Day 2 – February 27

Thursday, February 27

Theme: Choices and consequences

Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

Reflection

It’s interesting: Yesterday’s scripture was also about obedience. In Isaiah 58, the prophet proclaimed that although God’s people thought they were obeying God through their ritual fasting, the rest of their lives were disobedient. Giving only part of their lives to God, while pretending to give him everything, had damaged their relationship with God.

Today’s passage is about obedience, too. The focus here is on choices and consequences.

After 40 years of wandering in the desert, God’s chosen people stood on the threshold of the promised land. Through Moses, God prepared his people for their new life, teaching them His laws so they would be prosperous and peaceful.

God concluded His instructions with a choice: In the clearest terms possible, he said they could choose to walk obediently with God, or they could choose to go their own way.

We should note, God is respecting their free will. He is letting them choose their path, even if that means they choose to reject Him.

And yet, the choice before them is a sobering one: a choice between prosperity or adversity, even between life and death. God’s people were essentially asked to make a life or death decision.

Black or white. No grey. There’s no “medium” choice here, no in-between place where they could obey God, sort of, or obey Him sometimes, like when it was convenient or comfortable, and only if it didn’t cost them something.

If the people chose God as their one and only Lord, He promised to be lavish, passionate and even reckless in showering them with Himself and His blessings.

Or, they could reject His love and gifts.

In verse 18, God predicts what will happen if they don’t choose Him: “I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.”

Some might read this as a threat to punish them for making the wrong choice. Like when a parent says, “If you don’t eat the rest of your dinner right now, you’ll go to your room without dessert.” That would be a punishment.

I read this as a prophecy, a peek into the future. If God could send His people in a time machine to the future they would create for themselves with their disobedience, they would see death as the natural, inevitable consequence of their actions. They won’t just miss out on dessert. They will perish. They will be expelled from the promised land that they have waited 40 years to enter!

It’s a lot like telling someone what will happen if they choose to step down to safety from the edge of a cliff, versus what will happen if they throw themselves off the cliff. It’s that person’s choice. And that person will experience the full consequences of their choice.

Our choices haven’t changed today. In our present, there might seem to be a lot of grey areas. Or a lot of latitude. We might think that we can “sort of” obey God, sometimes, and it’ll be OK. He’ll be fine with that.

If we could only get in that time machine to our future and see the full harvest of consequences that will grow out of the seeds we plant—or fail to plant—as we make our choices. Wouldn’t we choose God?

Let’s make the choice to obey God today. Let’s lean into His close, intimate, loving presence during this 40 days together.

Reflection:

  1. Why does God ask us to live within certain rules and parameters that He has given to us?
  2. Is there anything in my life that may be tempting me from choosing God and His way?
  3. What are three blessings and gifts God has given me for which I can thank Him today?

Prayer:

Father, we are still listening to learn what obedience really means to you. We want to hear your voice and choose to follow you, no matter the inconvenience or cost to us. You may promise your lavish and abundant blessings if we choose you. But the greatest blessing we could ask for, the only blessing we really need, is simply you.  Even if you give us nothing else in this life, if we receive you, we have everything we need, and more than we could ever imagine.

Thank you for urgently shepherding us to choose life. We ask for your Holy Spirit to guide is in all things, and to attune our hearts to your voice so we never miss your instructions. We ask for your courage to obey.

We love you.

Amen.

Conclusion

Today’s additional Bible passages can be found in Luke 9:18–25 and Psalm 1.

Watch a video story about how God lovingly pursued a man who had run away from Him.

Invite your friends and family to participate in our Lent prayer and fasting journey. Post a link from our website to your Facebook or Twitter accounts.  

Day 1 – February 26

February 26

Day 1 of Lent 2020

Ash Wednesday

Today’s theme: True obedience; holy living.

Welcome to the Lent Journey podcast! Today is February 26, 2020, and it is Ash Wednesday. My name is Gina and I’m so glad you could join me today for a Scripture reading, a time of reflection, and prayer as we listen to the Holy Spirit over the next 40 days.

Scripture reading: Isaiah 58: 1-12

Reflection

Have you had a conversation like this about Lent in years past, or maybe as you enter the Lenten season this year:

“I’m giving up chocolate for Lent. What are you giving up?”

“I’m giving up TV.”

“One year I gave up caffeine. That was tough.”

Lent is the traditional time when Christians spend 40 days preparing themselves to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus went to the desert and fasted in preparation to begin his earthly ministry. Likewise, the 40 days of Lent is when Jesus’ followers give special focus to reflecting, repenting, and seeking intimacy with God in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We start on Ash Wednesday, the 7th Wednesday before Easter Sunday. It’s called Ash Wednesday, because on this day, ancient Christians smeared a thin paste of ashes mixed with oil on their foreheads. This outward sign symbolized their inner mourning for sin that brings death into the world.

And so we begin Lent with somber humility as we ask the Lord what needs to change in our lives, so that we know how to obey Him, and enjoy an unhindered, vibrant relationship with God.

In today’s passage, the prophet Isaiah delivered God’s powerful words concerning fasting to Israel:

You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

The people were following to the letter the guidelines God had prescribed for their ritual fasting. They were doing exactly what God asked them to do. But something was wrong.

They didn’t obey God in all areas of their lives. While they went through the outward motions of fasting during the prescribed times, in the rest of their lives they failed to fully live into who God had created them to be, and neglected their relationship with God.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?

God views fasting as a beautiful and intimate act when the rest of our lives are aligned with God’s desires and heart. By compartmentalizing their spirituality, and only following God’s laws on certain days and at certain times of year, the Israelites did whatever they wanted the rest of the time. They fell short of God’s holy standards. In their neglect, they wounded God and damaged their relationship with Him.

It’s a stark warning for us as we enter the season of Lent. Is there a chance we are going about this wrong? Rather than making our own decision about what kind of fasting we will do, perhaps we could first ask God a question: Is the fast we choose the one He wants us to do? Maybe there’s something else He would ask of us, something we haven’t thought of? Or maybe it’s something we’ve been resisting.

Here, Isaiah offers us words of hope. If we surrender to God in every area of our lives; if we invite Him to give us the strength and courage to obey Him in everything He asks of us:

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

On this Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, let us first seek God’s face.  That’s what Lent is all about, right? Let us ask what He wants to show us this season. And let us choose to obey Him in this, and in every other area of our lives.

Reflection questions:

  1. Is there something God might be asking me to give up for Him this Lent season?
  2. Is there something God wants me to obey him in, that I may have been resisting?
  3. How can I seek God’s strength and peace to obey Him in this?

Prayer:

God, often we are so excited to serve you that we run ahead of you and miss out on your instructing voice us. Sometimes we’d rather do things and be busy, like Martha, than sit in your presence and just listen, like Mary. We are so busy doing for you that miss opportunities to obey you in what you really wanted us to do. We miss opportunities to know you better through our obedience, opportunities to experience your love and grace and provision. Help us to pause, take a breath and listen to you, today and every day of Lent. We need you desperately, and we are so thankful to your gentle patience with us. Thank you for your son Jesus, and your forgiveness. We love you. Amen.

Closing

I hope we’ll be together again tomorrow for another day of scripture reading, reflection and prayer in our Lent journey.

Read more

Read a story about a couple who realized they were trying to obey God in ways that felt comfortable to them. Find out how God showed them what He really wanted them to do.

To find out more about the Eurasia Region Church of the Nazarene, visit www. eurasiaregion.org.

Sign up for an email subscription to the Lenten Journey: https://mailchi.mp/dc26358a32cd/lent2020

What is Lent?

Today is Monday, February 24. Welcome to the Eurasia Region Church of the Nazarene’s Lent Journey Podcast.

Lent is an ancient tradition going back to the third century church. And yet, many of us today may not know exactly what Lent is, or why Christians observe this season in the church year.

The English word “Lent” came from an old, Anglo-Saxon word, “Lencten,” which meant Spring.

The early church began to observe a 40-day period in the springtime that ends during Holy Week, concluding on the Saturday before Easter. The church established the observance of Lent each year to prepare those who were going to be baptized on Easter Sunday. The baptism candidates would spend this time in concentrated study and prayer. Because these new members were going to become part of the living Body of Christ, the whole church community was called to join in the preparations to receive the new members.

Today, Lent is observed on 40 weekdays and Saturdays, from Ash Wednesday until the Saturday before Easter. Sundays are not included in the 40 days because each Sunday is a celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

The number 40 symbolizes the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting, praying, and facing temptations as he prepared himself for his earthly ministry. Seeking to imitate Christ, many Christians around the world likewise  set aside this period of time each year for self-examination, humble listening to God, and for repenting of our sins as the Spirit reveals them to us.

Many Christians fast during this time to help them focus on God, to attune their hearts to His voice, and to increase their sense of dependence on Him. Traditionally, fasting Christians gave up meat, alcohol, sweets and other types of food. Some traditions emphasize not just giving up something, but on doing good works, such as donating to charities or helping those in need. Other traditions emphasize prayer, repenting and seeking spiritual revival.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday. This year, Ash Wednesday is on the 26th of February.

As you embark on this Lenten journey with us, we invite you to prepare your heart by asking the Spirit to guide you in how you will pray and fast from February 26 to April 9. Schedule a bit of time each day for quiet, inward reflection over the day’s Scripture readings. As you listen to our daily devotional and pray with us through our podcast, you can also read along on our website, at http://www.lentjourney.org, or by signing up to receive our daily email.

We look forward to a time of spiritual renewal with you during our 40-day journey through Lent. 

Sources:

http://www.crivoice.org/cylent.html#Ash

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent

Join our Lent journey!

The Church of the Nazarene in the Eurasia Region invites you to join us for a 40-day journey through the Lent season, as we prepare our hearts to receive the risen Christ on Easter.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, February 26, we will guide you in a daily Scripture reading and prayer.

We will reserve Monday through Friday for inward reflection and listening to the voice of God. Saturday and Sunday we will intercede for the nations of Eurasia, and for our Eurasian Nazarene brothers and sisters across all seven of our fields.

You’ll be able to listen to each day’s reading, reflection and prayer through our podcast at soundcloud.com/eurasianazarene. Or read along with us here on our website.