How to make the most out of next week
Next week is often referred to as “Holy Week” in the Christian tradition. Maybe you don’t have any tradition associated with it other than Easter eggs and family dinner. But if you’d like to make it a memorable week, here are some practical suggestions.
(optional) Saturday, April 13
Begin a 10 day Lent reading program available for a small fee here.
Sunday, April 14, (Palm Sunday)
Re-read the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21:1-11. Picture yourself as part of the crowd, cheering the long-awaited king who is coming to set you free. If you missed the message in our current series on this event, check out the podcast here.
Consider inviting a friend to one of the Easter Sunday gatherings. You can send them this link.
(optional – start an 8 day reading plan here.)
Monday, April 15
Check out this thoughtful section on the meal Jesus shared with his disciples that last week. It’s helpful to remember this is an event to be shared together as the followers of Jesus. How has the community of faith shaped your understanding of Jesus?
Tuesday, April 16
Read Mark 14:12-26. Consider setting a place at the table for Jesus. Then imagine him joining you for a meal. During that meal, he says to you what he said to the disciples about his body and his blood being for you. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving.
Wednesday, April 17
Read Matthew 26:36-46. We’re not the first to struggle with prayer. Choose a time during the day when you can stop for 30 to 60 minutes and pray. Instead of praying for yourself, try to listen for the needs of those around you. What is God’s concern for them? Join with God in that concern by praying his desires for those who come to your mind. It’s okay if this is a struggle.
Maundy Thursday, April 18
Read Mark 12:28-31, and John 13:1-17. “Maundy” Thursday is from the Latin word for “mandate,” or instruction. Jesus’ instruction or mandate to his followers is to do what he has done. It is to love and serve one another. Choose one act of service you can do for someone today, then go do it.
Read John 19. How much would you do for a friend? Allow the reality to sink in that Jesus death was for you. He didn’t go grudgingly to the cross, but willingly, out of his great love for you. Write a short prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus.
Saturday, April 20
This is a day of waiting. Think of an area in your life where you’re waiting for something to change. Sit in that space of not knowing when. Imagine being in Peter’s sandals on that first Saturday. Jesus is dead. Hope is gone. What’s needed is a miracle. All you can do is pray. Pray for God’s miracle where it is needed most in your life right now.
Read John 20:1-18. The miracle has happened. The clouds are giving way to blue sky. Hope has returned. The King is alive. Join us for a victorious and joyous celebration at 8:00, 9:15, 10:30, or 11:45!
The trouble with the land of milk and honey
Last weekend I had the privilege of spending time with Eliudi Issangya, a friend and colleague from Tanzania. After seeing vending machines for automobiles and experiencing next-day delivery from you-know-who, he made the following observation:
“America is the land of milk and honey.”
It’s a phrase from the pages of the Bible, often used to describe the “promised land” that God would provide for the nation of Israel. But Eliudi observed that it’s easy for people who grow up in a place like the US (a land of abundance) to assume this is how everyone lives.
I mean, we know that, but we forget that. Living with so much abundance and opportunity can lull us into a slumber that closes our eyes to the harsh realities of much of the world that struggles with injustice, poverty, and scarce resources. (And yes, I realize that there are those in this country who struggle with the same things.)
That’s what led him to comment that it would be good for more of us to travel internationally, to see some of the rest of the world. It changes a person when they travel. It sharpens our focus. It awakes us from slumber. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit the
“majority world” (a.k.a. the “two-thirds” world), I would encourage you to put it on your bucket list.
Something else happens in this land of milk and honey. We grow complacent. We think this is it. As C.S. Lewis put it, “we’re too easily pleased.” We think the good life is found here. We believe that a big paycheck, a big house, a big family, and a big nest-egg are the pinnacle of life.
There is a land “flowing with milk and honey,” though. It’s called the kingdom of God (or sometimes the kingdom of heaven). And the amenities and comforts that we look for here pale in comparison. Not because they’re not good, but because they don’t really satisfy. What we long for is what God offers. He offers it in part now, as we experience a relationship with God through Jesus. And he offers it in full when Jesus returns. At that time we will experience God face to face.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
So as we enter the season of Lent, it might be helpful to set aside a bit of milk and honey in order to see more clearly. Not just to see the world around us, but to see the world that God is ultimately calling us to.
P.S. Thank you to all of you who contributed to our efforts to provide funds for the shipping containers destined for Tanzania. If you’d like more info on the ministry there, check out this website.
Breaking thru the winter of your soul
Chances are you’ll read this on a day when it’s once again snowy here in Maryland. The forecast is for a few more inches of winter. But there are also signs that spring is breaking thru.
There’s also a chance that you’ll read this on a day when there’s a bit of winter in your soul. No one is immune from the bleak, gray and cold seasons of the soul. Your prayers seem to be anemic at best. Your passion for seeking God is a dim memory. Your soul feels heavy and dead. And you wonder if any of it is even real.
The good news is that you can cultivate your own spring-time for your soul. That’s essentially what Lent is about. During the next several weeks (beginning next Wednesday, March 6th) you can till the soil of your soul and plant and nurture the seeds that will burst into full bloom on Resurrection Sunday.
Maybe Lent has left a bad taste in your mouth. Let me encourage you to try it again. But try it as a gardener who is cultivating a fertile plot of soil in your soul, not as a drudgery or duty that you’re forced to fulfill.
- If you choose to abstain from some activity or luxury, do it because it will make your heart more receptive to your heavenly Father.
- If you want to add some spiritual practice to your routine, do it with the expectancy that it will help you hear your Creator speak into your life.
- And if you’d like to use a helpful resource, you can check out one of the following:
A Bible reading plan on YouVersion
A downloadable 9 week study plan
In light of our recent message on building a better posse, why not invite someone else to join you in your preparation for Spring?
You may be experiencing a winter time in your soul, but spring is just around the corner!
When Valentine’s Day and Lent collide
I’m writing this blog on February 14th the traditional observance of Valentine’s Day. It’s also Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent. Here’s why this collision of holidays is a good thing.
On Valentine’s Day we’re inundated with candy, roses, and hearts. Hearts, hearts, and more hearts. You remember those “conversation hearts” candies, right? Little cute sayings like, “Be Mine, Sweetheart, Love You,” and so on. Heart-shaped cards, heart-shaped food, heart-shaped dishes, and heart-shaped everything.
But Lent is also about the heart. Not that pretend one with cupid’s arrow in it, but the heart that is the center of you. Some might say that Lent is just about remembering Jesus’ suffering. But dig deeper. WHY did he suffer? Why did he go to the cross? It was so you could have a new heart. He even said that our hearts are the fountain of evil that consumes us. (Matthew 15:19) Only with a new heart can we love well. That includes loving God, loving others, and even loving our selves appropriately.
So as we embark on the journey of Lent I would encourage you to think about your heart. Where is it bent out of shape? Where does it need to be renewed? Then consider abstaining from something, or adopting a habit or practice for the next six weeks until Easter. If you’d like some suggestions, I’ve written about this here, here, and here.
Feel free to share your Lent decisions in the comment section below. Or not. But know that the condition of your heart matters deeply to your heavenly father. On Valentine’s Day, and every day.
P.S. One of my Lent practices this year is to select one person each day and have focused prayer for them throughout that day. That includes listening to what God has to say about that person. I’m open to suggestions.
P.P.S. If you’d like to engage in a Lent-focused Bible reading plan, this one is really good.