by Jennifer Wright, Editor/Writer
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent observed by many Christians. Over the 40 days leading up to Holy Week and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, many Christians follow the example of Jesus spending time in fasting and prayer in the desert for 40 days from Matthew chapter 4.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
Matthew 4:1-3 (NABRE)
I have to admit, Lent is by far my favorite season in the Church. I’m reminded of Jesus’ humanity that he shares with us, I take the opportunity to forgo something good to strengthen my resolve in denying temptation, and, my favorite part, the music is stunningly beautiful. Singing in my Church’s choir since I was about eight years old, I’ve done a lot of music, but nothing compares to the hauntingly beautiful ancient pieces of Lent and Holy Week. Just the words “Were You There?” can draw a tear as I imagine being present for the crucifixion.
But that’s not what I’m writing to share about today.
I’ve always been taught that for Lent, a good practice is to focus on three things: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I can’t say I always manage (human as I am), but I do try, and I think taking a season to pay particular attention to these ways to draw closer to Christ is not only healthy, but necessary. And individuals don’t have to do it alone. Here are a couple ideas for your pregnancy help organization to participate in the Lenten season this year. Perhaps something new will carry into the rest of the year, or maybe it will just make the Easter celebration a little sweeter for you and your staff, but I encourage you to participate this Lent either way.
May your Lent be a blessed time for drawing nearer to the Lord. God bless you.
And after that, He went out, and noticed a tax-gatherer named Levi, sitting in the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he left everything behind, and rose and began to follow him. - Luke 5:27-28
The calling of Matthew is as simple as it gets. In Luke’s account, Jesus is only passing by Matthew’s office when he says, “Follow me.” That’s it. From there, Matthew hops up and follows. Easy, right?
But wait a minute. Why did Matthew follow? No one this side of Heaven knows for sure.
We know only one piece of information on Matthew, that he was a tax collector. On the plus side, tax collecting was lucrative work, because tax gatherers like Matthew normally extracted more from the taxpayer than the owed amount. They kept the extra drachmas and denarii for themselves. This practice didn’t win friendships, but it certainly paid the bills.
by Jennifer Minor, Editor/Writer
I don’t know if you think much about light, but I usually don’t.
Most days, I take it for granted. All I have to do is flip a switch when I walk into a room and the darkness is chased away. That, of course, is the beauty of light. It can’t be overcome by darkness.
Now maybe this is a human failing, but I can’t just let it sit there. I have a lot more to think about with light and darkness. For example, especially as the seasons change and the days get shorter, I find myself sitting in a room that’s perfectly well-lit in the afternoon, but discovering an hour or so later that I can’t see what I’m reading or working on.
The light escapes, and I don’t notice.
It’s a simple solution – just flip a switch – but I can’t help but worry and wonder about why I never noticed the light leaving. I notice when a light bulb goes out, when a match is struck, when a campfire sputters out, when the first light of dawn sneaks through my window to wake me up. That’s just it though; I notice the change in light, and even then, only dramatic changes.
That’s why I take electric lights for granted, and even the sun on nice days. I forget about the light, and with it, the possibility of darkness.
Candles though, always draw my attention. They don’t change significantly, but they do flicker. They change just enough to keep my eyes on them.
I think that must be the kind of light that Jesus is talking about when He says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
A candle not only draws attention so that it may be seen, but it also carries an incredible potential to spread light. Now, I know a single candle in a dark room may not seem like much, but at my favorite church service of the year, something else amazing happens. We start with just one candle, the one that represents Christ, and everyone in the church holds their own little candle. One person lights their candle from the Christ candle, and then spreads the light. In a very short amount of time, hundreds of candles are shining and everyone can see because the darkness is being overcome.
This is extraordinarily beautiful, even if it's very simple. Every candle in that church gave away some of its light so another could be lit, but it didn’t lose anything. In fact, the flame grew and changed more than the usual flickering when it touched a second wick. It doubles in size. It can multiply, but not divide.
And a wick that’s been lit before, even if the flame goes out, is easier to light a second time.
So that’s my challenge to you. Be a candle. Light other’s candles without fear of losing something that you have. God doesn’t work that way. He is love and light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” I Timothy 1:15
Paul’s famous statement that he was the “foremost” of all sinners is not extraordinary because he is stating a fact. Instead, it is powerful because of Paul’s perspective, a point of view which exemplifies humility.
Was Paul really the number one sinner in the world at that point in history? Surely not. And this is the same Paul who encourages others to imitate him and his walk of faith (I Cor. 4:16) and who explains his past behavior by saying “Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Tim. 1:13).
What’s important here is Paul’s point of view. Just as Jesus told us to “first get the log out of your own eye” before correcting others (Matt. 7:3-5), Paul is using this foundational teaching to remind himself and his readers that neither he nor any of us is beyond the need for redemption.
This is, in every sense of the word, a “humble” perspective. We need this, every day.
In our mission, we see many who are struggling with various moral challenges. To effectively reach those we see, our first stop on this journey is to think of ourselves as Paul described, as “foremost of all sinners.” Without berating ourselves, this is a point of view which simply acknowledges that we too, have faults. They may not be the same faults of those we see, but they are shortcomings nonetheless.
Once we see ourselves as “foremost,” our point of view toward the person in front of us changes. Instead of “I need to tell you that . . .” we see this as a “Let’s walk this journey together” moment. From there, the conversation takes a new direction.
The good news is, Paul didn’t spend time dwelling on his sinfulness, and neither should we. He glanced at his standing as a sinner, but gazed on the grace of God and the road in front of him that would lead to glory.
So can we. When we choose the right focus from the right perspective, those who come in our door will be able to see the love of God within us. And this is where lives are changed.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
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