When I was eight years old, I crammed a stack of Monopoly game money into an offering envelope during a Sunday morning service. I followed the instructions on the front of the envelope, and carefully printed my name, address, and phone number on the lines provided . . . using a purple Crayola crayon. I happily dropped that envelope into the metal plate as it passed by. Each week, I heard our pastor talk about how God loves a cheerful giver and since I usually didn’t have money to give, I often felt bad. But on that day, I was pretty happy with myself.
My mom received a phone call later that afternoon. Back then, telephones were mounted on the wall and the length of the cord dictated how much one had to whisper to keep things private. Turns out the church treasurer got excited at seeing a plump giving envelope in the offering bag, but quickly got angry when my game money fell out. The phone call was to relay displeasure over what a few adults at the church considered a distasteful childhood prank.
After the phone call, my mom gave me a stern talking-to about not stuffing the offering plate with play money. I’m pretty sure that the corners of her mouth quivered upward while her words sharply emphasized the importance of taking all things related to God seriously.
My earlier happiness disappeared. I trudged to my room wondering if God was as disappointed with me as the church treasurer and the other adults were. As a kid, I didn’t know about legalism and crabby Christians. Instead, I was overwhelmed with feeling bad about doing something for God that I thought was good. Therefore, I came to a theological conclusion that would hover over my spiritual life for decades to come: Even if you try really hard, God may still be disappointed with you. That new belief was accompanied by a new sensation that would play a significant role in my spiritual journey: Guilt.
How often does guilt surface in your Christian life? For many of us, it’s far too often.
On February 22, known as Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world begin the annual observation of Lent. Originated by church leaders sometime after 325 A.D., Lent was created as a season of fasting patterned after Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. The intent of Lent is for Christians to put aside certain comforts or attachments to re-align one’s focus on God.
As I’ve talked with Christians about Lent’s 40 days of spiritual emphasis, many release a lethargic sigh. First, no one really likes giving up the things that they love. Second, Lent tends to stir up guilt because the focus on connecting with God usually stirs up failed attempts to connect with God, therefore a lot of guilt. For far too many Christians, guilt is associated with almost every function of the Christian life. There’s guilt around going to church, missing church, reading the Bible, as well as not reading the Bible. Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? Big guilt there, right?! But what if Lent could be about experiencing life-giving grace and hope instead of guilt?
Would you like a new path that guides you away from exhausting guilt to a new journey of freedom and grace?
In my new book, Finding Jesus in the Psalms, readers are invited to engage in a six-week Lenten book study that explores the heart of God and the idea that God wants more for us than from us. Each featured Psalm pointedly identifies a Savior, a Messiah, and a coming King. Since the Lenten season leads up to Easter, this book study offers a scripturally rich, spiritually-challenging, yet easy-to-read resource to equip you to focus on God during the Easter season. There are two takeaways that offer an opportunity for deeper faith and less guilt:
First, knowing that God wants more FOR you than from you.
Second, that Lent is a preparation season rather than a performance season. God wants to prepare you to receive more of His grace rather than grade you on how good you’re doing at giving up stuff.
As one of the most popular books in the Bible, the Psalms sing with the heartbeat of our humanity. Not only do the Psalms capture every emotion of our human experience, but the multiple Spirit-led authors of the Psalms teach us a divine language to communicate with God, especially when we’re in hard places in life.
One of the intriguing features of Finding Jesus in the Psalms revolves around the multiple layers of discovery. Even as the Psalms reveal Jesus, the same Psalms also reference King David, the author of approximately half of the book of Psalms and considered to be Israel’s greatest king. Readers will look at portions of King David’s life that point to more about Jesus.
Best of all, you don’t have to know anything about Lent to experience Finding Jesus In The Psalms. All you need is to have the desire to intentionally draw closer to God and deepen your faith. If you aren’t sure if that’s your desire, you can find inspiration in King David’s stories and be encouraged by his faith.
It’s my prayer that as you experience Finding Jesus in the Psalms, you are blessed by a renewed connection with God. His dream is for you to experience the life-transforming gift of salvation and break the chains of guilt, shame, and religious rules once and for all.
Make your Easter season more meaningful this year! Join Barb Roose for a journey into one of the most popular books in the Bible with Finding Jesus in the Psalms. Each chapter includes opportunities to apply life-giving spiritual themes — like worship, prayer, confession, forgiveness, courage, and faith — to your life. You can do this book on your own, with a group, or sign up for Barb’s free online Finding Jesus in the Psalms Bible study beginning February 22nd and going for six weeks.
We’re so excited for this very needed message to get into your hands!
Order your copy today . . . and leave a comment below for a chance to WIN one of 5 copies*!
Then join Becky Keife for a conversation with Barb this weekend on the (in)courage podcast. Don’t miss it!