Lent Devotions 2008: Friday 29th February

I Am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14)

What comforting words Jesus says in this verse; how wonderful that He knows each one of us and that we know Him.

Though through our daily sinfulness we are not worthy of such a Good Shepherd, we know that the depth of God’s love is limitless. God showed us this through the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross.

Saviour, like a shepherd lead us,
much we need Thy tenderest care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
Be the Guardian of our way;

Keep us all, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Lent Devotions 2008: Thursday 28th February

The Lamb came and took the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne. (Revelation 5:7)

This verse is in the middle of a vision, given to St. John, that starts at the beginning of chapter 4. The vision is of heaven itself with the God Almighty, the Eternal Father on the throne. Four mysterious creatures are worshipping Him continually, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (4.7) Then 24 elders fall down before Him and praise Him in these words, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things and by Your will they existed and were created.” (4.11)

These words are paralleled by another song of praise, sung by the four mysterious creatures and the 24 elders, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom of priests to our God and they shall reign on the earth.” (5.9-10)

Who was worthy? And why was it such a big deal?

In v.2 of ch. 5, an angel asked this first question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Then in verse 3, no one was found in heaven or earth who was able to open the scroll. Then St. John starts to cry loudly because no one was found, until one of the elders said to him, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Only Jesus was worthy, because it needs someone who has conquered death, so you can search through the ages and find only Jesus is worthy, because a holy man or a prophet is inadequate in some way; it needs the sinless Son of God. No prophet is perfect, not Gandhi nor Buddha nor Mohammed nor John the Baptist. ONLY JESUS.

The scroll is first mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 5; it is clearly a scroll of prophecy. It has seven seals and the last is only opened in chapter 8. In verse 5 Jesus is called a Lion – the Lion of Judah – and in the next verse He is a Lamb. The whole chapter is full of symbols, showing how He fulfils Old Testament prophecy, but if you read this literally, it is almost a grotesque picture – a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes – how peculiar. But to a Jew, seven is the number of perfection.

The important point is that this was a Lamb that had been slain, led like a lamb to the slaughter, echoing the words of Isaiah 53. Jesus died at Calvary for us, to redeem us, to wash away our sins and to make us one with God. Therefore we can rejoice with the words of verses 12 and 13, which are the last words of Handel’s Messiah before the final Amen,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb, forever and ever.” Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Wednesday 27 February

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is The Power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

It is easy to forget the shame the cross represented at the time when Paul lived. Only criminals and disobedient slaves were crucified. Then and now, the world finds the message of the cross difficult to swallow. Glamour and success are much more attractive! In fact, those who resist the wonderful gift of Salvation, given to us through Christ’s death and resurrection, probably think that Christians are wasting their time – to them we must seem foolish to believe in a God who experienced the humility and shame of death on the cross.

But their rejection of God’s gift has tragic consequences – they have in fact signed their own death warrant and although they may not realise it, they are perishing. And so would we, if it were not for the message of the cross!

Our Old Adam is daily rising to the surface and we know that we are helpless to save ourselves. But the power of God is manifested to us through the message of the cross, and daily our Old Adam is drowned as we live in our Baptismal Grace. Thanks be to God for His wonderful gift of Salvation!

Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise for the wonderful gift of Salvation through the death and resurrection of your beloved Son Jesus Christ. We know that it is foolish to rely on ourselves and that it is only through your saving power that we receive the gift of everlasting life. Help us to put our confidence and trust in you alone. We ask this through Your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Tuesday 26 February

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him.
(Psalm 103:13)

Our Lord shows us that He has compassion on His children but also to those who fear Him.

He is slow to anger showing that He harbours no ill will toward us. Because we are sinners He removes our transgressions from us through the love of His Son and His Willing Spirit.

The Lord treats all His people equally with His Spirit and His Love shows them that His Kingdom will last forever.

May You, gracious Lord, look over us with Your great love and compassion and forgive us, for we see that we are the sinners of this world. Lord we fear You and come to You as Your Children for forgiveness. Help those who do not fear You as Your Children to come to You in repentance so they need not fear anymore but call themselves Your Children too. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Monday 25th February

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds; for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

I never have questions about my faith. I don’t run into trials. My patience is never tested…

Wait a minute… I did have an argument with my friend the other day. I wasn’t very patient with him and certainly wasn’t in my thoughts.

Maybe God sent that as a trial for me.

Wait a minute… Do I have the right faith if I am so easily overcome by my emotions in everyday life?

Do you ever find yourself asking this question? Maybe your friend asks you about your faith directly and you don’t know how to respond. The fact remains that we are tested as Christians. Our faith is put into question.

The author of James tells us to be joyful in our trials. The source of this joy is the one that was sent to us from our Heavenly Father, who shared with us the tests and questions of this world and who ultimately stood before the Father under the Heavenly trial that would determine the fate for all mankind.

Jesus Christ passed every test. This is why at the end of the day we do not fall into despair but are only strengthened by our daily trials. For in our trials, knowing the ultimate result of Christ’s victory over death, our own steadfastness in the faith increases with every test.

We know we fall short. But we also know the one who has not fallen short. Our faith does not rest on whether we continue to fall short but on whether Christ will continue to forgive our sins.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, never doubt that God will forgive us. For when Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21 how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus responded with an uncountable number. How much more will God be willing to forgive you?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the wisdom to see that we are indeed tested and that You are with us when we face our trials because You face them with us. Give us the strength to face our trials head on and grant us mercy when we fail. And at the end of our lives Lord grant us Your Ultimate Grace, which is Salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ alone. Uphold our faith so that we may cling to that promise today with steadfastness. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Saturday 23rd February

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive Eternal Life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

In Galatians 1:15, the Apostle Paul said that God set him apart from birth to be His chosen instrument in the spreading of the Gospel to the Gentiles. But what are we to make of the fact that Paul, before his conversion on the Damascus road, severely persecuted the Church which God had intended for him to advance? Paul thought he was doing the right thing as a loyal Israelite, persecuting this non-Jewish/pagan religion. Had God lost control of His servant Saul as he was imprisoning believers and stoning prophets such as Stephen? He was supposed to have been separated from birth wasn’t he?

Perhaps the only adequate answer we can give is that God had a mysterious plan for Saul. Though Saul fell into such blatant sin, God allowed this for quite a considerable time as He had in mind for him to be the most meaningful example of all. Saul was to become the great Paul, the gospel-driven apostle. And Paul answers this question in the last verse of this text: “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who wouldn’t believe on Him and receive Eternal Life.”

Some people today actually think God won’t forgive them. What they’ve done is too bad to be forgiven. Today is a lesson for you if you are one of them. You should take comfort in the fact that God has forgiven a man like Saul, who was the worst of sinners. Even he was given another chance. A second life if you will.

If God can show mercy to a man such as Paul used to be, a blasphemer and persecutor of believers, then it’s not too late for the likes of you and me. We can still believe in Christ to save us. God took on all of Paul’s failings and sins; even whilst he was not in the short term glorifying Him.

God eventually turned him around to serve His ultimate purpose. As it turned out, Paul was then used to save many more by the spreading of this Gospel.

Lord may we in turn be moved by this Gospel Message; to have our lives be used according to Your purpose. May we take heart and share the Good News of Your Salvation to the rest of the world around us. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Friday 22nd February

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

Have you been confused as to which door to enter? Shakespeare mixes up characters, so that participants in the play are misled as to who is who. I attended an amusing production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at The National Theatre, which heightened confusion of characters by having them enter and leave by banks of several doors.

Jesus quite clearly and unambiguously says, “I Am The Door/Gate”. This emphatic “I Am” construction is a clear self-identification with God, who in Ex.3 identifies Himself as “I Am who I Am”. The “I Am” sayings of Jesus always give strong emphasis upon salvation. Here, we find His strong, protective-sense care for His sheep. No longer will His Church listen to the devil and his own, who seek to enter the fold by the wrong door. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven except through Me”. And here; “I am the Gate, whoever enters by Me will be saved”. He invites; “Knock and the door will be opened to you”. Really it’s not confusing, if you are His sheep. Trust Jesus, listen to Him, and He will keep you safe, and find you pasture.

Jesus, You supply us with all that we need. For this we thank You. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Thursday 21st February

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

There has been much talk in the media recently about organ donation. Although the thought of removing body parts from recently deceased people may seem unpalatable, the flip side is, of course, that someone else can be saved. One lives because another has died.

I have heard it said that in the first few months after transplantation the recipient thinks about the life of the donor. It must be quite difficult to get your head around that one. But after a while they feel a real sense of having a new lease of life, and talk about taking part in life like they never could before. They must feel like they have been given a second chance. And I suppose most recipients would want to give credit to and respect the life lost by living well.

This really rings a chord with those who remember that Christ has paid for us; that He shed His blood for us. Jesus died so we can live. It is strange to think that someone loved us before we were ever born. Knowing this, we really do have the feeling of awe to both love and fear God because he took on the responsibility of sin, forgiving us all our sins.

Lord, It’s amazing that You would give so much for us! Nothing we can give back can amount to the love which You destined for us before we were born. We thank You for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Wednesday 20 February

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

For us the passage expresses the feeling of the Father after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. God is expressed to be pleased. What is He so pleased about? Humanity has caused his Son great suffering!

Well, firstly, there is the reference to “fullness dwelling in him”, indicating the reunion of the Son with the Father, once again, following the life of Jesus on earth as a human being. For us this represents a very natural sentiment; the joy of a Father having a beloved family member, let alone an Only Son, return to his home, after a long period of absence.

Secondly, it is expressed that God is pleased with the work that Jesus has done. The key word to us in this passage is “reconcile”. We see this as the agreement, synthesis and perfection of all things through the act of The Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His overcoming Death through Resurrection.

It is said, “by making peace though His blood”. The word “peace” suggests an end to a state of struggle or war. So what struggle or war was it? We interpret this as the ultimate struggle, between men and within men, between good and evil, life and death, wisdom and ignorance which has now been resolved through Jesus’ actions and His promise. The war has been won by a resounding victory, the victory of Jesus in overcoming evil and death.

Father in Heaven, thank You for giving Your Son up for us; that we may be saved from death and the grave; that we may go with Jesus into a life of everlasting paradise. Amen.