Lent Reflection: More than chocolate

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“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: Serenity

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4: 6 & 7

When I was little, our kitchen and several others I visited used to have the Serenity Prayer hanging on the wall. You remember this prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”

Throughout my life, I have been faced with many challenges, including our house burning to the ground and losing every material possession in 2010. Right after this event, many people asked me, “How can you be so calm when you are dealing with this?” I would tell them that I remember the Serenity Prayer’s statement about “accepting the things I cannot change” and I get the peace that God gives me from realizing that I had no control over what happened and that I can trust God to hold me in his hand and take care of my future and provide for us.

It wasn’t always easy, and it was a long process (some of which we are still doing) filing insurance paperwork, designing a new house, moving into several temporary places, and then finally moving into the new house. However, I realized that God was with us the whole time and giving us the serenity to accept what had happened and the courage to make decisions about the road ahead.

I pray that all of us will remember that many things happen in our lives that we have no control over and that we need to just accept them, and trust what happens, and that God has our future all figured out. I pray for patience for His leading and courage to do the things necessary to bring His plans to fruition. Amen.

Sue Kralle is the mother of two former Delanco Camp campers and is an active member of Chews United Methodist Church. Image credit: Gail Wall, via CreationSwap

Lent Reflection: We are Not Destroyed

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We all love David. Good and perfect king David. He obeyed God fully, and never committed a sin, right? Is that not why we call him a “man after God’s own heart”? No! This man that was “a man after God’s own heart” was an adulterer, and a murderer. He was a mess. We are all a mess. We need to understand this. The problem is that we let the mess tell us that we are totally hopeless. The Bible says something different in 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 8 says “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I see after reading the story of David that he did a good job with dealing with the mess. In Psalm 143 David seems to understand that no matter what he does, it is not too bad for God to fix. Even after he committed adultery and murder he realized that. We need to strive to be like that. We need to first understand that we are a mess, and second understand that we may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but we are not destroyed. When we realize how much of a mess we are in, that is the start of allowing God to work, but the other problem is that we always let our guilt shame us. We need to let Christ forgive us and work in us.

I have a tangible story that might help you, and I grasp this point a little easier. I have a friend from Lancaster Bible College who has an eating disorder. This past year she was struggling so badly to the point she didn’t realize how much she was struggling. It got so bad during the semester that friends were watching her food intake and how much she went to the gym. She was encouraged to go home and get some help. She went home, and things got worse for a while. One night she was so tired of struggling and being so sick and she was at the end of herself. She recognized that she was struggling and needed God’s help. She cried out to him, and she was determined to go to a place that would help her. That is so important in our faith. Realizing we have struggles is an essential part of Christianity. We need to realize this because then grace can set us free. If we deny that we struggle we don’t see the need for a savior.

So my friend got help for a while. She battled and still battles thoughts every day. So you ask “did the help really work since she is still battling?” Heck yes, along with being able to see all the things she is struggling with, she understands that she is not destroyed or destined for nothing. This struggle does not put her out of the grace of God and she knows that. She is an example of a person who can recognize a struggle and its ramifications, yet does not view it as something that has destroyed her. That is why I love the story of David. He was not perfect. When he committed adultery and murder he admitted it. Psalm 51 is his honest confession of it. He also understood that the sin did not destroy him. God is way more powerful than allowing some sin to destroy his creation that was made for him.

In summary, remember we are all sinners. Sin is evil, and we need to understand the ramifications of it. On the other hand we need to understand that realizing we sin should not make us feel destroyed and without hope. This is what makes people men and women after God’s own heart. Those people let God work in their lives and eliminate the sin from their lives. They don’t have to live thinking that they are destroyed, because like David, and my friend, God has made them new. His grace is always enough.

Em Taylor is a student at Lancaster Bible College and has worked on summer staff at Delanco Camp. Image credit: Matt Gruber, via CreationSwap.