We are in the season of Lent..the forty day period before Easter. This year it began on March 9th. I have never been one to pay attention to these seasons..until they are actually happening. So I missed the date Lent started and suddenly realized that it was in progress. I heard people mention that they were giving up things for this period..TV..sugar..alcohol..dessert..etc. Suddenly it seemed important to find something to do to celebrate the season and to recognize it as the time when we are approaching Easter..a very important moment for us as believers.
What did God want from me? I could tell that there was something I needed to give up..suddenly I knew. Worry and anxiety. That was it! Two things that I can live without and would love to give up forever. Worry is the enemy of faith. Anxiety comes in and drives us away from God. I decided to turn away from them during this season..to remember that God was with me whenever the temptation appeared. It is an interesting challenge to give yourself.
Everyday..there is a situation that demands attention and the temptation to worry appears. Suddenly I remember.. I am not doing that right now..I gave this up for the Lord. It feels great when that happens..God moves closer and my faith grows stronger. When we worry we cannot hear His voice..our own thoughts are all-consuming. When we are anxious..He seems to disappear as we turn things over in our minds wondering what will happen.
So..let’s agree to draw near to Him this season in anticipation. To turn away from worry..to decide to believe and trust that He sees..He knows..He will do what He has promised. That great day in history is approaching..the moment when He entered history and did everything for us. Let’s decide to do something for Him..
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
One of my favorite scriptures refers to us being the sweet fragrance of Christ to those around us. We are a wonderful aroma that reminds people of Him. I remember studying that scripture and teaching on it in seminary. I chose it for my Bible teaching class..that gave me a whole semester to soak in it. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth..reminding them of who they are..encouraging them in the Lord.
His love for them was great and he was aware of their struggles..at the same time he was honest and direct. He did not shy away from the truth. God calls us to be the same way. He gives us wisdom to know when to speak and when to be quiet. He guides us through everyday situations supernaturally..leading us by His spirit. Our part is to listen..to wait..to speak..to remain silent..to pray..to ask..to accept..to believe. His desire is to spread the knowledge of Him everywhere and He is using us..His people.
We are not always aware of being this sweet aroma..in fact it may be hard to believe that we are. He does not let us see all the ways our lives touch the lives of those around us.. for our own protection..it keeps us humble and obedient to Him. It is important to remember that our lives matter..that He is using us..that we are making a difference even when our feelings tell us something different.
Just like the believers in the early church..we go through trials..we struggle and we make mistakes. Like them..we are His sweet fragrance in the midst of all of it!
“But thanks be to God! He made us His captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ- like fragrance rising up to God.”
Let’s start with me. My heart is heavy..reading about the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and praying for that situation..realizing how unsafe the world is..it weighs me down. Nothing can change what has happened to that woman and those that love her. It is a tragedy. This is not the first shooting that makes no sense and it won’t be the last. We live in a fallen world..a broken world. Our fragile lives can be lost so quickly and easily..we live in a state of constant insecurity as our culture moves into a more chaotic and frightening state..we all feel it.
Sounds depressing doesn’t it? I know. It all adds up to one thing..we need to be rescued..over and over. We need to be saved from all of this each and every day. We need to be comforted and encouraged. We need to be reminded that this is not all there is. We need to draw near to God and to be filled with courage and strength. We need to be thankful that we have our lives..to appreciate each new day. We need to live fully with the knowledge that God is with us.
He has us in the palm of His hand. This world may be out of control..but He knows and He sees. He cares about the condition of our heart. It matters to Him more than it matters to us. He is the rescuer, healer, and comforter. We can’t deal with all this stuff on our own..we need to run to Him and let Him hold us and reassure us. I am desperate for Him today.. how about you?
“Oh Lord, the hope of Israel, all who turn away from you will be disgraced. They will be buried in the dust of the earth, for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water. O Lord if you heal me I will truly be healed; if you save me I will truly be saved. My praises are for You alone!…You alone are my hope in the day of disaster”
Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; Praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness; Praise with a blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings; Praise him with castanets and dance, praise him with banjo and flute; Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum, praise him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah!
..with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name! The Bible is full of messages encouraging us to give thanks to our God. How easy is it to complain? I don’t know about you, but I have no trouble finding something to complain about. It becomes second nature to focus on our cirumstances..especially the challenging ones and to forget that each and every day is a gift from God. He is the giver of life.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner.. it is not too soon to prepare our hearts for this amazing day of celebration. I have always loved this holiday.. somewhere inside I knew it had great meaning. Although I was not raised in a Christian home, God seemed to be speaking to me and reminding me that He was the one we were thanking. Next week we have a new opportunity to gather with loved ones and enjoy a meal together..to proclaim the goodness of God in the land of the living. We have so much to be thankful for..this country is abundantly blessed..we can look almost anywhere else in the world and see problems that are much greater than the ones we have here.
We live in warm homes with all the things we really need. We have food and clothing and we can walk outside our homes in safety. We live in a nation with so much freedom..we have so many choices. We may not have everything we want..many of us face very difficult challenges..we may suffer in many ways..but we are blessed beyond measure. Our God is with us and will never forsake us. We have the opportunity to rejoice in this..to share it with one another..to proclaim His faithfulness.
Life here is far from perfect..that fact cannot be changed but our God is perfect. He knows us and He reveals His love for us through the things that happen to us. His desire is to remind us of the way He loves us and cares for us. We each have stories of how He has intervened for us and how He has never abandoned us..we need to share these stories and remind one another. What a great time of the year.. another chance to “enter His gates with Thanksgiving!”
” I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again–my Savior and my God!”