This Wednesday begins a season that some Christians observe as Lent. This period of time includes the 40 weekdays (and Saturdays) before Easter. Historically, Lent has been observed as a time to humble oneself and reflect on one’s life as a way of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
There are those Christians who do not observe Lent because they believe it to be only for those who are part of a high church tradition. But I believe that Lent is worthy to be observed for all who desire to enter into the way of healing and joy.
As we live out our days we carry many burdens. But the greatest of these is the burden of our own sin and guilt. Jesus was well aware of this when he said, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt.11:28).
If we do not address our ongoing failures and sins, it becomes a great weight upon us. The effect of this is that we become those we do not want to be. Our personalities can even change. Instead of being those who can approach life with peace and joy, we live as those who are always on edge and easily provoked to anger.
The great value of Lent is that it gives us a designated time to come out from the burden of our sins. It’s a time to be healed and be restored in the joy of the Lord. This comes about as we humble ourselves before God, look honestly at our failures, and repent of our sins.
God’s Word tells us that, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn.1:8,9)
A major result of the cleansing that God brings is joy. After King David’s notorious sin, he sought not only God’s forgiveness, but His joy (Ps.51:11). This joy is only possible as we know God’s healing in our hearts. And this is the kind of healing so needed in our land today.
“. . .if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron.7:14).
The words of this verse are often taken to apply to other people. But it’s not for other people – it’s for all who fear God.
During theses 40 days before Easter, bring yourself before God that He may search you and lead you in His everlasting way. As you do, you will find it to be a way of healing and joy.
Then, celebrate Easter, knowing that it is only by the power of Christ’s resurrection that you have been made new.
The best business principles are biblical principles. We talked about this at our last businessman’s lunch, and focused on these five principles in particular.
Trust. In order for business to function, there must be trust. Without it, there is no confidence in the marketplace. So,” let your yes be yes, and your no be no” (Mt.5:37).
Service. Businesses that are successful solve problems. They serve the public through the meeting of needs. So, “do not seek to be served, but serve” (Mt.20:28).
Employer/Employee Relations. A healthy business requires respect and good morale among employers and employees. To bring this about, each party must remember that he or she is accountable to our Master in heaven. So, whatever your position, “do your work as unto the Lord, rather than men” (Eph.6:7).
Hard Work. A poor economy can become an excuse for sloth. But it’s diligence that leads to advantage and prosperity. So, “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecc.9:10)
Faith. Doing business is an act of faith, and it looks to God as provider and not the State. So, “believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb.11:6)
Over the past couple of days I came across these videos having to do with the state of government education today. Viewed in succession they communicate a powerful message. I encourage you to view all three, and pass the link of this post on to others.
The first video is of John Taylor Gatto, the two-time winner of the New York City Teacher of the Year award.
The second video is of Charlotte Iserbyt, a former senior policy adviser of the U.S. Department of Education.
The third video is of E. Ray Moore from the Christian Ministry ‘Exodus Mandate.’
I have a friend who occasionally refers to a place called Schlaraffenland. (I know it’s hard to pronounce, but I have to use it to make my point.)
Schlarafenland is, as Wikipedia puts it, “an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are always immediately at hand.” It’s a place where all restraint is cast off and all social conventions are defied, yet there’s always plenty of food.
The skies rain cheeses. And if that doesn’t suit you, just stick your fork in the air and a roasted chicken will fly to it, all ready to be devoured.
My friend mentions Schlarrafenland to describe the way of thinking that afflicts America. It has become a wonderland, a land of unreality, where the virtues of productivity and self-restraint have become disconnected from the expectation of prosperity.
The land is out of money? Don’t worry about correcting any profligate ways, just borrow more money without regard to the consequences it will bring.
Interestingly, the way of life worthy of ridicule in Schlarrafenland does have a kernel of truth in it. God, after all, did promise a land of milk and honey. There’s even a time in biblical history that the sky rained manna and quail from heaven when God’s people were en route to the promised land (Num.11).
But there’s a difference between life in Schlarafenland, and a land blessed by God. One is an illusion. The other can be a reality.
What is it that makes the difference? Faithful obedience to God.
The Bible tells us of God’s intention to bless with abundance. Obey Him, the Bible tells us, and His blessings will stretch from city to country, and the land will overflow with a surplus to lend other nations (Dt.28:3,12).
But with disobedience, the reverse kicks in. The Lord sends confusion and futility on account of forsaking Him. The people become the tail rather than the head, and strangers rise up to rule over them (Dt.28:20,44).
What does this mean for us? It means that our economic crisis at its core is an ethical crisis, and the way to recovery is obedience to the Lord.
The particular economic principles that must be observed are not hard to comprehend. Work hard and trust God for your provision. And don’t spend more than you have.
The nation that applies these principles will be in good economic shape.
We’re not in Schlaraffenland.
Why is love such a topic of interest? It’s because of the way God made us. God made you to receive and give love. First, in relationship to Him, and then in relationship to others.
Since God has designed love to be such a central part of our lives, it’s no wonder that the human heart dwells upon it and yearns to experience it. This has led to countless self-help books geared toward helping people to give and receive love.
But in all our consideration of love, it does us well to remember that the One who made us has Himself given the best direction regarding love. Here are some of the most basic lessons about love that the Bible brings us.
First, love takes initiative. A common hindrance to showing love is lack of initiative. The Bible reveals that love does not wait around to take a loving step toward others. God Himself shows us this in that “. . .while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). God did not wait for us to become worthy of love before He gave it. He took the initiative. Our love is to do the same.
Second, love is sacrificial. Many speak of love, but genuine love costs something. Again, God is our model. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. . . (Jn.3:16). “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life. . . (Jn.15:13). As we look to this pattern, we learn what real love is like. It doesn’t look around for others to lay down their lives for us, but looks for opportunities to give of oneself for others.
Third, love does not fear. Often we find ourselves prevented from expressing love as we know we should because we’re afraid. We think, “What if I’m rejected or what I do is not appreciated?” These are reasonable questions, but we need to remember, “There is no fear in love” (1 Jn.4:18). Do not let fear of how another may respond keep you from reaching out in love.
Fourth, love is the greatest of God’s gifts. While articulate speech, vast knowledge, and an abundance of possessions may get attention, they are all surpassed by love. In fact, the Bible tells us that without love, the others gifts we have are worthless (1 Cor.13). What does this mean for us? When we speak, when we teach, when we give, it must all be done in love.
Fifth, love is a mark of Christ’s disciples. All who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ are to bear the mark of His disciples, which is love. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn.13:35). We must not deceive ourselves in thinking that we are living in His way if we cannot bring ourselves to love those He puts in our path.
The kind of love that the Bible describes for us is not natural to us. But it is freely given to those who receive of His love and walk in it.
What are defining moments? I like to think of them as God-given occasions to show what you are made of. When you’re in the midst of them, they’re not a lot of fun, because you’re being stretched and challenged with the need for decision. But in God’s world, these moments are an essential part of proving your character and being strengthened for greater usefulness.
When you read through the Bible, you find that God regularly presents testings, or what we would call defining moments. When God told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, that was a defining moment for him. When God called Abraham to depart from his homeland and go to a new land that he did not know of, that was a defining moment. When God gave the Ten Commandments, and promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, that was a defining moment. When Jesus Christ looked at His disciples, eyeball to eyeball, and said, “Follow Me,” that too was a defining moment.
The outcome of defining moments may be bad or good – and can affect multitudes. When Adam took of the forbidden fruit, the whole human race fell into sin with him. Yet, when Abraham believed God, he became a source of blessing to all the families of the earth.
And so it is with our own defining moments. We can either yield to the temptation to follow the easier, unbelieving route, or we can walk in faith through the door of escape that God always provides those who look to Him. What we choose will always affect not only ourselves, but also many more than we can imagine.
I lay this before you, dear reader, because I believe that God has presented us all with a defining moment. We live in a nation with growing problems. Problems brought about in large part by countless decisions made in unbelief. Now that the consequences of this are being felt in serious ways, we consider intently what we can do to preserve our way of life. But what will we do? Will we move ahead in faith, or degenerate further because of misplaced hope?
In certain ways our situation is like that of the ancient Israelites while they wandered through the wilderness. They’d do anything to reclaim the comforts of their old ways, even give themselves over to bondage. But God was calling them to something better, to lasting prosperity and freedom. For them it was a defining moment.
Our present defining moment isn’t much different. The question is, what will we do? Will we look to the power of the state to save us by deferring hardship and surrendering liberty? Or will we come to terms with our own fears and inward corruptions and pursue a better way?
Essential to finding that better way is faith. We must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. It’s in this way that we come through our defining moments better and stronger. And it’s in this way we receive God’s blessing.
May God grant us the faith we need as we face this defining moment.