Lent 2024

April 1

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Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.    - Romans 8:37-39

Pastor Brandon encourages us to celebrate Easter each and every day of our lives and to live with the understanding that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.  But, how?  What does that look like?  Dr. Randy Carlson from Family Life Radio gives us 5 simple ways to do that in this article.  

1.        Remember the gospel daily. Meditate on the truth.  Write it in your heads and hearts.

2.        Die to self.  We must live in a way that is true to the sacrifice that Christ made. Through his death and resurrection, we have forgiveness from sin and shame.  And, we have freedom to live as new creations.

3.        Focus on the eternal. We must not be encumbered by this world, but “fix our eyes on the treasure that is forever ours – eternal life with our Creator.

4.        Celebrate and rejoice. Our future is written in Heaven.  That’s cause for great joy.  Live like it!

5.        Share the good news.  We’re called to the work of making “disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Living like Easter people is a call for renewal and rejoicing.  May those in our midst see what Christ has done for us and what Christ has done and wants to do for them.  God has gifted you uniquely to make an impact for the Kingdom.  If you'd like to check out the spriritual gifts inventory Pastor Brandon mentioned in the video, you can access that here.

Lord, you love us with an everlasting love.  It’s overwhelming to think just how much.  We want to live daily as Easter people. Let us live free and forgiven.  Let us love others extravagantly so that they too can live free and forgiven. Let me use the gifts you've given me to grow your Kingdom. AMEN.

March 25

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“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.  -Acts 2:22-24

We all know sacrifice on some level.  We sacrifice to make ends meet, to serve our country, or maybe to rescue a loved one. But, there’s no comparison to the sacrifice our Lord made.   Nothing compares.

Our Heavenly Father gave his one and only son, freely, to free us from our sin.  When I consider the pain He endured, I weep.  He knowingly did it for me…..He knowingly did it for you.  Jesus was tragically murdered and God allowed it to save me…to save you.  Our freedom from sin isnt’ free.  The price has been paid.  The ransom has been paid.  The sacrifice has been made.  There’s darkness this week.  But, not for long……

It's tragic, but holy.
“My chains are gone….I’ve been set free”.  
(Check out this beautiful worship song here!)

Lord, there are no words to express my gratitude for what you've done for me.  Thank you for sending your son for me.  Thank you for loving me so much.  Amen.

March 18

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“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Colossians 1:25-29

I’ve spent a fair amount of time working with individuals in the field of counseling.  From homeless folks, couples whose marriages are hanging on by a thread, to victims of the worst imaginable things.  I’ve learned that there is one thing that helps the most.  It’s hope.  Without hope, people are stuck in a state of despair that feels like a lonely and never-ending thick fog.  This is a heavy statement but so true……having hope can make the difference between life and death. 

A body of believers, we know that our hope is not our own.  We have the hope of Glory and have Christ in our hearts.  The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us.  He fills us with the hope of all the glorious things to come.  So, when things on this side of death resemble darkness, we know that our hope is not of this world.  We know there is a Kingdom that will come and in all its fullness it’ll knock our socks off.  Perhaps it’s almost too wonderful to imagine.

So, what do we do with that good news? Do we bask in it?  Absolutely!  Do we just sit on it?  No way.  We proclaim.  We teach.  We share. So that every individual will grow toward maturity in Christ.  Paul says in today’s text that this is what He’s working at.  He’s working ALL the time to share that good news with the strength that only God provides.  He was incredibly motivated.  He spent his life sharing that good news.  He labored, but was empowered.

You know, one day that Kingdom will come in all its fullness, and we won’t have to imagine anymore.  When that day comes for me, I want to know that I made a difference for the Kingdom.  I want to shout the good news from the mountain top so that all may know the Hope of Glory in them. That is God’s call on each of our lives wherever we work, live, or play.  We labor for Christ but we do so empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The most incredible thing about Christianity is not that we’re just trying to do our best to live and love like Christ.  That’s certainly key, but it’s way more rewarding than that. It’s that we get to experience eternal life with Jesus here and now, and throughout all eternity.  We don’t want to anybody to miss out on that.

Lord, I confess that I often have too much of this world on my mind and not enough about your purposes here.  Set within me a fire to tell others about your love and hope of glory.  Empower me with your Holy Spirit to go about that in ways that don’t seem possible. Use all that I am and all that I do to bring you glory so that others might know you.  Amen.

March 11

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Philippians 3:18-21

Life can be hard.  So many things feel complicated or knotted up.  It’s not always easy seeing eye to eye with neighbors and sometimes it’s even impossible to make it through the grocery store without having some difficult experience.  There’s plenty of evidence of our broken world with every news headline we see.  And the list goes on and on…..

We can easily get sucked into that brokenness by having harsh feelings, engage in petty arguments or get discouraged by certain circumstances. We often want to escape it all and yell “Beam me up, Scotty!” Interestingly, that’s the answer.  Sorta.

We’ve always thought we couldn’t exist in two places at one time, but I’m here to tell you that you must try!  The key is to set our eyes on Christ and see the world around us through a heavenly lens.  It doesn’t always change our circumstances, but it most certainly changes our perspective.  The challenge is to not get sucked into it all but to see the brokenness differently. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that we should “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

The first half of Colossians has some of my favorite passages.  Here are a few chosen excerpts from the third chapter that are incredibly relevant here.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We are bound to this Earth for now, yet we’re called to be heavenly minded.  May we strive to look through the brokenness with the promise that Christ will make it right again one day.

Our closing prayer is a hymn written by Thomas A. Dorsey.  If you have an extra few minutes, listen to Jill Phillips' version (click here). Let's make this our prayer this week.

Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, let me stand.
I'm tired, I’m weak, I’m lone. Through the storm, through the night.
Lead me on to the light. Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.
When my way grows drear, Precious Lord linger near.
When my light is almost gone. Hear my cry, hear my call.
Hold my hand lest I fall. Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

March 4

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4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And yet I will show you the most excellent way.    1 Corinthians 12: 4-20, 27-31

I love music! While my parents spent plenty of resources so that I could learn the piano, clarinet, and guitar, the only thing it really got me was frustrated that I wasn’t better at it. It wasn’t all for naught because I learned a lot about music in general. I still very much love it.  It’s a major part of my life and a major part of my daily relationship with the Lord.  Music is definitely art.  The different rhythms, tempos, and keys articulate different moods and experiences. The depth of the instruments, sounds, and melodies communicate so specifically.  I’m thankful my parents endured years of my clarinet squeaking coming from the second floor.

Have you ever had the pleasure of attending a middle school band concert?  Most people might consider it a certain form of torture.  Not me. It’s beautiful to see so many young people investing in something so worthwhile.  It’s no lie that I cried at the last band concert I went to for my nephew. I see their efforts and how hard they are working to make something so good.  When everything is jiving just right, you can see that middle school band teacher/conductor start bouncing a bit.  They get excited when the symphony of those young wiling hearts and their offerings come together.  It’s only beautiful when it’s all working together.  Occasionally, you might have the off beat base drum or the ill-timed cymbal.  You might catch an out of tune saxophone or a trumpet that’s a little clogged, stuffy, or spitty.  Those things happen…it’s part of the beauty of it all. It reminds you that it takes every instrument and every musician to make the symphony happen.

We probably all have our favorite instruments (yay for French Horns and Cellos!) but it’s not a symphony without each contributing its unique qualities to the overall effort of creating art. It's no surprise that a symphony is a beautiful analogy for the Body of Christ.  It’s the different parts that make it happen.  What part are you playing in the church?  Look at 1 Corinthians 12:27.  Paul is telling the church at Corinth….Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. In 12:11 he says…. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes *gifts to each one, just as he determines.  Which part was given to you by the Spirit to play?

We must stop thinking about church just as a place to take care of us or a place to experience good music.  If any of us denies playing the part we’ve been given to play then it’s not the symphony that the Lord planned.  It’s time to examine the gifts the Lord has given each of us, exercise that muscle so that it’ll grow, and invest it all into the Body of Christ!  If we all give all that the Lord intended us to give, we would see a revival in our church, in Abbeville, and beyond.  Lord, make it so!

Dear Father, I confess that sometimes I fail to utilize the gifts that you've given me for your Glory.  Lord, I want to be molded by you and used by you to grow your Kingdom.  Your sacrifice and your salvation has changed my life and I want others to know that grace and that mercy.  Help me live out this truth everyday so that others may come to know you.  Amen.

February 26

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But you must realize that so long as an heir is a child, though he is destined to be master of everything, he is, in practice, no different from a servant. He has to obey a guardian or trustee until the time which his father has chosen for him to receive his inheritance. So is it with us: while we were “children” we lived under the authority of basic moral principles. But when the proper time came God sent his son, born of a human mother and born under the jurisdiction of the Law, that he might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God. It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts to cry “Father, dear Father”. You, my brother, are not a servant any longer; you are a son. And, if you are a son, then you are certainly an heir of God through Christ. – Galatians 4:1-7

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  – Colossians 1:9b-12

Jesus invited the children to come to Him. Being child-like has plenty of different connotations for us all.  I’d like for us to consider that approaching Jesus with child-like faith is really about trusting Him.  Children are fully dependent on the caring adults in their lives for sustenance, safety, and direction.  Having trust in our Heavenly Father in that way is the core of who we are as believers or Children of God.   But, that’s not the end of the story.  Just like most of us fly from the nest of our parent’s homes, we also must grow as believers.  It’s that place of knowing who we belong to that allows us to explore and grow beyond that nest of comfort.  So it is with our relationship with the Lord.

While we are sons and daughters, we certainly can’t be child-ish.  Well, I suppose we can and sometimes we do…. but we shouldn’t!  We can’t refuse to “grow up”.   We’re called to growth. In what area of your Christian walk do you need to “grow up”?

We must actively choose to be maturing believers.  But, what does that mean exactly?

A mature believer wants to be with God, dives into God’s Word, listens for God’s voice, and obeys it.  I think a mature believer is transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  You’ve heard of the Fruits of the Spirit? That’s the outward visible signs of living a life with Christ.  A mature believer perseveres with great hope and shares of God’s goodness. All of these things are a choice.  It’s the process of coming to understand ourselves and live as heirs of the Kingdom.

Dear Father, I can be pretty child-ish at times.  I sometimes refuse to grow up and want to nestle into a zone of safety.  But, Lord I know that you have called me to greater things.  Both to do things in this world for you but also to experience the life that you offer with great abundance.  Lord I want to live as your child and as a heir to your Kingdom.  Thank you for sending your son to make possible. May I devote my nights and days to growing in relationship with you.  Amen.

February 19

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The Word:
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians: 1:2-3

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  – Romans 5:1

Lent.  It is a season of tension. Tension is the condition of being stretched or pulled taunt. There is great tension between what our nature is- SINFUL- and who we are called to be- CHILDREN OF GOD. In this Christian life, first we have to accept that we are sinners.  It’s in our DNA.  Paul said it perfectly in Romans 7:15.
I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do I do not do,
but what I hate I do.

Take a pause here and think about the sin that you’re prone to….

I’m so grateful that our sin is not the end of the story.  Jesus loves us too much to leave us like that. While our DNA is what it is, we are also forgiven.  We are washed clean and our transgressions are blotted out. We are made white as snow through the blood of Jesus.  That’s also our identity. That, my friends, is the tension of lent.  It’s hard, but it’s also beautiful. We turn away from sin, and we live like Children of God.  We remain sinners as we fight against temptation.  Yet, we have received the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus.  Sinner, but saint.

My high school principal was a fantastic man. He would always say, “Remember who you are and whose you are.”  He would remind us during morning announcements, when we were headed off to a conference, or simply after chatting with him in the hallway.  That reminder made an impact on me personally and on the culture of our school.

We’re chosen and claimed. We’ve been bought with a high price, and we belong to the Lord.  We're sinners, but we're saints. Living like Children of God means that our mindset is one of grace. We aren’t caught up in the past.  We are living in relationship with Jesus, and we allow Him to influence our behavior.  We learn what pleases Him and what hurts Him, and then we act accordingly because we love Him!  And if we’re doing that right, it spills out into those around us.  We’re both sinners and saints.  Remember who you are and whose you are!

Lord, I love you.  I know that you love me deeply. I also know that I don’t always believe it or act like it.  But, I want to.  I want to please you. I want to make you known with all that I have and all that I am.  Lord, mold me to be more like you.  Make the things that you’re about the things that get my attention.  I boast, Lord, in the hope of YOUR glory.   Amen. 

February 13

Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) that begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to Easter Sunday.  It's traditionally a time of reflection of who we are as children of God and what the Lord has done for us.  

Join us during this season of Lent as we bring you a short video and written devotional each Monday morning. We encourage you to send your thoughts, questions, and dialogue to mainstreetumcabbeville@gmail.com.