Ash Wednesday

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds . . .

I need to call your attention to the last phrase of this passage, renewing of your minds. Accepting the call to discipleship is much more than an emotional response to Christ. Discipleship moves us beyond the emotional experience of conversion and on to an intentional decision to apprentice ourselves to Christ. As apprentices to Jesus we choose to get out of the boat of complacency and enter the arena of life in the concrete presence of Christ. Note, Paul declares, the renewing of your minds, not the affirmation of your emotions. Accepting Christ as Savior is the easy, first step; renewing one’s mind is the life-consuming march of obedience and devotion. Discipleship is an act of the will.

It is no accident that we are pursuing the Transformed campaign during the season of Lent. Lent is the forty-day period prior to Easter that is set aside to recall the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness, and to prepare our hearts and minds for the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which this year is March 1. The smear of ash on our foreheads reminds us of our need for penitence and God’s willingness to offer pardon and forgiveness. Penitence is the first step in the process of growing up into Christ. As we move into transformation you are challenged to begin your journey by participating in the Ash Wednesday service on March 1. Services will be conducted at 6:30 am, 12 noon, and 6:30 pm.

Let’s take discipleship seriously. Let’s be serious about committing our lives to Christ and the church. If you have absented yourself from the body of Christ, Lent is a wonderful time to renew your commitment to be present with your sisters and brothers in Christ. We need the church, we need one another.

Transformation is possible for us as individuals and consequently for the body of Christ. You are challenged to begin the process of renewing your mind; by humbling yourself before God, with a bit of ash on your forehead, and a willful choice to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You have a place in this family.

Ash Wednesday services: March 1, 2017, 6:30 am, 12 noon, and 6:30 pm.

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A New Church?

Recently I conducted my first small group session of the Transformed church-wide campaign. Transformed is a fifty-day study written by Rick Warren and produced by Saddleback Church. Based on Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds;
Transformed challenges Christians to experience transformation in seven key areas of their lives.
At the end of fifty days participants will be equipped to live transformed spiritual lives.

In the introductory video Pastor Rick promotes church-wide campaigns as an effective method of growing the local church in terms of discipleship, number of participants, financial stewardship,
mission and ministry.
In the introduction, Pastor Rick describes using the program as “just add water and stir.” While there is some truth to that statement, the reality is that discipleship is never that simple; nor is it meant to be.

I’m confident that Rick Warren understands the cost of discipleship, and equally sure that he does not intend to diminish the requirements of following Christ. It is however, crucial to acknowledge that the call of Christ on our lives is all-inclusive. Discipleship involves the totality of our lives: spiritual, family, vocational, educational, financial, and so on. Discipleship is all-demanding. When we choose to deny Christ entre into any area of our lives we reject discipleship in favor of cheap grace. Anything that we allow to occupy the rightful place of Christ on the throne of our lives denies our claim to discipleship.

At the end of fifty days I am confident that we will see a new church. Bold statement? Absolutely! Arrogant? Naive? Not at all. At the end of fifty days some of us will be transformed. A few of us will have accepted the call to be transformed in all spheres of our lives. It takes only a pinch of yeast to leaven the whole batch. Those of us who dare to take the call of Christ seriously are the salt, light, and leaven in a world covered in darkness.

At the conclusion of this program people will take seriously the call of Jesus, “follow me.” Those people will follow Jesus in all areas of their lives. Those folks will be called “disciples.” Not all Christians are disciples. Some Christians are mere spectators; sitting in the stands, watching and cheering when their team is winning; whining and complaining when things don’t go their way. Alas, there are far more spectators than participants.

Not so with us. We not only claim Jesus as Lord and Savior, we live Jesus as Lord and Savior. We will see a new church in terms of her spirit; her service; her love. We claim discipleship! We live discipleship!!
A new church is emerging from the detritus of the past. God is doing a new thing.

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Welcome to Jim’s Coffee Corner,
It’s been some time since I’ve written, but my hope is to maintain a current stream of communication with anyone who cares to follow and comment on my rather random thoughts.
Primarily, this blog is written for members of First Baptist Church of Pontiac, IL although I welcome and encourage anyone to comment at any time and I will happily respond to your posts.


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