Tag Archives: Lent

Today’s Blog is Brought to You by….


Do you remember watching Sesame Street as a kid? Or maybe now you have a kid who enjoys a bit of time “where the air is sweet.” Either way, if you ever visited Sesame Street, then you know how nearly every episode is “Brought to you by the letter __.” One of the most famous letter sponsorships is the letter C. Cookie Monster is a serious star when the episode is brought Letter Cto us by the letter C! So each episode would emphasize learning a specific letter or number and it would show up in various segments through out the time. Quite cleaver teaching, really!

Recently I have felt like God has been trying to teach me something and it is like my life is being “brought to me by….” It amazes me and I really enjoy watching common themes rise to the surface of life (must be my Connectedness strength). Lately, I have thought that if someone could look into the lesson God has been teaching me, they could say, “This season of life is brought to you by PRAYER.”

Learning more about prayer has come up in so many pockets lately. Nothing extravagantly new has arisen. But the deep significance and importance of prayer is inescapable.

I found this in one of my readings during this Lent season. It’s an excerpt from a devotional by N.T. Wright, Lent for Everyone. It has been one of the things that is challenging me to take seriously my time in prayer.

Faith is like a small window through which you can see a vast landscape, and the landscape in question is the sovereign power of the creator God and the overwhelming glory of Jesus himself…. We stand at that window, doing our best to wipe it clean from the condensation of our own unbelieving breath, and holding on, as we do so, to those for whom we want to pray. When you read the stories of remarkable Christians down the years, and in our own time too, again and again you find tales of people who have stood at that window, gazing out on the landscape of God’s power and love, and gradually bringing the rest of the world, and the people for whom they were praying, into healing focus in relation to it. We need more people like that.

The most important Christians are not the ones who preach great sermons and write great books, but the ones who pray, and pray, and pray some more, sharing the quiet but effective victory of Jesus over all that defaces God’s creation.

What I have realized again, is that unless I actually make time, on purpose, to pray, it will not happen. That is kind of an obvious statement. But I have to admit that I am often guilty of saying I will pray about something, but then just thinking about it really quick while I’m headed to the next “thing.”  But if I do not make time to pray, then how can I ever help bring those around me into healing focus? Seeing God’s healing and restoration is something that I want to see! I believe I can help bring it about- but only by prayer.

You know, at the end of it, I think I my great hope is that when I reach the end of a day I can actually say, “Today was brought to you by PRAYER.” That would be pretty awesome.


Monday


Each week our congregation has avaliable to them a devotional titled “Walk and Talk.” It’s purpose is to give people an opportunity to go a little bit deeper with the lesson from Sunday’s sermon. The readings are generally built off of the core idea from the sermon and the questions, hopefully, guide us into integrating the concept into a life practice.

During the seasons of Lent, we are traveling through the book of John and Jesus’ last week before the crucifixion. The first passage this week is from John 13:21-35 and it contains, what I believe is, one of the most significant statements ever made by Jesus. It is one of those passages from scripture that has been a constant voice in my journey. Have you ever had a verse or passage like this?… That just always seems to challenge you and stand out as extremely important… That is what verses 34 and 35 are to me. They read:

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 NLT)

I have heard people say that when someone knows they are about to die, that tends to be when they say what is really important. Maybe that is part of why this statement seems so critical to me. It is one of the last instructions that Jesus emphasizes to his disciples before he dies.

I know one of the reasons it stands out to me is because I often wrestle with the question, how is following Jesus any different than just being a good person? How is my life different when I choose to follow Jesus?

This passage gives me an answer to those questions… The way I love other people (especially those who are also following Jesus) should be the difference. This constantly challenges me. It challenges me in both my actions and my attitudes. It is a challenge I cannot get away from and at the beginning of this Lenten week, I am reminded of it again….



One of the things that has been standing out to me during my readings through the book of John, is Jesus’ relationship with the Father. Jesus sincerely relied on God the Father. Here are a couple of passages where I see this. What do you think? What do you learn from them?

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:19-27 ESV)

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment— what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50 ESV)


Deeper Issue


There are parts of learning that I really like. Sometimes the process of learning is very difficult, but for the most part, I enjoy it. I enjoy knowing intricacies and details. I think part of why is because learning more helps me feel better prepared to make decisions.  I also just really enjoy making a new discovery. This is one of the things I really appreciate about scripture. No matter how often I have read a passage, God will almost always teach me something new or show me a new detail.

Today I was reading in John 5 and part of the story recorded in this chapter stood out to me in a new way. The main story in the chapter is about Jesus healing a man who is described as an invalid for 38 years. Jesus heals him and then disappears in the crowd. Later, Jesus finds him in the temple and makes a very powerful statement. This is what stood out to me today. Jesus says, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

What struck me about this statement was the truth of how powerful the effects sin are. It is nothing really new to me- it did not take me very long in life to realize the damage that sin causes- but there was a new comparison for me in this story that made the truth come alive. The impression left on me is that Jesus was saying to the man, “You thought being a lame, invalid for 38 years was bad… Sin is much more devastating.”

I know that “the wages of sin is death.” I know it destroys relationships and causes pain. But something about comparing the outcomes of sin to being worse than living an invalid… that connected to me. It would be really bad to be in that guy’s situation- an invalid with no help, no hope, continually being overlooked, and no one who cares. It’s a bad place to live. But Jesus says living in sin is worse…. There is a deeper issue than just being sick and invalid.

This has caused me to stop and think. During this season of Lent, part of the focus is to realize the gravity of our sin and what it cost Jesus to overcome it. This passage, in a new and fresh way, is helping me focus. I hope it maybe stands out to you as well.


Psalm 93


Psalm93


Song of the Month


It is time for another song! I have recently discovered a duo called All Sons & Daughters, and I love their work. They have a very mellow-acoustic sound that is fantastic. Their first full length album, called Season One, flows in more like movement to movement than song to song.

There is one particular cut that has stood out to me during these first few days of Lent. It’s called Brokenness Aside. The body of the lyrics says,

Cause I am a sinner
If its not one thing its another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
You are the Savior
And you take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful

For me, this is part of the reflection of the Lenten season. To realize that I am a sinner, unable to put things together on my own, but that Jesus is an amazing Savior, who does make something beautiful.


Ash Wednesday


And so it begins! The season of Lent is here. The journey to the celebration of Easter has finally arrived. One of the common practices of Lent is to give something up for the 40 days that lead to Easter. I actually had a very good conversation with a group of students last week about this practice.

crossIt was really good to listen to them wrestle with the idea of sacrificing something during this season or not. What was great was listening and talking with them about the why behind the practice. Why would someone sacrifice anything during the season?

One of the best definitions of the season that I have read says this:

The tradition of Lent- a forty-day sacrifice- is one way of mourning the death that sin has caused in our lives.

I like it because I think it helps answer the question why sacrifice anything. In sacrificing, it continually reminds us something missing. Something that is a regular part of life has been taken out of life; in a way, killed off.

Sin kills our relationship with God and with others (Romans 5:17-19). For us to be made whole, something had to happen. The practice of sacrifice during Lent helps to remind us of that. Jesus made an amazing sacrifice to get rid of sin. So for the next 40 days, every time I miss what I have sacrificed, I’m hoping it calls me back to remembering the destruction of sin and the awesomeness of His sacrifice. Then on Easter, it will hopefully make the victory of His resurrection that much more astonishing! Maybe it is a practice that will hep you as well.