‘Houston, we have a rejection problem’: The need for Lent and the journey to Easter

In rejection, we give up what we have to take the long road of our own making.

This devotion is part of a series that I’m planning to write throughout Lent talking about the “re-” words that appear in scripture.

If the restoration and redemption of Easter is the destination, then where did the journey start?

To get a glimpse, here are some words of Jesus from the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger 
one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’
So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that,
the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant
and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
- Luke 15:11-13 (NIV)

March 6 marked Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the church season we call Lent. Ash Wednesday is always 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter and, if you’ve never experienced it, Ash Wednesday is designed as a “time to remember.” Pastors and priests marked the foreheads of attendees with a cross of ashes. As part of the service attendees were urged to remember that you come from dust and to dust you will return.

If we are honest, it is a sobering moment. No matter how important we might feel or how self righteous we might become, we are merely dust (Imagine all of those people blowing away at the end of Avengers: Infinity War). From that point forward, Lent pushes us to return home to God.

Over this period of Lent, this series of devotions will be about returning to God. Maybe it’s sin or other issues that are getting in the way. Maybe you’ve simply lost that feeling of closeness.

But, why do we need to return home? It begins with the fact that, at some point, maybe each day, we engage in our own rebellions against God. It’s called sin and it happens everytime we choose our way over the way and will of God. Get that? We choose our way over God’s way.

At the beginning of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, we meet someone who becomes quite self righteous. It’s a younger son who wants his father to give him his inheritance now. His father, while still very much alive, honors the son’s request and divides up the estate between his two sons.

Then, in Luke 15:14, the “rejection” of the father really begins. The younger son takes everything his dad has given him and moves to a distant land far away from his father and brother. While he was there, he lost everything through a series of his own choices and mistakes (his sin). His rejection leads him to a separation from his father.

A question we need to ask ourselves is “Do I feel any separation in my relationship with God?” It will be in the places where we are most likely to reject God’s way for our own ways. To begin our path to remembrance, we have to embrace that we are, at times, rejectors for God.

Prayer: Dear God, we confess that we have rejected you by not loving you with our whole heart. We have failed to be obedient and we have not done your will. God, we have broken your laws and we have rejected your love. Help us to overcome our rejection so that we can remember you in this Lent Season. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

(Prayer adapted from Service of Word and Table of the United Methodist Church)

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Five biscuits and two fish sticks: All it takes to show some faith

How do you feed 5,000-plus people? Look in one kid’s lunch box.

“Where’s the closest Wal-Mart?”

That might as well be the modern equivalent of what Jesus asked Philip at the start of the famed story of Jesus feeding 5,000.  Jesus is concerned about immediate need of this large group and he lays out this “test” for Philip.  Maybe, Jesus, knowing what’s about to happen, is just having a little fun with one of his disciples before the big reveal.  Honestly, Jesus has to have the greatest sense of humor ever created.

Philip’s response is basically, “Jesus, we don’t have enough money to solve this problem.”

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When you’ve lost your faith and hope

man jumps from to water

Faith is hope in God and belief in the unseen.  It’s taking a step even when we don’t know what’s on the other side.

You can find a poll for just about everything today.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a debate about “real” or “fake” news.  It’s about the number of polls we find.

Some of those polls point out that we have a loss of “faith.”  It’s not exactly what you think it might be (though there are polls about views on being spiritual but not religious).  In these “faith’ polls, people are indicating that they are losing faith in leaders, role models, the media, institutions, the government, the financial system and so much more.

But, the truth is that what these polls are saying is nothing new.  It’s been going on for years, decades, even centuries.

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The bottom line for the Gospel: 10 things I see in John 3:16

seaport during daytime

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

It’s one of the most quoted verses of all time.  It’s the one that people still hold up on signs at sporting events.  That verse is John 3:16.

I was thinking about that verse this weekend and it’s been a long time since I learned it.   The version that I memorized comes from the King James Bible and it reads this way:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

There are so many other Bible translations and versions that give essentially the same words, but I’m going to share 10 things with you that I have been thinking about when it comes to that verse: Continue reading

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Mark 6: Touching the robe of Jesus to ‘be whole’

crossnoteWhat does it really take to be healed?

A group of students in my campus ministry wanted to attend a church’s rather elaborate production of the story of Jesus’ life.

This huge production used stages on opposite ends of a building with a catwalk between them.  The audience sat on opposite sides of the catwalk and watched as the cast traced the life of Jesus from birth to death to resurrection.

During one of the scenes when Jesus was in his public ministry with the disciples, the person playing Jesus was walking across the catwalk from one side of the room to the other.

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Breaking the silence and finding my voice again

This past Sunday, I had an interesting experience as I was hiking in the woods near my home.

It was not a particularly easy walk. I pushed through more briars and spider webs than I care to count. I carefully made my way down a steep, overgrown hill to get to the bank of a small stream.

My trek took me to the “v” where this stream connected with another.  For a number of reasons, I found myself wanting to pray. I kneeled down with my knees against the soft, wet sand, closed my eyes and started my prayer.

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Your epic life story deserves an epic lead: Lessons from Lou Gehrig

Epic Leads.001.jpeg“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet, today, I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Those who were there when these words were uttered said you could’ve heard a pin drop at Yankee Stadium.  The fans in attendance were focusing their attention on the player known as the “Iron Horse.”

It was July 4, 1939, and Lou Gehrig was beginning one of the most memorable sports speeches in history.

Gehrig had earned his nickname after playing 2,130 consecutive games at first base for the Yankees. The streak started in 1925 and lasted until May 2, 1939, when Gehrig removed himself from the lineup. 

After testing at the Mayo Clinic, Gehrig received a diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) on June 13, his 39th birthday.  Within two years of his diagnosis, Gehrig would die from complications of the disease. We now know ALS as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
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