Lent Devotions 2012: Monday 26th March

“And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!’”
Isaiah 6:3

The above passage is found in the Divine Service setting one, in the Sanctus part of the Service Of The Sacrament. It helps prepare us for holy communion. We sing this in praising our Lord God for His power and might. Heaven and earth are full of His glory. “Hosanna, Hosanna”, the Hebrew word of praise meaning save us now. We are blessed by Jesus Christ who comes in the name of the Lord. Glory in the highest.

We pray: Heavenly Father we praise You in Your Glory. In Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Lent Devotions 2012: Saturday 24th March

“The crowd watched, and the leaders laughed and scoffed. ‘He saved others’, they said, ‘let him save himself if he is really God’s Chosen One, the Messiah.’” Luke 23:35

I sometimes wonder what it must have been like, being there at that time where Jesus was on the cross. Since the beginning of time, man only ever knew about sacrificing the flock, a new-born lamb and even his own children to keep the ‘gods’ happy. Since the beginning of time, man knew that there was a greater power and force on which the plantations depended, i.e. wind, sun and rain. In Roman times, man would bring sacrifices in order to be made right with God, but then Jesus came to the temple and drove the people out saying, “The scripture declares, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:13). Jesus is the light of the world and He came at just the perfect time to be our Lord and Saviour. Jesus also said, “The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous to see” (Matthew 21:42).

It is plain to see how lost mankind really was but Jesus stepped right in! When the people asked this question saying, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is really God’s Chosen One”, I can see that yes of course He could save Himself but that was not part of God’s will. Jesus chose to drink the cup of suffering and became the ultimate sacrifice for us. The most powerful thing to see here is that Jesus died on the cross for our sin so that we don’t have to! That is so mind-blowing and powerful: that God gave His one and only Son to die on the cross in our place. The wages of sin is death and yes, it should be us on that cross, but God has given us a gift so amazing through His Son Jesus Christ and it is so marvellous to see. Hallelujah! No-one can come to the Father except through Jesus; He is the light of the world who has brought heaven to earth.

Dear Lord, Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Son Jesus Christ. You are the God of love; You came to this earth not to condemn it for all our sin but to serve us. Thank You for being our Lord and Saviour and teach us to be more like You! Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Friday 23rd March

“Later, knowing that all was now completed and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” John 19:28

The scene is the gruesome one of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The Roman soldiers had taken charge. John, whose gospel we are reading, was there with Mary, Jesus’ mother and some other women. Jesus, even in His anguish, shows love and care of His mother, that she be looked after by John.

When Jesus says,”I am thirsty” who is He talking to? Is He asking the soldiers for a drink, speaking to His friends or to His Father in heaven? Apart from physical thirst due to dehydration Jesus thirsted for the completion of His work on earth and the fulfillment of His Father’s plan, foretold in Scripture.

This is very nearly the end of Jesus’ life on earth. He died to destroy the power of death; to reconcile us to God, bring us into a relationship with Him and gain for us the resurrection of the body.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your amazing grace. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Thursday 22nd March

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

ESCAPE FROM A DARKENED VALLEY

This valley of disgrace,
What is it we all choose to embrace?
Is it the fellowship with one another,
Breaking bread and drinking wine,
Worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ,
Who had victory on earth,
To save all our lives.

Or do we drown in that valley,
And only live our lives for our own demise?
Following our own footsteps,
And using the clouds to hide,
But knowing there’s a higher power,
But petrified of dedicating our own lives.

I once was that person,
And only cared for lies,
And deprived others of my love,
So my own cravings would suffice.

But one day I was seeking,
For an answer to the question of life,
And found myself asking the stars up in the sky;
But when I asked I found I received,
And through seeking I did find,
The answers were standing before my own deluded eyes.

There was a door,
And it’s one I had seen plenty of times before;
But I just walked past it,
And chose to ignore.

But this time I knocked,
Didn’t expect what I was to find;
A man with wide opened arms,
And an invitation to paradise.

He didn’t want no money,
Just for me to accept graciously;
And start to tell His truth,
Which only leads to being rewarded,
With eternal youth.

So what I ask you all;
Is when you’re looking for an answer,
Don’t deny what you find,
There is a God in heaven;
Don’t be stupid enough to think that you can hide,
Cause the day you don’t expect,
Will come and you’ll be left behind.

Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Wednesday 21st March

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

In the preceding verses of Chapter 6, we are told in verse 6 to, “flee from the temptation of the love of money”. In verse 11 we are told how we can do this. As children of God to be free from all this we should, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” In verse 12 we are told to, “Fight the good fight of the faith”. I think all of us fight the daily battle against sin. Our prize and ultimate goal is the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and eternal life. We are told to, “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. We are called individually and by name when we, “make a good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. In verse 13 it follows on by saying, “in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession”.

In this devotional verse God instructs us in what to do, how to do it and tells us why we need to do it. If we look and pray to God and study God’s Word carefully, we will find the answers to our questions. Although remembering it is in God’s time not necessarily ours. But the answer is always the same when we ask the question we need to ask: ‘How do we inherit eternal life?’. This is by confessing our faith in the sight of God and He will grant us Eternal Life.

May God keep us always in His arms, care and protect us and keep us as His children. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Tuesday 20th March

“He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; he hid not his face from shame and spitting.” Isaiah 50: 6

Familiar words from Handel’s Messiah – for many of us – but what is involved in these words of humiliation?

Handel links these words with the famous words of Isaiah 53, “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” in the second item of part two of the Messiah. Part one deals with the coming of the Messiah, part two with the passion and part three with the lasting significance and glory of the Messiah. The first item of part two of the Messiah quotes John the Baptist’s words, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1.29). Handel saw Isaiah’s words as a clear prophecy of Jesus’ sufferings on our behalf.

Verse 5 of Isaiah 50 speaks of the Suffering Servant’s obedience. Verse 6 gives three details of his humiliation. Firstly, he willingly offers his back to those who would strike and lash and whip him. Secondly, he “turns the other cheek” to those who pull his hair or his beard. 900 years of English-Irish animosity date back to King John pulling the beards of Irish nobles. Thirdly he offers his face to the disgrace and shame of spitting. To spit at someone is humiliating. Today in football it is regarded as seriously as deliberately kicking another player. Jesus endured all these humiliations. Matthew and Mark both record two cases of people spitting at Jesus. In front of the high priest, “some began to spit on him and to cover his face and strike him” (Mark 14.65). Then the Roman soldiers “were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him” (Mark 15.19). In these days when people stand up for their rights, are we willing to suffer these humiliations for Jesus’ sake – if that is needed?

Modern scholars recognise four Servant Songs in Isaiah 42, 49, 50 and 53. Our verse is in the middle of the third Song in verses 4-9 of Isaiah 50, which is probably the least well-known of the four Songs. It is remarkable that Handel linked two of these Songs before scholars had identified them. Perhaps this is another indication of the inspiration of the Messiah.

How does Jesus the Messiah inspire you? Are you willing to suffer the humiliations that Jesus suffered – if that is necessary? We are fortunate in our land, but many of our brothers and sisters around the world suffer today just as Jesus did.

Lord God, please teach us to follow where you lead, even into suffering or danger. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Monday 19th March

“…saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’” Revelation 5:12-13

Let’s have a little imagination here – and my word, we will need imagination at full throttle – to grasp this one! The preceding verse to this tells us that there were gathered around the throne the living creatures and the elders, and the voice of many angels numbering myriads of myriads and thousands and thousands was saying with a loud voice… Try and picture this scene in your mind (bet you can’t) and then tune in with the sound. Loud as a football match crowd? Loud as Status Quo on stage and you are standing near the amplifiers? Nah…. Try and think of the pure joy and love that these beings wanted to communicate in their praise and worship of the Lord. They were, by the look of this verse, in pure rapture (and so they should be – they were, after all, in Heaven!). Two verses later, it tells us that the elders fell down and worshipped. I should think they would fall down, confronted by such a force of joy and power emanating all around them. And what was all it about? The Lamb – Christ, a pure and clean innocent thing, being slaughtered without thought or care by men in their own struggle for power. Now Christ reigns supreme in Heaven and over us, having saved us all from our own sins. What joy that His gift gives us – doesn’t it make you want to cry out at your loudest in praise? It should…..

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive us our quiet worship of You despite that You give so freely to us with Your love and care and the ultimate sacrifice of Your dear Son. We know that one day we will join the multitude that surround You, giving true praise as only You deserve. May we be ready in our hearts, minds and souls for that glorious day! In Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Saturday 17th March

“But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14 v 61 – 62

At first, Jesus does not speak. If His actions and words so far were not enough to silence His critics, then what difference would more words make? Jesus was able to stop it all there and then, but He chose not to defend Himself. Jesus was completing the fulfilment of Gods will, in a manner somewhat incomprehensible to His audience.

What person wouldn’t save themselves from the fate of death if given the choice? If this was a battle of wills, Jesus was not going to dignify them with a confession of guilt or a plea for mercy. He had nothing to prove. He was choosing to suffer and be humiliated. He continued further in belittling the power his judge and jury presumed to have over Him. For He knew that His power was so much greater, and His purpose so much more important.

Thank You God for the Gift of Jesus Christ, who saved us from our sins. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Friday 16th March

“And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Matthew 27:46

The night before Jesus died, He prayed to the Father, in great anguish: “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” (Matthew 26:39). Now, as the moment of His death approaches, after hours of agony, Jesus has His answer: it is not possible; the cup will not pass; He is forsaken, and handed over to persecution and death.

And yet this is not a cry of despair. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, the song of a righteous man who has been handed over to persecution (“Many bulls encircle me … I am poured out like water”), but who never loses faith in God’s holiness (v.3), dominion (v.28) and deliverance (v.31).

So it is for Jesus. He has heard the answer we all dread when we pray in desperation and fear: ‘no’. As a human being, He experiences forsakenness by God in being handed over to His persecutors. But He remains united to God, both as the faithful believer who refuses to despair, and as the incarnate Son of God whose union between Godhead and flesh can never be dissolved.

In our baptisms, we are united with Jesus in this moment (Romans 6:3). All our forsakenness, all our anguish, all our experience of the silent ‘no’ from heaven in response to our prayers is united with that of Christ. But at the same time, we are united with the inextinguishable hope of Christ the incarnate Son of God, and share in His vindication.

This is the paradox of the Cross: the moment that shows most fully our forsakenness by God is the moment that shows (and, indeed, effects) most fully God’s acceptance and salvation of us.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from him,
but heard when he cried to him.
(Psalm 22:23-24)

Amen.

Lent Devotions 2012: Thursday 15th March

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11:25-26

Recently a friend of mine said she had attended a Humanist funeral service. She commented that it was nice enough; fine tributes were given and many memories were shared, but she said that she found it lacking something. Although my friend does not attend church, she put her finger on a very real problem. At the time of death, when everything else has been stripped away, what do we rely on? Do we seek tributes or memories? Iif so they ring hollow in our ears as they are sadly lacking the ability to give comfort and peace at such a time.

No, we need hope, even in the midst of the most hopeless of situations. And this is where Martha found herself. She was standing outside the tomb of her brother Lazarus as she spoke with Jesus. Her pain and sorrow were real; no tribute to or memory of her brother could soothe, let alone erase it.

Into this void steps Jesus Christ, and He speaks. His words deliver what they say – resurrection and life. These words are not mere platitudes or greeting card slogans: no, they are life-giving words. He speaks and even the dead listen. He commands it and the dead rise. Only the One who has conquered death can freely give life to all who trust in His promises. When all else has been taken from us, and death has stripped us of all we held dear, it is only the words and promises of Jesus that matter: “I am the resurrection and the Life”. On the Last Day we will hear His voice and we will rise with Him to eternal life.

Match that, humanist funeral.

Lord of Life, You triumphed over death and the grave and You give eternal life to all who trust in You, Amen.