Maundy Thursday Virtual Prayer Virtual

Thursday, April 9th at 9:30 p.m. - Friday, April 10th at 12 p.m. (Noon)

Thank you for joining our Maundy Thursday Virtual Prayer Vigil. Wherever you find yourself praying, we are joined together in Spirit.  

Maundy Thursday is one of the holiest days of our Christian year. The word Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum, which means mandate. As in, "mandatory" (a word we are all quite familiar with during this time of COVID-19). But Jesus' mandate is not restrictive as our mandatory stay-at-home orders are. Yet it is just as imperative for the well being of all people. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus gives us the commandment to love one another as we have been loved by him. Not to find trust and comfort in power, sword, money, or other earthly things that (falsely) promise us to be life-giving. For at some point, all of those things will inevitably fail. But to find trust and comfort in unconditional love- one that serves each other and puts each other first. That will never fail.

Prayer Vigils are a centuries old tradition that mark a time of preparation and anticipation before a feast or event. The word "vigil" relates to the vigilance, watchfulness, and devoted attention. Vigils are a time in which we purposefully wait and get ready with much determination.  Vigils that happen before a time of celebration are kept with so much excitement that all can be done is stay awake and focused on what is to come. Tonight's Prayer Vigil is a little different.

Our waiting this night is in darkness and hopefulness, but hope that has not yet come. While we know Easter with Jesus' miraculous resurrection over darkness is on it's way, all we can do for tonight is anticipate it, but not yet feel its glory. We choose tonight to be about intentional prayer, discipline, and remembrance. We remember how Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake with him and pray on this night so many years ago.

You can choose to pray for as short or as long as you may like, though we recommend 30 minutes as a good starting place. It takes determination to stay vigilant and focused on prayer. You may find much distracting you. That is okay. Simply bring yourself back to your prayers and focus on God. As much as you can, try to find a quiet place for you to pray by yourself or with a small group of people (So long as they live at home with you. Physical distancing still applies​!). 

To aid in your prayers, you will find all devotionals from "Take Up Your Cross" by David Boyd below. (Replicated with permission. Copyright at bottom of web page). Read and meditate on each devotional. Perhaps write out your thoughts and prayers in response.

You may also choose to pray for the following people, places, and circumstances in addition to your prayers:

PRAY FOR THE CHURCH’S MISSION: Gracious God, we are hopeful of new possibilities through the challenges of each day. Help us to reach out in works of justice and righteousness to the hurting of the world whether they be our neighbors or strangers in far off lands. Guide all our actions that your Gospel may be proclaimed in deeds of love and kindness, and your name be glorified, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 


PRAY FOR YOUR LOVED ONES: May God bless your home and family members. (Name each one by name and pray for their well-being.) “Lord, we place each one in your care and keeping. Bless them every one. Be with us all in our work and in our play. Amen.”


PRAY THE LORD’S PRAYER:  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen."

PRAY FOR OUR CHURCH LEADERSHIP: The Pastors and Church Support Staff, Consistory, Sunday School teachers and workers, counselors of our youth groups, committee members.

PRAY FOR THE POOR

PRAY FOR THE HOMELESS

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE BEREAVED

PRAY FOR THE ABUSED AND OPPRESSED

PRAY FOR WAR-TORN PARTS OF THE WORLD

PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE DEVASTATED BY NATURAL DISASTER

PRAY FOR THE UNWANTED CHILDREN

PRAY FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM ADDICTION

PRAY FOR THE IMPRISONED

PRAY FOR THOSE DEALING WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS AND DISEASE

PRAY FOR THOSE SEEKING LIGHT IN DARKNESS

PRAY FOR THOSE IN NEED OF HEALING

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE WORKING TOWARDS MAKING A MORE JUST WORLD

PRAY FOR THE END OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

"Take Up Your Cross" Devotionals for Lent by David Boyd

 

"Jesus told his disciples (and us), 'Take up your cross and follow me.' In these daily devotionals for Lent, author David Boyd explores what it means for us to take up our cross for Christ and outlines various ways in which this "cross carrying" happens in our lives as Christ's disciples as we follow in his footsteps during the day of Lent on the way to his ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross of Calvary."

LAY IT DOWN, PICK IT UP

 

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross. . . 

Matthew 16:24

 

When Jesus spoke of his impending death, his disciples didn’t like it.  They pushed back: “Jesus, why put everything at risk by talking like that?”  But when Jesus spoke of the necessity of his suffering and death, he also spoke of his resurrection.  The disciples got stuck on the “death” part, so they couldn’t hear the “life” part.

 

That’s the Lenten danger for us.  We hear “deny yourself. . . take up your cross,” and we don’t want to hear it – not really.  But Jesus said it, and of course, he meant it.

 

During the next 47 days, we’re going to try to figure out what it means to “take up our cross”.  This kind of learning can be scary. But we know we are always safe with Jesus. It is he who will drive away our fears and bring peace and quietness to our minds and hearts as Jesus unfolds for us what it means to follow him.

 

Lord Jesus, during the coming days, help me to keep my eyes 

on you as I follow you all the way home.  Amen.

 

THE “R” WORD

 

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.  

Mark 1:15

 

The first words Jesus spoke were not, “Why can’t we all just get along?” but rather, “Repent and believe in the gospel.”  Message: We’re not permitted into God’s presence on our terms—but only God’s.

 

Repentance is often misunderstood among us.  Does repentance mean that Jesus wants me to grovel before him?  Sometimes we think like that.

 

But Peter knew well that repentance leads to something very good.  After he’d been restored by Jesus, he stood and told the folks gathered near the temple, “Repent . . . and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come” (Acts 3:19-20).

 

The image is stunning:  Exhausted, burning with fever, sweat beading at the hairline, we are led to a pool of cool, crystalline water where two unseen hands scoop water over our heads, necks and faces.  This refreshment happens when we tell the truth about ourselves and then hear a greater truth. “I will remember your sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

 

Refresh me, Lord, with your good announcement that my sins 

are remembered no more.  Amen.

FEELS LIKE DYING

 

I acknowledged my sin to you . . . and you forgave. . . Psalm 32:5

 

Jesus told us to deny ourselves as we follow him, and we ask, “Yes, Lord, but what must I deny?”

 

He answers: “Deny that you deserve my love, that you have earned it somehow, that your intentions were always good.  This you must deny.”

 

We answer, “Yes, Lord, but it feels like I’m dying when I do.”

 

It is impossibly hard to be that truthful about ourselves.  We’re experts at defending ourselves.

 

The psalmist tells us, “Hard, yes, but harder still to deny the truth, ‘for when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long . . . my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer ‘” (Psalm 32:3-4).

 

At first the psalmist refuses to tell the truth about himself, and every part of him suffers.  But then something remarkable happens. The very thing he thought would kill him liberates him:  “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave. . . my sin!” Now he’s free to live a life worth living as one redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!

 

Jesus, give me strength to deny myself, knowing that you won’t deny me.  Amen.

THE LIFE ROAD

 

. . . the way is hard that leads to life. . . Matthew 7:14

 

Some years after he’d become a Christian, a man confided to a friend, “I thought when I became a Christian, everything would get better in my life, but it hasn’t turned out that way.  In fact, sometimes I think that Jesus kind of ruined my life.”

 

But Jesus never promised us a rose garden as we follow him.  A life following Jesus is more like placing an ungloved hand round the thorny stem of a rose than touching the velvety petals.

 

Jesus (paraphrased): “There are two roads you might travel.  The first road? Wide as an L.A. freeway, smooth as a German autobahn—and level.  The other? Strewn with rocks sharp as razors, exposed roots hindering every step—always up.  It seems like a hard road, but it is the very road I am on: The Life Road. I have set you on this road with me—on it you will never walk alone, for I am with you; my rod and staff will comfort you.”

 

Lord, you’ve placed me on The Life Road.  

Give me courage to follow you all the way to you.  Amen.

 

WHOSE CROSS?

 

They found a man of Cyrene, Simon . . . They compelled this man to carry (Jesus’) cross.  

Matthew 27:32

 

“Well, I suppose it’s just my cross to bear!”  We might not say it, but when things go wrong, we might be sorely tempted to say it.  But in such a case, whose cross have I taken up—my own or Christ’s? It matters that we understand the difference.

 

Simon was forced to take up the literal cross of Jesus.  He didn’t want it. It was placed upon him.

 

The crosses Jesus refers to aren’t the ones we take up for ourselves, but rather the ones Jesus places upon us.

 

But how would we know the difference between them?

  • Whatever prevents you from following Jesus, deny it; lay it down.

  • Whatever you must suffer in following him, take it up, carry it.

 

And we think, “Can’t do it—too hard.”  Jesus replies, “You can bear up under it or I would not have placed it there, and one sweet day you’ll understand how light it really was.”

 

O Lamb of God, why would you pick up the cross that should have been mine?  

Do you love me that much?  Amen.

 

CHILD’S PLAY?

 

Jesus said to him, “. . . go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor. . . 

and come, follow me.”  Matthew 19:21

 

A man goes to Jesus.  He’s got lots of stuff.  He asks, “Jesus, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  Good question. (We’ve all asked it.) Jesus ticks off the last seven commandments.  The man’s reassured. “Whew! I thought it was something hard. No worries, I checked those boxes already.  Child’s play! Got something hard for me?”

 

Jesus responds to the man’s arrogance—by loving him.  Like a skilled surgeon intent on saving a life, Jesus goes to the man’s heart to cut something out of it:  the man’s attitude about his wealth.

 

The man’s wealth had taken up all the room in his heart.  There wasn’t room for Jesus there. Without his wealth to prop him up, the man thought he’d fall.  What he didn’t know was that Jesus would have held him up, would have held him fast to this own heart and carried him.  Why? Because he loved him (Mark 10:21).

 

Jesus, I’m afraid of letting go of some things in my life.  

Help me to strive each day to lay them at your feet.  Amen.

 

BIG BILL

 

Nathan said to (King) David, “You are the man!”  2 Samuel 12:7

 

Bill stood well over six feet.  Big Bill. Past retirement, he was still all football coach; a leader of Zion Christian Church, Bill had everything figured out.  “We’re Zion Christian, after all!”

 

Then it all went wrong at Zion.  Bill wants it his way, George wants it his way.  Desires became demands as the church became a shell.

 

In desperation, they sought help.  Months later, the pastor purposed a “Service of Repentance and Healing.”  Bill didn’t like the idea. “I’m not blubbering some confession!”

 

The service begins, building on Christ’s redemptive love.  The dreaded moment arrives. God’s people are invited to speak.  No one moves. Finally someone does. The pastor panics. “What’s Bill going to say?”

 

Bill stood at the lectern shaking and sobbed his way through a confession that sounded like, “It’s not George—it’s me!  I am the man! Please forgive me!”

 

From that moment on, things began to change.  Decades later Zion thrives. The hinge was Bill.  Bill laid down his pride and became weak. But at that very moment, Christ was very strong in him.

 

Lord, when you became weak on the cross, your power was never stronger.  Amen.

 

RISKY LOVE

 

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself . . . Hebrews 12:3

 

The birthrate in Japan is plummeting. If nothing changes, the population will shrink to 50 million by 2065—a 60% drop!  The reason? Japanese young men and women are terrified of risking love. The risk of rejection is too great, they think.

 

But risking rejection is the “price of admission” if we are to love and be loved.  What virtually everyone desires in this life is to love and be loved. The internet cannot break your heart, but another human being can.

 

Jesus risked everything by coming for us—and we broke his heart, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered (you) together as a hen gathers her brood. . . and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).  But he stayed; risky love is the only kind of love Jesus knows.

 

Following Jesus is risky business.  Am I willing to risk ridicule, shame, soft shunning by family, friends, co-workers, a job—my life—in order to follow Jesus?  Doesn’t make sense to risk any of that, except that Jesus got up from his knees, faced the shame, the ridicule and risked it all for me.

 

Jesus, help me overcome my fears and take the risk of loving you.  Amen.

 

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

 

We are natural-born attorneys, prosecuting others while defending ourselves.  We’re good at it.

 

Often, though, we end up prosecuting the one who’s innocent (others) while defending the one who’s not (ourselves).  “For with the judgment you pronounce (against others), you will be judged. . .” (Matthew 7:2). Yikes! So we tread carefully here, self-examination being the key.

 

Ironically, however, our accusing fingers are increasingly pointed at us!  “I messed up. I can’t seem to get it right. I know I’m forgiven, but I can’t forgive myself.  I keep hearing it in my head—guilty, guilty, guilty.”

 

But a sin covered by the blood of Christ is a sin forgiven—period.  “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies”  (Romans 8:33), as though to say, “Why is it that you keep prosecuting yourself, when I’ve already paid the penalty for that sin?”

 

It’s hard following Jesus because it means laying down the accusing finger, the one pointed at others, even the one I keep pointing at myself.

 

Jesus, thank you for releasing me.  Help me live in your freedom today. Amen.

 

HIGHER GROUND

 

. . . they came to a place called Golgotha . . . Matthew 27:33

 

In war, whoever holds the highest ground wins the battle.

 

We won’t often go to “war” against others.  But we do compare ourselves with others just before competing with them.  We like the “higher ground.”

 

James and John did.  Their mother did all the talking:  “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21).

 

Jesus puts her request in reverse: “. . . the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. . . It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. . .” (Matthew 20:25, 26).

 

On one very bad Friday, it was the Son of Man who took the “highest ground.”  No witness of Jesus’ crucifixion could know that because he’d taken the highest ground, he was winning not a battle but the War.

 

Now we understand:  The ground upon which we stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ at the foot of the cross is level ground.

 

Help me, Lord, understand that I stand on the safe and 

level ground at the foot of your cross.  Amen.

 

WITNESS FOR THE DEFENSE

 

. . . I will remember their sins no more.  Hebrews 8:12

 

The husband went prodigal.  He wallowed before “coming to his senses.”  Then it got bad: confession, followed by anger, shame, guilt, but then forgiveness and rebuilding trust.

 

But there was a “ghost” in the home.  It had a name: un-forgiveness. During the course of married life, they had their share of dustups.  The last word was always hers—the affair.

 

Years later, the husband was thunderstruck by a passage he’d read from Romans 8: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? . . . Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died” (verses 33-34). Once he understood it, he knew what he must do to help them both.

 

“Linda, for years you’ve come hard at me with the affair, but according to Christ, there was no affair, there was no other woman!”

 

Linda was stunned, furious.  Then he read the passage. “Linda, in the Lord’s eyes, the affair never happened.  It will be hard, but can’t we both try hard to see this God’s way?”

 

It was hard, but in time, he laid down his shame and she, her bitterness—at the foot of the cross.

 

Reconnect us with you and with each other through your cross, O Lord.  Amen.

 

JOY BEHIND THE TEARS

 

(Jesus), for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. . . Hebrews 12:2

 

Your wedding day—were you happy?  The day you got the job—happy? You failed spectacularly—happy then?  The tests came back positive—happy?

 

God doesn’t say much about “happy,” but he has much to say about joy.  Happiness depends on things going well for us. Things go well, we’re happy; things don’t—we aren’t.

 

Joy is not like that.  Joy hovers above life’s circumstances and is present even when things go darker.

 

Circumstances for Jesus went darker.  Before him lay humiliation, pain, and death, and yet—joy?  What did Jesus see that we couldn’t? Answer: Us! He knew that through his death, he was bringing us back to our Creator in peace.  What joy!

 

Standing at an open grave, lying in a hospital bed, we won’t be happy—but joy will be present.  Because nothing has changed:  We’re still treasured by our gracious God, still wearing the same righteous robe.  Jesus is still for us and stands with us through the pain! Yea, joy!

 

Lord, even when I’m not happy, remind me that joy is still mine 

because I am yours.  Amen.

 

 

WORDS

 

Those who are well, have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Matthew 9:12

 

A young boy comes home from playing with his friends.  He runs to his mother with tears streaking his flushed cheeks.  “Mom! They said I was. . . !”

 

“Just remember, son, ‘sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.’”

 

He tried hard to believe it but knew it wasn’t true.  Later, he would put it like this: “Go ahead, break my arm but not my heart.”  Stones can break a bone; only words can break a heart.

 

“The tongue’s sharp as a stiletto and more easily concealed,” to paraphrase James 3:1-12.  If words can hurt that much, what can heal the wound? Words!

 

Jesus used words like a scalpel, cutting out things in us that don’t belong.  But we ask, “Lord, if you ‘cut’ for my good, what about the wound that’s left?”  Answer: Words. Jesus used words to bring healing to vanquished souls, hearts made sick by sin.

 

On the cross, Jesus could have cut us down to the bone with words.  But he’d put away the scalpel and said instead, “Father, forgive them. . .”

 

Jesus, when you “cut” for my good, speak again and heal me.  Amen.

 

 

MARY B.

 

. . . and the last first.  Matthew 19:30

 

During her lifetime, Mary B. Davis became a model for those seeking to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words, “Deny (yourself), and take up (your) cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

 

Born and raised in East St. Louis, Mary’s home was a drug-infested apartment complex.  Caught in a drug deal gone bad, she lost her right eye. Had she lost both, she’d have been locked up in a soundless, sightless world, for Mary was born deaf.  Another bullet took off a few fingers of her left hand, the one she used to “speak” in sign language.

 

But each Sunday, ignoring the rain, freezing winds, snow, sweltering sun, Mary waited for the bus that took her across the Mississippi to Holy Cross Lutheran Church of the Deaf.

 

Why would she do that?  Because she knew that the very Son of God had denied himself, taken up his cross and secured for her eternal life.  She figured then that nothing would stop her from getting to the one place she might “hear” him speak and where she could sit at his table for supper.

 

Jesus, help me not lose heart when I am “last” in this life.  Amen.

 

WHAT’S HIS NAME?

 

. . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . .Philippians 2:10

 

The seminary president gave the first-year students an assignment:  “Write an essay explaining why you desire to become a pastor.” One of the students is overjoyed.  He can’t wait to talk about himself.

 

Weeks later he reviews his “masterpiece”—an A+ is “in the bag.”  When the papers came back, the student was giddy until he read his paper.  All he could see were red circles every time he’d written the word “God” or “Lord.”  On the last page was this cryptic note: “What’s his name—say it!”

 

The president understood that, somehow, the student was ashamed of Jesus.  It’s easy enough to say “Lord” or “God.” But when we use Jesus’ name, we’re likely to get a negative reaction.  Better to play it safe, we think.

 

And in bending to the fear of others, we become, in some way, ashamed of the very One who could rightly be ashamed of us, but instead is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!

 

Jesus, you know me and are not ashamed of me.  Thank you. Amen.

 

SO CLOSE

 

. . . I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.  Matthew 6:25

 

We seem to be anxious about everything.  Jesus doesn’t want us to live like that.

 

But we might ask, “Why wasn’t Jesus anxious about his own life, knowing what he knew?”  Answer: Because he and his Father were so close. Jesus placed his very life in his Father’s hand—trust being the key.

 

Anxiety and trust cannot live side by side.  One must give way. If anxiety is a by-product of being separated from our Creator, then relief comes as God moves closer to us.  In Christ, God has moved very close.

 

The closer Jesus moves toward us in his Word, the more we know and trust him.  And we find this to be true, that as we place our lives in his hands, we find our crippling anxieties dissipating like a morning mist.

 

O Lord, move so close to me that my very soul might find rest in you.  Amen.

 

TWO DAYS IN THE LIFE OF A PASTOR:  DAY ONE

 

Feed my sheep.  John 21:17

 

The pastor doesn’t know what an extraordinary day this will be.  “Great sermon, pastor; you’re the best!” Never heard such a beautiful prayer!”  “How do you do it all? You’re amazing!” “Best leader ever!”

 

Later, he thinks, “I really am so necessary.”  Napping by the fire, he hears a voice:

 

“Were you the one placed in the straw; was that you?”

 

“No, it was not me.”

 

“Were you the one who went out to battle with that Liar; was that you?”

 

“No, it was not me.”

 

“Was that you who healed the blind man, made the deaf man hear.  Was it your garment the woman touched?”

 

“No, it was not mine.”

 

“Was it you who marched to the top of the hill?  Were those your hands and feet that received the nails?”

 

“No, they were not mine.”

 

“Was that you who came out of the tomb on the third day; was that you?”

 

“No, it was not me.”

 

“Then understand this:  you have nothing to give my people.”

 

Lord of the Church, thank you for my pastor.  

Keep reminding us both to lay down our pride.  Amen.

 

 

TWO DAYS IN THE LIFE OF A PASTOR:  DAY TWO

 

Tend my sheep.  John 21:16

 

The pastor doesn’t know what an extraordinary day this will be.

 

Sarah’s husband left her.  She doesn’t know what to do.  Neither does he. They pray. Later he thinks, “What good has it done?”

 

He visits Evelyn at the nursing home.  Lifting the cup to her lips, he dabs the dribble of wine from her chin and wonders, “What good has it done?”

 

The council meeting:  Ken wants his way, Betty her way.  Most sit in silence. He pleads for unity where there is none.

 

Later he thinks, “Now I know.  I’m useless.” As he sleeps, he hears the Voice:  “About Sarah: Did you think I was unconcerned for her?  You ache for her, but I died for her. Have you forgotten the difference?”

 

“Concerning Evelyn:  Did you forget I was giving her the foretaste so near to her now?”

 

“Concerning the meeting:  Did you forget you were bringing my authority back into that room?”

 

“You say you have nothing to give my people.  Not true! You have everything; in fact, you have me!”

 

Lord Jesus, help my pastor avoid pride and despair.  

Keep my pastor close by your side.  Amen.

 

BASKET OF FRUIT

 

. . . the fruit of the Spirit is. . . Galatians 5:22

 

When Paul lists the fruits of the spirit, he starts high:  “love, joy, peace.” That “fruit” seems almost too lofty. Might work for Sunday, but the rest of the week?  Then comes patience. Patience is how we’re to live the rest of the week. It’ll be a tough week.

 

Enduring opposition, suffering and bearing with the weaknesses of others without getting angry—that’s patience from God’s point of view.

 

The disciples tested Jesus’ patience often.  Finally, he said, “O faithless generation, how long am I to bear with you?” (Mark 9:19).  Later, he answered his own question by laying himself down on the cross to receive the nails.  How long shall he put up with us? All the way!

 

The fruit of the Spirit isn’t like a series of boxes to be checked.  Like the Ten Commandments, the fruit of the Spirit reveals the character of God in Christ Jesus.  But now that we know his character, we want to be like him.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for being so patient with me even 

when I am so impatient with others.  Amen.

 

HIDDEN FROM MEMORY

 

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Psalm 51:3

 

King David wrote the above words later in life.  But it wasn’t always so for him.

 

At the peak of David’s personal power, he wanted more than had been given him.  When you’re a king, wanting something means getting it. David got what he wanted—Bathsheba.

 

It started with a look and ended with a sickening murder-by-hire.  And then the real cover-up began. He’d tried so hard to hide his sin from others that he hid it from his own memory.  He needed a mirror.

 

Nathan the prophet brought the mirror in the form of a brilliant story about a rich man who’d stolen the only lamb of a poor man.  David was incensed by this injustice and wanted the man dead.

 

Then Nathan said, “David, you are (that) man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).  Those words produced in David a broken and contrite heart: “I have sinned against the Lord!” (verse 13).

 

And we all know the one thing God will never turn away—a broken and contrite heart.

 

O God, forgive those sins I’ve hidden from my own memory—

and like David, restore me!   Amen.

 

GENTLE GENE

 

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love . . . 2 Timothy 1:7

 

Gene was a member of Christ Lutheran Church.  For worship, Gene sat way in the back, the last to arrive, first to leave.  Those who knew Gene, if asked, would say, “He’s nice, gentle—but doesn’t like to be around people.  He’s shy.”

 

Gene was hospitalized, sharing a room with a man who’d wrecked his body on a motorcycle.

 

Gene’s pastor came for a visit.  The injured man had visitors too; three friends all tatted up, some with face hardware and shaved heads.

 

It was awkward—the pastor ignoring the chatter next door, the visitors ignoring the “Bible man.”

 

The pastor asked, “Gene, may I pray for you?”  Gene turned to the injured man, “This is my pastor.  He’ll pray for you. Would you like him to pray for you?”

 

“Yeah. . . sure,” said the man.

 

Standing in a semicircle, holding hands, they prayed to the Father through Jesus Christ for healing and peace.

 

God had given Gene a spirit, not of fear but of power and love . . . 

 

Lord Jesus, often I’m afraid of others. Replace my fear with your love.  Amen.

 

OFFENDED

 

. . . it is to (one’s) glory to overlook an offense.  Proverbs 19:11

 

We seem to be offended by everything these days.  It’s called “the tyranny of sensitivity.” We’ve become tyrants.  We seem to find ways to take offense at every work, every slight, every look.

 

Denying ourselves, taking up our cross, means, in part, that we ought to consider examining that kind of tyranny in ourselves.  “Must I confront every word that offends me? Must I jettison a lifelong friendship because they voted ‘the other guy’?”

 

Some sins are too serious to overlook.  However, 90 percent of those things that daily “offend” me, I can and should overlook, for the sake of Christ and his people.

 

Consider Jesus.  How many times were his ears offended by petty, ignorant, hurtful words?  Had he confronted all of that, the Gospels would come in multiple volumes. When Jesus confronted sin, it was to save a life from unbelief and death.  It was that serious.

 

Jesus confronted the “tyrant” in me because it was too serious to overlook.  Then he confronted the cross in order to rid the “tyrant” in me.

 

O Jesus, you died for my “tyranny.”  I want the “tyrant” in me to die.  

Help me!  Amen.

 

THE GREATEST FEAR

 

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

 

Psychiatrists say that we’re far more concerned by our deaths and the deaths of others than we’re willing to admit.  But from God’s point of view, should death be our greatest fear?

 

Jesus doesn’t seem worried about our deaths, rather, how we’ll live once the specter of eternal death is removed.  “If the Son sets you free (from the fear of death), you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

 

As though for Jesus, “The frightening thing isn’t dying—the frightening thing is not living.”

 

Is that kind of living possible?  Paul said it was. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).  Since Paul had been secured by Jesus for eternal life, he wasn’t going to live under death’s control.  He’d been set free from that.

 

Paul intended to live his life, basking in the freedom won for him by Christ.  He didn’t allow anyone to rob him of living each moment in the freedom Christ died to secure for him.

 

Lord Jesus, you’ve set me free from my fear of death.  

Help me overcome the fear that remains.  Amen.

 

THEORETICAL CHRISTIANS

 

. . . knowing that you were ransomed . . . with the precious blood of Christ . . . 

I Peter 1:18-19

 

The congregation suffered under unresolved conflict.  Everyone contributed. 

 

Later, another pastor sought to help the congregation’s pastor see his contribution.  Finally, the counseled pastor said emphatically, “Look, I know I’m a sinner, but I haven’t done anything wrong.”

 

We empathize with him, knowing we’re just like him.  Sin is a sticky business. It sticks so close, often we don’t know it’s there.

 

At times we’ll think, “I get, I’m a sinner, but I haven’t . . . “  When we do, we identify ourselves as Christians in theory but not in fact.

 

How so?  Well, was that a theoretical baby in the manger?  Were those theoretical hands that received virtual nails, and was that theoretical blood spilling down the chest of a hologram?  Was a phantom raised on the third day?

 

We’re real sinners, who do what sinners do—sin!  But we have a Savior, who shed real blood on a real cross and was raised in a hyper-real body on the third day!

 

One sweet day, we’ll stand beside our real King!

 

O Lord, I’m a real sinner in need of a real Savior.  

Thank you for sending Jesus.  Amen.

 

ANTIDOTE

 

God sent forth his Son . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons (and daughters).  

Galatians 4:4-5

 

A World War II medic leaned over a wounded Nazi officer and said, “You need plasma.”  The officer refused. He believed there might be Jewish blood in the plasma. The Nazi officer died—of hate.

 

It’s been said that “hatred is jealousy all grown up.”  Overstatement! Maybe, but there is a progression. Cain’s hatred of his brother, for example.  Abel had something Cain didn’t: faith in God’s loving kindness. As Abel drew closer to the Lord by faith, Cain became increasingly jealous.  His jealousy grew into a murderous beast—hatred.

 

None of us will hate like the officer, but jealousy. . . ?  Of the Ten Commandments, half deal with jealousy.

 

The antidote for jealousy works every time.  The antidote is acknowledging that in Christ, we already have everything.  We’re treasured by God himself, we’re adopted sons and daughters and heirs in his kingdom.  If we have everything, where’s the room for jealousy?  Who has more? Remembering that we have everything, we’re able to lay down our jealousies and live free of soul-killing hate.

 

Jesus, help me to know that in you, I have everything. 

 I can lay down my jealousies.  Amen.

 

TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM

 

. . . for we have heard ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior. . . John 4:42

 

Can we love someone we don’t know?  Answer from most: No, not possible.  Some might say, “The better you know someone, the less you’ll love them.”  But with Jesus, it’s the reverse: The better we know him, the more we love him.

 

The Samaritan woman didn’t know Jesus.  But by the time she left the well, she loved him.  What happened? She got to know him (John 4:7-26).

 

Later, the woman told her townspeople that she’d found the Messiah.  Many believed her but wanted to “see Jesus” for themselves. They spent two days getting to know Jesus.  Later they said to the woman, “We believed you, but now we know he’s the Savior!”  What happened? They got to know him (verses 39-42).

 

Can we love Jesus if we don’t know him?  Can we know him if we don’t know where he is?  But we do know where he is.  As we receive his Word and his Super, we’re getting to know him better.  And, of course, “to know Jesus is to love him.”

 

Jesus, during this journey, help me get to know you better.  Amen.

 

DRIFTING

 

If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief. . . Revelation 3:3

 

Ever set out on a hike that required more effort, more hours, more food and more water than you’d planned for?  If you’ve had that experience, you know what happens. You lose focus; you begin to drift.

 

Laying things down, picking up our crosses—following Jesus on his narrow way during Lent—requires more effort, more hours than we’d planned.  We can easily lose focus and drift.

 

Jesus spoke to the seven churches in Revelation.  He commended and rebuked each one. Regarding Sardis, he said that they were both alive but dead.  They’d started well, but over time, they’d drifted. They weren’t enduring to the end of the journey—they were drifting.

 

Following Jesus is thrilling, surprising, perplexing, depleting, refreshing—and much more.  Walking that narrow way requires an enduring trust that we’re on the right road, headed in the right direction.  It requires rest for our spirits, food and drink for our souls, and generous words of encouragement. During our journey to him, Jesus supplies us with all three.  We won’t drift; we’ll make it.

 

Walk with me, Lord!  Encourage me when I begin to drift.  Amen.

 

WHO REMEMBERS WHOM?

 

He remembers his covenant forever . . . Psalm 105:8

 

Remembering is a dominant theme in the Bible.  But remember what? “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10).

 

But what if I can’t remember those things?  What if my mind says, “There’s nothing to remember.”

 

For decades, Dorislee served Christ’s Church as a quiet, assured, servant.  Her quick mind was able to grasp the deep things of God in Christ, making her a real theologian.

 

Things began to change.  Soon it became obvious that the window to Dorislee’s mind was closing.  Alzheimer’s had taken over.

 

The pastor visiting Dorislee asked, “What do you do all day?”

 

“I pray the Lord’s Prayer.  And then again; each time, it comforts me.  I remember it.”

 

A year later, there was nothing left to remember.

 

But the gospel message she’d clung to all her life had assured her that her status before the Lord didn’t depend on her remembering him, but him remembering her.  She was a baptized child of God: loved, graced, adopted—never to be forgotten.

 

O Lord, even when I forget you, please don’t forget me!  Amen.

 

 

DISTRACTED

 

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. . . Luke 10:41

 

Martha gets a bad rap.  She’ll always be the distracted sister!  Okay, but remember: when Jesus came to call her brother Lazarus from the tomb, it was Martha who went out to meet him.

 

C.S. Lewis believed that Satan’s most effective tactic to keep image-bearers from Jesus was distraction.  We intend to do this or that, but something important comes up—we’re distracted. “We’ll go next week; I’ll read it tomorrow. . . ,” we say.  But then, there’s always another distraction.

 

The digital world provides us with a dizzying array of distractions.  An endless series of ones and zeroes keep us distracted. Devices aren’t the problem.  Giving them the last word is.

 

Jesus faced impossible distractions:  Satan wanted him to bypass the suffering and go straight to glory, his family wanted him committed, the hometown folks wanted him over a cliff, the religious elites dogged his every step, challenged his every word.  His disciples wanted to be first: Peter told him to “be quiet.”

 

It didn’t matter.  Jesus would not be distracted from keeping his appointment at Calvary.  He had a meeting with some soldiers there.

 

Lord, I am easily distracted.  Help me keep focused on you. Amen.

 

 

WHY OR WHERE?

 

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?  John 13:36

 

In the Gospel of John, we always know where Jesus is.  He’s in Galilee, then Cana, then Jerusalem, then on to Samaria.  In John’s Gospel, we always know where Jesus is. Hold on to that.

 

Not all questions in this life are created equal.  We ask them all, but when things go wrong, we will reflexively ask only one:  “Why?”

 

Our “why” questions can be translated: “What did I (they) do wrong?”; “I (they) don’t deserve this!”; Maybe God doesn’t love me (them)!”

 

When things go wrong, we cry, “Lord, why?”  But the Lord would move us beyond, “Why, Lord?” to “Lord, where are you in this?”

 

Jesus answers, “Where am I?  I am there upon the cross. I’m in the midst of your suffering, completely familiar with what is happening to your body and your mind.  Where am I? I am by your side. I’ve prepared something very good for you. But just now, stay where I am.”

 

Jesus, help me to ask the better question, the one that leads me to you.  Amen.

 

FORGETTING ABOUT MYSELF

 

. . . count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

 

Like him or not, Bob Dylan knows himself pretty well.  A few years ago, he wrote that he “wanted to forget about himself for a while—go out and see what others need.”

 

But how can I, when virtually every program, every song, every post seems to be telling me to keep my focus on me?  Is it even possible to forget about myself—to lay myself down?

 

Possible, yes; easy—no.  Can we imagine how much the preconversion Paul thought about himself.  We can guess: 24/7. “I’m right. I know! I’ll take care of it. Obedience to the law?  Me!”

 

But on the way to Damascus, Jesus showed up and shrunk Paul down to size.  “This is who I Am—this is who you are. Now, forget about yourself for a while and go out and see what my people need.”

 

Paul spent the rest of his life forgetting about himself.  He went out to see what others needed. They needed the same as he did—a Savior!

 

O Lord, when I “forget” to forget about myself, remind me there are others out there in need of you.  Amen.

 

ANSWERS

 

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  John 14:6

 

We can tell that we’re an anxious people by the number of questions we ask.  Our questions range from “What’s for dinner?” to “What’ll happen to me when I die?”

 

When we were young, we had lots of questions about Jesus.  But maybe we were afraid to ask them. Maybe we still are. It’s not wrong to ask questions about Jesus as long as we want to know the answers.  A pastor tells his confirmation students, “Don’t ever stop asking questions! Just be sure you want to know the answer.”

 

The answers we receive might startle us.  They might ignite more questions from us. They might move us into a deeper trust relationship with him.

 

C.S. Lewis had a deep thirst to know Jesus, but he had questions.  He wouldn’t settle for cliché-ridden answers. He wanted to know! Later in his life, he wrote, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You yourself are the answer. Before your face, questions die away.”

 

Jesus, when I see your face, all questions will die away.  

Help me trust you on my way there.  Amen.

 

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

 

Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”  John 6:67

 

Ever ask yourself, “Would I ever walk away from Jesus?”

 

After Jesus supplied lunch for thousands of people, the number of followers increased.  They followed him everywhere!

 

Then it all fell apart.  It started as a history lesson about who’d supplied them bread in the wilderness, then came the stunning statement, “I am the bread of life!”  But it wasn’t until Jesus began talking about “eating my flesh and drinking my blood” that his new followers had had enough. Jesus had scandalized them.  So they walked away. Jesus did not run after them. He did not beg them to stay. 

 

Instead, he turned to his disciples, “Do you want to leave too?”

 

Peter:  “Lord, we’ve no idea why you said what you did, but where are we supposed to go?  You have the words of eternal life.” Score one for Peter. So they stayed long enough to see Jesus die, long enough to see him raised in glory—long enough to inherit eternal life in him.

 

Jesus, I don’t understand everything, 

but please keep me close until I see your face.  Amen.

 

 

T-BONE STEAKS

 

Christ . . . emptied himself . . . Philippians 2:5, 7

 

Scenario:  A man leaves work, heads home.  While driving, it occurs to him that a T-bone steak would be great after a long week.

 

Husband:  “Sharon, I’ve had a rough week.  Let’s put some T-bones on the grill.”

 

Sharon:  “Let me check.  We have a couple of salmon steaks, some nice chicken breasts and those bratwursts you love.”

 

Husband:  “I’m sorry, maybe you didn’t hear.  I said I want a T-bone! You need to get to the store!”

 

It wasn’t wrong for the husband to want a T-bone steak.  But his desire for one turned into a sinful demand. It’s what he was willing to do to his wife to get what he wanted that shocks.

 

Recognizing when our desires turn to demands is the first step.  But it’s when we see Jesus laying down his right to exercise his authority as God that we’re properly sobered.  Having been sobered, we can “lay down” our demands for the sake of him who made himself nothing for us.

 

Lord of Glory, I’m sobered when I see you lying down to receive the nails.  

It changes me.  Amen.

 

NOT HIM!

 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . . 

Psalm 23:4

 

Throughout our lives; we learn the cost of following Jesus.  Some of us learn earlier than others.

 

Seventeen-year-old Noah learned this.  His acute leukemia forced him to learn it.

 

All who knew him cried out, “No, not him!  Not this young man, the one who joins us each Sunday for worship while most of his friends are sleeping.  Not Noah, our tall and gentle soul. He who’s like a son to us—please—not him!”

 

Noah spent years fighting hard.  Sick and weak, he finished his classes graduating with his class.  Every day it got worse: a hip destroyed by the chemo had to be replaced.  He knew it might not go well. But he’d picked up his cross and carried it.

 

He’s got a couple of college degrees now.  He’ll be married to Abby soon. And he’d learned what Paul knew—that whether he lives or dies, nothing is ever going to separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Father, thank you for Noah’s witness to me.  

It gives me courage to face the road ahead.  Amen.

 

 

WOW OR WOE!

 

And I said, “Woe is me!  For I am lost . . .” Isaiah 6:5

 

We like to be wowed.  The recently hired salesman is told, “Now, get out there and wow me!”  We like to be impressed. We call it the Wow Factor.

 

Herod wanted Jesus to wow him when he should have been crying out, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, a king over a people of unclean lips.”

 

Peter, after the catch of fish, understood that God was in the boat.  His response was like Isaiah’s: “Get me out of here!”

 

That’s the rational response when a sinner is brought into the presence of the holiness of God—not “Wow” but “Woe!”

 

But then a death took place on a Friday, and the temple curtain protecting sinners from the presence of God ripped in two.  The message was: “You’re covered—you may see my face and live!”

 

On the Last Day, God will raise us up.  A crown will be placed upon our heads by God himself.  Our response? Maybe a whispered, “For me? Wow!” as we shed joyous tears.

 

Almighty God, thank you for inviting me into your presence 

through Jesus’ shed blood!  Amen.

 

RIGHTEOUS ANGER?

 

Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  Genesis 4:6

 

A seminary professor studied the Scriptures to learn what God had to say about his chronic anger.  Later he wrote the essay “The Myth of Unrighteous Anger.”

 

His topic struck a chord in those of us who’d become comfortable with the idea that God sanctions our anger, that somehow our anger is “right” and pleases God.

 

The culture says anger is a virtue: “Anger can be power!”  “Anger makes a man alive, gives him purpose.” “Anger empowers women!”

 

The culture says, “Pick up your anger; carry it with you.”  The Lord says, “Lay your anger down; don’t carry it through life.  It will damage you and others. It doesn’t please me!”

 

“But,” we plead, “in this angry world, how is this possible?”

 

The Lord replies, “When I was struck, did I strike back?  When they screamed at me, did I scream back: When they crucified me, did I unleash my righteous anger on them?  You may be angry about many things, but I am not angry with you!”

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for directing your righteous anger away from me 

and toward your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

 

WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY?

 

. . . you were bought with a price.  1 Corinthians 6:20

 

One well-known twentieth-century atheist said that he’d rejected God not because of the lack of evidence, but because, “I don’t want God to exist.  I cannot stand the thought that my life isn’t my own.”

 

Many have similar thoughts: “Yes, there’s a God, and if I need him, I’ll let him know.  Until then, I wish he’d leave me alone.”

 

Sometimes we might feel that way.  We want the Lord near, but maybe not that near.  But the Lord loves us too much to “leave us alone.”  For at the very moment when we cut ourselves off from our Creator with, “This is my life—I’m the boss!” he set in motion a series of events that led to a manger, a lake, to a city, then a cross and finally to a tomb, where he laid aside his shroud and threw off the shackles that were binding us down.

 

No, we’re not the boss.  We are way, way better—we are sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.

 

Lord Jesus, your cross reminds me that I’m not the boss 

but that my life is hidden in your love.  Amen.

 

 

THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life . . . Romans 6:23

 

It’s 1959, east of Albuquerque: a boy stares out the car window as he travels through Tijeras Canyon with his father.  As they round a corner, he sees a massive boulder painted with words. He strains to read them.

 

If we can agree that knowing the whole truth and telling only half of it is a form of a life, what he read was a lie.

 

This is what he read:  “The wage of sin is death!” (Romans 6:23). But that is a lie about God. Romans 6:23 actually says, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.”

 

So often our marriages, our homes, our places of work and our churches are filled with rules and laws.  “Do more; don’t do that, you better. . . “But ought not we, who’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ, speak the whole truth about him?  That there is forgiveness, freedom and peace with God—and that it’s all free? That’s the whole truth!

 

Lord, help me rest in the whole truth, that my sins are removed 

as far as the east is from the west.  Amen.

 

 

THE “LOST SON” REVISITED

 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion . . . 

Luke 15:20

 

Scene one:  The seventeen-year-old son readies for a night out with friends.  The father says, “Have a good time—be home by midnight. Promise me?”  The son nods, “Promise!”

 

It’s 12:30 a.m.  Another broken promise.  The father dead bolts the doors to the home, muttering under his breath, “I warned him!”

 

Scene two:  Same as scene one.

 

It’s 12:30 a.m.  Another broken promise.  The father checks all doors, making sure each one is unbolted, unlocked.

 

Which scene best represents your relationship with the heavenly Father?  Because of Jesus, the second. We make promises. We mean to keep them, but mostly we don’t.  We intend to do right, but then somehow we mess up. We fight temptation; we just want to win.

 

When Jesus breathed his last and the temple curtain was torn in two, it was as though our Father was unbolting, unlocking the door to him.  Jesus is the door. He keeps himself “unbolted” for his sons and daughters.

 

Father, thank you for keeping the door to heaven unlocked for me.  Amen.

 

 

THE MOST DANGEROUS DAY

 

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Matthew 4:1

 

If asked, how would you answer the question, “When was Jesus in the most danger?  Some might say, “When Herod sent assassins after him.” Most of us would say, “The day he was crucified.”  But consider this: the day he was baptized.

 

Prior to Jesus’ baptism, Satan’s attitude was, “Well, let the sleeping Messiah sleep; he’s behaving himself, so why bother with him?  But when the Father affirmed Jesus’ identity—“This is my beloved Son”—all hell broke loose!

 

Satan went after Jesus with God’s Word that he’d twisted to keep Jesus off the cross—and keep us dead in our sins!

 

Had Jesus bypassed the cross by believing Satan’s message of “fast, easy, fun,” we’d still be, well, dead in our sins.

 

Our most dangerous day?  The day of our baptism. Before that, Satan’s attitude was, “Why bother, he’s/she’s already dead.”  But after our baptism, Satan began to harass us, trying to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus—as though that were possible!

 

Jesus, thank you for your fierce determination to stay the course 

and finish your Gospel work!  Amen.

 

 

HIGH SELF-ESTEEM!

 

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again. . .”  John 4:13

 

During the 1960s, we were introduced to a hyphenated word self-esteem.  Self-esteem is the idea that if only we would think better of ourselves, our problems would disappear.  Whereas the Bible says, “No, it’s not that. It’s that you think too much of yourselves.” History’s on the side of the Bible.  Really bad things have occurred in our homes, churches, the world, because we thought too much of ourselves. But it’s true: chronic criticism, a troubled childhood, a “checkered past”, rejection, drive us to think we are nothing.

 

The woman in John 4 came to the well alone and at noon.  Other women came together early in the morning. She’d been brought low by her past.  No one could make her feel good about herself.

 

Jesus talked to her, as though to say: “Don’t depend on others to fill you up.  They can’t! But I’m willing to fill you up by making you whole, perfect, God’s daughter, washed, cleansed of all impurity, fit for the Kingdom of God.”

 

Jesus, when I’m brought low, fill me up with your gracious promises.  Amen.

 

 

GRADING ON A CURVE

 

You therefore must be perfect. . . Matthew 5:48

 

The teacher said the test scores were too low.  She was going to “grade on a curve.” That meant that you’d get an A if everyone else missed more than you did.

 

Grading on a curve compares one student with another.  Grading to a standard is different. The student is compared only to the standard regardless of who he or she is.

 

When we gossip about others, we’re grading others on a curve.  “Well, I might have done this, but they did that!”  It can become addictive.

 

God doesn’t grade on a curve.  His holiness won’t permit him to lower his holy standard.  Jesus made the point, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

 

The disciples thought the standard was too high; who could meet it?  Jesus reassured them, “Impossible for you, yet nothing is impossible for God.”

 

Jesus lived our lives for us.  He met the standard. He offered his perfect life as a fragrant offering before God.  It was accepted. Bottom line for us? We, too, are accepted!

 

Father, in Jesus, I’ve met your perfect standard.  Keep me close to him! Amen.

 

ENTROPY OF THE HEART

 

. . . the love of many will grow cold.  Matthew 24:12

 

The universe is dying, growing colder.  Before it dies, the Lord will roll up this version, replacing it with the New Heaven, the New Earth.  It’ll never die or grow cold. Knowing this, we walk on, laying things down, picking up our crosses, following Jesus there.

 

The journey seems long at times.  The cares of life press us down. Maybe our hopes and dreams haven’t worked out.  The three Ds (death, discord, division) can cause our hearts to grow cold, hopelessness becoming an unwanted friend.  Call it entropy of the heart.

 

The apostle Paul was imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, flogged, cursed.  Yet, in him, entropy of the heart seems absent.  

 

Instead, “forgetting what’s behind, I press on toward the goal for the prize. . . in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:113-14).  That statement banishes all hopelessness! The Lord had kindled such a fire inside him, that his love for God’s people never grew cold.

 

The Gospel is a fire of life lit inside us.  We may suffer many kinds of diseases but never entropy of the heart.

 

Lord Jesus, when my heart seems to lose its warmth toward others, 

rekindle it with your Gospel.  Amen.

 

THE POINT

 

. . . on the night when he was betrayed. . . 1 Corinthians 11:23

 

Pastors have this genius for annoying God’s people at times.  They do this in a variety of ways. Here’s one example. During Holy Communion, the pastor begins, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was (4-second pause) . . . betrayed, took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples. . .”

 

Each Sunday, he said it like that.  This annoyed God’s people. “Why does he pause before the word betrayed?  What’s the point?”  But no one asked him.  Finally, one brave soul did.  “Pastor, why do you pause like that?”

 

“I’m just making Paul’s point: At the very moment when we were doing our worst to Jesus, he was doing his best for us.”

 

Nothing has changed.  On the day we fail, he lifts us up.  On the night we despair, he offers hope.  On the morning we can’t get out of bed, he gives us the strength to step onto the floor.  On the afternoon when we’re ashamed to say his Name, he speaks our names in tenderness. Yeah, that’s the point.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, I don’t deserve your Supper.  

But now I know—that’s the point.  Amen.

 

 

ONLY YOU

 

. . . not as I will, but as you will.  Matthew 26:39

 

We don’t walk the Lenten lands alone.  But as Jesus neared the Garden of Gethesamane, he walked alone.  Once there, he knelt down and understood with perfect clarity what faced him.  It wasn’t just the physical pain or the humiliation. It was hell he was facing.  The cup of God’s righteous wrath poured upon him. He’d never known a nanosecond without the presence of the Father.  On the cross, he would.

 

And he pleaded, “Might there be another way, Father?  Must it be this way?” The answer came “Son, if not now—never.  If not this way—no way. If not you—no one. But oh, my heart is breaking from what you must endure, my beloved Son!”

 

And so Jesus got up, gathered his ragtag army of deserters and faced what Isaiah had seen some 700 years before:  “He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter. . . silent. . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:7, 6).

 

Jesus, help me ponder what you’ve done for me.  

Move me to the tomb to await Victory Day.  Amen.

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary”  John 20:16

 

Being a woman, she wasn’t supposed to follow the Jewish rabbi.  But he’d rid her of harassing demons. She wasn’t leaving him. She followed Jesus to the bloody hill, witnessed his death.  She was there when they laid him in the tomb. Her faithfulness was absolute.

 

But his death was absolute too.  He wasn’t coming back. She left the tomb with a grief so strong it felt like an amputation.  But the tomb became a magnet, drawing her as the seam of light appeared in the east on the third day.

 

The tomb, once sealed, now invited inspection.  Mary, stood outside, crying. Stooping down inside, she saw two men.  “Why are you weeping?” they asked. “Where have they laid him—please?”

 

Behind her a new voice: “Why are you weeping?”  Then she heard what she’d been waiting for all her life—her name spoken by the Lord of Life.  “Mary!”

 

What have you been waiting to hear all of your life?  Your name spoke tenderly by the Lord of Glory as he welcomes you into his Kingdom: “__________________.”

 

Lord Jesus, you know my name.  I will hear you speak it on the Last Day!  Amen.

 

Take Up Your Cross devotions for Lent by David Boyd 

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