Give Time to God

This past Wednesday began the Christian season of Lent in the traditional Christian calendar. The start of this season is referred to as Ash Wednesday. You may know some Christians who attend a church service on that day where a cross is marked with ashes on one’s forehead.

Many Christians give up something for Lent, the 40-day period that extends from Ash Wednesday until Easter. For centuries, Christians spent this 40 day period by observing some kind of “fasting.”

The purpose of this fast is not just to deprive one’s self of something. The real purpose is to focus on the sufferings of Christ on our behalf. Christians “fast” from something that they like as an imitation of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days before He began His public ministry.

In recent years, many Christians have decided to add something positive instead of “giving up” something.

A few weeks ago, I challenged the youth Sunday School class I have been teaching to pray. I would like to offer the same challenge to you as we start this season of thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I asked them to commit themselves to praying at least 10 minutes every day. I gave them a commitment paper to sign for themselves. It simply says, “I pledge to spend at least 10 minutes each day in prayer.” Underneath there is a space to sign your name and date it.

I pledge to spend at least 10 minutes each day in prayer.

_______________________ (Name) __________________ (Date)

Most Christians have an irregular prayer life. We pray on the run or when we face a crisis. There is power in giving God your full attention for at least a short time each day. Stop the other things you are doing. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Go to God. You will not be disappointed.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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Words Will Never Hurt Me?

By now, most of us will have seen and heard about the horrible shootings that have taken place in Chapel Hill. Three Muslim students at the University were murdered by a neighbor. The man is in custody but there are many questions about the circumstances and the shooter’s motivation. Many reports have suggested that animosity toward religion in general and especially toward Islam played a role in this tragedy.

We may never know the complex psyche of this man and what moved him to be a murderer. Violence and anger have always been a part of the human condition. Nothing we do will rid our world of these kinds of tragedies.

But… one thing we can do and the thing that we should do if we are Christians is to make every effort not to contribute to the climate of hatred and anger that permeates our society. Face book and chat rooms and television news shows are constantly spewing venom and advocating violence as a remedy for some perceived offense. I am not surprised that human beings act this way. But I am deeply dismayed when Christians do.

We say that we use the Bible as our guide for behavior. But the New Testament is clear that the way of Jesus is the way of love and peace. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” These are the words of Jesus.

When we participate in the worldly habit of constant criticism and condemnation, we encourage those who would use violence as a means to get rid of their particular opponents. When we declare that all Muslims are evil, for example, we are spreading lies and hate. We are feeding the wolf of prejudice and fear.

We are not responsible for the evil actions of this murderer, but we bear responsibility for refusing to stand up against the incivility and anger that fuel the fires of such rage. If we belong to Jesus, we should be imitating what He did when evil took hold of Him. Turn the other cheek; seek reconciliation; rejoice in what is good.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Making Good Soil

Sometimes when I read the Bible, I am bothered by what I read. Sometimes, I wish God would make His pronouncements clearer. Or maybe make me a little smarter! Sometimes it takes some time thinking and praying about a Bible passage before God begins to help me understand some of its meaning. When I am willing to take some time to think and pray about the questions I have, often God leads me to understand more.

For example, Jesus tells this well-know parable about a farmer sowing seed for a crop. You can read it for yourself in Matthew 13:1-23. In this story Jesus talks about this farmer putting out seed to start his garden. The seed falls into different kinds of soil. In three cases, the seed falls into soil that will not grow a good plant. But some seed falls into good soil and produces a lot of good fruit.

Jesus tells his disciples that this is a story about God’s kingdom. The seed represents God’s word and the different soils represent how people receive that word in different ways. Some are “good soil” where God’s word produces good fruit and some are not.

But what bothers me is this: I want Jesus to tell me how to make people into good soil. I want to know what I can do to turn bad soil into good soil, to make people who are not receptive to the gospel into people who receive and produce fruit.

And then it hits me. That’s not my job. I can’t make good soil. My job is to throw out the seed. But only God can prepare the ground. If a human heart is going to be receptive to hearing the gospel and bearing fruit, it will be because God prepared them.

So there is something we can do to prepare the soil. We can pray. Pray that God will till up the hardened hearts of men and women so that when we proclaim the good news of God’s love they will be ready to accept it.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC