Saturday, March 31, 2012

Devotional for Lent - Preparing for Palm Sunday at NRN

The 24 hours of prayer at NRN have come to a close. It was a moving time to hold in our hands the prayer request from so many hurting people. Each hour over a 24 hour period there was prayers lifted on behalf of the request received. God is moving in our midst.

In preparation for the Palm Sunday worship at NRN - I like to post the worship songs we have prepared. On Sunday we will observe a time of communion and prayer. I will continue in the teaching series I began last week. We will be looking at what the Bible says about Jesus - The Lamb.

Enjoy a time of worship with the Lord:

Check back tomorrow morning as the devotionals for Lent continue.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The 24 hours of Prayer begins

This evening at 6:00pm we begin a period of 24 hours of prayer. A core value of our church in that Prayer is a priority in the Christian life. Jesus said "My house shall be called a house of prayer." As people come to the church each hour over the next 24 hours we believe God will hear our prayers and that lives will be changed. God answers prayers!

Our teenagers will be praying during this period at an overnight Planned Famine. They are joining with other youth groups to pray and fast. They are accepting financial donations with the money going to feed a hungry child.

We invite you to join us in this prayer vigil. If you cannot come to the church - please select a time to devote one hour in prayer and simply comment to let me know when you prayed and how your time with God went. If you have a prayer request - send it to me via the church web site or Facebook. If you are in the area - you are invited to come any hour from 6:oopm on Friday until the closing hour at 5:00pm on Saturday.

Devotional for Lent - Preparing for the Prayer Vigil

My House shall be called a house of prayer....

"The next day, as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. From some distance away he saw a fig tree covered with leaves, and hoped to find some fruit on it; but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves. (It wasn't yet the season for figs.)He addressed the tree directly. 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again,' he said. And his disciples heard.They came into Jerusalem. Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out the traders, those who bought and sold in the Temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dove-sellers. He permitted no one to carry any vessel through the Temple. He began to teach: 'Isn't this what's written,' he said,'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the world to share?

But you've made it a brigands' den!' The chief priests and the legal experts heard, and looked for a way to get rid of him. But they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching. When evening came, they went back out of the city. As they were returning, early in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from its roots. 'Look, Teacher!' said Peter to Jesus, remembering what had happened before. 'The fig tree you cursed has withered.''Have faith in God,' replied Jesus. 'I'm telling you the truth: if anyone says to this mountain, "Be off with you – get yourself thrown into the sea," if they have no doubt in their heart, but believe that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. That's why I'm telling you, everything that 1 you request in prayer, everything you ask God for, believe that you receive it, and it will happen for you.

'And when you are standing there praying, if you have something against someone else, forgive them – so that your father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.'
Mark 11: 12-25

Imagine you are standing on a high hill, overlooking a long valley. In the valley are villages, a river, fields and woods, with a network of small roads winding their way between them all. Now imagine that you can see a car, driving much too fast, along one of those winding roads. The driver is obviously hell-bent on getting somewhere quicker than he should. At the same time, you see another car, coming the other way, going about its ordinary business. With horror, you see what's going to happen. Round one of the corners, any minute now...Welcome to Mark 11. Jesus has been warning his fellow Jews, up and down the country, that God's kingdom is coming. But they, for the most part, have preferred their own aspirations, their own agendas. They have been speeding on their way, eager for national liberation of the usual revolutionary sort. Within the society, the rich have been getting richer, and the poor poorer. The self-appointed religious watchdogs have been concentrating on the outward rules and purity regulations rather than on the human heart. The Temple itself, the place where heaven and earth were supposed to meet, where God's forgiveness was supposed to happen, has been used as a symbol of national pride. They have ignored the warning sign and are heading straight for a sharp bend...where, coming the other way, is Jesus...

...Mark, as we've seen elsewhere, writes the story almost like a novelist. He frames Jesus' action in the Temple (verses 15–18) within the double story of the fig tree. Jesus comes hoping for fruit, but finds none; so he puts a curse on the fig tree (verses 13–14). Then, the day after the Temple incident, there is the tree: withered from its roots (verses 20–21). The point could hardly be clearer. Jesus has come to Jerusalem, has come to the Temple, the holiest point in the Jewish world, looking for the fruit of repentance, of the wisdom, justice, holiness and peace that should be the marks of God's people. He has found none. His action in the Temple must be seen – certainly this is how Mark and the other gospel writers see it – as an acted parable of God's judgment. No one will eat fruit from this tree again...

...At the heart of Jesus' charge against the Temple is the little verse from Isaiah 56.7. God's house was supposed, in the long run, to be a place of prayer for all the world. All the nation were supposed to look to Jerusalem and see it as a beacon of hope, of the presence of the creator God. Instead, anyone looking would see only a market-place, and worse: a den of brigands (an allusion to Jeremiah 7.11). 'Brigands' are more than 'robbers' (one of the traditional translations). 'Brigands' were, in Jesus' day, the holy revolutionaries, the terrorists, eager to overthrow pagan rule by violence. The Temple itself has come to symbolize that deep distortion of God's kingdom. The only word that can now be spoken to it is a word of judgment.

The disciples, watching in amazement, learn another lesson as well. They will be faced with 'this mountain' – the mountain where the Temple sits, ruled over by the hardhearted chief priests – in the days to come. They will need to have faith that God will overthrow the system and all that it represents.

The lesson goes wider, in line with Jesus' repeated teaching about prayer and faith. Ask; believe; and it will happen. But remember: while asking, forgive (verse 25). The door that opens to let forgiveness out of your heart towards someone else is the door through which God's forgiveness will enter.

As you look at today's world, where are the cars that are speeding much too fast towards the dangerous bends? Where are Jesus' warnings most badly needed in our world?

Prayer: Almighty Father, God of judgment and mercy, overthrow the systems that abuse their calling and oppress your people, and set up your rule of grace and peace.

Excerpted from: Lent for Everyone, Mark, Year B: A Daily Devotional by N.T. Wright

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Devotions for Lent March 29

Final Questioning:

Where have your love, your mercy, yourcompassion shone out more luminouslythan in your wounds, sweet gentle Lord ofmercy? More mercy than this no one hasthan that he lay down his life for thosewho are doomed to death. -Bernard of Clairvaux

Reflect: Has the cross become a place of familiar consolation to you yet? Are you beginning to feel a drawing in your soul to reflect often on the mysteries at Calvary? Take a few minutes as you quiet your heart to consider what Jesus’ sufferings mean to you after reflecting on them through the past days or weeks.John wrote:We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love. -1 John 4:16 NASB

Are you beginning to know God’s love in a deeper way through this journey? Are you coming to a place of truly believing it?Ponder these things and ask God to do an even deeper work as we draw nearer to Christ’s death.

Read: But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” –Mark 15:14 NASB

The mangled-looking Man barely stands, a sobering symbol of Rome’s power to destroy. Pilate, wanting to leave it all behind and confident the brutal beating will satisfy the crowd’s call for justice, asks once again: “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?”Before the words are out of his mouth, a loud cry ensues: “Crucify Him! You crucify Him!”“Me? But I believe He’s innocent. Tell me- what evil has He done? Take Him yourselves and crucify Him- I find no guilt in Him.”Pilate knows his offer is an empty one, for the power to execute lies with him alone. Try as he might, he cannot extricate himself from this Man’s future.Jesus struggles to keep His balance. He has lost so much blood, His head at times seems to float about Him. Standing here, He is the only One who really knows the details of how this drama will end. Does He wish He could just speak and be on His way to Golgotha? If this entire mob suddenly stopped to listen to Him, what would He say? A High priest makes his voice heard above the crowd: “He says He is the Son of God, and by our laws, for this He must die.”Superstitious fear grips Pilate upon hearing these words. Son of God? He hasn’t heard this charge before. Is this why his wife warned him to steer clear of this Man? Does He have mystical powers? Looking at the broken body beside him, it seems nothing could be farther from the truth.Turning quickly, Pilate motions for them to bring Jesus back into the palace. He must get to the bottom of this.“Where do You come from?” Knowing the answer already, Pilate gives Jesus a chance to deny the charges of a claim to Deity. Jesus looks at him but says nothing...

Respond: Consider the weariness Jesus must have felt as He was constantly passed from one person to another. He allowed Himself to be completely at their mercy. Physically He must have been in torment. Take a few minutes to contemplate the physical and emotional state of Jesus at this time.On many previous occasions, Jesus could have been arrested or killed, But He escaped (see John 8:59; 10:39).

Reflect on the reality that every part of this story is preordained by the Father and chosen by the Son. Earlier Jesus had prayed: “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life” (John 17:1-2 NASB).

To glorify means to confer honor, to praise, to magnify. Jesus seems to be saying that the Cross is an honor to Him and that through His death, the Father will glorify Him. Ponder this in light of His suffering. Consider this in light of His desire in verse 2--to give you eternal life. Write a prayer in which you glorify Christ--give Him the honor, praise, and worship due Him as He faces the Cross.

Prayer: Do You call this glory, my Lord? I will never comprehend this thing—that You considered the Cross an honor when You could have commanded all heaven and earth to bow down before You. But though You despised the shame, this death You would embrace exalted You to heights I may never completely fathom. Let me see this, my Lord, that I might love Your glory as never before… the gripping glory of redeeming love.

Excerpted from: Contemplating the Cross by Tricia McCary Rhodes

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Devotions for Lent March 28

The Lamb

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34 (ESV)

In Genesis 22, Abraham took his only son Isaac to Moriah because God had commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham responded to his child that “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” As Abraham was about to sacrifice his own son on the altar, God stopped him and provided a ram to take the place of Isaac.

Jesus is the Lamb that God provided to take away all sins. Abraham did not have to sacrifice his only son, because God chose to sacrifice His son to atone for our sins. Because of this, God views us in the way he viewed his son when John saw the Spirit descend from heaven upon him. He calls us, both men and women, his beloved sons, with whom he is well pleased. Matthew 3:17.

We no longer have to live in anxiety laboring to justify our existence. Our justification is in Christ, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God who took away our sins and the sins of the world.

Prayer: God, our Father, we thank you that we are your beloved sons with whom you are well pleased. We pray that you will work deep into our being the truth that we no longer have to labor for our salvation, but we can find rest knowing our identity is in the Lamb of God. Give us an understanding of the depth of the sacrifice that was made to atone for our sin so we may fall more in love with you to grasp who we are and who we shall become. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Devotions for Lent March 27

The Coming King

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth
- Zechariah 9:9-10 (ESV)

In the Ancient Near East, a king entered cities riding on a warhorse in order to convey his military power, particularly when he was entering into newly conquered cities where his rule may have been regarded as illegitimate or met with suspicion or outright rejection. The exception to this custom was when a beloved king entered his own capital city. There he would ride in on a donkey—the benevolent king.

The prophet Zechariah speaks of a day when Jerusalem would see her King return. He would conquer the enemy once and for all, secure a lasting salvation and establish a new reign of peace for all. This hope of the True King, riding on a donkey, led the crowd to shout: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” when they saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem, yes, on a donkey.

And yet this crowd soon became the angry mob that cried for blood: “Crucify Him!” Jesus, who was once welcomed as the returning King, would be met with the violent rejection of a hostile people. The true King returned to his capital city to find that it had betrayed him. Yet still, he mounted a donkey, not a warhorse, and entered in peace. And he won the ultimate victory for his treacherous people by submitting himself to their violence -- OUR violence -- confirming our guilt and achieving our forgiveness in one decisive victory. The enemy this King would conquer turned out to be us, and the cost of the victory we longed for was the death of our beloved King. And he did it. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice and shout aloud that you would give your life to pay the price for our treachery. We praise you as our beloved King we have been waiting for. Come reign in our heart, our lives and our city. In Your Name, Amen.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Devotions for Lent Monday March 26 2012

A healthy Christian is one of the liveliest creatures on earth. When he is at work you may hear him sing. He cannot help it; do not blame him for a little noise. Let him sing, and laugh till he cries. Sometimes he cannot help it; he will burst if his soul may not have vent. When he begins to talk about his Lord his eyes flash fire. Some people hint that he is out of his mind; but those who know best assure us that he was never before so sane as now. Of course, the world thinks religion is such poor stuff that nobody could grow excited about it. To my mind, cold religion is the nastiest dish ever brought to table. True godliness is served up hot. Newness of life means a soul aglow with love to God, and therefore earnest, zealous, happy. Let the believing man have space for his larger life, swing for his grander joy. Nay, do not gag him; let him sing his new song. If any man out of heaven has a right to be happy, it is the man who lives in newness of life. Come, beloved, I want you to go home to-day with the resolve that the newness of life shall be more apparent in your walk. Do not live the old life over again. Why should you? What good would come of it?

-- Charles Spurgeon, "Christ's Resurrection and Our Newness of Life"

Something to Think About

Are you overjoyed by Christ's gift of salvation? In the Spurgeon quote above, what sort of joy is he describing? Does it mean we should feel happy all the time? How is it different from everyday happiness?

Today's Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy;Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy;Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy;Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
-- St. Augustine

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Devotions for Lent Sunday March 25 2012


When we have completely renounced trying to make something of ourselves--be it a saint or a converted sinner or a cleric (a so-called “priestly figure”), a righteous or unrighteous person, a sick or healthy person (and all this I would call “the here and now,” that is, living in the fullness of tasks, questions, successes, failures, experiences, and feelings of helplessness)--when we have done this, then we completely throw ourselves into God’s arms, take God’s own suffering in the world seriously rather than our own, and keep watch with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith.

That is conversion, and it is in this way that one becomes a human being, a Christian. How should we triumph because of success or despair because of failure if in this life, here and now, we suffer God’s own suffering? You understand what I mean even if I say it with so few words. I am grateful that I have been permitted to realize this, and I know I could have done so only on the path I have indeed had to take. This is why I think with gratitude and peace of past and present things.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge, Tegel Prison, July 21, 1944)

Excerpted from: Meditations on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Devotions for Lent Saturday March 24 2012

The Beginning

The God of creation, of the utter beginning, is the God of resurrection. From the very outset, the world stands under the auspices of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Indeed, precisely because we know about the resurrection we also know about God’s creation in the beginning, about God’s creation out of nothing. The dead Christ of Good Friday and the resurrected Lord of Easter Sunday: That is creation out of nothing, creation from the beginning. That Christ was indeed dead was not the possibility of his resurrection, but its impossibility; it was nothingness itself, the nihil negativism. There is absolutely no transition, no continuum between the dead Christ and the resurrected Christ other than God’s own freedom to create in the beginning God’s work out of nothing. If it were possible yet to intensify this nihil negativum, then here, concerning the resurrection, one would have to say that with Christ’s death on the cross the nihil negativum broke its way into God’s own being-“Oh, woe so great: God, God is dead”- and yet God, who is the beginning, lives, destroys the nothing, and creates the new creation in Christ’s resurrection. It is through his resurrection that we know about creation, for if he were not resurrected, the Creator would be dead, and he would not bear witness to himself. From God’s creation, on the other hand, we know about God’s power to rise up again, we know God remains the Lord [over nonbeing].

(From a lecture on Genesis 1:1-2, Berlin University, Winter Semester 1932/1933)

Excerpted from: Meditations on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Join us tomorrow at NRN as Pastor Rick begins a new three part teaching series about the claims of Christ - WHO HE IS.....

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Friday March 23

Today's Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Today's Quote
"The death of Jesus Christ has turned our whole lives into one continued sacrifice--whether we eat or drink, whether we pray to God, or do any thing to man, it must all be done out of a love for and knowledge of him who died and rose again, to render all, even our most ordinary deeds, acceptable in the sight of God.

"If we live by this principle, if Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all our actions, then our lowliest actions are acceptable sacrifices; but if this principle is lacking in our lives, our most pompous services avail nothing: we are nothing but a spiritual idolater; we sacrifice to our own gain and make an idol of ourselves. We make ourselves, and not Christ, the end of our actions: and therefore such actions are so far from being acceptable by God, that according to the language of one of the Articles of our Church, 'We doubt not but they have the nature of sin, because they spring not from an experimental faith in and knowledge of Jesus Christ.'" -- adapted from George Whitefield's sermon "The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the Best Knowledge"

Something to Think About
Christ's salvation is offered to us freely, and cannot be earned by our actions. Despite this, Christians have struggled since the earliest days of the church with the temptation to try and earn God's forgiveness by doing good works, following the law, or just living "good" lives. Why is it so hard for us to accept Christ's gift? Is this a struggle for you?

Today's Prayer
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. -- adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Thursday March 22, 2012

Today's Scripture Reading: Romans 7:13-25

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Today's Quote

"Now He is led forth to death, carrying His Cross. O what a spectacle is this! Do you see it? Lo, the government is upon His shoulders. See, here is His rod of equity, His rod of empire. Wine mingled with gall is given Him to drink. He is striped of His garments, which are divided among the soldiers; but His tunic is not rent, but passes by lot to one of them. His dear hands and feet are bored with nails; and He, stretched on the Cross, is hung up between thieves. Of God and men the Mediator, He hangs in the midst between heaven and earth; joining lowest things and highest, earthly things and heavenly; and heaven is bewildered, and earth condoles.

"And what of you? No wonder if, while the sun mourns, you mourn also; if, while the earth shakes, you tremble; if, while rocks rend, your heart is torn; if, while the women beside the Cross are all in tears, you cry aloud with them." -- Anselm of Canterbury, Meditation #84

Something to Think About

What do you think it means to be a spiritual "slave" to something? What has enslaved your spirit in the past? Whose slave are you now?

Today's Prayer

Almighty God, who sees that we have no power ourselves to help ourselves: protect us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. Defend us both from harm to the body and from evil thoughts which assault and hurt the soul. Do this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. -- adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Wednesday March 21

Captive Thoughts

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Living in an altar'd state means that flesh is treated as dead. "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin" (Romans 6:11). For years, those words just caused confusion for me. I would read those words and feel frustrated and more like a failure than ever. How could just "considering" it so make it so? And how could I keep considering it so when it was so obviously not so? I read commentaries, and parsed the language, and applied all my intellect to the problem, but could not come to a satisfying understanding. Finally, I just left it alone.

Over the years of working out Scripture in practice and in understanding, I think I have a better grasp of what Paul is saying. Though I wanted the Holy Spirit to make me understand those words, instead He taught me from many other passages and worked it out in experience until I come back to those words and they make sense.

Dead to sin. Count on it. It is a fact. I'm not supposed to make it a fact. Dead—disconnected from life. Unresponsive to any pull. I believe that Paul is talking about sin, the operating power, not sins, the actions and behaviors. I am dead to the power of sin, and the power of sin is dead to me. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). So, how do I count on that and act on it and bring it into my experience?

When I am being enticed into flesh's realm, and the appeal of my old man's habits is calling me, it's time for my will to stand up and choose--life or death? Instead of acting as if I am one with my old man and as if I still desire to sin and now I have to tamp down that desire and deny it, I have to lean in. I have to altar. I have to take that thought captive and hand it over to Jesus, and draw on His life. Let Him speak truth to me: "You don't really desire that sin any more. You desire to be free from the tyranny of your flesh. Your flesh is lying to you--promising good results. But you know better. Respond to what you know, not what you feel. The flesh is dead. Treat it that way." Now, most important, let Him turn your heart toward the resurrection that will result from this crucifixion. Celebrate your freedom. Let your mind be consumed with what you're gaining, not what you are losing.

And, then, recognize how temptation can serve God's purpose. Line yourself up with what He is doing in this moment and let the enemy's schemes backfire.

The Anatomy of a Sin

Temptation is not sin. Temptation does not have to lead to sin. However, no sin comes into being without temptation. What is the process by which temptation becomes sin? "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin" (James 1:14-15). In this passage, James is talking about temptation that is successful, or results in sin. He describes for us the process.

Strange as it may seem at first, I am convinced that James is saying, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face temptations of many kinds." Remember what a productive use God made of the temptations Jesus faced. Is it possible that He could use temptation to our advantage also?

"God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear" (1 Corinthians 10:13). Who is in charge of what temptation reaches you?

In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we find the same Greek word-root for "tempt" as is found in our passage from James. Look carefully at what the Scripture says about temptation: God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Do you see that God is in charge of what temptation reaches you? If God is in charge of what temptation reaches you, can temptation have any purpose but good? "All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant" (Psalm 25:10). "You are good, and what you do is good" (Psalm 119:68).

God allows temptation in order to isolate, identify, and uproot unrighteousness and expose flesh. Let me backtrack and clarify something. God is not tempting you. He is not the source of temptation. "When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone" (James 1:13). He, however, decides what temptation will be allowed to reach you.

Dragged Away by Desire

"By his own evil desire." The Greek word translated here as "evil desire" really means strong or intense desire. It does not have a specific meaning of good or bad. In fact, it is the same word Jesus used in Luke 22:15 when He said to His disciples: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."

Change the word evil to strong. He has not created you with an inherently wrong desire, but with an intense desire. This strong or intense desire, at its foundation, is built into you by the Creator. He has created you with a deep need for love and acceptance so that you will seek and find love and acceptance in Him. This need is the foundation of every desire. However, our God-created desires become misdirected when we seek to have them met outside of God...

..."Respond harshly and you will feel better." "Buy one more thing you can't afford and it will bring you what you are looking for." "Eat one more thing and you will be fulfilled." "Take one more drink and your pain will go away" Lies, lies, and more lies.

The stimulus has no power of its own. What tempts one person does not tempt another. The power is not in the object or the occurrence in the world. The stimulus is neutral. Unless it is enticing, it cannot tempt. Its only power is the attraction it holds for you. It is your own misdirected desire dragging you away...

Temptation That Leads to Purity

Temptation can lead to sin, or temptation can lead to purity. Temptation forces choice. Every time we face temptation, we choose where to take our needs. Will we allow God to fulfill them and satisfy our eternal cravings? Or will we take the drive-through fast-food approach? Will we think long-term or quick fix? Will we choose God or will we choose Baal? Every temptation forces us deeper into the heart of the Father or anchors us more securely in the world. It's time to choose to altar ourselves...


If God used temptation to bring His son to full maturity, can He do the same with you? And you are not fighting the battle against sin. You are simply choosing Him and His overcoming life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Tuesday March 20

Living As If We Mean It-Because God Most Certainly Does

Read John 14:18-24.

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live" (vv. 18-19).

Irrepressible Life

Apart from the agenda on my daily calendar—"write column, pack for tomorrow's flight, complete prep for teaching at retreat, run off message for Sunday morning, line up interviews for next week"—I make no predictions about what will happen over the next twenty-four hours or so. There are too many variables interfacing everything I intend to do and any number of things can and most certainly will happen to confound my plans.

But Jesus knew exactly what was coming at him. He knew it as he talked with his friends around the table in the upper room, and I believe it contributed to the urgency of his words. The immediate future was alarmingly clear, and Jesus revealed tremendous strength and honest bravery as he understood the inevitability of betrayal, torture, and death.

In complete humanity, both at odds with and beautifully complementary to his uncompromised deity, Jesus moved toward all the horror that the ensuing day and a half had in store.

In today's scripture selection from John's account of the Last Supper, Jesus speaks plainly and eloquently about the mystery that defines God's grace, as he draws logical conclusions regarding our relationship to God based on his relationship with us.

I remember the way I was received into my wife's family. Rebekah's mother loved me instantly and without reserve both because she loved Rebekah and Rebekah loves me and also because I make Rebekah happy. It's a lot like that with God. We love Jesus; Jesus loved us enough to die for us; God loves the Son; and we are all adopted into this family by virtue of Jesus' great love for us. God the Father accepts and cherishes me—Derek Maul—not on my merit, but because Jesus died for me, loves me, and presents me just as I am at God's Communion Table, as his very own brother. (See Rom. 5:8.)

Not only that, but Jesus points out how I will come to receive this fullness of life. It's the same principle that applies to each one-of us. "It's the life that I experience," Jesus explained in many ways over the course of the evening, and that life will be ours in equal measure. Then, conclusively, "Because I live, you also will live" (v. 19).


Our status as the brothers and the sisters of Jesus means that we share in that same life: the Christ-vitality, the deep and larger-than-life aliveness. The world around us, broken and cynical, may not see Jesus. The world may believe that Christ is defeated and defunct; but we know that the Christ-life is alive and vibrant and real.

Then, and here's the kicker, the world—this ambient culture where we hang out in the everyday grind—gets the opportunity to see firsthand the compelling evidence of the resurrection in us. Because we, the church, are advertised throughout the New Testament as "the body of Christ." What changes can you make in your life that will make that clear to others?

Prayer: Please live in us and through us, Jesus. Let us live more completely in the truth of your message. Amen.

Excerpted from: Reaching Toward Easter: Devotions for Lent
by Derek Maul

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lenten Devotional Monday March 19

God-Saturated Behavior

Read John 14:25-27.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (v. 27).

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

When people ran into Jesus they often had good reason to remember the encounter. Sometimes he infuriated them; sometimes he made perfect sense; and sometimes he did both. Regardless, those who encountered Jesus often left challenged, knowing the possibility of the kind of peace that the world had never offered before.

Jesus' style of peace entails not simply resting in the presence of God so much as moving forward in the presence of God. Peace requires God-saturated behavior. Peace refers to a state of being more than a state of mind. Peace is an action word. That's why Jesus said, "I do not give to you as the world gives." Jesus settles the troubled heart, sometimes by troubling the settled life.

Dateline Folkestone, England

During a recent trip to England I made a visit to my hometown, where I was born and lived the first nineteen years of my life. Folkestone is on the southern coast of England, a few miles west of Dover in the county of Kent. It's on the Straits of Dover, as close to France as England gets.

I had just a few hours, so I looked at the breathtaking scenery from the hills, walked around my old neighborhood, and then parked in the town center so I could explore some more. I discovered a new "superstore" downtown, with its own multistory parking garage. The roof offered me a view, looking east toward Dover, that I had never seen before. I thought I knew what the town looked like, but it turns out there is always a new perspective, a fresh orientation, and a more innovative view.

What If?

And so I walked around my old hometown with new eyes, seeing it as if for the very first time, not only with the perspective of a grown man but also with the vision of someone who hadn't lived there for thirty-four years. I owned a new perspective because I'd never before looked at the town from that particular vantage point, a hundred or so feet above the city center.

This is exactly what I'd like to see us do with Easter. I'd like to see us standing in a new place, somewhere outside the realm of the familiar, taking a look at Jesus' cross, passion, and resurrection—beholding with new eyes!

Imagine arriving at Palm Sunday (the week before Easter) with your devotional life finely tuned, your daily understanding of God's grace well-practiced, your walk with Jesus in full stride, and your sense of expectation fully engaged. Consider the implications:

•What if we allowed everything that Jesus achieved and is achieving to impact us as if we had heard it for the very first time?

•What if we've been looking at forty days of Lent from the standpoint of tradition rather than living faith?

•What if our understanding of Easter has everything to do with religion and almost nothing to do with a transformational encounter with the living God?

•What if we did something new this year, and all of that changed?

I don't know what the result would be, I'm just asking the questions. But then again, I'm asking because I already know from personal experience what can happen when someone stands in a new place and asks new questions.

How about you?

Prayer: We all have something to do today that has the potential to be exclusively kingdom-oriented behavior. Guide us in these few quiet moments to listen to your voice, God, and to bring your kind of peace into this anxiety-ridden world. Amen.

Excerpted from: Reaching Toward Easter: Devotions for Lent
by Derek Maul

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Sunday March 18 2012

Today's Scripture Reading: John 2:13-22

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!" 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."
18 The Jews then responded to him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20 They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Today's Quote

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
-- "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," an Easter hymn by Isaac Watts. (See for more about this and other Easter hymns.)

Something to Think About

Jesus spoke about his coming death and resurrection many times, as in the Scripture reading above. Why do you think so many people--including his own disciples--failed to understand what he was saying until afterwards?

Today's Prayer: O merciful Father, do not consider what we have done against you; but what our blessed Savior has done for us. Don't consider what we have made of ourselves, but what He is making of us for you our God. O that Christ may be "wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption" to every one of our souls. [May] His precious blood may cleanse us from all our sins, and your Holy Spirit renew and sanctify our souls. May He crucify our flesh with its passion and lusts, and cleanse all our brothers and sisters in Christ across the earth. -- John Wesley

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Preparing for worship at NRN on March 18, 2012

As I prepare for church tomorrow I so excited about sharing the message had placed in my heart. It is time for the annual - State of the Church and I plan to present a report card for us to consider.

The Youth Worship Team will direct our time of praise to the Lord. Here are some songs on the worship set:

As we bring the time of worship to a close we will celebrate communion together. Here is the song we plan to sing to prepare our hearts:

Lenten Devotional for Saturday March 17

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

How would you respond to someone who asked, "Who is Jesus?"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Friday March 16

Transfused With His Eternal Life

"Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, `How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him'" (John 6:52—56).

Jesus shocked His listeners with these statements. "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"' (John 6:60).

The words are somewhat jarring to our ears, but they were even more so to His Jewish audience. They understood Him to be speaking metaphorically. Such metaphor was a typical teaching device for Jewish rabbis. However, one of the most important injunctions in their religion was, "Don't eat the blood. The blood is the life." Here was Jesus, that outrageous teacher, saying, "Drink My blood. My blood is real drink. Unless you drink My blood, you have no life in you." This was so controversial that it was the beginning of the falling away of many of His followers. "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (John 6:66).

What did Jesus want us to understand? Why did He make this unsettling statement? He is saying: "My life must be inside you." His life cannot impart life to us from outside. He must be in us. Drawing the best biological understanding of His times, Jesus drew a graphic word picture of how that which is outside of you can be inside of you: eating and drinking. If He were drawing the picture using twenty-first-century concepts, He might have used the picture of blood transfusion. He wants to transfuse us with His life...

...Just as blood flows through your physical veins, His life flows through your spirit veins. Your physical body is a picture, a shadow, of your spirit. Just as your natural earth body is given life through blood, so your spirit has life through the life of Christ.

When He transfuses His life into us, His life banishes my death. Jesus is the life. Apart from Him, only death, or the "not life," flows through spirit veins. Remember? He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son has "not life."

Let me show you a picture. My brother, Roger, died of leukemia when he was 17 years old. Death was in his blood. Instead of carrying life and cleansing from cell to cell and from organ to organ, Roger's blood carried death and disease. His body had no other source for power and life.

I remember when he was first diagnosed. The very first step in his treatment was to give him a transfusion of healthy blood. A call went out through our community that Roger needed blood. The Red Cross set up a bloodmobile in our church basement and people waited in line for the opportunity to give their healthy blood to replace his diseased blood. Through the miracle of blood transfusion, the very blood that ran through my veins could, temporarily, replace the death-carrying blood that ran through his veins. My life could be in him—just for a moment. And for that short time when my life was in him, it overcame his death. This is what Jesus does. He transfuses His life into you to replace the "not life" that flows through you.

You were born in the line of Adam. Your spirit veins should have been carrying life, but instead they were carrying death. Jesus has opened His veins and poured out His life so that He can flow through you.

In Roger's case, the blood transfusion was only a stopgap measure. His body continued to produce diseased blood. Only while the healthy blood flowed in his veins were his disease's effects slowed. Soon the "not life" filled his veins again. But Jesus' transfusion is different. It is eternal.

Body of Righteousness

Look again at Paul's word from Romans 6:6–7:

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."

Paul says that our body of sin, or the body of death (Romans 7:24), has already been done away with. Yet you have the same body now that you had before you were given eternal life. How can Paul speak of the body of sin and the body of death as being done away with? I wrote about this briefly in my book, He Restores My Soul:

He says that when my old self is crucified, "the body of sin" is "done away with." What is he saying? When he uses the phrase "body of sin," he means the body (the vehicle through which we perform) that belongs to sin; the body through which the old nature acts. When I enter into the crucifixion of Jesus, I do not get a new earth-body. I look just the same as I did before. But now that same old body has been made new internally. Now it no longer contains death; now it contains life. Think of it like this: my computer is encased in an outer structure. When I look at my computer, I see its casing. That's how I recognize it as my computer. However, what really makes my computer my computer is its inner workings. If I were to take my computer to a technician and ask him take out the old computer and put in an entirely new computer, but keep the outer structure, when I take the computer home, I now have a brand new computer. It looks the same to my eyes, but it is a brand new creation. It has a new operating system; it runs new programs; it responds to different commands than before. When Christ comes to be my life, my body is no longer a body of sin. It is now a body of righteousness because the body of sin has been done away with.

Paul says that the transformation is so drastic, so radical, that his body, once a container of death, is now a container of life. The "body of death" has been done away with.


You no longer live in a body of sin. You commit sins sometimes, and you sometimes step over into flesh, but that is not in line with your new nature. Why, when you sin or act in flesh, does it bother you? Because it doesn’t fit you. Settle in your mind and heart right now that you are a new creation in Christ if you are a Christian.

Excerpted from: Altar'd: Experience the Power of Resurrection
By Jennifer Kennedy Dean
Join us this Sunday at NRN for worship as we share a time of Communion during the worship time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Thursday March 15, 2012

Scripture: Then the devil led him up a high mountain and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" Luke 4:5-8

Meditative thought: As we continue through this Lenten Season we begin to draw our attention to the Cross and the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is time again to collect our thoughts that we may understand what it means. Christ on the cross—that was the proclamation with which Paul set out. That was his God. That was the God for whom the first martyrs died. It was the God whom Luther rediscovered. And it is the same God whom we today are about to understand anew; or better, the same God who seizes us today anew. Christ on the cross, Christ the hidden king of the hidden kingdom—that is the message of the Protestant Church. Christ the revealed king of a visible kingdom—that is the message of the Catholic Church. Hence it is important that we understand what Passiontide is about. The time of Christ's passion begins not just in Passion Week, but on the first day of his preaching. He renounced the kingdom as a kingdom of this world not just on Golgotha, but from the very outset. These are the ideas expressed in our story.

Jesus could have become the lord of the world. As the Messiah of Jewish dreams, he could have liberated Israel and led it to glory and honor. His entry procession could have been that of the visible king of this world. What a remarkable man this was, a man to whom dominion over this world is offered even before he begins his own work. And he is all the more remarkable in that he rejects the offer. So it is simply true, and not just biblically intended, that Jesus could have become the most splendid and powerful of all the kings of this world. He would have been honored; he would have been believed had he then dared to say he was the Son of God. After all, even the Roman emperors were believed when they said it. The world really would have become Christian. It would have had Christ as its king. It would have had the one who had been expected so long. The one whose power extends over all the earth, who establishes a reign of peace on earth.

So Jesus could have had all that. He realizes in this instant that now, high on a mountain, for a moment, he is gazing upon all the kingdoms of the world, knowing he could be their ruler. But he also knows that a price must be paid for such dominion, a price which he deems too high. Dominion would be his only at the cost of his obedience to God's will. He must bow before the devil, go down on his knees before him, worship him. And that means he would have become a slave, and would no longer be free. He would be a slave to his own ambition; a slave of those who want him so eagerly. But he remains the free Son of God, and recognizes the devil who is trying to enslave him. [...]

Jesus knows what that means. It means debasement, revilement, persecution. It means being misunderstood. It means hatred, death, the cross. And he chooses this way from the very outset. It is the way of obedience and the way of freedom, for it is the way of God. And for that reason it is also the way of love for human beings. Any other path—be it ever so pleasing to people—would be a way of hatred and of contempt toward human beings, for it would not be the way of God. And this is why here, then, Jesus rejects the devil. Because it is the way of God through the world, he chooses from the very outset the way to the cross. And we are going with him, as individuals and as the church. We are the church beneath the cross, that is, in disguise. Yet here as well, all we can do is realize that our kingdom, too, is not of this world.

Excerpted from: Meditations on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Wednesday March 14, 2012

Another time Jesus used a parable when he was questioned by a religious leader.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

How can you be a good neighbor to someone today?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lention Devotional for Tuesday March 13, 2012

Today, let's begin with prayer:

Almighty, eternal and merciful God, whose Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, open and illuminate our minds, that we may purely and perfectly understand your Word and that our lives may be conformed to what we have rightly understood, that in nothing we may be displeasing unto your majesty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- the daily morning prayer of Ulrich Zwingli, from Gregg Alison's "Introduction to Historical Theology"

Today's Scripture Reading: Mark 8:31-38

Jesus Predicts His Death
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

The Way of the Cross
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Today's Quote

Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All thing pass;
God never changes.
Patience attains
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

-- "Poem IX," from the Complete Works St. Teresa of Avila (1963) Vol. 3, edited by E. Allison Peers

Something to Think About

This past Friday was the day that some Christian traditions commemorate Annunciation, the announcement to Mary that she would give birth to the promised Savior. The story of Gabriel's visit to Mary is one we usually associate with Christmas, not Easter.
Does your anticipation of Easter in just a few weeks give you a different perspective on the angel's joyous announcement?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Monday March 12, 2012

Scripture: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)

In the season of Lent many Christians make sacrifices in a feeble mimicry of Christ's temptation in the wilderness. People do it for many reasons: to better themselves, it's what you do, etc. Looking at Christ's trials there is one consistent, repetitive theme: God's word. Christ rebukes Satan using scripture and the word of God for every temptation laid before him. His focus is not on himself, his wants, or even his needs. His focus is on the Father.

As we undertake these "sacrifices" and fasts we must remember why we do such things a part from the worldly measures of bettering one’s self or repetitive practice. These sacrifices are taken so we do not worry of our flesh-driven wants, merely what is good and Godly. During this season we can consume ourselves with denying the pleasures of soft drinks or sweets or whatever we have given up, and we can do as Paul says in Philippians and embrace the admirable things. Like I said, Jesus’ focus was not on the worldly things he did not have, but on pleasing the Lord in his works. These two verses are a good reminder to seek God as opposed to seeking "not evil".

Lord bless us in this Lenten Season. Grant us the strength we need to follow you in times of temptation and to uphold your will in our daily works. That we may see your light in a world of darkness allowing your light to consume us in spite of what may surround us. Amen. (copied)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lenten Devotional For Sunday March 11, 2012


I now know...that there is a long, hard journey ahead of me. It is the way of living, praying, being with people, caring, eating, drinking, sleeping, reading, and writing in which Jesus is truly the center. I know...that this way exists and that I have not fully found it.

How do I find it? George [Father George Strohmeyer, co-founder of L'Arche community in Pennsylvania] gave me the answer: "Be faithful in your adoration." He did not say, "prayer," or "meditation;" or "contemplation:' He kept using the word "adoration?' This word makes it clear that all the attention must be on Jesus and not on me. To adore is to be drawn away from my own preoccupations into the presence of Jesus. It means letting go of what I want, desire, and have planned and fully trusting in Jesus and his love.

Source: Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Faithfulness in Small Things

Then Jesus said..."Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Luke 16:10-13


God, bread of heaven, let the activities of my daily life be so centered on your presence that my friendship with you is solidly entrenched in my heart of hearts. Let me serve your will and purposes and have the sense to forego the hollow pleasures of success and wealth. Amen.

Lenten Action

Spend a predetermined amount of time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Make a list of the places in your area that have Perpetual Adoration so that you might take the opportunity to visit more frequently. Be faithful in continuing this practice after Lent is over.

Excerpted from: Lent and Easter Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Saturday March 10 2012

Jesus often used parables to teach the people. These stories, typically drawn from nature or everyday life, pointed out a central truth that called out an intended response from the listeners. On one occasion Jesus told three parables in response to the self-righteous complaints of the Pharisees and teachers of the law about the company Jesus kept.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

What can you learn from parables that you can use in your own life?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preparing for Sunday at NRN

On Sunday March 11, 2012 at NRN we are planning to have a unique worship experience.

Here are some things to consider as you prepare for church this coming Sunday:

Sunday morning worship will begin at 10:30am

Here is a simple reminder about the importance of changing your clocks on Saturday evening so you will not be late to church:

This Sunday will feature:
A time of laughter - free food - and opportunities for involvement in ministry are planned for all!
Don't miss this unique worship experience at NRN!

Lenten Devotional for Friday March 9,2012

Positive Powerlessness

God became a little baby. Who can be afraid of a little baby?...That's the mystery of the incarnation. God became human, in no way different from other human beings, to break through the walls of power in total weakness. That's the story of Jesus.

And how did that story end? It ended on a cross, where the same human person hangs naked with nails through his hands and feet. The powerlessness of the manger has become the powerlessness of the cross....He hangs there, his flesh torn apart by lead-filled whips, his heart broken by the rejection of his friends and abuse from his enemies, his mind tortured by anguish, his spirit shrouded in the darkness of abandonment—total weakness, total powerlessness. That's how God chose to reveal to us the divine love.

Source: Henri J. M. Nouwen, Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit

Strength of the Lowly

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right hand is disregarded by my God'?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary... Isaiah 40:27-31

Sustainer God, though I very much wish to be in control, let me recognize the strength of Christ's manger and his cross. Transplant in me your humble heart and your heroic surrender so that I may cast out pride and share in the cup of your tears. Amen.

Lenten Action
Promise yourself that you will maintain a dignified silence (just as Jesus did at his trial), at a point where you are eager to contribute your two-cents' worth or when you feel a strong need to defend yourself from criticism.

Excerpted from: Lent and Easter Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lenten Devotional for Thursday March 8 2012

Whom do you trust?

Pharisee and Tax Collector
Luke 18:9-14

The story is told of a nobleman in Victorian England who commissioned a portrait photographer to take his picture. The man suffered no lack of self-esteem, coupled with an overly optimistic view of his attractiveness. The photographer brought his equipment to the gentleman's home and proceeded to set it up in the parlor. All along the noble felt no qualms about offering unsolicited advice to the photographer about his preparations. 'When all was ready at last for the photograph to be done, the noble announced: "Young man, mind you to do me justice with that camera of yours." With hardly a pause the photographer responded, "Sir, your need for my camera's work is not justice but mercy."

Jesus tells a story to a group that suffers no lack of religious self-esteem. Two individuals pray at the Temple: a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee comes to the Temple, not so much imploring God's acceptance as declaring his fitness for it. The prayer of the Pharisee thus becomes not a baring of his soul but a review of his resume. Grace is not really needed, much less asked for, since the Pharisee mentions ample evidence for his standing with God being obvious to everyone—including God. "`God, I thank you that I am not like other[s]."' This Pharisee is not like the extortioners, the unjust, the adulterers, to use the words of the parable. To put a more contemporary spin on it, this Pharisee is not like the ones who spend all their time in the bars or the welfare cheats or the Aryan Nations wingnuts.

The prayer of the Pharisee, in ancient or modern dress, requires no divine presence. It only needs an audience of those who share the same disdains and the same upright behavior for the sake of self-congratulation.

The second prayer partner in the Temple is a tax collector, a traitorous parasite who exploits his own people by collecting the taxes of a foreign occupier. He stands back in a corner where he won't upset anyone with his presence. Scarcely daring to raise his eyes off the floor and with a gesture of despair, all he can pray is, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'

According to Jesus, the tax collector—not the Pharisee—returns home justified in God's sight. As Jesus saw the matter, everyone who sets himself or herself up will be taken down a few notches, while those who humble themselves will be exalted. "A person's pride will bring humiliation, but one who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor" (Prow 29:23).

Justification looms large in the parable's close as the most definitive distinguishing point between these two individuals. What separates them at the end are not the obvious variances in lifestyle, piety, and social stature (or the lack thereof). One returns justified; one does not. And the one who does catches us off guard and unprepared for the choices God makes...

...By comparing ourselves to others, particularly in ways that stack the deck in our favor, our prayers and spiritual posturing may reveal that we trust more in ourselves than in God. Or it may reveal a diversion on our part to avoid facing our own brokenness and fears. Either way, as long as we can find someone worse off (in our estimation) morally, spiritually, or politically, we risk seducing our-selves into thinking we stand justified in God's sight. Haven't we just proved that? But justification does not come down to showing how fortunate God must be to have friends like us. Justification turns on whom we trust. To trust in self is self-justification. To trust in God, even when the trust comes from a lowlife like this tax collector, opens us to God's justification.

It is a scandalous parable, and the name of the scandal is grace.

Prayer: May I see myself as you see me, O God, that I may trust my true self to you. Wholly. May I see others as you see them, O God, that I may accept them as you accept me. Graciously. Amen.

Spiritual Exercise

In your journal reflect on places of your life where you have difficulty trusting: trusting other persons, trusting God. As you are able, identify sources or causes of that difficulty. Pray about those matters that hold you back from trust, especially those that might have to do with a reluctance to share your true self or admit to weaknesses. Imagine the hands of God cupped open. Place yourself in that space held up by God. Entrust yourself to God.

Excerpted from: Parables and Passion: Jesus' Stories for the Days of Lent
by John Indermark