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

Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me! Please don’t throw me out of your presence; please don’t take your holy spirit away from me. Return the joy of your salvation to me and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

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Think

“Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!” is Psalm 51’s way of saying a phrase I know I have uttered often.

If you’ve ever been to a church camp, retreat, or mission trip, perhaps you have said a variation of it, too. The phrase is this: “I feel so close to God right now — I hope I can keep this feeling forever!”

When we are drawn to Jesus, we feel different, transformed! And we know that transformation is supposed to last — only it often doesn’t. “Real-world” problems easily ruin our hopes.

But the psalmist has a suggestion for this difficulty. When we confess, the writer says, we are able to share God’s ways with others, just as Jesus did. Praying honestly and openly, reaching out to those who feel lonely and distant, holding fast to Jesus’ promise, being drawn joyfully into the ministry of Jesus — such actions help us and others receive a willing and sustaining spirit from God that will last for a long, long time.

Ben Acton

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Pray

Gracious and Loving One, I want to be drawn close to Jesus, close to you, close to your Spirit. Help me to do the things Jesus would do so that my life and the lives of others might be transformed. In Christ’s name I pray, 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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