Can you believe it…this kicks off our final week. Today is Palm Sunday. This day marks the joyous entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As in every other occasion of His earthly time among us, our expectations are turned upside down, and we are surprised by what we wouldn’t expect. It was not a warrior’s stallion that carried Jesus through the gates and over the cloaks and palms strewn across his path, but rather, a lowly, smelly, donkey. This divine reversal was just one of many. And representative of how, even today, Jesus often confounds our expectations.
We have the advantage to look back on history. We know the events that followed Jesus’ triumphal entry. We know that the throngs of people who were cheering, soon changed their tune and began jeering. “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” As you complete your final week of this Lenten Prayer Challenge may you be motivated as you consider the notion that YOU quite likely would have been among those throngs of people shouting for the Messiah’s death! And yet, Jesus pressed on. Jesus completed the will of the Father. He did it for the people shouting for His savage death. He did it for you. And He did it for me.
We have a lot to learn from this Holy Week. May your faithful devotion throughout this lenten prayer challenge fuel your relationship with Jesus forever more.
Have a meaningful Holy Week! Debbie Hucke
If you missed any emails from this past week, they appear below. And as always, hearing how the Lord is impacting you and moving in your circle encourages all of us. You simply go to the very bottom and click the comment tab. Thanks for your participation. God Bless You.
John 9:3 (NIV)
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Ouch. Have you ever come across a scripture that you’ve glossed over a hundred times. And then…on this occasion It hits you. Like a punch to the gut, the revelation strikes hard yet accurately. This would be that verse to me.
I have never blamed myself for Ian’s health challenges. Even though it is the combined DNA of Doug and me that has given that boy his damning congenital condition, I have not entertained the lie that it was my sin or the sin of our family that cursed him. But… I also realize I glossed right over the second part of this verse. … but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
This “so that” phrase suggests purpose, and a high purpose indeed.
Many of you participating in this prayer challenge have followed our journey from the start. I used facebook as my megaphone to ask for prayer dating back to 2015 when Ian faced his second brain surgery. The journey has been long and hard and it’s still not over. But I cannot deny that the works of God have been displayed in Ian. Over and over and over again.
But what caused my reaction on this reading… My son Ian was given a special name. We chose it for our first born very intentionally. Ian is Scottish and means the “the Lord has been gracious”. Ian is also translated as John.
There were two special men named John integral to Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist who came as a witness to give testimony to the light. John 1:7-9. And John the apostle, the disciple who Jesus loved. John 13:23. And also the person talked about in todays verse John 9:3.
Sometimes Gods grace meets us oh so very personally. Just recently the Holy Spirit enabled me to make the connection. Ian is John!
Thank you for the mystery of your Holy word. Thank you for it’s relevancy to me and my life today. Thank you for the precious gift of fresh understanding. Thank you for a glimpse of your magnificent design and the meager role I get to play in it. I am humbled and grateful.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
The book Habakkuk isn’t all that familiar. But as I’ve studied it, I am blown away by how relevant it is to me and my circumstances. Perhaps some of you can relate as well.
The name Habakkuk means to wrestle and to embrace.
And that theme is repeated all throughout the three chapters. Habakkuk gives earnest believers permission to bring their questions to God. Habakkuk struggled to understand God’s plan. But he also had confidence in God’s faithful response. This book of the bible is our opportunity to learn from this forlorn prophet as he pulls back the curtain on his intimate relationship with the Lord.
Do you have questions for God? Have things happened to you or to someone you love that makes no sense? Have you prayed and prayed and prayed and God seems silent? Are you tempted to hunker down to protect yourself not sure you can trust such a God. Habakkuk would respond… Well Hell yes! (Forgive me for my word choice but I think it’s warranted)
Habakkuk ranted to God because he was discouraged by God’s “inaction” in the world. He expected to see God do something. The book of Habakkuk pictures a frustrated prophet. And yet, Habakkuk channeled his frustration into prayers and eventually praise to God. (So thankful that for us, today we have the miraculous help and power of the Holy Spirit to get us there).
In the scripture above… Habakkuk identifies all that is wrong, but then in verse 18 we see his miraculous turn around. YET, I will rejoice in the Lord.
In your journal, personalize this scripture passage. Rant to God about all that is wrong in your eyes about your circle. All He is not doing, All that appears overlooked, wrong, unjust, or confusing. And then…pray the YET… over and over and over. Carry the YET through your day. Pray that the YET phrase moves from being a statement of obedience to one of belief.
Here’s the thing… God can take it! He would rather you wrestle with Him so you can embrace Him.
Dear God, Often I don’t get You. Ian will struggle for the rest of his life. Because of what You allowed to happen to him, he is angry and sad and confused. In fact, as you know, his faith is in crisis. He wants a good God. And he can’t see the good. As his mom, I can’t help but empathize with how he has distanced himself from you. I’m at a loss. I pray and pray and pray and Ian seems to be even farther from you. I can see some good, but it’s not the good I want. I want eternal life for Ian! And yet, I follow Habakkuk’s lead. Yet, I rejoice in you. You sovereign Lord are my strength. Amen
DAY 31 Debbie,
Psalm 37:4 NIV
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
I heard a pastor say once, God wouldn’t take a football player, cut off his legs and make him play the flute. It was a shocking statement but one that I’ve remembered for 30+ years. And his point has stuck with me. It is God’s desire to give us the desires of our heart.
It’s true that God has wired each of us uniquely. He created us with personalities with strengths with weaknesses with quirks and longings. And isn’t it a relief to know that He knows that about us!
I for one KNOW God has a sense of humor. After all he took an ambitious, determined, outspoken, control freak and made her a ministers wife!
I love this promise in Psalm 37:4 But we cannot just focus on his promise without serious consideration of what it means to take delight in the Lord.
To delight in the Lord is to grow in our relationship with Him. As we get to know Him, the closer we become. And gradually things of the Lord will delight and please us. As our desires and pleasures reflect his desires and pleasures, our deepest longings are satisfied.
That harmony that happens when I want what God wants for me, is the key to contentment.
As you pray this promise over your circle, ask God to show you steps you can take to delight in Him. He longs to give you the desires of your heart. But not until your desires would really satisfy.
1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)
7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
When I turned sixteen, my mother gave me a necklace with one real pearl on it. She made a point to tell me that it was a REAL pearl. And, more importantly why I should care.
Do you know how pearls come to be… A perfect pearl is created as a result of pain. A small grain of sand gets inside of an oyster. The sand irritates the lining of the small creature and since there is no way for the oyster to expel it, the oyster learns to endure it. In order to relieve the pain the oyster secretes a substance that coats the grain of sand with a thick white layer. Again and again the oyster strives to relieve its suffering by secreting layer after layer of the substance. But its attempts are in vain. In the process of dealing with its pain, the oyster produces an exquisite pearl.
As far as the oyster is concerned, the pearl represents pain. For us the pearl is a precious reminder of how God can bring profit out of pain.
1 Peter 1:7 says our faith is more precious than mere gold. How do you perfect and strengthen your faith? Like the production of a pearl, faith is refined and purified in the crucible of life, a life that is full of lots of sand, trials, pain and suffering.
Trials are hard. But they don’t have to be bad. Your trial can be the very thing that refines your faith and attracts others to the family of God.
And He’ll keep His promise…. when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor. In other words… and I’ve said it before… IT WILL ALL BE WORTH IT. Amen.
Psalm 139: 7-12
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
You can run, but you cannot hide.
If you’re like me… there are times when, like any naughty child, you wish you could.
During my study abroad year in college, roaming all over Europe, and a young Christian, I lived a long season of rebellion. I cut corners wherever and whenever I could. I rationalized. If I can make my money last, I can stay. I’m not hurting anyone. I took crazy risks. And with each success, I became more brazen. Since my mother reads these devotionals, I’ll stop there. I’m not proud of it, and I live to tell about it. One time I got into BIG trouble. Trouble that comes with life altering consequences. I was out of options. And you know what… I had the audacity to pray. I prayed a foxhole pray. God, remember me? I screwed up big. But if…you get me out of this predicament, I will be better. I promise.
God, in His mercy and grace, rescued my undeserving butt. There is no other reasonable explanation. I got off scot free.
If you look at Psalm 139 as a whole, it provides some amazing perspective.
- In the first section verses 1-6, I can’t escape God’s knowledge of me.
- In the passage above verses 7-12, I can’t escape God’s presence.
- In the final section verses 13-18, I can’t escape God’s power and sovereignty.
How many times do you come to God with this or that request knowing there is a smelly closet that you simply don’t want to deal with right now. As I’ve matured as a Christian, I have found that if I tell it like it is, I save a whole lot of time and anguish.
Here’s the thing… He knows what smells anyway. And that is a bigger issue to Him.
Dear Jesus, I am in awe of You. I admit that sometimes in my shame, I want to hide the truth from you. Forgive me. Thank you for your easy forgiveness. Thank you for this promise in Psalm 139 that reassures me that I can’t escape You. Ever. What a relief to know that truth. Please help me to remember that you care more about ME than my agenda for you. I love you. And I’m amazed and humbled by the extent You love me.
For deeper understanding of this scripture, read this article Happy Birthday to Me
Genesis 16:13 (NIV)
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Yesterday we came to appreciate that we can never hide from God’s presence.
Today, I point out the other extreme. There are times when I wonder where the heck He is? Anyone else?
100 weeks ago, I spoke to God mostly in uncontrollable sobs. Ian was on life support and there was NOTHING anyone could do. My crisis prayers went something like this… God do you see this suffering? Where are you? Seriously God, I cannot take anymore? I am praying non stop. Millions are praying. Do you see this? Do you see me?
Thankfully the body of Christ was ever present. And while I was barely upright physically, my needs were being met, and I endured.
Today’s verse is from the beautiful story in Genesis about Hagar. You can read the entire account in Genesis Ch 16.
She was a nobody. A foreign slave girl to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. The story goes… God promised Abraham many descendants, but after ten years, Sarah, still barren with a ticking biological clock, took matters into her own hands. Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, in accordance with the custom of the day, so that Sarah could have a child through her (Genesis 16:2). In today’s vernacular, Sarah pimped Hagar with her husband to bear her a child. When Hagar conceived, Sarah despised her and treated her harshly. Hagar flees to the desert. Then, Hagar encounters God.
The story climaxes in today’s verse 13 She (Hagar) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” In Hebrew the name she spoke was El Roi.
Hagar’s story is more than the story of a slave and her son. It is a story of God’s care for those who have no earthly hope. Ask El Roi, the God who sees you, to open your eyes to His work and to increase your faith even and especially when His promises seem impossible to fulfill.
Lord, You are the El Roi, the one who sees insignificant me. I praise you for you know the whole story. From beginning to end, You see it all. Forgive me for my demanding spirit. I don’t always see the past accurately, my vision of the present is often blurred, and I am blind when it comes to the future. Help me focus my gaze on You, trusting in Your vision for my life. Help me to NEVER question this truth. You see me. Amen.
To dig deeper, read this article … What Would Jesus See