Posts Tagged #AreWeThereYet
Read: Jonah 3.4 (NRSV)
Jonah shows us that God can change an entire city in forty days. God can change an entire nation and God can change just one heart. Wearing sackcloth and ashes on our face reminds us, and the community, of our act of repentance and the inward cleansing of our spirits and clearing the way for the Lord to work through us.
The sackcloth was scratchy and uncomfortable. The ashes were from the sacrifice of burnt offerings. Both were signs of a real change. We hear people say they are sorry or that they have changed. We want to measure the words by a change in the actions that follow.
Action Plan: What might you wear in public that would communicate that you are a work in progress for God? Try it and be ready to explain to those who ask why you are wearing your “ashes and sackcloth.”
Prayer: God help me show the world how you are at work changing my life. Amen.
Read: Ezekiel 4.6 (NRSV)
What is a just punishment for a crime? If it were up to us would we punish someone one day for every year of suffering? This is what God says will be the punishment of the house of Judah. If God can make right in one day what it takes a year to do wrong, then why can’t we try when we feel that there is no point?
You have the power to set people free from guilt, fear, and pain. One day of forgiveness can add years to someone’s life. One day of love can open doors of trust for generations to come. One day of honesty before God can set your heart right for eternity.
There is never a time to say, “there is no use in trying to repair that relationship,” to undo that injustice. And just because it may take forty years to help promote a change in society or one single heart, we should not be discouraged from taking that first step.
Action Plan: Identify a need no matter how great or small in our local community that you have been concerned about. Pray about how God can use you to bring about a change in the matter.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see what I can do every day that will make a difference for you in years to come. Amen.
Read: Psalm 95.10 (NRSV)
Does God want us to despise an entire generation? Are we to be a witness of grace? Does he want us to hate anyone? Some of us hold onto hurt and hate for a lifetime. We think we are holding harm over them or protecting ourselves.
Think of the energy and personal resources that are required to maintain prejudice, pride, blame, and leverage over others. The psalm writer beckons us to look in the mirror and do more than talk about what we don’t like. It is time to return to God’s ways for our daily living.
When we keep the fires of discontent and hatred burning long after the perceived wrong, we are hurt far more than anyone. Blame is neither a cure nor an answer. We carve out a place in our hearts to carry this burden. Why not fill our hearts with mercy?
Action Plan: Pray about a wrong you have suffered that no matter how much time passes continues to fester like a wound in your spirit. Practice true forgiveness.
Prayer: Teach me forgiveness and let me repent that I may start this day new in your will. Amen.
Read: Nehemiah 5.15 (NRSV)
As a prophet, Nehemiah helps the king hear the cry of the people. Can you imagine a king raising taxes in a time of famine in the land? People were losing their homes, farms, and vineyards in exchange for food on the table today. We have had a glimpse of this firsthand in the pandemic.
The king has a change of heart, after thinking it over, he found people to blame and charge with the injustice. He had people who were sold into slavery returned and he established lending without interest.
A leader that loses sight of the needs of the people should fear what justice God will bring upon them. Reform to help the king is different from reform that helps the people.
Action Plan: Write letters to our local and national leaders so that they might hear the cries of the oppressed.
Prayer: Help me do more than talk about injustice. Let me be an agent of change and a prophetic voice for you. Amen.
Read: 2 Kings 8.9 (NRSV)
Hazael took forty camel loads of gifts to the prophet Elisha in hopes that he would foretell if King Aram would recover from his illness. Elisha reports that the king will recover but will surely die. Elisha also tells of the king’s unjust treatment of God’s people and weeps for the harm that will come under his leadership until the king’s death. Hazael goes home, reports the good news regarding his recovery. Hazael also suffocates the king and takes his place.
It is hard to see justice during such corruption. Sometimes evil must be stopped even through war and violence. People might be doing harm to themselves and others and not make the connection. We are called to live up to those who harm or act unjustly. (Do not go suffocating anyone, please.) Speak the truth that people may choose faith when given the opportunity.
Action Plan: They might be annoyed, but if you see someone smoking ask them if you can help them kick the habit. Pray for them and encourage them, as you are able.
Prayer: Lord, help me to hear the cries of the helpless and be their prophetic voice. Amen.
Read: Matthew 4.2 (NRSV)
Our journey begins and ends in God’s presence, walking with us through each day. We have been on a journey this Lenten season of study, prayer, fasting, and witnessing the hope of Easter. For it is Easter that drives us into the wilderness and what also drives us back out.
Christ’s journey has led us through our own personal journey. In these weeks we have seen how much we need Christ who can withstand all temptation to stand with us.
The end is in sight. We can now rest from our journey for tomorrow we enter the gates with thanksgiving in our hearts! Yet, be on guard that temptation not take you over.
Action Plan: Lay out what you plan to wear to church and get plenty of rest, but never forget where you would be if we had not made the trip.
Prayer: Thank you for standing with me, all the way to the end. 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 16:35 (NRSV)
As slaves, the Hebrews ate from the “fleshpots” in Egypt. Yes, they were slaves, but the food bar was as dependable and easy to find as Golden Corral. On the journey out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land, God provided daily bread called ‘manna.’ Every day manna appeared on the ground. The Hebrew travelers were to gather exactly what they needed for the day; any extra manna would spoil if they tried to gather more than what they needed for that day. The manna was God’s form of MRE and an ongoing lesson about trusting God in daily life. Part of the “promise” of the Promised Land was that it would be a land filled with milk and honey. They were being taught faithfulness, trust, and patience. If the people could find a shortcut, there would be no need for the journey or God.
Central to our spiritual journey is turning to God at the start of each day to find what we need for that day. The day we wake and not need God is a day that will be empty, lifeless, and without hope. [KJV: Hebrews 13: 8] “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” God promises to be revealed in our daily reading and studying the Word just as the manna. We know where to find the word. It is in books on our shelf, apps on our devices, and parts are even loaded in our memory.
Action Plan: Look up and write down a verse of scripture that helps you remember to trust God throughout the day. Place it at your seat at the table, on your lunch bag, on the dash of your car, as a screensaver, or where you will see it regularly as a call to faith and prayer. Prayer: God you are with us every day, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. Help us trust your leading as often as you are present with us. Amen.
Read: Genesis 7:1-9 (NRSV)
One of the most familiar “sets of forty days” in scripture is the forty days spent by Noah and his family on the ark. Typically we think of this as a story pointing to a children’s lesson about a rainbow. God promises to use the rainbow as a reminder to not destroy but rather show us grace. Whether it is the rainbow after the storm or the water from the sprinkler in the yard, we remember God desires for us to be righteous when we see the very special perspective a rainbow provides. But the forty days on the are the story for Day two in this spiritual journey.
In our post-modern consumption of scripture, very little attention is given to God’s act of cleansing and reconciliation by the flood. While the consequence of our collective and individual sin may never be a cataclysmic flood, God continues to call us to faithfulness and trust. Yet, we continue to test God’s love and patience. This mistrust and pushing away is our choice of sin. Imagine a forty-day cruise. Not the typical cruise, but one where we are surrounded by God inviting us to work alongside God in providing for the restoring of righteousness, and goodness throughout the world, Noah’s cruise.
Noah and his family are placed in the process of God’s cleaning work, to be ‘saved’ from certain death and enjoy the fruit of God’s righteous life.
The journey ‘in’ the Sin is seen throughout our lives and around the world. Sin is what we place, allow, or ignore in our lives that separates us from God. Those ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions continuing to prevent us, and others, from living and trusting what is right and wrong. Our only hope is God’s grace and help.
Near the start of our spiritual journey is a spiritual bath, a moment of cleansing. We might begin by speaking to God our prayers of confession. We might reach out to those we have harmed or ignored to open what has been closed. Our best effort to concur our sin is to manage spinning plates on sticks until everything comes crashing in because we messed up or some distraction. But we don’t want another flood to free us from sin. We need a method of being cleansed that doesn’t destroy the world.
Think of this, the forty-day journey that Noah and his family made a boat, by God’s direction, that has no sail, no rudder, and no anchor. This boat is also filled with animals and one family to do the work. They are completely reliant on God for everything. Here is the cleansing work.
When we are willing to recognize the power and influence of sin in our lives, we relinquish that we are in control and hand the reigns over to God’s heart. This begins a process of transformation that demands our cleansing ourselves, of ourselves. Jesus does the actual turning around for us, giving himself as the example and as payment for our default on right living. This journey will be that cruise. It’s time to feed the animals and enjoy the ride.
Action Plan: Make handwashing a time of prayer.
Prayer: Lord, make me whole, not just clean. Amen.
Our journey to the cross is two days closer..