Lenten Meditation: Day 10

Reading

John 5:1-17 (ESV)

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

 

Meditation

There are a couple of pretty big oversights in this healing story.  One is from the man being healed and the other is from the Jews as John relates the story.  The man is healed from being an invalid for 38 years.  He had been trying desperately to get into the water to be healed but someone always beat him.  But when Jesus tells him to get up and walk, he does just that.  He gets up, rolls up his bed and walks away.  So what is the oversight?  He doesn’t stop to ask who it is that has healed him.  He doesn’t wonder who the man is that has so much authority in his presence that when he asked him to stand up he stood up, even after 38 years.  He doesn’t ask, “Who are you? Your special, can I follow you?”  He walks away and right into the other group of people who miss something.  To be John tells us that Jesus withdraws because of the crowd, but I think I would have tried to follow him with my new working legs.

The Jews see someone carrying his bed on the Sabbath.  Doesn’t matter that he was healed just a few minutes before.  Their concern when hearing about the healing is not to celebrate with the man now that he can walk but to find out who told him to break the law.

The man had received what he wanted, the ability to walk, and he thought that was all he needed.  Jesus encounters him again to charge him to sin no more.  The man needs more, He needs to encounter Jesus.

The Jews had a law and system.  They had an understanding of the way they wanted things to work and how to obtain righteousness.  When Jesus disrupts and disturbs this way they seek punishment.  They need to hear that the Father is working and so is Jesus.  That their system does not limited God.  And that their system will not save them.

Sometimes we miss Jesus because we think we have all we need or we have everything figured out.  This is not the case.  All we need is Jesus, He has us figured out and wants us to rest in him.

 

Prayer

Jesus, protect us from not seeing you in our lives.  Protect us from being content with getting little from you and forgetting that you have so much more for us.  We are grateful for salvation but forget that you empower us to live life like it was meant to be lived.  Forgive us for looking at your sacrifice as a get out of jail free card.  You love and sacrifice gives us life, real life.  Forgive us when we let pet causes become more important than you. They shadow your light.  Spirit, remove them from our lives if they hinder us from seeing God’s truth.  Amen

 

Lenten Action

Try to identify who you are in the story.  Do you think you have all that you need and move on without looking intently to Jesus?  Or do you have a system of religion that is working for you and have become blind to the Gospel?  Pray that God will help you see who you might be and seek forgiveness for not seeing Jesus as your all in all.

Lenten Meditation: Day 9

Reading

John 4:1-26 (ESV)

1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Meditation

We like the familiar.  I have a habit of listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 from the 80’s.  I started this when I was growing up in the 80’s and then later in life thanks to streaming apps and websites I was able to find radio stations around the US who played a remastered version of a particular week in a particular year each week-end.  So every Saturday morning I would listen to American Top 40 while doing something around the house.  My kids now love 80’s music.  That might not be a good thing.  It is familiar.  It is comforting.  It is safe.

It has been a little bit in our lives for something to feel familiar.  It has even been difficult to find the replays of Top 40 that play during the 13 hours difference in time from Indiana that I am now living.  That was until a few days ago when I found an American Top 40 70’s and 80’s edition station on “IHeart Radio”. (Please don’t take that as an endorsement of the app).  They play a countdown from the 70’s then the 80’s then the 70’s then the 80’s; you get the picture. It is familiar. It is safe.  I know them.  I know the voice and I know the songs.

When Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman she is looking for anything familiar.  His first request for water puts her in an unknown and unfamiliar situation. “You do know that I am a Samaritan, right?”  Jesus presses in, “If you knew…”  She rebuts with the familiar. “You don’t have the right tools, you don’t know my well. Who do you think you are? This well has a long good history.”  Jesus provides a little more Truth.  “…will never be thirsty again.”

Her familiar is painful but it is her familiar.  She has grown accustom to the whispers.  She has learned to not mind going to the well by herself.  It was easier than the stares and possible confrontation.  But if I don’t have to do it again; if I cannot be thirsty again it might be worth the risk to step into discomfort.  “Give me this water.”

Then Jesus opens her heart.  “Go tell your husband…Your right you don’t have a husband right now but you have had 5 and the one you are with is not one of them.”  She quickly retreats to the familiar.  She recalls the lessons of her youth. She probably hasn’t thought about worship for a while.  She has been busy in other areas.  But when you are being undone by the Savior you should not be surprised by what you might run to as familiar. Jesus’ response to her old familiar question about worship and where pushes her to consider the unthinkable.  Could it be that nothing will stay familiar but be better than it ever had been.  Could it be that the messiah is here?  “I know that Messiah is coming….”

Jesus says, “I who speak to you am he.” Earth shattered.  The familiar is torn away. Hope breaks into the humdrum, bleak and desperate world.  “I ..am he”

Prayer

Father, break us free from our familiar. Let us see you as the one who interrupts and brings us to the true beginning of our lives.  Jesus, thank you for your mercy and kindness; you come to save and not condemn.  You speak the Truth and it rattles us, challenges us and changes us.  You know our stories and where we are even more than we do, but still seek after us. Still pursue us will mercy and grace.  You bring us to you Truth and allow it to transform our true. You judge us through your own righteousness.  Spirit, when we get comfortable and to relaxed in our familiar, rouse us with your call to the Truth and God’s destroying comfort that transforms us into His children.  Amen

Lenten Action:

Where are you too familiar? Where have you grown comfortable?  I am not saying you need to move across the world but it sure might seem like that type of move.  God is disruptive in His love for you.  Pray that He will reveal those areas that have become too familiar and have become a safe place for your sin to hide.  Is it pride that you are doing so well following God?  Is it shame for past sins you think God can’t forgive?  Whatever is comfort that is not Jesus; it is not true comfort.  Share this place of familiar with someone you trust and ask them to pray with you that God will disrupt and move you deeper into the knowledge of His love for you.

Lenten Meditation: Day 8

Reading

John 3: 1-21 (ESV)

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Meditation

I am always impressed with Nicodemus.  He was a learned man, a Pharisee, but was not content to stop learning.  He had a desire to learn more.  We hear about that goal of being a life-long learner; we may even aspire to it.  He asked questions and sought out answers.  It seems that he was not taking anything for granted.  In the midst of his discussion with Jesus he is called to task about his lack of understanding.  He should understand what Jesus is talking about but he doesn’t.  I often feel too secure in what I know or what I think I know.  I can place myself in the knowers’ column, but every encounter with Christ reveals how little I know.  Every encounter with this disruptive one reveals that there are still places in my heart that I am a lover of darkness.

As someone who has been given faith in God through Jesus Christ, I understand that I am not in darkness but in Light.  That I have Christ over me with His righteousness; that I am not condemned but saved.  And yet, in my flesh, I still love darkness.  I have places that I don’t even know about yet that are dark and I want to keep hidden.  Sometime I am well acquainted with them.  They are my favourite darkened areas, the ones I really don’t want to let go off.  But the Spirit blows and reveals and I am undone.  I have often felt like, I have learned enough; I don’t need to know any more of my brokenness, the dark in my life.  I can’t handle it.  But Jesus loved us enough to shine light on every area so the Truth can overtake it.  My darkness and lack of knowledge or trust about how it can be overcome by Jesus does not limit Jesus’ power and Truth.  Jesus allows himself to be lifted up so that I can be saved.

Prayer

Father, you reveal us at the core.  You take us to a full understanding of our lives and desires.  You, through Jesus, overcome them.  You shine light and truth into our darkness and lies.  Teach us to rest in your light.  Teach us to long for your words of comfort.  That there is life and comfort where Jesus is.  We praise you.  Amen

Lenten Action:

Take time to look at the areas where you are puffed up in knowledge and ask God to reveal where you are lacking.  Take time to ask God to reveal more brokenness and how He is overcoming it.  Write it down so you can grieve and celebrate that God in Christ has overcome.

Lenten Meditation: Day 7

Reading and Meditation:

This is being written at the end of the day here in Fremantle.  So it is a going to bed meditation for those on this side of the world.  It is arriving just as morning is beginning where I came from.  Today was a busy day in the Hinkle house.  After several months our shipping container arrived.  Our stuff has been unloaded and we have begun the process of unpacking boxes and placing furniture.  We are cleaning dishes and figuring out where each art piece will go.  As I looked at each piece they represent the people who we love.  Each piece captures in time a part of their story and ours.  Many of the artists have transitioned in their practice.  Some of their paintings look nothing like they paint today.  But we know the stories.  We know what is behind each piece.  We have that moment forever.  It has been a day of remembering.  It has been a day of tears and celebrating.  Psalm 77 talks about remembering.  Remembering that God is true even when times are filled with trouble; He is faithful and has redeemed us.  It might be bleak but He is faithful.  Remember!

Psalm 77 (ESV)

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said,”Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah 10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. 15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah 16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. 18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. 20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Prayer

Father, help me to remember your mighty works.  Your steadfast love is truth and you do not forget it.  You walk with us through the water.  You deliver us.  Jesus, you are our deliverer.  We praise you.  Teach us to remember.  Spirit, call to mind the mighty works and everlasting mercy; let us hear you singing over us.  Amen

Lenten Meditation: Day 6

Reading:

John 2 (ESV)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. 13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Isaiah 8:11-22 (ESV)

11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” 16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

 

Meditation:

Wait.  My time has not come.  Not being entrusted to those around him who believed.  Wait. Those around you have no dawn.  Wait.  They are thrust into thick darkness.  Wait.

Waiting is hard.  We have been doing a lot of it recently in our family.  Tomorrow morning between 8am to 9am the container with our stuff will arrive at our home.  The last time I laid eyes on it was the first week of July, 2015.  Some of it has been in boxes since September 2014.  That is a long time.  But it is just stuff.  Some of you may have felt like you have been waiting for something or someone for longer.  You have children, friends, spouses who you desire to see the truth of God come alive in them and it just doesn’t seem to be happening.  You have spent hours praying for them and there seems to be no direction.  Some of you have been praying for healing from ongoing sickness or even a release from the constant pain of a loved one.  Some of you can’t remember the last time you were not in the fog of despair and you just want one small ray of sunlight.

Not yet.  The Lord hides His face and hope is still present.  Destruction will come but rebuilding, resurrection is around the corner.  In the darkness this seems to not be enough.  In the confusion of life we long for answers.  We will look to anything that will promise assurance.  God promises more than assurance.  He promises a real and lasting future.  He promises the culmination of all things.  He promises infinite light.  But before we just hope for the future and gut it out on our own God breaks in to our lives not to explain everything so we can do it on our own power but to ask us to trust him completely.  He then gives us the power to trust.

We might not every understand the wait.  We might be like the disciples who remember what Jesus said and after the resurrection to have an “aha” moment.  But what we do know is the God knows us and will provide what we need, even in the hiding.

Prayer:

Father, we do not like being out of the knowledge of what is going on.  We do not like to feel out of control.  When dread, fear, panic, isolation and darkness hit our lives we find it hard to believe that there is light.  You know this because you know all men and what is in our hearts.  Please give us what we need and what you know we can understand.  Be gentle with your love.  It can overwhelm us.  The power of the resurrection is frightening.  Be our dread.  Be the only thing we put our eyes too.  Be the one in whom we trust and worship.  Jesus you have entrusted us to yourself.  You are our life and comfort.  Thank you for making the way for us. Amen

Lenten Action:

Write down your worries and concerns, those places you feel God is hiding from, on a piece of paper.  Prayer about sharing them with someone and ask them to consider walking with you in these areas.  Ask them to pray about them with you.  Ask them to evaluate and see where God may be revealing Himself in ways you are not seeing.  Prayer that your heart will be receptive to hearing what this dear one will share with you.

Lenten Meditation: Day 5 First Sunday

Sundays are a day of celebration during Lent; a day of feasting.  This will be the day that we have a reading from the Book of Psalms.  We will allow it to be our reading, meditation, prayer and action.  It can be all four things for us.  Let us bless the LORD.  Let us praise the LORD.

 Reading, Meditation, Prayer, Action:

Psalm 135 (ESV)

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD, 2 who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God! 3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! 4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. 8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; 9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; 10 who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, 11 Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, 12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. 13 Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. 14 For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. 15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; 17 they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them! 19 O house of Israel, bless the LORD! O house of Aaron, bless the LORD! 20 O house of Levi, bless the LORD! You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD! 21 Blessed be the LORD from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!

Lenten Meditation: Day 4

Reading:

John 1:35-50 (ESV)

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).  43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

 

Isaiah 6:1-8 (ESV)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

 

Meditation:

Following God through Jesus is not easy. It doesn’t seem sane to drop everything and follow.  To change what is going on in our lives and turn around to follow.  To have a plan set out before us and to see it changed is difficult.  Even if that path seems hard and lonely and filled with disappointment it can still be hard to turn to go the other direction.  The familiar can be so much more comforting than what we do not know.

The stories of calling we read today take men who were heading one direction but have an encounter that sends them in another.  They were living their normal life, going about their normal things.  They are grieving the loss of a friend, following a dynamic teacher, and working their jobs.  Normal life interrupted.

A clear thing for us, especially in the example of Nathanael and Isaiah, is that the encounter is one of undoing.  Isaiah is made fully aware of his sin and Nathanael moves from someone unsure of Christ province to proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel.    All of them are going to leave the life they were living and journey in a new direction.  The undoing is not easy.

There are times when I think about my old self, the one who didn’t know Jesus, who knew of God but did not know God and I miss him.  I liked him a lot.  He got things done the way I liked them done.  He had fun the way I liked to have fun.  He thought I was a pretty great guy who should be respected and followed.  But the reality is he was a jerk, selfish, lonely, and hopeless.  Praise the Lord that I had an encounter with the One who could undo me.  Destroy me and rebuild me.

Following God through Jesus is not easy.  It cost us our plans, our built up identity, our desires.  It cost us our lives. But it gives us, as John will later testify, a life abundant; a life of worship to the True Loving Father God.

 

Prayer:

Father, it is hard to thank you and praise you for your undoing.  Our comfort is so special to us.  Even when it is uncomfortable, the familiar outweighs to hope of transformation that is found in your Son Jesus.  Why we long for our own unchanging plans when we can worship the Unchanging Lover of our lives? Spirit, teach us to long for God’s undoing.  Teach us to desire community that will not let us sit in our comfort but will remind us of our call to follow and go.  Jesus, you are our life and path.  You are the one who overcomes and rebuilds.  We praise you for your conquering.  Amen

 

Lenten Action:

Take time to praise God for His undoing.  List out those areas of your life that you have seen God transform and pay attention to the things that you once thought defined who you were.  Those things that you thought or think made you who you are.  See how God has renewed them for His glory, replaced them with the fruit of the Spirit, or removed them completely from your life because of their ability to cause you to stumble. God is faithful in His undoing.  He will not leave us there, but will rebuild us into who we are created to be.  Praise Him for that today.

Lenten Meditation: Day 3

Reading:

John 1:29-34 (ESV)

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Isaiah 42:1-9 (ESV)

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. 5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

Meditation:

Do you think John was overwhelmed when he spotted Jesus in the crowd walking toward him?  Did his heart leap?  Did he give out a sigh of relief? “Finally, you are here.”  Anticipation had to be high.  He spots Jesus and proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said…”  He is finally here.  I have been telling you He is coming and some of you didn’t believe me, but He is here.  The Son of God is here.  Jesus is the one who is being talked about in Isaiah 42.  He is the one who will bring forth justice.  He receives God’s glory.  He opens eyes and sets prisoners free.  They can’t do it themselves.  John couldn’t do it for them, but only Jesus could declare the new things.

Justice is a scary word.  It is a word I am not even sure I want to write.  Each one of us comes to the word with our own story and thus our own definition. The act of being just; according to Webster just means,” acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good.”   I am dead in sin.  An enemy of the Creator of the heavens and earth; I am the one who tries to usurp His authority.  The penalty is at least the dungeon but even more death.  That is justice.  And how is this justice meted out toward us?  Jesus sets us free.  Jesus takes our place.  He is the Lamb of God.  He takes the death penalty.  He, as Isaiah 42:16 says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known.  I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.”

Our stories, in essence, our true must be submitted to the Truth.  Any call of justice I have must spring from the justice that the Father has given.  It must spring from the Truth that I deserved death and was spared. I deserve to be forgotten but was not forsaken.  I was lost but have been led by the hand of God.  He is the one who makes things new.  He is the one who takes away our sins.  He is the one who can be faithful to God’s glory.  This helps me to not just pursue an end to systemic injustice through ultimately   temporary means but to call myself and others to find Christ where everlasting justice is found.  We need to work and pursue equity for all people because they are created in God’s image.  We need to work to end systems and programs that hinder and harm people.  We need to hope and work for an end of oppression in all its manifestations.  We should remember that everlasting justice and the desire for justice here on earth is born from our redemption that was paid for by Christ’s, the Lamb of God, sacrifice.

Prayer:

Father , thank you for your justice and mercy.  Jesus, thank you for taking our place and our penalty providing a way of salvation.  Spirit, thank you for enabling us to see the Father and Son and teaching us to follow as they lead.  Remind us that we received a Justice like no other and should pursue justice for those around us.  Keep us from taking you off the throne of our heart in pursuit of a cause.  Purify our motives and make them worship and devotion toward you. May your peace reign! May your justice prevail!  Amen

Lenten Action:

Seek a place to prayer for those who are in bondage to sin around you.  Maybe it is you.  Prayer for God’s justice to come and release them; pray for them to be convicted and find Jesus there ready to take the sin away.  Pray for their shame to be removed and joy to set upon their hearts.  Pray that they have eyes to see that the Lord is good.

Lenten Meditation: Day 2

Reading:

John 1:19-34 (ESV)

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.””Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Isaiah 40:1-8 (ESV)

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Meditation:

John was not an “ear tickler”; he was not afraid to say hard things to those that were gathering around him.  Check out Matthew 3:1-12, that is not someone who is trying to please men.  People wanted to know exactly who John was.  They wanted to find a category for him so they could figure him and out and discount him.  He was clearly making waves.  Luke 3:1-20 lets us know that many people were coming to check him out; tax collectors, soldiers and others were coming to repent.  The ruling religious class pressed John to know exactly who he thought he was and how he had the right to do what he was doing.  If you had been called a “brood of vipers” you might feel the same way.  So when this seeming harsh man is pressed to reveal who he was he takes them to Isaiah 40.  Go back and read the whole chapter.  From the man who says, “The axe is laid to the root” and “His winnowing fork is in his hand…but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire,” he calls them to Isaiah 40.  “Comfort, comfort my people…”  How sweet those words are in comparison to what John is saying to the crowds.

Comfort.  John is preparing a way of comfort.  He is making straight the way of the Lord.  We, like those standing on the shore, have a tendency to believe that we aren’t that far off from being a “good person”, some one that God would like to hang out with.  Or, like some on the shore, we believe that there is no way we can get our act together and be accepted by God.  John’s words remind those who know they are unworthy, just how unworthy they are to be in the kingdom.  He also points, quite directly, to those who think they can achieve righteousness on their own that they cannot.  Comfort.  This is what John is proclaiming.  That if you think you have it all together or if you believe that you never will have it together, God brings comfort.  We repent.  We, by God’s sweet care, have our eyes opened to our hopeless estate and receive His comfort.

We need people to still operate like John in our lives.  We need to have people bring Comfort.  We need someone who is unafraid to lead us to the place of repentance; who will call us out when we climb onto God’s throne in our hearts.  And we need to be these type of people too.  This is the reason God gives us to each other.  We are to make straight the way of the Lord for one another. We are to shout, “Comfort,” to one another. This comfort will often times seem unpleasant.  It will hurt us and cause us to want to run and hide in our shame.  We will be afraid to step into each other’s lives and be broken and bold with one another.  The Spirit will empower us to do this. The end of Isaiah 40: 28-31 says, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;  but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”   And John’s own words should give us comfort as well.  We are not the end all be all.  There is someone who is greater than us.  There is someone who has the power to remove our guilt and shame; someone who has redeemed us and conquered sin and death.  There is Jesus, whose sandal I am not worthy to untie, but who submitted himself to death for us.  He has come to bring Comfort.

Prayer:

Father, you call us toward yourself with words that do not tickle our ears.  You reveal the depths of our hard and wicked hearts.  It frightens us and we desire you to stop but you keep pursuing us.  You know that your way brings comfort for us.  You know that your path is the path of righteousness.  You want us as your people.  Thank you for pursuing us.  Teach us to grieve our sin and celebrate when it is reveal to us.  Grieve it for the darkness and evil it is.  Grieve for the pain and slavery it brings.  Grieve it for the hurt is causes those around us.  Grieve us for how it removes you in our hearts for your rightful place.  Celebrate that you have already conquered it.  Celebrate that you have already overcome its evil.  Celebrate that you have already made a way for healing and freedom.  Celebrate that you have taken our darkness and made it light.

Jesus, we praise you for being the way, truth and life.  We praise you for being submissive to the Father.  We praise you for lowering yourself even unto death for our sin.  You are holy and pure and you give us your righteousness so we can be comforted. Thank you for being the Head of your body and placing within it.  Thank you for our fellow siblings, the Sons and Daughters of the Most High, who step into our lives and call us back to you.  Empower us to proclaim your comfort to each other. Amen

Lenten Action:

Think about those people who God has brought into your life to speak comfort.  Remember that their words might not have seemed like comfort at the time.  They may have seemed harsh and challenging.  They may have caused you to want to run away.  You might have ended the relationship because of the words but later realized that they were leading you toward repentance and comfort.  When you have this person in mind, write them a note or an email to thank them for taking a risk to be bold with you.  Thank them for stepping in with comfort.

Bonus:

My friend, Bruce Benedict, over at Cardiphonia released a new album today.  It is awesome.  Follow the link, buy the album, and worship the Lord during this Lenten season.  Hollow Square Hymnal

 

Lenten Season Meditations: Day 1

Day One: Ash Wednesday

Reading:

John 1:1-18 (ESV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Isaiah 1:2- 20 (ESV)

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” 4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. 5 Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. 7 Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. 9 If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Meditation:

In the midst of darkness and destruction, is there hope?  When the world around us looks crazy and out of control, is there hope?  When every new day seems to bring new challenges, is there hope?  Brokenness scares us because we believe things cannot be put back together.  We are taught it from an early age.  And even if they do get repaired, they are never “as good as new.”  Ash Wednesday reminds us of our sin.  It reminds us of our brokenness and frailty.  It is good to be confronted in this way.  It is good to be reminded that we cannot understand the Light of Christ and that our human attempts are rejected.  It is also good to hear the reminder that we can be born of God, made more new than even new.  That we can be made clean; that we receive grace upon grace.  All is not lost, there is hope!  The midnight hour will pass and the light will begin to peak out in the dawn.  The sorrow will be made joy.  We will see the Glory of God.  God will teach us how to pursue Him.  He will wash us and guide us toward justice.

Prayer:

Father, we know that our attempts to please you fail.  We do not understand the light on our own.  We want to possess it instead of being possessed by it.  We want our work, our history, our striving to count for something.  We are estranged, but you break in and shine light even more.  You make us your children.  You wash us and make us clean.  You change us so that we can be obedient in response to your love not as a way to can it.  You redeem us.  We thank you Jesus for being fully of grace and truth; thank you making a way for us.  Move in us today to show us how we have been made new.  Pour your hope into our lives.  Spirit, enable us to cling to the truth of the Gospel; that we are now children of God. Amen

Action:

Over the first part of this Lenten season hide John 1:1-18 in your heart.  Read over it, write it out, and listen to it.  Do not do this in order to gain acceptance from God but do it as worship.  We receive grace and truth through Christ.  Let these verses become a reminder/sermon to you about who you are in Christ.  You are a Child of God by His own making