Category Archives: Spiritual Formation

Embracing the Lenten Season

This Wednesday, February 14th, in addition to being Valentine’s Day, is Ash Wednesday.  This day marks the beginning of the Lenten Season – a period of 40 days, plus 7 Sundays that ends with Easter.  The 40 days are modeled after Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness (see Mark 1:12-13).  The 7 Sundays are intended to be 7 “little Easters” along the way – a respite of worship and celebration in the midst of our otherwise sober companionship of Jesus through his 40 day trial.

I did not grow up in a Christian tradition that emphasized Ash Wednesday or Lent in any fashion.  My first exposure to this season of the church year was during my seminary days as I served on the staff of a congregation that did observe the liturgical, or church, year.  I only attended my first Ash Wednesday service as a 35+ year old adult, and I’ve only led a very few Ash Wednesday services as a pastor.  (Being Baptist we often exert our “freedoms” when it comes to all things liturgical!)

Still, I find this day, and this season, to be increasingly important and significant in my faith – and I hope you might as well (no matter your faith heritage). Continue reading


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Jesus’ Prayer

We are in the midst of a 30 Day Prayer Challenge at First Baptist – Columbus, the congregation I am blessed to serve as pastor. This blog is addressed to that challenge and its participants, but I hope might speak to others beyond our faith community as well.

Most of us, if asked to identify Jesus’ prayer, or The Lord’s Prayer, would quickly think of the prayer he taught his disciples, found in Matthew 6 or Luke 11.  But there’s another, longer prayer of Jesus’ found in John 17.  In this prayer Jesus prays for us.  And he prays for all “those who will believe in me” through the witness of his followers.

Get that – Jesus is praying for our witness to others in his name.  He is praying that we who claim his name and the identify of Christ follower, will be purposeful in sharing the good news we’ve come to know and understand with others.  He is praying for the multiplication of the church, for the growth of his Kingdom, on earth as in heaven.

What does that do for you?  Does it give you courage to know that Jesus has prayed this prayer for you and I?  Does it inspire you to pray this same thing for yourself, for others, for your congregation?

Sharing faith, witness, evangelism . . . whatever “churchy” word you choose, is too often neglected in our prayers.  We are called to pray for those who are without Christ.  We are called to pray for our witness to, with and for them.

Will you join me in this prayer?

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30 Day Prayer Challenge – Surrender

We are in the midst of a 30 Day Prayer Challenge at First Baptist – Columbus, the congregation I am blessed to serve as pastor. This blog is addressed to that challenge and its participants, but I hope might speak to others beyond our faith community as well.

A Prayer of Surrender to God’s Will

“. . . not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:36b).  These are the words of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane after he prays that the cup of suffering that awaits him might somehow pass from him.  It’s a prayer of surrender and obedience.

Are we able to pray this prayer?  Might we pray it for the church?  How about for our family?  Or, for a loved one? Could it become a prayer of our heart for a perplexing problem we are up against?  Might it become something of a “life prayer” for us?

Before you too quickly agree, consider this.  It’s a prayer of complete surrender to the will of God.  It assumes and believes that God is sovereign and knows what it best.  It is a prayer of trust and total faith.  But it is also a prayer of continued engagement.  In other words, you don’t pray this prayer in an attitude of abandonment – “Whatever, Lord!  Whatever you think best!”  No, we don’t give up on God and fade into a passive stance upon praying this prayer.  We stay engaged – searching for God’s will, listening for it, when we pray this prayer.  And when we recognize God’s will, we respond to it by becoming obedient to it.

Yes, it’s a hard prayer to pray.  It’s the stuff of complete faithful obedience.  Will you dare to pray this prayer today?

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It’s a Wonderful Life: Hope In It

In Isaiah 61:1-3 the poet prophet writes that he has been anointed “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor . . . to comfort all who mourn . . . to give them a garland instead of ashes”.

You may recognize some of these words from Luke 4:18ff where Jesus incorporates them into his first sermon preached from the synagogue in Nazareth. He receives a rather mixed reaction from that congregation, some of whom spoke well of him and were amazed at his words, while others drove him out of town, ready to hurl him off the cliff. Tough audience! Continue reading

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It’s a Wonderful Life: Believe It


When I was a kid our family often traveled for a summer vacation.  Our highway travels took us all across the United States to a variety of destinations, some of which had “believe it or not” attractions.  These varied from the billboard advertised “unbelievable” and “world’s largest” or “world’s greatest” this or that, to the only slightly more respectable Ripley’s museums you find in tourist towns.  Despite getting my hopes up that we might stop, pay the fare, and feast our eyes on the unbelievable – as it turned out, I learned that our family (especially dad) were not believers when it came to these attractions.  Instead we were treated to some of God’s more unbelievable natural attractions in the nation – Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, and so forth.  In hind sight I think we got the better deal!

As you read the narrative accounts of Christ’s birth in Matthew 1 and Luke 2, they might strike you as containing stories that are too good to believe. Continue reading

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