Ash Wednesday: Living in the Light

 A Franciscan blessing to you on Ash Wednesday (as seen on World Vision ACT:S)~~

May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen
May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen
May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. Amen
May God bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen 
And the blessing of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen 

 Here’s the thing about truly loving Jesus Christ — it changes you. It transforms the way you look at the world, at other people, at your family, and yourself. Spending time in His presence will cause you to step out in small ways — maybe you’ll ponder the expression on the face of a person next to you at the grocery store and make you offer them an extra smile and warm greeting just in case they’re hurting. Maybe you’ll take an extra few minutes to really cherish your child snuggling with you on the couch. Maybe you’ll buy extra food to donate to someone in need.  Maybe you’ll be absolutely stunned at the wide blue expanse of sky that is a constant show of His glory and stand still, lifting praise up to Him.  When your eyes are opened to grace, every day contains multitudes of moments to love.

  But knowing the love of Jesus and then seeing the sorrow of sin in our world is going to change your life in big ways, too.  Because you have the answer so many people need. You have hope. You have peace. You have freedom. You know the Savior who redeems us with His own blood! — and when you fully realize what you have and Who you know, you will want your life transformed to be a reflection of Him. You will want to give everything. You will not mind being called radical or extreme or even crazy, because you’ll know that Jesus gave His everything and we, His servants, are not above Him. If He suffered, then it goes without saying that His followers will suffer.  May we, like Paul, say: I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead! (Phil. 3:10)

So maybe you’ll go to another country to share the gospel. Maybe you’ll quit your job to work for a non-profit. Maybe you’ll volunteer your time to reach those who are hurting. Maybe you’ll give your hours to study and teach others about the Word of God…the specifics are different for everyone. But each and every one of us are called to do something big for the Kingdom of God—we are commissioned to tell this world about the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ. When we love our Savior with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, we will spread His name through our neighborhoods, through our counties, through our nation and world — no matter the cost, no matter the sacrifices to our comfort, no matter what He asks of us.

On this Ash Wednesday, I’m thinking of how short our lives here on earth really are…and I’m reminded that I want to make my life glorify God in the small ways, in the big ways…in every way.

Let us be like Noah, in Genesis 6, who surely cast aside everything in his life – his reputation, his own agenda, his own day-to-day comforts — to tell his world that God had given a way to escape the coming judgment…that He had provided a way of redemption and life!   

We know our Savior. We know our hope.  So by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of Jesus Christ, may we tell our message- boldly and in love. May we live our message-  in merciful actions and others-first relationships. May we reflect the light of Jesus Christ, beautifully and brightly.  

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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A Look at Lent

The particular denomination I grew up in didn’t have a big focus on Lent; in fact, until a few weeks ago, I’d never given it much thought. The  World Vision ACT:S group is launching an experience called Relentless Acts of Justice for this year’s season of Lent, which made me wonder…what, exactly, is Lent and should I be a part of it?

In terms of time, Lent traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday and occurs 46 days before Easter Sunday. But as Sundays are not included in the fasts, it is a span of 40 days. This is based on the time Jesus spent in the wilderness where He fasted, prayed, and was tempted.

Churches who participate in Lent usually focus on fasting, praying, and helping others. From what I have observed, these 40 days are a time to remember that we are humble before the throne of God (Ash Wednesday’s foundation is on the fact that we are made from dust and will one day return to dust). It’s a season of repentance and remembering the sacrifices of Christ.  It is meant to be a time of simplicity, of making sure that your focus is where it’s supposed to be, and reaching out to others the way Jesus reached out to us…and all of this leads to Good Friday, when we remember the death of Jesus Christ, and the celebration of Easter.

Just as Advent ensures that we remember what the coming of Christ means to us in the midst of holiday chaos, I think that Lent ensures that we take a good look at the life of Christ and all He endured for our redemption. We all know how life pulls at us…our brains are usually juggling a billion and three things….and, for me, I know that I need times where I can pull back and readjust my focus onto God and off of myself.

Easter is a crucial day to a follower of Christ. His resurrection was victory over death, over sin, and over satan’s plan to forever separate humanity from God.  Of course we want to celebrate the morning that the stone rolled away and Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, stepped out of the grave!  But our victory through Christ came after He humbled Himself to walk on this earth and suffered on the cross…so, as much as we can, we should understand the cost of our salvation. Knowing the price paid, how much more will we rejoice in this gift to us of eternal life and communion with God?! 

I’m pretty sure that my church hasn’t focused on this season for fear of doing things just for the sake of ritual. But with the right perspective, I believe that Lent can be a beautiful 40 days of pushing aside distractions, giving up things that hinder relationships with God and others, really meditating on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and living out His words.

And can Lent affect your life over the long-run? I think so.  I hope that the time we spend with Christ changes us so that we better reflect Him in our daily lives…and so 40 days of conscious dedication to time with Him can only strengthen our faith and will to work for His kingdom. From my personal experience, I know that the more you know Him, the more you love Him. And that love will change your entire life, no doubt about it.  

With all this said, I’ll tell you that I have signed up for Relentless Acts of Justice with the ACT:S network.  Here’s their goal for the season(from the World Vision site):

“Lent is almost here! This year, we’re doing something a little different than your ordinary Bible study. We’re going to explore the Gospel narrative through the lens of six different injustices using stories and experiential activism.

ACT:S is all about action. We are a network of young activists fighting to change the brokenness in this world, writing our own modern-day Book of Acts. But to truly understand the brokenness brought by global poverty and injustice, we need to take a step back. We need to experience and understand the world – just as Christ took human form to experience the struggles of man.

Beginning March 9 (Ash Wednesday) and through Easter (April 24), we will try to emulate Christ’s incarnation through six real-life stories that we will bring to life by giving up everyday luxuries.”

Basically, they’ll send out emails throughout the 40 days to guide participants on a journey through Lent. If you’d like to get involved, click here to find out more and to sign up.

Whether or not you are actively involved in Lent, please take time to consider what Christ means to you…His sufferings, His grace, His compassion, and His love.  In and out of season…every single day, we are called to daily take up our cross and follow Him.  In the wilderness of our lives, He understands us and will help us every step of the way.