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There’s a big celebration with parties and parades going on in New Orleans today. It’s called Mardi Gras, and it happens every year for Fat Tuesday. Most people know what Mardi Gras is, but what about Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday is actually a Christian-inspired day. It occurs every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the Season of Lent; and Lent is the season that leads up to Easter.
For many Christians, Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, moderation, or modification of behavior with goals to grow spiritually, draw closer to God, and try to better ourselves as Christian as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. His death on the cross served as a sacrifice for our sins. It was a mournful time for His followers. However, three days later it was discovered that His tomb was empty! As He had foretold, Jesus had risen from the dead! He remained on earth for 40 days before ascending into heaven, where He awaits to welcome all who claim His as their Savior and Lord, into eternity.
When Christ died on the cross, He did so to offer himself as the payment for our sins. Through Him, all can be forgiven, slates wiped clean, and new lives begun, for all who confess their sins and strive to change their ways. However, despite being ransomed from shame and guilt, we are still imperfect humans. We still face challenges and temptations, make mistakes, and fall short of being perfect in any way.
The Season of Lent is a time to reflect on all of these things:
- To acknowledge the sin debt Jesus paid on our behalf so that we could be freed from our sins
- Celebrate that Jesus is the Risen Lord who overcame death to offer of us eternity in Heaven with Him – that we will not die spiritually, but find life everlasting
- In choosing life with Jesus, we overcome death to sin (hell)
- Recognize our need for a Savior, that we even the most faithful among us are prone to sin. That every day, as the Bible says, “We fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Lent is observed as a time to dedicate ourselves to Jesus, making an offering of ourselves for Him. For me, this offering is a way to acknowledge the offering Jesus made for us when He died on the cross. The Season of Lent also reminds me of my need to be focused and intentional every day in how I live out my faith, and in my personal relationship with God.
Christians observe Lent in various ways. Some choose to fast by denying themselves particular foods and/or drinks (i.e. sweets, chocolate, snacks, meat, coffee, alcohol, etc.). Others might try to undo habits like smoking, bad speech (cursing, gossip, negative comments), watching too much tv, etc.. Some people minimize or give up screen time and use that time to read the Bible or pray. ( If reading the Bible or devotions online, it would probably be ok to use screen time for that. 🙂 ) Other people set aside dedicated time for prayer and devotions, find ways to serve in their communities, or take their lunch to work and give the money they would spend eating out to their church or charity. There are many ways to observe Lent – no specific rules, just the suggestion that the time spent or sacrifices made be done for the purpose of honoring Jesus, growing spiritually, and drawing closer to Him, recognizing our need for Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
Lent is not Biblical. It is not commanded or even mentioned in the Bible. It is a Christian tradition that has evolved over time, and that brings us back to Ash Wednesday and Fat Tuesday!
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, literally. Many Christians attend an Ash Wednesday service during which the sign of a cross is marked on their foreheads with ashes. In both Old and New Testament, ashes are a sign or mourning and repentance. People humbled themselves before the LORD by covering themselves in ashes. Why ashes? Because man was created from ashes, and to ashes he will return.
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:7
God says to Adam and Eve: “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
We are humbled by our humanity (being prone to sin), and also by our mortality. Ash Wednesday reminds us these things.
Since Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, which will be a time of sacrifice and denial for those who observe the tradition, Fat Tuesday evolved as a way to have one last day of indulgence and revelry before Lent begins.
There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, so the 40 days of Lent can be observed by fasting or sacrificing Mon-Sat and taking rest from the fast on the six Sundays, or offerings fast or sacrifices for 40 days straight.
Since Lent is intended to be a time of spiritual growth, I hope you will pray about it and see if you feel God leading you to observe Lent in some way, or perhaps in a new way if you have observed Lent before.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23
For more about the observance of Lent, you can go to http://www.BibleGateway.com and GotQuestions.org.
God bless you. May you be blessed and be a blessing.
REPLACING “WHAT IF’S” WITH “WHAT IS”
“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
I often find myself worrying about “what if” questions.
What if this happens, or that? What if this situation doesn’t get better, or that situation gets worse? What if things don’t work out as planned?
Recently I asked many of these questions as my 16-year old son battled illness for several months. Due to complications from an auto-immune condition (CRMO), a sinus infection led to months of extended illness for him. Despite being an otherwise healthy, strong and athletic young man, his auto-immune disease and compromised immune system were working against him, causing his body to “catch everything going around” his doctor said. He was sick with one viral illness after another, running fevers and becoming weak. Eventually the auto-immune condition itself flared up. When the first viral illnesses set in, we were worried, but thought surely he’d get well soon. However, as illnesses continued for weeks and then months, and his condition worsened, I worried about many “what if’s”:
What if he doesn’t get well soon? What if he’s sick for the rest of the semester, or entire school year? Will he be able to play baseball in the spring? What if his grades suffer? He’ll be applying for college next year and this will affect his GPA. Oh, no, college! What if he’s sick in college? How will he manage then? If he continues to be sick, will he be able to go to college? What if this affects him as an adult? The jobs he wants are physical – construction, engineering or agriculture. What if illness prevents him from being able to do his job?
This was all too much. My “what if’s” were getting way ahead of things – worrying about my son’s ability to work as an adult when he’s just a sophomore in high school! I needed to pray. As I prayed, the Spirit of the Lord began to reassure me, not by answering all my “what if’s,” but by reminding me of “what is” – bringing the following scriptures to mind:
Jeremiah 29:11 God created Jackson with His own plans and purposes for him, plans not to harm him, but to prosper him. God knows who He created Jackson to be, and He has good plans for Jackson’s life!
Psalm 139 Before Jackson was a physical being, He was conceived in thought by God, and then intricately formed in accordance with those plans by the God of the universe. God knows what is going on with Jackson, for God knows his strengths and weaknesses. God intricately formed Jackson with the skills, abilities, talents and gifts to become the person and do the work God has planned for him – whatever that work might be.
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 God is with us in this situation. The Bible clearly says the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. He doesn’t pull away from us. We pull away from Him. Even when we are too bogged down or overcome by a situation to sense the Lord’s presence, it is there. Sometimes God reveals Himself directly. Other times He reveals Himself through the words and actions of others, leading them to act on His behalf to give us comfort and encouragement.
Romans 8:28 God works all things for good. Challenges and set-backs can be the result of consequences for our actions or part of God’s plan for us. Regardless the reason, when we give our situation to the Lord, and trust in Him, we can be reassured that God will work through our situation for good. We may see results immediately, or maybe not for years to come. The good might be for us to witness, and often I think God works in ways that we will never know. Knowing God can harvest good from even the worst of times helps us tolerate the tough times better, and more importantly, enables us to continue finding joy and strength in the Lord.
Matthew 6:25-34 Do not borrow worries from the future. God’s got this today!
Being reminded of these Biblical truths changed the anxiousness of my “what if’s” to assuredness of “what is.”
What is: God knows the plans and purposes He has for my child. Illness may seem to be a set-back, but it’s part of who Jackson is, and God knows all about it. Dealing with illness has shown me much about Jackson’s character – his ability to persevere, be strong, and overcome discouragement and disappointment. God knows what He wants of Jackson’s future, and surely he has a good future planned because He has gifted Jackson with many interests, skills, abilities and talents. It will all come together as it’s supposed to if we trust God, allow His will to be done, and follow the paths He puts before us.
Matthew 6:25-34 says:
25 (A)“Therefore I tell you, (B)do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 (C)Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (D)Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his (E)span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, (F)even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, (G)O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For (H)the Gentiles seek after all these things, and (I)your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But (J)seek first (K)the kingdom of God and his righteousness, (L)and all these things will be added to you.
34 (M)“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Regardless of what causes our worries or anxieties, we can be assured that if God provides for a single blade of grass, tends to the sparrows, and gives beauty to fleeting lilies of the field, then surely He will provide and take care of us, too! When God says not to be anxious about tomorrow, we can trust that He knows what we are going through today, and He’s saying, I’ve got this. Don’t be anxious about all the “what if’s.” Be assured with “what is.”
Yes, as Psalm 34:4 says above, I sought the Lord and he delivered me from my fears by replacing my “what if’s” with “what is.” Praise be to God. 🙂
Are worrisome “what if’s” on your mind?
How can God’s promises and truths from the Bible help when we feel worried or anxious?
Do you have particular verses that help you when you feel anxious or worried?
Need to know “what is” for you? Go to www.BibleGateway.com and enter keywords that address what you’re feeling or what you need. i.e. hope, fear, plans, purpose, courage, strength, joy Then read through the verses that come up and take note of the verses that seem to speak to you. Those are the “what is” assurances that God is sharing with you.
May the assurances of God’s truths strengthen your faith, fill you with hope, and bring you peace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Renee Myers 1-31-17 (revised 2-2-17)