Seventeenth Day of Lent

Acts 12

Acts 12 invites us into Lenten preparations by reshaping our expectations for justice. The story questions who is king, and it seems to be Herod (at least it appears so when we begin). Herod is a violent man; his sword slays James, and soon hovers over the head of the imprisoned Peter: But Passover pardons Peter’s life for a moment as the city gathers to recall when God delivered Israel from Egypt. With Passover in the background, we ask again: Will this captivity also be met with deliverance? The Kingdom of God itself seems to quake under Herod’s gaze. Where is the deliverance that Jesus won? Like Moses before, all Jesus seems to have done is make Peter and the Church a “stink” to Herod. In a world where domination appears to be the rule and death awaits even the faithful, why bother taking up your cross and following Jesus? What kind of king leaves his people to suffer injustice at the hands of earthly tyrants?

But the ground beneath earthly thrones has grown unsteady. Such a seismic shift can be unseen like an underwater earthquake, but its effects are rising to the surface. Unaware of the new power arising, Herod, “royal robes” and all, takes his throne with “the voice of a god”. Here is a king offering bread and safety and power if only the people bow. What kind of people wouldn’t take up such an offer?

Maybe this is the question that eats away at Peter’s mind in jail, and ours as we try to follow Jesus? How much easier is it to trust the bread offered right now? To bow to Herods and Pharaohs than to follow Jesus into the desert and the cross? As Jesus sets his face to the cross, we are invited during Lent to ask if we’ll trust this King and his  unorthodox warfare. He shall triumph but not by worldly means or tyranny. He will call us to fight by the same means and to trust that graves and cells are not places of his  absence. Remember how he wins at the cross; remember what he does in the grave. The ground beneath earthly thrones is unsteady for Christ has breathed in the heart of the earth and the dirt heaves with him.

So take heart, resurrection took time; Jesus will not abandon you; he is not that kind of king.

Jesse Kane and Jordan Constantine
Edmonton, AB

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Sixteenth Day of Lent

Acts 11

When he arrived (Barnabas) and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:24-25

This is such an exciting time for the Church. “Church” is a brand new concept. This is the first time the word “Christian” is being used to describe  disciples. We see two significant purposes happening together in the early church. The first is that in verse 24 we see that an extraordinary number of people were brought to the Lord. We see evangelism happening, not just one or two people, but a high number. The first Christians were not holding back from sharing their faith. They were going out boldly proclaiming the Word of God. They were not sitting back waiting for someone else better gifted in that area to share the Word with others. It challenges me to evaluate myself and my own thinking; am I evangelizing? Am I going out into the world and intentionally sharing who Christ is and what he has done for me? We are called to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Good News) to all creation (Mark 16:15).

A second purpose we see happening in the Church is discipleship. Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, teaching great numbers of people. They were making sure the new Christians knew the truth about Jesus and his ministry. The new Christians were being spiritually fed. Many of us are deeply involved in ministry. We pour our hearts and time into others routinely. We need to remember that we need discipleship too. We need to meet regularly with other Christians, be in the Word, study and discuss the Word and be also fed. This short chapter reminds us that a healthy church needs both evangelism and discipleship.

Jocelyn Beehler
Durban, MB

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Fifteenth Day of Lent

Acts 10:34-48

Being a missionary, at my first glance, I felt was being thrown a softball to knock out of the park with this passage being chosen for me. At this divine appointment in the home of Cornelius, Peter declares that “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). Duh! We all know that; it’s my job to know and live that truth. We learned that in Missions 101.

However, in the spirit of Lent and in this season we are gifted to refine our character in Christ further, let’s examine how God favours us. Sure, many of us may have it all squared away in terms of knowing that the Good News is for all people. Nevertheless, what is your growing edge regarding where you have drawn a line in the sand with others? Does God favour you against those whom you are currently battling? This could be a battle within the church, outside of the church, in your neighbourhood, city or town, in politics, in your fight for whatever you are fighting. It could even be a fight within your own family.

Let’s consider that God is the one who determines who fears him and does what is right. In times of conflict, it is easy to claim God’s desire and will for your side of the fight but let’s take Peter’s reminder that we should allow God to work that out. Possibly we can follow Peter’s example and be willing to even dine with a Gentile.

In addition to God favouring all of those who fear him, he also does not deny the Holy Spirit from anyone who accepts him. It doesn’t matter if one is Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, the Holy Spirit is a gift for all people. As we read through Acts together, we see just how dependent the early believers were on the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit empowers us to do the mission as Jesus tells us in the Great Commission. In this season of Lent, we also know that Holy Spirit convicts and refines. He has the power to do that if we let him.

How is the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sins and refining you further into his image today?

Joel Delp
Ministry Partner, Ecuador

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Fourteenth Day of Lent

Acts 10:1-33

There are a lot of things going on in the amazing story of Peter and Cornelius - the Holy Spirit unmistakably removing barriers in order for more people to know Jesus and real salvation, angels delivering messages, obedience amidst questioning, and a vision that includes edible reptiles.

What stood out most to me was how Cornelius, the centurion, caught the attention of God because he was essentially walking integrity; a very good, open-handed, God-worshipping person with a positive influence on family and friends. The passage mentions Cornelius earning this special attention a few times, and leads me to wonder what God might notice about our lives. What may stand out about the way we spend our time and resources (or not), and what eye-catching threads run through our relationships and life of faith? How do we respond to opportunities to open our homes and communities to love neighbours as ourselves or receive gifts that could appear unusual at first? Peter and Cornelius both seem to step outside their comfort zones or typical habits to follow God’s leading, and the world was never the same.

Henri Nouwen is one of my favourite writers. In a book he co-authored, it says, "One of the most powerful experiences in a life of compassion is the expansion of our hearts into a world-embracing space of healing from which no one is excluded."* God’s redeeming love is a gift for all - the people close to us, those who seem to have it all together as much as those who clearly don’t, those who seem “weird” or may even be enemies, and the countless we’ll never meet. John 3:16 is a well-known verse for a reason. It is exciting to read Acts and see some of how God’s plans play out. I hope we all grow in compassion and service to those near and far as we trust and obey Jesus far more than our assumptions about what or who is “in” or “out”.

Back to Cornelius briefly. God didn’t leave him alone with his impressive morality or refined practices since these good things didn’t eliminate his need for a Saviour. When Peter came to meet the centurion, Cornelius acknowledged that they were in God’s presence. Read on in Acts 10 to find out what happens next. God’s hand and the Holy Spirit were the forces behind the Gospel of the risen Jesus coming to all people then, and as we come up to Easter may you sense God’s saving grace in your world, too.

 *Nouwen, Henri J.M., Donald P. McNeill, Douglas A. Morrison: Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life. (Random House Canada, 2006), 107.

Allison Friesen
Winnipeg, MB

 

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Thirteenth Day of Lent

Acts 9

God used the apostle Paul in such amazing ways that sometimes we forget that he once was a man named Saul, who persecuted those who followed Jesus. Paul’s story didn’t start with him testifying for Jesus, but thousands of years later, we are still reading about his conversion because his story is part of God’s greater story.

Until I started diving into this text again, I realized I had since forgotten what it was like to be a new Christian. Forgotten that at one point, I too was spiritually blind and needed a powerful encounter with Jesus himself to finally open my eyes to see the Truth. How stubborn is my soul and how hardened is my heart that nothing else and no one else but Jesus could change me.

It was only when God spoke to Saul, and he responded, that his life began to make a drastic change. In one moment, God spoke, and Saul became vulnerable probably for the first time in a long time. Without sight, he had to listen and learn to rely on those around him. He might have been physically blind, but spiritually, God’s Word had opened his eyes to live by faith and to trust in him.

Sometimes we undermine our own stories or think we don’t really have one because our journeys look nothing like Paul’s. But there’s no comparison because like Paul, we were all our own versions of Saul at some point: sinners and spiritually blinded to the Truth. Regardless of how long it has been since our first encounter with Jesus, the reality is that each day we are in need of the Living Word to speak into us and realign us with the heart of God and the trajectory of his kingdom. We are not defined by our past, but surely it’s important to remember because every time we do, it reminds us that we fit into God’s greater story of salvation that still continues.

In the words of our brother John Newton, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.” This Lenten season, let us look back at the cross as the pinnacle of all our stories alike because it is Jesus that has saved us and it is Jesus who lives in us.

Jaisy Tam-Harbridge
Toronto, ON

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Twelfth Day of Lent

Acts 8:26-40

The words “never say never” ring truer the older I become. Growing up I had heard  stories of people saying they would never go there or never do this. But God, with his unfailing sense of humour, sent them to that place or called them to the thing they were refusing ever to try. And we have all heard the story of Jonah enough times to know that saying never to God rarely turns out the way we want.

Philip, on the other hand, didn’t say no to God when he was called to travel the road to Gaza. I’m sure he may have questioned or hesitated (or at least I would have) before travelling a road with no destination in mind. But instead of succumbing to doubt and skepticism, he departed. Philip crossed paths with an Ethiopian treasurer, and the Holy Spirit told him to approach the man. Philip, disregarding the possibility of embarrassment, eagerly made his way over to the Ethiopian; a decision that changed the treasurer’s life forever.

Philip’s obedience is a characteristic of which we should surely take note. His desire to love God, to love people, and to further the kingdom is a passion that should still be embodied today. Just as Philip was called to approach a foreigner, a gentile, a high-ranking servant of a queen, so we are also called to be obedient and listen to who God calls us to love, or where he calls us to go, regardless of whether we previously told him we never would.

I have found that the places, people, or things I have said never to, are exactly where, who, or what God calls me to. When I finally, and often begrudgingly, humble myself to listen to God, I find that my fears, my worries, my doubts and insecurities about the never I had painstakingly tried to avoid, all shrink down as I am filled with God’s peace. I am reminded that I have nothing to fear because God is on my side. I have nothing to worry about because Christ carries my worries and my burdens. I have nothing to be insecure or ashamed of because I am made in the image of God. And I have nothing to doubt because God is always faithful.

Elena Gustafson
Norquay, SK

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Eleventh Day of Lent

Acts 8:1-25

In this passage, the Sanhedrin, then Saul, and then Simon all tried to control what God was doing—or God himself. They either felt threatened by God's work and wanted to stop it, or they wanted to take God’s power for themselves.

The Sanhedrin, enraged with Stephen, stoned him to death. Then Saul, also filled with anger, started hunting down believers. He went out to eliminate every trace of Jesus and his followers, but with the scattering of the believers, there were even more places in the world that heard the Gospel. The believers never stopped sharing Christ with those they met, so the number of believers grew faster. Neither the Sanhedrin nor Saul could stop God’s work.

When Philip went to Samaria and shared the Messiah with the people there,   Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized. Simon was used to being important and powerful, and when he saw that the Holy Spirit came to believers after Peter and John laid hands on them, he wanted to have that power and status for himself. He assumed that, like in his old life, such things could be had for a price, but he was wrong. Simon was warned by Peter and told to repent and beg for God’s forgiveness for still having a heart that was captive to sin. God’s power can’t be bought.

Our fight for control doesn’t look exactly like it did for the Sanhedrin or Saul, but we resist God’s will in our lives and his work in the world. Like Simon, we may see something we like or want, and we try to bribe or bargain with God. It is difficult for us to trust God’s will, ways, and timing.

Peter gave Simon this warning, “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (Acts 8:21-22). That warning is for us as well, we need to make sure our hearts are right in the sight of God. If we want to be a part of his ministry, our will needs to be in line with his. We need to trust in his wisdom and goodness.

Elisabeth Jensen
Winnipeg, MB

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Tenth Day of Lent

Acts 7

Acts seven is full of courage and shows a stable mind on the part of Stephen. I think he was probably very uneasy, however, in the crowd that he was addressing. I have often thought about what it was like to have been with Jesus when he was on the earth. And what about the time Paul was stopped on the road by our Lord? Those experiences (the very personal and intimate exposure to Jesus) go a long way to believing that it was worth risking your life for him.

Today as well as all along the line of history since Jesus ascended into heaven we don’t have those in-person experiences, but we believe based on the truth and the promises that the Bible gives us. Was Stephen thoroughly taught in ways of the Jewish past? He would have been exposed to the Torah over his lifetime. And yet, when you read Acts seven, you can’t help but believe that it was the Holy Spirit talking to the crowd through him. There was an eloquence to the way he presented their complete history and then to make the point that it was them who killed the Saviour. That took only the strength that God can give.

Could I do the same as Stephen? Part of me fears not, but I know the Holy Spirit resides inside me. That in and of itself is an intimate encounter that is unique to me. When encountered with a life and death situation, will I go to the Spirit and rest in Truth? Does it have to be a life and death situation or should we just be bold about the Gospel at all times?

We live in interesting times. Let us turn our focus to boldly telling of the Gospel and be prepared to assist in bringing as many to Christ as possible. Our Lord paid the price for us, are we not willing to do the same?

Lynn Ritchie
Balfour, BC

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Ninth Day of Lent

Acts 6

There was a problem in the church. Leadership was stretched to the limit. It was as if the apostles were juggling many balls in the air at the same time. It seems that they were dropping some of them.

The new young church grew beyond people of Judah, to new Christians from multiple racial groups and all strata of society, including poor women and widows of Grecian heritage. Change was happening quickly. Feeding programs were started, but some were left out. It may have been by mistake, but the mistake grew legs. The leaders needed to deal with the issue and prayed. God spoke. “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit… (and six others)” (Acts 6:3-5).

Over the following weeks, Stephen, this Spirit-led man of wise counsel, and full of “grace and power” filled a new leadership role. The Gospel spread. He was the right leader, at the right time, in the right place. But opposition arose. Accusations came against these new Christians, especially the leaders. Arguments flew. If the opposition was to take down this new movement of God drastic measures must be taken. Then the worst situation happened, “They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow… (and a pack of lies).”

The young church was in chaos. But God had another plan. This complicated situation led to the powerful sermon of Acts seven, followed by death by stoning. And over the following months, it was a key footstep in the path to Paul’s conversion and then the greater growth of the Church.

What’s the message for us from this Lenten passage of reflection and repentance? God’s Church needs strong leaders and our support of them. There will always be those in need. How will we respond as Stephen did? Opposition and troubles are bound to happen from within and without. As a Jesus follower am I willing to stand up and be counted as Stephen did? When I am blamed, betrayed or opposed what will my face and attitude be?

What do I need to repent of?

Wayne Johnson
Ministry Partner, Tearfund

 

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Eighth Day of Lent

Acts 5:17-42

Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. Acts 5:38-39

These words, spoken by the Pharisee Gamaliel concerning the apostles, are so profound. The purpose of the apostles was to proclaim Jesus Christ, heal the sick and tormented in his name, and like the angel told them in verse 20, to “tell the people the full message of this new life.” In this passage alone, we see that obedience to this call led to the apostles being thrown into jail, almost killed by the religious leaders, and flogged (which by the way, caused them to rejoice).

None of these things stopped them, though, because their purpose and activity was from God. An angel of the Lord freed them from prison. Then, the Sanhedrin let them go, even though the religious leaders wanted to kill the disciples for the message they were preaching. The passage ends by saying, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42). 

Praise God that more than 2,000 years later, despite persecution, this message is still true and is still spreading. We are privileged to carry on this work, proclaiming Christ to a world that, like the Jewish leaders, does not want to be guilty of the blood of Jesus. This call is from God, and we can have confidence that he is at work accomplishing his purposes, no matter the opposition we face.

In the death of Jesus, it appeared that God’s plan had failed. The one who claimed to be the Messiah was dead and buried. We celebrate that the story does not end there. In verses 30-32, Peter and the apostles declare that Jesus is very much alive, and the Holy Spirit has been given to those who obey him. Do we believe that this power is still at work and available to us today? Are our activities and purposes from God, or are they of human origin? The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and delivered the apostles from prison is available to us. If what we pursue is from God, nothing will be able to stop us!

Angela Lantz
Ministry Partner, Alaska

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Seventh Day of Lent

Acts 5:1-16

If you’re reading this in the morning, you might be thinking what I am right now: this Ananias and Sapphira story is definitely not the “feel good” Bible verse I need as an  encouraging boost before a busy and hectic day. Welcome to Lent. I see two problems in my heart from the get-go: I am not keen on leaning into the discomfort of this season of fasting, and I am not keen on slowing down. Well, friends, let’s lean in. Let’s slow down. Welcome the Holy Spirit into this moment and this season.

I’ve always thought that the Ananias and Sapphira story was about generosity; they were supposed to give 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their land to the community, and they did not. As a result, their lives were instantaneously demanded of them. As I’ve read it over and over a different issue seems more evident: they allowed a spirit of deceit to enter a unified community that was beginning to change the world. It wasn’t that they should have given it all, it was that they shouldn’t have threatened the oneness of the community by conspiring and lying together.

If you’ve read the preceding chapters in Acts, you know that crazy things are going down for Jesus’ followers. The Spirit has come upon them in remarkable power, many are repenting and being baptized, healings and miracles are commonplace, and there’s an undivided sense of community. Everything they owned was shared, and no one was in need. The intensity of the community was both very spiritual and very   practical. The concern here is not the hidden income from the other half of the sale; what is at stake is the community itself.

Is the Christian community so essential to us that we would seek to protect it when its unity is at stake? Is it so central to our lives that we would let the oneness spill into our finances and possessions? This is a true fast: that we would invite the Spirit to move so deeply in our hearts that we could not help but profoundly feel the needs of the community around us and be willing to use all that we have, both spiritual and physical, to fill those needs (Isaiah 58:6-8).

Lean in, friends. Slow down. This is just the beginning.

Gina Turnbull
Winnipeg, MB

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Sixth Day of Lent

Acts 4:32-37

They shared everything they had. Acts 4:32

On the wall over my desk is a reproduction of The Trinity, the 15th-century icon by Andrei Rublev. Three persons symbolizing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sit in a circle around the table looking at each other in perfect unity of mind and heart. They stretch their right hands to the cup in the centre—the sacrifice and the Eucharist—blessing it,  sharing in it. There is also an empty seat at that table: an open invitation. Come, drink!

The icon is at my eye level, and whenever I look up from my computer, I am reminded that I am seated at the table of my God, participating in the life of ever-giving love. God knows the depth of my need for wholeness, joy, fulfillment, acceptance, and so much more, and God shares with me everything God has.

Rublev’s warm translucent golds point to a transfigured reality, how in Christ everything is new. Similarly, Luke paints for us here an icon of a transformed community: those who have freely received give freely. The life of Jesus has been poured out for them and  into them; it is now pulsating in their hearts, enabling them to live out of great grace and with great power.

Having experienced true hospitality in Christ, they extend their tables, break cultural divides, lift each other up, and refuse to be defined by social prejudice or economic   status. In this family no one is excluded, neither the wealthy nor the poor. Everyone belongs at the table of the Lord, let's make space. Come, eat! Come, drink! There is enough for all of us. Luke paints the icon of life together as an ongoing Eucharist, where sharing is thanksgiving.

It is a beautiful and challenging image. Luke urges us to examine everything we stamp as "mine" -my time, my money, my education and career, my home, my leisure, my family, even my faith - to see how all of these are good gifts, freely shared with us and enabling us to notice someone else's need. And sometimes, when we run dry, it is okay to receive. There might be an unexpected guest at our table, from Cyprus or further away, who will throw in their lot with us and encourage us to keep going.

And as someone who is involved in community building (aren’t we all), I pray that we will see our communities as the work of our generous God happening right here in and through us.

Holy Spirit, give us the eyes to see.

Yelena Pakhomova
Calgary, AB

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Fifth Day of Lent

Acts 4:1-31

Children need to know they are safe. It's a primary responsibility of parents to not only keep their children safe but to help them feel safe as well. To accomplish the latter, I started singing a short song to my kids every night before bed. It goes, "You're safe. You're warm. You're loved." The lyrics get repeated several times in my house as the kids settle down to rest. The reassurance of safety helps them relax and sleep.

We are all like little kids. We all want safety, but Peter and John are less concerned with their well being than they are with the well being of the Good News. After being confronted by the high priest and others in authority, Peter speaks with courage truth to power. These leaders can (and do) make life very difficult for Peter, John, and the other disciples. However, Peter doesn't cower in the face of danger. Instead, he takes a risk and proclaims salvation comes from Jesus Christ, the one these men had rejected.

Peter was not playing it safe! He was willing to speak with boldness and those gathered knew he must be silenced. With threats and a stern talking to Peter and John are allowed to leave but only because the Sanhedrin cannot risk the wrath of the people who were turning to Jesus.

And then we read that the disciples returned to their community which began to pray, "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" (Acts 4:29). Boldness?! Really?! They didn't ask for comfort. They didn't ask for protection. They didn't even thank God for getting them out of a dicey situation. They prayed for boldness.

God does not call us to safety. God does not call us to quietly go about our lives of faith. God does not call us to comfortable living. God calls us to take up our cross and to do so boldly.

Julia Sandstrom
Winnipeg, MB

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Fourth Day of Lent

Acts 3

In this passage, the first scene after Pentecost, we are introduced to a man who wanted alms as he was lame, little did he know the power of the Risen Christ. The scene opens with a lame man who is no doubt a wise businessman. He was near the Beautiful Gate, outside the temple. He was outside while others were going in; this was true all his life, but that did not stop him from seeking charity from that community.

This day, however, would be profoundly different as he encounters Peter and John. In response to this man’s view of his perceived need, Peter and John ‘look at him’ and then tell him ‘look at us’, there is somewhat of a relational exchange. Peter makes clear “silver and gold they had none but what he had was authority in Jesus of Nazareth’s name to command him to walk” (Acts 3:6). Peter took him by the right hand, helped him up, and immediately the man is healed. He jumps to his feet and starts to walk. This healing changes not only his ability but also his location. He enters the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. The healing moves him from outside to inside the temple, from not able to participate in the  worshipping community to a participant in it.

This story reminds us that as a church we are to see ourselves as being places offering healing to others by including them in the community of faith. This inclusion of the outsiders stands in continuity with the ministry of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Let us reflect on those sitting outside or near the ‘gates’, of our church or society needing to find healing and dignity. Peter and John ‘saw this man’, he did not need to meet any precondition to receiving his healing. It was their own belief that resulted in the healing.

In the name of this Jesus Christ of Nazareth, we offer healing to refugees, those of different socio-economic status, immigrants, the disabled, people of different racial and ethnic background, and sexual orientations albeit the healing needed looks different. Let us not forget how we have come to experience and are experiencing healing. The Rock of the Church, Jesus Christ, took each of us by the right hand, lifted us up while we were sitting on the outside and escorted us into his presence, to help us celebrate this inclusion only by a gift of his grace and not our own will. It is here we understand our mission is not only to make the present condition of those outside our “Beautiful Gates” more bearable but to release here on earth the redemptive work of God, Christ's healing.

Ira Carty
Toronto, ON

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Third Day of Lent

Acts 2:37-47

Today, advertisers and marketers have their pick of the lot when it comes to selling us on self-improvement or self-preserving products. Billions of dollars are spent annually on gimmicks, gadgets, and services that promise to make us look younger, live longer, and feel better. When it comes to fad diets, plastic surgery, holistic remedies, and nutritional supplements, we are inundated with messages that argue “this will change your life forever.” The truth of the matter is that yo-yo dieting doesn’t work, and plastic surgery and augment procedures are dangerous and temporary at best. Preservation of the physical body is achieved through eating properly and modestly, working out for 30 minutes per day for at least five days per week, and seeing your doctor routinely. It’s that simple.

While the preservation of our physical bodies is essential, what’s most important is our place in eternity. Peter preached the formula for securing our place in eternity and living an enduring life. Peter was preaching to people who carry the same baggage as we do today: sin. Sin seeks self-gratification, self-aggrandizement, and self-centeredness. Sin keeps us fixated on preserving the temporal. When Peter gave an invitation to be saved from this “perverse generation” obviously the people knew that they were living in spiritually deprived times and among spiritually deprived people because there was no rejection of his message. In fact, they asked Peter, “What must we do?”

What caused this mosaic of humanity that was gathered in Jerusalem to ask Peter and the people who were with him, “What shall we do?” What part of Peter’s message “cut to the heart” of those gathered? In verse 36, Peter proclaims, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the crowd heard these words, they sensed a harrowing and deep sense of sorrow. The power of the Holy Spirit evidenced to those in Peter’s presence that it was their sin that caused the death of the Son of God and the Anointed One that they’d been waiting to see, worship, and obey. They (we) crucified him. Therefore, we, just as those who gathered at Pentecost, are called to repent and be baptized.

Lent is a season to commemorate our complicity in the death of our Savior and our complete dependence on him as our forgiving resurrected King. Since the fourth century, the Church has observed the days of Lent as a time when believers were found repenting of sin and consecrating themselves to God. Let us utilize this period as a time to do the same for our soul-preservation.

Lance Davis
Covenant Offices
Chicago, IL

  LENTEN READER 2019
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Second Day of Lent

Acts 2:1-36

The believers were all together worshipping and praying. How wonderful when the   beloved gather together for worship! Do we really understand how important this is in our lives? Do we really know? The believers have had forty days of confusion, despair, joy, and revelation. They have seen Jesus crucified and buried. Then he arose and spoke to them, they ate meals with him, and now he has left them alone and gone back to his Father. Still, they are waiting for his promised Spirit.

In the previous chapter, Peter has already spoken up and told them they need to choose a replacement for Judas. Don’t you love Peter and his impulsive ways? He jumps out of the boat and tries to walk on the water to come to Jesus. Doesn’t quite make it but he does try. Have you ever spoken up and said the wrong thing? Maybe denied Jesus? I can relate for sure. Jesus chooses to use  Peter in mighty ways even so.

The disciples are together when suddenly there is a loud noise and they all start telling people about God’s mighty works and deeds, but they are all talking in different languages. Bystanders (there are many due to the harvest festival) have been drawn by the noise and are amazed to hear these simple folks praising God in their own varied languages. People from far away countries with different backgrounds hear about God in their own tongue. How can this be?

Peter sees the crowd and jumps into action. He stands up and using Scripture explains what is really going on. This was prophesied long ago. He proves with Scripture that Jesus was God’s own Son and that the folks listening had a hand in killing him. He sees the crowd and delivers an incredible sermon clearly explaining the events that have  occurred. Three thousand believe and are baptized. Peter follows both his  impulsive nature, but this time is guided by the Holy Spirit. He takes advantage of the opportunity of having a large crowd gathered. First explaining the foreign languages, then proving from Scripture that King David had foretold that the Holy One would not rot in the grave and that David was talking about his Lord. Gathering in worship prepared Peter "the impulsive one" to receive the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Good News.

Come Holy Spirit!

Andy Pluim
Wetaskiwin, AB

 

 LENTEN READER 2019
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First Day of Lent, Ash Wednesday

Acts 1

Why do you stand here looking into the sky? Acts 1:11

Do you blame them? The disciples had just been given this gift of time with the resurrected Saviour. Why would they not long for more of it? The whole scene is comical in many ways not simply because of a cloud watching crowd of disciples but because of the absurdity of it all. Jesus has died and his friends find themselves at their lowest moment. Jesus returns and they are  terrified, but he reassures them, spends time with them, but then it all seems to come to an abrupt end with a clear message that there is a job at hand so let’s get to it. Why the rush?

Well if Luke was telling the story of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning, then part of the point of Acts is to see Jesus, through his Spirit, working through the Church to establish his kingdom in the world. And not a kingdom as the disciples understood it.

N.T. Wright writes that “the method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom. The kingdom…goes out into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, misunderstood, misjudged, vindicated, celebrating: always – as Paul puts it in one of his letters – bearing in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed.” It was as if God was aware of our most human tendencies: We wish for the good ol’ days. We think longingly upon moments worthy of celebration. We wish to experience God anew all over again as we once did. The resurrection isn’t about what was, it is about what could be. To be resurrected—to be alive in our world—is to keep moving forward. There is space to remember and celebrate, to learn and to process, but if we are to be resurrected people there comes a time where we no longer are looking in the sky for what was and instead trusting God’s promise of a beauty that lies ahead of us.

So perhaps on this first day of lent, as we begin this intentional season of reflection and preparation, the call is not for us to wish for days past, but to recognize God’s grace in every moment that was, and look forward to what could be.

Jason Charles
Langley, BC

LENTEN READER 2019
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