March 30, 2014
March 31, Lent Day Twenty-three
Morning - Psalm 90, Genesis 44, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Evening - Psalm91, Jeremiah 13:15, Mark 12:18-27
Commentary, Mark 12:18-27
The enemies of Christ would take Him by force, but the people would defend Him. So they resort to trickery. Their questions are well thought out traps intended to trick Him into saying something that would turn the crowds against Him. Surely this complicated riddle about the resurrection would trip Him, but it did not. His refutation of them is decisive. They were in error because they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. The resurrection life is of an entirely different kind from that of this physical world. In it we will be like the angels, free of the passions of earth, and devoted entirely to the glory and enjoyment of God. Our fellowship with one another also will be free of earthly passions, enabling us to love as Christ loves.
One of the best ways to pray the Bible is to use the Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer Book is simply the Bible in devotional form. Much of it comes right from the Bible, word-for-word. Other parts of it convey the Bible’s ideas and thoughts through indirect quotations and paraphrases. It has been said that to have a God is to worship Him. We may legitimately add that to worship God is to pray. May God help us to be a people of prayer.
April 1, Lent Day Twenty-four
Morning - Psalms 93 & 96, Genesis 45, 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Evening - Psalm 92, Jeremiah 14:1-10, Mark 12:28-37
Commentary, Mark 12:28-37
Our Gospel reading for today is a very sad portion of Scripture. It tells of a man, a religious leader, to whom our Lord said, "Thou art not far from the
." At first this seems very complimentary. "Not far" appears to mean, very
close, perhaps even, on the brink, or, at the very gate. But, "not far" does not equal
"inside." In life, many have
perished on the brink of safety, and in spiritual things, many have perished on
the brink of faith. To loose your soul
at the gate of Heaven is still to loose your soul. kingdom
Christianity is often wrongly viewed as an experience rather than a way of life. Thus, it is no surprise that prayer is often viewed the same way, and, therefore, turned into an attempt to have experiences. But in the Bible, prayer is content oriented, not experience oriented. Like Scripture, prayer is communication, not feelings. Biblical prayer has no use for pretensions or emotional manipulation. It is simply a reverent conversation with God on the basis of Biblical truth. Does the Bible say "all have sinned?" In prayer we confess, "we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep." Does the Bible say all who believe in Him have are fully forgiven? In prayer we reaffirm our faith that "He pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel." Does the Bible tell us God watches over us? In prayer we entrust our day, and our lives into His providence, saying, "Grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings, being ordered by thy governance, may be righteous in thy sight." Does the Bible tell us to make prayers and intercessions for all people? In prayer "we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men." Does the Bible tell us to give thanks? In prayer we give thanks for His "goodness and loving kindness to all." In short, Biblical prayer asks God for the things the Bible tells us to seek from Him. Yet prayer is more than asking for things. Prayer is also an expression of trust.
April 2, Lent Day Twenty-five
Morning - Psalm 94, Genesis 46:8-20, 1 Corinthian 14:1-12
Evening - Psalms 97 & 98, Jeremiah 15:1-9, Mark 12:38
Commentary, Mark 12:38
The intent of the Lenten readings in the Gospels has been to follow our Lord's journey to
Jerusalem and the cross. Thus, let us put the recent readings into
their chronological perspective. In Mark
10 we saw Christ cross the Jordan
and enter Judea. He crossed the river near Jericho
in the company of a great crowd of pilgrims going to Jerusalem for Passover. In Mark 11 He arrived in Bethany, a small
village just outside of Jerusalem. It was Friday, and He spent the night and
following day in Bethany
observing the Jewish Sabbath. On Sunday
He went into Jerusalem,
boldly announcing His arrival in what has become known as the Triumphal Entry
(Mk. 11:1-11). He returned to Bethany that evening. Monday morning found Him in Jerusalem again, as we read in Mark 11:12-26. He went again to Bethany for the night, returning on the
following day, Tuesday (Mk. 11:20).
Tuesday was an exhausting day spent in confrontation with the priests
and Pharisees in the Temple. The confrontation ended with our Lord's
scathing condemnation of them, found in Matthew 23. Having completed this, He took the disciples
to the Mount of Olives to teach them about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. This is found in Matthew 24 and 25 and in
Mark 13. From there He returned to Bethany again to spend the
night. Our reading for today, starting
in Mark 12:38, continues to relate the events of the Tuesday before the
crucifixion. Still in the Temple, Christ contrasts
the religion of the Pharisees with the faith of the widow. The Pharisees' was a religion of
pretense. Their religion was all about
them. The widow's faith was real and
Biblical. Hers was all about God.
Prayer is not simply a list of requests. It is primarily, an expression of our trust in God, and the recognition of Him as God and our God. A favourite of the Church for centuries, the Gloria in excelsis, expresses this well.
"Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship the, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen."
April 3, Lent Day Twenty-six
Morning - Psalm 104, Genesis 49:33-50:26, 1 Corinthians 14:13-25
Evening - Psalms 99 & 100, Jeremiah, 15:10, Mark13:1-13
Commentary, Mark 13:1-13
The mission of the
Temple and sacrificial
system was ended and fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore, they were no longer needed. If their leaders had welcomed Christ, the
sacrifices might have passed happily into history, and the Temple might have become the center for
preaching the Gospel of Christ. But
their corruption made this impossible.
The Temple was going to be destroyed, and
sacked for the unbelief and corruption that pervaded them. The destruction would surprise the people,
like a thief in the night, but the Christians, forewarned by our Lord in this
passage, would be watching, and would escape the carnage.
Many mistakenly assume this passage is about the end of the world, and believe the false christs, wars, and earthquakes are signs of the return of Christ. In reality, such events are things that happen continually, and are not signs of anything except the presence and effects of sin in this world (Mk. 13:7-8). The whole passage is a clarification of Christ's words in Mark 13:2, which were prompted by the disciples' question in verses 3 and 4.
Christianity is not an emotional response to a religious experience. Christianity is a faith response to the revelation of God's truth, as found in the Bible. Granted, God is revealed in other ways. Nature shows that God exists, and that He is a God of order and power. Conscience reveals His moral will by telling us we should conduct ourselves in certain ways, and not in others. Thus, conscience tells us right from wrong, and that we have not always done the right or abstained from the wrong. But nature and conscience do not tell us who God is, or how to be free of His displeasure over our moral failures. For this we need more specific and personal revelation. This revelation is found in the Bible. The Bible is nothing less than the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It contains all you need to know about God, His will, and how to be put right with Him. This is why the Church spends so much time in the Bible. It is our desire to hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Bible, that we may "embrace, and ever hold fast, the promise of everlasting life... given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent).
Every day is a day to give ourselves to the Bible. Like all matters of holy living, there is no special time or season during which it is to be studied, only to be neglected in others. But, in reality, we do not always devote ourselves to it as we should. Lent is an opportunity to re-develop or reinforce the habit of daily Bible time.
April 4, Lent Day Twenty-seven
Morning - Psalms 95 & 102, Exodus 1:8-14, 1 Corinthians 14:26
Evening - Psalm 107, Jeremiah 16:5-13, Mark 13:14-23
Commentary, Mark 13:14-23
The abomination of desolation in verse 14 refers to the Roman army sacking
as Antiochus did in 163 B.C. (Daniel
9:26). Christ is telling the disciples
that when they see the Romans approaching they are to leave Jerusalem immediately. Several verses describe the urgency of their
escape. Flee to the mountains (14). Don't stop to gather belongings (15). Don't even stop to gather your coat
(16). The escape will be difficult for
those with child, and they are to pray that it will not be in winter (17 &
18). The devastation of the city and
its ensuing suffering is shown in verses 19 & 20.
It would be natural for the Jews to look for the Messiah to appear at this time. Taught to expect a military leader to deliver them from the Romans, they would expect Him to arise when the Roman army surrounded the city. It would also be natural for false christs to come, claiming to be the Messiah (13:6), and for others to claim that the Christ is in the desert or in some other place (21-22) preparing to attack the Romans. Even Christians might be tempted to believe Jesus had returned and was preparing to lead the attack on
But verse 23 shows the vanity of such claims. Jesus is saying He has foretold all of this,
and the Christians are to "take heed."
We must never allow ourselves to forget that the people who resisted and rejected Christ were religious people who considered themselves good and right with God. Yet Christ said these very people would be judged and destroyed in the destruction of
Jerusalem. The Corinthians were also
convinced of their own righteousness, yet Paul's word to them was "Examine
yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5). Do people today live under the same delusion?
April 5, Lent Day Twenty-eight
Morning - Psalms 108:1-6 & 112, Exodus 2:1-22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Evening - Psalm 118, Jeremiah 17:5-14, Mark 13:24
Commentary, Mark 13:24
This passage continues our Lord's discourse regarding the coming tribulation of
To understand the meaning of the darkening of the sun and moon, and the
falling of the stars, we must look back to the Old Testament. In Genesis 37:9 the sun, moon, and eleven
stars represent Joseph and his family.
In Ezekiel 32:7 the celestial bodies go dark at the conquest of Jerusalem by the
Babylonians. This is symbolic language,
equivalent to saying the sun smiles or the clouds weep. The point in Mark 13 is
not that the stars literally fall from the sky or that the sun and moon will
literally go dark. As in Genesis they
represent people, but here they are not bowing, they are going dark and
falling; they are dying. As in Ezekiel they represent death and destruction in Jerusalem.
As we read the New Testament's words against the religious leaders of Christ's time, we may forget that we also deserve to suffer the consequences of our sins. The collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent forcefully reminds us that we are sinners whose only hope is the grace of God in Christ.
"Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."
March 23, 2014
Monday, March 24, Day Seventeen
Morning - Psalm 68:1-19, Genesis 37:3- 36, 1 Corinthians 9:15
Evening - Psalm 71, Jeremiah 7:1-15, Mark 10:17-31
The Gospel Reading for today turns to the Gospel of Mark, where we will continue for the next two weeks before returning to John. Often called, "the rich, young ruler" the reading for today tells of a man who comes to Jesus professing his own righteousness. He has obviously heard Christ teaching about eternal life, and has come to show that he deserves it through his keeping of the Law of God. "All these have I observed from my youth." But Jesus shows that his statement is false. The greatest commandment is to love God above all things, but this man loves his wealth and himself above God. Therefore, he is not a good man who deserves Heaven. He is a sinner, an idolater, and he is unworthy of the Heaven he claims to have earned.
Lent is no big mystery. It is simply a time of devotion to the serious practice of holiness. The heart of Lent is repentance. Before we can repent of sin we must find it in our lives, which is the process of self examination. After we find sin we confess it. That means we agree with God about our sin. But we have left something out, have we not? For how can we agree with God about sin, or find sin, or repent of sin if we do not first of all recognize sin? And so we begin our devotional today by asking the question, what is sin?
Sin is anything that is in any way less than 100% complete holiness. Any failure to be or do 100% good is sin. Sin is therefore, first of all a disposition of our being. Adam and Eve were righteous at the start. They became sinners when they chose to sin. Their natural righteousness was distorted. Their natural goodness was corrupted, and they became sinners in their beings as well as in their actions. Since then, all people are born with the same corrupted being. To return to the example of the castle and the throne, we are all born with ourselves on the throne. This translates into an inborn, natural inclination to sin. This inclination is itself sin. So we are sinners before we actually commit a sinful thought, word, or deed. We need God to both forgive our sinful deeds, and to incline our being towards righteousness.
Tuesday, March 25, Day Eighteen
Morning - Psalm 74, Genesis 40, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Evening - Psalm 73, Jeremiah 7:21-29, Mark 10:32-45
Again we see Christ's full knowledge of what awaits Him in
Jerusalem. He is going there intentionally to face the
cross. The disciples fear to go, but
Christ faces the ordeal with calm assurance.
He has come to give His life as the ransom for many. He will not turn away at this hour.
Our hearts are so deceitful. If we listen to them they will convince us that our sins are really virtues. They will lead us to spend our time on small issues and miss the major things in our lives. They will attempt to make us focus intensely on one sinful action, and miss the general ungodly direction of our whole life. We often spend too much time trying to remedy our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, without working on their source; without changing the sinfulness in our nature that causes the sinful actions. This is the cause of the failure of all human attempts to make the world a better place. We try to educate people to do better, we use social engineering to redistribute wealth and equalize status and opportunity, and we pass laws enforcing peace and tolerance, only to find that people continue in the same old ways of oppression, greed, and strife. Why? Because we have not changed their nature. We have not dealt with the one issue that is the root and cause of all the others. We have not made them righteous. Indeed, we cannot make them righteous. We cannot make ourselves righteous. Only the Spirit of God can change the hearts of sinful people and give us the desire to dethrone ourselves and enthrone God.
Wednesday, March 26, Day Nineteen
Morning - Psalm 75, Psalm 76, Genesis 41:1-22, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Evening - Psalm 77, Jeremiah 8:4-13, Mark 10:46
"And they came to
Jericho" (Mk. 10:46) is a significant statement, for
it marks Christ's progress toward Jerusalem. He has been dwelling in Perea, from whence He
has made journeys into Judea, Galilee, and
other areas. But this trip is
different. He is now going to Jerusalem to be the
sacrificial Lamb of God. On the way He
demonstrates His authority yet again.
The blind son of Timeus calls to Him and pleads for his sight. Bartimeus knows something about Jesus, for he
calls Him, "Son of David," a name full of Messianic
expectations. Jesus is the Messiah who
goes into Jerusalem
to ascend to His throne, but the cross is the way to the throne.
Our natural unrighteousness is “sin,” but what is “a sin?” A sin is any thought, word, or deed that is inconsistent with the will and nature of God as revealed in Christ and recorded in the Holy Bible. Obviously, the Bible speaks clearly about some sins. The Ten Commandments and Moral Law of the Old Testament are the will of God for our lives, and any breach of their letter or spirit is sin. In other places, God gives principles of righteousness. The Bible cannot address every situation of every life, so God gives general principles of righteousness, which we are to employ in our daily lives and situations. The Bible will not tell you who you should marry, but it gives many principles for choosing an appropriate spouse and living the married life. The Bible does not tell you your calling in life. It does lay down clear principles of godly business conduct and industry, which you must apply to your career choices and practices. Failure to keep these laws and principles is sin. Thus, anything that goes against the letter or spirit of the Bible is sin.
Thursday, March 27, Day Twenty
Morning - Psalm 85, Genesis 41:25-40, 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
Evening - Psalm 80, Jeremiah 9:2-16, Mark 11:12-26
Again Scripture marks the progress of our Lord toward
Bethpage and Bethany are on the road that leads
from Jericho to Jerusalem.
The Mount of Olives is on the east side of Jerusalem
and the city. From there Christ could
view the Temple,
symbol of His presence and sacrifice. To
put the events in their proper sequence, Jesus traveled from Jericho
through Bethphage to arrive in Bethany
on the Friday before Passover, probably in the year 28. He remained in Bethany
for the Sabbath and went into Jerusalem
on Sunday in what has been called "The Triumphal Entry" which is
recorded in today's reading. The crowds
who greeted Him with palm branches were the pilgrims traveling to, or already
for Passover. The Triumphal Entry is a bold announcement that Jesus has come to
Jerusalem. It is also a bold acceptance of the fate that
awaits Him. He does not go in
secret. He does not hide in fear. He goes into the city boldly, as a King to
His Throne, and, at the same time, as a Lamb to the Slaughter. Having made His
Triumphal Entry, Jesus returned to Bethany
for the night.
We have been talking about Lent, and the things we do in this season of the Church Year. I pray we have seen that it has never been our objective to simply add another season to the calendar or to create a pretty ritual or ceremony. Our objective is to always to apply ourselves to holiness. So, in Lent, we intentionally put aside some of the things that normally claim our attention, and apply ourselves to seeking God. We turn aside from some of the pleasures of life. They may be good and lawful pleasures, but we lay them aside, not to say “I gave them up for Lent," but to spend the time we normally spend in those pleasures seeking God. Of course we also spend the Lenten season in turning away from the ungodly things we have allowed into our lives. For the first half of Lent we have talked about recognizing sin, confessing sin, and turning away from sin, and this is an essential part of holiness. I sincerely pray that we have all applied ourselves to this during this time of Lent. But holiness also means to embrace godliness. Lent, then, is a time to apply ourselves to the positive actions and attitudes that are so much a part of holy living. One of the most important of these is prayer
Friday, March 28, Day Twenty-one
Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 79, Genesis 42:1-38, 1 Corinthians 11:17
Evening - Psalm 86, Jeremiah 9:17-24, Mark12:1-12
Our Lord was no passive victim. He rode into
Jerusalem as a King to His Throne, and He
took the battle to His enemies. The
parable of the vineyard is a direct confrontation and condemnation of the empty
religion of the priests and Pharisees. They are the husbandmen and
groundskeepers who tend the vineyard of the Lord, which is Israel. But they have assumed ownership of the
vineyard. So when the Owner, which is
God, sends servants, the prophets, to them to collect His due, they beat them and
kill them. Finally the Owner sends His
Son, Jesus. But rather than reverencing
the Son, they kill Him and cast Him out of the vineyard. Christ also spoke of the stone rejected by
the builders, which becomes the chief cornerstone. The religious leaders were building a
building that was not of God. When the
Son came to them they rejected Him, but He became the chief cornerstone of the
new Temple, the
Church. These parables refer to the
crucifixion of Christ and show the determination and faith with which He
embraced the cross, that we might be saved.
Lent is a time of prayer. And prayer is so essential to following Christ in holy living that we can say with certainty that to be a Christian is to be a person of prayer. Yet many do not understand prayer, and it is to our shame that most Christians see prayer as a time to ask God for blessings, and as a way to manipulate God. Actually prayer is much deeper than this. Prayer is nothing less than acknowledging the presence of God. It is, as The Homilies remind us, quoting
St. Augustine, “a lifting
up of the mind to God … a humble and lowly pouring out of the heart to God.”
The same sermon, quoting Isidorus, calls prayer, “an affection of the heart and
not a labor of the lips,” It is, “the
inward groaning and crying of the heart to God” (The Homilies, p. 234). Real
prayer is not so much seeking things from God, as it is seeking God
This understanding of prayer moves beyond the mechanical, I ask-God gives, view of prayer. It also answers the ancient question, “why pray?” Why pray? We might as well ask why talk to a loved one? How can we say we love someone, yet not want to converse with him? What kind of relationship is conducted without communication, without communion? Those who love God will long for Him, will enjoy pouring out their hearts to Him in prayer, will earnestly desire to acknowledge His presence. Indeed, if prayer were only asking for things, it would be an exercise in futility. God knows all things. He knows our needs better than we know them ourselves. But if prayer is anything like the descriptions above, we know why we pray.
Saturday, March 29, Day Twenty-two
Morning - Psalm 89:1-19, Genesis 43: 1-34, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Evening - Psalm 103, Jeremiah 10:1-13, Mark 12:13-17
The priests and Pharisees would have gladly taken Jesus to the edge of the city and stoned Him. But the people who had come with Him into
Jerusalem were convinced
He was the Messiah, and would have freed Him by force. Thus, the religious leaders feared the people
(12:12). So they sought to trick Him
into saying something that would turn the people against Him. Divide and conquer. If Jesus was the Messiah, according to the
current Jewish views, He was there to organize the Jews into an army to drive
the Romans into the sea. It is certain
that both Romans and Jews were present at this questioning, so any slip of the
tongue would result in disaster for Christ.
If He appeared to take a non-aggressive stance toward the Romans, the
people would desert Him, leaving Him vulnerable to the attack of the
Pharisees. If He appeared to condone
rebellion against the Romans, He could be starting a war that would cost the
lives of millions.
It is a decisive moment for Christ. One word from Him will bring the Jews to violent revolution. He could lead them. He could give them victory. He had that power. He could establish a worldly Kingdom without going to the cross. He could give them what they want, and save Himself all the agony of the garden, the cross, and the grave. We have to realise that Jesus knew all of this. Yet He turned not aside from His purpose. He considered the temptation no more here than He did in the wilderness during His forty days of fasting. He rejected the opportunity to be a worldly Messiah. He embraced the cross.
How do I pray? Pray the Bible. Does the Bible say we are to be holy as Christ is holy? Pray for holiness. Does the Bible say love others as Christ has loved us? Pray that God will help you love. Does the Bible invite people to come to Jesus? Pray that millions will come today. Pray for God’s glory to be known around the world. Pray that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Christ. Pray that souls will be saved and lives will be changed. Pray that transformed people living transformed lives will be as salt and light in their homes and communities. Pray that the
may boldly proclaim His truth. Pray that
its ranks will swell so that all the church buildings in all the earth cannot
hold it. Pray for the clergy and the
people, the young and the old the rich and the poor, for all people in all
places. Church of Christ
March 16, 2014
March 17, Day Eleven
Morning - Psalm 39, Genesis 27:1-29, 1 Corinthians 5
Evening - Psalm 50, Jeremiah 4:23, John 10:11-21
The Good Shepherd is Jesus who gives His life for His sheep. Jesus knows His fate and walks without hesitation toward the cross. People have been tempted to reduce Jesus to a mere social/religious reformer who was killed for His efforts. But Jesus makes it clear that His death was an intentional sacrifice for us. No one took His life from Him; He laid it down of His own accord to bring His people into one fold, which is His Church. We must not read verses16 and 18 without also reading verses 4 and 5. Christ came to lay down His life for His sheep. His sheep know His voice, follow Him, and will not follow another. These aspects of God's sacrifice and human response are essential elements of the Gospel of Christ.
Self examination is an honest look at the whole tenor of our lives. We have looked at the way it includes attitudes and thoughts, now we finally look at the self examination of our actions. Are they sinful? Do they honor God? Do we sin by inaction; by failing to do what we know we should? In more Biblical language, do we hear and follow the voice of Christ? Do we flee from the hirelings, the thieves and the predators? Or do we happily follow them to our doom?
March 18, Day Twelve
Morning - Psalm 41, Genesis 27:30-40, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Evening - Psalm 51, Jeremiah 5:1-9, John 10:22-38
John 10:22 finds Jesus in
Jerusalem for the Feast of
Dedication, known to us as Hanukah. The
"Jews" of this passage are the religious leaders who live in Judea and who oppose Jesus because He is a threat to
their power and money. Two things stand
out in this passage. First, Jesus gives
eternal life to His sheep (10:28). Jesus
is stating again His reason for coming to this planet. He came to lay down His life for His sheep,
so we can have eternal life in Heaven with Him.
We see His face set boldly toward the cross, never faltering, never
turning aside, always moving toward it with faith and determination. Second, we see a clear statement of His
Divinity. He calls The Father "My
Father," and says, "I and the Father are one" (10:30). The Jews understood this as what it was, a
direct answer to their question, and a claim to be nothing less than God
Himself (10:31). Again it is stated that
His sheep hear His voice and follow Him, while those who are not His sheep do
not hear Him or believe in Him (10:26).
Let us hear His voice.
We have not completed our self-examination until we have also given serious attention to our motives for doing what we do, for our motives are at least as important as the things we do. The Pharisees spent hours in prayer and fasting, and gave extravagantly to the
Temple and synagogue, yet Christ had no
praise for their actions (Mt. 23:14).
Why? Their motives were
wrong. They did it to be known for doing
it, rather than for God. James tells us
one reason God refuses to give what we ask in prayer is that we ask amiss, for
the wrong motives, that we may consume it upon our own lust, rather than for
the glory of God (Jas.4:1-3). Simon
wanted power to bestow the Holy Ghost, but his motives were impure (Acts
8:18-21). It is difficult to honestly
examine our motives, yet we cannot really begin to confess and repent until we
know what motivates us in our daily activities.
March 19, Day Thirteen
Morning - Psalm 56, Genesis 27:46-28:22, 1 Corinthians 6:12
Evening - Psalm 65 and 67, Jeremiah 5:10-19, John 11:1-16
John 11 finds Jesus going back into
He had left the area to stay in Perea, east of the Jordan River, though
He traveled widely during this time, making trips to Galilee and Judea. Much of
this time was spent teaching the Twelve, but He also took time to preach and
teach the multitudes that followed Him.
In today's reading, He crosses again into Judea
to raise Lazarus, showing that He has power over death. This is an important step on Christ's journey
to the cross. He has already said that
He lays His life down of His own accord and no man can take it from Him (see
Jn. chapter 10). Now He shows His power
over physical death. There is no doubt
about Lazarus' death (11:14). Our Lord waited for him to die before going to
him because He wanted to show His authority one more time before going to the
cross. In a sense, Lazarus represents the spiritual condition of all people
apart from Christ. We are as dead toward
God as Lazarus was toward this world.
And we are as unable to give life to our souls as Lazarus was to give
life to his flesh. Christ came to give
us life by laying down His own for ours.
In another sense, the raising of Lazarus is proof that Jesus lays down
His life of His own free will. If He can
raise Lazarus, He can keep His own flesh alive, and no human treachery or power
is able to take His life from Him. This
will be important for His disciples to remember when He is dead and in the
tomb. He gave His life. He allowed this
to happen to Him. This was an
intentional act on His part. We must
never read the raising of Lazarus without also remembering the tenth chapter of
What do we do in Lent? Lent is simply a time of seeking God. It is simply a time of intentional holy living. This requires that we turn away from sin and turn to God. We generally call this process repentance. We cannot repent of sin unless we first find the sin in our lives. We find sin through an intense process of self examination. We simply put our lives under the microscope of God’s word to discern where we are missing the mark. Once we find our sin, we must admit it. The Bible's term for this is confession, which simply and profoundly means to agree with God. In confession we agree with God about our sin. We agree that we are sinners. We agree that we have sin in our lives. We don’t cover it up. We don’t ignore it. We admit it is there, and we face it. Without this, repentance is impossible, and without repentance we have no part in Christ.
March 20, Day Fourteen
Morning - Psalm 62, Genesis 29:1-13, 18-20, 1 Corinthians 7:1-17
Evening - Psalm 66, Jeremiah 5:20, John 11:17-27
Verse 17 is the proof of Lazarus' death. He was in the tomb four days. We will find this proved again when they open his tomb and know the truth of Martha's words, "he stinketh." Jesus wanted everyone to know without doubt, "Lazarus is dead." If he is not dead, Christ's words in John 11:25 are meaningless. What power is required to wake a man that is merely sleeping? Cannot any mere mortal do that? But to restore life to this stinking, rotting corpse requires power no mortal can possess. He is the resurrection and the life. Therefore, those who believe in Him, though they were dead in their souls as well as their flesh, will live, and those who live in their souls through His gift of eternal life, will never die.
We are experts at justifying our actions. If we are disrespectful to someone, we convince ourselves he deserved it. If we fail to seek God in prayer and Bible study we convince ourselves we just don’t have time. If we fail to worship God, we say Sunday is my only time to rest, or play, or _____ (fill in the blank). If we fail to keep the spirit or the letter of God's commandments we tell ourselves we have some special excuse, or convince ourselves it is the commandments, rather than ourselves, that are wrong.
In stark contrast, true confession admits that sin is sin. Confession agrees with God that my sin is disobedience to God. My sin causes hurt to others. My sin wrecks my relationship to God and prevents me from experiencing the full joy of Christ. My sin embarrasses the cause of Christ on earth. My sin brings shame on the name of Christ’s Church. My sin is a stumbling block to others. My sin contributes to the general malaise of this sin-sick world, and because of my sin I am as much a cause of the problem as any other person, and apart from the grace of God in Christ, there is in me no good thing.
March 21, Day Fifteen
Morning - Psalm 95, Genesis 32:22-31, 1 Corinthians 8
Evening - Psalm 69, Jeremiah 6:1-8, John 11:28-44
John 11:37 voices the question that was on everyone's mind as they gathered at the grave of Lazarus. "Could not this man [Jesus] ... have caused that even this man [Lazarus] should not have died?" Jesus had healed the sick, caused the blind to see and made the lame to walk, why didn't He keep Lazarus alive? This reminds us of the question, if God is so good, why does He allow suffering and death? The answer is that the only way to prevent suffering and death is to create unthinking robots following a given program. Freedom requires the ability to make wrong choices, and do wrong things, and to suffer the consequences of them.
But Jesus allowed Lazarus to die for a much greater reason. Lazarus died so Jesus could show that His power is much greater than simply the ability to heal the living. He can actually raise the dead. He can give life to a decaying corpse as easily as He can multiply bread and fish, or still the storm, or heal the blind. He is the Lord of Life, and if He can raise the dead, He can surely keep Himself alive. Thus His crucifixion is an intentional act of self sacrifice. He lays down His life; no man takes it from Him. He lays it down for us.
Confession means to agree with God that our sin makes us worthy of the wrath of God. We acknowledge that we deserve to be punished, and that God is righteous when He judges us guilty. King David was told a story about a thief who stole the single lamb of a poor man. David became livid with righteous indignation. He wanted to execute justice on the thief. Then the prophet said to the King, “Thou art the man.”
David saw that the sins of the thief deserved punishment, and was willing to be the hand of God to deliver the thief unto death. When he learned that he was the thief he had to admit that his guilt made him worthy of death, and of the wrath of man and God. All of us, when we are honest, agree that certain acts require restitution and retribution. If this is true of our sins against other people, should our crimes against the Righteous and Holy King of Heaven go unpunished? Confession admits that we are sinners, and that our sins alone have justly placed us under the wrath of God.
March 21, Day Sixteen
Morning - Psalm 63, Genesis 35:1-7, 16-20, 1 Corinthians 9:1-14
Evening - Psalm 72, Jeremiah 6:9-21, John 11:45
Will Jesus come to the feast? This question is on the lips of all in
as they prepare for the Feast of the Passover (Jn. 11:56). The chief priests and Pharisees are there,
along with the devout Jews from Israel
and the all Roman Empire. The conflict of the
priests and Pharisees with Jesus, and their intent to take Him is well known
(Jn. 11:57). It is also known that Jesus
has been staying in Perea on the east side of the Jordan,
and that He has made trips into Israel,
as He did to raise Lazarus. Caiaphas'
words show the deadly intent of the religious leaders (Jn. 11:50). John 11:53
shows their unanimity of purpose. Thus,
for Jesus to come to the Feast is to face certain death. It is to accept the cross, or, more
correctly, to embrace it. The moment He
crosses the Jordan
His fate is sealed, and He knows it.
One of our great problems is our ability to look at ourselves and say, “I’m not so bad. My sins aren’t so bad. I’m really O.K.” You may be familiar with the parody of that great Gospel song, “Love Lifted Me.” You recall that the song begins with the words, “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore.” The parody says, “I was sinking deep in sin, yipeeee!” This makes sin something to be joked about and winked at. It carries the assumption that it really isn’t sin. Today many reject the idea of sin. Even clergy and denominations say sin isn’t sin. It sometimes seems that the only “sin” left is to call sin “sin.”
By contrast, confession agrees that sin is sin. Confession agrees that God hates sin, I hate sin, and I hate my sin. If sin is as wicked as the Bible portrays it, we should not be surprised to learn that the One who is of purer eyes than to look upon it hates sin. He hates it for all the suffering and death it has caused. He hates it for putting children to bed at night in fear and hunger. He hates it for making the streets of our cities crime-filled death traps. He hates it for the abuse it causes, and for the way it causes us to use and discard people like paper plates. He hates it for the wars and oppression, and crime, and hate, and grief and loss it has caused through the blood stained millennia of human history. Do we not hate this sin? And do we hate, not just sin in general, but our own sins in particular? Can we not say with tears the General Confession of our Communion Service, “the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable?” Repentance is not complete until we confess, and confession is not complete until we learn to hate our sin as God hates it. God help us to confess our sin.
March 9, 2014
Monday, March 10, Day Five
Morning - Psalm 36, Genesis 24:1-27, 1 Corinthians 3:1-17
Evening - Psalm 42, Psalm 43, Jeremiah 3:19, John 9:1-23
Commentary, John 9:1-23
John 9 records the healing of a blind man. Still in
Jerusalem, our Lord has left the Temple where His rebuke
of the empty religion of the Pharisees ended in their attempt to kill Him. Outside of the
sees a blind man to whom He restores sight.
Sight and light in this passage are spiritual words, referring to a
condition of the soul more than of the body.
Christ came to give sight to the spiritually blind and light to those
who dwell in spiritual darkness. Temple He
It is important to know that we cannot heal our own blindness or give light to our darkness. Only Christ can do this, and Lent does not replace or add to His redemptive work. Lent is a concentrated attempt to gratefully practice the principles of holy living. In Christ we who were blind have been given sight, and in Lent we devote ourselves to "seeing" Christ. We divert our gaze from other things to look upon the beauty of God. In Lent we intentionally practice holiness. We set aside the time to do the things we should always be doing, but sometimes allow to be crowded out of our lives. Emphasizing these things during Lent does not excuse their neglect at other times, of course. But in Lent we make a special point of doing them.
Tuesday, March 11, Day Six
Morning - Psalm 37:1-24, Genesis 24:28-38, 49-51-67, 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5
Evening - Psalm 46, Psalm 47, Jeremiah 4:1-9, John 9:24-41
Commentary, John 9:24-41
In John 9:35-38 we see the conclusion toward which Christ is leading the blind man. That is, the restoration of his spiritual sight. Now the man can say, "Lord, I believe." Now he can worship Christ as His Lord and God. The Pharisees, however, remain in their blindness. They refuse to see their sin.
One of the things we emphasize in Lent is repentance. We make a great point of turning away from sin and turning to God. Before we can repent of sin we must find our sin, and Lent is a time for finding the sin in our lives. It is a time to put our lives under the microscope to find the tiny flaws, and to stand back far enough to see the giant holes. Returning to our example of a journey, finding our sin is like checking the compass to determine the present course of our lives.
When we do this we will always notice a discrepancy between our professed ideals, and our practice in real life. For example, we may say that our goal in life is to live for Christ, but our actions might show that our real goal is to be a world champion sports fan. Obviously, this self examination is more than simply asking if a certain action is a sin or not. We are talking about a serious, intense, and honest look at the way we really live our lives.
Wednesday, March 12, Day Seven
Morning - Psalm 26, Ezekiel 2, Matthew 9:1-13
Evening - Psalm 4, Psalm 16, Ezekiel 3:16, 2 Corinthians 4
Commentary, Matthew 9:1-13
Matthew 9 finds our Lord again in dispute with the Pharisees. The climax of today's reading is verse 13, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The Pharisees' values were wrong. They valued show and pomp. Jesus values real faith and obedience. His concern is that sinners (and that is all of us) are running to hell with all their strength. His concern is to save us from the awful consequences of actually and eternally reaching that goal. He not only calls sinners to repent, but also gives Himself as the ransom for our sins.
One of the things we give ourselves to in Lent is the serious examination of our values. We will honestly ask and answer probing questions about them. What do I value in life? How do I know that I value it? How are my values formed? What do I allow to shape my values? Do I value humbleness, kindness, honesty, and integrity? What personality traits do I value in others? In myself?
Thursday, March 13, Day Eight
Morning - Psalm 37, Psalm 26, Genesis 25:28, 1 Corinthians 4:6
Evening - Psalm 49, Jeremiah 11:22, John 10:1-10
Commentary, John 10:1-10
We find in John 10 the contrast between the Good Shepherd and the false shepherds that abound always. The Good Shepherd is Christ, who comes for the benefit of His sheep, even at the cost of His own life. He is the door through whom His sheep go in and out, and find "pasture." The false shepherds come to fleece the flock; the Good Shepherd comes to save the flock. Following Christ's journey to the cross is a constant reminder that He died to save us. He gave His life to save His sheep. There is in this passage another issue, namely the question of whose sheep we are. Christ's sheep know His voice and follow Him. They will not follow another. Whose voice do we follow?
Self examination is tough, but necessary. It requires us to be brutally honest with ourselves, which is why few people actually do it. It also requires us to be thorough. We must look below the surface, meaning we examine things like attitudes as well as actions. Attitudes are mind sets and values upon which actions are based. Do I have attitudes of self-importance, looking out for number one, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, anger, grudge bearing? What must I change that I may have more of an attitude of Godliness?
Friday, March 14, Day Nine, Ember Day
Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 84, Ezekiel 34:1-16, Matthew 10:24-42
Evening - Psalm 77, Ezekiel 37:1-14, I Timothy 4
Commentary, Matthew 10:24-42
We are often surprised at the world's reaction to the Gospel. Knowing it is the way of life, of Heaven, and of God's love given to us, we are surprised that people reject it, and love darkness rather than light. More surprising, however, is the tenacity with which we who claim to love and follow Christ still cling to our sins and resist the holy influences of the Word and Spirit of God. Christ Himself, in today's reading from Matthew, calls us to a life-style of holiness and radical commitment to Him. This requires a constant effort to find and expel sin in our lives and to replace it with Godliness.
Self examination is the attempt to find our sins. In this we are not content to look at actions alone. From them we move to our internal thoughts and habits. Habits are just the ways we respond to life. They have become so ingrained in us that we do them without thinking. Habits can be good, or bad. We can have a habit of laziness, or a habit of industry. We may have a habit of not listening to others, of aggressive driving, or of unedifying mannerisms or speech. Take time to examine your habits of life by the light of God's word.
Today is the second of the Spring Ember Days when we pray for the ministers of Christ's Church and ask Him to call men into the ministry of the Gospel. The Collect for The Ember Days is found on page 260 of the Prayer Book:
"O Almighty God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Saturday, March 15, Day Ten, Ember Day
Morning - Psalm 101, Ezekiel 34:1-16, 2 Timothy 2:1-15
Evening - Psalm 19, Psalm 23, Ezekiel 37:21, 1 Timothy 6:6
Commentary, 1 Timothy 6:6
"Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3). How many Christians think of themselves as soldiers of Christ called to endure hardness? Do we not think more in terms of the hardness Christ endured for our sakes than of enduring it for Him? Do we not tend to think of Christ more as a life enhancing commodity than a King leading His army into the field of battle? Perhaps this is why so little real self-examination occurs in today's Church.
Self-examination requires us to honestly examine our thoughts. What do I think about most during the day? What do I think about when I have free time? Are my thoughts about getting more toys? Having more fun? Advancing my career? Chocolate? Notice, these can be good. It is good to enjoy God's blessings, to advance our careers, and to have fun. And I am certain God has nothing against chocolate. But do we also think about God, the Scriptures, holiness? Do we see ourselves as called to endure hardness for Christ? Do we ever think that some of the things to which we devote ourselves may actually impede our service as soldiers of the cross?
March 5, 2014
March 5, Day One; Ash Wednesday
Morning - Psalm 32, Psalm 143, Isaiah 58:1-12, Hebrews 12:1-14
Evening - Psalm 102, Psalm 130, Jonah 3 & 4, Luke 15:10-32
Commentary, Luke 15:10-32
The Gospel readings for Lent will follow the life and ministry of Christ as He makes His unrelenting progress toward
and the cross. We begin with a reminder
of the reason Christ has come to earth, and why He is going to the cross. He has come to save sinners. The story of the Prodigal Son expresses the
joy of God over every person who repents of sin and returns to God. The parable is an illustration of the truth
of Luke 15:10, "Likewise, I say unto to you, there is joy in the presence
of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
The Scripture readings for today appropriately begin with the words of Psalm 32 "Blessed is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered." The reading from Isaiah reminds us that the true fast is a fast from sins, "to loose the bands of wickedness." Hebrews continues this theme saying, "let us lay aside... the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." What wonderful words these are to begin the season of Lent, a season of seeking God and intentional rooting sin out of our lives. Lent is a season of repentance.
March 6, Day Two
Morning - Psalm 27, Genesis 19:1-28, 1 Cor. 1:1-17
Evening - Psalm 29, Psalm 30, Jeremiah 1:4-10-19, John 8:1-11
Commentary, John 8:1-11
The woman taken in adultery shows the great mercy of God. He rejoices over every sinner that repents. He forgives every sin. He wants only life and good things for His people. We would expect Him to cast the first stone. It was His Law that required death for the crime. He is the One who cannot look upon sin. Yet His words, like His actions, are those of grace and forgiveness. "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more." The reading encourages us to seek this God of Grace. If this woman can be forgiven, will He not also forgive us?
Perhaps you are new to the practice of Lent. If so, you may wonder, why Lent? It is true that the Bible says nothing of Lent, but it does in many places encourage the things we do in Lent. The Christian's goal is to spend every day in the closest devotion and fellowship with God. In practice, other things often crowd out this goal. It is important, therefore, to set aside time for the specific purpose of reconnecting to God. Some traditions do this through “Revival Meetings.” Some use religious “retreats” and "conferences." We in the Anglican Orthodox Church do this in the forty days prior to Easter, the time called Lent. The Collect for Ash Wednesday sets forth our goal in a beautiful and Biblical prayer, which we pray every day during the Lenten Season:
"Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
There is logic in the flow of the Church Calendar, as there is logic in the Scripture readings for each season. Advent begins a time of serious study of the life and ministry of Christ. Advent leads to Christmas. Christmas leads to Epiphany. Epiphany leads to Lent. Lent leads to Good Friday and Easter. All of these follow major events in the ministry of Christ. Lent itself follows Christ as He sets His face toward Jerusalem and the cross.
March 7, Day Three
Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 40:1-16, Genesis 21:9-21, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Evening - Psalm 31, Jeremiah 2:1-13, John 8:12-36
Commentary, John 8:12-36
The reading from John 8 shows the intent of Christ to go to Jerusalem. He knew He was "the way the truth and the life," who had come into the world to liberate His people from our bondage to sin (verse 34). "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." He also knew the only way He could free us was by giving Himself to bear our sins and die for them on the cross. This is the reason He came to this earth, to be lifted up on the cross (Jn. 8:28). In Lent we follow Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem to be lifted up for our sins. But we do not follow as spectators. We follow as His disciples. He has purchased our freedom with His own blood, now live in His freedom. Like the ancient Hebrews, liberated from their bondage at Passover, we intentionally leave the land of our bondage. We intentionally stop serving sin and start serving Christ. This is called, "repentance."
There are two aspects of repentance. The first is turning away from sin. Perhaps “turning away” is not a strong enough word. Renouncing may describe it more accurately. In contemporary lingo we might say, “Trash it.” Throw it into the garbage can. The word really means to turn around. It means to change the direction of life. If we think of this in terms of a journey, we can imagine being side tracked, getting off course, getting lost. When that happens, a change of direction is necessary to get us to our destination. Likewise in the Christian life, we often get off course. We follow the devices and desires of our own hearts, which often lead us away from God, and we need to change our direction, and turn back to God. Lent is a time to change direction.
March 8, Day 4
Morning - Psalm 28, Genesis 22:1-19, 1 Corinthians 2
Evening - Psalm 34, Jeremiah 3:11-18, John 8:45-59
Commentary, John 8:45-59
In John 8 Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. During this time He faces direct opposition from the priests and Pharisees, even an attempt to murder Him (Jn. 8:59). He will leave Jerusalem soon, to return again in chapter 12. The irony of this passage is that the people who claimed to know God most completely could not recognise Him when He stood before them. When He told them who He was (verse 58), they refused Him. They were going in the wrong spiritual direction, and were determined to continue in it.
We turn now to the second part of true repentance, which is also a major emphasis of Lent; turning to God. Our goal is single-minded devotion to God. If we are going in the wrong direction, it is not enough to simply change to another course. If we are in a boat heading due north, but need to go due south to reach our harbour, it is not good enough to turn to a south easterly heading. We must get on the correct course to reach our port. Likewise, it will not do to turn away from one sin only to embrace another, or to turn from a life of open wickedness to one of outward piety with no redirection of the heart and affections. To do so is to simply change our clothes while God requires us to change our hearts. If we imagine our lives as castles, and our hearts as thrones, we may legitimately ask, who rules the castle? Who sits on the throne of our lives? In sin we rule. We make the decisions. We choose the life orientation. In true repentance, we dethrone ourselves and enthrone God. He becomes our King, our Sovereign, our ruler. Lent is a special time spent intentionally enthroning God.