If I had one chance to explain the urgent message of Easter what would I tell you?
If you had been here my brother would not have died.
If you’d tried.
Were you otherwise occupied? Hands tied?
Or did you hide? Maybe biding your time? For what?
A deeper challenge, a grander entrance, a brighter glory, a better story?
“The nick of time” is a good story.
That would do.
11th hour, you’d come through.
Midnight you were due.
Now it’s half past two.
Where were you?
If you had been here he would not have died.
You were meant to ride on your white horse, enter the fray, the dragon slay, save the day.
Did you hear us pray?
Did you want it this way?
If you had been here to stop him dying…
Why are you crying?
You’re meant to be death-defying,
now you’re sighing at the tomb, decrying mortal ruin.
Why in God’s name are you queueing for the same?
You’re commander in chief, we demanded relief, but you landed beneath all our sorrows and grief.
Now it’s you on your knees empty-handed, bequeathing us none of our pleas.
Is this what you chose? To bring only tears? We’ve got plenty of those!
Why are you here?
You say: “To draw near.”
Then you sink like a stone past the brink of the chasm we desperately fear.
In darkness enfolded, our terrors you shouldered, while pierced by the nails and the spear.
You have been here.
You’ve stooped far below all depths that we know, engulfed in our weeping and woe.
Submerged in the grave, then risen to save, upending assumptions we’d made.
If you had been here,
the way that we’d prayed,
we’d only succeed in death delayed.
We’d only evade the reaper for now,
But soon we would bow,
Soon we’d be ploughed in the ground, with no-one to plead.
through you, death’s a gardener and we are the seed.
And this is the path Resurrection decreed.
If you will be here,
drawing near, that will do.
For now to know you in your grace we can face what is true.
“As in Adam the world dies, so in Christ all WILL arise.”
When you appear – and my brother too –
When you wipe away tears,
when darkness clears,
when mourning has cheered
and joy swallows fear.
here’s how we’ll cope,
this our true hope:
You will be here.
Week 4-God’s Word
- We have reached week 4 of the Lenten season. I hope and pray that by now you are growing in your love for Jesus Christ as you have been contemplating the amazing truths of the gospel. Frequently during the Lenten season we think about what we can give up (food, bad habits, unforgiveness, anger, etc.) While there will be times that we want to fast from something for Lent, most importantly what we want to be doing is feasting on God’s Word. Our Scripture meditation for this week is all about Jesus Christ being led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by Satan. During this temptation we find how even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was dependent on Scripture to be able to withstand temptation and to experience spiritual victory. Spend time this week reading and meditating on Matthew 4:1-11. Ask God to give you a renewed desire to know him better by becoming a better student of his Word.
Questions for Reflection
- Here are the the two most important questions you can ask after reading God’s Word: What is God saying to you through this passage? What will your response be to what God is saying?
- How did Jesus respond to the temptations of Satan? (verses 4, 7, 10) If Jesus was so dependent on Scripture what does that mean for you and me?
- After fasting for 40 days there is no doubt that Jesus was in a weakened state. Satan saw this as an opportunity to attack Jesus and try to get him to give into a temptation. When are you at your weakest against temptations? How can you use Scripture to help you in those moments of weakness?
- Do you have a regular plan for reading Scripture? You can find some solid Scripture reading plans HERE.
“Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty, not because God is mean or fault-finding or finger-pointing but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.” -N.T. Wright
The featured picture is “The Temptation in the Wilderness” by Briton Rivière
The second picture is “The Temptation of Jesus” by Gustave Dore
Song is “Dear Wormwood” by The Oh Hellos
LENT: Prepare the Way of the Lord
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” -Isaiah 40:3
Week 1-What is Lent About?
“Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives. This season is an opportunity to root ourselves in the good news that God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time to take stock, examine our hearts, repent of sin, turn to God, reflect on the suffering our Savior endured to accomplish our salvation, and finally, rest in the assurance of that salvation. Observing Lent is not necessary or central to experiencing life in Christ. Furthermore, this is not a season of “doing penance.” Rather, having been sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit, Lent is a season where we intentionally set aside time to remember Jesus and the grace that is found through faith in him alone. Lent is not about our faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on our behalf.” –Journey to the Cross
As a church we enter into this season to repent of all the things that make false promises of fulfillment and instead we turn our hearts and minds to the only One who truly satisfies our aching hearts, Jesus Christ.
Use these weekly Lenten devotionals for your personal use or together with your family.
Hebrews 12:1-14 (spend time meditating upon these verses this week, read them together with your family)
Questions for Reflection
Here are the two most important questions you can ask after reading God’s Word: What is God saying to you through this passage (Hebrews 12:1-14)? What will your response be to what God is saying?
If we think that Lent is merely giving up the things we enjoy we don’t really understand what Lent is all about. Lent is about confessing and repenting of our sins so that we can experience the fulfillment and love that only Jesus Christ can give to us. Are there things in your life that are robbing you of your joy that you need to confess? Spend time confessing them an ask God to give you the strength to leave them behind.
Determine in your heart and mind that you will create margin in your busy schedule (for you and your family) this Lenten season to focus on the gospel so that you can fully embrace the joys of Easter on April 1st.
Artwork above (woman praying) is by Jenny Popp. Music by Fernando Ortega.
This is adapted from “Ordinary Hero: Living the cross and resurrection in everyday life” by Tim Chester
“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. The power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:18-20)
Paul prays that Christians might realize the power that is ours in Christ. It’s the same power by which God raised Christ from the dead. On Easter morning, Jesus’ body lay dead and lifeless: flesh, rotting into dust. But God reached down and wrenched Jesus from the grave. God did what he did at creation: he brought life where there was no life (Romans 4:17). Death is the one force that no person can escape or overcome. But on that first Easter day, God took on death and won. He overcame the power of death. Paul talks of God’s “incomparably great power.”
Resurrection power is coursing through your veins. You’re like some spiritual superhero with untold power at your disposal. Really, you are.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we should no longer be slaves to sin-because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:6-10)
Because we’re united to Christ in his death, his death becomes our death. And that means our old self with its inbuilt bias toward sin was crucified with Christ. It’s dead. It’s gone. We’re set free from its power. And we’re united with Christ in his resurrection, his life becomes our life. We’re free to live for God. The bondage of sin is broken and we receive new life. A revolution has taken place. The old regime of Sin has been toppled. The life-giving reign of Grace has been established in its place.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5).
There’s a life which is given to us at the end of time-the new life of bodily resurrection (John 5:24-25). A rotting, decaying dead body is what sin earns. As the flesh decays and stinks, we see the “value” of sin, the reward of sin, the true nature of sin. But if a stinking, rotting body is what sin earns, a glorious resurrection body is what grace gives. But there’s also a life that is given to us now in human history when we become Christians. One moment we were spiritually dead; the next we were spiritually alive. You may not be able to pinpoint when this tool place in your experience-many people experience conversion as a gradual transition. But there was a time when your were dead, closed to God, ignorant of him, hardened against him in a rebellion. But now, if you’re a Christian, you’re alive, open to God, knowing God and known by God, soft-hearted toward him in love. We’re no longer spiritually dead. We’re alive to God.
- We have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead at work in our lives. Do we honestly believe this? How would this belief impact our daily life?
- We have been liberated from the power of sin. Is there a sin or idol in our life that is so powerful that we have stopped fighting against it? Do we believe we have been set free in Jesus?
- We have the life of Jesus in us now; it is more than a future hope. Does our current life reflect the resurrection of Jesus?
- How does our resurrection with Jesus shape our everyday identity? Would you identify yourself more as a dad, mom, husband, wife, student, employee, or a son and daughter of the living God?
- What difference will the resurrection make after the Easter worship service on Sunday? How will it shape the way you live Monday-Saturday?