Day 1 – “Rebuilding”
Today is the first day of our 40-day journey. Our theme for Lent is rebuilding on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.” We do not want to finish our life and find out we have been building with imperishable building resources. 1 Corinthians 3:11 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”
During this time we will be reading Ezra, Nehemiah and Acts (include Luke 24:45-49 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”)
We are asking God to lead us. This means laying on the altar all our preconceived (fixed, rigid, inflexible, set, biased, predetermined) ideas about what church is. Most of these ideas are what got us in trouble in the first place. This means we are going to start fresh. We are not telling God what this is going to look like, we are submitting and humbling ourselves before God in order to turn from our wicked ways. 2 Chronicles 7:13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” If you are not willing to turn from your ways, humble yourself or seek him, there is no sense participating in this 40-day journey. Hebrews 3:12 “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” We do not want to be like those in Isaiah 48:4 “For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze.” Or like Jeremiah 5:23 “But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.” Sadly we are very similar to this familiar group. Mark 16:14 “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” We live in a nation without sense; there is no discernment in them (Deuteronomy 32). Moses said also “If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!” Lord have mercy!
During this time of Lent we are confessing before God that we are a stubborn and obstinate people. Jeremiah 31 says, “You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God.
19 After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth” Just as this passage contains good news there is good news for us today, but we must repent. We have strayed away from the word of God and followed our own ways. Here is the good news, 27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord, ’because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
So as we begin this journey, we join with Nehemiah who For some days mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven and then said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favour in the presence of this man.”
So we join with Ezra who prayed, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”(Ezra 8) Will you look to God with me as we return to Him? God has said, if you seek Him, he will be found by you. I leave you with this call from Zechariah 1. “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. 4 Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.”
We stand together with Habakkuk and say, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”