Friday, April 19 – John 13:36-38
In reflecting on our Christian journey, is it possible to ask whether or not our zeal has created a falsehood that to the eyes of the uninformed and unsaved could easily be interpreted as hypocritical? Is it possible that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are out of sync and not in proper alignment? As with the Pharisees, whom Jesus chided with the words, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34 et al.), can it be that we suffer from a spiritual form of heart arrhythmia? The words of a famous hymn state, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” With fervor and excitement we sing these words without knowing to what extent our faith will be tested.
In John 13:37, Peter unknowingly tells Jesus a modest falsehood, “a fib,” because his heart is suffering from a form of spiritual “AFib” (atrial fibrillation), which happens when the heart is in an unhealthy rhythm. A spiritually unhealthy rhythm of the heart can lead to spoken intentions that are shallow and short on follow-through. Peter was affected by this condition and Jesus diagnosed it. Peter’s heart was moving too quickly and was therefore out of step. While Peter, in his zeal and affection, wasn’t aware that his faith had not yet been tested and his heart was still unhealthy, Jesus knew what was coming. He warned Peter that his heart would undergo a shock when he’d soon deny the Lord three times.
So also we, in our haste to want to say and do the right things in the company of others, may find ourselves out of step because our fleshly desires put our hearts out of rhythm
Saturday, April 20 – Romans 8:1-11
Temptation easily lures us into setting our minds on “things of the flesh,” things that are worldly, the baser things in life that cause us to act according to our sinful nature. And creatures of a sinful nature, even living under the Law, cannot be reconciled to a right relationship with God.
But thanks be to God that, out of love, God made a way for reconciliation – a way to establish an intimate relationship between God and humanity through Jesus Christ, the divine and sinless Son of God, who defeated sin and death and who invites us to share in new life with him. Not through our works but through our faith in Christ Jesus and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom we invite to live in our hearts, we become transformed through the grace – the ill-deserved favor – of God. And so we are placed on the road of living a resurrected life with Christ.
In Christ there is no condemnation because there God has restored us to the right relationship we cannot achieve on our own. There the demands of God’s holy nature are achieved on our behalf through the gracious gift God has already given us in Jesus Christ, our Savior. To God be all the glory!
Saturday, April 13 – Psalm 149
The poems in the Psalter reflect the gamut of human emotions in their expressions of crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy, lamenting pain and our own sinfulness, praising God’s majestic nature and all his creation, and much more. Psalm 149, the compendium’s penultimate song, invites us to praise the Lord in a “new song.” Verse 3 tells us to “praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre” – in other words, to praise God with our whole body. Thus Psalm 149 acknowledges our humanity.
For many of us, Lent is a time when we think of our bodies often – particularly if we are practicing daily fasting from food. At such times, we become more aware of our body’s limits and needs. Being human is part of how God created us. God made us in his image, yet human, and he declared us good. How often do we exist disconnected from and disappointed with our bodies? Someone once said, “We don’t just have bodies, we are bodies.” The body is the primary and only vessel in which to live one’s life. We are not “brains-on-a-stick.” Could acknowledging our finite and limited existence be the point at which we find true freedom to “sing a new song” – sing it in just the same way the psalmist charges us to praise and thus please the Lord?
Bonus: Sunday, April 14 – Psalm 42
As we walk through this season of Lent we are reminded of our need for God. In our penitence we are reminded not only of God’s faithfulness but also of our dependence on God. Yet sometimes we feel alone – sometimes as we face our struggles God seems absent. They ask, “Where is your God?” We cry out in despair from yearning to feel the presence of the Lord again, from knowing our need for our rock. We ask ourselves, “Where is my God?” In our longing, we know God is constant. In our anguish, we know the day will come when we will again rejoice in the Lord. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Our souls are longing for healing, peace, and comfort from the Lord – our rock in our distress. Because we know, in truth, that a time is coming when we will again praise the Lord, we can have hope in God even in the midst of our despair.
Lord, you are our rock. You are our foundation in times of darkness, and we know we can trust in you. Yet sometimes we cannot feel your presence. Give us strength to praise you and hope in you when we do not have the strength on our own. Meet us in our despair, gracious God, and hear us when we cry out. You are the one our souls long for. We praise and pray to you now in your holy name. Amen.