Tuesday, February 17, 2015
“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” ― Frederick Buechner
The theme I selected for this year’s Lenten devotionals is taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:33. In chapter six, Jesus is speaking about worry and he comes to his conclusion about worry by stating, we are to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (v. 33) I became interested in exploring what Jesus said about the Kingdom of God or Heaven a couple of years ago and started to read, study, and collect information and notes about the kingdom.
I work persistently for months to get these devotions done before the beginning of Lent. Each day I worked diligently and my work would keep getting bogged down. As my work progressed, I would find new avenues and ideas to explore, more scripture to read and study, and more references to study to understand particular ideas which would develop in my mind. Eventually, it came to me that God was trying to tell me something important. God seemed to say, “Lee, slow down don’t be too quick to get these devotionals done. Take the time to speak with me in prayer about the kingdom. I have many things to teach you along the way about the kingdom.” God was telling me they would get done in time, but at God’s choosing not mine.
Lent for me over the years has become a special time for spiritual reflection and growth. For several years, I have written daily Lenten devotions, which I initially did only for my own personal Lenten journey. Then, around 1999, I started to share my devotions in a printed Lenten Prayer and Devotional Booklet, which I generally shared with whatever congregation I was serving at the time, if finances were available. The cost of printing a Lenten booklet eventually got too expense and I started sharing them on my blog, by e-mail and Facebook. So, please feel free to share these devotions with family, friends and neighbors.
Lent is chiefly about growing in our love for God and our neighbor. Jesus teaches that these are the greatest of the commandments. To love is worth more than all of the offerings, sacrifices, and penitential practices that we could do for the next thousand years. But Jesus is not speaking of a cheap love. It is a love that we receive and give with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Love is the main focus for our lives lived in the kingdom of God. This is truly Lent.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount tells us about living as disciples of Jesus Christ and how we can come to live our lives within the Kingdom of God, which is among and has come near. As we prepare to begin Lent tomorrow with Ash Wednesday, I suggest you take the time to read the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew chapters five, six, and seven.
There is a joke among the Eastern Orthodox believers that you can always tell who the new converts are; they are the ones looking forward to Lent. It is true that the Orthodox disciplines during Lent are a good deal more stringent than the Catholic ones but I guess I am still one of those converts. Lent includes discipline, penance, and self-denial but it is primarily a season that draws me closer to God. It is a time of great joy. - by George Butterfield
Lent provides us the opportunity to discover new and exciting avenues of faith and discipleship. Lent provides a time for us to explore a deeper understanding of our discipleship and how God is calling to serve and where God is sending us. This journey during Lent should not be easy, but challenging and joyful. I have discovered during these Lenten journeys that I gain a better appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the power of the resurrection, which gives us life, not just after death, but life in the here and now. Eternity starts today.
I still today write these devotionals for my sake and so you will only see a small part of my entire journey in writing these devotionals, but I hope you find them helpful in strengthening your faith and discipleship. Please leave your comments on my blog and share your journey through Lent.
Also don’t keep what you read, pray, think and experience a secret (at least not all of it). Share your thoughts and ideas about the daily selections with others and pray for the future ministry and mission of our church and our life together as the Body of Christ. Use this time of Lent to give God the opportunity to speak to your heart and life in some unique and surprising ways.
Suggestions for Using these Devotions
1. Set aside time each day to read the selection for the day, time to think about it and time to pray.
2. Give yourself time to sit quietly and simply rest in the presence of God. Give God the opportunity to speak to your heart. Listen for God’s still small voice within your prayers.
3. We all know at least five individuals who do not know Christ and/or have no church home of their own. Write those names on a note card and make a point to pray for these individuals daily. Consider sharing with them a link to this blog in an e-mail message and invite them to attend worship with you. Pray that God might use you as a witness in their lives.
4. Pray for all those you know who are sick, ill, injured, lost or having any problems in their lives.
5. Keep a prayer journal and record all the people and things, which have been the subject of your prayers and record God’s response to those prayers.
6. Pray for the all ruling elders on the Session, whom we have selected to lead this congregation. Pray that God will empower them as spiritual leaders for this congregation. Pray that God will give them vision, knowledge and purpose as they do their work for the mission and ministry of the church in the twenty-first century.
7. And lastly pray for the pastor, I sure could use them. Pray that God will make me a better preacher, a better teacher, and better pastor to all I meet, giving Glory to God in all that I do.