Saints

Saint” seems to be the apostle Paul’s favorite name for Christians. He used it 39 times to describe faithful followers of Jesus:

  • Romans 1:7  To all who are in Roman, loved by God, called as saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
  • Romans 8:27  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
  • Romans 12:13  Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 
  • Romans 15:25  Right now I am traveling to Jerusalem to serve the saints
  • Romans 15:26  because Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem
  • Romans 15:31  Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints
  • Romans 16:2  So you should welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may require your help.
  • Romans 16:15  Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
  • 1 Corinthians 6:1  If any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints
  • 1 Corinthians 6:2  Or don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the trivial cases? 
  • 1 Corinthians 14:3  since God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints
  • 1 Corinthians 16:1  Now about the collection for the saints: Do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. 
  • 1 Corinthians 16: 5  Brothers and sisters, you know the household of Stephanas: They are the firstfruits of Achaia and have devoted themselves to serving the saints
  • 2 Corinthians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother: To the church of God at Corinth, with all the saints who are throughout Achaia. 
  • 2 Corinthians 8:4  they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints
  • 2 Corinthians 9:1  Now concerning the ministry to the saints, it is unnecessary for me to write to you. 
  • 2 Corinthians 9:12  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 
  • 2 Corinthians 13:12  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send you greetings. 
  • Ephesians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus. 
  • Ephesians 1:15  This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints
  • Ephesians 1:18  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints 
  • Ephesians 2:19  So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 
  • Ephesians 3:8  This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, 
  • Ephesians 3:18  That you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 
  • Ephesians 4:12  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 
  • Ephesians 5:3  But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints
  • Ephesians 6:18  Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints
  • Philippians 1:1  Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. 
  • Philippians 4:21  Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you greetings. 
  • Philippians 4:22  All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. 
  • Colossians 1:2  To the saints in Christ at Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters. Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 
  • Colossians 1:4  for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints
  • Colossians 1:12  giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 
  • Colossians 1:26  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:13  May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen. 
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:10  on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed. 
  • 1 Timothy 5:10 that is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work. 
  • Philemon 5  because I hear of your love for all the saints and the faith that you have in the Lord Jesus. 
  • Philimon 7  For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

The name, “saints” is also used prominently for faithful witnesses of Christ in the book of Revelation.

  • Revelation 5:8  When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
  • Revelation 8:3  Another angel, with a golden incense burner, came and stood at the altar. He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saintson the golden altar in front of the throne.
  • Revelation 8:4  The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand.
  • Revelation 11:18  The nations were angry, but your wrath has come. The time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.
  • Revelation 13:7  And it was permitted to wage war against the saintsand to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.
  • Revelation 13:10  If anyone is to be taken captive, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. This calls for endurance and faithfulness from the saints.
  • Revelation 14:12  This calls for endurance from the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”
  • Revelation 16:6  Because they poured out the blood of the saintsand the prophets, you have given them blood to drink; they deserve it!
  • Revelation 17:6  Then I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saintsand with the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.
  • Revelation 18:20  Rejoice over her, heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets, because God has pronounced on her the judgment she passed on you!
  • Revelation 18:24  In her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all those slaughtered on the earth.
  • Revelation 19:8  She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.
  • Revelation 20:9  They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city.

So what, or more importantly, WHO, is a saint? If you have trusted Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, as your death substitute on the cross and believe that He rose from the dead – YOU are a SAINT. All believers in Christ are saints.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Chronicles

History Books

By the time we get to the Old Testament Chronicles (reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation), we’re tired of history.

Done.

After all, the Chronicles seems to repeat what we’ve just read in Samuel and Kings. Making it more difficult, it seems, is the really slow beginning of nine chapters of genealogies. Name after name. Son after son (with an occasional daughter, wife, or mother thrown in). Familiar narratives we’ve heard before.

BORING.

Why not just skip past Chronicles?

Here’s why. The Chronicles summarize Jewish Scripture, from Adam to the Exile, telling stories about the past that provide hope for the future. There are character studies not only of David, but of obedient kings of Judah who experienced success and blessing. There are, also, stories of unfaithful leaders who faced failure and hardship. All of these stories are not just part of the past, they are for our present and future. The Chronicles are recorded so that we’ll walk with God by faith with faithfulness. If we don’t learn from others in the books of history, we are bound to repeat their failures in our own story.

Like the God’s people of old, we’re living in an era where truth has become relative. God’s Word considered antiquated. Progressive thought valued more than biblical morality. Individual feelings trump personal faith. God’s promises have been forgotten, so human philosophy and empty deceit has taken many, if not the masses, captive. Our culture worships the idols of personal happiness, individualism, materialism, sexual freedom. Meanwhile, issues of heartless racism and systemic injustice rule just as much today as back in the day. It’s an age of mass confusion, fake tolerance, stolen identity, personal choice, disregard for human life, and disheartened fate. Like the unfaithful leaders of Judah (1 Chronicles 9:1, 10:13, 12:14, 2 Chronicles 28:22-25; 33:7-9), our world has, “multiplied their unfaithful deeds, imitating all the detestable practices of the nations”(2 Chronicle 36:14).

If we don’t learn from others in the books of history, we are bound to repeat their failures in our own story.

The Chronicles, however, end on a note of encouragement from, of all people, King Cyrus of Persia. After the 70 years of exile in Babylon were completed, he directs the people of God to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of God. The last sentence (2 Chronicles 36:23) is an incomplete one, “Whomever among you of His people may go up, and may the LORD his God be with him…”

It’s a story in search of an ending with the hope of a new (better) David, a new (better) priesthood, and a new (better) temple. The book of Hebrews points us to Jesus who is not only better – He’s the best!

The end of the story of our lives has not been written, yet. God is still with us. There is still hope for the faithful followers of Jesus. Even though it’s been almost 2,000 years, we’re still waiting for the return of our Messiah. Like the returning exiles to Jerusalem longing for a new temple, we anticipate the day when“God’s dwelling is with men and He will live with them”(Revelation 21:3). Do not be afraid or discouraged. Instead, be faithful in a world of unfaithfulness because the LORD our God is faithful.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for His faithful love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 7:3; 2 Chronicles 20:21).

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Resurrection (Easter) Sunday

When considering something so critical and potentially life changing, like the resurrection of Jesus, the facts need to be solid, witnesses have to be credible, evidence must be persuasive, corroboration is always crucial, and alibis have to be dismantled. But ultimately, facts about Jesus don’t save us, it’s faith in who He is that matters.

Let’s consider three things: Is the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection fake news, foolish thinking, or based on factual evidence?

Is the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection fake news? How do we evaluate the credibility of the New Testament accounts of Jesus and His miracles, especially the miracle of His resurrection? Michael Shermer, editor of “Skeptic” Magazine says miracles are a “reporting problem.” People made up stories, experienced hallucinations, spread myths, or were biased.

It’s seems that if fake news was spread, however, it was falsified, not by Jesus’ disciples, but by His enemies.

Matthew 28:11–15 As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were sleeping.’ If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” They took the money and did as they were instructed, and this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day.

Out of bias and envy they spread “fake news” and rejected the miracle of the resurrection – they rejected Jesus.

Is belief in His crucifixion and resurrection foolish thinking?There is nothing foolish about the resurrection if you consider both empirical evidence and personal experience. The NT writers acknowledged that if Christ wasn’t raised, Christians are fools.

1 Corinthians 15:12–14 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 1:22–25 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

It seems to me that purely scientific, humanistic explanations for creation and life take more faith than logic and are foolish. Big bang theories, evolution, and the like deny the existence of a Creator who works miracles.

So what is the factual evidence that Jesus lived, died, and rose again? We don’t question that a Julius Caesar lived and died because of theempirical evidence that confirms he existed. If we use the same thought and evaluation process, there is factual evidence that is more than enough to convince us that Jesus lived, died, and rose again.

The empty tomb reported by neutral observers (Matt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15)

Matthew 27:62–66 The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” They went and secured the tomb by setting a seal on the stone and placing the guard.

The eyewitness accounts of credible, skeptical people (Luke 24:9-12; John 20:24-29). As we read through the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection, we quickly see the story of Jesus from different perspectives, emphasizing different things. There is enough discrepancy to show that there was no collusion, but enough substantial agreement to show that they were all independent narrators of the same great experience. They were different eyewitnesses just reporting what they saw and unintentionally included different supporting details of the same event.

Luke 24:9–12 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened.

John 20:24–29 Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But Thomas said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.” A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Perhaps no one in the first century was more skeptical than Saul of Tarsus. He was not inclined to visions or hallucinations. He had everything to gain by continuing to crush the reports and reporters of Jesus’ resurrection. He had everything to lose by changing from persecutor of Christians to preacher of Christ.

Billy Graham -“The stone at Christ’s tomb was not rolled away to let out Jesus but to let in the eyewitnesses to declare, “He is risen!”

The early corroboration of Jesus’ friends (Matt, Mark, Luke, John, Acts 2:22-24). After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the earliest report said 500 people saw Him. Then, Jesus was encountered numerous times by different groups.

There are more than a billion Muslims who don’t believe that Jesus was crucified. Many of them, based on the Qur’an, believe that God substituted Judas for Jesus on the cross. Here’s the problem, the Qur’an was written six hundred years after Jesus lived. Compare that to the first-century sources that are uniform in reporting that Jesus was dead. Not only do we have the Gospel accounts, but there are also five ancient sources outside the Bible from the first century (Josephus, Tacitus, Mara bar Serapion, Lucian, and the Talmud)

For a conspiracy to succeed, you need the smallest number of co-conspirators; holding the lie for the shortest period of time; with clear communication between them so they can make sure their stories line up.

Just weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter in Acts 2:22–24

“Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know.  Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him.  God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.

The explanation of motive by Jesus Himself (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34, 45) On three separate occasions, Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He would go to Jerusalem to be crucified and then rise from the dead. His purpose was to justify God’s wrath against sinful people, die as their death substitute, and rise from the dead to conquer death once and for all.

Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33–34 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him, and he will rise after three days.”

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The need for a final decision of faith 
Is belief in the resurrection of Jesus, fake news, foolish thinking, or factual evidence? If there is a God, then miracles like the resurrection of Jesus are not only reasonable, they should be expected. You can know all the facts, hear all the witnesses, and examine all the evidence, but each one of us must come to a decision of faith and trust. Factual evidence is not the same as faith.

John 3:16–18 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.

Belief in Jesus and his Resurrection results in personal forgiveness of sin because of His death in our place and new life because He conquered death.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives. 

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

 

Good Friday

What’s so good about someone being crucified on a cross?

After sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, it’s difficult to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked during the tyranny of the Roman Empire. In the first century, the word for cross, σταυρός (latin crux), was unmentionable in polite Roman society.

When the early disciples talked about the crucified Christ, every listener from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19) knew that Jesus had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for the most hardened criminals, incorrigible slaves, and egregious rebels against the Roman state. Cicero (Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16) decries the crucifixion of a Roman citizen, exclaiming, “The very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.”

The story behind Jesus’ death on the cross discloses that He was rejected by the very people He came to save (Matthew 26:1-5), was deserted by His own friends (Matthew 26:47-4869-75), was strung up by the proper authorities (Matthew 27:22-26), and, apparently, was powerless to save His own skin (Matthew 27:38-44).

Following Christ’s resurrection, Peter served as faithful follower of the Lord proclaiming,

“You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen.” Acts 10:37–40

The beginning of Christianity was cradled in what looks like disastrous defeat, and the unspeakable stigma of the cross exposed “Christians” to woeful contempt.  In fact, the word, “Christian” is found only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16) and when it is used, it’s a label formed by people who were not followers of Jesus to designate those who were. It’s a manufactured term with a derogatory slant, meant to be a dig.

Similar to Peter, Paul did not refer to Jesus’ death on the cross with embarrassment or skip over the awkward facts:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Galatians 3:13)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

The cross of Jesus was central to Paul’s preaching because the resurrection disclosed Christ’s suffering and death as the way of life for His believing followers in the world. Paul taught the early church that followers of the crucified Lord must also share the suffering of the cross:

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

As followers of Jesus today, we want to share in the celebration of the cross, we would just rather avoid it’s suffering and shame. The message of the cross, however, is about trusting God’s will in submission and sacrifice (Matthew 27:36-46) rather than fighting for control or positioning for comfort. The message of the cross is an antidote to our self-glorification and self-satisfaction. The message of the cross is hope for the tired and weary, rest for the rejected refugee, grace for the humbled, and mercy for the broken sinner.

The Gospel of Christ crucified transforms the cross from a symbol of Roman terror and political domination into a symbol of God’s love and power. The cross shows that the power of God’s love is greater than human love of power. The cross reveals the love of God at its best and the sin of man at its worst. Isaac Watts said it well, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

The death of Jesus on a cross on that Friday long ago was good for us.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. Most scholars believe that the word, “maundy,” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means, “command.” It was on the Thursday of Christ’s final week before His crucifixion on, what we call, “Good Friday,” that He gave this command to His disciples while they were sharing the Passover meal: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

It was also on Maundy Thursday that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane so fervently that his sweat became “like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus’ prayer reveals His complete dependence on the Father’s will. Jesus asked for a removal of the cup, the symbol of His sufferings because of God’s judgment on sin, but was willing to be obedient in love – even to the point of death.

In fact, Jesus repeated His command, “Love one another as I have loved you,” and added, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It’s one thing to sacrifice everything for friends, the people you like and naturally love – it’s quite another to love someone who has rejected, betrayed, denied, and sinned against you. Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus did.

Rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation (Romans 5:7-11).

The only way we can live out Christ’s command to love others is by accepting His gift of love by faith and loving others by the power of His Spirit within us because we are so completely loved by Him.

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another (1 John 4:7-11)

It’s Maundy Thursday that prepares our hearts for Good Friday. And Sunday’s comin’…

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

 

Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent

mardi-grasGrowing up in a non-denominational, evangelical tradition of worship, I was never particularly encouraged to participate in a liturgical event like Lent. Historically, after the Reformation, many Protestant churches abandoned the observance of Lent and other liturgical practices in distancing themselves from abuses in the Catholic church. Personally, the obscene excesses of Mardi Gras, the licentiousness of Fat Tuesday, and the legalistic penance I’ve observed on Ash Wednesday caused me to distance myself from Lent, too.

Rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, however, maybe we should consider the spiritual and relational benefits of preparing our hearts to remember the crucifixion of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection. Rather than giving up on Lent, it’s time we look to Jesus at Easter the same way we anticipate His Advent at Christmas.

journeyLent is a forty day journey of preparation —a season of prayer (talking and listening to God), fasting (focusing on God) and repentance (turning toward God and His purposes). It’s a time for reflecting on our shared experience of the suffering, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very center of our faith.

Like the Apostle Paul, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Philippians 3:10

Lent could be, if observed in the context of our relationship with God by grace, a time of self-examination that leads us to the end of our self-sufficiency and to full dependence on Jesus. The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes Lent as,

“The English word (stemming from an Anglo-Saxon word for ‘spring’ and related to the English word ‘lengthen’) that refers to the penitential period preceding Easter. Early Christians felt that the magnitude of the Easter celebration called for special preparation. As early as the second century, many Christians observed several days of fasting as part of that preparation.”

The traditional 40 day calendar for Lent goes from Ash Wednesday (March 6) to Easter (April 21), with exceptions for Sundays (always a feast day).  Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, as a sign of mourning over sin, and repentance of turning to God in faith.

40daysForty is a significant number in the Bible—it signals a time of waiting and preparation. In Genesis, Moses shows us Noah and his family in the ark, enduring the rains for 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:17). Moses, himself, spends another 40 days and nights on the top of a mountain, neither eating nor drinking as he experiences the presence of God (Exodus 34:28). In Numbers 14, Moses shows that the Lord God, fed up with the complaining and rebellion of the Israelites, condemned them to 40 years of wandering in the desert based on the 40 days they scouted the land of Canaan. We discover from Deuteronomy 8:2 that the purpose for the Israelites’ 40 year journey was to humble them and test them so they would realize what was in their hearts and their need for God’s presence and power.

Mirroring the Old Testament, the gospel writers of the New Testament reveal Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, and being tempted (tested) by Satan: “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels began to serve Him” (Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

reflections on Christ - crucifixionFollowing this pattern, followers of Jesus throughout the centuries have marked the 40 days leading up to His death and resurrection by a similar period of fasting  and testing known as Lent. May this season of Lent be one of repentance, hope, and joy in the resurrection of Christ—one that will last beyond these 40 days.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Marcescence

Marcescence.

You know what that is, right?

Yea, neither did I when I first saw the word, although I have seen it in action.

Marcescence is the retention of dead plant organs that normally are shed. It’s the ‘holding-on’ of dead leaves through the winter months. We see it today in our shumard red oaks. A “marcescent” leaf  is one that has withered but not fallen (Latin marcescere, to wither, languish).  Still connected to a branch, a marcescent leaf appears to be alive, but inside, it’s no different than other leaves on the ground.

Figuratively, a marcescent person is someone who is withering away; someone who has the appearance of life, but isn’t growing. We live in a world of people who are languishing, discouraged, spiritually dead. And there’s nothing they can do to change it on their own. Like a marcescent leaf, the only thing that will change their situation is new life from the tree.

As the weather warms up with the coming of spring, marcescent leaves still hanging on to their branches will soon be pushed off as new leaves begin to grow. The dead and languishing will be replaced with those alive and flourishing.

In the same way,  it’s only the life of Jesus Christ that can regenerate new life within us.

“If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Marcescence is replaced with the presence of Jesus Christ by faith and the power of His Spirit within us to regenerate new life.

As you see the remaining marcescent leaves still hanging on to trees today get pushed out in the next couple weeks, give thanks to God for new life that comes each spring. Give thanks to Jesus for the new life we have in Him. “The old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.