* A seasonal re-post *
“Fat Tuesday” is the day before “Ash Wednesday” which marks a 40 day countdown to Easter Weekend. Got all that? Probably not, unless you were either raised in a liturgical Church or you live in countries where Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday are a big deal.
In Australia this hasn’t been the case so much until recently. Retailers can seize upon as a commercial opportunity and some Church and Community groups use it as a chance to connect and serve their members.
For many Christians, particularly the Catholic, Eastern and Liturgical groups, Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent. A period of sacrifice, penance or fasting in the lead up to the annual observance of Jesus death and resurrection.
Lent is a transliteration of a term with Germanic and Latin roots that means “lengthen” and was synonymous with the Spring season, as in, ‘the days begin to lengthen in Spring’. Thus the name, Lent. That’s all well and good if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, if not, it’s just a weird word.
What lent has come to mean and is now practiced all over the world, is a period of sacrifice or partial fasting. Sanctified weight loss programs exploit the vulnerable, as do anti-cigarette campaigners, alcohol prohibitionists seize the opportunity to get people to quit drinking and all manner of well meaning propaganda finds it’s way into our life. One year a Church leader tried the same angle with iPods. A friend of mine is doing a similar “fast” from Facebook and other social media. I might join him.
Just like Chicken Soup, there’s little harm from abstinence of a few luxuries. Take a break from your iPod if you must, leave off the chocolate and lose a kilo or a belt notch. So long as you beware the trap in thinking that your abstinence somehow makes you closer to God, more loveable to God, or more worthy of his forgiveness, grace and goodness.
Nothing less than Jesus can save you, give you God’s forgiveness and assurance that your heavenly Father loves you enough to send his unique Son to die in the place of sinners. Once Lent is over and Christians celebrate Easter Sunday, it’s not because they get to eat chocolate again. It is because Jesus has put an end to Satan, sin and death and is our sovereign and almighty Lord.
If staying off Facebook or your iPod helps you make that clear to your friends, please go ahead. I wonder though, if you’re not giving up anything for Lent, for whatever reason, how do you view those that do?
courtesy of “Theological Word of The Day“
The annual holiday celebrated by Christians on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born somewhere between 7 and 2 BC. Dec. 25 is probably not the date when Christ was born, but was designated as such in the 4th century in order to substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The designation Christmas comes from a combination of “Christ” with “Mass.” Often the Greek X (Chi) is substituted for “Christ” making Xmas (as was the custom in the early church when abbreviated Christ’s name). Although there is no command in Scripture to celebrate this day as a holiday, Christians believe the incarnation is the foundation to salvation and, according to many, the greatest miracle in the history of man.
So, Merry Xmas to all :)
Australians ‘Stop’ each year on the first Tuesday in November at around 3:00pm AEDST to watch the Melbourne Cup horse race. Workers are given time off to gather in front of the television. Students, if still in school, pause to do the same. In some parts of the country the entire day is a public holiday. All, so we, in unison, can watch the outcome of this race.
The beauty of the horses racing is a vivid testimony to strength, endurance, discipline and precision (on the part of the breeders, trainers and jockeys). I have attended corporate banquets put on in celebration of the race, others will spend a small fortune to don formal wear and play the ‘toff’ for a day at the racetrack. It is in many respects as much a public institution as some of the national religious and public holidays. Throughout workplaces and schools, sweeps are run, where, usually, by way of random allocation, entrants are given a horse for a small fee of maybe $2-$5. If your employer is particularly fortunate with their winnings, it is not unusual to be given the rest of the day off… to celebrate!
Sadly, or amusingly, if you’re so inclined, the condition of patrons at the race courses throughout the country later in the afternoon, differs considerably from earlier in the morning. What was at 11:00am, a beautifully adorned lady in a formal dress with accompanying hat or fascinator assembly, is at 5:00pm, a disheveled, crumpled, stained, torn, staggering embarrassment frequently accompanied by an equally uncouth, stupefied, lecherous lout. This, from either over indulging whilst celebrating their win or while commiserating their loss. Considerable stakes are paid in what is, usually, friendly one-up-man-ship, with punters trying to out-do each other in their betting on the horse racing. Hopes, quite literally, are “dashed” when another horse crosses the finish line ahead of the one they had ‘invested’ in. The Sydney Morning Herald estimated that the takings from punters in 2009 exceeded $143 million in Victoria and New South Wales. The only clear winners are the State Government departments that profit from gaming and gambling. Everyone else comes out worse off.
The premise of gambling is trying to get something large for a disproportionately small price. The idea is that you make a bet, and not have to work to earn the same amount. What might take several days, weeks or months to otherwise earn or cultivate, can be gained in a matter of seconds, simply by placing a well timed bet on the right horse (in the case of the Melbourne Cup). It doesn’t take much to argue yourself from there into the place that by increasing the bet, you could increase your winnings, and if you win enough, you might never have to work again. Obviously, not everyone is consumed with, or tempted by, an addiction to gambling. However, for those that are, even a sweepstake entry can prove to be a deadly distraction. In wisdom, we must be careful how we represent and take part in the good fun of our nation’s (arguably) favourite past-time. If, by entering a sweep, you communicate that your sustenance and hope for provision is elsewhere than in what God has provided, you may find it difficult to convincingly discuss your faith in Jesus and why he is exclusively sufficient for spiritual salvation.
What would you truly prefer? That God dealt with us randomly by way of spinning a wheel, drawing lots? That He let the roll of a dice determine our eternal fate? Or that God has deliberately set his love upon us and reveals his grace to us via Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection? Gambling is emotionally charged controversy that provokes passionate advocates both for abolition and enjoyment in moderation. I hope you consider carefully how you will “profit” from a little flutter compared to finding your passion in Christ.
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Psalm 119:116 NIV
Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:24 NIV
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This post is a re-post from Nov 4 2009 and was part of a series on Psalm 119.
There is a type of thinking that is popular among Christians that says you become a Christian simply by repeating the words of a prayer to God. This prayer varies in exact wording among different denominations and branches of the Christian Church, however the basic elements are all the same. Say the prayer, and hey presto you’re now a Christian. If you ever struggle with your faith in the future or fall away completely, that’s OK, because once upon a time, you prayed a prayer so you have a spiritual insurance policy against fire damage.
One of the problems with that idea is there are no examples of it in the Bible. Another is that it is not a common practice throughout Church history until very recently (last century). But, the biggest problem is when you base your spiritual confidence in something you do instead of something God has done in the person of Jesus then you are “placing all bets” on your own personal worth and accomplishments. If that’s the case, you had better make sure your record is completely, 100%, perfect.
I prayed a prayer, therefore I am going to heaven. In other words, I’ve paid my dues, so God owes me one.
Christianity is never presented this way in the Bible. Instead what we see is Jesus calling people to repent of self-confidence and self accomplishment and instead trust in his accomplishment on their behalf. i.e. to trust in his completely, 100%, perfect record and perfect offering of himself to satisfy the justice of God on your behalf.
My self-confidence and sense of personal peace or enjoyment of my faith will vary all the time, but the accomplishment of Jesus stands and remains consistent. If I doubt my sincerity when I prayed such and such a prayer, my confidence could waver. But, if I doubt, or am discouraged, defeated, depressed or disillusioned in myself Jesus has called me to look away from myself and look to him. I am not a Christian because of something I have done or haven’t done. Rather I am a Christian because I am relying and trusting in what the Bible says Jesus has done on my behalf.
J.D. Greear has written a little book called “Stop asking Jesus into your heart”. He explains the difference between relying upon Jesus and “praying a special prayer”.
“Repentance and faith are heart postures you take toward the finished work of Christ. You might express the beginning of that posture in a prayer. But don’t make the mistake of equating that prayer with the posture. The sinner’s prayer is not a magic incantation or a recipe you follow to get a salvation cake. The real stuff—the stuff that matters—is the posture of repentance and faith behind the words you speak. The prayer is good only insofar as it verbalizes the posture.
we might express our assumption of that new posture in a “sinner’s prayer”—or by “asking Jesus into our hearts,” or some equivalent thereof—but just because we’ve prayed that prayer doesn’t necessarily mean we have repented and believed. The flip side is also true: just because we haven’t prayed that prayer (or can’t remember praying it) doesn’t mean we haven’t repented and believed. “Repentance and belief” and “asking Jesus into our hearts” are not always interchangeable.”
~ Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J.D. Greear
Are you repenting of your sin and trusting in Jesus or are you trusting in some words you once recited as a prayer?
One of the most polarizing events in Sydney’s cultural calendar is the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. What started as a political advocacy and protest march has grown into a major Australian tourism extravaganza. It regularly attracts international celebrity and acclaim. Locally it’s a popularly promoted festival and gives rise to various protests and campaigns in reaction and response from the more conservative, usually Christian, members of the Sydney community (although not exclusively these days), who are concerned about the tone, message and lifestyle mardi gras promotes.
I wonder though, how Jesus, friend of sinners, would react and respond to the occasion. I don’t see any precedents in the New Testament that indicate he would be a red-faced, screaming, placard holding protester. Neither, do I see the Son of God off his face at the after party having popped a few of whatever may be the latest party drug or stimulant. I suspect his action would be one of grace, love, compassion and service.
Local Sydney Pastor, (among other things), John Dickson, penned this prayer. I think Jesus would be the one who would model how this prayer is answered and lived out to the glory of God.
For my friends, who are at Mardi Gras tonight, and, well, if you read this at all, are probably doing so late Sunday afternoon or Monday at the earliest, hear the words of this prayer as my prayer for you AND me.
A PRAYER FOR THE NIGHT OF MARDI GRAS – by John Dickson
God of the righteous and the wicked,
Have mercy on your people, the church,
for their wickedness:
for allowing biblical convictions about love and sex
to justify unbiblical words and actions
toward men and women made in your image.
As it rains on tonight’s parade,
may this speak not of your judgment
but of your promise to cleanse and forgive
all who turn to you for grace.
And teach our nation,
especially your church,
to follow Jesus, the Friend of Sinners,
that we would learn how to care deeply
for those with whom we profoundly disagree;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.