Sunday, February 28, 2010

How To Find Intimacy In A Crowd

Guest Sermon by
Rev. Robert D. Shofner Jr.

St. Johns UCC Boonville

We’re in a little series on the miracles of Jesus. The one we want to talk about today is not one we usually think of when we think about miracles. It’s really just a quiet, low-keyed type of thing. It’s the story of the woman who’s been hemorrhaging for twelve years and reaches out and touches the coat of Jesus, and she’s healed. Actually, it’s really a tale of intimacy.

The woman’s story is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. What we know about her is she was a woman who probably lived with very little hope. Not only was this a physical illness, but it was a social illness as well. She was considered religiously unclean, and therefore could not worship in the Temple . She was an outcast, someone we might call “unlovely.” And she meets Jesus on a very busy day.

He’d just got off a boat. He’d just come back from meeting the mad man possessed by demons. Remember that story? Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of pigs, which is where we get our first description of “deviled ham.” After he gets back, he’s immediately met by a beggar. Now this beggar is no transient, he’s a high ranking religious leader named Jairus. Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus and says, “Jesus, my daughter is on the verge of death. Will you heal her?” Jesus agrees. And that’s where we pick up the woman’s story. It was our scripture for this morning. And it’s a great story!

Now, the first thing I want to talk about is “What is God like?” When we’re reading about Jesus, we’re really getting a snap shot of the supernatural deity of God. So, based on what we know about Jesus, let’s take a look at three qualities of God. And as we look at these qualities, they are going to answer some fundamental questions about God that every person in this room has asked. “Does God know I exist? Does God care about me? With billions of people in this world, does God know me? Does He care about my problems, or are they too petty for such a big God?”

What is God like? Three things.

Number 1 - God is concerned with individuals in every crowd. God is concerned with individuals in every crowd. The moment that Jesus was face to face with this woman, there seemed to be nobody there but Him, and her. Jesus forgot about the crowd and treated her as if she was the only person in the world. She was poor, she was unimportant, she was considered unclean, but Jesus saw someone in need and gave all of Himself to her.

Many times we’re tempted to attach labels to people. And when we attach labels to people, we tend to treat them according to their relative importance. But Jesus didn’t believe in manmade labels. It’s the same with God. God doesn’t see labels. God sees a soul in need. God sees a heart in need. God sees individuals in every crowd.

God loves each of us as if we were the only one for Him to love. You don’t want to miss that. God loves each of us as if we were the only one for Him to love. 1 Peter 5:7, “ ... he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” Have you ever wondered, “How can He be thinking about me when He’s thinking about you?”

Imagine what was going on the mind of Jairus. His daughter is dying. And Jesus, the Healer, is loitering with somebody that’s unimportant. Jairus had to have been saying, “Jesus, my concern is greater than her concern! Come with me!” But the truth about God is that He has the leisure of heart to feel for each of us and love each of us without neglecting another. Let me repeat that. The truth about God is that He has the leisure of heart to feel for each of us. Attending to the needs of one does not neglect the needs of another.

So how can God love each of us as if there is only one of us to love? I have a simple answer. I don’t know. I don’t know how He can love me the same way He can love you ... and the other billions of people that are here on this earth. But if God is limited to our intellect, He’s a small God. The problem we have is that we place our finite thinking on an infinite God. We try to figure Him out, and we make God too small.

Romans 11:34, "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 1 Corinthians 1:25 , “For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.” Just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

God knows you exist and He loves you as if you were the only one to love. God zeros in on individuals in the midst of a crowd. God delivers His love to each of us as if we’re the only ones there.

What’s God like? Number two - God connects with people of faith. God connects with people of faith. Without faith, we can’t get connected with God.

In the midst of the crowd, what got the attention of Jesus? Was it the touch? No. It was the woman’s faith. There were people elbowing and shoving and pushing ... much like the crowd of kids standing in line at Holiday World ... and yet in the midst of that, it wasn’t the touch ... it was her faith. Jesus felt the touch of her faith.

Romans 4:5, “But people cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in him, who makes even evil people right in his sight. Then God accepts their faith, and that makes them right with him.” That’s what makes us right with God. Not our works, not our church attendance, not how much we give ... those things happen as a result of our faith. It’s faith that makes us right with God.

The third thing we can know about God based on this event is that God changes lives where all else fails. God changes lives where all else fails. You see, this woman came to Jesus at the end of her rope. The Bible tells us she’d spent all of her money. She’d tried everything else. And then, finally, she comes to Jesus. Jairus was no different. What we forget when we read this story is that Jairus was a religious leader in the synagogue. These were not people who embraced Jesus. This was a person who maybe even despised Jesus, who wanted Him eliminated. And yet, in the last resort, he humbled himself and said, “I’m going to go to Jesus.” They both tried everything else, and it didn’t work.

I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years and I’ve learned that one of the things we all have in common is that we’re all looking for life. We’re all looking for life. And no matter how hard I beg people, and tell them that they need God, that He’s the only One who can really meet the need of what they’re looking for ... it doesn’t matter what I think they need, they’ve got to say, “That’s what I need.” And until somebody comes to the point where they say, “That’s what I need” ... nothing else works. The truth about God is that while people are looking everywhere else ... when you are ready to come to God, He’s ready to change your life. That’s the truth. God is changing lives where all else fails.

A while back I went to the store, and I parked next to a Christian car. I could tell it was a Christian car by all the stickers on it ... I have nothing against Christian stickers, I just don’t want them on my car ... I don’t want anyone to know that Christians drive the way I do. So the lady was getting into her car as I was pulling up, and one of the stickers on the car said, “Jesus is the answer.” So, just out of curiosity I asked her, “Hey, what’s Jesus the answer to?” She smiled and said, “Everything!” That’s nice. And I thought, you know, of all the people I’ve talked to over all these years, no one has ever come up to me and said, “Bob, can you tell me what the answer to everything is?” Now when they do, I’ll know what to say. “Jesus.” But until then, I’ve got to realize that people are asking different types of questions. They’re asking questions like, “How can I survive in my marriage?” “How can I be a better parent?” “How can I get on top of this financial mess that I’m in?” “How can I survive the stress my job puts me under?” “How can I deal with the death of my spouse, or my child?” These are the questions that people are asking. And until people see that their own answers and their own solutions are inadequate, they typically don’t turn to God.

I know that nothing else works. I have a friend who told me, “Bob, I tried God, and it didn’t work.” My friend didn’t try God. This person tried God like a vending machine; put in a 50 cent prayer, pushed a button, and expected the prayer to be answered in his timing and in his way. That’s not faith. That’s control. And control runs in direct opposition to faith.

Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that in those days you were living utterly apart from Christ ... You were lost, without God, without hope.” Notice those two words “without hope.” Because, really, when you’re without God, you’re without hope. So many people have this aching in their life, there’s this desperation, and they’re saying, “I’m looking for life, but I just don’t know what it is.” They have this God shaped emptiness that can only be filled by God. Some people will find out that I’m a pastor, and they’ll say, “You know, my life is a little out of control. Maybe I need to go to your church.” No, they don’t. Hey, it would be great if they came ... they’re very welcome! But they don’t need church ... they need God … they need a relationship with Him. And more than that, they need to be intimate with Him.

How do we become intimate with God? Why connect the word “intimacy” with the story of this woman? It’s because this woman went to have a physical need met, yet she left with an intimate moment with the Savior. All of us in here are looking for intimacy. And yet while we may have intimacy with others, we’re still longing if we don’t have intimacy with God. And from what scripture tells us, God wants to have that intimacy with us. He wants us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us.

Some action steps ... A, B, and C. They’re not as easy as A, B, and C. But maybe it will help you to remember them this way.

The A is to admit the person I’ve been. If you’re going to develop intimacy with God, you want to admit the person you’ve been. Now what do I mean by this? There are three different types of people – we see them in this story.

The first is what I call the “watchers.” These are the people that saw Jesus moving through town with the crowd. They didn’t follow ... they just kind of stood back and watched. They leaned up against the local Seven Eleven with their friends ... “Hey, there goes Jesus.” “Yeah, always draws a crowd, doesn’t he?” “Well, they say He’s the Son of God.” “Yeah, and I’m the Sultan of Soul.” The watchers.

Then there’s the “walkers.” Those are the people that just like being part of the crowd. They’re saying, “Hey, this is neat! There’s a lot of people! This is fun! Lot of energy here! This is cool!”

But then the “wanter” emerges from the crowd ... and wants Jesus.

Which one are you? Who do you most identify with?

This woman knew of her condition. Mark 5:26 ,27, “ ... but instead of improving, she was getting worse. When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his coat.” She knew her condition, and then she made the next step.

There’s a lot in common between those three types of people we’ve listed ... and the people who live in the Tri-State. There are a lot of people who are watching God from a distance. Lot of people living out there kicking back and watching God. Then there’re a lot of walkers. Lot of people just kind of flock to the big churches ... Crossroads ... First Christian ... they’re part of the crowd! They go because there’s good music ... no dress code ... it’s comfortable ... all their friends go. Those are walkers. Then there’s many wanters. They really want to know Jesus. They want to draw close to God. They’re not perfect ... they don’t claim to be ... but they want to know Him, and they‘re doing what it takes to prioritize intimacy.

Intimacy only happens to those who want it ... who make a conscience decision to draw near to God. There’s an old question that if you feel far from God, who moved? It wasn’t God. His character is always consistent. But intimacy takes priority. And wanters value the priority. So, just admit the person we’ve been.

The second action step, the “B” is begin with the faith that I have. Mark 5:28 , “She thought, ‘If I could just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’” Some of you get depressed when you hear a message on faith, because you think, “You know, I hear all about these great people with faith, and I don’t have that kind of faith. That’s not me. I could never do that!” You might think that this woman was a woman of incredible faith. Know what I think? I think she was incredibly selfish. She wanted to be healed. She tried everything else. Her faith was almost superstition. “If I touch his coat, then I will be healed.” Then she wanted to slip away and become a “walker” again. I think that’s being pretty selfish.

Not everybody has the same degree of faith. And the Good News that I want to say to you is that God responds to faith no matter how feeble it might be. When we express even a little bit of faith, God shares His power with us and the process of intimacy begins. I know many Christians who in the early stages of their life were more consumed with their own misery and wanting to escape their own personal hell then they were with wanting to please Jesus. But that is often the beginning of intimacy ... when we give a little bit of our faith, no matter how selfish it might be. Faith proceeds love, and if the predominate motive of your beginning faith is distinctly selfish, that’s okay, because that will change with maturity and intimacy, and God meets you where you’re at. No matter how inadequately or imperfectly we come to God, God’s arms are open wide and ready to receive us. And that means we don’t have to what until our motives are all together, we don’t have to wait until our faith is perfect, we don’t have to wait until all our questions have been answered. We come to God exactly as we are. And He meets us there. We do the possible with faith that He’ll do the impossible.

The last action step, the “C” is to call on God first. Call on God first. Pay attention to the word “first.” Because developing intimacy is not a “last” kind of relationship. It’s not a “last resort” kind of relationship. Let me ask a rhetorical question: when an issue comes up in your life, when a problem comes up at work, when a stress enters into a significant relationship ... who do you call on first? And if your answer is that you call on anybody else but God, what you’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage. If you go to other people who have finite resources ... who really can’t pull off miracles in your life anyway ...and you say, “Fix my need” ... you’re putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.

What does it mean to call on God first? When you have a problem, it means that your first conversation is with God. Why is it that when we have a problem, we go to other people? It’s because we have intimacy with people, and we don’t have intimacy with God. It’s like we’re afraid to bother Him. Like the time things really got rough at a Deacons’ meeting, and I said, “Hey, we’d better pray about this.” And a deacon said, “My God, pastor, are things that bad?” When we have intimacy with God, we call on Him first.

Let’s go back to our story.

The result of what happened to this woman. Mark 5:33 ,34, “Shaking with fear, she told him the whole truth. Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, you were made well because you believed. Go in peace ...’” As I was studying this, I was wondering, “Why was she so fearful?” I mean, her life had just been changed! Why was she fearful? Was she afraid that Jesus was going to take away her healing? Was she afraid that Jesus was going to expose her as a nobody? And then I got to thinking, “Why didn’t Jesus just let her slip away?” Did He not want her to slip away so He could show the crowd He had healing power? I don’t think so. He had just cast out demons from a madman, and He was just about to raise a 12 year old from the dead. He was showing His power enough in other places. I think Jesus didn’t want her to slip away for her sake, not for His sake. I think Jesus wanted this woman to experience something more than just a healing. I think Jesus wanted this woman to look into His eyes and see a friend and a Savior, and remove her fear. I think Jesus wanted her to hear His loving words of assurance and restoration. Because by the time He finished speaking to her, she experienced more than just a healing, she experienced an intimate moment with God. Jesus called her “daughter.” It’s the only time Jesus called anyone “daughter.”

The results: wholeness ... He healed her. He gave her life, He made her whole. And peace.

What we see in this story is a heavenly Father that loves His child; a Father who’s so madly in love with His child that He makes it a priority to stop and make an intimate contact, to grant wholeness and peace. That in the midst of billions of people, He wants to be intimate with you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to give Him the faith that you have. He wants you to call on Him first. He wants to say to you, “Daughter ... Son.”

I hope you walk out of here today knowing that you’re loved. Call on Him first.

Let’s pray:

God, may we be different people as a result of today. Thank you for your love for us that we don’t understand. Thank you for the way that you care for us ... that we are individuals to you. Thank you that you are accessible, that we can draw near to you. Father, we don’t understand your love, and yet we bath in it. We thank you that you love us, not for what we’ve done, but for who we are ... daughter, son.

And the people said, “Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Signs of Depression in Teens

By Jim Burns

CBN.comThe teenage years are an emotional rollercoaster. I mean, in all honesty, which of us parents would willingly go back and relive our junior or high school years all over again?

The happy times for a teenager can be utterly sensational, but the “down times” are very real as well. A recent national survey reported that many teens experience feelings of depression and sadness that often go untreated – and that 9 out of 10 adolescents have periods of depression that last at least two weeks.

So, what’s a parent to do? Well, a good place to start is identifying whether or not your child has a problem. And, to do that, it’s worth considering the different types of depression.

Four Types of Depression

Reactive Depression. This is the most common form of mood problem in children and adolescents, it’s also the least serious. Reactive Depression is a depressed state brought on by difficulty adjusting to a disturbing circumstance. This could involve something as serious as the loss of a parent or as relatively inconsequential as a rejection or slight from a good friend. It usually lasts anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks, but it is not considered to be a mental disorder.

Bipolar Disorder. Also known as “manic depression,” this is characterized by unusual shifts in mood and energy. Though not as common in young people, the condition frequently begins with a depressive episode during adolescence.

Dysthymic Disorder. This is a milder but more chronic depression also known as “dysthymia.” It is a low-level depression that is felt most of the day most days, and continues for years. In adolescents, the average duration is four years – meaning that they spend virtually their entire adolescence in a depressed state.

Major Depressive Disorder. MDD is a serious depression that in adolescents lasts for seven to nine months on average. It has many similarities to adult depression – sadness, pessimism, sleep and appetite disturbance – but in other ways it is distinct. (For example, anxiety symptoms and irritability are more common in depressed teenagers than adults.)

Adolescents frequently have the “atypical” form of MDD. This is characterized by being overly sensitive to the environment and responding to perceived negative interactions, with symptoms opposite from the “classic” picture (i.e., overeating or sleeping too much, rather than too little).

NOTE: Double Depression is a combination of Dysthymic Disorder and MDD – a depression that is both serious and chronic.

Determining If Your Teen is Depressed

Ask yourself these questions related to your child's behavior and you will get a sense whether he or she is depressed.

1. Is he or she always sad or in an irritable mood?

2. Has he or she lost interest in something he or she previously enjoyed?

3. Have you noticed a significant change in his or her eating patterns? (Has your son seemed to "lose" his appetite – or has your "figure-conscious" daughter become a “chow hound?”)

4. Is your former "early riser" now sleeping in considerably longer?

5. Does he or she have trouble concentrating on projects that "never used to be a problem before"?

6. Has your son or daughter recently begun expressing feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt?

7. Do they fear death?

8. Is your son or daughter experiencing excessive boredom?

9. Is your son or daughter prone to sudden outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying?

10. Has your son or daughter recently begun complaining about frequent vague, unspecific physical ailments?

If anything on the list applies to your child, he or she may be dealing with depression. Get help – and get it today!

More articles for Youth

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Southern Ten Commandments

This is funny!!! And much easier to remember!!!

Ten Commandments

Some people have trouble with all those 'shall's' and 'shall not's' in the Ten Commandments. Folks just aren't used to talking in those terms. So, in middle Tennessee they translated the 'King James' into ' Jackson County ' joke (posted on the wall at Cross Trails Church in Gainesboro , TN ).

(1) Just one God
(2) Put nothin' before God

(3) Watch yer mouth
(4) Git yourself to Sunday meetin'
(5) Honor yer Ma & Pa
(6) No killin'
(7) No foolin' around with another fellow's gal
(8) Don't take what ain't yers
(9) No tellin' tales or gossipin'
(10) Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff

Now that's plain an' simple. Y'all have a nice day!

Spring Life 2010: Every Soul Matters

Feb. 16, 2010

Every name has a soul.

The fourth annual SpringLife emphasis is approaching (March 7-May 2, 2010), and the connection between eternity and the soul takes on added importance.

SpringLife is the annual evangelism and discipleship emphasis for the entire Church. According to Jim Dunn, Department of Spiritual Formation General Director, each spring, Wesleyan churches use SpringLife materials to motivate congregations to do two things: share personal faith stories in Jesus with someone and commit to becoming a better follower of Jesus in the year ahead.

“SpringLife unifies the Church in being Christ’s witnesses along with becoming more like the Master Himself,” says Dunn. “Salvation and baptism serve as two key outcomes to SpringLife. All of it is to celebrate the resurrected life of Jesus in the heart of an individual believer as well as a congregation of sold-out followers of Christ.”

During those nine weeks, every Wesleyan is encouraged to verbally tell someone about his or her faith. One special initiative is the SpringLife “Week of Witness Challenge” (March 28-April 4), meant to encourage Christians to communicate their faith and invite others to Easter services during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.

“SpringLife allows Wesleyans to give themselves wholeheartedly to something that matters deeply to the God we love and serve,” says Chris Conrad, of the Evangelism and Church Growth department. “In order for a church to be healthy and fit, it must involve itself in missional (evangelism) and discipleship activities.”

“It has helped take ‘fear’ out of evangelism,” a 2009 SpringLife participant said about the initiative. Another stated that “emphasizing to pray for others and making a commitment to pray every day develops great habitual lifestyles.” A representative from one Wesleyan church had this to say: “We are a very small church that has struggled for years, and it was great to have an [accessible] program that could be used by a small church. We always look forward to SpringLife.”

Resources are available for ministry to children, youth, and adults, including sermon series, small group and Sunday school lessons, event ideas, and evangelism training. Visit for more information and resources and to interact with Christians around the globe by posting prayers, sharing ideas, and celebrating God’s work. Materials used are produced by both Spiritual Formation and Evangelism & Church Growth departments.

View the video of Cypress Wesleyan Church celebrating the transformation of lives.

The Lord's Baseball Game

Freddy and the Lord stood by to
observe a baseball game. The Lord's team was playing Satan's team.

The Lord's team was at bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it wa s the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs. They continued to watch as a batter stepped up
to the plate named

swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because 'Love never fails.'

The next batter was named
Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love.

The next batter up was named
Godly Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch.

Godly Wisdom
looked it over and let it pass: Ball one.
Three more pitches and
Godly Wisdom walked because he never swings at what Satan t hrows.

The bases were now loaded. The Lord then turned to Freddy and told him He was now going to bring in His

player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Freddy said, 'He sure doesn't look like much!'

Satan's whole team relaxed when they saw
Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To the shock of everyone, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen! But Satan was not worried; his center fielder let very few get by.

He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing on the ground;

The roaring crowds went wild as the ball

Continued over the fence . . For a home run!

The Lord's team

The Lord then asked Freddy if he knew why Love ,
Faith and Godly Wisdom could get on base but couldn't win the game. Freddy answered that he didn't know why.

The Lord explained, 'If your
love, faith and wisdom had won the game, you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, Faith and Wisdom will get you on
base but only
My Grace can get you Home:

'For by
Grace are you saved, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.' Ephesians 2:8-9

Psalm 84:11, 'For the Lord God is a sun and
shield; the Lord will give
grace and glory; no good
thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.'

Submitted by Pastor Steve Caniff

Friday, February 19, 2010

4O Days of Prayer

by Pastor Wes McCallum

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. -- Mt. 6:16-18 (NIV)

The season of Lent is the time of preparation for the Holy Week observance of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is a 40 day journey of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and scripture reading. It is a time of repentance and renewal of our minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. It is the time, most of all, of our return to the great commandments of loving God and our neighbors. Ideally, it is not a season of morbidity and gloom. On the contrary, it is a time of joyfulness and purification. We are called to anoint our faces, to cleanse our bodies, and to renew our souls.

It is our repentance that God desires, not our remorse. We sorrow for our sins and mistakes but we do so in the joy of God's mercy. We mortify our body, but we do so in the joy of our resurrection into life everlasting. During Lent, we remember Christ’s baptism as we recall the joy of our own baptism. We recall Christ’s life of prayer and fasting as we also fast and pray. We remember Christ’s victory over temptation as we rise above our own temptations. We recall Christ’s sufferings as we deny our self and take up our own cross. We remember Christ’s resurrection in certain hope of our own resurrection. Biblically, the number “forty” represents a period of testing or trial. On Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, "Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water" (Ex. 34:28). Elijah walked "40 days and 40 nights" to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (I Kings 19:8). Jesus fasted and prayed for "40 days and 40 nights" in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt. 4:2). Moses, Elijah, and Jesus each took the spiritual discipline of fasting to the height of perfection. Separately, they each had a mountain top encounter with God. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah saw Christ’s radiant glory and heard the Father’s heavenly voice (Mt.17:1-2). Other scriptural references include the forty days of rain during Noah’s flood (Gen. 7:4); the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert before entering the promised land (Num. 14:33-35); the forty day fast that the Ninevites observed in obedience to the prophet Jonah (Jonah 3:4-5); and the forty days between the resurrection and ascension when Christ revealed himself to His disciples (Acts 1:3). The use of ashes or oil also has biblical significance. Ashes or dust were sprinkled on the head or body as a symbol of mourning or repentance. This was usually a public expression of humiliation or grief. The bible also speaks of oil and fragrances poured on the head or body for consecration, healing, or burial. Anointing with oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence and grace. Since ancient times, Christians have practiced a forty day fast to prepare for Easter or “Pascha”. In fact, many early Christians fasted on every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. Still today, many liturgical Christians observe lent with a strict vegetarian diet. Others limit themselves to one evening meal daily or abstain from eating meat on Fridays.

John Wesley, the
evangelical leader, urged his followers to observe a “Friday fast” every week throughout the year. Wesley began his weekly fast after the Thursday evening meal and ended it at “tea time” around 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Many Protestants do not fast but may give up a favorite food or activity, or take on a discipline such as devotions or charity work. Because Lent is Christian tradition and not a biblical requirement, many see fasting as a personal choice and not an obligation. In fact, many Evangelical Christians do not observe Lent or fasting at all. The Lenten season is an excellent opportunity for repentance, restitution, and renewal. Spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, scripture reading, and communion will enhance the experience. Family prayer and devotions will strengthen the home. Outreach to neighbors or the needy will extend Christ’s compassion to others. Fasting will bring our attitudes, appetites, and passions under Christ’s control. Developing new habits requires repetition, time, and discipline. This is a good time to regain control over distractions like TV, internet, and iPods. Elijah heard God gently whisper in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13). We also can encounter God when we silence ourselves and pray.

© 2010, Pastor Wes McCallum Permission granted for local church use.
A special thank you to our good D.S. Dr. Mark Eckart for submitting this article...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Should Protestants Observe Lent?

By Pastor Dan Eckart


The Christian Lent has Older Testament Hebrew roots. It is related to the annual Jewish Passover Festival which celebrates the beginning of deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery and bondage in Egypt around 1300 B.C. Our current observation of Lent developed over many centuries.

In the early church, Lent became a time of preparation for baptism into the Christian faith. For those already baptiZed, it was a time of reflection upon one's own baptism and a renewal of the vows and commitment taken in regard to Christian discipleship.

Those who were new to the Christian faith needed to be instructed and educated in the beliefs and doctrines of the Church. The Lenten Season became a time to provide such indoctrination.

Originally, the period of time set aside for this was 36 days, which is 1/10 or a tithe of the calendar year. Later, 4 more days were added. The 40 days are symbolic of the 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Law, the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness, the 40 days Elijah fasted on the mountain of God, the 40 days Jonah preached for revival in Nineveh, the 40 days Jesus was tempted and fasted in the wilderness, the 40 hours of Christ's entombment, and the 40 days between Christ's triumphant Resurrection and His Ascention into heaven.

Lent is rich with Biblical symbolism and meaning.


Though not the longest season in the Church calendar, Lent is one of the most important because of its symbolism.

Lent is a time of spiritual preparation for Resurrection Sonday.

We can not get into heaven with the Ascended and Reigning King unless we experience the power of His Resurrection.

We can not experience the Resurrection unless we embrace the cross of Jesus Christ.

We can not embrace the cross unless we have our sins covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

We can not have our sins forgiven unless we acknowledge our sins and confess them before Jesus Christ.

Lent is a time of reflection and introspection upon one's own lostness and need for Jesus Christ. The focus is always upon God's acts of mercy and His grace through Jesus Christ. Sober awareness of one's sin and mortality, with an emphasis on repentance characterize the Lenten Season.

But Lent is not a morbid observation. For because of God's saving act of grace through Jesus Christ, it is a time of joy in celebration of the Atonement as we anticipate His return.

May these Words from The Holy Scriptures set the tone for this Lenten Season:

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His Own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . For if by the trespass of the one man [Adam], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One Man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. . . If we have been united with Christ in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that the old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we also shall live with Him." Romans 5: 6-8, 17-18; 6:5-8

Praise Him during this Lenten Season for the forgiveness of confessed sins and the promise of eternal life!

Pastor Dan Eckart presently serves as Senior Pastor at Warren Park Wesleyan Church. He is married to his wife Laurie. He has two boys - Nathan and Evan, who is married to Courtney. He has a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University and a Master's of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is an Ordained Elder in both the Wesleyan and United Methodist Churches. He does free lance writing for various publications.