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.
It is the day after Christmas. All those things under the tree that seemed new just 24 hours ago are looking less so. Soon all those decorations around the house will need to be taken down. All the stuff put away and life going back to normal. Maybe even a little dull. Soon the kids will be bored with their toys and other things they got for Christmas. It will all lose the luster of being new.
The day after Christmas reminds me of my own faith walk. Often what seems new each day gets a little dull. It is so easy for me to forget the newness of the gospel. The beauty of its work in my life. It is so easy to look at our faith and miss the point. When we focus on how we feel or look at something it can so easily dull in our minds.
So what can we do. How do we make it seem new every day? Well the answers aren’t simple. They don’t have an easy answer. We don’t have some simple way to make everything seem new. The reality is our emotions have little to do with the faith we trust in. With the God we believe came near to us. Time can sometimes make us lose focus on this. We can get caught up in the emotion of this moment. Yet God has promised he is near. In our baptism he came and claimed us as His own. In the Lord supper we experience the Grace of God in the Body and blood. In Worship we hear about the one who shed his blood for us. This is what helps us be new every day.
So today as you begin looking at the rest of the year. The decorations and presents look a little dull remember the one who was the reason you celebrated. Remember the God of the universe coming down for us. Remember the work of Christ to be near so that he could die for you and me. It is so simple; it isn’t a new story to hear or a new gift. It is the gift we received long ago, the gift that changes everything for you and me. The Gift of the Son of God coming to be with us, to die for us, and to rise again.
This weekend I got to do one of my favorite things in the world. I got to teach the scriptures to a bunch of 7-8 graders. They are squirmy, they are awkward, they are weird. I love them. I love the reactions I love the laughs. I love the fun. I love how you can open the word to them and make them laugh and think all at the same time. Sometimes it is painful trying to get them to think(Ok sometimes we smell fire) it is so much work, but sometimes God blesses us to see the little light bulb in their heads go off.
I love teaching confirmation. I love teaching the scriptures period. Actually one of my goal main goals for all Christians I come in contact with is to teach them a truth that was hammered home by the previous Pastor I served with. He taught everyone he knew to look in the book and tell him what the text says. It is so simple yet such a profound part of teaching the faith to young people. It is profound for all of use to remember when teaching the faith to our families.
You see I believe that many of us know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, or faith, or love, or whatever. We often miss the real answer because we aren’t looking in the book we are just giving the answer we were given as a kid. So when we are teaching our children about Jesus, or teaching ourselves about Jesus, don’t forget to look in the book. You can find the real answers about Jesus there. You can hear God speak about himself and show you his amazing love in the book.
This week as you look in the book remember it is God speaking to you there. Listen to what he is saying you might just learn something and grow in your faith.
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 NIV
This year my family and I have decided for family devotions we are going to try and read the whole bible in a year. We grabbed my 12 and 10 year old their own one year bibles and grabbed the ones my wife and I had gotten a few years ago and started reading. My six year old also got her first bible this year. So far it has been interesting to say the least. It has been a struggle, humorous, and at times just plain awkward. I think it is funny how being in God’s word this way has opened up some great family time. We ask each kid to read a section from the bible, either the old testament, new testament, or Psalm section. It also brought some guilt when the kids missed the month of March because we just go busy and I didn’t make them read. My wife and I had to read an number of days to catch up but now we started as a family again just a few days ago in April.
My favorite family moment so far this year is when my son was reading out loud and got to the story of Lots girls sleeping with dad and instead of saying laid with dad he inserted hubida-hubida. We all laughed so hard at his dead pan and the awkwardness of the moment that it took some time to have our bodies be able to adjust to the lack of oxygen. We have had countless other funny moments and laughter but that one probably was the greatest.
So why do I bring this story up. I think sharing Jesus and the bible with your kids is the single greatest responsibility we are given as disciples of Jesus. I for one have failed in a lot of ways passing on faith with my kids. This year of being in the word every night as a family and laughing at some of the weird stories in the Bible has brought us greater opportunities for faith conversation and how God is working through history. Any family who can read through the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy together without falling asleep will be stronger I am sure of it. We have had some great a-hah moments as we struggled through some of the texts together. I got to answer some great questions and help my kids see the bigger picture of God’s faithfulness. My wife also enjoyed watching me try to explain some crazy stories in the Old Testament to a 6 year old.
So what is the point? Well my point is I wish I had done this years ago with the kids. I wish I had taken the time to get through the scriptures together so we could explore this thing called faith more and more together. Start today, start tomorrow, but start reading together, it will change your life.