Archive for February, 2017


Posted: 2017/02/27 in Christianity

Lent is a season of preparation for Easter, the most important moment of the Christian year.  It provides space to grow one’s faith and deepen their relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  It has been the tradition of many Christians over the centuries to take up spiritual practices that help such faith and relationship building.  Today, we tend to reduce these to giving up something we probably will not miss anyway and eating fish on Fridays (if there is a good fish fry in the area).

To better use this Lent season, I offer the following 3-part challenge that will make Lent a much more meaningful season.  It’s a tough challenge and moments of failure will occur along the way.  That’s okay—ours is a gracious and forgiving God.  Don’t give up!

Here’s the challenge:

(1)  Give up/abstain/fast from something that you know down deep is harmful, be it alcohol, overeating, smoking, cynicism, internet trolling, messing with your cell phone while driving, or whatever (you know best your own harmful habits and hang-ups).

(2)  Take up a spiritual practice (or two) that grows your faith and relationship with God—
– schedule/set-aside time for prayer each day,
– read your Bible each day,
– attend worship at church every Sunday, and/or
join a Bible study.

(3)  Establish accountability for your choices made in (1) and (2)—
– Write down what you plan to give up and the spiritual practice(s) you want to do.
– Tell someone you trust about what you are doing and ask them to check in with you regularly.
(This last part of the challenge is the most difficult, but it’s the most powerful way to support your efforts with (1) and (2).)

Remember, you are not alone in this—let God help by inspiring and strengthening you along the way.

Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  (mission statement of The United Methodist Church)

It’s that last bit—“for the transformation of the world”—that has driven my ministry since I retired from software engineering a baker’s-dozen years ago to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And it’s that last bit that obliges United Methodist preachers to bring the affairs of the outside world into the church, a place where a good many would prefer to be a sanctuary away from the conflicts and anxieties of the world.  If we are to be a Christ-following people of world transformation, we must engage the world and do so within the context of Christian community (i.e. the church).  Bit, never have I known this imperative to be so difficult as it is today.

In this winter of our divisive discontent, having just elected a president unlike any other, and whose leadership is decisive, unconventional, and results-oriented (bypassing the red-tape to fulfill campaign promises), yet sometimes dysfunctional and too-often immoral (lying and promulgation of prejudice against Mexicans and Muslims), a Christ-centered perspective on current events is necessary.  We need to sort out and clarify who we are and what we believe as Christians (individually and as a church), and then interact with our world from that identity.

My first impulse, not unlike that of the bazillions of commentators and trolls on social media, is to speak and preach directly to our current situation.  But to do so would allow me to drift too far into preaching political and social opinion rather than interpretation of the Bible.

My solution to this problem, and I hope it works, will be to focus first on the Bible and its theology.  Our turbulent world will always be in the background, but with the Bible and Jesus Christ in the foreground, those to whom I preach and teach will receive from me tools for making their own decisions about the world around us.  In other words, I want to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ.”  They will, in turn, go forth and impact the world around them in their own unique ways.

Part of me feels like this is a bit of a cop-out that allows me to avoid conflict, and it may be, but I do not see how we get to “the transformation of the world” without first “making disciples of Jesus Christ.”  And it will be those disciples who, out of their own deep faith and Spirit-stoked inspiration, will do whatever they do best to make a difference in the world.  I intend not to get in the way of that by alienating the very people whom I am trying to help become more devoted disciples of Christ.