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Posts Tagged ‘lent’

lent

Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter. On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.

I have to admit that observing Lent is new to me. It is more common among liturgical or “high church” faith groups. I was not raised in that tradition, but I have an appreciation for the concept of subtracting something in your life to grow closer to God. While many will give up meat, sweets, soda, chocolate, or doughnuts during Lent, I like the idea of adding a spiritual practice in your life to grow closer to God. These practices can include daily devotions, a focused prayer time, creating a spiritual journal, volunteering at a charity, or performing community service projects.

This year I added a practice to help me grow closer to God. I will read through the Book of Psalms. King David was a warrior and a proficient soldier. He experienced great joy and rejoiced with reckless abandon. He also experienced dark times of sorrow, loss, and isolation. Through all of life’s ups and downs, he pursued God. There is much I can learn from that example and relationship.

While this approach may not be for everyone, the key is to find spiritual practices that appeal to you and honor God. It is also helpful to find a practice that will test or stretch your faith. Don’t fall into a rut and do the same spiritual discipline year after year. That would deny you the growth and opportunity God wants from us.

As we get closer to Holy Week, may your spiritual practice draw you closer to God.  Whether you are subtracting or adding a practice continue the daily journey toward the cross of Christ. Discover the great love that took Him there. See and understand the sacrifice of Jesus. Allow the atoning and redeeming work of Jesus to transform your life.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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Sacrifice

 

I met a soldier last week. He just moved to Kansas after a three-year tour in Germany; Wiesbaden, to be specific.

My mind immediately filled with questions to ask about his time in Germany. You know, the typical questions that we all ask. What did you like about the town, the people, the food, the sights, and the weather? After a little thought, I asked my first question.

“Wow. Three years in Germany. What did you enjoy the most?”

His response was a telling reality that often goes untold.

“I didn’t spend three years in Germany. My unit went to Afghanistan the first year. I was in Germany with the family the second year. And the third year, I went back to Afghanistan. It sounds funny, but I’ve seen more of Kandahar Providence over the last three years than my duty station in Germany.”

I admired the sacrifice that he made. His three-year assignment yielded two years in a combat zone and one year with his wife and kids. He had surrendered something valuable so that others could benefit. He endured hardship so that others could find comfort and peace. He was willing to die so that others could live.

It is inspiring when a soldier is willing to sacrifice for his countrymen; it is overwhelming when we consider the deep love of Christ. Jesus willingly went to the cross, suffered incredible pain, and died for our benefit. He bled and died so that all of mankind could live.

The obedience, action, and ultimate sacrifice of Christ showed just how valuable we are to him. Through his obedience, we see a caring God. Through his actions, we find the depth of his love. Through his sacrifice, Jesus said that we are worth dying for, despite all of our imperfections, wrongs, and mistakes. Romans 5:8 says, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ did not see us as a lost cause. He saw us as individuals worth dying for and became our sacrifice. May we continue to see the perfect love that sent our Savior to the cross on our behalf.

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lent journey

Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter.  On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.  Others will observe the season of Lent by adding a spiritual practice to grow closer to God.

No matter how you decide to take this six-week journey, focus on where it ultimately ends; the Son of God on a blood stained cross for the sins of humanity and an empty tomb proclaiming his resurrection.  May God bless your journey and the path that takes you there.

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Costly Christianity

cost

The brutal slaying of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS this weekend serves as a grim start to the season of Lent.  While Lent is often celebrated as a time of sacrifice and inflection, today it seems more of a reminder that there is a price for our faith.

As our hearts are heavy and our prayers go out to the families of these 21 brothers in Christ, let us also focus on discipleship.  Let the Church hear this message again and again. There is a cost to discipleship.  There is a figure for service to the Savior.  There is a price when one decides to follow Jesus.

These tenets are not new.  Jesus teaches His disciples that they will be ridiculed, reviled, and rejected.  There is a hard road for us to travel as we grow stronger in faith.  Matthew 10:22 shares, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

Those are not easy words to hear, but they allow us to focus on what is truly important and to keep our perspective.  While there is a great price to pay in service, one will also find value in the salvation of Christ.  There is something greater than all my hardships and struggles.  There is something bigger than all my troubles.  The value of Jesus.

The point becomes clear in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

As hardships, struggles, and difficulties come your way remember the examples we see in Scripture; hold on to your confession, stand fast in the truth, and endure to the end.  The value of Jesus will soon be clear.

 

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cross-purple

We are in the final week of Lent.  Palm Sunday is just around the corner.  This time of fasting, abstaining, moderation, and discipline was set aside for preparation. Preparation for Holy Week.  Preparation for a journey to the cross.  Preparation that leads to an empty tomb.

Lent is truly about preparation.  We use fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from foods as a ritual, but we are preparing ourselves to encounter Christ.  This journey often changes us.  It makes us reflect on our faith and our daily walk with Jesus. Spiritual reflection is difficult because it demands honesty and complete self-examination.  Using a mirror to examine my journey with Jesus is a scary prospect. It forces me to see a total picture of my faith, warts and all.

I have to admit that there were days when skipping my daily spiritual practice would have been easy.  It took time to find a sustaining routine and pace.  As the days went on, I found a greater desire to see it through.  It made me grow.  It held my attitude in check.  It allowed me to apply my faith at work.  In short, it made me a better Christian.  I am a better disciple and follower because of my Lenten practice.  When we make time for Jesus, the time is never lost.

Let us continue to reflect on Jesus.  As Palm Sunday arrives, let us reflect on the arrival of our promised Messiah.  As Holy Thursday arrives, let us reflect on how he washed the feet of his disciples, instituted the Lord’s Supper, and prayed on the Mount of Olives.  As Good Friday arrives, let us reflect on how he suffered for our sins, died as the atoning sacrifice for all humanity, and was buried.  And as darkness gives way to daybreak, let us reflect on an empty tomb and the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Continue your practice.  Continue to prepare for our Savior.  Continue your celebration of Easter by focusing on the life, suffering, sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord!

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lent 2014

Lenten practices take time, practice, devotion, and patience.  We are often tempted to ignore our spiritual practice and rush into Holy Week.  Many will ask, “shouldn’t we celebrate and rejoice on Palm Sunday?  Shouldn’t we rush to the empty tomb just like the disciples?”  Yes, but within context of the entire story. There is joy at the end of the story, but it is important that we take time to focus on the total ministry of Jesus and the joy that can bring.

In Luke 10: 1-24, Jesus appoints additional disciples to go ahead of him and visit every city and place he intends to go.  They are to travel in pairs.  They are instructed not to carry a wallet, a traveling bag, or sandals.  Take what you have.  Hurry.  Don’t stop to greet anyone on the way.  Stay where you are welcome.  Be courteous, kind, and eat what people serve you.  Heal the sick and tell people, “The kingdom of God is near to you.”

These disciples go, obediently perform mission work, and return.  The disciples come back very happy.  They were not promised lush accommodations.  They were not promised lavish meals.  They were not promised a living wage.  They were told to go and perform the work of a missionary on the charity of others and they returned full of joy.

The disciples performed great miracles on the authority of Christ.  The sick were healed, demons were cast out, and people found salvation through the message of Jesus.  The disciples are full of joy because they were instruments in God’s plan.  Performing the work of God gave them joy.  In short, they have joy because they were used by God in a mighty way.

The work that we are given may not be glamorous, glorious, or even miraculous.  The challenge is to be faithful and obedient, no matter what task we are given.

When we are busy doing the work of Christ, let there be joy in our hearts. When the work seems tedious and complicated, let us focus on the harvest. Apply these lessons to your spiritual practice for Lent.  May God give us a holy perspective on the tasks we have in front of us and the ability to rejoice through the entire journey.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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lent cross

Lent can be a great time of discovery.  It is often viewed as a time to focus on what is truly important in life.  We also need to examine what is truly important in our Christian walk.

Jesus performs a miracle at the Bethesda pool in John 5:1-15.  Scripture records that a man was healed after being ill for thirty-eight years.  Jesus asks the man if he would like to get well and then commands him to, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.”

All these events were done on the Sabbath, a day set aside for worship.  Many people saw this previously crippled man walking through their streets. While there should be shouts of joy, exclamations of praise, hand shakes, back slapping, and chaotic rejoicing people instead focus on our recently healed walker carrying a cot.

Tradition did not allow people to “perform work” on the Sabbath.  Carrying a cot would fall into that category.  It was not the law of Moses but their interpretation of it that prohibited carrying loads of any kind on the Sabbath. Folks were so fearful of ever breaking the Law that they built an artificial “hedge” around it, comprising volumes of extra rules and stipulations. In fact, this hedge created an additional 613 provisions so that people could avoid breaking a commandment. While this was done to avoid offending God, it only drove a wedge between the people and God.  It created an atmosphere where the people focus on works and wrongs instead of the message and ministry of Jesus their Savior.  In short, they missed the miracle.

Jesus was present.  He was in their midst.  The Messiah was alive, active, and at work in Jerusalem.  Jesus was just footsteps from their door.  The Lord performed an incredible miracle where a man’s life was transformed and physically healed.  A crippled man was able to walk, perhaps for the very first time in his life.  But people could only see a Sabbath infraction instead of the Savior.

Let us rejoice when a family shows up to worship instead of snickering that they are fifteen minutes late.  Let us be joyful when a man arrives in the sanctuary instead of judging the clothes on his back.  Let us celebrate the future when a criminal accepts Christ instead of focusing on the past.  Let us see the miracle.  Let us see the Savior.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

 

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