For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
Today on the Christian calendar is Ash Wednesday, and on the secular calendar, it is Valentine’s day. What an awesome combination love and repentance. Some are finding this difficult because it is the first day of lent and a time to sacrifice, therefore how do we wrestle with dinner, movies, and chocolate over ashes and sacrifice. I believe it is how you look at it. The sacrifice that Christ made is better than any valentine’s day. No one has sacrificed their life for me that I might have a right to the tree of life and paid the price that I would not die in my daily sins. Repenting is the least we can do to recognize our weaknesses as humans. Every day we should repent and love one another as Christ has loved us. It is not often that both fall on the same day. We have gotten so far removed from sacrificing our time, gifts, and talent for the body of Christ. We do not always enter his gates with thanksgiving and courts with praise, we come into Gods house like it is a chore like washing dishes or doing the laundry. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes tragedy and pain to draw us closer to God who wants us to seek first the kingdom of God. Pain has redeeming qualities; pain has a way of allowing God to get our attention. The gift of eternal life is priceless. The ashes today are symbolic of how much we owe to a loving God that formed us in his image and has blessed us in ways that we see and in ways that we do not see, So, love and repentance are an excellent combination for believers this year. Remain encouraged God’s continual blessings upon you.
For the past couple of Sundays, I have preached from what John Ortberg called in his book God is closer than you think, the concept of recognizing God during our spiritual winters. The text used for this subject is Job. The Lord said to Satan, have you considered my servant job. Just think, who would think it’s a badge of honor to be chosen for tragedy, a severe diagnosis, financial struggle, and a host of other life trials and tribulations. Many of us would prefer to say move over job and sit on the heap of ashes with him. What good would that do? And how effective would that be? No one said the struggle is easy, but it is better to turn your pain into praise and your worry into worship and trust God for the outcome.
For twenty-two chapters job complained and listen to the peanut gallery tell him he must have done something wrong, what theologians call the theology of retribution. So, if Job repented, God would forgive him and restore what was lost. Job was able to stay strong enough to let his friends know this was not the case and then the Lord showed up on his behalf to rebuke his friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. The Lord knew Job was a man of faith, upright and blameless, who loved the Lord, not just when the sun was shining but during his spiritual winter. The great hymn of the church lyrics states, “hold to his hand Gods unchanging hand, therefore if God is holding our hand when its good, the Lord is still holding our hand when its bad. Sometimes it does not feel like it, but the Lord is. Job said to his wife when she wanted him to curse God and die; he said to her” “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Life is full of trouble and sorrow, but it is so much more palatable when you learn how to lean and depend on God. There is a bright side, God has other seasons, and the sun does come out. Remain encouraged. God Bless.