Participating in Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. The following I mostly posted back in 2014 Observing Lent along with some updated thoughts relevant to this year.

I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. In the same way, Lent can be a focused time of reflection. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God and/or to add something to my life that I should have been doing already.

I think that this graphic gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent (I can no longer find the original link I had to the graphic):

Lent-R1

This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

Some years, I do not feel lead to participate in Lent and do not give it a second thought once I decide not to participate. Other years, like this year, I have a strong desire to participate which leads to prayer as to what I should eliminate from and/or add to my daily life.

This year, after much prayer, I presented the idea of participating in Lent to my girls ages 10 & 8. I explained the basics of Lent to them and when I told them what I was giving up they were in shock. I told them that they did not have to give up the same thing that I was but that they should choose something that would be difficult for them so that they can use the time they desire to pray. Even more important than giving something up, I plan to use this season to do a family devotional with the girls.

Lately, the girls and I have been having daily struggles of frustration of completing chores, attitudes (mine included), getting out the door on time for school or church, as well as other things. My oldest and I battle it out with yelling matches that unfortunately remind me of how much anger is a stronghold in my life. With my husband overseas and a newborn in the home, I need to find a way to bring peace between me and the girls. So, along with implementing consistent chore charts and behavior plans, we will be doing a daily devotional during Lent.

The church that we attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so we will not have ashes on our foreheads today. However, my girls and I will still begin our reflection journey together. I am praying for peace, reconciliation, obedience, and respect to be present in our home. I have a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them, so if you think of me or this article sometime over the next couple of months, please consider taking the time to say a prayer for us!

Risen

This book by Angela Hunt is based on the major motion picture that is currently in theaters. The original story is by Paul Aiello and screenplay by Kevin Reynolds and Paul Aiello. Roman Tribune Clavius is responsible for squelching the zealots in Jerusalem. When the body of the recently crucified Nazarene goes missing, Pilate gives Clavius the task of investigating, tracking down the radical followers, and finding the body. Rachel is a widowed Jewish woman who makes a living baking bread. After the death of her husband, she and Clavius enter a forbidden relationship. If her secret was made known, she would surely be stoned. Clavius searches for the missing body, questions possible followers, and gathers information but the questions out way the answers. When tragedy strikes in a personal manner, Clavius questions the Roman gods that he has spent his life praying to and serving. Will Clavius find the answers that he seeks? Will Rachel be able to truly love a man who is not her husband?

I was transported into this story within the first few pages. The author did an excellent job of making me feel like I was in the midst of Clavius’ investigation and Rachel’s searching. The story is mainly told from Clavius’ perspective which is unique from most post resurrection stories. He searches for the truth based on facts and learns about faith along the way. I really liked the explanations of Isaiah’s prophesies and Jewish Passover and how they relate to the Messiah. The relationship between Clavius and Rachel was outside of marriage but I felt that it was tastefully described. As both Clavius and Rachel search for the truth about Yeshua, their relationship resolves in an unexpected way that allows Rachel to show Clavius the love of Christ. This is a historical fiction so some liberties are taken with the story line. The author explains that Clavius and Rachel are fiction characters and would not have been present during some of the scenes she portrayed them in. There are other liberties that she explains at the end of the book. I did not find these liberties to be a deterrent and I felt that the gospel was explained well with an emphasis on God’s love. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes biblical historical fiction.

It is important to note that the author states at the end of the book that although Rachel’s character was created by Paul Aiello, her character did not make the cut for the movie. I am looking forward to seeing the movie, but I am glad to have read the book first so that I know Rachel’s side of the story. I have heard really good things about the movie and based on this book, I am sure that I will not be disappointed. Due to the Roman soldier violence in the movie, Plugged In review suggests that it is not suitable for younger children. You can read their detailed movie review HERE.

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that Bethany House provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

*****

218453

Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

Risen, paperback
By Angela Hunt / Baker Books

lgsquare

Liar, Lunatic, or LORD

As we enter the Easter season, we reflect on the greatest sacrifice ever made since the beginning of time! Jesus came to us; both God and human. He lived a sinless life, showed us by example how to love and minster to others, became our sin as he died on the cross, and conquered the grave when he was resurrected. Unfortunately, there are many who still have not experienced the life-changing gift of salvation that God has offered. Most people recognize that Jesus lived as a teacher and prophet but many deny that Jesus is God. One of my favorite authors is C. S. Lewis. In his book, Mere Christianity, he states the following:

41w67GRujWL“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him; ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Trilemma

May we remember who Jesus truly is! May we honor Him as Lord and Savior of our lives! May the Fruit of the Spirit grow and thrive in us so that the world will see Jesus in everything we say and do! Jesus is Alive!

resurrection-6.99104729

Observing Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

 Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not required for salvation and it is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God or to add something to my life that should have been doing already.

A friend linked to this graphic yesterday and I think that it gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent:

Lent-R1

This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

This year, I prayed about what God would have me do (or not do) during the Lent season. The church that I attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so I will not have ashes on my forehead today. I found my Ashes to Fire Lent devotional book that I received from my church in 2011 and I plan read through the daily reflections. I also am starting:

668524: The Love Dare for Parents The Love Dare for Parents

By Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick / B&H Books

…a 40-day challenge to daily demonstrate love to my children. My prayer is that during this time I will purposely be focused on Christ and with His help also purposely make time to show my love to my girls. My daily prayer is for the Lord to give me patience and wisdom and help me to be slow to anger.

Do you observe Lent? Why or Why Not?

 

lgsquare

Resurrection Cookies

Last year, I posted recipes for two types of Resurrection Cookies and how to teach your children the resurrection story through baking. You can read that post here. This year we are only going to make the following recipe which is the less complicated of the two types. This is a great & unique way to teach your children about the resurrection!

RESURRECTION COOKIES

Ingredients:

Large Marshmallows

Crescent Rolls (uncooked)

Sugar/Cinnamon Mixture

1. Wrap an uncooked crescent roll  around most of the marshmallow–leaving one side of the marshmallow exposed.

~~The crescent roll represents the tomb and the marshmallow shows that the tomb is not empty.

2. Roll the crescent roll/marshmallow tomb in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.

3. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake according to crescent roll directions.

~~Read the resurrection story (using a Children’s Bible or book on your child’s level).

5. As they bake; the marshmallow will melt. Remove them from the oven according to directions.

~~You will have an empty tomb!

***** 

Do You Observe Lent? Why or Why Not?

I am fairly new to the whole Lent concept. I was introduced to it a year or so ago. Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3Jeremiah 6:26Daniel 9:3Matthew 11:21).”

It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation. For some people, the motives may be wrong or they will be doing it because they were told to. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God.

Two years ago, I gave up Starbucks coffee. That was my addiction and I was spending a lot of money which should have been going other places. Last year, I gave up Facebook gaming. At the time, we lived in Okinawa, Japan and Facebook was pretty much our only communication to anyone in the states so I did not give up social networking all together. But gaming was taking up a lot more of my time than what I was spending with God.

I am still praying about what to fast from this year.

This year my church is doing the Ashes to Fire study. I’m excited to do an actual study to go along with fasting. It will be interesting to see how God moves in our church over the next several weeks!

 

Do You Observe Lent?

Why or Why Not?

Those Were My Nails

Continuing on the Easter theme; I wanted to share a song that I have listened to several times over the past few weeks. In fact, it was one of the songs played during communion on Easter Sunday at our church. For me, it is very emotional and convicting. How often do we think about the things that we do which caused the need for a Savior? How often do we reflect on what Jesus actually went through before and on the cross… for us?

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

Thankfully, the story does not end at the cross! But, there are plenty of times that I need to be reminded that I needed and still need a Savior.

“On My Cross” by: FFH

[The following link is a more graphic video with scenes taken from the movie “The Passion”]

 

 

How wide is Your love

That You would stretch Your arms

And go around the world

And why for me would a Savior’s cry be heard

 

I don’t know

Why You went where I was meant to go

I don’t know

Why You love me so

 

Those were my nails

That was my crown

That pierced Your hands and Your brow

Those were my thorns

Those were my scorns

Those were my tears that fell down

And just as You said it would be

You did it all for me

After You counted the cost

You took my shame, my blame

On my cross

 

How deep is Your grace

That you could see my need

And chose to take my place

And then for me, these words I’d hear You say

 

Father no

Forgive them for they know not what they do

I will go

Because I love them so

 

 

My Redeemer Lives!

HAPPY (belated) EASTER Everyone! Yesterday was a completely full and busy day; so I went to bed early instead of staying up to write. I hope that you all had a wonderful holy weekend! Since I shared with you the service that we had on Good Friday; I thought that today I would share Sunday’s service with you as well.

On Friday we left the darkened sanctuary with black fabric, the wooden cross, and burned out candle displayed in front of the tomb on the platform…

Sunday morning; the set up was pretty much the same (although there was sunlight coming in through the windows). The service started with someone (same guy from Friday) singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord”; then Pastor Brian greeted the congregation. The worship team (which I am apart of) along with the congregation sang a hymn melody of “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” and “Crown Him”. While we sang; two of our teens came to the platform dressed in white. They laid the cross on its side in front of the candle, covered the black cloth with a white cloth, and placed several flowers on the tomb display. Finally, as we were finishing our songs, the teens simultaneously lit the candle and turned on a light inside of the tomb.

Pastor Brian then did what we call a “Children’s Chat.” All of the kids went to the platform and Pastor Brian and a man dressed as Jesus had a brief conversation about how Jesus is now alive!

After the children went back to their seats; the worship team & congregation sang “He Reigns”. Pastor Brian preached a short but powerful sermon. Following the sermon; I gave a very short testimony about how God is working in my life (I was asked ahead of time if I would do this and even though I practiced; I still teared up). Someone else gave their testimony also. Then the people who will be going to the Philippines on a short term mission trip went up to the altar so that the congregation could pray for them (they are going over spring break next week).

Finally we recited the “Apostle’s Creed”* as a congregation then sang “My Savior My God” to close the service.

Throughout the service Matthew 28 was read as well. I have included it here in story form as told by The Message Bible (in the service it was read in a different version).

Matthew 28

Risen from the Dead

1-4 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

5-6The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

7“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

8-10The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

11-15Meanwhile, the guards had scattered, but a few of them went into the city and told the high priests everything that had happened. They called a meeting of the religious leaders and came up with a plan: They took a large sum of money and gave it to the soldiers, bribing them to say, “His disciples came in the night and stole the body while we were sleeping.” They assured them, “If the governor hears about your sleeping on duty, we will make sure you don’t get blamed.” The soldiers took the bribe and did as they were told. That story, cooked up in the Jewish High Council, is still going around.

16-17Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

18-20Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

***THE MESSAGE BIBLE***

(The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather “a reading Bible.”)

*****

*The Apostle’s Creed states:

“I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

The third day he rose again from the dead:

He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

I believe in the Holy Ghost:

I believe in the universal** church: the communion of saints:

The forgiveness of sins:

The resurrection of the body:

And the life everlasting. Amen.”

**(The traditional Apostle’s Creed says “holy catholic church”)