Immediately!

As part of my Lenten discipline, I’ve started a slow and prayerful reading of the book of Mark.  Lent is always a good time to reflect upon the life of Christ, and Mark is the shortest gospel.

What stands out for me in the first chapter is one word — immediately.  The Spirit “immediately” drove Jesus into the wilderness;  Jesus “immediately” called James and John;  He “immediately entered the synagogue;  He healed the leper who was made clean “immediately.”

Get the point?  There was a sense of urgency about the ministry of Jesus.  The God part of His nature probably knew that His time was limited.  He had certain things to accomplish, and He couldn’t fool around.  The tasks He had been assigned were important and He had to see that they were done “immediately.”

You and I should have this same sense of urgency, but often we don’t.  We forget that our time on earth is short — the Bible says:

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14

So why aren’t we studying God’s Word — immediately?  Why don’t we witness to our friends and neighbors –immediately?  Why don’t we get started on that new ministry –immediately?  Why don’t we make time to pray –immediately? (I’m not only asking you these questions, I’m asking myself).

Instead, we fool ourselves into thinking we are too busy with the daily routines of life to make time for the work God calls us to do.  We will get to that tomorrow, next week, or next year, when “things” have calmed down.  The problem is, they rarely do, and we allow the expedient to take priority over what’s truly important.

If we honestly want to follow the example of Jesus, we won’t put off the things of God. Do them immediately. There is no better time than today.

“” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”2 Corinthians 6:2

A Lenten Quote

“Nothing could make the period of Lent so much of a reality as to employ it in a systematic effort to fix the mind on Jesus.  The history in the Gospels is so well worn that it often slips through the head without affecting the heart.  But if, retiring into solitude for a portion of each day, we should select some one scene or trait or incident in the life of Jesus, and with all the helps we can get seek to understand it fully tracing it in the other Scriptures, etc., we should find ourselves insensibly interested, and might hope that in this effort of our souls to understand Him, Jesus Himself would draw near, as He did of old to the disciples on the way to Emmaus.  This looking unto Jesus and thinking about Him is a better way to meet and overcome sin than any physical austerities or spiritual self-reproaches.  It is by looking at Him, the Apostle says, ‘as in a glass’ that we are ‘changed into the same image, as from glory to glory.'”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

For more information on Harriet Beecher Stowe go to these posts:

Harriet Beecher Stowe by Noel Gerson — Book Review

The Cloud of Witnesses

Journey to the Cross from the (in)courage community — Book Review

This forty day devotional is meant to be used during the Lenten season.  The book itself is attractive:  hardbound with a crisp white and green cover and green satin ribbon bookmark.  There is a calendar at the beginning (for those who like to check off their progress) and a space for recording important insights.

Each day is not alike.  Some may be just a Bible verse to ponder;  others are a devotion plus reflection questions;  some are for journaling.  I enjoyed the variety.  Topics covered included fasting, sacrifice, gratitude, obedience,  our calling and more.  If you’re looking for a personal spiritual discipline to undertake during Lent, this little book would be a good resource.   It could also be used with a group, along with regular meeting to share and discuss the material covered.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I would recommend this book to others, and it would make a nice gift for a friend.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow this link:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/journey-to-the-cross-P005819504

To learn more about the (in) courage community visit:  http://www.incourage.me

To see a review of another devotional from this community follow the link below:

Women of Courage: a Forty-Day Devotional — Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

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.