Lent devotions 2011: Monday 11 April

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. — Isaiah 1:18

If you spend any time watching TV these days, it won’t take long before an advert comes on touting some amazing cleanser that will wash our clothes completely, regardless of the kind of stain. Many of these claims are exaggerated and don’t work nearly as well when we actually use the product. Quite often, deep, red stains from wine or blood never do come out completely.

Isaiah tells us of the amazing ‘cleansing power’ of our Lord. Though our sins are like deep, red stains of scarlet and crimson, Jesus has washed them completely away, and we will be glorified, as white as snow.

Martin Luther makes the point that Isaiah does not use the colour black to describe sin. Black is the colour of sadness. Red is the colour of guilt… blood guilt. Our blood guilt. How wonderful it is that the Saviour of the world has taken our punishment and made us white as snow. Now that is an amazing cleanser!

Dear Lord, thank You so much for removing the stain of our sin and purifying us through Your saving grace. Help us to lead purer lives, that we may be a bright, shining example to others. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Saturday 9 April

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.Colossians 3:16

When people attend church, they listen to the word of Christ being preached so that it lies in their heart with its richness and wisdom , teaching that Christ’s words can fulfil our lives each day. The words of Christ show us that we can trust Him that we are one body. We sing praise to Jesus Christ. We are thankful to God that we grow in His Word each day. His Word cleanses our hearts from all our sin. The wisdom that Christ speaks makes us better people, as does knowing that God sent Him into this world to be our Saviour. Each one of us grows in spiritual love when we listen to the words of Christ.

Almighty Father, we pray that Your words of richness will grow in our hearts each day. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Friday 8 April

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.1 Peter 2:24

Divine justice’s most brutal example is seen in the crucifixion of God’s only son. If anyone had room to complain it was Jesus, who was not guilty of even one sin. The most innocent person who ever lived was condemned to die a most prolonged and painful death. The value of His sacrifice is not in the extent of Jesus’ anguish on the cross but in the person who suffered. Jesus bore our sin judicially. God never made Him sinful in His character. Despite His innocence, He alone took upon Himself all the sins of the world. He did this for us. He took on His shoulders all the justice that was to fall on us and paid for it with His precious life. Jesus actually carried our sins in His own body on the tree. The sins that He carried are the sins of the entire world.

As the scapegoat carried away the sins of the Israelite, so Jesus carries away our sin on the cross. Jesus’ death freed us from both the penalty and the power of sin. He paid the penalty for our sin so that we will not have to go to hell. His death made it possible for us to “live for righteousness.”

Rome crucified tens of thousands of people in her history but only one of them was unique. Jesus was the God-man. He was undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever. This is His uniqueness. He is different from God in that He is man and He is different from man in that He is God.

Thank You, Lord God, for this extraordinary truth. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Thursday 7 April

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.2 Corinthians 8:9

Even though Jesus Christ was rich, He became poor for our sake, so that, whether we are rich or poor, we might be rich in His grace in our thoughts, words, and deeds. This does not mean that if we are rich and generously give money to charities that we are good Christians, because we may do this for selfish gain or to look good in the eyes of others. No, we learn that through the riches of Christ, we find fulfilment and the motivation for physical acts of kindness and charity. Because Jesus emptied Himself and became poor for us, we are children of God, no matter what our bank balance, no matter what our status, no matter what our colour.

Grant that we who are poor, but made rich through the grace of Jesus Christ, may live as Your children. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Wednesday 6 April

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.John 17:3

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘They don’t know what they don’t know’? It’s a popular phrase to describe a group of people who are so unaware of a situation they don’t even know what they should be focused on. This phrase aptly describes the disciples as Jesus prays at the Last Supper in John, chapter 17. The disciples were unaware of their own eternal life, or that Jesus was true God as well as true man. And they were certainly unaware of the events just around the corner in Jerusalem that would change the world forever as Jesus made His way to the cross. Even after His crucifixion the disciples didn’t know what to expect, though Jesus had been teaching them.

How comforting it is to realise that Jesus knew what was to come. He knew He was true God and He knew our eternal life with God depended on Him enduring suffering, shame, death and resurrection. Even knowing the anguish to come, Jesus still set His face toward Jerusalem for us.

Today,we all have non-believing friends and acquaintances who ‘don’t know what they don’t know’, just like the disciples at the Last Supper. But thanks to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, we know what they don’t know and we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them so they know, too!

Heavenly Father, give me the courage and the right words to speak to let others know what I know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ for our eternal life with the only true God. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Tuesday 5 April

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. — I Corinthians 1:10

Harmony. Gk harmonia, “joint, agreement, concord.”

I imagine that most of us have been in a meeting where debates, arguments and personal opinions get so heated that you just want to stand up and scream, “Can’t we all just get along?”. Apparently, Paul had the same trouble with the church in Corinth! Corinth had become a very ethnically and culturally diverse city, with Greeks, Romans, merchants, travelling tradesmen, visitors, pagan idol worshippers, Jews and new believers all trying to live together and get along. The new Christian congregation was finding it difficult to remain faithful to Christ and keep their focus on His Word.

It is the same for us today. We let our selfish desires and agendas get in the way of peaceful relationships and end up quarrelling and resentful when we don’t get our own way… not what God intends for us. I love the Greek word for ‘fellowship’: koinonia. It means “Sharing… Participation in a common thing”. ‘Koinonia’ was the name of my parents’ church fellowship group many years ago, and though I loved how the word sounded, I never really appreciated the deep meaning of the word. True Christian fellowship is more than just tolerating someone. It is actively loving, listening and forgiving our fellow believers. We will never be free of our sinful, selfish thoughts and deeds, but God has equipped all of us with the spiritual gifts necessary to encourage and strengthen one another in our battles against selfishness, to “be united in the same mind and the same judgement”. God empowers us, you and me, through His word and work of the Holy Spirit, to boldly profess the faith He has given us and to continue to strive toward our eternal fellowship together in heaven with God , our Father, Friend and Redeemer.

Heavenly Father, Help me to set aside my selfish desires and agendas to see instead the needs of those around me. Through Your word, direct our ways, that we may live harmoniously as believers in Christ. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Monday 4 April

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.Matthew 5:23-24

The Jews of Jesus’ time offered gifts at the altar acknowledging the Lord’s redeeming work on their behalf both in the past (e.g. the exodus from Egypt) and yet to come (e.g. the promised Messiah). God’s Law outlined which gifts one ought to offer on which occasions, and so forth. Today, as we acknowledge the Lord’s redeeming work on our behalf, we are also inspired to offer gifts of thanksgiving, time, talents, and good deeds that benefit others.

In this passage, Christ is rather insistent that the good work God most desires of us is to seek reconciliation and forgiveness with and from one another.

Why?

Forgiveness and reconciliation of His people to Himself were God’s top priorities in sending Christ, our Saviour. Christ fed, taught, healed and restored the dead to life – all fabulous works which truly reflect the nature of our compassionate Lord. However, His ultimate offering of obedience to God was His death on the cross to forgive our sins and reconcile us to the Father.

So where does that leave us when our Christian brother (or sister) may have a grievance against us? We can praise our Lord for His reconciliation of us to Himself through His gift of forgiveness . We can put that offering (of good work, thanksgiving, or what-have-you) on the back burner and boldly, humbly, honestly go to seek reconciliation with that brother or sister. And, if we are the ones who have a grievance against the other, then we can boldly, humbly, faithfully reflect the forgiveness of Christ. For it is Jesus’ offering which forgives, and reconciles us and our brothers and sisters to Himself and to one another.

We pray: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Saturday 2 April

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Acts 2:42

If any Christian should actually pick up the Bible because they needed an instruction, this would be a good page, chapter and verse to open. Though Scripture was not primarily given as a revelation of rules, it can give some pretty good advice. To put this verse in my own words, men and women who believe in Christ, having heeded Peter’s warnings, have decided to devote their lives to Him, on account of also hearing of God’s grace. Jesus came teaching and preaching and not just from a distance. He went into the tax collectors’ homes. They also kept bad company. But He still ate with them. Jesus made Himself unclean so that they could become clean.

But this breaking of bread hints probably more to the fact that Jesus had instituted a special meal now called ‘Communion’ or ‘The Lord’s Supper’ or the Eucharist’. It goes hand in hand with prayer. These two together cry out ‘means of grace’. God’s Word and sacraments are given to believers to remember Christ’s teaching. In doing so together, believers congregate in fellowship. To this end we are all devoted as Christians. Why?

Because we are filled with awe at the many wonders and signs of Christ, starting first and foremost with Salvation! And His apostles were also given gifts with which to build on top of the cornerstone; Christ. They were building the Church. This is how important the church is today.

Anyone who says they can worship God outside of the Church insults this remembrance. Anyone who says they will ‘have a rest from Church next week’, insults this remembrance. Anyone who wants to come to Church, in the long term, to simply enjoy it, with no intention of attending Catechism Classes, insults this remembrance. Anyone who comes to a Church community, only to fraternise with others socially, insults this remembrance.

Whereas those who invite friends into their homes, and tell them the good news of Jesus and invite them to Church to worship Christ, honour this remembrance. Anyone who loves their neighbour to the point of curiosity and brings them to Christ because of their love, honours this remembrance. Anyone who inspires another, on account of the Gospel of Christ, to come and be Baptised, honours this remembrance. Anyone who gives the Holy Spirit the chance to work in another’s heart, by showing them the true rule of faith in Christ Jesus, honours this remembrance. Anyone who cannot help but come to Jesus every Sunday, for the love of God, with a repentant heart, to receive His forgiveness, honours this remembrance.

Lord give us the Spirit, to devote our lives, and all that we have, to You. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Friday 1 April

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. — Romans 5:19

A choice Bible verse, perhaps? It is after all, about our choices. We have no choice with Adam and his Original Sin. It is there when we are born. It is mankind’s burden. We may have to live – and die – with it. But do we? There is another way. As Adam condemned us, so Christ reprieves us. Our Heavenly Father forgives us for our sins, He loves us all and the very heavens would ring out with joy if all came to Him. But many – far too many – choose not to. The way and life of a Christian is not always easy, but it is way we have been given.

Heavenly Lord and Risen Saviour, may our steps towards Your open arms be swift and light, we pray to You to help us make the right choices in all that we do to bring glory to Your blessed name. Amen.

Lent devotions 2011: Thursday 31 March

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

In this passage, many of the disciples are having trouble accepting Jesus’ teaching. Jesus knew from the beginning that some of the disciples did not believe His teaching, and also who would betray Him.

In verse 65 He told them that “no-one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled them.” At this time many of His disciples turned back and did not follow Him. Jesus challenges the Twelve in verse 67 “you do not want to leave too, do you?” In verse 68 Simon Peter asks Jesus “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He states his belief that “Jesus is the Holy One of God.”

How often do we have trouble accepting Jesus’ teaching? Do we not get tempted to simply walk away? We sometimes forget the wonderful gift that God gave us: His Son Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and gives us eternal life.

This assurance helps us to believe and gives us faith to be able not to leave and walk away and to not betray Him and His salvation. “For Thou, O Lord art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on Thee.” (Psalm 86:5).

Lord, today help us to display compassion and forgiveness, help us to remember how God forgives and loves us. Amen