Sunday, February 28, 2010

This Week- Acts of Worship

Our theme scripture from 2 Corinthians 6:11

For those of you who may not know, Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent, and therefore not counted in the 40 days of this adventure. Each Sunday I will provide you with the theme of the week to come. This week, each day I will present you with a brief, simple act of worship through which you can offer praise and glory to the God of grace.  I hope each reader will find themself WIDE OPEN to these opportunites to draw closer to Jesus as we continue our walk to the cross.  Have a blessed Sunday everyone!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 10- Ragamuffin Thoughts

Today's "words to soak in" are excerpts from the first chapter of Brennan Manning's classic book The Ragamuffin Gospel (1990, Multnomah Press).  It could also be called The Official Guide to Living Life WIDE OPEN- or maybe that's just me.  Enjoy.

Something is radically wrong.

The Christian community often resembles a Wall Street exchange of works where in the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored.  Love is stifled, freedom shackled, and self-righteousness believed.  The institutional church has become a wounder of the healers rather than a healer of the wounded...  Put bluntly the American Church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice.

Our culture has made the word grace impossible to understand.  We resonate with slogans such as:
"There's no free lunch."
"You get what you deserve."
"You want love?  Earn it."
"You want mercy?  Show you deserve it."
"Do unto others before they do it unto you."
Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if it is only personal discipline and self-denial that will mold the perfect me.  The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing.

Our approach to the Christian life is just as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber's license and was taken to see Niagra Falls.  He studied it for a minute and then said, "I think I can fix this." 

We believe that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps- indeed, we can do it ourselves.  Sooner or later we are coonfronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficency.  Our sercurity is shattered and our bootstraps are cut.

God of grace have mercy on us- again.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 9- Prayer 101

Matthew 6:9-13
And Jesus said "This, then, is how you should pray:"

Jesus gives the disciples this prayer so that there will be no doubt about what prayer is to be and not be.  It is not to call attention to yourself, by praying on street corners or using lots of pious words.  You should pray "like this" (not necessarily this prayer, but like this!) because God already knows what you need before you ask Him. Give praise to God.  Pray this HIs will be done.  Pray for your needs and the needs of others. There is nothing too large or too small to pray about.  Take everything to the Father.

1)  What does "hallowed" mean?  Do you keep the name of God and the name of Jesus full of meaning, or do you use it too casually?
2)  We know we need daily bread.  What else do we really need?  Do you pray for need, or for want?
3)  When we pray for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, what are we really asking for?  Are we willing to do our part?  It has been said we are God's Plan A for taking Jesus to the people, and there is no Plan B.  Are you praying to be a part of that plan?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 8- The Beatitudes

The late Rich Mullins once called this scripture the condensed version of everything Jesus taught.  Yet most of its concepts are so foreign to us today, even in the church. Our culture is not fond of the meek, the merciful or the peacemakers.  We certainly don't understand being persecuted for Jesus' sake.  Read this a few times.  Soak it in.  Commit these verses to memory.  Only when you begin to understand how out-of-step Jesus was (and IS) with society will you begin to feel WIDE OPEN to all He was trying to teach us, and will you begin to understand why He would go to the cross for us.

1)  Our society tells us we should be powerful, in charge and famous.  What does this text have to say about all of that?
2)  Does our culture value mercy?  Can mercy be seperated from forgiveness?
3)  We are told that the pure in heart shall see God.  What does it mean to be pure in heart?  What does it mean to see God?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 7- Come Follow Me

Matthew 4:18-22 (The Message)

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee's sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.

1)  What have you "dropped" from your life in order to follow Jesus?
2)  James and John left everything, including their father, to go with Jesus.  They were truly living life WIDE OPEN.  What is keeping you from being a fully devoted follower of Christ?  Will you follow where He leads without questioning where you are going?
3)  Are you a "new kind of fisherman?"  Who are the people in your life that you need to bring to Jesus?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 6- Prepare the Way

John 1:1-14 (NIV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1)  The Word (Jesus) has always been with God, through all of creation all of man's sin against the law, because Jesus is God.  And yet He came to die for us.  How does that change your image of the Christ and what He did for you?
2)  Through what darkness does "the Light" shine in your life?  What areas of your life need more "Light?"
3)  John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus- in fact, he kicked the door WIDE OPEN!  In what ways could you be clearing the way for others to know Jesus?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 5- God Knew It All Along

Isaiah 53:1-6  (The Message)
Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this? The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.  He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.  One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.  But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures.  But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,  
on him, on him.

Some 700 years before the birth of Christ, the mighty prophet Isaiah wrote these words describing what the Messiah would be like and how he would be treated.  God knew all along that a sacrifice would have to be made.  God knew that we could never be reconciled to Him through the law- that a blood sacrifice would be required to save us.  And yet, when the Messiah arrived, the very people He came to save did not know Him.  The NIV verse 3 says "Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."  Little has changed, has it?  We still hide from Jesus.  We still do not "esteem" His name in our world. In so many ways, He is still the rose we trample under foot. In order to live the WIDE OPEN life God wants for us, Jesus must be lifted up in our lives. I hope as you think and pray about this passage and the questions below, you will share your thoughts and prayer requests with us in the comments section.  Have a blessed day!
1)   In what ways is the Messiah still seen as "scum" in our world?
2)   What does the passage mean when it states "through his bruises we get healed?"
3)   Do you really believe that ALL of your sins were piled on Him?  Do you believe in
      grace?  How does that belief show up in the way you treat others?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Week To Come

For those of you who may be wondering, Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent, and therefore not counted in the 40 days of this adventure.  Each Sunday I will provide you with the theme of the week to come.  This week, on days 5-9, you will be provided Scripture passages to help you focus on Jesus- His life, His teachings, His death and His resurrection.  I will also provide a few questions each day to help you process the text.  I hope you will feel free to post your thoughts and prayer requests in the comment section each day, and I pray that together our hearts and minds will be WIDE OPEN to what God has to say to us through the Word.  Have a blessed Sunday! And please pray for my former youth Kristin King, who was badly injured in a car wreck Friday night in Orlando.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 4- Just Soak In It

Each Saturday I will provide you with inspirational reading- Scripture, song lyrics, poetry or some other devotional reading.  Treat the words like a hot tub.  You don't have to DO anything; just soak in them and let them wash over you. Stay WIDE OPEN to what God has to say to you. Today's words come from Lois Cheney's 1969 devotional classic God Is No Fool.
"Be still and know that I AM God."
The hymns rise and fall.
The organ lifts and uplifts.
The choir is practiced solemnity focuses its praise.
Standing at the sound of prayers, we hear the chants of Scripture fill the nave.
The sermon adds its one-voice contribution.
All, all in reverent noise.
The meeting turns on Christ.
The conversation patters to Christ.
The laughter smiles with Christ.
The daily devotional drowns out the Christ.
All, all in reverent noise.
The first bird is heard.
The baby's cry is heard.
The embarrassed cough is heard.
Who is silent?
Who is waiting for Jesus?
Who is listening to God?
"Be still and know that I AM God."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 3- A Prayer of Preparation

Today, pray this prayer of preparation, reading it aloud:
Dear God, guide my thoughts and actions as I go through these 40 days with You.  May my prayers go deeper and truly seek your will; may I received a new understanding of the scriptures I read; may my actions lead me closer to You.  Help me to toss aside the boundaries I usually place on my relationship with You and learn to live life WIDE OPEN in the arms of your love and grace.  Thank You for the many blessings You have placed in my life.  Thank You for your mercy and for the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Help me to focus on His life, His death and His resurrection. Walk with me through this adventure and I will seek to follow You everywhere You lead me.

In the name of Savior,

Just a reminder that each Saturday will give you a chance to catch up on the week, and each Sunday during Lent I will offer an overview of the theme for the upcoming week.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 2- Liver and Lima Beans

The 40 days of Lent (and of this adventure) are analogous to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and resisting temptation (see Matthew 4:1-11).  Many Christians choose to "give up" something for Lent as their way of seeking to commune with the Christ.  You may have given up Starbucks, chocolate, soda, TV or something else that you feel is a sacrifice.  Then at the end of the season we go right back to the things we give up.  This is fine, but...

This year, the scripture at the top of the page (2 Corinthians 6:11, The Message) will guide us through the desert.  The apostle Paul is telling us that Jesus wants us to live a WIDE OPEN life!  Don't be fenced in by the standards of the world around you; go for the gold.  For many years I joked that every year for Lent I would give up liver and lima beans.  And I never cheated on that promise.  It was easy- I HATE liver and lima beans!  This may seem like a terrible way to approach Lent, but in some bizarre way I was on to something. Liver and lima beans are not a part of my life.  This year, in addition to whatever you have chosen to sacrifice, consider this:  Give up something you never want to take back again.  Give up your anger towards another person.  Give up a sin that you struggle with.  Don't be fenced in; don't think small.  Pray today about opening up your life to Jesus.  What can you let go of and give to God that you never want to see again?  Jesus came so that we would have life- and not just any life, but ABUNDANT life!  It's time to do a little spring cleaning...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 1- Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the traditional beginning of Lent and a time during which Christians everywhere dedicate themselves to the last days of Jesus.  Today, in churches of many denominations all over the world, believers will gather in somber recognition of the sacrifice Jesus would make for us.  Many will mark the occasion by having ashes rubbed on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. The ashes are often palm branches from the previous year's Palm Sunday that were burned and saved. In many cases the minister will remind us that "from dust we came, and to dust we shall return."  The entire service is a call to repentance.  If you are able to attend an Ash Wednesday service at your place of worship, please do.  It will provide a moving start to your adventure.

If you are unable to attend a service, then take time today to focus on being WIDE OPEN to the meaning of Lent. I call it being "Crosseyed'- keeping yourself aware of the cross of Christ and the resurrection that would follow.  Assuming you don't have any ashes handy, I suggest that you take some sort of marker and mark yourself with the cross.  Pray about the things in your life that you need to let go of- the things you REALLY need to repent of.  Look at the mark of the cross on your body.  Do people see the mark of Jesus on you everyday?  What do you need to do over the next 40 days to make your life a testimony?  Praise God for Jesus, and for the journey we are about to take together!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Starting the Adventure!

Welcome to The 40 Day Adventure!  I hope you will join me over the next 6 and a half weeks and share in a spiritual journey together as we seek to become WIDE OPEN to Jesus' journey to the cross of Calvary- and to his resurrection!  We will journey through a variety of exercises and disciplines designed to help us discover more about Jesus and more about ourselves. Using scripture, prayer, music, worship and acts of service we will seek to draw near to the One who gave His life for us.   There will be a devotional activity each Monday-Friday; Saturday will be a "make-up" day and Sunday is for worship. 

Open your heart, your mind and your spirit this Lenten season and become WIDE OPEN to the love, grace and forgiveness that only Jesus can bring.  I hope to see you back here tomorrow for Ash Wednesday.

Friday, February 5, 2010

It's all about Jesus...

Join us Fat Tuesday (Feb. 16th) as we begin our journey of prayer, scripture reading, fasting and more.  Lent is a time to put aside the things of the world and seek Jesus.  I hope you will plan to join me.