Most of the time during lent people spend the day thinking about what they are going to be giving up for Lent. For me I have never really found that helpful for my spiritual formation. Giving up sweets makes me angry. Giving up chocolate would make me down right angry. Mostly I would be thinking all day about how I missed that food or thing I gave up. For me it doesn’t point me to Jesus. I want you all to know I don’t find anything wrong with giving something up for lent as it is certainly a spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is a time honored way of strengthening ones faith. For me however it has never been appealing or truly beneficial.
So today I decided to do something different. I decided instead of taking something away I am going to add something to my family’s life. We are going to spend the next 40 days reading through the Gospels. We are going to spend this time on the journey to the cross following Jesus’ journey to the cross. I know for me reading the scripture brings it alive. I am excited for this journey and would challenge you to think about it as well.
In the reading schedule I gave myself a day off because lets be honest having a day off is needed sometimes. Life can be crazy busy. I don’t need something else to give me more guilt for messing up. So below is the plan.
My goal this Lenten season is to journey to the cross with my Lord and Savior. My prayer is that many of you will join in this journey. Let us be in the Word together as we make this journey to the cross and see these great things he has done for us.
Lent Reading Plan: 2017
||Matthew 10-Matthew 12
||Matthew 13-Matthew 14
||Matthew 15-Matthew 16
||Matthew 17-Matthew 18
||Matthew 19-Matthew 20
||Matthew 21-Matthew 22
||Take a Break
||Matthew 23-Matthew 24
||Matthew 25-Matthew 26
||Matthew 27-Matthew 28
||Mark 1-Mark 3
||Mark 4-Mark 6
||Mark 7-Mark 9
||Take a Break
||Mark 10-Mark 12
||Mark 13-Mark 14
||Mark 15-Mark 16
||Luke 1-Luke 3
||Luke 4-Luke 6
||Luke 7-Luke 9
||Take a Break
||Luke 10-Luke 12
||Luke 13-Luke 14
||Luke 15-Luke 16
||Luke 17-Luke 18
||Luke 19-Luke 20
||Luke 21-Luke 22
||Take a Break
||Luke 23-Luke 24
||John 1-John 2
||John 3-John 4
||John 5-John 6
||John 7-John 8
||John 9-John 10
||Take a Break
||John 11-John 12
||John 13-John 14
||John 15-John 16
||John 17-John 18
||John 19-John 20
This week I have spent most of my days talking with people. I actually didn’t get as much work accomplished. I suppose most some think we have a great day when we have a list to accomplish each day. I have a list but I am not sure I completed too many of those things today. So tonight after I put the kids to bed and started getting work I didn’t get done today. I had a thought.
This past week has reminded me of a simple truth. I have never regretted spending time talking is someone over getting work done. Never and I mean never have I had a regret of looking at a person sitting at a table looking down and thought I don’t have time to talk with them. My greatest joy is sitting with people and helping them find hope in a situation through Jesus.
This week I had a student come talk with me. It is not abnormal. In fact I happened fairly often. Sometimes it is students and sometimes it is colleagues, or parents. Most of the time when someone really needs me I find God sends them to me during a time when I don’t have the time. When they walk in I am in my head thinking I really don’t have the time because i have to get this project done, but God sent you here so I will make it work. I will say it again.
I have never regretted spending time talking with someone over getting work done.
So here is the thing. For those of you reading this I pray that you know people care for you. I pray you know I care. I pray that as we walk down the halls, and through our daily lives we take the time to talk. We take the time to look at those around us and ask how they are doing? The work will get done. I promise it will. Lets be the Jesus to those around us. Let us take the time to really hear each other and listen and care for each other.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11-12 NIV
Today I am sitting in my office and thinking thank you Jesus it is Friday and Sunday is coming. As I go through facebook, twitter and news sites I am disheartened. I am tired of it all. I am tired of the media stuff I see all around me. I am tires of the memes and misleading articles about this candidate and that candidate. I am tired of all the anger and hate. I am tired of people looking back at past this person wronged me and now I need to hate them forever. I am tired of all the damage in our world and I am tired of all the sin. I am tired from my own sin, I am tired of hearing about the brokenness all around me. As I was sitting in my office today all I could think is how can I lead my kids through this? How can I lead my children from fear to hope?
As parents and adults we are scaring our children. We are teaching them to live in fear. I have been at a number of meetings lately with adults who are bemoaning the Church is dying, the country is going to fall apart, what are we going to do? Her is my response stop it. Stop it right now. Stop spending every waking hour worrying about who is going to be elected, stop worrying that our church is missing kids, stop worrying about everything. No matter who is elected in a month the World is not going to end. The government isn’t going to collapse and the Church isn’t going to blow up. Above all remember who is in control.
Jesus is in control. He in control of the Church, the government, and the world. He is doing amazing things everyday if we just take the time to look around. I have spent the last 2 weeks meeting with 10 baptismal families. These are families with young children who are focusing on how they can help their children be a part of the Church so they can be connected to Jesus. It is amazing.
Lets just stop freaking out. Let stop and be in prayer for our leaders. Lets stop and be in prayer for our friends and enemies. Lets stop and be in prayer for our Church. Jesus in control and leading the way. Lets turn that fear into hope.
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
I know some in the youth ministry world are against short term mission projects. They say things like the people don’t need your help, or if you don’t have a long term relationship nothing really changes. Going to some far off place is nice but you have needs in your community that should be served first. I have a different view on these types of trips.
About a week ago I spent 8 days with students, parents and 300 other kids I had never met before to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community of Prince George, Virginia. This is my 12th week long mission trip as a leader. I did 4 as a high school student and one trip for 3 weeks in high school as well. I can say without a doubt I am a week long mission junkie. I love it and honestly the couple of summers I didn’t get to do it my whole year felt off somehow. You may be thinking how can one week of service really do that.
For the last 13 years I have gone on these trip through an organization called Group Mission trips. They are a fantastic organization to work with mostly because they do two things really well. First the work is all set up. They screen residents, plan the jobs we will be doing, and provide directions for all the projects. This is no small task. I have never in 13 years had an issues with work not needing to be done or trivial. We make a real difference in the lives of those people we come in contact with. Second they help my students and I get out of our comfort zone through breaking us up into crews of kids we have never met before. It is a brilliant system because if doesn’t just get you to meet other students. By taking you out of your comfort zone it helps students and adults to have confidence to get to know others in their own youth group. I cant say enough about the system and what they do.
Lastly Mission trips like this put everything into perspective for me as a follower of Jesus. You see when you get to know a resident for a week you get to know them and their life story if you are willing to listen. You often hear stories of brokenness, death, and sin. You meet people who have never had anyone to listen to them, people who have never heard anyone care for them for no other reason that this guy named Jesus. It is truly a powerful experience. These experiences help put life in perspective for me. It helps me walk back into my community and have empathy for my neighbor. They help me see all people as if they were Jesus.
So today as you walk around, take the time to hear your neighbor, hear the person who is next to you in line at the grocery story and care for them. Ask how you can help. Share about this Jesus guy who helps you get through this life.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25:34-35 NIV
Over the 12 plus years I have been serving in ministry I have been amazed by many different peoples generosity. This Sunday was one I really needed. You see this past weekend I was sick. I mean dog tired sick. I have run my body ragged between a trip to Disney, VBS, Hosting a day camp and strategic planning. My body has literally been saying to me “Steve just STOP IT or else”. I was sick all weekend and Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed. I had been literally coughing all night and hadn’t slept except for about 2 hours from 8 AM-10 AM. I was miserable when I walked into St. John but I was there to help lead the service. In all honesty I should have stayed home, but God had another plan.
To open the service I made a few announcements. The most important one to me was a need we had for donations for a couple of our students who needed help to be able to attend the mission trip this summer. Throughout the service Jesus gave me the voice and allowed me to avoid coughing uncontrollable during the prayers and other parts I had to lead. It was truly a miracle that I made it through the service. Praise God He is faithful to me and got me to the other side so I could see His great goodness. I am so glad I was there because I got to see Jesus move.
At the end of the service I had three people I come forward and ask what they could do to help. One even wrote a check for the amount we needed for two of the students. I was amazed. I know I shouldn’t have been amazed but God brought those people forward to help reach a need for our young people. I should never be surprised by the generosity of Gods people for His mission. I am so glad Jesus brought me to that moment. I got to see Him work.
Today as you may be feeling down, or tired, or broken be reminded that Jesus is continuing to work in the lives of His people. He is working to bring about His good and we are blessed often when we can see it. My prayer for you today is that you see Jesus work his miracles working in your lives.