During this Lenten season, I have been thinking a lot about reflection and study and what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps it is because this time of year provides that impetus for taking the opportunity to get a spiritual check-up to see how prepared we are for Easter Sunday.
Can we truly celebrate? Have we really appreciated the great sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf? Are we taking our lives in Christ for granted or are we going beyond the altar to live our lives as true disciples of Jesus?
So many times, believers think that as long as they go to church, somehow that is all that is needed.
Being a disciple of Jesus involves more than going to church even more than reaching the altar.
A disciple of Jesus goes beyond the altar by inviting him to search the heart, test and know any anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way inside, and then lead that disciple in the way everlasting, Psalm 139:23-24.
It is not an easy thing to invite Jesus to examine us and test us. It is difficult to hear there are changes that need to be made and that we are not to be content with where we are in our relationship with Christ.
It is a living relationship that craves attention and nurturing. It is a recognition that we are on a journey that carries with it the expectation that disciples will continue to learn and grow, always striving to become more like the one who is leading the way the one who is the way.
It has been my privilege over the past few months to see this attitude of going beyond the altar in the young men of North Star United Methodist Church.
A group of them are learning and growing together in confirmation classes, finding out more about church history and what it means to commit yourself to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. They will experience going to the altar to make a public profession of what they believe Jesus has done in their lives and what he is calling them to do.
The story does not end there, though. These same young men are gathering resources, raising funds and preparing to go beyond the altar by going on a work mission trip to New Orleans.
These guys could choose to do so many other things with their summer vacation, but they are choosing instead to spend time and money and effort going to New Orleans to help with the cleanup and rebuilding efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
It is going to be a lot of hard work, but the rewards will far exceed the sacrifices.
You see, when we invite Jesus to meet us in our everyday lives and not just at the altar in church, he does incredible things.
He searches us, knows our hearts, tests us and knows our anxious thoughts, sees if there is any offensive way in us, and then leads us in the way everlasting.
This way everlasting challenges us to get beyond the altar and do what he is calling us to do.
What is he calling you to do? Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and allow him to make some incredible changes happen in your life?
Are you ready to live your life beyond the altar? I pray you and I both are up for the challenge.
Laura Skiba is pastor of North Star United Methodist Church at Mile 25.5 of the Kenai Spur Highway. Sunday school begins at 9:45 a.m. and worship is at 11 a.m. For more information, call 776-8732.
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