Raised from the Ashes: Lent – Day 18

 

“But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.”

Mark 5:33

Read Mark 5:21-43


Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

 

 

The Whole Truth

 

 

When we take the witness stand in a courtroom, we put our left hand on the Bible (or at least we used to), raise our right hand and say we swear to, “tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God”. The truth is of utmost importance in a court case. A judge and jury determine a person’s future. What a tragedy if the decision is based on lies.

 

When I was a little boy and my mother thought I had been doing something wrong (my face gave it a way every time), she would ask me to tell her the truth. I can remember her saying things like, “don’t lie to me” and “is that everything?”, as if I were holding back some of the details. Now, I did have an incentive to be completely truthful. I knew what the punishment was for lying. The “Father’s wrath”, was not just a biblical phrase in our house. The truth really did set me free – several times.

 

During Lent we are hopefully learning to be completely truthful with Jesus. We never have to fear pouring out all the details to Him; He already knows them. There is healing in our telling Jesus the details of life. In fact, that’s a good definition of confession, “telling it all to Jesus”.

 

Real Healing Is in the Details

 

We don’t know all the details in the life of the woman with the issue of blood. We do know that she worked up the courage to reach out and touch Jesus. As, Jesus turned to ask who touched Him, scripture tells us she fell down before Him and, “…told him the whole truth.” She had received a healing touch from Jesus the moment she touched him, but that was just about the medical issue she faced. When she told Jesus the “whole truth” about herself, He pronounced her well and imparted his peace to her (Vs. 34).

 

The Greek language of scripture speaks of being “made well”, as a wholeness, not just healed of an affliction. Peace comes to our soul not in the absence of disease, but in being whole in Christ as we are meant to be, and that only comes when we tell Jesus, “the whole truth”. The hardships of life can leave us feeling burned and defeated, but when we are truthful with Jesus, He faithfully, raises us from the ashes.

 

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

 

Pastor Brad

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Lent – Day 17

 

“For he himself knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust.”

Psalm 103:14

Read Psalm 103


Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

He Remembers

Some people live as though they think they will live forever, as though they are indestructible. They never seem to live with eternity in mind. Their present lives are all that matters and they indulge in any and all behavior with no thought of consequence. Oh, how easily we forget that we are but dust.

We need times that remind us of our mortality. We are now sixteen days into Lent, a season given to us by the church to do just that, remember that we are but dust. But, there is someone who always remembers how fragile we are. Verse 14 tells us our Father always remembers that we are but dust. He created us from the dust of the earth, and knows that we will all one-day return to that dust.

The Purpose of Repentance

Remembering our mortality is easier when we live lives of repentance. In repentance we humble ourselves before our maker, so that He can raise us up to immortality. When we repent of our sins and failures, we experience the mercy and compassion of our God who does not deal with us as we deserve. And, in His forgiveness, He draws us near in His embrace to life in Christ.

The psalmist reminds us that our Father does not reward us according to our wickedness (Vs. 10), nor deal with us according to our sins. He always treats those who love Him with mercy and compassion. When we confess our sins, He is not only faithful and just to forgive us (1 John), but He also removes our sins, “as far as the east is from the west” (Vs 12).

Why We Need Lent

In the season of Lent, I’m reminded of my sinfulness not to make myself feel bad, but that I may know the love and compassion of my Lord. I love that. Lent is about remembering. We need to remember that we are dust. We need to remember that God forgets our sins in the sea of his forgetfulness, as the prophet Micah reminds us, He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Mic. 7:19) And, we need to remember that if He remembers we are but dust…we also can trust He will remember to raise us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Lent, Day – 16

“But it is good for me to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge.”

Psalm 73:28

Read Psalm 73


Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

The Chameleon

People are like Chameleons; we have a tendency to start looking like our surroundings. That’s why Lent is so important. We need strategic times when we spend more time with God. If we’re not careful we can get so busy in our daily life that we go through a whole day without spending any time with the Lord. One day leads to another and before long, we can find ourselves surrounded by desert and ruin. Then, we wonder where God is. The truth is God never moved, we were just spending too much time with the world.

Psalm 73 tells us that like the Chameleon, we too can choose to look like the world, because they seem to be successful and safe. The Chameleon is driven to change his colors by fear; it feels it must adapt to survive. The Psalmist said he, “nearly slipped” into the patterns of the worldly and wicked. He envied their prosperity (Vs. 2,3). The call to a Lenten spirituality is designed to keep us from falling. When we build into our lives, daily times of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving we are spending more time with God, and concentrating on growing our faith, not our worldly reputations.

Rhythms for Life

The Christian calendar offers a rhythm for us to connect with. Lent and Advent are seasons designed to help us reflect on our lives through increased repentance, prayer and fasting. They are seasons of rest and renewal. These two seasons prepare us to better celebrate the high spiritual days of Easter and Christmas, to celebrate the living God who has come among us. Then, there are other seasons such as Pentecost and Ordinary Time in which we allow the grace received in our times of renewal to grow even deeper roots for our spiritual lives.

Unlike the Chameleon, we don’t need to fear. God is our refuge and Lent is truly a season of refuge. We need to run to our God, to hide in his cross, to become more like Him not the world. We need to walk with Him through the desert allowing Christ to nourish and nurture our weary souls. Are you dry, and thirsty? Come to the water of life. Come to the spring that never runs dry. Won’t you reflect for a few moments today on the desert you may be journeying through? As you do, know that you are not alone. God is always near. In the desert we often dry up and turn to ash, but when we draw near to God, his living water raises us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Lent – Day 15

“O God, why have you utterly cast us off?
why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture?”

 

Psalm 74:1

Read Psalm 74


Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

 

 

Why?

 

 

‘Why’ is the most common question in all of life. It’s asked by toddlers, teenagers, and adults over and over. I guess you could say the question of why is asked because people are so inquisitive and wish to learn. However, in reality, the answers to most all our ‘why’ questions are obvious, but we ask anyway. Perhaps we don’t want to believe the answer we know?

 

Of all people, the toddler has the right to ask why; the child needs to learn. But, for the rest of us we’ve learned many things the hard way already, and don’t like the answers we’ve received. So, we ask why. Why did things turn out like this? Why did this or that happen? And, the really big one – why God? Why did YOU let this happen?

 

Lent Is Also for Contemplation

Another part of the Lenten season is setting aside time for meditation and contemplation. We need contemplative times in our lives to reflect on the way things are. We need to reflect in order to discern what God would have us learn. In our ‘why’ questions, we often blame God for things that are our fault. To realize and accept our own fault is to see the need to change, and sadly that’s often our last alternative.

 

Won’t you spend some time in contemplation today? Contemplation is the companion of prayer. Thursday is a day for remembering Jesus’ contemplative, prayerful time in the garden. In many ways, the season of Lent is our garden of Gethsemane. We are asking God to shape us after His will through our disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

 

God Always Answers

 

The psalmist often asked God why, because he didn’t want to admit that the problems he faced were consequences of his own sinful choices. It’s okay to ask God why. In fact, it’s a natural reaction in an attempt to understand one’s circumstances. If we are truly searching for answers, we can trust God to lead us to them. We can trust God to lead us deep into our own conscience to see how we have gone astray. Then, we can see the real question is not, “Why God?” but, “Why me?”. Why did I make those choices? And, most importantly, when we have humbled ourselves and repented of our sin…we can trust God to raise us from the ashes.

 

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

 

Pastor Brad

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Lent – Day 14

Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

“Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”

1 Cor. 6:7b

Read 1 Cor. 5:9-6:10

 

Why Not?

We definitely have an aversion to suffering in our culture. I know, nobody should want to suffer, right? Only a masochist would choose to suffer, right? Perhaps, but what of the person who chooses to suffer for the right reasons? The Corinthian people were doing what many in our world today are doing; they avoided suffering or being wronged at all cost. The truth is, there is cost at which it is better to suffer or be wronged. The question is, how do we know when it’s best to choose to suffer or be wronged?

In Lent, we choose to suffer in a very small way. We choose to deny ourselves some thing or activity we would otherwise indulge in, as a matter of discipline. Such discipline is to help us grow in resistance to temptation. But, that is a very small way of suffering. In just about every other way, we here in Western culture have done our best to eliminate suffering.

Have We Gone Too Far?

We have medical care that tries to eliminate or minimize suffering. We have passed laws that allow us to sue others when we feel their actions have caused pain and suffering. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against medical care. I think it is given to us as the healing hand of God for our time. And, I’m not against laws and courts designed to protect innocent people. However, in our culture, we seem to have taken the problem St. Paul addressed with the Corinthians to a whole new level.

Our society encourages us to fight back no matter what. People sue other people for the wrongs they feel, far too easily. And too often, this is true among those who are in the church. If Jesus is our model for living, we shouldn’t we be doing a lot more turning the cheek and being willing to be wronged? St. Paul asked the question – why not be wrong? Why is it so important that we right every wrong

For me, a great part of my Lenten journey is learning to identify opportunities to become more Christ like through humility. I’m still a long way from where I need to be on the Humility Scale, but I’m thankful for the journey.

My Prayer for Your Journey

I hope your journey is giving you cause to practice your faith in ways that challenge you. While I pray nothing of harm comes to you, I also pray that the hurts and heartaches that are germane to our fallen world will give you hope to say with St. Paul…why not? Why not suffer and let it grow your character? After all, Romans 8:17 tells us we are heirs with Christ, if we suffer with Him. Why not let yourself be wronged rather than take vengeance? After all, vengeance is the Lord’s (Rom. 12:19). Why not let yourself die…and be raised from the ashes?

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Lent, Day – 13

 

“So will I always sing the praise of your Name, and day by day I will fulfill my vows.”

Psalm 61:8

Read Psalm 61:1-8


Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

How Are You Doing?

As we are now in the second full week of Lent, some of you may be growing weary of your discipline. There is something exhilarating about beginning a journey like the Lenten fast. However, there is also something exhausting in the daily temptation to do what we have said we will not do. If you’re new to Lenten fasting and self-denial, this may be particularly true for you.

I remember one Lent when I gave up coffee, eggs, and desserts in the same season. Now for a coffee addict like me, that alone seemed a suicidal goal. Did I mention how much I love eggs? Eggs are, and always have been a part of my morning regimen. I couldn’t even imagine the idea of not eating eggs for 40 days! And desserts, well that seemed difficult around my birthday (which always falls in Lent), but I wasn’t nearly as addicted to desserts as I was to coffee and eggs.

Looking back, I realize I was completely misguided in my understanding of the purpose of a Lenten fast. I thought the purpose was to prove how strong I could be in my resolve to deny myself such pleasures. I thought I was somehow more holy for doing so. Did I mention I was a very young adult at that time? Oh well, no matter, I would probably fail at such an attempt even today in my mid 50’s. That is, I would fail if I attempted it for the wrong reason.

Always Remember

We must always remember our purpose for Lenten fasting and self-denial – to learn to surrender what we desire, for what God desires for us. If we can’t do that with food, how will we do it with the great things of God’s will that He desires for us?

God is not interested in our starving ourselves. However, He is interested in the surrender of our will to His for every detail in life. What better way to practice our surrender to God than through self-denial? The Psalmist says the only way to keep a vow to God (our Lenten fasts count as a vow) is to fulfill it day by day in praise to Him (Vs. 8).

How Are You Doing?

Today is day 13. How are you doing? If you’ve failed, don’t give up. As in all of life, so it is in Lent. Our God is always ready to give us another chance, to lift us up and set us back on a high place…to raise us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised form the Ashes: Lent Day – 12

Lent 2016 Daily Devotions-4

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”

1 Cor. 4:20

Read 1 Cor. 4:8-21


Cheap Talk

Talk is cheap, unless of course that talk gets you in trouble, then it could prove very expensive. I think that proverbial saying says what St. Paul was telling the Corinthians. The great Apostle was a spiritual father to the Corinthians (Vs. 15), and as such had earned the right to talk to them straight about their spiritual lives.

As you read the letters to the Corinthian church, you will see the church struggled in about every way imaginable, and you will hear Paul’s straight talk as he tells them the truth in love. They stopped maturing in their faith and fell into many sins. Such a state was a detriment not only to their own lives but to the witness of the church to effect change in the culture around them.

Can We Change from Our Sinful Ways?

St. Paul reminded them, as he sent Timothy to minister on his behalf, that they hadn’t received the gospel just to continue in their sins, but to be changed. The gospel is the power of God to save (Rom 1:16), and not just save “in” our sin, but to save us “from” our sin (Matt. 1:21). The New Testament continually calls us to a life above sin, both in the words of Jesus, and the Apostles. Perhaps the best example is Jesus’ words to the woman at the well as he tells her, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Sometimes we think our Lenten journey will help us learn to avoid sin, by spending more time in prayer and fasting. While I’m sure our resolve to avoid sin is strengthened through such Lenten disciplines as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we must remember that that is not the object of Lent. The object of our Lenten journey is to grow closer to Christ. The answer to losing our desire for sin (which is innate in our fallen nature), is growing more in love with our Savior.

The people of the Corinth church needed to be reminded of how much Jesus loved them, and just how his death, resurrection, and gift of the Spirit was to deliver them from the dominion of sin. It wasn’t enough for then to just say they believed (Cheap Talk), and to continue living unchanged, and it’s not okay for us either. We must live in the kingdom power that not only saves, but transforms.

Lent is a part of our spiritual tool box given to us by the church to help effect our transformation into Christ’s likeness. When we pray, fast and do works of mercy we imitate the Apostles who imitated Christ. Paul knew his life was to provide a living example for the people to follow. So too, we want to imitate the lives of the saints who’ve gone before us, as we ultimately conform our lives to the imitation of Christ. The closer we grow to Jesus Christ, the more He transforms us. His transformation will indeed, raise us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6