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Before you practice Lent

The question comes up at this time of year, “Should I practice Lent?” Since it has never been my practice, I did some reading on the subject.

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. It is a period of 40 days before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 10) and ending on Easter Sunday (March 27).

Before entering into such a practice, let me encourage you to do your own research. Here are a collection of articles on the subject.

Positive reasons to observe Lent

“Lent–Why bother? Three authors weigh the merits of observing Lent”

“Why all Christians should observe Lent” by Ann Swindell

Negative reasons to avoid Lent

“Why I don’t practice Lent” by Kristi Stoughton (Kristi spoke at our women’s retreat this past year)

“Lent and why I don’t” by Pastor Mike Fabarez

“Protestants don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, or Lent. We are Protestant for a reason” by Timothy J. Hammons

Balanced perspective

“Should you and your family observe Lent?” by Micah Fries

“40 things to give up for Lent–The list” by Phil Ressler. The author lists things to give up not just for Lent, but for the rest of your life.

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From a personal standpoint, I do not practice Lent, nor do I encourage the practice. Rather than a 40 day spiritual pilgrimage that begins with excess, Mardi Gras, and ends with celebration, Scripture indicates that sacrifice and self-denial are to be the theme and pattern of our lives every day. It is part of what it means to be a Christ follower. As Jesus explains in Mark 8:34,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

While it is commendable to devote 40 days to knowing God better, isn’t that what we are called to do each and every day of our lives?

Colossians 1:9–10 – And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Culture, Spiritual disciplines

 
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Saturate your mind with God’s Word

Challies_Feb7-13-03

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Quotes, Scripture, Tim Challies

 

“Official” Heresy

Our church staff gave me a stamp for my birthday.

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Now I can practice judgmental legalism with authority. :) It’s what every theologian needs!

Thanks, guys.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Fun, Photos

 
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A dad’s job

The job of a dad

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Men, Quotes

 

Embracing Change, part 3

“Great things never came from comfort zones.” Barry Sanders

@BarrySanders

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Personal growth, Quotes

 

The danger of cyncism

“Cynicism is corrosive to my eyesight. It makes it difficult for me to see the true, the good and the beautiful when it is right in front of me.”

Greg Ganssle

Interested, read Professor Ganssle’s article, “Cynicism and Affirmation,” on The Good Book Blog.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Biola University, Culture, Quotes

 

Jesus Will Return in Triumph

The Zika virus. Who will be our next President? ISIS. Who will win in the standoff with the Oregon occupiers? Plight of Syrian refugees. Economic uncertainty and the stock market roller coaster.

A smattering of today’s headlines fills a person with fear. We want to duck under the covers.

The message of Mark 13 is that there is hope for the future. Jesus will return in glory and justice to condemn evil, end suffering, and gather his own to himself.

The events of the chapter occur midway between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion. The teaching is prompted by the disciples’ comments regarding the beauty of the temple (1) and Jesus’ remark that the temple would soon be destroyed (2). The disciples respond by asking for details about when and what to look for (3-4).

Jesus’ response to their question is both pastoral and prophetic. He weaves together the near event, the destruction of Jerusalem (2) with the far event, the return of the Son of Man in power and glory (26). Rather than helping his disciples set dates, however, he encourages them to stand firm. After warning them not to be distracted by false saviors and false signs (5-8) and not to be discouraged by persecution (9-13), he addresses their second question of what signs to look for (14-27). He tells them to watch for the abomination of desolation (14-23) and the return of the Son of Man (24-27).

Jesus explains that he, the Son of Man, will return in triumph (24-27). Jesus introduces this new topic with the word, “but” (24a). It introduces a sharp contrast between the false messiah who will perform miraculous signs and the dramatic coming of the true Messiah. It also indicates that this event is different from the destruction of the temple.

Jesus’ return will be accompanied by a variety of cosmic disorders (24b-25). The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall. It will appear as if there is an earthquake in heaven. The Old Testament prophets described these events (Isaiah 34:2, 4; Ezekiel 23:7-8; Isaiah 13:10, 13) as part of God’s judgment on the nations. It appears that the heavens will reflect what is transpiring on earth.

Jesus’ return will be visible (26). Jesus will return personally, visibly, and bodily as the glorified Son of Man (Daniel 7:13). A generation ago people questioned how every eye could watch Jesus return (Revelation 1:7). When you consider that 114 million people in the USA watched Super Bowl XLIX and 180 million people in 200 territories watched the 2015 UEFA Championship, it’s not hard to imagine how CNN, FOX NEWS, and others will broadcast his return live.

Jesus will send angelic messengers to gather the elect from the ends of the earth (27). Jesus will gather his people together so they might share in this time of triumph.

Jesus’ preview of the future ought not lure us to calculate when Christ will return, nor to fear what will happen. Rather, it should encourage us that he will come to claim his own. His coming is his promise, and the gathering of believers to him is our hope.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 7, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

 
 
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