Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Lent 2021 Week 2 - Walking with Jesus through Lent

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Last week I mentioned how this time of Lent, 40 days plus Sundays leading up to Easter, is a time for connecting with our Savior Jesus Christ. He is not dead, He is risen, and we can have a vibrant, real, ongoing relationship with Him.

There are two thoughts I have been meditating on over this past week. First, our two-year Bible reading plan has us in Job. Why? Why, God, why? Is it because we're in a pandemic? I asked God and He affirmed that these words and this turmoil of Job is meant for me/us to meditate on, just sitting in the presence of God as we do so. God is able to handle all of our troubles...when we bring them to Him.

Second, what does it mean practically to connect with Jesus? Many of us have a good grasp of the principles of the Gospel. We are good Christians and connected with Jesus in theory, but what does it look like daily?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20

I know that the sufferings that we experience in this life are hints or ripples of the great suffering of God's judgment for our sin, judgment that we do not experience fully because Jesus did die for our sins. At the final judgment, He will stand and offer His sacrifice as evidence of us being redeemed. What we experience until that day, the ripples of The Fall, remind us of His grace for us.

If we fail to do a Quiet Time or spend time worshipping him on any given day, are we cast out of the Kingdom of God? We should be. Really. Failure to worship God is the first sin, a violation of the first commandment. If a day goes by that we do not live in worship of God, we've denied God His due. But by His grace, we are not cast aside. Actually, He still blesses us with sustenance and providence for life. Every day we live by His grace. We just don't see it. We don't think about it. We don't acknowledge it. And we take Him for granted.

Let us not live according to our flesh, pursuing comfort while forsaking our first love of Jesus Christ. Let us daily spend time talking, listening, praising, praying, and enjoying the grace that God has given us. And let us take the struggles as reminders that we have been crucified with Christ. We live by His death. We live by His grace. Every day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Lent 2021 Week 1 - Why Should We Care about Lent?

Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Why Should We Care about Lent?

I have to be real: it's been a year of dealing with this coronavirus pandemic and I am tired! I am sure you are as well. Feeling restricted is one aspect of it, and with last year's election season and many trumpeting our personal liberties in this country (e.g. mask wearing) and all the sense of division, it has been wearying to our souls.

So why should we care about Lent? If this is about doing a ritual for the sake of ritual, I'm out. If this is about going through the motions while not feeling like my heart's fully engaged, maybe it's better not to even try. I mean, dead religion isn't going to help us now, right?

That's exactly what Jesus thought, too! He came into the temple and found deadness! "He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers'” (Matthew 21:13 ESV). Jesus wasn't into dead rituals with no sense of the presence of God, with no sense of the Spirit of God helping people experience the love, holiness, and transforming power of God. Jesus came to bring life again. So, the very next verse: "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them" (21:14). He brought new life to those who were seeking God in our need, in humility and honesty.

So, no, Lent is not about a ritual of paying homage to God and going about our days. Lent is about connecting with Jesus, who is here with us in His Spirit's presence. We are walking with Him on this journey of asking Him to help us...
  - to humble ourselves again,
  - to see our need, to see our sin and to repent of it,
  - to grasp the beauty and realness of His provision of grace through Christ's cross, and
  - to daily abide in His great love for us.
Whether you decide to give up something for Lent or not, make sure you take time daily to talk with God and listen to Him. As we anticipate Christ's cross and our Easter celebration, let us spend each day meditating and reflecting upon His presence and mercy. Spend time reading, praising, praying, and sharing with others.

I'm praying with and for you!
- PD

PS - I'll be blogging each Wednesday, but don't forget these daily Lent guides!
- Gospel in Life Lent Devotional
- SheReadsTruth.com 2020 Lent Guide 
- Redeemer Church NYC 2011 Lenten Devotionals
- Jesus Storybook Bible accompanying Lent Guide

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Responding to the Report on Misconduct by the Late Ravi Zacharias

Many of us at EACF have read, listened to, and claimed benefit from the teachings of the late Ravi Zacharias. His ministry of apologetics (defending the Christian faith) and teaching has many supporters and fans. The recent report and open letter from the ministry's international board (note: parts of this report include descriptions of sexual behavior), revealing misconduct by the late Christian leader, leave me saddened. Here are a few thoughts for us to consider in response. I invite you to dialogue with me as we process these details.

1. Pray for the victims. When a public figure falls, we sometimes think of that person's behaviors, loss of standing, and ensuing difficulties and lament the fallout. But we too often forget or neglect the actual victims of the person's transgressions. Ravi's sins had and have victims. In this case, there are women, and we are not sure how many, who were preyed upon, assaulted/raped, and manipulated by Ravi. What can be done for them? Believe their stories. Mourn with them. Pray for them. Pray that the steps taken by RZIM, including taking counsel from victim-advocate Rachael Denhollander, will be helpful.

2. Pray for the Church. When a public and esteemed leader fails us, we can pretend his was an isolated case or we can try to mitigate the blow to our trust in our leaders and (informal) institutional faith. He was held up in high regard; he was a hero and champion of the faith. He brought faith into conversation with intellect and he won. We have seen this happen with other fallen leaders, where people try to minimize the severity of the sin by highlighting the positive impact someone has had. We need to stop worshiping idols.

While still hoping for God to work in our midst, how do we resolve this tension? The Christian church should never pretend our leaders are infallible or are incapable of sin. The Gospel teaches us the opposite: all men/people have sinned and all are only saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. There is never a day on this planet when we are not simul justus et peccator, simultaneously righteous and sinner. The Bible also teaches us that we are not to hide our weaknesses but make them known (2 Corinthians 12), confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16). It is our sin nature that makes demigods out of our Christian leaders. It is the sin nature of our leaders that make ourselves controllers or abusers of those under our care (1 Peter 5).

Any man or woman who is used by God to bless others is able to do so only out of the grace of God. Ravi was used by God to bless many, and those were real blessings. But Ravi was never more than a man. God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22) or wield a pagan king for his purposes (Isaiah 45). Pray for God's Church to continue to humble ourselves and recognize our need for His grace and His Spirit to lead us.

3. Pray for faith. Ravi was probably one of the smartest men I'd ever heard speak on Christianity. Yet despite all of his knowledge and acumen in areas of theology, philosophy, and so many other subjects, Ravi was still capable of great sin. His knowledge did not save him. His knowledge could not sanctify him. Only God can save us. And only the Holy Spirit can sanctify us, driving out our sin and transforming us to be more godly. Each of us must humble our hearts and minds before the Lord and before one another.

This sad situation reminds us that only God has to power to save us from our sin and all its devastating impact. I tremble at the severity of this situation. I do not know where Ravi's soul is right now, and that is a scary truth. He did great things for Christ, but none of those can save him. Did he confess and repent of his sin, of these particular sins? We have no evidence to that, actually quite the opposite. That is devastating. 
"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith." - 1 Timothy 1:18-19 ESV
It is possible that some never truly give up their sin to Christ, despite superficial (visible) actions that seem to indicate membership in Christ's Church. But sin runs deceitfully deep.

Grace can run deeper. I have faith that God is greater than man. We show all the time that we set the bar pretty low for that to be true, but God shows us that as wide and as deep as the depravity of man is, the love of Jesus reached just as far (Ephesians 3:14-21). God can heal us. God can change us. God can bring grace to cover over our pain. But we must let Him into every dark corner of our souls. We must let the Spirit have ownership. We must let God work in us. May He do so now.

Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy!

Email me at david.lee@ekklesiaatlanta.org if you want to discuss this or need prayer.

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