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Gratitude

Psalm 100:4

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”

Day 11, Monday, March 18

We are a blessed people. God made us and he desires a relationship with us. Psalm 100:4 uses several verbs to describe how we should respond to what God has done for us. We are to enter or come into the temple, be thankful and bless or praise His name! When a special gift is received, a compliment is shared, or a trial is conquered, we rejoice and actively share our pleasure with others. Likewise, let’s express our appreciation to God today with grateful, intentional, active praise. He has given us new life and so much more than we deserve in Christ Jesus, His Son!

 

Thank and praise God for a gift He has given you recently.

Review the last few days. Has God sent you gifts that you may have missed in the busyness of life?

 

Day 12, Tuesday, March 19

Ann Voskamp’s book 10,000 Gifts has taught me significant lessons about gratitude. She wrote, “The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents that bring fullest light to all the world.”

 

Thank God for something good, something beautiful, and something true. Continue to thank Him throughout your day as He opens your eyes to the good, the true, and the beautiful.

 

Day 13, Wednesday, March 20

God hears our prayers and knows the desires of our hearts even when we don’t understand our desires in their purist form. He knows exactly what we need and want and He knows precisely the time when we need it.

 

Thank God for answering your prayers and knowing the best timing.

Praise Him for answering our prayers as a church in welcoming a new teaching pastor and providing wisdom to our shepherds as we grow in His Spirit and truth.

 

Day 14, Thursday, March 21

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;

Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;

Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;

Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

The Lord performs righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.

But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,

To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them. 

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.

Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word! 

Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.

Bless the Lord, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (Ps 103)

 

Day 15, Friday, March 22

Think on your blessings today and that your joy is from the Lord. We all come from different backgrounds and families. Some of our stories we would rather forget than find gratefulness. Ann Voskamp writes, “When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.”

 

Thank God for where you are today.

Thank the Lord for the church family you have. 

Thank him for the home and country in which you were born. 

Thank our Father that He is always with us.

 

Day 16, Saturday, March 23

When we show gratitude, we acknowledge that God is our source.  When God is our source, we can spend less time in fear and more time in worship.  Gratitude and worship go hand in hand.  It’s very hard to have one without the other.

 

Ask God to reveal to you some things from your past that were good, challenging, and even painful that you can be grateful for. 

Pray that God will reveal His faithfulness and provision during those times. 

Pray that God will shift your focus to Him so that you can have a heart of gratitude.

Forgiveness

Matthew 6:12

“And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Day 5: Monday, March 11

Jesus came to set us free from the chains of sin and shame. We confess our sins unto Him, and He covers us with His blood and washes us white as snow. However, all too often, we view ourselves with dirt and stains rather than through the eyes of our Creator. We attempt to limit God’s will in our lives because “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not worth it.”

When we begin to view our lives through Jesus glasses, we see past the grime of human nature and live in the Spirit of redemption and proclaim His will, not mine.

 

Ask God for forgiveness of all the harmful and negative words you have spoken over yourself.

Pray for transformation that you humbly see your life as God sees you. You are a Child of God. You are here for a purpose.

Ask God to speak life and truth into your life.

 

Day 6: Tuesday, March 12

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matt. 18:21-35

 

Pray for strength and ability to measure grace and forgiveness to all.

 

Day 7: Wednesday, March 13

I once heard that bitterness is like poison.  We drink it, intending to harm and inflict pain on the people we are bitter towards, but we end up poisoning and harming ourselves. This analogy was helpful for me to illustrate what was happening in my heart.

When Jesus teaches the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:12 He says “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Jesus knows it’s in the disciple’s best interest, as well as our own, to forgive. Unforgiveness causes sins like bitterness and jealousy to grow in our hearts. This not only interferes in our human relationships but also our fellowship with God.

I think forgiveness is only accomplished through the workings of the Spirit in us. It’s completely foreign, counterintuitive, and unnatural to our flesh.  We desperately need Christ’s power to be able to forgive.

 

Thank God for his unconditional love, and complete forgiveness He offers us.

Ask God to reveal any areas of unforgiveness in your life and relationships.

Ask God for the strength, grace, and conviction to forgive quickly, just as He forgives you.

Pray for the Spirits power to “forgive those who trespass against us.”

Pray for God to help you experience the freedom available through forgiveness and for help to trust Gods perfect justice.

 

Day 8: Thursday, March 14

Forgiveness is such a central component in the Christian faith. The imagery of equating sin to debt is a powerful way that Jesus illustrated the teaching of forgiveness. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid all our debts: past, present, and future. We are covered by God’s grace daily. Our sins are forgiven daily. In the same way, we should practice forgiveness.

 

Lord, soften my heart and help me to be a better forgiver. Show me the people in my life that I need to forgive. Give me the courage to ask for forgiveness from others when needed.

 

Day 9: Friday, March 15

Jesus emphasized the relationship between receiving and offering forgiveness again in Mathew 6:14, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” We are declared holy with the righteousness of Jesus. As we walk by faith, however, we have relationships to maintain; chiefly, our relationship with God, the Father. And like any good father, this Father wants to train His children to love obedience.

I was 16 when my dad left to live with his not-that-much-older-than-me girlfriend. He had been a church deacon just a few months before. This wasn’t his first affair, and wouldn’t be his last, but it was the one that affected me most.

My parents are still married, happily, and talk about these unhappy seasons of their marriage with a depth of gratitude for their Father God that I still don’t understand. It took me five years to forgive my dad.

The only way I could do it was to see him the way God saw him. As a man. As a sinner. As His child. The crime wasn’t against me; it was against God. Jesus’s strong teaching about forgiveness is a gift for us to embrace. When we can take the offense off us and put it on God, He can deal with it, and He can often bring restoration to earthly relationships. At least on your part!

 

Thank the Father for blotting out your transgressions and remembering them no more. (Isa 43:25)

Turn to God in repentance for unforgiveness toward others so that a time of refreshing may come. (Acts 3:19)

Ask God to help you see your offender through the eyes of a loving Father who does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy. (Micah 7:18)

Thank God for the blood of the covenant which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:28)

 

Day 10: Saturday, March 16

You have been forgiven: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (1 Jn 2:12)

You have been cleansed: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

You are not condemned: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1)

You have been redeemed: Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.” (Ps 107:2)

You have been restored: “He restores my soul.” (Ps 23:3)

 

Thank you, Lord, that you have an “unfailing love” for me. Thank you that when I accepted You as my Savior my sins were forgiven, past, present, and future! You knew every one of the sins that I would commit, and You bore them ALL on the cross. Thank you that when I sinned after believing in You, when I confessed it, You cleansed me of not only that sin but even the ones I wasn’t aware of—You washed me white as snow once again! Thank you, Lord, that You have redeemed me from the hand of the adversary! I thank you that You can use all my failures for Your glory and my transformation. Thank You that You are my restorer. In Jesus name. Amen.

Confession

1 John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Day 1: Ash Wednesday, March 6

Sometimes we can get caught up in our filled schedules, and our minds are continually wondering even when we intentionally sit in silence. We find ourselves checking off our to-do lists as we sit talking to God without realizing we’ve lost focus from listening to His voice.  As we enter into a 40-day journey of encountering Him, take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly let the breath out.

 

Father, I give you my time. I lay down my pride and my defenses that I so readily keep holstered. Open my heart and my thoughts to your cleansing Spirit. Show me the areas of my heart that need to be washed pure. I surrender all to you: not my will, but yours.

 

Day 2: Thursday, March 7

How is your spiritual heart today? Take a moment to examine it. Ask God to shine a light on each part of it. Do you see any hardened areas? This hardness can be discontentment, pride, spiritual apathy, bitterness, and the like. God wants to bring healing and freedom to you in these areas!

It begins with acknowledgment and repentance followed by confession. They go hand in hand.

In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist says, “Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance…” True repentance will realign your heart with God’s and produce fruit that can often be seen by others such as turning away from and hatred of sin, the pursuit of holiness, and joy. “Keeping with repentance” is an ongoing pursuit in which we must be diligent so that our spiritual hearts don’t get choked out by sin. While repentance is an inward heart transformation between you and God, confession is the outward expression of that transformation. Whether you need to confess to God or a brother/sister, it is a crucial step toward healing and lasting freedom. Repentance and confession break the chains of bondage to that sin. There is a tangible feeling of a weight being lifted that can only be found in the work of aligning your heart, mind, and will with God’s

“Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

 

Ask God to align your heart, mind, and will with His.

Confess your sins to Him. If He asks you to confess to someone else, ask Him for a humble strength in confessing.

Ask Him to help you walk in true, fruitful repentance.

 

Day 3: Friday, March 8

Confess (homologeō) – to agree with, concede; to profess, not to deny – to declare.

When I think about confession, I find myself trying to make a list of things I’ve done wrong so that I can ask forgiveness for each individual sin.  I end up frustrated and usually give up because most of the time I’m not even aware of my sin!  As a result, I find myself skipping over this critical part of my prayer life altogether!

But, is that the point of confession?  God already knows that I am a sinner.  He knows my sins better than I do.  Does he really need me to rehash every sin?

Romans 10:9 says that if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, then I will be saved.  In other words, the day that I believed Jesus died on the cross for my sins and was resurrected is the day that I was cleansed and forgiven for all my sins – past, present, and future. The point of confession is not to obtain forgiveness.  It is to cleanse my conscience and free me from the guilt of my sins so that I can freely come to the Father.  

You see, sin drives a wedge between God and me, and it gets worse (harder for me to come back to Him) when I try to conceal the fact that I’m a sinner – consciously or unconsciously.

So the answer to the question is NO.  God doesn’t need my confession; I DO.

Psalm 32:2-5, Prov. 28:13

 

Ask God to reveal something that he wants you to confess today.

Consider making this confession verbally – say it out loud; proclaim it to God that he can heal you from your sins. 

 

Day 4: Saturday, March 9

I distinctly remember a day in my childhood when I told a terrible deceitful lie to my mother. I went about my day feeling the weight of my guilt grow heavier and heavier. I found myself longing to get home from school so that I could confess to my mother. I remember the relief when doing so. I remember my joy returning and my mother’s loving response. I didn’t even know God then. How kind of him to make this provision for us.

 

Let us spend a few minutes with our Heavenly Father now.

He is ready to hear our confession.

He is ready to forgive us, cleanse us and restore us.

Umm, You Have Something On Your Forehead…

Once a year we see several people around town with what seems like a little smudge of dirt on their forehead. Maybe they’ve been gardening? Their toddler got a little out of hand? You shrug it off and keep going throughout your day.

You may even know about Ash Wednesday, but think it’s just a Catholic thing, so everyone with ashes on their head must be Catholic. However, there is a lot to learn about this special day and the symbolism it carries.

Let’s Start with Lent

Lent, the practice of a 40-day fasting season before Easter, is believed to have started in AD 325 by the First Council of Nicaea. The 40 days most likely originated from the examples of Moses(Ex 34:28), Elijah (1 Ki 19:8), and Jesus himself (Mt 4:1-11). Though churches observe these 40 days in different fashions, the most common in the Western tradition is beginning on the sixth Wednesday before Easter while breaking fast each Sunday.* (If you’ve ever done the math, there are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Subtracting each Sunday gives you 40.)

According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “Lent is generally observed as a time of penance by abstaining from festivities, by almsgiving, and by devoting more than the usual time to religious exercises. Of recent years in the Western Church, more emphasis has been placed on these aspects than on physical fasting.”

It may be known that many give up something for Lent such as red meat, alcohol, social media, etc. This reflects the historical practice of fasting from flesh-meat, fish, and dairy. However, the idea is not to only give up an item, but to replace it with prayer, Bible reading, or the like.

Lent is to be a time of personal reflection as well as reflection of the Church as we live out the hope given us by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Christians around the world meditate on the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed by the Gospel. Therefore, we grow in faith and in devotion to Him who frees us.

OK, So What About the Ashes?

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the Lenten Season. It is six Wednesdays prior to Easter Sunday. Ashes have a couple of symbolic traits. First, they are a reminder of our humanity. “For you are dust, and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:19) Second, ashes are a sign of grief, repentance, humiliation, sacrifices, and mourning in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Some examples are Tamar after being defiled by her brother Amnon (2 Sam 13:19), Mordecai after learning of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews (Est 4:1), Job repenting (Job 42:6), Daniel pleading with God in prayer (Dan 9:3), Jesus reprimanding Chorazin and Bethsaida for not repenting (Mt 11:21, Lk 10:13), and as a physical reflection of the blood of Christ covering sin (Heb 9:13-14).

The practice of placing ashes on our foreheads is a physical reminder of the gift we are given through the blood of Jesus on the cross as He sacrificed himself so that we may have life.

Ash Wednesday provides an avenue of renewal as we walk into forgiveness and humbly bow before our God and King, repenting of our shortcomings. We are reminded of our humanity and put self aside so that Jesus’ life is seen through us.

Now What?

We invite you to observe Lent with us this year. We will have two services for Ash Wednesday on March 6 at 6 PM and 7 PM. Feel free to choose which service best fits your schedule and family. If you serve or participate in regular Wednesday Night programming then join us for the 6 PM service. Learn more about these services by visiting our Events Page.

Our prayer team has also created 40 Days of Prayer if you would like to follow along and unite with us in prayer during this season. These prayer prompts may give you a boost if you would want to practice a 40-day fast. Some people choose to give up an hour of TV in the evening, one or more meals, social media, or any other item that you may want to replace with prayer or meditation. If you would like to receive the prompts each day, sign up here. They will also be posted on the MBC Blog at the beginning of each week.

We pray this time is a blessing to our church body as well as the Church as a whole. May you be refreshed and encouraged. May this time bring you ever closer to the love and knowledge of our forgiving and grace-filled Lord and Savior.

 

*Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 971). Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press.