Saturday, March 16, 2013
Everyday we prepare ourselves for something. Presentations, lesson plans, performance reviews, papers, weekend trips and financial planning all takes preparation. At this time every year, millions of Christians are in a time of preparation. For some, it is the season of Lent, for others, it is a sometimes unnamed time of fasting, prayer and reflection not so coincidentally culminating with Holy Week and ultimately Easter Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Preparation, by definition is preparing for someone or some event in the future. In the early church, before the season of Lent (meaning Spring) was instituted by the church, this time prior to Easter was a significant time of preparation. Interestingly over the centuries what believers were preparing for has changed.
In the first few centuries, this time of preparation included both the believers and the new believes called catechumens. Catechumens had made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ but were going through a year of preparation that culminated right around Easter when the church initiated all of these new members into the church through Baptism. Baptism was a huge annual celebration and many churches built large baptismal with stairs leading into and out of the baptismal. Both the catechumens and the baptized members of the church fasted and prayed in preparation for this time of initiation. Both to be closer to God and for the power of the Holy Spirit to accompany the event.
By the fifth century, the preparation was no longer about Baptism as infants were baptized soon after birth. The time was to prepare to receive communion. Communion, or the Lord Supper by that time was shared weekly by the clergy but only celebrated at a distance by the rest of the Church. The term “Easter Duty” refers to the requirement of the faithful to receive communion on an annual basis and the medieval church prepared themselves through fasting and prayer during this time, by then called “lent”.
By the 20th century this time of preparation was the time that proceeded Easter. For evangelicals, it was an opportunity to pray and fast culminating in what has become the holiest week in the year. In the Roman Catholic Church, children were now receiving communion along with adults on a weekly basis. Communion became the centerpiece of every worship service in the Roman Catholic Church and the previously annual 40 day period of self reflection and examination became 40-days-of-giving-something up and meatless-Fridays that still culminated with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Fasting and prayer as preparation of the eternal truths of Christ’s resurrection and our redemption should be an integral component in every believers’ life. Jesus not only gives us eternal life but a life that is abundant, full and purposeful. Don’t miss the time of preparation regardless of what you call it or how long you chose to fast and pray.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I’m amazed but no longer surprised when I see people ignoring sometimes very obvious warning signs. In our relationships, our businesses, our finances and our health there are sometimes very obvious warning signs that should not be ignored.
Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to two young people about their relatively short tenure as a married couple. Their marriage was in serious trouble and from the very beginning there were a number of warning signs that disaster was probable if not absolutely certain. Warning signs like too much credit card debt, abuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as verbal abuse were obvious to family and friends around them but were ignored.
Just before Jesus went to the cross on Calvary he warned his followers: “So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand ), “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! A man on the housetop must not come down to get things out of his house. And a man in the field must not go back to get his clothes. (Matt 24:15-18)
History records in great detail the horrific destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. However, many of Christ’s followers were aware of this warning and left the city prior to the siege. Later in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells us, "Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. But know this: If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and not let his house be broken into. This is why you also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
Being ready for the return of Jesus Christ is also a warning. It is a warning for all of us that we are not to get too comfortable with our day-to-day life. We should live each day with the anticipation that there is something better, Someone greater that is coming.
Friday, March 08, 2013
Back in the late 1980’s TV audiences were introduced to special agent MacGyver.
MacGyver was a resourceful hero as he was able to use everything from household food and cleaning products to industrial solvents to create explosives, disable electronics and in general make things goes ‘boom’!
Like Indiana Jones but with a Swiss army knife rather than a whip, MacGyver challenged our imaginations to think about how ordinary things could be used in extra-ordinary ways.
As believers, we often think that we are ill-equipped to meet some of the significant challenges that we face on a regular basis. Nevertheless, God has always assured us that ‘all things are possible’ and that we would be able to do more than we can even hope or think.
Moses was an ordinary man who was able to do extraordinary things. He wasn’t always sure of himself but God showed him that He was able to be the instrument that God wanted to use at the time. Just before Moses was going to go and meet Pharaoh his confidence was a little shaky. The Lord said to him, 'What is that in your hand?' 'A staff,' he replied" (Exodus 4:2).
When Moses said, “A staff”, God told him to thrown it on the ground and it turned into a snake. God will use whatever we have in our hand for His glory. Centuries later, Jesus would call upon a little boy to use the five loaves and two fish in his hand to feed a multitude (John 6:9). Today, we have the privilege and can enjoy seeing God accomplish His purpose and His plan through our lives; even through the little things we have in our hand.
The fun thing about watching MacGyver was that it was the ordinary things that were used for a different purpose. The fun thing about being obedient when God calls is that He uses ordinary people for a higher purpose.
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