Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Halfway Through Lent

In following the church calendar (that is, observing seasons like Lent, Easter, etc.), we attempt to walk in Jesus's footsteps and in the footsteps of the disciples.  Just as Jesus went through 40 days in the wilderness to fast and pray and to be tested, so we go through our 40 days of Lent, dedicating ourselves to fasting and prayer and other spiritual disciplines. Last Friday marked the halfway point for us in our 40 day trip through the wilderness of Lent.  So, how's it going?   

My guess is that all of us fall into one of these three categories below.  

If you've felt judgment from God (perhaps because you've failed in your disciplines or because your disciplines have revealed more sin than you knew you had), let me encourage you with the same words I encourage myself when I am feeling condemned because of my sin: "This is a saying that is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world, IN ORDER to save sinners."  (1 Tim 1:15).  Yes, you are a sinner, and so am I.  Yes, our sin is truly awful, hideous garbage and a scandalous betrayal.  But our Savior has come to save us from this!  Therefore, we can and should run to him to save us.  That's why He came!   When your pipes burst, you call the plumber: because that's why they're there.  When my son falls and scraps his knee, he runs to Mommy: because mommies comfort their babies.  When a Christian sins, he or she runs to Jesus: because Jesus came to save sinners.  (1 John 1:8-2:2) 

If you're being tested and stretched, during Lent, take heart: God is growing you and at work in you.  Being "stretched" sounds like a good idea until its happening to you.  If you don't believe me, just stand up right now and do the splits... and let me know how it feels.  Anyone who has been through physical therapy can tell you that the stretching is the hardest part of rehabilitation.  Stretching is painful.  But the therapist does it (often he/she is the one mercilessly bending your body) because it is necessary for your body to be set right.  We engage in prayer and fasting during Lent as a form of spiritual exercise (or more often, spiritual rehab).  We endure fasts during Lent.  And though it is painful, we go through it to set things right with our souls.  You may be fighting the good fight: seeking the Lord in prayer, but very tired.  You may be fasting and really hurting as a result.  You may be seeking the Lord in the Word, and finding it to be much harder than you expected.  Take heart:  God is stretching you, working on you, helping you.  Don't give up: continue to walk the hard Lenten road.  "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3–5)

If you've forgotten about the Lord this Lent, now's the time to remember Him again, to remember the disciplines you promised to do, to keep those vows made on Ash Wednesday.  Forgetting someone is probably one of the worst things you can do to them.  Can you imagine what it would be like if your best friend or your spouse didn't recognize you or forgot all they knew about you?  It would be painful to say the least, as those who have seen loved ones lose their mental capacities can attest.  But we forget God all the time, and this, my brothers and sisters, is one of the worst things we can do.  Living before the Lord is the key to wise living (Prov 1:1-7).  Living with remembrance of God is the key to loving Him and knowing Him as well.  But even though we may forget God, he does not forget us.  His mind and his love is such that he is always mindful of us who are in Christ.  What a gift that he never forgets us!  "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." (Isaiah 49:15)  Even in the middle of a rough and dry time of life, God is with us.  Take heart, Christian! And return to Jesus.

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