Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Readying for Lent



Next week, we’ll start the Lenten Season. I received an email from Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity last week, with a devotion for each week of Lent. In the email, he writes:

“We hope you will find it meaningful to reflect on what it means to follow Jesus personally and what it means for the ministry of Habitat for each of us to be faithful followers. As we look toward the cross, and ultimately the Resurrection, let us remember that trusting God enough to follow His call enables us to demonstrate the kingdom of God here on earth.”

The theme for the Habitat Lenten Devotions this year is “Follow Me.”

But what does it mean to follow Jesus?

I am reading a book by Jossy Chacko who spoke at Willow Creek Global Summit Leadership Summit last year. His organization Empart desires to “reach the unreached” to truly live out the words of The Great Commission:

Matthew 28: 16-20:  The eleven disciples went into Galilee to the hillside to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, though some had doubts.Then Jesus approached them and told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day[a] until the end of the age.”

When Jossy Chacko realized that there are thousands of people in Northern India that literally have never heard of the Gospel of Christ, he dedicated himself and his ministry to proclaiming the Good News there.

One challenge he has faced is that often "Christianity" gets in the way. People have been to a tent revival, raised their hands when called, prayed the Forgiveness Prayer, and think they are done. They claim to be Christian, but remain unreached.

Do we have the same problem, here in the U.S.? I think far too many believe the Kingdom of God is what happens when we die, rather than following His call to demonstrate the kingdom of God here on earth.

This week, I read about the Isaiah 58 Challenge from Lynne Hybels (who with her husband Bill founded Willow Creek.) A decade ago, a friend asked her to read Isaiah 58 every day for 30 days. After doing so, she said she now knew why she was on this planet.

In Isaiah 58, God calls out his people – the devout, those who fast, who are practicing the rituals of religion without truly answering the call.
Is this what you call "Fasting," God asks?

Is this what you call a fast,
    an acceptable day to the Lord?
Isn’t this the fast that I have been choosing:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
and
 to untie the cords of the yoke,
    and to let the oppressed go free,
        and to break every yoke?
Isn’t it to share your bread with the hungry,
    and to bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked,
    to cover him with clothing,
        and not to raise yourself up
[ from your own flesh and blood?”

Isaiah goes on to say:
“if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of afflicted souls,
then your light will rise in darkness,
    and your night will be like noonday.”

Christ echoes this call when he tells us in Matthew 5 to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

Let us pray.


Father, let us live your Gospel, to be that shining city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Let us live out loud the prayer that your son taught us, that your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Let us not wait for your coming Glory, but Let us proclaim the Good news of Christ with our lives in the here and now. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.