Pause

We live in a world where we can be easily overwhelmed and tempted by a dizzying array of colors, sights, and sounds. Lent provides an opportunity to step back. To look. To listen. To ponder. To go beyond what overwhelms and tempts us.

As we journey to the cross, let us make space for what our souls truly long for: the love and grace of Jesus Christ to whom all hearts are drawn.

What catches your eye? What captures your imagination? What tugs at your heart?

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Listen

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love! Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion! Wash me completely clean of my guilt; purify me from my sin! Because I know my wrongdoings, my sin is always right in front of me. I’ve sinned against you—you alone. I’ve committed evil in your sight. That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict, completely correct when you issue your judgment. Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin, from the moment my mother conceived me. And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places; you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

Psalm 51:1-6

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Think

In a scene from the movie Almost Famous, the teenage protagonist keeps trying to convince another character that he is older than she is. Eventually she tells him, “Isn’t it funny? The truth just sounds different.”

The first lines of Psalm 51 sound different for the same reason. It's a true confession. Before God, the writer minces no words: “Have mercy on me!” “My sin is ever before me,” “I’ve sinned against you, you alone.”

This confession is a first step of drawing even closer to the God we know in Jesus. Confession of our sin is not a prerequisite for God to love us, but confession does allow us to tell the truth about ourselves.

The truth is this: We mess up. A lot. And we need God’s forgiveness. A lot. When we speak this truth different ways of living become possible.

As we continue our journey to the cross with Jesus, draw close to Christ by telling the truth and hearing it, too: Our sin is ever before us, but so too is Christ’s mercy.

Ben Acton

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Pray

O God, I have sinned against you and you alone. Have mercy on me as I speak more truthfully and serve you more fully. Amen.

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Go

You have come to read, to listen, to reflect, to pray. You have come to consider the deep longing of your soul and to consider what draws your love, your trust, your service.

So now, go!

Go, knowing that the One to whom you are drawn is never far from you;

Go, trusting that the gifts you have been given will be up to the task;

Go, drawing others by the kindness of your words and actions into the always welcoming love and grace of Jesus Christ, who, through the cross, draws the world to himself.

Amen.

Ben Acton

Ben Acton is the Associate Pastor for Education and Youth Ministries at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where he lives with his wife, Rachel, their son, Nate, and Lucy, the wonder dog. When he isn't trying to make the world a better place by empowering youth to speak and the church to listen, Ben likes reading comic books, watching Auburn football (War Eagle!), and drinking Diet Coke. Lots of Diet Coke.

Wondrous Love: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

Mark Hayes - markhayes.com

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