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Last week the Christian church began the season of Lent, which will continue until Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent might be explained in different ways by various branches of the Christian faith. However, I believe most would agree that it has something to do with taking an extended period (about six weeks) to confess and repent of our sins of the past year. By “sins” I mean the various ways we have failed to discern and/or live according to God’s will. By “repent” I mean to commit to turning around in such a way that I will be more effective in discerning and living according to God’s will. Lent is also a time to thank God for having loved us and for having already forgiven us for whatever our sins might have been or will be. Finally, Lent is a time to pray and hope for God to give us the grace (ability, power, and whatever else we need) to move into the future living much more closely according to God’s will for us. Believing in advance that God will fulfill these hopes. To put it another way, I believe that Lent is a time to listen to God with the hope of moving ever closer to becoming the Christ-like people he created every human being to be. I believe we should be confessing, repenting, and discerning God’s will to some extent every day of our lives. But since we don’t do that, we need this special time called Lent.
As I have gone through this process, especially over about the past ten years or so, I have heard God speak to me with a variety of directions. Sometimes God has said “just keep doing what you are doing”. At the other extreme God has sometimes told me to make some really big changes. For example, the timing of my retirement, the decision to serve as a part-time pastor when I did retire. And the decision to begin this internet ministry, Ray of Hope Ministries, along with my friend and partner in ministry, Patty Perez. Our first venture being this blog which you are now reading, which Patty entitled Today’s Enlightenment.
Between those two extremes of God’s will, there is a third way God speaks to us. Often he will say, “keep on doing what you are doing, but just make some adjustments.” That’s the message I received this morning as I was preparing to write this blog post. I was reminded that one of my unwritten “rules” for writing is that I don’t want anyone who might read our blog to be offended by what is written, by myself, Patty, or a guest writer.
Toward that end, as I have written on the theme of hope, I have done so mostly by telling how God has been at work in fulfilling the hopes of myself and others, especially those who are close to me. However, this morning the message that God was giving me was that what I have been writing has been good and should continue. But now it’s time to look beyond myself and those who are close to me. It’s time to talk about greater hopes. Hopes for the condition of our world, including our own nation and others – even though we will probably never hold positions of power and authority. It’s time to talk about righteousness, with liberty and justice for all – especially for those we will never know or even come in contact with personally. It’s time to talk about issues which some would say are not appropriate because they are too “political”. I was reminded that in his time on earth Jesus spoke about a lot of those kinds of things. In fact, it was to a great extent because he spoke about and acted on those kinds of issues that he was denied, betrayed, tortured and executed.
This morning God was pointing out to me that it was time to talk with hopeful words about those things that Jesus talked about. Because my purpose in life is to always be moving toward becoming the Christ-like person that God created me to be, I cannot worry about offending someone who doesn’t like the issue God inspires me to write about. I heard God saying, “that was true when you was a pastor, especially regarding what you preached about. Yes, you received nasty letters from and had face to face confrontations with some church members who did not want to hear you or anyone else talking about subjects which Jesus talked about. Yes, there were those who reported you to the Ditrict Superintendent for preaching about issues that they said didn’t belong in church.” So God is saying to me “now you don’t have to worry about these things and those people. That’s why I gave you this writing ministry, on the internet. No one can stop you from writing whatever I inspire you to write.” Now I’m not saying that I literally heard those words I have just written in quotes. But that’s what I understood God was telling me what I needed to do. Or as I have learned to say, “I understand that’s what God wants to do with me”. And so I have this hope that God will give me all the grace I need to do my part, as he continues to move us all toward the fulfillment of the hope and promise of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Patty and I invite you to join us in this endeavor, by offering your comments concerning our blogs, as well as your stories, and other examples of hopes fulfilled.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray