Lent Day 37 Connected To The True Vine

Lent – Day 37 Connected to the True Vine

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

One chore that is ongoing at our house through the years was picking up sticks and branches from our yard. Those withered, scrawny sticks aren’t good for anything. While trees and vines in our yard produce beautiful flowers and fruit, a branch can’t produce anything if it isn’t connected to the tree.

I like to think of myself as independent, capable and self-sufficient. But the truth is, apart from Christ, I can’t accomplish anything, much less something of eternal value. I was born with a sin nature that separated me from God; I was a dead branch right from the start. Even my first breath on this earth, my first word and first step, were a gift of God’s common grace.

But Jesus’ death on the cross on my behalf enabled me to be united with Him. Miraculously, we “dead branches” have been grafted into the True Vine.

We can bear fruit — live out qualities such as love, patience, joy and self-control — when we stay connected to God through daily prayer and Bible study. And we can help other “dead branches” experience new life when we share who Christ is and what He has done.

Reflect and Pray

Are you grateful to no longer be a “dead branch” on the ground? Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have life, purpose and hope here on earth. If you’ve put your trust and faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are no longer separated from God. You are united to Him like beautiful, fruitful branches extending from a steadfast source of life. Not only can you experience the joy of connection to Christ now, but you can also look forward to one day being fully united with your Lord in eternity.

Consider this prayer: “God, I acknowledge that apart from you, I can accomplish nothing of eternal value. Please help me to bear good fruit in my actions and attitudes as I stay connected to you.”

Lent Day 36 What Was It About Moses?

Lent – Day 36

What Was It About Moses?

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Are you ever amazed at the immense faith of a fellow believer? Or at how confident they are? Does anyone in the Bible come to mind? For me, it’s Moses.

Moses was one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament, leading the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt and acting as God’s mouthpiece to communicate His Law.

The crazy thing is that when God first called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses refused! In Exodus 4, as God speaks to Moses through a burning bush, giving him explicit instructions and encouragement, Moses continues to waver in his desire to obey, saying, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). But God had patience with him and helped him embrace the faith and courage he needed for the job.

Moses’ confidence didn’t grow overnight, and it didn’t grow without him leaning into his fears and working through them. But he also didn’t have to overcome his insecurities alone. God was with him.

Only after Moses saw God miraculously free the Israelites from Pharaoh, divide the Red Sea and provide food and water for masses of people as they wandered in the desert could he confidently declare, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

God led Moses from a place of insecurity to a place of confidence, bravery and faith. Moses’ confidence didn’t stem from himself, but from his firm foundation; he was rooted in God.

You may have moments of insecurity and fear, but because of who you are grounded in, you can walk confidently knowing that, although the ground may shake, God will be there to secure your footing.

There will be times in your life when Hebrews 13:6, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear,” will flow easily from your mouth. At other times, though, the process of growing in faith will not be easy. You’ll take steps along the way that are scary, and you’ll need to trust that God will meet you in a vulnerable place.

When you reach a decision point or a place that makes you feel insecure, just pause. Remember God’s faithfulness to Moses. Remember the great love Christ demonstrated for you on the cross. Remember the times His presence covered you and His strength filled you. Remember He did not leave you then and He won’t leave you now.

Reflect and Respond

What are some instances when God strengthened you and was your rock in the midst of a hard time? Write them down, praising and thanking Him that you can have confidence in His faithfulness and love.

After focusing on your past, focus on your present. In what area or areas of your life do you need to ask God to help you find your security and confidence in Him?

Lent Day 35 The Voice of Grace

Lent – Day 35

The Voice of Grace: How God Moves You From Rebellion to Obedience

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11-13

There are many ways to get someone to do something. Parents and children know how this works. You can use a reward (“If you clean your room, I’ll give you a donut”). You can use persuasion (“Wouldn’t it feel nice to have a clean room?”). You can use threats (“Clean your room right now or no Netflix for a week”). You can even use passive-aggression (“Well, when you get a disease from the filth in your room, don’t expect me to nurse you back to health!”).

These techniques come naturally to most people. But what about God? Does God use passive-aggression to get you to do what’s right? Does God threaten you to keep you from doing what is wrong?

Paul’s letter to Titus includes an insight into God’s method of growing you from a rebellious child to a person who loves and obeys Him. It is God’s grace that teaches you to say no to what is wrong and yes to what is right.

God’s primary tool for your transformation is not the threat of punishment but the promise of forgiveness. His love changes you into the person He wants you to be.

The story of Easter you are preparing to celebrate this coming weekend reminds you that, when God saw the mess of your life, He did not condemn you from afar, but drew near and entered into our world to bring a solution. At the cross, God demonstrated His grace and kindness to you. Now you, His follower, can tune your ear to the voice of grace and to love and obey Him because He first loved you.

Reflect

What motivates you to obey God?

How can you listen to grace as it teaches you to say no to what is wrong?

Where is God asking you to say no? Where is He asking you to say yes to Him?

Palm Sunday Read, Reflect and Relax

Lent – Palm Sunday: Read, Reflect and Rest

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was welcomed as the long-awaited king.

As you rest today, take some time to read and reflect on Matthew 21:1-11 (New International Version):

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

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

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Lent Day 34 Jesus’ Triumphal (Yet Humble) Entry

Lent – Day 34

Jesus’ Triumphal (Yet Humble) Entry

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” John 12:12-15

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture a king riding into battle, galloping in on a white horse, sword ready, armor gleaming. Yet Christ’s triumphal entry described in John 12 shows us a true king doesn’t need all of those fancy props.

On what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a humble donkey. Yet He received a royal welcome. Cloaks and palm branches rolled out on the road before Him like a red carpet. A crowd gathered, waving branches and cheering.

The Jewish people knew by heart the prophecy of Christ’s coming. Their shouts of “Hosanna” were a hope-filled cry for help. Jesus’ entry into the city staked His claim on both His throne and His people. It was a public declaration of who He was: Messiah, Savior and King.

King Jesus wouldn’t rescue as they expected — sword in hand, ready to deliver His people from the pressing Roman authorities. Instead, He would lay down His sword — lay down His own life — to deliver them from a greater, hidden oppressor: their own sin.

Sadly, the crowds would turn on Him in a few days’ time, blinded by the bonds of sin that truly held them.

But these bonds hold us no longer because of the sacrifice only the one true King could make.

Our souls still cry out, “Hosanna!” King Jesus responds as only He can: defeating our enemies — sin and death — and making us free forever.

Reflect

What is one way you need God to deliver you today? Is there a sin you can’t seem to escape? Envy, anger, control or addiction*?

Make no mistake: Christ’s claim on you is real. If you’ve invited Him into your life, you are His. He is your King and Savior. Ask Him to free you of any sin holding you back today. Then follow him, however his answer may look, knowing that he will always lead you to freedom.

Lent Day 33 Strength For The Weak

Strength for The Weak

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Most of my notions of weakness and strength come from what I’ve observed in the world. It seems that the big strong guy wins and the little weak guy loses. A scramble for success and power leaves no room for weakness. So most of us shun and avoid it in every form. In avoiding weakness, we can grow restless, willful, overly driven, stressed, impatient, isolated, unrelatable, harsh, selfish or unempathetic. A fun way to live, right?

Yet God offers us an entirely different way. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul shares from his own struggle that God’s way is not the world’s. God chooses the foolish to shame the wise, taking what is nothing and making it grand 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

Just think of the disciples Jesus chose. A bunch of normal people — fishermen, farmers and a tax-collector — were his selected team to spread the kingdom of God to the world.

Ultimately, God uses the human weakness of His own Son, Jesus Christ, to show off His strength. At the Cross, Jesus willingly becomes worse than weak — a curse (Gal. 3:13) — and in so doing displays God’s strength in the form of love, sacrifice, redemption, resurrection and adoption. At the Cross, God reverses the curse of the Fall, including the world’s way of thinking. Strength, once associated with power, becomes strength bound to surrender and alignment with God’s ways. Weakness, associated with vulnerability and loss, becomes weakness associated with infinite gain.

His presence with you changes everything. So don’t be afraid to be weak today. Take it as an opportunity to rejoice that God uses weakness and humility to revolutionize the world.

Respond

By exercising your awareness of God’s presence with you and by meditating on His Word, you will discover an inner strength that will not only carry you through the trials of life but will bring with it a joy that will grow in eternity.

Take a minute to read Hebrews 4:14-16.

How does Jesus’ sympathizing with your temptations and weakness make you think about your own weakness?

When reading the Bible, look for examples of how God chooses the way of weakness to display His strength.

If you have extra time, look at Jesus’ blessings in Matthew 5:1-12. Do you see yourself in the progression of these verses?

MRO Community Center in Martinsville

MRO Families coming to Martinsville, the MRO CC has been moved to Spot 64. We are still located in the Driver/Owner Lot. The guards at the gate are also aware that we have moved and can help you navigate finding the new location. Message or text me if you have questions!!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Lent Day 32 Recovering From A Year Of Worry

Lent – Day 32

Recovering From a Year of Worry

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.

What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

It’s fair to say that 2020 and 2021 were years of lasting change for many. They brought a global pandemic as well as rising unease and disunity. As mentioned yesterday, every person has their own list of the challenges that that they faced. Combine them, and you have the perfect recipe for stress stew. A dish of disquiet. A casserole of concern.

Maybe you can relate. No matter what you want to call your meal of melancholy, it helps to remember that God is with you through it all. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring the pain and evidence that the world is not as it should be. It is worth lamenting the brokenness you see and experience. It’s equally important to pray for God’s direct intervention in the fallenness of our world. 

However, we must also remember that God is already at work redeeming it all. The kingdom of God is not just a future paradise. It is a present reality for those who know Him. He is here.

Jesus took time to institute communion the day before His crucifixion — a symbol reminding us of his own body and blood there for us. He is by your side in even your darkest moments too.

When things are at their most difficult, seek peace not in your temporary circumstances but in the unending companionship and promises of a God who knows your pain and whose ultimate plan is to make everything right.

Pray

“God, help me to find Your peace even in the middle of what’s on my plate today. Just as You were able to sleep aboard a boat tossed by wind and waves (Mark 4:35-41), grant me supernatural peace. Keep my mind fixed on You, not on my circumstances.”

Lent Day 31 God Brings Hope Out Of Despair

Lent – Day 31

God Brings Hope Out of Despair

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:1-3

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” Psalm 107:13-14

We are coming out of a season of such unknowns. Our world is swirling in unrest. Things that were once certain seem fleeting and unreliable. Food supplies have dwindled and the shelves at the grocery store less dependable than ever before. Not the mention price increases on everything. Covid and it’s aftermath has triggered doubt and fear in our world. And trust has been broken on every level. Relationships strained to the breaking point.

It has been wearying for so many. Small businesses have closed, family members lost and the world turned upside down has created an environment for even the strongest of faith to fear and worry. Spiritually defeated as we were unable to gather corporately. The isolation alone has given satan ground to work his evil way into the minds and hearts of us all. None of us immune to the spiritual warfare that has ensued.

People have been weary and heavy laden. But God. This season is the reminder of life. Fronds unfurl and are poking up thru the forest floor. Fresh greenery springing up as a reminder that God is only one who can do that. I cannot will the daffodils return. I have no power over the sweet smelling flowers that open on my Carolina Jasmine. I am reminded of His power. New life. Hope. The promise that with the seasons, there will always be the hope of Spring.

I hear your stories. I see your discouragement. I have known your grief and sorrow. I know the doubts and fears that feel like they will take the last breath you have.

But God. His love so real. The promise of a Savior when He could have just turned His back on us.

Jesus.

Serving. Suffering. Surrendering. Dying. Living. Comforting. Loving.

He came that WE may have life.

Salvation. Things eternal.

Today, let’s bow down together at the foot of the cross. Grab your Bible. Saturate your mind with worshipping Him. Set your mind on the things that you know are true not what you think are true. Pour out your heart to God and seek His way. Claim the promises in His Word as trustworthy. Pour out your feelings and struggles in a prayer, journal or conversation with a trusted friend.

Read, memorize and pray through Psalm 91 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

Finally, as a follower of Jesus Christ, use Jesus’ delegated authority (Matthew 28:18-20) to resist and rebuke any spiritual attacks.

Lent Day 30 Pure Water For Your Thirsty Soul

Lent – Day 30

Pure Water for Your Thirsty Soul

“He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” Psalm 107:9

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

In John 6:35, Jesus promises that with Him, you will never be thirsty. This metaphor of living water took on new meaning for me when clean water no longer flowed easily from my tap. In the days of the prophets, and in many places of the world still, water is neither conveniently available nor guaranteed. And sometimes, like with my well, it’s contaminated.

Sin, like the pollution in my well, muddies our longings to the point that it’s hard to make sense of what’s true.

It’s human nature to mistake our lack of something for a lack of God’s provision. When I peer deeply into my desires, I usually find that what I’m longing for is more of God, not the thing I thought I needed.

Jesus says when He gives you water, it’s like your soul returning home. Jesus promises companionship (Matthew 28:20), shared glory (1 Corinthians 2:9) and joy that leads to dancing (John 15:11; Psalm 30:11). God can even use hardship to quench your thirst because it forces you to rely more on Him. In the end, you get more of what you really need: Him.

God’s Word brings prosperity, not by way of convenience or material wealth but in sustenance. He guarantees that His Word always produces fruit in your life. That’s the kind of promise only God can make! Only His guarantee of “always” can quench any and every longing that you or I might mistake for lack.

Reflect, Respond and Pray

What do you feel you are lacking right now? How does what’s missing help you identify an aspect of God that you long for?

Read Isaiah 55 and circle or list the things from this passage that God promises to provide.

Praise God for His promises, and pray that He will quench your thirst by giving you more of Himself.