Lenten Devotional for Friday, March 27

Psalm 130, Ezekiel 33:10-16, Revelation 11:15-19

Growing up, I always had a transactional view of God. To my high school self, God was just interested in my behavior and as long as I didn’t cuss, steal, or kill anyone, I was good. And if I was good, God would give me things that I wanted. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a faulty way of thinking and believing in God. Verse 3 in Psalm 130 says that if God kept a record of our sins no one has a leg to stand on. Even if we are perfect, or “righteous” as Ezekiel says, if we disobey one time (Ezekiel 33:12) our previous perfection counts for nothing. We cannot stand on our righteousness in the presence of God.

Deep down each of us know that. We know that we are broken. Either we fail to measure up or we realize that we are frail people that need help.

But there is hope.

Notice how Psalm 130:3 states that no one is righteous. The psalmist says that “if” God kept a record of everyone’s sins no one could stand, implying that he doesn’t do that. And verse 4 speaks to the true nature of the holy God of the universe: “But with you there is forgiveness”. Sometimes my transactional view of God creeps in and tells me that I don’t need forgiveness. The lie tells me that I need more of God’s blessings. But my hope is not in the gifts that God gives me, my hope is with the unfailing love and redemption that God provides (Psalm 130:7-8).

I also love the way this psalm expects God to redeem and provide mercy. It’s like the writer has seen it before; like the writer has cried out to God previously and seen Him answer. The psalmist is willing to wait because he knows mercy and redemption is coming and it is worth it.

Today’s verses in Ezekiel speak of life and death. No one can have life without repentance, which isn’t an elimination of sin. Repentance is what Ezekiel 33:11 says twice: to turn! It says to turn from your evil ways. The first followers of Jesus were called followers of the Way. They followed the way of Jesus, the way He did life: sacrificed for others, loved the marginalized and privileged alike, and led with kindness, passion, and gentleness. The first Christians turned from an evil way of life to follow the Jesus way of life. And that’s our call now: to step into the life Jesus offers through the forgiveness of a holy, loving, and awesome God.

Ryan Neises, Coordinator of Academic Services and Sports Ministry

Athletics

 

Lenten Devotional for Thursday, March 26

Psalm 130, Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:8-3:3, Revelation 10:1-11

In Psalm 130, the Psalmist pens a beautiful prayer full of longing for God to answer him and the hope of believing that his prayers are already being answered. He tells all of Israel to put their “hope in the Lord” because “with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all of their sins” (vs. 7b-8). They did not know at the time when God would redeem them or how He would do it, but through prophets and Scripture Israel knew God would come.

Fast-forward to Ezekiel 36. The Israelites have been overtaken, destroyed and plumaged multiple times. They are losing hope that there is a God at all, much less the type of God who would come to them and rescue them. But verses 9 and 10 offer a new hope to the people. God says to His people, “I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor… the ruins will be rebuilt.” God sees and knows His people. He never forgets His promises to them. He gives them timely words of encouragement in their moments of despair because He knew they needed it. He continually springs us hope.

Move to Luke 24:44. The disciples’ Teacher has just been murdered in an unthinkable way. Many of them abandoned Him and went into hiding after His death. They had what they thought was an unshakeable hope, but now it was all over so quickly. How could something so true be snuffed out so fast? How could they dare to have hope in anything ever again? And that’s where our Hope comes in again. Jesus has just raised from the dead and shows Himself alive to His disciples. Jesus tells them that everything that has happened to Him is to fulfill Scriptures written long ago that they knew but just needed the reminder.

He is a God Who Himself made the way for us to be redeemed. He cares greatly for us and sees each of our needs, looking on us with favor. He offers hope in every situation. So now let us continue to pray Psalm 130 knowing that our great Hope has come for us and will come again to bring us to Himself.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I put my hope in the Lord for with Him is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.

Ashleigh Martin Neu

Belmont Alumna Class of 2018

Lenten Devotional for Wednesday, March 25

Psalm 146, Isaiah 60:17-22, Matthew 9:27-34

One of the common themes in today’s verses is that of provision. The psalmist praises God for His provision of life, His care for the needy, and his justice for the oppressed. The prophet reminds Israel that God will provide for their nation’s prosperity and security, remembering His covenant as they return from exile. And the apostle describes Jesus’s compassionate restoration of health for two blind beggars and a demon-possessed man.

It is worth noting that each of these readings tie together three phases of time – past, present, and future. The psalmist recognizes God’s creative act in the beginning, worships Him for his present acts of love and mercy, and praises Him for His eternal reign. In the midst of the challenge of rebuilding a nation, the prophet reminds the Israelites that although past sins and rebellion caused their downfall, God has forgiven them, restored them, and has plans for prosperity in their future. The apostle’s narrative demonstrates what happens when the eternal God from creation steps into the present and engages with humanity in ways that foreshadow our glorious hope in His eternal presence.

Later in the book of Matthew, Jesus provides us a permanent reminder of the majestic arc of God’s redemptive plan – past, present, and future – through the act of communion (Matthew 26:26-29). As He breaks the bread and takes the cup, He identifies his broken body and spilled blood as the ultimate sacrifice, the provision for their salvation. He then tells the apostles to eat and drink (present), remembering that these elements represent His covenant and forgiveness of sins (past), and that He will not partake again until the return of a renewed kingdom (future).

During today’s meditation, let us look at our own life, our own story, our own past, present, and future. Like the psalmist, let us praise God for the provision of life, His mercy, justice, and compassion. Like the prophet, let us encourage ourselves and one another to lift our eyes from current circumstances and cast our hope on the Lord and his design for our lives. And, like the apostle, let us marvel at the cross, Jesus’s final and permanent provision of victory of life over death, our everlasting hope, and our eternal destiny

Jeremy Lane, Director of the School of Music

College of Music & Performing Arts

Lenten Devotional for Tuesday, March 24

Psalm 146, Isaiah 42:14-21, Colossians 1:9-14

Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer. Apart from Him, we are all slaves and prisoners of sin and death. But His loving sacrifice changes everything. In Him we are saved. In Him we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14).

Our spiritual wisdom and understanding enable us to “live a life worthy of the Lord” and to “please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work” (v. 10), growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened, and giving thanks. We are blessed with endurance, patience, and joyful thanks because our God has included us – qualified us — in “the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (v. 12). We are qualified only through God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

We are rescued from dark despair, ignorance, and hopelessness; we are brought into the kingdom of the beloved Son of God. We are forgiven. We are redeemed. Our heart is set on God and on things above. We can devote our mind, soul, will, and life to God. His grace is in our hearts; to His people He gives strength and power “according to his glorious might” (v. 11).

These verses address our past, our present, and our future. In Christ we are released from our guilt, we experience His rich blessings, and we look toward our heavenly inheritance of eternal life.

Bonnie Riechert, Chair and Associate Professor

Department of Public Relations, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

 

Lenten Devotional for Monday, March 23

Psalm 146, Isaiah 59:9-19, Acts 9:1-20

Another child separated from her parents at the border.

“We wait for justice, but there is none”

Another blatant lie and cover up by those in power.

“Truth stumbles in the public square”

Another mass shooting. Another hate crime. Another political scandal.

“We look for light, but all is darkness”

These words from Isaiah ring just as true today as they did when they were written 2,500 years ago. It seems we are just as likely to discover Neverland or Atlantis as we are to live in a society where truth and justice matter.

These words of Isaiah, coupled with the passage in the Psalms, prompts us to consider two things. First, we are challenged to consider the ways in which we perpetuate injustice. We may not actively do the injustice, but many of us directly benefit from the fruits of injustice and oppression. We benefit from economic structures that perpetuate income inequality. We buy products manufactured in ways that destroy the earth and dehumanize our brothers and sisters across the globe. These passages call us to recognize that we stand idly by when truth stumbles in the public square. They call us to recognize that our “transgressions before [God] are many and our sins testify against us.” As people of God we are called to pursue justice, speak truth, and let the light of Christ shine through us, yet too often we fail.

Secondly, these passages remind us where justice comes from, where to place our hope. Too often, when we witness injustice we turn to those in power. We place our hope in a political party or an individual to fix society’s woes. The Psalmist reminds us not to put our hope in our fellow humans. Rather we are prompted to place our hope in the God who took on flesh and became human. The God who was born into a poor family, regularly hung out with the outcasts of society, and was unjustly murdered by those in power.

As Christians we worship a God who identifies with the oppressed, with those who are most impacted by injustice. We are called to repent and turn away from the ways we practice injustice and turn toward God. And in doing so we find our only hope of living in communities marked by justice, truth, righteousness, and love.

Josh TenHaken-Riedel, Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation

University Ministries

 

Lenten Devotional for Sunday, March 22

I Samuel 16:1-13, Psalms 23, Ephesians 5: 8-14, John 9:1-41

Perspective. We all have a viewpoint in how we handle situations that face us in our daily walk. Sadly, my perspective is not always what it needs to be. I regret to admit that my sinful nature gets in the way and my selfish desires will taint my perspective if I am not focused on allowing the Holy Spirit to continually direct my thoughts and actions.

God’s word constantly reminds us how to view the world from God’s broader context. Consider Samuel, appointed by God to anoint Israel’s next king when he traveled to the house of Jesse. Samuel saw the first seven sons and thought Eliab and perhaps some of the others would be whom God would choose; however, that was not the plan. God reminded Samuel that He was looking at the heart and not the outwardly appearance of what man may see (I Samuel 16:7). We are also reminded of when Jesus healed the blind man in John 9 and the perspective of the Pharisees was one of disbelief because the healing took place on the Sabbath. While they knew much about the law, did they really know God’s perspective? How easy it is to lose the right perspective when we focus only on a set of rules and not the entire spiritual perspective of a situation.

The great promise of scripture is that God wants to direct our paths in His ways (Psalm 23:3) and for us to walk in His perfect light. My prayer is to try and understand life’s situations and issues from God’s perspective and to lean on Him and not my own understanding. His word is clear that he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I pray that our focus will be on loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength in order to love our neighbor in the way the God intends for us to do. As we keep our eyes upon him, our path has the ultimate light and direction.

David F. Gregory, Dean

College of Pharmacy

 

Lenten Devotional for Saturday, March 21

Psalm 23, 1 Samuel 15:32-34, John 1:1-9

Have you ever seen the night sky in a rural area and noticed the incredible difference between the visible stars there and the visible stars in a more urban area? The difference is like night and day. Having grown up in a suburban area and living in Nashville, looking at the night sky does not often include a wide array of visible stars for me, but I have memories of going camping and glancing upwards to bright, marvelous displays. The stars are perhaps our most powerful and accessible metaphor for understanding the relationship between darkness and light.

Within today’s passages, there is a power struggle between darkness and light. The psalmist and the writers of the Gospel of John recognize darkness, and yet the existence of light to banish it at the same time. In other words, the promise given in these passages is not for a complete lack of darkness; the promise is for the presence of light in the midst of the darkness. In Psalm 23, “the goodness and love” of God “follow” the psalmist even when they “walk through the darkest valley.” In the first chapter of John, the coming presence of Jesus is equated with the coming of “the true light that gives light to everyone.” In these words there is a comfort in knowing God’s presence is found even in the darkest places and moments of our lives.

It is not difficult to recognize the presence of darkness in our lives. It often seems much more difficult to recognize the presence of God’s light in our experiences of darkness. At times, we feel more like the night sky in the city with dull, isolated sparks of light glowing across a pale sky. However, the Scripture promises us a rich and luminous night sky in God’s presence to guide us along through our most hopeless and painful journeys.

This spring, as you find yourself in moments of thick darkness, cling to the hope given to us in faith: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Hannah Rae Melis

Religion and the Arts Major, Class of 2021

 

 

Lenten Devotional for Friday, March 20

Psalms 23, 1 Samuel 15: 22-31, Ephesians 5:1-9

Psalms 23: verse 1 translated in the English Standard Version (ESV) states “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”. If I can begin to truly grasp and stand on that one verse, I could live the most beautiful, love filled and stress free life ever. Here is the problem: I’m still human. While reading and studying 1 Samuel 15:22-31, verse 22 really spoke into my spirit. It states ‘And Samuel said, ‘has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?’ Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams”. The rest of the passage goes on to talk about how King Saul sinned and turned away from listening and obeying the word of God, and because of fear started obeying the voice of the people. Ephesians 5: 1-9 simply confirms the writings from 1 Samuel. The one thing that I try to firmly stand on is this; before I make any attempt to speak into someone else’s life I conduct an honest assessment of my own life. I can go back almost twenty-two years ago, when I truly gave my life to Christ, and see clearly the times when I fail to listen and obey the word of God. I let outside influences rule over my life without even being aware it was happening. I gave into the fear of what people would think about me; if obeying the word of God would make me seem self-righteous. As we grow in Christ, and our relationship strengthens, we become the benefactors of God’s redeeming love, grace and mercy.

Going forward into 2020, let us conduct self-assessments of our current lives; pondering two very serious questions. First, and this is a question that I think we lose track of when reading and studying this passage, are we really listening to the word of God? When I facilitate discussions in a group setting I use ground rules to make for a fair, open and honest conversation. One rule is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Simply explained, often times when someone is speaking to us, we’re not really listening because we are too busy forming thoughts to respond. Are we treating God that way when He’s speaking to us? Are we too busy forming thoughts of all the reasons we can’t or won’t hear Him? Secondly, do we have a problem obeying the word of God out of fear, of what not only people in general, but our family and friends think as well. I mentioned earlier the redeeming love, grace and mercies of Christ. Many years ago I too fell short of listening and obeying, but being a benefactor, I too have been redeemed by God’s love, grace and mercy. So if that day for you needs to be today, to start being the benefactor of God’s love, grace and mercy, rest assured God is ready, willing and able to do all things.

Gary B. Hunter Sr.

Telecommunications Manager

Lenten Devotional for Thursday, March 19

Psalm 23, 1 Samuel 15:10-21, Ephesians 4:25-32

Growing up the daughter of a Baptist minister, I remember attending church what seemed like every day.  To be honest, during my childhood I often found myself complaining about always having to be there.  As I got older, I gained a deeper understanding as to why cultivating my spiritual life was so important.  My parents were preparing me to stand boldly on my faith, walk with conviction, and to listen and obey the voice of God.

The same way it seems children have problems obeying their parents, we have problems obeying God in some of the simplest ways.  In 1 Samuel 15:10-21, King Saul was given a clear and direct command.  Yet, he took matters into his own hands, and chose not to fully obey. – Partial obedience is still disobedience.  God does not set us up for failure, He creates teachable moments.  When we are faced with a decision to obey God, remember we can trust He knows what is best for us.  He gives us strength to submit to His will, and He will bless us in ways we cannot imagine.

Life is best lived when we focus on the Savior.  Where do you place your focus when life challenges you?  Who do you run to for comfort?  Psalm 23 reminds us that everything we need is found in Jesus.  He is our comforter and protector.  When you are walking through a valley – you have more bills than money, you have an illness that is wearing you down, or you are struggling in your relationships with others, remember this: Stay in His presence and keep your eyes fixed on our good shepherd, He will lead you safely through.

This Lenten season, I invite you to take off those things that hinder your Christian walk. “Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.   Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25-32)  Be obedient to God in small things and big things.  Fix your eyes on Jesus when the seasons of your life change.  Position yourself to be blessed, and watch God move!

Cosonya Stephens, University Budget Analyst

Office of Finance & Accounting

 

Lenten Devotional for Wednesday, March 18

Psalm 81, Jeremiah 2:4-13, John 7:14-31, 37-39

A couple of my friends throw pottery (in the creative, rather than destructive, sense).  Imagine their joy at seeing someone use a pitcher they made to carry water and pour it out where most needed.

But what if they look up at the dump and find their pitcher amongst the other rubbish—a pitcher that was carefully and lovingly made, that was beautiful and useful, and should still be so?  Imagine their hope-tinged pain as they picked it up, wanting to take it home and mend it.  And once they have, the joy of hope repaid.

But what if the pitcher chose to be broken?  If, instead of the pleasure of fulfilling its purpose, it gave up its purpose and decided to be useless?

Alexis de Tocqueville talks about the informal social institutions Americans had, institutions which developed the “habits of heart and mind” that “fit us to be free.”  When we limit ourselves appropriately, then we no longer require outside restraint.  It is the difference (or should be) between a child and an adult.  A child cannot usually be trusted to restrain their desires—to have vegetables rather than cake for dinner.  An adult should be able to make that choice (or at least, that’s what my mom keeps telling me.)  We have certainly lost many of those habits of heart and mind, ones that let us accept limitations on our self to leave some scope for others—and we see the results.  Democracy is not something we have, but something we do, choices we make.

Likewise, a Christmas carol asks Jesus to “bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.”  Our belief is not a trophy or a plaudit, something hung on a wall and dusted, but a seed planted by our Creator, one meant to reshape our habits of heart and mind, and thus our actions—to fit us for heaven, by making us more resemble its King and our Father.  We can choose to let Him mend us, let Him fill us, and serve His purpose.  But it’s a choice we have to get in the habit of making, in heart and mind.

Nathan Griffin, Associate Professor

Political Science Department, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences