GRACE changes everything

Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012

Lenten and Easter Worship Services
Lent and Easter Offerings will support Southwood’s Global Mission work in Honduras and Tanzania. Over 70 people will be serving with Southwood at these mission sites during 2012.

Ash Wednesday Services
• Wednesday, February 22 • 5:15 and 6:30 p.m. • Services with Holy Communion • Lenten Meal served 5:00–6:30 p.m.

Lenten Services
• Wednesdays • 6:30 p.m. February 29 and March 7, 14, 21 & 28 • Service with Holy Communion • Lenten Meal served 5:00–6:30 p.m.

Holy Week
• Maundy Thursday • April 5 • 6:30 p.m. • Good Friday • April 6 • 6:30 p.m. • Easter Services • April 8 7:30, 8:30, 9:45 & 11:00 a.m.


Sunday Services at 8:30, 9:45 & 11:00 a.m. 402.423.5511 • Mailing Address: p.o. box 22767 • Lincoln, ne 68542 Physical Address: 9300 South 40th Street • Lincoln, ne 68516
Southwood Lutheran Church

Dear Friends, Once again we enter this season of Lent. It begins with Ash Wednesday’s cold dark words “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” and it ends with the most joyous proclamation of all “the tomb is empty, He is risen!” Isn’t it interesting how grace changes everything? That’s our God. That’s how our God works. From darkness to light, from despair to hope, from broken to healed, from death to life. God is always at work in our world bringing about renewal, healing and hope. That is the message I hope you are immersed in this Lent. God is at work in your life and God is at work (through you and I) in our world. He is always seeking to bring about the kind of change that brings abundant life to all. This Lent you have two excellent opportunities to immerse yourself in this grace. One is this Lenten devotional book that you are holding. Use this as a daily tool to draw closer to God and let it help you to be attentive for how God is at work in your life and in the world. Second, the artwork in this book is taken from a piece of art that will come to life during our worship in this season. People from Southwood will be working to paint a canvas that will depict the story of God at bringing to life the grace that changes everything! Thank you to Michelle DeRusha who, for the third year has written 40 plus days of devotionals for you. Her writing is a true gift to our congregation. Thank you also to Deb Paden who graciously shares her artistic skills with us this year. We are blessed. Blessings to you this Lent. Remember, grace changes everything!

Pastor Sara
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Wednesday, February 22
Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of the poplar trees. Psalm 137:1-2

Psalm 137:1-9

Have you ever despaired for something lost? Maybe it was a loved one lost to death. Or a job lost to tough economic times. Or an ambition or dream dashed. These are lonely times, times of isolation and desolation; times when you might feel hopeless and defeated. This is exactly how the Israelites felt when they were exiled, and many of the Psalms reflect these feelings of despair and mourning. Yet the truth is, although the world is a broken one—both in Old Testament times and now—it is not left without hope for repair. As we will see during this Lenten journey, God always has plans for good, even in the midst of the darkest times. Lord, as I begin this Lenten study, one that starts in a place of brokenness, please be with me and guide me along Your path as I journey from darkness into Light. Amen.

Thursday, February 23
“Build homes and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food you produce… And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:5 & 7

Jeremiah 29:1-7

Despite their seemingly dire circumstances, the exiled Israelites heard a surprisingly hopeful and promising message from God. He encouraged them to make a home in their place of loss, to dig in, literally and metaphorically. He advised them to take action, to work—to build homes, plant gardens, pray—to get busy instead of staying mired in despair and hopelessness. Through these words to the Israelites God suggests the same for us, too, as we struggle in our own places of loss and exile. Keep moving in the right direction, God tells us. Only He can create good out of brokenness, but He needs us to participate in the transformation process. If you are currently in a place of desolation and despair right now, or if you know someone who is, pray to God for guidance and direction. Ask Him how you can actively participate in this journey from loss to Light.
Southwood Lutheran Church


Friday, February 24
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:10-11

It’s easy to lose hope when we are in the midst of suffering and pain. We might even feel like quitting, like “hanging it up,” just like the psalmist we read earlier this week who wept and mourned his loss while he hung up his harp. But in this verse, God tells us explicitly that He has plans for us, and that His plans are good. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we will avoid all pain and suffering in life, but that we will ultimately survive this period of loss to find God’s glorious goodness for us on the other side. Know that God is with you as you labor through hardship. Know that only He has the power to transform all things into good. Today, take a few minutes to reflect on a period of hardship and loss in your past. Can you see now how God led you from that place of pain into a plan for good?

Saturday, February 25
“In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:12-14

Jeremiah 29:10-14

Sometimes it feels like God can’t hear us, or that He’s not listening, doesn’t it? We pray, we wait and we wonder—is He here? Does He hear me? Will He respond? In these verses God tells us clearly and emphatically that yes, He is listening, always listening. In fact, it’s no coincidence that these verses come at the end of a long list of instructions from God: build, work, keep moving in the right direction, have faith that my plans are good and above all, pray: “Look for me wholeheartedly, and you will find me.” Don’t give up, even when the road is rough, God tells us. Keep looking. You will find Him. Today, make an effort to look for God. Keep your eyes and ears open for Him. Seek His presence in your everyday life. He is there, waiting to be found by you.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Sunday, February 26
And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but manmade rules learned by rote.” Isaiah 29:13

Admit it: there are times when you simply go through the motions of faith. And you’re not alone—we all fall into periods of complacency in our faith and worship. We show up at church every Sunday morning. We recite the prayers and sing the hymns we’ve known since Sunday School. We say we love God, that we believe in God, but we are not truly present for Him. Our hearts and minds are distracted by endless todo lists or circumstances that our beyond our control. We are simply giving God lip-service. Or perhaps you feel like you’re already “doing enough” because you’re at church every week, or because you pray every day, or because you volunteer in your community. You assure yourself that you’re doing exactly what God requires. You feel confident that God is pleased with your faith life and your service to Him. But you might be wrong. The tricky part with God is that He wants all of us. Not just stellar church attendance or regular prayer. Not even outstanding community service or adherence to His commandments. Showing up isn’t enough. He wants much more than good Christian rule-following. God wants our whole hearts. If you don’t know what it looks like or feels like to give your whole heart to God (and don’t worry, you are not alone in this), or if you feel stuck in a faith rut and don’t know how to break free, pray about it. Pray to God for guidance during the next six weeks of this Lenten study. Pray that He opens your heart and fills it with fresh understanding and a deeper, fuller knowledge of His will for you. Tell Him honestly that you want to give Him your whole heart, and ask Him to show you exactly how to do that. Ask that He transform your heart from simple rule-following to a true Gospel-inspired heart. Lord, take these six weeks of Lent to transform me. Change my heart, open it to Your Word, transform me from the inside out. Help me understand Your love for me, so that I may more deeply and truly love you. Amen.
Southwood Lutheran Church


Monday, February 27
“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:14

Luke 18:9-14

In this parable Jesus describes a Pharisee who looks disdainfully at a tax collector, yet considers himself clean of sin and free of flaws. Be honest with yourself—have you ever been the Pharisee in this story? Have you ever assumed that you were better than someone else, less flawed? Have you ever thought with relief that your sins weren’t as bad as someone else’s? Compare that scornful and proud attitude to the humble tax collector, who didn’t dare even lift his eyes from the ground when he prayed for forgiveness. Jesus wants our humble, heartfelt repentance, and He wants us to come before Him with our sins alone, without comparing ourselves to those we consider worse off. The next time you’re tempted to compare, remember to bring only your own sins before God. Today, take a moment to stand before God humbly and honestly and ask Him to forgive you of your sins.

Tuesday, February 28
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Psalm 51:10-12

It’s easy to get lax in our relationship with God sometimes, isn’t it? We cut ourselves slack and let ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that our sins are minor and that God’s grace covers us anyway. But God desires a willing and loyal spirit, not a lazy, distant one. He wants a dedicated, unwavering follower, not a lackadaisical one. God doesn’t want a routine love. He doesn’t want us to love Him out of habit or obligation. He wants us to obey Him out of love, because we desire that closeness with Him and need it to sustain us in the everyday. Is your spirit loyal to God? Look closely at your inner state today, and ask God to renew your spirit and reinvigorate your love for Him and your desire to obey Him.

Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Wednesday, February 29
Don’t copy the behavior and custom of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Romans 12:1-2

Let God transform you. Think about that word “let”—it implies a relinquishing of control, a handing over of ourselves and our lives to God. We resist that, don’t we? We often don’t allow God to transform us because we are afraid, unwilling to trust Him with our whole being and lives, unwilling to surrender. Yet letting God in, allowing Him to transform you and change the way you think is the key to understanding His will for you. Surrendering comes before transformation, and transformation precedes understanding. Today, take five or ten minutes to sit quietly and begin the process of letting God in. Ask Him for the help you need to trust Him. Ask Him to help you let go, to surrender. Let Him change the way you think.

Thursday, March 1
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:23-24

Romans 3:21-24

Have you ever looked at someone else’s sins and considered them more egregious than yours? Have you ever been the Pharisee condemning the tax collector, like we read in the parable a couple of days ago? If so, you’re not alone. All of us make this mistake from time to time. We reassure ourselves of our own salvation by pointing the finger at someone else. We judge others, and in doing so, we miss the whole point: that God offers grace to all believers, no matter how atrocious their sins. What matters isn’t so much the sin itself—for every sin serves to distance us from God—but that we are all justified freely by grace. The next time you are inclined to point a finger at someone else, remember that there is no hierarchy of sins. All sin separates us from God. Instead, remember that God showers undeserved grace on each one of us—on you, on your neighbor, on the stranger across the globe.
Southwood Lutheran Church


Friday, March 2
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the lifegiving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:1-2

Romans 8:1-4

“There is no condemnation.” Period. Don’t you love the matter-of-fact bluntness of that statement? There are no disclaimers, no clauses, no fine print—it’s a simple statement of fact. You are a sinner, there’s no getting around that. But because of Jesus, you are not condemned. What’s more, you have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside you—a force far greater and more powerful than sin and death itself. Isn’t that the most exhilarating, liberating, loving proclamation you have ever heard? Take a moment to thank God for this glorious, no-stringsattached gift of freedom. And then sit quietly for a few minutes and revel in the power and liberation of the life-giving Holy Spirit working in you.

Saturday, March 3
My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:3-4 (NIV)

Job 33:1-7

It’s easy to fall into the habit of trying to earn God’s grace through prayer, worship or acts of service. It’s easy to forget that merit-based salvation doesn’t enter the equation at all, because grace means we receive salvation as an undeserved, unmerited gift. As Timothy Keller reminds us, the human heart will often revert to its default mode—the belief that we are saved by our good works. Instead, says Keller, “‘Saving faith’ is transferring our trust from our own works and record to Christ’s works and record.” The fact is, the Spirit of God made us, and it continuously empowers us, breathing the glory and goodness of the Almighty into our everyday. As an exercise in resetting the default mode of your heart, repeat the verse, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” several times throughout your day today, and reflect on the fact that God works through you.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Sunday, March 4
Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind— livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry on the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”” Genesis 1:24-28

These opening verses in Genesis make it clear that we as human beings were made to rule over all creation—from the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, to the domesticated animals, the wild animals and even the tiniest creatures. God never said we should allow any of these entities to rule over us, but that we should reign over them and worship the one and only true God. And that, of course, is where Adam and Eve went wrong. They made an idol not out of an animal, but out of something far more dangerous: knowledge and power. Their craving for knowledge and power began to squeeze out their love for God. Their idols began to take priority over God. Adam and Eve aren’t unique in their flaws—we do much the same today. It may not be a golden calf or even knowledge that we idolize, but whatever it is that steals our attention from God—money, material possessions, fame, authority, power—is just as damaging. In idolizing these entities instead of God Himself, we are manipulated by their false power. These idols steal our time, our attention, our resources and our self-worth. Above all, they steal our love for God. Today, think hard about what is stealing your attention from God. These distractions are not harmless vices but damaging idols, driving a wedge between you and God. Ask God for help in identifying the idols in your life and pray that He will help you banish their influence and power over you.


Southwood Lutheran Church

Monday, March 5
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like… And instead of worshipping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:21 & 23

Romans 1:18-25

Sound familiar? We all make the mistake of trying to define God according to our human standards, our human limitations, and of course, we fail, because God cannot be boxed in or contained. He is far too big, too powerful, too awesome—and that may be the very reason we try to define and contain Him: His splendor and omnipotence are too much for our human minds to process. And so we turn our attention and our hearts to human gods—our jobs, finances, homes, ambitions, dreams—because they can be managed and controlled in ways that God cannot. Be honest with yourself for a moment: do you focus too much attention on idols because you resist surrendering entirely to the one and only true God? Today, ask God to help you relinquish control, and then rejoice in the freedom that comes with knowing that God is indeed the Master of everything.

Tuesday, March 6
When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Exodus 32:1 & 4

Exodus 32:1-6

Sometimes we get impatient with God and His timeline. We might feel confident about our calling and clear about the path we are on, when suddenly, progress seems to stall. Like the early Israelites, we grow tired of waiting; we get frustrated, anxious and impatient with what seems like a lack of progress, and we are tempted to take matters into our own hands. We want to control the situation, instead of waiting for our next God-given steps to become clear. What we forget, of course, is that God’s plan does not follow our timeline. Today, pray for patience and a bigger-picture perspective. And know in your heart that God is still at work on your behalf, even when it seems like He’s not.

Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Wednesday, March 7
So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? Galatians 4:9

Galatians 4:8-12

These verses are reminiscent of the early Israelites as they stood on the cusp of Canaan, still tempted to return to their former life of enslavement in a foreign land, despite how far they’d come and how much progress they’d already made (see Numbers 14:4). Why? Because change, even positive change, is hard and frightening. Sometimes we’re tempted to embrace our old ways—the weak and useless ways of the world— simply because they are familiar. Living out the Gospel in the everyday is amazing, liberating and all-consuming, but accepting it can be scary, too, because it requires a full surrender to and trust in God. Living life the way we always have, thinking the way we always have, is easy. But true, heartfelt transformation entails hard work and often requires that we take a risk. Today, think about one area in your life where God is asking you to stretch outside your comfort zone to embrace the Gospel way. And then pray for the strength and courage to keep moving forward.

Thursday, March 8
They forgot God, their savior, who had done such great things in Egypt—such wonderful things in the land of Ham, such awesome deeds at the Red Sea. Psalm 106:21-22

Psalm 106:13-23

Have you ever felt so mired in present circumstances that you lost sight of how God has come through for you in the past? That’s exactly what the Israelites did, too. It’s no coincidence that Psalm 106 repeats in three separate verses (106:7, 106:13, 106:21) that the Israelites forgot God’s previous acts of kindness and all the miracles He had performed on their behalf. They were so frustrated and impatient with God’s seeming inaction that they took matters into their own hands, constructing a golden calf to worship and all the while forgetting every great miracle already given to them by God. The next time you doubt that God is working constantly on your behalf, take a moment to reflect on all the times in your past when He has come through, and pray for the trust, faith and patience to wait for Him this time, too.


Southwood Lutheran Church

Friday, March 9
“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” 1 John 5:21

1 John 5:18-21

The NIV translation of this verse reads, “Dear children, keep yourself from idols,” but the New Living translation is more specific, personalizing the danger of idols with the introduction of the heart. The bottom line is that God wants your whole heart. He doesn’t want a quarter of it, or half, or even 99.9%—He wants it all. John is very clear here when he warns us to steer clear of anything that will squeeze God out of His rightful place in the center of our hearts. Idols steal space in our hearts. And the hard truth is that there’s not room in your heart or your life for both God and your idol. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have interests or pleasures or ambitions. It’s simply a warning—if any of these other areas in our lives begin to dominate or take priority, beware. Ask yourself this, right now: what is squeezing God from my heart? What is occupying my heart-space? Pray for guidance in identifying the idols in your life and the wisdom and strength to overcome them.

Saturday, March 10
“If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors…then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.” 2 Chronicles 6:38-39

2 Chronicles 6:36-42

In these verses Solomon prays to God for his people, and we can use his words as an example to follow in our own petitions for forgiveness as well. Don’t forget: God knows you inside and out. He knows what you’ve made into an idol long before you recognize it as such. He knows when you stray, when you wander, when your heart is not fully dedicated to Him. But don’t let that intimidate you, because more than anything, God is also ready to forgive you. Nothing surprises Him. You simply need to follow Solomon’s lead and ask God to listen to your prayer and confession. Lord, you know my idols, my flaws, my sins. You know where I have gone astray in my life and when I have not devoted my heart entirely to You. I pray for Your forgiveness now. I turn to You with my whole heart. Amen.

Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Sunday, March 11
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

I’m guessing many of us don’t think of ourselves as priests. We reserve that title for holy people, people in positions of authority in the church. But here Peter tells us that we are the priests—we regular, ordinary people are in fact royal, holy and special—so special, in fact, that God considers us His very own possession. This means, of course, that the roles and responsibilities we might assume belong to clergy belong to us as well. We are charged with serving. We are charged with loving our neighbors. We are charged with offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us and refraining from judging those around us. We are charged with caring for the sick, the poor, the imprisoned and those who are considered outcasts of society. We are charged with encouraging, praying for and offering spiritual direction to one another. Furthermore, it’s our responsibility to share the Gospel truth. We can’t simply expect the ordained to preach the Good News from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. It’s our job to share the Good News, too, in our own ways and in our own lives. As Peter says, because we are chosen by God, it is our duty to show others His goodness, to let His light shine through our actions and words. Earlier in this chapter Peter refers to God’s people as “the living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5). Just like bricks laid one upon the other to form the strong foundation of the temple, we as God’s people must work together to build God’s kingdom here on Earth. Lord, You have blessed me with an important role: to serve as a holy priest in Your kingdom on Earth. Please help me take that job seriously and to fulfill that role as You see fit. Show me how You want me to serve You and Your people and guide me in the best ways to illuminate Your goodness.
Southwood Lutheran Church


Monday, March 12
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone— especially those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

Galatians 6:7-10

It’s easy to get complacent in our service to God. We get lazy. We resent the fact that our efforts and “good works” don’t seem to pay off. “Why doesn’t anyone notice my work?” we might wonder. “Why aren’t I making any progress?” we might complain. Yet Paul reminds the Galatians, and us, that we are operating on our own schedule, rather than on God’s. “At just the right time we will reap a harvest,” Paul reminds us. We don’t know when that time is, but we must continue to prepare for it nonetheless. Today, ask God for the perseverance and endurance to keep doing good, even when you are weary or frustrated. Remember that God sees everything—your service to Him does not go unnoticed.

Tuesday, March 13
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up the one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Today we have too many denominations to count, each with its own unique take on Christianity. Yet we have one critical element in common: we are part of the body of Christ, and we all share the same Holy Spirit within us. It’s not up to us to decide who among us is least or most important. In fact, as Paul says later in this chapter, “some of the parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.” God decides how the pieces fall into place. Our job is simply to care for one another. Today, pray for the wisdom and insight to see beyond theological or denominational details to the bigger picture of Christ’s body, His church. Ask God to guide you in your specific role in furthering His kingdom on Earth.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Wednesday, March 14
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

Acts 9:1-19

Sometimes we’re asked to minister to someone we might not respect or even like. Such was the case with Ananias, who was asked by God to care for Saul. Initially Ananias resisted God’s instructions. Knowing Saul’s reputation as a murderous persecutor of Christians, Ananias didn’t see any point in helping him; he didn’t want anything to do with Saul, and he probably thought Saul deserved his blindness. Yet despite his doubts, Ananias listened to God and obeyed. Like Ananias, we may not want to help someone we feel is unworthy. But the fact is, the choice is not ours. God calls us to help even those we don’t particularly like. Think about who in your life you are most reluctant to help. This may be exactly the person God wants you to reach out to today.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:2-3

Thursday, March 15

Galatians 6:1-3

We often get caught up in our own self-importance. Perhaps you hold a position of authority at work or are a leader in the community, and maybe, if you are really honest with yourself, there are times when you think you have better things to do than offer assistance to a subordinate. Or you assume your agenda is too full of important tasks to take the time to lend an ear to a person who needs to talk, or vent or grieve. Remember, though, what Jesus tells us time and time again in the Gospels: the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Despite your job title, your position, your income or your standing in the community, in Kingdom hierarchy, you are not any better than anyone else. Today, think about someone in your wide circle of friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family members, and offer help to someone you know is in need—particularly a person you might consider beneath you.


Southwood Lutheran Church

Friday, March 16
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:16 and 19-20

James 5:13-20

It can be awkward to talk about our faith, even among friends and loved ones. Yet when we step beyond those walls and talk openly and honestly about our fears, beliefs and even our sins, we often take our faith to a deeper, more meaningful level. Sharing our faith, even the ugly parts of it, connects us to others and helps grow our community and our own faith. We often assume that spiritual direction and counseling can come only from religious experts—ministers, priests, counselors— yet it’s clear from these verses that we are called to serve as spiritual directors for each other as well. If you know someone who is struggling, take a deep breath and courageously ask that person if you can pray for him or her. Let that person know that you are available if he or she needs someone to talk to during their difficult time.

Saturday, March 17
Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! James 5:9

James 5:7-12

Grumbling manifests itself in so many forms, and it’s so easy to fall into the habit of it. We complain about our irritating co-workers, neighbors and family members. We lose patience with the dawdling cashier and the driver poking along at five miles an hour below the speed limit. We begrudge the successes of our friends and the accomplishments of our colleagues. We grow exasperated with our kids’ mistakes. Yet what purpose does this incessant grumbling serve? Complaining doesn’t change the situation, and worse, it creates negativity and further dissatisfaction. In the end, complaining about others is a subtle form of judgment—and as James reminds us here, there is only one true Judge. Here’s a challenge for today: can you go the whole day without complaining about anyone? If you succeed at that, next try a whole week!

Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Sunday, March 18
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

It’s no coincidence that the act of sharing meals is mentioned three times in just these six verses. Paul is clearly telling us that the act of sharing meals together—the common practice of eating, drinking and enjoying each other’s company—the act of hospitality, can and should be considered a divine experience. Notice in particular that Paul specifies all meals, not only the sacrament of communion. In fact, sharing meals together makes Paul’s list of the top four priorities: learning about Jesus, community (fellowship), prayer and sharing meals (including the Lord’s Supper). We tend to think of sharing a meal as an ordinary, everyday activity. While we know the sacrament of Holy Communion is a holy experience, we might overlook the possibility that a meal in our own kitchen or dining room can be holy as well. But Paul tells us that this simple act of hospitality—the act of opening our homes and sharing our food—is an important way to communicate God’s love. It’s so important, in fact, that he includes it with the activities we normal associate with religion: worship, serving, prayer and fellowship. Note, too, that Paul considers the daily meal, the ones we enjoy around our own tables, as an opportunity to share joy, generosity and the Gospel. His point: a holy meal isn’t necessarily limited to the confines of a church. This week, take the opportunity to look at your own family meals in a new light. The Divine is there, present at your own kitchen table. How will you choose to share hospitality with others?

Monday, March 19
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Romans 12:9-21

It sounds lovely, doesn’t it: be ready to help people in need and be eager to practice hospitality. But in reality, this is a tall order. Paul is intentionally not specific in this one short verse. He doesn’t say, “When your friends or loved ones are in need, be ready to help them.” His advice is broad: when God’s people—and that means everyone—are in need, be ready to help. That includes your annoying coworker and the neighbor you don’t particularly like. That means the sibling you don’t get along with and the child who is on your last nerve. That even means the stranger you see huddled under a ragged blanket on the street corner. It’s true, you can’t help everyone. But you can help someone—and just know, whoever you choose to help is one of God’s own. Start small, start now. It doesn’t matter who you help, but make it a point to help one of God’s own today.


Southwood Lutheran Church

Tuesday, March 20
Acts 16:11-15
She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed. Acts 16:15

It might seem like a simple act, but in reality, Lydia from Thyatira acted boldly when she invited Paul and the other disciples into her home. Lydia took the verse we read yesterday from Romans 12 to heart: she eagerly practiced true hospitality as she offered her home to a group of weary travelers. Think for a minute, though, about the reality of Lydia’s situation. Here was a woman in a patriarchal society who generously opened her home to a group of male strangers she’d just met. Lydia didn’t hesitate. She didn’t worry about what her neighbors or friends might think or say, or how they might judge her for inviting male strangers into her home. She simply put her faith into action. Are you ever reluctant to reach out to others because you’re afraid of what people might think or say about you? The next time you hesitate, remember: in serving one of God’s own, you are serving God Himself, and that’s all that really matters in the end.

Wednesday, March 21
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it. Hebrews 13:2

Hebrews 13:1-3

This verse is the perfect complement to Matthew 25:40, in which Jesus tells His followers, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” We are created in the image of God. We are His holy people, His chosen ones, His most treasured possession. And He expects that we will care for each other, even the strangers among us, with that in mind. The Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself, is in each one of us, which means that we encounter Him every day of our lives in each person who crosses our path. Today, each time you look into the face of a stranger, think to yourself, “I am looking into the eyes of Jesus Christ. See how ” that changes the way you approach and interact with the people who cross your path.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Thursday, March 22
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15

1 Peter 3:13-17

A question about your faith is the perfect opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. However, as the next verse states, we must take care to do this gently and respectfully. In some cases Christians have garnered a bad name for themselves as a result of heavy-handed moralizing and judgmental preaching. In the end, this approach usually alienates non-Christians and establishes an inaccurate picture of the Christian church. If someone asks about your faith, by all means, explain how God works in your life and why you worship Him and love Him. Better yet, use your everyday actions and attitude to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit and the light of Jesus Christ shining through you. Lord, today I pray for the courage to talk about my faith without defensiveness or judgment, but with gentleness, grace and humility. Amen.

Friday, March 23
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

Matthew 5:13-16

You might read these verses and think, “Wait a second: I thought Jesus was the Light of the world? Why is this verse talking about me as the light?” But that’s exactly the point. When God created us, he made us in His image, and when we were baptized, the Holy Spirit filled our minds, hearts and bodies, guiding us to walk in the ways of Jesus all the days of our lives. The light of Jesus is our light; His light is within each of us and shines through us—like brilliant city lights illuminating the night sky; like a lamp casting light throughout the house. It’s our role here on Earth to make proper use of that light—to shine it on others so that they, too, may glimpse the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. You contain the light of Jesus, and you have a choice as to what you’ll do with that light. Will you snuff it out? Or will you allow it to shine brightly as a blessing to others?
Southwood Lutheran Church


Saturday, March 24
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Romans 15:9-13

Trust precedes true hope, joy and peace. Only in surrendering to the will of God and trusting that He holds us in the palm of His hand are we able to open a space that can be filled completely with true hope, joy and peace. The beauty and gift of this transformation is that the filling never ends—the Holy Spirit will continually replenish our supply so that we overflow with this resplendent, confident hope, a contagious hope that blesses and instills the hope of Jesus Christ in all those around us. God’s hope, joy and peace are the gifts that keep on giving—received by us and overflowing to others in a never-ending cycle of grace. Do you suspect that you have not opened yourself to trusting fully in God? Pray that you surrender to His will and that the hope, joy and peace that can come only from Him fill you to the point of overflowing.

Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Sunday, March 25
The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. Genesis 2:15

It’s easy to overlook the fact that Adam and Eve were created and placed by God in the Garden of Eden for a practical purpose—not just to enjoy the Garden and bask in its beauty, but to “tend and watch over it.” We imagine Adam and Eve enjoying themselves, frolicking amidst the flora and fauna, choosing names for each of the animals. But Adam and Eve also had a job—they were charged with taking care of the Garden. The point is, we were created to work. We forget that sometimes, don’t we? We complain about dragging ourselves out of bed on Monday morning and heading off to work. We think about the days when we are finally retired and can kick back and relax, the days when our children are grown and we don’t have to make school lunches or help with math homework or launder grass-stained jeans. God could have created a situation for Adam and Eve in which the Garden took care of itself. He’s God after all—He could have set up the Garden of Eden any way He wanted. But he purposefully gave Adam and Eve a role; he gave them something to do. He wanted them to work. The same is true for us, too. God created each one of us to work. Our roles are different and diverse. To some of us He gave leadership skills, to others the gift of teaching or caretaking. To still others He gave ambition and drive. Not all of our roles are glamorous. Not all of us work in a life-ordeath environment. But each one of us has an important, God-given job to do. God expects that we will approach our daily work for what it is: a high calling. Rather than complain about our jobs, or pine for the days when we can be done with them, God expects that we will work toward growing His kingdom on Earth in whatever capacity we can and in whatever role we find ourselves. There is plenty of room to grow God’s kingdom in every workplace. Our most important job is to recognize that fact and act on it. Lord, as I begin the new week tomorrow, please change my attitude toward work. Please help me see my job as You do: as a high calling and an opportunity to live out Your vision for growing Your kingdom here on Earth.
Southwood Lutheran Church


Monday, March 26
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Colossians 3:18-25

It’s interesting that this translation reads “as though you were working for the Lord.” After all, isn’t that exactly who we are working for when it comes right down to it? Yet we often miss the bigger picture. We focus on our boss in the office, and we forget that the line of authority does not end there. We forget that every function we perform in our daily work—whether we work inside the home or out of it—is a means to honor God. Our everyday work is our high calling, but so often we don’t view it or approach it that way. Today, before you begin your day’s work, remember the Master you serve and give thanks for another opportunity to serve Him well. Remind yourself that in everything you accomplish, you are working for the Lord.

Tuesday, March 27
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them and where thieves break in and steal. Matthew 6:19

Matthew 6:19-21

God wants us to work in His name, and He delights in our success, but that doesn’t suggest that He wants us to horde our wealth and stockpile our resources for ourselves and our closest loved ones. The Gospels make it clear again and again that we should love God and love our neighbor. And when God says love your neighbor, He doesn’t simply mean that we make friendly chat over the backyard fence once or twice a month. He defines love as caring for, serving, supporting and encouraging. When we keep too many resources for ourselves, these resources begin to take on a life of their own. The treasures become big, important and meaningful, and soon they’ve grown into idols, taking up space in your heart and pushing God out to the fringes. This week, take an honest inventory of your resources and how much “heart real estate” they occupy. Pray for the wisdom and courage to store up Heavenly treasure rather than the ephemeral earthly kind.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Wednesday, March 28
“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:11

Luke 3:10-14

These verses can be summarized in two simple words: give and share. This was what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love our neighbors—not “love” in a vague, amorphous way, but love expressed tangibly, through action. Jesus didn’t talk a lot about feelings—His love was defined by action, and that’s what He expects of us. John’s words here express exactly that. John isn’t speaking about a vague demonstration of love and compassion. Instead he offers specific instructions for how we should love: if we have more than enough, we need to give and share with others. You undoubtedly have more than enough, or at least more than what most people around the world have. Decide today: what one thing can you give away or share? Your money? Time? Food? Clothing? Pick something, even just one thing, to give or share, and then make it happen.

Thursday, March 29
If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead use your hands for hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Ephesians 4:28

Ephesians 4:25-31

Many of us assume that we deserve the fruits of our labor. “Hey, I worked hard for this paycheck. I deserve to enjoy what I’ve earned,” we reason. But that’s where we are wrong, of course, because none of our earnings are truly ours. It’s no coincidence that honest labor and generosity are linked in the very same verse here. After all, God blessed us with the skills and talents we use to earn our living—everything that we consider ours is from Him and for Him— and He expects that we will share our blessings lavishly with others. Do you ever find yourself with an “I deserve” mentality? When that happens, remember this: you don’t deserve a single thing. God’s amazing grace is the one and only reason for every blessing in your life, and He expects you to perpetuate that cycle of grace by generously giving to others.


Southwood Lutheran Church

Friday, March 30
And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful! Psalm 90:17

Psalm 90:13-17

Sometimes we forget that God delights in our successes. We forget that it’s not an inherently bad thing to be successful in our efforts and endeavors. Sure, God wants us to serve others generously, but he also wants to see us be successful in our jobs, in our parenting and in our home life and relationships. He wants us to persevere, to achieve our ambitions and dreams. God knows that as human beings, we have a drive to achieve and to succeed. He created us that way; He blessed us with that drive. And He delights when we use our God-given ambition to further His kingdom on Earth. Today, pray to God that He will make your efforts successful, and ask Him to keep you focused on using your ambition and success to bless others.

Saturday, March 31
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Matthew 11:28-30

There are times when living life is work. It may be that you are suffering through an illness, the death of a loved one, or the loss of your job. You may be struggling with parenting or another strained relationship. Or you may simply feel burned out, exhausted and depleted by your day-to-day existence. Jesus reminds us that there is a time for work and a time for rest. Most of us neglect the rest part, yet there are occasions in our lives when we need to hand ourselves over to Him, to unburden ourselves of anxieties and fears. Jesus will take your heavy burdens in exchange for lightness and hope. Your job is to let Him do exactly that. Jesus, You alone know the weight of this burden I bear. Help me relinquish this struggle and hand it over to You. Release me from this weight and let me rest in You. Amen.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Palm Sunday, April 1
As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it. Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,“Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!” So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple.

Have you ever felt jarred or unnerved by the disparity between the jubilant celebration and expectation of this scene and the abuse and rejection that follows so quickly after? Jesus rides into Jerusalem so triumphantly, to a chorus of praise, cheers and worship, only to have the tables turned against Him dramatically and violently not long after. Why? How could that possibly have happened, we wonder? How could the people have turned against Him so quickly? It all came down to expectations that first Palm Sunday. The people had very clear expectations of what their Savior would look like, how He would act and how He would reestablish the kingdom and the reign of the Jews over the Romans. And when Jesus didn’t live up to those expectations, when He didn’t act as the type of King and Savior they had envisioned, the people abandoned Him. We’d like to think we wouldn’t have reacted the same way, had we been the people who’d stood on the side of the road to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem. We’d like to think we would have remained loyal followers of Jesus to the end. Yet many of us are guilty of similar betrayal, even today, two thousand years later—and even when we know how the story ends. We, too, are capable of turning from praise to protest. We, too, are capable of abandoning Jesus. Have you ever hoped or even expected Jesus to solve a problem in a particular way? Have you ever prayed for a certain resolution or outcome, only to find yourself discouraged that God didn’t seem to hear you or come through for you? Have you ever turned away from God in anger or disappointment because it seemed like He didn’t show up or provide the remedy that you desired? Most of us have felt this way at some point in our lives. Most of us have experienced disappointment, discouragement, frustration, anger, sorrow or hopelessness when our prayers or hopes weren’t answered by God the way we wanted or expected. And we may not want to see it this way, but those feelings, that turn from God, is not unlike the way the early followers turned from Jesus. The point of Palm Sunday for us is that we do know the glorious end of the story, which is exactly what we need to remember during times of anguish, suffering and darkness. Jesus is with us always—even when we can’t sense His presence, even when it seems like He’s not there. And He is


Southwood Lutheran Church

After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples. Mark 11:1-11 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 10:36-37

always working in our best interest, paving our way toward His light. He may not work in the ways we expect, or even in the ways we’d prefer, but He is working indeed. Lord, help me rely not on my own expectations of You, but simply on You. Help me trust You, Lord, Amen.

Monday, April 2

Luke 10:25-37

Jesus intentionally followed the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself ” (Luke 10:27) with the story of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate the breadth and depth of His definition of the words “neighbor” and “love.” We, on the other hand, want to keep these definitions as small and limiting as possible. After all, it’s relatively easy for us to love our families and friends—to care for them, to serve them, to offer them mercy. But what about the irritating co-worker? The neighbor who drives us insane? The person who practices a religion or custom we consider foreign or even wrong? The person who leads a radically different lifestyle than we do? The drug addict or the person imprisoned for murder? Are we expected to love these people, too? Are we expected to show them mercy and compassion? Are we expected to serve them, too? People we don’t like? People we don’t respect? People we don’t understand? People we fear? Jesus’ has a simple answer for us: Yes. Today, think honestly about a person you would least like to serve. And then pray to God not only to fill you with compassion, mercy and love but also to find a demonstrable way to serve that person.

Tuesday, April 3
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

Hosea 6:4-6

God does not want forced love. God does not want obligated love. God desires love that flows naturally out of our faith in and worship of Him, which in turn flows from His gift of grace to us. Merely going through the motions of religion— following the commandments, tithing, attending Sunday worship—isn’t nearly enough for God. He wants our hearts, minds and souls in relationship with Him. This kind of love, this kind of relationship, begins to flourish once we open ourselves fully to God and allow His grace and love to seep into our hearts. Are you simply practicing religion? Know that God wants more from you. The first step is to accept His ever-present love for you. Immersing yourself in His love will unleash your love for Him and enable that love to flow back to Him.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Wednesday, April 4
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Micah 6:6-8

In the passage preceding this verse, the Israelites ponder the best way to worship God. Yet they miss the whole point in their focus on material things: yearling calves, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil and even the sacrifice of their first-born children. They are blind to the fact that God is not interested in material gifts. God doesn’t want our money if our heart isn’t invested in the gift. He doesn’t want us to try to earn His favor or win Him over with promises of adoration and worship. He simply wants our genuine, faith-inspired action to compel us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. For the rest of this week, keep these three requirements at the top of your mind, and then check in with yourself periodically throughout each day to see if you are doing what is right, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

Maundy Thursday, April 5 John 13:1-17 & 31-35
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35

Jesus was serious when he instructed that we love our neighbor; so serious, in fact, that He added it to God’s list of the original Ten Commandments. “I am giving you a new commandment,” Jesus tells the disciples after He washes their feet. “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” It’s a tall order, isn’t it: to love each other just as Jesus loves each one of us? How can we possibly live up to that? After all, while Jesus was infallible, we are human—sinful and flawed at our core. Jesus knew that about His disciples, just as He knows that about us, yet He loves us despite our myriad flaws. We don’t always succeed in loving others, but when we do, we serve as a shining example of Jesus Christ. Jesus considered loving others so important that he made it a commandment. What’s one tangible action you might take to live up to that commandment this week? How might you “wash another’s feet?”
Southwood Lutheran Church


Good Friday, April 6
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

John 18:33-37

While the true Kingdom awaits us in Heaven, we are mistaken if we assume Jesus wants us to set our sights only on attaining eternal life. Jesus wants us to live out the Kingdom in the here and now, so that others may glimpse a hint of the glories that are to come. As the Son of God, Jesus knew what awaited Him after death; He knew His time on earth was limited. Yet in His 33 years on Earth, He lived and breathed Kingdom truths and values into His every action and interaction, and He expects us to do the same. As Richard Stearns writes in The Hole in Our Gospel: “The gospel—the whole gospel—means much more than the personal salvation of individuals…The whole gospel is a vision for ushering in God’s kingdom—now, not in some future time, and here, on earth, not in some distant heaven.” Are you ready to broaden your vision of Heaven to encompass the here and now?

Saturday, April 7
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. John 19:38-39

John 19:38-42

Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hid their belief while Jesus was alive. They were afraid to follow Him publicly because they didn’t want to risk their positions of authority in the community. Yet after Jesus’ death, it was Joseph and Nicodemus who came out of hiding to perform the dangerous task of taking Jesus’ body from the cross and lovingly preparing it for burial. Joseph and Nicodemus could have worried or despaired that they’d come to faith too late. They could have kept quiet, assuming, “Why bother now? Just forget it…it’s too late.” But they didn’t—instead they boldly and bravely put their faith into action for all to witness. Lord, please give me the courage to act boldly in faith. Help me overcome my fear of sharing my faith and provide opportunities for me to proclaim my love for You. Amen.
Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


Easter Sunday, April 8
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two whited-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher!”)

You might wonder how in the world Mary didn’t recognize the resurrected Jesus. After all, she’d known Him well during His lifetime and spent countless hours with Him. Now she stood at His very tomb, saw that His body was missing and observed two white-robed angels sitting where His body had been. The signs seem obvious, don’t they? Yet Mary didn’t recognize Jesus, even when he stood before her and spoke to her. Mary Magdalene was blinded by her circumstances. More specifically, she was blinded by grief, so much that she could not perceive the very real resurrected Jesus standing right in front of her. Is it not the same for us sometimes? Any number of circumstances can blind us to God’s very real presence in our lives. Maybe, like Mary, it’s grief. Maybe you are walking through a valley of darkness right now, grieving the loss of a loved one and feeling lonely, isolated and abandoned. Or perhaps it’s simply busyness that inhibits your ability to see. Have you filled your life so full with obligations, work and socializing that you haven’t allowed yourself the time to sit quietly in His presence? Maybe, as we talked about earlier this Lent, it’s an idol that’s blinding you. Are you focusing too much attention on a goal or dream, or on a material possession? Or perhaps it’s anger,
Southwood Lutheran Church


“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go and find my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. John 20:11-18

resentment, guilt, bitterness, ingratitude or an inability to forgive that is serving as a roadblock in your relationship with God. Or maybe it’s a trust issue. Have you opened your heart fully to Him? Have you actually allowed Him to work in your life, or are you holding Him at a distance, unwilling to let Him lead the way? So many variables have the potential to influence our ability to connect with God. We need to be aware of what might be obscuring our ability to see and hear God—we need to ask ourselves these hard questions and stay on guard against these powerful influences. God makes Himself available to you always. He is right here— standing in front of you, calling your name. It’s your job to clear the way for Him to shine His love and light directly into your life. Lord, You come to me today on Easter Sunday and every day. Yet like Mary, I don’t always see You, even when You are so obviously present. Help me see clearly the impediments that block my ability to connect with You. Help me make a straight path to You. Amen.

About the Artist:
Deb Paden, who contributed the artwork for this devotional, has been a member of Southwood for 19 years. She is married to Steve Paden, and has three children and one grandchild. Deb primarily works in watercolor, but has designed, and been part of the painting team on three mural projects at Southwood. She is a docent at the Sheldon Museum of Art, and is a member of the Sheldon Board of Trustees.

About the Author:
Michelle DeRusha, author of this Lenten devotional booklet, has been a member of Southwood Lutheran for ten years. A transplant to Nebraska from Massachusetts, Michelle is married to Brad Johnson and is mom to two energetic boys, Noah and Rowan. She writes a monthly column for the Lincoln Journal Star, as well as her blog, Graceful ( She also works part-time for Nebraska public television and radio.
Bible verses come from the New Living Translation © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc. Grace Changes Everything—Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012


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Lenten Devotional Booklet 2012

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