Overwhelmed

This weekend my floors were covered in crayon, my walls were covered in poop, my toilet was filled with an entire rolls’ with of paper. I signed up for a diet. I fretted about clutter in the house and stressed about dishes.

Today I went shopping. I met a man with no teeth. He struggled to ask me for help. I never carry cash, but I offered to buy him something. I’m not sure what he said, but I got the impression that if I bought him something I’d get it wrong and he might not have been welcome in the store. I told him that if he could wait, I’d get him some change at the register. He said a lot of things but I’m not sure what, but I was pretty sure he’d wait. In the store as I loaded up my cart with more than enough food for 5 people, I began to hurt inside. I have chosen not to feel guilty about the situation God has given me, but I definitely am guilty of taking it for granted and not being grateful. This man, just as much a hand made beautiful creation of God, died for by Jesus, has no place to call home and can’t even eat a proper meal, and here am I fussing about diets and a floor colored with loving pictures from my kids. I gave him some money on my way out and gave him a hug. I doubt he gets hugged much and I wanted him to know that he was loved.My box I was going to put groceries in blew away rather quickly thanks to a very windy day, and he went and got it for me and offered to put my cart away, and I thanked him and told him that God loved him. He told he I didn’t know how much I’d helped him and he started to cry and turned away.

I started to cry then too cause I don’t understand why God does things the way He does.

I drove on to my second stop, because I’m so blessed with material wealth that I get to decide to go to two places just for food. And I passed by a terribly skinny woman holding a small sign. I parked and walked over to her. She seemed terribly shy and her sign said that she was disabled and looking for work. I asked if I could get her something from Walmart and she acted like maybe there was something but she couldn’t ask for help. She said not to get her anything, but I went ahead and got her a little money. I hate throwing money at problems, I know it doesn’t do much, but sometimes it helps and I want to help. I told her I couldn’t help her get a job, but maybe it would help get until she found one. She kept asking if I was sure, and I told her that God has taken care of me and I wanted to help take care of her. She told me she used to be a nurse and got really sick, lost over 100lbs and was trying to get onto disability. She has such a beautiful smile. When I gave her a hug, she started to cry. I don’t understand. I don’t know why God does what He does, why He allows people to go through what they do. Her name is Sherri. Why her? Why not me?

Part of me hates how blessed I am compared to them. But material wealth and physical health are such surface-y things. What really matters is our souls. And God I pray so much that He saves their souls and uses these times in their lives for His glory, that it matters long term, that they aren’t suffering for nothing. I feel like I’m the rich man, seeing Lazarus by my gatepost, tossing him a crumb from my table, and all I can think is that I hope in the next life that he is comforted.

I cried the whole way home, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe because no one else is crying for them and someone needs to.

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Lent 19

Call to Worship

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord,
who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise
the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For the Lord has
chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. For I know that the Lord
is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Your name, O Lord, endures
forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. For the Lord will vindicate his
people and have compassion on his servants. O house of Levi, bless the Lord! You
who fear the Lord, bless the Lord! Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he who dwells in
Jerusalem! Praise the Lord!

Blessed be HE!

Confession

Lord, You come to us, but we do not recognize You; I want to recognize you You call, but we do not
follow; teach me to follow You command, but we do not obey, I choose you You bless us, but we do not thank
you. Grant me a grateful heart Please forgive and help us. Lord, You accept us, but we do not accept others;
Fill me with love for your people You forgive us, but we do not forgive those who wrong us; You love us, but we
do not love our neighbors. Please forgive and help us. Lord, You showed us how
to carry out Your mission, but we still insist on our own; tear down my dreams and build up your own
You identified with the poor and needy, but we seek our own wants and desires; remove my selfishness
You suffered and died for all, but we turn to our own comfort. In the midst of our lack of faith, You
are always faithful! Amen! Please forgive and help us, You are the faithful one! Amen.

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him
in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true
and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances,
but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should
we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them,
“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they
brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They
said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are
Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

DEVOTIONAL

The forty days of Lent parallels the forty days that Jesus went without food in the
wilderness, so one of the ways we identify with his suffering is by practicing self-
denial. Whether it’s food or TV or “me-time,” we deny ourselves particular comforts and
pleasures as a way of remembering what he endured. The point is not to manufacture
suffering, as if we could earn some kind of righteousness through self-denial. Our heart
in Lent is simply to de-clutter our self-absorbed lives. Making room to remember how
our Lord suffered for us.

It began in the wilderness: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and
was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he
ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2).

The striking thing in this story is that Jesus went into the desert under the direction
of the Holy Spirit. He chose this suffering. Indeed, his whole life was a choice to enter
into our suffering. Again, we are not to go looking for hardship. “Each day has enough
trouble of its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NIV).

God does not tell us to choose suffering, but that does not mean he will always keep it
from us. Jesus was in the wilderness because the Holy Spirit led him there. Further, the
Apostles were adamant that Jesus’ death at the hands of sinners was “according to the
definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The testimony of Scripture is that
Christians need to embrace suffering as part of our calling and endure it as part of our
witness:

» “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

» “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only
believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).

» “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2
Timothy 3:12).

Our wilderness is not literal, but it is very real. We are tempted – perhaps even determined
– to sustain ourselves, to escape our vulnerability, and to chase our aspirations without
thought of others. unfortunately very true

But Jesus offers us another way, a humble way that waits patiently – despite the suffering
– for the Spirit of God to direct our steps. He reveals to us what it means to embrace our
humanity without short cuts.

“The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread’”
(Luke 4:3). Certainly Jesus could have done this, but the lack of bread revealed a deeper
hunger for God, and a deeper satisfaction of being sustained by God.

“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment
of time, and said to him … worship me, it will all be yours’” (4:5-7). It would all be
his eventually, but to have it now would be to have it without suffering and death.
How often do we worship whatever promises to give us what we want now, without
inconvenience or discomfort? But Jesus worships God alone, not because it is easier, but
because it is truer and far better.

“And [the devil] took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and
said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you’” (4:9-10). Had Jesus done
this, he could have ended all this temptation and trial. How often do we call upon God
for miraculous solutions to our suffering, not because we trust him in our circumstance
but because we want out of it? But Jesus would not put God to the test.

We live into our in-Christ-humanity by surrendering to the Holy Spirit, wherever he
may lead us. This season is about waiting, maybe even suffering the loss of things that
have come to define us, because we know that our life is dust, and because we are
looking forward to resurrection life.

REFLECTION

1. How does your inclination to avoid hardship hinder your ability to follow Jesus? Jesus’ message has always been about selflessness and self-sacrificing…and anything against that is just that… against Him.

2. How does the Spirit’s presence in your suffering comfort and strengthen you? I remember that it’s not about me. It’s about Christ and when I get to the end of me… He’s there to keep His work going. I don’t have to be able to do it all. I just have to be willing.

3. Is the Spirit currently leading you somewhere you don’t want to go? Yes and no. No because it’s not something that people are like–oh that’s huge… it’s the little things. It’s always the little things. 😛 It’s getting up in the morning early enough to take care of the body that God’s given me to share with my husband–and keeping it healthy and active for my husband even when I’m tired and grumpy. It’s changing dirty diapers even when my husband is home and he could…it’s being selfless even though I’ve been doing it all day and I just don’t want to anymore. It’s getting off the computer and folding the laundry. It’s doing the uninteresting or tiring things when there’s something more fun or distracting begging for my all-too-eagerly-given attention. It’s sacrificing my time and energy for the good of others…

Closing Prayer

O Holy Spirit, as the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full
of glory, so may my heart be full of thee. Vain are all divine purposes of love
and the redemption wrought by Jesus except thou work within, regenerating
by thy power, giving me eyes to see Jesus, showing me the realities of the
unseen world. Give me thyself without measure, as an unimpaired fountain,
as inexhaustible riches.
Amen

Lent 18

Call to Worship

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great
mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled,
and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded
through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you
rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by
various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than
gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and
glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him,
you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice
with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your
faith, the salvation of your souls.

Blessed be He–the God and Father of us all. The creator God, the Savior King, the Shepherd who died, The living God. Thank you Father for creating us, saving us, and giving us an inheritance that will last forever.  God… I want to see you. Maybe not fully here on earth, but I want to see you shine through people, I want to know you so well that I see your hands and actions everywhere, your laughter, your smiles, your touch, your truth, you working through the circumstances… Please let me see you…and teach me to have faith.

Confession

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you
there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen
wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Almighty
God, our Redeemer, in our weakness we have failed to be your messengers of
forgiveness and hope. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your
commands and proclaim your reign of love, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thank you for forgiveness…

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a
fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to
tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant
to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took
him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them
another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.
And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they
beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent
him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one
another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will
the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the
vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous
in our eyes’?” And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they
perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went
away.

DEVOTIONAL

Whenever I try to make sense of suffering, I end up in the same dilemma. On one hand,
I know that my hardships and afflictions are relatively insignificant compared to what
I see around me; much less, what I am aware of around the world. mmhmmm On the other hand,
I cannot deny that I get sick, stretched, slandered, and snubbed. Privileged as they are,
I feel burdened by my circumstances and frustrated with my struggle against sin. me too It’s
dishonest to say I don’t suffer, at least from my perspective.

So how are we to view the various forms of hardship and trial that we face? What is the
relationship between our faith and suffering?

Some teach that Jesus suffered so we wouldn’t have to, but an honest assessment is that
no one escapes suffering in a fallen world. It is more than physical hardship. It’s also
emotional pain, relational woes, soul unrest, and spiritual attack. Jesus’ death does not
take away our suffering, but it gives profound meaning and purpose to it.

Consider James’ exhortation to those who suffer: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when
you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces
steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

I said previously that suffering happens to us. We cannot control our circumstances, but
we can control how we think about them. so true. Dan McCartney comments, “Knowing how
to interpret events and actions is a large part of wisdom, and the faithful attitude of the
Christian is one of joy.” 🙂

We can rejoice on two accounts. First, suffering provides a context for our faith to mature.
The “trials of various kinds” represent the pressures of life that threaten our sense of
well-being. When we are sick or stuck or grieved, we tend to doubt God’s sovereignty
and goodness in our lives. Every test of our body or mind or emotion is fundamentally a
“testing of our faith” (1:2). In other words, the quality of our faith is proven in suffering,
tested and shown to be genuine. In the way that an object is proven to be gold in the
fire, the “proof” of our faith is in the “fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12). Whether we are talking
about common adversities or more acute hardships, we can embrace and even rejoice in
suffering because we know that it produces character and hope and maturity (Romans
5:3, James 1:2-4).

Second, suffering focuses our hope on the consummation of all things, when God “will
wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there
be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4). Just as Jesus endured
the cross for the joy set before him (Hebrew 12:2), so too we look to the day when the
steadfast will receive the crown of life (James 1:12).

Wisdom, suffering, and maturity are all bound together in the person and work of
Christ. He “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30), and he was “made
perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10). So then: we are justified by Christ’s suffering
and sanctified by ours. By this we are reminded that suffering is not a setback to our
agendas, but rather an orientation to God’s agenda, which is to form the character of
Christ in us.

Ultimately, God does not ask us to explain suffering. He asks us to rejoice in it and
endure it.

REFLECTION

1. How have you questioned God’s sovereignty or goodness in your life? I don’t know that this is something I honestly struggle with much… I know God is good. He has blessed me with that childlike faith that whatever is happening to me will end up okay. I didn’t do anything to get that faith…He just blessed me with it. I don’t have a hard time believing that God is weaving every little thing into a beautiful and majestic whole tapestry that will reveal His true glory. And I thank Him for that.

2. How does the desire for comfort over character play out in your life? Now this…THIS is what I struggle with. I am such a lazy, selfish person that pretty much anything uncomfortable I find a way out of if I can. If it’s an uncomfortable situation that HAPPENS to me it’s more endurable… but specifically CHOOSING to do the right and selfless thing when it’s uncomfortable, or going out of my way to work harder than absolutely necessary…yeah…not happening. or… I should say. It hasn’t happened much in the past, but I don’t want to be that person. I want to be selfless… I want to be hard-working. I want to work hard and go to bed tired but knowing I did all I could with my day and loved on the people God placed in my life. I’ve started trying to work on this by getting up early and going to a yoga class at my church, and my husband and I gave up TV shows for lent…and I’m cutting back on my computer time (other than doing my Bible studies on here) so I’ll be offline a lot more and I’m hoping that limiting myself in those areas that I usually waste time will help to encourage me to do the things that I know I can and should do to help others.

3. Are you willing to ask God to purify your faith? yes

Closing Prayer

O God Whose will conquers all, there is no comfort in anything apart from
enjoying thee and being engaged in thy service; Thou art All in all, and all
enjoyments are what to me thou makest them, and no more. I am well pleased
with thy will, whatever it is, or should be in all respects, And if thou bidst me
decide for myself in any affair, I would choose to refer all to thee, for thou art
infinitely wise and cannot do amiss, as I am in danger of doing. I rejoice to
think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.
Then prayer turns wholly into praise, and all I can do is to adore and bless thee.
Amen

Lent 17

Call to Worship

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The
Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. I shall not die, but
I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Father God, thank you for suffering. You never had to. You chose to. You were selfless when we have always been selfish and ignored you. We give you a cold shoulder and you give us a warm hug. We steal from you, you give us gifts. We spit in your face and you tell us you love us. We murder your loved ones, and you choose to die for us. We reject you, and you live for us. This is love. This is self-sacrifice. teach me to live like you…teach me to love you in return.

Confession

Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and
unbelief, of failure to find thy mind in thy Word, of neglect to seek thee in
my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of
accusations, But I bless thee that they will not stand against me, for all have
been laid on Christ; Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live
above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings of the mind bring my
spirit into subjection, but do thou rule over me in liberty and power.

Amen

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief
priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what
authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by
what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from
man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say,
‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say,
‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really
was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them,
“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

DEVOTIONAL

Lent is the season leading up to Easter. It is a time of preparation and repentance in
which we remember Jesus’ suffering and anticipate his resurrection.

The question you often hear is, “What did you give up for Lent?” Throughout history,
Christians have observed Lent by fasting or other acts of self-denial. The danger with
tradition, of course, is that it can become mere ritual, or even a source of pride. We want
to recapture a spirit of faith in this season.

Unlike repentance and humility, which happen in and through us, suffering and
persecution simply happen to us. The former is a response of faith to the grace of God at
work. The latter requires a response of faith in the goodness and wisdom of God, even
when it seems he is not at work.

The subject raises a difficult question: Why does God allow us to suffer? We are always
searching for answers to this question, for ourselves and for our world. Not knowing
“why” is part of the suffering.

One day when Jesus and his disciples were walking, they passed by a man blind from
birth. “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he
was born blind?” (John 9:2). They were looking for answers.

Based upon God’s covenant promises with Israel, Jews were inclined to expect God to
invariably bless them materially in response to pious living. Conversely, they expected
that those who did evil were to experience divine discipline in various forms. In short,
they expected God to bless them for doing good, and to punish others for their sin.

We see this mindset revealed by Job’s friends in the book of Job. In truth, Job was being
tested with adversity because of his piety, and not because of sin (Job 1:1-12). Job’s friends
persisted in trying to force him to confess that his suffering was the result of some sin he
had committed. If he but forsook his sin, they insisted, then God would again bless him.

Perhaps Asaph had the same assumptions about prosperity and poverty. He was
frustrated and angry with God because the wicked appeared to prosper while the pious
did not (Psalm 73:1-14).

This is why the disciples framed the question the way they did. Their explanation for
suffering was that someone was being punished for sin. But Jesus answered, “It was not
that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in
him” (John 9:3).

Jesus was not offering a trite explanation of all suffering, but rather pointing to his own
suffering that would explain the love of God. Jesus voluntarily and unjustly endured
suffering, even unto death. Not because he sinned, but because “all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He did this so that the works of God might be
displayed in him, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received
by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had
passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he
might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:25-26).

We do not have all the answers about why we suffer, but we do know what the answer
cannot be. It cannot be that God doesn’t see or care, for he sent his own Son to enter into
our suffering. And it cannot be a hopeless situation, for he conquered sin and death by
raising his Son from the dead.

REFLECTION

1. How does the reality of suffering challenge your faith? I am one of those people that, if I am suffering, I get super close to God and kinda just cling to Him. I have a much easier time trusting God in the hard times. I don’t know why. I have a much much harder time trusting God and relying on Him when life is easy and there doesn’t seem to be much to trust Him with… :/

2. Have you tried to explain suffering in ways that might be unbiblical? I’m not sure what this question is asking… but I don’t think so…

3. How does Jesus’ death and resurrection give you strength and hope? God gives me hope because He understands my struggles–He was a man, He was tempted, He understands the draw, He understands my hurt… He overcame and He’s standing with me to help me overcome. I can choose that because He died for me. When I hurt, I know He cares, and He’s there with His strong arms to hold me and his hole-y hands to caress my hair and tell me that everything will turn out alright in the end.

Closing Prayer

Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained. Never let me wander from the
path of obedience to thy will. Strengthen me for the battles ahead. Give me
courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys. Help me to be a holy, happy
person, free from every wrong desire, from everything contrary to thy mind.
Grant me more and more of the resurrection life: may it rule me, may I walk in
its power, and be strengthened through its influence. Amen.

Lent 16

Call to Worship

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and
thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation
of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His
lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt
like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. O you who love the Lord,
hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the
wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in
the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! [PSALM 95:1-5, 10-12]

Father God, you are truly awesome. Awe-inspiring, awful, awe-ful, great, powerful, mighty, creator, destroyer, just, majestic, king, the one, the only true God.

Confession

Almighty God, who is rich in mercy to all those who call upon you; hear us
as we come to you humbly confessing our sins, and imploring your mercy
and forgiveness. We have broken your holy laws by our deeds and by our
words, and by the sinful affections of our heart. We confess before you our
disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness, and all our failures
and shortcomings toward you and toward our family and friends. Have mercy
upon us, most merciful Father, and through your great goodness grant that we
may from now on serve and please you in newness of life; grant us this, we
pray, through the mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Amen.

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.
And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed
has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you,
whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does
not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be
done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you
have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if
you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may
forgive you your trespasses.”

DEVOTIONAL

“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we
want you to do for us whatever we ask of you’” (Mark 10:35).

How’s that for humble prayer? “Before I say what I want, I want you to say you’ll do it.”
We are good at telling God what we want, but we are not very good at learning what God
wants. That kind of learning takes patience, reflection, study, obedience, and all kinds of
things that require deep humility. It’s much easier just to go with what we think is best.

Jesus entertains the request: “What do you want me to do for you? And they said to him,
“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (10:36-37).

It was an absurd request, but not to them of course. They had it in their heads that Jesus
would deliver them from their oppressors and establish an earthly reign. Further, they
saw themselves as high-ranking officials in the new regime.

Their perception of reality and their notion of what was good and right prevented them
from understanding what Jesus had just told them: “The Son of Man will be delivered
over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver
him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill
him” (10:33-34).

If you come to God on your terms, expecting him to fit into your worldview and align
with the way you think things ought to be, you are starting off on the wrong foot, and
that will lead you down the wrong path. You’ll end up saying things that are absurd.

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the
cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (10:38).
In other words: “My glory is not what you think it is. And the path of glory is certainly
not what you think it is.” Like we often do, these brothers had mistaken importance for
significance. Importance speaks to the value we derive from things like position, status,
and the esteem of others. It is about building our brand: dropping names, getting close
to popular people, flaunting knowledge, looking busy, defining spiritual maturity by
activity and achievement, exalting public gifts above the others. Significance speaks to
the value we add to people and culture. It’s about building others up: remembering their
name, drawing near to the fringe, teaching others, being accessible, defining spiritual
maturity by love for others, exalting Jesus as the head of the body, and appreciating the
contribution of each member.

“The cup” refers to the suffering that Jesus was about to endure. Before he could be
exalted to his throne, he had to be hung on a tree. The disciples could not die the
mediator’s death, but they would drink from the cup of his suffering. Greatness in the
kingdom always involves a cross.

It was a teaching moment for the disciples, and for us: “Whoever would be great among
you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many” (10:45)

Humility is not the absence of position and power. It is the use of such things for the
good of others. If we can get our minds and affections around the true greatness of Jesus
and his cross – and what that means for us – then we can be great in the kingdom of
God.

REFLECTION

1. How is God’s glory being made visible in your weakness and brokenness? eek… i dunno… I like to think that all the progress that has been made in terms of discipline over the past few months is a huge sign of God working in and through me where I am super weak. But… i dunno if other people see it that way. I hope so.

2. Do you want to be first so you can be seen as great, or to be last where true greatness often goes unnoticed? I like to say I like being last, partly because I’m shy and don’t want lots of attention, and partly because I don’t want people to attribute greatness to me where there isn’t any… buuuut to be honest? I like being recognized for things that I often claim as my accomplishments, like, getting the dishes done when I’ve been struggling for a while, or when I do some huge project around the house–first thing I like to do when my husband comes home is show him and ask him what he thinks. I don’t know if words of affirmation are my main love language or not, but it’s pretty high up there… I don’t know if this is good or bad… :/

3. You may feel like God isn’t speaking to you about various things, but have you let
go of what you want so that you might be able to listen with unbiased ears?
This one is HUGE right now.  I FINALLY talked two of my best friends into talking to each other with the prospect of it possibly becoming more. And the did. And they are. And, part of me is super excited because of the potential, and most of me is terrified because of what might happen. And giving these dearly loved ones over to God is SO hard. And giving the situation into His hands and trusting Him to protect their fragile hearts and lead them is torture. It really is. I KNOW God is good and that He knows them better than them and I combined do! But, it’s out of my hands completely and it’s so so so hard to trust everyone involved to do what is right and best and–I DON”T EVEN KNOW IF THAT”S THEM BEING TOGETHER!!!! so, yeah. Letting go of what I want right now is a huge gigantic struggle. 😛 But, I do try very hard to listen unbiased… I really do… sometimes I don’t even realized I’m biased though… 😛

Closing Prayer

Humble my heart before thee, and replenish it with thy choicest gifts. As water
rests not on barren hill summits, but flows down to fertilize lowest vales, So
make me the lowest of the lowly, that my spiritual riches may exceedingly
abound. When I leave duties undone, may condemning thought strip me of
pride, deepen in me devotion to thy service, and quicken me to more watchful
care. When I am tempted to think highly of myself, grant me to see the wily
power of my spiritual enemy; Help me to stand with wary eye on the watch-
tower of faith, and to cling with determined grasp to my humble Lord; If I fall
let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness, and when I escape, may I
ascribe all deliverance to thy grace. Keep me humble, meek, lowly. Amen. 

Lent 15

Call to Worship

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works
shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall
speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the
children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout
all generations.[PSALM 145:8-13]

Father God I bless your Holy Name… I praise you and all your good works. I honor you for all that you have done and are doing, and will continue to do throughout eternity. From the smallest smile and gleam of eye, to moving mountains and falling rain in the desert. i thank you for your graciousness to the worst of us, and your mercy to the best. All our righteousness is as filthy rags but thanks to your unasked for and unsought  and undeserved love…we are clothed in white. And I thank you.  Your kingdom reign for ever and ever in power and glory and majesty. Amen.

Confession

Word of God Incarnate, you came to this world to accomplish salvation. By your
grace you call us to repent, to be crucified with you, that we might be raised as
new creations. But we confess that we often do not live as renewed people it’s true 😦.
We confess that often we “go with the flow” instead of stemming sin’s tide. Forgive
us when we do not show evidence of renewal. Forgive us when we let the fruit
of the Spirit be choked by the weeds of evil. You have made us your children,
members of your kingdom. Help us to show evidence of that every day as we
work to bring your justice, peace, gentleness, goodness, love, joy, and hope to
all we meet. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Father forgive us and teach us to live for you, selflessly and in righteousness.

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked
around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the
twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And
seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything
on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season
for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his
disciples heard it. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and
began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he
overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold
pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.
And he was teaching them and saying 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 den of
robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way
to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his
teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.[MARK 11:12-19]

DEVOTIONAL

We are to think of ourselves with “sober judgment, according to the measure of faith
that God has assigned” (Romans 12:4). In other words, the humble person knows who
he is, and whose he is.

This is the secret to Jesus’ remarkable humility. Even as a child, Jesus was about his
Father’s business. People always questioned his identity, but he was not thrown off
by their doubt or criticism (Mark 8:27-30). When the crowds were flocking to Jesus, he
withdrew to prayer. He did not need the approval of the masses because he was rooted
in the words that came down from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well
pleased” (Mark 1:11). Without any hubris, Jesus could say, “I am the way, and the truth,
and the life” (John 14:6). Without self-concern, Jesus could say, “The Son of Man will be
delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death”
(Mark 10:33). Jesus lived and died for us.

In contrast to pride and fear, the humility we see in Jesus is marked by dependence and
confidence. If we aspire to walk in this path, we will have to think with sober judgment.
We will have to be clear-eyed about who we are and whose we are. Where do we get this
kind of clarity?

The gospel tells us who we are: We are made in the image of God, created in his likeness
for his glory. This truth speaks to both our dignity and our dependence. Before and after
the fall, people need God in every aspect of life, “for in him we live and move and have
our being” (Acts 17:28).

The gospel tells us whose we are: We belong to God, body and soul. He is our Maker, to
whom we belong by virtue of design. He is our Father, whom we belong to by means of
adoption. He is our Master, and we are his bondservants. He is our king, and we are his
subjects. “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our
Lord” (Romans 8:39).

We believe this gospel, but we need help in our unbelief. We need others to remind us
of the gospel, to speak the truth in love for our edification. We must be grounded in
community if we are to be rooted in the gospel. In other words, the very people from
whom we are trying to hide our true selves, God has ordained to help us see.

To use Dan Allender’s phrase, “You can’t see your own face.” That is, when God shines
light on our lives, as we have been talking about, we become visible to others. We
desperately need them to tell us what they see, good and bad. It’s not that other people’s
opinions are absolute truth, but neither are our isolated opinions of ourselves. To be
humble means we are willing to be seen as we are, by God and man. Our pride resists
this kind of exposure, but it takes humility to become humble.
That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis anyone? 😛

Roy Hession comments: “We cannot be in the light with God, and in the darkness with
our brother … We must be willing to know ourselves for what we really are, and we must
be willing for our brother to know this as well. We will not hide ourselves from those
with whom we should be in fellowship. We will not cover our faults. We will speak the
truth about ourselves with them. We will be ready to give up our spiritual privacy. We
will not keep bad feelings in our hearts about another person.”

If we aspire to love one another, then we aspire to be humble enough to accept and
speak to whatever the light reveals. In humility we are becoming less concerned with
our prestige. Our wills are breaking and we are not demanding our rights anymore. On
the journey to the cross, fear is losing its grip as we cling to our identity in Christ. Pride
is being starved because we are letting go of our need to be right and our desires to be
recognized. We are being liberated from the solitary confinement of self-concern.

REFLECTION

1. How does your community help you know who and whose you are? Never really had a community that lasted who did tell me anything about that… but, I do have one person–my husband–who always tells me the truth about myself, both the good and the bad. Sometimes it really hurts to hear, but most of the time, he encourages me not to believe lies about myself: my looks, my worth, what I mean to people, etc. He is a good, good man. 🙂

2. Are you walking in darkness with those who are close to you? I try not to. If other people want the closeness that God intended for us I’m more than happy to comply. I really want openness and vulnerability… but I don’t want to bare my soul and then have someone do nothing. Maybe I’m being too stingy and I just need to be open and genuine and let God take care of the rest. I’ve just had too many people say yes lets be friends, lets be open and honest… and then forget about me entirely… and what was the point? y’know. Now that I’m writing it I feel stupid for hiding behind a wall of laziness and pride and fear. “sigh”

3. What aspects of the gospel do you need to believe anew today? God works all things for good to those who love Him and obey His commands. If I am open and vulnerable, truth and light, God will honor that. He will use it. Nothing may change, people still may forget and not care, but my attitude towards it should change. I can see life as momentary chances to speak truth into the lives of others and show them the love of Christ, instead of failed attempts at lifelong friendships. 

Closing Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, you are enthroned in the majesty of heaven, yet you gave
up that heavenly perfection to become a servant. We adore you for laying aside
your glory and clothing yourself in complete humility as one of us. We praise
you for the example of washing your disciples’ feet. Teach us to do as you
have done. Deliver us from pride, jealousy, and ambition, and make us ready
to serve one another in lowliness for your sake, O Jesus Christ, our Lord and
Savior. Amen.

Lent 14

Call to Worship

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has
looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations
will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is
his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of
their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those
of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has
sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. [LUKE 1:46-55]

Father God, Thank you for your mighty blessings, your gracious provisions, and your mercy spanning from generation to generation…Thank you for your unwavering strength and your provisions even in the little things.

Confession

Righteous God, in Christ you became sin for us. You took what we are so that
we might become what you are. But we confess that often we ignore our sin.
We confess that we too often do not confess. We keep silent about the sin that
clings to us. But our sins are too great a burden for us. Forgive us. In Christ take
away our iniquity. You are our stronghold, our hiding place. May we confess
our sins, that we might then rejoice and be glad in you and in the righteousness
that flows over us as a mighty stream of grace. In Christ, Amen.

Father God, forgive me… Teach me your truth about my sins–known and unknown, and teach me your righteousness

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount
of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in
front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no
one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing
this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And
they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they
untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing,
untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.
And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And
many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they
had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were
shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is
the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

[MARK 11:1-11]

DEVOTIONAL

Pride is thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:4).
However, humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we ought to think, but simply
thinking of ourselves less. What we have to offer is from God, and should be offered in
faith as an act of worship, not for our gain but for the good of others (Romans 12:1-8).

All of us want to be part of a community where pride and ego are put to death and
selflessness and service are brought to life. YES This is just the kind of community that
the Bible calls us to: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility
count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own
interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Notice that the key to this kind of community is humility. In other words, our lack of
concern for others and service to others is primarily because we lack humility. All forms
of self-concern manifest themselves in a lack of love for others. We become consumers
instead of servants. Such self-absorption can turn an entire community in on itself,
concerned only about those within it and indifferent to the staggering needs of the
world around it.

Our consumerism is rooted in a lack of faith. We are worried about what others think
because we are not convinced that God delights in us!!!!! (Psalm 149:4). We are anxious
because we do not believe God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:32). We vie for attention
because we do not think God rewards what is done in secret ouch (Matthew 6:6). We compare
ourselves to others because we forget that Jesus is our righteousness double ouch(1 Corinthians 1:30).
A consumer is self-seeking because he is preoccupied with building his own kingdom in
order to meet his own needs guilty as charged. During Lent, Jesus especially calls us to re-right our lives,
to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be
added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The simple practice of self-denial in Lent teaches us that those who trust God to meet
their needs are free to consider the needs of others. They discover this gospel paradox:
As long as I’m looking to get my needs met, I will never get my needs met. But when I
begin to meet the needs of others – when I begin to live for them instead of for myself – I
find that God graciously takes care of my needs in the process 😀. The grace of God turns us
into servants. Instead of demanding that we be served, we joyfully lay down our rights
and seek to serve God and others.

God’s grace toward us in Christ needs to get down deep into our hearts in order to
change us. We need to acknowledge our resistance to grace, which manifests itself in
our desire to establish our righteousness and meet our needs apart from God. Jesus
came to serve—to heal, to feed, to make more wine, to wash feet, and to die. When
we humbly receive the fullness and sufficiency of his love, then we will find ourselves
increasingly joyful and selfless as we delight in serving others.

REFLECTION

1. How has God met your needs recently? Are you resistant to grace? oh wow, God has met SO many of my needs! from little things like meat being on sale to big things like tax returns large enough to pay off my loans! Free potty chairs and people asking to buy extra things from me. He has given be great friends who want to be a part of my life emotionally and spiritually–a great great community. He has met my needs for love and attention in the physical world. Every need and pretty much most of my wants He keeps meeting! 😀 I try really hard to let God take care of me, but I know that He also gives me some responsibility to work hard and I try not to get those out of balance but sometimes its hard… 

2. How do you need to experience the gospel more deeply in order to serve others more faithfully? This is kinda a mean question because honestly, if we have experienced any of the truth of the gospel it should be enough to make us realize just what God has done for us and we should want to be radically different people devoted to serving him 110% 100% of the time… but… we’re fallen, so…I don’t know what I need from God to serve others more, except discipline and to have my eyes opened a little more to their needs…maybe to see them through God’s eyes a little better… see past their happy faces to see their needs… but, then again, I can’t fix their problems.  I can’t be them. I can just be me. And, yeah. Just gonna be honest here, sometimes I hate hearing about my friends’ issues because I CAN’T HELP! I can’t change the situation I can’t solve the problem. I don’t KNOW how to serve them! And it’s so frustrating. I want to do stuff… and then I can’t and I get so fed up with other peoples’ and how they’re dealing with stuff in ways both of us know they shouldn’t that I just stop listening to everyone else and I end up ignoring people that I actually could help maybe… “sigh” I don’t know what I need. ideas anyone?

Closing Prayer

O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble; Inspire me with
a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from the depravity of my nature, my
omitted duties, my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me.
With all my calls to gratitude and joy may I remember that I have reason for
sorrow and humiliation; O give me repentance unto life; Cement my oneness
with my blessed Lord, that faith may adhere to him more immovably, that love
may entwine itself round him more tightly, that his Spirit may pervade every
fibre of my being. Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men.AMEN!