Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 37

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Have you ever experienced true thirst—a thirst so great you would have given anything for a cool drink of water?

In John 19:28-29, we read that Jesus is nearing the end. He knew it was almost finished. He had been hanging on the cross after being beaten and humiliated and no one had offered Him a drink. According to John, it was in order to fulfill scripture (Psalm 69:21) that Jesus called out from the cross, “I am thirsty.”

But it wasn’t a glass of refreshing cool water His tormenters gave Him. Scripture says, “A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.”

In Day 37 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reflects on other references to water. “In Jeremiah 2:13 and again in 17:13, God called himself ‘the fountain of living water.’”

We read in John 4 that when Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman, He offered her “living water” by which she would never be thirsty again.

While estimates vary, we can go three weeks or more without food but only three to four days without water, depending on the conditions. Longer in cooler weather and a shorter amount of time in the broiling hear. Water is essential for all living creatures. However, the Living Water is even more essential for us to grow more Christ-like.

Pastor and author John Piper once said, “The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of sovereign joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small.”

Thank the Lord today for His Living Water. Ask Him to give you a thirst for more of Him in your life.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:28-29.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 36

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

At three o’clock on Good Friday, Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” According to the gospel of Mark, darkness had descended over the whole land beginning at noon until three in the afternoon when Jesus’ words rang out.

In Day 36 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reminds us that “it was during the period of darkness, as Jesus’ suffering on the cross drew to an end, that Matthew and Mark tell us Jesus offered what is often called the ‘cry of dereliction.’ Jesus spoke the words of Psalm 22:1: ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ That Jesus would quote these words points to the fact that he was meditating upon the psalms as he suffered on the cross.”

Psalm 22 is known as a “lament” or “complaint” psalm. It is one of many by the psalmists expressing their feelings of disappointment or of being abandoned by God. What does this mean for us today? Hamilton says, “The very fact these psalms exist makes clear that even the most faithful people have moments when they feel forsaken by God.”

Have you ever felt forsaken by God? Have you had a life experience that made you call into question God’s goodness or even the existence of God?

Doesn’t it help to know that Jesus—the one you pray to in times of difficulty—once cried out in disappointment Himself, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Hamilton adds, “Psalm 22 and Jesus’ prayer from the cross were actually words of faith. In the face of despair, both the psalmist and Jesus appealed to God. When one is surrounded by suffering and pain, even a cry of disappointment to God is an act of faith.”

When you find yourself in moments of despair, remember to place your life in God’s hands.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:33-34.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 35

Monday, March 30, 2015

Do you think it was somehow fitting that Jesus was crucified between two criminals? Jesus had spent most of his public ministry reaching out to people like these two on either side of Him.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus had told the Pharisees, “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” In Mark 2:17, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

As Jesus hung on the cross, He showed the same compassion and concern for these two criminals as He had for others whose paths had crossed His during his three-year ministry.

In Day 35 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reminds us that both thieves had “initially joined the crowd and the religious leaders in mocking Jesus as he hung between them. But one of the men had a change of heart as he listened to Jesus’ words from the cross. This thief spoke to Jesus, saying, ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42).

Hamilton asks, “Was the man simply offering kind words to Jesus; or did he truly understand that Jesus, by his death, was ushering in his kingdom? In either case, at that moment Jesus promised the man that he would join Jesus in paradise.”

Do you think the criminal knew anything about Jesus’ teachings? He had not been baptized, yet Jesus offered him paradise. Why? Because this thief desired to be with Jesus in his eternal kingdom.

What does this teach us about God’s amazing grace?

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Luke 23:39-43.

Why Did Jesus Remain Silent?

“As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate” (Mark 15:1 NRSV).

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What if you knew tomorrow would be your final day on earth? How would you prepare? Would you spend time eating a meal—or maybe two—with those you love? Would you prepare them for your death? What would you say?

During Jesus’ final day on earth, beginning with the last meal He ate with His disciples and ending with His death and burial, those 24 hours changed our world.

Jesus had been betrayed by Judas, deserted by the rest of His disciples, denied by Peter—not once, but three times—and put on trial by the Sanhedrin. Jesus knew what was ahead. But did that make it any easier?

When the chief priests handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, he asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” How did Jesus answer? “You say so.”

And when those chief priests continued to accuse Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.”

Mark tells us in his gospel that “Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. (15:5).

In Adam Hamilton’s book, 24 Hours That Changed the World: 40 Days of Reflection, he tells us more about Pilate. “Philo of Alexandria described Pilate as cruel, corrupt and violent.”

Yet, Pilate saw through the Jewish ruling council’s apparent interest in attempting to uphold Rome’s authority. Hamilton says, “There they presented Him to the governor, charging Him with the capital offense of claiming to be a king—a crime tantamount to treason and insurrection.”

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 34

Saturday, March 28, 2015

If you’re a mother, I’m sure you can relate to Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was her beloved Son. If you can recall those first stirrings of life in your womb, you know the special bond that happens between a mother and a child before life outside the womb even begins. I can imagine Mary placing her hand on her swollen abdomen when Jesus began to reveal Himself, stirring inside His mother’s body, kicking and turning. It’s a special feeling, drawing mother and child closer each day.

In Day 34 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reflects on John 19. “From the time she felt the first stirrings of life in her womb, their souls were intertwined. As she held him in her arms, she loved him more than she had ever loved anyone in her life. As he grew, so did her love for this child she had brought into the world. He was a gift from God.”

As she stood at the foot of the cross, I wonder if Mary remembered the words of Simeon, the old man who had spoken these words to her when she and Joseph brought Jesus for circumcision when He was eight days old. Simeon had been waiting for this very day. Even though his eyesight was dimming, he offered these prophetic words found in Luke 2:34-35:

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

I’m sure she not only recalled them, but she finally understood Simeon’s words. Standing by while your son was crucified and listening to the taunts of the crowd—would cause any mother unbearable pain. So much more, I’m sure, for the mother of Jesus.

But just when she thought she couldn’t stand anymore, her beloved son gazed at her and said, “Woman, this now is your son.” Turning to the disciple, John, Jesus said, “This now is your mother” (paraphrase of John 19:26-27).

Hamilton says, “This scene at the cross is a call for us to follow Jesus’ example in caring for our mothers, but it is more than that. It is a reminder of the sacrifice and suffering Mary made for us and for our salvation. No human being, aside from Jesus himself, did more to bring about our salvation than Mary. She bore the Christ Child, nurtured him, prayed for him, worried over him. She suffered more than any other human being as she watched her son tortured and crucified. The price of our salvation was not only the suffering and death of Jesus, but also the agony and pain of his mother.”

Reflect today on John 19:25b-27, recalling how Jesus cared for His mother. Let it be a reminder for those of us whose parents are still alive and remember our responsibility to take care of them when they need us.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:25b-27.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 33

Friday, March 27, 2015

Matthew’s gospel tells us the crowd and the Roman soldiers weren’t the only ones who taunted Jesus as He hung on the cross dying. The two bandits who were crucified on either side of Him also hurled insults.

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders,

were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.

He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now,

and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if

he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s son.’”

The bandits who were crucified with him also

taunted him in the same way (Matthew 27:41-44)

Jesus not only had to endure the humiliating remarks of the religious leaders, He also had to experience the taunts of two common criminals.

In Day 33 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Jesus hung bleeding, naked, dying; yet there was no compassion, only the cruelty of words meant to break His spirit. In essence the people said, ‘You who thought you were really something—look at you now! You spoke as though you were the Messiah; but now you are naked, humiliated, and dying. You are nothing.’”

Can you recall being a child? You might have been taught to respond to taunts and teasing with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But, that’s certainly not true. While physical pain inflicted on us often leaves a scar, so do the mocking words of others. The scars may be invisible, but they still hurt the same.

Hamilton speculates, asking the following questions:

  1. What was Jesus feeling as the people hurled their insults?
  2. Did He want to argue with them?
  3. Did He wish to hurl insults back?
  4. Did He find himself angry and ready to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?

In Matthew 5:11, Jesus taught His disciples, “Blessed are you when people revile you…and utter all kinds of evil against you.” Furthermore, he had spoken to them: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45).

While it might have been easy to teach those things to His followers, can you imagine how difficult it must have been for Jesus—while experiencing the cruelty that Friday—to practice what He preached? Yet, while hanging from the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus not only taught us how to act in the face of those who would ridicule us, He exhibited it while praying on the cross.

Ask the Lord to forgive you for the times your words have wounded others as well as to help you forgive those who have hurt you.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Matthew 27:38-44.

Let’s Help Matthew Bring His Buddy Home

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'”–Matthew 25:40 (NIV).

matthew and levi

Matthew and Levi, the service dog that is being trained to provide for his special needs.

Matthew needs your help. A third grader at Claremont Elementary School in Claremore, Oklahoma, Matthew is suffering from various health issues, including the inability for his body to properly regulate temperature. “A service dog will help monitor and notify him and others, should he begin to get dangerously overheated,” says his mother, Angy Bains.

Matthew also has Aspergers Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum, and affects language and behavioral development. He also suffers from a variety of other health issues, among them, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a group of disorders affecting connective tissues, such as those which support the skin, bones, blood vessels and other organs.

When Matthew’s parents learned that a service dog could be trained for Matthew to recognize the signs of overheating, the family began their fundraising efforts. Matthew has already selected his dog, Levi, which is being trained through Glad Wags Service Dogs of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“The cost is around $10,000 and we’re a long way from being there,” says Angy.

To help raise the funds, his mother has set up a “go fund me” account at http://www.gofundme.com/mattsbuddy.

If you live in the Claremore area, a chili dinner, silent and live auction as well as children’s authors will be helping with his fundraising efforts. The chili dinner is set for Saturday, March 28, beginning at 5 p.m. at Claremore FUMC, on HWY 88, just north of the Will Rogers Museum. Come out, eat a bite of chili, bid on auction items and buy a children’s book to support Matthew or go to his “go fund me” account and donate online.

Note to my readers: I am friends with Angy and Matthew. If you would please click on the link above and donate any amount you can to help Matthew pay for Levi and bring his buddy home, I know he will not only be blessed, but you will too! Jesus tells us, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”