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cross-purple

We are in the final week of Lent.  Palm Sunday is just around the corner.  This time of fasting, abstaining, moderation, and discipline was set aside for preparation. Preparation for Holy Week.  Preparation for a journey to the cross.  Preparation that leads to an empty tomb.

Lent is truly about preparation.  We use fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from foods as a ritual, but we are preparing ourselves to encounter Christ.  This journey often changes us.  It makes us reflect on our faith and our daily walk with Jesus. Spiritual reflection is difficult because it demands honesty and complete self-examination.  Using a mirror to examine my journey with Jesus is a scary prospect. It forces me to see a total picture of my faith, warts and all.

I have to admit that there were days when skipping my daily spiritual practice would have been easy.  It took time to find a sustaining routine and pace.  As the days went on, I found a greater desire to see it through.  It made me grow.  It held my attitude in check.  It allowed me to apply my faith at work.  In short, it made me a better Christian.  I am a better disciple and follower because of my Lenten practice.  When we make time for Jesus, the time is never lost.

Let us continue to reflect on Jesus.  As Palm Sunday arrives, let us reflect on the arrival of our promised Messiah.  As Holy Thursday arrives, let us reflect on how he washed the feet of his disciples, instituted the Lord’s Supper, and prayed on the Mount of Olives.  As Good Friday arrives, let us reflect on how he suffered for our sins, died as the atoning sacrifice for all humanity, and was buried.  And as darkness gives way to daybreak, let us reflect on an empty tomb and the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Continue your practice.  Continue to prepare for our Savior.  Continue your celebration of Easter by focusing on the life, suffering, sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord!

lent 2014

Lenten practices take time, practice, devotion, and patience.  We are often tempted to ignore our spiritual practice and rush into Holy Week.  Many will ask, “shouldn’t we celebrate and rejoice on Palm Sunday?  Shouldn’t we rush to the empty tomb just like the disciples?”  Yes, but within context of the entire story. There is joy at the end of the story, but it is important that we take time to focus on the total ministry of Jesus and the joy that can bring.

In Luke 10: 1-24, Jesus appoints additional disciples to go ahead of him and visit every city and place he intends to go.  They are to travel in pairs.  They are instructed not to carry a wallet, a traveling bag, or sandals.  Take what you have.  Hurry.  Don’t stop to greet anyone on the way.  Stay where you are welcome.  Be courteous, kind, and eat what people serve you.  Heal the sick and tell people, “The kingdom of God is near to you.”

These disciples go, obediently perform mission work, and return.  The disciples come back very happy.  They were not promised lush accommodations.  They were not promised lavish meals.  They were not promised a living wage.  They were told to go and perform the work of a missionary on the charity of others and they returned full of joy.

The disciples performed great miracles on the authority of Christ.  The sick were healed, demons were cast out, and people found salvation through the message of Jesus.  The disciples are full of joy because they were instruments in God’s plan.  Performing the work of God gave them joy.  In short, they have joy because they were used by God in a mighty way.

The work that we are given may not be glamorous, glorious, or even miraculous.  The challenge is to be faithful and obedient, no matter what task we are given.

When we are busy doing the work of Christ, let there be joy in our hearts. When the work seems tedious and complicated, let us focus on the harvest. Apply these lessons to your spiritual practice for Lent.  May God give us a holy perspective on the tasks we have in front of us and the ability to rejoice through the entire journey.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

lent cross

Lent can be a great time of discovery.  It is often viewed as a time to focus on what is truly important in life.  We also need to examine what is truly important in our Christian walk.

Jesus performs a miracle at the Bethesda pool in John 5:1-15.  Scripture records that a man was healed after being ill for thirty-eight years.  Jesus asks the man if he would like to get well and then commands him to, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.”

All these events were done on the Sabbath, a day set aside for worship.  Many people saw this previously crippled man walking through their streets. While there should be shouts of joy, exclamations of praise, hand shakes, back slapping, and chaotic rejoicing people instead focus on our recently healed walker carrying a cot.

Tradition did not allow people to “perform work” on the Sabbath.  Carrying a cot would fall into that category.  It was not the law of Moses but their interpretation of it that prohibited carrying loads of any kind on the Sabbath. Folks were so fearful of ever breaking the Law that they built an artificial “hedge” around it, comprising volumes of extra rules and stipulations. In fact, this hedge created an additional 613 provisions so that people could avoid breaking a commandment. While this was done to avoid offending God, it only drove a wedge between the people and God.  It created an atmosphere where the people focus on works and wrongs instead of the message and ministry of Jesus their Savior.  In short, they missed the miracle.

Jesus was present.  He was in their midst.  The Messiah was alive, active, and at work in Jerusalem.  Jesus was just footsteps from their door.  The Lord performed an incredible miracle where a man’s life was transformed and physically healed.  A crippled man was able to walk, perhaps for the very first time in his life.  But people could only see a Sabbath infraction instead of the Savior.

Let us rejoice when a family shows up to worship instead of snickering that they are fifteen minutes late.  Let us be joyful when a man arrives in the sanctuary instead of judging the clothes on his back.  Let us celebrate the future when a criminal accepts Christ instead of focusing on the past.  Let us see the miracle.  Let us see the Savior.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

 

lent-give more

Today was exhausting.  After a full day of counseling, visiting Soldiers, and spending four hours in the car, I finally made it home.  I shut the door and breathed a sigh of relief.  There was just enough energy left to go upstairs, kick off my boots and take a nap.  That way I could salvage part of the evening at home. In order to give quality time at home and offer something significant, I needed to take a break and re-engage at a later time.

We often face this dilemma with our families.  We also face the same dilemma with God.  What kind of offering do we give God?  Does God get our first fruits or the leftovers from our day?

As we focus on the season of Lent and strive to maintain our spiritual practice, it is important to examine the offering we bring to God.  Exodus 23:19 shares, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God….”  Not only should God get what is currently available, but the best of what we have to offer.

Giving our best to God is a daunting challenge.  It requires time, energy, and devotion.  Allow this Lenten time of self-examination and sacrifice to strengthen your spiritual commitment and resolve.

The Lord has given grace, healing, and redemption to an afflicted world through Jesus Christ.  God has given His Son as the atonement for the sins of humanity. While there is no way to repay this perfect and holy gift, it cries out for a response.  Christ’s crucifixion should call us to tears, shame, seeking forgiveness, acknowledging our need for a Savior, and ultimately changing our lives so that we pursue Him.  It should create a spark in us that never dies or wavers because of God’s great love for us.

As we mark another week in the season of Lent, examine your gift.  What offering did you bring?  Will God see the first fruits or the leftovers of your day?  Do not “call in” this season of sacrifice and commitment.  God deserves our very best from start to finish.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

lent

Yes, it has been a week since Ash Wednesday, but the season of Lent is still with us.  Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter.  On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.

I have to admit that observing Lent is new to me.  It is more common among liturgical or “high church” faith groups.  I was not raised in that tradition, but I have an appreciation for the concept of subtracting something in your life to grow closer to God.  While many will give up meat, sweets, soda, chocolate, or doughnuts during Lent, I like the idea of adding a spiritual practice in your life to grow closer to God.  These practices can include daily devotions, a focused prayer time, creating a spiritual journal, volunteering at a charity, or performing community service projects.

This year I added a practice to help me grow closer to God.  Many Bibles highlight the words of Christ with red letters to separate them from the black lettered text. I am reading through the “red letters” or words of Jesus during the season of Lent. The plan is to eventually arrive at the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday and follow Jesus to the cross throughout Holy Week.

While this approach may not be for everyone, the key is to find a spiritual practice that appeals to you.  It is also helpful to find a practice that will test or stretch your faith.  Don’t fall into a rut and do the same spiritual discipline year after year. That would deny you the growth and opportunity God wants from us.

Yes, the first week of Lent is gone.  If there was a lapse in your daily routine, get back on the horse.  Schedule a time and place to help you focus and maintain your practice.  Whether you are subtracting or adding a practice continue the daily journey toward the cross of Christ.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

couple

Everyone wants a good, strong, happy marriage.  Our marriages often start out well.  They are full of enthusiasm, joy, love, compassion, and devotion.  But as time goes by, couples often find it difficult to carve out time, space, and energy for their one true love.

It seems so odd and sad, but it is a common story line with a majority of married couples.  The things of life get in their way and dampen the romance that once burned bright.  A few years prior, nothing could separate this pair of love birds. Now priorities have changed.  Distractions are everywhere.  Demands must be met. Children must be fed. Bills must be paid.  Somehow couples seem to lose the fire and energy that brought them to the altar.

We all need a wake up call when it come to marriage.  Everyone!  We husbands need a reminder to date our wives and make her a priority.  Wives need a reminder to love and cherish husbands.

February 7-14 is National Marriage Week.  It serves as the national alarm clock for couples to remember why they got married in the first place.  It also allows groups, organizations, and churches to join the fight in saving marriages across America.

If you are planning a marriage enrichment event, a workshop, or presentation, join the campaign by sharing it on the national website.  Let your community know what resources are available in their own backyard.  This simple act can go a long way to encourage or even salvage a couple on the brink of divorce.

National Marriage Week USA, offers several marriage resources, date night suggestions, event guides, reading lists, and videos on how to build a satisfying marriage.  Check out the website to find a tip, idea, or suggestion that can improve your marriage in 2014.

This can be the year that you turn things around.  Stop allowing distractions and insignificant events to suck the life out of your relationship.  Take time to strengthen your marriage.  Reconnect with your spouse.  Focus on the romance that brought you together.  Use National Marriage Week as a way to strengthen your marriage and focus on the one you love.

prayer invite

Combat forces are expected to leave Afghanistan sometime this year.  Today about 42,700 troops remain in country; about 30,000 of them are soldiers.  The total number is expected to drop to 34,000 by February.

It is often shared that the most dangerous time on any deployment is the first and last month of your tour.  The first month is dangerous as you learn the ropes and discover how everything needs to work properly.  The last month is dangerous as many folks are in a hurry, tempted to take short cuts, and focus more on going home than the immediate tasks at hand.

Please keep all of our service members in your prayers this year as combat forces continue to return home.

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