So we are just now starting to hear about the country opening back up to a more normal state of being. I imagine many of us are thinking about the things we cant wait to get back to. Hugging loved ones, going to the beach, playing group sports and most important of them all sitting at the bar talking about how amazing the Star-wars movies really are…ok maybe not that last one but you get the point. I have been online and seen a number of people posting about all the things they a can’t wait to do again.
Last week I was on the phone with a parent and she said something that made me think. She talked about with all the things wiped clean from her schedule what things was she doing now that she wants to keep after the quarantine has ended? So here is our question. What things are you going to keep? Is it going to be sitting with family for meals. Maybe checking in our your parents, friends or family. Maybe you have been better about going to worship every week, it was in your pj’s, but you have been consistent. Maybe it is getting more exercise by taking walks as a family. I know the dog would love for less than 7 a day but maybe keeping up with it as family on a daily basis is more doable now. We all have things we have changed over these past weeks maybe we can keep some of the good habits going.
For me it is going to be reading my bible. I also want to help my family make this a new habit as well. I want us to get in the word and talk about it on a weekly basis and really see what God has to say. So here is my challenge to all of you if you are looking for this as I am. Would you join us? I am going to be starting an online bible study for families on Thursday nights at 6:30pm. All you need is a bible and a computer/phone. It will be a time to get in the word. You can join us on a zoom call if you want or you can read with us and submit me some questions at a later point. The first 5 weeks are going to be on Galatians. We start Thursday April 30th. Lets start a new pattern in the word together as a family. You certainly don’t have to but do keep up going to Church at least, even if it is in your pj’s!
I will be honest I have struggled to stay up on my reading of the Gospels through Lent. I knew that I would at some point fall behind, but I was committed to try and read during Lent. Yesterday I realized I was almost a week behind. I had about an hour drive for something yesterday by myself and thought I should catch up. I am sure you all are thinking while you drive you shouldn’t be reading your bible. And you are right. Driving and reading is not a good a idea unless you want to really meet Jesus face to face.
Instead of reading I got on my Bible app (before driving) and had it read to me. I would not say it is my favorite way to read the scripture. I like to highlight and take notes but it is what I needed. So there I was in the car by myself and I got to the gospel of Mark. Over and over in the first few chapters where those words:
And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:9 (ESV)
We don’t always like to listen. I don’t like to listen. Life can get so busy that I forget to be in the word or prayer. I can get caught up in all the memes, social media, and life drama and miss Jesus speaking to me.
So are you listening to Jesus? As we make our way to the cross are we listening to Jesus. I hope as we journey toward the cross I don’t get this far behind again. My prayer for all of us is that we take the time to listen and hear through the power of the Holy Spirit what Jesus is saying to us today and always.
Is forgiveness truly incredible? Am I living a life that shows I know that God’s forgiveness for me through Jesus is the most incredible thing in the world? Today while preparing for a message, I came across this passage of scripture – Luke 5:17-26.
This is one of those interesting stories in scripture about Jesus. It is a story I have come to love over the years. First you see a man who is paralyzed; he can’t walk. His friends bring him to the home where Jesus is teaching because they want their friend healed. They climb to the top of the house, break open the roof, and lower him down. This is shocking for so many reasons I don’t want to get into, but just know that these guys were nuts about their friend meeting Jesus.
Here is the part of the story I want to focus on. Jesus looks at the man and you expect Him to have pity on him and heal him. I mean, this is what Jesus does. He feels for the sick and lame, and He heals them. It happens over and over again in the Bible. Instead, Jesus does something different. He offers the man forgiveness. It was shocking and maybe even underwhelming to the man’s friends, and possibly to the poor paralytic. Here is the thing I struggled with today as I read this. Do we as Christians, when we hear “forgiveness”, miss how amazing it truly is? You see, I think many times we rush by this part and want to get to the healing. Maybe we want to get to the part where we see God do something amazing in someone’s life.
Here is the thing about this paralytic. You see, as a man paralyzed, he would not be allowed to go to temple. He would never have been able to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem and hear of God’s forgiveness of His people. You see, this man was missing the love of God. When Jesus looks this man in the eye and says “you are forgiven”, it may have been the first time he ever heard those words. It may have been the first time he knew God loved him. This truly is incredible forgiveness.
Today in your own life, you may have just skipped over the forgiveness part of this story. You may, like me, want to see God do good in your life and never stop to experience the greatest good we have ever experienced – the goodness of God in sending Jesus to die on a cross and forgive our sins. When we enter worship on Sundays and hear of that forgiveness, do we sit and want something more? Do we want to be healed, or do we want our lives put back together? Maybe instead we need to come and hear those simple words… “You are forgiven!” These are truly incredible words.
Because you are forgiven I would ask one thing. Share that forgiveness with those around you. Maybe it will be the first time they ever experience that forgiveness and it can change their lives forever. You have been forgiven and as you experience that forgiveness, go and forgive others.
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
So this week we I was part of a team trying to help our staff be more physically healthy. One of the ways we are doing this is through a biggest loser challenge. For those that wanted to participate we broke them into teams to help us all be accountable. The goal is to help the staff have some bonding time and also help everyone be a little healthier. The most fascinating part of this activity is people’s fascination with numbers. Some people are terrified to share their number. Others will tell you if you ask.
The scale is a terrifying thing for many people. This week we set up a scale in the office for people to use if they wanted for our biggest loser challenge. I can tell you a few of them left that room with very angry faces. In fact, one told me we shouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the day. That scale can be terrifying, hurtful, and down right painful. It doesn’t paint the whole picture of health. I can however give us a snapshot of how we are doing. It doesn’t really tell you if you are healthy but it can tell you which direction you are heading in terms of your health. I for one wanted to throw it out the window.
(One note if you are a member of St. John or any Church please look after your Church workers’ health. Bring in some healthy snacks and less cookies we need the help!)
Kicking off this program got me thinking about not just my physical health but also many families’ spiritual health. Weight gain doesn’t happen over night it happens over months and years. Weight loss is the same way. Your health spiritually is very similar. We have good years and bad years. We have ups and we have downs. This is a great time of year to get on your faith life scale. (disclaimer, I am not saying if you are not doing the following things you do not love Jesus or you do not have faith so don’t comment non-stop and tell me I am preaching moralism please)
Are you in prayer as a family? As an individual? Are you in worship? Do you come to receive God’s blessings in Communion? Have you spent time in God’s word this week? Have you cared for someone beyond yourself? Have you served your neighbor? These questions don’t tell us if we have saving faith. This is just meant to help us look at our faith lives and reassess where God can work in us to be more faithful. Let us take a look in the mirror. Let us as Jesus’s disciples get on the scale and see where we are at. Maybe it is time in your life as it is in mine to lose a few pounds and get back to work.