Resources 

Lent Reflections 2017


Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Join us as we come together to trace God's gracious rescue of His people through the pages of the Bible, in order to help us prepare our hearts to celebrate His victory over sin and death on Resurrection Sunday.

A reflection for the day will be added to this page each morning, you can scroll down to see the reflections for previous days. We pray these Lent Reflections will be a blessing to you.
 

Day 40 - Dead And Buried


As evening approached,
there came a rich man from Arimathea,
named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body,
and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.
Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.
He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.
Matthew 27:57-60 (NIV)

Joseph of Arimathea was a senior member of the Sanhedrin, a court of judges in every city in Israel. He asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, for crucified criminals would normally be thrown into a common grave or left to the dogs or vultures. The emphasis Matthew places on the closing of the tomb and the watch by the mourners is intended to remind readers that there was no mistake about the place or events surrounding the burial of Jesus.

I am a visual person and for me it was the sight of the wooden coffin of my father in the hearse in January 2010 that really struck me. Even though I had been with him when he died, this coffin brought home the reality of his death.

Joseph’s burial of Jesus brings home to us the reality of Jesus’ death. The world was emptied of Jesus.

‘Everything of God gets expressed in Him, so you can see and hear Him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realise the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without Him.’ - Colossians 2:9 (The Message).

Joseph’s burial of Jesus also brings home to us the bodily resurrection of Jesus;
  • We are being brought to fullness in Christ.
  • Jesus has authority over all powers in this world.
  • Our whole sinful self was buried with Him in baptism and then raised by the working of God who raised Jesus from the dead.
  • God made us alive in Christ while we were dead in sin and shame.
  • Our sin and shame is taken and destroyed by Jesus.
  • Jesus made a public and historical triumph over evil  power and authority.
Lord,
thank You that You really died and were really resurrected.
This Easter Saturday please take our lives and
remake us through Your Holy Spirit.
Prepare us today to live in the light of Your resurrection
and renewal of this world and ourselves,
in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace.
Amen.
 


Day 39 - Jesus Dies On The Cross

It was now about noon,
and darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon,
for the sun stopped shining.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus called out with a loud voice,
‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’
When He had said this, He breathed His last.
Luke 23:44-46 (NIV)

Darkness falls over the whole land. It is heavy and foreboding. It is mid-afternoon and the sun has stopped shining. The words of Amos come to pass. A thundering sound erupts as the temple is physically torn in two. Jesus, the light of the world, breathes His last breath. Has all hope been lost?

In dreadful agony, with His last breath, Jesus cries out to God as “Father” and entrusts Himself to Him. There is no safer place to be than in the hands of God. He gives up His life to the One who gave Him life. In our worst moments, we can know that no matter how forsaken we feel, God will bring us to Himself in glory.

In this act of obedience, Jesus willingly offers Himself up as a sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice. He who was sinless, takes on all our sin. Not only was He the sacrifice but also the High Priest, the only one who could enter into this Holy Place through the veil. As the curtain of the temple was torn in two, the Most Holy Place was opened by the Only Way to the Father (John 14:6); through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, He has opened the way for us to enter the holy places by His blood. All hope is not lost.

Lord Jesus,
we thank You for Your great sacrifice
and Your obedience, even to death,
so that we would not have to face death hopelessly.
As Your flesh was torn,
so was the veil which separated us from our Holy Father.
Thank You that by Your blood, we have been sprinkled clean
and can now draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith
to enter the Holy Place.
We rejoice because we have peace.
Amen.

 


It Is Finished

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished,
and so that Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it,
put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
When He had received the drink,
Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’
With that, He bowed his head and gave up His spirit.
John 19:28-30 (NIV)


Nailed to to cross, dehydrated, exhausted, Jesus speaks His final words, not in a faint whisper of exhaustion, but in a loud and confident voice “It is finished!”

It is finished.

To our ears that might sound like a final cry of defeat. The scene at the cross on Good Friday looks like it’s all over. Dreams are dashed, plans are ended. hope is lost. It appears to be the ultimate tragedy.

But Jesus’ words are not ‘I am finished’, but ‘It is finished’. No cry of dereliction or disaster, but one of triumph and of victory. We gaze at the gruesome glory of Golgotha not to see hopes destroyed but to see death destroyed. Not a mission failed, but mission accomplished. A man broken, yet victorious.  

It is finished because on the cross Jesus completes the work He came to do. As He breathes His last breath, the work of the Son, given by the Father, enabled by the Spirit is done. His work is to give eternal life to all who would look upon Him, and He does so by taking sin and death upon Himself.

What was determined long ago by the mind and compassion of Almighty God is accomplished on a Roman cross by God in human flesh. All the plans and purposes of God come together at this point, in this place, on this man and as it does He says ‘It is finished’.

He has finished what was started in Eden. Among the devastation caused by the sin of our first human parents, God promised One who would finally come and crush the serpent’s head. Here at the cross it is finished. It is finished, because at the cross we see the victorious King on His throne.
 
Almighty God,
thank You that ‘it is finished’.
Help me today to sit in awe and wonder
at the foot of the cross of Jesus.
Amen.
Adapted from a sermon by Dan Wells. Listen to the full sermon here
 

Day 38 - The Repentant Thief


One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him:
‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him.
‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.
But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’
Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)


Two other men were crucified with Jesus on that Good Friday morning. Strung up, helpless, on a pair of crosses, perhaps they looked very similar. Both, certainly, were in incredible pain and mere hours away from death. But in the course of these short verses, the two criminals are revealed to have very different destinies. By the end of the day one was with Jesus in paradise, and the other was not.

Why the difference? Both were criminals, enemies of the state, receiving the just punishment for their deeds. The only distinction was how they reacted to Jesus.
One mocked and insulted Jesus. No repentance, no respect for the Author of Life, no acknowledgement of His Kingship. For this criminal the death of Jesus on the cross is meaningless, and he leaves with nothing. No promise, no hope. Jesus has nothing to say to him.

But his companion looks at Jesus on the cross and sees not a fellow criminal, but God’s Messiah King. Rather than demanding salvation, he acknowledges his unworthiness and pleads for mercy ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’ Hanging on the cross, it’s all he can do. But in God’s mercy, it’s all he needs to do. To this man, Jesus, the King, speaks. A promise of eternity in paradise, certainly. But more than this, a promise of eternity with Jesus.

Is this what we long for? If so, as we consider the events of Good Friday this week let us come to the crucified Jesus in humility, acknowledging our guilt and crying out for His mercy.
Heavenly Father,
help me to look at Jesus on the cross and see a King entering His Kingdom.
Thank You that Jesus died for me, a sinner.
Amen


Day 37 - Our mocking voice among the scoffers


When they came to the place called the Skull,
they crucified Him there, along with the criminals –
one on His right, the other on His left.
Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.’
And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him.
They said, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself
if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’
The soldiers also came up and mocked Him.
They offered Him wine vinegar and said,
‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.’
There was a written notice above Him, which read:
this is the King of the Jews.
Luke 23:33-38 (NIV)

As we read the Gospels it’s all too easy to do so through condescending eyes. How slow on the uptake were the disciples? How blind were the Pharisees? How stupid were those who mocked Jesus? As people living 2,000 years after the cross it’s all too easy to think we would have acted differently.

But if we take an honest look at how we’ve acted over the last week – at work, home, with friends, family – very quickly we see that the reality is somewhat different. There may have been times when we’ve denied Jesus, times when we’ve argued over stupid things, times when we’ve put our selfish ambitions ahead of gospel ambitions. The list could go on. We’re no different, in many ways, from the soldiers who mocked Jesus.

Stuart Townend captures it brilliantly in his hymn ‘How deep the Father’s love for us’ as he writes: “Behold the man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders; ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there”. Yes Jesus’ death did happen 2,000 years ago but that makes it no less personal. It was our sin that held Him there.

But the story doesn’t end here. It also doesn’t become any less personal. Yes, it was our sin that held Him there, but in dying for us Jesus paid the price for all our sins. Or as Townend’s verse finishes: “His dying breath has brought me life – I know that it is finished”
 
Heavenly Father,
I’m sorry for the times that I act, speak and think
in ways that make a mockery of You.
I thank You that because of Jesus I can know Your forgiveness.
Lord strengthen my resolve to live in light of this wonderful truth.
Amen.
 

Day 36 - Stripping Of Garments


When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes,
dividing them into four shares, one for each of them,
with the undergarment remaining.
This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another.
‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’
So this is what the soldiers did.
John 19:23-24 (NIV)

The death of Jesus is often spoken of as His humiliation. Paul in Philippians uses this language when he says that Christ ‘humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even death on a Cross’. And in the gospels, the humiliation of Christ runs through the Passion narratives. And here we see another aspect of it as the soldiers treat Christ with the same disdain they treat any other victim (or perpetrator) up for crucifixion. Here are clothes that have been worn by the One who wove the whole creation together, and yet what disregard they’re treated with as the Roman soldiers rifle through the pile, taking what they want, throwing dice for the prize piece. And for John this is also further evidence that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Great David’s Greater Son, promised and predicted so long ago.

But unless we stop and meditate further, we miss one of the most shocking, perhaps even obscene, aspects of Christ’s humiliation. All of this means that Jesus was completely disrobed on the Cross. Pictures of Jesus on the Cross often include a loincloth to protect His decency. But His decency was not protected on that day. He was shamefully naked.

It is shocking, and yet it is outrageously wonderful because it is part of the great exchange that is happening as Jesus hangs on the Cross. He is taking on our shame in order that we might never be ashamed before the Father. He is naked so that we might be clothed in his righteousness. He bears all that we deserve so that we might be given all His riches.
 
Lord Jesus,
We can hardly understand how You can love us
and desire us so much that You went to the Cross for us.
We ask that as we ponder these truths
our desire and love for You would grow.
Amen
 

Day 35 - Jesus Takes Up His Cross

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw Him,
they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’
But Pilate answered, ‘You take Him and crucify Him.
As for me, I find no basis for a charge against Him.’

But they shouted, ‘Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!’
‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.
‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.
Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull
(which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
John 19:6, 15-17 (NIV)

The God-man, the Servant King, lowly in His manhood and sovereign in His deity. From His throne of majesty, He came down in frail humanity to rescue you and me. Proclaimed as King one day, to be tried as a criminal and mocked just a few days later. Yesterday, on Palm Sunday we remembered the day He entered Jerusalem on a colt to shouts of ‘Hosanna’, but now we read of the voices that shouted ‘Crucify’, and watch Him carry His cross to Golgotha. All for our sakes - that we might become Children of God.

The betrayal of the chief priests is shocking. So caught up in their desire to rid themselves of a troublesome teacher than they declare full unquestioning allegiance not to their Sovereign God who  sits enthroned in heaven, but to Caesar, a mere man commanding the Roman forces occupying the land. In doing so they send their true Messiah king, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to His death. How foolish! How blind and short-sighted! But how like us, who each day trade in the great King of the universe for temporary trinkets of success, popularity or comfort.

We too would send Jesus to His death. But He goes for for us, to win for Himself a people who did not want Him, but desperately need His Kingly rule.

Lord God,
thank You that Jesus submitted to the humiliation of the cross for me.
Help me to acknowledge Him as my King today and every day.
Amen.




Day 34 - The Suffering King


Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.
The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns
and put it on His head.
They clothed Him in a purple robe
and went up to Him again and again,
saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’
And they slapped Him in the face.
John 19:1-3 (NIV)

His love is relentless, overwhelming and boundless. Nothing can separate us from it. It was His very love for us that led Jesus to suffer, to be flogged and to die in our place. The only man who ever lived a blameless and sinless life was about to bear the sin of the world on His shoulders. He was about to become our Suffering King. The cross isn’t stained with the death of Jesus in moral defeat. It is not a symbol of a grand redemptive plan gone wrong. His death became a doorway to life. As He stood facing persecution and insult, He knew. He knew that this supposed ‘defeat’ was a victory. What appeared to be the end, was in fact, just the beginning.

As Jesus suffered, the worst thing that could happen was about to become the best thing that could ever happen. As Jesus was  walking to His death, by His sovereign grace, He met our deepest need. It was through our Suffering King’s death that we can live as children of God. Our acceptance before our King has been suffered and it will never need to be done again. What a joy! What a God! What a Saviour!


Dear Heavenly Father,
thank You that we are loved immeasurably more than we could ever dream.
Thank You that Your Son endured suffering and death on our behalf.
Help us to follow You as our Lord and Saviour today.
Amen.



Day 33 - The Son On Trial


At daybreak the council of the elders of the people,
both the chief priests and the teachers of the law,
met together, and Jesus was led before them.
‘If you are the Messiah,’ they said, ‘tell us.’
Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me,
and if I asked you, you would not answer.
But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.’
They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’
He replied, ‘You say that I am.’
Then they said, ‘Why do we need any more testimony?
We have heard it from his own lips.’
Luke 22:66-71 (NIV)

In the heat of the night, Judas betrayed His Rabbi and friend with a kiss. The disciples scattered, abandoning the one who has the words of eternal life to spare their lives, as mere men lead their Saving God to answer to them. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. The council of elders looked down at the Wonderful Counselor, setting a trap to trip Him with the truth. 'If you are the Messiah, tell us' - these were no truth seekers with hungry hearts, they were veiled hearts with an agenda to accomplish. They would indeed not believe Him if He told them, or answer if He asked them - they hadn't thus far.

They have nothing to charge Him with, but as they desperately break commandments, rushing rulings to declare the innocent one guilty - our sovereign Lord hands them the sword of truth with which to pierce Him. 'But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Mighty God'. They cling on to this chance, 'are you then the Son of God?' and just like that Christ hands himself over - 'you say that I am' - this is an agreement, Jesus is essentially saying 'I cannot deny it'.  He indeed cannot deny it - He is the Son of Man, the Messiah, the long awaited King and He was about to make all things new.

Had He so willed, He could have stopped this farce of a trial in a moment. He who is sustaining the very life of his accusers, He could cast out devils with a word, and summon legions of angels to His side, He who is worshipped day and night was not ever under their authority. But our Lord’s heart was set on His Father’s will, on His Covenant of Salvation, on the great work He had come on earth to do. He was here to purchase our redemption by His humiliation, so He sets the course, hands them the ropes so they lead Him to drink the bitter cup for the sake of sinners like them, sinners like us.

Sovereign Lord,
You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords,
forgive us for all the times we fail to acknowledge Your Lordship
and we become insolent people who do not believe or answer You.
Thank You for suffering humiliation for our sake.
Your mercy astounds us,  Your love confounds us
and Your sovereignty and power comforts us.
You suffered a great injustice
We long for the day when You would return.
Amen.


 

Day 32 – Yet Not As I Will


Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them,
‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them,
‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
Stay here and keep watch with me.’
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,
‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
Yet not as I will, but as you will.’
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.
‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter.
‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
Matthew 26:36-41 (NIV)

At Gethsemane, as He considered the ‘cup’ of God’s wrath He was to drink from, Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow. Everything in His flesh wanted to be spared the physical agony of the approaching crucifixion. But greater than this was His revulsion at the spiritual agony He was to endure on the cross - being forsaken by His Heavenly Father.

If the cross seems terrifying enough to us, Jesus’ understanding of it was infinitely clearer and more distressing. Only the eternal Son, who had been in perfect communion with the Father from before the foundation of the world, could comprehend what it would mean to have that relationship torn apart as the Father turned His face away from His Son.

But Jesus uttered the amazing words ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’. No-one has ever had a greater desire to be spared God’s wrath, but none has ever been so faithful and obedient to the Father’s will. For our sake, and for the eternal joy set before Him, Jesus was willing to go to the cross; to die for weak creatures like Peter, like us, who can’t even face up to the comparatively trivial temptations we encounter each day.

Heavenly Father,
thank you that Jesus was utterly obedient to You –
willing to go to the cross for my sake.
Help me today to marvel at His faithfulness
and His great love for lost sinners.
Amen.

 

Day 31 -  Blood of Forgiveness

 

While they were eating, Jesus took bread,
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to
His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My body.’
Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks,
He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.
This is My blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on
until that day when I drink it new with you
in My Father’s kingdom.’
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:26-30 (NIV)

The sacrament of communion originates from Jesus sharing the last supper with His disciples. His time had come and He was soon to be betrayed by one of His inner circle, Judas, to the authorities of the time. Their plan was to deal with Him. In a moment of dramatic irony, Caiaphas, the high priest of the year, had said that it was better for one man to die to save the people, than a whole nation to be lost. Little did he know that a man would die and that death would in a much bigger way, save the people but not in the way that Caiaphas expected.

But this plot for death wasn't a surprise to Jesus. Since Genesis 3, the fall, we have been in need of forgiveness and that is precisely what brought Jesus to earth in the first place. The story of Jesus in many ways starts with us. Our need for a savior stemming from our inherent sinful nature.

Thus the bread and wine of communion symbolise His body and blood which were broken and spilled for us. It reminds us that a perfect sacrifice was made for us that we might be, among other things, forgiven. We eat and drink in church today to commemorate, and celebrate, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross as He made redundant  the need for any further atoning sacrifices.

The drama of the pre-easter narrative continues on the side of the mount of olives and Jesus and His disciples as they go to pray. And so we should respond in prayer:

Father,
we thank You for Your atoning sacrifice - Your Son the Lord Jesus.
May we remember it frequently and never take it for granted.
Amen

 

Day 30 - Behold Your King On A Foal

 
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her.
Untie them and bring them to me.
If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them,
and he will send them right away.’

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:
‘Say to Daughter Zion,
   “See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
   and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Matthew 21:1-5, 9 (NIV)
 
Because Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on what we now call Palm Sunday, there are some wonderful realities we can be assured of.
 
 
First of all, we have a God who is in control. When Jesus decided to ride a donkey into Jerusalem it was not because he was tired. He had walked all the way from Galilee; he could have managed those last few hundred yards on foot. No, like all those around him, he knew the scriptures – what we call the Old Testament. And God had promised his people Israel, through the prophet Zechariah, that their king would come, bringing salvation, but humbly riding on a donkey (Zech. 9:9). Jesus acts out the fulfilment of that prophecy – the message clear for all to see: “Here is the king God promised!” God is coming to save because God can be trusted to keep the promises he made in scripture over many generations.
 

Secondly, we have the Saviour we need. The crowds welcomed Jesus rapturously -  and dangerously. Palm branches were not nice church decorations, they were symbols of Jewish nationalism and resistance against Rome. They wanted Jesus to rescue them from Roman occupation. But the saviour they wanted was not the saviour they needed. Jesus came to deal with the root of all injustice and oppression - our sin and rebellion against God. Not understanding that, a week later the same crowd bayed for his crucifixion – the very means by which they and we can be saved.
 
And so, thirdly, we have a future that is assured. Zech. 9:10, is another promise from God. He will bring an end to all war and suffering, and bring peace to all nations, when the king who rode humbly into Jerusalem is acknowledged as King of all creation.


Lord Jesus Christ,
fill us with gratitude for your humility,
with joy at the prospect of your eternal reign,
and with a sincere welcome into our lives today
as the king who died to save us.
Amen.

 

Day 29 - Jesus Predicts His Death


‘Now is the time for judgment on this world;
now the prince of this world will be driven out.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.’
He said this to show the kind of death
He was going to die.
John 12:31 -33 (NIV)

 
Where can we find evidence of hope in this world? Looking at mankind we see distrust, brokenness, hatred, sickness and death. We know it’s there even in our own lives. Judgement is on this world. The evidence is here now. But what if this judgement could be eradicated with a single action? What if all the questions of life had one answer? What if brokenness and death could be turned into healing and life?
 

That single action happened when Jesus Christ was lifted up on a cross on the first Easter. He hung between heaven and earth and opened the only way for us to reach the giver of life – God himself. Through that single sacrifice of His life for our sins He defeated death and brings hope and life – eternal life.
 
Christ’s death isn’t limited to a western culture or good living people. His love and forgiveness knows no bounds. When we see Him hanging on the cross with His arms outstretched, we see Him saying “This is how much I love you”. His embrace is wide enough for anyone. He most certainly has, and will, draw ALL people to Himself. The evidence can be found throughout the whole world. And through trusting in His death for us, life and hope can be our absolute certainty.

Lord,
thank You for coming to bring healing for my brokenness,
forgiveness for my sin and the absolute certainty of eternal life when I trust in You.
Thank You for being lifted up on the cross for me.
Draw me by Your spirit to Yourself, now and forever.
Amen
 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

 

‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  
Those who are victorious will inherit all this,
and I will be their God and they will be my children.’
Revelation 21:6-7 (NIV)

As we look forward to Resurrection Sunday, we remember that our current Earthly life is but the first chapter. Those who recognise their thirst for God, and come to Him for His water of life, will find that death only leads to the greatest neverending story yet.

He is making everything new, He is making all the bad things of this world untrue. The tears you've cried, the pain you struggle through, the loss you endure - you won’t face it anymore. Instead we will dwell forever in our Father’s house as His beloved, adopted, children, co-heirs with Christ.


When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.


For now, we groan and long - praying “Come Lord Jesus!”
 

 

Day 28 - Fulfilment Of The Law

“Do not think that I have come to abolish
the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear,
not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen,
will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands
and teaches others accordingly
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,
but whoever practices and teaches these commands
will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law,
you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:17-20 (NIV)

Many of us have wrestled with this passage at some time or another, struggling to understand our Lord’s meaning. Is Jesus commissioning a works righteousness far more demanding than that of the Pharisees? If so, then what became of the salvation plan that gave Jesus his name? (Matt 1:21)

Of course this cannot be so, for it is by grace you have been saved (Eph 2:8) and - if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (Rom 11:6).

Instead, let’s consider two meanings for which we can praise our God and saviour.

On one level, God’s law is the representation of His character, showing us the peaks of His Holiness and the depths from which we have been rescued. Christ fulfills the Law and in so doing frees us from its condemnation.

Yet also God is reaffirming the laws for His chosen people - for we were predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Therefore offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness (Rom 6 :4) because this is love for God: to keep His commands (1 John 5:3) and love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:10).

For those who have been forgiven little, love little, but we have been forgiven much, so let us love the Lord of our Salvation

Father,
Thank You that You are holy and good.
Amen.


 

Day 27 - Thirst No More

 

‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
John 4:13-14 (NIV)

 

Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman, who after 5 failed marriages is probably blaming herself, others and the Universe for trials in her life. He essentially says "Look, when my Spirit indwells your life, the result is life-giving water that will quench your spiritual thirst -  that inner thirst all your relationships haven’t been able to satisfy".  This is nothing less than the very life of God himself, poured into the lives of those who put their trust in Him.

Malcolm Muggeridge, the broadcaster and writer, expressed it like this:

"I may, I suppose, regard myself or pass for being a relatively successful man, people occasionally stare at me in the streets - that's fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland Revenue - that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame, even the elderly like myself, if they care to, may partake in trendy diversions - that's pleasure. It might happen that once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time - that's fulfilment.

Yet, I say to you and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together and they are nothing, less than nothing, a positive impediment measured against one draught of that living water, which Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who and what they are.  What I ask myself does life hold?  What is there in the works of time, in the past, present or future, which could possibly be put in the balance against the refreshment of drinking that water?"

Father,
our most fundamental problem is that we are separated from You, our Creator.
Thank You that through Christ we are reconciled to You
and have access to the source of living water.
Holy Spirit guide us to turn away from dry cisterns and drink from Your spring that never dries.
Lord Jesus, thank You that You thirsted on the cross to quench us for eternity.
Amen

 

Day 26 - Jesus Came To Save

 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:17-18 (NIV)

These wonderful gospel verses come immediately after John’s account of a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leading theologian of the day. He comes to speak to Jesus at night, we don’t know if he wants the meeting to be a secret or whether Jesus is more likely to be on his own. Early in their conversation Jesus shatters Nicodemus’ view of the kingdom of God and the arrival of the Messiah. Instead of Nicodemus’ assumption that his birth and observance of the Law would automatically earn him a place in God’s kingdom, Jesus tells him he needs to be born again. Not through a physical second birth but through the saving work of the Messiah who had come.

Verses 17 & 18 bring us the best news we could ever hear and help us understand God’s purposes in sending Jesus, His only Son, to this earth; to bring salvation to the world. God offers us a choice – if we believe then we are rescued and if we don’t believe then there is clear judgement and we will face separation from Him and His good gifts for all eternity. There is no middle ground. As we look forward to the celebrations of Easter Sunday let’s make sure we are living as distinct and radical people; witnesses to the salvation we have so generously been given.

Heavenly Father thank you for the great love that you have shown us and for the huge sacrifice and cost you were prepared to pay in giving your one and only Son to bear our sin that we might be forgiven. Give us thankful hearts as we look forward to Easter and help us as forgiven people to play our part in your work to bring salvation to the world.
Amen.

 

Day 25 - Jesus’ Temptation


Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.
The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
 

Jesus prepares for His ministry by going into the wilderness to be tempted. His forty days there reminds us of Israel’s journey through the wilderness for forty years. God delivered His people from Egypt yet they repaid their merciful God with grumbling and insulted Him with idol worship. Jesus does what the Israelites should have done: He remains faithful to God.
 
Do we live as though being faithful to God is how we were always meant to live?
 
Jesus knows that all humans rely on God for the air in their lungs, the blood in their veins. He knows that every word that comes from the mouth of God offers true life.

Lord, as we look to the cross of Jesus, help us to remember that Jesus, God incarnate, was the man who led the sinless life all of us should have done. Thank You that we have the power to resist temptation through the power of His redeeming death. Thank You that He set us free to live as true humans: children of God, living in union with Christ and not by bread alone.
Amen.
 

Day 24 - The Baptism Of Jesus

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized by John in the Jordan. A
nd when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:9-11 (NIV)

 

Who are we that Christ who has no sin, should go through the same actions as us at His baptism that symbolise repentance and the confession of sins? Who are we that Christ who holds all creation together, should identify with us?

John the Baptist preached, saying Jesus was the one who was mightier than himself, the strap of whose sandals he was not worthy to stoop down and untie. Yet this same Jesus came and was baptised by John.

As Jesus came up out of the water, the events that followed show how He was like no other human. The Spirit descended on Him and a voice came from heaven, proclaiming that He is the beloved Son, with whom the Father Himself is well pleased. This is Jesus’ first appearance in the gospel of Mark, and we catch an initial glimpse of His great majesty.

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

It could only remain a mystery to us, the depth of Christ’s love, that He came and identified with us - sinners in need of salvation - and all for our sake walked the path to the cross.

Because of what Christ has done on the cross, the proclamation from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” can be applied to us.

We follow Christ, who is willing to identify with sinners like us, even when He had no sin in His whole being, so that we may be reconciled to God.

O Father,
how unimaginable it is to us that Jesus who has no sin should identify with all sinners.
Death and darkness await us, yet we can glory in our redeemer for what Jesus has done on the cross,
that we can gain life in His death for us.
May the wonder of such glory capture our minds and hearts,
leading us in thanksgiving upon thanksgiving.

Amen.

 

Day 23 - The way to God

 
'Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son,
who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.'
John 1:16–18 (NIV)
 

'Show me Your glory.' Those were the words of Moses to God on the top of Mount Sinai. After giving God’s people the Law, Moses knew that what they needed most was God’s presence. ‘We cannot go on, and we cannot be Your people,’ he argued, ‘unless You go with us.’
 
God promises to go with His people, but Moses cannot see God face-to-face. To see the mighty God would be death to sinful humanity. God protects Moses in the cleft of a rock. He experiences the aftershocks of God’s glory, and hears God declare His character. But His face is hidden.
 
We live in a time of technology, where there are myriad ways of keeping in contact with people – social media, email, video calls and text messages. But there is nothing more powerful, or more intimate, than seeing someone face-to-face. It would be an odd couple who gets engaged via email; when a loved-one is dying, you rush to their bedside not to the computer if you can.
 
Moses experienced the goodness and compassion of Almighty God, so much so that he looked visibly different when he descended from the mountain. God showed him immense grace. But when Jesus came, even more grace was poured over and above that grace already given. God is present and in Christ could be seen and touched; we could finally see God face-to-face. God the Son, who is in the most intimate relationship with the Father, came to draw us into intimate relationship too.
 
God in the flesh meant that God could be grasped in the flesh, and that same flesh would be beaten, bruised and pierced on a Roman cross. But that same act of human cruelty would be the means by which we can know God and relate to God face to face. What wonder and mystery, what grace shown on top of grace already given.

God of grace,
we thank You for the grace upon grace that You have shown us in Jesus Christ.
We thank You that through Him we are made Your children, can call You Father, and know You as our friend.
Give us grace to wonder again at God made flesh and God dying in flesh to win us as Your people.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent


'For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son
and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise them up at the last day.’
John 6:40 (NIV)


 
On this fourth Sunday in Lent we once again cast our gaze to to the risen Lord Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection in itself would be amazing enough, conclusive proof of God’s eternal power and glory. But we have even more to be thankful for. All those who put their trust in Jesus have the privilege in sharing in His resurrection and the eternal life won for us at the cross. On this Lord’s Day may we join with Christians across the world in praising our Risen Saviour. Glory to the only One with power over sin and death!
 
 
Heavenly Father, thank You that everyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life.
Help me to trust Him today as my Lord and Saviour and to tell others the good news of the gospel. 

Amen.
 
“The power that raised Him from the grave
Now works in us to powerfully save.
He frees our hearts to live His grace;
Go tell of His goodness.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!  
Oh, sing hallelujah.
Join the chorus, sing with the redeemed;
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.”

© 2012 GETTYMUSIC AND ALLETROP MUSIC (BMI)
 

 

Day 22 - Open Heart Surgery

 

‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you
and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.
Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors;
you will be My people, and I will be your God.’
Ezekiel 36:26-28 (NIV) 

 
 
If we’ve been Christians for a while, we can read these promises with a casual familiarity. But for the original hearers of Ezekiel’s prophecy this would have been a bowl-you-over promise, a stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks promise. The first hearers of these words would have stopped and marveled at them.

Let’s let these promises stop us in our own tracks for just a moment.

In the preceding verses, God has been promising to bring His people back from exile, to restore them to the land of Israel. That is grace enough. But hanging over all those promises is the inevitable question - what’s to stop exile from happening again? What’s to prevent God’s people from the same cycle of hard-heartedness, disobedience and idolatry that led to His just punishment of them in the first place?

On top of grace, God promises even more grace. Not only will He intervene in their external circumstances to bring them back from exile, but He will also intervene in their inner selves. He will give them a new heart which is directed to the Lord in love, and He will give them His Spirit to help them obey and walk in His ways.

These promises are an assurance of salvation. God will do everything needed in order to rescue, redeem and keep His people. And of course, they aren’t just promises for ethnic Israelites but they are new covenant promises, made to everyone who is in Christ Jesus.

Do you worry that your love for Christ may grow dim? Do you worry that you won’t be able to hold onto Him? That you might not be able to sustain faith and obedience till the end? These promises are for you. Not only will Christ hold onto you, but He will give you everything you need to hold onto Him and to keep following Him. That is grace on top of grace already given. That is blessed assurance.

Our Gracious God,
thank You for this promise of a new heart, new transformed life and Your indwelling Spirit.
We ask that You would continue to grow our love for You and our desire to walk in all Your ways.
Increase our desire for You above all the other things in our lives that compete for our love.
Amen

 

Day 21 - Hypocrisy of Our Hearts

 

“Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,
burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known,
and then come and stand before me in this house,
which bears my Name,
and say, ‘We are safe’– safe to do all these detestable things?
Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?
But I have been watching!
declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah 7:9-11 (NIV)


 
Where do you look to for safety? In a dangerous and uncertain world, what is it that makes you feel safe and secure?
 
For the people of Jeremiah’s day, the answer to that question was simple: it was God’s temple. That was the centre of worship and the place where God dwelt with his people. When asked where their trust and security lay, they answer, “The temple of the LORD!” (7:4).
 
But while they declared trust in God’s presence, their lives demonstrated something different. They lived no different to the nations around them, worshiping idols while stating that God was their security. The temple of the Lord was what they thought kept them safe, but they failed to live for the Lord whose temple it is.
 
So God’s word comes through the prophet Jeremiah, which cuts to the bone and exposes the hypocrisy of their hearts. Safety doesn’t come from token trust, but lives given in worship to the living God. Mere lip service to the Lord is far from safe.
 
These words of God through Jeremiah are then spoken by Jesus. He finds the temple dedicated not to worship but to wealth, and drives the money changers out, declaring that God’s house has ‘become a den of robbers’. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of our hearts – how we too easily pay lip service to worship but our lives tell a different story.
 
With a whip in his hands and the words of Jeremiah on his lips, Jesus is not a ‘safe’ person. He’s not the Jesus ‘meek and mild’ who we can domesticate, without bite or challenge. He is no easy Jesus who only says the things we find comfortable.
 
But he is the Jesus who brings true safety. He is the true temple, which would be torn down at the cross, but rebuilt after three days on Easter Sunday. As we come to him this Lent, we find that he is not comfortable, but he does bring comfort; he is not safe, but he brings eternal safety.

Almighty God,
we acknowledge how often we declare our trust in you with our lips,
but not with our lives.
Expose the reality of our hearts
and change us by your Spirit to truly trust in you.
May we know in Jesus Christ safety
and security that comes only through his cross and resurrection.
In his name we pray,
Amen.
 

Day 20 - Good News

 

‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
   because the Lord has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
   and the day of vengeance of our God’

                          Isaiah 61:1-2 (NIV)                    

 
Good news - we are living in extremely favourable times, although it may not feel as if this is the case.
 
In this passage the prophet Isaiah looks forward to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, coming to rescue His people. This proclamation reminds us that God provides for the weak and vulnerable. One year in seven, and at the 50th year Jubilee, God's people were released from slavery, released from their debts, and given another chance.
 
Jesus Christ Himself quotes these verses of good news – verses of forgiveness and reconciliation. He read aloud these words in the synagogue in Luke 4, and we are left in no doubt that this passage is fulfilled in Him.
 
On the cross, Jesus bought our liberty - freedom from the penalty and power of sin - and brought us from darkness into His glorious light. Jesus was the great physician-healer, binding up the broken hearted. He was also the Great Evangelist, and we are called to follow His example by proclaiming the good news, with deep thankfulness, in the power of the Spirit.
 
We live in the 'year of the Lord’s favour' - a time of grace and privilege. But with a reminder that a ‘day of vengeance’ will come when we must stand before God and give an account of our lives.
 
Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
that we live in the day of Your favour.
We are deeply thankful for your rescue and redemption through
the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ on the first Good Friday.
We rejoice in His victory over sin and death
and His rising on Easter Day, returning to sit at Your right hand in glory.
May we follow His example in sharing this good news
that others may find healing and be released from sin and darkness.
Empower us to live and serve in Your power and to Your glory.
Amen
.

 

Day 19 - Suffered to Save

 

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3-6


 
This is a prophecy about a suffering servant written 700 years before its fulfilment. But who is this suffering servant?
 

Connect Good Friday and the agony of the cross to these verses – Jesus Christ is despised, rejected, his body and spirit bearing our pain on the cross as a result of our sin when he had no sin. The tragedy is even more acute when we are told that he does it for the very people who despise and reject him; no person could understand what he was doing at the time. Yet he carried on to die for us.
 

But why? Verse 6 tells us the answer. All humanity is in the same sorrowful condition. Sinful sheep – clueless, fragmented, wandering aimlessly, turning to our own way rather than following our creator God. If the sinless suffering servant had not willingly made atonement for our sins, and called us to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, we would be lost forever destined for the eternal punishment that is justly ours. But Christ’s death on the cross on Good Friday means that he has taken our punishment, healed us and paid the price to buy us peace with God, washing us clean of the stain of our sin.
 
Let us therefore thank God for new lives in Jesus Christ as a result of his atoning sacrifice. May we feel called to share these verses with a friend.

Lamb of God,
help us to remember how you endured in body and soul
God’s anger against the sin of the whole human race.
Thank you for standing in our place,
setting us free from eternal condemnation
and gaining for us God’s grace, righteousness and everlasting life.
We pray for those known to us, who remain lost like sheep,
and ask that you may open their eyes and hearts
to believe in your atoning sacrifice for their sins, turn to you
and receive new life in your name this Easter.
Amen
 

Day 18 - Open to the Nations

 

He says:
‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
   to restore the tribes of Jacob
   and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
   that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
Isaiah 49:6

 
The plan was never small.  The plan was always cosmic.  
 
From the moment our first parents rebelled in the garden, God had a plan to restore the whole of creation. The plan was always for the nations. The promise through the ages was that God’s blessing would go out to the nations.  
 
As we approach Easter, we must not have too small a vision of the extent to which God will apply the saving work of Jesus on the cross. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God is reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5). It would be far too small a thing for us to limit the work of the Suffering Servant to the tribes of Jacob, or to those who we think God will save.Today as we read this, we are the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, people of every tribe and tongue receiving the saving work of the Suffering Servant.
 
This Lent may God open our eyes to see the work that He is doing in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces, in our city, in our country and in our world.  

Lord of the nations,
renew our passion to see the good news of your Son Jesus Christ reaching the nations.  
May we bring the light of the gospel to the places you have placed us.
Open our eyes to see where you are at work.
For the glory of Jesus,
Amen.
 

Day 17 - God Forsaken


‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
   by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
   you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
   they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
   in you they trusted and were not put to shame.’
Psalm 22:1-5

 
 
"My God, My God why..?"
 

It is the cry of so many down the years caught up in agony of some kind compounded by the seeming silence of the Almighty, the God they had counted on for help, "My God".
 

"My God, My God why ...?"
 

It is the psalmist who first cries it and then teaches us to battle his own thoughts. He puts alongside those feelings of abandonment and painful silence, other truths he knows about his God.  "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One ...in you our ancestors put their trust ...in you they trusted and were not put to shame."
 

"My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"
 
Jesus picks up the psalmist's cry as he hangs on the cross, faces its torture and tastes the reality of 'God forsakeness' as the relationship with his Father, so intimate for so long, is ripped apart. But his mind knows the triumph with which the psalm ends even as his body experiences the agony which launched it.
 
He is God forsaken so we never need to be!

Heavenly Father,
thank you for giving your Son, who knew no sin, to be sin
so we might become the righteousness of God.
May we have that trust in you that means we are not put to shame.
Amen


 

The Third Sunday of Lent

 

...you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:13 (NIV)

 

On this Third Sunday of Lent, we look forward with great anticipation to Easter,  just a few weeks away. We remember that we were once separated, far away from God, unable to claw our way into His family.  But at the first Easter, with open arms and bleeding hands, He welcomed us forever - at no cost to us, but great cost to Him. Praise be to our awesome Saviour King who has won our reconciliation!

 

We who were once God’s enemies are now His children, co-heirs with Christ.
We who were once dead are now alive, to dwell with Him eternally.
We who were once hopeless are now hopeful, to bring hope to the world.
We who were once condemned sinners, are now His redeemed saints, clothed in His righteousness.
We who were once shut out, are now welcomed with arms open wide.

 ….. All by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

O come to the altar,
The Father's arms are open wide.
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Day 16 - Rejected King


The Lord told [Samuel]:
‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected,
but they have rejected me as their king.
As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day,
forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.
1 Samuel 8:7-8 (NIV)
 
Despite the amazing miracle of their rescue from Egypt and entry into the promised land, the Israelites asked Samuel to appoint a human King, rejecting the creator God who had been behind it all for a mere creature.
 

Like the Israelite we too reject our true King - the God of the universe. Sometimes we put our trust in ourselves as king of our lives or households. Other times we look to human leaders to bring salvation and rescue to our troubled world.
 

But our kings never fulfil us. Whether its ourselves or our political rulers we are incapable of exercising the just, wise, loving rule of the Creator. Our ‘kingdoms’ are corrupt, infiltrated by sin and the wages of sin - death.
 

Our rejection of God’s Kingship means that we deserve His punishment, cut off from Him and His Kingdom forever. But instead, in Hebrews 4:16, we read that we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
 

How can this be?
 

In God’s mercy, the true King of the universe stepped into human history in the person of Jesus Christ. But He came to save, not to condemn. His death on the cross was the death of death; His victory was our victory; restoring us to His Kingdom.
 
We don’t need to search for a good king, a wise ruler for our lives or for the world. We already have one, the great King we have always longed for. We just need to acknowledge Him for who He is.

Lord God,
heavenly King, sorry for the times I reject your rule
and seek to put myself or other human leaders in your place.
Thank you that Jesus died on the cross to bring me back into Your Kingdom.  
Help me to bow the knee to Him as my true King.
Amen.


 

Day 15 - Enter By The Blood

 
He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood:
he shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it.
In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been.
He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.
Leviticus 16:15-17 (NIV)
 
Blood. Lots of it.  
 

The sacrificial system laid out for Israel, visceral and graphically described, makes unsettling reading. It can feel all too reminiscent of the horrific violence in our world which makes us long for better things, not more bloodshed.  
 

Slaughtering animals and sprinkling their blood was a drastic solution to a drastic problem. The evil in our world, the lies, hatred and killing, make us cry out for justice. And there is a judge, who sees and knows all things and has promised that sin will be dealt with. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. What else can it be, if God the judge is truly holy, just and good? An atoning sacrifice was needed to deal with sin. But Israel kept on disobeying, kept on sinning. And so do we.
 
It is only through the blood of Jesus, His death on the cross, that the problem can be permanently dealt with. ‘He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption’ (Hebrews 9:12).
 
Blood is the solution. Of course we should wince and feel uncomfortable. Our sin is what means His death was necessary. But, above all, we should give endless thanks and praise that Jesus died for us. Such love!

Loving Father.
Thank You that You did not abandon us and Your world as our sins deserve.
I give You thanks and praise that Jesus came to die for my sins and that through Him I can be reconciled with You.
Help me to live my life today and every day in the light of this truth.
Amen.

 
 

Day 14 - No Entry


The Lord spoke to Moses
after the death of the two sons of Aaron
who died when they approached the Lord.
The Lord said to Moses:
‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses
into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain
in front of the atonement cover on the ark,
or else he will die.
For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.
Leviticus 16:1-2 (NIV)

 
They died. When they approached the Lord they died.
 

The instructions for the Day of Atonement start with this solemn warning from God. Aaron is not to come into the Most Holy Place, behind the curtain, whenever he chooses. His sons had died when they approached inappropriately.
 

Why not? Why not just walk in on God? What is a curtain after all – just a symbol of separation. It’s hard to get our heads round the separation that exists between sin and holiness. But God’s holiness is such that we simply could not stand before Him in our sinfulness, without atonement, and not be destroyed. Do we struggle to remember that?
 
So serious and complete is the separation that we cannot enter God’s presence unless He makes it possible, by taking our sin, by making a way, a safe way. Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us that we do have a way made for us – ‘by Jesus’ blood, a new and living way opened up through the curtain, that is his body.’
 
In that powerful moment as Jesus dies on the cross ‘the curtain of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom.’ Mark 15:38. God himself makes a way for us.
 

Maybe some of us struggle to remember that we can now come into the presence of God whenever we choose – because God chose to make that possible.
 

Can you think what it’s like to walk freely into somewhere you’ve never been allowed to go before? Not just allowed but welcomed?
 
Sin’s separation. God’s free entrance. Amazing.

Almighty God,
may we marvel and rejoice again as we approach Easter,
that we can come into your presence whenever we choose
because, through your dear son Jesus,
you have opened a new and living way that will never be closed.
Amen

 

Day 13 - Lifted up for Life

 

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.
The people came to Moses and said,
‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you.
Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’
So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole.
Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Numbers 21:6-9 (NIV)

 
We’ve all experienced the unbelief of the human heart. The Israelites saw God’s faithfulness through forty years in the desert. They fought the Canaanites and won, they are about to enter the promised land, but having to walk around Edom, rather than through it, they grow impatient. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” 
 
As they face hardship their hearts long back to the land of slavery, rather than forward, to the land of promise.
 
As things get even harder, they realise their mistake, and ask Moses to intercede. The Lord provides a remedy which shows them that salvation is found only with Him. As the afflicted Israelites look to what he has provided they receive life. As they look to the snake, the Lord looks at them with grace and compassion. As quick as the Israelites were to forget God’s goodness, so quick is God to forgive the repentant.
 

This story is included in Numbers for our sake, for our unbelieving hearts. It anticipates the day when Jesus was lifted up, becoming a curse for us, bearing our sin on the cross so that we might have eternal life. 
 
When our hearts are tempted to go back to the slavery of sin, we need to look at the cross and the life we find there.

Lord of life,
when we are tempted to go back to the slavery of sin,
would you direct our eyes to the cross, where we find life and forgiveness.
Thank you that by your Spirit, we can say no to sin,
and this lenten time may we would grow to be more in step with that same Spirit.
Amen.

 

 

Day 12 - Show Me Your Glory

 

Then Moses said, ‘Now show me Your glory.’
And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you,
and I will proclaim My name, the Lord, in your presence.
I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.’
Exodus 33:18-20 (NIV)

 
 
Moses simply cannot imagine leading Israel, God’s chosen people, without God’s presence. He asks: “How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us?” (v16)
 

God responds tenderly and personally: “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (v17)
 

So Moses requests: “show me Your glory”. He desires more of God. In fact, he wants all of God. He longs to see His Glory.
 

And God reveals two important things about who He is. First, He responds generously to our desire to know Him. God hears Moses’ cry and allows for His goodness to pass before him. It’s tempting just to stop here. Admit that we cannot bear the thought of this day, of our lives, of all that is wrong in our world, without God’s presence, and issue our collective cry for Glory.
 

But, there is more. Yahweh reveals that He is not like the gods of Egypt. Israel cannot make demands of Him, nor can we barter or expect favours for our offerings. And unlike our little gods of wealth or competence, He is not an unyielding taskmaster. He is free to show mercy and compassion. Entirely able to act, to defeat the sin and rebellion that keeps us from being able to stand fully in his Glory.
 
As we approach Easter we see how God ultimately fulfils Moses’ prayer in Jesus - God become flesh. Even Moses was not permitted to see the fullness of God’s glory; because of his sinful, rebellious heart he could not see God’s face and live. But one day we will see the God-man Jesus Christ face to face, because He died on the cross in our place to open the way to the fullness of relationship with God.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God.
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
Amen.
 

Day 11 - The Stiff-Necked People

 

Then the Lord said to Moses,
‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.
They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf.
They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it
and have said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
‘I have seen these people,’ the Lord said to Moses,
‘and they are a stiff-necked people.’  
Exodus 32:7-9 (NIV)

 
It’s quite obvious to recognise when someone has a stiff neck. The posture of their bodies usually reflects that something is wrong and if they try to look at something they have to awkwardly move their entire body to face the object. Their gaze is pointed in one direction and they cannot see what’s around them. Having a stiff neck means it’s dangerous to drive and difficult to even walk down the street safely.
 

It turns out that trying to worship God with a stiff neck is dangerous too.
 
The Israelites had spent 400 years in Egypt, being exposed to the gods of their captors. Images and pictorial representations of those gods was a matter of course; that was how worship took place. Left to their own devices, these newly released slaves went straight back to an idolatrous form of worship, quickly turning away from the very thing God had commanded them. It was familiar and comfortable and disobedient. Their stiff necks allowed for only one perspective, their own, whereas God was showing them a very different way.
 

It was similarly stiff necked people who murdered the Saviour of the World at the first Easter. Stuck in their self-imposed vision they were blind to the great salvation that God was accomplishing before them, too busy with their own preconception of the Messiah.
 

Like them, we often try to impose on God our own expectations, agendas and methods; our own stiff necks set on a course from which we allow no deviation.

But what if God is showing us something just over our left shoulder? Like Moses, who when he noticed the burning bush had to ‘turn aside’ to look more closely, are we able, and willing, to move our heads to have a look at what God is doing just outside our self-imposed field of vision?

Father,
we confess our own patterns of thought and practice that are opposed to yours.
Have mercy on us.
Will you do your kneading work
to allow us a full range-of-motion
so that we can see what you did at the cross, and are doing today, and respond rightly.
Amen.

 

The Second Sunday of Lent

 

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
and the exact representation of His being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word.
After He had provided purification for sins,
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)

 
On this second Sunday of Lent we continue to look forward to resurrection Sunday, and remind ourselves of the glory of our risen and ascended Saviour-Redeemer. Although on Earth He was despised and rejected, He is now seated in heaven in a place of unimaginable honour, power and glory. He died to save us at the cross, purifying us from our sins, and is alive today, sat at the right hand of the Father - the place of majesty and honour, worthy indeed is the Lamb. Praise be His mighty and eternal name!

Crown Him with many crowns
The lamb upon the throne
Hark! How the heav'nly anthem drowns
All music but it's own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee.
And hail Him as thy matchless king
Thru all eternity.
 

Day 10 – Grace for Law Breakers

 

And God spoke all these words:
'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.'
Exodus 20: 1-3 (NIV)

 
The text tells us these are God’s words - the ‘ten words’ we call the Commandments - which so timelessly encapsulate the law of God and reflect the character of God. But the Ten Commandments are preceded by nineteen chapters of the book of Exodus which tell us of how God rescued and liberated His people first. It is the God of salvation who imposed law. The grace that saves always precedes the law that demands. Law keeping saves no one.
 

The first commandment is not a tacit admission there are other gods. It is a recognition that human beings are masters in inventing them. As Calvin said, the human heart is an inveterate idol factory. An idol is anything or anyone in your life which you place ahead of God.  To trust in anything more than God is to make it a god. It’s horrible to worship the wrong thing. We trifle with money, sex, status, power and possessions, when our true calling is to love God first and foremost. He is to be everything to us, first in all things. Our whole life, our very existence, is to be devoted to His glory.
 

He calls us in these verses to place Him where He rightly belongs – on the throne of our life: to love Him with heart, soul, mind and strength –the first and greatest commandment.
 
But we don’t. We can’t. We need - more than we can express - the true righteousness Jesus secured fully and finally for us at Easter.
 
Lord,
You created us for Your glory
and call us to put You first in everything.  
We admit we are law breakers who don’t.
We thank you sincerely and joyfully that the full answer to all our sin and failure
lies in the cross of Jesus, who died that we might live.
Amen.

 
 

Day 9 - By the Blood of The Lamb

 

‘On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals,
and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.
I am the Lord.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are,
and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.
No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.’
Exodus 12:12-13 (NIV)

 
It is great to be chosen - to be in the team rather than left to watch from the sidelines. It was certainly better to be in this team, chosen by God, than not. This team was left unscathed as the angel of death passed through Egypt and exacted judgement on every family, every farm. None were left unscathed – only those that could show they were chosen by God and anointed with the Blood of the Lamb.
 

Can you imagine the scene? Hear the cries of anguish from your Egyptian neighbours – from those who had oppressed you for years. This last of God’s plagues to achieve the release of his suffering people showed who was the real God here. Having challenged some of Egypt’s “god symbols” of the Nile and the Sun, now we have blood spilt in sacrifice to achieve liberation for God’s chosen people.
 

No wonder the Israelites commemorated these events every year as one of their pilgrim feasts in Jerusalem at the Temple (until its destruction), reminding themselves of the night God fulfilled his promise, chose them and liberated them.
 
How much more do we have to celebrate because we too have been chosen and saved – and from an even greater and more deadly oppression than the Israelites faced. We have been saved for all eternity from the law of sin and death - because Christ, the Easter Lamb, has become our Passover lamb, dying in our place to save us from God's righteous judgement against sin.

Saving and Liberating God,
Thank you that you chose us before we chose you.
Thank you that because of the death of your son we have life eternal
and are not subject to the judgement of sin.
May we live our lives in that knowledge as free people
and give us the strength we need to throw off all that would tie us to the old life.
Through the Easter Lamb Jesus Christ,
Amen

 

Day 8 - God Intended it for Good


‘But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’
Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)

 
We are near the end of the story of Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. After their father's death, fearing Joseph still holds a grudge against them, his brothers send a message asking for forgiveness. Gen 50: 19-20 is Joseph’s response.
 

‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?’ Although Joseph reassures his brothers, he doesn't deny that evil act nor does he absolve them of responsibility. Instead, while reminding them it is God’s place to judge, he makes an amazing statement recognising God’s sovereignty - ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good’. 
 

As the brothers sold Joseph into slavery, there were two starkly opposed intentions. the brothers intended and committed evil. But God also acted, and His intentions were good - ‘the saving of many lives’. It is because Joseph was sold into slavery that he could preserve his brothers. 
 

Even more astonishingly, his brother Judah is the line from which the Lion of Judah, our Saviour Jesus Christ, would come. As we crucified Him like a common criminal, man intended it for evil, but God intended it for our ultimate good. 
 
Confident that no amount of sin can defeat God’s good purposes, we need to face up to the reality of our sin, and come to God to ask forgiveness.  He is the ultimate righteous judge, yet he sent His son to die in our place. God listens to those who come to him acknowledging their guilt and pours out His grace and mercy on us. Let us come before him in prayer, acknowledging our sins,and asking forgiveness through Christ’s death.

Sovereign Lord,
creator and judge,
grant us forgiveness for the ways in which we have ignored, disobeyed, and turned our back on you.
We thank you for sending your son to die in our place and thus save us from the consequences of our actions,
help us to follow you and your ways day by day.
Amen
 

Day 7 - God Provides the Lamb


'Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah.
Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey.
He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.
When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering,
he set out for the place God had told him about.
On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’, ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.
‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’
Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’
And the two of them went on together.'
Genesis 22:2-8 (NIV)

 
Abraham went up a mountain with his son in order to make a sacrifice. Isaac was astute enough to see the problem: “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
 

As well as being an astute observer of a lack of farmyard animals, Isaac had a significant role to play in the history of God’s people. He was the object of the hope of the promise the Lord had made to Abraham: he would father a nation and inherit a land for his descendants to live in.
 

Just when it looked like God was fulfilling His promises, He threatened to derail them by instructing Abraham to kill his son. And Isaac was not just his son. He said, “take your son, your only son, whom you love.”
 

“Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham’s answer was inspired: “God himself will provide the lamb.” In fact, it was a ram that Abraham saw caught in a thicket. So the scene goes unresolved: the faithful son is not sacrificed, and we are still waiting for a lamb.
 
No longer. Centuries later God’s faithful son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would die as a sacrifice to bring His people to himself. He would himself be a sacrificial lamb, taking the punishment His people deserved on their behalf.

Our gracious God,
we thank you that you did not spare your own son - your only son, whom you love.
We praise you for Jesus Christ,
who died as our sacrifice to take the punishment that our sins deserved.
Please help us, during this season of Lent, to repent of our sin
and to trust in the saving work of the Lord Jesus at Easter.
Amen.


 

Day 6 - Guaranteed With an Oath

 

But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?’. 
So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old,
along with a dove and a young pigeon.’Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other;
the birds, however, he did not cut in half

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…’

Genesis 15:8-10,17-18a (NIV)

 

Some promises seem too good to be true. On Valentine’s Day 2013, the Swedish furniture giant IKEA promised a free cot to any baby born exactly nine months afterwards. To prove that their promotion was genuine, they published coupons in newspapers which could be redeemed on 14th November.
 

God didn’t promise Abram a free cot. He promised him and his wife a son, who would be his heir. Despite their advanced years, God promised that a nation would come from their descendants and that they would inherit a land to live in.
 

It seemed too good to be true. Abram asked for some assurance, and witnessed a most incredible ritual to substantiate the claims God had made. Abram sacrificed a number of animals, cut them in two, and arranged the parts opposite one another. He woke to see a blazing fire pass between the animals.
 

The Lord was making a promise to Abram. He was saying, in effect, “I will do it. If I do not fulfil what I have said I would, may it be done to me as has been done to these animals.”
 
It was a sign of a covenant - a solemn promise. The wonder of this covenant is that the promise was one-sided: Abram was a spectator as the Lord made a promise and staked his God-ness on it being kept.

Our gracious God,
we praise you for your promise of a nation for the people of Abram.
We thank you that we can be included in that nation, by faith, through the Jesus Christ.
Please help us today to trust that you will fulfil what you have promised to do.
Amen.
 

Day 5 - From Cursed to Blessed


The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
 ‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing. 
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’
Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV)

 
“Go.” It’s an easy word to read; it’s a much harder word to obey.
 

Abram was an old man when The Lord called him, already 75 years of age and probably as set in his ways as anybody would be today. He came from a pagan family, in a part of the world renowned for moon-worship. Few people would find it harder to get up and go.
 

And yet that is exactly what he did. He and Sarai heard God’s call and responded to it. The Lord had promised a great blessing: blessing for Abraham and his descendants and, through them, blessing to the whole world.
 

When people had plotted to build a tower to the heavens, God responded with chaos and scattering. Here is a promise that scattering will be turned to gathering; that curse will be turned to blessing.
 

The apostle Paul wrote that God had “announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” And so, he wrote, “those who have faith are children of Abraham.”
 
We, in our sin and rebellion against God, have found ourselves a scattered people in need of God’s blessing. The good news of the call of Abram is that we can be heirs of the same promise: to know God’s blessing as He draws His people back to himself.

Our gracious God,
we thank you for the gospel
announced in advance in the call of Abram.
Thank you that, despite our sin and rebellion against you,
you have called your scattered people back to you.
And help us to respond to your call on our lives,
and so to receive your blessing today as children of Abraham.
Amen.


 

The First Sunday of Lent

 

'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.'
1 Peter 1: 3-6 (NIV)

 
Sundays during Lent can be an opportunity for us to celebrate, looking forward to Resurrection Sunday that is coming. Let us greatly rejoice, considering our risen and ascended King. Though in this life there may be grief and suffering, we who are born again through the resurrection have guaranteed hope now and imperishable inheritance to come. He who called us into this grace will keep us to the end and through all eternity.

Heavenly Father,
give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose, in his life I live,
in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.
What more could be done than Christ has done,
His death is my life,  His resurrection my peace,
His ascension my hope, His prayers my comfort.
Amen.
 ~ Puritan Prayer, from the Valley of Vision (adapted)

 

Day 4 - In His Grace He Scatters, In His Grace He Gathers

 

‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens,
so that we may make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’
Genesis 11:4 (NIV)

 
At Babel, humanity huddle united to build a tower that reaches the throne of God, to exalt their name, instead of cooperating with each other to multiply, be fruitful and fill the earth for God’s glory. God came down to frustrate their plan by confusing their language and scattering them across the earth. 
 

There is no life apart from God, only sin that leads to death. 
 

Though their tower would have never reached heaven, their unity in opposition to God’s rule was digging their pit of destruction.  It is His grace that scattered us from Babel.
 

We like our forefathers in Babel are sinners full of pride and selfish ambition, we desire our own glory and wage war against God to achieve it. We were lost sinners united in our unrepentant rebellion and hate for God. While we rebelled to exalt ourselves to death, Christ humbled himself to stoop down and give us life.
 
On the cross He was humiliated so we might be exalted. He will not leave us scattered. Redeemed and blessed we will gather once more as His eternal church to sing in one accord and worship in the city of Christ our Saviour. 

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross to deal with our unrepentant, rebellious hearts.
Renew our minds by your Holy Spirit that we might humbly exalt your name rather than seeking a name for ourselves.
Amen.

 

Day 3 - How Great the Wickedness


The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth,
and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth,
and his heart was deeply troubled.
So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created
– and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground
– for I regret that I have made them.’
But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.
Genesis 6:5-8 (NIV)

 
God hates sin - and His punishment for sin is death. It’s not necessarily a comforting thought, but it’s a truth that the bible affirms again and again. And it’s a truth that affects each one of us - we are all sinners, and so we all face the prospect of being wiped from the face of the earth. But in Genesis 6 we discover that, somehow, there is a way to avoid the penalty we are due. We are not told that Noah was spared because he was more godly or less sinful than his fellow human beings - only that he found favour in the eyes of the Lord. How can we find that same favour?
 

In Romans 10 we read that “if you declare with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We cannot avoid God’s punishment by trying harder or being better people - but God opens the way of mercy to those who trust Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
 
How great our wickedness, but how much greater our Father’s love and mercy. May His name be praised forever.

Lord God,
thank you that even though my sin deserves your punishment of death,
you show your favour to all those who acknowledge and put their trust in the Lord Jesus.
Help me to follow Him as my Lord today.
Amen

 

Day 2 - Sin the Predator

 

'The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.
So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’
While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.'
Genesis 4:4-8 (NIV) 

Every temptation provides us with a choice - to sin, or not to sin. Like Cain, upset that his brother’s offering was accepted, but his own was not, sin is crouching at our door every minute of every hour of every day - will we rule over sin, or will we give in and let it rule over us? We may not be murderers, as Cain was, but the answer is still the same - all too often we give in. We may like to think of ourselves as good people, but Romans 3 v10 tells us that  “There is no-one righteous, not even one”. 

Every one of us turns away from God, away from doing what is good, and turns towards sin and evil. Everyone, that is, except for Jesus, the one man who was tempted in every way just as we are, yet did not sin. The one man qualified to save us from the punishment our sins deserve.

Dear Heavenly Father,
we pray that we would not allow sin to rule over us today.
But we confess that we continually turn away from you and do what is evil.
Thank you that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross to save us from the punishment our sins deserve.
Amen.

 

Day 1 - From Ashes to Riches

 

'By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.’
Genesis 3:19 (NIV)

Out of dust we were made to bear the image of the Almighty God, with His breath we were given life to dwell with Him as rulers in His perfect world. In Adam, our hard and impenitent hearts rebelled to distrust and disobey our good God. Our sin brought forth the curse of death and all creation groaned under its grip. Living became marred with frustration and ends with death and decay.

 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust - death is an appointment that awaits all of us. With Adam we have sinned and with him we will return to the ground whence we came.

Amidst this devastation, though our sins shut the gates to God’s presence, His grace makes a way for our return. In Genesis 3:15, we are told of the serpent crusher to come, born of a woman, He comes to be stricken in our place, crushing evil to rise victorious.

Jesus is our Serpent Crusher, who lived the sinless life we couldn’t, and died the sinner’s death we deserved - all to save sinners like us. But He did not stay dead, His body did not turn to ashes. He rose from the grave and is seated at the right hand of God waiting for the day until He returns.

In Adam we all die, but everyone joined to Christ by faith will be made alive in Him.

Almighty God,
this Ash Wednesday we remember the agonising death we deserve for our sin,
and look to the forgiveness and resurrection hope your Son, our Saviour, has laid open before us. 
Ashes we deserve, but by your grace His eternal riches we gain.
By your Holy Spirit, turn our hearts to Christ this Lenten season.
Amen. 

All Souls would like to acknowledge the many people who contributed to this series of reflections as writers, coordinators, designers and technical support:
Aileen Austin, Mary Currie, Jonathan Day, Jacob Durham-Morgan, Laura Elworthy, Eric Engberg, Louanne Enns, Paul Enns, Jenny Gallagher, Louise Gibson, Alastair Gledhill, Alison Grieve,  Peter Hamm, Peter Haskew, Melinda Hendry, Katie Huggins, Alex Lee, Amy McBirnie, Seza Mekhdjian, Hibist Mesfin, Martin Mills, Charmaine Muir, Hugh Palmer, Tuuli Platner, Paul Stamper-Iveson, Sue Stamper-Iveson, Freddie Rutherford, Rico Tice, David Turner, Robert Turner, Dan Wells and Chris Wright.