Easter Sunday, April 9 “He is not here; he has risen!”

Scripture: Matthew 28

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I Corinthians 15:51-58

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Music: “Worthy Is the Lamb and Amen Chorus” from Messiah   Voces8    Glorious!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS2osOLEe0U    Don’t miss the Amen!! To the whole Messiah.   

I’d recommend watching and listening to the entire Messiah by Voces8. It is magnificent.

Thank you all for this journey through the Lenten season concluding with the Resurrection, but remember, there is so much more. It didn’t all end there. Forty days later Jesus ascended to his Father in heaven in a glorified physical body where he sits at his Father’s right hand interceding on our behalf. At a time known only to the Father, Jesus will return to bring to final completion and restoration of the entire created order.  He will establish his Kingdom and he will reign forever and ever . . . and we’ll be there!

In the last few years, I have written daily devotionals for the fifty days of Eastertide, the time between Easter and Pentecost. This year I am foregoing doing that because I am in the process of writing a book that will cover daily devotionals for every day from Advent to Pentecost. There are several things that need to be negotiated, but the project is underway. The book’s contents will be very similar to what you normally read. I am not sure how this will impact my writing the Advent devotionals for 2023, we’ll have to see. Over the years I’ve had a number of requests to make daily devotionals extend beyond the main seasons of the Christian year. I am in the process of working through sixteen years of writing, editing, and re-writing. I’ve worked out a system that will accommodate whenever Advent or Easter occur. I’ll appreciate your prayer in this book writing endeavor. Thank you all again for passing the word along! The Lord be with you.

–Dr. Daniel Sharp

©2023 Daniel Sharp

Holy Saturday, April 8 “But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”

Scripture: Luke 23:50-56

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Some thoughts:

This particular Saturday was undoubtedly the darkest day in the history of the world. The disciples and followers of Jesus, the Messiah, were disillusioned, grief-stricken, hopeless, fearful, utterly lost, and completely confused. All their hopes and aspirations were totally destroyed. The One in whom they had hoped, their leader, was viciously tortured and murdered. There was no place to go. The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus and the Romans feared him. He did not fight back or lead a rebellion. Now he was dead. Had his followers been fooled?  Now, what were they to do? Go back home, forget the past months, and return to their previous lives? Note the women followers of Jesus planned to prepare spices for the body of Jesus so they followed Joseph to find out exactly where he was buried, but they ran out of time as the sun set, ushering in the Sabbath. I can imagine the Sabbath services that night and morning.

There are two things to do today. First, reflect on what it would have been like to have been one of Jesus’ disciples. What would you have thought? It is easy for us who know the resurrection is coming to skip through this day preparing for a big Easter dinner and cleaning house for the guests coming tomorrow and give little thought to the solemn nature of this day. I think if we put ourselves in the mindset of the disciples, we gain a deeper understanding of theological joy of the resurrection. I’m not sure we always reflect on the impact of what happened and the difference it makes now. Our tendency is to rehearse the events and move on. Maybe not, but something to consider. Maybe plan ahead so there is as little activity on this Saturday as possible. I realize some things have to be done in advance.

Second, read the following Scripture passages. The Christians in the first centuries after Christ held Easter Vigils. They had a special midnight service to usher in the Resurrection. During that service they read the following passages which told God’s story from the beginning, his story of bringing redemption to the whole of creation. Today is sometimes called Silent Saturday, a day of silence, fasting, prayer, reflection, and Scripture reading.

The Beginning

Genesis 1:1-2:3

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Did you notice that Jesus Christ rested in the tomb on the seventh day, his work on the cross completed? His words also were, “It is finished.”

God Provides Deliverance for his people

Exodus 14:10-31

10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Escape through the Red Sea

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. 18 When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!”

19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.

21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!

23 Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!”

26 When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” 27 So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.

29 But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 30 That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Exodus 15:20-21

20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. 21 And Miriam sang this song:

“Sing to the Lord,
    for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
    into the sea.”

Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation

Isaiah 55:1-11

“Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
    I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know,
    and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

The Resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

24 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

Sin’s Power Is Broken

Romans 6:1-11

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Music: Part II of Messiah    (Passion Portion)    Octopus Chorus    (50:00)

“Requiem”   John Rutter      Rivertree Singers    (37:00)

Prayer: How holy is this day, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred and brings peace and concord. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find it ever burning, he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen 

                                                                                    – adapted from Book of Common Prayer

Good Friday, April 7 “Sin has drained my strength”   

Scripture: Psalm 31:9-16
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
    Tears blur my eyes.
    My body and soul are withering away.
10 I am dying from grief;
    my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
    I am wasting away from within.
11 I am scorned by all my enemies
    and despised by my neighbors—
    even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
    they run the other way.
12 I am ignored as if I were dead,
    as if I were a broken pot.
13 I have heard the many rumors about me,
    and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
    plotting to take my life.

14 But I am trusting you, O Lord,
    saying, “You are my God!”
15 My future is in your hands.
    Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
16 Let your favor shine on your servant.
    In your unfailing love, rescue me.

Some thoughts:

This psalm of David has shadows of Golgotha. It is not hard to read it from the perspective of our Savior as he transverses his final steps and hours. It could easily be read as his prayer in Gethsemane pouring out his heart to his Father. This is a true and honest psalm of lament, something that is often overlooked in our walk of faith. Not everything is rosy in life and turns out well. There are dark moments to be expressed and here David helps us.

There is an interesting phrase in the latter part of verse ten. “Sin has drained my strength.” No doubt sin is draining and weighs us down. But have you ever thought of Jesus’ carrying the sin of the world as he went to the cross? Jesus suffered enormous physical torture and exhaustion to be sure. But even of greater significance, he bore the total weight of the sin of the whole world since the beginning of time; all the sin ever committed by humanity through thousands of years was borne by one man, the Son of God, at one point in time! Such a truth is beyond our comprehension. Yet Jesus did it out of love for those he created.

The wrath of God toward sin was poured out in full in those moments. Such wrath is not anyone’s; it is that of the holy God, the uncreated Creator. We cannot possibly comprehend the draining on Jesus’ life. He took the full force of God’s justice being served. As the song says, “It was our sin that nailed him to the tree.”

A little later in the psalm we read “even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way . . .” These lines remind me of the Garden of Gethsemane . . . and all too often, me. The loneliness of that drain Jesus bore alone in the Garden as his three closest friends slept, the very time he could have used their encouraging prayers. Yet, he prayed alone. Despite the horror of bearing sin as a man without sin and being betrayed by those closest to him, our Lord responded with, “My future is in your hands . . . into your hands I commit my spirit.” Let us take up our cross daily praying his words, “Father, my future is in your hands . . . into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Music: “Were You There?”  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz_kvFjQqaU    Moses Hogan Singers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4Aktws3V0s    Annie Moses Band

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKEboH3cGNo    Collin Raye


Gracious Lord, in truth I do not often think of the horror of sin. Too often it is simply a “mistake” or “bad judgment.” When I read and begin to grasp the horror of what Jesus accepted, what he willingly took on, I am sobered. Too often it seems minor and just not that significant. For the most part, our world has lost all sense of sin, so it is not surprising that there is little attention paid to its devastating effect and impact. Holy Father, help me to see more clearly the horror of my own sin and not simply think that since Jesus paid the debt long ago, my sin is not of that great of concern today. Thank you, Father, for your Son through whom is my cleansing and salvation. Quicken my heart to recognize the seriousness of sin as I bow before my Lord in gratitude for his redeeming work. In the name of the Savior who suffered, bled, died, rose, ascended to the Father, and even now, intercedes on my behalf. Amen.    –Daniel Sharp                                                

Maundy Thursday, April 6 “A new command I give you: Love one another.”

Scripture: John 13: 33-35

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Some thoughts:

In this passage, Jesus uses an endearing term “my little children” in addressing his disciples. Followers of rabbis were often referred to as children and learners. He tells them clearly that he is not going to be around much longer and where he is going, they cannot follow. These are men who have been traveling with Jesus for the past three years so the idea that “we can’t come with you” is perplexing to the twelve. So, Thomas circles back to the question in chapter fourteen. How would they function without him? What impresses me about the disciples is that though they had some idea who Jesus was as the Son of God, they were not afraid to ask him questions when they didn’t understand something. They are a model for us.

If you knew you were going to die in the next day or so, what would you say to your family and closest friends? My guess is you would be telling them how much you loved them. Jesus does that but he also introduces something new. “A new commandment” I give you. He is indicating a new kind of community of faith as a result of his Passover departure from this world. The new community is based on Jesus’ love for them. Without knowing his love firsthand, loving one another is not possible. His love is the cornerstone of the building of the spiritual community. Without that block, we have just an ordinary human powered community, and we’ve seen how successful those are!

In order for people to love one another, they must understand the love of Jesus as expressed in the Passover death on their behalf and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus describes and enacts that love and care in chapters 13, 14, 15, & 16. In chapter 17 we get to listen firsthand to Jesus’ conversation, his prayer to his heavenly Father. Chapters 13 through 19 cover less than twenty-four hours and account for about a third of the entire book of John. The apostle John did us a great favor in recording these final conversations of Jesus. Over the next couple of days, take your time and read these passages several times, putting yourself in the midst of the disciples and listen to a dear Friend who knows he is about to die. What do you notice?

Music: “Ubi Caritas” -4th century (text written specifically for Maundy Thursday worship possibly as early as the 4th century)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_Pp0jKn1zQ   Audrey Assad

Bonus: This setting of the text by Ola Gjeilo 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvI5sNucz1w   Central Washington University Chamber Choir      Outstanding choir


Where charity and love are, there God is.

The love of Christ has gathered us into one flock.

Let us exult, and in Him be joyful.

Let us fear and let us love the living God.

And from a sincere heart let us love each other (and Him).

Where charity and love are, there God is.

Therefore, whensoever we are gathered as one:

Lest we in mind be divided, let us beware.

Let cease malicious quarrels, let strife give way.

And in the midst of us be Christ our God.

Where charity and love are, there God is.

Together also with the blessed may we see,

Gloriously, Thy countenance, O Christ our God:

A joy which is immense, and also approved:

Through infinite ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, like Judas, we have betrayed you; like Peter, we have denied you; and like the other disciples, we have forsaken you. Yet you remain faithful to us unto death, even death on a cross. We plead for your forgiveness and mercy. And we ask that you strengthen us so that we do not turn aside but follow you to the very end-for the final victory belongs to you. 

The Worship Sourcebook, p. 597

Wednesday in Holy Week, April 5 “One of you is going to betray me.”

Scripture: John 13:21-30

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Some thoughts:

Betrayal is one of the most difficult, if not the most horrendously awful acts between supposed friends. To be disregarded and despised by a friend is horrible. The betrayer must put self and self-interest above the relationship and the other person. Betrayal is an evil, malicious disregard of the friend and relationship. In order to betray, one must connivingly gain complete trust from the one betrayed.

Judas was all about money and power. He was apparently a crook long before this incident. One who looks out for the best interest of another will not betray. Jesus shows us how to respond when betrayed. Knowing what was to happen, Jesus washed the feet of Judas anyway. Can you imagine what was going on in the mind of Judas?

The last four words of this pericope are so significant on several levels. I’m reminded of the passage in Isaiah (9:2), “the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light . . .” Judas walked for several years next to the Light of the world. He heard Jesus say, “If the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” Yet, at a crucial moment Judas sought the darkness of night and the cover of darkness. I would guess more evil happens in darkness than in light. In Judas’ descent into night, he opened his soul to Satan, the epitome of evil and betrayal. Satan consumes all who make a deal with the devil.

Jesus let the consequences of Judas’ action deal with Judas. Jesus’ words were “I did not come to judge the world but to save it.” Remember, betrayal pays its own horrendous dividend, always. On the other hand, Jesus offers forgiveness to the repentant sinner. Just ask Peter. When betrayed, Jesus is our model. When we betray, Peter is our model.

Music: “My Song is Love Unknown”    Sylvia Burnside    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOEjZb-rHc0   (I know I’ve used this before, but her rendition is gorgeous!)

Bonus: “My Song is Love Unknown” St. Martins Church Choir, Beautiful setting! Great singing

Prayer: I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward; the word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard. I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity; by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three, of whom all nature hath creation; Eternal Father, Spirit, Word, Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord.           –Patrick of Ireland 390? -461?

Tuesday in Holy Week, April 4 “They still would not believe in him.”

Scripture: John 12:37-50

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[a]

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.”[b]

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Some thoughts:

How many times have you heard, “If I can just see it, I’ll believe it.” It’s not true, there is more to it. We read here that some people saw and believed, yet others saw the same thing and did not believe. The Scriptures even say that God hardened their hearts! As human beings we like to have clear, definitive conclusions, so generally, we are very confident of our own abilities to discern and form our opinions, even when we are wrong! What was it about the hearts that made them hard? What the hard-hearted saw did not fit with what they knew. Their inability and unwillingness to let go of what they knew created a flint-like heart.

We can see and still not believe, especially when it comes to faith. Remember the story Jesus told of Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man after they had died? The rich man told Abraham to have Lazarus tell his brothers he was tormented in Hades and that they should believe God so they wouldn’t have to come to his place of torment. Abraham’s response was if they didn’t believe Moses and the prophets, they wouldn’t believe someone coming back from the dead. Seeing someone rise from the dead did not result in belief. Unbelief in Jesus’ resurrection continues to this day.

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead and done other miraculous signs in the Pharisees’ presence and still they would not believe. Many others did believe. Apparently, a major factor in the unbelievers was, “What will my friends think?” The believing leaders were unwilling to openly express their faith. How many times have you and I kept our mouths shut in regard to the various social issues of this day because of what others would think or speaking the truth about abortion, gender, or biblical marriage would have made for an awkward moment? May our hearts never become hardened.

Music: “Ah, Holy Jesus” –Johann Heermann, early 17th century

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4MKOP-vhQ0      traditional tune

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXzKXBz9mgw    Fernando Ortega

Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, you have said that you are the way, the truth, and the life. Suffer us not to stray from you, who are the way, nor to distrust you, who are the truth, nor to rest in anything other than you, who are the life. –Erasmus, 1469-1536

Monday in Holy Week, April 3 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”

Scripture: John 12:1-11

 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Some thoughts:

How is it that two people can look at one situation and see things so completely differently? For the Jews, touching the feet of someone was very degrading experience, normally reserved for slaves or people of low honor. Yet in this public setting, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. In her act, we are reminded of Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet a few days from now, both acts of which were culturally inappropriate for a normal person. Yet Mary saw Jesus as one to honor while from Judas came a disingenuous condemnation. John is blunt in telling us why Judas responded the way he did. The actions days later would reveal the true heart of each; Mary was among the first to see the risen Christ, and Judas hanged himself in remorse.

How does what Mary did relate to what Jesus said in the passage above? There is a connection. The perfume which Mary used to anoint Jesus was worth a year’s wages. It may well have been her dowry for marriage. But her humbling act anointed Jesus for his death and burial. Mary saw the deeper significance of the moment, that of preparing him for his departure from this world. He accepted what she did and gave Judas a curt response, “Leave her alone.” (Jesus never spoke to any of the other disciples that way.) Jesus was not saying don’t help the poor. He was saying Mary recognized the significance of the moment.

How many significant moments with the Lord have we missed? Our head was elsewhere, and we failed to see the God given opportunity to honor our Lord right in front of us. Mary was focused on her Lord, oblivious of those around her or what they thought and she gave her all.

Music: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”   –Isaac Watts    Keith and Kristyn Getty

Bonus: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”   A family gathering to sing!

Prayer: Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: grant your people grace to love what you have commanded and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.        -from Book of Common Prayer

Palm Sunday, April 2 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Some thoughts:

This is a fascinating passage on many accounts. To begin with, Jesus’ riding on the back of a donkey does not seem all that appropriate for a supposed king. Really, a donkey? We need to know a little more Old Testament history and the culture of the day. The people shouting all knew that Jesus was a descendant from the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Israel’s greatest king, King David, and the tribe of the Messiah, hence their shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” In addition, the “hosanna’s” harkened back to Maccabean revolt some 160 years earlier in the aborted attempt to throw off Seleucids occupation of Israel and the Hellenistic influence on Judaism. There was great hope that Jesus would lead the overthrow of Roman occupation. It was finally the perfect setting!

But there is great irony here. You will recall that when David’s son Absalom rebelled and stole the kingdom from his father, David fled Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in sackcloth and ashes by the Mount of Olives some 1,000 years earlier, while Absalom rode a mule as he attempted to take over the kingdom. Now Jesus, the Son of David, was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9) by riding into Jerusalem via the very same road his kingly ancestor had escaped a 1,000 years earlier. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” What irony!

You see also in this culture, the donkey was the “royal limousine.” The donkey was gentle and humble, the image of a king coming in peace. The horses or mules, on the other hand, were signs of wealth, power, and war and aggression. Interestingly, God did not tell the children of Israel to gather horses or buy them from Egypt (Deut 17:16). God, not horses fought Israel’s battles. God was never opposed to donkeys, the real work horses of the economy. For example, Job had camels and donkeys, but no horses. Interestingly, in Revelation 19:11 we read of Jesus riding a white horse in the final battle where the beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. 

Jesus was strong, gentle, and locked in on the road before him. The sword Jesus brings to earth is not one of earthly battle, but one of dividing those who believe from those who reject the Savior. He had come to give his life for the ransom of many. He entered into this task on the back of a donkey. What a fitting picture of the true earthly mission of our Savior. With the presence of the donkey, God was showing his people the humble nature of the mission of his Son, one of bringing forgiveness and peace, reconciling men and women to God.

Music: “Ride on, King Jesus”   Kathleen Battle and James Levine

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, you entered a rebellious city filled with fickle people who had their own ideas as to what, when, and how you should rule. Forgive the arrogance in my own heart which too often expects the same things of you. May the reminder of the humble, gentle donkey be in my heart today and throughout the coming week as I reflect on your great love and sacrifice on behalf of all your people. Forgive my aggressive ways and calm me down to quiet service to you that your name may be carried wherever I go. In the Messiah’s name I pray. Amen.          –Daniel Sharp

Saturday, April 1 “. . . see the glory of God.”

Scripture:  John 11:36-45

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Some thoughts:

The above phrase “deeply moved” can also be translated “disgusted” or “angered” as Jesus dealt with the skepticism from the crowd concerning his power and will to heal. Jesus’ response is perhaps further indication of his sadness, maybe even frustration in the people’s blindness to his mission.

So, he heads to the tomb where he utters the first of three commands, “Take away the stone.” A more accurate translation of Martha’s response would read, “Lord, he already stinks!” Jesus’ second comment was that it was Martha’s responsibility to believe. Since she had already said she believed, it was now time to see the glory of God revealed. Note that Jesus never did miracles simply as a show of power or for some spectacular affect. Satan tried to get him to do that when he challenged Jesus to jump from the Temple wall. His miracles were always related specifically to his divine mission of bringing glory to God as witnesses to his identity as God’s Son.

Hence, Jesus offered his prayer to the Father once again stating his mission to the world in his prayer so that those standing at the tomb might hear and see the results of his prayer. Jesus then cried out in a loud voice those victorious words, “Lazarus, come forth!” Jesus enabled all the mourners to see the glory of God by raising Lazarus from the dead. They had even been involved in the miracle by rolling the stone away and in unraveling Lazarus’ grave clothes. As a result, many more Jews put their trust in God. They saw that Jesus had power over death and God was glorified, the point of the miracle.

But this victory, while bringing salvation to many, also was most significant in moving things ahead in God’s plan for redeeming the world. Because of fierce hatred from the Jewish leaders, and because the positions of power and influence of the Romans were all being challenged by this itinerate carpenter from Nazareth, in their jealous and frightened perspective, Jesus had to be killed. On a still grander scale with the crucifixion and death of Jesus, it appeared that the establishment of the kingdom of God was foiled and that things did not turn out as they should have.

If anything, we are shown again and again and again in the life of Jesus, that we can trust the Father regardless of how things look at any given moment in our life. If we continue to trust, we will eventually see “the glory of God,” if not in this life, the next. The empty tomb still speaks! While humans were involved in rolling away the stone from Lazarus’ tomb and unwrapping the grave clothes, it was God alone who rolled the stone away from the tomb of Jesus that resurrection morning and neatly folded the grave clothes, never to be used again, either for Jesus or for you and me. As human beings, we were involved in bringing death but had nothing to do with bringing life! That was the mission of the Son of God. Glory to God!

Music: “And the Glory of the Lord” from Messiah Voces8  It dances not like we usually hear it!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, here I am again praying with words, words, and more words. I seem stuck with the same old ones all the time. I have trouble finding the right ones to express my love and complete gratitude for what you have done and continue to do on my behalf. Our words are so limiting! If you had not done what you did, there would be no hope at all. I cannot begin to imagine what that would be like. I very much connect with Paul Gerhardt’s phrase, “What language shall I borrow to thank thee dearest friend, for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?” I still don’t have words, but please listen to my heart, it’s trying to tell you what’s in there. This I pray as Jesus intercedes on my behalf, my loving Lord. Amen.     –Daniel Sharp

Friday, March 31  “Jesus wept.”

Scripture: John 11:28-35

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

Some thoughts:

This shortest verse in the Bible underscores this whole passage. Why did Jesus weep? He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew what was coming. So why would he cry? The mourners visiting Mary and Martha, assumed he was weeping because of the death of his friend. Or was he weeping out of pity for the sisters because of the sadness of their own grief? Is there more to it, something we are missing?

The weeping of Jesus was of a different kind. Normal Jewish expression of sorrow at death would be a loud wailing which was the case of the sisters and those comforting them. The Greek word used for Jesus’ weeping is used only one time in the New Testament and it is here. John wanted us to know that Jesus’ weeping was of a different kind from the traditional mourning and loud wailing. The word is for a soft, subdued weeping.

In other places in the Gospels where Jesus expressed a depth of emotion, it was specifically related to his mission (Lk.19:41). It may be that he wept over his people’s failure to recognize and understand his mission of bringing redemption to this world. The Son of God was in their midst, and they did not fully recognize him. The people were so immersed in their own world and their perception of their world that they were unable to get outside of themselves and see who was among them. As the end of his earthly ministry approached, they still did not grasp what was happening. Have you ever felt frustrated that someone you deeply loved just couldn’t understand something, and persisted down a wrong path? Jesus knows exactly how you feel when we weep those soft tears.

Music: “When Jesus Wept” –William Billings,1746-1800, American composer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap_ckOb__SY     QuireCleveland

When Jesus wept, a falling tear

In mercy flowed beyond all bound.

When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear

Seized all the guilty world around.

Prayer: O Jesus, who wept over the death of Lazarus, be with all who grieve. O Jesus, who wept alone in Gethsemane, be with all who feel alone, all who face difficult decisions. O Jesus, who cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” be with all who are tortured, all who are victims. O Jesus, who offered up prayers with loud cries and tears, hear our prayers. O living God, who knows all our pain and joy, be with us in our lives. Amen.

                                                   The Worship Sourcebook, p.573

An outstanding book on dealing with grief is Jerry Sittser’s, A Grace Disguised: How the soul grows through loss

Thursday, March 30  “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Scripture: John 11:25-27

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Some thoughts:

To Martha, Jesus spoke the electrifying words that no one expected, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Resurrection and life are two related dimensions of Jesus’ statement. Once again earthly life is linked to eternal life through Jesus Christ, the victor over death. After four days, Lazarus returned to life! The significance is not so much that he returned to life, for Jesus had raised people from the dead before, but that Jesus is victor over death, Christus victor. In this passage, John makes sure that we know that Lazarus was not “mostly dead,” in the words of Mad Max in the Princess Bride, but “dead” dead! (Reference yesterday’s devotional if you missed it.) Put this in the context of Jesus’ words. “He who believes in me will never die.” Think about that. “Never” is an absolute word. If you believe in Christ, you will never die. Your loved ones who died in Christ are live in his presence even as you read this. No more glorious words have been spoken since the beginning of language. Is there life after death? Without a doubt! Jesus’ words couldn’t be clearer. Believe in him and live on in his presence, even when your body doesn’t!

You’ll recall when Jesus was a baby, Mary and Joseph took him to the old priest Simeon. Do you remember Simeon’s words about his own death? They were, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” He didn’t say “die in peace.” On the Mount of Transfiguration the same word was used in speaking of Jesus’ “departure” from this earth. Our bodies are simply transformed. When we die, we simply depart from this physical body. Sometime today or tonight, find a quiet place and talk to the Lord. “Jesus, I believe in you, and because of you, the real me will never die. I will only depart this life.” Instead of saying this Christian brother or sister died, we should say, “Brother Sam, sister Sarah has departed this life. We’ll see them later.”

Music: In Christ Alone   –Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, Allison Kraus

In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song

This Cornerstone, this solid ground,

firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

when fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My Comforter, my All in All,

here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh,

fullness of God in helpless babe

This gift of love and righteousness,

scorned by the ones He came to save

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died,

the wrath of God was satisfied

For every sin on Him was laid,

here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay,

light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious Day,

up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory,

sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine,

bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

this is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

can ever pluck me from His hand

‘til He returns or calls me home,

here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

PRAYER: You are God and we praise you; you are the Lord and we acclaim you; You are the eternal Father; all creation worships you. To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, cherubim and seraphim sing in endless praise, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of your glory.’ Throughout the whole world the holy church acclaims you, Father of majesty unbounded; Your true and only Son worthy of all worship and the Holy Spirit advocate and guide. Come then Lord and help your people bought with the price of your own blood; and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting. Amen    –from Te Deum, 4th century

Wednesday, March 29 “if you had been here . . .”

Scripture: John 11:17-24

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[a] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Some thoughts:

It looks on the surface like it is over. With one day of travel time to cover the forty or so miles to get to Jesus, by the time he got the message, Lazarus had already died and was buried, as Jewish burials were held as soon as possible after death. The Jewish belief was that the soul of the deceased hovered around the corpse for three days in anticipation of some possible means of re-entering the body. On the third day it was believed the body lost its color and the spirit was locked out. On the fourth day the spirit left the corpse to enter the chambers of Sheol, the place of the dead. Entering the fourth day after death meant that life on earth was over. Notice after Jesus heard the news, he waited two more days and then took another day to travel to Bethany. It meant he arrived four days after Lazarus’ death.

When Martha heard of Jesus’ proximity to their home, she went to meet him. Mary, on the other hand, remained in their home seated as guests had come to sit with her in her grief. The custom was for the grieving to remain seated and for guests to come and sit in silence with the bereaved. (Think of Job’s first week with his friends.)

In going to meet Jesus, Martha expresses a human understanding of faith. She had been around Jesus and seen him heal people before and wished that he had been there earlier because he could have healed her brother, but that was of little consolation now. When and why Jesus chooses to heal remains a mystery even today. But Martha understood the biggest picture of the resurrection which is indicated in her response to Jesus’ words, “he will rise when everyone else arises, at the last day.” This is one of those difficult moments when we have faith in the biggest picture but are still in pain and at a loss for the present time. Maybe there is someone today grieving with whom you can “sit with” to bring comfort and encouragement. You don’t have to say anything. It’s called the “ministry of presence,” not the “ministry of explanation.”

Music: “If You Will Trust in God to Guide You”    –Georg Neumark, 1641

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFPe_G-Lqcc    Fountainview Academy

If you will trust in God to guide you

and place your confidence in him,

You’ll find him always there beside you,

to give you hope and strength within.

For those who trust God’s changeless love

build on the rock that naught can move.

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,

offer your service faithfully,

And trust his word; though undeserving,

you’ll find his promise true to be.

God never will forsake in need

the soul that trusts in him indeed.

Prayer: And now unto him who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to him be power and authority, for ever and ever. Amen     –Martin Luther King Jr., 1928-1968

Tuesday, March 28 “. . . but his disciples thought . . .”

Scripture: John 11:7-16

and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Some thoughts:

“But I thought, Lord, that . . .” and I can hear the Lord say to me, “Yes, Dan, you thought . . .” We see here how tuned Jesus was to his Father in heaven. To us, the timing seems off and not quite logical. A short time prior to this, Jesus had to flee some forty miles from the region of Judah because some in the religious establishment there wanted to kill him. His growing popularity had become a major threat. Jesus had become very famous and people from everywhere were clamoring to see him with the hope of seeing one of his miracles. Yet his dear friends’ call for help came from the very place that sought to kill him.

So here Jesus’ unusual response of “there are twelve hours in the daylight” was a way of telling his followers that God, his Father, had given him a task to do, but one, which in this case, defied human understanding. In Jesus’ words to his disciples, “You do your work while it is daylight” and you accomplish the Father’s will. Someone who walks in the dark, stumbles and gets off course. “Stumbling” in this context further conveys a lack of belief, a lack of understanding. Jesus was in the spiritual “daylight” and the disciples were in the spiritual “night.” (We must remember that the disciples were in the process of learning who Jesus was. It wasn’t until after Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit that they fully understood all that had happened and came into the “daylight.”)

The disciples clearly did not understand the bigger picture of what God was doing. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was part of his Father’s course of action, so Jesus spells it out specifically for the disciples. Despite this, Thomas’ final comment confirms that they still did not understand. The truth is, there are times when you and I are in the “night” concerning the working of God. Remember, God never is. The next time you and I are tempted to question, “Lord, but I thought . . .”, be reminded of Moses’ words to the Israelites before crossing the Red Sea, “be still and watch the mighty hand of God.”

Music: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”   –William Cowper, 1774  Sovereign Grace

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour

The bud may have a bitter taste

But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan his work in vain,

God is his own interpreter

And he will make it plain.  (Eventually)

PRAYER: Lord God in heaven, who knows all things, who understands all things, who has power over all things, who has created all things, who sustains all things, who loves all things, who is over all things, who is everywhere present, who has been revealed in Jesus Christ, who is present in the Holy Spirit, who has given his written word, who has made provision for the restoration of the whole created order, grant us one more thing: faith to trust you when we cannot understand your ways in this world. This we pray through Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Hallelujah! Amen.          –Daniel Sharp

Monday, March 27 “When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was . . .”

(As we travel these last two weeks of the Lenten journey, our focus moves from more introspective themes to the historical events culminating in Jesus traveling the road to Calvary. So, this week we will look at Jesus’ traveling to the home of Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus. This event happened shortly before Palm Sunday and was a major event in triggering the plot to kill Jesus.)

Scripture:  John 11:1-6

1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Some thoughts:

Does it ever seem like God doesn’t do the right thing, or at least his timing is noticeably off? He clearly could do something and just doesn’t. We were talking in our family about some disappointments for something we had prayed and hoped for, something which just didn’t happen. In fact, it emphatically did not happen! In trying to console our family member, I commented, “The Lord’s ways are not our ways.” And the family member responded with the truth we all felt, “And that’s what makes it so annoying!”

Such was the case with Lazarus. He was sick at home. His good friend Jesus was elsewhere in another part of the country. His sisters sent word for Jesus to come to help, after all, Jesus had healed other people. Though Jesus was a close friend, what kind of a “friend” does not offer to help in time of need? Yet, Jesus ignored their request.

Though the sisters did not know it nor could imagine it, something better was in store. That something better was not even the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead; it was the glorification of Jesus, as the Son of God, as the One who had the power over death. What better way to demonstrate the power of Jesus over life and death thereby bringing glory to God than to raise a dead man! Jesus waited to come to their home, because he was listening to his Father who had perfect timing in his magnificent plan.

You may be going through a “Jesus stayed two more days” frustration phase of your life and your prayer is “Why doesn’t God act now before it’s too late?” Instead pray that God might be glorified in what is coming your way. As my father-in-law so often reminded us, “The Lord may tarry, but he is never too late.” Just you wait! Your passage “through the river” into the Celestial City is certain! Read chapter eleven of Pilgrim’s Progress again and you’ll see what we mean! Remember, God has your biggest picture in mind.

Music: “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus”  Chet Valley Churches

Prayer: O Lord, let me not henceforth desire health or life except to spend them for you, with you and in you. You alone know what is good for me; do therefore what seems best to you. Give to me or take from me; conform my will to yours; and grant that with humble and perfect submission and in holy confidence I may receive the orders of your eternal providence and may equally adore all that comes to me from you.          –Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662

Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 26 “This is the very reason I came.”

Scripture:John 12:20-33

20 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.”22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”

Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.

30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

Some thoughts:

We have pushed things a little out of time sequence here with this passage because I want us to see the larger picture of God’s working. Sometimes we think of events in Jesus’ life as a series of isolated stories. Normally we’d address this event as part of holy week. This response from Jesus comes after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As his earthly life comes to a brutal end, we are reminded in Jesus’ own succinct words, that death and bringing glory to the Father were “the very reason I came!”

Did you notice Jesus’ unique answer to Philip and Andrew’s request for some Greeks to meet Jesus? His unusual response was that his hour had come and they all would see the result of who he was and why he had come. This moment is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry and in this gospel. Until now his words had always been, “My time has not yet come.” In verse twenty-three his words are, “Now the time has come . . .” Further, his words “anyone who wants to serve me must follow me” answers the question that his salvation was for more than the Jews but included the Greeks and everyone else in answer to Philip and Andrew. The Scriptures do not tell us if the Greeks met Jesus, but they certainly heard that his message included them.

As you follow Jesus’ life through the gospels, you will notice that every event, each encounter, feeds the grand purpose for his time on earth. I cannot imagine how he processed the looming ever-present truth of his coming death for all of humanity, knowing the end of his life on earth would eventually lead to a horrible, excruciating death on a cross. In this passage, we see that Jesus knew his time on earth was ending very soon. In his humanity, he embraced the truth of his mission with a troubled soul. (v.27) Think how much anxiety we experience in the days leading up to a surgery; can you imagine something of this scale, namely the salvation of the world, going through his mind?  

We must always look at Jesus’ entire life in a larger context. His nativity can never be seen only as “the birthday of Jesus.” His life can never be measured only in the context of his moral teaching. His death can never be seen only as his “death and resurrection.” His death can never be seen as only for the salvation of humans. His resurrection can never be seen as the pinnacle of his mission. His ascension can never be seen only as his glorious exit from earth and return to heaven. His being seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven can never be seen as the completion of his work where he can now take time off and go on a vacation! Jesus’ “work” continues throughout eternity. Remember, God’s timing is perfect in everything including your life and mine. We have a wonderous SAVIOR and High Priest who walks with us and understands us perfectly.

 Music: “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”    Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ruby Amanfu solo Glorious!

Prayer: O Father in heaven, let me never think, that I am here to stay. Let me still remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on the earth. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Preserve me by Thy grace, good Lord, from so losing myself in the joys of earth and that I may have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven. I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast so set eternity within my heart that no earthly thing can ever satisfy me wholly.          

   –John Baillie, from A Diary of Private Prayer p.91

Saturday, March 25 “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.”

Scripture: Ps. 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
    Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

Some thoughts:

Psalm 51 is a familiar classic psalm of confession. In the Lenten season we think of repentance, humbling oneself, as we reflect on Jesus’ hard road to Calvary. His loving compassionate sacrifice made possible the forgiveness of our sin. Note in this psalm the verbs that describe God’s action on our behalf. Our God has mercy, blots out, washes, purifies, breaks, creates, renews, restores, rebuilds, removes, does not reject, and helps. Confession accomplishes all of that in our lives. Noticing verbs associated with God’s actions helps to give us greater insight into our God’s grace.

Do you see all the action of God in our lives when we will simply confess our sin and agree with God that we in fact have sinned.  God’s heart is longing to make us whole again. Notice the “re’s” above. “Renew, restore, remove, and rebuild.” God is the mover in bringing wholeness to our lives, his shalom. Our part is both simple and hard at the same time, simple because it only involves agreeing with God regarding his assessment of our actions or thoughts, hard because we are stubborn, short-sighted, arrogant, and proud. The Lord is looking for his children who have broken spirits, that is, people who are humble and honest before him about their own lives. They live daily with repentant hearts. Repentance is a central and necessary factor in the Christian life.

Music: I Need Thee Every Hour   OneVoice from Briarcrest   (arr. Sam Robson)

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh

I need thee, oh, I need thee, every hour I need Thee
I need thee, I need thee, I need Thee every hour

Prayer: O merciful heart of God, in true penitence and contrition I would now open my heart to Thee. Let me keep nothing hidden from Thee, while I pray. Humbling as the truth about myself may be, let me yet take courage to speak it in Thy presence. What I did not think shame to commit, that let me not think shame to confess. And in Thy wisdom use this pain of confession as a means to make me hate the sins confessed. Blot out all my transgressions and let my sins be covered. Make me feel Thine hand upon my life, cleansing me from the stain of past misdeeds, loosing me from the grip of evil habits, strengthening me in new habits of pure-heartedness, and guiding my footsteps in the way of eternal life. All this I ask for His holy name’s sake. Amen.

                                                        –John Baillie from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.51

Friday, March 24 “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.”

Scripture: Heb. 4:14-5:4

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs.”

And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.

Some thoughts:

From the very beginning, a priest was the necessary intermediate to represent humans when coming to a holy God. Early on, Moses’ brother, Aaron, was that person. Such a position was not open to all: that person must be born of the tribe of Levi, a descendent of Aaron’s family line, and be specifically chosen by God. Communing with God was via sacrifice, which of necessity, was offered exclusively by the priest.

You are probably familiar with those necessary qualifications. So, I’d like to look at some of the reasons for our High Priest from a little different angle. What if our high priest came from heaven, something like an angelic being as our heavenly high priest. Being from heaven, they would naturally be holy and therefore could represent us in the presence of our holy God. If a high priest is to be a permanent high priest, he must be holy and sinless. This heavenly priest fulfills that requirement. But not having been human, this heavenly holy being could not fully experience the human dilemma of living in a sin-filled world. There would be no truly human connection. The transaction would be from heaven to heaven as such and not actually connect with earthly humanity.

On the other hand, clearly the human high priesthood of Aaron’s line did not ultimately solve the problem either with fallen men offering sacrifices on behalf of other fallen sinners. The necessary holiness on the part of the priest always required a blood sacrifice over and over. The fact that it had to be repeated over and over meant one thing; it did not permanently solve the sin problem. Bottom line–we have an impossible separation between humanity and God . . . that is unless this High Priest is from heaven. Being perfectly holy and sinless and also being from earth being fully human enables this High Priest to perfectly grasp every aspect of the struggles of humanity. Being the sinless Son of God from heaven in the earthly physical body as a human being enables the separation between God and man to be bridged eternally.

As you read in our pericope for today, of course Jesus Christ is that High Priest, our High Priest forever. What people often forget or just don’t think about is that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in his glorified human flesh in the heavenly dimension now! He is interceding on our behalf continuously. Before his ascension, there was never human flesh in heaven. In Christ, we are seated with Jesus in the heavenlies now. The temporary solution that was Aaron’s line of priesthood is no more.

There may be things in your life today that are so difficult to overcome. Who can understand those battles we face? Have you ever been embarrassed to admit those struggles to God? After all, we’re talking to a holy, perfect God! Never hesitate to speak frankly with our High Priest. He completely identifies with us in our weaknesses and temptations. He had them too without sinning, so he knows how to help us. He’s been down your road. Come boldly to the Savior this day.

Music:  How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds    Emu

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
and drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the rock on which I build,
my shield and hiding-place,
my never-failing treasury, filled 
with boundless stores of grace!

Jesus! my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
my Prophet, Priest and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
and cold my warmest thought;
but when I see thee as thou art,
I’ll praise thee as I ought.

Till then I would thy love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of thy Name
refresh my soul in death!

Words: John Newton (1725-1807), 1779

Prayer: (Our High Priest praying for us.)

Father, my people do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one-as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

                                                            –Jesus, from John’s Gospel

Thursday, March 23 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me . . .”

Scripture: Luke 4:18-28

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[b] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

Some thoughts:

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be a Jew in Nazareth and go to synagogue and have this scenario happen? The hometown boy, one whose family you knew well, got up and read this particular passage of Scripture. He had been traveling around speaking at several synagogues in the area and had become quite famous. Rumor has it he did some miracles. Now he was back home and went to his own synagogue to read. Part of every service involved reading the Scripture from the scrolls. On this occasion, one of their own, stood up to read. Rabbis would stand to read and then sit to offer an interpretation.

However, he surprisingly read only part of what he was to read, stopping at “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” What he said next was in fact astounding! Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people of Nazareth were astonished, then enraged, and then drove Jesus out of town attempting to kill him! Someone they had known from growing up days, claimed to be the anointed Messiah, God, and the fulfillment of what Isaiah the prophet had written some 700 years earlier!

There is a principle here worth noting. The Jewish people had a tight system of belief and understanding of the Law and the Prophets. Their understanding of the Jewish faith was very clear in their minds. Among one great truth was that God was a spirit. They thought they   understood this aspect of God. Also, central to their thinking was that God was only for the Jewish people. They believed they had the inside track to God’s favor. One needed to become a Jew in order to gain God’s favor as one of his children. When confronted by Jesus with the truth that salvation was extended to pagans and Gentiles and that he was God in human flesh, they erupted in explosive anger.

Here’s the principle I’m reminded of in this famous quote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” I’m wondering how often we presume, even subconsciously, that we know what God will or should do. We understand what we believe pretty well. But is our understanding too presumptive? Why are we surprised when his ways are not our ways. My guess is that there are times when God is working in our midst, and we don’t even recognize it. I’m reminded in this pericope that I need always to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and not what I am so sure about what I know about God.

Film Clip: Jesus reading this very passage in the television series The Chosen. DON’T MISS THIS.

Music: “We Come, O Christ, to You”    Grace Community Church

Prayer: Lord, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go – let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example – by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you.

                                                                                                –John Henry Newman, 1801-1890  

Wednesday, March 22 “The righteous care about justice of the poor.”

Scripture: Proverbs 28:3; 29:7

 3 “A ruler who oppresses the poor

is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.”

7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Some thoughts:

Having grown up on a farm and seeing what driving rain can do to a cornfield makes this proverb especially clear. Driving rain cuts ruts in fields carrying away topsoil, the richest, most nutritious part of the dirt. With the topsoil gone exposing its roots, the plant is greatly weakened, if not washed away altogether. Low spots in the field are flooded playing further havoc. Not only is the immediate crop destroyed, but major work needs to be done to get the field back in shape for the next crop.

When the rain is driving that hard, you are hoping it will let up and give the field “a break.” When the poor are being oppressed by a cruel leader, the poor are hoping for some relief that does not come. Sorrow and hopelessness follow. The poor are trapped in a demoralizing situation. So, a ruler who oppresses the poor with no real concern for people, is a disaster. Such leadership that does not actually help the poor, simply acts to prolong their condition.

On the other hand, a truly righteous leader cares about justice for the poor and works to make an eternal difference. Caring for the poor among us involves being concerned that they have justice.  But this justice needs to be seen I terms of God’s moral justice with its roots being grounded in the truth that all people are made in God’s image and bare the stamp of their Creator. Much so-called justice today is about rights, control, and power. But we are talking about a different justice that begins with God, that is giving God is rightful position and bowing before him, respecting the dignity of every person, tribe, and nation. As fellow pilgrims in need of the saving grace of Christ, traveling down the tough path of life in this world, we continue to look for those we can encourage and assist along the way. Look for someone today to whom you can give assistance or a word of encouragement, always keeping our final destination in sight!

Music: “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”   Fountainview Academy

Prayer: Bring us, O Lord God, at the last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but an equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity, in the habitations of thy majesty and thy glory, world without end. –John Donne, 1571-1631 from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.52

Tuesday, March 21 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.”

Scripture: Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.”

Some thoughts:

This verse seems rather similar to what Job expressed the other day. He was abundantly kind to the poor yet did not appear to receive any credit or benefit from God in his mind. There have been times when I have acted in kindness towards the poor with the only apparent result being I had less money than before! Call me Job. I was thinking money and expected gratitude and God was thinking kindness! I know you are smiling analyzing my greedy little sinful mind! I repent. God is looking at our hearts.

There are several things at play here. In spite of the promises of some erroneous preachers, God is not obligated to bring material blessing when we assist those in need. “Giving to get from God” is the very heart attitude Jesus condemned. God will not be manipulated. The Good Samaritan was out money, time, and personal expense because he gave to one in need. Yet his reward was huge. He was commended by God for his acts of kindness. Kindness is not material; it is an expression of the heart. Anyone can offer it to any other person. Kindness may take patience, make take listening, and it may take inconvenience. What it does take is a will.

The Message records this Proverbs passage as: “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.” In other words, the kindness shown in giving to the needy is like money being lent to the Lord. In God’s time, those loans come back in full in God collateral. As we meet fellow pilgrims traveling along the road today, let us ever keep our final destination in sight. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  Prov.16:24

Music: “Jesus, I Adore Thee”  University Presbyterian Sanctuary Choir, Dan Sharp directing!

Jesus, I adore Thee, Word of truth and grace,

Who in glory shineth light upon our race.
Christ, to Thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed.
Alpha and Omega, thou true Son of God.

Taste and touch and vision to discern Thee, fail;
faith that comes by hearing pierces through the veil.
I believe whate’er the Son of God hath told.
What the truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

Word of God incarnate, Lord of life and light,
teach me how to love and worship Thee aright.
Holy Spirit, ever bide within my heart,
speaking Thy commandments, telling all Thou art.

Wondrous revelation, verity and grace.
Lo, in heaven’s glory I see Thee face to face.
Light of endless light Whom heaven and earth adore,
fill me with Thy radiance, now and evermore.

(text by St. Thomas Aquinas; translation by Stephen Caracciolo. This video was recorded in the early 2000’s long before the technology of today! This first song has a marvelous text. “Filling with the radiance of Christ is the essence of kindness. There is a second song on this clip. The first is 3:41)

Prayer: Fix thou our steps, O Lord, that we stagger not at the uneven motions of the world, but steadily go on to our glorious home; neither censuring our journey by the weather we meet with, nor turning out of the way for anything that befalls us. The winds are often rough, and our own weight presses us downwards. Reach forth, O Lord, thy hand, thy saving hand, and speedily deliver us. Teach us, O Lord, to use this transitory life as pilgrims returning to their beloved home; that we may take what our journey requires, and not think of settling in a foreign country.                            –John Wesley (1703-1791)

Monday, March 20 “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.”

Scripture: Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Some thoughts:

We are all familiar with the phrase Jesus spoke, “If ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) Solomon works with a similar idea here. Sometimes I forget that every person I see was made by God. He breathed life into each of these souls. If I am honest, there are times when I cower away from someone on the street because of smell or dirt. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s the truth. The first thought in my mind is not, “this is someone made in God’s image.” The following incident is a reminder in my life.

Many years ago, I was driving to church with one of my young sons about 6:45 AM on this particular Sunday morning. We came to a stop light and there standing on the corner six feet from our car was perhaps the most oddly dressed and unusual looking person I’ve ever seen. We both glanced quickly and then looked straight ahead without saying a word. As we cleared the intersection my son commented, “God spent a little extra time on that one didn’t he dad!” I cracked up and was then brought up short in realizing how true my son’s words were. We need to look at everyone as someone personally designed by God’s own hand, made in his image. In giving people freedom, they get to tinker with what God made, but all people are to be treated with respect and honor, which honors not only them, but honors their Maker. It was Solomon who also wrote: “The rich and the poor have this in common, the LORD is the maker of them all.” Look in the mirror and you’ll see what I mean! You are some of God’s handiwork and he didn’t make a mistake!

Music: “Alone Yet not Alone”      Sam Robson

Prayer: Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto you. Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say: ‘Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.’ Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience. Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore, Amen.                       –Sister Teresa of Calcutta, 1910

Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 19  “I was father to the needy.”

Scripture: Job 29:7-17

7 “When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square,

8 the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet;

9 the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands;

10 the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.

11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me,

12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them.

13 The one who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing.

14 I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.

15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.

16 I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger.

17 I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.

Some thoughts:

This portion of Scripture forms the backdrop of a key principle surrounding giving to the poor. Job is here describing the early days of his prosperity. In these days he was honored and respected by those in his world. Job had a position of great esteem in his society. At the same time, he was a very generous man. He looked after the poor and helped them again and again. He took care of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. He advocated on behalf of the less fortunate and he did so with apparent pure motives. Job was obedient to his calling and abundantly shared God’s blessing of his life. But I think there is something interesting about Job’s assessment in his monologue.

In listing all the things Job had done in terms of giving to his community, it almost seems that he attributed his societal esteem to his generosity. But I wonder. Could the admiration for him have come from the nature of his person, and not from something he had done? He may have succumbed to the danger of thinking what he accomplished was the measure of who he was as a person. His troubled heart seems a little “off center” as he makes some assumptions about God’s view of generosity.

A second question arises in the following chapters, Job is puzzled that all his generosity counts for nothing. Like Job, do we perhaps have some sense that giving should bring distinctive favor from God? Job is struggling to discover any correlation between what happens in life and blessing from God. The truth is, giving to the poor may or may not bring any kind of earthly blessing other than knowing we have been obedient to the Lord to care for the poor. Is there a lingering expectation that God will notice what we did or said that incurs his favor? Does such an expectation reveal a less than pure heart motive? 

I have even more appreciation for the rabbi’s comment from yesterday; it is best to drop your money behind you then you will not know who picked it up. The person will not know who gave it, and I would add, you also wouldn’t know the impact of your gift. You were obedient to the Lord, which seems to be the point. Generosity combined with God’s wisdom brings glory to God.

Music: “Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord”   A cappella   unique setting! Beautiful

Prayer: O Divine Love who dost everlastingly stand outside the closed doors of the souls of men, knocking ever and again, wilt Thou not give me grace to throw open all my soul’s doors? Let every bolt and bar be drawn that has hitherto robbed my life of air and light and love. Give me an open ear, O God, that I may hear Thy voice calling me to high endeavor. Too often have I been deaf to the appeals Thou hast addressed to me, but now give me courage to answer, Here am I, send me. And when any one of Thy children, my human brothers, cries out in need, give me then an open ear to hear in that cry Thy call to service. Give me open hands, O God, hands ready to share with all who are in want the blessings with which Thou hast enriched my life. Deliver me from all meanness and miserliness. Let me hold my money in stewardship and all my worldly goods in trust for Thee; to whom now be all honor and glory. Amen.

                                                        –John Baillie from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.63

Saturday, March 18  “So when you give to the needy . . .”

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Some thoughts:

In addition to prayer and fasting, there is this business of “almsgiving” or “giving to the poor.” Here again, we see this word “when” as Jesus directs our attention to giving to the needy. The assumption is that followers of Christ will give to those in need as a normal part of living out their faith. In this passage Jesus is addressing the heart’s attitude like he did previously with prayer and fasting.

To the Jews of Jesus’ day, almsgiving was viewed as the most sacred of all the religious duties. So, Jesus makes very clear that we are to resist the temptation to announce our generosity to others. The Pharisees had that problem. Jesus’ words are aimed at correcting the common perspective of his day. God alone sees our heart motivation and attitude. We are giving not to be noticed or with an eye out to what others have given. What we do, we are to do quietly. That’s what it means by not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. One rabbi commented that it is best to drop your money behind you then you will not know who picked it up and the person will not know who gave it.

We are to give with humility. God loves the humble, but he resists the proud. There is great difference between social and spiritual significance. What is given may look the same on the outside, but when faith and love for the Lord is the motivator in the giving, the result has eternal consequences for the giver and brings glory to God. Once again, heaven and earth are tied together in daily living through a simple act of giving.

Music: “Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service”   -Albert Bayly, 1961

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XuZjzEqSRc     St.George and St. Michael Episcopal

Prayer: Take, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With his I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.                                –Ignatius Loyola 1491-1556

Friday, March 17  “When your fast, do not . . .”

Scripture:  Matthew 6:16-18

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Some thoughts:

There are several interesting things here regarding fasting. Think about it. Fasting was a normal part of the life of every major character in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Notice here then that Jesus said when you fast, not if you fast. This is the third of the three “when’s” in this part of his Sermon on the Mount. “When” you give alms, “when” you pray, and “when” you fast. As with the other “when’s,” it also had a warning with it because of the nature of the people to whom Jesus was speaking, including us.

There were religious leaders in the society of Jesus’ day who wanted to make a show of their spirituality (imagine that!). Jesus warned that fasting is not a trick, a gimmick, or a show to gain God’s or anyone else’s approval. Even if people can be fooled or manipulated by a pious show, God will not be.  Jesus’ words were simple. Do not let anyone know when you are fasting.

He then goes on to point out that the practice unifies heaven and earth in a unique way. How so? Proper fasting is “unseen” on earth. No one on earth knows it is happening except God and the person fasting. The irony is that earth is the place where we can see things. But we cannot see into heaven as it is hidden from our view at this point. But our Father who is in heaven, who is unseen to us on earth, sees what people on earth cannot. As we keep our mouth shut both from words and food, our heavenly Father rewards us. For fasting is a matter of the heart and desire to turn away from earthly things and find the mind of God. In other words, to get to know our Savior better. Loving God is one of the motivating factors in fasting.

Music: “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go”  Indelible Grace    new tune

“O Love that Will Not Let Me Go”   Sam Robson       phenomenal arrangement!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZad7yBVm5o       regular tune

Prayer: O God and Father, I repent of my sinful pre-occupation with visible things. The world has been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy Presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me. For Christ’s sake, Amen.

                                                            –A.W. Tozer, from The Pursuit of God, p.72

Thursday, March 16 “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul . . .”

Scripture: Act 13:1-5

1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

On Cyprus4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

Some thoughts:

The context of this setting is that the church is rapidly expanding amidst persecution. Herod had recently killed James, the brother of John. (These are the brothers who were fishermen and disciples of Jesus.) Herod had arrested Peter and put him in prison only to have an angel of the Lord lead him out of his cell in the night. Barnabas and Saul had just finished a mission trip to Jerusalem and had returned to Antioch. There were a group of believers in Antioch who were prophets and gifted teachers. They sensed an urgency in spreading the gospel to the Roman and Greek world. As this group was worshiping and fasting waiting on the Lord, we read that the Holy Spirit spoke to them in a clear way telling them to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which they had been called, namely that of carrying the gospel to the Gentile world.

In the early days of the church, weekly fasting was a normal practice. The early Christians regularly fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. Fasting was commonly practiced by the Jews on Mondays and Thursdays. Being already familiar with the practice, the Jewish Christians simply changed the days, wishing to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion. The believers at Antioch had a decision to make as to who should go on the mission. Prayer and fasting were their normal course of action in cases. As you read on, you see evidence of the Lord’s blessing the ministry of Barnabas and Saul through the Holy Spirit’s working through them. As their ministry continued, Saul evidently took greater leadership of the pair, for by the end of the chapter they are referred to as Paul and Barnabas. Saul was his Hebrew name and Paul was his Roman name. As they ministered in a Gentile world, it was likely more advantageous to use his Roman name, Paul.

As significant decisions confront you and me, praying and fasting to find the mind of the Lord is a centuries old practice and well worth doing.

Music: “Facing a Task Unfinished”         Keith and Kristyn Getty 

Prayer: O God, our Great Shepherd, you tenderly gather us as lambs, carrying us with your all-embracing love. Yet, like sheep, we wander from you, following our own ways, ignoring your voice, and distrusting your provisions. Forgive our stubborn rebellion, our arrogance, our hardened hearts, and our lack of trust. Refresh us once again by your flowing waters of mercy and restore our souls by your redeeming love that we might follow the narrow path more closely through Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen      –Daniel Sharp

Wednesday, March 15 “after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”

Scripture:  Matthew 4:1-11

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Some thoughts:

Since our attention is on different biblical examples of fasting this week, I wanted us to look at Jesus’ fast as a model for us for several reasons. While his situation is unique, it is most significant to me that he was led by the Holy Spirit to fast and undoubtedly pray, before launching into his public ministry. All that lay ahead would take a superhuman effort that only God could accomplish. Satan had failed via King Herod to subvert and destroy God’s redemption plan and here he tried again.

Fasting sharpens the mind and the spirit. People often comment that they can see things more clearly during a fast. Often things that seem so important at the time fade into insignificance. Other concerns emerge in our minds needing more attention. In other words, we are growing in wisdom. In addition, spiritual discernment often increases as the physical hunger seems to transfer to a kind of spiritual appetite and an increased hunger to know the mind of God.

This fast put Jesus in a nutritionally vulnerable position, but what did happen was his clear resolve to be obedient to his Father’s will regardless of his earthly human situation. There is a food principle here regarding fasting. Our bodies clearly need physical food to survive. Our spiritual body needs spiritual food, God’s Word, to survive. Notice how Jesus answered the food temptation from the devil. Jesus referred to the Scripture as his spiritual food. Spiritual food was more necessary that physical food. He often said, “My food is to do the will of my Father in heaven.” (John 4:34) We need to grasp and treat spiritual food as seriously as did Jesus.

While we may fast at the physical level, there is never a fast on the spiritual level or we die. Again, the purpose of these devotionals is to help us develop a regular fourth meal of the day: Scripture, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We must feed our body and soul daily. The dinner you ate today does not last until next week or next month. By the same token, encountering God in his word daily feeds our souls and helps prevent spiritual malnutrition, a deadly disease.

The devil wanted Jesus to shortcut obedience to God and doubt God’s care and provision. The devil wanted to sever the spiritual connection between the Father and Son to try to convince Jesus that he could live apart from his Father and survive on his own. Earthly fasting, rather than making Jesus weaker, made him stronger in resisting. The devil tries the same thing with you and with me and with every person who has ever lived. You cannot overeat spiritual food, the best food there ever was. Like physical food, spiritual food always involves exercise, in a word, faith.

Music: “Welcome Holy Spirit”  Girl Named Tom    beautiful!

Prayer: O Thou to whom I owe the gift of this day’s life, give to me also, I ask, the spirit to use it as I ought. Forbid that I should stain the brightness of the morning with any shameful deed. Let Thy Holy Spirit breathe into my heart today all pure and heavenly desires. Let Thy truth inform my mind. Let Thy justice and righteousness make a throne within me and rule my errant will. Let Christ be formed in me, and let me learn of Him all lowliness of heart, all gentleness of bearing, all modesty of speech, all helpfulness of action, and promptness in the doing of my Father’s will. Defeat all selfish and worldly-minded schemes and prosper all that is conceived among us in the spirit of Christ and carried out to the honor of his blessed name. Amen

                                                       –John Baillie, from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.109

Tuesday, March 14 “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Scripture: Esther 4:9-5:3

9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

(Esther 5)

1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

3 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

Some thoughts:

This is one of the famous stories in Scripture which contains the well-known line “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Let’s back up a bit. As you recall the evil man, Haman, has tricked the king into issuing a decree to exterminate all the Jews. The uncle of the Jewish queen Esther learns of the plot and asks his niece to go to the king to ask that the Jews might be spared from annihilation. Her uninvited appearance before the king breaks the law meaning death unless the king has mercy.

In our day, Esther would be a whistleblower! What? “A whistleblower is a person, often an employee, who reveals information about an activity within a private or public organization that is deemed illegal, immoral, illicit, unsafe or fraudulent.” Esther qualifies. In her case, and in some cases today, one’s very life is at stake. If not the life, then continued employment, reputation, harassment, or family safety is at stake. In the absence of the king’s mercy, Esther was dead.

Though God’s name is never mentioned in the entire book, Uncle Mordecai expresses confidence that if Esther decided not to confront the injustice, God’s protection of his people will come from someplace else. In other words, God’s grand plan for his people will not be thwarted by human cowardness.

When you and I have an opportunity to address a wrong, could it be that God has put us in the very position we are in to further his work of truth and justice in our world? Certainly, in the governmental and corporate world we read of whistleblowers frequently. But it isn’t only in those places that God gives opportunity. Every one of us as followers of Christ find ourselves in places where we have a chance to speak up for what is right and truthful and just. When the occasion arises, how do we prepare? Look again at Esther and her uncle.

Esther and Mordecai and friends agree on three days of fasting and prayer in preparation of Esther’s going in to make the request of the king. They completed their fast and Esther was granted an audience with the king who granted her request. The evil Haman, the instigator of the plot to annihilate the Jews, was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.

The fasting by God’s people indicated in this instance that of total devotion in submitting to the will of God as indicated in Esther’s response, “If I perish, I perish.” Rejoice. God has put you in the very place you are in this world “for such a time as this” to speak up for his kingdom. If we perish, we perish.  

Music: “Once to Every Man and Nation” Classic Hymns Gospel Quintet  (Don’t miss this!)

Prayer: God of compassion, you are slow to anger and full of mercy, welcoming sinners who return to you with penitent hearts. We confess that at times we have been cowardly children. We have been silent when we should have spoken up; we have been afraid to speak the truth in love; in fact, we didn’t love enough to speak at all. Our hearts have been timid and too willing to get along, to not make waves. We have failed you, have hurt others, and dishonored your name as a result. Our sin is against you. Grant us renewed courage and receive us yet again as your beloved children, surely not because we are worthy, but for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.             –Daniel Sharp

Monday, March 13 “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed . . .

Scripture: Jonah 3

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Some thoughts: (I am greatly indebted to the bibleproject.com for some of the insights for today’s devotional.)

The story of Jonah is full of great irony. Normally we think of a prophet as someone who boldly proclaims God’s truth and coming judgment with great urgency and conviction (Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah). Jonah is the exception. As you know he avoided at all costs going to Nineveh because he did not want them to repent since they were not Jews. He did not want God to forgive their sinful ways. Bluntly, he wanted them to die in their rebellion against God. He hated pagans. What kind of a prophet of God is that? That’s Jonah!

More irony. As Jonah fled from God, the pagan sailors on the ship repented and worshiped Israel’s God! God used Jonah’s own rebellion to bring more non-Jews to faith. In his eventual message to the Ninevites, he never even mentions God, yet from the greatest to the least among the people, even the cows wore sackcloth and ashes! You would think a prophet of God would rejoice in the transformation of these peoples’ hearts. Not so with Jonah.   

At the heart of this account, we learn that God extends his grace to all peoples and nations, not only the Jews. That concept was hard for the Jewish Jonah to accept. But it fulfills God’s promise to Abraham over a thousand years earlier. “All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3)  

Now the question for today, are you and Jonah related? Like Jonah, sometimes we can resent God’s mercy and grace to all peoples and sinners. How often have you said or thought, “I hope they get what they deserve” or “those people are so disgusting, I’m glad there’s a hell.”

When you look in a mirror, per chance do you see any distant relative of Jonah’s?

Music: “What Wondrous Love Is This?” –American folk hymn, Fernando Ortega

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss,

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul?

PRAYER: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

                                                                                        –Book of Common Prayer

Third Sunday in Lent, March 12  “Declare a holy fast”

We have mentioned the three primary themes of this season: prayer, fasting, and alms or giving to the poor. This week we focus on the spiritual discipline of fasting.

Scripture: Joel 1:13-15

13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.

14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

15 Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.

Some thoughts:

The Day of Atonement was the only required day of fasting for the Jews, but there were certainly other days and occasions set aside for voluntary fasting. (Num 29:7) The biblical fast most often involved a total abstinence from all food for a set period of time. Lengths of fasts varied. In the passage from Joel, we see fasting combined with the wearing of sackcloth as people went into mourning over the state of their nation. Fasting was always accompanied by prayer as an expression of grief, repentance, and humiliation before the Lord. In times of national crisis in particular the entire nation of Israel would fast and pray. Such is the case here.

The dating of the book is unclear. The problem the nation was facing was not unlike today in our world, it is safe to say, where nations are in rebellion and rejection of God. Fasting and prayer were a common response in the Scriptures by God’s people as we’ll see all this week. What is it about fasting that makes situations of stress, hopelessness, or uncertainty so common a response in the Scriptures?

In vibrant healthy faith our trust is in God alone. In short, he is the one we rely upon for everything; he is our life. But where there is rebellion toward God, judgment follows at some point creating a gaping hole and estrangement from God. Fasting is a reminder that something vital is missing. When we fast, the first thing we notice is we are hungry. Food has always been there, now it is not. We never thought about it before, we just ate. Now, the hunger of fasting reminds us there is a gap in our relationship with God and our dependance on him.

But something else happens at a deeper level. In fasting our mental focus sharpens. We see things around us more clearly. As we pray, (prayer always accompanies biblical fasting), it is common to discover things we have missed or see other situations from a different perspective. In fasting and prayer, the mind becomes sharper, the spirit more perceptive.

Fasting is something to consider as a spiritual discipline. Perhaps you may choose to set aside one day a week for the rest of the season of Lent to fast and pray during the time you would normally be eating. (Be wise and aware of your own physical condition.)

Music: “KATONDA ONSEMBEZZE (Near My God To Thee)”  Jehovah Shalom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkApjl0gqoE&list=OLAK5uy_lFSNGZLMCHepAjMKF_6JuZjOFMYtpKbeU&index=26     Terrific! Six voice acapella band from Kampala, Uganda

1. Nearer, my God, to thee,

          Nearer to thee!

E’en though it be a cross

That raiseth me.

Still all my song shall be

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee!

2. Though like the wanderer,

         The sun gone down,

Darkness be over me,

My rest a stone,

Yet in my dreams I’d be

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee!

3. There let the way appear,

          Steps unto heav’n;

All that thou sendest me,

In mercy giv’n;

Angels to beckon me

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee!

4. Then with my waking thoughts

          Bright with thy praise,

Out of my stony griefs

Bethel I’ll raise;

So by my woes to be

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee!

5. Or if, on joyful wing

         Cleaving the sky,

Sun, moon, and stars forgot,

Upward I fly,

Still all my song shall be

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee!

Text: Sarah F. Adams, 1805–1848

Music: Lowell Mason, 1792–1872

Prayer: Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore, I will remain with you. Of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.

                                                                                   –Martin Luther 1483-1546

Saturday, March11 “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message”

Scripture: John 17:1-5; 20-24

1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Some thoughts:

This portion of Scripture is often referred to as the Lord’s prayer or the High Priestly Prayer, for here is the extended prayer he prayed prior to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We have included the beginning and the ending portions of the prayer in our reading for today.

Jesus’ prayer contains the basic elements of an Old Testament priest’s prayer just before he offers a sacrifice. Verses three to five refer to the glorification of Father and Son. Then there is the reference to the work Christ came to do. (v.6-8) Intercession on behalf of others follows. (9, 11, 15, 20, 21, 24) A final element of a priest’s prayer is found in verse one and five, that statement declaring the offering.

Verse one affirms that Jesus is the Lord of time itself. Throughout the previous months and years, he often stated, “My time is not yet come.” Now as time’s Creator, his words here carry greatest authority and power, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Out of great love, he volunteered to ascend to the cross to complete the work he came to do, being the only possible bridge between heaven and earth. Participation in the life of Christ and communion with God is again possible as the ultimate sacrifice is paid in full.

In the latter portion of the passage, we find Jesus praying specifically for you and for me, for we are the people who have believed in Jesus based on the truth of the disciples’ message being passed down through the centuries. 2,000 years ago Jesus prayed for us, even as he has continued to pray for his people through the centuries.

On a side note, Jehovah Witnesses claim that Jesus did not always exist, but that God the Father created him. John’s words here decisively destroy their claim as verse five can only be understood in terms of Christ’s pre-existence. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, have never not existed as the only uncreated Being.

There is so much in this prayer, considerably more than this space allows. Take some time and go slowly through the whole prayer (chapter 17) noting how the different sentences relate to each other. Observe for what and for whom Jesus prays. What are the relationships? Don’t you wonder what Jesus prayed when he went alone to the mountains to pray? This passage is a treasure trove into the prayer life of our Savior.

Music: “O Children Come” Kristin Getty and Ladysmith  Black Mambazo

Prayer: May God support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done! Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen

                                                                                                –John Henry Newman 1801

Friday, March 10And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites”

Scripture: Matthew 6:5-15

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Some thoughts:

In this passage Jesus is giving us insight into prayer from God’s perspective! The disciples once asked the Lord to teach them how to pray. (Luke 11:1-4) Well, here is a lesson. Praying to be seen or admired by people isn’t effective prayer. Have you ever prayed in public where you were more focused on the words and thoughts you were praying rather than being aware you were talking to God? Judging by most people’s reluctance to pray in public, this is probably not most people’s response.

But then I wonder how many of us follow through on the next part of his discussion. Do we regularly go into a private place to pray to our Father who is unseen? Jesus further explains: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Note the irony of praying to someone who is unseen by us, yet who sees us. As we pray, we are acknowledging two simultaneous worlds, the visible world in which we live with the invisible dimension of heaven. Therefore, when we pray, we do not need to describe or explain to God the details of the situation about which we are praying. He is more aware of the details than we are and sees quite clearly.

So, when we pray, Jesus reminds us not to fill the time with endless words, but to be clear and to the point. He then gives us an example of what he means . . .  the most frequently prayed prayer in the Bible, the Our Father. Carve out some time this week and find a quiet place where you can spend time alone pouring out your heart to the Lord. A closet in your house may not be a bad place to start! (Don’t get sidetracked into cleaning it out, you can do that later! You know the devil is not concerned with neatness; he only wants to keep you from praying!)

Examples of Paul’s prayers: Col 1:9-14, Phil 1:9-11, Eph 1:15-19

Music: “Blessings”  Laura Story

Prayer: Come now little man, turn aside for a while from your daily employment, escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your weighty cares, let your burdensome distractions wait, free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him. Enter the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything except God and that which can help you in seeking him, and when you have shut the door, seek him. Now, my whole heart, say to God, ‘I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek.’             –Anselm 1033-1109

Thursday, March 9   “My heart rejoices in the Lord . . .”

Scripture: I Samuel 1:10-18; 2:1-3

10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

Chapter Two 1 Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 2 “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3 “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.

Some thoughts:

Here is yet another fervent prayer from a humble servant of God. In the first passage we read of a barren Hannah pouring out her heart to the Lord. These were dark days in Israel with the nation adrift. Eli was the old priest and evidently didn’t recognize passionate godly prayer when he saw or heard it! Apparently, he had seen, (and experienced?), a fair amount of drunkenness. His boys were not shining examples of integrity or godliness, quite the opposite. At any rate, Eli blessed Hannah and asked God to grant her request. God did and she became pregnant with her son Samuel, who became one of the most gifted and significant leaders in Israel’s history ushering in the first monarchy with King Saul and bringing vital spiritual leadership as prophet and fulfilled some priestly duties. Hannah followed through on her promise and gave Samuel to serve in the Temple with Eli.

The second portion of Scripture above is Hannah’s song and prayer of gratitude to the Lord for answering her prayer after she brought little Samuel to Shiloh, the place of worship at that time. You’ll notice there are a great many similarities to Mary’s song, the Magnificat, (Luke 1:46-55).

(You may want to refer to the Advent devotional on December 21, 2022 for a fuller discussion of the similarities.)

What do you see or notice in Hannah’s character, in her person as relates to her prayer? She did not pray passively! Look at the words: deep anguish, bitter weeping. She was broken hearted and in misery! She “kept on praying;” she was persistent over many years. She was praying in her heart, almost in groans too deep for words? She was “pouring out her soul” to the Lord. She was praying out of great anguish and grief. With Eli’s words, “Go in peace. May God grant your request,” she rejoiced and praised God before she had conceived. She believed God. Hannah was a zealous prayer in her lifetime and a marvelous prayer mentor for us. There was nothing passive in her expressing her heart.

Music: “The Lord’s Prayer”    Andre Bocelli and Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Prayer: Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy Voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking Voice. Amen.

                                                           –AW Tozer, from The Pursuit of God, p.83

Wednesday, March 8   “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer . . .”

Scripture: Nehemiah 1:5-11

“LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

Some thoughts:

The context and content of this prayer of Nehemiah is instructive to us. Think parallels in your situation as you read this. A broken Israel had rejected the Lord and been in captive exile for many years under several foreign powers. Nehemiah’s heart was broken as he prayed for his wayward nation. He was a man of much prayer. In fact, there are references to his praying to the Lord at least ten times in the thirteen chapters of this book. He prayed before, during, and after events. In this case we read of his final prayer prior to his going to the king to ask to return to Jerusalem to rebuild his beloved city and encourage those Jewish exiles who were living in that city. (You note here again the practice of mourning and fasting being associated with earnest prayer for a specific situation.)

Nehemiah begins his prayer with words of adoration commenting on God’s character and being. He then simply asks that God would hear his prayer. Confession enters at this point, both confessing his own sin and confessing on behalf of the nation. He is specific about their disobedience and rebellion against the Lord. He then reminds God of the covenant made with his people. Despite their rebellion, they are still his people. He asks in faith for God to listen to his prayer and declares his personal love for God and offers his one specific request, “Give your servant success today in granting him favor in the presence of this man” [the king].

When our hearts are heavy about a specific situation, note Nehemiah’s approach. He puts the bigger picture into perspective. 1)He is truthful about his and the people’s sinfulness. 2)This prayer is instructive of the importance of including ourselves as sinners when praying for our nation. It is very easy to see the flaws of our local and national leadership believing their public sins are more egregious than our “little” sins. 3) He reminds God of the covenant promise he made to his people. 4) He articulates Israel’s history of God’s deliverance.  5) He makes his request-direct, nothing vague.  Notice there is a deep reverence toward God. There is humility and honesty. There is much to gain in studying the honesty and pattern of the prayer life of Nehemiah. You may want to work your way through the short thirteen chapters of the book noting the circumstances of each of his time of prayer. What would happen if Christians fervently and regularly prayed for our cultural and societal repentance?

Music: “The Lord’s Prayer”   in Aramaic (the spoken language of Jesus)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Intercessor, may our hearts be open to you, to see as you see. May we be obedient to your voice. May our prayer life with you multiply many times throughout the day. We ask that you bring people and circumstances to our minds during the day that need your touch. May we be free to pray with those in need as we go through the mornings, afternoons, and evenings of our lives. In all of this, may you receive glory and may your kingdom be advanced. Thank you for continually interceding on our behalf. We pray this in your tender name. Amen.

                                                                                                         Daniel Sharp

Tuesday, March 7   “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?”

Scripture: I Chronicles 17:16-24

16 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and prayed, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O LORD God! 18 “What more can I say to you about the way you have honored me? You know what your servant is really like. 19 For the sake of your servant, O LORD, and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known.

20 “O LORD, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you! 21 What other nation on earth is like your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have you redeemed from slavery to be your own people? You made a great name for yourself when you redeemed your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations that stood in their way. 22 You chose Israel to be your very own people forever, and you, O LORD, became their God.

23 “And now, O LORD, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. May it be a promise that will last forever. 24 And may your name be established and honored forever so that everyone will say, ‘The LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God!’ And may the house of your servant David continue before you forever.

Some thoughts:

King David gives us a model of humility in this prayer. A telling line to me occurs in verse eighteen, “You know what your servant is really like.” Are you ever embarrassed when you are praying, knowing that the Lord knows what you are really like . . . and hears you anyway? I am challenged by the authenticity and transparency in his prayer. David doesn’t pray, “Lord, you are my number one priority in life.” God is not a category in David’s life.  He is David’s life in his saying, “There is no one like you.” His prayer reveals his humble heart.

Like today, David lived in an era where there were many gods, yet he made clear his heart’s desire and focus. His humility is further expressed in listing all the things God had done for his chosen people. He was God-focused in his prayer. Have you ever prayed listing all the things God has done on your behalf? Try it. God has provided you the specific place where you live. The clothes you have come from him as has the food you eat today. Your ability to see and hear and talk are all gifts from him. Your very breath and beating heart are in his hands. He has given you the money you have to steward. It is so easy to presume, isn’t it? In the words of Dennis Prager, “Memory permeates faith. No memory, no faith. Memory permeates gratitude, no memory, no gratitude.”

King David closes his prayer by uniting the earthly with the heavenly with these words, “And may your name be established and honored forever so that everyone will say, ‘The LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God!’” Have you thought of the blessings in your earthly life as being united with eternal blessing bringing glory to God? In this prayer, David has given us a wonderful guide for our prayer content as well as a God-focused heart perspective when we pray.

Music: “O for a Closer Walk with God” -William Cowper, 1772    Stuart Townend

PRAYER: O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow thee up from this misty lowland, where I have wandered so long, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.        –A.W.Tozer from ThePursuit of God, p.20

Monday, March 6   “I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession . . .”

Scripture: Daniel 9:3-19

3 So I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.

4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. 5 But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. 6 We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.

7 “Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. 😯 LORD, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. 10We have not obeyed the LORD our God, for we have not followed the instructions he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11All Israel has disobeyed your instruction and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice.

“So now the solemn curses and judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured down on us because of our sin. 12 You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster as happened in Jerusalem. 13 Every curse written against us in the Law of Moses has come true. Yet we have refused to seek mercy from the LORD our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth. 14 Therefore, the LORD has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The LORD our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him.

15 “O Lord our God, you brought lasting honor to your name by rescuing your people from Egypt in a great display of power. But we have sinned and are full of wickedness. 16 In view of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain. All the neighboring nations mock Jerusalem and your people because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors.

17 “O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary.

18 “O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.

19 “O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.”

Some thoughts:

Daniel and his people were in a very difficult and disturbing situation. He turned to the Lord (in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting-he pulled out all the stops in expressing his repentant heart!) to seek an answer. Notice the structure of his plea. His prayer begins with confessing (agreeing with God) regarding God’s power. He affirms that God keeps his covenant with unwavering love to those who love him and are faithful. Daniel affirms what is true about God’s character and being. God’s character is the foundation for our repentance. He remembers who God is.

He then moves from affirming the truth about God to confessing the truth about his people. “We have sinned and done wrong . . .” We have not obeyed your laws. We have not listened to your messengers, the prophets who spoke in your name to our current leaders, to our ancestors in the past, and, in fact, to all of us. We have rejected your word at every point. Righteousness is on your side. Shame is on our side no matter if we are here in Jerusalem or anywhere else in the world. We are totally and completely at fault for what we and our ancestors have done. To you Lord, belongs mercy and forgiveness. We have completely rejected you and the people who brought your words to us. Our whole nation has rejected your law and refused to heed your word. Does this description of Daniel’s nation seem at all familiar and apropos to our nation and world? Our rebellion necessitates our repentance.

Daniel continues. We are justly cursed under your law, the law you gave Moses. We had it in writing what would happen if we broke our covenant with you and we went ahead and rebelled anyway. God kept up the grief on us which we certainly deserved. God is right in what he is doing. There are always eventual and just consequences for our sinful rebellion.

Daniel then appeals to God’s actions of delivering his people in the past. He pleads for the Lord to deliver them based on God’s mercies rather than their righteousness. He likewise appeals to the Lord’s own name’s sake for deliverance. (This is not uncommon in biblical prayers.) Daniel then concludes with three impassioned pleas: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, for your city and your people bear your name.” In Daniel’s prayer we are given an articulate model of fervent prayer. In typical Hebrew fashion, he prays in duplets: hear and forgive, then listen and act; and don’t delay for your own sake God. Daniel’s advice? Humbly speak the truth in your prayers and don’t be shy. The nations of the world and our cultures are certainly in full-on rebellion against God. Does Daniel’s prayer strike you as one your nation could, should pray? Pray it today and in the days ahead on behalf of your country. The nations of the world desperately need fervent prayer. You can use Daniel’s words, he won’t mind.

Music: “Breathe On Us Again” Maranatha Singers    (An ‘old’ prayer with words that are ever true!)

O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive us. We have lost the awe of You, Have mercy, have mercy.

O Lord, cleanse our hearts which are divided. Stir the faith that we once knew.

We’re thirsty, we’re thirsty.

O Lord, restore the church that bears Your name.

O Spirit, send a revival to this nation.

Breathe on us again, breathe on us again.


Gracious Father in heaven, filled with compassion, tenderness, and love, our nation has brought great sadness to you by its arrogant pride and defiant ways of rejecting your word. Our culture has delighted in rejecting you and your creation preferring its own perverted ways. Forgive us Lord, have mercy. In truth, we have all sinned and fallen very, very short of your glory. We have  no forgiveness except in you. There is no healing except in you. There is no transformation except in you. There is no hope except in you. There is no health except in you. Lord, have mercy on us and on our nation and bring revival to the glory of your great name. This we pray through Jesus, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign one God, world without end. Amen.

                                                                                                       Daniel Sharp

Second Sunday in Lent, March 5    “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.”

Scripture: Mark 8:31-39

31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Some thoughts:

In the gospel of Mark, we read several times where Jesus tells the person he has healed not to tell anyone who he was. He wanted to keep his identity low key in regard to the public, Jewish religious leaders, and the occupying Romans. Why? I’d suggest his message was more important than his identity at this point, or perhaps it was because he wanted time to proclaim the kingdom of God and what it actually was like-not the military overthrow of Roman occupation, for which the people were hoping. He wanted to show the public that the nature of God’s kingdom had to do with the inner transformation of the heart and not a political manifesto. But as Jesus comes closer to the end of his time on earth, he lets his full identity come front and center. The above pericope then follows.

In the context of this passage, Jesus is walking with his disciples after just having healed a blind man when he asks his followers, “Who do people say I am?” Peter boldly announces that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.

Peter did not want to hear that Jesus would suffer many horrible things and eventually be killed and, as you just read, and he told Jesus so! Peter had become a tool of Satan at this point. Jesus recognized the devil’s ploy and issued the sharp rebuke to Peter. Do you remember in Jesus’ moment of temptation in the Lukan account where the physician wrote the devil departed for a more “opportune” time? (Luke 4:13) Well, here it was, another attempt to sidetrack the divine mission. Jesus quickly, loudly, and firmly rejected Peter’s ill-advised plea. He went on to say to his disciples (and us) that following him would be most difficult and demand that the person give up their life.

Frankly, the best thing we “give up for Lent” is our life. I can think of nothing better to give. Your and my pilgrim journey consists of taking up our cross every single day of our life on earth for Jesus’ sake and letting go of this world as we proclaim the coming kingdom of God. There is no day or moment off in following Christ. Don’t be surprised that the devil fights us every step of the way. He’s already lost the battle. Remember Jesus’ words, “Get away from me, Satan!” The victory has been won!

Music:  “More Love to Thee”      Omar Dickinson   Hampton University Choir Directors and Organist Guild

Once earthly joy I craved,

Sought peace and rest,

now Thee alone I seek,

‘Give what is best,

This all my prayer shall be

More love, O Christ, to thee,

More love to Thee

More love to Thee.

Prayer: (Instead of us praying today, this is part of Jesus’ prayer, praying for us. –from John 17)

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth, teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”    Jesus


(During this week we’ll center on one of the three primary themes of the Lenten season, prayer, the other two being fasting and giving to the poor. To enhance our own prayer life and to gain a better understanding of prayer and praying, we’ll look at six different recorded prayers from both Old and New Testaments. Today we turn to study Daniel ’s prayer.)

Book Recommendations: A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie, Scribners; Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, ed. Veronica Zundel, Eerdmans

Saturday, March 4   “The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love . . . ”

Scripture: Numbers 14:18-25

18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.” 20 Then the LORD said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 21 But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’s glory, 22 not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. 23 They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land. 25 Now turn around, and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”

Some thoughts:

This is one of the hard passages in Scripture for it brings to mind the truth that there are consequences for disobedience and lack of trust in God. You recall God told Moses to send twelve spies into Canaan to check out the land for forty days and bring back a report as to what it was like. The twelve tribal leaders brought back their assessment. Joshua and Caleb responded with “The Lord has given them into our hands. Let’s go and take the land.” The other ten men brought a bad report. The long and the short of it was those ten men died of a plague for their lack of trust in God’s word.

The Israelites then changed their minds and decided to go fight the Canaanites after all and were crushed. As a result, every Israelite twenty years and older died in the desert over the next forty years, one year for each day the spies were gone. Forty years later, only faithful Joshua and Caleb, who were now in their eighties, entered the Promised Land of Canaan with the descendants of those who had doubted God. The children did not suffer for their parent’s lack of faith. They had seen how God provided during those four long decades.

Though God has tremendous love, compassion, and forgiveness for his children, we read some of the saddest words in the Old Testament, (v.25). “Now turn around, tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness . . .” Can you imagine the frustration of not trusting and then after trying to force God’s hand after your first disobedience, you disobey Moses and fail again; and then after that, must live with the consequences of your own disobedience causing your children also pay the price for forty years? With all their parents finally gone, now in their sixties and seventies, the “children” finally get to cross the Jordan into Canaan. Forty years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later, the faithful children of the unfaithful parents entered the Promised Land along with Joshua and Caleb. What’s the lesson?

There comes a moment, a right time to make a decision to proceed in faith trusting God. Do it again and again. The sad news is these children of the faithless parents did the same thing to their children which eventually ended with their descendants being hauled off into exile. The “again and again” part of faith from the Shema was missing. Let us encourage one another to trust and walk by faith (“Buy the Truth!”) every day and experience God’s blessing so that we pilgrims and our children for generations to come may spend little time “wandering in the desert” and much time on the narrow path that leads to the Promised Land and everlasting life.

Some familiar words of wisdom from C. S. Lewis: “And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.” –Mere Christianity, Book I, Chapter 5

A very short antidote: Several decades ago we attended the Sharp Amish reunion in Big Valley, Pennsylvania. The butcher paper on the wall listed a family tree of at least seven generations back to the early 1800’s. After finding our place on the tree, the first thing we did in our gathering was to pray and then sing hymns. Will seven generations from you and me sing and pray when they gather? Stay on the road; teach the Narrow Path.

Music: “On Jordan’s Story Banks I Stand” -Alabama

Prayer: O Lord, Jesus Christ, who art as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, who beholdest thy weak creatures, weary of labor, weary of pleasure, weary of hope deferred, weary of self; in thine abundant compassion, and fellow feeling with us, and unutterable tenderness, bring us we pray thee, unto thy rest.                Christina Rosetti 1830-1894

Friday, March 3  “ . . . the Scriptures . . . ”

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2For forty day and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. 3During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’” 8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” 10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Some thoughts:

In this passage we have the most commonly sited reason for the forty days of Lent. The early Christians pointed to Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness during which he fasted and was tempted by the devil as a basis for reflecting on Jesus’ journey to the cross. In Romans and in I Corinthians, the Apostle Paul contrasts the First Adam in the Garden of Eden with Jesus, the Second Adam in the Garden of Gethsemane. Writing in Romans 5 of the temptation of the first Adam, Paul points out that Adam, who in his failure, did something to us by ushering sin into the world bringing sin, condemnation, judgment, and death to the whole human race.  Adam-dust from the earthly mortal body.

Paul points out in I Corinthians 15, in the words of the Second Adam, that Jesus did something for us, “not my will but thine be done.” Through his victory over death, Jesus brought us righteousness not sin, forgiveness not condemnation, justification not judgment, restoration and eternal life not death. While the mortal body of the First Adam was formed from the dust of the earth, the imperishable body of the Second Adam was formed from heaven. Jesus’ resisting the temptations by Satan was monumental in impact on all of creation. We now have access to having an immortal body in heaven. Jesus truly did something for us! And that is an understatement!

There is a practical component because of Christus victor. In overcoming temptation, fulfilling his mission, and gaining ultimate victory over death, Jesus made possible the sending of the Holy Spirit to empower us in times of temptation and testing. I’m sure you have noticed a significant recurring phrase Jesus used in the passage above, “the Scriptures say . . .” As you move through this day, be aware that the work of the tempter continues in our world, in your world. The temptations of Jesus’ are the same to us today; appealing to satisfy physical desires, the desires of the eyes, and the chasing after wealth. Jesus answered every temptation by proclaiming what was true, God’s word. I’m reminded of the passage in Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian is in Vanity Fair and is asked the question, “What will ye buy?” His response was powerful. “We buy the Truth.” Is there a passage of Scripture you might memorize during this season? A suggestion: II Peter 1:3-11.

“Christian, Do You Struggle?” -translated John Mason Neal, 1862, based on Andrew of Crete (660-732 AD)

Christian, do you struggle on the battleground

‘gainst the powers of darkness closing in around?

Christian, rise, take armor, soldier of the cross,

For the sake of Jesus count your gain but loss.

Christian, do you battle Satan’s power within,

All his striving, luring, tempting you to sin?

Christian, do not tremble, do not be downcast,

Arm yourself for battle, watch and pray and fast.

Christian, do you wrestle those who taunt and claim,

“Why keep fast and vigil? Prayer is said in vain!”

Christian, answer boldly: “While I breathe I pray!”

Peace shall follow battle, night shall end in day.

Music: “Jesus Paid It All”     Fernando Ortega

Prayer: Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.     A.W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God, p.31

Thursday, March 2     “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”

Scripture: Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5

5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human

race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

1 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

Some thoughts:

On a side note, we mentioned in the introduction to these devotionals concerning the forty days of Lent and how we arrived at this number. As you might suspect, there is significance in the observance of the number forty. There are many, many forty day or forty-year periods in the Scriptures. There is the forty days of rain with Noah and the Flood. There is Moses’ and Elijah’s forty days and nights on the mountain of the Lord or the Israelites’ forty years in the wilderness or Jesus’ temptation. There are many other examples we could point to. What is the common thread in all these accounts? Whether it is days or years, this time frame is often associated with a period of probation, trial, and/or chastisement of a people in covenant relationship with God.

What touches me most in the above Scripture is “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” Another example deeply troubling to God would be when he wanted to wipe out the Israelites and start all over and Moses persuaded God to act differently. (Deut 9:13-14) God has emotions. Our behavior affects our Creator. You and I can cause God regret or sorrow, he is not indifferent to us. Notice once again how very personal God is to individual people throughout the Scriptures. His deep individual concern does not change just because you and I are not in the Scriptures. Let our obedience in these forty days bring him joy not regret.  

As people with whom God has made a new covenant, how can we best benefit from our forty days of Lent? Let us each make a concerted effort to listen to the Lord letting him show us what needs attention. Are there places where we need to die to self? Is there an old grudge we need to let go of? Is there a habit that needs to be jettisoned? Ask him to show you. He will. Can you let go of that returning worry and trust God for his resolution in his time? Take some quiet time each of these days and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Music: “O Breath of Life”   Emu Music

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, although you hate nothing that you have made, your creation may still cause you grief. So, forgive the sins of all those who are penitent. Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect forgiveness, and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. And may the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives bring you joy upon joy. Amen.            –Thomas Cranmer, 1489-1556 adapted Daniel Sharp

Wednesday, March 1  “You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy”

Scripture: Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.

3 You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

4 Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”

7 LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

8 To you, LORD, I called to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

Some thoughts:

Oft times we read in the Bible of people repenting in “sackcloth and ashes.” Why are these two things paired?  Sackcloth can be a coarse burlap kind of material, or more commonly in biblical times was made of coarse black goat’s hair. (Burlap is perhaps the closest material we have today to biblical sackcloth.) As you might guess, it was not comfortable to wear against bare skin. The black goat hair was a sign of mourning, repentance, and humiliation before the Lord. There are numerous accounts in the Bible of people repenting in sackcloth and ashes in moments of great stress and fear.

Ashes are a humbling reminder that we came from dust . . . then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living being.” (Gen.2:7) Humans are not naturally inclined to humility. Dust is a reminder that we are not ultimately in charge of our own life. Last week on Ash Wednesday many people heard these words, “from dust you came to dust you will return” during the imposition of ashes. Dust reminds us of the transitory nature of our pilgrimage on this earth.

In I Kings 21:27-29 we see King Ahab repenting in sackcloth over the wrong he had done when confronted by the prophet Elijah.  There is the story of Mordecai praying, sprinkling ashes upon himself, and wearing sackcloth when confronted with the news of the planned annihilation of the Jews. Donning this attire was Jacob’s response when he learned of the supposed death of his son Joseph. Jesus himself referred to “repentance in sackcloth and ashes” when speaking to the people who refused to believe the message of John the Baptist. The rough cloth on the skin was a constant reminder that the current situation is not comfortable, things are not settled. There is no present peace.

Sackcloth was a cloth of humility.  If you don’t have some black goats near you to weave their hair into sackcloth (!), maybe find a piece of burlap and cut out a two-inch square and put it in your pocket or wallet or purse to carry with you reminding you that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but that Jesus has “turned our mourning into dancing; you [Lord] removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” True peace is found only in Christ.

In this era of ever-expanding technology and exaggerated claims of humans’ abilities, we would do well to replace this worldly arrogance with humility, bowing before the One who created us from the dust of the earth. Have you ever been prostrate on the floor in humble prayer? The view from there is very different. What simpler words of humility than “I need you Lord, every hour.”

Music: “I Need Thee Every Hour” arr. Sam Robson      Christmas at Briarcrest

Prayer: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

                                                                                      –Book of Common Prayer

Tuesday, February 28  “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away . . .”

Scripture: Psalm 32:1-11

1 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,

2 whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4For day and night your hand was heavy on me;                                                                           my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.

7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

9 I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. 10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Some thoughts:

In keeping with the healthy reality of facing life and death head on, it is necessary to likewise face our sin head on for it is the reason we have death in the first place. Facing our own sin forthrightly involves repentance, one of the key themes of this season. Confessing involves facing our sin honestly, not making excuses, saying no to continued sinning, and repenting.

Repenting involves viewing our lives as God does. David writes in the second verse of Psalm 32, “blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against him, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” What matters is not what you and I think about our own sin, but rather, what God thinks about it. We are also reminded that deceiving ourselves about our sin does not bring blessing either. Keeping quiet about it, ignoring it, or pretending it didn’t happen or doesn’t exist, does not make it go away. Unrepentant sin eats at us continually. It is an osmosis that will not leave or dry out in time! It’s more like a growing mold. In verse five David has had enough. He finally acknowledged his sin to the LORD and did not try to cover it up anymore. He said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And wonder of wonders, God forgave him (and us)! In fact, God has already forgiven all your sin.

The word for “confess” in Greek is “homologeo,” means “same word.” In other words, to confess is to agree with God’s perfect assessment of my situation. Confessing is not a negotiation process with God! God does not need our explanation. I need to humble myself and bow before him. The resultant fruit is a clear conscience, blessedness (being on the right road), lifted guilt, and protection. Look at what the result of repentance is (v.8-10). The Holy Spirit 1) instructs and teaches us as we move along this pilgrim path; 2) the Holy Spirit counsels us with his loving eye on us. Notice it is his loving eye on us. 3) We are not to be stubborn like animals that need to be driven and controlled. 4) Those people who reject God’s care and voice are in for a rough time. 5) God’s unfailing love surrounds those who trust him. What joy there is in repentance. Again, notice the emphasis is not on what we have done wrong, but on the joy and care God wants to shower on us.

In Pilgrim’s Progress we see Christian, upon conviction coming to the place of repentance, cried out, “I perceive by the Book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to Judgment; and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second.” He saw his life as God did and began his pilgrimage of faith.

Music: “Miserere Mei Deus”    Allegri    Voces8    Brilliant and gorgeous. (I had the privilege of seeing and hearing this ensemble live. Yes, that are that good in person!)

The song is a Latin translation of Psalm 51 David’s psalm of confession.

Prayer: O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart, that so desiring we may seek and find you, and so finding you, may love you, and loving you, may hate those sins from which you have redeemed us.                –Anselm 1033-1109

Edit Post

Switch to draftPreviewUpdate

Monday, February 27

Monday, February 27      “If someone dies, will they live again?”

Scripture: Job 14:13-22

13 “If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me! 14 If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. 15 You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. 16 Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. 17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin18 “But as a mountain erodes and crumbles and as a rock is moved from its place, 19 as water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil, so you destroy a person’s hope. 20 You overpower them once for all, and they are gone; you change their countenance and send them away. 21 If their children are honored, they do not know it; if their offspring are brought low, they do not see it. 22 They feel but the pain of their own bodies and mourn only for themselves.”

Some thoughts:

The season of Lent brings to all the bold confrontation with what we focused on last week; separation from God brings death. We live in a culture and world that ignores death and reminders of death as much as possible in favor of life, entertainment, arts, sports, recreation, travel, and health-anything to avoid thinking about the inevitable. When was the last time you visited or even noticed a cemetery? These places of burial used to be right beside churches. In some parts of the country, where church buildings are old, such is still the case. We even have two small cemeteries on our farmland in Illinois.

With the increasing “popularity” of cremation, seldom do we see a corpse. Put simply, when a person dies, it’s more like “we just don’t see them anymore.” The went on a trip and never came back. Funerals with closed caskets have often been replaced with memorials or “celebrations of life” with pictures of the deceased, usually in reasonable health. Putting it bluntly, does it seem we are avoiding seeing a coffin confirming that our loved one is dead? There are even instances where a memorial or funeral is eliminated altogether. We have several gentle expressions to communicate that a person has died. They “have passed away or passed on.” The infamous “they have gone to a better place,” they “are no longer with us,” or for the less religious, “they have “gone to meet their maker.” (Notice theology can sometimes get a little interesting and fuzzy at this point.)

In the first part of this passage, Job struggles to keep his hope alive of an eventual hereafter with his Creator even as he suffers presently. In his wrestling with his life of suffering, Job asks the fundamental question of life, “If someone dies, will they live again?” Jesus has made the answer very clear, (Jn 3:16) but I fear many people in our world today are afraid to ask Job’s question, preferring to be absorbed in the present. After all, the thought is often “since everyone dies and I’m a reasonably good person, I’ll take my chances things will be OK.”

These weeks of Lent boldly state reality. Nothing is covered, ignored, or glossed over. Life is real, sin is real, and death is real. Everyone’s days are numbered. Everyone dies including you and me and those who are wise will be prepared and acknowledge this reality. We rejoice in the truth that Jesus Christ has overcome death, sin, and the powers of evil. In answer to Job’s question, if a person dies in Christ, they will most certainly live again . . . with Christ forever!

Music: “O Lord, throughout These Forty Days” Cathedral Church of the Advent -Birmingham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzqjglKoEpU    Don’t miss this! Unique setting. Beautiful.

Prayer: Who can tell what a day may bring forth? Cause me therefore, gracious God, to live every day as if it were to be my last, for I know not but that it may be such. Cause me to live now as I shall wish I had done when I come to die. O grant that I may not die with any guilt on my conscience, or any known sin unrepented of, but that I may be found in Christ, who is my only Savior and Redeemer. This I pray through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Victor over death. Amen.                  Thomas á Kempis 1380-1471, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.38

  • Post
  • Block



PublishToday at 12:01 am

URLsharpdevotional.com/lenten-2023/monday-february-27/Stick to the top of the blogPOST FORMATAsideAudioChatGalleryImageLinkQuoteStandardStatusVideoAUTHORDan Sharpsharpdevotional_wdv6umMove to trash


SEARCH CATEGORIESLenten 2023Advent 2018Advent 2019Advent 2020Advent 2021Advent 2022Eastertide 2020Eastertide 2021Eastertide 2022Epiphany 2021Epiphany 2022Lenten 2019Lenten 2020Lenten 2021Lenten 2022UncategorizedAdd New Category


Featured image



Open publish panel

  • Post

Monday, February 27

Monday, February 27      “If someone dies, will they live again?”

Scripture: Job 14:13-22

13 “If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me! 14 If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. 15 You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. 16 Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. 17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin18 “But as a mountain erodes and crumbles and as a rock is moved from its place, 19 as water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil, so you destroy a person’s hope. 20 You overpower them once for all, and they are gone; you change their countenance and send them away. 21 If their children are honored, they do not know it; if their offspring are brought low, they do not see it. 22 They feel but the pain of their own bodies and mourn only for themselves.”

Some thoughts:

The season of Lent brings to all the bold confrontation with what we focused on last week; separation from God brings death. We live in a culture and world that ignores death and reminders of death as much as possible in favor of life, entertainment, arts, sports, recreation, travel, and health-anything to avoid thinking about the inevitable. When was the last time you visited or even noticed a cemetery? These places of burial used to be right beside churches. In some parts of the country, where church buildings are old, such is still the case. We even have two small cemeteries on our farmland in Illinois.

With the increasing “popularity” of cremation, seldom do we see a corpse. Put simply, when a person dies, it’s more like “we just don’t see them anymore.” The went on a trip and never came back. Funerals with closed caskets have often been replaced with memorials or “celebrations of life” with pictures of the deceased, usually in reasonable health. Putting it bluntly, does it seem we are avoiding seeing a coffin confirming that our loved one is dead? There are even instances where a memorial or funeral is eliminated altogether. We have several gentle expressions to communicate that a person has died. They “have passed away or passed on.” The infamous “they have gone to a better place,” they “are no longer with us,” or for the less religious, “they have “gone to meet their maker.” (Notice theology can sometimes get a little interesting and fuzzy at this point.)

In the first part of this passage, Job struggles to keep his hope alive of an eventual hereafter with his Creator even as he suffers presently. In his wrestling with his life of suffering, Job asks the fundamental question of life, “If someone dies, will they live again?” Jesus has made the answer very clear, (Jn 3:16) but I fear many people in our world today are afraid to ask Job’s question, preferring to be absorbed in the present. After all, the thought is often “since everyone dies and I’m a reasonably good person, I’ll take my chances things will be OK.”

These weeks of Lent boldly state reality. Nothing is covered, ignored, or glossed over. Life is real, sin is real, and death is real. Everyone’s days are numbered. Everyone dies including you and me and those who are wise will be prepared and acknowledge this reality. We rejoice in the truth that Jesus Christ has overcome death, sin, and the powers of evil. In answer to Job’s question, if a person dies in Christ, they will most certainly live again . . . with Christ forever!

Music: “O Lord, throughout These Forty Days”  Cathedral Church of the Advent -Birmingham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzqjglKoEpU    Don’t miss this! Unique setting. Beautiful.

Prayer: Who can tell what a day may bring forth? Cause me therefore, gracious God, to live every day as if it were to be my last, for I know not but that it may be such. Cause me to live now as I shall wish I had done when I come to die. O grant that I may not die with any guilt on my conscience, or any known sin unrepented of, but that I may be found in Christ, who is my only Savior and Redeemer. This I pray through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Victor over death. Amen.                  Thomas á Kempis 1380-1471, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.38

First Sunday in Lent, February 26    “He went and preached to the spirits in prison.”

Scripture:     I Peter 3:18-22

18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

19 So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— 20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. 21 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God froma clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

22 Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.

Some thoughts:

This pericope has one of the more curious passages of Scripture. In the Apostles’ Creed we repeat the phrase regarding Jesus, “He was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose from the dead.” Many Christians have wondered about that phrase and also about the verse which states that in the days of Noah, Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. Did Jesus go into hell between his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Sunday? Did Jesus’ preaching to the “spirits in prison” give them a second chance? Is that what it means? Through the centuries, theologians have had many long and various discussions resulting in several viewpoints.

But what do these words of Peter have to do with Lent? One of the central themes of these six weeks is human’s sin problem resulting in eternal death. The depth of Jesus’ love for fallen sinners is displayed in his death on the cross and the events that followed, including this somewhat mysterious phrase the Apostle wrote in his epistle.

You will recall that Noah is noted in this passage as a “preacher of righteousness.” At various times in Scripture, we read that a person spoke God’s words, in other words, God was speaking using that person’s voice to communicate his message (e.g., Isaiah, Nathan, Elijah, Samuel). Of the various explanations and interpretations of this passage, the one that seems to me to be the most consistent with similar passages and phrases in Scripture would lead me to believe that through the person and voice of Noah, Christ was urging the people of Noah’s day to repent of their sin and humble themselves before God and God’s judgment. (This viewpoint is not an interpretation to die for!)

When there is a somewhat isolated idea in Scripture, meaning it is not expanded nor expounded upon elsewhere in the Bible, wisdom would dictate that it not be a main point in doctrine and that we should be careful not to be too dogmatic in its interpretation. Never forget the context. The most significant things are quite clear in Scripture. For example: “27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  (Heb. 9:27) One must look at the whole context and the main point Peter is making which is: Christ suffered and died, paid the price for your sin, and gloriously won the victory. Be encouraged in your suffering and persecution. The end is glorious!

Music: “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus”       Krista Stolarski

I will arise and go to Jesus

He will embrace me in his arms

In the arms of my dear Savior

O, there are ten thousand charms.

Prayer: Our heavenly and holy Father, the tenacity of your love persists through the most unimaginable suffering and death. As those who have lived in the prison of sin and death, you have overcome our awaiting death and brought redemption. In your faithful love, you have come after your children, calling us to come home. We bow before you with humbled hearts. Receive our love through Christ our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.      – Daniel Sharp

Saturday, February 25   “for dust you are and to dust you will return . . .”

Scripture: Genesis 3:17-19

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it’, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Some thoughts:

Just before the passage you just read, we have these beautiful words of creation, “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” (Gen. 2:7)

Dust. Really?There is a bit of irony here. In Psalm 72:9 concerning king Solomon, we read the phrase, “The desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust.” This phrase from the King James Bible later became “bite the dust.” Dust is a fascinating word that is associated with loss or death, like being defeated and falling to earth, getting a mouth full of dust. Dust is nothing more than tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground that is blown by the wind. We even “dust” to get rid of dust!

In the Garden of Eden, God formed man from the dust of the earth. Talk about our humble beginning! Adam and Eve literally “bit the dust” and death entered all of humanity. As a result, these bodies of ours will in fact return to dust (to ash) again as we are reminded each Ash Wednesday, “from dust you came, to dust you will return.” For many people in the world, that’s the sad end of their story. You are born, grow up, have as many good experiences as possible and die. But wait! God did something about our “dust!” God took on human flesh; he took on our dust and became one of us. The Son of God, the Creator of dust, identified fully and completely in every way to make possible the great reversal of rebellious sons and daughters.

The good news of the gospel is that we will get a renewed body, not a “dusting up” of this old one. The new one is not subject to dust or death. Your mortal earthly body of dust, the flesh and blood that makes up you now, gets a “new” body that will never die. It will be immortal! “Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly [dusty] man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man [Jesus] from heaven.” (I Corinthians 15:42-54) Dust cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:57)

The sign of the cross made in ashes on your forehead on an Ash Wednesday proclaims that death is defeated forever.  Our “dust” will be recreated by the One who created you in the first place . . . and He does really good work! You will never bite the dust again!

Music: What Wondrous Love is This?  Concordia Choir

Prayer: Glorious God, give me grace to amend my life, and to have an eye to my end without begrudging death, which to those who die in you, good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life.  And give me, good Lord, a humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender and pitiful mind, in all my works and all my words and all my thoughts, to have a taste of your holy, blessed Spirit. Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with you, not to avoid the calamities of this world, nor so much to attain the joys of heaven, as simply for love of you. And give me, good Lord, your love and favor, which my love of you, however great it might be, could not deserve were it not for your great goodness. These things that I pray for, give me your grace to labor for. Amen.  –Thomas More, 1478-1535

Friday, February 24 “I will put enmity between you and the woman . . .”

Scripture: Genesis 3: 14-16

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Some thoughts:

The perfect creation is coming unraveled. With Eve’s disobedience, the holy sinless Garden of Eden is gone. God proclaims there will be continual strife between the serpent, the devil, and the woman. The woman will eventually triumph, but not without a heavy cost. How do we get all of that out of this passage? The serpent is placed under a curse by God, noting his words, “you will eat dust all the days of your life.” We’ll see in tomorrow’s passage that “dust” signifies death, (hence, the ashes of Ash Wednesday).  The serpent, slithering in the dust, is forever reminded that his ultimate end is eternal death, God’s fatal message to Satan.

The devil deals and dwells in death eternally. His kingdom brings not only physical death, death to freedom, but death in relationship to God. In addition, we read of strife between the offspring of the devil and the offspring of the woman. What is interesting here is the phrase the “seed of the woman.” Elsewhere in Scripture, “seed” is always associated with the man, not the woman. Here, however, we see “seed” being associated only with the woman, a precursor to the fact that the victory over the devil and evil will come through one born not of an earthly father, but of God, even Jesus Christ.

We see further that the offspring of the woman (Jesus) will crush the head of the serpent (fatally) even while the heel is being bruised (wounded) by the serpent. The crushing of the head is a mortal wound. (Romans 16:20 & Hebrews 2:14) In other words, Satan will be defeated by the virgin born offspring of the woman, even as our Lord Jesus Christ defeats death itself. The fear of Satan’s weapon of death is now gone. The pilgrim journey has heavy trials along the way, but the victory is assured, then and now.

In the meantime, we, as the offspring children of Eve, find evidence everywhere in the world where Satan is still warring with the whole human race contradicting God’s truth. Notice how easily our cultures embrace moral corruption, lying, and killing, the fruit of Satan’s work. God’s words on marriage, the sacredness of human life, sexuality, and care for the poor are summarily dismissed and/or redefined. The world truly is under the power of the prince of darkness and evil. None of this is new or news. The point is, we should not be surprised. As you read or hear the news broadcasts this day throughout the world, remember Jesus’ journey via the cross ended with him seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for you and for me even as you read this.

The devil . . . defeated, but still kickin’ and fightin’.

Music: “Agnus Dei”    Gjejlo  The Los Angeles Master Chorale

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

Grant us peace.

Prayer: God in heaven, you have helped my life to grow like a tree. Now something has happened. Satan, like a bird, has carried in one twig of his own choosing after another. Before I knew it, he had built a dwelling place and was living in it. Tonight, my Father, I am throwing out both the bird and the nest.                 Prayer of a Nigerian Christian

Thursday, February 23  “Where are you?”

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-13

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me— she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Some thoughts:

On the heels of that first question comes the second question in the Bible, not surprisingly, it’s a question from God. It too is a question posed to every living human and it is a question God asks you today. “Where are you?” He knew full well where Adam and Eve were hiding. Adam answered the literal, physical question and the Lord went to the heart of the issue because the “Where are you?” was a heart question. The God/human relationship was now different. It had been severed. Then come more pointed questions from God. “Who told you that you were naked?” “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” God zeros in. And a final question to Eve, “What have you done?” The Lord was walking on a path in the Garden, a path he had created, a path of closeness. The three of them had been in communion and that relationship was now cut off resulting in a chasm. Adam and Eve were “off the path” and with them, the whole human race.

Have you ever asked someone you love this same basic question when the two of you were experiencing difficulties, “Where are you?” “Where are we?” One of the themes of the season of Lent is that of spiritual self-examination in which we might ask ourselves, “Where am I with the Lord?” And like the case with Adam and Eve, the Father knows exactly where you are and is longing for close communion with you. The answers to these two questions “Did God say?” and “Where are you?” determine the path we take and whether or not we stay on the path.

(I would suggest that you read one-half a chapter of Pilgrim’s Progress each day.  If you begin today, read chapter one up to the entrance of Worldly Wisdom. Christian asks this very question, “What shall I do?” He answers it by taking the pilgrimage journey of faith and heading down the path to the Celestial City.)

Music: “If Ye Love Me” Thomas Tallis   the King’s Singers

Prayer: O thou great Chief, light a candle in my heart, that I may see what is therein, and sweep the rubbish from thy dwelling place.       – An African schoolgirl’s prayer, from Eerdman’s Book of Famous Prayers, p.90

Ash Wednesday, February 22


Lent 2023

Most Illustrations from Pilgrim’s Progress and Dorè’s woodcuts

In our Lenten devotionals this year, we want to look at the whole idea of life as a pilgrim journey. So often in the Scriptures, the writers speak of the journey of faith and use images of travel to the Festivals in Jerusalem. One of the greatest classics in all of literature is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, having been translated into more than seventy languages and never having been out of print in more than 300 years! It is often the first book translated by missionaries after the Bible. Let me encourage you to read or re-read this great allegory during this season as a companion to these daily devotionals. (I love to read and re-read it in the old language because of the words and manners of description. It’s an education in the English language!)

The Christian observance of the season of Lent first appears in the fourth century, though fasting and prayer were a part of the exercise of faith throughout the First Testament. Since Sundays were never fast days, the forty-two days of the six weeks period had only thirty-six actual fast days. The result was four additional days were added to make the forty days. That is why the season of Lent always begins on a Wednesday. Since Easter Sunday was the primary time for baptisms in the early church, the catechumens, or those who were learning the Christian faith and preparing to be baptized, completed these forty days as the culmination of several years of preparation.

We began our reading in the Lenten season with passages in Genesis because we gain context as to why these days are even necessary. The Lenten season is about God’s Great Story of healing and redemption through Jesus’ journey to the cross. In the readings for the following days, we’ll be looking at various passages in Scripture that can give us insight into our own journey both toward the cross of Christ at Easter and our eventual “crossing” of the Jordan into the Promised Land (heaven). This will be a wonderful forty-six day journey and it’s my prayer that the Holy Spirit may be our Teacher and Guide as we pilgrims move through these intriguing days, along this most interesting path called faith. (We have devotionals on the six Sundays.)

Devotional overview: Each day has a passage of Scripture and a short commentary on that passage. There is a YouTube link with music related to the Lenten theme as well as a concluding prayer. Sometimes there is continuity in passages and discussions from day to day or during a whole week in an effort to give context to a passage of Scripture. C.S. Lewis warns us, “Do not live these days for things in your life that will end when you do.” That’s our prayer

Please pass the word along that people may subscribe for free at: sharpdevotional.com Type in first and last name, email address, and click “Submit.” That’s it.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Ó Copyright Ó1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

                                                       Ó Daniel Sharp 2023

Ash Wednesday – February 22 “Did God say?”   


Scripture: Genesis 3:1-7

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Some thoughts:

Among other things, the season of Lent, which begins today with what is known as Ash Wednesday, brings us to a bold confrontation with human mortality, specifically your mortality and mine. As has been said, you and I are part the ultimate statistic, one in one die. On this cheery note we look at how we got into this situation because it wasn’t always this way. In God’s plan, people were to live forever . . . and we do.

We’d like to start this Lenten season with the question, “How did this business of human mortality come about?” Our passage contains the first question in the Bible by guess who? Right, the serpent, the ever-lying Satan. His words, “Did God really say?” And Eve’s and Adam’s response to that question is the beginning of the human problem that ended in our earthly mortality. But it is this same question from the serpent which comes to every person who has ever lived, sometimes in a slightly different version, but the bottom line is the same, “Can you trust God’s word?” Did you notice that the devil tempted Jesus with the same question at the conclusion of the Savior’s forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness? Can you trust God’s word? Satan comes at us with the same question. In appealing to people’s pride, it has been a very effective question since creation!

Can you think of a time when you asked yourself that infamous question? “If God is really God, then why does he allow . . .” Or “God promised to . . . but I surely don’t see any evidence of . . .” One thing is true about the serpent, he lies . . . always.

Music: “Lord, Hear My Prayer” Henry Purcell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OISUntqbXvc  Voces8

Prayer: Lord God, our Creator, we thank you for your mercy in pursuing us when we chose our own path. Help us to see the truth when we are tempted to doubt your word, your character, or your promises. May we learn to know you and hear your voice better so that we may not be so easily deceived. Guard us with your Holy Spirit so that we may recognize the first inklings of deceit and lies about you. This we pray in the name of the Second Adam, who did not fall for the lie, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.    Daniel Sharp

Epiphany, Friday, January 6, 2023

Friday, January 6, 2023 Epiphany

Reader:  “Jesus Christ  . . . ”

Response: “the Light of the world.”

Scripture: John 2:1-12

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

Some thoughts:

We began the advent season with the theme of the Second Coming and Jesus’ Return to institute a New Creation making all things new. Epiphany is the shedding of new light or revealing of something previously unseen or unknown. There are three themes that emerge in Epiphany, the visit of the magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ changing of water to wine. This first of seven miracles in John’s gospel, inaugurates his public ministry and begins to reveal his identity as the Son of God. 

A little geographical background may be helpful. Cana, the site of the wedding, was three to four miles northeast of Nazareth and about ten miles southwest of Capernum, the home of Simon Peter, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. There are all kinds of specific things we could say about this passage, but one phrase stands out, a phrase that Jesus often repeats in this gospel. The phrase? “My time has not yet come.” Jesus was always tuned to the timing of his Father in heaven. Not even his mother could coerce him to change his Father’s schedule.

The result of this miracle? His recently called disciples believed him, but apparently not his brothers at this point. It was only after the resurrection that they recognized him as the Messiah. But nothing ever deterred Jesus. He never got pushed off the course of his mission. What other people perceived as urgent matters, did not cause Jesus to change his priorities. (E.g. Lazarus) Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus showed us how to live. In the coming year, may there be an abundance of epiphanies as you walk with the Lord.

I wish you Godspeed.

Music: “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”  St.Paul Lutheran Church, Austin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOwiBa4EVdI  (This hymn touches on all three themes of Epiphany.)

Songs of thankfulness and praise,

Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,

Manifested by the star

To the sages from afar,

Branch of royal David’s stem,

In Thy birth at Bethlehem.

Anthems be to Thee addressed

God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,

Prophet, Priest, and King supreme,

And at Cana, Wedding-guest,

In Thy Godhead manifest;

Manifest in power divine,

Changing water into wine.

Anthems be to Thee addressed

God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see Thee, Lord,

Present in Thy holy Word;

Grace to imitate Thee now

And be pure as pure art Thou

That we might become like Thee

At Thy great Epiphany

And may praise Thee, ever blest,

God in man made manifest.

                     by Christopher Wordsworth, 1807-1885


Go forth into the world in peace;

Be of good courage, hold fast that which is good,

Render to no one evil for evil.

Strengthen the fainthearted,

Support the weak,

Help the afflicted,

Honor all persons.

Love and serve the Lord,

Rejoicing in the power of the Spirit,

And the blessing of God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit

Be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 1928


Thank you all for joining us these past forty-one days as we’ve journeyed throughout the Scriptures seeking to know our Savior better and better. It’s our prayer that we develop a daily life practice of encountering the Lord in his Word each day as we learn to draw close to him and hear his voice. Paul gives us a beautiful model in his letter to the 

Philippians. (2:5-11) The Lord be with you.

You must have the same attitude

that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

      he did not think of equality with God

      as something to cling to.

 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

      he took the humble position of a slave

      and was born as a human being.

 When he appeared in human form,

      he humbled himself in obedience to God

      and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

      and gave him the name above all other names,

 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

         and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

      to the glory of God the Father.

© Daniel Sharp 2022             Dan’s email at:    dansharp9@gmail.com

Advent Music 2022 

Nov. 27 “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”   Voces8

Nov. 28 “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Joshua Aaron

Nov.29 “Rejoice Greatly” from Messiah   Jeanine De Bique BBC Proms glorious!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQpeGzio4k

Nov. 30 “The King Shall Come” Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

Dec. 1 “Is Not His Word Like A Fire?” Will Liverman from Elijah

Dec.2 “Long Ago, Prophets Knew” Chet Valley Churches

Dec.3 “Change My Heart O God” African Music Experience An oldie from 40 years ago

Dec.4 “Once in Royal David’s City” Libera   DO NOT MISS THIS

Dec.5 “Come Thou Long-expected Jesus” Meredith Andrews

Dec.6 “Wake, Awake for Night is Flying” Luther College Nordic Choir

Dec.7  “Song of Zechariah: Benedictus Dominus Deus  Choirs of All Saints Church, Beverly Hills, CA.   (7:25) The text of Lk. 1:68-79 plus Glory Be to the Father

Bonus:“Benedictus Dominus Deus” Christmas Carol Service at St Matthew’s, Bethnal Green, London     (3:07)   setting with English text.

Dec.8 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Caitelen

Dec.9 “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” Chet Valley Churches

Dec.10 “O Come, All Ye Faithful”   Voctave     Go see and hear them whenever you can!

Dec.11 from “Messiah”, #2,3,4,9,20 and Brahms Requiem #2.

#2 “Comfort Ye” v.1-3     #2 & #3 together    (6:30) 

#3 “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” v.4  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Pz9BCMFoP8 

#4 “And the Glory of the Lord”  v.5  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRq9EkDTdxs  Voces 8    (2:54)  Glorious!

#9 “O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings of Zion”  v.9  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIqDNTnOCks   (5:46)   Sasha & Mormon Tabernacle Choir

#20 “He Shall Feed His Flock” v. 20  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-bAXm-A3Ls&list=RDl-bAXm-A3Ls&start_radio=1  (6:16)   Barbara Bonney

Brahms #2 “Behold All Flesh is As the Grass” v.6-8   Herbert Von Karajan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2jc13Q1wX4   (15:18) English Subtitles


Dec.12 “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” Westminster Choir

Dec. 13 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” The ChurchFolk

Dec.14  “What Child Is This”   Sissel

Dec. 15 “Joy to the World” The Spirituals Choir

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGyYAzrctzk   traditional  Soundiva Classical Choir

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDmIddF7DfQ Celtic Women  (A production!)

Dec. 16  “Lo, How A Rose” Pacific Chorale

Dec. 17 “O Little Town of Bethlehem” arr. Dan Forrest   Jamaica Youth Chorale

Dec. 18 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Wheaton College Choir and Symphony Orchestra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmtKlOB-0-I   Spirituals Choir

Dec. 19 “For Ages Women Hoped and Prayed” Wheaton Bible Church   

     “Angels We Have Heard on High” Home Free    (Could not leave this out!)

Dec. 20 “The Hands that First Held Mary’s Child” Arman Ferrer with Kilyawan Consortium of Voices  

Dec. 21 “Magnificat” J S Bach    Nikolaus Harnoncourt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YML7uc9sdl8    3:15 for the first movement, you can listen to more!

Dec. 22 “Behold the Lamb of God” from Messiah.  Gramophone Chorus of Ghana    

Dec.23  “O Magnum Mysterium”   Morton Lauridsen  Los Angeles Master Chorale

Dec. 24 “And the Glory” from Messiah       Voces8    (The best version I’ve heard!)

       “O Holy Night”

Fabulous Bonus: “O Holy Night”    Voctave! (Two of the best a cappella groups, classical & pop)

Dec. 25 Messiah” Handel   Voces8    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFjQ77ol2DI&t=2035s     1:35:19 

Bonus: “The Shepherd”  from “The Chosen”  Short film.

Dec.26 “Good King Wenceslas” A story of a paige and the king’s generosity on the Feast of St. Stephen

Dec. 27 “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning” Keith, Kristyn Getty & Ricky Scaggs

Dec. 28 “Coventry Carol” Ashley Serena         Choices today!

             “Coventry Carol” Vox One Jazz

              “Coventry Carol” Gjeilo      CORO Vocal Artists

Dec. 29 “Kings of the Orient”  Robert Shaw Chorale

Dec. 30 “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”  Slavic Chorale

           “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0    Casting Crowns (original version)

Dec.31 “Joy to the World” Voctave   Don’t miss this!!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nziWgvOPj4

Jan. 1  “At the Name of Jesus”  First Plymouth Church Lincoln, NE

Jan. 2 “I Wonder as I Wander” Simon Khorolskiy    Terrific!

Jan. 3 “Nunc Dimittis” Gretchaninoff   National Lutheran Choir (English translation)

             “Nunc Dimittis” Paul Smith    Voces8   The text in Latin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEHufcT3jmw  Robert Shaw Festival Singers

        “Nyne Otpushchayeshi” The text in Russian from Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers”

Jan. 4  “Go Tell It on the Mountain”   Home Free and Texas Hill

             “Go Tell It on the Mountain”     Josh Turner

    “Go Tell It on the Mountain” Melvin Crispell III & Chandler Moore,  Maverick City Music      

Jan. 5  “Good Christian Men Rejoice”   Robert Shaw Chamber Singers

Jan.6  “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”  St.Paul Lutheran Church, Austin

Advent Scriptures 2022

2 Samuel 7:25-26   12/4/22

Psalm 27:1-6       12/5/22

Psalm 27:7-14     12/6/22

Isaiah 9:2-7              12/24/22

Isaiah 35:5-6        12/13/22

Isaiah 40:1-11     12/11/22

Jeremiah 1:4-10      12/2/22

Ezekiel 36:24-28      12/3/22

Hosea 6:1-6     12/1/22

Micah 4:1-5     11/28/22

Micah 4: 6-13   11/29/22

Habakkuk 2:1-5 12/8/22

Habakkuk 3:2-6   12/9/22

Habakkuk 3:13-19   12/10/22

Malachi 3:16-4:6    12/14/22

Matthew 1:18-25    12/23/22

Matthew 2:1-2, 7-12   12/27/22

Matthew 2:16-18     12/28/22

Luke 1:5-17       12/7/22

Luke 1:26-38          12/19/22

Luke 1:46-55           12/21/22

Luke 2:1-5               12/24/22

Luke 2:1-20             12/25/22

Luke 2:21                 1/1/23

Luke 2: 22-28a         (1/2/23)

Luke 2:28-32             1/3/23

Luke 2:33-35              1/4/23

Luke 2:36-38              1/5/23

Luke 7:18-23           12/13/22

Luke 21:25-36 11/27/22

John 1:1-14            12/23/22

John 2:1-12              1/6/23

John 1:6-8, 19-28   12/12/22

Acts 6:8-15              12/26/22

Acts 7:59-60             12/26/22

Philippians 2:6-8       12/31/22

Hebrews 1:1-3        12/15/22

2 Peter 3:1-18   11/30/22Revelation 22:12-16   12/4/22

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Reader: “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.”

Response: “ . . . and the glory of your people Israel.”

Scripture: Luke 2:36-38

 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.  She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. 

Some thoughts: 

In Anna, (which means “grace”), we have another truly graceful saint patiently waiting on the Lord to come for many years. She was now eighty-four and had been a widow most of her life. Though not from the priestly tribe of Levi, she had stayed in the Temple fasting and praying for years. Luke wanted to underscore her Jewishness in mentioning the tribe of Asher. The phrase “she never left the Temple” is probably hyperbole. We might say something like “she was someone who was always there!”

She just “happened” to pass by Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and Simeon at just the right time. It was a kairos moment, a moment that had “major significance outside of chronological time.”  She recognized the magnitude of the occasion. God’s salvation had come to Jerusalem, God’s own city, in the person of this little baby boy. Along with Simeon, she too had been humbly, patiently waiting. 

I wonder how many times we’ve missed something significant because we were tuned out. Or perhaps we were following along, but failed to realize the importance of the event. There may even be times when there was an unusual response to something of the moment and only later did the response become clear. Many years ago my wife, Nancy, and I left my parents to drive from the farm in Illinois to join what was then Campus Crusade. After giving my dad a hug and telling each other we loved them, I cried for the first sixty miles. I remember thinking, “Where is this coming from, it’s not like I’ll never see him again.” Truth was, dad was killed in a farming accident a few months later. Our departure from the farm was a kairos moment which was later revealed to be such.

On a little different note, Anna gives us another of the wonderful reminders of the effectiveness of the prayers of the elderly. I’ve heard on several occasions from elderly people, “I can’t do much anymore, but pray!” That “much,” my friends, is the most! Find an “Anna” today you can encourage. Maybe you are that Anna. You don’t have to be over sixty-five!

Music: “Good Christian Men Rejoice”   Robert Shaw Chamber Singers


Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older, and will someday be old. Keep me from getting talkative, and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind from the recital of endless details-give me wings to come to the point. I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains – they are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Help me to endure them with patience.  I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint-some of them are so hard to live with-but a sour old codger is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.                 ―anonymous 17th century nun

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Reader: “Jesus is the Light of the world.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Scripture: Luke 2:33-35

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Some thoughts:

Simeon’s words were clearly prophetic. Can you imagine being Mary and Joseph and hearing this said about your one month old baby boy? It seems that Jesus’ parents were step-by-step beginning to see what lay ahead for their Son. It is clear from the very beginning that Jesus would be a revealer of people’s hearts. This truth is forecast in Mary’s Magnificat. “He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” (Lk 1:51-53) These words do not sound like a ‘meek and mild,’ milquetoast Jesus. Simeon goes on to say that some people will rise and experience forgiveness and healing and restoration with God. Other people will reject him and speak against him. Jesus’ challenges will reveal the true character of an individual’s heart . . . then as now. The heart of John the Baptist was revealed before he was even born!

The old priest concluded his words with the prophecy that “a sword will pierce your own soul Mary,” even as she saw the spear of the centurion pierce her son while nailed to the cross. She is mentioned from time to time in the gospels. Her devotion to her son is quite apparent throughout the gospels as once she came with his brothers to take him home to rest! She thought he was overdoing his preaching and healing! At the death of Jesus, she went to live with the disciple John as he looked after her. She is last mentioned in the Scriptures at Pentecost as she was involved in the development of the early church. The date of her death is unknown.  

Remember always, Jesus came to bring restoration to all of creation, restoration to communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the same time, there is no promise that things would go smoothly, for Jesus, for Mary, for us. Actually, the promise is for difficulty and suffering in this life as we follow the Savior. Sadly, Simeon’s words also remind us that not everyone wants that restoration with their Creator. So be a light today wherever you go.  (The three music selections are terrific! All three!)

Music: “Go Tell It on the Mountain”   Home Free and Texas Hill

             “Go Tell It on the Mountain”     Josh Turner

    “Go Tell It on the Mountain” Melvin Crispell III & Chandler Moore,  Maverick City Music      


Now take away, Father, we beseech Thee, the undergrowth that blocks our forward progress. Give us the wisdom to know which are of our own doing and which come from Thee to strengthen our walk. Remove the obstructions caused by us, those things that choke the trail. Slash and prune and trim us with the machete of thy Word; so might we freely tread the shining path that leads unto the perfect day, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                ―Sherwood Wirt, adapted Daniel Sharp

                                  (There’s that piercing sword again!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Reader: “My eyes have seen your salvation,”

Response: “which you have prepared before the face of all peoples.”

Scripture: Luke 2:28-32

Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,

    as you have promised.

I have seen your salvation,

    which you have prepared for all people.

He is a light to reveal God to the nations,

    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Some thoughts:

One of the wonderful touches in this account is that the old priest, who was presiding in the Temple, had been shown by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s anointed, the Messiah (which means ‘anointed one’). The Holy Spirit led him to the Temple that day. The day was ordinary until Mary and Joseph appeared with the baby and handed him their child. He knew instantly who he had in his arms! Can you imagine his joy?!  This was the child God’s people had been waiting for since the promise to Abraham 2,000 years before, actually all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

You can see why Simeon could say, “Now let your servant die in peace as you have promised.” This sentence has been translated in various ways. “Let your servant depart in peace.” or “You may now dismiss your servant in peace.” or “Now You are letting Your servant depart in peace.” To me, “departing in peace” is a beautiful, accurate way to describe a Christian’s death. While your physical body stops working here on earth, the “you” that is you continues on in the presence of Christ. In other words, to die means one is simply “dismissed” from a physical life on this earth to continue life anew in heaven for those who believe in the Savior. I believe that paints the clearest picture of the death of a saint. 

This same concept occurs with Peter, James, and John’s meeting with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. The word used for Jesus’ departure from earth in his discussion with Moses and Elijah is “exodus.” The ultimate Redeemer accompanies every believer’s exodus. The biblical concept of death is entirely different from the world’s concept. We never die, we just go to another world. A word from C. S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Simeon’s longing to see the Messiah looked to another world. Upon seeing the Lord’s Anointed, Simeon was “dismissed” and went to that “other world” for which he was made. 

That longing we all have in our hearts for a better world where everything is just and good and right, simply means we were made for another world, that world in the presence of our Savior. Jesus brings a holy satisfaction like nothing in this world!

Music: “Nunc Dimittis”  Gretchaninoff   National Lutheran Choir

             “Nunc Dimittis”   Paul Smith    Voces8      The text of the passage sung in Latin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEHufcT3jmw  Robert Shaw Festival Singers

        “Nyne Otpushchayeshi” The text in Russian from Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers”


Lord, if any have to die this day, let it be me, for I am ready.  –Billy Bray, 1794-1868

The story is that this tin miner was radically changed from a drunken blasphemer into an ardent evangelist in Cornwall, England. He is said to have spoken this prayer while waiting with his fellow miners to begin the day’s shift.

Monday, January 2, 2023

 Monday, January 2, 2023

Reader: “The Savior of all the people . . . ”

Response: “has come into the world.”

Scripture: Luke 2: 22-28a

Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there.

Some thoughts:

We mentioned previously that Jesus was an observant Jew and that his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, kept the Law as well. According to Jewish law, forty days after the birth of a boy, if he is the woman’s first child, the parents were to take the boy to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord for this firstborn boy belonged to the Lord according to the Law (Ex.13:1-2). To give you a time frame, the day of presentation would be February 2nd. You realize Mary and Joseph took the infant, Jesus, to the  Temple in Jerusalem twice, once on the eighth day and again on the fortieth day right under Herod’s nose! 

Remember the story of Samuel. (I Samuel 1 & 2)  In the 10th plague in the exodus from Egypt, the firstborn of the Egyptians were not redeemed but slain while the Israelite firstborn were redeemed by the blood of the lamb. (Passover sacrifice) If there was no redemption price paid, the firstborn was to be slain. (Num 3:11-13) cf. Joshua and the Israelites were instrumental in giving Jericho as an offering of total destruction to the Lord. (Josh 6:17) Jericho was treated as a firstborn to the Lord. Years later in the time of Ahab, Joshua’s words were fulfilled (Josh 6:26) Jericho was rebuilt at the cost of the death of Abiram’s first born son in the laying of the foundation! (I Kings 16:34)

Though belonging to the Lord, unless stated otherwise, the firstborn could be redeemed for a sacrifice, as was the case with Mary and Joseph’s offering of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. The size of their offering indicated that Jesus’ earthly parents were of very modest means. We are reminded again that Jesus was the firstborn, not only of Mary and Joseph, but of all creation in that glorious passage in Colossians 1:15. In Hebrews 12:23 we read that we are part of God’s assembly of his adopted children. Our God is personally calling us his firstborn children for we have been redeemed with the blood of his own Son. Our names are written in heaven. The whole of Scripture is the story of God’s great redemption of all of creation through the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, even Jesus, the firstborn of all creation.

Music: “I Wonder as I Wander”   Simon Khorolskiy    Terrific!

Prayer:We praise you, Lord God of heaven and earth for the loving gift of your firstborn Son to bring our redemption. Yet in our fallen state you made it possible that we might live with you forever. Without the sacrifice of Jesus we would have no hope, no possible way to be forgiven. It is not possible for us to pay any acceptable redemption price. We cannot come to you on our own merit. For it is through your grace alone that we are redeemed. We truly are not our own, but have been purchased with the highest price ever paid for anyone.The slaves to sin have been set free. How we praise you, Lord Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, and it is in your name we pray this prayer. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Reader: “This, this is Christ the King . . . ”

Response: “ . . . the babe, the son of Mary.”

Scripture:   Luke 2:21

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

Some thoughts:

What is in a name? In many cultures throughout history people chose names for their babies which carried a specific meaning or quality. But Mary and Joseph did not pick out the name of their firstborn son, God did. At the annunciation Mary was given the name for the child she was to conceive. The angel told Joseph the baby’s name as well as its meaning. He would be called “Jesus,” meaning “the Lord saves.” The Hebrew version being “Joshua.”  

According to Jewish law (Lev.12:3), all baby boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day, reminding one and all that this child is part of the covenant God made with Abraham. This practice continues today by observant Jews at the bris (circumcision ceremony) on the eighth day following the baby boy’s birth.

You’ll note from the scriptural evidence that Mary and Joseph were practicing Jews keeping the laws―the naming Jesus on the eighth day, observing the purification ceremony on the fortieth day, regular attendance at synagogue, and Jesus’ own bar mitzvah at age twelve. Jesus was clearly an observant Jew his entire life―reading as usual from the scroll in his home town synagogue (Lk 4:16), his observances of Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), Hanukkah (John 10:22), Pentecost (Lk 24:49), and of course, Passover. Not only did he keep the Law, he fulfilled the Law and he fulfilled his name.

The meaning of his name is interesting when looking back at the Old Testament in relation to the Law. God made a covenant with Abraham and the sign of that covenant was circumcision. (Gen.17:9-14) God gave Moses the Law. But by following the Law, no one could ever enter heaven because no one could keep it perfectly, hence symbolically, Moses was not able to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land (a type of heaven) through observing the Law. Moses broke the Law through disobeying God and died without entering Canaan, the Promised Land. 

After Moses’ death, Joshua (Jesus in Greek), led the people across the Jordan (through the river of death) into the Promised Land! Joshua was a “Christ figure” in some ways in the First Testament. When Jesus said I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, it became very clear indeed, “the Lord saves.” While Joshua was a type, Jesus is the real Savior. What’s in his name? Salvation!

Music: “At the Name of Jesus”  First Plymouth Church Lincoln, NE


Glory be to thee, O Christ, whose praises the angels sing, whom the heights of heaven adore. In the miracle of thy stable-birth and in the mystery of thine incarnation thy people everywhere rejoice this day. To thy name help us to bow the knee and all its worshiping, bow the head and all its thinking, bow the will and all its choosing, bow the heart and all its loving. Glory be to thee, O Father, who by the birth of thy Son didst give a great light to dawn on the world’s darkness. Glory be to thee, O Holy Spirit, who hast again in these days hung forth a star in the lowly heaven of every Christian soul and seekest to lead us in the ways of humility and the paths of peace. Blessed be God, the only God: three persons in one eternity of love. Blessed now, and blessed for evermore. Amen.    ―Prayers for Sunday Services, p.74

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Reader:  “The Word became flesh . . . ”

Response: “ . . . and dwelt among us.”

Scripture: Philippians 2:6-8

Though he was God,

   he did not think of equality with God

   as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

   he took the humble position of a slave

   and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

   he humbled himself in obedience to God

   and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Some thoughts:

Have you ever come across a story or recounting of an event that was so utterly fantastic that you said this cannot possibly be true? This recounting is truly beyond reason. No one could have imagined this actually happening! The birth of Jesus Christ was just such an event, the only one of its kind since the existence of time. He “appeared in human form.” You have undoubtedly heard or read this verse so many times. There is not another faith, no religious system, no group of prophets or enlightened individuals who claims a God in human flesh. Jesus’ claim is 100% God and 100% human being. He is not half and half. He does not morph back and forth between the two natures. He was not a prophet with magical powers nor simply a great moral teacher. He is the only God who has gained the victory over sin, death, and the powers of darkness. 

No other religious belief system, including modern Judaism, acknowledges the problem of original sin. God the Father certainly did. Jesus did. Not only did he become human, he lived among us in our sinful world. The word John uses in his gospel is “tabernacle,” just like the Tabernacle in the Old Testament dwelt in the midst of God’s people. Not only did he live with his people, he gave himself for them and for his creation. God’s becoming Incarnate was the confirmation that we could not have communed with God through any human effort. That perspective was God’s, not ours. Sadly, many religious systems continue to seek some form of connecting to a god through personal striving. 

In contrast, the birth of Jesus was the human flesh and blood action of God who greatly loves his people and his creation and chooses to bring them back to himself, to provide a way home, so that they again might enjoy him forever. No one but God could ever have thought up this fantastic story. History truly is his remarkable, astounding, and glorious story.

Music: “Joy to the World”  Voctave   Don’t miss this!!


Lord Jesus, though you are God, you did not think of equality with God as something you chose to use to your advantage. Instead, you gave up your divine privileges and took the humble position of a slave and were born as a human being. When you appeared as a baby, (I can’t imagine the adjustment that was), you humbled yourself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross for people that rejected and hated you. I greatly rejoice that God elevated you to the place of highest honor in all creation and gave you the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus, your name, every knee is going to bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that you are Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen and amen!                                                  ―adapted from Philippians 2:6-11 Daniel Sharp

Friday, December 30, 2022 Christmastide

Friday, December 30, 2022

Reader: “Jesus, the Light of the world, is coming again!”

Response: “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”

Scripture:  Matthew 2:13-23

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A cry was heard in Ramah—

weeping and great mourning.

Rachel weeps for her children,

refusing to be comforted,

for they are dead.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”

So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Some thoughts:

The serene rose colored picture in our minds of the manger with peaceful animals and humble shepherds surrounding Mary, Joseph, and the sleeping baby didn’t last long. (Perhaps it never was quite that calm.) It seems that God entered the world amidst strife, hostility, and terror, a real world like today’s. 

Imagine the jolt to Joseph as he was sleeping and an angel appeared again in another dream telling him of Herod’s evil plan to kill all Jewish boys. The angel’s instructions were to leave immediately for Egypt. So in the middle of the night, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, the Redeemer of Israel, vanished from Bethlehem only to arrive weeks  later in Egypt. 

There is an interesting parallel. Some 1400 years earlier, a similar thing happened, only in reverse. Moses, the redeemer of Israel, was born when a narcissistic pharaoh, not unlike Herod, ordered all Jewish baby boys to be killed. Moses’ mother hid him and his life was spared as he was raised by the pharaoh’s daughter. Moses, a type of Old Testament Redeemer figure, led God’s people from bondage of slavery to freedom in the Promised Land. Though Moses was not able to complete the journey, it was Joshua (“Jesus” in Greek) who actually led them into Canaan. The true Redeemer finished the job of leading people from slavery to sin to true freedom from sin and ultimately heaven, the eternal Promised Land.

After a period of time, the angel appeared again in a dream and told Joseph Herod had died and that they could go back to Israel. Another dream had them travel to northern Israel to the town of Nazareth, where Jesus was to spend his boyhood years. This move fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea 11:1 in which the prophet says that God will call his Son out of Egypt. It would appear from the beginning Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, as he grew up, were aware of the devil’s attempts to destroy God’s plan of redemption and recreation. Again, Jesus is well acquainted with the pressures and stresses of life in this world from his early years on throughout his life on this earth. Trust him for the stresses we face.

Music: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”  Slavic Chorale

            “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0  Casting Crowns (original version)

Prayer:We pray Thee to be compassionate toward our weakness, O Lord, to guard us in peril, to direct us in our doubt, and to save us from falling into sin. From the evil that is around and within us, graciously deliver us. Make the path of duty plain before us and keep us in it even unto the end. Amen.                   ―King’s Chapel Liturgy, 1831

Thursday, December 29, 2022 Christmastide

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Reader: “Who is my mother?”

Response: “Who are my brothers?”

Scripture:  Matthew 12:46-50, John 7:1-5

Some thoughts:  

As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.”

Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death.But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.  

Some thoughts:

Have you ever thought what it might have been like to have Jesus as a son or a big brother? What was it like for Mary and Joseph to parent this one-of-a-kind son? How was he treated compared to his other brothers and sisters? Did you ever have to correct him? It is not hard to read some tension into the family interaction you just read. Some commentators read the circumstance of Mary and the arrival of his brothers as an effort to bring Jesus back home to Nazareth because they thought he had “gone off the rails” and was losing it! We can’t help but notice Jesus’ rather blunt response in trying to help them understand his mission to the world. They didn’t. Can we say, “Awkward?”

In the Johnine pericope it appears that it was very common knowledge that his brothers were not believers at this point. You can also read a “dig” in their comments. It is one of the rare places in all of Scripture where you see Jesus’ family react to him personally. Growing up with someone who was sinless and perfect in every way would be something we cannot imagine. But I can easily imagine it would bring tension. A sibling would be continually reminded of an impossible standard to match thanks to your big brother.  

Yet how many people today believe if they just do enough good and live their best life, they will come out OK in the end. God will be pleased. Not so! Jesus’ brothers were reminded daily, monthly, and yearly that perfection was God’s standard . . . and their brother was doing it . . . and he claimed to be God no less!  

Following the resurrection at least two of his brothers believed in him as truly the Son of God, the Messiah. The New Testament writers of the books of Jude and James were those two other sons of Mary and Joseph. Interestingly, Jude refers to himself as a “slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James” and James refers to himself as “a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” They both expressed their relation to their earthly brother in heavenly, Messianic terms, the Christ. The both became leaders in the early church.

We too have the privilege of describing our relation to Jesus as our brother through his adoption of us as brothers and sisters. Our big Brother has set us free from having to perfect the law. Along with the magi, we too have been guided to the “perfect light,” Jesus, the perfect Light of the world.

Music:  “Kings of the Orient”  Robert Shaw Chorale

Prayer:O God, may you be merciful and bless us; may your face smile with favor on us.  May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among all people everywhere. Along with the magi, may the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. Let the whole world sing for joy, because you govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world. May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us. Yes, God, you will bless us, and people all over the world will fear you, one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.                                                                                                 ―adapted from Psalm 67       Daniel Sharp

Wednesday, December 28, 2022 Feast of the Holy Innocents

Wednesday, December 28, 2022     (Feast of the Holy Innocents)

Reader: “His mercy is for those who fear him . . .”

Response: “. . . from generation to generation.”

Scripture: Matthew 2:16-18

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A cry was heard in Ramah—

    weeping and great mourning.

Rachel weeps for her children,

    refusing to be comforted,

    for they are dead.”

Some thoughts:

Christmas is undoubtedly one of the most joyous times of the year. Without trying to be a party crasher a few days after Christmas, it is worth looking at the whole picture of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Consider the fact that Israel was being occupied by a foreign power. Herod, the faux king of the Jews, an Edomite, a descendent of Esau, having been put into power by the Romans, was insane and dangerous. (You’ll recall the Edomites were enemies of Israel.) This paranoid man ordered every little boy under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed in order to thwart any claim to his throne since he had learned from the magi that a king of the Jews had been born. 

Treachery! What a word. An evil man marshaled his resources to find out what was happening. His sages gave him perfect information. The Messiah, the anointed one, was to be born in Bethlehem only a few miles away from Jerusalem. For whatever reason, Herod did not go to find the baby himself. He was hated and feared by the Jews so he may have feared for his own safety and wanted to keep a lower profile away from the public in order to find out the details. 

Note God’s sovereignty even in bad situations. Herod was actually acting as an agent of the devil in seeking to thwart God’s plan of bringing redemption to all people. Satan succeeded in the Garden of Eden in bringing death and destruction to the human race. But he did not succeed here. He did not succeed in Jesus’ temptation. He did not succeed in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he most certainly did not succeed at Calvary. The irony is that while the devil sought to kill Jesus at his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus voluntarily gave up his life at the cross in Jerusalem bringing redemption to the whole created order. Not only did Jesus die, he rose from the grave defeating death and the devil eternally; he ascended to the Father, and we await his return. The joy of Christmas becomes eternal joy in the presence of God. That is what is ahead for us!

Music: “Coventry Carol”   Ashley Serena         Choices today!

             “Coventry Carol”      Vox One Jazz

              “Coventry Carol”    Gjeilo      CORO Vocal Artists


“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”                                     ―Psalm 23:4

Tuesday, December 27, 2022, Christmastide

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Reader:  “A Savior is born!”

Response: “Who is Christ the Lord.”

Scripture:  Matthew 2:1-2; 7-12

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 

Some thoughts:

While we are touched by the humility of the shepherds in the nativity story, we are also well aware that the Christ child was worshiped by magi from the East, possibly Persia. What is notable in reading this passage is that the worship of a baby was received with joy. Humans and idols were not to be worshiped. The word used here is the most common one used for the worship of God and Christ. It is the same word used at the end of Matthew’s gospel immediately prior to Jesus’ ascension. It is used to pay reverence or homage to God or to Christ. It is also the word Satan uses in reference to himself at Christ’s temptation. “If you will bow down and worship me . . .” (Mt 4:9)

These magi, astrologers, or some form of astronomers studied the heavens for signs. You’ll recall the Israelites spent many years in exile in Babylon, where the Scriptures were studied in synagogues, probably developed during the absence of the presence of the Temple. In other words, Old Testament Scriptures may have been studied by the magi which would account for their knowledge and interest in the star and Israel’s new born king. Daniel worked with such men hundreds of years earlier during Persian rule (Dan 2:27). 

The gifts of the magi further attested to the significance of their visit. Gold is the symbol of kingship, a gift for kings. Solomon’s Temple was lined with gold (cf. Queen of Sheba I Kings 10). Frankincense is symbolic of deity and was used in worship in the offering of prayers, symbolizing prayers ascending heavenward. The gift of myrrh seems a little unusual in that it is used in embalming in preparing bodies for burial. Such a gift may have underscored the humanity of baby Jesus. It was also used in making incense. It is also significant that these men were not Jewish. We’ll say more about that on Epiphany on January 6th. 

Upon the departure of the magi, an angel told Joseph and Mary to leave immediately in the middle of the night for Egypt for Herod was coming to kill all baby boys. Some commentators have speculated that the gifts of the magi were perhaps used by the poor couple to finance their journey to the safety of Egypt. 

Music: “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning” Keith, Kristyn Getty & Ricky Scaggs

Brightest and best of the stars of the morning

Dawn on our darkness and come to our aid;

Star of the east, the horizon adorning,

Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

What shall we give him, in costly devotion?

Shall we bring incense and offerings divine,

Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,

Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each lavish oblation,

Vainly with gifts would his favor secure

Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,

Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

   -Reginald Heber, 1811, alt. 


O ye heights of heaven, adore him,

angel hosts, his praises sing,

powers, dominions, bow before him,

and extol our God and King:

let no tongue on earth be silent,

every voice in concert ring,

evermore and evermore!

Christ, to thee with God the Father,

and, O Holy Ghost, to thee,

hymn and chant and high thanksgiving

and unwearied praises be:

honor, glory, and dominion,

and eternal victory,

evermore and evermore!―Of the Father’s Love Begotten, 4th century

Monday, December 26, 2022 Christmastide

Monday, December 26, 2022

Reader: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   

Response: “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”

Scripture: Acts 6:8-15, 7:59-60

Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.

The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.

As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

Some thoughts:

This pericope following Christmas Day may seem quite out of place. Actually if I were following the lectionary (a systematic reading of Scripture), this is the passage assigned for today. Can you guess why? Stephen was celebrated as the first Christian martyr. The birth of Jesus upset the world then, even as it does today. 

Immediately following the verse which ends chapter six, Stephen addresses the Jewish leadership in the whole of chapter seven. He traces their Jewish history from the  call of Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, to King David. Stephen accused the Jewish leadership of resisting the Holy Spirit like their ancestors he had just cited. At this point, we come to the last two verses where they rushed him and stoned him to death, the result being Stephen was the first Christian killed for bearing witness to Jesus as the Savior of all peoples.

We may think of martyrdom as something that happened to past believers. Not so. Today Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians to live. One of my IWS students from Nigeria was murdered along with his pregnant wife a couple of years ago. Christianity and Judeo-Christian values are under constant attack even in the United States. Should we be surprised? No. Jesus said such would be the case. Christianity upsets the social and political order.

While we have wonderful feelings of joy about the Christmas season, we dare not forget the wood of the manger is the first step to the wood of the cross. It’s important to always remember that Christmas and Calvary are part of the same story, just different chapters . . . they are not self-contained, isolated events. 

Stephen is a great reminder that the birth of Jesus in our lives can (will) also bring suffering and pain at times. Jesus promised us that would be the case. Tertullian in the second century is credited with saying, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” There were times when Roman soldiers were so amazed at the Christians facing martyr’s death, that they converted to Christianity on the spot and died as martyrs alongside those they came to kill. Never under-estimate your witness to those around you.

Music: “Good King Wenceslas”   A story of a paige and the king’s generosity on the Feast of St. Stephen


Awake, my soul, and with the sun

thy daily stage of duty run;

shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise

to pay thy morning sacrifice.

Direct, control, suggest this day

All I design or do or say,

That all my powers, with all their might,

In thy sole glory may unite.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise him all creatures here below

Praise him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.   ―Thomas Ken, 1670

Christmas, Sunday, December 25, 2022

Sunday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2022

Scripture: Luke 2: 1-20

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,

      and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Some thoughts:

I thought I’d write something a little different today.  Re-read the story leisurely, putting yourself as one of the shepherds. Then imagine you were setting this event to music. How could you capture the beauty and wonder of the significance of the birth of the Savior of the world? George Frederich Handel attempted to do that and more!

George F. Handel wrote the entire Messiah in 24 days. In 1741 on August 22nd he began and finished by September 14th. He never left his house for three weeks, often weeping as he wrote. Upon finishing the “Hallelujah Chorus” he commented, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” Handel hoped the Messiah would be used to draw people to the gospel. He wanted it performed in theaters rather than churches in order to reach more people. He wanted the music to touch people at the heart level leading them to Christ. Take time to listen to this in its entirety. It’s one of the greatest works written by a human being.

Music: “Messiah”  Handel   Voces8   (This is the cleanest best version I’ve heard, and I’ve heard many! You hear every note. Diction is marvelous. Terrific singers! Excellent conductor. Take the time.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFjQ77ol2DI&t=2035s     1:35:19 

Bonus: “The Shepherd”       from “The Chosen”   Short film 28:00 minutes


As the Lord of yesterday, today, and forever, you made peace with everything in heaven and on earth. Your work is accomplished. We ask that you support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is accomplished. Lord, how we long for your return. In your mercy come again to this world and receive us unto yourself, grant us a safe lodging in our heavenly home, the home you are preparing for us. And grant us a holy rest, restored communion with you, and peace at last through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

      -John Henry Newman 1801-1890 adapted ―Daniel Sharp

Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2022

Saturday, Christmas Eve, December 24, 2022

Reader: “A Savior is born!”

Response: “Who is Christ the Lord.”

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-5 

 The people who walk in darkness

      will see a great light.

   For those who live in a land of deep darkness,

      a light will shine.

 You will enlarge the nation of Israel,

      and its people will rejoice.

   They will rejoice before you

      as people rejoice at the harvest

      and like warriors dividing the plunder.

 For you will break the yoke of their slavery

      and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.

   You will break the oppressor’s rod,

      just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.

 The boots of the warrior

      and the uniforms bloodstained by war

   will all be burned.

      They will be fuel for the fire.

 For a child is born to us,

      a son is given to us.

   The government will rest on his shoulders.

      And he will be called:

   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 His government and its peace

      will never end.

   He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David

      for all eternity.

   The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies

      will make this happen!

 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

Some thoughts:

Time is a funny thing. In our world it is a linear measure, giving us a beginning, middle, and ending, a starting and stopping point. The irony is that often we wait for “time to pass” while we wait for something else to “begin.”  Several different kinds of things are happening within that time framework. (And you are thinking, “Dan, stay away from the eggnog!”) There is a point here. 

For many thousands of years God’s people had looked for a Redeemer of some sort, a Messiah who would free them from bondage and subjugation to some ruling power. There had been many hints through the years, but no action and then . . . ” At that time the Roman Emperor . . . ” God, who dwells in timelessness, entered measured time. By naming Augustus and the Roman Empire, Luke made sure we knew this entrance was not myth but history, measured time which had a beginning, middle, and end. We have names, dates, places, events all occurring in chronological time. Who would ever think that the simple words “At that time . . . ” would make it possible for linear time to find its way into eternity and make it possible for us to leave time as we know it to dwell forever with God in unending  eternity?  What we celebrate tomorrow is so much more than the birth of a baby.  The time of waiting is nearly up. We celebrate his humble entrance into our time. Glory!

Music: “And the Glory” from Messiah       Voces8    (The best version I’ve heard!)

Fabulous Bonus: “O Holy Night”  Voctave!  (Two of the best a cappella groups, 

                                                                                       One classical & one pop)


O ye heights of heaven, adore him,

angel hosts, his praises sing,

powers, dominions, bow before him,

and extol our God and King:

let no tongue on earth be silent,

every voice in concert ring,

evermore and evermore!

Christ, to thee with God the Father,

and, O Holy Ghost, to thee,

hymn and chant and high thanksgiving

and unwearied praises be:

honor, glory, and dominion,

and eternal victory,

evermore and evermore!

―Of the Father’s Love Begotten, 4th century

Friday, December 23, 2022

Friday, December 23, 2022

Reader: “Jesus, the Light of the world, is coming!”

Response: “. . . he is coming soon!”

Scripture:  Matthew 1:18-25

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

      She will give birth to a son,

   and they will call him Immanuel,

      which means ‘God is with us.’”

 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Some thoughts:

Joseph has always been a man who intrigues me. While the Scriptures do not tell us how he found out, I would guess Mary simply told him what had happened. Put yourself in his place? Your fiancée tells you she is pregnant, but no earthly man is the father. What’s more, her story is that the Holy Spirit came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her and that is how she became pregnant! It doesn’t stop there. She is having a boy who will be the Son of God! His name will be Jesus and he will rule God’s Kingdom forever. Right! This is too much to believe!

If I were Joseph, my first response would be to ask her how she was feeling. I might suggest we go see a therapist or someone to help her work through this story and try to get to the root cause. She clearly needs to deal with reality. I would ask her not to talk about it with anyone. I would try to minimize her exposure to society and maybe suggest I help her move to another town . . . far away for a while. Visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, sounds like a good idea. Maybe she can help Mary get back to reality.

From reading the Scripture passage, my guess is that several if not all of those thoughts went through Joseph’s mind. It would take something like a direct visit from an angel of the Lord to persuade me of her truthfulness and that God was really directing this whole endeavor. The angel even gave Joseph specific details regarding the baby, further confirming the truthfulness of what had happened.

After the angelic visit, in faith Joseph took Mary as his wife right away. We find in Luke’s gospel that Mary went to stay with her aunt Elizabeth for three months until John was born.  So the first three months of Mary’s pregnancy were spent away from her home. We don’t know if Joseph went with her or if he stayed in Nazareth. At any rate, he was one solid, steady man whose total trust was in the Lord. I have no doubt that he and Mary were the subject of much gossip in Nazareth. We know that he was still living when Jesus was twelve. It appears he died sometime later and was gone by the time Jesus started his public ministry at around age thirty. From what we read in Scripture, he was a thoughtful, observant Jew, and a considerate husband who took good care of his wife and eventual family of at least seven children. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have God as a son? I’m looking forward to talking with Joseph!

Music: “O Magnum Mysterium”   Morton Lauridsen  Los Angeles Master Chorale

This piece was written specifically for this choir. Paul Salamunovich, conductor

O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament,

That animals should see the new-born Lord,   (in tradition a veiled reference to Is 1:3)

        lying in a manger!

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy  

        to bear Christ the Lord.           (reference to Elizabeth’s comment Lk 1:42-43)


Father in heaven, may I be as trusting and faithful to those things from your hand that seem mysterious, improbable, puzzling, or impossible. Thank you for the example of Joseph’s faith and integrity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

                                                                                                         ―Daniel Sharp

Thursday, December 22, 2022

December 22, Thursday

Reader: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.”

Response: “For he has visited and redeemed his people.”

Scripture: John 1:1-14

In the beginning the Word already existed.

    The Word was with God,

    and the Word was God.

He existed in the beginning with God.

God created everything through him,

    and nothing was created except through him.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,

    and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Some thoughts:

In this prologue to the book of John, (many of whom believe that the first five verses were actually a hymn text of the early church), we see clearly that Jesus, the divine Logos, was the agent of creation. Everything in existence, seen and unseen, was created by and through him. He has never not existed . . . Stop a moment and spend some time trying to wrap your mind around that truth. Since he has always existed and he created everything that is in existence, the Word knows everything about everything! It  is a comfort to know that someone is puzzled by nothing. Because he knows everything, he can solve everything. Nothing is too hard or impossible. But life is not about solving problems. Eventually, because God is who he is, there will be no problems ever again!

In this passage, the material physical life and the spiritual life are melded together. Whereas people have often tried to separate these two into different realms, the Scripture unites them in God’s purpose for creation. Jesus breathes life into every creature. The physical life he gives also brings spiritual light, an inborn realization of the existence of God. (Rom 1:19-21) 

However, something happened to God’s perfect creation, a creation he called “very good.” Due to human rebellion against God (MAJOR problem!), the Son of God stepped out of eternity and entered planet Earth by taking on flesh and blood and lived in what is the country of modern day Israel. That sounds like fantasy, but it isn’t. The Father determined he would redeem this vast universe of creation through the redeeming gift of his Son. (Gen.3:15) So the eternal, creator Logos of “yesterday,” was born the human, earthly Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem. As he lives within us, we are living in the “today” part of Jesus, who returned to heaven and intercedes for us on our behalf. Experiencing the “forever” part of Jesus is yet to come. When we begin to flesh out Jesus as “the same yesterday, today, and forever” in the context of his existence prior to creation, his time on earth, and his eternal Kingdom, our minds begin to stretch in wonder at God’s great love and humility. We begin to get a glimpse of “the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” You may want to reread today’s passage reflecting on some of these thoughts.

Music:   “Behold the Lamb of God” from Messiah.  Gramophone Chorus of Ghana    

                                   DO NOT MISS THIS.


Holy and compassionate Father, out of your great love you brought forth the earth and world, indeed the entire vastness of the universe, all that is seen and unseen, all powers and forces and sounds and color and ideas. You invented thinking and reason and love. In our rebellion we turned away from you and severed a perfect communion. Our Savior, Jesus, your holy Son, stepped onto this planet and into this life to provide all of creation’s way back to you. Lord Jesus, how we thank and praise you for what is unimaginable for us to comprehend. When you returned to sit at the Father’s right hand, you sent the Holy Spirit to abide with us until you return. Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we praise you now and forever into the next world and throughout eternity when all is healed. Amen.                                     ―Daniel Sharp

Friday, December 23, 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Reader: “His mercy is for those who fear him.”

Response: “ . . . from generation to generation.”

Scripture:   Luke 1:46-55

 Mary responded,

   “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.

    How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,

      and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

 For the Mighty One is holy,

      and he has done great things for me.

 He shows mercy from generation to generation

      to all who fear him.

 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!

      He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.

 He has brought down princes from their thrones

      and exalted the humble.

 He has filled the hungry with good things

      and sent the rich away with empty hands.

 He has helped his servant Israel

      and remembered to be merciful.

 For he made this promise to our ancestors,

      to Abraham and his children forever.” 

Some thoughts:    

The Magnificat, (based on the first word of this text in Latin), is one of the great songs of Scripture. It is filled with Old Testament quotations from the Psalms, Isaiah, Job, I Samuel, among others. Like Elizabeth, there was a woman in the Old Testament who dealt with barrenness, a cultural stigma in the Jewish society of that day. The woman’s name was Hannah. After infertile years of prayer, the Lord granted Hannah’s request, and she gave birth to Samuel, the first great prophet/priest of Israel, whom she dedicated to the Lord. It was Samuel who anointed Israel’s first king Saul and the great king David. In I Samuel, chapter two, Hannah sang a song of rejoicing to which Mary’s Magnificat is strikingly similar. As a little Jewish girl growing up, Mary would certainly have been very familiar with Hannah’s song. In Mary’s day, Jews were very familiar with the entire First Testament so it is not at all surprising that Mary’s song had a similar structure and some common themes with Hannah’s song. (I Samuel 2:1-10)

Like Hannah’s, Mary’s song can be broken into four similar sections: 1) praising God for what he has done in her life; 2) she sings of God’s power and judgment; 3) God acts on behalf of the poor and humbles the rich; 4) and finally, God has helped and been merciful to Israel. 

It is interesting to me to consider that Hannah sang her song in gratitude to God and kept her vow, giving her son to God for ministry in the Temple. Elizabeth,who had been in the same situation until she conceived John, likewise gave her son to serve God as    the forerunner of the Messiah. Like Hannah, Zechariah sang a song (Lk 1:68-79) similar in theme to that of Hannah’s and Mary’s. While both Hannah and Elizabeth had most remarkable human conceptions, Mary’s was truly a miracle. God set aside each of the three boys for his specific purposes. Samuel, Israel’s first prophet and priest, would anoint both Israel’s first king, Saul, and its greatest king, David. John would announce the coming of the King of Israel. And Jesus would be the summation of the other two boys entering the world as the Son of God and Son of Man, the eternal King.  

Music: “Magnificat”   J S Bach    Nikolaus Harnoncourt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YML7uc9sdl8    3:15 for the first movement, you can listen to more!


Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach; help me chastely to flee it, and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be thine alone. 

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in thee. 

Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself as Savior, Master, Lord, and King. 

Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. 

Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from thee. 

I have no master but thee, 

no law by thy will, 

no delight but thyself, 

no wealth but that thou givest, 

no good but that thou blessest, 

no peace but that thou bestowest. 

I am nothing but that thou makest me, 

I have nothing but that I receive from thee, 

I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. 

Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water. In the name of Jesus, Amen.                                                               ―from Valley of Vision, p.75

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Reader: “You are blessed” 

Response: “because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Scripture: Luke 1:39-45

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Some thoughts:

Put yourself in Mary’s place for a moment. What would you do had you received the news of Gabriel? Who would you tell? Joseph? Would he believe you? It’s safe to say he would not! Did you notice how Mary learned of Elizabeth’s situation? I believe the angel gave Mary a hint that maybe she should visit her relative, Elizabeth, knowing that Elizabth had likewise received miraculous news and was already six months pregnant. This news undoubtedly bolstered Mary’s confidence that something very miraculous was happening on a larger scale. Did Mary tell Joseph? Scholars have speculated both ways. But with something this miraculous, it only makes sense that an angel (perhaps Gabriel? We are not told the angel’s name.) would also visit Joseph with news this unusual. Like Mary, Joseph believed the angel’s words. Mary’s story would be virtually impossible to believe unless confirmed by an angel!

When we have good news, we just have to tell somebody. Mary had to share the news with Elizabeth and who would better understand, perhaps the only person who would believe her. They were connected not only as relatives, but as the two key people in God’s unfolding plan. 

Elizabeth is an older woman who had been praying for years with her husband for children to no avail. There is no greater happiness than to want children, pray for children, experience infertility, and then become pregnant. Having children is one of the greatest joys in all of life. Nancy and I were married for eleven years before our first child was born. We experienced five years of praying and waiting and wanting until our prayers were answered. It was another four years of praying and waiting for our second son. The joy of finding out that we were finally pregnant was one of the greatest days of joy in our lives! Feeling the baby kick was so delightful (more for me than Nancy!) 

For Elizabeth to realize that the long awaited “Voice in the Wilderness” was in her womb and then to greet Mary who was bearing the Savior of the world . . . Can you hear Elizabeth bubbling over and imagine baby John dancing for joy in her womb? Did you notice these women’s joy focuses on God’s blessing as a result of their trust in him? (Notice physician Luke calls John a baby, not a fetus!) May the Holy Spirit who filled the baby in Elizabeth’s womb with joy, fill you with joy this Christmas season. Today, believe the word of the Lord in your own life and rejoice! Tell the miraculous good news! God has come in person!

Music:  “The Hands that First Held Mary’s Child”  Arman Ferrer with Kilyawan Consortium of Voices  


This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Amen!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Monday, December 19, 2022

Reader: “The Word became flesh,”

Response:  “And dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

Scripture:   Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and sa

id, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. 

Some thoughts:

Stop and think about it. For thousands of years the world proceeded from day to day, sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset . . . People are born every day; people die every day. These things happen all the time, today included. Yet, one day many years ago, was different from all those that had existed since the dawn of creation, and utterly unlike all those that followed up to today. It was the day the angel, Gabriel, made a visit to a teenage girl in Israel named Mary. From all accounts Mary was minding her own business and engaged to a man by the name of Joseph who was a carpenter. Their families lived in a small, very ordinary village of Nazareth in southern Galilee. There was nothing to indicate anything unusual regarding Mary except the Lord had ‘favor’ toward her. 

“Favor” is an interesting word. Being favored by God is even more compelling. Note in Mary’s case what “favored by God” meant. Gabriel articulates “favor.” The “Lord is with you.” God’s presence surrounds you; you are not alone. God chose you specifically. God will act in your life. “You will conceive and give birth to a son” to be named Jesus. In this case, being favored by God includes being the mother of the Son of God! Your Son will have an eternal Kingdom. This is overwhelming “favor!” Mary asked a practical question, not in disbelief for she believed Gabriel, but in seeking to understand what was happening. After hearing Gabriel’s straightforward answer, Mary responded humbly, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.” 

So what do we know about receiving the Lord’s favor? Mary did not seek the Lord’s favor, it originated with him. The heart of bestowing favor comes from the heart of God. This kind of favor is not something people can work for, nor expect to receive. It comes from God’s grace and his loving purpose for each of his children. The root of “favor” is in charis, grace, specifically grace on the part of the giver. It is purely a gift from the heart of the giver.  

I have a very dear long-time friend, who, when talking about his life of ministry all over the world frequently says, “I feel so favored by God.” The testimony of his life is filled with affirmations of God’s favor as evidenced by the advance of the gospel in which he has been involved. Finding God’s favor is at God’s discretion. We have examples of Noah (Gen 6:8), David (Acts 7:46), and Daniel (Dan 1:9) receiving the favor of the Lord. Also, occurring frequently in Scripture, we read of God causing certain people to come into favor with someone else as part of fulfilling God’s grand plan. Esther (Es 5:2), Joseph (Gen 39:4), and Ruth (Ru 2:10) would be such examples. The bottom line regarding favor? It appears that humble people obedient to God’s voice are the ones who receive his favor. And remember, God’s favor does not always mean a life of comfort and ease! Note the lives of the people we have mentioned including the mother of Jesus. 

Music: “For Ages Women Hoped and Prayed”   Wheaton Bible Church   

     “Angels We Have Heard on High”     Home Free    (Could not leave this out!)


Lord God of heaven and earth, enlarge our souls with Thy divine favor, that we may hope all things, endure all things; and become messengers of Thy healing mercy to the grievances and infirmities of men. In all things attune our hearts to the holiness and harmony of Thy kingdom. And hasten the time when Thy kingdom shall come, and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.   ―James Martineau, adapted Daniel Sharp, from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.356

Fourth Sunday in Advent, December18, 2022

Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 18, 2022

Reader: “Jesus Christ is,”

Response:  “the light of the world.”

Scripture:  Hebrews 13:7-17

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.

We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat. Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

Some thoughts:

Before narrowing in on the specifics of the nativity of Jesus, it is important to see the grandest picture. One of the themes of these first two weeks of advent has been the Second Coming of Christ in a glorified human body to bring final judgment, and establish a new creation in God’s eternal kingdom. John the Baptist has played a primary role in announcing the coming of this human Savior. Before proceeding into some of the specifics of the Nativity itself in the coming days, this pericope in Hebrews gives us one last final overview. 

Why did God take on human flesh? He became incarnate to bring restoration to the whole created order. But why a human being? Jesus is responsible for the creation of all human beings. In order to fully and completely identify with people, of necessity he became one of us in every way. If his sacrifice for our sin was to be efficacious on our behalf, God had to have true human flesh and blood, otherwise the death on the cross would have been an ethereal sacrifice, a phantom, not the real thing. A Jesus that was not completely human could not identify with us anymore than we identify with a fly. The incarnation of Christ was verifiably real because, upon the death of his Son, God the Father split the curtain in the Temple. Jesus had to be human for God’s plan to have meaning. So the blood of the sacrifice had to be human and divine and had to have no taint of sin. As a result, the blood is eternally effective, yesterday, today, and forever. All yesterdays and tomorrows are covered.

Concerning the “today” part, Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand interceding on our behalf. He is praying for you today. It’s a comfort to know Jesus prays for his children even when we are unaware. He is fully tuned to everything happening in your life today and in our world. He knows every world headline right now. He is surprised by nothing.

Finally, as regards the “forever,” he will come again to restore all, making a new creation and then rule for all eternity. Forever means Jesus will never change. The nativity is concerned with an eternal destination for his children. By implication, this epistle reminds us that “this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Jesus’ time on earth was his pilgrimage beginning in Bethlehem going all the way to the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is thus able to relate in both earthly time and eternity in heaven at the same time. Our journey with him gives us the same opportunity during these days of advent. Don’t get caught living only on earth!

Music: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Wheaton College Choir and Symphony Orchestra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmtKlOB-0-I   Spirituals Choir  (another joyous setting!)


Lord God, Father of our Messiah, the one who is the source of perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, heavenly timing, merciful patience, and compassionate judgment, forgive us Lord for our narrow, short-sighted understanding of the Nativity.  This Christmas may we grasp a bigger picture of your restoration plan than we know now. In gratitude for your mercy, we pray this through Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.    ―Daniel Sharp  

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Reader: “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

Response: “Who takes away the sin of the world.”

Scripture:  John 7:40-52

When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? For the Scripture clearly states that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” So the crowd was divided about him. 44 Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.

“Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”

Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.

They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

Some thoughts:

This is an interesting passage in that you can have the facts right before you and come to the wrong conclusion. Some of the people believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Others leaned toward his being the Prophet who was to come just prior to the Messiah’s appearance. The Pharisees, however, were not convinced. They had done their homework and had a couple of things dead on right. Messiah must come from the line of King David, from the tribe of Judah. Right. Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, which was also David’s birthplace. Right. 

It is a little surprising to me that they did not ask Jesus where he was born or to which Jewish tribe he belonged. Their response was that the Messiah could not possibly come from Galilee. (Had they studied the Scriptures as had Matthew (2:23), they would have discovered that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene, one from the town of Nazareth in Galilee!) Galilee was not the “best neighborhood” in which to live. Populated by a mix of people, many of whom were not Jewish, it was more of a backwoods low class territory. It clearly did not have any prestige or rank in the view of the Pharisees and more orthodox Jews who lived in Jerusalem, the site of the Temple. 

There is a dynamic here that is very much in play today. Did you notice how the Pharisees put down the Temple guards when they spoke openly and honestly about their interesting experience in listening to Jesus? Notice the Pharisee’s groupthink and attempt to intimidate and ridicule anyone who did not hold their viewpoint. They would mock the person rather than address the content and substance of what was being said. Never a question from the Pharisees like, “What about Jesus’ speaking impressed you? What was different?” Nicodemus, however, was cut of different cloth.  

It is interesting that Nicodemus, a leader among the Pharisees and the one who had come to Jesus by night and later assisted in Jesus’ burial, spoke up and asked a very thoughtful, pointed question. He was not intimidated by those in power. Rather than “telling” the Pharisees, he asked a question to encourage further thought and dialogue  regarding the real question, “Who is Jesus?” Not a bad strategy when we get into conversations regarding Jesus. Do more asking than telling. You’ll notice that was often Jesus’ method as well.

Music: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”  arr. Dan Forrest   Jamaica Youth Chorale


Lord Jesus, as the date of your birth celebration draws ever nearer, may we never forget that you are alive right now. As we engage people in conversation today, help us to be thoughtful to ask questions that encourage others to think of you and your impact on their life. Help us to have the boldness of Nicodemus, even if it produces awkwardness. Give us a tender, strong, and compassionate heart for all those we encounter today. This we pray through Jesus Christ, who became a child, that we might become the children of God. Amen.   ―Daniel Sharp

Friday, December 16, 2022

Friday, December 16, 2022

Reader: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel. For he has visited and redeemed his people . . .”

Response:  “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Scripture:  Hebrews 1:4-14

This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus:

   “You are my Son.

      Today I have become your Father.”

   God also said,

   “I will be his Father,

      and he will be my Son.”

 And when he brought his firstborn Son into the world, God said,

   “Let all of God’s angels worship him.”

 Regarding the angels, he says,

   “He sends his angels like the winds,

      his servants like flames of fire.”

 But to the Son he says,

   “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.

      You rule with a scepter of justice.

 You love justice and hate evil.

      Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you,

      pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”

 He also says to the Son,

   “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth

      and made the heavens with your hands.

 They will perish, but you remain forever.

      They will wear out like old clothing.

 You will fold them up like a cloak

      and discard them like old clothing.

   But you are always the same;

      you will live forever.”

 And God never said to any of the angels,

   “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand

      until I humble your enemies,

      making them a footstool under your feet.”

 Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.

Some thoughts:     

First-century Jews, the people to whom this letter was written, had a fascination with angels and regarded them highly as being involved in God’s messages to his people and particularly in the giving of the law to Moses. (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19) So the writer of Hebrews wants to make clear that Jesus, God’s Son, is superior to angels. Remember, the Jewish readers are trying to see how Jesus fits into what they have believed. That is why there is so much attention given to Jesus’ position in relation to angels.

In fact, angels are to worship the Son of God. While the Son is related to God the Father, the angels are not. Whenever angels appear in Scripture, it is always to deliver a message from God. The last book in the Old Testament, Malachi, is Hebrew for “messenger.” The angels were carriers of messages from God to his people. 

The angel Gabriel who spoke to Daniel in the First Testament is the same angel who hundreds of years later came to Zechariah to tell of John’s birth. He also came to Mary at the annunciation. An angel came to Joseph to tell him of Mary’s Holy Spirit pregnancy. A host of angels came to the shepherds in the fields to give them the message that a Savior had been born. The Jewish Christians were aware of all of this and now the writer was making an exclamation point, Jesus is not only the messenger of God, he is the message of God personified! To understand God’s message most clearly, focus on Jesus; God has come to earth in human flesh. Can you imagine how difficult this would be to grasp for the Jewish readers? This story did not fit into anything they were expecting or could have anticipated.  

There is no god in the history of the world who has ever communicated personally and directly to humans in human language as a human being. Can you begin to see the challenge of a radical, unimaginable shift and impact on Jewish thinking this truth of ‘God in human flesh’ had as it began to sink in? Giving up the old way of thinking about God was disturbing to many people and a great joy to others. The same is true today. As we study the Scriptures, how is our thinking about God being challenged? Or are we set with a fixed image of who God is poured in cement (with rebar!)? Remember, we are in the process of becoming Christ-like. Process in this case means change. The word for it is sanctification. We need to always be growing in our understanding of our Lord.

Music: “Lo, How A Rose”  Pacific Chorale

Prayer:Almighty God, in this hour of quietness I seek communion with Thee. From the fret and fever of the day’s business, from the world’s discordant noises, from the praise and blame of men, from the confused thoughts and vain imaginations of my own heart, I would now turn aside and seek the quietness of Thy presence. All day long have I toiled and striven; but now, in stillness of heart and in the clear light of Thine eternity, I would ponder the pattern my life has been weaving. Gracious God, I seek Thy presence, beseeching Thee to create a little pool of heavenly peace within my heart ere I lie down to sleep this evening. Let all the day’s excitements and anxieties now give place to a time of inward recollection, as I wait upon Thee and meditate upon Thy dear Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.   –John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, p.27

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Reader: The Son radiates God’s own glory

Response: and expresses the very character of God.”

Scripture:  Hebrews 1:1-3

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

Some thoughts:

This passage of Scripture is one of the more profound, far-reaching pericopes in all of Scripture. We have been reading these past weeks how God spoke through the prophets as we have had readings from Malachi, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Micah. While all of the writings spoke of a coming Messiah, in some cases the advent of his birth and in others the advent of his Return, we are now in this passage directed to God’s immediate presence on earth speaking not through the prophets, but through his very own Son.  

Here we learn more specifics concerning God and his incarnate Son. Everything in existence is the Son’s inheritance. Everything was made for him. Through God’s Son all creation came into being. The Son is filled with God’s glory and is the very expression of God in human form. The word translated “radiates” is used just once in the New Testament. It includes the idea of brilliant brightness which is not a reflection of another light, but is itself the source of the brilliance. The Son is God, is the Source of the light. He is the sustainer of everything that is through his unlimited and matchless power having always existed. In these verses we are beginning to see the ramifications and the overwhelming significance of the birth of Jesus. 

Because of the Son of God, the universe has come into existence. Now the Son of God has taken on human flesh and come to planet earth. You can see that his nativity is so much more significant than the simple birth of a baby boy in a feeding trough as wonderful as that is. God, who is not subject to time, entered into earthly time at his conception. And now he enters the world as a baby that he might redeem all of Creation. This baby came to earth to give his life enabling all who place their trust in his efficacious work on the cross receiving forgiveness of sin might spend eternity in his presence when making the transition from life on earth to life in heaven. To help give you a bigger picture of Jesus’ birth, read Isaiah 53 thinking of a baby in a manger to remind yourself of God’s perspective.

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message?

To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,

like a root in dry ground.

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,

nothing to attract us to him.He was despised and rejected—

a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.

He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;

it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,

a punishment for his own sins!

But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.

We have left God’s paths to follow our own.

Yet the Lord laid on him

the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,

yet he never said a word.

He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.

And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,

he did not open his mouth.

Unjustly condemned,

he was led away.

No one cared that he died without descendants,

that his life was cut short in midstream.

But he was struck down

for the rebellion of my people.

He had done no wrong

and had never deceived anyone.

But he was buried like a criminal;

he was put in a rich man’s grave.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him

and cause him grief.

Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,

he will have many descendants.

He will enjoy a long life,

and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.

When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,

he will be satisfied.

And because of his experience,

my righteous servant will make it possible

for many to be counted righteous,

for he will bear all their sins.

I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,

because he exposed himself to death.

He was counted among the rebels.

He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

This is our God who “loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”   Jn 3:16

Music: “Joy to the World” The Spirituals Choir

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGyYAzrctzk   traditional  Soundiva Classical Choir

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDmIddF7DfQ Celtic Women  (A production!)


O Lord, our self-revealing God, we thank you for giving us the full picture of your love as the whole of Scripture unfolds. In it we see from the beginning to the end how you took care of each detail and how truly dependent we are upon you for everything. Thank you for your willingness to inhabit this planet, this speck in the universe, to make possible the restoration of our communion with you. Forgive us when we simply and flippantly take your sacrifice for granted in our prayers, songs, thoughts, and actions. Your condescension and humiliation is beyond anything we can begin to comprehend.  But we thank you for humbling yourself, even unto the point of death, death on a cross. Wherefore God has highly exalted you. That at your name every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow. For your name is above every name in heaven and on earth. And so we joyfully bow on our knees, joining in with all those who bring you glory. We pray this in the glorious name of your Son, our matchless Redeemer. Amen.       ―Daniel Sharp

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Reader: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,”

Response: “And you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.”

Scripture:  Malachi 3:16-4:6

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.

 “They will be my people,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Some thoughts:  

You may have been wondering when we were going to begin to focus on Jesus’ birth, after all, Christmas is coming! Often in the swirl of the season we can focus too narrowly on a single day or a single event. We have sought to remind us over the past couple of weeks that God’s purpose and plan for the birth of the Redeemer is in the context of bringing restoration to everything God has created. We begin observing the Christian Year at the very end of time, the Second Coming, the final advent of Jesus, and then work backwards to his birth and then forward to his Passion, Ascension, and advent of the Holy Spirit. You see, the Nativity has a much grander scope than simply the birth of baby Jesus. It is so much more significant than a Jesus’ birthday party!

This passage from Malachi is both a warning and a joyous promise to us. There is no doubt these words will come to pass and there will be judgment for all. Though his words were strong and clear, there is no evidence that the majority of those who heard Malachi’s message changed their crooked ways. Nevertheless, those who repented were known to God and were spared a severe judgment.

All people who honor the Lord will experience an abiding joy even in awful times. For them, there is no fear in judgment. The image of “leaping calves being led out to pasture” is another vivid image to a farm boy like me! How well I remember when in late March or early April, we opened the barn doors for the first time and let the calves, which had been penned up during the cold winter months, out into the fresh spring air. They ran and jumped around like little lambs or goats, almost out of control! Their little legs were wobbly with joy!  We loved to watch the joy of those first minutes of newly discovered freedom. Malachi writes of this kind of joy along with the reminder to “remember history” and what God has done. 

The Scriptures give us the repeated reminder to keep God’s biggest story in mind. The Older Testament ends with the admonition to be on the alert for Elijah and the coming of Messiah. The Newer Testament ends with the admonition to look for the Return of the Messiah and concludes with the call, “Come, Lord Jesus,” the conclusion to the final advent!

Music: “What Child Is This” Sissel


O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is accomplished.  Lord, how we long for your return. In your mercy come again and receive us unto yourself, grant us a safe lodging in our heavenly home, the home you are preparing for us, and grant us a holy rest, and peace at last through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

                        ―John Henry Newman 1801-1890, adapted Daniel Sharp

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Reader: “The Sun of Righteousness will rise.”

Response: “With healing in his wings.”

Scripture:  Isaiah 35:5-6

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind

    and unplug the ears of the deaf.

The lame will leap like a deer,

    and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!

Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,

    and streams will water the wasteland.

Luke 7:18-23

The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”

At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”

Some thoughts:

Sometimes people wonder how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. After all, aren’t people just finding “convenient connections” long after the fact? In these two passages we have perfect examples of how Jesus interprets the First Testament. His cousin, John the Baptist, had been arrested and was now in prison. I wonder how well they knew each other growing up? I would suspect that John thought Jesus had come to overthrow Roman rule. So he sent Andrew, one of his own disciples at the time, to find out if Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus answered that question by quoting the prophet Isaiah. In that exchange, Andrew discovered the Messiah and later introduced his brother, Simon, to the Lord.

Did you notice that the examples Jesus gave corresponded perfectly to the Isaiah passage? He re-tuned John’s thinking to the true mission of the Messiah. Jesus defined God’s biggest picture of restoring creation with his examples of giving sight to the blind, the lame now walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf can hear, and the dead are raised to life. The Good News is being preached to the poor. It is only through the Messiah that God is restoring his creation. This was Jesus’ answer to John. 

Jesus then turned to the crowd to affirm and verify that John was indeed the one to announce the coming of the Messiah, again quoting Isaiah. The people, knowing the Scriptures much better than most people do in our day, embraced what Jesus said. Sad to say, many of the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan of recreation, because they refused to believe John and consequently Jesus’ own words. The sad truth is that some of today’s theologians fall into the same category. 

Though writing over 700 years before the time of Jesus, Isaiah describes in detail the work of the Messiah. These two passages provide classic examples of how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies. In every case, the heart of the issue is that Jesus is God come in the flesh to bring restoration to the whole created order. In Jesus’ words, let us “preach Good News” to the poor, for our world is filled with the blind, deaf, and dead in spirit to the transforming power of the gospel. Let us follow Andrew’s model and invite others to “Come and follow the Savior.”

Music: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” The ChurchFolk


Father, as the day of your reappearing draws closer, create in me a deeper longing for the restoration of all of creation. Thank you for the completeness of your word. I’m amazed again and again at the detail and unity of the whole of Scripture. Thank you for the care and manner in which Jesus revealed himself and his mission to the people. I love studying and following the thought process of Jesus’ discussions in a passage like this. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who guides and teaches making your word vibrant this day. I love you Lord. Glory to you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.                                ―Daniel Sharp

Monday, December 12, 2022

Monday, December 12

Reader: “Jesus Christ is,”

Response: “the light of the world.”                                                                             

Scripture:  John 1:6-8, 19-28

 God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.

This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants  from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”

 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”

   “No,” he replied.

   “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”


 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”

 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

   “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,

      ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”

Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”

 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”

This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.

Some thoughts:

This is an interesting passage in that we see the ending of the 400 silent years between the First and New Testaments. John the Baptizer comes on the scene out of the desert  becoming a well known public figure thereby drawing the attention of the Jewish religious leaders, hence their questions regarding his identity. The Apostle writes with an apparent keen awareness of the book of Genesis in his reference to light. 

It is interesting to note a similarity here between the first day of creation and the coming of Christ, as the Light of the world. On the first day, God said let there be light and there was light. In this gospel, the Baptizer was sent to tell everyone that the light had come. The reference to the water of baptism draws another likeness to the second day of creation in which God separates the water from the heavens from the water of the earth. John’s baptism was an earthly baptism to repentance; the Messiah’s baptism was a heavenly baptism unto salvation. 

Where did John fit into what the Jewish leaders believed? Was he the Messiah? No. Was he Elijah? No. (Remember Elijah was transported directly to heaven without dying. It was prophesied in Jewish thought that he would return to earth prior to the coming of the Messiah, so it was a reasonable question to ask.) Was he the prophet to which Moses referred? (Deut 18:15) No. If he was none of those, who then was this curious person? Why was his identity so important to the Pharisees? It was because they were to give an answer about John to those leaders who sent them and they were getting nowhere. So, they asked John for his answer about himself. Where did he get his authority? His answer pointed to another yet to come. Remember, we have hindsight, they didn’t. 

Do you notice how easy it is to ask questions based on our own perspective of what we know or believe to be? We assume what we see or know is both accurate and truthful. As hard as it is, we must admit we have a fallible, corrupted perspective on all things! God was unfolding his story in their very midst, yet they did not recognize it. This encounter gives me pause to think how often have I missed what God was doing in my very presence because I was so convinced of my ability to see things clearly? Advent is about clarifying the biggest picture of God’s plan. 

Music: “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” Westminster Choir


Lord God, Father of our Messiah, the one who has perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, heavenly timing, merciful patience, and compassionate judgment, forgive us, Lord, for our abundant confidence in our ability to know and understand your workings. In humble gratitude we ask for your grace and mercy in forgiving our self-confidence, we pray this through Jesus Christ who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.   

                                                             ―Daniel Sharp

Third Sunday in Advent, December 11, 2022

Third Sunday in Advent, December 11, 2022

Reader: “The Light of the world is coming.”

Response:  “Jesus is that Light.”

Scripture:   Isaiah 40:1-11

“Comfort, comfort my people,”

    says your God.

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

Tell her that her sad days are gone

    and her sins are pardoned.

Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over

    for all her sins.”

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,

“Clear the way through the wilderness

    for the Lord!

Make a straight highway through the wasteland

    for our God!

Fill in the valleys,

    and level the mountains and hills.

Straighten the curves,

    and smooth out the rough places.

Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

    and all people will see it together.

    The Lord has spoken!”

A voice said, “Shout!”

    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.

    Their beauty fades as quickly

    as the flowers in a field.

The grass withers and the flowers fade

    beneath the breath of the Lord.

    And so it is with people.

The grass withers and the flowers fade,

    but the word of our God stands forever.”

O Zion, messenger of good news,

    shout from the mountaintops!

Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.

    Shout, and do not be afraid.

Tell the towns of Judah,

    “Your God is coming!”

Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.

    He will rule with a powerful arm.

    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.

    He will carry the lambs in his arms,

holding them close to his heart.

    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Some thoughts:

These familiar words of Isaiah are personified in John the Baptist, in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. Various musicians have set parts of this text to music many, many times throughout the centuries. Some of the most time-honored and well-known examples are in Handel’s Messiah. Music often goes beyond what words can express, speaking directly to the language of the soul. Through the sacred music of all ages, millions of people have experienced the wonder and glory of God at a more profound level than with mere words. (Today’s devotional is a little more musically oriented. I’ve had the joy of conducting these pieces multiple times.)

As with the Messiah, you’ll note a similar impact in the second movement of the Brahms Requiem, a passage which reminds us of the temporary nature of our life on earth while the word of the Lord stands eternally. While we are used to thirty second sound bites and three minute songs, I urge you to listen to the second movement listed below for the full 15:46 without interruption, noting how the weightiness of the text builds throughout. Like life, note the relentless nature of the tempo.  I Peter is actually quoting Isaiah! Wait for the dramatic, “But the word of the Lord . . .”  (At 9:30 into the piece―don’t cheat! Let it build to that point! Patience!) It’s worth every minute. Listen and watch where you won’t be interrupted. You’ll see the English subtitles to the German text.

In the concluding portion of our pericope today, Handel reminds us of the tenderness of our great God and his care for his sheep. Handel and Brahms give us a few glorious examples of musical settings of this text this advent season.

*As a farm boy, the relationship between a lamb and its mother is very, very close. One bleat from the mother in the midst of a whole flock, her lambs discern her voice and come running. All I hear is a cacophony of sheep noise! One plaintive bleat from her lambs and she is there in an instant. When the mother sheep knows the shepherd, she will trust him with her lambs. This passage is a beautiful picture of our God both when he comes again and how he cares for us in the meantime. You can trust this Shepherd today to care for his lambs, including you. (#20 below.)  

Make some time to listen to these music settings, even if you have to spread it over several days. Listening and watching these videos makes for a wonderful Sunday afternoon with Scripture! 

Music: from “Messiah”, #2,3,4,9,20 and Brahms Requiem #2.

#2 “Comfort Ye” v.1-3     #2 & #3 together    (6:30) 

#3 “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” v.4  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Pz9BCMFoP8 

#4 “And the Glory of the Lord”  v.5  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRq9EkDTdxs  Voces 8    (2:54)  Glorious!

#9 “O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings of Zion”  v.9  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIqDNTnOCks   (5:46)   Sasha & Mormon Tabernacle Choir

#20 “He Shall Feed His Flock” v. *20  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-bAXm-A3Ls&list=RDl-bAXm-A3Ls&start_radio=1  (6:16)   Barbara Bonney

Brahms #2 “Behold All Flesh is As the Grass” v.6-8   Herbert Von Karajan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2jc13Q1wX4   (15:18) English Subtitles



Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever. Amen!                           –from the Revelation of St. John

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Reader:  “My soul glorifies the Lord.”

Response:  “And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Scripture:   Habakkuk 3:13-19

You went out to rescue your chosen people,

      to save your anointed ones.

   You crushed the heads of the wicked

      and stripped their bones from head to toe.

 With his own weapons,

      you destroyed the chief of those

   who rushed out like a whirlwind,

      thinking Israel would be easy prey.

 You trampled the sea with your horses,

      and the mighty waters piled high.

 I trembled inside when I heard this;

      my lips quivered with fear.

   My legs gave way beneath me,

      and I shook in terror.

   I will wait quietly for the coming day

      when disaster will strike the people who invade us.

 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

      and there are no grapes on the vines;

   even though the olive crop fails,

      and the fields lie empty and barren;

   even though the flocks die in the fields,

      and the cattle barns are empty,

 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

      I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

      He makes me as surefooted as a deer,

      able to tread upon the heights.

   (For the choir director: This prayer is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.) 

Some thoughts:

This is the final passage from Habakkuk. Like yesterday’s reading, the prophet harkens back to the history of God saving his people with his reference to the exodus. There is even the curious phrase about “crushing the heads of the wicked,” a phrase reminding  me of the curse placed by God where the Redeemer mortally crushes the head of the serpent in the Garden while absorbing a wound. (Gen 3) 

In spite of the agricultural disaster that has befallen God’s people, the prophet’s writing portrays uncommon, undeterred hope, and relentless fortitude. As one who grew up on a farm and currently oversees the farm with my sister, crop failure is the most difficult kind of disaster. Barren fields speak of prolonged hopelessness and waiting for another year to pass. Crops don’t appear in a day. Livelihood depends on a successful harvest. Failing crops, starving flocks, dying cattle, and empty, dusty, cob-webbed filled barns speak of catastrophic failure. This reality is one of the reasons farmers are so tuned to the weather and freely admit, “it’s up to the good Lord.” Prayers in churches attended by people in agriculture tend to be different from those in city churches. Livelihood is truly dependent upon the Lord in a very earthy way!

Having said this, one short, three-letter word speaks of undeniable, unquenchable faith in spite of all circumstances. That word is “yet.” It is a “Hold it! Not so fast” word. Faith in the sovereign God of truth is demonstrated so clearly in Habakkuk’s song.. “I will rejoice . . . I will be joyful . . .” My strength is in him. As we await the Lord’s return, some of us may be experiencing “crop failure” or “empty barns.” Remember that most powerful of words, “Yet!” Hold on! Not so fast.” Don’t draw hasty conclusions. The Lord is my strength; he is the source. 

Music: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”   Voctave     Go see and hear them whenever you can!


O Lord, help me to understand that there ain’t going to be nothing come my way that you and me together can’t handle.                         ―Anonymous

Friday, December 9, 2022

December 9, Friday

Reader: “I have heard all about you, Lord.”   

Response: “I am filled with awe by your amazing works.” 

Scripture:  Habakkuk 3:2-6

I have heard all about you, Lord.

      I am filled with awe by your amazing works.

   In this time of our deep need,

      help us again as you did in years gone by.

   And in your anger,

      remember your mercy.

 I see God moving across the deserts from Edom,

      the Holy One coming from Mount Paran,

   His brilliant splendor fills the heavens,

      and the earth is filled with his praise.

 His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise.

      Rays of light flash from his hands,

      where his awesome power is hidden.

 Pestilence marches before him;

      plague follows close behind.

 When he stops, the earth shakes.

      When he looks, the nations tremble.

   He shatters the everlasting mountains

      and levels the eternal hills.

      He is the Eternal One! 

Some thoughts:

This portion of the book of Habakkuk was apparently meant to be sung as a psalm. There are two themes in this passage on which I want to comment. First, notice Habakkuk’s comment “I have heard all about you . . . I am filled with awe by your amazing works.” Knowing the history of God’s working in people’s and nation’s lives is essential in growing in our understanding of God. Ignorance of true history is ultimate ignorance and foolishness. Sometimes we may be inclined to think erroneously that the past is over and done, dead history, who cares. Such thinking is particularly damaging when it comes to biblical history and the work of God.

Part of history’s purpose is to give us hope for the present in knowing what God has done in the past. Many times when God was at work, the people who were being helped were completely unaware. Such has certainly happened in our lives. In this case, knowing history gives Habakkuk the wisdom to ask again for God’s intervention. He reminds himself and God of past days of assistance. Then there is this interesting phrase, “in your anger, remember your mercy.” 

Ah, here we have evidence of “the angry God of the Old Testament!”  But do we? No. God’s anger is related to the theological word “propitiation.” What is that? God’s anger, his wrath is directed toward sin. Through the offering of his Son, God’s wrath is turned from the sin of humans as his own Son took our sin and that of the whole world upon himself on our behalf. Jesus is the propitiation for our sin and that of the whole world. That is “propitiation.” In that same phrase, Habakkuk appeals to the mercy of God. The verses that follow, in fact, reflect God’s mercy toward his people.

The second theme demonstrates how he shows his mercy. “His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden.” Such phrases recall God’s fiery appearance to Moses and the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. The prophet writes of the coming advent of the Lord and the magnificent way in which that appearance is demonstrated. The references to plague and pestilence can refer to two agents God uses as his “army” to fulfill his will. Habakkuk concludes this passage with words of high praise and devotion based not on feelings, but on God’s character and love. 

Take some time today and think back over the “amazing works” the Lord has done and is doing to shape your life in the image of his Son, the good things as well as the “plagues” and the “pestilences!” Thank him for his mercy. He is working on you daily because of his love for you. Together let us look toward “his coming as brilliant as the sunrise!” And may we say with John the Apostle, as he closes the book of Revelation and the Scriptures of the Bible, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”

Music: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” Chet Valley Churches


O Lord, our Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Comforter, teach us the value and wisdom of remembering the history of your works in our lives and in this world. We are so consumed with the present days and have such poor memories. We live far too helter-skelter lives making little time for reflection on your work in us. Help us learn to live in the peacefulness which your presence brings. Forbid it Lord, that we should rush off day after day into our structured schedules ignoring your life in us. Rather than “fitting you into our life schedule,” may we make a conscious effort daily to conform our lives into what you are doing within us. This we pray through Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God eternal and everlasting. Amen.        ―Daniel Sharp

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Reader: “This is the word of the prophet Habakkuk.”

Response: “Thank you Lord for these words of wisdom, truth, and perspective.”

Scripture: Habakkuk 2:1-5

 I will climb up to my watchtower

      and stand at my guardpost.

   There I will wait to see what the Lord says

      and how he will answer my complaint.

Then the Lord said to me,

   “Write my answer plainly on tablets,

      so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.

 This vision is for a future time.

      It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.

   If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,

      for it will surely take place.

      It will not be delayed.

 “Look at the proud!

      They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.

      But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.

 Wealth is treacherous,

      and the arrogant are never at rest.

   They open their mouths as wide as the grave,

      and like death, they are never satisfied.

   In their greed they have gathered up many nations

      and swallowed many peoples.”

Some thoughts:

As you read, watch, or listen to the news today, notice the content of all the stories. How many of them are based on anything beyond the immediate circumstances? Virtually none. The nature of news is to tell us what is happening right now or plans for the near future from a human perspective.  With all our devices, often as an outgrowth or an appendage on our hand (!), we can almost be present as the “present” is happening! With this daily and intense bombardment of the present tense, is it any wonder we have difficulty grasping a biblical vision of the present and future? We are stuck in sound bites.

These descriptions from Habakkuk seem so remote. It is far easier to believe and spend our time thinking and planning about those things we can see and hear. The immediacy and ubiquitous nature of the present can cloud the larger truth leading people to increased fear, anxiety, discouragement, depression, and apprehension. Such traits are certainly evident in our society. 

Have you noticed the proud and crooked people are never at rest and often angry?. They are consumed with the present world and their own perspective of it. Their world and trust never move outside of themselves. Like the grave and death, they are never satisfied. The immediate is all that matters to them. Their trust is in themselves. For them, the bottom line is: “I can handle it.”

The idea of some future vision when the Lord will again enter our world bringing it to a close seems the stuff of fantasy or the product of an overactive imagination. While we may believe such thoughts intellectually or theologically, living practically with the truth of the Lord’s return and letting it shape our current fears, discouragements, and so forth is another story. It’s far too easy to live in the here and now with the “present tense” life occupying all of our attention. 

This season of advent gives us an opportunity to retool. Having said that, Habakkuk helps us: This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. It will be fulfilled . . . it will not be delayed. Timeless truth.

These words of the Lord give us the antidote to dealing with drowning in the present: “The vision is for a future time . . . if it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Relax, God is in control. Good words for today and tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the . . .  “it will surely take place.” Did you ever notice how much “waiting” there is in the Scriptures? Waiting is one of the primary building blocks of faith.  

Music: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”   Caitelen


Lord Jesus, help us to not get so lost in the concerns and activities of the immediate world that the eternal world we cannot see seems unreal. Teach us, O Lord, to use this transitory life as pilgrims returning to their beloved home; that we may take what our journey requires, and not think of settling in a foreign country, the country wherein we now abide. Amen.                          –adapted from John Wesley (1703-1791)

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Reader: “The Sun of Righteousness will rise.”

Response:  “With healing in his wings.”

Scripture:  Luke 1:5-17

 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

Some thoughts:

We look today at a passage more familiar to the nativity story. God’s people had been waiting for 400 years since the prophets had last spoken. Silence. Not so much as a whisper. It reminds one of the 400 years the Israelites waited for a redeemer to come to bring deliverance from the Egyptians. You’ll recall Moses and his brother, Aaron, both of the tribe of Levi, led the people from slavery. There are some parallels between the two stories.

In the passage above, we read of God ending the silence and putting his redemption plan into motion with the coming of John the Baptist who would be the forerunner of the coming Messiah as foretold by the last First Testament prophet, Malachi. Luke mentions that the angel was on the right side of the incense altar. The “right side” is always the place of strength, of authority. It carries the voice of the center position. (Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.) 

 Zechariah did not expect anyone would be joining him at the altar. Most of the time when angels appeared to people in the Scriptures, the people were terrified. Likewise, when being confronted by God speaking from the burning bush, Moses was terrified. Such was a normal reaction. In Zechariah’s case, the angel said, “God has heard your prayer.” Similarly, when God called Moses to redeem the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, his words to Moses were, “I have heard the cries of distress . . . so I have come down to rescue them.” (Ex.3:7) 

Like the Israelites pleading with God regarding their circumstances, apparently Zechariah and Elizabeth, who are both, like Moses and Aaron of the priestly tribe of Levi, had been praying for a child for many, many years. All of those years of wondering if their prayer would ever be answered came to a glorious end, both for the Israelites and the priest and his wife! Their son would be the “Elijah” heralding the coming of the long, long awaited Messiah and Moses would be a Christ type redeemer leading God’s people from slavery to freedom. 

Given this wonderful news of the coming birth of their son, old Zechariah had his doubts as did Moses regarding his leading the exodus. We can too easily identify with them. After waiting so long for something, we often have a tendency to hold back in believing and rejoicing to our detriment. Moses never did enter the Promised Land because of disobedience and lack of faith. Zechariah had to remain silent for nine months for his lack of faith. At the birth of John, old Zack’s tongue was finally set free. My guess is that he had a lot to say! God’s plan is moving ahead. It still is . . . Don’t doubt.

Music: “Song of Zechariah: Benedictus Dominus Deus  Choirs of All Saints Church, Beverly Hills, CA.   (7:25)  The text of Lk. 1:68-79 plus Glory Be to the Father

“Benedictus Dominus Deus” Christmas Carol Service at St Matthew’s, Bethnal Green, London     (3:07)   same setting with English text different composer

Prayer:Father, as the day of your appearing draws ever closer, create in me a longing for your arrival. Let me not falter in faith, nor fear the unknown. Let me never trust my perspective rather than yours. Give me courage not to hedge in my faith but to trust in your word completely. May your Return not simply be a remote theological idea having little impact on my life today. It’s far too easy to treat the Second Coming as an idea rather than a reality. Let me truly believe and consciously live for your return. With Zechariah, let me not waiver in prayer, but be fervent.   ―Daniel Sharp

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Reader: “O come, O come Emmanuel,”

Response:  “And lead us into everlasting life.”

Scripture:   Psalm 27:7-14

 Hear me as I pray, O Lord.

      Be merciful and answer me!

 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”

      And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Do not turn your back on me.

      Do not reject your servant in anger.

      You have always been my helper.

   Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,

      O God of my salvation!

 Even if my father and mother abandon me,

      the Lord will hold me close.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.

      Lead me along the right path,

      for my enemies are waiting for me.

 Do not let me fall into their hands.

      For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;

      with every breath they threaten me with violence.

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness

      while I am here in the land of the living.

 Wait patiently for the Lord.

      Be brave and courageous.

      Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. 

Some thoughts:

These first days of advent have been concerned, for the most part, about the Parousia (the Second Coming) of the Lord. Jesus told stories to illustrate the importance of watching and waiting for his return. (Luke 12:35-49) While the first part of this psalm deals with confidence, security, and trust in the Lord’s care (yesterday’s devotional), today we look at the last half of the psalm, where David calls for the Lord’s mercy, presence, and guidance during times of waiting.

Since it’s been about 3,000 years since David’s words were penned and another 2,000 since Jesus told us to watch and wait, we may be tempted to dismiss Jesus’ Return as more of an idea than a reality. We need to put impatience aside and get outside of our brief life of a few decades.  

Abraham was told he would be the father of millions of people. When he died, he had exactly one promised son. Isaac was it! What do you think he thought about God’s promise? He still believed. Look how long it was from the promise of a Redeemer to Adam and Eve until the birth of the Savior. Thousands of years. It was 430 years until the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptians. It seems there is a good deal of waiting, of dead time, in the Bible. We must understand that God’s time frame is not like ours.  There is no “clock” to his time, just the right time. As Habakkuk says, “it will not be late.”  (Hab.2:3) And everything God has said will happen, happens! Our job? Wait. What do we do while we wait? 

I recall taking many cross country trips with the boys and Nancy. There was always the “Dad, how long til we get there?” Then we’d see a stretch of road before us in New Mexico, Nebraska, Montana, or Texas that was straight as an arrow extending a full five or six or more miles ahead. We’d guess how far it was to the distant ridge. But you know what happened? By the time we got to the ridge ten or twelve minutes later, we’d forgotten to look at the odometer! We had gotten interested in counting antelopes in the distance, the number of cars in a train, an unusual rock formation, or a flattened armadillo in the road! In other words, the waiting involved being involved and paying attention to the present. That’s what God asks us to do as we await his second coming. Pay attention to the moment.

Music: “Wake, Awake for NIght is Flying”  Luther College Nordic Choir


Bring us, O Lord God, at the last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but an equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity, in the habitations of thy majesty and thy glory, world without end. Amen.  ―John Donne (1571-1631)

Monday, December 5, 2022

Monday, December 5, 2022

Reader: “The Light of the world is coming.”

Response:  “Jesus is that Light.”

Scripture:   Psalm 27:1-6

 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

      so why should I be afraid?

   The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,

      so why should I tremble?

 When evil people come to devour me,

      when my enemies and foes attack me,

      they will stumble and fall.

 Though a mighty army surrounds me,

      my heart will not be afraid.

   Even if I am attacked,

      I will remain confident.

 The one thing I ask of the Lord—

      the thing I seek most—

   is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

      delighting in the Lord’s perfections

      and meditating in his Temple.

 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;

      he will hide me in his sanctuary.

      He will place me out of reach on a high rock.

 Then I will hold my head high

      above my enemies who surround me.

   At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,

      singing and praising the Lord with music.

Some thoughts:

We live in uncertain times. People have said that for thousands of years. The phrase  hardly registers, does it? Of course we do! When were times ever “certain?” Never. Yet we live with a hope of certainty and are knocked off center when things become uncertain. The last couple of years have featured a heightened sense of uncertainty. Though I am writing this in August, as you read today’s devotional I am fairly certain that things are not peaceful and calm around the nations of the world! 

The season of advent is about disruption, disruption of life, of set ideas, of power, and our understanding of faith. The baby from Bethlehem came knocking many things off center, actually, life itself. The certainty of Herod’s rule was in question. The rabbi’s rigid understanding of the Torah and the Law was challenged. The political structures were being redefined. The cultural value of children, women, servants, in fact, all peoples took a seismic hit. Did you notice how Jesus’ presence and words affected all the strata of society both then and now?

When people are “off center” they can become fearful and angry. We certainly see evidence of some unique and illogical behaviors and attitudes today. Yet, deep within we have a longing that things should be right, be fair, be honorable, that people should tell the truth, and should treat each other well. It is interesting that when things are off center, the old ugly sinful nature rises to the top rather quickly. The psalmist here gives much-needed words of help.

He reminds us that the Lord is the sanctuary; the Lord is the fortress. Notice that the safety, the protection comes when the psalmist is in the sanctuary. In the Lord’s presence is where we gain the true and clearest perspective. I am all too often speculating and fretting “in my own presence.” Note the verbs in v.5,6. “He will conceal me,” “he will hide me,” “he will place me out of reach,” “he will hold my head.” As we await that great day of the Lord’s return, let us abandon our own “presence” and anxieties and find our place of certainty in him who is our light and salvation. Certainty is found only in Jesus.

Music: “Come Thou Long-expected Jesus”  Meredith Andrews

Prayer:Be, Lord, within me to strengthen me . . . without me to preserve me . . . over me to shelter me . . . beneath me to support me . . . before me to direct me . . . behind me to bring me back . . . round about me to fortify me.   –Lancelot Andrewes  (1555-1626)

Second Sunday in Advent, December 4, 2022

Second Sunday in Advent, December 4, 2022

Reader: “May the house of your servant David”

Response: “continue before you forever.”

Scripture:   2 Samuel 7:25-26

“And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. Confirm it as a promise that will last forever. And may your name be honored forever so that everyone will say, ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is God over Israel!’ And may the house of your servant David continue before you forever.

Revelation 22:12-16

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

Some thoughts:

At first glance these two passages may seem an odd pairing. You may wish to read this whole passage in 2 Samuel(v.18-29). A quick review: David is part of a long line of prophecies foretelling that the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah, David’s tribe. (Matthew makes this point in his gospel.) This pericope is the passage from 2 Samuel where David learns from Nathan that his throne would continue forever! Did you notice the similarity of David’s response in hearing the news of an eternal kingship to that of Mary when she learned from Gabriel that she would be the mother of the Messiah? (“I am your servant. Do as you have promised.”) We see two pliable humble hearts in response to God’s directive.

Think about it, for a throne to exist eternally, one of David’s heirs would have to live forever. There is no end to “forever.” When an overwhelmed David prayed, “We have never heard of another God like you,” he was not overstating. He was surrounded by hundreds of pagan gods. 

John, writing roughly a thousand years later in his Revelation, picks up this idea when he quotes Jesus’ own words: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” We are familiar with the Greek letters being the first and last of the Greek alphabet. The Hebrew expression would be the aleph and the tau, used to mean the entirety of a thing. The threefold statements of Jesus here commencing with an “I am” (think Moses at Mt. Sinai) declare that he is Lord of all history from its inception to its conclusion and the whole of everything in between. Jesus is the beginning and the end, the King from the tribe of Judah, whose reign is eternal. This King defeated death, the only way a King could be eternal. He is the fulfillment of the promise to David, the promise of the restoration of God’s eternal kingdom on earth. “The bright and morning star” is another name for the Messiah.  

Sometimes we read a phrase in the Bible without thinking through its significance only to discover that a thousand or two thousand years later, God fulfilled exactly what he promised in Jesus Christ. When you read Scripture, go slowly, noticing every little phrase. God was very careful about what he said. Some of the things he said have yet to happen. It behooves us to pay attention to details. What do you notice today that is eternal in nature?

Music: “Once in Royal David’s City” Libera   DO NOT MISS THIS


Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like. How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you! And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. And may your name be honored forever so that everyone will say, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is God.”  This I pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, throughout all ages, Amen.  ―adapted from King David   

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Reader: “The Light is coming,”

Response:  “The Light of the world.”

Scripture: Ezekiel 36:24-28

For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.

 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

 “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God.

Some thoughts:

Have you noticed how many of the prophets say much the same message? Ezekiel (570-590 BC) gives us today’s pericope. All the prophets wrote concerning the coming of the Messiah, the restoration of Israel to its homeland, the land promised to Abraham and his descendents, and the fulfillment of God’s grand plan for his creation. As mentioned previously, advent is about the Return of the Lord and what will happen surrounding that world-ending-as-we-know-it event and the great importance of our being ready and anticipating that day. In 1948 Israel returned to its homeland. We await the rest of the fulfillment of the prophecy. 

In this passage we read of the tender and responsive heart that God so desires in us as we await that Day of completion and the Lord’s return. Did you notice the source of the new heart and new spirit? In this passage God does everything concerning us. The Holy Spirit transforms our stony, stubborn hearts. We are given the Holy Spirit to guide us. Human beings’ best efforts to improve things and make the world “a better place in which to live” just are not working out if you have noticed! Fallen humans leading other fallen humans is a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, human beings with a true heart for God, led by the Holy Spirit do make a significant difference in any society.

I don’t know what kinds of things you have going on today or the pressures you face, but I do know what God wants for and from you. He is not looking for a stubborn, stony “I can do this myself, I know what I am doing” heart. He wants a heart of flesh for you with a Holy God-given Spirit. Ask him to give you that tender, responsive heart. People will notice it and the world desperately needs it. In the words of Isaiah, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”   (Is 30:29 NIV)

Music: “Change My Heart O God” African Music Experience An oldie from 40 years ago


O Son of God, do a miracle for me, and change my heart; thy having taken flesh to redeem me was more difficult than to transform my wickedness. It is thou who, to help me, didst go to be scourged . . . thou, dear child of Mary, art the refined molten metal of our forge.              ―a Celtic prayer,  Tadhg Og O Huiginn, d.1448

Friday, December 2, 2022

Friday, December 2, 2022

Reader: “Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

Response: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10   

The Lord gave me this message:

 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.

      Before you were born I set you apart

      and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

 The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said,

   “Look, I have put my words in your mouth!

 Today I appoint you to stand up

      against nations and kingdoms.

   Some you must uproot and tear down,

      destroy and overthrow.

   Others you must build up

      and plant.”

Some Thoughts:

Jeremiah was a First Testament prophet writing around 600 BC. This book has a very interesting passage at the beginning, particularly in light of some of the issues in today’s society in the United States, but also has implications for the entire world. What stands out immediately is that God knew Jeremiah before he formed him in his mother’s womb. Likewise, God knew you and me before he formed us in our mother’s wombs, in fact, he chose us before the foundation of the world. (Eph 1:4) We get the clear idea that God knows all about us before we even were! It makes sense that the one who made us knows us best. Indeed, our life began at conception in our mother’s wombs. Indeed, she is the first one who housed, who made a home for our little life! A secular culture refuses to address this monumental truth. (Is 49:1, Ps 139:15-16, Lk 1:31-32, Lk 1:13-14)

In Jeremiah’s case, his vocation had already been determined! The psalmist likewise tells us that God has ordered each day of our life. Like Moses before him, Jeremiah complained that he couldn’t speak for God. Then Jeremiah objected to God’s call believing he was too young. He needed to hear Paul’s words to Timothy!  (I Tim.4:12)  

There are two great promises here that apply to us today as a result of what God said to Jeremiah.  One pledge is that God will give us the words to say in proclaiming his truth. Like Isaiah, God touched Jeremiah’s lips giving him words to speak. (Is  6:7) And, secondly, God vowed his presence and his protection. Jeremiah needn’t be afraid of the people. He would never be alone. Time and again God delivered Jeremiah from dangerous situations. While the Bible does not say how he eventually died, the book of Jeremiah records many of the conversations he had with his God. (Tradition says he was stoned to death by his own people when they were exiled to Egypt.)

While we may not be called to be prophets to speak to a nation in rebellion, we can speak words of truth to a culture in rebellion in various places God puts us. Like Jeremiah, God has promised to give us the words to speak and to be present with us whether we are engaged with others in sharing the truth, building people up, exposing error, or planting seeds of God’s truth in the world around us.  Let us be “present” to the Lord throughout this day. These are not days to be silent.

Music: “Long Ago, Prophets Knew”      Chet Valley Churches


Lord God, may you be the beginning and the end, the reason and the motive, the rule and the measure of our doing or not doing, from morning to night; then everywhere whether speaking or silent, whether inwardly or outwardly employed, we may have our life in Christ, and from him, and are united to him by that Spirit of Prayer who is the comfort, the support, the strength and security of the soul as it travels, by the help of God, through the vanity of time into the riches of eternity. Amen.  –adapted William Law (1686-1761)

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Reader:  “Oh, that we might know the Lord.”

Response: “Let us press on to know him.”

Scripture:    Hosea 6:1-6

 “Come, let us return to the Lord.

   He has torn us to pieces;

      now he will heal us.

   He has injured us;

      now he will bandage our wounds.

 In just a short time he will restore us,

      so that we may live in his presence.

 Oh, that we might know the Lord!

      Let us press on to know him.

   He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn

      or the coming of rains in early spring.”

 “O Israel and Judah,

      what should I do with you?” asks the Lord.

   “For your love vanishes like the morning mist

      and disappears like dew in the sunlight.

 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—

      to slaughter you with my words,

      with judgments as inescapable as light.

 I want you to show love,

      not offer sacrifices.

   I want you to know me

      more than I want burnt offerings.

Some thoughts:

Hosea is another of the Old Testament prophets (c.750 BC) who spoke to the wayward people on behalf of God. He speaks of the loving care of God in disciplining and loving his children. There is this phrase, “he has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us.” Hosea gives us an important truth in understanding how God shows his love toward his children. The tearing you and I experience in our walk with God is an act of his love though it surely doesn’t seem like it at the time. Tearing is the evidence of his love. Does God love you? His discipline, his rending of you confirms you are his.

What does this have to do with Advent you may be wondering? In a nutshell, the Lord wants us to be prepared for his return. He wants us to be close to him, to know him well. He is helping us be prepared for his return while at the same time giving us day to day guidance of living in relationship to him. God deems this preparation most important.  Hosea has this same burden for his people. The same theme is picked up later by the Apostle Paul in his words to the Philippians “that I may know him . . .” (Phil.3:10).

There is the everpresent plea to “come, let us return to the Lord” voiced in so many ways. The prophet clarifies that the Lord “in a short time will restore us so that we may live in his presence.” The dominant message always is God’s desire for restoration and communion with his children. Some of the most beneficial times in my life were when my wife spoke “hard words of truth” to me out of love that brought healing and restoration. She was simply following God’s model.

Through Hosea God states that this closeness, this fellowship, is on his terms, not ours. “I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light.” God speaks piercing words that are hard to hear, but they come out of his great love. Hosea continues with God’s words, “I want you to show love,” not go through the motions of worship. “I want you to know me” more than I want your broken promises claiming how faithful you will be to me. Hosea underscores one of the main reasons for these devotionals―that of encountering God daily and knowing him better and better.

Our assignment today? Don’t go through the motions of living a Christian life, but press on living the real thing. God will respond. When we are torn by God, remember it is out of his love for us. And he heals what he has torn. Live with authenticity showing love wherever you go.   

Music: “Is Not His Word Like A Fire?” Will Liverman  from Elijah


Blessed Lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may wisely hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace you, Lord God, and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.                               ―Book of Common Prayer, 1928, altered Daniel Sharp

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

November 30 Wednesday   

Reader: “He does not want anyone to be destroyed,” 

Response: “but wants everyone to repent.”

Scripture:   2 Peter 3:1-18

This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

 I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Some thoughts: This is a portion of a letter written by the Apostle Peter to Christians who were living in a society and culture that laughed at Christian faith, criticized their morality as being “judgmental,” and mocked any talk of “Christ’s return.”  They openly mocked the Christian life-style and values. Does this perspective sound unusually relevant?  (Whoever said we have to make the Bible relevant?  It seems to be quite relevant all by itself without our help.)

For many people, Christians included, this idea of the Lord’s Return seems almost like a fairy tale. If they believe in God at all, the general thought is that the world just goes on and on like always. When we die, it’s over . . . nothing more. We’re planted in the ground. That’s it.

Peter reminds his readers and us that God made the world and that he, as its Creator,  will bring it to a conclusion. Sometimes I have to admit, I selfishly wish Jesus would return and end this whole thing right now. But here we are given some insight into God’s own loving heart and his reason for not ending it right now. Embarrassingly, it appears he has much more love for people than I do.

God’s view time is completely different from ours. What we do see multiple times here is God’s patience, his desire to give all people time to repent even though some people may regard Christ’s return as a “fantasy of epic proportions.” But God’s patience is not infinite. Judgment, the Day of the Lord, does come swiftly and without warning. 

During these early days of Advent, do something a little different, ask one of your friends how they think the world will end. Then be ready when they ask you! The world needs to hear the gospel. It behooves us to always keep God’s biggest story in mind. Ask yourself, “what can I do, say, or be today that will register in eternity? Live today with the end in mind.

Music: “The King Shall Come” Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

Prayer:Before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. Our Father, our Creator, your hand is the source of everything that is from the beginning and your hand will bring everything to completion at the end. We thank and praise you for your uncommon patience in giving each person time to repent and appropriate the saving grace of Jesus Christ. May there be many people in this season who turn their hearts towards you. This we pray through our Savior and Coming King, Jesus Christ. Amen.  ―Daniel Sharp

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tuesday, November 29

Reader: “I, the Lord, will rule from Jerusalem”

Response: “as their king forever.”

Scripture: Micah 4:6-13

“In that coming day,” says the Lord,

“I will gather together those who are lame,

    those who have been exiles,

    and those whom I have filled with grief.

Those who are weak will survive as a remnant;

    those who were exiles will become a strong nation.

Then I, the Lord, will rule from Jerusalem

    as their king forever.”

As for you, Jerusalem,

    the citadel of God’s people,

your royal might and power

    will come back to you again.

The kingship will be restored

    to my precious Jerusalem.

But why are you now screaming in terror?

    Have you no king to lead you?

Have your wise people all died?

    Pain has gripped you like a woman in childbirth.

Writhe and groan like a woman in labor,

    you people of Jerusalem,

for now you must leave this city

    to live in the open country.

You will soon be sent in exile

    to distant Babylon.

But the Lord will rescue you there;

    he will redeem you from the grip of your enemies.

Now many nations have gathered against you.

    “Let her be desecrated,” they say.

    “Let us see the destruction of Jerusalem.”

But they do not know the Lord’s thoughts

    or understand his plan.

These nations don’t know

    that he is gathering them together

to be beaten and trampled

    like sheaves of grain on a threshing floor.

“Rise up and crush the nations, O Jerusalem!”

    says the Lord.

“For I will give you iron horns and bronze hooves,

    so you can trample many nations to pieces.

You will present their stolen riches to the Lord,

    their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.”

Some thoughts:

Micah gives us some more thoughts that may seem much removed from what you are thinking about or doing today. This pericope (peh-rih-koh-pee—a passage or section of Scripture) may just seem strange and not very “Christmassy.”  Remember, the beginning of advent is all about the Lord’s Second Coming and the final judgment of the world. Micah is prophesying concerning the current fall of Jerusalem in his day and prophesying about the future overrun by the Babylonians which occurs some 150 years later! 

This particular description has a double meaning. Sometimes God’s people go through great difficulty of their own making as was the case here with both Israel and Judah.  Nevertheless, God does not forsake his people. God’s plans for his people will prevail and other people and even nations will be blessed because of his faithfulness. 

At times, God’s ways are puzzling as is the case here. He uses a wicked, godless people to discipline his children, a people as bad or worse than his own! As we look at our own world, that may be something to keep in mind. Do not be fooled. Though Satan is the “god of this world,” (II Cor. 4:4) God is in charge. Satan is a “squatter,” with apparent power which is temporary. His days are numbered at which time he will be destroyed. We do not know nor understand God’s plans. He does not consult us ahead of time but he has told us the end result. Our choice is to trust.

It may be that you or your loved ones have been or are going through very difficult times, sometimes of our own doing and other times because we live in a fallen, broken  world where there is sin and disease and unfairness. These words of Micah remind us of God’s faithfulness and the benefit we can be to others as they see God at work in us in how we respond to injustice. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s promises will be fulfilled.  “ . . . the Lord will rescue you there; he will redeem you from the grip of your enemies.” As hard as today may be, the last line is very good. Remember, this world isn’t all there is. The “Squatter” is eternally squished, and Jesus rules in his kingdom of which we are adopted citizens. Be faithful in suffering, he will redeem you.   Rejoice!

Music: “Rejoice Greatly” from Messiah Jeanine De Bique  BBC Proms glorious!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQpeGzio4k

Prayer:Lord God, our Father and Creator, we long for the day when these words will be fulfilled perfectly. May we have the courage and grace to live through each day until then. We clearly do not know nor often understand your plans. Forgive us when we try to fashion your mind and heart to work like ours. There truly is none like you. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, throughout all ages, Amen.       ―Daniel Sharp

Monday, November 28

Monday, November 28

Reader: Maranatha! Which means…” 

Response: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Scripture: Micah 4:1-5

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house

    will be the highest of all—

    the most important place on earth.

It will be raised above the other hills,

    and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.

People from many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

    to the house of Jacob’s God.

There he will teach us his ways,

    and we will walk in his paths.”

For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;

    his word will go out from Jerusalem.

The Lord will mediate between peoples

    and will settle disputes between strong nations far away.

They will hammer their swords into plowshares

    and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will no longer fight against nation,

    nor train for war anymore.

Everyone will live in peace and prosperity,

    enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees,

    for there will be nothing to fear.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies

    has made this promise!

Though the nations around us follow their idols,

    we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever.

Some thoughts:

As you read Micah’s prophecy, notice the italicized, bold-faced words.It’s hard to believe that something like what is described would ever happen. I mean, people from all over the world streaming to Jerusalem to worship the Lord?  . . . people from Iran, Peru, Nepal, Sudan, Albania? The Lord himself teaching and mediating between peoples and nations? No conflict between China and Taiwan . . . North and South Korea at total peace.? Harmony and unity between people in the United States? Europeans worshiping God? Everyone living in peace and prosperity? Such a description does not seem feasible, realistic, or in any way possible. Is someone dreaming? 

How is this possible that something like what is pictured here would ever come to fruition? The answer is right in this passage. The Lord will mediate between peoples and nations. The mediator is not man, but God. Then we see in the last words of this pericope, the Lord God has made the promise which means it most certainly will happen. We must lay aside our doubts; it is God’s word and he does not lie. Every promise he ever made has come true.

This may seem like an unusual way to start the advent season. We must remember that advent begins turning our attention to the end of time, the era when Christ returns and sets up his kingdom on earth. Though he is living in the 8th century BC, the prophet Micah foretells what is yet to happen in our day! As we prepare for Christ’s return, his “advent,” let us always be aware, watch, and wait for the biggest picture to be fulfilled even as we go about our daily lives. We have God’s word on it! It will come to pass.

Music:  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Joshua Aaron

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, the day is drawing ever nearer for your return. I cannot imagine what the world would be like as Micah described it. People living in peace and prosperity seems like something that will never happen. We also realize that you are the One who brings such a world into existence. And so we look forward to your return in one of the days that lies ahead. Until then, may our lives bring glory to you, our Father in heaven. In the name of Jesus, our returning Redeemer of the world, we pray. Amen.   —Daniel Sharp

First Sunday in Advent

November 27, First Sunday in Advent

Reader: “Maranatha!”

Response: “Come soon, Lord Jesus.”

Scripture:  Luke 21:25-36

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Some thoughts:

Advent is a season of preparation, of looking forward to the future. For children it is as simple as counting the days until Christmas! The passage you just read is a conversation Jesus had with his disciples about anticipation. To give us a little context, Jesus had been talking with crowds of people at the Temple. The religious leaders were as usual challenging his authority and identity. 

In this context, some of his disciples began talking about what an impressive building the Temple was. Jesus told them plainly that even the magnificent Temple would be destroyed. You see, Jesus was pointing beyond the material and physical things we can see. He was subtly telling them that God had a master plan for his creation. Naturally, they wanted to know when this would happen. The disciples were still viewing things from an earthly material perspective. Have you noticed that quite often God does not discuss with us the details of his working? He does not ask for our advice or opinion!

How often in looking at today’s world we adopt the mindset of these disciples. We look at the immediate surrounding events and physical circumstances and assume that we see the whole picture. We tense up, forgetting the Lord is in charge and is working out all things according to his will. (“. . . thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”)

Jesus’ word is certain. The birth of Jesus is not simply the end of Advent, but the  cornerstone of the much bigger picture in God’s plan to restore all of his creation. Our part? Stay alert, watch, wait, and anticipate!

Music: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”  Voces8


Gracious Father, as the sun rises tomorrow morning, as the beauty of the full moon appears again this month, as we look to the beginning of a new year, as we move through this decade and this century, forbid it Lord that we should forget these words of our Savior. May we be ever watchful in anticipation of your return. May we be steady in faith, repentant in heart, tender in soul, humble in spirit, and diligent in study. Though this world will most certainly pass away, your word abides eternally. Help us always to watch for the signs of your coming Kingdom and not get lost in the hype of this world. This we pray through Jesus Christ our coming King, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, world without end. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp

Advent Is Coming this Sunday

My friends,                                                                                           Thanksgiving week

You are busy with preparing turkeys, cleaning house, getting ready for guests, and football (or not!), AND Advent begins this Sunday! Just want to remind you the devotionals will begin to show up in your email box at 5 AM EST this Sunday. Have a great Thanksgiving celebration as we express gratitude to our great God for his provision during the past year. May your team win!

Happy Thanksgiving!


      Advent 2022

         (They begin Sunday, November 27th)

What Is the Candle of Love and the Christ Candle for Advent? Week 4


As we come to the 2022 season of Advent, the world continues on an unsettling course. It was this way last year too, come to think of it! We don’t seem to be making progress! There are the relentless tensions in the United States and around the world as people continue to struggle to relate to one another in a civilized manner. In the midst of cultural and moral wars of all kinds, disease, and great division, we have the glorious truth that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! He is the unchanging Rock of truth and reconciliation. As we read these timeless Scripture passages each day, we gain deeper and greater insights into their timely significance, seeing them through the new lens of 2022-2023. The truth is, time on earth is moving ever closer to the Return of the Lord and the final Advent.   

Christmastide, which followed the Nativity of Christ on the 25th, was celebrated not as a single day, but as twelve days with carols, festivities, and gifts being given each of the days. There are any number of theories as to the origin of Christmas Day. Not until the fourth century did December 25 become a broadly accepted date of the Nativity in the Western Church.

Epiphany, like the Nativity, is celebrated on a set day, January 6th, regardless of what day of the week it comes. It is actually older than Christmas Day and marks the revealing of Jesus Christ as Savior to all nations, not just to the Jewish people. Epiphany means “to reveal, to bring to light.”

This year Advent begins on November 27th (the earliest it could begin). We will carry the devotionals on through Epiphany, January 6th. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “One must train the habit of faith. The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Our faith must be fed.” (from A Year with C.S. Lewis, p.286. Taken from “Mere Christianity”).

Our purpose is to have a daily encounter with the Lord and to hear his voice. Begin each devotional with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you through his written Word. In addition, our hope is: 1) to help give us a better grasp of the unity of the Bible as one grand story and increase our knowledge of this Library of Books; 2) to assist us in developing a daily pattern of reading Scripture; 3) to provide us with a daily encounter with a wide variety of vocal and choral music of substance to inspire our faith; 4) and to introduce us to the prayers of some of the saints of the past and “sinners” from the present! I can think of no better way to start the day. St. Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.”  

If you read these as a family, have different members read different parts. It is wonderful if the whole family can all sit down and eat at the same time, at least once during the week! Growing up on the farm in Illinois, we all ate together every night after the milking was done. Our Guernsey cows established suppertime! It was wonderful eating together every night praying and catching up on the day around the table.

If you find these daily excursions into the Scriptures rewarding, I would greatly appreciate your help in passing the word along. As always, subscribing is simple and free. Have the person go to: sharpdevotional.com and put in their email address to subscribe. That’s it. (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Then they will automatically receive the emails in their boxes early each morning EST.  Be sure to Whitelist our email to reduce the chance of getting caught in spam filters!

The version I have used is the NLT (The New Living Translation). 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

© Daniel Sharp 2022

Dan’s email at:    dansharp9@gmail.com 

Pentecost Sunday, June 5

Day of Pentecost, Sunday, June 5

Reader: “On the day of Pentecost”

Response: “all the believers were meeting together in one place.”

Scripture: Acts 2:1-13

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”

They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

Some thoughts:

You’ll recall that the Feast of Pentecost was one of three pilgrimage festivals which required every Jewish male to journey to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. That explains why there were Jews present from all over the known world. (In the absence of today’s media, what better way to spread the gospel. In fact, people-to-people communication is still the most effective way on earth!) 

For the past ten days the disciples and a large group of believers had remained in Jerusalem praying together daily in accordance with Jesus’ directive at his ascension. They were to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would come to dwell in them in Jesus’ absence. The ascension of Christ was essential for it marked the beginning of the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit through the church as the gospel spread throughout the known world.

The believers were gathered when a violent supernatural wind from heaven came blowing through the room with tongues of fire settling on each of those gathered. Wind and fire in Scripture often depict the presence of the Spirit of God. The wind hovered over the waters at creation. God breathed the breath of life into man at creation and he became a living soul and again into the dry bones of Ezekiel’s day. The wind split the Red Sea. A pillar of fire led the Israelites in the desert. Elijah went to heaven in a whirlwind of fire. Fire from heaven burned up Elijah’s sacrifice in the confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Fire came down on Mt. Sinai when God spoke with Moses. In talking with Nicodemus, Jesus referred to the Spirit as wind blowing where it will. Fire and wind appear together again in this passage. This coming of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s words that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 

Whereas the presence of the Holy Spirit was given in measured degrees in the First Testament among various prophets, as we have mentioned previously, this was the first time it was given in full measure to all believers. For example, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, came power for the simple Galilean fishermen to speak in languages they had never learned. 

As has often been pointed out, this event is a kind of reversal of the events of the Tower of Babel. With the Tower the language was the unifying factor resulting in the people’s great pride in themselves and their rejection of God. So he confused the languages, ending their ability to communicate, resulting in the people being scattered over the face of the earth, thus destroying their prideful, man-centered unity. At Pentecost, people from many countries several thousand years later heard the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ in their own language. He is the unifier of all peoples. If only our world grasped this truth today. It follows that the Book of Jesus, the Scriptures, is the single book able to unite all peoples.  (This is one of the reasons it is so important to study the First Testament as well as the New Testament.) The areas mentioned at Pentecost would be the modern day regions of the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Arab regions south and east of Israel, Egypt, Libya, islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and Rome. Can you imagine if all of these countries were Christian today? 

What a fitting way to conclude these past fifty days of time in God’s word. The ability to lead a Christian life in our own strength, determination, and self-reliance is not possible. Perfection is God’s standard, hence, we are doomed. God provided his Son to take our place on the perfection side of things as he accepted Jesus’ death in our condemned place as evidenced by the torn curtain. One of the central themes of the feast of Pentecost historically has been repentance. So it is no surprise that Peter’s sermon which follows this passage is on repentance, with the result being thousands of people became believers! At Jesus’ departure he gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers to enable them to have the power to live the life to which they’ve been called. And that same Holy Spirit continues to convert thousands of people in our day. Let us pray to that end.

Music: “Cum Sancto Spiritu”    Vivaldi     National Chamber Choir of Armenia


With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


Almighty, deathless God, whose will it was that the mystery of Easter should be fulfilled in that of Pentecost, grant through heaven’s grace that the nations torn asunder by difference, may be made one in the avowal of your holy name. Amen.



Thank you so much for subscribing and sharing these daily moments with the Lord these past several months. I realize you may have missed a few days, but there are several of you who have opened every one! Thank you all for your support and occasional notes of encouragement. They mean a great deal. Preparing these devotionals has fed my soul. My hope is that you have also grown in your love for the Lord and have been drawn closer to him and at the same time gained in your knowledge of the Scriptures. I also hope you’ve been introduced to some new music or familiar music in new settings. In a few months I’ll most likely be working on next year’s Advent series beginning Sunday, November 27, 2022. Until then . . . 

The Lord be with you,


PS Also, thank you for spreading the word and link. I greatly appreciate it.


©Daniel Sharp 2022

Saturday, June 4

Saturday, June 4

Reader: “Elijah’s spirit” 

Response: “rests upon Elisha!”

Scripture: II Kings 2:5-15a

Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”

“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”

Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.” But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together.

Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!

When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”

As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.

Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

Some thoughts:

This is an interesting pericope on the day before Pentecost for it is the account of the Holy Spirit on one prophet being transferred to another prophet. Remember, in the First Testament the Holy Spirit came upon certain people for specific times often for specific tasks. It came and went on various occasions. It was in Psalm 51 that King David begged the Lord not to take his Holy Spirit from him. (Psalm 51:11) And in I Samuel 16:14 we read that the Holy Spirit departed from King Saul. 

Elisha was a protégé of Elijah. Elijah had received word from the Lord that he was about to leave this earth. It is interesting that the Lord also told Moses and Aaron when they were about to die. Other than them and Jesus, I don’t recall anyone else in Scripture being told in advance of their impending departure from this world. At any rate, Elisha was determined to be with Elijah to the last moment. The mention of the group of prophets refers to the talmidim, the group of men that attached themselves to a spiritual leader. Normally a rabbi would select twelve students. In those days, prophets had schools, hence the fifty students of Elijah or Elisha.

It is interesting that Moses struck the Red Sea with his staff and the waters parted and the Israelites went through the sea on dry land. The Israelites came to the Promised Land forty years later. When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant set foot in the Jordan River, the river parted and the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land on dry ground. While the Israelites’ crossing was in a westerly direction, here we have Elijah and Elisha crossing the Jordan River the other way heading east out of the Promised Land and Elijah continuing on to heaven in a whirlwind of fire. Facing east was always a sign of the resurrection. Crossing the Jordan River into Canaan was a kind of symbol of entering heaven. There are several songs that make that illusion (Deep River, et al). Here we have a prophet, Elijah, no less the shadow forerunner of the Messiah, leaving the earthly symbolic heaven, crossing the Jordan River toward the east . . . think “resurrection” . . . apparently not dying and being carried to heaven in a whirlwind. While Elijah went in a whirlwind, Jesus ascended enveloped in a cloud. 

Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and also to be his successor. As it turned out, he was his successor and he did exactly twice as many miracles. So what do we glean from this story? God picked Elisha as Elijah’s successor. 1) A call to specific ministry comes from God. 2) By the way, everyone has a general ministry either for good or ill. Elisha attached himself to God’s anointed prophet. 3) He found a godly person and learned all he could from following that person. 4) The Holy Spirit was the source of the power to do God’s bidding. 5) Elisha supplied the body; God produced the fruit. 

Music: “Then did Elijah” from Elijah Mendelssohn  New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus        (Musical setting of Elijah’s ascension in the whirlwind.)


O God, quicken to life every power within me, that I may lay hold on eternal things. Open my eyes that I may see; give me acute spiritual perception; enable me to taste Thee and know that Thou art good. Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been. Amen.   ―A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God, p.58

Friday, June 3

Friday, June 3

Reader: “Those who live to please the Spirit” 

Response: “will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”

Scripture: Galatians 6:7-10 

                      (This is the conclusion of a larger section beginning at 5:13)

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Some thoughts:

Have you ever been around someone (or maybe it was you!) who had done something stupid and was then surprised that things turned out so badly? Our world is filled with people who blatantly and repeatedly ignore God’s guidance and the Judeo-Christian values as set out in the Scriptures and end up in disastrous situations. Judgment is coming for those who mock God. There is a good deal of passive aggressive mocking of God all around us. The sinful nature always produces destruction, decay and death. No good ever comes from the sinful nature. It never has and never will. It is a black sinkhole with nothing but condemnation, eternal darkness, and alienation from anything good or noble or godly―separation from God. 

In contrast, living in the Spirit is just the opposite. The Spirit produces in us eternal life and light and community and blessing. The sinful nature cannot produce this spiritual fruit through human effort. The human being’s job is to pick up the hammer everyday and not get tired of nailing the sinful human nature to the cross everyday. (See yesterday’s devotional if you missed it.) Live with a hammer in your hand. Like the Israelites in Nehemiah’s day who were rebuilding the walls, doing their work with one hand and holding a weapon in the other; we are to be ever vigilant. (Neh 4:17) The battle against the old sin nature is long, so Paul encourages the Galatians [and us] to never give up doing good to everyone―especially fellow believers. Things will turn out good. No surprise.

Music: “Veni sancte spiritus”  (“Come Holy Spirit” in the Taizé tradition)

Prayer:Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, from whom no secrets are hidden, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, that we may love you perfectly, and worthily praise your holy name. Amen.  ―Gelasian Sacramentary, from In the Presence of My Father, p.94

Thursday, June 2

Thursday, June 2

Reader: “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.” 

Response: “Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

Scripture: Galatians 5:16-25

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Some thoughts:

“Good morning, good afternoon, or good night” or for whenever you read this. Paul’s words apply at any time of the day or night! He has previously called his brothers and sisters to live free of trying to keep Moses’ law perfectly. It can’t be done. At the same time, don’t cast everything aside and go morally crazy. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  With that background, we come to the above passage, “So I say . . . “

Paul describes so perfectly the way our lives are actually lived. There is a clear cause and effect relationship. “Let” the Holy Spirit guide, “then you won’t . . .” All too often our sequence is “try harder” and “then you will [fail]. . .” The difference between “let” and “try harder” is night and day, it’s the contrast between having God the Holy Spirit guiding me or me trying to guide me. Have you ever determined that you would get “control” of something that had you in its grasp? In your mind, you were determined that such and such would not happen again, you would try harder next time . . . only to have it reoccur in spite of your best determination. Such is the difference between “let” and “try.”

As long as we are alive there is a daily war going on within us. Surprise! There is no truce in this life. The lying enemy, though ultimately defeated, is fighting a last gasp. This gasping battle lasts your whole lifetime. Ironically, when you die, you win and the enemy is one step closer to its total destruction. The enemy is our sinful nature, the one with which we were born. When the “let” involves this nature, the results are absolutely predictable every time. Everyone separated from Christ is ruled by this nature and we see the abundant results of the fruit of sinful living―indifference to God, murder, infanticide, greed for power, arrogance, immorality of every possible manifistation, divisiveness, selfish ambition, anger . . . It’s quite a list and that’s only the start! 

But each day starts anew with a “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” You know the Spirit’s fruits. Now comes the daily hammer. When you open your eyes in the morning, pick up your hammer. You nail the sinful nature (it didn’t die in the night!) to the cross again to start your day. In nailing it to the cross, you are reminding your old nature that it lost again today. The Holy Spirit of God is in charge again today. (It may be worth putting a nail on your night stand by the alarm clock just to remind you.) As Paul says, “Let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Most likely you’ll have to pick up the hammer a few times during the day! The old sin nature is a nasty creature.

Music: “I Need Thee Every Hour”  arr. Robson   Wartburg Choir  Fantastic!

Prayer:O Thou who has taught us that we are most truly free when we lose our wills in Thine, help us to gain that liberty by continual surrender unto thee, that we may walk in the way which Thou hast prepared for us, and in doing Thy will may find our life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  ―from Gelasian Sacramentary, The Quiet Corner, p.46

Wednesday, June 1

Wednesday, June 1 

Reader: “Son of man, I have appointed you” 

Response: “as a watchman for Israel.”

Scripture: Ezekiel 3:12-21

Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a loud rumbling sound behind me. (May the glory of the Lord be praised in his place!) It was the sound of the wings of the living beings as they brushed against each other and the rumbling of their wheels beneath them.

The Spirit lifted me up and took me away. I went in bitterness and turmoil, but the Lord’s hold on me was strong. Then I came to the colony of Judean exiles in Tel-abib, beside the Kebar River. I was overwhelmed and sat among them for seven days.

After seven days the Lord gave me a message. He said, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.

“If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.”

Some thoughts:

As you reflect on what you have just read, think of Ezekiel living this message in today’s world. In the previous chapter, Ezekiel was given a vision as to what he was to do in challenging Israel to repent and change their ways. He was to be a watchman, a lookout for the community. He was to warn the people of God’s judgment for their behavior. In our passage he has just been brought back from his visionary experience and once again entered earthly reality. He was taken to a colony of Israelites in Babylon by the Kebar River. He was so overwhelmed he sat in silence for seven days, similar to Job’s friend’s arrival to comfort him.

The weight on Ezekiel’s head was the responsibility given to him. When God gave him a warning message for the people, he was to deliver it regardless of their response. The weight on Ezekiel was if he didn’t deliver it to the people, whether they were acting righteously or not, their blood was on him. If he delivered God’s warning message to bad people and they didn’t repent, their blood was on their own head and Ezekiel was not responsible. But if Ezekiel failed to give them God’s message and they died in their sin, then Ezekiel was held responsible for their deaths. The same principle applied with the righteous people. If they got off the track and rebelled against God and Ezekiel didn’t give them God’s message of warning, he would be held responsible for their deaths. 

The key to this whole section comes in the few sentences just prior to today’s passage.

They say, “Then he [God] added, ‘Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.’”

Here is what is so powerful to me in this passage. We are to share the gospel and God’s word, regardless of the response of the people with whom we talk. Ezekiel could not make the people respond to God’s message. His job was to carry God’s message to them. He was not responsible for whether they accepted God’s warning or not. We are not responsible if someone accepts or rejects the gospel. That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But it is important that we speak up for the truth. We dare not be silent in these chaotic days as God’s truth is being mocked and brazenly defied. We are not held responsible for other people’s responses, but we dare not be silent and complicit.

Music: “Once to Every Man and Nation”    Fountainview Academy 


Give us courage, O Lord, to stand up and be counted, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, to stand up for ourselves when it is needful for us to do so. Let us fear nothing more than we fear you. Let us love nothing more than we love you, for thus we shall fear nothing also. Let us have no other God before you, whether nation or party or state or church. Let us seek no other peace but the peace which is yours, and make us its instruments, opening our eyes and our ears and our heart, so that we should know always what work of peace we may do for you. Amen.                               ―Alan Paton from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.94

Tuesday, May 31

Tuesday, May 31

Reader: “The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud,” 

Response: “for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.”

Scripture: II Chronicles 5:2-14

Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.

When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent and all the sacred items that had been in it. There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.

Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!

    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Some thoughts:

Today we move 400 years ahead in history from the moveable Tabernacle in the desert in Moses’ day to around 1000 B.C. in the days of King Solomon. Once again God prescribed the detailed design, how, who, when, and of what materials he wanted the Temple to be built. While God gave Moses a visual picture of what the Tabernacle was to look like, this time God gave King David the description in writing. In David’s words, “Every part of this plan was given to me in writing from the hand of the Lord.” (I Chronicles 28:19) Since David was not allowed to build the Temple, he passed the architectural instructions along to Solomon! With thousands of workers, it took seven years to complete. The highest point was about twenty stories.

Prior to coming to its final resting place, the Ark of the Covenant had been to various places including Shiloh and Gibeon and even in possession of the Philistines at one point! Now it came to its permanent home in the Temple in Jerusalem. You’ll note that the Levites were specifically designated to carry the Ark on two poles put through the four rings on the corners of the Ark. No person was to touch it as God had ordered since it was holy. You’ll recall Uzzah died instantly when he touched the Ark to keep it from falling―it was being transported on a cart instead of the Levitical priests carrying it as God had told Moses. Remember all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. After placing the Ark, which contained the two stone tablets put there by Moses centuries earlier, into the Holy of Holies, the priests left and music began. Apparently the pot of manna put there by Aaron centuries earlier had been lost by this time.

What is interesting to note is that both singers and instrumentalists performed together. I’m not sure we can understand the meaning of “unison” in this case. It may have meant simply that they were performing at the same time or that they were making music on the same pitch. Among the Levites there were twenty-four groups of twelve singers each who rotated duty at the Temple. While we know there were 120 trumpeters, we don’t know how many singers there were. Suffice it to say, the music was loud and the celebration joyous. The presence of God descended and filled the Temple with his glory, the same thing that had happened at the completion of the Tabernacle in Moses’ day.

What do we glean from this First Testament history? Meeting with his assembled people is very significant to God. And gathering in his presence is important to the gathered people. Worshiping God as a united people is an essential expression of faith. God is responsive to his people’s worship. Songs of worship are focused on God and his character. God cares about how worship is done. Every once in a while the presence of God in worship is overwhelming. If you’ve gotten out of the practice of gathering with God’s people in church, it’s time to return. God enjoys being with you and his gathered people.

Music: “Gloria”   John Rutter    21st Century setting

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all those of good will.

We praise thee. We bless thee. We worship thee. We glorify thee.

We give thanks to thee according to thy great glory.

“Gloria in excelsis Deo”    Solimusi Vocesparalalpaz   18th Century setting


My dear Lord, I can but tell thee that thou knowest I long for nothing but thyself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with thy will. Thou hast given me these desires, and thou alone canst give me the thing desired. My soul longs for communion with thee, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride. But Lord, I am so full of myself. I think only of thee and me forgetting that I am part of thy body of believers. It has become so easy to gaze only within myself and my small circle of family and friends, ignoring the ordinary followers of Jesus as people unneeded, unimportant in my life with thee. Forgive my foolish, selfish, narrow and false view of my walk with thee. Grant that I may grasp the greatness of thy abundant grace extended to the greatest and least of all thy children. This I pray in the name of Jesus, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, through all worlds without end. Amen.                            ―from The Valley of Vision, p.127 adopted Daniel Sharp

Monday, May 30

Monday, May 30

Reader: “Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him.”

Response: “just as the Lord had commanded him.”

Scripture: Exodus 40:16-38

Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him. So the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. Moses erected the Tabernacle by setting down its bases, inserting the frames, attaching the crossbars, and setting up the posts. Then he spread the coverings over the Tabernacle framework and put on the protective layers, just as the Lord had commanded him.

He took the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant and placed them inside the Ark. Then he attached the carrying poles to the Ark, and he set the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of it. Then he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tabernacle and hung the inner curtain to shield it from view, just as the Lord had commanded him.

Next Moses placed the table in the Tabernacle, along the north side of the Holy Place, just outside the inner curtain. And he arranged the Bread of the Presence on the table before the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded him.

He set the lampstand in the Tabernacle across from the table on the south side of the Holy Place. Then he lit the lamps in the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord had commanded him. He also placed the gold incense altar in the Tabernacle, in the Holy Place in front of the inner curtain. On it he burned the fragrant incense, just as the Lord had commanded him.

He hung the curtain at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and he placed the altar of burnt offering near the Tabernacle entrance. On it he offered a burnt offering and a grain offering, just as the Lord had commanded him.

Next Moses placed the washbasin between the Tabernacle and the altar. He filled it with water so the priests could wash themselves. Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons used water from it to wash their hands and feet. Whenever they approached the altar and entered the Tabernacle, they washed themselves, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Then he hung the curtains forming the courtyard around the Tabernacle and the altar. And he set up the curtain at the entrance of the courtyard. So at last Moses finished the work.

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.

Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.

Some thoughts:

This passage is fascinating when we grasp the significance of what is transpiring. Previously, Moses had been with the Lord for forty days on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments and getting a visual picture and specific instructions on building the Tabernacle. What was the point of the Tabernacle for these desert wanderers? The Tabernacle was to be a kind of mirror, a shadow, of God’s dwelling place in heaven which is why God was so specific in giving Moses precise instructions. Tabernacle literally means “tent of meeting.” God wanted to meet with his people.

Middle Easterners’ general belief was that the gods designed their own dwelling places, where they should be built, and who should build them. So God giving Moses specific instructions would not have been a surprise to the people.

The Tabernacle design, who should build it, the materials to be used, and the date of construction were all of God’s choosing. He sanctioned and legitimized its creation. God prescribed every detail concerning the Tabernacle and later the Temple. These were not to be ordinary structures, but the holy dwelling place of God on earth in the midst of his people patterned after heaven itself. We are reminded of God’s desire in this passage in Revelation: “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.’” (Rev 21:3)

You have undoubtedly noticed one phrase being repeated . . . exactly eight times, the number of perfection plus one! (We have the seven days of creation plus resurrection day.) Notice the opening statement of Moses’ affirming response to God’s instructions. What follows are twenty-six actions of Moses in doing exactly what the Lord had told him in setting up the Tabernacle, God’s home on earth. Interspersed among his work is the phrase “just as the Lord commanded him.” God delights in obedience. The result of the Tabernacle’s construction was otherworldly, exactly as God had instructed! God’s approval followed. The cloud of the glory of God covered and filled the Tabernacle, the same thing happened with the Temple Solomon built. (I Kings 8:10-11) Imagine, the glory of God was so magnificent Moses could not enter the Tabernacle. What kind of impact do you think that had on the Israelites as they surrounded God’s dwelling place? 

During the day, every day for forty years, there was the Cloud that hovered over the Tabernacle. Every night for forty years there was a pillar of Fire that hung above the Tabernacle. As the people were learning more and more about Yahweh, he impressed upon them his continual presence in their midst. We may have a tendency to think, why didn’t they get it and do “just as the Lord commanded” them. My guess is the visible presence of God became so “old hat” that they took God’s presence for granted. They lost the awe and reverence that they had once known and turned inward and lost the transcendence of Emmanuel, “God with us.” We have that same challenge every day. That Tabernacle is now within you and me with the cornerstone being laid at the cost of  the blood of Christ. Has God’s presence with us become “old hat”?

Music: “Cornerstone”    Shawn Kirchner     Hour of Power Choir


O most merciful Lord, grant to me Thy grace that it may be with me, and labor with me, and persevere with me even to the end. Grant that I may always desire and will that which is to Thee most acceptable and most dear. Let Thy will be mine, and my will ever follow Thine, and agree perfectly with it. Grant to me, above all things that can be desired, to rest in Thee, and in Thee to have my heart at peace. Thou art the true peace of the heart, Thou its only rest; outside of Thee all things are hard and restless. In this very peace, that is in Thee, the one Chiefest Eternal Good, I will sleep and rest―Amen.     ―Thomas à Kempis, from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.21

Sunday, May 29

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 29

Reader: “Look, I am coming soon,” 

Response: “bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.”

Scripture: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.

Some thoughts:

These passages are among the last in the Bible. Jesus speaks three times. One thing is very clear; there are rewards based not just on words but also deeds done in faith. Acts that we do or don’t do have eternal significance. My guess is that we’ll be surprised at which deeds God valued important and which ones weren’t. The idea of rewards for works is apparent throughout Scripture (Jeremiah 17:10, Romans 2:6, I Peter 1:17) The deeds reflect that true belief for good or ill. What you do today can have eternal significance!

Here Jesus is again identified by three eternal names even connecting again to the lineage of King David as heir to the eternal throne as well as associating with the “bright and morning star.” The unique prophet, Balaam, made messianic reference to a “star shall come out of Jacob” in one of his oracles. (Numbers 24:17) The names in themselves indicate that Jesus is not bound by time and completely separate from the entire created order. His existence never had a beginning.

The next comment cites those believers who have resisted the beast. The action of washing their robes is a reference to “washing their robes in the blood of the lamb,” in other words those who were martyred for their faith. Those martyrs have earned the right to eternal life―”to eat the fruit from the tree of life.” 

Jesus confirms that the angel speaking to John is the one he has sent. The “you” is plural, meaning that John is to share this message with the churches. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit and the bride is the Church. Empowered by the Spirit, the Church is to proclaim the gospel to everyone. The imperative “come” occurs three times in three successive sentences indicating an urgency. 

As the Bible concludes there is one last word from Jesus, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Remember, this “soon” is God’s soon! It can be in the twinkling of an eye or a thousand years, symbolic for a long time. But, a thousand years is “soon” when it comes to eternity! The problems in this world will never be solved by man’s best efforts. Civilization is not on a gradual upward course where it will finally attain an exalted ideal position. That is not what Christianity promises. Redemption of history will be complete only when Christ completes it. John understood that truth with the words, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Maranatha! (Aramaic) There is a final benediction which may have been added later as the prophecy was read to the various churches.

What do we learn from this passage? 1) Persist to the end through various trials. 2) What a person believes greatly affects what they do and what they value as important. 3) There are rewards for deeds done in faith. 4) Invite people to come to Christ. 5) Always be ready to leave this life because we don’t know when God’s “soon” will become a now! 

Music: “The Morning Trumpet”  Hale and Wilder


O Son of God and Son of Man, thou wast incarnate, didst suffer, rise, ascend for my sake; thy departure was not a token of separation but a pledge of return; thy Word, promises, sacraments, show thy death until thou come again. That day is no horror to me, for thy death has redeemed me, thy Spirit fills me, thy love animates me, and thy Word governs me. O God, keep me in this faith, and ever looking for Christ’s return. This I pray in the name of Jesus my Savior. Amen.  ―from The Valley of Vision, p.27

Saturday, May 28

Saturday, May 28

Reader: “The unique One, who is himself God”

Response: “He has revealed God to us.”

Scripture: John 1:14-18

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

Some thoughts:

These words of John are the application of Moses’ interaction with God some 1500 years later. If you missed yesterday’s devotional, go back and read it. It will give today’s Scripture an even deeper understanding and appreciation. Moses’ desire was to have God go with him as he led the people. He wanted God to be very personally present. It’s insightful to know that God chose the name Emmanuel, “God with us,” to be one of his names. Moses wanted God to be close to him and God wanted to be close to Moses. You would think it to be natural that people made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) and for the praise of his glory (Ephesans 1:11-12), would want to be with the One who created them. Some people do and some people don’t.

This human longing to be close to God is answered by God in human terms. The truly astounding thing, which I think is far too often brushed off with little wonder, is that the only Uncreated Being in existence, God, condescended to take on human flesh in becoming a fully human being with all the human limitations. God the Son was hungry; he got tired; he got angry; he laughed; he cried; and he died. At the same time, he gave up none of his divinity. In his humanity he revealed the divine God among us in a way we could grasp. He loved, he taught, and he forgave sins. While no one has ever seen the face of God or ever will, Jesus, who is God and near the Father’s heart, shows us the Father. In his words, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9-10)

Whereas in Moses’ day, God dwelt above the Ark of the Covenant, now God dwelt in the presence of his disciples. Their concern was again like Moses’. God, are you going to leave us? Their response was much like a little child who was afraid that their daddy might leave them. And Jesus’ answer was, I won’t abandon you, God the Holy Spirit will take my place and always be with you. Further, he tells them that both the Father and the Son will make their home in the person who loves and obeys God. In other words, the believer is indwelt by the Trinity. The promise to Moses was that God would go with him and give him rest―peace. (Genesis 33:14) To the disciples Jesus gave the same, I am leaving you with a gift―peace of mind and heart. (John 14:27)

My question is simple: how aware are we in the continuous indwelling presence of the Trinity? God is aware of everything your eyes see, every thought that passes through your head, every thought you stop to dwell on, every word that comes out of your mouth, every word you write, every place your feet take you, everything your hands do.

He is aware because he lives in you. In Moses’ words, “Let me know your ways so I can understand you more fully.” God’s answer? “I’ll go one better. I’ll come and live within you and we can go from there. Let’s talk. Now about the other day you were asking about what it means to be holy . . .”

Music: “Take Time to Be Holy”  (Slane: nice tune)  Mormon Tabernacle Choir


Glorious God, give me grace to amend my life and to have an eye to my end without begrudging death, which to those who die in you, good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life. And give me, good Lord, a humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender and pitiful mind, in all my works and all my words and all my thoughts, to have a taste of your holy, blessed Spirit. Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love of you incomparably above the love of myself. Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with you, not to avoid the calamities of this world, nor so much to attain the joys of heaven, as simply for love of you. And give me, good Lord, your love and favor, which my love of you, however great it might be, could not deserve were it not for your great goodness. These things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me your grace to labor for. In the name of Jesus, my Savior. Amen.    

         ―Thomas More  1478-1535, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.41