March 2020

Sunday 1st February, 2020:   Lent 1:  Matthew 4: 1-11

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.  The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.” “Away from Me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him.

This report of Jesus being tempted whilst he was living wild in the wilderness must surely give us all such hope.  That he himself was actually tempted at all seems amazing – but shows just how human he was.  He managed to resist and turn away from what must have been, for him, an easy solution for his life – but it wasn’t part of God’s plan.  We too are tempted throughout our life to do things which sometimes seem unimportant or trivial – yet deep down we know they are not right.  If we give in once, unfortunately it is so easy to be tempted to do the same thing again – and again.

Yet Jesus knows and understands this; he is there to help us if we ask him – to stand beside us day or night and encourage us to make the right decision.  Are you facing anything at the moment which you know is not part of God’s plan for your life? Ask him to give you courage to say no and move forward in his strength.

 

Sunday 8th March:  Lent 2: John 3: 1-17

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. ……….  No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee – a teacher of the Jews, and therefore someone who was expected to know the law and the rules.  Yet here he is going to see this man who is preaching and teaching without any qualifications, but who seems to be drawing in the crowds.  He wanted answers – and Jesus took time to try and explain to him.  Rules and laws are fine, but God’s way and plan for our lives involves our giving him our heart and mind – not just following a certain pattern of life which in itself may sound good – going to church, giving to charity, giving up something for Lent – but more importantly letting God into every part of our life and being aware of his guiding hand leading us where he wants us to go.

Are you listening to God’s gentle words of guidance in your life?  Are you letting him refresh you, encourage you, challenge you? – knowing that you are chosen by him and loved by him at all times?

 

Sunday 15th March: Lent 3: John 4 ; 5-30 & 39-42

So He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Since Jacob’s well was there, Jesus, weary from His journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) “You are a Jew,” said the woman. “How can You ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman replied, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then will You get this living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said to her, “You are correct to say that you have no husband. In fact, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. You have spoken truthfully.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I see that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where one must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” Jesus answered, “I who speak to you am He.” Just then, His disciples returned and were surprised that He was speaking with a woman. But no one asked Him, “What do You want from her?” or “Why are You talking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar, went back into the town, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” So they left the town and made their way toward Jesus. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days. And many more believed because of His message. They said to the woman, “We now believe not only because of your words; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man truly is the Saviour of the world.”

Jesus was prepared to go against convention and speak to a non-Jew, a woman who had come when she knew it would be quiet to draw water from the well.  Her lifestyle was condemned amongst her neighbours and she didn’t want to face their taunts – yet here was a stranger, a Jew, asking her for a drink of water.   He knew all about her it seemed and yet still was prepared to speak to her and spend time answering her questions.  And deep down she knew he was someone really special – and wanted to share this incredible news with other people – those who had pointed a finger at her and made her feel unwelcome.

Jesus knows us too – every part of us and all we think and do.  He knows when we are afraid, when we are grieving, when we are happy – and wants to be part of it all.  What an amazing thing to know – so let us all try and share this wonderful news with our friends, our family – those we meet, those we work with.  It’s too good to keep to ourselves.  Jesus’s love is for every single one of us.  Can you try and share this with someone today, or this week?

 

Sunday 22nd March: Lent 4: John 9 1-7 & 39-41

 Now as Jesus was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth, and His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God would be displayed in him. While it is daytime, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When Jesus had said this, He spit on the ground, made some mud, and applied it to the man’s eyes. Then He told him, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came back seeing.  …………..  Then Jesus declared, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they asked Him, “Are we blind too?”  “If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

The Pharisees, bound by the law and their own rules, believed that various illnesses or diseases were the result of someone having sinned – which Jesus said was totally wrong.  He came into the world to help people, and in this context he healed the blind man so that he could see – but at the same time, he pointed out that, spiritually, the Pharisees were blind as they could not see and believe in the truth – the truth that Jesus was God’s son and had come into the world to save people and help them. 

Are we sometimes blind to the very truth on which we base our own faith?  Do we sometimes conveniently ‘forget’ or disown what we know is the truth to suit our own purposes?  Compromise is sometimes only too easy – but we are called to stand firm in our faith, even when it seems difficult, and other people are trying to persuade us we are wrong.  Jesus still comes to heal spiritual blindness – may we all pray for enlightenment where and when this is needed.

 

Sunday 29th March:  Passion Sunday:  John 11: 1-4, 5-15, 38-44

At this time a man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (Mary, whose brother Lazarus was sick, was to anoint the Lord with perfume and wipe His feet with her hair.)  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.”  When Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” ……….  After He had said this, He told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will get better.” They thought that Jesus was talking about actual sleep, but He was speaking about the death of Lazarus.  So Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” ………  Jesus, once again deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” Jesus said. “Lord, by now he stinks,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man. “It has already been four days.”  Jesus replied, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted His eyes upward and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I say this for the benefit of the people standing here, so they may believe that You sent Me.” After Jesus had said this, He called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The man who had been dead came out with his hands and feet bound in strips of linen, and his face wrapped in a cloth.  “Unwrap him and let him go,” Jesus told them.

Jesus was asked to go and save his friend Lazarus, who was dying, yet he remained where he was and Lazarus died.  He then went to where Lazarus had been buried and, incredibly, raised him to life again.  So much easier to have healed him when he was ill – but even more amazing that he waited, testing the faith of the family and believers, until the time was right, and he brought Lazarus back from the dead.

We always want things to happen now – in our present time – and in the way we can understand.  Yet God works in his own time and to his own agenda, not to ours.  Sometimes we can only wait in absolute faith in his love and concern for all his children – but he will wait with us, and give us the strength to continue until the time is right, though our prayers can be answered in different ways.   Are you praying for someone or something now and finding the waiting for answers difficult?  God is there beside you throughout if you lean on his strength.




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