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Mar2WedMarch 2, 2022
Our Lenten theme this year is “A Call To.” On Sunday I talked about what this journey would involve. Each Sunday we will focus on a different call and then through the week that call will be expanded. The first call was a call to turn away from wicked ways. Over the years Lent has become a ritual. Today (Ash Wednesday) you may see people with ash on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. During this ritual a priest or minister will say "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Alternatively, the priest or minister may speak the words, "Repent and believe in the Gospel. Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.” I myself do not participate in this ash ritual but I do use these next forty-six days to talk about what was just said. Notice how simple those words are but at the same time how deep they are. It doesn’t say repent and believe what your church is saying you are to believe but believe the gospel. Those words repent and believe the Gospel and the grief we should have before God is huge and will be the focus of our calling during this journey.
Lent is far more than the pancakes many will have had yesterday and far more than the ashes or giving up food or other things like screen time and definitely more than chocolate, the one most people usually associate with Lent. How much chocolate are people actually eating in the first place is my thought? It must be a lot because Easter has transitioned from the Gospel, Jesus resurrecting from the dead, to the Easter bunny handing out chocolates. Jesus came to save the world, yet the world is focused on chocolate instead! The problem with these calendar events is that they become rituals and actually bring about very little change. The ritual itself actually promotes a continuation in the tradition instead of repenting and turning to the true gospel. If someone truly did repent and believe the gospel, they would come to realize that they would have to turn away from the tradition that asked them the question. If people who actually participated in Lent would seriously seek God and turn from their wicked ways, there really would be amazing changes in the church. Sadly, most people do not know they have to change. Yes, they may fast and even approach this Lenten season with a penitent heart but still miss what it truly means to repent.
Jesus makes it clear that we must obey and follow Him wholeheartedly. Just as Jesus died, we too must die to our self and our ways. Following Jesus is not just about going to church but living for Him every day. You can’t say you follow Jesus and don’t do what He says, and you definitely cannot follow other gospels. This is what we are called to do. Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” He also said Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” By saying this Jesus redefines family. Matthew 12:46 “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you. 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Most people won’t put God before their family; it is usually family first. They don’t because they do not believe God would ask such a thing. As you just read, He does want you to put Him above everything else, but the amazing part is He doesn’t stop there. If you obey Him, He has promised to bless you. Peter said Mark 10:28 “We have left everything to follow you! 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” This is the same as when God said Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.” People respond, you can’t be serious God; you can’t expect me to give You my best. Malachi 1:13 “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.We saw this with Job. Even though he lost everything, he did not curse God and in the end, God blessed him. Job 42:10 “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a] and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” James 5:11 “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
As we begin this journey, getting right with God will make a difference as to where your eternity is spent. Take this time seriously and test the spirits. Look into what I am writing, the church you attend, the beliefs you call your own. Don’t be afraid to look intently into God’s word. Most people read their bibles through a denominational lens or doctrinal / theological positions. If you do that there are a lot of verses that have been deleted and distorted. Look into what man or woman introduced a new set of beliefs or expanded on beliefs from a previous generation. Jesus is the only way, truth and life so it is important to believe and do as he said. We ask God Psalm 79:8 “Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. 9 Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. 10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”