The Lenten Season Week 1
The Lenten Season Week 2
The Lenten Season Week 3
The Lenten Season Week 4
The Lenten Season Week 5
Devotions for Lent: Holy Week
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which marks the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, and the beginning of the week of his passion. The word ‘passion’ comes from a Latin word which means ‘suffering’. The suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross is what has always been referred to as “The Passion.” In the Thesaurus, the words “fervor” and “rage” are used as synonyms of the word passion which has come to mean a strong feeling, or commitment. And Scripture uses it this way in places: Colossians 3:5 tells us, “So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry.” However in the context of Holy Week, it pertains to Jesus’ suffering on the Cross: NJB Acts 1:3 “He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God.” (NJB)
Today, we’ve also lost this sense of the word, in part because there is so little of this kind of passion left in the Western world – meaning there is little we care enough to suffer for. In the root meaning of the word ‘suffering,’ which we find in the word ‘passion’ we also encounter a related word, ‘passive’. And though we don’t associate passivity with strong feelings, the passive person suffers as well – usually from outside forces or from the lack of direction. How different is the passion of Jesus: directed by God and willingly accepted. Jesus actively chose his path and the sufferings that followed. In Jesus we see not only the full depth of God’s passion for us and the suffering that was a necessary part of it, but the full depth of one perfect human’s passion for God: obedience that led to death.
How do we respond to God’s call to follow him? With passion as one who is passionate? Or without – as one who is passive? Both ways lead to suffering: if passionate, we actively choose God’s way and follow Jesus obediently, often suffering as he did; if passive, the suffering we experience is not part of God’s plan for us, and results in the pain of being distant from him – being outside of his will. To walk with Jesus is to “take up your cross and follow me.” In this, we must accept God’s direction and choose to follow the path He lays out for us. This is a path of certain passion (suffering), but also certain hope, because Easter always follows Lent.
As you spend time with the Lord this week, read the arrest and trial of Jesus with new eyes – with passionate eyes. Look to see how Jesus’ passion for His people led to His Passion on the cross. Allow such Scriptures as those written below to help focus your reflection on the suffering servant.
John 8:28-29 “So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me—
John 18:37 “Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Luke 14:26-27 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison– your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters– yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Hebrews 6:10-12 “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints. But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises.”
Isaiah 52:14 “But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.”
Devotions for Lent: Week Four
Our godliness can often be measured as a line between our pride and humility. Scripture tells us that God has placed a spirit of “fierce desires” in us. Pride can ignite these God-given desires into an occasion for doing wrong, like King Nebuchadnezzar who was (Daniel 5:20), “Arrogant and hardened with pride (and therefore) he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. Humility, on the other hand, makes room for God, who tempers and directs our desires, and guides us to lasting fulfillment.
Lent is a season well suited to practicing humility. Scripture tells us that Jesus humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (a more humiliating event could not have been imagined). So we practice humility as a way to follow Jesus, and to cast off all our ineffective, prideful attempts at self-promotion, self-salvation, and self-satisfaction.
When we remember that Jesus’ death is our only hope, and that all our efforts to save ourselves are at best short-term solutions, and doomed to fail, we weep for our condition. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 51:17thata “broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Our example comes from Jesus’ own words about a tax collector who could not even approach the temple to pray because he was so aware of his brokenness. He could only stand at a distance, not even looking up to heaven, but beating his breast he said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). Daniel’s prayer for the city of Jerusalem before the Lord (Dan 9:18) was also filled with humility: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” In short, those who are humble before the Lord receives His attention (Psalm 25:9): “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”
But there is also a time for celebration – to get up from our contrition and self loathing and come boldly before the Lord because our salvation draws near. As Jesus told His disciples: “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (John 16:22). So as we humble ourselves afresh this Lenten season; watching with our, minds eye as that wretch of a man, broken and battered makes His way to the place called “the skull” so that He can be lifted up in my stead, we remember afresh that if He hadn’t walked that road, I would have to – but because He did, I don’t have to. This remembrance gives the term “humility,” a whole new light.
As you spend time with the Lord this week, read over the passages in Scripture of how Jesus, the very Son of God was humiliated by Pilate and other Roman authorities; spit on by members of the Sanhedren, the religious leaders of Jerusalem; and sentenced to death by His own people, the Jews. Confess the recent times you have demonstrated pride and arrogance towards others either in their presence or behind their back. Ask the Lord to once again, allow you to give to Him your sins of superiority, self-importance, and condescension towards others.
To aid you in your devotions before the Lord this week, read through Isaac Watts’ famous Hymn, “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” below and give focus to the depth of Christ’s death on the Cross:
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
3. See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Devotions for Lent: Week Three
If you are a typical parent, you would be often quick to expect perfection from your children as well as shock when it doesn’t appear. But in reality, while we try as we can to pose as mature and sinless adults (whether we are parents or not), we too are often merely disobedient children before the Lord. As Paul writes to the Roman church in a series we have just concluded, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one,” (Rom 3:12). Paul isn’t talking about the Roman church’s child care program here, he’s talking about grown ups. But God proves himself to be a good parent: He doesn’t hide the fact that we belong to Him and because of that, He doesn’t disown us at the first sign of childish rebellion … or the second, or the third, or ever, really.
On the contrary: even while we were lost in our sin, Scripture says God showed that He was not willing to lose a single one of us so He sent Christ to die in our stead. Jesus took our place on the cross, and experienced the death and separation from God that we deserved. God didn’t wait for us to come to our senses or to prove that we were going to “behave” for the duration. This gift, this forgiveness, is not a reward for good behavior. It is free and undeserved. It is God saying to us, “You are worthy of this gift because you belong to me. I am your father, you are my child. I love you, and I am not willing to lose you.”
And so the Father demonstrates to us, His children, His patience and longsuffering, as the Apostle Paul writes to his protégé, Timothy, “But for that very reason I (Paul) was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life,” (1 Tim 1:16).
So because we are in Christ, we have His patience – which helps us to continue on in Christ, as we see from the saints of the book of Revelation. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” (Rev 14:12).
So when stuff comes our way that causes us frustration, we call upon the Spirit of God to produce the patience of God in us, so we may be lacking in nothing. As James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” (James 1:2-4).
In your quiet times with the Lord this week, call on Him for His patience to work afresh in your life. Confess your inability to be patient on your own, but that with the help of the Holy Spirit of God, you will be able be patient. And then seek out opportunities to be patient before the Lord – talking with Him all the while – even as you line up at the longest line at the supermarket. Talk to the Lord about His patience in you as you are following behind that person driving 30 mph in a 45 mph zone, spend another minute on the phone with that solicitor before telling him or her you are not interested. Spend more time than you usually do listening to your spouse or children report on the activities of their day. Be quick to take time out – just a moment or two at times, and thank the Lord for who He is in your life, and for His faithfulness towards you which is showing up more and more in your becoming patient.
Remember, patience is not only a virtue, it is fruit given from the Holy Spirit of God – to each believer who seeks after it. May this week find you with greater patience for today, and for the future ahead.
Devotions for Lent: Week Two
As we continue on in our Lenten experience, we cannot go much further without understanding how the Lord would want us to spend some time with Him alone. Jesus, Himself, spent 40 days in the desert, and we see where He often went out to a “lonely place.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew that we must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. Richard Foster tells us that “inward solitude will have outward manifestations.”
And so we desire solitude, recognizing that there is no solitude without silence. When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence behind.
There is an old proverb that says “the man who opens his mouth, closes his eyes!” The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear – words from the Lord which we require to guide us forward. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us “there is a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.” The prophet tells us that when we are silent, that we renew our strength. Isaiah 41:1 says, “Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength.” Moses tells the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 27:9 that in silence they will find out who they really are: “Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God.”
So, we enter into regular periods of silence and solitude by being alone, finding a spot in a park, a church sanctuary, or even a storage closet somewhere, and we sit or stand in silence before the Lord – listening with the depths of our souls. It’s not easy to do. Our minds wander and the list of items we are not getting done because we are alone with the Lord parade through our minds in endless fashion. And so we struggle a bit – but then, aren’t all disciplines a struggle at first? Soon, we begin to relish the silence, being alone with the Savior, savoring every scant word we utter before Him; straining our ears to listen to His “still small voice.”
Thomas Merton once said, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them.”
As we continue on in our Lenten experience we enjoy our Lord’s presence in our confessions, and now we take on opportunities for solitude before the Lord. While you are there alone with the Lord, keep focused on Him through Scriptures – meditating on them and reflecting on God’s greatness and power, faithfulness and goodness. Some suggested verses to read over with Him might be:
1 Chronicles 16:27-29 “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
1 Chronicles 29:11-13 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
Psalm 23:1-6 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:28 “Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him.”
Habakkuk 2:20 “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The Season of Lent – 2013, Week 1
As Lent begins, consider the things that come between you and God, and hold them up before God in confession. Confession causes us to face our nature, and can be a frightful thing, but it is also a bridge to God. Sincere confession is always followed by God’s drawing near in forgiveness. Begin by reading David’s words of confession before the Father so that you might use some of his words as an example:
(For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.)
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shameful deeds; they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner; yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me, now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you. You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with worthy sacrifices and with our whole burnt offerings; and bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar. NLT
As you can see there are several phrases and sentences which any one of us might use as a request / petition for our Lord to have mercy on us in our time of confession. As you begin to pray, use words from the Psalm or there is a suggested prayer below. Don’t be limited by what is written here – add your own words as you are moved to and be specific before the Lord as to what you are confessing. The point is to open your heart before Him with all honesty and integrity and confess to Him what He knows already – but what He is just waiting for you to bring to Him by your confession.
Holy and merciful Father: I confess to you that I have sinned by such thoughts, words, and deeds such as _________; by what I have done and by what I have left undone __________. I have not loved You with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself – in fact, I think much too much about myself. I have not forgiven _________ as I should, and I have been deaf to Your call to serve as Christ has served me. Therefore, against Your Word, I have grieved your Holy Spirit. Forgive me, Lord, and restore unto me the joy of Your salvation. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN
As the Scripture says, ”If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (1 John 1.9). Now is the time to search our hearts and to be fully known by God. Remember, there is no darkness too deep for God because His own son suffered death on a cross under a greater burden than any have known before or after because the darkness into which He descended was the pit of hell itself. Therefore there is no depth to which we might sink, where He has not been, or where we will be out of the reach of His mercy.
Prayer of Petition
Father, I am often buried under the weight of my own dark thoughts, and so fearful of them that I cannot even face them. But Lord, you promise that because of what Jesus did on the cross, You will help me to overcome them. Lord, shine your light ever more brightly inside of me so that I can live for You in a way that is pleasing and brings glory to Your Name. And during this season of Lent, help me to let you into the deepest recesses of my heart. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN
In this first week of Lent, consider taking two or three days to spend alone with the Lord – confessing your sins and petitioning for His cleanliness to envelope you. Change your routine and skip some meals and/or cut out something you enjoy and give that time up to the Lord. Remember the words from Scripture, “When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the LORD,” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)NET.