Lent Devotions 2012: Thursday 8th March

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep”. John 10:11

Jesus drew a distinction between Himself as the “good” shepherd and others who claim to be shepherds. He goes on to explain that the essential character of the good shepherd is that he gives his life for the sheep.

The word for “life” refers to much more than physical life. It carries the idea of essence, or all that makes us who we are. The same word is used to describe the greater love: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). He demonstrated this greater love by suffering death on a cross for the forgiveness of all our sins.

Jesus was declaring that He was the ONLY one to be followed and trusted because He was the only one who cared for the sheep and loved them as His own. In every flock there are those who seek destruction and self-gratification. They try to lead us away from the Word of God.

We should aspire to be like Jesus and be shepherds who truly love their sheep and are prepared to make sacrifice for those entrusted into their care. Jesus gave of Himself in ways we can’t even understand. We humbly receive His gift. “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:7). Let’s give our all for our fellow sheep and bow down and worship the Good Shepherd.

We thank You, Good Shepherd, for making us Your sheep. May we always remember how many benefits that brings us. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Wednesday 7th March

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” I Corinthians 9:24-25

Why is endurance so important? Aren’t the results of my efforts guaranteed? If we are to take seriously the numerous warnings and exhortations that are presented in the New Testament, we had better consider the possibility that our endurance is not so certain. While our salvation is quite certain and totally secure, our success in our Christian lives and ministries is not. That is why the Scriptures teach that living for God’s approval requires finishing well. Paul tells us to run the Christian race with the intent to win the prize at the end of the race. Paul’s audience knows that in any race there can only be one winner. This prize is offered to each and every believer. Unlike a foot race, we’re not competing against each other. Every Christian can win the prize. That’s good news because there will always be someone faster, stronger, or smarter than us. But that’s okay, because you and I are running against opportunities God gives us, not what He gives other Christians. We are competing against ourselves.

The Christian’s prize is the honour and glory of eternal rewards. It is the joy of hearing Jesus say, ‘Well done!’ This is the amazing grace of God. We receive salvation as a free gift and then the Lord blesses us on top of that with temporal and eternal rewards for faithfully serving Him.

Unlike the athletic crown, our victor’s crown will affect us forever and ever. Paul states that our reward is “imperishable”—it is eternal! The Christian life is not a race to achieve entrance into heaven. We are saved by grace, not by effort or discipline or obedience or good works or anything else we do. We are saved by believing, not by achieving.

For this amazing gift make us truly thankful, Lord God. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Tuesday 6th March

“I am poured out like water;
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.”
Psalm 22: 14-16

I am poured out like water: I am weak and ineffective. I spread my efforts wide, pushing bits of this and that around with me, but turn course at every major obstacle and finally evaporate, leaving a messy mark on all that I touched. But, my Lord Jesus poured out His blood for many for the forgiveness of sins.

All my bones are out of joint: I am overwhelmed, unable and inflexible. My paltry goals seem unattainable. Life’s demands stretch me too far. To stray from my self-appointed course on behalf of another would surely be more than I could bear. But, my Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection embraced each race, each generation, and each demand of the law.

My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast: I am too easily influenced, too distracted too indifferent. The heat of others’ strong opinions presses against the malleable sentiments surrounding my mustard-seed faith. Molten, I take the middle-ground. But, my Lord Jesus, a rock of offence, compressed by a world of sin, sought mercy for His crucifiers, care for His mother, salvation for His world.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd: I am brittle and broken. The effects of Adam’s sin and my own sinful indulgences leave my body a crumbling vessel, detestable and hazardous to my neighbour. But, my Lord Jesus, whose body thirsted and died on the cross, is a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

My tongue sticks to my jaws: I am a mute witness. Though I have drunk of this life-giving water, I hold my peace, or I babble about myself. I pretend that the silent smile on my face will give my neighbour the cross to cling to in his hour of need. But, my Lord Jesus, whose words calmed storms and fed thousands, who was silent like a sheep led to the slaughter, was exalted so that at His name every knee would bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

You lay me in the dust of death: I am dying. My days are numbered. Accident, age, and illness grind away at this body daily and will finally reduce it to dirt. But, my dear Lord Jesus laid down His body, His life in death. And after three days in the earth He took it up again. He is the resurrection and the life and, as I believe in Him, though I die, so shall I live.

My Lord Jesus, in Your mercy You have redeemed me. To You be all glory and praise, now and forever. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Monday 5th March

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:68

That’s why we (should) come to church or read Scripture – Jesus has eternal life for us, and it is particularly accessible to us in those places.

Fittingly, many biblical verses are embedded in our church liturgy. These include: “you have the words of eternal life”, which form part of the Alleluia in between the epistle and the gospel readings. This positioning reminds us that what we’re about to hear read out is not ‘only’ Scripture but the actual words and deeds of Jesus.

And Jesus is not just flesh like the other people in the Bible – He is man and God. Peter’s explanation of why he – and we – need Jesus is an acknowledgment of spiritual poverty. We can help ourselves not at all. We come to church because we realise that we are not enough by ourselves. As Jesus said a few verses earlier: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” (v.63).

In those verses preceeding our text, Jesus’ hearers were offended by His teaching of His own divinity. He taught that their own righteousness or ancestral pedigree were not enough. Some therefore deserted Him. Jesus asks Peter if he will go too. Gloriously, this is one of the points where Peter really gets the point. His reply – our text – is akin to G K Chesterton’s insight: ‘It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it’s that it has been found difficult and left untried.’ Peter does not demand that the Christian life must be easy for him to follow it, simply that there is no other show in town.

It is when we lose sight of Peter’s declaration that Jesus’ words are the words of eternal life that we run aground: when we focus more on flesh than Spirit, more on us than Jesus. We all constantly fall back into our old errors and sins – and chief among them, trust in ourselves rather than in God. We need to participate in liturgical statements like this, week in and week out, to help drag us back to a right understanding of our own sufficiency (zero) and of God’s (infinite).

You have the words of eternal life
You are Jesus Christ the Lord.
Hosanna to the Son of David
Hosanna to the King of Kings
Glory in the highest heaven
For Jesus the Messiah reigns.

(You are the king of glory)

Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Saturday 3rd March

“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” John 18:33

Pilate at this point went back inside the praetorium to question Jesus (it is not clear whether Jesus himself had been brought inside prior to this). He asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” It is difficult to discern Pilate’s attitude at this point. Imagine yourself saying that sentence. Try saying it over and over but at each time change the inflexion on each word. As you do so, the sentence can show us its many meanings. Try “Are You the King of the Jews?” with resultant feeling of unbelief. “Are You the King of the Jews?” gives the feeling of incredulity and sarcasm, but “Are You the King of the Jews?” seems to be suggesting that the Roman governor was impressed by Jesus’ regal disposition and dignity. “Are You the King of the Jews?” seems to be implying that His royalty is not in question but asking whether He is just restricted to dominion over the Jews.

As we go further in the chapter we find that Pilate probably thought Jesus to be harmless (hence innocent) in his Roman eyes. However, in today’s world, how do we discharge our duties when in positions of power? Do we mislead people by asking the right question in the wrong way? Do we just avoid pursuing the truth because we feel it is not our position to pry? Sometimes, we have to burst into other people’s business to make sure greater wrongs are not perpetrated. How many children would be alive today if someone had just decided to ask that difficult question or gone into that house to make sure they were alright?

As Edmund Burke said “All that is needed for the forces of evil to succeed is for enough good men to remain silent”.

Lord Jesus, inspire us by Your courage to be bold in Your service, however difficult that may be. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: 2nd March

“And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” Luke 23:43

Wonderful words, words of grace, spoken to the dying thief, coming from the lips of our Saviour, in His agony on the cross. Wonderful words, words of hope for sinners who are genuine and truly sorry for their wrongdoing and shortcomings. Today you will be with Me in Paradise. There is no purgatory. There is assurance, truly, of being in His presence.

There were two criminals crucified with Jesus. One mockingly asked for Jesus to save Himself and them if He was the Christ. The other rebuked him for his lack of reverence, and also said,” We are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He recognised that he deserved to be punished and he knew that Jesus had done nothing to deserve crucifiction. He also understood more about the nature of Jesus’ Kingdom than most of the other people gathered on Skull Hill, and appeals in faith to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus knew his heart, and He knows our hearts. He is looking for faith, faith in His perfect sacrifice made on our behalf on the Cross. He died for me, took the punishment I deserved, so that I can be with Him in Paradise. Wonderful love, wonderful grace!

Jesus, pitying the sighs
Of the thief, who near You dies,
Promising him paradise:
Hear us, holy Jesus.

May we in our guilt and shame
Still Your love and mercy claim,
Calling humbly on Your name:
Hear us, holy Jesus.

May our hearts to You incline
And their thoughts Your cross entwine.
Cheer our souls with hope divine:
Hear us, holy Jesus.
Amen. (LSB 447)

Lent Devotions 2012: 1st March

“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’” John 10:7

Jesus our Master, Shepherd, Friend,
Our guide on whom we can depend.
You’ve known us before life had begun,
You count your lambs Lord one by one.
Should any of us go astray,
You gently guide us on The Way.
Help us to weather the storms of life
Keep us safe from foe and strife.
Teach us to help all those who need
A guiding hand, a friendly deed
And when at Heaven’s door we wait
Admit us Lord – you are The Gate.

Amen.