So far in our Journey through the forty days of Lent, we talked about Ash Wednesday and how important it is to know who God is and who we are. God is our Creator and we are created by Him (See Genesis 1:1-27 and 3:19; Job 30:19an 42:6; Ecclesiastes 12:7). Also, it is important to God that our broken relationship with Him when sin entered the world, and into our hearts, be restored. God wants us to become His children and have fellowship with Him for all eternity (See Genesis 3; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). God wants us to talk with Him and think and use our minds and our hearts. When we do, He will show us the way back. God says to us: “Come now, let us reason together…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be has wool” (Isaiah 1:18). God Himself provided the perfect sacrifice to cleanse us from all our sins through the crucifixion of His One and Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
(How many hearts do you see in this picture made by three berries?)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16-17).
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
“Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift [Jesus]!” (II Corinthians 9:15).
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You [Father God] did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings You were not pleased. Then I said, ‘“Here I am – it is written in the scroll – I have come to do Your will, O God”’…And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this…‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:5-7, 10, 15a, 17b-18).
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the world…How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is who we are!” I John 2:1-2 and 3:1a).
People who call themselves “Christians,” are followers of Christ and have accepted God’s free gift of salvation through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. Christ’s followers have “agreed” with God that they are sinners and have turned away from their sin and now desire to live God’s way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the NEW has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17). Because of Christ, we are forgiven, we are made new, and we are finally free to become the people we are meant to be – people who “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”” (Luke 10:27). Not only that, but Christians go a step further by obeying a new way to love given to them by Christ: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-34).
“Lent” means “Spring,” when life begins anew. The Lenten Season is a very special and important time when Christians have the opportunity to do some “Spring Cleaning.” It is forty days long, which makes me think of Jesus’ temptation in desert (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). The number “40” is used many times in the Bible – Forty is the number of years the Israelites wandered in the desert (Numbers 32:13) and forty days was the time period between Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension(Acts 1:3), just to name a few (information from my church‘s Ash Wednesday Service). As for me, I could use more than forty days as a time for self-examination, self discipline, soul-searching, repentance and a time to strengthen my love and faith in the Lord. However, God does not want us to remain in the desert forever. God wants us to use what He teaches us during Lent and make it our way of life and be a real witness [example] of God’s love in a world that desperately needs Him. We are to be like Jesus. After His forty days in the desert, Jesus began His ministry.
In Part II, we talked about the discipline of fasting during the Lenten Season. Whether we fast for a whole day or one meal or from sweets, we can carry over this discipline into a way of life by eating less and eating more simply and nutritiously to honor God with what we eat and don‘t eat. Whether we fast from food or TV or time on the computer playing games, we can use that time to pray and/or read the Bible. We can also use that time to give a friend a call or send an encouraging email or use “snail-mail” to send a note on a card. If we are saving money by what we have given up, we can add it to our church offering or give it to missions or someone in need. Whatever we do, big or small, when we do it in Jesus Name, without fanfare, and for the love of our brother or sister or neighbor, God is pleased. Whatever it is that God is calling us individually to do, we should not wait, but do IT. (See Colossians 3:17).
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4).
“As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ He said, ‘this poor widow has put more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).
In Part II, we also talked about prayer being a two-way conversation. Many times, we need to quiet our hearts and minds and just spend time listening and waiting for God to direct our prayer. So many of us live our lives going one hundred miles a minute, from one activity to the next, and this includes people who are retired. In all of the things that take up our time, how many of them do we really need to do? Are we filling our calendars because we are afraid of having “free time” because it will cause us to stop and think and re-evaluate how we spend our time? God tells us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).
(This is a photo of one of my living room walls.)
Every now and then I read “the handwriting on [my] walls” [phrase attributed to Daniel 5]. I have plaques all over my house, with writings from the Scriptures and other writings from Christian poets and writers. I thought one of my plaques I have hanging near my front door would help us quiet our hearts and minds before the Lord.
Slow Me Down, Lord
(By Wilferd A. Peterson)
Slow me down, Lord.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the
quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of
the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the
calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and
muscles with the soothing music of the
singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me know the magical, restoring
power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute
vacations – of slowing down to look at a
flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to
read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to
send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring
values that I may grow toward the stars
of my greater destiny.
Finally, in Part II, I talked about an anachronism I use to give an order to how a pray. The anachronism uses the letters C. A. S. T. The “signature verse” for this way ordering prayer is I Peter 5:7: “CAST all your anxiety on Him [Christ] because He cares about you.”
C = Confession: I already gave several examples of Prayers of Confession, in Part II, so I won’t repeat them. I do want to give a few points of caution though: 1. If you are quietly waiting for God to speak to you and you “hear” words of condemnation and accusation and someone saying, “Why are we talking about this AGAIN for? You’ll never get your act together!” or something along those lines, this is not God speaking. This is the devil speaking. Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). We do not have to listen to him. 2. When we confess to God, it is not out of fear of punishment. We do not have to do penance. When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with Him that we are sinners and need His help to change. He tells us that we have already been forgiven and that He will help us to change by the power of the Holy Spirit. When God speaks to us about our sin, we feel His joy because we are set free from all guilt and shame (See Isaiah 1:18 and Hebrew 10 on the first page of this post).
“.Therefore, there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life set me FREE from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sin nature, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit…What, then, shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His Own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God Who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, Who died – more than that, Who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:1-4, 31-35, 37-30).
Since the beginning of the Lenten Season, this hymn has been running through my mind (Some people do not like the music, but I believe the words are so soothing and profound.):
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
By Samuel Trevor Francis
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Vast unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean In its fullness over me,
Underneath me, all around me, Is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward To my glorious rest above.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, Changeth never, nevermore;
How He watches o’er His loved ones, Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, Watcheth over them from the throne.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Love of every love the best;
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ‘Tis a haven sweet of rest,
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ‘Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
And It lifts me up to glory, For it lifts me up to Thee. Amen.
Deeply Loved By Jesus,
Lydia (and All of You Too!)