Lent Post 5: When We Fail

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If you chose to give something up for Lent, how is that going? If you’re like me, it’s not going 100% according to plan. I gave up going on Facebook for Lent. I said that I would only go on it one time or less per day. For the most part, I did this. I only went on Facebook once most days. There were some days that I did not go on it at all. I thought that I was going to read the bible and spend more time with God in the days that I was not on Facebook, and that is where I started having issues.

When I first gave up Facebook, there were lots of times that I wanted to go on and I just went on the bible app instead. I got a lot more time with God’s word that way. But as Lent went on, I found more things to fill my time. Instead of going on the bible app, I would watch BookTube (YouTube videos about books), google things, or play Cookie Jam. As a side note, Cookie Jam is even more addicting than Facebook! I must have played over 100 levels, thinking I would eventually beat the game. Turns out, it’s unbeatable. As I am writing, there are 7859 levels in Cookie Jam and updates are being released every two weeks. I have wasted hours playing Cookie Jam this Lent. I guess that will have to be the next thing I give up.

So, all in all, I consider my Lenten sacrifice a partial failure. If you failed as well, don’t despair. This post is for you! I’m here to remind you that it’s ok to fail sometimes. Failure is kind of the point of Easter. Our failure is why Jesus had to die and rise again. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Because he died, our failures are forgiven. We don’t have to get stuck on the things that we do wrong. We don’t have to live separated from God. Each day is a fresh start, and every minute you are given a clean slate.

If you struggled this Lent, I hope it doesn’t leave you upset. Instead, I hope it makes you thankful. Thankful that Jesus died so that your failures don’t count. Thankful that someday, despite your failures, you will rise to heaven with him. I hope that your Easter is a joyful time of thanksgiving that carries over into the rest of your year.

Prayer: “Thank you God that when I fail, you still love me. Thank you Jesus for coming and dying for me so that I can be with you in heaven some day. Thank you that every day is a new day and every minute a fresh start. Please help me to remember this and to live a life overflowing with joy and thanksgiving because of what you have done for me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

Lent Post 4: (Un)Forgiveness

Unforgiveness can be a sneaky thing. It hides in the shadows of your heart. You might not even realize that you are treating someone with less kindness than normal. You may try to justify not helping someone in need, not realizing that the root of your lack of empathy is unforgiveness.

I recently realized that I had unforgiveness in my heart. I was holding on to negative feelings towards someone that I worked with. I was not acting mean or rude to the person, but my thoughts towards them were not always kind. It began when I had expectations that they would help me with a project, but they disappointed me. I did the project without them and everything turned out fine. I thought that I had just brushed it off, that the disappointment didn’t matter. But months later, when they were asking for volunteers to help them, I realized that I was not as eager as I normally am to help. I realized that I had not been very interested in how their life was going and had avoided engaging with them at work.

Since realizing this, I prayed for them and for me. I prayed that God would help me to see them the way that he sees them and that he would help me to get over the disappointment and forgive them. I started to make a conscious effort to talk to them more and think more positively about them. Things aren’t perfect, but I think our relationship is starting to grow. I don’t feel negative emotions when I see them anymore and I am glad when things go well in their life.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he looked down at the people who had mocked him, whipped him, and nailed him to the cross. They were in the process of physically torturing him and gambling over who would get his clothes when he said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). It’s not like the soldiers torturing Jesus were asking for any forgiveness. They didn’t even believe that he was the son of God! Jesus didn’t wait until he had risen from the dead and come back in glorious splendor to forgive them. But Jesus forgave them while he was still in pain and while they were still in the midst of hurting him.┬áIt’s amazing that Jesus was able to forgive people as they were physically and verbally torturing him, while I had trouble forgiving someone months later for a such a small offense!

I think that God expects that kind of forgiveness from his children as well. He wants us to forgive people before they even ask for forgiveness. He wants us to forgive those who are still publicly shaming us. He wants us to forgive people while they’re bad-mouthing us on Facebook. He wants us to forgive people while our grief over what they’ve done is still fresh. He wants us to forgive them right after they did something behind our back. He wants us to forgive them when they are calling us names to our face. The bible says that “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, emphasis added)

How on earth can any of us hope to have that kind of forgiveness? I think it comes from remembering what God has had to forgive us for. The times that we’ve lied, times that we stole, times that we were angry with God, the times we disobeyed our parents, the times that we treated others badly. None of us is perfect and if we can remember the times that we’ve made mistakes and sinned, that can help us to have empathy for the person who is also making a mistake and sinning against us. When forgiveness is hard, we can pray for God’s help. He wants us to forgive and is happy to help us when we ask for it.

Even if you don’t think that you’re holding unforgiveness against anyone right now, it might be hiding where you can’t see it. I would encourage you to pray and ask God to reveal any areas where you still might be holding on to unforgiveness. You might be surprised (as I was) by what turns up. I hope that you will be able to experience the freedom that I had when I finally found that area and was able to forgive.

Lent Post 2: What is Lent?

After writing the first post, I realized that while I knew that Lent lasted 40 days and that it involved fasting, I did not really know anything else about it. Not knowing why you are doing something is a dangerous place to be. In the bible, the pharisees often did things that were “religious” without knowing the reasoning behind it. They kept themselves clean as God’s law required on the outside, but Jesus called them dead and unclean on the inside because they missed the point of the law (Matthew 23:27-28). They took God’s law to the extreme. They were so focused on doing no work on the sabbath day of rest that they got angry with Jesus for healing someone on the sabbath instead of rejoicing in the miracle. They missed the point of the sabbath. I don’t want my lack of knowledge of Lent to make me like the Pharisees, so please join me as I learn more about it.

Lent first started with the early Christians. The first written account of a Lent observance is from 325 AD (Fairchild, 2018). Lent lasts for 40 days to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert before he was tempted, as well as the 40 years that the Israelites wandered through the wilderness before reaching the promised land (Fairchild, 2018). Most Christians actually celebrate for the 46 day period from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday (Fairchild, 2018). Sundays are not counted in the 40 days as they are considered like a “mini-Easter” celebration (United Methodist Church, 2019). The Eastern Orthodox church Lent lasts for 40 consecutive days and starts on Clean Monday, seven weeks before Easter (Fairchild, 2018). It ends on Lazarus Saturday, eight days before Easter (Fairchild, 2018).

Regardless of when it is celebrated, Lent is a time to fast, repent of sins, and pray to prepare for Jesus’ resurrection on Easter (United Methodist Church, 2019). It is a time for self-examination, a time to refocus on God. As a person fasts, that fasting is supposed to give them more time to spend with God. If you fast from food, you can spend the time you would normally be eating praying and seeking God. For Lent I am fasting from going on Facebook multiple times per day, so during the time that I would normally go on Facebook, I have been reading the bible and praying. God spoke to me the other day and said “If you want more of me, you need to make more time for me.” Lent is the perfect time to make more time for God.

Not all Christians celebrate Lent and in my opinion, that is OK. Lent is not a holiday in the bible, but a man-made tradition, much like the Pharisees’ tradition of no work on the sabbath. Is it bad to celebrate Lent? No. I think fasting during Lent can help bring a person closer to God and is a great way to deepen your faith. But as you celebrate Lent, make sure that you are not looking down on other Christians who decide not to celebrate. Looking down on others for not following religious practices is something that the Pharisees would do, and no one wants to be like that brood of vipers!

References:

Fairchild, M. (2018). Learn about Lent and how the Lenten season is observed. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-lent-700774

The United Methodist Church. (2019). What is Lent and why does it last forty days? http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days

Lent Post 1: Our Everything

During lent, we give up something. I t might be chocolate, pop, coffee, or something else unhealthy. It might be electronic games, or some other way that we spend our time that we’re addicted to. I personally am planning on giving up Facebook for Lent and only going on once a day. (I would be embarrassed to tell you how often I usually check it a day!) In the time that I normally spend on Facebook, I plan to read the bible and pray.

It’s good to give things up for a time. It shows that we value God over those things. But God doesn’t just call us to give up one thing. He calls us to give up everything.

Most Christians know the story of Abraham and Isaac laid out in Genesis 21-22. If you need a refresher, take a break and read it now. Basically, God promised Abraham that he would have a son and Abraham waited and waited for that son. Abraham desired a son because in that culture, it was the only way to preserve his legacy. If he had a son, all of his possessions would go to the son. If he didn’t, all that he owned would go to a servant. It took 20 years of waiting for Abraham to have a son after God originally promised that he would have one. He was over 100 years old when his son was born! You can be sure that Abraham treasured his son above all else. Abraham’s son was everything to him.

God acknowledges this in Genesis 22:2 when he asks Abraham to “Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” If I heard that, I would have trouble believing that it was God and would ask for a sign. But Abraham was faithful and did what God said. He made the long journey to and up the mountain in Moriah. Right before he kills Isaac, with his blade up in the air, God tells him to stop and provides a ram for the sacrifice instead. What really stands out is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, his everything, for God. He honored God above all else and held nothing back from him.

So what do we consider our everything? Is is money, our job, our family? What have we prayed for above all else? And if God asked us to, would we be willing to give it up?

Instead of choosing your own item to give up this lent, prayerfully consider what God might be asking you to give up. It might not be the thing we’re most attached to, but pray about it. You might be surprised by the answer.