Hopeful Because …

When I taught Sunday school, I followed a routine each Sunday aimed at settling the students so we could have a conversation about Jesus and life. We had a snack, a beverage, watched a zany video (usually about people doing foolish things), and chatted about the world around us. We also placed our initials on a large scale that rated our week from bad to good.

While we munched on snacks, each student shared why they put their initial where they did. They told their week’s story while others listened and offered comments. The actual objective was to ensure they knew how to move away from a bad week, to good and how not to let something keep them down. One week, following a tragedy in the US, we placed our initials on the scale with a different question; “How did this make you feel.” 

Although the oldest student was only 14, youth are not blind to what is happening around them. Some had experienced bullies, some knew of family discord and family love, and almost every one of them knew of someone who had taken their lives because of not being able to cope. They were not oblivious to the message that culture pushed down their throat – YOLO (you only live once). So, when they got to talk about life, they spoke.  They knew what had happened. They watched the news. They watched people react. They were taught Jesus was with them when things seem to be at their worst. They have heard He is called the comforter and would take away their sorrows. They knew Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems, but just saying the name JESUS did not stop the bullying. Just saying JESUS did not make a father come home and just saying JESUS did not stop that tragic world event. They needed to know where Jesus was during this challenging time so that they could have hope. Jesus said he came so that we could have life to the fullest (John 10:10), and they needed to know that Jesus’ truth was possible. 

The discussion was profound. The students noted how people helped each other during the tragedy even though they did not know what happened or whether it could worsen.  They witnessed people loving one another. They reflected on the message they shared every week; love another and help a fallen buddy. The class was diverse, with students from North America, Europe, Africa, and Nepal, but not one child thought the tragedy was the fault of religion or a specific culture or God. All believed that many bad things happen around us because men and women have made choices that selfishly and purposefully hurt others. They also thought that they could help people in their time of need just by listening to them. 

Our world has changed over the past year. Our movements have been restricted, our ability to connect with family and friends reduced, and there is uncertainty when it will end or what will follow. As the virus continues and the restrictions remain in place (conditions meant to help ourselves and others), more and more people get angry because they feel they cannot do what they want to do. We are in a time where we must think of our safety but not forget about those around us. During this time, I remember the conversations the students had that morning because it contained hope. It was “do not to let the bad things get you down; feel upset, feel angry, but help someone.” Trust Jesus and feel hopeful because YOLO and that once can be a time of doing the good God has prepared for you. 

Quid set veritas – What is truth?

Pontius Pilate, the military commander of the occupational forces that oversaw the administration of Judea was governor when Jesus was crucified. As prefect he had the authority to implement justice, He alone made the political decision to have Jesus flogged and crucified. Ironically, Pilate attempted to hide the truth about his involvement by washing his hands in front of the crowd symbolically declaring that he was clean of all responsibility. Those watching knew the truth; Pilate had a role.  

Why did he try to distance himself from Jesus’ execution?

Was he troubled by the words Jesus spoke earlier when he stated, “everyone on the side of the truth listens to me?” (John 18:37b)

Was Pilate looking for truth when he replied to Jesus “what is truth” (John 18:38a) or was he being sarcastic?

What is the truth surrounding Jesus? Many of us have friends who need to hear Jesus’ story. You could invite a friend to a movie night and show one of the many good versions of Jesus story. Netflix has The Passion of the Christ and The Gospel of John (NIV and KJV version). There is also The Jesus Film and the 2003 Gospel of John.  Hollywood has made many movies that are less accurate but will get a conversation about Jesus started; movies such as Ben Hur, The Robe or even Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. 

There is a truth about Easter that needs to be shared with our family and friends. Maybe this is the Easter season that some may ask you “What is truth?” and you should be ready to share. Pray the Holy Spirit prepares the heart of someone you know to hear Jesus’ truth this week. Also, pray and ask God to use you to help someone understand the truth behind the celebration of Easter.

Not how, but WHY?

Christian blogs, magazines and even friends often offer advice on ways to improve ourselves so we can become “better” Christians. They list activities or actions that, if followed, could lead us closer to God. Although the advice comes from the heart, and is meant for good, it often leaves out a key component of the change, the needed influence of the Holy Spirit.

We don’t become Christians unless God chooses us, and we don’t change unless the Holy Spirit transform us. It is not about will power but God’s power.

Although God makes the choice as to whose eyes and hearts He will open, He doesn’t empower followers unless they allow it. Scripture tells us that we have choices including whether we want to follow Jesus or not. Being a Christ follower requires a mindset that points to God. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind (see Romans 12:2). We must intentionally choose to become followers so that we can honour and glorify God. We must purposefully seek to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength and we can’t do that without the Holy Spirit’s help.

There is an expression that states, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. God does not want us to imitate Jesus or flatter Him; as flattery can also suggest an insincere act or word used to impress the recipient. God wants our action to be sincere and pure. God wants us to be as Jesus is. When the Holy Spirit gets involved, our actions and behaviours should become Christ like. They then should become immediate responses to the Holy Sprit’s activity in our lives, not responses motivated by a desire to please God or get something from Him.

Don’t ignore the advice and guidance from sources that want you to be Christ like. Educate yourself as to what scripture describes as God’s attributes. Choose to become aware of the Holy Spirits nudging by listening and following His guidance. Seek confirmation from Christian friends or your pastor about what you are hearing but deliberately want more. However always remember that your desire to be Christ like should be for no reason other than to worship God.

It is not how we seek but why.

The Cross

The Apostle Paul wrote the letter known as 1 Corinthians to the church in Corinth because he heard they were straying from the teaching he shared and were going back to their old ways. In his letter, he reiterated that they must focus on his teaching, Christ crucified. Paul knew that preaching the crucified Jesus was a difficult concept for the people of those times to grasp and says as much in 1 Corinthians 1:23 “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

To the first listeners, the Cross was shocking, revolting, and offensive. They knew what crucifixion looked like, smelled like, and sounded like. The horrific sight of completely naked men in agony, the smell, the sounds of their groans, and laboured breathing going on for hours and, in some cases, for days was fresh in their minds. The Jewish community could not admit their Messiah was crucified like a criminal amongst other criminals. The gentiles could not accept the idea that the Saviour of the world was executed by the most horrible, painful, shameful, and ugly form of execution known to them at that time.

Someone wrote (I can’t remember who) that “sin is the poison that is killing and destroying the world and that the death of Jesus on the Cross is the antidote.” If asked, many Christians will say that Jesus had to die on the Cross for our sins. Most know there is a close connection between the Cross and human sin as this linking is firmly rooted in the New Testament. However, most Christians have a difficult time explaining why the death of Christ is the proper antidote for the poison of sin because they’ve never really come to grips with the poison. They know the correct answer, “Christ died for our sins,” but the answer seems superficial, hollow, and unconvincing when they respond. The loss of the general awareness of sin in culture over the past seventy-five years has resulted in a growing disconnect between the solution and the problem.

The idea of the Cross having any significance in a religious setting may have been scandalous to the Jewish people and silly to the Gentile, yet the Cross is the point of reference for the Christian faith. Christian faith is based upon it and judged by it. Christian theology, Christian worship, and Christian ethics stem from the Cross of Jesus. The Cross has meaning because of the significance of the person who was put to death on it and because of what his death accomplished.

Jesus went to the Cross to free us from the curse (Galatians 3:13), to reconcile us with God (Romans 10:5), and to save us from the consequence of sin (Romans 5:8). The Cross is the answer to the problem of sin, but very few people understand what the problem is or seem bothered by it? Can you take this time during this Lenten season to reflect on the poison you knowingly partake of even though it is offensive to yourself, those around you, and to God? Will you look to Jesus, the antidote, who wants to make you the human being you were created to be at the start of God’s plan.

The Good Shepherd

The Gospel of John chapter 10 contains the story of the Good Shepherd. In this story, he shares that a good shepherd will do all he can to ensure his sheep’s safety and comfort, even to the point of laying down his life for them.  He alludes to the efforts of those who came before Him. They attempted to guide the sheep but did not do so with love and compassion and had taken shortcuts. They wielded their responsibility and staff incorrectly and led with coercion, not cohesion.  The good shepherd loves and knows His sheep and wants what is good for them; when they follow His voice, they are not led astray.

The story is also a prelude to Jesus’ laying down of His life for humanity. However, it also contains a great reminder that His life was not just about going to the cross to reconcile us to God. Not only did Jesus come to lay down His life, but, as He stated, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b).


What is this full life?
Is it a life with plenty to eat, good health, all the money we want and few troubles to bother us?
Is i
t a life that is comfortable and convenient? 


In Matthew’s gospel, we read, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt 6:34) After sharing a way to pray, Jesus throws in this reminder that life is not always green pastures. He has warned us that we will suffer, but we can talk with our Father in Heaven and bring Him all our concerns. Scripture also reminds us that when Jesus ascended to heaven after rising from death, He sent the Comforter, his Holy Spirit, to help us through the darkness.

The year 2020 was filled with ugly stories of human folly, and 2021 looks to bring the same. The COVID virus has revealed humanity’s true depraved nature. We witnessed self-preservation, self-indulgence, and self-adulation as many turned to social media to sew discontent in our leadership. The preying on the already anxious and apprehensive, the spreading of false information became a way of life. Instead of turning to God and loving neighbours as self, the virus spawned the opportunity for evil to thrive.

To face what the world has become, we need to empty ourselves and become followers of Christ and servants of each other. To be a witness to others, we first need to place our trust in the Good Shepherd. It means getting to the point where we don’t even lift a finger on any activity or thought without surrendering control to Jesus. When we take our hands entirely off our lives and imitate Christ in our thoughts, actions, words, and opinions of others, we will realize that we don’t need more “things” in our lives; instead, we make do with what we have so that we have more to share with others.


This abundant life that the Good Shepherd Jesus died to give us causes us to want to share the good news with others.


So, we want to talk “Jesus” to those who will listen. This change of lifestyle is made possible by the Holy Spirit’s activity, which gives us a new spirit in tune with God’s purpose.

Daily we can go before the Lord and pour out our worries, anxieties, and fears at His feet. We should declare His promises for blessings of peace and strength over our life. We can listen for His voice. We can ask God to bring peace into our soul that passes all worldly understanding so we can be a light for others to see God’s strength.

Take Time to Be Still

On one of Jesus’ visits to the Temple, he expressed His anger as to what the Temple had become. The gospel of Matthew tells us in “Matthew 21:13”. He was frustrated that the Temple had become a business within a place of worship and that the hustle and bustle were drowning out God’s voice.

The world around us is noisy, and there seems no solitude from its noise. Even our churches are loud. However, that does not mean we can’t hear God or find Him or that we condemn church facilities. What it means is we need to be more intentional in our efforts to seek and praise Him. Maybe today, you can isolate yourself and spend some quiet time to hear God whisper to you. But if that is not possible, be comforted in knowing that He is with us no matter where we are as a follower of Christ. With your body/temple, become a house of prayer today.

  1. Set aside a minimum of 15 minutes (increase the time as you can). Set a timer to help you be less concerned about when you are to stop.
  2. Select a location where you will not be disturbed or distracted and then settle into a comfortable position.
  3. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God.
  4. Choose a simple word or verse of scripture that expresses your desire for God (e.g. love, peace, grace, Saviour, great shepherd). Let this word or phrase guard your attention.
  5. Take time to be quiet. It is not unusual for your first few minutes to be filled with noisy thoughts about activities in your life, family, work etc. Don’t worry about these thoughts and do not focus on them. Let them go and gently return your attention to God’s presence and love by repeating your sacred word. When your thoughts wander, let them drop and don’t go after them. Don’t focus or think about them.  Let them go and gently return your attention to God’s presence and love by repeating your sacred word.
  6. Rest in the center of God and trust the Holy Spirit who abides in the depths of your spirit to connect you with God.
  7. Take several minutes to come out of prayer. Don’t just end. Don’t hurry and breathe in the presence of God. Offer yourself to God for the task that awaits you (e.g. say “I am yours” or “Remain with me”).

Below is a link to help you set your time with God in Silence from Emotionally Healthy Discipleship. This 15-minute experience was created to provide a guided experience to help people integrate the spiritual practice of silence into their daily relationship with Jesus. Originally used in a sermon by Pete Scazzero at New Life Fellowship Church in 2010, it has since been expanded and revised to its present form. Enjoy!
Breathe: Being with God in Silence
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5_vOr6mPCA&t=453s

Praying with Scripture

During Lent we are using different scripture to reflect on Jesus, the cross and His resurrection. This would be an opportune time to use the practice known as Lectio Divina (divine reading) to gain more insight into what the scripture is saying to you. Below are steps of the practice.
Set aside time, and a place with no distractions.



“LECTIO DIVINA”

  1. Choose a scripture text for your meditation.
  1. Place yourself in a comfortable position.  Allow yourself to become still and silent inside.  Be aware of God’s presence within you and all around you.  With the eyes of your heart, take a moment and ‘look at God looking at you’.
  1. Now turn to the text you have chosen and read it slowly, gently.  Savour each portion of the reading, attentively listening for the “still, small voice” of God in a word or phrase that somehow seems to say, “Stop, listen…here I am…this is for your today.
  1. Allow yourself to be drawn more deeply into God’s presence and love through the word or phrase you have chosen; take the word or phrase into yourself by slowly repeating it to yourself.  Allow it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas.  Do not be afraid that the memories or thoughts that come are distractions.  They are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self.
  1. Then, respond to God in your own way.  Allow this inner pondering with God to lead you into a deeper relationship with the One who knows you and is with you.  Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important.  Just interact with God as you would with someone who knows and loves you deeply.  Give to God what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditating on this word or phrase.
  1. Then, let go and simply rest in God’s embrace…let the words and images go.  Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
  1. You may come to a point where you are ready to move on to another word or phrase.  You may proceed as in #2 above or else you may systemically ruminate on the text phrase by phrase.
  1. When you are ready to end your prayer, thank God for this time and conclude with an Our Father or some other favourite prayer.

Ash Wednesday

Week of Ash Wednesday

ASH WEDNESDAY

Confession: Psalm 51:1–4 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 8:27–33 (NIV)

Reflection: If Peter was called a stumbling-block by Jesus, as not minding the things of God in what he said but the things of men, what is to be said about all those who profess to be made disciples of Jesus, but do not mind the things of God? [What is to be said about those who] do not look to things unseen and eternal, (but mind the things of man) and look to things seen and temporal? Would they be seen by Jesus as a stumbling block to Him, and because they are stumbling blocks to Him, as stumbling blocks to His followers also? In regard to them He says, “I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink,” so also, He might say, “When I was running you caused me to stumble.” Let us not therefore suppose that it is a trivial sin to mind the things of men—since we ought in everything to mind the things of God. —Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

Response: How are you mindful of the “things of people”? Are you harboring mindsets, possessions, goals, and desires that are incompatible with God and His kingdom? Make a list of these things and pray about them.

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THURSDAY

Confession: Psalm 51:5–8

 Reading: Mark 8:34–9:1 (NIV)

Reflection: Some are saying, Oh, that the world was crucified to me and I to the world! Oh, that my heart were as dead as a stone to the world and alive to Jesus! Do you truly wish it? Look, then, to the cross. Behold the amazing gift of love.… Sit down like Mary, and gaze upon a crucified Jesus. Then will the world become a dim and dying thing. When you gaze upon the sun, it makes everything else dark; when you taste honey, it makes everything else tasteless; so, when your soul feeds on Jesus, it takes away the sweetness of all earthly things—praise, pleasure, and fleshly lusts all lose their sweetness. Keep a continued gaze. Run, looking unto Jesus. Look, till the way of salvation by Jesus fills up the whole horizon, so glorious and peace-speaking. Then will the world be crucified to you, and you unto the world. Robert McCheyne – Glorifying in the Cross

Response: Has the cross changed the desires of your heart? During the season of Lent, many choose to fast or refrain from certain practices. If you have done so, are you focusing your gaze upon the cross?

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FRIDAY

Confession: Psalm 51:9–12 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 9:2–13(NIV)

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first? “Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

Reflection: If other men cannot read our motives, we ought at least to examine them carefully for ourselves. Day by day, with extreme rigor, must we search our hearts. Motive is vital to the goodness of an action. He who gives his body to be burned might yet lose his soul if his ruling passion were obstinacy and not desire for God’s glory. Self may be sought under many disguises, and a man may be utterly unaware that thus he is losing all acceptance with God.

We must not impute ill motives to others, but we must be equally clear of another more fascinating habit—that of imputing good motives to ourselves. Severity in estimating our own personal character very seldom becomes excessive; our partiality is usually more or less blinding to our judgment. We will not suspect ourselves if we can help it; evidence must be very powerful before it can convince us of being governed by sordid aims. The stream of generosity does not always spring from gratitude to God. Zeal is not at all times the offspring of deep-seated faith. Even devotional habits may be fostered by something other than holy affections. The highest wisdom suggests that we spend much patient and impartial consideration upon a matter so fundamental as the heart’s intent in the actions which it directs. “If your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt 6:22). Dear reader, stand by your inner springs and watch, and make faithful notes of what you see, lest you be deceived. Charles H. Spurgeon – Springs Uncovered

Response: Do you know yourself for who you truly are? This knowledge is not an end in itself, nor does it end with ourselves. Truly knowing ourselves means we are constantly fleeing to Jesus. Set time aside daily to honestly examine the motives of your heart and then turn to God in prayer.

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SATURDAY

Confession: Psalm 51:13–19 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 9:14–29 (NIV)

Reflection: The praying sinner receives mercy because his prayer is grounded on the promise of pardon made by Him whose right it is to pardon guilty sinners. The penitent seeker after God obtains mercy because there is a definite promise of mercy to all who seek the Lord in repentance and faith. Prayer always brings forgiveness to the seeking soul. The abundant pardon is dependent upon the promise made real by the promise of God to the sinner.

While salvation is promised to him who believes, the believing sinner is always a praying sinner.… “Behold he prays” is not only the unfailing sign of sincerity and the evidence that the sinner is proceeding in the right way to find God, but it is the prophecy of abundant pardon. Get the sinner to praying according to the divine promise, and he then is near the kingdom of God. The very best sign of the returning prodigal is that he confesses his sins and begins to ask for the lowliest place in his father’s house.

It is the divine promise of mercy, of forgiveness and of adoption which gives the poor sinner hope. This encourages him to pray. This moves him in distress to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me” (Luke 18:38). E. M. Bounds -The Possibilities of Prayer

Response: Like the father of the child in Mark 9:14–29 and the prodigal son—needy and at the end of themselves—may you, too, cry out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Confess your sin today, seek God, and know that you find mercy because He is merciful.

Lent – Week 1

MONDAY

Confession: Psalm 25:1–5 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 9:30–32 (NIV)

Reflection: Oh, do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed. He willingly said, “Lo, I come,” though under no obligation so to do, “to do your will,” to obey and die for men, “O God!” Did you weep just now, when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, the wood laid in order, and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith. Behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel—not bound, but nailed on a cursed tree. See how he hangs crowned with thorns and in derision of all that are around Him. See how the thorns pierce Him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down His sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how He bows His head, and at length humanity gives up the ghost! Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies. A ram is offered up in Isaac’s room, but Jesus has no substitute. Jesus must bleed. Jesus must die. God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time, or man must be damned for evermore.

And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No; rather let me exhort you to look to Him whom you have pierced. Mourn as a woman mourneth for her first-born. For we have been the betrayers, and we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory. Shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? Having so much done, so much suffered for us, so much forgiven, shall we not love much! Oh! let us love Him with all our hearts, and minds, and strength, and glorify Him in our souls and bodies, for they are His. – George Whitefield – Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac

Response: Christ willingly died for you and has forgiven you. Consider the paths you have turned from and the roads that you are treading on right now. Pray that you would do everything out of love for Him and a desire to use your time for Him.

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TUESDAY

Confession: Psalm 25:6–10 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 9:33–41 (NIV)

Reflection:  What do we intend to do as a Church for Christ Jesus, “whom the king wishes to honor” (Esther 6:6)? Let me answer briefly.

Believe Him. Christ is always very pleased with His people’s faith. Beloved, confide in Him. Tell Him your troubles. Pour out your hearts before Him. Trust the merit of His blood, the power of His arm, the love of His heart. There is no box of precious ointment whose smell will more delight Him than your simple, unwavering faith.

He is a God of love: If you would give Him something choice, show Him your love. Let your heart go after Him, and with the arms of your love embrace Him. Charles H. Spurgeon – What Shall Be Done for Jesus?

Response: Jesus ushers in the kingdom of God. The ways of this kingdom often defy our ambitions and expectations. During this season of Lent, how are God’s ways overtaking your ways? Pray for the trust and love of a child. Pray that you would be a willing and humble disciple. 

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WEDNESDAY

Confession: Psalm 25:11–15 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 9:42–50 (NIV)

Reflection: There is a perfect cure for all the ills that man is heir to. There is a cure that is sovereign, sufficient, sure, and speedy. Jesus Christ announced that cure long ago, but most men and women have not listened, and so our evils, miseries, and despair continue. You will find that our Lord Jesus Christ proposed the cure for all our ills in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to me, all of you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to carry and my burden is light.” Christ Jesus Himself is the cure for all our evils. He came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). He does it for all who receive Him. Poverty, sickness, bereavement, failure, bitterness of heart, despair, and death—as well as sin and unbelief—are all works of the devil. We can have done with them by coming to Jesus, the Christ of God.

I propose to take up these various evils and show how Jesus, the Christ of God, is the cure for them all and how each one of us may be done with them right now. – R. A. Torrey – The Gospel for Today

Response: What sins are present in your life right now? Ask your spouse or a trusted friend in your church community to help you recognize and address these sins. Pray that God would shed light on the darkness in your life and use you to spread light.

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THURSDAY

Confession: Psalm 25:16–18 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 10:1–12 (NIV)

Reflection: See a teacher’s wisdom.… By His argument He showed that it was the commandment of His Father, and that not in opposition to Moses did He command these things, but in full agreement with him. Notice Him arguing strongly not only from the creation, but also from His command. For He not only said that He made one man and one woman only, but that He also gave this command that the one man should be joined to the one woman.… But now both by the manner of the creation, and by the manner of lawgiving, He showed that one man must dwell with one woman continually, and never break off from her.  John Chrysostom – Homilies of St. John Chrysostom

Response: Jesus comes with authority. How are you eager for Him to reign in all parts of your life—your relationships, your work, your thoughts, and your goals?

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FRIDAY

Confession: Psalm 130:1–4 (NIV)

Reading: Mark 10:13–16 (NIV)

Reflection: When our Lord blessed the little children, He was making His last journey to Jerusalem. It was thus a farewell blessing which He gave to the little ones. It reminds us that among His parting words to His disciples, before He was taken up, we find the tender charge, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). The ruling passion was strong upon the great Shepherd of Israel, who “will gather the lambs in his arm[s], and he will carry them in his bosom” (Isa 40:11); and it was fitting that while He was making His farewell journey, He should bestow His gracious benediction upon the children.

Beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ is not here among us in person; but we know where He is, and we know that He is clothed with all power in heaven and in earth to bless His people. Let us then draw near to Him this day. Let us seek His touch in the form of fellowship and ask the aid of His intercession. Charles H. Spurgeon – As a Little Child

Response: Jesus says we must welcome in the kingdom of God like a child. What areas of your life are marked by self-sufficiency? Is your posture like that of a child—totally reliant on God and receptive to Him?

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SATURDAY

Confession: Psalm 130:5–8 (NIV).

Reading: Mark 10:17–31 (NIV

Reflection: The law says, you shall not commit adultery; but you may not even desire—kindling passion by curious and earnest looks. You shall not kill, says the law; but you are not even to return a blow. On the contrary, you are to offer yourself to the smiter. How much more ascetic is the gospel than the law! You shall not swear is the law; but you are not to swear at all, either a greater or a lesser oath, for an oath is the parent of perjury. You shall not join house to house, nor field to field, oppressing the poor; but you are to set aside willingly even your just possessions, and to be stripped for the poor, that without hindrance you may take up the cross and be enriched with the unseen riches. Gregory Nazianzen – Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Response: What cares of this world have you elevated above following Jesus? Sometimes we prioritize even good things above our call to discipleship. Pray that your desire to follow Jesus would trump all of the good things in your life.

Lent a time of Preparation

Forty is a significant number in the Bible. It signals a state of waiting and preparation. Genesis shows us Noah and his family shut up in the ark, enduring the rains for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:17). Moses spends another 40 days and nights atop a mountain, neither eating nor drinking as he experiences the presence of God (Exodus 34:28). Numbers 14 shows the Lord, fed up with the grumbling of the Israelites, condemning them to 40 years of wandering in the desert. Mirroring the Old Testament, the gospel writers of the New Testament show Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, and being tempted by Satan: “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:12, NIV).

Following this pattern, Christians from many church traditions have marked the occasion of Jesus’ death and resurrection by a similar period of fasting known as Lent. The traditional calendar for Lent goes from Ash Wednesday to Easter, with exceptions for Sundays (always a feast day). This devotional follows that format—40 devotionals spanning 46 days.  Devotionals will be posted on our FACEBOOK site starting Ash Wednesday.

Lent is a time of preparation; a season of prayer, fasting and repentance. It’s a time for reflecting on our shared experience of the suffering, death and glorious resurrection of Christ, the very center of our faith. Lent is a time of self-examination that should lead us to the end of our self-sufficiency and to full dependence on Jesus. However you mark this season, we hope that this devotional will enhance your meditations on Christ’s redeeming work. May this season be one of repentance, hope and joy in the resurrection of Christ; one that will last beyond these 40 days.