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Archive for February, 2016

“So this joy of mine is complete.

He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

The words of John 3:29-30 were spoken by John the Baptist regarding Jesus Christ. He was explaining to people that he was not the Messiah but rather been sent ahead of Him. John the Baptist lived a Lenten lifestyle 365 days a year. His possessions were few, his physical needs minimal. His focus was on the eternal reward. John’s decrease was not about what he possessed, or lacked, but rather was about who got the attention for his life. He lived so that all the attention he drew would position people to see through him and gaze on Jesus Christ. John didn’t stand waiting to take selfies or glamorized his life. He willingly diminished his importance so that others view of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could become clearer and more focused; so that the importance of Christ would rise.

Attention is not immoral. However, it becomes wrong when used to serve self instead of God.

John directed those who sought to follow him to become followers of Jesus:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I cam baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:29-31)

Offering our Heavenly Father the praise He is due fills His heart with gladness, just as assuredly it must have when King David stated,

“May my prayer be set before You as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering.” (Ps 141:2)

“I exalt You, my God the King and praise Your name forever and ever. I will praise You every day; I will honor Your name forever and ever. Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.” (Ps 145:2-3)

For this week of Lent, may we fast recognition and praise for ourselves and redirect attention; redirect praise to the One to whom all praise is due.

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We have all heard the expression “Let Go, Let God.” Pastors have used it to challenge us to surrender, to allow Christ to be on the “Throne” of our lives, even to challenge us to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. But, this popular admonition also applies during Lent. Let Go of those areas of our lives that keep us from totally becoming more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions.

Lent is an opportunity to approach Jesus Christ with new energy, new focus, or perhaps an entirely new perspective. New is inspiring. New is clarifying, but it can also, at times, be a reminder of what is old. When we want new beginnings, we often are drawn back into the reminders of past mistakes, past successes, past hurts, and the strength-stealer—called REGRET.

Regret drains energy. Regret diminishes dreams and hopes and leads us into spiraling negativity. Focusing on regrets keeps us looking backwards instead of toward the future that God wants for each of us. So, for this Lent season, let go of Regret. God’s mercies are “new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:23) Meditate on the truth of the God’s promise that He “makes everything new!” (Rev 21:5)

Put off your old self, that self that looks back. As instructed in Ephesians: “Be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:23-24)

Fast regrets today for Lent! Put on the new heart and mind of Christ and look forward with hope towards the joy that awaits you as you grow more like Him, and truly our Lord God wants that for each of us.

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Romans 6-7 is St. Paul’s great theological explanation on how we no longer need to yield to those tendencies and desires that would pull us back to our natural sin nature and away from Christ’s redemptive grace. Lent is that season of 40 days in the Christian calendar that allows each an opportunity to examine those aspects of our lives that take our eyes off the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross. But way too often, many of us, including this author, view Lent as that time to make a token “sacrifice” giving up some indulgence, such as chocolate, coffee, television, or some other extra in our lives. But is that really Lent?

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 reminds us that the Lord God led His people into the wilderness for 40 years to “humble” and “test” them in order to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep His commands. Lent is significantly shorter, 40 days not 40 years, but it too is a time for us to consider what is in our hearts. Rather than fasting chocolate, what might be the fruit of fasting a miserly attitude and adopting an attitude of generosity? What would happen if we fasted those pastimes that we use to escape responsibilities? Or fasted spectatorship in life rather than active involvement? Or excess accumulation? Lent is a time to consider Jesus’ call to abandon the world’s illusions and embrace His journey to live for the glory and benefit of eternal life; a journey He embraced all the way to the Cross so we might experience fully the life He calls us to.

Lent should be a daily crucifixion of those aspects of our lives that keep us from being suitably impressed by the Cross of the Resurrection on Easter morning. There have been many years when I have been rather passive about the period of Lent. Certainly, times when I didn’t reflect any on the depth of sacrifice Jesus made to take that journey to the Cross. After all, He gave up heaven to come to the earth as a baby. He gave up 33 years living with His Heavenly Father in perfect paradise. Jesus gave up omnipresence, clothed Himself with flesh. He gave up being worshipped by angels and accepted the disregard of humanity. Jesus chose weakness rather than power over the universe. Jesus chose voluntarily. Jesus lived an uncluttered life so that His purposeful and focused death could produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in those who accepted His sacrifice on the Cross.

Perhaps this season of Lent warrants us considering what clutter we should remove, what might we truly decrease in our lives, so that His Love, His Grace, His Glory, might increase through us to touch the hearts of others with the gift of Resurrection Sunday.

 

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“I have called you by name;

you are mine.”

Isaiah  43:1

~ The reality of this promise grows ever so much more vivid when we place our name in this verse.  “I have called ____ by name; ____ is mine.”

~ We all need to be reminded of this Truth!  Who in our circle of influence needs to hear this simple, yet powerful reminder from God’s Word?

~ Is there someone dear to you who you who doesn’t yet know how treasured they are by God?  Let us not give up praying they will have the ears to hear their Father calling them by name.

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