Lent 2017 Devotional

If you’ve ever climbed a mountain, you know that it’s a struggle. Things may start out well, but soon exhaustion sets in and each step becomes a reconsideration. If you hold out long enough, there awaits the sweet joy and relief of being so close to the top that you can see the view.  You may be worn out, but the glory of the sight gives you new life.

Towering high over the whole Bible is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Everything before Christ looked forward to his coming to take away the sin of the world, and everything after Christ looks back to all that he accomplished.  This devotional will follow the same pattern, using the 40 days of Lent as an invitation to repent and prepare our hearts for Easter. It’s a climb toward the breathtaking panorama of what Jesus has done for us.

Our prayer for the Lenten season and this devotional guide is that the Lamb of God who took away your sin will remind you how much you need him, how much those around you need him, and how much he calls you to participate in his global mission. The risen Savior of the world is in sight, let’s prepare ourselves for him.  

Follow along with us by visiting this devotional page daily. Find a fasting guide and other next steps and resources here. Download the booklet version of the devotional here.

Wednesday, March 29

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
John 4:42

Read John 4:4-42

Here, Jesus, a Jewish man, smashes cultural norms to engage a Samaritan woman. As a Samaritan woman, many Jews would have considered her so filthy that they would likely have held their breath around her in fear of being contaminated. Yet Jesus explains that he is her Messiah. By graciously receiving her and her entire village, Jesus also turns the apostles’ thinking upside down. He was after peoples beyond Jerusalem and Judea. And they were often more ready to receive him than the people of Israel.

Prayer:

Father, you did not send your Son to call the healthy, but the sick. Thank you that he came to seek and to save the lost, like me. Thank you for your willingness cross cultural boundaries, no matter what it cost you. Forgive me for assuming who is ready to receive you and who isn’t. Help me to have a broken and contrite spirit, that I may be sensitive to those who are broken, poor, sick, and ready for a Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, March 28

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.

Luke 2:30-32

Read Luke 2:22-32

The long-awaited Savior had finally come, born of a virgin as the sinless Son of God. Even before he uttered more than a squeal, a faithful old man named Simeon who had been longing for his arrival scooped him up and declared what the prophets had been hinting at all along: this child was for the salvation of all peoples.

Prayer:

Father, as someone from the ends of the earth, I thank you so much that I can say, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” He is my Wonderful Counselor, my Mighty God, my Everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace. Thank you for Immanuel, God with us. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. Amen.

Monday, March 27

“Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”

Malachi 1:14

Read Malachi 1:10-14

God spared himself no expense in our salvation. He’ll spare us no expense in our sanctification. He deserves and demands the best we have to offer that he might be glorified among the nations. But rather than offering ourselves as living sacrifices, we withhold from God. Like the people addressed in Malachi, we pick and choose what can be given to God and what cannot. Living on mission in our homes, neighborhoods, classrooms, and cubicles can often be off limits to God. For most people, serving cross-culturally is definitely off limits. “What a burden!” our hearts cry.

Prayer:

Father, in view of your mercies, I desire to present myself to you as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing. I want to lay my gifts, talents, resources- even my weaknesses- before you, and ask you to use me to make your name great in my home, neighborhood, classroom, cubicle, and even among the nations. Let me not wait for a day of “total surrender.” I offer myself to you in the midst of my hesitations knowing I can always draw near with confidence to your throne of grace. Amen.

Saturday, March 25

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Habakkuk 2:14

Read Habakkuk 2:13-14,20

One of the best ways to prepare ourselves for Easter is to reflect upon God’s continual fulfillment of plans he set before the world even began. We are a people who squirm and fret at life’s what-if’s. Though we’ve seen the Father in the face of Jesus Christ, we still struggle each day to trust his promises. Yet he is faithful not only in the smallest of life’s details, but also in the grandest of his plans. When it comes to God’s plan for the whole world, we can know without a doubt that God will ll the earth with knowledge of his glory as waters cover the sea.

Prayer:

Father, you sit enthroned above the circle of the earth. You stretch out the heav- ens like a canopy. You determine the number of the stars in the sky and call them each by name. Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket, and you have your way with them. You will cover the world with the knowledge of your glory. I sit silently before you in anticipation of it. Amen.

Friday, March 24

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

Read Ezekiel 36:22-28

The prophet Ezekiel passes on harsh words from the Lord to the exiled people of Israel. His frustration is evident: they have profaned his name among the nations. But God promises to advance the mission himself and to accomplish it by putting his Spirit in his people. Even after Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s people have not always been quick to join him in his mission to the world.

Fasting & Prayer:

Each Friday throughout Lent we are calling the church to fasting and prayer. See the fasting guide in the front of the devotional for helpful details. Begin the day by remembering how impossible it was to please God before you were given a new heart through the Holy Spirit. During a fasted meal go to JoshuaProject.net and pray for an unreached people group. When you end the fast with a meal, rejoice in the Spirit who has been poured into your heart and is actively at work among the people you prayed for.

Thursday, March 23

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
Jonah 3:10,4:1

Read Jonah 3:6,10-4:11

Let’s be honest, Jonah’s attitude is so pitiful it’s almost comical. Yet when we deeply consider what’s coming out of his whiny heart, the story has profound things to say to us. God’s compassion always falls on those who don’t deserve it. Which is good news until it’s poured out upon someone we can’t stand. Words can’t describe how vile the Assyrians had been to everyone, including Israel. It was tortuous for Jonah to watch them receive mercy. Who is it that makes you uncomfortable at the thought of them suddenly being God’s beloved?

Prayer:

Father, you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Thank you for your mercy toward those who don’t deserve it. I certainly didn’t deserve it and still don’t. Forgive me for the limitations I want to place on your grace. Even if no one comes to mind that I would struggle to welcome into the family of God, search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is an displeasing way in me, and lead me in the way of your endless grace. Amen.

Wednesday, March 22

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.
Isaiah 61:11

Read Isaiah 61:10-11

Rarely a moment goes by when God does not in some way express his heart for all nations. When discussing global missions, many people turn immediately to the New Testament and the Great Commission. But we actually learn just as much about God’s mission from the Old Testament. There, his glorious, loving, pursuing character is on display. This mission is not a ministry for some to participate in. It’s part of who we are as the people of God.

Prayer:

Father, I delight greatly in you. My soul rejoices because you are my God. You have clothed me with garments of salvation and given me a robe of righteousness. Lord, as you do this for others among all nations, show me also how to participate in whatever way you choose. Amen.

Tuesday, March 21

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6

Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12

The journey of the world to this point in the story has been one of constant suffering and sorrow. There’s only one person who would show the world even deeper suffering and sorrow, identifying with them in every way. The world would not understand a crucified Christ as they clamored for sword-wielding heroes. And today’s world of religious extremism, political jockeying, and economic scheming still doesn’t understand him.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for sending your Son as a suffering servant. Thank you that he took up my pain and bore my sorrow, was pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities. Thank you that he will justify many and sprinkle many nations. I pray for those today who put their hope in sword-wielding heroes. May their disappointment in such men prepare their hearts for the glory of the One who gave himself for us. Amen.

Monday, March 20

It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 49:6

Read Isaiah 49:1-6

Here Isaiah prophesies of a coming Servant, referring to Jesus. God is speaking through his prophet to very clearly describe Israel’s coming Messiah as one who will complete the mission of God to Israel and the ends of the earth. This is good news for us! For we are those Gentiles in darkness. We are part of the ends of the earth.

Prayer:

Father, I see the world through the lens of my own culture. It’s easy for our “Christian” culture to forget we were once not among your chosen people. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, like dry, fruitless branches. Yet by your grace you grafted us into the people of God. Thank you! Remind me today of the amazing mystery now revealed even to the ends of the earth: Christ in us, the hope of glory. Amen.

Saturday, March 18

They mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.

Psalm 106:35, 37

Read Psalm 106:35-46

Rather than being a bright beacon of God’s glory among the nations, Israel joined in their paganism. Today, because Jesus was obedient even to death, God has already given him the nations as an inheritance and possession. In that authority Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. Yet we are often filled with insecurities and hesitations when it comes to crossing cultures, even in our own neighborhoods.

Prayer:

Father, the earth is yours and everything in it. Forgive me for being apathetic toward people who are different from me. Encourage me today with the confidence of Christ ruling over the whole world and sending me to claim what already belongs to him. Fill my mouth and open their hearts that the King of glory may come in. Amen.

Friday, March 17

In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.

Psalm 78:32

Read Psalm 78:32-39

Over and over God’s people rebelled against him, were judged severely, and came crawling back. God’s gracious discipline was never enough to keep them from wandering. They needed someone to take the full measure of God’s wrath for them. But before we look to Christ, which is so easy to do on this side of the cross, put yourself in their shoes. This cycle of death was all the world knew.

Fasting & Prayer:

Each Friday throughout Lent we are calling the church to fasting and prayer. See the fasting guide in the front of the devotional for helpful details. Begin the day by imagining yourself in the shoes of someone before the coming of Christ. During a fasted meal take a walk and pray for the people you see, many of whom are also trapped in a cycle of death. End the fast with a meal and have a spirit of rejoicing in the God who saves from both sin and its power.

Thursday, March 16

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

Psalm 67:1-2

Read Psalm 67

When we encounter God in his glorious love, it leads to a certain kind of response. This has always been God’s design for his people: filling them with himself so that the whole world knows who he is. The missionary God is not one who makes people go live in Africa as penance for partying too hard in college. Instead, God lavishes us with grace until we say, “May the peoples praise you, O God, may all the peoples praise you!”

Prayer:

Father, be gracious to me and bless me. Make your face shine upon me, so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all peoples. May all the peoples praise you! May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. Amen.

Wednesday, March 15

Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
Psalm 2:8-9

Read Psalm 2

This psalm casts a broader light on God’s plan for the nations. Though he is a refuge for all people, the nations for the most part rage against him. So God has set up his Son as King and will soon bring judgment to those who don’t pay homage to him alone. God’s heart for the world doesn’t come as flimsy invitation. It’s a warning for the day he will rule with a rod of iron and end the nations’ raging by dashing them to pieces in his just judgment.

Prayer:

Father, those who do not believe in you stand condemned already. There is only one name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. I, too, once raged against you in my ignorance. But you have graciously opened my eyes, turned me from dark to light, and from the power of Satan to God. I thank you and I cry out for your mercy on behalf those who continue to rage against you. Amen.

Tuesday, March 14

Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your name.
2 Chronicles 6:33

Read 2 Chronicles 6:32-33

In this passage, King Solomon offers a prayer of dedication over the temple (6:12- 42), the epicenter of God’s glory on the earth at that time. Within his prayer Solomon asks God to grant the prayers of the foreigner so that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.” It may seem like a strange aside in the flow of the prayer, but it reflects God’s ongoing concern beyond Israel’s kingdom.

Prayer:

Father, may we live for your kingdom and invite everyone to life with God under your rule and reign. Too often, we live for own pitiful kingdoms and ignore the foreigner. Lord, receive and perfect this little prayer like Solomon’s. May I live for your unshakeable kingdom today and be happy to welcome others into it. Amen.

Monday, March 13

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaning- less, a chasing after the wind.What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
Ecclesiastes 1:14-15

Read 1 Kings 4:29-34, Ecclesiastes 1:13-17

The beginning of Solomon’s reign in Israel appeared to be what the world had been waiting for. He was trending as the wisest man around. Yet by the end of his rule, he had nearly gained the world only to forfeit his soul. “My people are destroyed from a lack of knowledge,” God would later say in Hosea 4:6. Not a lack of information, but a lack of transformation. They didn’t know the God who could straighten what was crooked.

Prayer:

Father, fearing you is the beginning of true knowledge. Yet too often I see information, not transformation, as the solution. Lord, I remind myself that your wisdom was fully on display in your Son, Jesus. Though he is foolishness to the world, he is wisdom to me. Just as the nations marveled at the wisdom of Solomon, I pray the nations would wonder at the wisdom and power of Christ crucified. Amen.

Saturday, March 11

When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
Joshua 2:11

Read Joshua 2:9-11

Rahab and her people had heard of God’s glory and his destruction of Egypt. Rahab, a non-Jewish prostitute, feared God and chose to follow him. Even during the time of Joshua, the nations around Israel knew of the might and power of God. God was making his name known to the nations even when his own people struggled to be faithful to him.

Prayer:

Father, you reveal yourself even to those who do not ask for you. You are found by those who do not seek you. All day long you hold out your hands to obstinate people who walk in their own ways, pursuing their own crooked schemes. Thank you for purchasing us with the life of your Son. As one among those faraway na- tions, like Rahab, I thank you for revealing yourself to me. You are God in heaven above and on the earth below. Amen.

Friday, March 10

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,”

2 Chronicles 7:14

Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-16

It’s easy for us to point our fingers when it comes to state of the world. But God calls people to own their part in the mess. He is eager to restore forsaken lands and peoples, but he chooses to work through his people. When his people are proud and prayer-less, their sin goes unforgiven and situations are left in despair. And we wonder why.

Fasting & Prayer:

Each Friday throughout Lent we are calling the church to fasting and prayer. See the fasting guide in the front of the devotional for helpful details. Begin the day by meditating on God’s promise from 2 Chronicles 7:14. Turn on the news during a fasted meal time and reflect on your part in the world’s brokenness. Resist the urge to shift blame. When you end the fast with a meal, rejoice in the God who promises to hear, forgive, and heal.

Thursday, March 9

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit,

Judges 21:25

Read Judges 21:25

Sometimes the antics of God’s people are almost embarrassing to read. The trouble wasn’t so much that they didn’t have a great king. God was their king, but they would not have him. Showing themselves not so far removed from the Garden of Eden, they still wanted to do what seemed right to themselves. This is the storyline of the world. This is the story of our lives.

Prayer:

Father, I often fail to trust in you with all my heart. Instead I lean on my own understanding. I fail to submit my ways to you, when you would be delighted to clear a path before me. I have been wise in my own eyes and missed out on the healing and nourishment of your kingship. I recognize this isn’t just the way of the world, it’s also my way of doing things. My King, pour out your mercy on me today. Amen.

Wednesday, March 8

I will make your name great… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

Read Joshua 24:2-3, Genesis 12:1-3

When God chose Abraham, he was being an average pagan worshipping false gods. Purely by grace did God choose Abraham to be a blessing to all peoples through his offspring. Are we any different? Did we catch God’s attention in some special way? Absolutely not! But can God now use us to bless those around us? Yes, from my neighborhood all the way to the nations.

Prayer:

Father, you are so different from me. Your works are so great they are almost unbelievable. Just like you graciously called Abraham, you’ve called me to yourself. Abraham believed you, and it was counted to him as righteousness. I believe you too, Lord. You can take a normal worshiper of false gods, and change me so that I, too, can be a blessing to the world. Amen.

Tuesday, March 7

“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule,”

Genesis 1:26

Read Genesis 11:1-9

The hope of a new start through Noah and his family is quickly extinguished as humanity fills the earth again. At Babel, mankind gathers and builds a tower to prove that they don’t need God. The confusion of their languages is a harsh judgment—but one that is according to a gracious plan. It fills the world with unique languages, tribes, nations, and peoples. Keep this in mind as the story continues to unfold.

Prayer

Father, there is a way that seems right to us, but it always ends in death. I confess your ways are not my ways, and your thoughts are not my thoughts. In every way I fail you, you are able to turn it for my good. And this is true not only for me, but for all people throughout the world. I am humbled and hopeful because your anger lasts only a moment, but your favor lasts a lifetime. Amen.

Monday, March 6

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
Genesis 6:5-6

Read Genesis 6:5-8

It’s tough to take in the emotions expressed by God here. But we need to feel them. It doesn’t mean God was any less in control or changing his character. It just means he has a heart. He aches over the things worth aching over. In such darkness only one person sparkled in God’s eye. This Noah foreshadows the only One who alone would please the Father.

Prayer:

Father, there is no one good, not a single one. I’m becoming more and more aware of the inclinations and thoughts of my heart. But you said about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” So because of him I pray, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling; naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die!” Amen.

Saturday, March 4

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your o spring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel
Genesis 3:15

Read Genesis 3:14-24

This passage is full of sobriety and hope. The skin coverings foretell of a coming sacrificial Lamb. The flaming sword that guards the tree of life shows that God doesn’t want Adam and Eve in their crippled state forever. And finally, God’s death sentence for serpent speaks of a coming Son of Man who would crush his lying skull.

Prayer:

Father, you do not take lightly the sins that I commit because you are a God of holiness who loves justice. You never allow evil to go unpunished. But I thank you for your wisdom and mercy in devising a plan to save me. You chose your Son to take my death sentence. Amen.

Friday, March 3

The eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:7-8

Read Genesis 3:1-13

Even though Adam and Eve walked with God and had every good thing, they chose evil. They disregarded God and his good command, which is sin. Many scoff over this story as mythical, but these are God’s trustworthy words, and the proof is in us. We, too, disregard God’s commands. From the womb, we are infected with the same poisonous blood which flowed in Adam and Eve. The world is broken. And it’s our fault.

Fasting & Prayer:

Each Friday throughout Lent we are calling the church to fasting and prayer. See the fasting guide in the front of the devotional for helpful details. Begin this day by meditating on the story from Genesis 3. The scriptures tell us that “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Allow yourself to feel the tragedy of your separation from God. Use each hunger pang through out the day to long for restoration. End your fast with a meal and rejoice in the hope of a coming Savior.

Thursday, March 2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”

Genesis 1:1

Read Genesis 1:1, 26-28

Genesis 1:1 has been called the most pregnant verse in all the Bible. Simply put, everything began with God. And so it was all really good. It was the kind of good that should have filled up the whole world. It was Adam and Eve’s job to fill it up. And it’s ours.

Prayer:

Father, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your eyes saw my unformed body, and all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Thank you for creating so well, and for sharing with me the task to fill your earth with good. Lord, may your earth be filled with the good knowledge of your glory, as waters cover the sea. Amen.

Wednesday, March 1

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals,”

Psalm 90:2-3

Read Psalm 90

Before the world existed, God was God, and God was God without us. The psalmist confesses our total dependence as mere dirt waiting for the command to come to life or to pass away. We are well-served to recognize our desperate situation. We must own our ashes. If we do, we can cry out with great expectation of God’s life-giving compassion.

Prayer:

Father, before the mountains were born or you brought forth the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. I confess and remember that you are greater than me, because you were before me. As I journey through Lent teach me to number my days. Give me a heart of wisdom. Give me a heart that knows its need and trusts your supply. Amen.