Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lent - Day 34-35, Stations of the Cross

The Scripture for today are: Psalms 121,122,123,124,125,126; Jere 25:8-17; Romans 10:1-13 & John 9:18-41

With apologies for missing the blog yesterday, here are the next two Stations of the Cross:

The Fourth Station: Jesus is Denied by Peter

Scripture: Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about!" As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazorean." Again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man!" A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away." At that he began to curse and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: "Before the cock crows you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly.
Matthew 26: 69-75

The Fifth Station: Jesus is Judged by Pilate
Scripture: The chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" He said to him in reply, "You say so." The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, "Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of." Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.... Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barrabas... [and] handed [Jesus] over to be crucified.
Mark 15: 1-5, 15

In our journey to and through the suffering of Christ we come to these two Stations. Both involve denial. Peter's denial is foretold by Jesus, but nevertheless leaves Peter sick within himself. I love Rembrandt's portrayal of the denial of Jesus. Look carefully and beyond Peter's right shoulder you can see the faint image of Jesus looking back towards him. Peter wanted to be brave, but he succumbed (as I probably would have also) to his own self survival. As a result, he is wracked with guilt and shame and does not know how to get out of it. The answer will come much later - on a lake shore weeks later when Jesus appears to him after his resurrection and speaks grace and forgiveness to him. [Note John 21].

Pilate's denial is not the active denial of Peter; is much more a passive one. He does not know who Jesus really is; but neither does he take to time to understand. He is the man going through life depending upon his own self...surviving, getting ahead, seeking comfortability and compromise over inquiry, wisdom, and truth. Pilate is to be pitied over Peter. Peter will find redemption in the forgiveness of Christ. Pilate will be summoned back to Rome by the Emperor to explain his messed-up rule. Before he arrived back in Rome the Emperor died. Nothing is really known of his life after that. Some sources claim he became a Christian, but equally there are sources that state he ended his life in suicide. We won't know for certain who is correct.

We need to stand before these two stations and reflect on our own soul. There have many times when I have not been faithful in my response to Jesus. It can be done at times intentionally (Peter) or passively (Pilate); but nevertheless it is a reality of my faith life that it has been done. The question at that time needs to be face: Do I choose Jesus? and when I don't, do I feel remorse? a need to repent and receive forgiveness?
Sometimes the most difficult thing in life to do is to receive forgiveness? Yet, this is the Station I most need to stay at and pray.

A Prayer:

"Father, Lord Jesus, for those many times I have actively chosen to deny you, I ask your forgiveness. Specifically, right now, I ask you to forgive me for ___________________. I confess that you are Savior and Lord, and I love you more than I can say. I choose today to walk with you and to love your ways. Teach me, guide me, and help me in your name I pray. Amen."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lent, Day 33 -3rd Station of the Cross

Scripture Readings for Today are: Psalms 118, 145; Jere 23:16-32; 1 Cor 9:19-27 &
Mark 8:31-9:1

Today is the last Sunday before the end of Lent. As we come to the final week of Lent, we continue to look at the Stations of the Cross - the journey of Christ Jesus to His death.

Today: Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin

Scripture: "When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us," but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth."
Luke 22: 66-71

Hope your day of worship is filled with a faith of God's presence. Sometimes in the middle of difficult things there is little faith to believe God is at work. Jesus could have easily succumbed to the temptation of demonstrating his divinity but he spoke a word to them that was truth, and yet they didn't believe. "Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God", says Romans 10.
The question is are we looking to hear? If we don't expect to hear God, we probably won't; but if we do live in expectation that God will speak to us, then we most likely will truly hear.

My prayer is that you "will have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying".

A Prayer:

"Father of truth and light. Lord you know our tendency to exclude you in our lives. We somehow are convinced you really don't want to say anything to us. Forgive me Lord for that. I want to hear you...and by faith I choose to listen. Amen."

Lent, Day 32 - 2nd Station of the Cross

The scripture readings today are: Psalms 33, 102, 108; Jere 23:9-15, Rom. 9:1-18, & John 6:60-71

I am meditating on the Stations of the Cross - the various places and events that surrounded Jesus' death and burial - leading up to Good Friday. There are fourteen stations of the cross, and although there is a traditional one, I have modified it. Still, prayerfully, reflectively, meditatively, I want to think and pray on a daily basis the sacrifice of my Lord.

The second Station is: Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, is Arrested

Scripture: Then, while [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, "the man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely." He came and immediately went over to him and said, "Rabbi." And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.
Mark 14: 43-46

Very few of us have ever faced the pain of a traitor. History is full of names like Judas and Benedict Arnold, Brutus, and in more recent times, Aldrich Ames. What many of us have experienced is the failure of friendship, the person who we believed to be loyal to us turning out to be one who cared only for themself. What we do with people who fail us is more indicative of our own soul, than of our circumstances. If we believe that we are able to make choices and take even the worst of situations and direct them into new realms of living, we'll be fine. If we don't, we probably will live as a victim and never know the fruit of victory.

Jesus is not a victim. He is the one who knows one will betray him, yet never acts to change the circumstances, nor stop Judas from doing what is in his own free will. A friend does not take away another friend's freedom to choose -- even when that freedom is to choose harm towards them.
When I stop at this Station of the Cross, I see Jesus as the victor, not the victim. He knows what is going to happen as a result of Judas' action. What he feels, I believe, is pity and pain for Judas, not for himself.

A Prayer:

"Almighty God, you have brought us to this new day in victory, because of your Son's death on the cross. Help us to live in that victory, making choices that will reflect all that is good in you. Help us to keep our eyes focused on you...who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising it's shame. This we ask in Jesus' name, Amen."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lent, Day 31, 1st Station of the Cross

Today's readings are: Psalms 107:1-43, Jere 23:1-8, Rom 8:28-39, & John 6:52-59

The Stations of the cross are our theme as we approach these last few days of Lent and enter into Holy Week. You can read yesterday's blog if you are not familiar with the Stations of the Cross.

At the first Station of the Cross we encounter Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

The Scripture Reading:
"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Matthew 26:36-41

I don't know if you encounter this idea of flesh the same way I do. I had one of those days yesterday in which my prayers were more whining than anything else. I came to God with a litany of discouragements and disappointments...from unanswered (perceived) prayers to a sense of "why God didn't/don't you..." things.
Don't get me wrong, it felt good to unload the pent up frustrations, and I'm positive that God is not that overly concerned with my humanity - he knows me. But, what I wanted to get out of it is unclear. Most certainly I suppose I hoped for immediate responses of jobs, healing, pain going away, difficulties solved, etc... But I'm realistic enough to know that all of those things are part of the choices I've made in living, and it's not true that God created my messes.

It's a powerful lesson for me/us to learn. We created our own lives with the choices we make. Some of those choices are not necessarily wise, and some of them are eventually going to be downright painful. Nevertheless, there isn't any sense in looking backwards in pity, or as a victim. Just as I made choices in the past, so I can make choices in the present that will affect the future.

Jesus made a choice. He made a choice to go to Jerusalem, and he made a choice to go the garden that evening. He made that choice knowing that his disciples did not understand all that was about to happen as a result. He made that choice for me!

A Prayer:

"Lord Jesus, I stand at the edge of the garden and I know that it is for me, and for the rest of humanity, that you have chosen to go there. You stepped into the dark of the night even as you entered into the darkness of humanity...deliberately, and as a servant, and that is what makes me worship you all the more. Thank you for your choice to love me, to love all of us, to the very end. Amen."

Romans 8:31-39 (NASB)
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;
34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 Just as it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day LONG; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lent - Day 30, The Stations of the Cross

The daily readings for today are: Psalms am: 69, 73; Jere 22:13-23; Romans 8:12-27; and John 6:41-51

Lent is now coming closer to it's end, and following Lent is Holy Week which goes from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

As we come closer to the celebration of the cross, the death and resurrection, I want to stop at what has been traditionally called "The Stations of the Cross".

These "Stations" as they are called, were spots along the journey that took Christ from Gethsemane to Pilate where he was condemned to die through to his burial in the tomb on that Good Friday. The celebration of the Stations came about in the Middle Ages, presumably like stained glass windows, the enacting of these stations visibly spoke to a population of Christians who may have been largely uneducated.

There are several ways to approach the fourteen stations of the cross. While Catholics traditionally celebrate it one way, it has precedence to be celebrated more broadly. I like the revised version first done by Pope John Paul in 1991 because it is more comprehensive of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday's lessons.

First Station: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Second Station: Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, is Arrested
Third Station: Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin
Fourth Station: Jesus is Denied by Peter
Fifth Station: Jesus is Judged by Pilate
Sixth Station: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns
Seventh Station: Jesus Bears the Cross
Eighth Station: Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian to Carry the Cross
Ninth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Tenth Station: Jesus is Crucified
Eleventh Station: Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief
Twelfth Station: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple
Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

As stated before, this is a variation on the traditional stations of the cross, but nevertheless, it has been used before -- even by Pope John Paul himself.

There are spiritual exercises to entered into at each station. These consist mainly of prayer and contemplation - which is another way of saying these stations are not primarily intellectual exercises. There are usually prayers and liturgies for each station, but I prefer to contemplate and seek to put myself in the scene and then pray out of that meditative heart.

Why do them?

Because ultimately they help me remember what I read in the Psalms today, and what was spoken by both Paul in Romans 8, and Jesus in John 6...that in the death of Christ we have life. It is this life that is both eternal and present for us that makes life much more than survival, a gutting it out process, a hope that we'll get ahead if we just do the right things, and therefore all of life will be a pleasant journey. It is this life of Jesus that ends tragically in his death and burial that also leads towards resurrection. It's a way of reminding myself that Jesus ultimately didn't fall into the hands of political and religious rulers who apparently have the day -- even today at times that seems true -- but he fell into the hands of His father, and so death could not hold him, and resurrection to life was THE reality.

Think and pray...we will all someday also come to death's door. It is enough to know that our lives are in the hands of the Father of life, and that through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, there is everlasting life and not simply just death.

A Prayer:

"Father of mercy and love, Jesus, My Savior and friend, Holy Spirit, my comforter and guide, to you, One God, belongs glory and honor and praise. For you are life and in you is life both now and forever. Amen."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lent - Day 27, March 23

The Readings for today are: Psalms 89:1-52; Jere 16:10-21; Rom 7:1-12 & John 6:1-15

It's a blustery early Spring day outside. The wind is blowing around 30mph and it's raining (but not snowing - yeah). Inside it's warm and comfortable. How can something so different exist in the same place? We know the answer, it's the insulated structure we call the house, and it's the heat to warm it.

The readings reminded me of that today...there's a wind blowing in the early readings...it's not well out there and it's because of things like sin, unfaithfulness, disobedience, choices that are selfish and disregarding of either God or others. Paul's reminder is that the law is good in pointing all of this out. We wouldn't know how to describe the "outside of God" part of life without the law. It's our weather report for the world we walk into.
And then there's God's love, his faithfulness, his righteousness fulfilled in His son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus. Because of him we are safe, warmed inside of his righteousness, forgiven and adopted into this household of God.

Stay warm!

A Prayer:
"Father, your love reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the stars, your righteousness is like a mighty mountain. Because of you we live and breathe and have our being. Help me/us to never forget the greatness and the majesty that is you, and the wonder and joy that is mine. Amen."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lent - Day 26, March 22

The readings for today are: Psalms 66, 67, 19, 46; Jere 14:1-9, 17-22;
Gal 4:21-5:1; and Mark 8:11-21

The Psalms are full of the praise of God, and why not. Today is Sunday, just three weeks until Easter, two from Palm Sunday. Our children's pastor, Dave, is beginning a four Sunday series on the journey of Christ Jesus to the cross, ending with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.

We have the advantage in all of this of the record of scripture. For the disciples and followers of Jesus it all seemed so surreal - this talk of going to Jerusalem where then he would be turned over to the authorities, eventually killed, and then rise again. If we would have been His followers then we most likely would have felt the same as the disciples: confused, questioning, even scheming to prevent it all from happening. When God says, "my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts", He really means that.

With that in mind, I have to ask if I'm prepared to trust God in life's difficulties? While I want to say "yes", I don't want to be foolish in presuming what can only be done in grace. We all experience wonderful opportunities for growth and change disguised in the midst of problems and difficulties.

A Prayer:

"O God, on this Sunday, I worship you -- in Spirit and truth -- because you are worthy of worship and praise. I confess before you that I am not worthy of your grace and blessings. As the Psalmist declared, 'Forgive my hidden faults, and keep me also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.' With the saints of now and old, guard me from the 'yeast of Phariseeism' and allow me to walk with you even towards the cross. Amen."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lent - Day 24, March 20

With apologies for a lapse in posting yesterday, here are today's readings: Psalms 88,
91, 92; Jere 11:1-8, 14-20; Rom 6:1-11 and John 8:33-47

Reading Psalm 88 and Jeremiah are quite depressing. It's hard to imagine (unless we've personally been there) what it would be like to be experiencing what those writers in scripture experienced.
As I shifted my readings to the New Testament I was struck by the commentary that might be given towards those Older writings. In both Paul's writing and Jesus' statements sin is set in the context of "slavery". Given our countries dark legacy with treating human beings as slaves we know that it is an awful thing to be called a slave. Slavery is bondage, a lack of freedom, a dictation of duties and life, and the awful bondage of fear...and that is what sin and it's consequences does to us.

As I spent some time praying I realized that I take little time to really understand where I might be enslaved. I know God has taken this Lenten season to confront some fears and anxieties in me; and he has also taken me to new levels in asking me if I trust him...I wished I could say I have passed with flying colors. Instead, my humanity is more glaring than ever. Isn't it true that Paul says we are meant for freedom and that freedom is found in "dying to Christ", which frankly has already been made possible because Christ Jesus died for us. Oh, Lord, help, please.

A Prayer:

"Father of mercy, grace, truth and love, how I need you. My heart and soul cries out for you - the living God. I want your freedom. I want to know in the depth of my being that living for you is not a chore, not a performance, not a duty, but a delight of freedom in son-ship. This I pray in Jesus' name. Amen."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent - Day 22, March 18

Today's readings are: Psalms 81, 82; 119:97-120; Jere 8:18-9:6; Rom 5:1-11; and, John 8:12-20

Completely deviating from Lenten musings of late, I ran across an interesting article today online. In a New York Times article President Obama's faith life came to the surface with a description of "Five Prayer Partners" that have come alongside of him since coming to the presidency. You can access the article for yourself at:

For myself, it's important to note that God calls me as a Kingdom citizen to pray for the President, consistently, to bless him and to ask God to come alongside of him in his leadership.
I've often felt that we Christians make a mistake when we enter into the political arena with the purpose of seeking political power or influence. Since the late 70's when I was a young(er) pastor I felt the need to maintain that stance, regardless of who happens to be President at the time.

Lent is a time to humble ourselves before God. We need Him, and so does our President. Let's pray for him.

A Prayer:
"Father we lift up before your throne of grace our President. Give President Obama wisdom in all that he does. Would you surround him with your angels, keep him safe physically, mentally and spiritually. Watch over his marriage and his children. Give him grace that he might have grace towards others. Give him courage to face danger, and speak into his soul that he might always acknowledge you. Amen."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent - Day 21, March 17

Today's readings come from: Psalm 78:1-72; Jere 7:21-34; Rom 4:13-25; & John 7:37-52

Today is St. Patrick's day in much of the western world. It's a sad day for me in that much of what marks the day is secular and even worse debased. It's not about "green beer" and celebration...that's the least. It's that a true man of God, and that is who St. Patrick was, is not remembered for his virtue, godliness, and vision; but instead becomes the occasion of drunkenness and revelry.

We, Protestants, don't use the language of "Saint" to refer to any one person. Perhaps we should. I know the argument biblically, even theologically, that saints are all christians, and I can't say that we should abandon that; but perhaps we need those who are exemplary in being role models for what it means to follow Christ.

Patrick grew up in modern Wales (western part of the island we call England for those who are geographically challenged :) in the latter part of the 4th century. He grew up in a rather lukeward religious environment, supposedly in a family of means. Sometime around the age of 16 he was captured by Irish marauders seeking slaves and he was a shepherd in forced work until he escaped (a vision and voice guided him over 200 miles to the coast and a ship to get away) at age 22. He ended up in France studying to become a priest and there changed his name to Patrick (was Maewyn). After a number of years in training, and what perhaps is the most unreal thing of all, he felt God's call and went back to Ireland to proclaim the gospel.

Over the course of 30 years Patrick crossed Ireland and proclaimed the Gospel, organized believers into monastic orders and built churches, hospitals, and established educational means. His legend is renowned and I'm sure it's augmented by myth and lore. He died on March 17, 460 - hence this day of celebration.

One of the most well known aspects of Patrick's life is in his prayers and breastplate. Here is a prose entitled:
The Prayer of St. Patrick, the 5th Century Monk.

“I came in God’s Strength, with nothing to Fear.”
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels, In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs, In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles, In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins, In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun, Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea,
Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against false prophets, pagandom, Heretics, & idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

A Prayer:

"Father, we are in desperate need of "heroes" today. We need those people whose life will speak of courage, integrity, and the godly character of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Would you please raise up today many modern day Patrick's. Holy Father, we, I, need those who will remind me of the sacrifice of a life well spent for the gospel of your Son. Grant that I today may walk in the power and strength of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lent,, Day 20 - March 16

Today's reading is Psalm 80, 77, 79; Jere 7:1-15; Rom 4:1-12; & John 7:14-36

This a short one with guests in town. We're half way through Lent today, and whatever you've done to date to celebrate Lent, congratulations. Disciplines of the Spirit take work, and this is a work towards maturity, not salvation. It's Paul's reminder in Phil 2:12-13...
"God is at work in you...therefore work out your salvation."
Whatever we wish to do in life that we want to be good at, requires work, patience, practice and reptition. We don't automatically become good at our Spiritual disciplines without work. While God is not in favor of our working for our salvation; he is not opposed to our working with the grace that is given us in Christ's salvation.

So, congratulations, and keep in persevering!

A Prayer:

"Father, without you we cannot please you, so mercifully grant that in all things your Holy Spirit might direct our ways, through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lent,, Day 19 - March 15

The Readings for today: Psalms 93, 96, 34; Jere 6:9-15; 1 Cor 6:12-20; Mark 5:1-20

I am about to leave for worship services. The Psalmist's reminder of who God is makes worship more awe-some. I was struck by the words from Psalm 93:4 (NASB)
"More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The Lord on high is mighty."
The Psalmist later adds: Psalm 96:11 (NASB)
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
I can't imagine anything on earth that is more powerful than the sea. The water of the sea is that which we play in, but as a force, it is powerful and mighty - even in ways that bring wonder and awe (remember the Tsunamis of a few years ago?)
It's no wonder that the Psalmist reminds us Psalm 34:8-9 (NASB)
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! 9 O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.

I've come to that place in life where living with a sense of God's greatness and goodness, as well his glory and grace, and even to love him because he loves and to fear him because he is holy all need to be held in tension within us.

As I go off to worship, Paul's reminder is worth reminding: 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 (NASB)
17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him...do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

As Jesus heals the man from the Garasenes so that he is whole, let us worship him with tender hearts, with a fear that is more awe, and with whole-heartedness that joins our spirit with His.

A Prayer:
"Father, as you have brought me to a new day, I give it back to you - with surrender, awe, and a desire to glorify you with all that is within me. Keep me safe in you, and reveal yourself to me in worship, in listening to your word, in the prayers and conversations before and after -- for the glory of your name. Amen."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lent,, Day 18 - March 14

Our Readings today are: Psalms 75, 76, 23, 27; Jere 5:20-31, Rom 3:19-31; and
John 7:1-13

Sometimes reading the Psalms can be uplifting - such is Ps. 23 and 27. Sometimes they are full of praise as in 75 & 76. Behind each though is that sense of need that comes from confession, praise, and joyful response. Our soul is crying out to say "thank you Lord", and "I trust you Lord" and yet there is a realization that without you, God, our lives would be purpose-less, in vain, and without real hope.

I love reading Romans 3, as Paul reminds us of all that God has done in granting to us, through grace, by faith, his righteousness that comes from Jesus' shed blood on the cross. Lent brings me back to the fundamental truth that all of life is fulfilling because of what Jesus has done for us.

Jesus has come..."incarnation" means "in flesh"; he comes to "dwell"..."tabernacle" among us. The tabernacle was Israel's "tent of meeting" where God dwelt among his people in their wilderness journey, and even though it's hardly mentioned, it continued to be the place of worship up until Solomon's temple was built. I think it faded in prominence after Israel entered the land simply because God had told them that the land was His land and he would dwell with them in the land.

In the New Testament the book of Hebrews repeatedly reminds the Hebrew readers that the Tabernacle on earth was replicated from the heavenly pattern. "Skene" was used 400+ times in the Septuagint (greek translation of the Hebrew O.T.) to translate the Hebrew word for "tabernacle". So, it is amazing to see the word appear immediately in the New Testament as John writes in 1.14: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (eskenosen) among us."
Four other uses of that word are all in Revelation; and several other times it's used in Jesus' parables (e.g. it is used when Jesus talks about the birds making their "nests".

It's a beautiful word full of richness as Paul uses it in 2 Cor. 12:9 to describe God's power coming to dwell in our weakness.

So we come back to this...God continues to "dwell" with us -- only it's not in what we often assume. It's not in our strength; but rather in our weakness. Here's the testimony of Lent. We come to God not in position of "our act is together"; but rather we come to God needing the righteousness of Christ given to us in his shed blood on the cross...a righteousness that we could never receive, or achieve, apart from Christ Jesus.

A Prayer:

"Father, there are many troubles that surround, many ways that I can be full of fears and trapped in self-contained anxieties, but I am reminded that the world while full of sin is still the world you loved enough to send your Son into. And Jesus, I am reminded that the remedy for my needs does not lie in my self-sufficient attempts to be religious enough to reach for you, but simply in trusting the finished work you have done for me on the cross. Lord, I need that righteousness that occurs because you came once to dwell on the earth, and now I ask that you dwell with me as well. Amen."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lent,, Day 17 - March 13

Today's scripture readings speak powerfully: Psalm 69; 73; Jere 5:1-9; Romans 2:25-3:18 and John 5:30-47

As I read through the various passages I was struck by the way in which God confronts deception in the various people these were directed towards. There is a straight forward approach...no dancing around the issues...no attempts to ameliorate the various conditions with smooth words.

It hit me, am I as straight forward in dealing with my sin, the deceptions of Satan, that are in my own life?
Am I willing to be so blunt, so purposeful, so willing to strive for truth in the inner being of my soul as the various speakers in these passages were?

Lent gives me/us an opportunity to come back to God with hearts that "know" that Jesus' death on the cross was for my/our sin. There is no need to come polished, to come pretending, to come religiously pious. I need to be brutally honest and receive the gift of mercy and grace to those who come repentantly before Him - our Savior and Our God.

A Prayer:
"O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit would in all things direct and rule my heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lent,, Day 15 - March 11

The Readings for today: Psalms 72, 119:73-96; Jer. 3:6-18; Rom 1:28-2:11; and, John 5:1-18

Lent brings us back to this place of need, something we are not often good at embracing. Our self-sufficiency and pride in taking care of ourselves is engrained within our humanity. There is something of God in this. He told Adam and Eve to take care of the earth, to be stewards and reap the rewards of their "governing over" that which was there domain; but in the Fall the stewardship rights and freedom become twisted and end up being a means for separation and independence from God.

When we get to the place of uncovering it is usually in discovery of weakness. When we get to "the end" of our own self-sufficiency we find God waiting. Paul says to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. [emphasis is mine]

The greek word episkenoo means "to tabernacle" and comes from the Hebrew word, shkn, which we understand as "shekinah". Yesterday I shared that God's purpose was to "tabernacle" with Israel (Ex. 29:45); i.e., to dwell among them.
When the prophet Isaiah declares the future Messiah he says that he will be called "Emmauel" or "God with us".
The Greeks and Romans - of Paul's day understood the gods as aloof, needing to be appeased, capricious and jealous of each other. The gospel proclaims God coming to humans, as a human - incarnated - putting on flesh in order "to dwell among them". Jesus is the "shkn" -- God dwelling among us.

BUT, Paul says, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB)
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

He comes to dwell in our weakness, for when we are weak we are strong.

The Kingdom is upside-down, pure and simple. Lent embraces that weakness.

A Prayer:

"Father of glory and grace, it is my flesh that cries out for relief, for rescue from the pain of this world, and it is your glory that demonstrates your power, beauty and grace in the midst of that -- to the glory of your name, Amen."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent,, Day 14 - March 10

The Readings for today are: Psalms 61, 62, 68; Jere 2:1-13; Rom 1:16-25; John 4:43-54

If I remember correctly one of the first verses of scripture I memorized was Romans 1:16-17; Paul's grand summary of his life's purpose and God's redemption.

Romans 1:16-17 (NASB)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."

It was Martin Luther in the early 16th century that found so much freedom from religion and the accompanying attempts to perform one's way into God's favor who "rested" in this passage of scripture...so should we.

In reading Paul's life I cannot help but recognize that his greatness did not consist of anything within his personality or gifting. He must have been a bit driven in a "type A" kind of way. He probably was demanding upon those around him and might not have been the easiest leader to follow. Yet Paul had a sense of his humanity. He knew that what resided in him was not just the personality and passion that was needed, but the heart of God to bear witness of His love for the world manifested in his Son, our Lord Jesus.

What can we do to make sure that people first recognize that the passion we have for Christ is a passion that God first carries for them?

I'm returning to the Lenten theme as part of the answer, if not most: "Weakness". The way in which God demonstrates his power and love towards us is not in our strength, nor in our successes, and certainly not in our religious performing. It is primarily in our brokenness, in our redemption that takes us from our condition as weak and demonstrates that at the "end" of ourselves, there God still meets us.

Here's a thought for today and one we'll continue with later - Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB),
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

My emphasis is on "dwell" - the word is "episkenoo", "to tabernacle". It is the only time that the word is used in the New Testament. The greek word Paul uses comes from the Hebrew word, certainly a word Paul was aware of and was used in the Septuagint, "shekinah". It was used first in Exodus to describe God's visitation to the Israelites, and Moses, at Mt. Sinai.
Exodus 24:16 (NASB)
16 The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. . Just a chapter later in Exodus 25, God instructs Moses: Exodus 25:8 (NASB)
8 "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them..

The idea of God "tabernacling" with his people was important enough for God to include instructions on this in 13 of our Exodus book chapters. Think about this, Moses only includes from God -- what we have labeled - three chapters of the accounts of creation and fall. When Moses summarizes the reason for the tabernacle, he writes: Exodus 29:45 (NASB)
45 "I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.

God's tabernacle is a sign of his presence, and his purpose to maintain that faithful presence in order to continue to instruct them and develop them as a people.

I think all of that is crucial in understanding Paul's statement to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB),
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Paul understood God's continuing presence, his revelation to him, and his desire to work for him - regardless of the circumstances.

I don't know about you, but I hang on to that with gratitude and trust.

A Prayer:

"O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule my heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lent,, Day 13 - March 9

Our Daily Readings are: Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65; Jere 1:11-19; Rom 1:1-15; and John 4:27-42

I had a difficult time concentrating through those Psalms this morning. I eventually found Psalm 65 to beautifully describe the wonder of God in his creation, and from there everything opened up. Jeremiah and Paul both recount "mission" and "calling" from God -- and it's clear that what they were called to do was not easy.

This word "weakness" continues to dominate my Lenten meditations. Paul's statement to the Corinthians is translated in the NASB (my favorite version): 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

In the NIV it's translated: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

In the NewKJV it's translated: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

In several other translations the pronoun "my" is inserted in the translation -- but that is an interpretive notion since there is no personal pronoun in front of strength (the greek word for "strength", or "power" is dunamis, from which we get dynamic and dynamite).

A literal reading is awkward, but goes something like this: "He said to me, grace (my) is sufficient, for the power comes to an end in weakness."
You'll notice that the word usually translated "perfect", or "perfected" is in this literal translating, "end". Its root is from the greek word "teleos", which is translated usually "to complete, to finish, to bring to an end, to fulfill." So for example, Matthew 7:28 says, "Now when Jesus had finished saying these things...", and the word "teleo" signifies completion. There's another word that is often translated "perfected", but it's not the one Paul uses here in 2 Cor. 12:9

Among many translators the interpretive sense has been that God's power would come in when there is weakness, and to a certain extent that is true. But, I think there's more to this in this passage. I want to explore that further, but for now, let me share at the end another way of looking at what Paul's saying.
So, the question becomes "who's power" comes to an end in weakness?
Perhaps the translation of 2 Cor. 12:7-10 would be better understood like this:

"...to keep me from being too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to knock me about...Three times I appealed to the Lord concerning this, that it might depart from me, but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for your power is brought to an end in weakness.' All the more gladly, then, I will boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ (not mine) may tabernacle upon me. Therefore, I take delight in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions and calamities for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Let's come back to this, but for now, let me leave us pondering a quote from Kierkegaard:
"Just try to imagine that the pattern is called a 'Lamb'. That alone is a scandal to the natural mind. Who has any desire to be a lamb?"

A Prayer:

"Oh God, because without you we cannot worship you and we cannot see you, and we cannot hear you; please come in your mercy and allow us to enter into your grace. Most of all, help me to see the end of my power and the magnificence of your grace as it comes into my life at that time. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lent,, Day 12 - March 8

The Readings for Today: Psalm 8, 24, 29, 84; Jer. 1:1-10; 1 Cor 3:11-23; and Mark 3:31-4:9

Sunday in Lent is an opportunity to turn our attention back to God's majesty and grace. Each of the Psalms has its own majestic character. There's a beauty in living out of the greatness of God's character. Our problems are like dropping a teaspoon of water into an ocean of water. We need that perspective to avoid living out of fear and anxiety.
Today, our Pastor Tom spoke on "Heaven's Heroes" which was about Stephen's martyrdom in Acts 7. I was so struck by way that we were reminded that following God is a matter of trusting in the character of God. Stephen's testimony is that he was faithful to stand in a place of servanthood -- first for the sake of widows, and secondly in front of those who eventually would kill him. Yet, God used him to plant a seed in that death - literally the words of Jesus came alive: "Except the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains a single seed; but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit."
That fruit was in the young man "Saul" who stood by agreeing with the judgment rendered towards Stephen.
Tom spoke powerfully about Stephen's forgiveness stated and given in the end towards those who were killing him, and how we need to speak forgiveness to get unstuck from the pain of the past. It's true, so true.
Anyway, very, very good message to ponder. If you're interested you can find it at the church's web site later in the mid-week.

A Prayer:
"Father, you are worthy of worship and the Kingdom you call us into is so totally different from the world that we live in. I pray that you would help me to follow you into the journey of your ways and that you would help me to stand in the truth with you as call me deeper and deeper into standing for you. Amen."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lent, Day - Day 11, March 7

The readings for today are: Psalms: 55, 138, 139; Deut 11:18-28; Heb 5:1-10; and John 4:1-26

Some more thoughts on weakness.

Lent is a forty day journey of renewal, re-discovery of what Christ Jesus has done for us on the cross. I've always been struck (really, even when I was little in the Lutheran church during Lent) with the determined path of Christ towards suffering. We didn't read Philippians 2 today, but you might remember that Paul says "Christ emptied himself", [from the Greek kenow", which is pronounced like "ke-new-oh". It's one of the great doctrinal statements about Christ Jesus, that he let go of all of the rights, privileges, status, and power and embraced weakness, humility, obedience, and even death.

The word "weakness" in our English translations comes from the Greek word, "astheneia" and often notes aspects of human weakness. Nine times it refers to physical illness, fifteen times it's used in a larger sense and Paul uses it the most in a distinctive way. For example, in the letters to the Corinthians Paul speaks of his own "astheneia" (weakness). 1 Corinthians 2:1-3 (NASB)
1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,
-- note also Galatians 4:13 where "astheneia" is translated "bodily illness", or "illness", or "physical infirmity".

In the great resurrection chapter of 1 Cor. 15, Paul states, 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 (NRSV)
42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. . In Romans 8:26, he writes that the Holy Spirit helps us in our "astheneia" (weakness).

But, it's in 2 Corinthians that Paul uses it the most - six times he uses the word in 11:30 - 13:11; his lengthy apologetic to the Corinthians of what it has meant to be an apostle. What is curious to me, and perhaps to you, is the conclusion that Paul reaches towards: "It is good to be weak". Nothing states that more emphatically than 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This text is what I'm preaching on in late March at Mad City where I serve. I've been meditating on the idea of weakness for weeks now. One thing I realize is that I'm nowheres near Paul in embracing weakness.

Yet here we are... Christ Jesus emptied himself...gave himself up for us through his death on the cross. What did he say to me? "If anyone is not willing to pick up his cross and follow me..."

Lent, 2009, has taken on a whole new depth of meaning for me than ever before.

A Prayer:

"Christ Jesus, my Lord, my heart's desire is to follow you, to be obedient in every pathway you lead; but I have to be honest in admitting that I would prefer that to be on my terms...yet, it cannot, and for that reason I repent, and ask for your forgiveness. My heart's desire must be to pray as you taught: "Let your will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven. Amen."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lent, Day 10, Friday March 6

The daily readings are: Psalms: 40, 54, 51; Deut 10:12-22; Heb 4:11-16; and John 3:22-36

I couldn't help but re-read both Psalm 40 and John's passage. The Psalmist, David, comes from a place of weakness, vulnerability that we're not necessarily able to identify. He simply says,
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm". Psalm 40:2 (NASB)
There is speculation as to David's concern, but all he says is that from this beginning point of relief from what was "miry clay", a "pit", he is able to see God rescuing him.
John's passage is beautiful in that it reveals the heart of John the Baptist who takes second place in acknowledging Jesus as the one sent from God. I wonder if John the Baptist didn't have times when he wondered whether or not Jesus was the Messiah? I also wonder what it was like for him to recede to the background as Jesus' ministry took over? He says something very profound: John 3:30 (NASB)
"He must increase, but I must decrease."

In embracing weakness, we do more than admit we are not able to control our surroundings and have to trust in God; we also say -- "Jesus, you must take the place of my visible trust, I must decrease in trying to look good, wise, successful, able to manage everything to come across as in control...You must increase as I admit more and more that you and you alone are the great High Priest that I come to in time of need."

A Prayer:
"Lord God, everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day; preserve me by your power that I might not fall into sin; nor be overcome with adversity; and in all that I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purposes, through Jesus Christ, our Lord."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lent - Day 9, Thursday, March 5

The Scripture readings for today are rather extensive: Psalms 50, 59, 60, 19, 46; Deut. 9:23-10:5; Heb 4:1-10; John 3:16-21.

The early Psalms have a weight to them...filled with concern, sorrow, doubt, even fear. The last two shift the focus back to God's character as a security and source of our protection. Deuteronomy's text also shifts from the failure and sin -- manifested in stubborn rebellion to the ways of God -- to the reminder that God's character is displayed in his law and it doesn't shift with time. Instead his law, his ways, his character remain ever constant in shifting times of culture and history.

The writer in Hebrews calls me to "enter into the Sabbath rest" that comes through Jesus Christ. John's gospel brings it all to a crescendo: God has poured out his love and light to us in the gift of Jesus to the world in which we live.

The Lenten season is not just a reminder of the triumph of Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection. Thanks be to God for that triumph; yet, Lent also calls me to acknowledge my own doubts, my fears, my lack of faith, even rebellion against God.

The Bible has a word for what state we often find ourselves in: "Weakness". The Apostle Paul stated it so clearly in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB)
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

For much of my life I've skipped over the "weakness" part to proclaim the "power" and "strong" part. It's natural to want to avoid "weaknesses, insults, distresses, even persecutions". They are not very impressive goals to desire, are they?
When Paul wrote this passage he was completely vulnerable about the condition he often found himself in. The Greek/Roman world Paul lived in was immersed in the idea of cosmic powers - gods and goddesses - that people had to learn how to cooperate with in order to live successfully, prosperously, healthily, and safely (to name a few). Paul's background was immersed in the theology of God (Jehovah) as the God of Israel - the God who had redeemed them out of Egypt, given them his laws, and established them as a nation. God exercised power to establish, protect, and also to discipline, even to the point of the exile.

God's power is manifested in Jesus as the reality of God's Kingdom and is displayed in Jesus' works: healing, deliverance, preaching, teaching - all elements of the Kingdom that leads us to freedom in the Kingdom of God.

Yet, in the end, it is "weakness" that defines the ultimate work of God through his son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who's death on the cross becomes the means by which God displays ultimate power - the power even over death.

I am going to write more on this theme over the days ahead. It is enough to remind us that we must learn how to embrace weakness if we are to ever get to power.

A Prayer for today:

"Father of mercy...By your Son's death and resurrection demolish our pretensions of strength, and on the ruins build a temple worthy of your name, so that all the world may know the glory of your transforming power shown in Jesus Christ our Lord."
(In For All the Saints, 633)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lent - Day 8, Wed. March 4

The scripture readings for today are: Psalms 119:49-72, Psalms 49 & 53; Deuteronomy 9:13-21, Heb 3:12-19, John 2:23-3:15

All of these passages became alive within me. It's the beginning of the second week in Lent and I cannot help but see in the passages how important it is to deal with hardness of heart, of deceitfulness of sin, of the spirit denying flesh within me, and the beauty of the grace of God manifested in Jesus Christ.

So many of the things that weigh me down in the spirit and keep me from the life of God can happen so subtly. A busy day that gets wrapped up in busyness, performance, and duties also becomes a day to not stop, pray, re-focus heart, motives, attitudes, thoughts, and desires around what my purpose for doing all of things is about. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I was busy, but more making busyness, and the result was that I found myself realizing that I can be praised for "all that you get done", but at the same time, lonely within for God's presence and fellowship.

Henri Nouwen - my distant mentor in writing beyond the grave - said, "Jesus stressed the hidden life. Whether we give, pray or fast, we are to do it in a hidden way, not to be praised by people but to enter into closer communion with God."

Lent is a time to return to God; to confess how we can look for joy, satisfaction, approval in people and things that surround us -- all which might be gifts of God -- but are not God, and that is what my soul is really longing for.

A Prayer for Today:

"Father of mercy and light, have mercy on me. Shed your light on me by the work of your Holy Spirit given in me through Jesus your Son. May I SEE, HEAR, and LOVE what you desire. May the meditations of my heart and the words from my lips be filled with this mercy and light. Through Jesus Christ my Lord I pray. Amen"

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lent, Day 6, Monday March 2

The scripture readings for today are:
Psalms: 41, 52, 44; Deut. 8:11-18 Heb. 2:11-18 John 2:1-12

I am drawn to the text in Deuteronomy -- it is one of my favorite passages in all of the scripture, so it's a real treat to be able to spend some time in these daily readings in that passage. I am going to emphasize a few of the words/phrases for my own sake in today's reading. It says:,

Deuteronomy 8:11-18 (NASB)
11 "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today;
12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them,
13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies,
14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

15 "He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint.
16 "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.
17 "Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.'
18 "But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

In a day and time when the economic news is the main news, and it's not usually good news, it is even more important to read those words and let them rest in our soul. There's warnings against: pride, selfishness, complacency, even prosperity!

Why is it that we so easily forget God?

I think we lack the intentionality, and intensity, that go along with a clear focus. As I got out of the car today a jet was overhead, making it's approach to the airport for landing and I thought, how many times has that pilot done that? Perhaps he/she is new and so is mentally thinking about every detail...he/she is focused and intense, and intentional. Perhaps he/she is a veteran and has done this 1000's of times. Wouldn't you and I - especially if we were on the plane - still want him/her to be focused and intentional? I purposely left out the word "intense" because intensity might not always serve our purposes, but to be focused, intentional does.

Should we be no less focused and intentional in our pursuit of God in living. Let us do so, so that we might not "forget" and therefore "assume" that we can live by our own "power and strength".

"O Lord, our Father, because without you we cannot please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit would in all things direct and rule our hearts, by faith in Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lent - Day 5, Sunday

The daily readings for today are:
Psalms 63, 98, & 103 Deut 8:1-10 1 Cor 1:17-31 Mark 2:18-22

In my readings today I have great affinity for Deuteronomy 8.

Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (NASB)
1 "All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.
2 "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
3 "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
4 "Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.
5 "Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
6 "Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
7 "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills;
8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;
9 a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
10 "When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.

I can't help but read over and over again in the passage of God's ways of weakness. He "led" them. He "tested" them. He "fed" them. He "disciplined" them. All of this was "humbling", a sure sign of teachability, of a willingness to stop and pay attention to what is going on around us.
It is foolish to live in such a way that ignores the signposts of the journey of life. God is active, that is what Moses is saying. He is not a passive God who ignores his people; and he is involved in such a way that we "live" by His word, and we experience His provisions, and as well his provisions...not necessarily the material ones, but the ones that lead back to praise.

"Father, we have eaten of your word, and eaten of your provisions; and we bless you. We honor you, glorify your name, and say thank you for all that is ours because of your favor and grace. In Jesus' name, amen."