I would like to have the Lenten Special, please.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:25-26
Traditionally people “give up” certain things during the Lent period. Usually a person will “give up” something they really like. It usually is a habit of some sort, and it really depends on the person. I really have a sweet tooth; but, have to have something salty to get the sweet taste out of my mouth…hahahaha!
Lent is not about a deprivation of our selfish habits…the ones we mostly partake for our personal gratification. Lent is a season of self-examination. During this period of self-examination we are called as Christians to examine how we “nourish” our bodies…as members of the body of Christ. It’s about how we nourish our hearts. It’s about how we focus on Jesus, who gives us strength.
My pastor said, “It’s like a spiritual test of where your heart is. Your heart is where your treasure is. Is it focused on “me” [self], or is it focused on Jesus?”
It’s human nature to want to focus on ourselves. I’m extremely guilty of this. In fact, I tend to focus on things that I may have regretted doing wrong or I may focus on good things that I feel have gone unnoticed. Either way, my focus is on “me”, and not Him. I focus on things that don’t give me true life.
There are also some who may focus on the things I’ve done wrong, and are really good at pointing them out to me, and sometimes to others. It’s not like I live in a box. I know I’m a sinner! Most of the time, I actually regret doing a lot of the things I do. But, something that I tend to forget, and need constant reminding of, is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Only others, or my miserable self, may accuse of past, or present things.
Lent can also be a time to be a part of community; to be a part of others–who have a commonality of fixing their eyes on Jesus.
That’s really the goal isn’t it? To fix our eyes on Jesus. To understand that this beautiful gift from God, His only Son, is not just for ourselves but to be shared with others…with no strings attached.
Lent is a time to extend ourselves to others. Extending not to just those who are impoverished, but, those that are older in age, those that may need comforting (for whatever reason), and to the sick and weary. We should extend ourselves to those in our broken world; to be His messengers of love and mercy. Our extension of ourselves should bear the very image of God.
Giving of oneself can be tough; but, there is a high return on the satisfaction odometer. Giving of oneself can be like a ripple effect. Those that take His Light out into the world of others–do so because they take delight in this action, not because it’s “dutiful”. It becomes a celebration that ripples out into the world.
I know that there is a lot more to Lent. I could write pages on Lent. Lent is not only about self-examination, it’s a plethora of practicality of sorts. Some of it’s about focusing on our faults; some of it’s about repenting; some of it’s about extending ourselves to others; but, it’s mainly about keeping our eye on the prize of Christ Jesus. He is the Author & Creator–the Finisher of the story of our lives.
During this season, what will you be serving up for your Lenten Special?
There is no better gift to get for Valentines than receiving, and knowing, God’s Valentine promises to us. God’s Love for us is greater than anything we can imagine. His sacrificial gift to us was His son, Christ. God is love!
I saw the Hallmark Valentine commercial. I have to admit, I’m a sap for romantic gestures, especially this time of year…ok, I’m pretty much a romanticist all year. I love the idea of someone telling me I’m beautiful. I want someone to tell me they want to grow old with me. Who wouldn’t want to have a super hero rescue them? And, I never grow weary of someone saying they need me, or love me.
After watching the commercial, I realized that God is constantly trying to send me His own “Hallmark” greeting. God tells me He delights in me. I ask Him to never let me go, so He promises to hold on to me. He comforts me. God wants to be my “Super Hero“, if I would let Him.
God has also told me that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to give me hope by dying on the cross…so I could live.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
His promise doesn’t end there. You see…I was sexually abused as a child. I have harbored lots of pain, shame, and guilt. It took years (almost 30 years to be exact) before I understood that God did not condemn me for what happened. People may condemn me; but, He never does.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:17
We all have struggles. It’s nice to know that we have hope in the midst of our struggles. There is hope in the very lives we live. Christ’s love is our hope.
There were times I wondered where God was in the midst of my suffering…literally suffering at the hands of others..
My pastor reminded me that God had been beside me every time I have suffered. In fact, He is present in the suffering and struggles of the world today. He controls the suffering, and guides it for His purpose.
God’s promises don’t stop there. Oh no they don’t!
Another of God’s promises totally sweeps me off my feet when I think about it. He tells me that He has plans for me. He says in the midst of my struggles, He has plans for me to prosper. God is molding me to be in the image of Christ. He is not finished with me. He wants me to invite others into His kingdom, so that they may prosper.
I know you are thinking, “What you talking bout?”
I’m talking about what my pastor (Tom Gibbs) said, “We are all walking the road with our elder brother…Christ. The path can and will lead us to glory. Our present sufferings are identified with the struggles of Christ. While we are walking with Him (during our struggles) we are being formed in the image of Christ. We are no longer subjected to the bondage of this world. God comforts us in this world even when we have lost our way. The world offers us meaningless and randomness sufferings; but, God is in control of the suffering. Our sufferings guide us for His purpose in the end.”
So in all of this suffering in our world…there is hope. Hope in the love of Christ.
As Valentine approaches, remember that even during our struggles–God is wining and dining us. He is the true lover of our soul. We should take the time to express that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
This Valentines Day my prayer is that we will remember that God’s valentine promises to us are very real and present in our lives …today and everyday. God is near. God is Love!
Even though I was far from being an orphan as a child, I understood loneliness at times. I was an only child…for real. I was abused by my step father. I alienated myself from others.
As an adult, I have experienced loneliness. I have alienated myself in a very different way. I imagined I was what my pastor describes as being “spiritually orphaned“. But something has changed over the last couple of years. I’ve been adopted…adopted by God.
There was a time that the only father I knew about was one I was trying to forget about. With the help of a few spiritual leaders at my church and counseling, I began to learn otherwise. I learned that God is my true Father. I understand that He is my Father. He chose me. He had plans for me, even before I was born. God adopted me to be a part of His family.
Because of my past, even my present, I have carried a lot of shame and guilt. It has laid heavy in my heart. I tried to keep it suppressed; but, thankfully things are different now.
“I am the thorn in your crown; but, You love me anyway.
I am the sweat from Your brow; but, You love me anyway.
I am the nail in Your wrist; but, You love me anyway.
I am Judas’ kiss; but, You love me anyway.
See now I am the [wo] man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life!
It’s like nothing in life
That I’ve ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me.”
You see, my sins pinned His exposed and naked body on the cross. Despite what I did to Him, He sought me out in the crowd and said, “I love you anyway. I delight in you. I have adopted you for my own. You are mine.”
I’m so glad to know that I am loved. I’m not afraid to follow Jesus, or be with Him. In fact, I look forward to the day I will spend eternity with Him. I’m secure in knowing that Jesus loves me. He has adopted me for His very own. He understands my fears. He forgives me of my sins. He gives me strength.
It’s people who don’t understand. It goes back to the disconnectedness I have mentioned before. It’s people who choose to disconnect. Yes, there are some other circumstances; but, people make time for what they want to do. I know, because I’m a human being who does that very thing…chooses to do what I want to do.
I think that God would like for us to slow down and be a community…to try and reconnect with one another. Last fall I had a friend from middle school who reconnected with me, and it was great seeing her. To share our different journeys with each other. We shared so much, and it meant so much to me to be able to catch up with her. I have to admit that I have also connected with several through Facebook as well. It’s been great reconnecting with so many.
It seems so many have trouble reconnecting. Maybe something happened within the relationship. Sometimes things may have happened intentional, maybe on accident without knowing, or maybe time just slipped away. It’s not easy to reconnect. It takes time and energy. There are some who encourage you to do one thing, and then same people hold it against you for doing the very thing they encouraged you to do. It’s so frustrating, and talk about disconnecting.
There is another type of reconnecting…a reconnecting with God. God desires us to connect with Him. If God had not given me the strength and courage to depend on Him, then I think I would have ceased to exist. It’s because of Him that I’m capable of so much more. I’ve been made new.
God chose me to be a part of His family. God adopted me. I don’t mind being in a single family relationship with God. A community would be nice; but if some can’t accept me for me then there is no reason to be a part of community. Jesus loves me anyway…no matter what secrets I may have from my past, or the person I am now. He chose me. I’m adopted by God. He is the best head of family anyone could ever want. Praise His glorious name!
“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from…strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace,…For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,…” ~ Ephesians 2:12-14, 18-19