Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Remain”


This verse from Deuteronomy reminds us that we ought not to take more than what we need, and to leave remains for those who cannot fend for themselves. A great reminder in our times of over-indulgence and greed.

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Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Retreat”


Ever wanted to just get away from it all? To retreat into that space that God created just for you? Me too.

Lent is a time to explore that space in between God and ourselves, whether it is in active prayer or silent retreat, giving to others or simply trying to be a better Christian and a person who better reflects the image of God than the one we were yesterday.

 

Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Friendship”


 

In any friendship there is an element of vulnerability, and when we declare ourselves Christian and therefore friends with God we have to also admit to our vulnerability. Other elements of friendship are when we put out a hand either to accept help or to give it it, and when we cheer each other on in whatever quest we are undertaking. God is with is in all of them.

Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Questions”


As a Christian minister in the church I have been involved with quite a lot of people who have questions about God – what’s he like? How did he make the world, surely that’s just Science? Can he hear my prayers? – and so on. But the most common questions are ones about the God who “lets” bad things happen. Why did my child have to die? Why won’t God stop the wars in the world? If there is a God, why does he allow cancer to kill people? Why do floods and earthquakes destroy so much of our world?

I’m not sure I can answer those questions, and even though I have a lot of training and experience to come, I’m not sure even with 50 years service under my belt I could answer. But what I can say is that I believe in a  God of compassion and love, who feels our pain at such things just as much (and even more so) than we do. I believe that when we are standing at the gravesides of our loved ones he is there with us, shielding us. And I believe that when it comes to war and destruction, he is with those who are caught up in it.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if at the darkest moments of it God wasn’t there with me in the middle of it all. I realise that not everyone sees it the same way as me, and there is a lot of angry questions directed at God along the lines of “allowing” or even “causing” bad things to happen. My prayer is that one day, most people would try to walk alongside him instead of running away from him, and maybe they will see him at work bringing comfort and love to those who need him. The taxi drivers taking people home after the Manchester bomb, the people who feed the hungry in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, the people who run towards disaster to help others when their instinct is to run away, the nurses and doctors who tend to sick children and their families, those who donate to charity… the list is endless, and so too – thankfully – is the love from God.

 

Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Endure”


 

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,”

Colossians 1: 11

 

Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Challenge”


Today’s prompt of “challenge” made me scratch my head a bit. How can I represent the word “challenge” in a Christian context by picture or photograph whilst taking part in a Christian challenge during Lent? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that being a Christian is a challenge in itself sometimes. And so, this is the picture I want to share with you today:

Christians know that Jesus came into our world to save us, but he wasn’t the gentle, passive person that we are so often led to believe. Who was it who threw over the tables in the temple, stopping the money changers and the other traders making profits out of the poor? Who was it who disobeyed the “laws” of the sabbath and healed people? Who ate with tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes against the accepted societal norm?

The answer to all of these and many more examples was of course, Jesus. He challenged the authorities of the day, he challenged the received wisdom of the religious leaders about their understanding of God’s law, he challenged what people thought was acceptable behaviour and company, and he set a challenge for us today, 2000 years later. He challenges all his disciples – that’s us too! – to live in a way that brings God’s kingdom alive here and if that means taking on the injustices of this world, then so be it, we do it with God’s authority and God’s backing. The challenge for us is to live that life, answering God’s call, and to be Christ’s disciples in a world were hatred and darkness seem to thrive.

I use the word “seem” guardedly because while we can throw our hands up in despair at the way our world works – war, poverty, starvation, corruption, pollution, manipulation, financial greed etc – the answer to our prayers are right here in our own hands if we would only recognise it. We can fight against the dark practices of this world if we only but challenge ourselves and each other to do it. To speak up against unfair systems and practices, to work alongside those who suffer, the walk the footsteps that Jesus taught us which we all to easily sometimes forget.

The picture above represents the conflict within us all when it comes to speaking out or stepping up when times are hard, or where we see injustice in our world. Sometimes we find it easier to stay in our comfort zone where we can find any number of excuses not to act or to speak, and it is too much of a challenge to change things.

But as a Christian I think back to when Jesus was put to death for the challenges he represented to the authorities of his day and I wonder if I would go that far. There are Christians around the world who are persecuted and executed for their faith alone, and again, I don’t know that I would be able to live their lives as they do, fearful to even speak out for their faith let alone take action that would challenge the authorities.

And so, as this Lent journey continues and the challenge I undertook at the start to share a photo each day on a given prompt is starting to get tough. There are only so many photos I can take each day without repeating myself, and research on the internet is not always easy but when it is compared to the massive challenges other Christians are facing, or the challenges that Jesus faced here on earth, mine seem ever so small in comparison and not even worth stating out loud.

However, in carrying on with the challenge I can feel it is starting to have an impact on me. By by finding material to share each day I am examining myself more and more, and as today has proved to me, finding that I’ve got a long way to go to get out of my own little comfort zone and to start challenging the injustices of the world around me.

 

 

 

 

Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Deliver”


Today’s Lent Challenge prompt is “deliver”, and where better than the Psalms to be inspired about how God delivers us from all sorts of trouble? This is from Psalm 107, verse 6:

“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.”