Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. Now before you click away and mumble something about not being Catholic, just hear me out. Ash Wednesday is a tradition that's been around for hundreds of years. It serves as the first day of the Lenten season. Lent is the roughly 40 days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Here's what I love about Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season at large. It's a great opportunity for you and I to draw closer to God. I know, I know, we can draw close to God on any day of the year but Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season offer us a focused effort to not only identify with Christ but to intentionally carve out time to spend in that pursuit. Let's face it, we pursue lots of things that we're passionate about but hear me clearly: no pursuit is more important than this one.
Ash Wednesday is about you and I realizing our mortality. If you're over 40 you've probably already realized this fact, but any of us can slip into the idea that, "we've got plenty of time left". We forget that we know not the hour or the day of the Master's return. Ash Wednesday reminds us that now is the time to get right spiritually and that even as our bodies fade, our spirits live on in eternity. Ash Wednesday is about mourning and repentance. We mourn over our sin. We repent and make a fresh and a new commitment to do things God's way.
The 40 days of the Lenten season parallel the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. He fasted and looked to His heavenly Father for strength. As the devil tempted Him he refused to look to Himself for strength, He instead looked to Scripture as His source of strength. That's the heart of the Lenten season, to let go of what prevents us from diving deep into the presence of God. Lent isn't about losing weight or reducing calories or giving up sweets, it's about spending more time with the Lord and training yourself to lean into Him. That's what Jesus exampled for us during His 40 day journey. As His body grew weak His spirit grew stronger as He leaned into His heavenly Father. That's the journey that you and I have the opportunity to begin tomorrow. Less of me and more of Him.
Let me to encourage you to allow the Spirit of the Lord to guide your spirit into what He's calling you to let go of during Lent. Don't take the easy road, don't give up what you don't enjoy. Give up something that you've come to rely on, give up something that's perhaps prevented you from leaning more fully into God's strength for your life.
I'd love to hear how God is speaking to you. What you're committing to give up and how God is leading you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Over the last few days we've been looking at the topic of faithfulness, our calling to be faithful to who God created us to be, our calling to be faithful to what we say we believe and today, our calling to be faithful to what we say to others.
At first run this may come across as unspiritual but what we're talking about are the things that we say in everyday life. Our everyday speech, our words, our promises, our comments. In other words, are you a person who keeps his or her word? If you say you’re going to do something, does it get done? If you say you’ll volunteer for something, do you show up? If you make a commitment, does that commitment followed through on?
You may be thinking, “Why does this matter? Everyone bails on a commitment here and there. People get busy, over-committed and sometimes lose track of time. Stuff happens." I agree. I've been there myself. But let's not forget the words of Jesus.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) says…“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
You and I are called to be as a city on a hill. We are called to be a lamp in the darkness. Our good deeds, our commitments kept, our promises honored, our follow through completed are a light in the darkness of our world.
You’re not called to be a person of your word so that you can bring glory and honor to yourself, you’re called to live that way so that people will ultimately give glory to God.
Colossians 3:23-24 (Message) says…"Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work."
I love the phrase that says, “Say what you’re going to do and then do what you say.” All of humanity is called to honor commitments but who more so then the Christ follower. We are representing Jesus. Our follow through and commitment point back to Him.
Ultimately, our call to faithfulness is rooted in God Himself. We can find the strength and discipline to live faithful lives because God has set the ultimate example of faithfulness for us.
Psalm 100:5 (NLT) says…"For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation."
Tap in to God's faithfulness. Allow His strength to draw you in, to His calling for your life. Allow His example to challenge you to be faithful to what you say you believe. Look to Him for wisdom on how to be faithful to what your commitments.
Yesterday, we talked about the need to be faithful to what God has called us to be. Today, we continue our journey to faithfulness as we look at the calling to, "be faithful to what you say you believe".
I think sometimes it’s easy to say we believe in God and His son Jesus. It's easy to say we believe in the fact that He died on the cross for our sins and that we know He has a plan for our lives. It’s easy to say those things. What's not easy is to live those truths out in our everyday lives. Here's what I know: God has called you and I to live authentic lives.
The word, authentic communicates the idea of an "undisputed origin”. There's no question about something's validity when it's authentic. Let's apply that same principle to our spiritual journey. It’s the idea that if we say we believe in God's plan for our lives, we really do believe it. If we say we stand for something, we really do stand for it.
When we’re living authentic lives, what we say we live for, stand for and believe in, is actually what we live for, stand for and believe in.
In Matthew 23:27 Jesus hits on this very idea. The religious leaders of the day were schooled in the appearance of spirituality but were empty on the inside. When we don't live out our faith with authenticity we not only jeopardize our relationship with Christ but we also jeopardize our witness.
Spiritual authenticity is about more than just you. We live our lives in the context of community. We live, work, go to school, play on sports teams, attend church, live in neighborhoods, each of these areas of our lives are full of people that don't know Jesus and are looking to us for what it means to follow Him. Spiritual authenticity allows you and I to paint an accurate picture of Jesus for those around us. It is critical for you and I to figure out how to live consistent spiritual lives. The importance of matching what we say we believe with how we actually live is paramount.
You and I are called to be faithful. We're called to faithfulness in lots of areas but let me focus on three for the next few days. First, be faithful to who God created you to be. Here’s the deal, the Scripture is clear that God has a specific plan for each one of our lives. Listen to what it says in the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) says...
We buy into this idea for ourselves and we even bombard our kids with it as they grow up. We say things like, "You can be anything you want to be." or "The world is wide open, the possibilities are endless." While I agree and understand the heart of these statements, we run the risk of missing the calling that God has placed on each of our lives. What if in the midst "our" dreams and "our" plans we miss what God has for us.
According to Jeremiah, God already has a specific plan and purpose for each of our lives. What about His plan? What about the fact that as God was knitting you together in your mother’s womb, He was also mapping out your future. Where you would go to school, where you would work, who your friends would be, and who you would marry, how you would serve Him.
God didn’t just create you and I to exist, He created us to be someone special, with special plans and a special personality and a special set of abilities and when we develop this idea that we’re supposed to just float through life and see what happens, we are not being faithful to who God created us to be.
Moses from the Bible was a great example of this idea. God had a specific plan for what He wanted Moses to do with his life, He wanted Moses to lead the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt and out of their slavery.
Exodus 3:1-12 (NLT) says…
Now in fairness, Moses goes a little overboard here with the back and forth with God but don’t miss the principle. Have a conversation with God. Listen to what God is calling you to be. Ask questions, seek clarity, get some clear answers and then do it.
The first step in being faithful to who God created you to be is to ask God, “God, who did you create me to be?” The Bible says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you.”
Are you being faithful to what and who God has created you to be?
I've been thinking about window shutters lately. I know, that's been on your mind lately as well right? As I was driving down the street the other day I started to notice the houses that had window shutters and those that did not. I began to notice the various styles of shutters and how most, if not all of them were not designed nor installed to actually be used.
Remember the original purpose of shutters? Remember how when they were originally created they were designed for the purpose of protection? When the weather would get rough or the rain or wind would really start to kick up people would go out and close the shutters on their windows for protection. Somewhere along the line, shutters for the most stopped serving that purpose and became more of an aesthetic addition to our windows. It's funny, because if you look at the shutters on most houses they're actually not even big enough to cover the whole window. They're basically just little tiny panels on either side of the window that offer no practical purpose.
Allow me to draw a parallel between today's shutters and us. Just like the original shutters, you were created for a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
You were chosen before you were born to accomplish God's purposes on this planet. But just like today's shutters you and I constantly run the risk of becoming purposeless. If we're not cautious we slip into the idea that we're here just to look pretty, we're here to simply add a little flare to the house. We quickly forget that we were created with a specific purpose in mind. Perhaps just like the pointless shutters on today's houses, we haven't even considered that we're not even installed correctly. We haven't even set ourselves up to function as God designed us to function. We live our lives assuming that what we know is all there is. We live our lives assuming that "shutters" shouldn't function because as we look around we realize that no one else's shutters are serving a purpose so we think, "maybe mine shouldn't either."
Listen to these words, "You have a purpose." You were designed, chosen and set apart for God's purposes. Don't buy into the lie that you're supposed to just exist. You have a purpose. Walk in that purpose and you will discover life and life abundantly.
This is crazy right? I mean watch the news for like five minutes and you're almost in disbelief that such crazy things are going on in our world. If you're really brave you'll scroll social media for a minute or two and feel like deleting your entire account. What is going on?
It seems like the people we thought we knew well are suddenly aliens from another planet. Everybody seems to have an opinion on everything and we seem caught off guard by all of them. Be honest, how many times have you picked up the phone or shot a text to a close friend begging them to look at so and so's news feed because of their latest rant or rave about one of a variety of topics?
As I've navigated these treacherous waters I have often pondered to myself, "Since when did so many people become experts on so many topics?" It seems like people that I've known for years have secretly been going to school and receiving doctorate degrees on everything from immigration trends and women's rights to political history and global trade policy. I sometimes feel like I've got some catching up to do.
What's saddening about all this pseudo political commentary and all of the social media rants is that none of it will ever change anything. I know that's a "bubble buster" for some of you who feel as though you have the "right answer" but it's the truth. Your constant ranting and raving and challenging of opposing opinions will never amount to anything more than damaged relationships and missed opportunities to truly impact someone's life with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are so quick to run our flag up the pole. We're republican and we're not ashamed to admit it. We're anti-Trump and we don't care who knows it. We think borders should be closed, we think borders should be open, we think this, we think that, we are constantly running one of our many opinion flags up the pole of our lives and it makes no difference. Allow me to encourage you to STOP.
Stop giving your opinion on things that don't matter for eternity. Stop sharing passionately about something that has zero potential to impact someone's life for eternity. I mean honestly, if we spent even half of the time clearly communicating the truth of the Gospel to a dying world around us as we we spend prattling on about our political opinions our world would be a far better place.
If you call yourself a Christ follower then when people look at your life they should only see one flag. The first thing they see shouldn't be your political party flag or the flag that represents your stance on this topic or that topic. The only flag they should see is the flag of Jesus Christ. Period.
I invite you to join me in making a real difference. Click here to change your social media profile pic to something that truly matters. Allow people to see your opinion on something that has the power and potential to radically change their lives.