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Lent Devotions

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February 15, 2016: Jesus Changes People

Luke 3:15-20

John’s task was to “prepare the way.” Jesus’ task was to be “the way.” John’s task was to call people to repentance, to change on the outside. Jesus’ task was to invite people to relationship with God and to change on the inside.

A little girl had been naughty. Her exasperated mother finally told her to sit in the corner until her father came home. The little girl stomped over to the corner, folded her arms defiantly across her chest, pouted angrily, and refused to sit down. At this point her mother came over and literally forced her to sit. When the father arrived home he asked his daughter what she was doing in the corner. She replied, “On the outside I’m sitting, but on the inside I’m still standing.”

We can relate to that. On the outside we can make changes, but until we are changed on the inside it makes little difference. Jesus changes people from the inside out. That’s what excited John the Baptist! That’s why John called Jesus “the One more powerful.” That’s why John pointed away from himself to Jesus, the one sent from God to set people free from self-centered living. Jesus is still in the business of transforming lives from the inside out. Open your heart to the master and he will shape you into the beautiful person he knows you can be.

Prayer: Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Today’s devotional was written by Anthony Vis, a retired pastor in the RCA. This Lenten series comes from Words of Hope, whose mission is to build the church in the hard places through media. To learn more about the organization or subscribe to Words of Hope’s daily devotions, visit www.woh.org. 

Lent Devotions

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February 13, 2016: Simeon and Anna

Luke 2:22-38

…salvation…which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples (vv. 30-31).

In his Gospel, Luke will later show Jesus reaching out to “all sorts and conditions of men,” to use a phrase from the Book of Common Prayer. However, first he wants to introduce two more Jewish people, Simeon and Anna. They are old, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, and like them they are steeped in the old faith of Israel, harkening back to God’s ancient promises.

But so far from being stuck in the past, these two are now looking to the future. Mary’s son, Jesus, has been born, and it is the baby Jesus that Simeon and Anna encounter on this unforgettable day.

God has given them the spirit of prophecy, both to see and to say what is really happening. God’s people have long been awaiting the “consolation of Israel” and the “redemption of Jerusalem,” and now here he is! More than that, he will be “a light for revelation to the gentiles” as well as “glory to your people Israel.”

The great hope for the nations, for the people of every kind and background whom Luke will be describing, is in this child alone. How indebted we all are to God’s Old Testament preparation for his coming.

Prayer: Thank you for this light from the past that still illuminates the path ahead of us.

Today’s devotional was written by Michael Wilcock, a retired pastor in the Church of England. This Lenten series comes from Words of Hope, whose mission is to build the church in the hard places through media. To learn more about the organization or subscribe to Words of Hope’s daily devotions, visit www.woh.org.

Lent Devotions

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February 12, 2016: Finding God in Unexpected Places

Luke 2:1-7

And she gave birth to her firstborn son (v. 7)

I wonder how Mary felt when she looked at her newborn child the way mothers do—studying every hair on his little head, every crease on his wrinkled face. I wonder if she understood the enormity of what had happened. The promised Messiah had been born at last, and there he was, cradled in her arms.

God’s handiwork is nowhere more difficult to see than when it occurs in your own life. Our own lives are too familiar, too common, to sense the mystery of God pulsing through them. But Mary knew that God had acted in her life, and there in the manger was the proof of it.

Mary understood that God is at work in unexpected places. And from Mary you can learn that God is at work in the most unexpected place of all—your life. Your marriage. Your job. Your family. Your church.
“She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger…” Would you ever have expected to find God in a manger—a feed box for animals? No. But you’d never expect to find God in your own life, either. Yet that is where God is.

God acts in the lives of real people. Like Mary. Like you. And Christmas is the proof of it.

Prayer: Lord, be in my life.

Today’s devotional was written by Lou Lotz, the pastoral leader of Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This Lenten series comes from Words of Hope, whose mission is to build the church in the hard places through media. To learn more about the organization or subscribe to Words of Hope’s daily devotions, visitwww.woh.org.

Lent Devotions

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February 10, 2016: A Theophilus Near You

Luke 1

I too decided . . . to write an orderly account for you (v. 3).

Luke’s Gospel is special in many ways, not the least of which is that it is the only book of the Bible written by a gentile with obvious concerns for gentiles. Right at the outset Luke introduces us to a friend named Theophilus whom he knows and will carry along in his heart as he writes. Luke also tells us why he writes—so that Theophilus “may know the truth concerning the things about which [he] has been instructed” (v. 4). Somewhere, somehow, a gentile named Theophilus, whose name means Lover of God, came to know and love the Lord, and now Luke intends to contribute to his spiritual well-being by both informing and deepening that love.

Do you have a “Theophilus” in your life to love toward the Lord? Throughout history God has used basic kindness and concern for those outside the faith to effect a change of heart. I want you to give serious consideration to connecting with a Theophilus near you. C. S. Lewis is reported to have said, “If I had one piece of advice to give young people it would be to do all that they can to live near their friends.” As you read these devotionals, consider a friend with whom you might share them. If you do not, then who will?

Prayer: Make us available, Lord, to a Theophilus in our lives.

Today’s devotional was written by Tim Brown, president and Henry Bast professor of preaching at Western Theological Seminary. This Lenten series comes from Words of Hope, whose mission is to build the church in the hard places through media. To learn more about the organization or subscribe to Words of Hope’s daily devotions, visit www.woh.org.

Lent Devotions

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March 16

John Paarlberg serves as a volunteer and retreat leader for Camp Fowler. John is pastor at First Church in Albany, New York.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

How is your heart?

In biblical thought the heart is not just the source of our emotions, nor only the seat of memory, but the center of our being. Located midway between your head and your gut, your heart is the meeting place where mind and feelings combine to form convictions, where thoughts and desires are merged into purposes. Your heart is your emotional, volitional, and moral center. It is what you decide in your heart that determines your actions.

Hearts can be hardened, rebellious, deceitful. Jeremiah was not at all encouraging about the proclivities of the human heart in chapter 17, verse 9: “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?”

Apparently God can. And God does not give up on the heart. The people of Israel had broken the covenant and turned from God in their hearts. And that is precisely where God goes to work—on the heart.

All of the action here is God’s: God will make a new covenant. God will put his law within them. God will write it on their hearts. God will forgive.

Is there hope for the human heart? Not if left to our own devices. But we are not left to fix our own hearts. God does that. Therein lies our hope, “and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Prayer: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. (From the Book of Common Prayer)

The 2015 Lenten reflections were submitted by staff, volunteers, board members, campers, and friends who have spent time at Camp Fowler in New York.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.

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Lent Devotions

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March 10
Annie Reilly is a former summer staff member and camp volunteer. Annie is currently serving as an ordained minister at State Street Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, New York.

Psalm 107:1-3

In this short selection from Psalm 107, we are admonished to give thanks to the Lord. The NIV translation is ambiguous, though; are we giving thanks because the Lord is good, or are we giving thanks because the Lord has redeemed us from the hand of the foe and gathered us from the lands? The simple answer is: yes.

We give thanks to the Lord just for being good. So many blessings are poured out upon us, simply because we worship a benevolent God. This blue and green ball known as Earth keeps spinning. The sun rises. The seasons ebb and flow. Our existence is generally blessed because God is who God is.

We give thanks to the Lord for redeeming us from our specific foes. The Lord is attentive to our individual needs and blesses us accordingly. We are not just anonymous humans lost in a sea of creation, but God’s children gathered in and known, down to the very hair on our heads.

Prayer: O Lord, I am ever grateful for all the ways, big and small, general and specific, in which you bless me. Help me to see your blessings and turn to praise your name. Amen.

The 2015 Lenten reflections were submitted by staff, volunteers, board members, campers, and friends who have spent time at Camp Fowler in New York.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.

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Lent Devotions

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March 9

Tracey Henderson served as a summer assistant director and currently is a doctor specializing in pediatrics at Rochester General Hospital.

Numbers 21:4-9

In this passage we hear the Israelites once again complaining to God, becoming impatient with their misfortunes. How often do we, too, focus on what is not going well in our lives? It is easy to complain, and to feel like our troubles are piling up. We ask God to take away our suffering. We wish our lives could just be easy.

Yet challenges are a part of life. There is no joy without sorrow. There is no triumph without fear. So many times we find that God does not erase our problems, but instead gives us the tools we need to overcome them. In my line of work, I have encountered people facing devastating diseases and injuries. It is easy to ask “why?” and to become angry at how unfair life seems. But embedded within these stories are true miracles—the resiliency of the human spirit, even in the face of unimaginable suffering. God does not take away the venomous snakes, but allows the Israelites to survive their snake bites.

Prayer: As we reflect this Lenten season, help us look to you, God, not to eliminate our challenges, but to give us the courage we need to overcome them. Help us not to feel cheated and angry at the misfortunes we face, but grateful for the blessings that hide among these shadows. Help us to move forward with grace and faith, knowing that, through you, we have the strength to prevail. Amen.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.

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Lent Devotions

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March 5

Tom McIlroy is a former media staff member at Camp Fowler and currently serves on the board of trustees; he works as a sales manager for Cumberland Farms.

I Corinthians 1:18-25

As a child, in my infinite wisdom, I decided it would be best if, when I grew up, I would live in a mansion on a hill, unmarried, with no children, and several maids to maintain my posh existence. Fast forward 25 years and I’ve become much wiser (or should I say, God’s plan for me was much wiser). I have an amazingly strong wife, two adorable children, and I live in a modest home on a farm (on a hill, so I got one thing right!). God’s plan for me was much more in line with my personality and the gifts he’s provided me with.

In this scripture passage, Paul is telling the Corinthians that the only way to salvation is through Christ on the cross. We can study all we want to become wise, but it won’t get us anywhere if we don’t go to the cross.

Our word “moron” comes from the Greek word moria, or moros as an adjective. Paul uses this word five times in this scripture to emphasize our need to be humbled by the power and awe of God, and understand that the only way to God is through the cross. We simply can’t match him by strength or wisdom.

So continue to read scripture and care for your neighbors, but do it because God desires you to do it. And meet him at the cross once again this season. Relinquish your control and give your life privately to him at the foot of the cross.

Prayer: Powerful and wise Lord, forgive us for our ignorance and loss of our way. Help us to return back to you at the foot of the cross to pray for forgiveness and gratitude for your amazing gift of grace. May we be a beacon of love and grace for those who may not know where to find your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.

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Lent Devotions

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March 4

Maggie White is a former summer office staff member at Camp Fowler. She currently works at Union College in Schenectady, New York, and serves as youth director at First Reformed Church in Scotia, New York.

Psalm 19:7-14

For a long time now, I’ve given up sweets for Lent. It can be a challenge, coming right on the tails of the season of cookies, cakes, and treats. It’s amazing how accustomed you get to having something sweet after a meal, and to be honest, I usually fail at making it through the whole 40 days. What can I say—I like chocolate. As time has gone on, however, it’s become less effective. Not because it has gotten any easier—I still have a very hard time making it 40 days without chocolate—but because my views on it have changed. It’s become a diet of sorts; a physical cleanse after the heavy eating of Christmas. And that’s not what Lent is supposed to be about.

So last year I did something different. In addition to removing sweets, I added something. It was a huge revelation for me—nowhere does it say you have to solely deprive yourself of something during Lent. Why not add something that can help you reflect? This year, I plan to read a half hour every day during Lent. I know it doesn’t seem like much, especially for me. But while I love reading, too often I bypass it and go for the easy entertainment of television. Making time to read is going to remind me not to take the easy route; it will make me think and make me branch out. It will hopefully give me time to reflect this Lenten season. And that is what Lent is about.

So this year, instead of just removing something from your life, why not try adding something meaningful? (It’s not too late!) Maybe it will give you the chance you need to reflect as well.

Prayer: Lord, following you sometimes involves not giving up things, but taking up things that help us better serve and understand you. Help us find something that will center us this Lenten season.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.

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Lent Devotions

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March 2

Hannah Shalom Busman is Camp Fowler’s former assistant director and currently serves as a covenanter with First Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York.

Exodus 20:1-17

In Exodus 20, God breaks one of the pivotal guidelines in telling people about rules: always stick to the positive. Don’t tell kids what they cannot do, but instead tell them what they can do. This is a lesson all people who ever spend time with a child learn early on. Perhaps in this passage God should have said, “You shall speak my name only in the correct context. You shall consider every life as valuable as your own. You shall honor your partner, and if you are feeling like you cannot do this then you shall talk to them about it. You shall consider that things owned by someone else are not yours to take. You shall always tell the truth, even if that means you will be in the wrong. You shall understand that the possessions of your neighbor have come to them by great effort and your possessions in turn have come to you by great effort, and you need to honor that.”

While these statements are not quite as pithy and might be harder to carve on a rock, you might not be quite as frightened of God and his retribution when you read them. Unfortunately for most of us, this was not how God worded these statements; instead, he made it quite clear the things he does not want you to do, without the slightest glimmer of forgiveness.

This segment in the Bible is centered around fear—fear for yourself and for the following generations. We are already full of fear in this world. Fear of the future, fear of disappointing someone, fear of failing, fear we will never find love, fear of the destruction of the Earth, fear of going to school or work or a movie theater and not making it home safe. Every night the news tells us something new to fear and another tragic story that ever increases our impending sense of doom. We have enough fear in our lives; I don’t like fearing God, too.

As humans we tend to do one of two things when it comes to fear: ignore it or face it head on. We either go about our day thinking that we will be safe and ignoring any evidence to the contrary, or we go bungee jumping and physically hurl ourselves into a pit of terror. Most people actually end up with a combination of these two approaches, but what do we do about the fear of God? How do we deal with that? Do we face it head on, knowing that we will inevitably fail to follow the Ten Commandments and cross our fingers that the good we do outweighs the bad, or do we keep our heads down and try to ignore the ever-present terror because acknowledging it means living in fear? What would God have us do?

Prayer: Lord have mercy upon us, for we are afraid this Lent.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.

lent