40 Things to Give Up for Lent

A pastor I met a year or so before I left New Jersey, Phil Ressler, has written about “40 Things to Give Up for Lent” in the following post on his blog, Greater Things Today. Here is what he had to say:

40-things-for-lent-post

Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent are just around the corner. As this season of Lent approaches, many of us think about something to “give up.” Unfortunately, these things often have little impact upon our life and walk with Christ.

With that said, I would like to offer up “40 things to give up for Lent.” But this list is different. It is not the typical things like soda or chocolate. These are things truly worth giving up. There is one for each day of the season. And these are things to give up not just for Lent, but for the rest of your life.

  1. Fear of Failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
  2. Your Comfort Zone – It’s outside our comfort zones where new discoveries are made.
  3. Feelings of Unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139:14)
  4. Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.
  5. Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. Our work is not always tied to a paycheck.
  6. People Pleasing – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please.
  7. Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
  8. Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
  9. Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
  10. Overcommitment – Do less better and accomplish more.
  11. Lack of Counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
  12. Impurity – Live lives pure and without blemish.
  13. Entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
  14. Apathy – Life is too short not to care.
  15. Hatred – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
  16. Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic.
  17. The Spirit of Poverty – Believe that with God there is always more than enough and never a lack.
  18. Going Through the Motions – The more you invest yourself, the more you will get back.
  19. Complaint – Instead of contributing to the problem, be the solution.
  20. The Pursuit of Happiness – God wants something greater and more lasting than happiness. It is called joy.
  21. Bitterness – The only person I am hurting by holding on to this is myself.
  22. Distraction – Life is filled with distractions that will take our eyes off the prize.
  23. Giving up – God never gives up on us.
  24. Mediocrity – If you are going to do something, then give it all you got.
  25. Destructive Speech – Encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching (see Hebrews 10:25).
  26. Busyness – It is a badge of honor to be busy. But that does not always translate to abundance.
  27. Loneliness – With Jesus I am never alone. He is with me wherever I go.
  28. Disunity – If two of you agree on earth about anything, it will be done for them by the Heavenly Father (see Matthew 18:19)
  29. The Quick Fix – Rarely does true transformation happen overnight.
  30. Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
  31. Idolizing – Don’t assign anyone a standard they cannot live up to.
  32. Resistance to Change – Change is certain. It is not if we will change, but how we will change.
  33. Pride – Blessed are the humble.
  34. Small View of God – Don’t tell God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big your God is.
  35. Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
  36. Ungratefulness – You have been blessed in a way greater than you realize.
  37. Selfish Ambition – God has a mission for me that is bigger than me.
  38. Self-Sufficiency – Jesus is my strength. I can do all things through him (see Philippians 4:13)
  39. Sorrow – Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5b)
  40. My Life – Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25).

Pastor Ressler has also written a book of devotions on this theme and it is available from Amazon.

With Ash Wednesday less than a week away, now is an excellent time to plan for the Lenten season. 40 Things to Give Up for Lent might be a wise way to go. I’m going to use it. How about you?

“Were you there when…”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Exodus 24:12, 15-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

Every year, the Epiphany Season closes with “The Transfiguration of our Lord.” The event carries neither the hype nor the nostalgia of Christmas. It has no gut-rending introspection like Good Friday, and it lacks the euphoria of Easter. Every year it just seems to come and go — nothing changes, and hardly anyone notices.

In Sunday’s lesson from Second Peter, we read a reference from an eyewitness to Christ’s transfiguration. The author says he was there. When Jesus’ face shone like the sun and His garments became white as light, he was there. When Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah, he was there. When the cloud covered them and frightened them, he was one of them. When the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him,” he was there, and he listened.

Peter confronts what he calls “cleverly invented myths” that had cast many doubts on the identity of Jesus Christ. The author had no doubt that Jesus was the Son of God and that, even though they had expected Him earlier, He would eventually come again. The Transfiguration was literally and figuratively a mountaintop experience — not easily forgotten, and of great spiritual impact. Perhaps we fail to share that impact because, unlike the nailing to the tree and laying in the tomb, we neither reenact the event nor appropriate it to ourselves. If a song asked, “Were you there?”, we would yawn an unresponsive, “Nah.”

How would life be different for us if we had actually, physically been there at that moment in time? Some of you may think that this is only a theoretical question. The fact is we were not actually, physically, historically there, so what’s the difference? That, however, is precisely my point. I am convinced there would be a difference in the way we worship, the way we think, the things we say, and the way we live.

In many ways, the Bible says that we are often in the presence of God and fail to recognize Him. We “entertain angels unawares.” We feed Christ, clothe Him, give Him something to drink, visit Him when He is sick or in prison, but ask, “When did we see you hungry, naked, thirsty, sick or in prison?” We see Him at the cemetery and think He is only the gardener. We walk with Him on the road, but do not know Him.

Next Friday will be Valentine’s Day. The following powerful story illustrates human love at its best. It is way beyond the superficial stuff usually associated with Sunday’s holiday. The author saw it immediately as the kind of totally unselfish and gracious love we ordinarily only see from God. In his book, Mortal Lessons, Dr. Richard Selzer wrote:

“I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve.

“Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry- mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.

‘Will my mouth always be like this?’ she asks. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘It will. It is because the nerve was cut.’ She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles. ‘I like it,’ he says. ‘It is kind of cute.’ “All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.”

One is not bold in an encounter with God. Peter was bold at the onset of the Transfiguration. He piped up with: “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” My guess is that he was very impressed with being in the presence of three great men of God. After the cloud and the voice, he knew it was an encounter with God Himself. He and his friends fell facedown to the ground in awe. What started as an experience on a mountain top, suddenly became a mountaintop experience. Some events make us enthusiastic, piping up with all sorts of irrelevant exuberance. Others leave us silent, but changed.

When John Bunyan was converted to faith in Christ, he accepted his Baptism in tearful silence. Afterward he was changed forever. He later spoke of his return home: “I was so taken with the love and mercy of God that I knew not how to contain myself till I got home. I thought I would have spoken of His love to the very crows that sat upon the plowed lands before me.”

Henry Sloane Coffin once wrote about an announcer in a railway station who, on an oppressive summer day, would call out the destinations of waiting trains. He would urge others to board for enticing mountain and seaside resorts, but he would remain in the sweltering station, without glimpse of forest or ocean, and without the exhilarating air to be breathed on the mountain tops. The author concluded: “God forbid that you and I should spend our lives telling the uplifting experiences of prophet and lawgiver, psalmist and sage, on the heights of vision, and in the lofty encounters of disciples with the Incarnate God, and be ourselves strangers to the everlasting hills, and aliens to the mountaintop experiences where we, too, can encounter God.”

We cannot go up the mountain with Jesus, but in our own way each of us can experience a reality even more mind-blowing than the Transfiguration. I can imagine the giddy delight and trembling terror of the disciples. I can even get a hazy mental image of a transfigured Christ, but my mind is totally unprepared for the love that brought Him here in the first place. That His love for me and for you would take Him to the humiliation and suffering of the crucifixion is incomprehensible. But I will shout of it as long as I have breath in me. That is my mission. That is your mission.

Peter and the others saw the glory of Jesus when He met with the Old Testament’s two most famous characters. But it was something else altogether when they saw it again in His resurrection. Our celebration of the Lord’s Transfiguration needs to be a twofold experience. On the one hand, we need to experience and encounter God along with the other three disciples. On the other hand, we need to leave that mountain top as little Christs who, like the young man with his accommodating lips, can share or, better yet, be the love of God in what we say and do.

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Boldly Proclaiming the Good News

Why do we hesitate to witness for our Lord?  A frequent answer to that question is that we fear being rejected.  Of course, we’ll be rejected!  Christ Himself was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3), and Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master.  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”  But He added, “If they kept My word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20).  Not all will reject us or the words we speak in Christ’s name.  Surely, for Christ’s sake and by His grace, we can endure whatever mistreatment we receive in His name for the fruit that will result.

 

Prayer:  O Lord, You are from everlasting to everlasting.  Thank You for my Savior Who has lived the perfect life on earth in my place and Who will turn the dust of my body into a glorified body which will live eternally with You in Heaven.  Help me boldly tell others of Your wonderful love, grace, and mercy.  Through Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, I pray.  Amen.

 

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lessons and Hymns for the Transfiguration of Our Lord A

These are the Scripture lessons you will hear this coming Sunday:

Exodus 24:8-18
2 Peter 2:6-12
Matthew 17:1-9

You can read the above lessons and propers for Transfiguration here.

God Manifests His Glory in the Body of Christ Jesus, Transfigured for Us by His Cross

The Transfiguration confirms “the prophetic word … to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). The divine glory of Jesus is manifested in the word of His apostles, who were “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). “He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:2). Moses and Elijah witnessed the fulfillment of the Old Testament in this Lord Jesus, and the Father testified concerning Him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 17:5). By His own blood, shed on the cross, Jesus makes and seals the new covenant with us. Hence, “the appearance of the glory of the Lord” is no longer “like a devouring fire” (Ex. 24:17), but it is graciously revealed in His own body. As “Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel” went up the mountain with Moses and “beheld God, and ate and drank” (Ex. 24:9, 11), we also behold the Lord our God in Christ Jesus, and we abide with Him as we eat and drink His body and blood at the altar.

These are the hymns we will sing:

‘Tis Good, Lord, to be Here (LSB 414)
O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair (LSB 413)
Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning (LSB 400)
Your Table I Approach (LSB 628)
Alleluia, Song of Gladness (LSB 417)

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Living an Obedient Life

In Genesis 22, we read the account of Abraham’s obedience to God. Abraham obeyed God’s calling, even with a most difficult request.  Even though Isaac was the son of his old age, the son he loved, Abraham did not challenge God’s command that he offer his son as a sacrifice.  God tested Abraham, and Abraham proved his faithfulness to Him.  God, of course, proved His trustworthiness to Abraham.  Abraham trusted God’s provisions.  Abraham knew that God was in control and was trustworthy; therefore, he could obey all that God commanded of him.   Do our lives reflect that same unquestioning obedience?

Is God the Lord of our lives?

 

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness and Your promise to hear me when I call.  Please grant me the faith that You gave Abraham who through his obedience would have slain his own son.  Help me to be faithful in following Your will for my life.  Keep me focused on You so I trust and depend on You for all things.  In Christ’s name I pray.  Amen.

 

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lessons and Hymns for Epiphany 7 A

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-23
Matthew 5:38-48

You can read this Sunday’s lessons and propers here.

God Manifests His Perfect Holiness in Christ through Compassion and Forgiveness

God reveals His perfect holiness in compassion as “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). By His grace in Jesus Christ, we are holy just as He is holy (Lev. 19:2), and we are “God’s temple” in whom “God’s Spirit dwells” (1 Cor. 3:16). This gift of holiness begins with fearing, loving and trusting God above all things, and it leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). No longer should we practice “injustice in court.” No longer should we “be partial to the poor or defer to the great.” No longer should we “go around as a slanderer” among God’s people. No longer should we “take vengeance or bear a grudge” (Lev. 19:15–18). Though we were His enemies, our Lord Jesus Christ has loved us and forgiven us. Nourished and sustained by His holy body and blood under the bread and wine of His holy Supper, we “shall be holy” (Lev. 19:2) even as the Lord our God is holy.

These are the hymns we will sing:

O Blessed, Holy Trinity (LSB 876)
My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker (LSB 820)
Lord Jesus Christ with Us Abide (LSB 585)
O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696)
Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise (LSB 917)

Lessons and Hymns for Epiphany 6 A

These are the Scripture lessons you will hear this coming Sunday:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37

You can read the lessons and propers here.

Christ Sets Life Before Us so that We Can Walk in His Ways

The God who reveals Himself in His incarnate Son promises life and blessing to all who obey His commandments “by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules” (Deut. 30:16). However, we are “people of the flesh” and “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1) among whom “there is jealousy and strife” (1 Cor. 3:3). Jesus must instruct us against the human ways of anger, adultery, divorce and false witness (Matt. 5:21–37), because all who live in these ways “shall surely perish” (Deut. 30:18). On the cross, He died to forgive our sins and free us from the ways of curse and death. Since Jesus Christ is our “life and length of days” (Deut. 30:20), we can be reconciled to our brother, live in chastity and marital faithfulness, and speak with honesty. He who serves from His cross also offers His gift of reconciliation at His altar, and we can be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).

These are the hymns we will sing:

The Star Proclaims the King Is Here (LSB 399)
Hail, O Source of Every Blessing (LSB 409)
Renew Me, O Eternal Light (LSB 704)
O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth (LSB 834)
For Me to Live Is Jesus (LSB 742)