Many’s the time I’ve had someone show up at church after a long absence, explaining their return like this: “I’ve been going through a tough time in my life. Big problems. I thought I needed to get back with God.”
“I tried drugs. Only made things worse. Then I got addicted to alcohol. Hit bottom. Now, I think it’s time for me to try Jesus,” said another.
As a pastor I’ve chafed at their no-atheists-in-foxholes religion. They ignored God until the bullets were sailing past, until they had tried everything. And then, in utter desperation, they decide to “try Jesus.”
People should love God at all times of our lives. God ought to be on our minds in good days as well as bad. What does it say that some people only pray when they are going down for the third time, having exhausted all other alternatives, and are at the end of their rope?
It says that they are at last ready to meet the God who reaches out to us in scripture.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, ‘I’m here’” (CEB).
So many times in scripture, God says, in effect, “Though you forgot me, I haven’t forgotten you.” When we call out to God in times of deepest distress, we are calling out to the God who in every moment of our lives—through good times and bad—constantly calls to us.
What should I say when people who were absent from God or forgetful of God show up at church or seek spiritual help in their times of desperation? “Wonderful! God’s been waiting for you to call.”
Lord, our help in time of need, help me to call on you even when I don’t feel that I need you. Amen.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s Word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
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