Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Meaning Behind Mardi Gras, Lent and Fasting

Photo Credit: bhsher
An important season in the Christian calender is upon us but many of us might not realize it. You've probably heard of the terms Lent and Mardi Gras but may not be familiar with their origins or what they truly mean.

Lent is a forty day season of focused prayer, repentance and fasting that takes place each year before Easter, the Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These forty days represent the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness immediately preceding the start of His public ministry. Christians around the world have celebrated this season for a number of centuries and many continue to do so to this day.

For those of us in the West, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. On Ash Wednesday, worshipers -- most commonly, Catholics -- have ashes rubbed on their forehead in the shape of a cross. This is to represent "repentance" -- or the turning from self to God -- during the Lenten season. During the time of Lent, Christians are expected to fast. It could be fasting from food completely or just meat or, in recent years, some have chosen other items like candy, caffeine or even forms of technology, like television or the Internet. (Technically, Lent lasts more than 40 days since Sundays were originally a day when one could indulge in whatever was being denied since it is the Lord's Day, a day of celebration.)

The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday or "Shrove" Tuesday (or in the French language, Mardi Gras). Carnivale (which means "away with meat") is an extended festival before Lent that is commonly found in Roman Catholic societies. These are times of celebration and feasting before the entrance into the fasting period. For 2020 the Lenten season began this week with Fat Tuesday taking place on February 25th and Ash Wednesday falling the following day, February 26th. Palm Sunday is April 5th and Easter Sunday falls on April 12th.

For those of us that are Protestant Christians, the observance of Ash Wednesday and Lent is usually dismissed since many regard those as Catholic holy days. But I think that all Christians can appropriately recognize this season. For a number of years, I have participated in the Lenten season and have found it beneficial. It can be a time of dedicated Bible study, prayer, some sort of fasting and repentance and can be great preparation in leading up to the remembrance of the most significant event in world history, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Whatever you might choose to do or not do during this season, I trust that your focus will be on the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. Entering into a time of self-denial and focus on Jesus can help in leading us to a place of maturity where we are more committed to Him throughout the year, whether it is a designated holiday or not. May God bless you richly as we anticipate the celebration of His victory over sin and death.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Where Lasting Peace Can Be Found

Photo Credit: kavehfa
From New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp:

"Biblical literacy does not dispel all confusion and mystery from your life because while God reveals his will for you in the Bible, he does not reveal all the things he will do in your life for your good and his glory. God surprises you.

So you ask, “Where is peace to be found?” This question is answered clearly and powerfully in Isaiah 26:

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (vv. 3-4)

This passage tells us where peace is found. It is never found in trying to figure out the secret will of God. It’s not to be found in personal planning or attempts to control the circumstances and people in your life. Peace is found in trusting the person who controls all the things that you don’t understand and who knows no mystery because he has planned it all. 

How do you experience this remarkable peace—the kind of peace that doesn’t fade away when disappointments come, when people are difficult, or when circumstances are hard? You experience it by keeping your mind stayed on the Lord. The more you meditate on his glory, his power, his wisdom, his grace, his faithfulness, his righteousness, his patience, his zeal to redeem, and his commitment to his eternal promises to you, the more you can deal with mystery in your life. 

Why? Because you know the One behind the mystery is gloriously good, worthy not only of your trust but also the worship of your heart. It really is true that peace in times of trouble is not found in figuring out your life, but in worship of the One who has everything figured out already."

(h/t to Randy Alcorn)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

An Allegiance Greater than Patriotism or Family

Photo Credit:
U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan
Taken from The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell D. Moore:
"Natural allegiances are strong, and strong for reasons designed by God. The pull of a fallen universe is to make those natural allegiances even stronger, into religions. There’s a parallel here with patriotism, since the word patriotism comes from the root of the word for father. It is natural to love one’s homeland. Patriotism is a good recognition of gratitude to God and to others for the blessings one has inherited as part of a country. Patriotism or nationalism when made ultimate, though, is ugly, violent, and even satanic. 
Those who are the best citizens of any earthly country are those who recognize that their citizenship in that country is not ultimate. There is a higher allegiance over the state. The problem with putting the nation—any nation—first, over the kingdom of God, is not just that such is idolatrous (the most important problem) but also that it is not, in fact, patriotic. Any state or tribe or village must have principles that transcend the body politic, and hold it accountable for its own ideals and aspirations. Where that is lost, one loses patriotism and sees it replaced with a cult. 
The problem with putting family first, over the kingdom of God, is that we, first of all, replace a living God with the worship of ourselves, and, second, we lose the ability to be the kind of people who can love our families. The same is true with family. Love for family is not only good but also biblically mandated. When love of family becomes ultimate, though, it becomes, at best, Darwinist and atheistic."
Moore, Russell D.. The Storm-Tossed Family (Kindle Locations 1079-1091). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.