Showing posts from March, 2019

40 Days of Lent: Day 25 verse

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,  lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ). Matthew 27:46 NIV

40 Days of Lent:: Day 25

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). That cry of dereliction is something we will never fully grasp. It was a cry within the being of the Triune God.  As I’ve heard it explained, Jesus was so marred by the sin of the entire world past, present and future, that God, the Father, had to turn his face away from his beloved Son. As I see it, he could not bear to see the depravity of the world taken on by the holy blemishless Lamb of God.  This is the only time Jesus address the “Father” as “God.” I don’t think we’ll ever know the dynamics of that moment. But, in those words, the utter desolation Jesus experienced comes through plainly. Jesus experienced the wrath that we deserved by bearing our sin.  Jesus gave up his right of intimacy with his Father. This was the reason he wept and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet, beneath it all, is the fact that Jesus endur

40 Days of Lent: Day 24 verse

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,  here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26‭-‬27 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 24

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”    and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. As Jesus hung on the cross, his sayings, thus far, have been others’ focused. He asked for forgiveness for his crucifiers. He welcomed the thief into the kingdom. And in today’s reading, he takes care of his mother, Mary, and his disciple John. Even in the torture and humiliation, Jesus did not focus on himself. He wanted to make sure his mother would be taken care of. (It’s a well-established fact that Mary’s husband, Joseph, had died by then). Jesus wanted to give his beloved disciple John the important role of caring for Mary.  Even from the cross,  Jesus let go of that which was close to his heart: his mother and his close friend . Bringing It Home What or whom I am holding on to too tightly? Is God convicting me of letting go of someone or someth

40 Days of Lent: Day 23 verse

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 23

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” The thief on the cross next to Jesus heard his cries asking for the forgiveness of those who were nailing him. He knew that there was something different about the man who hung next to him. We don’t know the turning point, but the thief says to him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” That word “kingdom” is key. The thief and certifiably “bad guy” recognized that the man who was bruised and beaten and hanging on a wooden cross was the King. He put his faith in this unlikely ruler. And Jesus accepts this convicted criminal in an instant.  Jesus gives up his right to social correctness . He lets go of any notion of what is socially acceptable or considered morally upright.  The thief put his faith in Jesus. And Jesus exchanged the thief’s filthy rags with robes of righteousness. No transaction fee charged. No questions asked.  Bringing It Home Am I holding on to some obnoxiou

40 Days of Lent: Day 22 verse

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 22

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Even as the nails were being driven into his hands and feet, Jesus was saying these words. With every blow of the hammer pounding into his fists. Were the Roman soldiers sorry? Did the Pharisees express any remorse? Did they offer an apology? No. Yet, Jesus offers forgiveness. Unilateral forgiveness or one-sided forgiveness. He didn’t need them to be sorry or ask for forgiveness.  He showed us what it means to give up your rights. Even your right for retaliation.  In doing so, he dies free from resentment. He said the words aloud to show us what it means to release people from a hold of anger and, in turn, release ourselves from the pressure cooker of bitterness. Bringing It Home Whom do I need to release in forgiveness just as Christ has forgiven me? Am I willing to let go of my right to retaliation? Am I trusting God to vindicate me and my cause? Lean In Father God, I don’t deserve the

40 Days of Lent: Day 21 verse

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. Matthew 27:32 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 21

He is mentioned only in passing. And yet he is mentioned by name in the Bible: Simon from Cyrene. While he was forced by the Roman soldiers to carry the Cross, did he also willingly decide to help Jesus? In carrying Jesus’ Cross, Simon from Cyrene became the last person to aid Jesus. He unwittingly modeled Jesus’ teaching that whoever wants to follow him, must take up their cross. In this case, it may not have been Simon’s cross, but it nevertheless cost him something. He was probably ridiculed and jeered at. He perhaps got a lashing from the Roman soldiers. The cross was, of course, heavy and the road, long. Yet, he walked with Jesus. And Jesus walked with him.  In being the last person who helped Jesus, Simon is remembered through posterity.  Undoubtedly, Simon’s life must have been forever altered.  Simon saw Jesus up close, broken and bruised, yet putting one staggering foot in front of the other. And not uttering a word in protest.  There was no way he was going to walk

40 Days of Lent: Day 20 verse

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:27‭-‬31 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 20

Sometimes, we just need to stop awhile and let the hard truth sink in.  Today’s passage doesn’t require explanations or key takeaways.  It requires deep, soulful reflection on all that Jesus endured for me. It requires that I don’t brush away the brutality of that day 2000 years ago.  It mandates that I allow the Holy Spirit to chisel away at the hardness of my heart. Some 200 soldiers gathered around the Son of God with the sole intent of humiliating and torturing him. Did you read that they had him flogged? It wasn’t an ordinary whip. Pieces of metal and bones were attached to it. Many convicted felons died when being flogged as their flesh was literally torn to shreds. Did you read of how they struck him on the head again and again? With a staff. On his head. Again and again.  Did you read of how they mocked him? After parading him in a scarlet robe, they pushed down a crown of thorns on his head. They called out hateful words and spat upon him. Today’s passage do

40 Days of Lent: Day 19 verse

While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.  “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.  “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”  “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”  When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” Matthew 27:19‭-‬24 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 19

The scene of Pilate washing his hands in front of the crowd is etched in our cultural mindsets. Pilate knew in his heart – and through his wife’s warnings – that Jesus was innocent of the charges against him. But there was little he could do to convince the angry mob to let Jesus go. He tried and tried again. And, finally, he bailed. But not without first attempting to absolve himself of responsibility. He was a powerful man in a powerful position. Pilate knew that putting his foot down – and doing the right thing – would put his position and power in jeopardy. So, he chose the path of least resistance; he played a 1st century neutral Switzerland and did not take a stand for Jesus.  In the pursuit of power, prestige and position, there are casualties - the most significant of which is our character. Bringing It Home In which areas of my life do I need to take a stand for Jesus? Where does the world take more priority over worship? Is God revealing some area of my life where I’

40 Days of Lent: Day 18 verse

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  “You have said so,” Jesus replied.  When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. Matthew 27:11‭-‬14 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 18

The One who is our Defender did not defend himself. The One who is our Intercessor did not speak up for himself. The One who is our Shield and our Fortress did not try to protect himself He chose to be vulnerable so we could have the victory. Pilate stands before the most unlikely King, torn between what he  should  do and the pressure from the crowd outside. The Roman governor goes back and forth between the belligerent mob and Jesus. He seems agitated.  In contrast, Jesus stands in perfect regality. He knows exactly what is going to happen and he is unflinching in his decision to go through with it.  In the gospel of John, Pilate asks Jesus, “Don’t you know that I have the power to either free you or to crucify you?” Jesus is completely at ease when he responds, “You have no power over me if it were not given to you.” Jesus rested in the sovereignty of God. Even though he was fully man, he didn’t allow doubts and fears to assail him  nor did he try to talk his way out of

40 Days of Lent: Day 17 verse

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” Matthew 27:6‭-‬10 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 17

I’ve always read the section about the chief priests buying the potter’s field in passing. Recently, though, the ludicrousness of it struck me. It’s almost laughable just how misguided and skewed the chief priests’ thinking was.  They didn’t want to put the blood money in the treasury for it was “against the law.” Instead, they used it for a real estate investment. The chief priests are classic examples of what it means to follow the letter of the law, but continue life with an unrelenting hardness of heart. They were concerned about appearing righteous but didn’t really care about being made righteous. They preferred distraction over contrition.    Sometimes, we just want to check off all the boxes that make us appear a certain way. We don’t allow God to address the root of the problem or to change us from the inside out. The enemy loves to keep us in this bubble of delusion so we don’t fall on our knees before God. Bringing It In In which areas am I simply playing along to

40 Days of Lent: Day 16 verse

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.  When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”  So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. Matthew 27:1‭-‬5 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 16

What a dark passage. The verdict is delivered. Jesus is bound and taken away. And, all of a sudden, Judas is filled with remorse over what he has done. He tries to assuage his guilt by returning the 30 pieces of silver. He tries owning up to his sin – but he confesses to the wrong people. In quelling his guilt, he makes a huge blunder – he doesn’t seek forgiveness from a God of grace. He tries to “fix” his sin on his own terms. He decides to take things into his own hands. Including his very life.  Remorse and regret over sin are only starting points. True brokenness and confession before God is where forgiveness – and the ensuing freedom – lies. The Bible says that  when we confess our sin God is faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  A sinful life is just a life waiting to be redeemed.  Bringing It Home Am I trying to fix my failures on my own terms? Am I coming to God with a brokenness over my sin? Do I remember that the depravity of my sin can never surpass th

40 Days of Lent: Day 15 verse

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ ”  Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”   “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” th

40 Days of Lent: Day 15

Today, we read the familiar story of Peter’s denial. Each time he is asked whether he knew Jesus, Peter grows more vehement in his rejection of him.  Peter who had earlier professed that he would lay down his life for Jesus is now scared off by a servant girl.  When the rooster crows, Peter remembers – the conviction in his heart is immediate. He weeps bitterly.  While the passage doesn’t mention it, Peter becomes the first great voice of the gospel.  Underneath his mistake were the arms of Jesus . Peter allowed the conviction of sin to strike him and he allowed the forgiveness of sin to lift him up again. I think of the verse: though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37: 24). That was Peter. And that was his faithful God. Our smallest goof-ups and blunders and our biggest, darkest sin – none of it is beyond God’s redemption. Bringing It Home Do I sometimes feel like God can’t forgive me of a certain sin? Do I feel like even if

40 Days of Lent: Day 14 verse

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.  The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ ”  Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”   “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sittin

40 Days of Lent: Day 14

Within a span of a few hours, Jesus experienced the pain and injustice that no one should have to go through. Especially not the only sinless man who ever lived. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested by a mob, deserted by his disciples, denied by Peter, paraded before a court that plied him with mocking questions and false accusations. He was attacked, blindfolded, spat upon, slapped and struck with fists. And all of this happened before he carried that cross to Golgotha. We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with us.  Jesus was tested and tempted in every way – and yet was without sin.  When we are going through tough times, it would be shallow to proclaim that “God doesn’t understand.” Because He does. He went through every physical, spiritual and emotional battle there was – and came out victorious. Bringing It Home Do I sometimes feel like God just doesn’t “get” it? What do I need to remember in those instances? What can I praise God for today? Lean In

40 Days of Lent: Day 13

But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matthew 26:56 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 13

In one fell swoop, the disciples all vanished. They fled for their lives.  Looking back from a 21st century perspective, it’s easy to assign those disciples labels of being cowardly or being deserters. But are we any different from them? What caused them to split? They panicked when the pressure mounted and they lost sight of the eternal.  The visible and the tangible filled them with dread . This, after all, was not how things were supposed to turn out, they probably reasoned. Their teacher and their Lord, whom they had followed for three years, had promised a new kingdom. An arrest by an angry mob was not in the script. We, too, allow circumstances to get too big and God to become small. We fear the unknown. We make hasty decisions instead of trusting a God who is always on time.  Bringing It Home What do I do when I’m faced by the unknown? Do I give into panic? Or do I buckle down and trust what I know to be true of God? Lean In Father, I ask that you replace my fear

40 Days of Lent: Day 12 verse

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.   “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”  In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.  But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matthew 26:50‭-‬56 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 12

The stillness of the night was broken. The peace that swept over the Garden of Gethsemane was trampled upon. A mob of angry men, carrying torchlights and weapons, came with one agenda: arresting the Son of God. There was a scuffle and one of the disciples lobbed off the ear of a soldier. There were virulent questions posed to Jesus. The mob then “grabbed Jesus and arrested him.” In the midst of this chaos, stands Jesus – a perfect example of power under control. He shows us what meekness truly is. It’s not weakness. Like Jesus says, he could easily have summoned angels to come to his aid. Yet, he chooses not to.  Despite what the outward circumstances look like – a bunch of fishermen and their teacher intimidated by a large group of armed men – Jesus was in perfect control over the situation. The Almighty, Sovereign God was demonstrating that true power is displayed in laying down your rights for a bigger purpose. Jesus was willingly laying down not only his rights, but his ve

40 Days of Lent: Day 11 verse

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”  While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.  Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. Matthew 26:45‭-‬50 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 11

It was the greatest betrayal – a sinless man being handed over to a death sentence by someone who claimed to be his friend and follower. But, in all of this, what really blows my mind is Jesus’ statement to Judas as he came accompanied by a mob of angry, misguided men. Jesus simply says, “Do what you came for, friend.” He calls Judas “friend.” I don’t believe that Jesus was using that term lightly. That’s a God of love. The Bible says in Romans that, while we were still his enemies, God reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son. The Message Bible puts it like this, “when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son.” Jesus calls us his friends, even while we continue to sin against him. Let’s see that as a call to praise him for a love that we’ll never fully comprehend. Bringing It Home How do I see my role in the narrative of reconciliation? Do I feel like I bring some element of righteousness to the deal that

40 Days of Lent: Day 10 verse

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Matthew 26:42‭-‬44 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 10

Three times. The same prayer. Jesus of course knew that each time his Father had heard him. They shared a closeness that is not humanly comprehensible. The Father and the Son were part of the Trinity, the one and the same God. So, why did Jesus go to the Father three times to say pretty much the same thing? Perhaps it was to show us that we need to  persist in prayer till we experience the rest that only he can give . Jesus did. He poured out in prayer what was pressing down on his heart. And once he found his place of joyful surrender, he got up and followed through in absolute obedience.  Like Jesus, we too have the privilege of pouring out our hearts in persistent prayer. It’s not about twisting God’s arm to get what we want. It’s about learning to yield to him more completely. And like Jesus, we rise from our knees knowing that God has heard us and that ours is the victory. Bringing It Home What is pressing down on my heart today? Am I taking it to God in prayer? Am I expe

40 Days of Lent: Day 9 verse

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40‭-‬41 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 9

“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” This was the question Jesus poses to his closest disciples as they dozed off instead of praying with him. I don’t see Jesus as being annoyed by their lethargy. His question ran deeper. He knew that these moments in the Garden of Gethsemane were crucial.  It would be a time of preparation through prayer . Preparation for the intense challenges that lay ahead.  “Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation,” he warns the three disciples whom he had called with him.  We know what comes later. When the going got tough, the disciples scattered like the wind. I can’t help but wonder : what if they, like Jesus, had wrestled in prayer till they came to a point of complete obedience and surrender?  Would they have been able to stand their ground when Jesus was arrested? Jesus knew just how fragile their faith could be. And he gave them – and gives us – the armor of prayer to guard against that fragility. Bringing It Home Wh


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:3‭-‬5 NIV


As we honestly lament before God, I believe we can look ahead— beyond today and tomorrow—to a new week or next month to a time when our pain will be resolved and our circumstances will be different.  We can look ahead to that day when Jesus Christ will come again and we will know full and complete resolution for all that ails, distresses, and confuses us.  In the hope we have for that future, we can find healing and peace. We can rest easy and well knowing that God is sovereign and that he will bring us safely home . Question: How do these promises of the future encourage you in your current circumstances?

40 Days of Lent: Day 8 verse

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.” Matthew 26:39 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 8

Today’s reading is just one verse. Yet, those few words are heavy with emotion. We see Jesus alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying out to his Father.  In the rawness of emotion, Jesus cries out, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me…” He is doubled over in anguish. We see his humanity. He is about to face unbounded physical torture. But worse than that, he knew that he would experience an isolation like never before – when his Father would turn his face away as Jesus took on the depravity and sin of the world.  And then he continues to pray. “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” It was a moment when the human and the divine come together in one of the greatest acts of love and obedience.  He who knew no sin would become sin so that we might be the righteousness of God. Unbounded grace. Undeserved favor.  No condemnation now I dread. Jesus, and all in him, is mine.  Bringing It Home What’s my response to Jesus’ obedience to God the Father? Wh


So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV


We are so fortunate that we live in the time beyond the cross. We are so incredibly blessed to know that the story of Jesus didn’t end with his death on Good Friday. Because of Easter Sunday—because of the resurrection—we know that silent or not, God held Jesus safe through Saturday. And in that, we can know that God holds us in the silence too. God holds us even if our circumstances make no sense and our despair is very great.  If we will believe and trust in that, we may be distressed, but we need not be afraid or dismayed. We need not be completely overwhelmed.  Question: How are you encouraged by the thought that God holds you in the silence?

40 Days of Lent: Day 7 verse

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:36‭-‬38 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 7

The scene in today’s reading shifts from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. The mood gets heavier and more somber. Jesus calls three of his closest disciples and summons them to pray with him.  While I’ve mulled over Jesus’ tribulation in the garden before, I’ve never dwelt on the fact that he invited his friends to grieve with him and pray with him. It’s not like the God of this universe  needed  them. It’s not like he didn’t know they would be catching up on naps instead of praying. Yet, by sharing his sorrow with them, Jesus was clearly demonstrating that  it’s okay to share your heart’s burdens with others . Just because you have God in your life doesn’t mean you have to be poised and stoic and invulnerable. It’s okay to say, “Hey, would you mind coming along with me for this?” and give someone else the opportunity to pray with you and for you. Jesus displayed a beautiful openness in inviting his closest disciples to come alongside him. No, we don’t depend entir


It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:44‭-‬49 NIV


If I’m being very truthful, I have to admit that I want God to answer my prayers through miraculous and powerful intervention. The reality is, though, that often he doesn’t. Does that mean that he’s neither miraculous or powerful? Not at all. In the cross, we recognise the presence of God in weakness and in suffering, too. When we lament our circumstances, our hurt, and our pain, we stay connected to God in a way that without lament, we may not. Author and Pastor Matt Woodley says that there is something even greater than this in the act of lamenting: "When we lament we stand with Jesus, the one who knew the power and the pathos of lament. When he cried from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ he entered into the depths of lament. Now when we lament, we’re never really alone. Sometimes we stand with Jesus at the cross and we hurt together. This can’t happen when we try to run from the pain of our losses." Question: Are you ever disappointed with God&

40 Days of Lent: Day 6 verse

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:  “ ‘I will strike the shepherd,  and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’    But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”  Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Matthew 26:31‭-‬33 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 6

Good Ol’ Peter. He was such a loyal friend. He was so full of enthusiasm and zest for the kingdom of God. Never would he have imagined that he would turn his back on his closest friend and teacher, Jesus. Peter was in denial of his impending denial.  In verse 33 of Matthew 26 we read Peter’s words: Even if the others fall away on account of you, I never will. He is so sure of himself and his sense of loyalty.  And that’s where the problem lies. Peter was, perhaps, depending on his own ability to stand strong in the midst of pressure. It brings to mind the warning in 1 Corinthians where Scripture predicts this fallacy of self-assuredness: If you think you’re standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.  What if instead of responding to Jesus’ prophecy of his denial with a “Me? No Way!” Peter had humbly said, “Me? Really? Can you show me how I can stay strong because on my own I’m really, really weak.” Vulnerability before God is a safe place. It’s the first step in growin


You have searched me, Lord , and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord , know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:1‭-‬10 NIV


I’m okay with acknowledging that I don’t always feel the presence of God. Sometimes I struggle to see any evidence of him. But a long time ago I chose to believe in the presence of a good God who loves me and accepts me—questions, doubts, anger, confusion and all. I choose to believe in a God who will never forget me and is faithful to me, no matter what. There are seasons in our lives when it isn’t easy to trust that God has his face turned toward us. But I choose to believe it anyway. With that choice comes acceptance, comfort, and peace. Alas, it doesn’t always change the circumstances we are desperate to have changed, but it does bring hope—and that is priceless!  Question: What season of life are you living through now? Is it easy to trust that God is with you, or is it a struggle? What will you choose to believe despite your circumstances? 

40 Days of Lent: Day 5 verse

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the  covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:26‭-‬30 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 5 (now I'm all caught up)

Growing up in a formal church setting, the communion liturgy included the verses we just read. On communion Sunday, our pastor would wear a more elaborate cassock. His voice would be more lyrical than usual when he read the verses. Thinking back, in my 8-year-old mind, communion meant a longer service and a later lunch (groan!) Kidding aside, having participated in communion after communion, it sometimes becomes another ritual. But when we look back at that first communion that Jesus shared with his disciples we see just how powerful it was. Jesus spoke of his death. He spoke of when his body would be bruised and broken. He spoke of his blood being spilled. And then he gave thanks.  Jesus gave thanks when he spoke of his death.  That’s our God. His cross is an invitation of grace to a hurting and helpless world.  That’s why communion is also called Eucharist, meaning “thanksgiving”. We accept the gift of His grace. All we do in exchange is express our gratitude. We don’t n

40 Days of Lent: Day 4 verse

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”  Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”  Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:20‭-‬25 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 4

I can picture the scene. In fact, most of us can see it vividly as the Last Supper is an oft-repeated piece of art in many Christian homes. The men in the painting have beards and wine goblets and wear robes. One of them looks more malevolent than the others. Of course, the mean one is none other than Judas. Jesus shared that last meal with his betrayer.  He gave Judas every opportunity to repent . In fact, Jesus called out his sin without sugar-coating anything. But Judas remained hard hearted and unrepentant. He sidestepped conviction with the words, “Surely, you don’t mean me Rabbi?” Judas refused to acknowledge his sin. He refused to allow conviction to penetrate through the layers of prideful self-preservation. Maybe we don’t willfully betray God, but we persist in some sinful patterns? Do we allow conviction of sin to break us? Bringing It Home What’s God convicting me about? In which areas of my life am I making excuses and not allowing his voice of conviction to chan


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.  Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:1‭-‬5 NIV


This life is often messy and we can find ourselves swinging between confidence and faith, despair and anguish, and back again. Sometimes finding comfort in the midst of our circumstances seems like drawing a very long bow. Essentially here, the psalmist is saying, “Lord, I want to hope in you again.” And isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that what we all need?  A very long time ago, my husband and I built our first home. It was on the edge of a bay with a glorious 180 degree view. On a clear day you could see the north head of the bay—a very distinct point—very clearly. But there were days when it was hidden in the mist. Nonetheless, I knew that point was still there whether I could see it or not. I never doubted for a moment that it was still there on the horizon.  So it is with God. There are days when I don’t feel his presence but I still know he’s there. It’s a choice I make to believe Him! Question: When do you feel God’s presence the most? What do you do when you’re strug


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?  My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.  Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.  In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.  To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. Psalm 22:1‭-‬5 NIV


I love Psalm 22 because it is just so honest. The psalmist is up and down in a matter of moments. He is trusting one moment and miserable the next. It’s just so messy! And yet, in its mess, it indicates an important principle: that as we cry out to God with whatever we’ve got inside of us, we hold on to him.  We hold on, sometimes by just a thread, to a good God. We hold on believing that despite our circumstances, God is holding us. We hold on spiritually even though our emotions may still be quite some distance behind us.  We choose an action with our heads and allow our heart and our emotions to catch up when they can. It’s messy, but not unacceptable to God.  We can hold on to Him, not just because of the example of the psalmist—we know it because this was the very psalm that Jesus himself quoted as he hung on the cross when he said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Question: What is your response to this Psalm? Do you feel that you can be this open and honest i

40 Days of Lent: Day 3 verse

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”  He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. Matthew 26:17‭-‬19 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 3

Jesus’ disciples prepared for the Passover meal. As we read these verses, let’s look at three simple things they did in preparation: 1. They came to Jesus 2. They asked Jesus and 3. They obeyed Jesus. This season of Lent, we too are preparing for the day when we remember Jesus as our sinless Passover Lamb. But are we attempting to prepare on our terms or on his? Is our preparation during Lent merely dedicated to outward trappings - or are we waiting on Jesus, listening to him and following in obedience?  This season of preparation,  let’s first come to him divested of our own agendas . Let’s wait on him in humility. Let’s listen to his voice. And, most importantly, let’s not be just hearers, but also doers of the Word. The disciples “did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.” How are you and I preparing? Bringing It Home What am I “giving up” for Lent? Is it something that God has convicted me about? Is my preparation more external than it is internal? Am I wai


But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 NIV


Yesterday we read the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he withdraws from his disciples to pour out his heart to God. In his own words he was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." Even though we know that Jesus is fully God, he was also fully human. And it was in his humanness that he faced his greatest struggles. But in his struggles, when life began to overwhelm him, Jesus had a pattern of turning to God by withdrawing to lonely places to pray. Often!  This is the way of trust—to turn to God in whatever way we need to. And sometimes that will be in honest misery, in lament. In honest lament we choose to hold on—we choose to trust—when we’re not sure. We choose to trust when we don’t know. We choose to trust when we don’t understand.  True lament is actually an affirmation of our trust in God no matter if we feel it or not. It’s a bold faith that says, “I’m in terrible pain, but I still choose to reach out for your love and your grace and yo

40 Days of Lent: Day 2 verse

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Matthew 26:14‭-‬16 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 2

In complete contrast to Mary from yesterday’s devotional, stands Judas. One of them is known for her extravagant worship; the other for his treacherous betrayal. Mary didn’t count the cost of worship and spent her money on expensive perfume. Judas, on the other hand, focused on counting his thirty pieces of silver. One was sold out for Jesus; the other was a sell-out.  Yet, I don’t believe that Judas was motivated solely by his love of money.  He was, instead, prodded by his fear of man.  All circumstances pointed to the fact that the death of Jesus was imminent. Even Jesus himself said so! Judas feared for his future and he feared for his life. The new kingdom that he was expecting Jesus to usher in was disintegrating. He focused on the power of the rulers, instead of dwelling on the power of the One who delineated authority to those rulers. He allowed the tangible to edge out the eternal.  Bringing It Home Where is my focus today? What motivates my actions? Is it fear of man


They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”  Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba,  Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:32‭-‬36 NIV


I confess that I haven’t always trusted God with every aspect of my life. A few years ago I experienced a personal crisis and I had to admit that I lacked a particular kind of trust—that if the worst happened, God would carry me even then. It wasn’t about trusting that the worst wouldn’t happen. I was pragmatic enough to know it could. It was about trusting that God would be with me still, even if the worst did happen. It was about trusting that no matter what, God was sovereign and in control and that I could believe in His inherent goodness, no matter if good or bad happened to me.  Eventually I chose to believe in the existence of a good God—I made the decision to trust. My choice was based on my belief that my experience of doubt, uncertainty, disappointment, and distress was not anything I had exclusive rights to. That path had been trod many times before, not least of which by Jesus.  I am comforted by knowing that in this passage, during a time of great distress, Jesus crie

40 Days of Lent: Day 1 verse

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you,  but you will not always have me.  When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:6‭-‬13 NIV

40 Days of Lent: Day 1

We start the Lent devotional with someone who truly got it. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, actually understood. In fact, she understood more than the indignant disciples who tried to stop her from “wasting” the perfume on Jesus. She, perhaps, understood that Jesus wouldn’t be with them much longer.  Her response to Jesus’ imminent death is beautiful. She worshipped him. Not a casual, what’s-next-on-the-agenda worship. But an extravagant worship where she didn’t count the cost.  It was a reverential worship, an extraordinary worship, perhaps even an irrational worship . She didn’t look at the clock or her wallet or at people around her who were wagging their fingers in judgement. Instead, she looked at Jesus. She allowed him to fill her vision and eclipse everything else around her. She worshipped like no one was watching. Bringing It Home What is my response to Jesus’ death on the Cross? Am I offering Him a sacrifice of worship and praise? Or is my sacrifice this seas


But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the Lord ’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5‭-‬6 NIV


In previous days I’ve suggested that it isn’t disrespectful to lament and that it’s okay to openly and honestly express our pain and doubt before God. I think it’s entirely healthy and wise that in our deep sorrow, pain, and confusion we recognise our need for God. Amid our desperation, the very best thing we can do is to turn toward God.  In these verses we sense a change in David. As he turns his desperation toward God, as he remembers and acknowledges that God is in control, something happens and there is a shift. David chooses to remember and trust that God is a good Father who is in control.  I’m reminded that trust is always a choice for us, too. It is never something that "just happens."  This is what author Ann Voskamp says: “That’s my daily work, the work God asks of me. To trust. The work I shirk. To trust in the Son, to trust in the wisdom of this moment, to trust in now. And trust is that: work. The work of trusting love.” Question: In what area of your l


The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:  “ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you;  the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;  the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’ Numbers 6:22‭-‬26 NIV


The Israelites believed that when the face of the Lord was turned toward them, it was a sign of blessing and acceptance. So the worst thing anyone could ever experience was for God to turn his face away. It was akin to abandonment—of God forgetting them.  How easy it is for us to think that God might forget us. How easy it is for doubts to creep in, slowly at first, and then to almost overwhelm us. Let me suggest that it’s okay to express our fears and doubts. It’s important for us to face disturbing realities in this world. As Christians we must learn to live with disturbing realities like unanswered prayers and what feels like the absence of God in our lives.  Question: Do you ever question: has God forgotten me? Did God ever love me? Does prayer work? Does God even exist?


Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,  and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. Psalm 13:3‭-‬4 NIV


Today we continue to read Psalm 13. In it, David keeps crying out to God in distress and pain. The light has gone from his eyes and his heart is heavy. He is feeling that the whole world is against him, and that God doesn’t care enough to answer.  Sometimes lament is the only way to pray. I can’t imagine any other way that prayer is even possible when you watch someone you love die of cancer, when petitions for healing go unanswered, when an innocent child is abused, or murdered, or dies; when your spouse leaves you, when your livelihood is gone, when the pregnancy test is negative again, when you sink into a depression you have no control over… Ann Weems is a Christian author and poet who lost her son in tragic circumstances the day he turned 21. "The stars fell from the sky," Ann wrote. She felt that she would never find comfort in her monumental loss until a friend suggested that she express her pain and grief by writing her own psalm of lament. And she did. Here is a


How long, Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1‭-‬2 NIV Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. 1 Samuel 18:29 NIV


The writer of this lament is David. We can’t be entirely sure exactly when he wrote it, or what was driving his despair, but it’s likely it was his relationship breakdown with Saul. Saul had become jealous of David’s success and 1 Samuel 18:29 tells us that Saul ‘remained his enemy for the rest of his days.’  David may have been a great and successful king, but he had his share of suffering. Many, many heroes and heroines of the faith did. Clearly David is in deep pain and it’s easy to think that God has forgotten us in times like this.  So, we learn from this psalm that kings and heroines are not immune and neither are we. We’re not alone in our suffering. Scripture is full of stories of pain and suffering. That may not make you feel any better of course (I don’t mean to be trite!) but may I encourage you to offer your pain and distress honestly to God—just as David has done—knowing that it is entirely appropriate and biblical to do so. Question: Do you find it hard to offer yo


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV


My husband is a commercial airline pilot and recently he flew me home from New York. I don’t particularly like flying, but knowing that he was up in the front put me entirely at ease and I slept like a baby. Even though I had absolutely no control over what happened at 36 000 feet, I knew exactly who did, and I trusted him completely. As he masterfully guided the plane through a range of potentially disastrous scenarios, I slept peacefully. The same is true of life – when things don’t go according to plan, when things get rough, we need to know who is in control. When life throws us a curve ball, as it inevitably will, we can and should rightfully lament; but healthy lament knows God is in control under all circumstances, and we can be strong, courageous and at peace in this knowledge. Question: Who is in control of your life? How does that make you feel?


“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

LEARNING THE LESSONS OF LAMENT: Day 1 (a New 14 day reading plan)

I know we’re not supposed to have favourites, but the book of Psalms is definitely up there for me. It is full of earthy, raw, honest experiences and confirms for me that life is full of both joy and sorrow. It demonstrates that I can be entirely real before God and that there is no polite or proper language necessary to talk to him as I journey through my own human experiences. The Psalms of lament are particularly encouraging because while we may want our spiritual experience to be strong, affirming and positive, often it’s not, and I see that reflected in these psalms. They allow me to get in touch with the pain that I sometimes feel and know that it’s okay to express despair, confusion, anger and doubt.  Question: What pain are you experiencing now? How is this pain affecting your faith?


As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.   “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.  A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”   “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”  So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”   “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything i


God-Size Prayers > Good-Size Prayers  What a title to end this seven day devotional with, huh? This specific topic is something I am often pushing myself to do more often. We serve a God of promise that exists without limitation. Yet, I’m sure you can find yourself praying prayers that seem to be only “good enough.” Instead of praying for a miracle of God we are often content with putting God in a box and praying small timid prayers. Our minds literally cannot comprehend how good and powerful God is.  In Mark Chapter 9 a man whose son is demon possessed approaches Jesus and asks Him to take pity on them and help his son,  if he can . Jesus responds by saying “If you can? Everything is possible if a person believes.” The father’s boy exclaimed “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Do you think that we sometimes pray good-sized prayers because we have a disbelief that God creates miracles in our lives? Honestly think about it! When was the last time you prayed and you ask


See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:1‭-‬2 NIV