Steve Macchia Blog

Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Ten, Saturday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Mark 1: 35-39; 6:45-56 and Luke 5:16

Jesus often withdrew to lonely, solitary places and prayed.

In the first chapter of Mark, we are reminded of Jesus’ ministry throughout Galilee. He proclaims the good news of God, and calls the first of his disciples. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” he pronounces to Peter and Andrew, James and John, all who were fishermen by trade were now fishermen by ministry. He goes on to Capernaum, teaching in the synagogue, driving an evil spirit out of the man who was violently distraught and sets him free. He heals Simon’s mother in-law and many others who were sick and demon-possessed. More and more examples of his outstretched arms of love.

But, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. When the disciples found him, they urged him to return to the towns they had served the day prior, but Jesus leads them instead into nearby villages to share the good news.

In the second incident, after the feeding the five thousand, Jesus sends his disciples across the lake ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismisses the crowd. Immediately thereafter, Jesus leaves them all and went into the hills to pray.  Since the disciples didn’t really understand what had transpired in the miracle of the loaves and fish, their hearts were hardened. So, when Jesus is coming alongside them walking on water while the wind was howling and they were straining their oars, he had to reassure them of his presence amidst their terror. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” When he climbed into the boat the wind died down and the disciples were completely amazed.

Do you notice the contrast between the calm, peace-filled Jesus and the anxious, fearful disciples? In the first story the disciples are ecstatic with what they had witnessed, and they wanted to see it all again. On the lake, they were frightened by both the wind storm and the ghost they thought was walking on the water, who was actually Jesus. From ecstasy to fearfulness…the inclination of the disciples was diametrically opposite of Jesus, who was consistently centered, focused, and peaceful.

If it was Jesus’ regular priority to distance himself from the crowds, disappear from the noise and confusion of his surroundings, in order to pray…how much more we should consider the same. We live in a loud, busy, complex world, and our lives mirror our culture in so many ways. If we never find a healthy distance or create life-giving boundaries from the cacophony of this world, we will never hear the symphony God longs to play for us in our hearts and souls. Choose today a solitary place and pray.

Behold Jesus in a solitary place; believe in the same priority for your own soul; belong to those who long for his deep companionship; become that child of God who longs for ever more time alone with Jesus.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Nine, Friday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Luke 10:38-42 and John 11: 1-37; 12: 1-3

Jesus not only had disciples with whom he had close relationships, but he also developed deep friendships, especially with a family from Bethany. Two were sisters, Mary and Martha, and the other was their brother Lazarus. The encounters with this family were deeply significant to Jesus and very meaningful to the three siblings. In fact, so important that we find him in their home during times when each would experience the fullness of his presence, power and peace.

The Gospels record for us a small handful of such encounters. On one such visit Jesus is reminding Martha that even though she has the gift of hospitality, there are times when such worrying and scurrying about can distract one from spiritual receptivity. He points to Mary her sister, who took time for uninterrupted listening and pondering at his feet. Instead of being upset about many things, only one thing is needed: attentiveness to the voice of Jesus.

On another occasion, Mary and Martha are searching for Jesus to heal their brother Lazarus. His sickness had overcome him to the point of death. They believed that Jesus could restore him from his sickness, but didn’t fully realize he could also raise him from the dead. When Jesus finally makes it to their home, Lazarus has died. Jesus weeps. He loved Lazarus and was sad that he had died. So, he prayed to his Father in heaven, and asked them to roll away the stone where Lazarus had been buried for four days. And, for the glory of God to be released in their presence, Lazarus was raised from the dead.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” These words came true in their incredible encounter with Jesus who powerfully demonstrated the truth of God’s Word in raising Lazarus from the dead. The peace that filled their souls from this fresh encounter with Jesus deepened their affection as friends and devoted followers of God.

Later we see Mary taking a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, pouring it on Jesus’ feet, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. The presence of the Spirit of God rested on that household as together they prepared for Jesus’ final days on earth. The perfume had been saved for his burial, an offering of their devotion to Christ.

You too are a friend of Jesus. You too can offer your finest fragrance of love for his glory during Lent.

Behold him in the homestead of his dearly loved friends; believe in his power to perform a miracle of grace and healing in your midst; belong to those who pursue his daily companionship; and become a disciple who knows that only one thing matters: unhurried friendship with Jesus now and for all eternity.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Eight, Thursday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Luke 4: 14-21 and Matthew 25: 31-46

After being released from the wilderness experience of successfully rejecting the devil’s temptations, Jesus returns to his hometown Nazareth. On the Sabbath he enters the synagogue, as was his custom, and he stood up to read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

After his baptism in the Jordan, clearly declared the beloved Son of God from heaven, and being consecrated for sacrificial service in the desert, Jesus reenters the synagogue with a renewed holy confidence. Even though in his hometown he was not valued as anything more than Joseph the carpenter’s son, he was now validated as the fulfillment of a word spoken long before his earthly arrival. And on that day the prophetic word spoken by Isaiah so long before came to fulfillment in Jesus.

Jesus’ mission statement expresses his call to preach good news, proclaiming freedom, recovery, and release to those in bondage to poverty, prison, blindness and oppression.  Those who were witnesses of his presence and power would see this made manifest in his life, witness and service to all who will henceforth cross his path. That’s exactly what Jesus does for a three-year period, with his arms outstretched in love. As his disciples see this with their own eyes, Jesus instructs them to do likewise.

By the time he was nearing the end of his earthly ministry, just prior to when he would be handed over to be crucified, Jesus reminds his disciples of their mission statement in the analogy of the separation of the sheep and the goats. The King will call those righteous who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the poor, healing to the sick, and liberty to those who are in prison. To all who do not heed this mission will be called goats, and they will be sent away to eternal punishment. But, to the righteous who do as Jesus suggest, they will experience eternal life.

This concise summary of mission is a great starting point for all healthy disciples who long to be in the center of God’s will. To offer the gospel of freedom and joy in Jesus is to invite another to belong to Jesus and in doing so to listen attentively to his voice and live abundantly for his glory. During Lent we will have many opportunities to offer our own outstretched arms of love to others in need of a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. We will come across the hungry, the hurting, and the homeless, and we’ll be faced with the opportunity to offer healing in Jesus’ name. What will you choose?

Behold Jesus In the synagogue as he proclaims his mission; believe firmly in the truth that sets us free; belong to those who pursue Kingdom values; and become a loving disciple with holy determination.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Seven, Wednesday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Luke 4: 1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, and on the heels of his spectacular baptism, was led by the same Spirit into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. This is the account that defines for us the true meaning of Lent. These forty days for our Lord of fasting and temptation were defining and confirming days for his love of his Father, the Word of God, and the Kingdom he represented. Those very same declarations are what we ascribe as well in our Lenten fast this time around.

Each time Jesus was tempted by the devil, he responded with the strength of the Word of God. Tempting his appetites, by urging him to tell stone to become bread, Jesus responds, “Man does not live on bread alone.” Tempting his authority, by offering him all the kingdoms of this world, Jesus replies, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him daily.” Tempting his abilities, by suggesting he throw himself down from the highest point of the temple, Jesus retorts, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Each rejoinder was quoted from the book of Deuteronomy, the Law that was on the heart of Jesus.

It’s remarkable to consider the immediate challenge given to Jesus after the joyful experience of his baptism. From heaven’s declarative of love and affection, to earth’s most difficult trials and tribulations. To be given over to the devil’s schemes in the middle of the wilderness, showed all who would learn of this drama how Jesus was tempted as we are too. And yet, unlike us, he exits those forty days unscathed and never succumbs to any of the luring temptations offered to him. His willingness to enter this season of temptation is another very poignant example of Jesus’ outstretched arms of love toward all who would eventually listen to his voice, obey his call, and follow his example.

All of us understand the enticement of temptation, because we’ve all faced our fair share of allurement. Each time we are tempted to walk away from God and toward sin, we are brought face to face with our basic human condition. In the dark corners of such trials we are confronted by a much deeper choice of the will. It’s only in the light of God’s Word, and the enlightenment of God’s Spirit, that we will have the prayerful courage to say no in order to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to walk his way.

What temptations are standing in your way most consistently? What are the vulnerable places in your life that the enemy of your soul knows best to torment? How will you lean on God and your spiritual friends to defend you from such anguish? Will you trust Jesus to stand in the gap and keep you from falling prey to such temptations even today?

Behold him In the wilderness confronting the devil’s enticement; believe Jesus to strengthen you to say no to any temptation; belong firmly to the family of the empowered; and become steadfast in your soul.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Six, Tuesday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Luke 3:21-23

When others were being baptized in the Jordan River, the thirty-year-old Jesus was also coming to be baptized. This was yet another powerful example of his outstretched arms of love. Here, Jesus willingly joins the larger group of those coming to the waters of baptism and submits his heart into the hands of the baptizer, and ultimately into the loving hands of God.

As he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”

The Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in unity of purpose and love, each fulfilling unique but completely integrated purposes with one another. The Spirit appears in the form of a dove, a tangible expression of the significance of this event for the Son of God and all who would witness this event. The Father gives voice to his affection for Jesus, clearly announced from heaven for all to hear. Three key messages emerge in this grand sentiment:  first of all, Jesus’ relationship with the Father as his Son; secondly, a declarative pronouncement of love; and thirdly, an affirmation of delightfully great pleasure.

The mission and ministry of Jesus is officially coming to fruition. His younger years with his family and among his community were preparing for this event and his forthcoming service to others. Here in the waters of baptism God is announcing from heaven that Jesus is now moving intentionally into relationships, worship and service, all of which will declare the Kingdom of heaven. This was a defining moment, an inflection point for Jesus, which would eventually be looked back upon as significant.

By far, the high point of his baptism is the Father’s declaration of his belovedness as a son. This status was of central importance to all who would eventually call upon him as Savior and Lord. His beloved place in the wide-open arms of the Father would be a continual reflection from Jesus to all who cross his path. Gracious, unconditional love would become the centerpiece of his message, his mission, and his ministry moving forward to the cross.

Can you recognize today how dearly God loves you as his child? Can you acknowledge the outstretched arms of love extended to you each moment of the day? Can you recall the many ways the love of Jesus has been your mainstay, the music in your ears, and the meaning of your with God life? Can you point out to others the outstretched loving arms of grace, mercy, forgiveness, joy and love offered by Jesus?

Behold Jesus in the river of gladness and salvation; believe the Gospel of unconditional love; belong today to the family of God who are being loved into the Kingdom; and become so filled up with love that you can’t help but freely and generously share Jesus’ love with all who will cross your path even today.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Five, Monday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, and Luke 2:41-52

Today we round the corner from the prophetic word spoken about Jesus’ arrival to earth, his subsequent miraculous birth, and enter his childhood story. But, frankly, there isn’t much that the biblical text offers us about his youth, beyond a few known facts. We know that he was raised in Nazareth, a very humble community. He had brothers and sisters, and the Bible provides us the names of his brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas.

We also know that when he was twelve he tipped his hand about his unusual wisdom when with his family at the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem he stayed behind in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. It took his parents three days to find him (the original “home alone” but in this case home in the temple!).  When Joseph and Mary finally found him, his mother asked him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?” Jesus answered them, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” His mother treasured these things in her heart.

Jesus was always about his father’s business. As a child one can surmise that he joined his father and brothers in Joseph’s carpentry business. Joseph undoubtedly would have taught his sons the trade, including Jesus. We don’t know for certain what that trade was, but some claim they made wooden plows. We are left to our imagination about how Jesus was in the carpentry shop. Most likely he was a good learner, a diligent worker, a faithful team player. Can you give yourself permission to imagine Jesus in the carpenter’s household, among his siblings, working, resting, completing jobs, enjoying meals, and delighting in conversation with those he lived, loved and served?

When as a twelve year old, he was also about his Father’s business. His heavenly Father sent him to earth to live among the leaders of the time and to share all that he knew to be true with all who would eventually follow him. Those who heard him interact with the teachers in the temple courts were amazed at his understanding and answers. When his parents finally found him they were astonished.

In both the carpenter’s shop and the temple courts, Jesus lived comfortably in the marketplace of wood carving and truthful ideas. He was a listener, a learner, and a dispenser of truth every place he traveled. His outstretched arms of love began to emerge early on. His arms of love would continue to be held wide open to all who would receive his message. On the job, no matter the setting, he remained faithful.

Behold him in the marketplace as the carpenter’s son and the dispenser of truth. Believe once more the incarnational story of Jesus living in a human family, with earthly parents and siblings. Belong to the incredible storyline which invites a deeper trust. Become a sincerely devoted recipient of truth today.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Four, Saturday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Isaiah 7: 14; 8:8; Matthew 1: 23; and John 15: 5

Immortal One, born miraculously of a virgin, entering humbly into this world in a manger, worshiped by lowly shepherds, awe-struck in the eyes of wise men, God has indeed joined humankind and lands safely on planet earth. Immanuel, God is with us. Let all the earth rejoice!

The prophet Isaiah foretold his arrival through the sign of the impossible: a virgin will conceive miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit and a son will be born.  Isaiah pronounced the King’s arrival by the metaphor of the outspread wings of the floodwaters which will cover the breadth of the land. O Immanuel, the prophet declares, you will cover the earth with outstretched arms of love.

During Lent we are reminded once more of Immanuel, the God who has, is, and continues to be with us. This Immanuel is Jesus, sent to cover our worlds completely and expansively, enveloping our lives from the inside out. When Jesus begins human life, the God-man reaches out to all who cross his path with an generous earnestness and an intentional proactivity which will be marveled at by some and stiff armed my many others. But to those who receive his gift of love, do so with outstretched arms of anticipation and gladness.

God with us, Immanuel, therefore invites us to a “with God” existence. His presence, power and peace are always being initiated toward us, all the time and in every circumstance. Frankly, our great God, personalized in Jesus, will always come to us in merciful, grace-filled, forgiving, and tender-loving ways. The question is not whether he will deliver on his promises to be with us, instead, will we keep our word of desire and decree that we choose to be with him?

It’s a “with God” life that matters most to all who claim his name as Christian. During Lent, we have many opportunities to abide with him as he so graciously abides with us. What does your “with God” existence look like and how is it you wish to show your allegiance to Jesus this Lenten season?

Perhaps you might consider how best to pray during Lent…doing all the talking to God, or choosing instead to notice, listen, and give thanks? Perhaps you might sense an invitation from God to repent of your sinfulness and turn back to godliness? Perhaps you might encourage and celebrate the lives of those who know you best and love you most? Perhaps you might focus more on slowing down and being more, rather than racing faster and accomplishing the most?

Behold him In the sacred light of this new day…believe his promise to be with you forever…belong to his lineage as a faithful disciple…become a person enveloped by his unconditional love. Amen.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Three, Friday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Matthew 2: 1-12

You might be thinking…why are we reading about the visit of the Magi on our journey to Easter? For one simple reason: to remember and give thanks, and with awe and wonder. We recall with delight the marvelous ways the wise men found their way to Jesus, and being overjoyed with their discovery “bowed down and worshiped him.” Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts.

In the stillness of the night the wise men followed the star with delight, and what they found brought complete joy to their hearts. Similarly, when all who are seeking Jesus find him, no matter if they are shepherds or magi, business leaders or college educators, homemakers or pastors, their souls are filled up with everlasting  love only Jesus can deliver. And, in the midst of the moment, they can’t help but offer back to him with outstretched arms the fullness of their lives.

Think about it for a moment…who else brought Jesus extravagant gifts in response to God’s outstretched arms of love extended to earth’s inhabitants in the life of Jesus? For the Magi, they knew he was someone extra special, a child sent from heaven “as the king of the Jews” and they did everything possible; even defy King Herod, to be near the baby Jesus when he was born in Bethlehem in Judea, just as the prophet Micah had foretold.

So, imagine the scene for yourself.  You are living in the time of King Herod and word comes to you that your king has been born in a manger, under the bright sky of winter. You pack up all your belongings and make sure you have a splendid gift to share with the child and his family. You travel over hill and dale to the place where the Christ child lays freshly newborn, still nursing and finding breath and life in the loving arms of his beloved parents. What is your response in this amazing encounter with the Christ child? Are you still in awe and wonder as you prepare to watch him head now to the cross?

This Lenten season, may I be so bold to encourage you toward spontaneous responses in worship, such as repentance and joy? And, in your interactions with others, to be generous with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and even tangible gifts of love? Each time I consider the waiting and watching of the Magi, followed by their journey to find Jesus, and then their response of gift giving, I’m struck by the contrast with my own life. How much of my life is consumed (or not) by anticipation of Jesus’ arrival in the everydayness of my existence? How willing am I to give back to him and others extravagantly, in the manner in which Jesus has given to me?

Behold him with awe…believe in him once more…belong to his tribe with firm resolve…and, become a generous lover, forgiver, and reconciler. May it be so!



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Two, Thursday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Luke 2: 8-20

Entering the Lenten season can be pretty abrupt. In the midst of our normal lives, all of a sudden we’re encouraged to press the pause button and hop back on the bus marked “Lent” once more. The sign that says “This way to Easter” catches us off guard and we scramble to know how best to participate in the journey to the cross. We’ve traveled this way and to the same destination before. The scenery looks pretty similar. So, how do we embrace this year’s pilgrimage in a new and soul-refreshing way?

When the shepherds were out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night, they were shocked when the bright star was shining that night when Jesus was born. We look back to that occasion as we enter Lent, for it was at that moment when the promise of his coming into the world was fulfilled. In Lent we anticipate his departure from his earthly life and ministry and his return to his eternal home with the Godhead in heaven.

The shepherds’ utter surprise at the shining of such a brilliant beacon of light in the midst of their darkness led them into worship. When the glory of the Lord shone around them they were terrified. But, the angels came praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to them on whom his favor rests.” The shepherds response was classic worship: let’s go and see…so they hurried and found Jesus…and after seeing Jesus they left ecstatic with their discovery and shared the good news with all who were witnesses of their glorifying and praising God.

Like the humble hearted shepherds who were adorned with the presence of Jesus, so should we long for the same this Lenten season. We know the meta-narrative that awaits us in our journey to Holy Week and Easter. We’ve traveled this path in previous years and with similar companions. But, what can be different this time: eyes alert to the ways Jesus stretches out his arms for us in our comings and goings. And, when we behold him in our midst, to glorify God and offer fresh testimony to others.

Will you purpose to keep your eyes wide open so you can see Jesus this Lent? He may appear to you in the reading of his Word and the singing of his love in worship, or in the breaking of bread in fellowship with others of like heart and mind, or in your quiet place of alone time in prayer. Jesus may come to you this Lenten season through a warm embrace of a friend, or the kindness of a helpful deed, or even in a difficulty, pain or sorrow when you have only one place to turn.

Behold him in the starry night, believe him in the break of day, belong to him in the fellowship of the saints, and become like him in your worship and witness.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day One, Ash Wednesday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Genesis 3:19 and Luke 2:1-7

Today is Ash Wednesday, when in many Christian churches pilgrims gather to worship and repent of their sins, being reminded once more of their mortality. Typically, there is a time to come forward to have ashes placed on the forehead, often in the sign of the cross. The minister will recite one of two phrases, depending on the denominational setting. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” which is taken from Genesis 3:19 on the heels of Adam and Eve’s fall to the temptation of the enemy.  Another option is “Repent and believe in the Gospel” from Mark 1:14, making explicit (repent and believe) what is implied (own your mortality and acknowledge your need to trust Christ for your salvation) in the first spoken words.

Either way, the words spoken from Scripture upon receiving the ashes are reminders of our mortality, and our corresponding need to repent of our sinfulness and submit to the truths of the Gospel. It’s a fitting way to enter Lent, as we usher in a season dedicated to the renewal of our souls. The ashes placed on foreheads are burned from the previous year’s palm branches from Palm Sunday worship. As we approach Holy Week and prepare our hearts for Easter, the symbolism of today is poignant.

We fast today in remembrance of our sinful mortality (from ashes to ashes, dust to dust), as we prepare our hearts for the feast of the Gospel of Easter and the hope of resurrection life for all eternity. We fast today in order to embrace the suffering our Lord assumed in our behalf by his immortality, his incarnation, and his infinite love for all.

When we turn to Luke 2, we are reminded of the miraculous and holy birth of our Lord Jesus. Here in the sawdust manger, the immortal One is born into this world as our Savior. Jesus’ new place in this world is all a part of God’s magnificent plan for our redemption. Because of Jesus’ arrival into actual time and space on planet earth, his Advent and Incarnation are gifts we treasure deeply. This dramatic symbol of God’s infinite love for his beloved children is representative of his willingness to become familiar with our status as human beings for a season. God became man…the infinite joined the finite…heaven came down to earth…and Jesus showed us the way home to the heart of God.

In the lowly manger, humbly born, Jesus was welcomed with the open arms of love from his mother Mary, father Joseph, and the entire universe now rejoices.  Behold his dusty birthplace as you believe the Gospel once more. Know with certainty that you belong to the family of God, and become today a repentant mortal, fully aware of your sinfulness, and your desperate need for a hope-filled Savior.

 



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