Returning to Calvary

By Raphael Rosado

I really admire people who have a true vocation for what they do! As the saying goes: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” However, it’s important to understand that passion is not an accident, neither is it innate or the result of success.

For example, Picasso wasn’t born as a great painter. On the contrary, his genius was the product of several elements: his environment, the time that he was living in, and his will. The masterpieces he painted are much more than the result of the artist’s talent. Put Picasso in another time and Guernica would have never been painted. Even more, Picasso could only paint Guernica once and, no matter how much he tried, he could never perfectly duplicate such a painting again. The passion that was required to paint such a modern art masterpiece is the daughter of a moment and a story. It is hard to understand the passion which a picture is painted with if you don’t understand its underlying historic meaning.

If another artist were given the task of painting Guernica again, even with the same talent and tools that Picasso had, it would be impossible. Without the passion that emanates from a personal connection with the context and situation he lived in, no one would ever be able to produce the exact same result.

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Something similar happens in our Christian life. God has given us tools to paint the picture of our relationship with him: prayer, reading of the Bible, fasting and the other spiritual disciplines. However, the routine uses of these tools in themselves cannot produce a masterpiece.

In order for our practice of spiritual disciplines to produce a painting worthy of a museum, we must start to grasp that our relationship with God is the product of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Only when we allow the story of Calvary to affect our actions, will we begin to see passion born in us.  Then, God will take that passionate obedience and create a beautiful masterpiece from our life.

It saddens my heart to see us as children of God struggling every day to fulfill “obligations” of praying, reading the Bible, or going to church services.  When we see these as obligations, we become weary and discouraged. How different our relationship with God would be if our service to Him came from passion for Him and his call instead of a mere sense of obligation!

I invite you during Holy Week to return to Calvary.  Let the story of the cross fill you with passion and awe so that God can paint a masterpiece in you.

More Than Doing Without

By Charles W. Christian

Lent is the approximately forty day period leading up to Easter Sunday. It is meant to be a time of preparation and reflection that is patterned after Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness at the beginning of His earthly ministry (Mark 1:12-13; Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). As we have entered this season of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday, many of us have joined Christians all over the world – both Catholics and Protestants – in fasting.

Like Jesus, many Christians have used this time to participate in fasting from food. Others fast from something more specific, like chocolate or coffee, or from certain activities like using social media or watching movies. While fasting has been a key spiritual discipline for Christians throughout history, it may be the most neglected spiritual discipline today. The Lenten season gives the Church an opportunity to return to this often neglected discipline.

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It is important to remember that fasting is meant to remind us of our biblical and historic identification with the poor and needy. Regardless of what we remove from our daily routine, we are reminded that we are intentionally giving up items that many give up without choice. This allows us to more deeply participate in compassion, which literally means “to suffer with another.”

While it is easy to focus on the ‘giving up’ aspect of fasting, there is a deeper meaning to the discipline. Fasting is not just about giving something up, but it is also about replacing.

For instance, time spent away from a favorite TV show could be set aside for more time in Scripture or more time in direct loving service to others. Time and money saved by not eating out may be spent directly on helping the poor and others without food. Time and resources given up can be intentionally put to good use in service to Christ’s Kingdom.

Finally, fasting is meant to draw attention to God and God’s ways, and not to our own sacrifices.  In order for fasting to be Biblical, any sacrifices we make during fasting are to be for deepening our relationship with God and for increasing our participation in the mission of God. Boasting about our fasting or making ourselves into a “spiritual superhero” is to be strictly avoided. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:16, NIV).

During Lent, as we deepen our walk with God and increase our participation in His mission, we also find time for reflection and repentance. As God and His ways become clearer to us, flaws in our own ways also become clearer. Part of our preparation for resurrection involves allowing the Holy Spirit to move us into areas of growth, which often involves confession and repentance. It is important that we are especially sensitive to these opportunities for growth as we fast and focus.

As people who are living out and telling God’s story, may we make the most of seasons like Lent, allowing ourselves to become more and more like the risen Lord we serve!

Prayer for the week:

Almighty and everlasting God, You hate nothing You have
made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create and
make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of You, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

(From the Book of Common Prayer)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

 

Pray for the City

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Did you know today is the last day of our 40 Days of Prayer for the cities of Mesoamerica? In Genesis, we start every year by dedicating ourselves in intercession for the urban populations in our region.  We have prayed that God would give us his vision for the city.  We have prayed that God would raise up missionaries for the city.  We have prayed that God would use us to transform our cities!  It is happening, too.  He is changing our cities in Mexico and Martinique, Honduras and Haiti, Grenada and Guatemala.  And as we have prayed for others, God has begun a transformation in us as well!

I hope you have joined us in this journey.  If you have not, or did not even know about it, why not challenge yourself or your church to dedicate 40 days to prayer? We even have resources to help you! 

Two years ago, Gary and Naomi Faucett, our Genesis Member Care Facilitators (that big title basically means they love our missionaries bigtime!), provided a much-needed retreat for our missionaries ministering in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  Eunice Zaragoza, Freivy López, and Merit Córdova gazed out from the fifth story of their hotel on the sprawling city below them. Freivy began to introduce Gary to all of the neighborhoods of San Pedro Sula:

“Gary, that section of the city is so dangerous.  We’re not supposed to go there at night.  But we still do anyway because we have started a cell group there.”

“Over there is known as the center of gang activity.  But there are kids there, too.  We play in the park with them every Saturday.”

“Hey, most of the drugs that pass through Honduras come through that barrio over there.  But see that apartment? That’s where we have started to see a lot of youth come to know the Lord.  God’s really up to something in that place.”

Gary elbowed Freivy and half-joked, “Sounds like San Pedro Sula is pretty unsafe, brother.  Are you gonna be alright?!”

Freivy nodded.  “Definitely.  But I love this city.”

Do you love your city? Do you love the high-risk places, or just the comfortable ones? When was the last time you truly prayed for your city?

Now it’s a tradition.  In every retreat, we find a room where we can look out on the city.  And we pray.  The photo up top is of the Global Mission Coordinators in New York this last October praying for that great metropolis, but also for all of our cities.  The photo you see below is of the Guadalajara team praying over their city with over 6 million inhabitants.

Are you committed? Will you join us in praying for the city? It’s not over after 40 days.  Find a rooftop somewhere or a fifth-story window and take a picture of your family or church praying.

The city has gotten into us; it’s now under our skin.  It is hectic and noisy and oftentimes dangerous.

And like Freivy, we love it.

“Work to see that the city where I sent you as exiles enjoys peace and prosperity. Pray to the Lord for it. For as it prospers you will prosper.” (Jer. 29:7 NET)

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That’s not Fair!

By Scott Armstrong

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Psalm 37:7)

(Read Psalm 37:3-8)

When they are little, siblings often complain about “fairness.”  Is that not the most burning issue to a small child? If one toddler takes a toy away, another exclaims for all to hear, “Hey, that’s not fair!”  If one brother gets to go over to a friend’s house while the other stays home, the “tortured” sibling mopes to his dad and mom, “But that’s not fair!”

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Even as teens and adults, we are usually concerned about fairness.  She got those grades and didn’t even try. He makes more money than I do and I work much harder.  The issue is even more complex when we see followers of Christ suffering and those who don’t even care about God living the high life. It is definitely easy to focus on those around us and ask God, “Are you seeing this? It’s just not fair!”

Maybe that is why David writes Psalm 37.  In its first 8 verses, he says 3 times, “Do not fret,” especially with regards to the apparent success of “evil men” who carry out “wicked schemes.”  It is as if David is saying, “I know it’s not fair.  But don’t worry about it.  God knows.”

Perhaps more importantly, David gives us some great advice.

“Trust in the Lord and do good…”

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart…”

“Commit your way to the Lord…”

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Those are words of guidance and also of encouragement.  Although the circumstances in your life may not be fair, God sees and knows everything.  He has incredible promises in store for you if you continue to faithfully serve him (vv.4-6).  Instead of focusing on others, let’s focus on the Lord and trust in him.

The Winning Formula

By Scott Armstrong

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

In the church we make knowing God’s will seem so easy.  There are formulas we can follow!  For example, James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (1:5).  There’s the Wisdom Formula: we lack it, we ask for it—Boom, we get it!  So why is it hardly ever so simple?

As a youth pastor and now a missionary, I have seen many teens through the years who have struggled with knowing God’s will for their lives.  Who am I supposed to marry? Where am I supposed to go to college? What does God want me to do today, right now?

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Romans 12:1-2 is a well-known passage that contains another formula for knowing God’s will.  It promises that we will “be able to test and approve what God’s will is” if we just follow the aforementioned instructions.  We must offer ourselves as “living sacrifices.”  A sacrifice has no rights; it is surrendered completely on an altar.  Even a living sacrifice has to be surrendered entirely.  Then the instructions say, we must not be conformed to the world around us, but be transformed.  There has to be a genuine change in our lifestyles and even mindsets—something that is visually different from the surrounding culture.

Although many of us are tired of quick and easy formulas, I believe the key to knowing God’s will is wrapped up in these instructions.  We will know God’s will if we surrender everything to him.

Of the hundreds of teens I have seen struggling to know God’s will for their lives, do you know which ones have seemed to understand God’s will more than the others? The ones who have been sold out to God, 100%.  The ones who have longed to not just know his will, but to know God himself more and more each day.  The sacrificed ones.  Those who are not conformed to the world around them.  Those who have been transformed.

Do you want to know God’s will?

Are you a living sacrifice yet?

Struggling with God’s Will

By Scott Armstrong

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. Matthew 26:39-42 (NIV).

How many of us have complained that we do not know God’s will for our lives? Many times we are aware of what he wants, but we just struggle with actually doing it.  I know I should reach out to my friends at school, but opening my mouth and starting a conversation about God or church is hard.  I know God wants me to spend time with him every day, so why is my devotional time so inconsistent?

Good news: even Jesus struggled with doing God’s will.  We have recorded in Matthew 26 the very real struggle of Jesus Christ before he went to the cross.  He already knows the will of his Father, but he is wrestling with what that means for him.  It means suffering.  It means torture and scorn and embarrassment.  It means death.  And instead of standing firm and calmly accepting his fate like some fake superhero would, he falls on his face in anguish as he begs the Father to find another way.

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But this struggle is heroic.  Jesus is not cowardly looking for an escape hatch.  He is not debating whether or not he should do God’s will.  He is rather struggling with WHY God’s will has to be accomplished in such a brutal way.  And in the middle of this agony, he resolutely prays, “Not what I want!  What you want!  Even though it does not make sense to me.  Even though it means horrible suffering!  Get me out of this if there is any other way!  But know that I am fully committed to doing your will if this is it.”

Can you say the same thing? Comparing some of our decisions with Jesus’ decision to go to the cross seems odd.  But what if we sought God’s will in every decision with the same strong attitude as Jesus? “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

What are you struggling with today? What if God’s will does not match your liking? May we always proclaim with everything in us (through tears and struggle, perhaps), “Not as I will, Father, but your will be done.”

 

Contempt

By Ken Childress

1 Chronicles 15:29 (NLT) – “But as the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with Joy, she was filled with contempt for him.”

Finding a place of worship is a wonderful experience. Sometimes a place of worship is found under an old tree near a stream or lake. Sometimes in the middle of a noisy work place. Sometimes in a church service. I often find a place of worship and solitude under massive oak trees in a cemetery not far from my growing place in Northwest Indiana. It is a very quiet place and sometimes it seems you can almost hear the voice of God speak to you through the trees.

On this particular scripture, David was in a celebration mood. He had gathered together nearly everyone, including generals, priests, singers, high ranking officials, and common folk – all came together to celebrate the placing of the Ark of God. It was a huge celebration – singing, dancing, trumpets, harps, shouting and more. The noise must have been an awesome thing to hear. David was getting into it as the celebration came closer to the Temple and the tent where the Ark would be placed. Suddenly, Michal, Saul’s daughter, sees David dancing in the street. The word says her heart filled with contempt. I could think of reasons why, but that really is not the point I wish to make this time.

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The point today is this, God’s people were celebrating and she withdrew into a heart of contempt. For whatever reason she missed out on two things. One, she missed out on a wonderful celebration of worship to God. She missed out on a passion and the awesomeness of this wonderful day. She missed out on a visitation of God’s Spirit on His people. What a terrible thing to miss – all because she had contempt for David. Second, she was probably not silent about her contempt – contemptuous people rarely keep these things to themselves. Amen! In sharing any of her contempt with anyone, she rained on the worship celebration parade and poisoned the minds of any with whom she talked.

Not a pretty picture and yet one often repeated in modern day history. I can think of many times we rain on someone’s parade of worship celebration simply because we think they are just a little over the edge with enthusiasm. Or maybe they are just a little too loud in their singing and celebration mood. Or maybe they are singing songs we don’t enjoy. Or they are dancing and we don’t dance. Or maybe – we are jealous because we have not had a visitation of God’s Spirit for a long time personally.

I hope we are not like Michal. It would be well to watch in awe as God brings His Spirit down on an event or a person and rather than be contemptuous of that moment, join in the celebration. How may visitations do we miss because of a spirit of contempt?