More of Jesus; This My Plea!

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives within me." Galatians 2:20

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives within me." Galatians 2:20

Lent is a season for personal and corporate spiritual renewal.  During this season, the Christ follower is to look within and ask, “Am I living my life as though it were worthy of someone to die?”  The history of Lent unveils traditions rich with meaning including times of intense study of God’s Word, meditation, prayer and self-examination.

Lent is a time to die to self and to the power that sin has over our lives. The desire during this season is that God would create in us clean, broken and contrite hearts. Theologian Robert Webber states,

While it is God who creates that new heart in us through grace, we are called on to receive God’s grace in repentance, a turning from our sin, and in faith, a turning toward God.  We are assisted in this journey of turning through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving – external disciplines that order and organize the internal experience of our continuing conversion. (Webber, Ancient-Future Time, 120-21)

An authentic journey through Lent leads to repentance – to turn away from sin and to turn to God.  Our lives are shaped internally through external disciplines as we spiritually prepare to experience the power of the resurrection in our own lives.  Lent provides an opportunity to be spiritually formed through the external disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

The tradition of giving something up during Lent (i.e. chocolate, soda, Facebook, etc.) comes from the historical precedent of fasting. Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and many others in the Bible fasted. Jesus himself fasted for forty days (which is why Lent lasts for forty days) in order to focus his attention on his mission and journey to the cross. Fasting helps us to focus on what is important. The pangs we feel during our fast remind us that our faith requires sacrifice. It helps build discipline and character. Yet, fasting is not only about giving something up, it is about taking something (or someone) on. We give up something in order to take on more of the likeness of Christ and grow deeper in our relationship with God.

So, what can you give up during this season of Lent in order to help you focus on Christ?
Soda?  Facebook?  Gossip?

And, what will you take on to help you focus on Christ?
Set daily prayers; Regular devotions; Feeding the homeless.


Beautiful Things


Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26

Today begins the season of Lent.  This day, called Ash Wednesday, allows us the opportunity to think about our mortality and how Jesus has brought us from death to life (Romans 2:1-10).

Ashes are a symbol of death and decay, but also allude to new life.  Think about a forest fire, once the ashes have settled into the ground, they help new life to spring up from that ground.  Where there was only death, there is now life.  This is why ashes are used to begin the season of Lent (derived from the Middle English "lente" - meaning "Springtime").

As the ashes are placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross, it is a reminder that although we are broken and messy, God makes beautiful things spring from our messy, broken world.  No one is too far from the wholeness and life offered by Christ.  Thanks be to God!


The Transfiguration


The Sunday before the beginning of Lent focuses on Jesus and his disciples on the mount of Transfiguration.

Matthew 17:1-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"

When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

About the Art:

"Transfiguration" by Armando Alemdar Ara, 2004.

About the Music:

Lord, Let Your Glory Fall
by Matt Redman

Lord, let Your glory fall
As on that ancient day
Songs of enduring love
And then Your glory came
And as a sign to You
That we would love the same
Our hearts will sing that song
God, let Your glory come

You are good, You are good
and Your love endures
You are good, You are good
and Your love endures

Voices in unison
Giving You thanks and praise
Joined by the instruments
and then Your glory came
Your presence like a cloud
Upon that ancient day
The priests were overwhelmed
Because Your glory came


Calvin Worship Symposium 2014

Flight to Egypt_Watanabe.jpg

I've been at the Calvin Worship Symposium for the past few days.  The symposium, hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has been an annual event at Calvin College since 1987.

The 2014 event has been a great time of Worship...

Opening Worship Service

Opening Worship Service


Anne Zaki, John Witvliet, Eric Sarwar, and Mark Charles - Global Intercessory Prayer

Anne Zaki, John Witvliet, Eric Sarwar, and Mark Charles - Global Intercessory Prayer

And fellowship.

With my good friend Andrew.

With my good friend Andrew.

About the Art:

"Flight to Egypt" by Sadao Watanabe is a hand colored stencil print that is part of the "Beauty Given By Grace" series.


About the Music:

I recorded this arrangement of the Aaronic blessing at a Jazz Vespers service on the second day of the conference.  Written by Tom Jennings and performed by the worship team of Tom's home church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You lyrics:

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And give you peace, and give you peace
The Lord be gracious to you and give you peace
Amen, amen
The Lord be gracious to you and give you peace