Trying to Understand Lenten Traditions

Read Luke 22:42,44

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,” -John 3:14 NIV

I had never really understood the tradition of giving up something for Lent. In one sense it sounded like fasting, and another sense sounded like a New Year’s resolution. Those seem like good things to do, but why for Lent?

One thing I do understand is how I dread going to the dentist for a filling. Honestly, it is a minor amount of pain and discomfort. It looks incredibly petty compared to the discomfort of the cross and the pain of bearing all of humanity’s sin. In the days and weeks leading up to the first Good Friday, Jesus felt apprehension and dread about what was to come. We see this in His prayer recorded in Luke 22:42. Jesus asks, if possible, that he wouldn’t have to go through the crucifixion he was about to experience. Yet, in the same sentence, Jesus surrenders His will over to His Father. He knew it would hurt, and He was willing to go through with it for my sake, for your sake.

I can use my apprehension to better understand what Christ did for me. And I can use self-denial or fasting as a daily reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. A sacrifice made in order to complete His greatest work on this earth, a work that saves us from the pain of eternal separation from God.

Recognizing the Risen

In a devotion a co-worker gave last week, he was sharing from a chapter in Ravi Zacerious‘ book Jesus Among Other Gods. One minor point really jumped out to me: Jesus’ enemies seemed to understand some of His teachings better than the Apostles.

Matthew 26:62-66 tells about the chief priests and Pharisees who asked to have guards placed by the tomb because they remembered Jesus saying He would rise again in three days. They were afraid the disciples were going to steal His body, so they could pretend He had risen. Yet when the disciples saw Him, they thought He was a ghost (Luke 24:37). Can you imagine the disciples practically falling out of their chairs, “Ahhk, wha…what are you doing here?” And it is not like the disciples had never seen anyone raised from the dead before either.

I think sometimes we are too close to a particular situation for our eyes to focus. I hope you don’t miss seeing God work right under your nose this spring.

If someone takes your tunic

This morning in my men’s group we read and discussed Matthew 5:38-42, part of the Sermon on the Mount. Reading it is hard, applying it is even harder. But then on my drive into work from small group I heard an awesome story on the radio about a man who was robbed at knife point when he was getting off a New York subway. He handed over his wallet thinking “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money.” As the robber was walking away the  man called after him, “If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” The rest of the story is a perfect example of why Christ tells us to love our enemies. Listen for yourself.

Katrina: Back to the Pass

It has been seven months since the storm. The images are less vivid, its fading from memory and no ones wondering where their next meal will come from anymore. But the Gulf coast is still very much reeling from Katrina. Two weeks ago I became the first to utilized the new Cre8tive Group Missions Trip Benefit™ (except for Andy I guess, whose trips showed the need for such a policy). I went with another group of 75, again mostly students from Asbury College plus the wonderful addition of my hot fiancée Jen.

Arriving back in Pass Christian, it was remarkable both how much work had been done and how much work there was still to do. One house would be mere weeks away from being ready to be lived in again, while the one right next to it had not even been touched since the storm, still filled with rotting fridges and mounds of mildew that were once called “couches.” What an amazing psychological strain for those who are living in town; those who are trying to rebuild their homes and lives. If and when they get everything back in order, they still have to drive by the devastation each time they go to the nearest grocery store a town or two away. The remaining residents have gotten used to living in a trailer with less space than my office.

So what did I learn? People need hope. People everywhere, in every situation, need hope. Seven months after a major hurricane, they need hope to fight off depression. Hope that things are going to get better, that life will return to normal, that they will one day live in a building that doesn’t have wheels. So what if I helped build a couple sheds, cleaned up a yard and painted a house? In the grand scope of things, that’s really not all that much progress. But, what we really did was build a little hope, show them a little love to know that they’re not forgotten about, and get to know the residents of a little town where we’ll likely celebrate our anniversary some year.

Katrina: Baywood House

So we saw a lot of damage down in Pass Christian. But one thing that was truly baffling was how much water this water front town had to deal with. The second to last day there my group joined Julie’s on what turned out to be a house that was in much higher water then we could really imagine.

Get this, the house was up on stilts, I would say the stilts were 8 feet tall. This house was on stilts because it was right next to the cannel. So it was on stilts so it wouldn’t flood, but it was not prepared for Katrina. There was 1 foot of flooding…on the second story above the stilts. There were giant holes in the roof. The house hadn’t been touched in the three months since the hurricane and when we got there. There was stuff everywhere. The bed rooms litterally had feet of toys, muck, clothes and drywall on the floor. When we got to the floor, we didn’t even know it was carpet or hardwood. The floor looked like the bottom of a pond. And in the cannel in the back yard, there was a house.

Twenty feet of water does really amazing things.