Saturday, March 4, 2017 | Clothe Yourself in Love

Reflection |

All of our reflections for this week have been focused on preparing our hearts for the new series that will begin this Sunday called, The 40 Day Challenge. Our goal has been to begin thinking about our focus for this series. Over the next forty days, how can we more clearly live into this vision where Christ becomes greater in our lives and we become less?

Today’s reading from Colossians reminds us that this is not an individual journey. It is one that is meant to be shared in the context of a community of brothers and sisters who are also seeking to live in the will and way of Christ. Our progress towards this vision is in many ways dependent on the way in which the virtues and character of Christ are lived out in our relationships with one another. Do you hear that in today’s scripture reading?

Paul talks about compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. The imagery that Paul uses here encourages us to carefully consider the “clothing” that we choose to wear every single day. “Put on love” Paul says.

Today I want to encourage you to spend a few moments this morning thinking about those who have modeled these virtues for you. Our growth does not happen in isolation. It grows out of relationship. Whose practice of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love has helped you grow in these practices? Take a moment to offer God thanks for those relationship as you prepare for today’s challenge.

Challenge for Today |

Identify a culture of someone you know that is different than yours. Ask the person about their culture. Be genuinely interested. Research the culture and find at least two positive attributes of that way of life. Pray for that person, and try to refrain from thinking of them as “other” or as different from you.

Prayer |

Holy and loving God, today I want to give you thanks and praise for the people in my life who have taught me about each of the virtues that are encouraged in today’s scripture. Thank you for planting those seeds in my life through these faithful servants. I want to do for others as others have done for me so guide me this day to living out the ideals that express the heart and character of Jesus. AMEN.

Thursday, March 2, 2017 | Jesus Shares the Good News

Thursday, March 2, 2017 | Jesus Shares the Good News

Scripture – Luke 4:14–21 | 14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Reflection | Today’s reading comes from the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in Luke’s Gospel. After his testing in the wilderness Jesus returns to the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee, a large lake in the northern area of Israel. Traveling around the lake and visiting the villages surrounding that body of water, the ministry of Jesus begins and is received according to verse 15 with praise. In verse 16 we are told that Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth which would have been a fairly significant journey on foot to the west of Galilee. In the synagogue of his youth he reads from Isaiah and causes quite a stir when he proclaims at the end of this reading, “today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

” You can read more about the response of his hometown crowd in verses 20–30 of the fourth chapter who are not quite ready to acknowledge that the boy who had grown up before their very eyes was in fact the Messiah.
The significance of today’s reading is what it says about how Jesus saw as the core purpose and passion of his ministry. Listen again to the emphasis that is highlighted in this reading from Isaiah. Jesus came to “

proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

I heard one pastor say it this way. “If it’s not good news for the poor, it’s not the good news of Jesus.” Let’s take a moment to consider today what that means for us individually and for our life together for our faith family. What I heard this pastor articulate was the idea that if our new life in Christ does not naturally lead us to reaching out to the poor (whether that be in spirit or in resources), to the marginalized, forgotten and broken among us, then we have missed something significant in our understanding of the good news of Christ. The Gospel, in other words, should prompt us individually and together as the church into action on behalf of others.

It is this thought and teaching that leads us to our challenge for today. This may be a difficult one for you. Before you begin your day, spend a few moments with God asking him to direct you to a particular person you might reach out to today.

Challenge for Today |

Think of the least-acknowledged, unpopular, marginalized person that you know. Reach out to them today with a smile, hug or note of kindness. Pray for them all day.

Prayer |

Holy and loving God, help me to open my eyes today to see those that I might easily overlook and to give attention to those that I might otherwise unintentionally ignore. Give me your heart today Lord Jesus. As you came to seek the least, the last and the lost, direct me to be a blessing to those who I have the chance to interact with this day. AMEN.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 | Our 40 Day Journey Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first official day in the season of Lent. This evening we will gather in our sanctuary for our Ash Wednesday service at 6:30pm which will conclude with what is known as the “imposition of Ashes.” All those in attendance will be invited forward where one of our leaders will make the sign of the cross on either your forehead or the back of your hand speaking to you these words: “Be forgiven of your sins.”

The purpose behind the Ashes is to remind us of our sin and our frailty. The ashes remind us that, “

dust you are and to dust you will return.

” Our lives are temporary. Death and loss is a part of our human condition. Ashes are also a sign of our repentance, the recognition that all of our lives are marred by sin and our desire is to turn from our sin and live in a better way.
With the beginning of Lent, today also officially begins our 40 Day Challenge, asking the question, “How can we more clearly live into this vision where Christ becomes greater in our lives and we become less?” For the next 40 days, excluding Sundays, you will receive a specific challenge through this devotional which is meant to offer you a specific way you can practice living in the way modeled by John’s word in John 3:30, “

He must become greater, I must become less.”

Today I want to invite you to read from Luke’s Gospel as you prepare for today’s challenge.

Scripture – Luke 11:1–10 |One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Reflection |

I am encouraged by the fact that the disciples of Jesus needed instructions on how to pray. Have you ever found yourself wanting someone to give you some more detailed instructions on how to engage in this practice? I have. Prayer is a mysterious discipline. In some ways I think it was meant to be a struggle. In my own practice of prayer I have found that in the midst of that struggle what God is enabling me to do is to wrestle with what is really going on in my own heart and life. In prayer I often feel God challenging me to name my fears, to acknowledge my weakness, and to turn all of those things that I want to control over to Him. I appreciate the instruction Jesus offers here because I often need help in my prayer life. If you do as well, you are in good company.

And so today, the challenge is simply to pray the Lord’s Prayer, slowly throughout the day. Pay attention to the words. Try to soak in their meaning. As we prepare to begin this journey through Lent by acknowledging our sin and the temporary nature of our lives, let us join together in praying the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.

Challenge for Today |

Pray the Lord’s prayer slowly; morning noon and night.

Prayer |

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. AMEN.