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Paul’s warning here is a straightforward and simple text
to consider. It is a valuable guide during the time of Lent. He asks us to come
to God in Humility, by not thinking you are better than you really are. Be Honest in your evaluation of yourselves,
and measure ourselves accurately in Faith. Our measurement of our Faith can
only be of value if we use a consistent standard and the only standard for
Christians is God’s Word.
Let’s consider a day to day example to see the value
of a consistent standard. Baseball is
Americas game so let’s take a look at how it grows with us. Depending on the
age of the participant, base distances, backstop and outfield fences can all be
different to allow the game to be both fun and competitive. We have seen
developments and improvements in baseball that move, in leaps and bounds. The
players are stronger and faster than ever and increasing their skills everyday.
Athletes are better than they were a generation ago and vastly improved over
several generations. We have for sure have better tools and resources, but it
is a consistent measurement that has allowed for the advancement. In the areas
above of the baseball field that change there is still one main link between
offense and defense that is the exact same for all ages and always has been –
HOMEPLATE. Think how quickly the game might change if the pitchers could widen
the plate and the hitters could shrink it. Homeplate is 17 inches wide – for
all ages, all leagues it is the standard that is the measurement and center of
the game of baseball. Our lives have a standard that has always been there for
our measurement, and that is God’s Word. If we change that standard based on
our circumstances, our day to day emotions or someone else’s view of the
standard then once it moves everything else moves and our lives quickly would
evolve into chaos. May we always approach God’s Word with Humility, Honesty and the Courage to measure our lives by our
Faith and then we can look for the improvements in our lives that can only come
from Faith in God.
technically the 40 days leading up to Easter ( excluding Sundays ). It is a
reminder of Jesus 40 days of temptation in the wilderness and has historically
been observed as a time of repentance and fasting. It is a period of time for
review and examination of our lives and our mortality – it can be sad and depressing
but it is also is a sobering reminder that our chance of death is actually
Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true
and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are
wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to
prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
The value of this review time is it asks us to dig deeper than the
surface. It will not find us on the mountain top celebrating or in the deepest
valleys because what we hope to find in Lent are areas hidden from even ourselves
and we pray that Lent will make it visible to us.
Lent is the time for a restoration project that
will reveal the beauty of God’s design for us, showing once again the scale,
proportion, and priorities intended for us by our Maker. Further, Lent is a
season of hope and with ashes on our foreheads and hope in our hearts, we go
forth to love and serve. For by God’s grace in Christ, we do not have to stay
the way we are.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting or abstinence. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a reminder of our human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance before God. Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and it marks the beginning of Lent. Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express a person’s mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. Ashes are the result of fire – they are the most basic form of any material. It serves to remind us that our bodies will one day die and be returned to their most basic form in the dust of the ground.
This was bad news for Adam. And it is bad news for us.
Like Adam, we have come from dust, and to dust we will return. Throughout our
lives, our dusty bodies remind us of our mortality, when they get sick, or when
they work imperfectly, or when they age, or when they stop working altogether.
Often, our bodies are the instruments of sin, rather than
of God-honoring works of worship. Of course, many good things come from our
bodies, including new human life, fulfilling work, loving embraces, and acts of
charity. The inherent goodness of our bodies has not been obliterated by sin,
though it has been tarnished and twisted.
So Ash Wednesday begins with bad news. It invites us into a time of extended
contemplation and contrition, as we consider during Lent just how much we need
One to save us from our sin. Ash Wednesday also signifies hope. The ashes that
are imposed on our heads form the shape of a cross. Sometimes these crosses are
obvious; sometimes more subtle, but the very stuff that symbolizes our
mortality and sin also alludes to that which has set us free. It reminds us
that God has entered into our human condition in order to break the power of
sin and welcome us into the fullness of his eternal life. It is not a day to
focus on the cross so much as a time to begin to realize just how much we need
May what we fast from during Lent be minor in comparison
to what God can help us add to improve our relationship with Him.
11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. 12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them ….
It seems like we are always using our relationship with God as a measure of certainty for our Faith. We want to be certain that we are on the right path without any risk or steps of faith on our part. We would like for God to not only shine a light on our path but also to put up some road signs along the way that tell us we are where he wants us to be. We often say we are waiting on a sign from God or the more popular phrase today is “God’s Got This” and while that is true and may be helpful, it is like affirming the earth God created is round – of course it is and of course he’s got this because he has everything. There is nothing wrong with using these certainties to affirm our faith in God and to support one another but in our daily walk with God how do we live out our faith?
Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the
reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. The
writer of Hebrews asks us to look beyond what we can see to our hopes and
dreams so that God can accomplish His purpose and fulfill our faith. To do that
maybe we need to send a sign to God that we are willing and able to move and
act on His behalf. We can send Him a sign that our Faith lives in our hearts
and our actions. He might in turn send a sign ( evidence ) that the purpose He
has for our faith is both real and working. Then may our lives of faith be seen
as a sign by others that God is real by the evidence of our lives.
While we can learn valuable things looking
into our past in learning from our failures too often that can consume a lot of
time digging into the details that may or may not contribute to improving our
future. The Negatives of the past often overshadow our lives – we have to work
to realize that our past is now a TRUTH. It cannot be changed, it is not
flexible or open for opinion. The Good News in it for us is that this
translation from Isaiah on “former things” and “dwelling on the past” cover
things back In our past as well as recent failures we may have experienced. God
asks Isaiah to take his past as a Truth but to know it is overshadowed by the
Truth of today in the new things God is doing in his life. We try to teach our
youth that the past can’t be changed and can only be managed by how we let it
affect our future path. In baseball and strike is a strike and in 100 years
when the scorebook is found in the dusty corner of a dugout it will still be a
strike. While the call cannot be changed and is now a part of the Truth in life
it has no power over the future of a hitter or pitcher.
We strive to realize that our past only
controls us when we stay stuck in it and not come to a point of understanding
it as a learning point:
You cannot change your past, but you can change how you react to it.
You are much wiser now based on the knowledge our past brings to us.
You are not the same person you used to be, so you do not have to make the same mistakes you once made.
What can always be of value, is looking at
our past from the view point of neither success or failure but from a perspective
of how have we lived and treated others. When we leave this life the only
measure that will hold up and prevail over time is how we treated others – did
we help and love our neighbors, family and friends. Were our decisions and actions with others ethical
and moral and would they be pleasing to God. More importantly do we truly
believe in Faith that God is always working on a new beginning and can we see
it, can we see the way he is making for us in the wilderness of our day to day
We often begin our walk of faith by working
and serving in areas where we can see both where we are and where we are going.
If we step away from this spiritually for a moment we can see where the safety
and predictability of these actions will accomplish many things that while
useful, may not serve our purpose for God. This could leave us in a dangerous
place of comparing our success and failure to others around us. It is a natural
human instinct and sometimes based on our circumstances can be hard to move
past. We often limit our Faith to what we can logically reason out and fit within
our box of understanding. In other words, we want to see the path clearly from
where we are to where we are going to end up.
The writer of Hebrews helps us to understand that faith requires us to
go into areas where even with a plan we do not know the path and yet hope in
our faith takes us along the journey for God.
shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot
If faith then, is a step for us where we give
control to God then we become a living part of God’s purpose. The great, and
scary, part of living out this purpose is that God has an expectation of us to
do “our” best – not average, not compared to anyone else but our best for Him
every day. God has no limit like we have in logic and reason, and Faith will
often carry us into areas we cannot explain. We only pray and work to realize
the unlimited potential a day brings and recognize that we bring the only limit
to our faith in each day.
“Faith has no limit – The only limit to our
realization of tomorrow is the doubt we hold onto from today.”
If God’s Grace is the movement of God for our salvation through Jesus Christ then the next move is ours. Faith is our belief in God’s work and while Faith cannot be seen it is the fuel by which we accomplish the purpose God has called each of us to in His service. Faith moves our experience of Grace into action through our lives. Our human nature can sometimes allow us to become lazy and just cruise along simply existing in life. God did not create us to exist but to live our lives as an expression of our relationship with Him. James reminds us that Faith requires action –
We are all within God’s purpose whether we have made a confession of Faith or not. If we have not then His purpose can only be to move us to make a confession of belief in Jesus Christ so we can then exercise our Faith. If we have confirmed our belief in Jesus Christ, then our Faith lives in our actions that allow us to fulfill God’s purpose. Our prayer today is that our Faith will move us to actions in our lives that reflect God’s presence in our hearts.
All of our actions in life initiate a
consequence and result. That result is seen by others and is most often how we
are viewed and judged by those who see these actions. If our actions are
negative and selfish then they will reflect our human desires and our
self-centered character. If they are positive and generate a positive result
for our lives and for others, then they reflect a God centered character. Our
negative actions can carry consequences that further impact us negatively as
well as those that we hurt from our actions. Our positive actions reflect the
Light of Jesus Christ inside of us. That light of Truth should shine from our
action so that others see Christ in us.
It is amazing that if you are in the daylight
the dark corners and alleys are easy to see and avoid but if you are in
complete darkness only a tiny point of light will be easily seen and attracting
to us. God also works that way – The light of Christ can be easily seen no
matter how dark the room we are in and the more light we have in our life the
easier it is to avoid the dark corners and stay in the light.
God calls us to life of faithful actions that
reflect His love thru our lives to others. These are the works of Faith and
actions that we pray for in this New Year. May God bless us all with His light
and may we reflect that light for the world so see each day.
It is always refreshing to start something new. To be able to begin with a clear mind and conscious on a new white sheet of paper with unlimited possibilities. Our biggest challenge is to actually start with the freedom that we have in front of us without letting the past color too much of our new start. Of all the strengths from our relationship with Jesus Christ one of the most powerful is that of forgiveness. Each day becomes a new opportunity in our lives to live out and share God’s love in our lives with others.If this were true in our lives then why do we struggle so much with the freedom of a new life?
Could it be that our old life had some advantages to us ?We were comfortable, everyone knew what to expect, no explaining to do, no different actions to take. People appreciated and accepted us in our flawed state and we were all good with one another. Wow, I am glad we got that aligned I thought this was going to get complicated for a minute …… We are all comfortable in our flawed lives and living at or below the expectations of others and to ourselves not to mention God.
The rich young ruler in Mark 10 – lived his life to the best of his ability and sought Jesus humbly to determine how he might obtain eternal life but his real motive was of human intent in that he wanted an eternal life with the qualities of this life? He calls Jesus good and the next statement is often taken as just that a statement that by itself is true and right but it can also be a question that Jesus poses to the young man to gage the seriousness of his intent.
Mark 10:18 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.
Does he believe he is talking to God or simply a teacher that has an answer he knows he cannot get answered anywhere else? If he feels good about his life up to this point then certainly he has less left to do in attaining eternal life than many others right ?Jesus knowing his heart confirms for him what he must do and the young man confirms he has kept the commandments to the best of his human ability for most of his life – the text VS 21
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love
for him. says that,
and told him he had one thing he had not done – go and release all that he had but the text says he had many possessions and he could not part with them on faith alone. Jesus uses money once again, though not the real topic here, to illustrate the physical and spiritual struggle we have in our day to day lives when we reflect. The good comes thru and the things we have neglected or failed at we would rather skip but these are the very things God wants us to focus on and give from our spirits beyond our physical selves. Time, money, energy, talent …… still not enough because the spiritual requires an acknowledgment of God being first – dependence on Him.
If we can reflect and plan forward giving him control of our lives then we can accomplish many things that are not physically possible today because we have not allowed God to make them possible for us.
Mark 10:26-27 26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”