February 28 – March 6, 2017

WORD

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”  7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”  11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Matthew 4:1-11

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Scripture Reads Me:

  • This passage makes me feel…
  • This passage makes me think about…
  • This passage reminds me of…
  • This passage teaches me that God is…
  • This passages teaches me that I am…
  • This passage challenges me to…

Reflection: He answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

During Lent, which begins this week on Wednesday, March 1, we are encouraged to fast from those things that distract us from God and derail our journeys of faith.  In other words, we are challenged to stop feeding on what is harmful to us and to start feasting on the presence, love, and words of God.

We know Jesus as the Bread of Life.  Jesus was born in Bayit Lechem, “the house of bread.”  Jesus offers to us the bread of the Eucharist which, he proclaims, is his body.  In John’s gospel, Jesus informs the crowds that if they nourish themselves with him, the bread of life that came from heaven, then they will not die.  Elsewhere, he contrasts this with the bread or yeast of the Pharisees.  We can assume that this bread leads to spiritual death.

Here in this passage Jesus implies that the Word of God feeds our spirits in ways that bread feeds our bodies.  Just as the manna sustained the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus will sustain us through his very being in the wilderness of the world.  This One who could multiply the bread to feed the multitudes offers us a never-ending supply of his grace, mercy, and goodness on which we might feast and find life.

How might you fast this Lent from the potentially poisonous breads that we are offered by various extensions of society?  How might you instead feast on the bread of Christ?  We are being offered life daily if we will only fill our souls with the hearty, satisfying, spiritually nutritious staple of God’s Word.  Taste the Word and savor its rich goodness.  Let the Word of God dwell in you and give you joy.  As you feast, feel the power and presence of God’s Word flow into your heart and heal you, into your mind and renew you, and into your body and move you into a new experience of faithfulness and trust.  Live by every word that comes from the mouth of God as it is spoken in you and over you by the Bread of Life.

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, February 28 – 2 Kings 16
  • Wednesday, March 1 – 2 Kings 17
  • Thursday, March 2 – 2 Kings 18
  • Friday, March 3 – 2 Kings 19
  • Saturday, March 4 – 2 Kings 20
  • Sunday, March 5 – 2 Kings 21
  • Monday, March 6 –  2 Kings 22

SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

There are many people in our world who are famished.  We should pray for those who are physically hungry and reach out to them through the many ministries throughout our area that work to feed them.  This week, though, let us also remember those who are famished in their souls.  Esau came home from a hunt so famished that he traded his birthright for a pot of stew.  This meant that Esau’s family, who would have rightfully inherited the promises of God, missed out on being the chosen people out of whom our Savior would come.  In his hunger, Esau bankrupted his soul and his people’s future.  There are many of our brothers and sisters out there who feel as desperate as Esau, willing to sell that which is priceless and valuable for a temporary relief from their struggles and pain.  Ask God to reach out in compassionate mercy to those who feel so hopeless.  Trust God to bring such people into your path, not so you might judge them but so you might love and care for them.  May we be givers of the Bread of Life to those who are famished.

Meditation Focus: Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

We all face temptations and most of us face the same temptations over and over.  What temptations do you deal with?  Do you struggle with grumbling and complaining?  A hot temper?  A tendency to lie?  A greedy desire for material wealth?  Or is it something more private and painful?  Whatever temptations you face, Jesus Christ has experienced them too.  In this passage the devil tempts him with worldly kingdoms and power.  Jesus’s response is powerful: Away with you, Satan!  

Imagine yourself confronting your deepest, darkest temptations.  In the spirit of the 23rd Psalm, sit at a table with your spiritual enemies in the presence of God.  Picture all of your temptations, guilt, shame, failures, hurts – give them a face and a name.  See how they sneer at you and mock you.  Now turn to where God is at this gathering.  Worship God in any way you see fit.  Then turn to the first snickering face of temptation and powerfully proclaim: Away with you, Satan!  Watch it disappear in its powerlessness.  Turn again to God and worship God.  Then face the second unwelcomed guest.  Powerfully proclaim the words of Christ again: Away with you, Satan!  Continue to turn to God and worship, gaining the strength and perspective to then turn to each temptation and sorrow, boldly announcing the power of God in the statement of Christ: Away with you, Satan!  It is not so much a request as a Spirit-filled demand!  Watch them all vanish in the goodness and grace of God.  When only you and God remain, again worship God and give an offering of thanksgiving to the One who saves you and delivers you.

Journaling Focus: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “lead us not into temptation.”  Yet in this passage we read that the Holy Spirit leads Jesus “into the wilderness to be tempted.”  In fact, the verb translated as “led” in this passage is linguistically connected to the concept of bringing a defendant to trial and presenting that defendant to the judge.  Furthermore, in Mark’s gospel a different verb is used to signify the Holy Spirit’s activity in leading Jesus into this time of temptation.  The word used by Mark is ekballo (from which we get our word ball).  This word means “to throw out” and is used at times in the Bible to signify the act of casting out an unclean spirit from a possessed person.  Why do you think the Holy Spirit is leading Jesus out into the wilderness in such a manner to be tempted?  Why is Jesus’s temptation important for us?  What accusations might Jesus have to face in his temptation?  Better said, whose accusations might Jesus have to face?  In the book of Job, Satan is portrayed as an accuser and it would seem that there is some of this nature present in Jesus’s temptations.  Where do you think the Holy Spirit was during the forty days of temptation?  Did the Spirit just leave Jesus there?  Write a little bit this week about your impressions of this act of leading Jesus into a place of temptation and how it affects you.

Breath Prayer: Father, deliver us from evil.

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