STOP AND THINK (Easter Sunday)

By Pastor David Leeder
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 3:11-18
 
Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’  declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever.’” Jeremiah 3:12 (NIV)
 
The Book of Jeremiah is one the more difficult prophecies in the Old Testament. Jeremiah has often been called the “weeping prophet”  because of the depth of the message he had to preach and the emotions expressed. Although there are some tough passages to read, there are also some gems, like the 18th and 29th chapters.
 
As you read through the book, there are two themes that present themselves, the themes of reflection and repentance. These two themes are also part of the message of Lent. At this season of the year, it is  suggested that we take time to reflect on where we have been and where we are spiritually, allowing God to work in our hearts anew. It is time to repent and seek God for forgiveness and renewal.
 
Here in chapter 3, Jeremiah challenges God’s people to reflect on their lives, especially on their unfaithfulness to God. The prophet invites them to return to the God, who is waiting to be merciful. In order to receive that mercy, they have to acknowledge their guilt; once they do, they will experience the presence of God in a new way.
 
Today with these things in mind, I leave with us the advice of Jeremiah 6:16,“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient path, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”


OUT WITH THE OLD (Lent Day No. 46)

By Pastor Shane Guldi
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 8:7-13
 
“… I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.” Hebrews 8:10 (NIV)
 
Out with the old and in with the new. That is the saying that comes to my mind as I think about today. Out with the old covenant that God had given to Moses and the people of the Old Testament. A covenant that bound people with laws and rules and animal sacrifices.        Communication with God was only done with select people. Worship was done in a tabernacle. God’s spirit dwelled in an inner room, open only to the high priest once a year. A curtain in the inner room separated God’s presence from His people.
 
When Jesus came, He brought a new covenant. He brought with Him a newfound freedom for those who followed. We were no longer bound by burdensome laws, but we were bound by our love for Christ and for one another. The curtain was torn in the tabernacle and now we worship God in our hearts because His Spirit lives within us. Hebrews 8:11 says, “For everyone from the least to the greatest will know me already.”  Sins are forgiven and forgotten because of the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:12).
 
As we prepare our hearts for tomorrow, I hope we will reflect upon the new life, new mercies, and new hope that Christ gave us when He forever got rid of the “old”. God said, “I will be their God and they will be my people.” Praise God for sending His Son to bring in the “new.”


A BLOB (Lent Day No. 45)

By Pastor Liz Robinson
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:2
 
“The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.”  (Genesis 1:2)
 
What image does this conjure up for you? Does it remind you of anything? Anyone? It reminds me of myself, before believing in Jesus: empty, formless mass, cloaked in darkness. 
 
Confession: having been a “pretty good kid,” a rule follower, in my younger years, I’m not sure that accepting Jesus made a big difference in my life. Years later, my eyes were opened to all the possibilities in my heart. I came back to Jesus with a much greater awareness of my need. 
 
I began to understand the truth in Isaiah’s statement that our righteousness is like “filthy rags.” When the Spirit of Jesus Christ is    behind your “good behavior,” every act of kindness and obedience takes on new depth. It goes from being robotic life to abundant life. From black and white to color. From one dimensional to multi dimensional.
 
What made this happen? Look back at Genesis 1:2. Here is hope: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.”  While I went about my small, exact, lazy life, God’s Spirit was hovering around me. He made sure that my counterfeit spirituality did not satisfy. He kept calling,  guiding and protecting. When the time was right (“at just the right time,”) I found Him. Hallelujah!
 
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6


VISIBLE IMAGE (Lent Day No. 44)

By Pastor Matt Carter
Scripture Reading: John 14:8-11
 
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the  Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.” John 14:9b-11
 
If given the choice between the Holy Spirit inside us or Jesus here beside us, I believe most of us would choose to have Jesus here in the flesh. If we put ourselves in Philip’s situation, we would probably wonder if Jesus truly was the Son of God. Philip was still wanting to see more—the Father. I believe we often are in the same situation.
 
We settle for the Holy Spirit, but what we really want is Jesus here. Show us Jesus, and that will be enough for us. However, Scripture tells us in Colossians 1:27 that it is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Jesus does live in us through the power of his Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this is why we are called the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).
 
Jesus told Philip that anyone who sees Him has seen the Father. Paul says it best when he says in Colossians 1:15, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” Christ shows us the Father, and we as the body of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, show others Jesus by loving them.


ADVICE FOR WIVES AND HUSBANDS (Lent Day No. 43)

By Pastor David Leeder
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:22-33
 
“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33
 
As part of my ministry, being the lead pastor, I am often asked to prepare young (and not so young) couples for their weddings. I take them through a course of counseling over several weeks, and one of the passages we look into for great spiritual advice is found in Ephesians 5. 
 
Although the Apostle Paul was not married, in many of his writings, he gives great advice on the subject of marriage. However, the verses found in Ephesians 5 are probably the greatest. He first speaks to the role of the wife in relation to her husband. Her role is one of submitting to the husband, as the head of the home. That submission is likened to our submission to Christ; it is total, absolute, and should be in everything.
 
The advice that he gives concerning the husband’s role to the wife is even stronger. The husband should love the wife as Christ loved the Church. Christ died for the Church, giving everything He could to show the depth of His love. So the husband’s love should reveal the same level of commitment and sacrifice as Christ’s love revealed to us. I would suggest that if a husband loved his wife in that way, a wife would have no problem submitting to her husband. One is the encourager of the other.


MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE (Lent Day No. 42)

By Pastor Cole Maxwell
Scripture Reading: Mark 4:35-41
 
“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ The disciples were absolutely terrified. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘Even the wind and waves obey him!’” Mark 4:39-41
 
There are probably many times when you have said to yourself, “This is more than I can handle right now.” And to be honest, it probably is more than you can handle by yourself.
 
I think God allows us to go through certain trials, or allows us to leave our comfort zones, like the disciples in today’s Scripture passage, so that we can learn to rely on Him more than we rely on ourselves.
 
Are you relying on your own strength today or God’s?


WHO IS YOUR GOD? (Lent Day No. 41)

By Pastor S. Zurcher
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:15
 
“But what about you,” [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15
 
I have given and been given many nicknames. I gave these nicknames to strangers, that became acquaintances, that became close friends.
 
God says His name is Yahweh, translated to “I Am” or “I Am who I Am.” He allows us the joy of discovering who He is. The Bible includes a long list of nicknames man has given to God. They weren’t given because of reading or others’ stories but because of a close relationship.
 
Names include Strength and Song (Moses); Shepherd and Stone of Israel (Jacob); Creator, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father, and Light to the nations (Isaiah); Deliverer, Rock, Fortress, and Shield (David); Author and Perfecter of faith, Father of mercies, and Holy Servant (Paul); King of the nations (Jeremiah); Rabbi and Good Teacher (disciples); Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (Peter); and Lawgiver and Judge (James). And we’ve hardly begun.
 
Each Gospel, four stories about Jesus by four different men, describes Jesus perfectly yet differently. This is not because God changes; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It’s because a relationship builds special bonds between two people. A strong father to one can also be a loving husband or a trusted friend to another.
 
Likewise, our nickname for God is determined by our close relationship with Him. To me God is Healer. Maybe it’s a good time to evaluate your relationship. Who is your God?


OUR GOD SAVES (Lent Day No. 40)

By Pastor Trevor Young
Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16
 
“They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’” John 12:13 (NIV)
 
Hosanna was not always an exclamation of praise. It started as a cry for help, essentially meaning “save me!” What made the difference was the faithfulness of the God who saves. As God showed His faithfulness time and time again, it changed from a cry for help to an expression of faith, not “save me,” but rather, “God saves!”
 
But sometimes, God doesn’t come to save the day the way we  expect. The disciples were confused by everything that was going on when Jesus returned to Jerusalem. People were giving him a royal welcome, believing their long-awaited king had come to start a political revolution and overthrow Rome and its cronies. Yet Jesus wasn’t acting like a king, at least not like the one everyone expected. He came as a king greater than any they could imagine, to bring  freedom from a far more powerful and deadly enemy than Rome. But they couldn’t see it, because His kingdom didn’t make sense to them. They wanted a savior, and God came as their savior, just not the way they expected. But His plan was far greater than anything they could have imagined.


WHAT DO YOU WANT? (Lent Day No. 39)

By Pastor Shane Guldi
Scripture Reading: Mark 10:32-34; 46-52
 
“My Rabbi, ” the blind man said, “I want to see!”  Mark 10:51b (NLT)
 
At 48 years old, I find myself wearing progressive bifocals. This year’s prescription is a little stronger than last year’s. I walk around always trying to find the “sweet spot” as I try to focus on things near and far. However, I am glad that I have this struggle as opposed to the struggle that Bartimaeus had in Mark. He was completely blind. 
 
Blindness is spoken of in a couple of different ways in the Bible. One is physical and the other is spiritual. However, the Bible makes it crystal “clear” that spiritual blindness is much worse. Strange thing is – a person is usually unaware of spiritual blindness. And while many times physical blindness can be corrected, there is nothing that humans can do about spiritual blindness. Only God can cure such a condition.  
 
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked Bartimaeus. Now let’s stop there. Bartimaeus was not only blind, but also poor, a beggar, hungry, mocked, and humiliated, along with other things. Among all the things he could have asked for, he asked to receive his sight. Because of Bartimaeus’ faith, he received both physical and spiritual sight.
 
Let’s not lie to ourselves. Today, all of us are at some level of blindness. No one has perfect spiritual vision. Today Jesus is asking us, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  So the question is, “What do we want Him to do for us?”


THE PLAN FOR YOU AND ME (Lent Day No. 38)

By Pastor Cole Maxwell
Scripture Reading: Mark 8:27-31
 
“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.” Mark 8:31 (NLT)
 
Do you believe God had and continues to have a plan for his people? All throughout Scriptures we see the plan of God unfolding. Jesus dying on the cross was the peak of that plan.
 
We see time and time again in the Old Testament the people of God giving sacrifice after sacrifice to be in right standing with God Almighty. Jesus’s sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be in that right standing.
 
The beautiful thing is that was the plan all along. God loves us so much that He sent his son to be the ultimate reconciliation. God loves you so much that He had and continues to have a plan for you.