I’m so glad you’re joining us during this Lenten Season for these short and poignant readings. Lent has always been a time when the Church has prepared its heart for Easter. So let this Lent be a time when we do the same.

Each day you’ll receive (or access on our church’s website) a short reading. The scriptures come from the lections (Church scriptures arranged according to the Church calendar). The reflections come from a number of people in the life of our church. Each reading attempts to reflect on the Word of God from a place of missions. Simply put, these are men and women, boys, girls, teens, who have had experiences in sharing the Good News of Jesus in our community and (quite literally) around the globe. We have done this to remind us that God has a heart for this world and we are the hands and feet of Jesus sharing His love to those around us.

As you access the devotions you’ll notice there are a number that I’ve written as well. Given the fact all the contributors are writing from a place missions, I’m taking the lens of where we are with God in a more general sense. I hope the balance is helpful. Besides, the bottom-line in our life with God and our neighbor is balance. We love others (mission) out of a deep love we receive from the Lord.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Tim


Week 5 – April 16

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
“He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin” (Psalm 130:8, NLT).

Sin is not just the things we do or fail to do that break relationship with God and neighbor… sin is also the taking-captive kind of power that ensnares us, binds us, and shackles us to a way of being human that is not of God’s design, plan or intention. In a very real way we give ourselves to sin and, at the end of the transaction, we become purchased and owned by it. What we thought was freedom to live as we like becomes a prison of not being able to become who God has made us to be.

It’s this perspective that brings me to a place of cherishing the final words spoken by the psalmist in Psalm 130: “He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.” To redeem is to purchase or to buy back. It’s the transaction of love wherein God releases us from all that binds us and brings us back to Himself. Redemption takes a person from the stronghold of sin and place him/her into the freedom of God’s loving will.

It’s a fitting reminder at the close of this Lenten journey. God will redeem Israel--God will redeem us--from every kind of sin. In other words, there’s not one thing you’ve done and there’s not one area of sinfulness you can be shackled in that God’s power and forgiving love can’t undo. That’s how powerful the Lord is. That’s how much He loves you!

Prayer: Lord, redeem even me! Amen

 

Week 5 – April 15

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn” (Psalm 130:6, NLT).

When we are “in the depths” it’s easy to make certain assumptions about who God is. We fear He’s incriminating. We worry that He’s done with our meanderings and our wonderings. We are pretty sure He’s ready to slam the gavel of judgment down onto our hard hearts and declare us guilty. Now He certainly could… but notice the language of Psalm 130. God DOESN’T keep a record of sins; rather, the Lord offers forgiveness. Isn’t that awesome! Further, the Lord offers forgiveness so that “we might learn to fear you” (Psalm 130:4, NLT).

The truth of this refrain is the very same reality underscored in the song, Amazing Grace: “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear….” God’s grace and forgiveness teaches us to fear Him. Now, we need to understand that “fear,” in this context, is the reverent and affectionate love and trust a young child might have in the presence of a strong parent. It’s that sweet and yet respectful loving fear that causes a child to draw near in relationship to his/her dad.

Notice too the result of experiencing the reality of God’s forgiveness. The psalmist speaks of a longing for the Lord. A deep longing that a sentry experiences through the uncertain, and at times terrifyingly lonely, nighttime hours. The sentry longs for the dawn because with it comes comfort and relief from not being able to see. The growing sun brings clarity, warmth and a certain measure of safety. In the same way we are invited to long for the Lord. To hope for His nearing presence because we are certain He is good and that His mercy endures forever.

Prayer: Lord, I am counting on You, and I’ve placed my hope and my trust in You alone. Amen

 

Week 5 – April 14

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?” (Psalm 130:3, NLT).

At the heart of the Christian faith is a firm conviction that we have all sinned and come woefully short of what the Lord intended for our lives. We believe that the sin of Adam and Eve was not just an event in their lives, but a spillover reality that has flooded all of our lives. We are made in the image of God, but who we are is steeped in sin.

Now there are a lot of folks in the Church (universal) who shy away from discussing sin. Perhaps it’s the old pendulum swing away from the “fire and brimstone” sermons hurtled down at unsuspecting congregants in generations past. Nevertheless, we tend to refrain from discussing our sinfulness. We do like to talk about the cross and the Lord’s forgiveness, but the irony is there’s a shallow reference point in terms of what exactly the Lord is forgiving and why we indeed needed a Savior to die on the cross.

It’s my firm belief that the only way one can understand the meaning of the cross is if that person has a good grasp on the depth of their own sin. Taking a rather shabby example, it’s kind of like the ability of a person to appreciate rest. Rest is only really savored and best understood when a lot of hard work has gone before it. So too, the cross and the significance of Easter can only be truly experienced out of the ownership we take over the depth of our sinfulness.

Prayer: Lord, help me to understand and take ownership of the record of my sin. Amen.

 

Week 5 – April 13

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
“From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help” (Psalm 130:1, NLT).

“The depths,” is shorthand for “the depths of the sea.” This language brings to mind the experience of a person in danger of drowning… of being sucked under by a strong and overpowering undertow.

I remember a couple of summers ago heading to a local spring during the heat of the afternoon. Springs are pretty remarkable places because the water comes from an underground aquifer. The water maintains a constant and cool temperature. At the particular spot we visited that one day, there was a really deep abyss at one side of the spring. If you took a deep-enough breath, you could swim into the darkness of an underground cave-like system and look around. A whole mass of swimmers were gathered around this water hole waiting for their chance to go deep. Although I’m a rather timid swimmer, I got caught up in the crowd and wanted to impress my son -- so I headed down. Although it felt like a long time passed, I was only in the depths for a moment or two. But in the shadows and in the deep it was interesting how my sense of direction and equilibrium got turned around. Realizing this, I sprang back to the surface as quickly as I could.

Our sin is like that disorienting experience I had at the spring. Sin takes away our proper direction. Sin causes us to lose our equilibrium. We get lost and can quite easily drown on account of it. This psalm speaks to this predicament. To be in the depths is to be in a place where death prevails. It’s a complex quagmire where the whole crowd of humanity is plunged into the depths of sin and where we are helpless unless a rescuer comes to assist us.

Take a moment to think on the truth that the Good News of Jesus is not just meant for us… but that all of creation is stuck in the bottomless abyss of sin. As we experience Jesus’ rescue, we are then called to share Jesus with those who are still disoriented and drowning.

Prayer: Lord, give me the courage to share the Good News of salvation with someone today. Amen

 

Week 5 – April 12

Pastor Tim

Scripture:
“From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help” (Psalm 130:1, NLT).

Psalm 130 is the 11th in the “songs of ascents.” It’s a very poignant and interesting psalm because of the significant history that is traced to it. In the early Church it was 1 of 7 penitential psalms that were used in services of repentance. Martin Luther, the great reformer, referred to it as a “proper master and doctor of Scripture.” John Wesley, the father of Methodism, heard this psalm sung on the day of his transforming and life changing experience at Aldersgate where he experienced the grace of Jesus Christ in a profound way.

Given the history of this psalm I think it’s important to remember that the “depths of despair” is the very place where Jesus Christ reaches you and me. The good news of Jesus is not found in our sufficiency or ability. The heart of the Gospel is realized in our deep need and inability. We are helpless to be the people God has created us to be. We cannot love God and neighbor on our own strength. Our volition is not enough to battle our selfishness. What are we to do? We are invited to cry out from our “depths of despair!” God hears us. God comes to us. God saves us.

I want to make one very specific point: if you are trying to measure up to God… or… if you believe you can lead a good enough life due to your own strength and will – you have not yet come to the Kingdom of God. Salvation is found in self resignation. Forgiveness and entrance into God’s Kingdom through our Lord Jesus Christ occurs at the intersection of our inability and God’s ability.

Prayer: Lord, I cry to you. From the depths I look for You. Amen.

 
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