What Wondrous Love is This?

We sang this hymn at our Wednesday Lenten service this week.  I found that it originated in Appalachia in the 1800’s and has been described as a “white spiritual.”  The melody is sad and haunting but the words express hope and gratitude.  It sets the correct tone for this meditative season in the church year.

 

Advertisements

Lenten Discipline

This article was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador.  I thought it would be appropriate to post during this season of Lent.

Are you a disciplined person?  Do you go to the gym or walk regularly to exercise your body?  Do you take all the training offered in your workplace so that you can advance in your career?  Do your read child development books and Parents Magazine in the hopes of becoming the best mom or dad you can be?

All of these activities require discipline, and most of us are willing to practice discipline when the end result is important to us.

Lent is a season of spiritual discipline. At the time of the Reformation,  when some wanted to eliminate Lent,  Martin Luther argued for keeping it saying,

“Lent, Palm Sunday and Easter week should be retained, not to force anyone to fast, but to preserve the Passion history and the gospels appointed for that season”  Luther’s Works 53:90

Adopting a Lenten practice has real spiritual value.  It can help us develop self-control by detaching our desires from worldly things.  We may identify more strongly with Christ’s suffering and meditate on the true meaning of discipleship.  It is a concrete way to express sorrow and repentance for our sins.

Most often I hear people say they are observing Lent by giving something up (in the case of Lutherans, this is usually coffee or desserts, which seem to be our particular vices!)  There is nothing wrong with fasting for Lent, especially if we are avoiding something which is a particular area of sin or a distraction for us.  I am an avid reader and I sometimes “fast” from all secular reading during Lent.  This opens up more time for reading the Bible and devotional literature.  You might “fast” from watching TV for the same reason;  or give up recreational shopping or eating out and donate the money you save to a worthy cause.

Adding something to your schedule is another way to practice spiritual discipline.  If your church has a weekly Lenten service, go — this is a discipline that will help you grow in your faith!  One year our congregation shared our favorite Bible verses and committed ourselves to memorizing one new verse each day during Lent. It was marvelous to see the variety in God’s word and an incentive to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  You might try setting aside extra time for prayer, offering your services to a local ministry, or writing notes of encouragement to people who need God’s love.

We are each unique, so be creative in finding the Lenten exercise that stretches an increases your faith.  If you think of Lent as a journey, you may very well end up in a new place when it is over.  Make it a time of exciting discovery instead of that dreary season you have to endure on the way to Easter.  Have a blessed Lent as you seek his face.

 

What is a Sacrifice??

One person’s sacrifice is not a sacrifice to another. This comment seems to be one that is common sense, but let us look a little bit more into it. With the season of Lent upon us, a lot of us have decided to “give up” something. I have been told by many that they have given up chocolate, desserts, reading non-religious books, limiting computer time, and the list goes on. Now to many these may not seem like sacrifices, but to the ones that made them, quite simply, they are.

I decided to do something a little different this year for Lent; instead of giving up one thing I am trying (note I said trying to do) an additional item each week and added something more oriented to God each week  I will give you the examples below:

week 1 – I gave up playing Bingo on Facebook and added reading at least 2 devotionals per day

week 2 – Turn off the computer at 11:30 pm – read Bible for additional 30 minutes

week 3 – No eating after 9:00 – spend additional 15 minutes communing with the Lord

week 4 – give up soda – post 1 blog per week (starts this Wednesday)

Now it doesn’t seem like much, but remember I am compounding them so I have now given up 4 items and added 4 items (all added items are oriented to a deeper relationship with the Lord.)  Now, how am I doing??  Okay made a few slips here and there, but brush myself off and start over.  These seem small to a lot of us, but they mean something to me, so that brings me to my next point.  What someone sacrifices means something to them.  It may not seem like much to us, but it doesn’t have to.  Remember, the object is to give up something that has meaning to you, not me or your best friend or your family.  You get the picture.

The only sacrifice that can be truly stated as being the most selfless act was Jesus dying on the cross.  So that being said I think I can give up the minor, petty things that I think are selfless, but really, they are not that selfless compared to His sacrifice.

Once again, I thank you for reading my post, hope you can comment on your thoughts, and definitely look forward to my next attempt at this topic.

Always remember that God Loves You And So Do I

Michele Edgel

 

Why Sacrifice?

I am glad that the Lutheran ladies chose “love” for our first theme.  The more I think about love, the more I see how it informs every part of Christian life, and every Christian concept.  Last month, a quote by Martin Luther reminded me that love should interpret the law; this month, I am thinking about how love should motivate sacrifice.

The dictionary defines sacrifice as giving something up, usually for a better cause. Many of us have given up our time and disposable income in the present so that we can graduate from college, start a business, or buy a home in the future.  This kind of sacrifice is essentially selfish because we are the ones who will benefit.  We may also sacrifice out of training or feelings of duty:  for example, giving time and money to the church or participating in community service because we’ve been taught it’s the right thing to do.  We might sacrifice for our family members or friends because we love them, but Jesus tells us “even the tax collectors”(Matt. 5:46) do this.

Christians are called to a different kind of sacrifice. One Christian author calls it “love without recompense,” or you might say, “love without any thought of reward.”  This is what the apostle Paul means when he says we must be “a living sacrifice.”(Romans 12:1).   This chapter goes on to tell us exactly what that kind of sacrificial living means:  humility, willingness to use our gifts to help the Church and genuine love for others, including our enemies and those who mistreat us.  Christ, as always, is our model.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

The season of Lent is a time when we think of sacrifice, maybe even giving something up for a time. I challenge you (as I challenge myself) to examine your motives:  Why am I sacrificing this?  Who does this sacrifice really benefit?  Is love my motive?

Send me your thoughts and comments, and tell me what you are sacrificing during Lent.

Only Love Lasts

If you’re a Lutheran, you know we’re in the midst of Lent. That means an extra weekly church service.  In keeping with the penitential mood of the season, our Pastor (who is also my husband) selected the book of Ecclesiastes for the sermon series.  It’s a rather gloomy book; the “preacher” or “teacher” (reputed to be King Solomon), lists the many accomplishments of his life.  He’s rich, wise, famous, successful, and has enjoyed all the pleasures available to man.  Yet none of these things have truly satisfied him.  He calls them all, “vanity” (or in some translations “meaningless”), no more than “chasing after the wind.”

Last week’s sermon got me thinking about a talk I once heard by James Dobson. He said when his father died, he did not remember how much money he made, or what he had achieved professionally.  He didn’t think about the many “things” and comforts his father had provided for the family.  He remembered the times he and his dad spent together, doing simple activities like going fishing. Those times taught him that his father cared for him and wanted to be with him. They were the kind of memories he wanted to pass down to his own children.  Love is the best legacy to leave, the only one that really lasts.

In the thirteen chapter of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul attests to this when he says, “Love never ends: as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease, as for knowledge, it will pass away.” Even our spiritual accomplishments are “nothing” if we don’t do them out of love.

So, like Paul, “Make love your aim.”(1 Corinthians 14:1).

How do you plan to do that  this week?  Send us your ideas and comments.