Tag Archives: Lenten Season

Freedom In Christ: What does the Cross Mean…

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18 1:13 (NKJ)

Our Lenten 2018 devotional writings have explored “The Journey of the Cross”.   The intent of this series was to help us as believers understand and emulate the sacrifice and obedient behavior Christ demonstrated on His journey “to” the Cross.  We have done this through both reading and personal response—reflective Bible reading and prayer, journaling, and practicing acts of contemplation (solitude and reflection).  It is now time to evaluate if we have been successful in our attempt as we end our series with this question, “What does the Cross mean to you?”

What does the Cross mean to you?  Is it an object on which Christ was crucified? Or is it a piece of jewelry that you wear? Our view of the Cross is critical in that it establishes the basis of our Christian belief and personal walk of faith.  In the routine of daily living, we often forget Christ’s work of grace on the Cross.  Unfortunately, most believers are only superficially drawn to the Cross giving attention to it only during the sacrament of communion or at Easter.  It is critical that we clearly define the Cross’ significance so that we might re-engage its purpose and power in our life.

Christian doctrine is founded on “the Cross.”  Our belief about sin and salvation begin and end at the Cross (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  Our identity as children and heirs of God (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:17) are established by our knowledge of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

To Jesus Christ, the Cross signified lordship and commitment to Him.  He told those who would follow Him that unless they were willing to bear His cross, they could not be His disciple (Luke 14:27). Christ has not altered His requirement for discipleship in the twenty-first century. The Cross demands commitment.

To Paul and other New Testament writers, the Cross represented the Good New (Gospel) of Jesus Christ.  This gospel was to be clearly articulated to those identified in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20)—Jesus Christ died for sin, He rose from the dead, and “whosoever believeth in Him” shall have everlasting life.  The gospel message remains the same in the twenty-first century.  The Cross is salvation.     

To Christians, the Cross recounts God’s extraordinary act of love.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  George Matherson penned in his hymn these words:

O Love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

God’s plan of salvation did not come as an “after thought” but was formed in eternity (Eph. 1:4-7).  Before the Fall, God set in motion His plan of salvation to return beloved man to Himself.  The Cross reveals the very heart of God (2 Cor. 4:6).

The Cross strengthens Christian’s confidence in the power of God.  Jesus was the decided Victor on Resurrection Sunday.  God disarmed and shamed Satan by His victory at the Cross.  Believers therefore reverence the Cross, not as a material object seen in isolation, but as the instrument of Christ’s triumph (Col. 2:13-15).  The Cross witnesses God’s goodness and greatness.  

Return to the Cross and Christ’s life-transforming love.  Return to the Cross and re-discover power that will never pass away.

Jesus keep me near the cross

There’s a precious fountain

Free to all a healing stream

Flows from Calvary’s mountain

In the Cross,

In the Cross,

Be my glory ever,

‘Til my raptured soul shall find

Rest beyond the river.

Have a blessed Easter.  Hallelujah, He is Risen!

RESPOND:

This week we will complete our “Journey of the Cross” by sharing our answers to last week’s response activity.  You were to choose the one (1) contemplative discipline you felt most comfortable in practicing. As you journal, answer these four (4) reflective questions:

  1. Did you experience God in this discipline? If not, then why not.
  2. What did you learn about God? The Father, the Son, and/or the Holy Ghost specifically.
  3. What did you learn about yourself? Your fears, your faith, your purpose.
  4. How will your life change as a result of experiencing God?

We have created a special group on Facebook for our WordBytes Community to post your responses.  Input “WordBytes Community” into your “search window” and then post your response then share what you have learned on your “Journey of the Cross”.  Thanks for being part of our family.    

Humble Ourselves: The Power of Confession

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.   For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.”  Psalm 51:2-3 (NKJ)

Completing the first part of our Lenten Journey of the Cross, we will now leave our exploration of “Experiencing God” and move to the challenging area of learning to “Humble Ourselves”.  Paul tells us that we are to have a “mind like Christ”, our model for humility, who though He was God, humbled himself and became obedient even unto death (Phil. 2:5-8).  We will look at three (3) areas on this leg of the journey—confession, forgiveness, and obedience.  We begin today with the power of confession.

Confession, these days, is pretty “unusual” behavior. Even the guiltiest of criminals, caught with their proverbial hand in the cookie jar, will stand before the judge and declare themselves, “not guilty.” It has been said that, “confession is good for the soul” but you wouldn’t guess it by the world’s response. Just read the newspaper this week and you’ll find example after example of individuals and institutions, who in the wake of unfailing evidence claim innocence.  One of the opportunities of Lenten season is to examine our hearts and let the light of God’s truth shine into areas in need of His cleansing.  Therein lie the power of confession.

The 51st Psalm is God’s lesson on confession. It was authored by King David after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. The whole incident was not unlike the stories we read in the gossip tabloid or see in the latest “made for television” sequel.  King David, however, gives us a better approach to confession.

First, King David quickly accepted responsibility for his behavior and pleaded guilty to all charges. He immediately called upon God for forgiveness. He offers no excuses but appealed to God to “blot out, wash and cleanse him” from his “transgressions, iniquity, and sin.”

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (vv. 3-4)

Next, King David recounted God’s expectation of him, as a man and as the leader of Israel. Though King David had perpetrated this crime against Uriah, he answered to a Higher Judge, the omniscient God, who see, hears, and knows all things. There are no “hidden sins” in His presence.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (vv. 4-6)

Finally, King David was concerned about his broken relationship with God. He had the unique opportunity of walking closely with the Lord most of his life beginning as a young shepherd boy in the hills of Bethlehem. He longed to be restored to that relationship.

“Create in me a pure heart, 0 God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (vv.10-12)

It is important that we learn to quickly confess our sins. Unconfessed sin results in guilt and shame, spiritual strongholds in our lives, and even worst, a broken relationship with God. There is power in confession. That power comes from the One who is “faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 

RESPONSE:

This week you will have an opportunity to practice journaling as part of your Lenten Season, “Journey of THE CROSS”. 

 Read Psalms 51:1-12.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin you may hold in your spirit.  Then ask Him to give you the courage to confess that sin, knowing that God is “faithful and just to forgive you.”  Remembering David’s approach to confession, now create in your journal a “psalm of repentance”. 

 

Experiencing God: Great Expectations

“So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’ “

Genesis 29:25 (NKJ)

In his classic book, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens introduces vivid characters who struggle for survival, discover love, encounter failure, work hard and finally achieve success. Dickens’ book has earned the title of “classic” because it accurately depicts the human expectation of happiness within their prescribed lifetime. But great expectations must be tempered with the knowledge that it is God who has the final say with regard to man’s plans and purpose. In God’s providence, He “divinely superintends” all things to His predetermined end. This was the lesson for Jacob as he sought fulfillment of the “promise of a seed” (Gen. 28:14).

Jacob had great expectations as he approached Laban for the hand of Rachel, who was “beautiful of form and appearance” (Gen. 29:17). He anticipated that this marriage was the vehicle that God had chosen for fulfillment of that which was promised to him at Bethel. Instead, he woke the morning after his wedding married to the eldest daughter, Leah, “with the delicate eyes.” The deception by Laban would result in the delay of his great expectation with an immediate view of seven additional years of laboring for his uncle.

Leah had great expectations in her marriage to Jacob. Although she knew he didn’t love her at the time of their marriage, she hoped, with the birthing of four (4) sons, her husband would love her (v. 32). But it was not to be the case.  However “when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb” (v. 31).   The refusal by Jacob to love Leah would result in the denial of her great expectation with an immediate view of rejection and heartache.

Jacob would eventually marry Rachel but the promised seed would not come from their union. The LORD chose the despised mother and exalted her to be the first mother of the nation of Israel. The kingly tribe of Judah and the priestly tribe of Levi would trace back to Leah.   In reading the Scriptures, God was always providentially engaged in the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny. Israel’s purpose could only be achieved through God’s benevolence and divine control that resulted in its care, provision, and protection; in all cases, the intentions of God took precedence and His purposes were always accomplished (Isa. 48:17).

Every aspect of human life is included in God’s providential orderings. Just as God divinely superintended (and still does) His plan for Israel, He is concerned and involved in the lives of individual believers. We may wonder why our great expectations have been delayed or even denied. Our immediate view, like that of Jacob and Leah, may be “short-sighted” and not take into consideration the larger plan of God. It is during these times that we must set aside our fears and doubts and connect to the Spirit within us. It is in dialogue with Him that we realize that God’s purpose is far better than anything we can humanly devise (1 Cor. 2:9). Why? As our Father-Creator, He knows the purpose for which He has created us (Ps. 139:13-14) and how to best accomplish that purpose (Jer. 10:23; 29:11).

What great expectation are you waiting for? Be not discouraged but only trust in God. We are continually in His view and are the object of His affection (Joel 2:21, 23, 26). Let us praise Him in the midst of our waiting like the Psalmist who wrote, “My soul wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him (Ps. 62:5).

 

TIME TO RESPOND

This week you will have an opportunity to practice reflective prayer as part of your Lenten Season, “Journey of THE CROSS”.

Is there some great expectation you are waiting for?  Have it been delayed or even denied?  As we experience God this season, we are confident that God will care for all your needs–even when it doesn’t seem like it.  Go to your “quiet place” and prepare your heart for this reflective prayer exercise.  Set aside about 8 minutes for this time.  You’re worth it and God’s waiting to meet you there.

Click here to begin
Choose the second slide, “Jehovah-Jireh”
then push the “Play” button.

Experiencing God: Partaker of Flesh and Blood

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is,

the devil.”  Hebrew 2:14 (KJV)

How appropriate that Lenten season 2018 would begin on Valentine’s Day.  What greater love have we experienced as believers than the extravagant and unconditional love of God the Father. For while I was yet in my sin, Christ died for me–the ungodly (Rom. 5:6-8) and now I rest in the blessed assurance that there is nothing that can separate me from that love (Rom. 8:39). What a sweet valentine of love we have received from the Father.

That’s why Lenten season is a perfect time to reciprocate the love that God has shown by giving Him a token of my love-the gift of sacrifice. In addition, Lent is a time of contemplation and reflection about God’s plan of salvation. Just as the birth of Christ was orchestrated by God, so it was with His crucifixion and glorious resurrection (Genesis 3:15).

God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) fashioned a plan whereby “He Himself” would become human and finally resolve the problem of sin. But why did this plan require Christ to take on flesh and blood?

  • So that Christ could satisfy the “righteous requirements” of the law (Romans 8:4). The Mosaic Law demanded that blood be shed, in the form of an animal sacrifice for the “forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). This process of sacrifice was repeated continuously, generation after generation, until Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23-28).
  • So that Christ would be able to share in our humanity. He would be able to understand our weaknesses and temptations. As a partaker of flesh and blood, He “might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrew 2:17).
  • So that Christ might defeat Satan and free believers from sin’s power (Romans 6:6-7). It is in the destruction of Satan’s power that we are able to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).  It is in Satan’s defeat that we are able to live victoriously in and for Christ.

God’s salvation does not require us to lay down our physical life for Him but God does ask us to die, spiritually, to the control which our flesh, the world and Satan exert upon us (Rom. 6:11). The apostle Peter reaffirmed this thought in his letter to God’s elect.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God” (1 Peter 4: 1-2, NRSV).

This Lenten season become partakers of God’s “flesh and blood”-experience Him in all His fullness. Return to God your “love expression” by giving fully of you.

 

TIME TO RESPOND

Begin this time in prayer inviting Jesus to join you.   Read Hebrews 2:14-16 aloud and note words or phrases that “catch your attention”.  Read it a second time. Feel free to use a different translation or paraphrase.  This time note “what emotions you may feel” in reading this passage.   Read it a third and final time.  This time ask Jesus what He wants “you to know personally about Him” based on  this Scripture.  

Living in the Power of the Resurrection

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death,

we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Romans 6:5 (NKJ)

 

Good Friday is a few days away.  Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).  Resurrection Sunday is on the horizon.  Christ is risen! (Matt. 28:6)  And now, as a result of these two events, how are we to live?  I’m sure Christ’s disciples had the same question upon hearing of our Lord’s resurrection.  They received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning (Matt. 28).  They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  Even after all this, the disciples did not fully understand the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever.  They lived through the suffering of the Cross.  They would now need to learn how to live in the power of the resurrection.

In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus hinted about this resurrection power.  He assured His disciples, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

The Apostle Paul knew how to live in the power of the resurrection.  He wanted to not only “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” but also, to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).  Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would understand “the power God that worked in Christ when He raised Him (Jesus) from the dead” (Eph. 1:19, 20).  The early New Testament church gained its potency and power through accessing that same resurrection power through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

How do twenty-first century believers live in the power of the resurrection?

Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  We now are able to walk in victory.  Sin no longer has power over us (Romans 6).  Satan is crushed and we are free (Col. 2:15).  Though he would have us believe we are still lost, we have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Though our memories and the world would tempt us on every side, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Though we may sometimes “stumble and fall”, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Also read:  Our Resurrection Witness

We have received the resurrection proclamation.  Christ has personally come to dwell within our hearts.  We are witnesses to His existence.  After the resurrection, the disciples went back to their daily routines.  Peter even invited his cohorts to “go fishing” while they awaited their new orders from our Lord.  While we celebrate the resurrection of Christ once a year at Easter, we much daily tap into this power from on high.  Don’t go back to “business as usual”.  Tap into the resurrection power of God and finish the good work God has begun in you (Phil. 1:6).

Selah:  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of your life (relationships, attitudes, behaviors) where you need to access the power of the resurrection.  Then ask Him to help you develop next steps on what to do.

Are you willing to launch out?  Check out the link for more info!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPgfZbUxYFk&index=1&list=PLXZmuJ5W5m4HAmeSH2k6zZiuJvxJZXxLq

The Details of Redemption

“He [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”   Colossians 1: 13-14 (NKJ)

During my personal devotions this Lenten season, the scripture texts that resonate in my spirit deal with God’s work of redemption.  As believers, we are familiar with the concept of salvation, Jesus Christ’s substitutional death for our sins (Rom. 5: 8) but it is also important that we broaden our understanding to include “the details behind His death.”  This week, as part of our Lenten season studies, we will explore the “details of redemption.”

Redemption (apolutrosis) is the purchasing back of something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom.

In the God’s plan of salvation, man was lost as a result of the entrance of sin into the world (Gen. 3).  Why was redemption required?  God’s holiness required that sin be “dealt with.”  Christ death provided “satisfaction of divine justice”—punishment for sin as well as a ransom from the curse and authority of the law.  How was redemption to be accomplished? “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).  Who would redeem us?  “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself (Jesus Christ) likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”  (Heb. 2:14-15).

To further illustrate redemption, I offer this personal story.  I remember my parent’s “patient and tireless” love for me.  I especially remember their offer to assist me with my finances as I began my new career as an elementary teacher.  Like most young adults establishing themselves, I was indebted “to credit.”  My parents, after seeing me struggle would “pay off” my debt with my promise to limit my use of the credit card.  Well, a year later, I was back in debt.  My parents again, “made the offer to pay, I promised not to stray, but the debt would not stay away.”  This happened on many occasions, I’m embarrassed to say.   I finally had to decline their generous offer and learn to better manage my monies.  The point of this illustration is that my parents were willing to pay the debt to the creditors—my debt—a debt that they had no part in creating.

Likewise, God, our Heavenly Father, through His Son, has provided a way to eliminate our sin debt.  “Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).   The debt against us is not viewed as simply cancelled, but paid in full.  Christ’s blood is the “ransom” by which the deliverance of His people from the servitude of sin and from its penal consequences has been secured.   Why would God want to redeem man?  Because of His great love for us—we are His children and heirs to His kingdom.  He “patiently and tirelessly” loves us and desires that we would be free to realize all He has promised to and for us.  Just like my parents desired for me. 

Also read:  Meditating:  A Key to Hearing God?

SELAH:  Read and meditate on Romans 5:1-11.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you specific areas of your life which Christ has redeem your life.  Then express prayer of gratitude for His gift of redemption.