Tag Archives: repentance

Easter Devotion ~What Have I Done?

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Free clip art from here.

Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. ~ Romans 2:4 (TLB)

One of the gifts of the last year is a part-time job the Lord gave me as a paid singer in the Soli Dei church choir. Not being raised in a liturgical tradition, I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of the church calendar and being exposed to another style of worship.

Since my husband and I attend a community church with multiple services, most weeks I’m honored to worship at the Lutheran church with my friends in the choir as well as with my family at our home church.

Oh how I love worship music of all styles! I’m as comfortable in my choir robe as I am rocking out to the drums of our home church. I’ve also been known to slip away to a nearby charismatic church to enjoy worship dance or to head to another part of town and enjoy the pageantry at a friend’s Catholic Church. God’s people are everywhere, and there is great delight in joining with them in worship of our shared King.

It is due to this part-time job that I attended the Ash Wednesday service I’ve talked about in the last two devotions. My sweet Jesus also used the music of this job to break through my turmoil and finish the work of repentance in my heart.

The railing I mentioned yesterday was grounded in anger at God. I simply didn’t like how He was handling my life. I was tired of hardship. When He dug up the lie on that Thursday, I didn’t immediately repent. I spent two days thrashing about in confusion and anger. The wrestling with God allowed my processing to take the lie to its deepest places to be more fully uprooted. It needed to be banished once and for all, no stone unturned!

By Saturday morning I was spent.

Exhausted, I hauled myself out of bed for a three-hour Easter music rehearsal. Entering the choir room is entering a beautiful community. And in that sacred assembly of fellow believers with voices lifted in song the same Spirit who inspired the great composers of long ago took their music, reached across centuries, and stilled my heart. It started with Mendelssohn’s healing melody as we sang, “Grant us thy peace so graciously.”* The music swelled to fill the rehearsal space and the space of my soul. Weary of the questioning, the wrestling, my words became a prayer. Oh how I needed peace. Yes, Lord, grant me peace.

My heart then broke with an allegory by Tchaikovsky called “The Crown of Roses (Legend).” We sang, “The boy said humbly; ‘Take, I pray, All but the naked thorns away.’ Then of the thorns they made a crown, and with rough fingers pressed it down . . .” The Lord’s sacrifice is no children’s story. The harsh words, barbed whip, and thorned crown really did pierce His body and soul. And like the humble boy in the song, He allowed it. The God-man received the whip, the scorn, the cross, and succumbed to a cruel death.

But it was Richard Shephard’s “Good Friday Reproaches” the Spirit used to cleanse me of the last vestiges of anger and distrust. Our director, Andy, is committed to communicating the message of the pieces he chooses, and this piece has a particularly emotive refrain. For at least ten minutes we sang two sentences: “My people what wrong have I done to you? What good have I not done for you?”

Over and over those words echoed and reverberated in the rehearsal hall. Andy encouraged reflective word emphasis, dynamics, leaning into the text, making it spark with emotion and meaning.

My people what wrong have I done to you?

What good have I not done for you?

Part of repentance is to feel regret.

I’d been rethinking my life. Struggling to let go of the sin of unbelief and to change my way of thinking. Now I ached with regret. It was as if Christ Himself spoke to me in that refrain, and then the Spirit whispered a line from another song I’d heard. “But tell me now, where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?”**

I felt Him. “What wrong have I done to you?” He gently questioned. “Tell Me where is My fault in loving you with My whole heart? What good have I not done for you?”

As I sang with my lips I confessed with my heart, “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing but love and give. Like a selfish child who doesn’t get her way I’ve ignored Your sacrifice and accused You of not loving me well.”

It’s amazing how tender He is even when He calls for repentance, how even in asking us to rethink our attitudes and behaviors He floods us with a magnitude of love.

My friend, do you hear it too? The heart cry of Jesus, the One who gave all for us? Do you hear Him whisper, “What wrong have I done? What good have I withheld? Where can you fault Me? I’ve loved you with all I have.”

The enemy constantly tries to confuse God’s people and steal their joy. The vile whisper reverberates, saying God withholds from us, that His love is not to be trusted.

But where is fault in the One who spread His arms and gave all?

He left the splendor of heaven

Knowing his destiny

Was the lonely hill of Golgotha

There to lay down His life for me

If that isn’t love

The ocean is dry

There’s no stars in the sky

And the sparrow can’t fly

If that isn’t love

Then heaven’s a myth

There’s no feeling like this

If that isn’t love***

Thank You, Jesus. I am undone by Your selfless love. You have no fault. All is done from love. You withhold no good thing.

*”Verleih Uns Frieden (Grant Us Thy Peace)”, text by Martin Luther, translated to English by Andrew Halladay. Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy PMApprov2-01

**From “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons

***“If That Isn’t Love” by Dottie Rambo

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Soul Scents: Awaken, Book 1 in the series, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

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Easter Week Devotion ~ From Railing to Rest

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. ~ Colossians 1:13 (MSG)

Ever railed at God?

Ash Wednesday’s immersion of surrender and repentance opened me to the Holy Spirit’s work. The probing of inner places revealed some ugly stuff. My response included both crying out to God and yelling at God. Grief and hurt had dogged me for several weeks, and I struggled to find my way out of a fog. I couldn’t seem to identify the root cause of my pain, but the Ash Wednesday service with its prayers to cast down idols and reveal unexposed sin aided the process.

As I journaled Thursday morning, a single sentence, unrelated to the paragraphs on either side, scrawled upon the page. When I finished writing for the day, I reread the unexpected phrase exposed by a blank line on either side.

What was it?

Revelation.

The words expressed a deep fear I hadn’t yet fully understood. Attached to the fear were lies I needed to face and reject. Attached to the lies was a sinful lack of trust in God. It’s hard to repent—to rethink—our response to life when we don’t understand the lies and fears lurking within.

That week the Lord revealed sins of idolatry, faithlessness, and ego. The next week a pastor, Scott Nickell, said something profound. “At its core all temptation is about unbelief.” He talked about how it was unbelief that kept the generation of Israelites who’d been rescued from slavery in Egypt from entering the Promised Land.

Scott’s thoughts are grounded in Scripture. “God was patient with them [the Israelites] forty years, though they tried his patience sorely; he kept right on doing his mighty miracles for them to see. ‘But,’ God says, ‘I was very angry with them, for their hearts were always looking somewhere else instead of up to me, and they never found the paths I wanted them to follow.’ Then God, full of this anger against them, bound himself with an oath that he would never let them come to his place of rest” (Hebrews 3:9–11, TLB).

The writer of Hebrews then brings conviction to us. “Beware then of your own hearts, dear brothers, lest you find that they, too, are evil and unbelieving and are leading you away from the living God. Speak to each other about these things every day while there is still time so that none of you will become hardened against God, being blinded by the glamor of sin. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (v. 12­–14).

What’s encouraging about my experience is how faithful God is to reveal the sins of unbelief that harden our hearts to God’s plan. Instead of leaving us to wallow in the temptation of unbelief He makes it His personal priority to give us revelation so we can turn from sin. As we offer surrendered hearts that are willing to rethink the junk that bogs us down, He gets rid of the sins we thought we were doomed to keep repeating (Colossians 1:13). We enter the rest of the Promised Land—the rest of a new kingdom established by Jesus, a place where we live forgiven and free. A place where all things are in our Lord’s capable hands.

Have you asked Him to reveal hidden sins that hold you back?

Precious Father, thank You for taking personal interest in me. Thank You for lovingly revealing my unbelief so I can be set free from it and learn to resist the temptation to harden my heart when disappointment and fear assault. Probe where You need to, Holy Spirit! Reveal my fears and the lies attached to them. Give me understanding so I can rethink my response to life and live forgiven and free, trusting in You.PMApprov2-01

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Easter Week Devotion ~ Blackened Streaks

EASTER-cross-and-crown-smalJoin us each weekday preceding Easter for a devotional focusing on the Cross of Jesus. These devotionals are taken from the bonus week in Soul Scents: Rooted, which just released. 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

As the pastor traced the blackened streaks upon my forehead, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t remember attending an Ash Wednesday service before, but this deep worship touched inner hidden places.

The liturgy invited the Holy Spirit to search within. To root out sin. To cast down idols. It asked me to speak words of repentance. Trouble brewed inside. I didn’t yet understand, but I gave permission for revelation.

By definition to repent is to feel regret, to rethink, to change.

Repentance in a Christian is an interesting thing. We’ve already made the choice to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, hard earned at the cross. His righteousness covers us and declares us holy. We live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Every fault is already forgiven: today’s, yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s.

A painful memory of my childhood is how my precious, sweet Grandma, who knew the Lord and constantly pointed me to Him, didn’t understand this concept. She believed Christ was her Savior and loved Him with a loyalty almost baffling to me as a young child. Her lips moved almost continually in silent prayer. Many times her belief in God and His ability to help in trouble shored up my own young faith.

But Grandma didn’t have the freedom a deeper grasp of grace would have given her. Guilt and fear often held her back.

One time when she tucked me in for a special overnight at Grandma’s house she told me, “Every night I ask the Lord to forgive me for anything I did wrong during the day, in case I sinned and didn’t know it or forgot to ask forgiveness. If something happens to me in my sleep I want to be right with God.”

It still hurts to think of the bondage this kind of thinking held over her. She didn’t understand she was already acceptable to God because of Jesus. “For it is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God’s plan of salvation; he was the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:30, TLB).

Maybe a lot of people feel like she did. In church service after church service we sing songs and pray prayers that beg for God’s mercy. Yet hasn’t He already extended mercy?

“But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved—and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did” (Ephesians 2:4–6, TLB).

In His grace Christ cleansed us and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Then why celebrate Ash Wednesday?

Why repent?

Because we’re like the apostle Paul, who said, “So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:23–25, TLB).

Paul was comforted by the same truth that comforts us today: Jesus moved in, cleansed us by His blood, and now the Holy Spirit convicts, slipping into our secret places and revealing where we’re thinking and living in the old way. “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT). The King James Version of the Bible says we are changed from “glory to glory.”

We repent, not out of fear of hell, not because we are worthless sinners, but because we are new creations, citizens of God’s kingdom, and we want to repent—to “rethink” and “change”—anything that gets in the way of becoming more like Jesus.

My friend, as you rethink life and ask the Lord to help you become more like Jesus, you repent from the safe place as one already forgiven and accepted.

Precious Jesus, Your sacrifice changed everything. Thank You for walking the road to the cross, for entering such degradation and pain so I might be cleansed and freed from the powers of sin and death. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within me, probing the places where I need to rethink life. I give You permission to reveal any place where I’m thinking in the old ways instead of like a Kingdom citizen. Please change me from glory to glory.PMApprov2-01

(Soul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)