It seems like just yesterday we were in full swing of Advent, BUT now Lent is already here. While Advent is all about celebrating, Lent is more solemn with self-reflection. Both seasons are about preparation. Leave it to our creative God to always prepare us for what He has in store for us. I remember when God called me to pulpit ministry. As I reflect on the time leading up to it, I can see God put so many things in place preparing me. He lined my path with people & events to help in this preparation. People like my grandparents to show me a real Christ-like example; events like Lay Witness Missions, Walk to Emmaus, and revivals within driving distance to be back in time for third shift. God gently nudged (and sometimes not so gently) to say yes to things like youth director, making announcements at church & then filling in for pastors that were going to be gone. It was all a process to prepare me for the job He called me for – to be your pastor now. God, in His infinite wisdom, puts people and events in our paths way before we know where it is leading. Now back to Lent. Lent is a time to prepare us for the upcoming Holy Week including Palm Sunday through Easter. We see in the Bible a celebration including a parade on Palm Sunday. Spirits were flying; people were joyous. Then as the week progresses, they embark on a tragedy that causes such sadness & turmoil that people are scattering, crying; & spirits are hitting all-time lows. But then God in all His awesomeness brings the people back to an even higher elevation than they had the previous Sunday. Most importantly, through it all – Jesus was with them, loving them. Jesus has shown us the ultimate example of sacrifice and spiritual disciplines. His example leading up to the crucifixion was displayed with time in prayer & fellowship with friends, time in prayer and fellowship with God.
That whole ‘giving up chocolate’ is overrated. Maybe this year for Lent instead of giving up something edible, we should give up something much more valuable – our time. Maybe we should commit to spending more time with God through prayer, Bible reading & fellowshipping with other Christians. Just maybe we should use these weeks to prepare us for a deeper relationship with Him as we look forward to celebrating how incredible our God is. I want to urge you to commit to God some of your time this Lent season. Just as you would sacrifice not having the piece of chocolate each day, sacrifice your time each day. Use it for additional prayer & Bible reading than you usually do. Maybe use some to attend the community Lent services that will be going on. Prepare to give up your time while fully embracing the preparation of our hearts for the grand celebration that Easter brings.
Remember that I am praying for and loving you every day. Sincerely your partner in ministry – Mark
Prayer, Prayer, Prayer what an amazing gift given to us by God. I remember a Garth Brooks song called “Unanswered Prayer”, it talked of asking God for things that in His infinite wisdom God said no. I have had a lot of those in my life and I imagine you have too. I can look back at all the times God said no and now I am thankful that He did. Why would I be thankful for being told no? Well if God had given me all I asked for I probably wouldn’t have the most amazing and beautiful wife anyone could have in the blessing that I call Kim. I probably wouldn’t have four awesome, intelligent, caring, not to mention pretty good looking kids in the answered prayers that I call Jordan, Alexis, Joseph, and Abram. I wouldn’t have ever had the opportunity of adding to our faimly with kids from different parts of the world and blessing our family in a variety of ways like we have from Juliana, Jae, Gregory, Carol, Sara, and Paula. I wouldn’t have been where we are surrounded by the people we are surrounded with, and blessed by all these fantastic people we know as Colchester United Methodist Church.
Along the way I have had a lot of answered prayers as well, again my wife, kids, exchange students and all of you. This week alone there are those of you who could stand up and tesitfy to how God has answered things for people who are very dear to us, we have seen God bring people “Back to Church” after being absent for a long time. God answers prayer every single day, but what I hope you are also noticing along the way is the fact that when God says “No”, He is probably preparing you for something so much better than you ever thought was possible.
What I want to leave you with this month is not answered or unanswered prayer, what I really want you to see is that Prayer is a wonderful tool and it should not be the last thing we pull out of our bag when everything else has failed. Prayer is the first thing we should go to when we have a concern or a joy. God wants to do great things with us and for us, we just need to accept the fact that sometimes the greatest blessings He has for us start out with God saying “No”.