Lent Devotions 2008: Tuesday 19 February

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts:
“I Am the First and I Am the Last;
besides me there is no god.”
(Isaiah 44:6)

The Israelites had a nasty habit of building idols when they felt things were not going according to their own particular way.

God has already taken the unique title, “The Lord”, in Isaiah 41:4, in the same context of proclaiming His Glory against their feeble false gods. An idol can never be the First, because an idol needs someone to make him. An idol can never be the Last, because they wear out and break (and are useless). But the Lord God of Israel is both the First and the Last; He is unique; besides Him there is no god.

Jesus takes the same title of the First and the Last in Revelation 1:17 and 22:13. If the Lord is the First and the Last according to Isaiah 44:6, and as Jesus is the First and the Last according to Revelation 1:17 and 22:13, since there cannot be two firsts or two lasts, Jesus must be our Lord God!

Do we not have our own favoured idols in our lives and society? Television, computers, work, drinking? – All useless crutches to cope with our earthly life. All to naught – when one embraces Our Lord, the First and the Last. What else do we need?

To our Lord, our Alpha & Omega, our First, our Last, we offer up humble praise, worship and thanks to You, for giving us this life and a promise of Salvation beyond it. All praise to You! Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Monday 18th February

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

The phrase, ‘Peace be with you’, is a common Hebrew greeting, one that Christ used very often when He entered into a room or met someone (see John 20:19,21,26).

But Jesus uses these words here in an unusual way. He is speaking to his disciples and explaining to them that the Holy Spirit sent by His Father, will dwell among them in His name.

This will bring an inner peace; a feeling of wellbeing and joy to them.

we too will have this inner peace and wellbeing if our Lord Jesus Christ is at the centre of our lives. He helps us to cope with our every day pressures that we encounter and helps us to trust and not be afraid.

Spirit of God, as strong as the wind,
Gentle as is the dove,
Give us Your Joy, and give us Your Peace,
Show to us Jesus’ Love. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Saturday 16th February

He (Jesus Christ) is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

Look at, or think about, a six week old infant. The child is cute, cuddly, and its parents are full of aspirations as to what the child will grow up to become. Six weeks prior to the beginning of Lent we celebrated the birth of a child, the Christ Child. What aspirations did Joseph and Mary have for their newborn Son? Would He be a contractor like Joseph? Would He be a rabbi? Due to the messages God’s Holy Angels gave both Joseph and Mary they knew baby Jesus would grow up to be somebody special.

Little did they realise Jesus would grow up to become a living sacrifice. Parents don’t dream about their sons dying a sacrificial horrific death for somebody else. That is exactly what the Christ Child did. Because we are sinners, because we cannot save ourselves, because we are spiritually lost, Jesus was born one of us, true man yet true God.

Jesus was born for one specific reason: to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, for the sins of humankind, for the salvation of all people. Those who believe this, those who believe Jesus is the only one true saviour, receive the gift of salvation.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to see, by The Grace of Your Spirit, that in Your Son coming to save the whole world, He has come to save every individual. As individuals, may we now all personally cling to the Life, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for our own salvation. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Friday 15th February

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” (John 8:12)

A few weeks ago, our neighbourhood experienced a series of power cuts. Some lasted just a few minutes and others for several hours – from early afternoon until the following morning. Without the aid of candles and torches we would have been in absolute physical darkness.

At these times one sees life differently and starts to realise how much we take for granted. This experience reminded me of our need to have Everlasting Light which will lead us to a spiritual realm. In this verse, our Lord declares Himself to be the Promised Messiah, of whom the prophet Isaiah in chapter 42 had spoken, “I will give thee for a light of the gentiles.”

The Lord has Risen like the sun to diffuse Light, Life, Peace and Salvation in the midst of this dark world. He visits all who want spiritual help and guidance so they can turn to Him and take Him for their Leader. To follow Christ is to commit ourselves entirely to Him as our Only Leader and Saviour. Following means believing. As Israel followed the pillar of cloud and fire in all their journeying, asking no questions, marching on in faith; so must we follow Christ! “He must follow The Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:4)

He that follows Christ shall not walk in darkness. This means he is not left in ignorance like many around him, but shall see the way to Heaven. He shall feel within him the Light of God’s Countenance shining on him. He shall find in his conscience and understanding a Living Light, which nothing can altogether quench.

The Spiritual Light that Christ gives us is independent of time or space. It is not affected by sickness or death. It burns forever. We should note the thing promised to whoever follows Jesus: the deliverance from darkness and possession of light.

Jesus, thank You for Your Light which scatters the darkness. Help us to be lights also to those who do not yet know You, that they may know the truth of Your Salvation. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Thursday 14th February

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Many years ago when I was a young, starry eyed, newly married wife, I kept asking my new young husband, “How much do you love me?” The usual reply was “Lots and lots”. Not content with this answer and wanting more reassurance, I asked, “Do you love me enough to give up your life for me?” And this in turn produced the usual shrug of the shoulders and reply, “You don’t need to ask”. This of course never satisfied me. I wanted complete reassurance and a definitive answer.

When I read this verse it reminded me of all those years ago and the reassurance I needed then. This verse assures me of something more important; the ultimate act of love; Jesus giving Himself up like a sacrificial ‘Lamb of God’.

My marriage was and is a great gift from God but Jesus is the greatest gift of all. The Son of God gave up his life for me and the whole world to completely take away our sin. Christ crucified and arisen for our sin is the only assurance I and the world need. ‘The Ultimate Act of Love.’

Lord God, may we all rejoice and always be assured of the love which only You can give us. ‘For You have delivered our souls from death; our eyes from tears; our feet from stumbling’ (Psalm 116:8). Today we offer You thanks for always staying near to us. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Wednesday 13th February

Far be it from me to boast except in The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

In this day and age it is clear that the world is full of enticements and pressure to conform to a standard defined by others. We are constantly reminded that ‘image is everything’ and we must think about how something will look before we act. Even when it comes to being ‘green’ which is admirable as stewards of God’s gifts, it is often the image that is considered most important. Many people are more concerned about looking ‘green’ than whether they are making a positive difference. Ensuring that there are labels on ‘green’ products or that their ‘green’ car stands out as being different is very important to some people. Surely, however, if the end result is positive, how can a little boasting be so bad?

It is clear from Galatians 6 that when it comes to our faith, Paul states that image is nothing. Outward boasting and the image of being a good or religious person are meaningless if not accompanied by true faith in Christ. We are of course called to provide an example to the world, but as a result of our faith guiding our actions, not to impress anyone. With the pressures of the world bombarding us, our only hope is to ask God to “crucify our sinful nature” (Galatians 5:24) and keep our eyes on the only true focus, Jesus Christ.

Lord help us to remember that:
Our hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness;
We dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, The Solid Rock, we stand;
All other ground is sinking sand. Amen.

(Toplady, TLH #370)

Lent Devotions 2008: Tuesday 12th February

The Rock, His work is perfect,
for all His ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

Whenever life seems so unfair,
Just look to God, He’s always there.
To guide us when the path is long,
Our perfect God can do no wrong.

With confidence we can face life,
With all its pitfalls, ills and strife.
Knowing that we are not alone,
He is our Rock and Cornerstone.

So let us all with one accord,
Give thanks to Him, our Faithful Lord. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Monday 11th February

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

In this season of reflection and preparation it is fitting that we direct our thoughts and meditations on love and sacrifice in our relation to God and our fellow man.  We all know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life.” (John 3:16)  God loved us so much that He gave His Only Son for us, when we were yet sinners, before we were even born.  His son, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed Himself for us, a sacrifice beautifully and powerfully described by Martin Luther in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles Creed:

“Jesus Christ has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature,
Purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil;
Not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood,
And with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own”

What an unspeakable gift!

In this passage the apostle Paul exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to imitate Christ, to love others sacrificially.  But what is meant by sacrifice?  St. Augustine, writing in ‘The City of God’, provided an insight into the spiritual sacrifices of the believer: “A true sacrifice is every work which is done in order that we may through holy fellowship inhere in God, and to the same end have regard for our neighbour.”

True sacrifices consist in love of God and our neighbour.

Lord Heavenly Father, thank You for sending us Your Son Jesus Christ as the True Sacrifice for all mankind. May this wisdom help us to sacrifice for our neighbours today. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Saturday 9th February

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12)

The book of Hebrews speaks to individual Jews, especially those who kept on sinning by continuing to offer up sacrifices for sins, through their wrongful reliance on the Law of Moses.

Under the New Covenant, or gospel dispensation, full and final pardon is to be had. This makes a vast difference between the old covenant and the new one. Under the old, sacrifices must often be repeated, but they were only shadows of the true sacrifice for all yet to come. Under the new covenant, one sacrifice is enough to procure for all the nations, ages, races and creeds. This is because Jesus had finally come. Spiritual pardon by this one sacrifice was made for all and now all are freed from punishment. And now all who have faith in Christ Jesus may receive the world to come.

Let no one suppose that human interventions can avail the son of God.

What then remains but that, already being Justified before the Father through the Son, we should sacrifice our lives in our everyday living by faith and by the Sanctification of the Spirit?

Lord may we learn from the Law that we fail. May we also, Lord, learn from the Gospel that not only has Jesus succeeded in the Law but that he has succeeded on our behalf also. Though our actions do not succeed now for Salvation may we still succeed as we live in this world, by Your will, to Your glory. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Friday 8th February

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

The natural instinct of human beings is always to turn religion into Law; into rules for what we are to do or not do. From this follows the equally natural instinct to turn Jesus into a new Moses, giving a new Law to a new people of God, just as Moses gave the Law to the Israelites in the Old Testament.

This was the mistake that Jesus was addressing in this famous statement. He is speaking to members of the 5,000 who had been miraculously fed the day before, but who seemed curiously unimpressed by what they had experienced. After all, feeding 5,000 wasn’t much compared with Moses’ achievement in giving the Israelites “bread from heaven” (manna) to eat in the wilderness, was it? (vv.30,31)

Jesus retorts that His listeners have misunderstood both Moses and Himself. It wasn’t Moses who had fed the Israelites in the wilderness; it was God who had given them “bread from heaven”. And Jesus wasn’t a new Moses, sent to introduce a new Law for God’s people. Rather, He was the new manna, sent by God to give life to the world.

So what does it mean to “come to Jesus”, the bread of life, today? Jesus gives a number of clues to this elsewhere in this chapter: recognising that He has “the words of Eternal Life” (v.68), eating His flesh and drinking His blood in the Lord’s Supper (v.54), believing in Him as the one sent by God (v.29).

Word, sacrament, faith: the daily life of the Church and of us as Christians. Here is no new Law, given by a new Moses. Rather, here is new Manna, as we come to Jesus and receive, as a gift, the Life that He came to give to the world.

Lord Jesus, may we come to You not as the new Lawgiver, but as the new Manna, the Bread of Life, whose Word satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst. Amen.