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Dear Friends,          (This is updated version of original post dated Feb 2009.)

The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Feb 22, 2012.  Although Lent isn’t a requirement of the Bible, it has become a tradition among Christians as a 40-day time of preparation for the celebration of Easter.  (What if you don’t learn about Lent until after March 9?  It’s ok!  The Lord always welcomes those who come before Him with an offering from their heart – regardless of the day!)

Lent is a reflective time that traditionally involves fasting (giving something up for Lent), but can also be about making other offerings from the heart (devoting time for prayer, Bible reading, community service, setting lunch money aside for charity, etc.).  Offerings for Lent should be personal, sacred, and prayerfully made.  My understanding of the purpose of Lent is to:

  • grow in faith and to draw closer to God
  • acknowledge the sacrifice Christ made for us
  • reflect on God’s love for us – enough to send His beloved Son to live among us and then die for us so that we could be saved from our sins, have a personal relationship with Him and receive the eternal salvation with Christ in heaven.  (As told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

The Season of Lent is the 40-day period, excluding Sundays, prior to Easter Sunday*.  In the Bible, the number 40 is associated with transition and change (like when it rained for 40 days and 40 nights).  The 40-day Season of Lent represents the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness without food while being tempted and tested by Satan.  This occured after Jesus’ baptism,  before He began His ministry here on earth.

There are many ways to observe the Season of Lent.   Some people fast or abstain from particular foods or beverages.  Others give an offering of their time by setting time aside each day of Lent to pray or read the Bible.  You can dedicate time to the Lord as a parent by setting aside time each day to spend with your kids and asking God to bless that time.  Some people give up fancy coffees or going out to lunch and give the money they save to church or charity.  There are many ways to ‘fast’ by offering a meaningful sacrifice to the Lord.    * When fasting, some people observe 40 straight days of fasting (including Sundays).  Others fast Mon – Sat and break from their fast on Sundays.   Lent isn’t about tehnicalities, though.  It’s about the offering you make from your heart.

I choose to observe Lent because I want to offer myself in some way to God to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for me and to give back something of myself in return.  I begin in prayer, offering my sacrifice to God (which is usually sweets or sugary foods).  When I find myself wanting those foods, I’m reminded of the purpose of my fast.  My sacrifice is nothing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made.

There have been times when I’ve accidentally eaten something that I’ve vowed to give up.  When that happens, I tell God I’m sorry and acknowledge how easy it is to make mistakes – during Lent and in life, so these times are a good reminder to me of how we always have to be mindful of what we’re doing.   More importantly, I gain a greater appreciation of the forgiveness we have in Christ.

The Pharisees made a great show of their praying and fasting to impress others with their so-called ‘spirituality’.  Their efforts were not genuine acts from their hearts.  Jesus commands that we are not to make a ‘show’ of our praying and fasting.  They are to be personal acts of worship with God.  With that said, please note that I only write this to help others understand Lent, not to ‘make a show’ of my choices or actions.

I pray that you will take part in the Season of Lent by prayerfully offering yourself in some way to God; and in so doing, you will be blessed as you grow in your relationship with the Lord, leading you to the joy of the Lord at Easter and always.

The thoughts expressed here are just my personal thoughts about Lent.  For more information or a more theological explanation of the Season of Lent, go to www.gotquestions.org or www.kencollins.com .  If you go to Ken Collins’ site, go to About Holy Days, then select Lent.  You can also do a Google search of Lent.  There are many good sites that explain the Season of Lent.   Please come back if you find info you’d like to share!

May God’s blessings be with you in the Easter Season and always.

Renee

Final Bible verse for 14 Days of love…   “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow…”   ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:12

 

Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another.   If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.       ~ Romans 13:8   (NLT)

We made it!  It’s Day 14!  Today’s verses are the “Love is…” verses from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.    – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.  – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Last year’s 14 Days of Love focused only on these verses. To see more about them, go to the Feb 2011 archives in the sidebar.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  May you be blessed with love.  🙂

 

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God.  But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expressions through us.  – 1 John 4:11-12

Yesterday’s verse spoke about how much God loves us.  In today’s verse, John is telling us that God’s love is in us and we’re to share that love with each others.

John must have remembered one of the last commandments Jesus gave before His death when he said:

So now I am giving you a new commandment:    Love each other.

Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

John 13:34-35

 

 

While we’re on the topic of love, I have to share an interesting experience I had at church this morning.  It was Scouts Sunday, when young men from the Cub/Boy Scouts Troop sponsored by our church assist with worship services.  They presented the Colors (flags), then led the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, a Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag, and then a Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible.

I’d never said the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag or to the Bible before, and something unexpected happened when I started saying the Pledge to the Bible.  My eyes filled with tears and I started to cry!  (Yes, it was embarassing and I hoped no one around me saw, but hey, it was for the Bible.)  I knew I loved the Bible, but I didn’t realize how much until that moment.  How thankful I am for that amazing Book and the many ways it has blessed my life.

In case you’re interested, here are the words to the Pledge to the Bible:

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.

If you’ve been following 14 Days of Love (14 days of Bible verses about love), then you probably knew it was coming…John 3:16…and here it is.  I saved it for the Lord’s Day, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.

It’s been said that John 3:16 is the most quoted verse of the Bible.  We hear it, we see it on signs at sporting events, we might even have it memorized, but do we really think about what it says?  What it means?  As you read it today, let it speak to you about love…about God’s love for us… and about God’s love for you.  I’m also sharing the next verse, John 3:17.  It’s one of my favorites.

DAY 12:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.   – John 3:16

 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.    – John 3:17

If you’re a parent, can you imagine giving up your child?  Go a step further.  Can you imagine giving up your child not for the benefit the child, but as a gift for others? Now go another step further.  Would you give your child into the hands of people who would mock, abuse, and attack your child to the point of death?  Unimaginable, right?  Well, that’s what God did.  Why?  Because He so loved us.  *

Until I was 40 years old and took my first Bible study, I thought God was the mean, scary one and Jesus was the nice one.  Then I took Disciple Bible Study and started reading the Bible from the beginning.  The God who emerged wasn’t mean or scary at all!  He was very loving!

His love is evident from the very start when He creates the world.  He creates this amazing world with animals and creatures of every kind.  After every step of His creation process He pauses to say His work is good.  He’s not boasting, He’s pleased with His craftsmanship.  His handiwork isn’t just ‘good enough, it’ll do’.  His work is good!  But good as it is, He isn’t satisfied with His creation until He creates man.

 Have you ever wondered why God created man?  Of course I don’t know for sure, but the Bible says we’re created in God’s image.  We have a heart, soul, mind, thoughts, feelings and emotions.  If we reflect the image of God, then He thinks and feels the same as we do. One of the feelings we have is love. We have the capacity to love,  because God has the capacity to love and He shared to ability to love with us so that we could love Him in return. I believe God is a relational God who wants to be in loving relationships with all of us.

What’s interesting about God’s love is that it’s not controlling.  God had the power and ability to create us like puppets or robots, people He could control to respond to Him as He desired.  God didn’t do that, though.  God isn’t controlling, He’s loving.  There’s a huge difference.  God is so loving that it wouldn’t be fulfilling to Him to control our feelings.  He gave us the ability to live and love freely so that we’d be free to choose Him.

Oh, but giving us the freedom to choose also meant giving us the freedom to reject.  He knew that, but He created man in His image with the freedom to choose anyway.  And what happened?  Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s instruction, ate the forbidden fruit, and brought sin upon man.  From that time on, man has messed up and lived a sinful life.

In the ancient days of the Israelites, God helped the people atone for their sins by making sacrifices.  The people were to go the to Tabernacle or Temple and sacrifice the required animal, usually livestock from their herds, or animals they purchased – and it couldn’t be just any animal, but the best animal, an animal that wasn’t flawed.   It was a bloody mess at the altar where the appointed priests helped with the sacrifices.  There were sin offerings, peace offerings and guilt offerings.  Sacrifices continued until Christ’s death.

When you hear that Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, it’s literally true.  God gave His one and only Son, the only One who walked perfectly on this earth, as the perfect sacrifice, once and for all, to cover the sins of His people, including you and me today.  Would you give up your child to cover someone else’s sins?  Would you allow your child to suffer at the hands of others like Jesus did?  I don’t think I could. I don’t have the capacity of love to make such a sacrifice – but God did.

God is our Heavenly Father and He loved us, His children, so much that He wanted to free us from our sins, once and for all, so that all who would choose Christ as their Lord and Savior could be forgiven, and then be free to live in the light and love of Christ, not just on this earth, but eternally in heaven.   (For a great read about heaven, go to Revelation chapters 20 & 21.)

That’s where we come to the second verse, John 3:17.  Christ didn’t come to condemn us for our sins.  He came to save us from them.  We will be convicted, but not condemned.  We are convicted so we can be saved.  We can be saved because we are so loved.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  – John 3:16-17 

Father God, on this Your day, we thank You for Your love.  You loved us enough to share Your beautiful world with us so you could be in relationship with us, and to give us the freedom to love You in return.  When we messed up, You still loved us and gave Your one and only Son as a Sacrifice for our sins.  You truly are a loving and gracious God who gives us much more than we deserve.  As we think about love, let us be grateful for Your love and the love of Christ, who willingly gave Himself on our behalf, and who came to teach us how to live and love.  May we, in return, strive to love others as You have loved us.  Amen.

* Please read the first paragraph in the context for which it is written.  Many loving parents have found the courage to give their children to others when it’s been in the best interest of the child.  I admire and commend those parents, as well as those who receive them.  Please know that’s not the situation I refer to above.  May God bless all who have been part of adoption situations.

Celebrating 14 Days of Love as we approach Valentine’s Day with verses from the Bible about love.

DAY 11:

“Love each other with genuine affection*, and take delight in honoring each other.”   – Romans 12:10 (NLT)     * Greek: brotherly love

The NLT version says it this way: “Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.” 

What makes this verse interesting to me is knowing its root meaning for affection is brotherly love.  Sure, we strive to love our loved ones with genuine love, but others?  And how often do we put others before ourselves?

People today seem to be all about themselves.  Every time I’m out people cut me off in traffic, fail to wait their turns at 4-way stops, rush to get in front of others in stores, and just this morning as I approached a bakery entrance, a man rushed to get to the door first.  Silly me…I expected him to be a gentleman who was going to open the door for me, but no.  He hurried through the door and let it shut behind him even though I was right there!  Why do people do these things?  Because they put themselves first and think everyone else should put them first, too.  That’s not what the Bible teaches, though.

As Christians, we’re to show genuine brotherly love to everyone, honoring them by putting their needs before our own.  Let the other guy go first.  Take a moment to help someone or offer a kind word.  Don’t be in such a rush that you’re rude to others.  Take time to listen to others.  Take time to tend to other’s needs.

What about at home?  Think of each person you live with.  What are three ways you can model genuine love and delight in honoring them by putting their needs before your own?

 

Celebrating 14 Days of Love with verses from the Bible about love…

DAY 10:

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other,  for love covers a multitude of sins.  – 1 Peter 4:8  (NLT)

 

Celebrating 14 Days of Love as we approach Valentine’s Day with Bible verses about love.

DAY 9:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3   

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

These verses are telling us that no matter how talented or gifted we might be, or how well we present ourselves to others, if we don’t have love we will not resonate well with others.  We will be no better than a reverberating gong or clanging symbols – offensive sounds!

Even if we have the gift of prophecy – the ability to speak God’s messages to others, the gift of knowledge, or even amazingly great faith, we are nothing if we don’t have love.

And it doesn’t matter if we earn a Nobel prize for mission works or if we’re the most generous person on earth, we gain nothing if we don’t have love.

God looks at our hearts.  With Valentine’s Day approaching, let your heart be filled with His love!

(Today’s verses were taken from Biblegateway.com’s NIV verse of the day.  For more go to www.biblegateway.com )

 

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