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March 24: Unless You Repent

Read: Luke 13:1-9.
Jesus was addressing people’s questions about those who had died in tragic accidents. Did these people die because they sinned? Jesus points out that the questioners misunderstand the work of God. The people asking Jesus are in the same situation as those who died tragically. Jesus says, “. . . unless you repent, you will all perish as they did” (Luke 13:3, 5).

Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree to point out the immediate need for repentance. We can easily see the call to repentance as a requirement to be remorseful with a commitment to do better. However, biblical repentance is much more than that. It is a discovery filled with a passionate desire to have what is missing in life, God’s steadfast love (Psalm 63:1-8).

In Isaiah 55 the invitation to the free feast describes this kind of repentance, a change from hunger and poverty to being fully satisfied without want. True repentance brings not only regret but joy, a gladness that does not want to be delayed. How can repentance or being sorry for something done or said bring you joy?

Pray: God of steadfast love, my soul thirsts for you as in a dry land without water. Help me to hear your urgent call to repentance. Help me to be fully satisfied without want. Amen.


March 17: That Fox

In a surprising twist, Pharisees warn Jesus of Herod’s threats on his life. In a very candid moment, Jesus brushes aside the threat of an earthly empire. Jesus’ work is utterly too serious to be concerned with “that fox,” King Herod. Jesus characterizes his work as a hen caring for her brood of chicks while they resist her protection.

The focus of his concern is the deeper needs of people for “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35), not the powers of an empire. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “… our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The threat of earthly powers is not as important as Jesus’ (and our) mission to bring hope and protection to those who remain in darkness. Our texts this week challenge us to trust and believe this (Genesis 15:6; Psalm27; and Philippians 3:20–4:1). The Bible is filled with encouragement to trust God precisely because we can so easily turn away from God.

How do you stand firm in God’s promise and love?

Pray: Almighty God, help us to trust you alone and not to give in to the threats of those who would claim power over us. In the name of Jesus Christ, the one who came to protect us, amen.

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For March 10, 2019 - First Sunday in Lent

Jesus speaks God’s word faithfully

Read: Luke 4:1-13

This story is often called the “Temptation of Jesus.” That description focuses on Jesus’ ability to resist sin. However, the Hebrew word for “tempted” can also be translated as “tested.” This other translation is helpful since the story is more about testing Jesus to see what kind of messiah he plans to be, one who seeks personal power and prestige, or one who is faithful to the God of the Bible. When the focus is on temptation, we can easily miss how we, like the devil, can try to change Jesus into someone who serves our desires for personal importance. Both Jesus and the devil quote Scripture. We can use the Bible and our faith in unfaithful ways. Part of our sinfulness is to make Jesus into someone who serves our desires instead of the one who points us to worship and trust God to take care of our real needs. Think about or discuss how Jesus is our Savior by overcoming evil and idolatry (desire for personal power and glory) and by placing his trust in God.

Pray: Dear God, we thank you that Jesus speaks your word faithfully; help us to listen to your word and trust in you. Amen.

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Ash Wednesday

Practicing The Presence of God

Read: Psalm 51:1-17 and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, and Lent helps us to focus on what matters. Psalm 51 expresses how important forgiveness is. Forgiveness matters. In Matthew 6, Jesus points out that things we typically value, that we treasure, can easily be taken away or destroyed over time. This is true of health, fame, or material possessions. What really matters—is to be treasured—is God’s living presence in our lives. Instead of practicing our faith to get the attention of others—to gain a kind of approval—simply enjoy the intimacy of God’s presence in our lives that gives us a new heart and a new beginning daily. Enjoying God’s presence through faith practices like prayer, fasting, and service to others, helps us to experience the true treasure of life. This Lent, how could you enjoy the treasure of God’s presence in your life?

Pray: Merciful God, as we enter this Lenten season, guide our thoughts, words, and deeds to humbly receive your mercy and grace, the true treasure of life. In Jesus name, amen.

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March 3, 2019 - Transfiguration Sunday

God’s glory shines on the cross

Read: Luke 9:28-43a

The presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mountain of Transfiguration unites Jesus with the same God revealed in the Old Testament. Moses represents the law and Elijah the prophets. The two Old Testament figures speak to Jesus about his “departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (v. 31). The word for “departure” in Greek is exodus, the great act of God’s deliverance, God’s salvation in the Old Testament. Jesus’ exodus, his great act of salvation will now be fulfilled in Jerusalem through his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ dazzling white appearance shows God’s glory completed through his departure in Jerusalem. Reflect on how Jesus’ dazzling white appearance in glory is completed in what he accomplishes in Jerusalem. How does the suffering we experience today help us to experience God’s presence in our lives?

Pray: God of power and glory, help us to see your glorious presence in our lives. Be with those who are experiencing times of suffering. Amen.

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