Devotions for Lent

 

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The Third Week
of Lent

Have you ever heard the parent of a troublemaking son or daughter dodge responsibility with the protest, "No child of mine ...", or disown that same little one in a crisis when the other parent appears —"your child has really done it now ..."? Parents (myself included) are often quick to expect perfection from their children, and are shocked when it doesn't appear .... "You should know better!", we say.

Yet, far from having the right to pose as mature and sinless adults (whether we are parents or not), we too are often merely disobedient children in the eyes of God. As Paul writes to the Roman church, "All have turned away from God; they have all gone wrong; no one does what is right, not even one." Paul isn't talking about the Roman church's child care program here, he's talking about the grown ups. But God proves himself to be a good parent: he doesn't hide the fact that we belong to him. He doesn't disown us at the first sign of childish rebellion ... or the second, or the third, or ever, really.

On the contrary: even while we were lost in our sin, Scripture says, God showed that he was not willing to lose a single one of us. He sent Christ to die in our place while we were still sinners. Jesus took our place on the cross, and experienced the death and separation from God that we deserved. God didn't wait for us to come to our senses, or to prove that we were going to "behave" for the duration. This gift, this forgiveness, is not a reward for good behavior. It is free and undeserved. Even so, God says, "You are worthy of this gift because you belong to me. I am your father, you are my child. I love you, and I am not willing to lose you."

Psalms, 79.4, 8-10
O LORD, how long will you be angry with us? Forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
 
Oh, do not hold us guilty for our former sins! Let your tenderhearted mercies quickly meet our needs, for we are brought low to the dust. Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the honor of your name. Oh, save us and forgive our sins for the sake of your name. (NLT)
Romans 5.6-11
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. (NLT)

Prayer

Thank you Father, for your divine, eternal patience with me, your wayward child. And thank you that you have acted on my behalf even while I was unable and unwilling to act. Though I've grieved your Spirit by my disobedience, you have proved yourself to be a good father. Hold me in your arms Lord; I want to feel your loving embrace and your powerful protection.

Meet me in the time I set aside for you. Help me to understand the sacrifice of Jesus through the simple ways that I fast this week. And teach me more about Easter and the joy that is mine.

Practice

See the page on fasting for some important considerations before you begin a fast. And remember that these are suggestions: you are encouraged to modify this practice in any way that will lead you more readily into God's presence.

Pick one day this week to fast from a meal or more. Avoid desserts and sweets. If you haven't already, cut red meat, and eat no meat on Friday (Friday is the day of the crucifixion, which is the reason for traditional fasting from meats on this day). Begin cutting back on alcohol and coffee (or switching to a low-caffeine substitute like tea). Next week, it will be suggested that you fast completely from red meat and poultry, alcohol, and strong caffeine drinks.

Be more purposeful about choosing quiet reflection at a time when you would otherwise choose distraction (TV time, Web surfing at lunch or before bed, listening to the radio in the car, etc.).

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