Perhaps you find yourself in the company of many other Christians who are currently observing Lent. For those out of the loop, Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter. It began on Ash Wednesday (Feb 18) and ends on Maundy Thursday (April 2), the Thursday before Easter.
The Biblical significance of 40 can be traced all the way back to the Great Flood, Moses' 40 days on the mountain with God or the Israelites' 40-year journey in the desert. The most common association, however, is that of Jesus Christ. In preparation for his public ministry, Jesus intensified his prayer and fasted for 40 days in the desert wilderness after which he was tempted by Satan.
During Lent, many Christians choose to follow Jesus' example in practicing the discipline of spiritual fasting. This is usually done by giving up a personal luxury of some kind. For some it's a type of food, for others it's a bad habit. Some of the things I know others have given up this year include fast food, media and even facebook. This Lenten season, I've chosen to give up chocolate.
The Bible tells us that Satan approached Jesus when He was at His weakest. Jesus, who had spent His desert time in self-denial, seeking the will of God, was able to resist Satan's attempts. That's what fasting is all about- denying the pleasures of the flesh so we can redirect our focus toward God. As we draw closer to God, He renews our strength and gives us spiritual clarity-- both helpful when Satan chooses to launch a spiritual attack.
Right now, you or your entire family feel you are under the enemy's attack right now. If you are currently going through a desert time, things can often seem dark and hopeless. Please know that it's never too late to begin following Jesus' example of self-denial. Be intentional about spending time with God. Go to Him in prayer. Seek His word. Ask for His strength and His clarity. God is there to help and so is your church family. You don't need to spend your desert time alone.
I wrote the following monologue as I was thinking about all the promises that are often made but seldom kept. Broken promises can leave us feeling frustrated, disappointed and angry, This Holiday season, I pray we can all take some time to remember the fact that we serve a mighty God who ALWAYS keeps His promises.
We celebrate Christmas because the birth of Jesus marks the fulfillment of God's greatest promise-- a Savior come to deliver us from our sins and reconcile us to God with the gift eternal life. And that is something truly worth celebrating.
In college I was more than an avid rock climber. In fact, my entire spring semester class schedule was built around my love of climbing. It was like playing a giant game of Tetris trying to squeeze all of my classes and labs into the beginning half of the week leaving me with four days off every weekend to climb but somehow I succeeded.
On one climbing trip to the Lake Chelan area, my climbing partner and I were installing a new climbing route when the unexpected happened. From some 35 feet in the air, off the face of a rock wall deep in the wilderness of the Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest-- I fell. Luckily, I landed on my feet and somehow managed to not break any bones. I had severe rope burn on my hand, under arm and neck. My back had hit the rock face on the way down leaving a fairly deep scrape. I was in shock. I was bleeding. I was hurt. But, I was also alive.
I have a lot to be thankful for. We all do. If your family is anything like mine, however, you're preparing to go from a busy Fall into an even busier Holiday season. In the hustle and bustle of all the gift-buying, gift-giving, gift-returning and re-gifting, between all of the meals that we'll be sitting down to enjoy, it's easy to lose touch with the reason for all of this commotion.
In Psalm 9:1 the Psalmist boldly proclaims "I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."
I know this isn't always easy to do. Especially during times when it feels we don't have anything to be thankful for. In these times we have a tendency to focus on the negative. Instead of thanksgiving, our words turn into grumbling, complaining and bitterness. Sometimes the very things we choose to complain about are the things we should be thankful for.
That climbing fall left a scar on my back-- an ugly, jagged reminder of a mental mistake that I once made. I used to wish that it would disappear. I was self-conscious about the way it looked and hated it. But today, I am thankful for that scar. You see, if my back hadn't hit the rock, pushing me away from the wall, my head surely would have. If my head would have hit that rock wall, I might not have been here to tell you this story.
Like the Psalmist, I too will choose to proclaim, "I thank you, God, with all my heart, that you allowed my back to take the collision that day, so my head wouldn't have to. You, great Lord, have saved my life... I thank you, God, with all my heart, that You allowed Your Son to take the punishment that day, so I wouldn't have to. You, great Lord, have saved my life, indeed!"
Last year about this time, several student leaders shaved their facial hair into exotic looking mustaches. When I asked about it, I was informed that Cinco de Mustache was a fun, long-standing tradition at Mountain View Student Ministries. "Cool," I thought, "I'll have to participate next year so I don't feel so left out."
Fast forward one year.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at church Sunday morning only to find that no other members of Student Ministries decided to participate this year!
The thing about mustaches is when everybody else is wearing one, they're cool. When you're the only one... not so much. Anyway, I hope you're all enjoying a happy and safe Cinco de Mustache!
Today I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I guess I could say, "I am a diabetic." I could. But I refuse.
There are many true statements I could make to define myself-- I am a Christian. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a brother. I am an uncle. I am a friend. I am a Pastor. I am African-American. I am Korean. I am an American. All of these labels are a part of me. They help define who I am. I wear them proudly.
The same does not go for Diabetes. I will not wear it's label nor let it define me. It is a disease. It's something I'll have to deal with. A momentary setback.
With medication, healthy diet and exercise along with the love, encouragement, prayers and support of my friends and family, I am going to kick Diabetes' butt!
So, Diabetes, get ready. You've got a fight coming the likes of which you've never seen. We've got this. If you see me shaking, it won't be because I'm afraid but probably be from low blood sugar. Which is easily fixed. If you've got "dukes", Diabetes, put 'em up 'cause here we come!
More than conquerors
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31–39 (NIV84)
Rob Brower is the Student Minister at Mountain View Church in Tumwater, WA where he lives with his wife and three kids.