Category Archives: Lenten Season

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).



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.

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.

In Christ

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesian 2:10 (KJV)

In last weeks’ WordBytes, we examined God’s plan of salvation.  By taking part of weak flesh and blood, Christ was able to satisfy the righteous requirement of God, to destroy the devil, and to deliver us from the penalty of sin.   In exchange, we have moved from being “dead in our trespasses” to our new position of being “in Christ” (Eph. 2:1).   What exactly does it mean to be in Christ?

To be in Christ describes the believer’s identity with Christ and his position before God the Father.

The believer (in position) can now begin the process of being conformed (in practice) to the image of Christ—righteous and holy (Rom. 12:2).  To be in Christ isn’t the result of keeping the Law or by good works—it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:10).

Here are other annotations on being “in Christ” from some of my favorite Bible scholars.

  • If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17)

 “We, His making, were constituted, placed in a totally new state and order.   These are the men and women separated from sin to God and living the life of saving reliance in the union with His Son.”  H.C.G. Moule

  •  At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)

“No matter what the geographic location of the saints, their real position in God’s sight is in Christ Jesus.  They have been put in a vital union and communion with Him so that they are identified with Him. Christians have their very life in Christ.”   John Wycliff

  • And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom. 8:17)

‘In Christ’ God’s superabundant blessing is available to His children by faith in Christ so that what Christ has is theirs—including His righteousness, privilege, resources, position and power. “  John MacArthur

  • That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Eph. 1:12)

This is the spiritual position of the believer; he is identified with Christ, he is in Christ, therefore is able to draw upon the wealth of Christ for his own daily living. These are believers who were saved because they put their faith in Christ.”   Warren Wiersbe

DNA is the unique string of characteristics that make us who we are—physically and mentally.  In Christ, we have been given a new spiritual DNA that will follow us into eternity.  Christ became like us so that we can become like Him.  Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday has resulted in our being in Christ.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”.  (Rom. 8:1)

Also read:  Identity Crisis, Part 1 and Part 2

SELAH:   Meditate* on Ephesians 2:10 and then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what being in Christ means to you personally.

*Thinking of its meaning and application in our lives.

Our Sinless Saviour

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (KJV)

During Lenten season, many questions are put forth concerning Jesus, His purpose, and His role in God’s plan of salvation. One such question that seems to top the list is, “how does one reconcile Christ’s deity His humanity?” This is not a new question and has been argued by religious scholars since the advent of Christ. Even today I have heard ministers “infer” that Christ was not sinless. Perhaps they do this to help parishioners identify with their personal struggles to “live holy lives” (1 Pet. 1:15). Instead of being helpful, these misguided efforts, instead lead many believers astray.

It is true that Christ in His humanity experienced similar feelings and emotions we face daily. He wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). He expressed frustration and anger (Matt. 21:12-13; Matt. 12:34). He loved (John 11:5; Mark 10:21; 2 Thess. 2:16). He exhibited His greatest humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-37). One could say Jesus was overwhelmed (Mark 14:34) yet He set His face steadfastly to the Cross, affirming His commitment to God’s divine purpose (John 12:27). So why is Christ’s sinless nature so important? How does Christ’s sinlessness fit in God’s plan of salvation? Most importantly, was Christ really sinless?

Why is Christ’s sinlessness so important? The Levitical system of sacrifices and offerings was established to outline how God was to be worshipped and how Old Covenant ritual was to be fulfilled. This system included sacrifices and offerings, which symbolized the worshiper’s desire to express faith in and love for God as well as their desire to be purged of sin (Leviticus1:1-7:38). When animal sacrifices were required they were to be free from deformity, defect, or disease (Lev. 1:3; 4:3). To satisfy God righteous requirement for sin (Heb. 9:22), Jesus acted as the perfect, sinless sacrifice (sent from God) to take away (not to cover) sin (Heb. 9:28).

Was Christ sinless? I leave you these Scriptures to commit to memory so that you have no doubt that Jesus is our Sinless Savior.

• Christ our High Priest. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN.” Hebrews 4:15

• Christ our Reconciler. “God made him WHO HAD NO SIN to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

• Christ our Redeemer. “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and IN HIM THERE IS NO SIN.” 1 John 3:5

• Christ our Eternal Sacrifice. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself WITHOUT SPOT to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14

• Christ our Example. “(Christ) WHO DID NOT SIN: neither was guile found in His mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)

Good to the Last Byte…
Jesus modeled for us what sinless living looks like. Does He expect the same from us? Perhaps He doesn’t expect “sinlessness” (I John 1:9), but He does desire that we be “sanctified and holy” (Eph. 5: 27). He does expect us to daily strive for the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3: 14). Christ’s work upon the Cross rendered sin “inoperative” in our lives, therefore, we are not to let sin have dominion over us (Rom. 6:14). As Christ died to sin, we too are dead to sin and now proclaim we are no longer under its control. (Read Romans 6:1-14).

Perfecting Holiness

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Cor. 7:1 (KJV)

Is holiness possible? Does God really expect us to be holy? Only God is holy. Holiness is more like a goal that everyone should strive for but no one really expects to attain, right? Wrong! God would not ask us to do anything that is impossible and He has told us to be holy (Lev. 11:45). As enter into the second week of Lent, I’d like to focus our attention on perfecting holiness.

Believers admit in a recent Barna Research report that they do not know what holiness looks like in their daily life. It isn’t surprising that there is much confusion and anxiety about personal holiness. Believer’s inability to accurately communicate what holiness looks like is usually the results of misinformation they have received in the form of legalistic lists of “do’s and don’ts” which individuals attempt to satisfy in their own strength. These lists do little to move believers closer to achieving personal holiness.

Holiness in the New Testament means to be set apart. In our text, the Apostle Paul admonishes the Church at Corinth to cleanse themselves from “filthiness” and demonstrate life styles of moral purity and dedication to God’s purposes. God’s Word, as communicated by Paul, is still true for believers in the 21st century. So how is the believer to achieve holiness?

Holiness begins as we accept God’s plan of salvation for our life. Once saved, we can come boldly into His Presence at His throne of mercy (Heb. 4:16). In His Presence we renew the relationship that was severed during The Fall (Gen. 3). In relationship with God we learn “His ways” and the paths He has chosen for us (Ps. 24:4-5). In relationship with God, we begin to be transformed. As we stand in the presence of His holiness, we become holy.

Holiness increases as we demonstrate obedience to God the Father. Christ, who was equally with God, submitted Himself to His Father and was obedient even to death on the Cross (Phil. 2:7). Obedience (hupakoe) infers a “willing subjection” to the will of God. Unlike the animals used in sacrifices, Christ came willingly to the Cross, as He expressed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not My will but Yours be done” (Matt. 26:39). Through obedience to God, we become conformed to the image of Christ. We take on the holy character of Christ.

Holiness flourishes as we are filled by the Holy Spirit. We cannot live holy lives in our own physical strength. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we are able to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We trust that “it is God who is at work in us, enabling us both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled and empowered to walk holy.

While it is true that God is holy, He has told us that we too are to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). We are to live a lifestyle that reflects our faith and that glorifies His name. Christ will return someday to “present to Himself His glorious church, not having spot nor wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Holiness is not perfection but it is an expectation.