Annetta United Methodist Church
2836 West FM 5, Annetta, Texas 76008
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Bethel United Methodist Church
3196 Bethel Road, Weatherford, Texas 76087
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Devotionals for the Season of Lent, 2015
Editor: Sela E. Finau
Scripture quotations and translations/versions were chosen by each of the contributors, otherwise the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) was used.
Some of the devotions were written by members of the Annetta/Bethel Charge. Other devotions and prayers were written either by the editor or used with permission.
Any errors or misprints found in this booklet are unintentional, thereby we ask for grace. You may, however, address any concerns with the editor.
History of Lent
Thank you to all members who were very gracious with their time, and willing to dedicate some time and thoughts to writing these beautiful devotionals. What a wonderfully gifted church family that serves an amazing God. May you be blessed with these wonderful inspirational stories and devotionals written by your Annetta/Bethel family members, as they share their God stories with you. May the Love, Peace, and Grace of Christ journey with you this Lenten season and beyond! May we firmly hold on to our faith and hope that binds us in the power of the resurrection.
Tu’a ‘Ofa atu ~sela
Welcome to Lent and Blessings to you!
As we begin this season of Lent, I encourage you to spend time in prayer not only for our families and friends but also pray for our surrounding communities, our country, and the world. Take time out of your regular, daily schedule to pray and reflect on God’s grace and love. Spend some time looking at your life and the course of living you are on and ask God to lead and guide your life more directly each day.
We hope that these Lenten Devotionals will enable you to have a joyous and growth-filled season as your journey moves closer each day to Holy Week and ultimately Easter.
Welcome to Lent 2015!
Rev. Sela Finau
History of Lent
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. The First Sunday describes Jesus’ temptation by Satan; and the Sixth Sunday (Passion/Palm Sunday), Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent passion and death. Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.
Somber colors such as purple or ash gray and rough-textured cloth are most appropriate for paraments, stoles, and banners.
You are invited, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.
Day 1: Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015
An Ash Wednesday Prayer for Meditation
Purifying Mystery, your light exposes in us all that we hide.
Awaken us and all your Holy Church to spiritual combat.
Lead us to purity of soul and body in these forty days.
Fortify us to take an honest look at ourselves
and to name our secret sins and our ruts of disobedience.
Let abstinence from our addictions free us for prayer and the fire of love.
Perfect us by steady gaze toward your pure mercy and grace
so that we may come to the Passion of Jesus
and the Holy Pascha* in pure joy.
In confidence we commend ourselves and all our passions
and cares to your never failing mercy.
We intercede for the world and the church:
Especially for those we have hurt by our preoccupations …
For those who live sacrificially so that others
may know your justice and compassion …
For a just peace in and among nations …
For professionals who help others stand in the light …
For the church in every place …
For the concerns and cares of our lives …Amen
Adapted from a prayer in The Daily Office: A Book of Hours for Daily Prayer
Day 2: Thursday, February 19, 2015
Inclusive God, merciful God, God of the inner heart, lead us beyond mere external religion and ‘blowing of trumpets’ that merely exalts ourselves. Teach us instead to love you, you who alone are good, and in every good. You make us good in spite of our denials and defenses and turn us toward you in this season of Lent, that we might love you more completely. Amen.
Day 3: Friday, February 20, 2015
Patient God, our questions and worries turn to complaints, and you know the struggles of our lives --
Layer upon layer of needs;
List after list of demands;
Pile upon pile of letters to answer and bills to pay;
Constant noise from TV, traffic, background music;
Phone messages beeping at us;
All penetrating our eyes and maybe our souls --
Information overload, constant stress.
O God. Clear your way in us to see what is important.
Toss out resentment and grudges.
Lift worry from our brows. Help us carry our burdens gently.
Heal our vision and memory. Lead us into this holy Lent. Amen.
Day 4: Saturday, February 21, 2015
Our Lord and Savior, In this Lenten season, we confess our reluctance to confess our sins -- to you or to one another. You know us, all about us, without our telling you; and we do not want our neighbors, our friends, even our loved ones to know everything about us.
Remind us, most patient God, that there is no real relationship without trust and honesty, no healing forgiveness without confession. Save us from the Pharisee's self-righteous pride. Give us, rather, the courage of the publican, who knew he needed forgiveness and a fresh start and did not care who might be watching him pour out his heart to you.
Help us to make proper use of our Lenten opportunities for worship and self-searching. Assist us in our ongoing struggle for integrity. And grant us courage to right the wrongs we have done and to make up for the good we have left undone.
We implore you to hear us, for Jesus' sake. Amen
Day 5: Monday, February 23, 2015
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Devotional: Two years ago, I came to a rough spot on my Journey. As always throughout my life, God put someone in front of me with
a book to help guide me through it all. It was a "Count Your Blessings" book. And not just count them, but write every one down and number them. What! I thought. I'm supposed to be GRATEFUL for this? Who among you have ever had time in your life when you went looking for a miracle? Well, the main theme of this wonderful book is: Eucharisto ALWAYS precedes the miracle. So I began to read and think about my blessings and write them down. And now, two years later, I have written 1000 blessings in my Journal. I plan to keep going. I found that doing this totally changed my outlook. I began to see beauty and joy everywhere I looked. Fear was gone. When I look back over what I've written, some of the blessings will seem silly to someone else reading them, but they are not silly to me. Because they were a sincere offering, I do not believe they will seem silly to God. Jesus has promised that he will walk beside us on our path that climbs every upward. Upward climbing is hard, but knowing He is with me, I can be secure of the path and can actually enjoy the happenings along the way. If we ever feel alone on the journey, you can be sure that it is because we have moved away from Him. So we must look around and find Him again and proceed ahead with hope and gratitude.
Prayer: Lord, we thank you for this time of centering and preparation called Lent, and for this time to move closer to You. Amen
Day 6: Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Scripture: Psalms 119:10-12 (New International Version) I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your words in my heart.
Devotional: I have observed for many years, different situations where we, as Christians, try to find our path through life. We try, we fail, we try again. All the while, we are searching for peace, through understanding that still, small voice that lives in our hearts and souls. The gift of peace is my constant yearning, and happiest realization when it resides in me.
The Lenten season reminds us of the sacred trust Jesus offered us through His life, death, and resurrection. The example of a perfect life sacrificed for us.
Who could not take this magnificent and holy gift? Knowing God through Jesus is the key to a life of fulfillment and peace. During this holy season many people give up something to honor the life, given up and offered up for the atonement of our sins. I would like to suggest something that has been meaningful to me. I want to give up negative thinking and look at all circumstances through a filter of love and compassion. We get chances daily to see what is wrong in our world. Maybe our best hope is using the filter, freely given to us through the life of Christ. Then can we see clearly what our purpose is on this earth.
From the words of a senior citizen, I hope this Easter that negative thinking will become a thing of my past and that I can bless others in many different, positive ways. Let us find our own perfect peace.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the ultimate gift of loving us just the way we are. Thank you for the gift of being our friend and wanting to know us intimately. Thank you for being there when we seek you out. Thank you for sacrificing your own Son just for us. In loving thanks, Amen
Day 7: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Scripture: Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Devotional: Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
How do you greet your morning? Do you say, “Good morning Lord” or “Good Lord it’s morning”. No matter the circumstance we should always be thankful God has given us another day with our family and friends. God has always been faithful to us, we should see what happens when we are to Him.
Prayer: Thank you God for always keeping you word to us your children. Help us in keeping our promises to you. Amen
Day 8: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Unanswered Prayer or Perfect Healing?
Scripture: Matthew 26:38-39: Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (New International Version)
Devotional: Cancer is a terrible disease that has certainly taken its toll on my family. My father died with cancer when I was a young adult, and my great niece died when she was barely 30 years old and a new mother to a one-year old daughter. My mother has had serious bouts with cancer twice—at ages 60 and 87—but she survives today at 96 years of age!
In all cases when those close to me were suffering, I prayed for healing for them. Entire churches were praying for them. With my father and great niece, the outcome was not that for which we had hoped. Sometimes God’s answers to our prayers are puzzling and disappointing. However, my mother was miraculously healed, and we rejoiced!
During Lent, I am reminded of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow. He was innocent, yet he faced the most horrific death possible on the cross. He asked his Father to take this cup—a symbol of deep sorrow and suffering—from him. Jesus knew that his Father’s will would be done. Whether his Father would spare him unimaginable suffering or fulfill His larger plan for human-kind through death on the cross, Jesus submitted his will to God
Because Jesus suffered and died for us, death’s sting is gone. Death in Christ and our promise of eternal life is perfect healing and fulfillment of God’s plan for us. As difficult as it can be, sometimes the answers to our prayers are not what we had hoped but rather God’s larger plan for our lives or the gift of perfect healing through eternal life.
Prayer: Our Dear Heavenly Father, we humbly thank you for the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, who gave his life so that we may receive the gift of perfect healing and the fulfillment of God’s promise through eternal life. Amen
Day 9: Friday, February 27, 2015
Devotional: How could we not want to be like Jesus? Isn’t that what we should strive for, long for, hope for, and pray for? The following excerpt is from a very recent Annetta UMC Bible Study and it really spoke to me.
“May you believe in God. But may you come to see that God believes in you. May you have faith in Jesus. But may you come to see that Jesus has faith that you can be like him. A person of love and compassion and truth. A person of forgiveness, and peace, and grace, and joy, and hope. And may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi, Jesus.”
Just think what could the term “covered in the dust of your rabbi” could mean to all of us.
Day 10: Saturday, February 28, 2015
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
Devotional: I have learned over the years that spiritual discipline is a necessary element of the Christian faith, and I can see why. Yet it is not an easy thing to do. It is supposed to help us trust our personal experience with ourselves, which is, in a way also an experience of God. Sometimes we are amazed that the two experiences coincide. However, when we know God, we also know and accept our own humanity; when we meet and know ourselves at deeper levels, we also meet and know God. Thus it can be said that we don’t have any real access to who we are except through God, and we don’t have any real access to God except through knowing ourselves through our humanity.
Many of us nourish our spirits through a variety of ways, and we all need to find a spiritual discipline that works for us. Regardless of what spiritual discipline we currently use, we need to find what works best for us as individuals for the sake of an overall healthy mind, body, and spirit. I learned at a recent retreat that one way to nourish my spirit is to bring in culture awareness and being mindful of what is happening around us. For example, our current ecological situation and how the Christian faith needs to play a bigger role in examining how we practice spirituality and our view of nature. At the spiritual retreat I participated in last Fall, we noticed how a nearby river bank had dried up. I thought, is that nature doing on its own or did we play a role in it? Perhaps as Christians, we need to be mindful of how we can respond to God’s world supportively and lovingly. Spirituality does not have to be an escape from the material world, rather spirituality can embody nature and God in the world.
During Lent, may we find the time to practice spiritual discipline by spending time away from our everyday work, our everyday surroundings, and allow space for God to clear our mind, relax and simply be at peace with God and with ourselves. May this Lenten Season allow us to refocus and be renewed in our faith.
Prayer: Holy God, may your spirit come and dwell in me. May your spirit lead and guide me with every breath that I take. Amen
Day 11, Monday, March 2, 2015
The Plan of the Master Weaver
Scripture: For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan of the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:9-10 (RSV)
Devotional: I love this poem (author unknown). Many of you may be familiar with it, but I think it is a good one to ponder during the Lent season.
The Plan Of The Master Weaver
Our lives are but fine weavings,
That God and we prepare,
Each life becomes a fabric planned
And fashioned in His care.
We may not always see just how
The weavings intertwine,
But we must trust the Master’s hand
And follow His design,
For He can view the pattern
From the upper side,
While we must look from underneath
And trust in Him to guide.
Sometimes a strand of sorrow
Is added to His plan,
And though it’s difficult for us,
We still must understand
That it’s He who fills the shuttle,
It’s He who knows what’s best,
So we must weave in patience
And leave to Him the rest…
Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why—
The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
Prayer: Dear God, thank you that you have a plan for each of us for the fullness of time. Help us to be obedient to your will. Amen
Day 12: Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Scripture: Luke 24:13-15, 28-29
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
Devotional: There are times when we all long for the companionship of Christ. When we are facing some deep loneliness that seems to darken the brightest day, some great sorrow that has broken our heart and changed our lives, or some heavy burden that comes through no action or fault of our own. At times like these we long for the presence of the one who speaks our name, understand our plight, and can break the hold of loneliness, sorrow, despair, and burdens we bear.
There are other times when we are at the peak of our powers and all is going well that we want someone to walk with us, to share the challenge, excitement, and reward of the path we have chosen. We desire a companion who can appreciate the challenge and victory of life in the days when all is well.
There are still other times when we need a companion to whom we can say thank you. There are those times when we are overwhelmed with gratitude. We know that the goodness we enjoy is not just the result of our good work but that someone else had a hand in our well-being, comfort, and success.
At times like these it is good to remember that the risen Christ walks beside us—awaiting our invitation to stay with us, break bread with us, interpret life for us, give us hope, and share in our thanksgiving.
As we continue with our walk this Lenten Season, may we, like the disciples before us, have our eyes opened to recognize Christ as he comes to walk beside us this day.
Prayer: Oh God, forgive us when we fail to recognize you, when we fail to recognize you in others. Continue to walk with us and help us to see. Amen
Day 13: Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Scripture: Romans 5:2-4 2 through whom we have obtained access[a] to this grace in which we stand; and we[b] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we[c] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
Devotional: As children, we may have dreamed about what we would be when we grew up. As we got older, we continued dreaming of what our life may look like and it may have changed from one day to the next. We continue to imagine ourselves as being successful in whatever career or positions we held. As an adult, we eventually begin a vocation and a career that we think will last us the rest of our lives.
However, the problem is that the rest of our lives may change quickly if we lose our job. Terrible things happen in life and may leave us feeling hopeless. An illness may prevent us from working. An accident may leave us distraught. A natural disaster destroys our home. Unexpected events shake every bone in our body. Our trust in the goodness of life vanishes. We’re suddenly set adrift, with nowhere to go and nowhere we want to go. We imagine that life has been unfair to us and God has left you.
Whatever the circumstance that bring a loss of our life direction, there is still reason to maintain a sense of hope. This kind of hope is built on trust, not in ourselves or others, but in God. Our hope rests on the awareness that God is in control. The same God that calls us by our first name and knows the number of hairs on our heads. God hold us up and has a plan for our life. God has your present and your future in hand. Take comfort in that knowledge. He will plant new seeds of hope to your heart. Trust in God.
Prayer: Dear God, life is not easy. Help me in the right direction. It is in your mercy that I am able to do the things today. I can do nothing more than trust in you. Please help me to grow through this process and comfort me and all those who suffer a change in their life plan. Give us the strength and courage to continue hoping. Amen
Day 14: Thursday, March 5, 2015
Scripture: Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times,
Devotional: Pets are great. Of course, I am talking about dogs. If you have other pets, for instance cats, well—I can only hope they are as great as dogs. Pets are great additions to a family. They love unconditionally, putting all their trust in those who care for them. They eat and play freely because they know they are safe in their own domain. They live with almost a child’s faith, that God could only hope for from human beings.
Pets truly become a part of our lives. They never make us feel uncomfortable about who we are. They never ask us to change or be more of what they hoped we might be just for them. They never judge our actions or activities. We live in a relationship with total acceptance and grace. What an amazing gift!
God created these amazing companions to give solace, to guide the broken, and to offer a kind of love that cannot be had in any other way. Pets are such a cause for celebration and joy. What a blessing to have such an experience!
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the amazing gift of pets. That you for building into the nature of pets a sense of assurance, peace, and love, and trust. May we learn from this relationship with have with our pets and to completely trust in you and to love unconditionally. Amen
Day 15: Friday, March 6, 2015
Lord, when we wonder whether anything in this life is important, please help us change our direction. Help us to think about things that remind us of your goodness and of the possibilities that exist all around us. Remind us that an attitude adjustment may be a s simple as starting the day with a prayer and a smile. Comfort us when we lose hope in ourselves and draw us close enough to you, to breathe in a new perspective and a new attitude. Amen
Day 16: Saturday, March 7, 2015
Love and Challenges
Scripture: Luke 6:27-45
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[a] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s[b] eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor,[c] ‘Friend,[d] let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s[e] eye.
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
Devotional: I know, you are thinking, why did I include so much of the Biblical texts? Why did I not just reference it? The truth is I know that you would probably not take the time to look up the passage. Or for some of you, you may even skip through the pasted Scripture text thinking you already know what it says. Who are we kidding, we all do that. But studying and meditating requires that we re-read and re-read God’s words many times over. Our understanding of Scripture may be different today than a year or two ago. It is not that Scripture have changed, it is us who have hopefully changed as we grow in faith and knowledge of God.
This passage is very important. Jesus said to love our enemies and to do good things for those who dislike or hate us. Essentially Jesus challenges us to be different, that is, to love like God. God is merciful and kind even to the wicked and ungrateful. Anyone can love his or her friends. But how do you treat someone well who has hurt you? How do you give without expectation of return? That’s love as God loves.
Similarly, Jesus said not to judge others but to first examine ourselves and deal with our faults while not being critical of others. We feel good about denigrating others. We talk about people behind their backs. We speak harsh words and expect the person just to take it. The Bible instructs us to correct one another when necessary but in a spirit of gentleness. Criticism is not a fruit of the Spirit.
Jesus cautions us about the attitudes of our hearts. It’s one thing to say, “That person stole money and needs to be appropriately punished.” It’s another to say, “That person stole money and ought to be strung up by his thumbs and horsewhipped.” People who hurt us and arouse our moral outrage are, unfortunately, difficult to love.
Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit” and “the good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good…for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks”. If we want a good gauge for our spiritual health, we need to listen to the things we say, not only to other people but also in private about other people. Our words reflect our relationship with God as well as with others.
During the season of Lent, may we all take the time to meditate on the word of God and study Scripture, have self-examination, sincerely repent, and be prayer.
Prayer: Oh God, sometimes it is difficult to love those who have hurt us. May you help us to be merciful and gracious as you are. Help us to forgive and love our enemies. Amen
Day 17: Monday, March 9, 2015
To the Moon and Back
Scripture: Luke 7: 44-48: Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little. Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (New International Version)
Devotional: In an effort to describe the magnitude of love from parent to child, the whole “I love you to the moon and back” popularity was born. My daughter and her son have an inside joke between them where she names the furthest thing, and then her six-year old son says something like “okay, I love you to my door knob and back.” They often engage in this bedtime ritual with her naming the furthest thing and him naming the closest thing. One night after the joking went on for a while, he said “seriously, mommy, I love you through a thousand clouds and moons and galaxies and whatever else is out there!”
When we find it difficult to comprehend God’s love and forgiveness for us despite the many ways we disappoint him, it helps to compare his love for us to that of parents toward their children. And what did Jesus expect in return for that love? He told us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves—not always easy! Perhaps we could learn from the purest, always forgiving love of small children toward their parents.
Showing love to the “least, the last, and the lost” can be difficult in our human condition. Even the Pharisee believed that if Jesus were a prophet, he would have known the woman who washed his feet was a sinner and he would not have let her touch him. But Jesus knew the woman’s repentant and loving heart and forgave her sins because “she loved much.” Lent reminds us of Jesus’ unfailing and unending love for us, and the forgiveness he offers to those who show his love to others.
Prayer: Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank you for the love you show us each and every day. We pray that you will help us to show your love to others through our words and actions. Amen
Day 18: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-22 21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Devotional: Sometimes we attend church in an individualistic way. We like a church that meets our needs; and if something at church offends us, we go elsewhere. In Jesus’ teachings, we all have a responsibility for one another. He is especially present when we’re gathered with other Christians. He commands Christians to make the effort to forgive and uphold one another. In this context, Peter poses a famous question: How many times should we forgive?
Jesus’ response was 7 times 70 times. You just forgive, and you never stop forgiving. We gain strength and freedom when we forgive. We find strength to keep moving in our lives. When we forgive, we are able to refocus our emotional energies; and we are able to grow closer to God. When we grow in forgiveness, we begin to understand the heart of God. Forgiveness is a gift of God. God already knows our feelings and still loves us. God can work healing power in our lives when we admit to God our deep feelings of hated, hurt, and anger. Forgiveness is a powerful sign of our life together, not only in specific instances of forgiveness but also in Christian fellowship. If love and trust are present in our fellowship, we can discuss our painful feelings with one another. We are called to express an attribute of God in our life together. We are called to forgive as God forgives.
Prayer: Oh Merciful God, we give your thanks for love and grace. Help us to show mercy and compassion to others as you show us. Help us to become more like you. Amen
Day 19: Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Scripture: Exodus 20:2-17 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.[c]
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Devotional: Growing up, the Ten Commandments was the rule in our house. In fact, it seemed that my parents added a lot more to the Ten found in the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy. I learned early on that following the rules from the Bible was critical as a Christian. Later, I would learn that being a Christian is not just about rules, it was also about accepting the free gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. We rely on God’s power to guide us and we accept God’s grace by keeping the commandments, not out of obligation but out of love. The Ten Commandments are a gift from God that guides us in our life together as God’s people. They are timeless ethical principles and are a part of God’s covenant with us. The Ten Commandments gives us a guideline to our responsibility toward God and one another.
As we journey in the season of Lent, may we reflect and examine our lives to see if we are living out this gift of the Ten Commandments from God. If not, what can we do differently to live more closely to this gift from God.
Prayer: Holy God, you have given us a gift of how to live rightly with you and with others. Help us to be faithful followers in both word and deed. Amen
Day 20: Thursday, March 12, 2015
Love Your Neighbor
Scripture: Leviticus 19:18New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Devotional: We often hear Jesus saying to love God with all of our hearts, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor. Jesus also said that loving God and neighbor were the greatest commandments of all. What we don’t often hear is that these words reiterated by Jesus also show up in the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Who is our neighbor? Everyone. How we show love to everyone can be challenging, particularly with those whose choices we dislike, whose lifestyles we disapprove of, or anyone that’s too different from us. When we encounter people whose race, culture, or religion is different from our own, the challenge to love them increases. God, who created and loves all people, calls us and empowers us to love one another. We are called to love God with our whole selves, and we do this by loving one another and our neighbors.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Do not waste your time bothering about whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did…When you are behaving as if you love someone, you will presently come to love him.”
In this season of Lent, may we seek God’s guidance in helping us to grow our love for our neighbor.
Prayer: Holy God, you are always merciful and loving. May you continue to help us grow in our love for you through loving our neighbors. Amen
Day 21: Friday, March 13, 2015
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, may I not so much seek
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
Because it is in giving that we receive,
in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
Saint Francis of Assisi
Day 22: Saturday, March 14, 2015
Who Is My Neighbor?
Scripture: Psalm 133:1 (NIV)How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
Devotional: Let’s have some real talk, “Who is my neighbor?” While the question may be a rhetorical one, some of us really want to know who are our neighbors. Are we talking about those people that live on our street? Are we talking about people that live in our neighborhood? Are we talking about people in our community? Are we talking about people in our city?
Growing up in the islands, I thought of neighbor as those people that lived across the street or next door and maybe the homes in our surrounding areas. As neighbors, we knew that we could count on each other if we ran out of small things like sugar to needing something more serious, like being there in tough times and beyond.
Today, defining “neighbor” has become an individual thing and not quite so easy to define at times. Through technology, we have changed our definition of “neighbor.” We can now consider someone who lives in another state or another country our neighbors. When a natural disaster occurs or we see hungry children and families around the globe, we realize that we are part of a much bigger neighborhood. We are indeed a global family with global neighbors. Thankfully we have a global God as well.
During this season of Lent, expand your definition of “neighbor.” Is God calling you to be a neighbor to someone in your own community, in another state, or across the world? Maybe it’s all of the above.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us to be good neighbors not only to those in our immediate surroundings but also those who are far away. Help us to open our eyes, mind, and heart to those neighbor we may otherwise miss. Amen