“At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.” John 5:9 (NRSV)What did new life look like for that man by the pool? First of all, he was no longer dependent. Nobody had to carry him around anymore. Second, he could now work; he could find a job! Third, his relationships would be redefined. No longer would family members attend to his every need. His liberation from the bondage of paralysis set him free to become a responsible human being who could stand up on his own two feet, carry his own mat, and walk of his own volition and direction. One of the more humorous parts of the story is when the rulers of the Temple catch the newly healed man red-handed, walking with his mat on the Sabbath. They accuse him of violating the law against doing work on the Sabbath. He immediately tells them that the man who had made him well was the one who had bid him to take up his mat—Jesus. The irony is that the very systems of the world that seemingly promise us life can be marshaled against our being healed! So long as that man stayed an invalid, trapped on a mat, waiting for somebody else to help him, the system was content to leave him alone. But as soon as he began to stand and walk in the newness of life, he stood out as a sore thumb to be attacked by others, to be put back in his place. Let me ask you again: Do you want to be healed? If the answer is yes, Jesus challenges you to stand up, pick up your mat, and walk. Like the invalid, you will find a new level of freedom and personal responsibility in your new life. But like the invalid, you, too, may find that your freedom is a thorn in the side of the system or those who would have you stay on your “mat” and wait for someone else to solve your problems. Resurrected people are a threat to the status quo. Don’t let those voices shame you into going back to the way you were. Claim the authority of the Name of Jesus as the One who told you to stand up, take up your mat, and walk. Use His name against the powers that would hold you back. At His name, oppressive powers must flee! Take a step today into the newness of your Resurrected Life. -- The Rev. Charlie Holt
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By Brooke Holt, Adult Curriculum Specialist
I am one of those strange people who absolutely loves a good challenge. At least twice a year, I sign up for a challenge to work out six times a week, five workouts in the gym and one workout on my own. These are not easy workouts; they are specifically designed to challenge the participants physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Some days it is easy to make it to my workouts. Some days it is just not. In fact, this morning was one of those days I could have missed the workout for a hundred reasons. BUT, I have no margin in my schedule this week, so I awoke at 5:00 in the morning to make the 5:45am class. It was painful, but I did it. And you know what? I felt great after the class. There is something to be said about discipline and commitment.
The health industry is pushing people to learn new disciplines which strengthen and heal the body. Is the church encouraging its people to learn new disciplines which strengthen and heal the soul? There is something unique about a challenge, about accountability, about being pushed beyond what you would normally do on your own. There is also something special about community formed in a challenge.
This Lent, I challenge you to take on a 40 Day Lenten discipline! What would it look like for you to invite your church, your small group, your friends into a 40 Day Challenge with you? Bible Study Media understands the power of a Lenten study and has provided resources for you. Consider The Crucified Life. What does it mean to die to self in order to live to Christ? Or take on the challenge of Draw Near and learn what it means to live a life of worship. Each of these studies has 7 weeks of daily devotional readings, plus weekly small group questions and online video teachings.
The resurrection of Jesus takes on even greater meaning after 40 days of discipline and sacrifice. This Lent, I would love to support you in your own discipline, your own challenge. Let me help you find the right study for your church, your small group, or yourself.
I am at the end of my 40 day health challenge. I feel strong, accomplished, and awakened to new possibilities in my life. In fact, I am already thinking about my next challenge. While the process of transformation is not easy, it is so good. My ultimate desire is to look more like Jesus. In order to reach that goal, I need daily transformation!
What transformation does God want to do in you this Lent? My coaching hat is on, and I am ready to walk this challenge with you. 40 days of discipline really can change your life.
Imagine for a moment the impact on your church if for 40 days every person in your congregation lived in alignment with God’s will in the pattern of Jesus’ call to pick up our cross and follow him. What if your people lived in powerful community with their small groups to discuss and pray over lives sacrificed to God? What if, as groups and individual people began to experience the power of God in their lives as they surrendered all to Jesus Christ?
By intentionally coordinating and aligning the elements of your Lenten season using The Crucified Life materials, you will make an environment for spiritual growth that will move your congregation from self to surrender.
By aligning the following three elements of participation, you will see the power of God working in your church because of the intentional focus on the heart of the Gospel and the grace offered in the cross of Jesus Christ:
By creating a singular Lenten focus on what it means to “pick up our cross” and follow Jesus in the way of the Crucified Life, the entire congregation is called to a Holy Lent together. This unified focus will burst forth in new life with the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday!