Lent quotes: “Lent is for the Lost” – Ann Voskamp

March 4, 2015

I appreciated this powerful encouragement / basic reminder as Lent has me very aware of the mess I make of my life when I choose to cling to sin:

Lent’s for the messes, the mourners, the muddled — for the people right lost. Lent’s not about making anybody acceptable to a Savior — but about making everybody aware of why they need a Savior.

From Ann Voskamp’s most recent Lenten blog entry.  Go read it all!

Music for Lent: Help my Unbelief (Red Mountain Music)

March 3, 2015

For the last 1 – 2 days I’ve had this song / this prayer filling my mind in quiet moments.

It’s a wonderful modern update of an old hymn by John Newton which I discovered it last Lent.  In fact, I may have posted it here last year.  But it’s definitely resonating with my thoughts and prayers again this Lent.  I’ve been convicted of the stubborn unbelief in my heart…


I encourage you to view the page at YouTube and read the background about the hymn.

You can find the words and chords here.

Learn more about Red Mountain Music and buy their songs here.

Help my Unbelief Lyrics:

I know the Lord is nigh,
And would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away,
And frights my soul away.

I would but can’t repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can never relent
Till Jesus makes it soft,
Till Jesus makes it soft.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

I would but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have power to move
A soul as base as mine.
A soul so base as mine.

I would but cannot rest,
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
And murmur at it still.
I murmur at it still.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

Romans 1:9 – a challenging question for self-examination in Lent

March 3, 2015

Yesterday’s NT lesson from the Lent daily office lectionary passages was from Romans 1:1-15. It’s a passage I know well, and all too often, it’s tempting to skip over the greetings section of the Pauline epistles, eager to jump into the “meat” of the letter.

However, it was a verse in Paul’s greetings at the beginning of Romans, verse 9, which I’ve often passed by quickly, that yesterday stopped me in my tracks as I read it and which prompted some prayerful self-examination:

“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son is my witness how constantly I remember you …” (Rom 1:9, NIV 1984)

OK, leaving aside the issue of how much I pray for people I’m discipling (do I CONSTANTLY remember them in my prayers as Paul said he did the Roman believers…?) what about those five small words: “serve with my whole heart.”

I couldn’t get past those words yesterday.  Am I serving the Lord with my WHOLE heart?  The Lord challenged me to look at some areas of compromise, areas where I was not wanting to count the cost or surrender fully to the Lord, not offering Him ALL of my time, energy, talents, myself, wanting to hold back some of my time and energy for myself.

I pray for myself and each of our readers that this Lent would be a time when we surrender more of our hearts and lives to the Lord so that we are able to say like Paul that we serve Him with our whole heart, an undivided heart.


P.S. I perhaps should note that the Bible I was using for my devotions yesterday while reading Romans 1 was the 1984 version of the NIV.  Other versions, including the new NIV and the ESV do not use the “with my whole heart” phrase, instead using “serve with my spirit” or “serve in my spirit.”  Only the less literal New Living translation still uses a similar phrase to the 1984 NIV.  (You can read the 1984 NIV version of Romans 1 here.)

Commentaries I browsed today suggest that the Greek meaning of the phrase in verse 9 now most common translated “serve in my spirit” refers to priestly devotion offered from our inmost soul, cross-referencing Romans 12:1.  You can look at the Stromg’s Concordance Greek Lexicon references here. (I serve) and here (in my spirit).

You also might enjoy looking at alternate versions’ translations of Rom 1:9 here.

Here’s a brief commentary on Romans 1:9 from the Pulpit Commentary, found at the Bible Hub site.

Verse 9.For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you in my prayers. A like solemn asseveration is made with a like intention (Philippians 1:8; cf. also 2 Corinthians 11:31). It expresses the writer’s earnestness, and is in place for attestation of a fact known only to himself and God. The word λατρεύω, (“I serve”), when used in a religious sense, most usually denotes “worship,” and specifically the priestly services of the temple (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:2; Hebrews 13:10). St. Paul’s λατρεία intended here is not ceremonial function, but a spiritual one (ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου) – an inward devotion of himself to God’s service in proclaiming and furthering “the gospel of his Son.” A similar view of the essential λατρεία of Christians is found in Romans 12:1; Romans 15:16; Philippians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 9:14.

Obviously it’s good for in depth study to look at the best highly literal modern translations (such as ESV), and verify alternate translations, and not get too focused on a single phrase in a single translation.  But I’m glad yesterday I was reading the older version of NIV and thus read the phrase “with my whole heart” – it got my attention in the way that the ESV translation might not have, and prompted a good prayer time.

New Lent devotional posts later today and all week…

March 2, 2015

Hi all,
Sorry for the brief Lent devotional blogging pause. The last 5 days or so were extremely full and busy. Something had to go from my schedule, and what I cut was internet & blogging time.

Looking forward to getting back to some Lenten devotional blogging in a few hours, and will line up posts for the entire week.

A Crucified People – Lent Reflection by Barnabas Piper, The Gospel Project

February 25, 2015

Thanks to a tweet yesterday from the Gospel Project (@Gospel_Project) I discovered this excellent reflection from Barnabas Piper.  It’s perfect for Lent.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Take up your cross, and follow me,” said Jesus. Follow Him where? And why do we need this cross? I thought He bore the cross so I don’t have to.

“It’s my cross to bear,” said the Christian. What is? That job he hates, the nagging spouse, the contentious deacon, an illness, a rebellious child. In religious nomenclature we have substituted common frustrations of life for the cross and bear those instead.

Christians, the cross we are to bear is the same Jesus bore, a symbol of death and a tool of destruction. It is the cross on which we lay down our lives for our friends and love our wives as Christ loved the church, on which the old is killed and sin is put to death. We take up the cross so that we can give up our lives. What is crucified is our own lordship over ourselves, the god of self that was born in Eden and has controlled humanity since. Each day we bear our cross and follow Jesus, and in so doing that self-god is killed day-by-day.  (emphasis added)

The whole reflection is EXCELLENT.  I highly recommend it!

Reflections on this week’s Lent Lectionary from Deuteronomy

February 24, 2015

If you’re following the 1979 Book of Common Prayer Lectionary for Lent [see the table here, or use the ESV BCP reading plan here] in recent days, the OT Lessons have been from Deuteronomy 7 – 9.

Last night I found myself struck by Dt. 8:16 about how the Lord humbled and tested the Israelites by feeding them manna.

He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. (NIV)

It wasn’t merely the 40 years wandering in the Wilderness that was God’s way to humble and to test their hearts, but also His provision of manna.

At first that seemed surprising to me when I consciously considered what is written.  How could God’s miraculous provision of food for 40 years in the desert be a test or a form of humbling?  I think the answer comes in the context of the passages.  First, the Israelites are warned not to forget God when they have eaten the fruit of the land and are “satisfied.”   And they are strongly warned against becoming proud in their ability to provide for themselves (vs. 17-18):

 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

And it is these verses that I think provide the key to how God’s provision of manna is humbling.  It’s because there was absolutely NOTHING the Israelites could do to earn it, work for it, control it – NOTHING they could take pride in.  Manna is an example of sheer free GRACE.  A gift.  Utterly unearned.  It is humbling to have to need God so much, not to be able to provide for daily needs in our own strength.

As one who to often falls into the trap of trusting in my own performance and thinking that it somehow “adds” to God’s favor towards me, I needed this reminder this Lent.  Today I am praying:

Lord, starve my pride this Lent that I may feast on the riches of Your grace and learn to depend utterly on You as the Israelites depended on You for manna.  May my heart be satisfied in what You provide, not in the pride I take in my own efforts and accomplishments. May I rejoice in needing You each day.


The Rev. James A. Gibson in South Carolina who posts daily devotionals on the lectionary at Vicar’s Versicles today focuses on the follow up verses in Deut. 9, and his words continued to challenge me and give me much to reflect on.  His entry is titled Grace in the Old Testament.

I recommend the whole entry, but here’s an excerpt:

… after forty years of wandering in the wilderness because of disobedience, the Israelites are reminded that they are completely undeserving of the gift God is giving them. It is not because of their righteousness that they are entering the land. Rather, it is because of wickedness that all the other nations are being judged. Israel will be the beneficiary of God’s judgment on the other nations purely because of God’s gracious choice. There could be no more unlikely people for God to have chosen and Moses reminds the Israelites of this fact in no uncertain terms.

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people,” Moses says. “Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”

The Israelites are constantly reminded of how stubborn and stiff-necked they are. Time and time again, they forgot about how God had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. They forgot about all the signs and wonders, the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, the manna from heaven. However, the more they rebelled, it seems, the more gracious God was in providing for them, even though he was so often provoked to anger.

Read the whole entry here.

Lent Prayers – St. Augustine: Move me to do what is Holy

February 24, 2015

Thanks to John Birch at Faith and Worship, I was reminded of this great prayer from St. Augustine, which we first posted in 2007, and then again in Lent 2009,

Breathe on me, Holy Spirit,
that I may think what is holy.
Move me, Holy Spirit,
that I may do what is holy.
Attract me, Holy Spirit,
that I may love what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may guard what is holy.
Guard me, Holy Spirit,
that I may keep what is holy.

- St Augustine of Hippo (AD354-430)

There are at least 8 or 9 other great quotes and prayers from St. Augustine we’ve posted in years’ past.  You can find them here.


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