Lent 2018: Read & Reflect

The following readings, prose and questions have been provided by members of our pastoral staff. Please feel free to go through these devotionals at your own pace, in your own time. 

Read: Psalm 19 

Are you a good listener? Some of us are naturally better at this than others, but most of us can spot the cues to tell if someone is actively listening or not. Eye contact. Nodding heads. Thoughtful hmm’s. Engaging questions. But let’s be honest; active listening with God can be tricky. How do I know He’s listening? Does HE know if I’m listening? Where would I look for the cues? Where is HE looking for my cues? Why is He invisible?!

One of my favorite songs remind me of Psalm 19. It starts with these words to God:

Did you rise the sun for me? Or paint a million stars that I might know your majesty?  Is your voice upon the wind? Is everything I know marked with my makers’ fingerprints?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Give yourself a moment today and just stand 

Lent baby for blog.jpg

outside. Smell the daphne blooming and the crispness in the air as spring and winter battle out their remaining days. Feel the wind, the rain or (praise the LORD!) the sunshine on your face. Make some impressive shadow puppets on the sidewalk or find animals hiding in the shapes of clouds. Look at the faces in the cars around you as you go about your day; see the colors, the sizes, the smiles and the frowns.  

Pause in that moment and praise Him. Sit with Him. He made it for you. He made it for them. He made it for us to know Him more. With God, this is active listening.  Nodding your head and smiling and telling Him you hear His love as you pause to notice it.

  • What were your favorite God “fingerprints” you noticed today?
  • What do these things tell you about God?
  • What do you hear Him telling you about Himself through them?

Read: Philippians 4:8-9

God wants to speak with you. He’s there in the quiet and the stillness - the moment where your heart is singularly focused on His voice. It’s a moment worth zealously pursuing every. Single. day. A moment to allow Christ to put a pause on the chaos and stress of your day and turn your thoughts toward the list Paul so lovingly wrote to his friends in Philippi. 

  • Where can you find that intentional moment today? (standing in line, bathroom break, waiting at the stop light, waking up early, staying up late, turning off Netflix…) 
  • Who can be your “list partner”? Ask someone to swap lists regularly of what is true, lovely, noble, pure…based on their circumstances of the day.  

Read: Genesis 12:1-4

It was 0430 on 2 January, 2016, in Newport, Rhode Island. Chief Davis of the United States Navy was shouting louder than anyone should at that hour, “Stand at attention with your heels against the bulkhead! When I give the perlocutionary, command you will line up and rapidly move down the p-way to the hatch and count off from front to back!” I stood at attention, waiting to execute the first commands I had received since joining the Navy. I had travelled from Oregon to Rhode Island, not to become a war-fighter, but to learn how to do ministry in the military. Away from my family, my city, my school, my friends, my church. Now everything was foreign to me: the classifications of ships, the marching, the saluting, the uniforms, the hygiene. I was put in charge of my company even though I was the youngest by far. I was rapidly learning a new language, structure, culture and values. Many times I had to ask the people around me to translate what was going on. I told myself, “I have two ears and one mouth, do the God-given math.” 

Abram didn’t know God. Not at all. God just started talking to him. This was his very first interaction with the Lord, and yet he knew that he needed to do more than mull over what was said. He obeyed rapidly. He was away from his family, his religious community, his friends, his upbringing. Everything was foreign to him. He came to know the voice of God. When he didn’t know what was happening, he just started trying things, doing what he thought he’d heard and seen (Genesis 22). He was not perfect in responding to the voice of God even when he heard it clearly (Genesis 12:10-13:2). 

  • What thoughts, words or verses have been prompted in you that might be from God? 
  • Who is at least one trusted, wise person you can talk to about it?

Read: Mark 14:32-39

Are you waiting to hear from God about something in your life? When Jesus was preparing Himself to be sacrificed and His prayers were answered with silence, He was deeply distressed and troubled. Yet He stayed true to the course He knew His Father had set before Him and kept praying. He walked in faithfulness, but not without pain. He continued to wait on an answer until the moment He was arrested. There is no record of His Father ever answering Him, even when He wanted it the most. Jesus (God with skin) became so desperate while hanging on the cross that He screamed out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In this raw, agonizing picture, Jesus models the act of waiting on God, trusting His sovereignty and obeying faithfully. 

  • What is coming up in you as you wait for God to respond? 
  • What does the Bible say is true about God even if you never hear a response? 

Read: Hebrews 1:1-4 

God spoke to His people. He pursued them. He desired that they know Him and follow Him faithfully. In the past He spoke through the prophets and He revealed His love and His plans through faithful people like Ruth, David, Moses and Esther.

God still speaks to His people. He pursues us. He wants us to hear and follow Him. In this new era, God speaks to us through The Son. Those that listen to His Word receive a clearer, greater revelation of God. Through Jesus’s life, works and teachings, we have come to know and follow Him. Through Christ we have heard God’s desire for us, our future hope in Him and the call to live out our love of God and neighbor. 

If I’m honest though, sometimes it can seem as if God is silent. There are times in my life when I so desperately want to see the Word and hand of God directly affect my personal circumstances. In these times I sound like the psalmist when he said, “Do not turn a deaf ear to me…Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help.” In these moments I can forget God’s desire for me. In these moments I lose sight of my hope. In these moments I turn inward instead of toward my God and my neighbor. In these moments I need to hear what God has spoken through Jesus: I am His, I am loved, I am called and I know his voice.

Take a few moments to be silent before God. Jesus knows what your day has been like. He knows your anxieties, joys, fears, trials and temptations. Rest knowing that He knows you. Posture yourself to hear Him. After a few minutes, and from this posture of listening, read John 17. This is Christ’s prayer to the Father for you.

  • What do you hear God telling you through Jesus?

Read: John 14 

Jesus tells His followers in John 14 that he will soon be returning to the Father and when He does, the Father will send the Spirit to them. Jesus’ words here are mysterious. He speaks of The Father, the Son and The Spirit being united as one. He speaks of unity between us and Himself made possible by the Spirit dwelling in us. He speaks of a world that cannot see Him, but of believers who can hear Him because we know Him and His spirit. 

Often I think we imagine the Spirit as merely a still small voice, speaking to us privately, guiding us along our individual paths and decisions. But in this passage, I hear Jesus tell us that the Spirit is much more. Likewise, in John 7, Jesus says that the Spirit will be like rivers of living water flowing out of us. The Spirit of Truth dwelling within us is also the Spirit that overflows our boundaries, pointing us and others toward Jesus and truth. 

This is the miracle of the Spirit, that He lives within us. He is not a force to be sought at particular times, nor is He a power that can be mustered for our own purposes. He is the third person of the Trinity, our God. He never leaves us. He reveals the Father and the Son to us. He guides us and leads us to share a hope that can light the fire of renewal in others. 

Read through John 14. Allow yourself to hear what God is saying through Jesus and the Spirit.

  • What does Jesus say is the role of the Spirit in helping us retain the truth of His life, work and teaching?
  • How have you experienced the Spirit reminding you of Christ’s truth?
  • Is the Spirit guiding you to share the truth you have within you with someone?

Art by Scott Erickson