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The Passion

Day 35, Monday, April 15

“Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.” (Mk 11:15-18)

Do you have a zeal for God and his church like Jesus did? What kind of action does he want you to take about the injustice you see in the world?

 

Ask God to give you righteous anger for the things that anger Jesus.

 

Day 36, Tuesday, April 16

In chapter 23 of Matthew, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for being hypocritical. He has nothing good to say about what they are doing.

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.  They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.’” (Matt 23:1-12)

 

Pray for a humble heart and mind.

Ask God to reveal areas in your life where your actions don’t reflect the life you proclaim in Christ.

 

Day 37, Silent Wednesday, April 17

It is called “Silent Wednesday” because the Bible makes no mention of what happened that day. Speculation: Jesus most likely spent this day with His disciples in Bethany and had one last intimate fellowship before He is arrested. It is assumed that Judas travels this day to have his talk with the Pharisees about betraying Jesus. He may have done this the day before. Let’s grant the speculation validity for the sake of asking these questions: What would it be like to know someone so close to you is about to betray you to your death? How would you feel on a day filled with some of the closest people in which you love, and yet knowing what is about to happen to you?  Does your life characterize this intimate time Jesus spent with his disciples on this day?

 

Pray for the understanding of God as man and the unimaginable love He has for us to walk this path to the cross.

Thank Jesus for His strength and courage which continues to live in you.

 

Day 38, Maundy Thursday, April 18

In John 13-16, Jesus is in an upper room preparing himself and his disciples for his death. As Paul describes later, the Messiah takes on “the very nature of a servant” by washing the disciples’ feet.

He uses this simple last supper to give the Passover meal a new meaning. The loaf of bread and cup of wine represent his body and his blood. With this, he institutes the Eucharist using the words we still use today. Jesus also instructs the disciples “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” In Latin, this is ‘mandatum’ (the root of the word mandate), hence ‘Maundy’ Thursday.

Jesus then leads the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. He asks them to wait while he prays. He prays in agony as he confronts his impending death “for the sin of the world” and we glimpse the Son of God at his human state as he begs his father to “take this cup from me” Imagine what it would be like to be present at that moment, seeing Jesus in despair? Remember, His disciples, the ones who loved and knew Him most, fell asleep. (Matt 26:36-46)

 

Ask God what He is speaking to you about the life of Christ right now.

Pray that God would give you a servant heart like Jesus and specifically reveal what that looks like in your life. 

 

Day 39, Good Friday, April 19

“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.” (Matt 27:45-61)

Following betrayal, arrest, desertion, denial, condemnation, beatings and mockery, Jesus carries his cross to Golgotha for crucifixion with two other prisoners. Jesus’ body is placed

in the tomb before 6:00 p.m. when the Sabbath begins.

If you were there would you have been standing there at the cross or hiding with most of the disciples? How do you think John and the women felt as they stood at the cross? What was going through the minds and hearts of the disciples wherever they were hiding? What did the soldiers think as they saw this? Try to imagine what Jesus is going through not just in a physical sense but a spiritual sense of being cut off from God.

 

Kneel in silence for a moment, as if kneeling at the base of His cross, as you realize the magnitude of this evening.

Listen for God’s Word over your heart and mind.

 

Day 40, Saturday, April 20

“Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.”And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” (Matt. 27:62-66)

“…This hour and the power and authority of darkness are yours.” (Luke 22:53)

The powers of Satan are in great celebration on this day in history (yet, they still are using deception to hide the truth). The disciples and all his true followers are in shock and mourning feeling the great loss. They truly are in darkness. What was it like for Mary to realize that her Son she had placed all her hope in was gone forever? What was it like for the disciples to know their Leader destroyed? What was it like to have the people see their Messiah murdered never to return?

Pray for the hope of Christ to fill your heart.

Ask God to lift any dark circumstances you may be battling in your life.

Proclaim the life and authority of Christ over you and your family and friends.

Ask God to give you a continual desire to know Him more and focus on Him beyond these 40 days you’ve spent with Him.

 

Tomorrow, we celebrate!

Palm Sunday

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
And the bow of war will be cut off.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:9-10)

We begin our ascent into Holy Week as we approach the Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem as the crowd cheers and lays palm leaves before Him; such a stark contrast against what’s to come. He rides in on a colt, a prophecy of old fulfilled:

‘When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.’

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!’

When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’And the crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:1-11)

As you read these passages, imagine what Jesus was thinking and feeling. How did the people in the crowd view Him? What were they thinking and feeling? Should we be like them? As we enter Holy Week, allow yourself to explore all the emotional ups and downs. Celebration, betrayal, denial, desperation, doubt, grief, and then the hope of Sunday.

Read Matthew 21-28 to follow the journey of Jesus from Palm Sunday to Easter.

 

You are invited to join us for Holy Week services:

Palm Sunday-April 14 10:15 AM

Good Friday-April 19 7 PM

Easter Sunrise-April 21 8 AM

Easter Breakfast-9 AM

Easter Service-10:15 AM

 

Grace

Ephesians 1:7

 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”

Ephesians 4:7

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Day 29, Monday, April 8

We live in a world where people measure their value and their worth by what other people think or say about them. All of that leads to judgment. Judgment kills but only grace makes alive!

I’ve often heard grace referred to as unmerited favor, but I think it’s so much more. Grace means EVERYTHING! It is by Grace that we are here; it is His Grace to come alongside us amid trials and suffering. It is His Grace that He chose to save any of us. It is His Grace that He promises never to leave us or forsake us. It is His Grace that He gives us His power and strength for living every day.

It is His Grace that he sent His Son Jesus.

 

Thank the Lord for one way He’s shown His grace to you over this past year.

Ask the Lord to show you an area in your life where you can offer grace instead of judgment.

Ask for God to show you ways that He shows you His limitless, amazing grace.

 

Day 30, Tuesday, April 9

Meditate of Ephesians 1:7 and 4:7.

 

Thank you, God, that there is nothing that the blood of Jesus does not cover. Thank you that I am ransomed from the kingdom of darkness through Christ’s full work on the cross. I receive His forgiveness on this day. I receive His hope, love, faith, wisdom, power, and strength. Thank you, Lord, that You graciously lavish all of Your riches upon me in away that I do not deserve. All glory and power to His name. Amen.

 

Day 31, Wednesday, April 10

The grace of God is critical in our daily struggle against the flesh.  This gift of God – grace freely given – is incomprehensible to our ego, which thinks only in terms of merit and deserving. Our flesh loves the law because we can use it to justify ourselves, in our own eyes, and to condemn others.  But when faced with the free, unmerited gift of grace, our ego – the old self – cannot make sense of it.  Here is something that is unmatched by the fleshly, transactional way of operating in the world.  Through the Gospel and the Spirit given to us through grace, we can put to death the flesh.

 

Pray that the grace of God would be incomprehensible in its richness and humbling in its simplicity.  Remember, by grace you are saved.

 

Day 32, Thursday, April 11

God has determined by His will to sanctify us (i.e., set us apart)and make us Holy; by the broken body and shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 ” For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of your selves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. ” Since we have been saved by grace, it seems appropriate that we should extend grace to those we come in contact with. Various trials, tribulations, and temptations will come our way each day. We can choose to respond in the flesh, or we can choose to submit to the Holy Spirit within. How is this done? We take a moment, pray, and submit ourselves to God. We then ponder what the Bible would say about our situation. We then respond in grace and thus reflect to others God in us. In this way we are extending grace to members of our family, co-workers, and those we encounter in the world.

 

Pray that the grace and peace of our Lord and Savior so fills you that it spills over to those around you.   

 

Day 33, Friday, April 12

Grace is God’s unmerited favor and sufficiency or fullness in the life of believers. He clearly lays out the importance of granting us grace so that we can be forgiven and redeemed to spend a life of eternity with Him. He makes it look so easy, but for many, it can be difficult to accept or give grace. For me, it is easier to extend grace to others than it is for myself. Over the years I have learned to accept His grace to live in freedom and to truly experience His gifts alive in me. Some days are easier than others to accept God’s grace, but the more I practice accepting His grace, I am humbled to see His gifts lived out and perfected in my weaknesses.

 

Ask God to show you who you need to extend grace to.

Ask God to give you the strength and courage to let go of any pain or judgment that could be in the way of giving or accepting grace.

Now that we declare and claim we have redemption through His blood, forgiveness of our sins, and to put into practice giving and receiving His grace to be made full of His goodness, In His goodness, we find peace.

 

Day 34, Saturday, April 13

“And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception).” (Jn 1:14)

Imagine Moses in the cleft of the rock (Ex 33:22-23) as God passed by and graced Moses with His full presence. It was too much for Moses to take in, so God covered his eyes so as not to blind Moses with His glory. Moses then saw the back side of God and even that was almost overwhelming.

God, full of grace, sent His Son that we may encounter His glory, too.

 

Thank God for sending His Son that we may see His glory.

Ask God to reveal the fullness of His glory in your life.

Pray the fullness of Jesus is expressed to those around you. Through you, may they see the fullness of grace and the fullness of truth.

Purification

1 Peter 1:22

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”

1 John 3:3

“And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

Day 23, Monday, April 1

The concept of purity has never been welcomed by the world but is held dear to our Lord. We are instructed to purify our souls to love one another with a pure heart (1 Pet 1:22), to think pure thoughts (Phil 4:8), and to purify ourselves because He is pure (1 Jn 3:3). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus promises to reward those who are pure in heart (Matt 5:8). As we prepare ourselves through this Lenten season, and more importantly, as we prepare to stand before the Lord on the day when all our earthly deeds will be judged (2 Cor 5:10), let us purify ourselves.

 

Pray for the Lord to help you avoid all thoughts, words, and actions that are impure.

Pray for the Lord to purify your life now that you may hear “Well done…” as you enter eternity.

 

Day 24, Tuesday, April 2

The definition of purification states that is it a process of removing contaminants from something. When God called us to salvation, a purification of our soul took place. At this moment, we were born again, and God transformed our heart. We were cleansed of any sinful thoughts, desires, and actions not only from our past but also any future shortcomings as well. Even though God has provided the way, we can still fall into temptation, trouble, and doubt. But we must remember we have been set apart by God to obey His Word and submit to the truth. These are the elements of faith that bring us to the true heart of the Gospel message.

 

Thank God for providing the way for the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and to help us be more like Him by removing and rejecting the ways of the world.

 

Day 25, Wednesday, April 3

Meditate on 1Peter 1:22 and 1John 3:3

 

Ask God to reveal to you His truths in these verses.

Praise God for His pure nature.

Thank God for Jesus’-work on our behalf that we might be pure of heart.

Ask God to purify our hearts that we might be obedient to His Word.

 

Day 26, Thursday, April 4

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.

Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

By Your favor do good to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.

Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.”
(Ps 51)

 

Day 27, Friday, April 5

The power the mind has on our day to day activity is tremendous and often underestimated. It can be the difference between being happy or being downright sulky and miserable. Philippians 4:8 says, ‘Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

 

Pray that God would reveal any strongholds in your life that may be interfering with your efforts to keep your thoughts on things that are true and honorable.

Ask God to purify your mind so that you may have a clean slate.

 

Day 28, Saturday, April 6

“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!

And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.

For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.

Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart is appalled within me.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.

I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah.

Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;
Do not hide Your face from me,
Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.

Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
I take refuge in You.

Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me.
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. 

And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
For I am Your servant.”

Holiness

Isaiah 6:1-3

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Day 17, Monday, March 25

Have you ever avoided God’s presence until you had a chance to “clean up” first? Consider the example of Isaiah in Isaiah 6. By being in God’s presence, he grew in his awareness of who God is and in his awareness of who he, Isaiah, was. Then God initiated the cleansing where needed to allow Isaiah to be available for what God wanted as a next step. Next time you’re tempted to avoid God’s presence: come as you are.

 

Father, thank you that I can enter your presence with boldness and humility. Thank you that I can come any time “as I am.” Thank you that when I come with no agenda, that I can listen and respond to Your agenda.

 

Day 18, Tuesday, March 26

“The four living creatures (Seraphims), each having six wings full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying “Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty; who was and is and is to come.” (Rev 4:8)

The first thing we do when we pray as Jesus taught us is to praise God for His holiness. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” God created us to have an intimate relationship with Him, ore than to just love Him, but rather to actually be his friend. He loves to hear us sing praises to Him, and as we sing, our praise transforms to worship as we are overcome by his glory and holiness. As we lift holy hands to Him, we enter His throne room where He embraces us as friends, and in friendship, He fights our battles here on earth.

 

Come before God and acknowledge His holiness.

Thank Him that because of the sacrifice of His Son we can come into His Holy presence as His friends.

Praise Him as He fights for you today.

 

Day 19, Wednesday, March 27

Take a moment to relax into the holy presence of God and allow His arms to wrap around you.

“Jesus, come lead me into the secret place and let me stay. As I come a little deeper now, I fall to my knees and take my place. I want to build my home with you inside your courts; gaze upon the beautiful face I’ve come to know is Yours. Spirit, come and reveal to me the secrets that hide in the deepest parts. Deeper, come take me deeper now, because I want to know the things in Your heart. All I want, Father, and all I need is to be with You now.”

(Build My Home, Judah Lee)

 

Day 20, Thursday, March 28

Meditate on Isaiah 6:1-3

Close your eyes and imagine this scene

 

Praise God for His holiness

Thank God for Jesus’ work on our behalf to provide us with holiness.

Ask God to redirect our vision that we might worship Him high and lifted up.

 

Day 21, Friday, March 29

It’s certainly appropriate to focus on the holiness of God and how He calls us to reflect it. God’s holiness is His absolute perfection. He is perfect—holy—in every way. The prophet Isaiah saw angelic beings declare this while calling to one another: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” In Revelation, John recorded four living creatures who day and night, never stop repeating, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” The holiness of God is always being proclaimed in the heavenly realm. As believers, we can proclaim it in the earthly realm too. The Bible refers to Christians collectively as a holy nation called to declare the praises of the Lord: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Pet 2:9)

 

Pray that in this Lenten season-and always-our lives will declare the praises of our God.

 

Day 22, Saturday, March 30

We regularly sing hymns praising God for His holiness, and rightfully so.  Throughout scripture we see the angels praising God because He is set apart, pure, and His presence makes a place sacred.  In Isaiah 6:1-5, Isaiah’s immediate reaction to God’s purity and Holiness was to confess his sin first and then those of his people.

When Moses came to the burning bush, he was standing on Holy ground because God’s presence was there.

In Rev 4:8 we again see the four creatures praising God because He is Holy, set apart, and there is no equal to Him.

 

As you draw near to his presence, Praise God for his Holiness, and recognize that in a world of enticing things, He alone is worthy of our praise.

“Holy, holy, holy

Lord, God Almighty

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee

Holy, holy, holy

Merciful and mighty

God in three persons blessed Trinity

Holy, holy, holy

Though the darkness hide Thee

Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee

Perfect in power, in love, and purity

Holy, holy, holy

Lord, God Almighty

All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea

Holy, holy, holy

Merciful and mighty

God in three persons blessed Trinity”

(Songwriters: John B. Dykes / Reginald Heber / George S. Schuler

Holy, Holy, Holy lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc,)

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.