Lent 1

As you may notice, there is an addition to our sanctuary here at First English.  What you see before you is the Cocoon Tree that has been constructed for use during the Lenten season, leading up to Easter. As we all know, when worms spin their cocoons, they enter a period of hibernation during which they are transformed!  They emerge at the end of this time as beautiful butterflies, transformed with new bodies with a new life and purpose. So it is with man.

 We are like the worms when we are without Christ, living from day to day, hoping not to be eaten by a hungry bird or another insect!  When we hear and accept the Good News of Christ’s resurrection, we also become transformed.  We are like the butterflies with a new spirit.  We have a new purpose in life – to live for Christ and to do his will.  The Lenten season, one of reflection and meditation, corresponds to the hibernation period of those worms, waiting in their cocoons, anticipating their new lives.  It is like the reflection we do during Lent, thinking about Christ’s sacrifice and our own paths as Christians. 

On Easter Sunday, the cocoons will be replaced with butterflies – as a sign of transformation – Dogwood blossoms – signs of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection – and crystals and shells – signs of water, baptism and rebirth as new Christians.  Join us as we each engage in our own personal Lenten journeys and transformations.

Let us pray... 

Father, create in us a spirit of thoughtfulness, reflection and humility as we enter the Lenten season.  Help us all to emerge at it’s end as beautiful butterflies ready to live the Christian life.  Amen.

Lent 2

The cocoons and caterpillars on our Cocoon Tree at First English remind us that Lent is a time to pause – to contemplate – a reminder of what is right in our Christian lives as well as what is wrong – and with that knowledge we each work out a pathway to change and to repentance.  Most of us have some understanding of repentance.  We think it’s some combination of feeling bad and asking for forgiveness.  We reconcile with people we hurt and hope for a better outcome next time.  But the repentance of the Bible is different.  Biblical repentance has teeth.  You can see it from the outside.  There is evidence of real change.  The work repentance literally means ”to change the mind”.  It is a change in our understanding that leads to a change in our behavior.  But what should it look like?  In Luke 3, John the Baptist told the crowds to bear fruits in keeping with repentance.  Whoever had two tunics was to share with those who had none.  Whoever had food was to share with those who had none.   Tax collectors, who often collected more tax than the Romans required, were advised to collect only what was due – to change their work habits.  To the soldiers, John advised contentment with their wages – to stop extorting money by threatening and falsely accusing the populace.  Don’t mistreat people to make more money.   Repentance means change – visible change.    

Let us pray...

Dear God, Help us to truly repent – to make those visible changes in our lives that are pleasing to you.  Amen

Lent 3

Our Cocoon Tree continues to remind us of the need for metamorphosis – the need to change from our old sinful nature, to repent of those things that keep us from living more Christ-like lives.  Real repentance involves a change of heart, for sure.  But it then results in a change in behavior.  Unlike simple behavior modification, change in the life of a believer is enabled by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  And then it is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Change in our lives will not necessarily be linear or large.  In fact, we will often take three steps back for every step forward.  A legitimate struggle against a deeply rooted sin is not over quickly.  Most of the time, we first see only the top layer of our sin manifested in our actions.  As we begin to ask God to show us more, the ugly motivations of our hearts become more obvious.  Layer after layer may be revealed as God lets us see clearly the true extent of the distortion sin has wrecked in our hearts.  For example, we may have thought we were only slightly annoyed at a friend because of a comment he or she made.  Deeper reflection and the pulling back of layers might then reveal months or years of jealousy, envy, or bitterness.  When God really lets us have a good look at the pervasiveness of sin in our hearts it can feel overwhelming.  But God hasn’t left us alone, because the Holy Spirit lives in us, helping us as we continue to work out our repentance.   The fruit of repentance , visible change, will become obvious with the Spirit’s help.  

Let us pray...  

Lord, we know that true repentance is sometimes a hard task.  We pray that you would stir up the Holy Spirit within each of us so that we can all produce the visible fruit of repentance. Amen.

Lent 4

During our Lenten time of self – reflection, it becomes obvious that we all have sinned and fallen short of what God expects of us.  Every one of us has done things, said things, or thought things that are not what God intended for His people.  Repentance then becomes a way for all God’s children to realign their lives and draw close to Him.  The best way to start that conversation and the road to realignment of our lives is through prayer – conversation with God.  If you have never prayed seriously or if your prayer life has fallen on hard times, Lent is a wonderful occasion to restart a daily communication with God.    It seems that we are always on the go – how often do we really make time to be still before the Lord, just sitting in His presence and allowing Him to communicate with us?  The Psalmist says in Ch. 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”.  Do we give the Lord our very best time of day, or do we give Him what’s left over at the end of the day?  Or, do we not make time for Him at all?  Perhaps rethinking this aspect of our faith lives, which is foundational to our relationship with God is in need of a good spring cleaning.   Make an effort to clean out those things that hinder your prayer relationship with God and take a spiritual inventory this week.  

Let us pray...  

Dear Lord, I know that you hear me when I pray.  Help me to use my prayer time to listen for you.  Amen.

Lent 5

The importance of prayer in our Lenten journey cannot be underestimated.  Even though it seems to be such a simple act, it is the most powerful tool we Christians have to communicate with our heavenly Father.  The apostle Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-12 gives us six thing to pray for whether it be our church, our families, friends or ourselves.  It reads:  “And so…we ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."  

First,  Paul speaks of spiritual discernment, verse 9 – Do you want to know God’s will?  Keep a clean heart, spend time in the Word, listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and prayer.  Ask for the ability to determine God’s will for your life over your own personal desires.  Seek council from godly friends who know you and your situation.  Second – v. 10 talks about a worthy walk.  I want to live my life in a way that brings honor to God, not shame.  But there are times when I must choose who I want to please most – my Lord, or others.  Sometimes I can please both, but many times a choice has to be made.  At the end of the day, there’s only one person I need to please- the Lord Jesus Christ.  Third – eternal fruits, v. 10.  This means leading others to Christ, helping others grow toward spiritual maturity, and demonstrating to others a Christ-filled life.  We can’t do this on our own.  John 15 tells us that focusing on Jesus every day is the only way to bear eternal fruit.  Next week, the last 3 things we should pray for.  

Let us pray...

Dear Lord, Help us to stay focused on you today and every day.  Amen.

Lent 6

Our Lenten journey will soon be over.  We have learned the importance of contemplation, repentance and prayer.  Today we focus on the last of Paul’s advice for prayer from Colossians 1:9-12.  His fourth item is to pray for is a deeper relationship with God, v. 10.  As we learn more about God through prayer and study, we learn to trust him even when times are tough.  To know more, we must be hungry to know more.  Alone time spent in thought, study, and prayer will help us to know his attributes.  The fifth is God-given strength – v. 11.  As we walk the path God has set for us, we can draw on his power through the Holy Spirit.  Our own strength will never be enough.  The Holy Spirit lives within each of us, and  is the source of strength that empowers us to do all that God calls us to do and to handle any trials He allows into our lives with steadfastness and patience.  To draw on that strength we have to admit that we need Him.  Do this in your own daily prayers.  Lastly, a thankful heart – v. 12.  Give thanks in all things –  good,  bad, and indifferent though they may be.    Remember all God has done for us in the past helps in developing a thankful heart.  As an exercise, make a list of things, events, people in your life for which you are thankful.  Try to add something new every day.  In summation, prayer is vital to repentance and spiritual growth.  Remember to pray for the ability to know God’s will, for help in living  a Godly life, for help in leading others to Christ, pray for a deeper understanding of God,  for God-given strength, and for a thankful heart.  

Let us pray...

Dear Lord, Help me to grow as a Christian every day through time spent in your word and through prayerful conversations with you.  Amen.

Friends, we hope these Lenten devotions have proved valuable for you.