Lent Reflection: Are you listening?

GET SMART, Don Adams, 1965-70.

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” -Psalm 95:6-7a

This is a familiar passage to most of us. It is one of the many Psalm passages that have been made into songs we sing in our worship communities. You might even be humming one of the songs now. We can come into the presence of God. He is not aloof and distant. He is present, and we are his people. He cares for our every need. He is all we need. This is Good News, but we should continue reading the rest of the Psalm.

“Today, if only you would hear his voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” -Psalm 95:7b-11

“Today, if you would only hear his voice.” The Israelites were just rescued from Egypt, and they saw God do some amazing things. Yet, when traveling through the wilderness to the Promised Land, they allowed their circumstances to turn their hearts from trusting and listening to God. This is the same God who had rescued them from slavery and provided for their every need. They allowed their circumstances of life to crowd out God and his voice, and they were not allowed to enter God’s rest. Are you listening? It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race of life from soccer practice, work stress, basketball tryouts, to family commitments that we can sometimes have trouble keeping our heads above the water. We are set on cruise control. Instead, we need to stop, listen and remember who God is and what he has done in our lives. Many of us are tired, but it is when we press the pause button of life and press in to God that we can find rest.

Are you listening? Are you pressing in to God this Lent season like nothing else matters? God is still talking and leading, and we are the people of his pasture. Are you listening?

James Ballard is a husband, father and pastor in Kentucky. He loves Jesus, coffee and disc golf (in that order). We’ve had the privilege of having James speak on a couple of occasions at camp. Image: from the ’60s TV show ‘Get Smart.’

Lent Reflection: More than chocolate


“Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” -Psalm 51 (NLT)

We have been on this journey of Lent. Some of us have given up things, food, or habits. Some of us may have slipped up and eaten that chocolate, drank that caffeinated beverage, checked on to Facebook even though we may have given all of these up for Lent. It’s hard to give up things that are so routine and habitual in our daily lives. Sacrifice and surrender are not a daily choice for us as Americans. We are the microwave culture. If we want it, by golly we can get it.

Lent is a time that flies in the face of our culture and ideals, but it is just the beginning of the journey. It can be hard to say no and have self-control in the small things like chocolate and caffeine, but what about the big stuff in life? The chocolate and caffeine are trivial when it comes to living a life a worship, a life surrendered to Jesus.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Are you offering Jesus sacrifices of “chocolate” and “caffeine”, or are you surrendered and offering everything you are to Jesus today? Are you living a life or worship, or are there just certain moments or days you throw up a “sacrifice”? This Lent journey is coming to an end. We are rounding the final turn, and there is something glorious, redemptive, amazing, and life altering. Jesus, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, has given everything he has for you with freedom on the cross and hope in the resurrection. Let us experience true freedom by living a life of worship and surrender.

James Ballard has served as speaker at camp before and lives in Kentucky. Image credit: Elideth Ceniceros, via CreationSwap.

Lent Reflection: Not the easiest path, but the best


“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.” -Mark 1:16-20 (NLT)

Jesus called out to them, “Come follow me.” Jesus called out to fishermen, not to Pharisees, scribes, rabbis, politicians, movie stars, professional athletes, or the popular kid at your high school. Jesus called out to the normal guy, sometimes to the unpopular kids like the tax collectors, the zealots, and the prostitutes.

These were the people that Jesus asked to follow him. These were the people he loved, taught, mentored, and empowered to preach and proclaim the Kingdom of God. But when Jesus called out to Simon, Andrew, James and John, these men had no clue what Jesus had in store for them, but they dropped everything they knew to follow him. These men could have stayed in the comfort of what they knew, but they must have known something was different about Jesus.

When Jesus first called out to you, you had no clue where he would take you in your journey, but you knew you could trust him. The path that Jesus called his first disciples and you today is not the easiest path, but it is the best path. Maybe this Lent season we have been holding tight on our nets, our profession, our home, our position, our pride and Jesus is calling out to drop what we have and follow him again.

When we drop our nets and when we surrender to Jesus, we will experience freedom. We will experience the best that Jesus has in store for us.

James Ballard has been the speaker at Delanco Camp in the past and lives in Kentucky. Image credit: Jose Fares, via CreationSwap