast, the Roman governors released a prisoner the Jewish crowds requested. Normally it was a popular person who had been imprisoned for speaking against the Roman government. This time Pilate would offer the choice between Jesus and the most dangerous criminal in the prison: Barabbas.

This was a stroke of genius! Jesus offered no true threat to public safety and clearly Barabbas was as dangerous to the Jewish leaders as he was to the Romans. But Pilate misjudges the Jewish leaders, who are convinced Jesus is a much greater threat to them and to the Jewish nation than Barabbas.

When the leaders convince the crowd to demanded Barabbas’ release and crucify Jesus, Pilate finds himself in a far worse position than if he had simply set Jesus free and lived with the consequences.

Whenever we shun the responsibilities God gives us—to speak up for those who are defenseless, to bring up our children in the fear and knowledge of God or those in any other area of life—we are just like Pontius Pilate.

Jesus didn’t step away from His responsibility but freely took the punishment of our sins upon Himself.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for paying the price for all the times I walk away from the responsibilities You give me. Give me courage and commitment to step forward and do what You want me to do. Amen.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.