During the Lenten season, staff and church leaders will share a daily devotional. Please join us on the journey.

Lent Defined

Johnny Johns – United Methodist Men

Lent is the 40-day period of fasting, penitence and prayers in preparation for Easter.  It begins 46 days before Easter with Ash Wednesday (Day of Ashes being placed on the forehead), ends Holy Saturday (the day before Easter) and does not include any of the six Sunday’s.  Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.  That being said, the Bible never mentions Ash Wednesday—for that matter, it never mentions Lent.

So, what is our takeaway in terms of applying Lent to our lives?  A text that was used several years ago at the North Georgia United Methodist Annual Conference comes to mind—Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

The Old Testament is filled with details about animal sacrifices to make amends for one’s sins. Micah points out that these sacrifices are not enough. The sacrifice of whatever we possess in our lives is not sufficient to please God.  Micah sees these acts of atonement as meaningless if people’s hearts are not right in the eyes of God. In the command of verse 8, Micah tell us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.  Micah sets the tone for the world to accept Jesus’s teachings of obedience to God.

Jesus Christ demonstrated perfect obedience- both to God and his fellow man. He came to seek and to do God’s will while he was on earth. He knew that God was not pleased with rituals and sacrifices.  He provided us with the ultimate sacrifice—to give himself totally on the cross in order that we and all who believe in Him will have everlasting life with the Father.  Jesus asked if there was any other way to accomplish this without his dire suffering.  When He received God’s answer, he accepted the will of the Father and followed His Father’s direction.  This is the obedience that we strive to find in our lives; it is not easily accomplished. How difficult is it to know God’s desire and even more so to follow Him when it does not fit with our own desires; it begins with a commitment to put God first in our lives.  Do we treat folks justly when they injure us or have differing opinions?  Do we show mercy when folks harm us or our family?  Do we try to be humble and listen to God or do we always think we know best?  Especially in every aspect of our lives or do we pick and choose when we bring God into the equation- most often during a time when the odds are stacked against us or that we have no good answer?

From Pastor John’s the Philip Endeavor:

“Jesus reflects on happiness as being the result of doing what the Father wills. Specifically, the Father’s being present with Jesus is linked to Jesus’ pursuit of making the Father ‘happy’. This is a connection we rarely make on our own. “

On the outset, that seems as counter intuitive as it gets for us. We are sure that the kind of life we’ve always wanted involves the pursuit of our hopes and dreams, what we will get to do one day.  It’s almost inconceivable that God being present with us makes for the richest life we could ever imagine.  If and as we come to see it, however, we too will be inspired to do that which makes the Father happy. Some learn this great secret that happiness involves a different kind of chase. As we chase after what brings God joy and happiness, we find in turn the kind of exhilaration that would’ve never made our list, something far better in the end!

He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.” (Colossians 1: 18)

During this time of “Lenten sacrifice,” let us primarily re-position our heart to seek and follow Him first and foremost.

Prayer:  Father, we acknowledge you as our Creator and Sustainer.  We humbly seek your direction in our lives.  By following You in all we say and do will bring us the eternal happiness we all desire.