2019 Lenten Devotional

Week 3- Seek the Lord

Walking with Christ to the Cross

A Lenten Journey Through Scripture

Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.

 

The invitation at the heart of Lent is to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, and to call on him for mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. It is a time to reckon with the areas of our lives in which we feel defeated, have grown cold to God, or feel stuck in self-defeating or sinful patterns. And yet it is also a time of great hope, because greater than any human failure is God’s lavish grace and faithful love. Even as we humbly reckon with our sin, we boldly expect to be forgiven and changed.

  1. 1. For a beautiful depiction of God’s invitation to repentance and new life, read Isaiah 55:1–9 (NIV).
    • Isaiah 55:1-9 (NIV)

      Invitation to the Thirsty

      55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
          come to the waters;
      and you who have no money,
          come, buy and eat!
      Come, buy wine and milk
          without money and without cost.
      Why spend money on what is not bread,
          and your labor on what does not satisfy?
      Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
          and you will delight in the richest of fare.
      Give ear and come to me;
          listen, that you may live.
      I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
          my faithful love promised to David.
      See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
          a ruler and commander of the peoples.
      Surely you will summon nations you know not,
          and nations you do not know will come running to you,
      because of the Lord your God,
          the Holy One of Israel,
          for he has endowed you with splendor.”

      Seek the Lord while he may be found;
          call on him while he is near.
      Let the wicked forsake their ways
          and the unrighteous their thoughts.
      Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
          and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

      “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
          neither are your ways my ways,”
      declares the Lord.
      “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
          so are my ways higher than your ways
          and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    • In this passage, the prophet promises hope, blessing, and restoration to God’s people who are living in Babylonian exile. Here is how the Encyclopedia of the Bible describes some of the conditions of their captivity:

      They could own their homes and land, and enjoy the produce of their gardens (Jer 29:4-7; Ezek 8:1; 12:1-7). This would enable them to provide for some of their physical needs. . . . Jeremiah 29:5-7 indicates that the Israelites were able to accumulate wealth. Many were so successful financially that . . . when the exiles were given permission by Cyrus to return home, they refused because according to Josephus, “they were not willing to leave their possessions” (Jos. Antiq. XI.i. 3).
    • Given these conditions, why might Isaiah choose to appeal first to the exiles’ thirst, hunger, and dissatisfaction (vv. 1–2)? What might his appeal suggest about their spiritual condition?
    • In verses 6–7, Isaiah’s call for repentance becomes increasingly direct and urgent.

      The call of vv.1-3 is echoed here but with a stronger moral emphasis. Earlier the folly of self-willed waywardness was stressed, while here it is its wickedness. . . . There is urgency in this call, for the time is not unlimited. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): Old Testament, “Isaiah 55:6–7”)
      What connections might there be between the Israelites’ “self-willed waywardness” and their “wickedness”? How might each condition lead to and magnify the other?

      Isaiah stresses the urgency of seeking the Lord, and specifies the need to forsake both “ways” and “thoughts” (v. 7). What is at stake if the exiles ignore any one of Isaiah’s pleas—to respond swiftly, to change their thinking, or to change their behavior? Why are all three necessary?
  2. The invitation to repentance and new life was a constant theme in Jesus’ earthly ministry. In this passage from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus urgently calls his listeners to repentance, and yet also tells a parable that affirms God’s grace and forbearance.
    • What rationalizations were Jesus’ listeners using to assess their lives and spiritual condition?
    • What would change if they were to instead assess their lives and spiritual condition on the certainty of their mortality and subsequent judgment?
    • Luke 3:7-14 (NRSV)

      John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

      10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

    • From Luke 3:7–14 above, you can see parallels between Jesus’ parable of the fig tree and the teaching of John the Baptist. John calls his listeners to, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8), and then goes on to list examples of such fruit in verses 10–14. Based on his examples, how would you define “fruit in keeping with repentance”?

Questions for Reflection

  • The Israelites in Babylonian exile had become so accustomed to their captivity that they were no longer aware of their spiritual thirst, hunger, and dissatisfaction. In what ways, if any, might the circumstances of your life as it is now have dulled you to your desire for God?
  • What “self-willed waywardness” or “wickedness” are you aware of in your own life? In what ways, if any, have you become accustomed to it, tried to minimize it, or put off addressing it?
  • Overall, which do you find it harder to forsake—sinful patterns of thought or sinful patterns of behavior? Why?
  • What rationalizations are you prone to use to assess or justify your life and spiritual condition? What changes when you consider your life and spiritual condition instead in light of the urgency of the biblical call to repentance? Similarly, what changes when you focus on the magnitude of God’s love and mercy rather than your own guilt, sins, and failures?
  • Isaiah stressed the deep satisfaction of God’s blessings as well as God’s faithful love, nearness, mercy, and pardon. Which of these do you need most as you turn to God and seek him in this Lenten season?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

Psalm 63:1-8 (NLT)

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

Week 2- Waiting and Persevering for God’s Promise

Walking with Christ to the Cross

A Lenten Journey Through Scripture

Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.

 

From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures are full of God’s promises to his people—promises to provide, to rescue, to save. God was true to every promise, but between the promise and the fulfillment, God’s people often had to wait and persevere through hardship and opposition. They had to have faith. As we walk through the season of Lent to Easter, the Scriptures have much to teach us about what it means to wait on the Lord, to persevere, and to have faith in God’s promises for our own lives.

 

  1. Biblical writers portray Abraham as a model of faith, as one who “received what God promised because he waited patiently for it” (Hebrews 6:15 GW). Read Genesis 15:1–12, 17–18 (NRSV), which tells the story of God’s covenant promise to Abraham.
    1. Genesis 15:1-12 (NRSV)

      God’s Covenant with Abram

      15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

      Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

      12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

      17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

    2. For insights into this passage, read the note on the right from the Asbury Bible Commentary.
    3. What are the promises inherent in the statement God makes at the beginning of Abram’s vision (v. 1)? What foundation do they provide for the promises that follow?
    4. Abram is a model of faith, but his faith is not “blind.” Two of his three sentences in this passage are questions (15:2, 8). Even as he receives God’s promise, he laments the impossibility of his circumstances, seeks reassurance, and experiences “a deep and terrifying darkness.” What three words or phrases would you use to characterize the “model” faith exemplified by Abram’s conversation with God?

  2. One of the ways we journey with Christ to the cross during Lent is by taking seriously anything that might keep us from taking up our own cross (Matthew 16:24). Read Luke 13:31–35 (NIV), which tells one story of how Jesus did this—how he faithfully persevered on his journey to the cross.
    1. Luke 13:31-35 (NIV)

      Jesus’ Sorrow for Jerusalem

      31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

      32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

      34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

    2. Jesus counters the threats against him not by running away to save his life, as the Pharisees urged him to do, but by boldly proclaiming that nothing would keep him from sacrificing his life—he must proceed to Jerusalem and to the cross. He must complete his mission of love, even in the face of rejection by those he came to save. What does Jesus’ response reveal about the true nature of the threat from Herod and what was at stake?

 

Questions for Reflection

  • In what current circumstances do you most need to receive a promise from God? How do you need God to be your shield, to protect you while you wait for the promise to be fulfilled?
  • In the circumstances you just identified, and in reflection of Abraham’s story, how would you describe the difference between putting your faith in the promise and putting your faith in the giver of the promise?
  • To follow Jesus to the cross is to join him in his mission of sacrificial love. In the week ahead, what obstacles or threats might keep you from taking up your cross and choosing to love? Consider both internal threats (self-defeating habits of thought and behavior) as well as external threats (opposition or rejection from others).
  • What comes to mind if you think of the threats you just identified as having the nature of a fox? For example, how might the threats be sly in deceiving you, or perhaps more insignificant than you realize?
  • How might you be bold in your faith, declaring that nothing will keep you from taking up your cross and accomplishing your mission of love?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

 Psalm 27:7-14 The Passion Translation (TPT)

God, hear my cry. Show me your grace.
Show me mercy, and send the help I need!
Lord, when you said to me, “Seek my face,”
my inner being responded,
“I’m seeking your face with all my heart.”
So don’t hide yourself, Lord, when I come to find you.[a]
You’re the God of my salvation;
how can you reject your servant in anger?
You’ve been my only hope,
so don’t forsake me now when I need you!
10 My father and mother abandoned me. I’m like an orphan!
But you took me in and made me yours.[b]
11 Now teach me all about your ways and tell me what to do.
Make it clear for me to understand,
for I am surrounded by waiting enemies.
12 Don’t let them defeat me, Lord.
You can’t let me fall into their clutches!
They keep accusing me of things I’ve never done

 

Week 1- An Invitation to Return to God

Walking with Christ to the Cross

A Lenten Journey Through Scripture

Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.

 

Opening:

Joel 2:12-13 (NIV)

Rend Your Heart

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.

A Call to Repentance (2:12-17) from the Asbury Bible Commentary

Pay particular attention to the cultural background and meaning of the words “heart,” “return,” and “rend.”

As is often the case among the prophets, Joel uses a contemporary disaster to warn the people of impending judgment and to call them to repentance. Although fasting and weeping and mourning are elements of “returning” (the word translated “return” is shub, the primary word for repentance [v. 12]), Joel adds a profound element to the meaning of repentance. He urges them to rend [their] hearts and not [their] garments. Hope is expressed that the Lord will relent in his wrath (vv. 13-14). If repentance is thus a genuine expression of inner remorse, then external acts are in order: the whole of the people from the priest to the infant are to assemble and fast and pray that the Lord might spare them (vv. 15-17; cf. 1:14).

Once you've read the verse and side-bar notes, take a minute to reflect on the following questions:

  • In what ways is the ancient Semitic understanding of the human heart different from the way we think of the heart today? In what ways is it similar?
  • The prophet Joel uses the words “return” and “rend” to describe actions that demonstrate repentance. What do these words reveal about what it means not just to repent, but to do so “with all your heart”?

 

Devotion: 

The forty days of Lent as a season of preparation echoes the forty days Jesus spent in the desert as preparation for his earthly ministry. Read the story in Luke 4:1-13 (ESV).

Luke 4:1-13 (ESV)

The Temptation of Jesus

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
    and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

For an extended overview of this passage as a whole, follow this link and read the sidebar on “The Temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13)” from the IVP New Testament Commentary Series

Questions for Reflection

  • In what areas of life are you most aware of wanting to return to God with a whole heart? For example, you might consider areas in which you feel defeated, have grown cold, or need forgiveness.
  • The prophet Joel stresses God’s grace, compassion, and love for those who return to him. What grace, compassion, or demonstration of love do you most need from God in the areas of life you just identified?
  • What do you hope might change in these areas if you were completely yielded to Christ, emptied of self, and richly indwelt by the Word of God?
  • What lies might the devil use to keep you from returning to God with a whole heart?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart.
    Examine me through and through;
    find out everything that may be hidden within me.
    Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.
See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,
    and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—
    the path that brings me back to you. (Psalm 139:23-24 TPT)