Monday, February 12, 2018

God's Love, My Sins, and Death

This Wednesday, February 14, the world will be celebrating LOVE, and Christians will be observing Ash Wednesday, a day to remind us of our mortality and sinfulness. 
Pink hearts, roses and chocolate, a romantic candlelit dinner - or a somber worship service, the pastor marking your forehead with ashes in the sign of a cross. 
Which would you choose? Tough call!
And what about those who don't have a special someone in their lives, who may not even have family? Valentine's Day rubs it in their faces in a very painful way. 

Ash Wednesday marks the season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter when Christians all around the world try to focus on Jesus' suffering and death. For some, it is a season of fasting. Others try to be more deliberate in their study of the Bible, their prayer life, or their giving to charitable organizations. It is an opportunity to press the reset button on your spiritual life: Do I have time for Jesus every day? Is there room for him in my life?

Lent is a chance to think about those questions and consider how Jesus might become a more important part of your life, everyday. Because that's when we need him the most: in our daily tasks. 

Lent is also a time to remember those who are hungry, who are persecuted, and all victims of physical and emotional abuse. During Lent we face life in its full brutality. We even face death. No denial, no sugarcoating. While this is uncomfortable, it helps us to realize why we really need God: Because every day is not Valentine's Day! Our love for others is often tested, as is their love for us. God's love never fails. God's love is not conditional on our behavior or our qualities. God's love is generous and never ending. 

However you celebrate Ash Valentine Wednesday, may the season of Lent remind you of God's love for you! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Power of Jesus

Jesus does amazing things. He heals people, feeds crowds with just a few loaves and fishes, even raises the dead. 
In some ways, he is a superhuman with superpowers. But then he is also very human: He gets overwhelmed, stressed, angry and sad. In those moments, he retreats to a deserted place to pray. Just him and God. He needs that quiet time with God. That's where he finds his superpowers.  
In Mark 1:29-39, Jesus heals a woman who was gravely ill. He takes her by the hand and raises her up and she is well. The next thing she does is serve her family and her guests. 

Typical! Instead of those men taking care of a woman who just recovered from an illness, they let her serve them! She did was what was expected of her. What this encounter shows though is that Jesus uses his power not to make other humans into superhumans. The woman was not suddenly able to perform miracles or do something she had never done before. She was given the strength to do her daily tasks. 
Isn't that where we need Jesus' healing powers the most? In doing our daily tasks, whatever they may be? Sure, we'd love to save the world and find a cure for cancer. But first, we have to feed our family and go to work and take care of our own health. That's where we need Jesus to give us strength, and he does.

Where do we find that strength? Some may find it in coming to worship, singing and praying as a community of faith. Some find it in serving the underserved, or in small group discussions. And some find it in the quiet. I think quiet is much underrated in this day and age. Our brain needs time to process all the information and impressions it takes in during the day. Some of that happens during sleep, but the brain also needs time when it is alert and awake, and yet at rest. You could call it meditation, or prayer. Just sit and breathe and be with Jesus. Give yourself a chance to hear him and feel him. There's a reason why this is an ancient practice in all faith traditions. And it's also scientifically proven to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. 

It may require some superpowers on your end to find that time each day. But when you make it part of your daily routine, you will discover a calm and a strength you didn't know you had.

That's the power of Jesus!