Archive for category #lent
Read: Deuteronomy 2.7 (NRSV)
Here the long wilderness journey comes to an end for Moses. He looks back forty years and remembers the plagues and the exodus, the grumbling, and the manna. Joshua looks ahead and prepares to enter the Promised Land. Long before I turned forty, I could not imagine looking back more than a month or two. Further along the path, it is now easy to look back to see most clearly points of failure and success on my part, and the abiding presence of God throughout the journey.
The clarity of hindsight carries a powerful perspective for affirmation and for assurance in the presence. Whatever your current age, the point in our journey is vital to stop and learn from our past. It is certain that when we fail to learn from the past, we will indeed repeat our former ills. The current effort to clean-up our history will temporarily give those who rewrite the past power and sense of accomplishment, but our past is one of our greatest teachers. With all the dirty and sin, we must know what we have come through to see the value of what we have and where we are heading.
Before us is a world that is less likely to listen to the church’s message of righteousness and spiritual course correction. Therefore, we must make certain to know how God has guided, blessed, corrected, and empowered the People of God through great trials and suffering. The days ahead are no easier and the call of discipleship is no less important. Seek God in scripture, the fellowship of the believers, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Action Plan: Look at family photos and count your blessings. Find past photos of your church family and learn from our past. What are some of the hopes and dreams that you once had? Are they still attainable? Will you work to their fulfillment? Have new and better dreams come to fulfillment in their place?
Prayer: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall want for nothing! Amen.
Read: Numbers 35.6 (NRSV)
All except one of the twelve tribes of God’s people, the Levites, were given lands and regions of their own. The Levites were the family of priests. They assignment was the responsibility of the sanctuary, worship, sacrifices, and over forty cities in which to live. In addition, the Levites were to govern the cities of refuge. A good name of a city of refuge would be Grace City. This system service as a spiritual relocation protection system that allows for those who committed non-premeditated crimes against others to move to another city and have a fresh start. It is likely we see the evidence of this practice in the favorite 23rd Psalm where we read about sitting at the banquet in the presence of our enemies. It is God’s plan of grace that makes from for us even though we are guilty of sin.
A remarkable story of the extension of grace in the Old Testament is the cities of refuge. Imagine God at work in your life and witness, calling you to be a host of grace. Bringing together people who are divided, the blamer and the blame-e, the guilty and the innocent, the victim, and the abuser. Part of your journey of spiritual grow may be to sit with someone you need to forgive or listen to someone who needs to forgive and release you.
How can we make our house of worship a place that welcomes sinners and a place of healing? The exceedingly difficult key is to be honest. Honest that some ideas, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs are not those of God, even though we might consider them kind, nice, and loving. God calls us to be faithfulness. God welcomes us all as broken sinners in need of healing and wholeness. The Levites were not charged to gather the largest crowd, they were to open God’s grace for those who know they need instruction, healing, and correction. There are those who find it easier to practice church hopping to find a body who will agree with them. The Levites answer the call to open the does to all who want to find God’s righteousness and not just affirm our own sin and division.
Action Plan: Identify someone you could extend grace and forgiveness toward and go do it. Reach out in the tradition of the Levites and call others to join you in repentance and healing. You will be giving one of the greatest gifts you could possibly share.
Prayer: God, send me to find your grace and to offer it to others; Oh Lord, be my strength and hope. Amen.
Read: Numbers 32.7-17 (NRSV)
Some restaurants require reservations. One way to always avoid needing a reservation is never eat at a place that requires them. That is a drastic choice that will also require us to miss out on some special occasions and experiences. Maybe those who choose to take an easier route don’t like to wait or think the practice is not fair, or they just have a poor attitude and fell out of control. Make the reservation and enjoy the fellowship.
In our spiritual journey, neither should we avoid making time to experience spiritual growth opportunities before having tasted it. The passage from Numbers 32 recounts a time that some of the family of God were discouraging others from entering the promised land because it would involve further difficulty, inconvenience, and struggle. This leading of others away from the mission of God is like those who discourage our faithfulness in doing what is necessary to experience God’s promises and ministries. God was angry when they were discouraging the faithfulness of others then and is now with us when we become barriers to change, sticks-in-the-mud, and those who encourage others to take spiritual short-cuts thinking we have a better plan than God’s.
It is Caleb and Joshua who are the exception to God’s judgment. Unlike the majority, these two, can enter the land promised by God because they had trusted God, without reservations. When we listen to the fears and pressures of others that call us away from God, and yet we stay close to God, we find God with us, and that is the reward of the Promised Land for us.
Today is your opportunity to make certain this day is a day lived for Christ and a day filled with the Holy Spirit. Go out of your way to encourage others and when you hear someone holding someone back from growing in spirit, call them out. Remind them they are missing a visit to God’s Promised presence.
Action Plan: List the relationships, emotions, and attitudes that might be keeping us from knowing Christ’s joy. Make a reservation with a friend to share your list and listen to their feedback. Break bread as you are able and enjoy the fellowship with the People of God and a little milk and honey!
Prayer: Today, O God, I give you my life anew. Put me to doing or lay me aside. Allow me to be with you always, no matter what you and I do today.
Read: Leviticus 25.8 (NRSV)
The year of Jubilee is the year after seven sets of seven years. It is a celebration of grace and forgiveness.
Today we lift this aspect of Sabbath as we prepare for a time of Jubilee at Easter. Think of the books, tools, and serving dishes you have been meaning to return and take them back to their owner. Even more weighted is the opportunity to forgive debts, grudges, and hurts that you have carried for years and years.
The 50-year anniversary is golden because it is a time of grace and forgiveness. Couples who celebrate Jubilee anniversary highlight the occasion with a renewal of their wedding vows. Most this it is a celebration of insurance or persistence, instead it is a time of letting go of what is best forgotten for the sake of the relationship and reclaiming the union in Christ that keeps them strong.
What items might you return, forget, forgive, or let go to heal a broken relationship? What grudges could you forgive that will make way for reconciliation? Try to see the opportunity that each Sabbath as a mini time of Jubilee. Do all in your power to make right the relationships that make up the community faith.
Prayer: God, give me the courage to forgive to the degree I desire to be forgiven.
Active Rest: Rest. Just rest with God. And ask God to heal our spirit and set us free to live in faith.
Read: Exodus 24 (NRSV)
My friends in the advertising world plan everything with Monday as the first day of every week. Many other businesses start the work week on Monday. There is an unspoken message at the starting point. It is a small decision that shapes our perspective for each week. In making plans we say, “I will have that ready at the first of the week.” Do we mean, Sunday, Monday, or sometimes before a week from now? We are then justified by saying, “I didn’t promise to have it Sunday, you said first of the week would be fine.” And we try to squeak by our words.
More than calendar details, the Sabbath, literally Saturday, is a day of resting from our labors and relying on God’s labors. Sunday is our day of worship and celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Our modern weekend was first used in 18 79. The two-day break from the workweek was a combination of recognizing religious traditions and intended to forgive workers a rest. In 2021 we live in a twenty-four-hour, seven-day a week, and digitally available at all times. Finding Sabbath Rest is as difficult even when have legal days off; we just do not choose to rest. Keep in mind that the commandment is to “keep the Sabbath” which is resting from ‘our’ labor and not a request to do nothing or just sleep.
We are called to be resting in the arms and heart of God. When we sing, study, serve, forgive, and celebrate the God-with-us in the Spirit we are usually more active; it is not a day for sleeping. It is a day for God. Moses had many troubles and had many reasons not to go up to the mountaintop away from people’s demands. He travels up the mountain to be with God and not just away from his responsibilities in the valley.
Like Moses, if we do not spent time with God and time apart from the rest of our responsibilities we would not find the strength to lead the lives we are called to lead.
Action Plan: Take the calendar you use and schedule the time you will give to God in the weeks ahead.
Prayer: Give me the strength to entrust others with my work for a time, that I might give myself to you most fully. Amen.
Read: Numbers 13:25 (NRSV)
Moses sends a reconnaissance party to spy on those who are living in the Promised Land. Most likely the Hebrews assumed that the land flowing with milk and honey would be uninhabited and ready for them to walk into without effort. This is not the case. We see the fruit of this struggle in the region today.
It is notable that it takes forty days for them to check out the situation and return with a report concerning the land of promise. Our spiritual health requires more effort than we give to it.
Imagine someone trailing you for these forty days, watching the things you said and did, and making notes of the places you go, and recording your every choice, what would be their report at the end of the forty days? The tech giant’s algorithms do a great job of this and we don’t seem to mind. But what is in our record?
If our faithfulness were to be measured by one twenty-four hour day? Is there one day in the past month and a half that we would rest our salvation? We have work to do. It is persist work.
In the spirit-focused season we are our own spies. This journey is for our benefit. Take seriously the opportunity to review the status of your spiritual health and see the areas that are tired, empty, or lifeless. This Lenten journey is that kind of reflection and report on your life, if you will allow it to be.
Action Plan: Try journal writing as an instrument in accountability for your thoughts and actions throughout the day. Use it to look back and hold your self accountable.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for knowing my thoughts, fears, sins, and rekindling my salvation and assurance. Help me remember and trust your loving me that I might grow, share, and live in you most fully. Amen.
Read: Exodus 34.28 (NRSV)
Fasting is doing without one important thing in order to give more time, attention, and intention to another important one.
Moses chooses to not eat as an opportunity to trust God’s providing presence. In only a matter of hours after breaking our routine of eating our body’s system begins to make noises and share its discomfort.
Part of becoming more spiritually active is sometimes seen through our physical experiences. Jesus fasted in the wilderness and after his time of retreat, he was hungry.
When we fast for a day, we can easily begin to feel a lack of energy and fatigue. Try to make note of the feeling, attitudes, and perceptions when we are not eating spiritual food regularly.
Spiritual fasting becomes a spiritual discipline, not just from depriving the body but when we also shift our attention to the time and energy needed to grow in God.
As a contrast, imaging the reverse of spiritual fasting for a moment, what if you spent forty days growing in spirit, could you tell the difference in your life? Why not give it a try?
Would you feel closer to God for having done so? When we lay aside our physical necessities do, we feel closer to God’s work and witness in our daily living? Moses gives a radical act of spending forty days with God.
Imagine going on a spiritual retreat from your family, work, duties, and responsibility and entrusting someone else with all those demands, and giving your full attention to God.
Action Plan: Pick a set time to be with God. Set a timer for an hour or two. No watches, no Weather Channel, and no Facebook. No texts, posts, No coffee, no soda. No news channels, no distractions. One you, or you and your household, and God. Take the time to be complete with God. Some moments in silence, some singing, some reading scripture, always listening for God. When Moses fasts he comes down the mountain with the Ten Commandments.
Prayer: Jesus, take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to thee. Amen.
Read: Exodus 26.14-26 (NRSV)
One of the amazing features of the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness is that their place of worship was a mobile tent of meeting. It had tall walls made of multiple frames and panels stretched over poles of cedar. Silver bowls were located at the lower ends of the poles. In our current experiences of digital worship, we get a sense that this mobile format needs some special work to separate it from the ordinary work on our devices and our spiritual work through the same devices. The instruction was to separate the tentpoles from the ground in silver bases. The people were called to make forty bowls as the foundation of the holy mobile sanctuary. The bowls reminded the people that God’s presence was feeding their spirits.
How can we define what is ordinary and what is specially set aside for God? What do we place at the foundation of our daily choices? Start and end the day in prayer. In spending more time at home or alone, where is our worship space? Could we pick a place to keep our bible, our worship music, or bible study materials together? Sometimes times the church has gone overboard with defining holy spaces and sacred things, but the intent is helpful. Finding the place of worship and fellowship with God was right with them wherever they traveled and that’s good advice for us.
Take a bowl that you use for breakfast or soup and set it aside with verses of scripture to read and re-read. Place prayers and review them to see when the prayers are answered or need more attention. We can make these weeks a time of worship and fellowship wherever we go. Keep your bible and hymnal handy or move your apps to the home screen. Make going to the mountain easy, accessible, and be fed often.
Action Plan: Gather songs that you enjoy singing or hearing and play them often – while you work, travel, clean, or play. Build the foundation in words and songs of faith.
Prayer: O God, keep your words in my heart, in my hands, on my mind and at your feet. Amen.
Read: Genesis 50:2-3 (NRSV)
The ancient Egyptians developed a detail process of embalming a body far beyond practicality as an art form and a hope that it would prepare a person for their spiritual after-life. After thousands of years archaeologist who uncover these remains find the dried-up version of what was left unused in the afterlife. Which affirms that old saying, “you can’t take it with you.”
In life, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in gym membership, health equipment, rows of books and hours coaching to prepare our bodies for daily life. Imagine investing the same resources we devote to preparing our body, to developing our spiritual relationships.
By comparison, jot down the amount of time you will spend this week in prayer, Bible study, fasting, service, and worship. Of the one-hundred and sixty-eight hours available this week, how many hours will you devote to working on your spiritual growth? A tenth of that time is sixteen hours. Maybe you save it all up for the Sabbath rest. I spent eight hours on a spiritual name will not fuel the struggles we face each day.
For those who see the season of Lent as a time to give up a particular food, like chocolate or alcohol; or time online, or watching television, or something that we like for the sake of practicing self-denial, I suggest we let all that go. Instead, see this at our intentional time of focusing on growing our spirit. That will likely mean we have to make time or give up somethings to make it a priority, but that helps us see the priority and not the denial. Typically, we are already rather proficient in denying that our spirit needs attention.
If we spend 10 mins in prayer each day, how much closer to Christ would you be if you doubled the time? If we read a two-minute devotion and pray for the day, how much deeper would our faith be if we wrote a devotion to share with someone else. The usual recommendation in increasing ‘reps’ and adding ‘weights’ that helps our bodies become stronger and have greater endurance will hold true for our spiritual work-out plan. Six days God gives us to work, how much farther can you make progress when eating a good spiritual breakfast? What does it look like when we go without Christ in your day routine? Make the goal to increase your training list and stick to it.
Action Plan: Make two realistic lists: one of things you would like to do to strengthen your spirit and one of what you would be willing to lay aside this week to make growth possible.
Prayer: Jesus give me strength to let go of the things that I have laid aside that you might be more present and real in my daily life. Amen.
Sabbath Rest – A Day Planned for God (Day 5 will be tomorrow, Take time for the Sunday interruption)
Genesis 1 (NRSV)
Are you a Day-Planner person? To what degree do you plan: Hour-at-glance, Day-at-a-glance, or a Month-at-a-glance? Maybe you are happy keeping up with what month or season with your own system. The change in routines from this pandemic year has made us all question what day of the week it is a few times. But our task now to finding ways to be more intentional with God is essential to our spiritual journey, now and all life long. God creates with purpose as seen in
the first chapter of Genesis. Let this become our practice.
Look back over the past four calls to action. Have you acted upon these? If so, Praise the Lord! If not, take this holy day and review the calls to action: What will be your holy place for prayer and study during these days of the Lenten season? Name it and claim it and tell others your plan. What has so stained your heart and mind or spirit and attitude that it speaks of the hurt rather than of Christ in you?
Wash a load of clothes or the car, or take a bath as an exercise, not in work, but as repentance and cleansing. Think hard about the daily witness you share. Is your lack of joy the message to share with the world? Are your grumpy thoughts and words and non-verbal glares speaking of the power the Holy Spirit has to heal, forgive and love?
Rest: This is a day to rest from our labor and make certain we are working on the things God calls us to be and become. Put down the book and get to it. Be ready, this week will have new challenges.
Prayer: Dear God, I give you myself today. Thank you for giving us this time together. Help me not be distracted. Show me the way you would have me go. Let my rest be in your strength. Amen.