Archive for category #lent
Read: 2 Corinthians 11.24 (NRSV)
Paul carries the marks of faithfulness for the Gospel, in his story and through his body. Thirty-nine lashes on five occasions are his evidence of standing up for Christ under opposition. That is persecution! We hear the alarm go off on Sunday morning and see the clouds are grey and feel the warmth of the bed and the promise of more sleep calls to us. What would Paul say about our temptation to skip worship?
Gathering for worship is not about the hymns, not about the preacher nor the sermon. It is about the People of God gathering to worship God. Would we be more likely to go if it were a challenge to attend? Would more people try to get in if we sold tickets? Since we can freely come to worship, is it too easy to stay away?
Prayer: Lord, Wake me up! I want to be where your people are worshiping you. If I’m not there, you will miss me and they will too. Amen.
Sabbath Worship: Go to worship and give yourself to God. Go to worship to praise God with boldness.
Read: 1 Kings 19.8 (NRSV)
Elijah is faithful to his job as a prophet. His words get him into trouble with the people and the king for pointing out their sinfulness. He is tired, scared, and wants to hide. God sends an angel to feed Elijah to make a journey of encouragement.
We push ourselves to get our work done, meet deadlines and prepare as best we can for the days, weeks, and months ahead. Is it ever enough? God prepares us every day when we work with God. Where is God pushing you to grow? Will we go in God’s strength to meet God where he sends us? Will we stay in bed, in hiding, in our fears?
How has the past month of prayer, study, and fasting affected your relationship with God? Are you eating enough spiritual food for the journey you are called to make with God? The days and weeks of the Lenten season are not an excuse for dieting; it is a time of feasting on the manna God provides our spirits now.
Action Plan: Think about how you will spiritually prepare for Easter Sunday which a week away.
Prayer: Fill my cup Lord. Feed me till I want no more. Amen.
Read: 1 Kings 7.38 (NRSV)
In the temple, jars large enough to hold 40 baths of water, were collected as storehouse for sacrifice and cleansing rituals. They used lots of water! (Even enough for teenagers to take a shower!) How many gallons of water do you use in a day. Check the meter and see. How much water does it take to keep our body hydrated? It’s a good healthy choice to drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water, in addition to other beverage we might drink. Do we consume enough to keep things flowing?
We hear about conserving water, fights over rights to water access, and measure rainfall every day. We are charged with caring for the earth as God’s caretakers. Do we treat our bodies as the holy temple of the spirit? Do we take care of them properly? Do we take the time to clean out emotional baggage to make room for spiritual refreshment?
The witness that the earth is mostly covered with water, is an ever-present reminder that we need living water. We need to be spiritually hydrated. Come to the Spirit! Come in worship, singing, and prayer to nurture your heart and soul.
Action Plan: Every time you bathe use that time to confess your sin and ask God to forgive and give you a fresh start.
Prayer: Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee. Amen.
Read: 1 Kings 6.17 (NRSV)
The entrance area to the sanctuary has different names based on the size and use of the space. If your church has just a small space for getting out of the elements, fixing your hair, and straightening your skirt before entering, that is called a vestibule. If the area is a large space that the congregation can gather for fellowship, it is called a narthex; different parts for different needs of the community. Your church might have no transition space you jump right in when you open the door.
The Holy of Holies in the temple was the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, and was seen as God’s footstool and resting place reserved for God alone. In most Protestant churches that space is where the choir sits and that might be why they think that have better seats. More importantly, the space between the Holy of Holies at the back and the narthex or vestibule at the front entrance is called the Nave. It is the middle part, just like our navel. We usually call it the sanctuary. Which speaks of its function more than its dimensions.
Speaking of measurements, forty cubits would be roughly sixty feet. The height of the temple was thirty cubits and the width was twenty cubits. The nave was a large open space. Why would they need such a large nave or sanctuary? God was planning for the faithful to have plenty of room for worship. Plenty of room to move around, sing, dance, express, and make offerings. What size is the sanctuary or nave of your church? Do you have room for more people, probably, then this is your invitation to fill it up, and not just on Easter Sunday. Get to work.
Action Plan: Look in each room in your house and ask yourself what work is God doing here? How do we find the sacred and holy in all the places we live, work, and worship?
Prayer: Wherever I go, let me doing your work while I am there. Amen.
Read: 1 Kings 4.26 (NRSV)
Solomon’s kingdom had a lot of residual waste that went with his lavish success. We have layers and layers of experiences with all the different hats of responsibility we wear. Thankfully, some of those layers come off with a good bath. But most took years to build up and won’t come off overnight. Sometimes God shoots right to the heart of the matter when we are confronting grief, loss, or disaster. Most of the time think we will tackling things one layer at a time, but life seldom gives us that leisurely opportunity.
King Solomon builds alliances with other countries that give stability and prosperity during his reign. His efforts were much like one spinning plates on the end of poles. Instead of enjoying life, we are too busy spinning the plates to avoid catastrophe. The more success we strive to find, the more plates we think we need to spin. Eventually, the plates fall.
Is everything we are doing necessary for the good and faithful life we seek. The season of pandemic helped us see some priorities. We live in a culture and land of abundance. Will abundance make us joyful, loving, kind, generous, and at peace with ourselves, neighbors, and God? We use a majority of the world’s resources. Are we practicing extravagant generosity along with our great success? Are there things we would rather share with God and others than our spinning plates of science, politics, and technology? Are there things we can find release and make more room for God to work through us? Certainly! Practice breaking the cycles of wealth, power, and correctness that the world demands, and exchange that life for God’s vision for your life.
Action Plan: Clean out an area or room. Remember God always desires to forgive, renew, and clean our
hearts. Practice cleaning one area at your home or workplace as a redemptive action. Use that time, energy, and space for God to claim your attention.
Prayer: O God, unclutter my life and let me live in your fullness.
Read: 2 Samuel 5.4 (NRSV)
David reigned for forty years as king. How he ruled at age thirty changed by the time he was seventy. Think back about your own life, in five-year periods. How have you changed your mind and heart at different stages? Where can you see God at work? Sometimes we don’t see God’s plan until we look back over the years. Have we done something the same way for 40 years? Are you planning to have the same energy or struggles forty years from now? Can we do it differently now? Can we afford not to learn from the past and make the corrections in our spiritual growth? We have all said, “Don’t fix it, if it isn’t broken.” What if our perspective of wholeness differs from God’s? And what is comfortable and easy to us is not in line with God’s heart and word? Those who look for God find God looking back, here and ahead.
Action Plan: Shake things up in your spiritual practices. List three things you have done the same in terms of prayer or church for 40 years and make a point to do them differently this Lenten season. Look at it from God’s perspective in addition to your own.
Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God. Amen.
Read: 2 Samuel 2.10 (NRSV)
Ishbaal thought he would continue just as his father, King Saul, had done leading the kingdom. Two years into his rule, the people of Judah turned to David, who proved to be God’s appointed king. The child of a strong leader often assumes they can do just as their parent has done before them. This true in the church, politics, and business, but a reputation is flimsy coattail to ride.
Every genuine leader needs to develop their own strengths, talents, and learn from the success and failures of those who mentor them. When we value our leaders based on public opinion, we are basing our judgment on an ever-changing foundation. At the age of forty, Ishbaal finds himself losing political clout and his people. The core message of this verse is to use the years we have, to build the strongest life we can. We may never be the leader of a nation, but as disciples, we are called to lead others to Christ. Certainly, the witness and experience of others can bless us but know we are called to share a relationship of faith that is our own work and faithfulness.
Action Plan: Record the gifts, skills, and blessings your family and friends have utilized in shaping your life and give a prayer of thanks for them. Then list what your own beliefs and principles are. What do you stand for in the way your live your own life? Compare how the two lists are similar and how they might differ.
Prayer: God, we are grateful for the people you place in our lives that shape and inspire us. We know you do not need carbon copies of others; you have made us unique as we are, and desire us to become most fully that person you are hoping we become. Amen.
Read: Acts 23.21 (NRSV)
What weights do you carry in your life? Are they physical, emotional, and/or spiritual? Which of them is worth your effort to be closer with God. Do you fear what others think of you? Do you allow the perspective of others to limit what you are willing to do for God? Do not let one day go by that you do not try to walk with God in your actions, your words, and your deeds.
So many people lie in wait to attack us if we point out where there is a sin or if we express our faithfulness that is different from our own. We should work to lift others up, not to spend our hearts bringing others down. If they are not of God they will fall anyway. What does it mean to be a friend in Christ?
Country singer, Jaron Lowenstine, sings that we should pray for our enemies like the preacher said. He goes on to give examples of hateful prayers for our enemies; the prayers are all daggers and darts, but we have prayed for our enemies. Do not pray for evil, shame, blame, or ill toward others. Be the one who loves first.
Watchful Rest: If you hear gossip about someone, stop the cycle and uncover a plot that does so much harm.
Prayer: May you treat me like those I am unwilling to forgive. Amen.
Read: 1 Samuel 17.16 (NRSV)
The Philistines were at war with Israel and Judah. Each day they made their presence known through intimidation. Standing ready to pounce, it was unnerving for God’s People to live with that pressure and ultimately live in fear of anticipated defeat. David hears the fears and takes action to confront the mighty warrior, Goliath, the champion of the Philistine camp. We know how David trusted God’s help to defeat the giant and give victory to his people with God’s strength. Think of the people that threaten you and your faith. Hear those who use the instruments of politics and social media to shame and attack those who trust God’s righteousness. Also, stop, and reflect on those who might be intimidated by your words, actions, or presence. Good people protecting a narrow view of what it means to be the body of Christ waste the most energy and divert the church from its core mission. With God’s strength, you too can become the character of God who faces the giants of 2021.
Action Plan: Pick up a rock that fits nicely in the palm of your hand. What can one stone do to hurt and to heal? Consider those who use God’s name and word to taunt the People of God. God who is love and goodness, sets the rules about what is loving and good. Many times we are judged as the enemy when we are seen as the oppressor. Be ready to let stones be road signs of our spiritual journey and not weapons that divide, taunt, shame, and kill.
Prayer: Let the stones of this world grind God’s good grain that we might become the bread of life and the righteousness of God for the world. Let us speak your word with confidence and truth. Amen.
Read: 1 Samuel 4.18 (NRSV)
The period of rule by the Judges was an interesting time for the ‘heroes’ of the people. Leaders popped up in times of crisis. One of the great judges, Eli, ruled forty years with confidence and success. Near the end of his reign, God’s people were at war with the Philistines and were being attacked in a terrible way. His two sons died in the battle. But when Eli heard the Ark of the Covenant had been captured, he literally fell over and died on the spot.
To hold the Ark is to be in God’s full presence, and the ark and its power had been entrusted to the Hebrews. To have the ark stolen is to be separated from God. It was also to be powerless and lost. While it was awful news that his children were killed in battle, without God he was in full shock and defeat. To journey without God is to be lost. Disciples seek to stay in God’s presence even during the tragedy. How we handle difficult news and times of great loss are milestones for both ourselves and for generations to come.
Our year in pandemic-mode has been filled with many shocking experiences. We are likely worn thin from numerous events, news, grief, and hardship. Each of these reminds us how great is God’s power. We also see how much we need God’s guiding strength when ours is tested. The Lenten journey is our time to seek for God to restore and strengthen us.
Call to Action: Think of someone who appears to be spiritually struggling. If you cannot think of someone, take courage, and ask someone, “Honestly, how is it with your soul today?” Think of ways you can bring the presence of God into your home, work, school, travels, and conversations. Where God is present there will be life and wholeness.
Prayer: Thank you God for being with us on this journey. You never leave us. You never give up on us. Help us to trust you more. Amen.