In case you missed it, the Church celebrated Ash Wednesday this week. This worldwide, annual ritual simultaneously launches Christians on a 40+ day Lenten journey to the cross while reminding us that “from dust we came and to dust we shall return.” Are you celebrating Lent?
The forty day period of Lent points us to Jesus Christ’s forty days of temptation in the desert. While there, Jesus did not eat:
“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.” Luke 4:1-2
In a Lenten message this week, my pastor unpacked Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. He reminded me that this desert testing was a true trial. For 40 days, Jesus did not eat. Physically, he was hungry. As a man, he hurt. Humanly speaking, he was in great need.
Can you imagine? No food for forty days? Try not eating for forty hours.
Yet Jesus stood firm. In the midst of severe want, hurt and temptation, Jesus overthrew Satan’s wily assaults. Like us, He faced the temptation to do things His own, seemingly less painful-to-self way. Let’s face it, Jesus will eventually rule the world, but He faced the temptation to do so while circumventing the horror and shame of the cross. Better for Jesus. Not so good for us.
Thankfully, Jesus depended, trusted and was 100% devoted to God and God’s plan.
Jesus denied Himself. He chose to serve rather than be served. This isn’t just washing-my-feet kind of serving. Christ gave His very life for me. I admire Him. Golly! I marvel at Him. His sacrifice is utterly incomprehensible.
As a little girl, I celebrated Lent by collecting change for Sunday school. For me, this was never a sacrifice. I never denied myself. Instead, I simply asked grown-ups to give me change.
For Lent today, I’m challenged to ponder and examine my heart. What can I sacrifice that denies my self and puts me in need of the Lord?
One word rises above: Praise.
Huh? This will make sense. I hope.
Lent is a fantastic time to seek Christ through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, meditating on the Word, fasting and more. And yet, despite regular practice of these disciplines, I still fall to temptation. I echo the hymn writer’s prayer:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
So, I ask, “Lord, where am I currently missing the mark? For this Lenten season, what’s one way to deny myself?” Oh!?? I wasn’t expecting this one…
Complaining? Not complain for 40 days?
Rather than habitual complaining, grumbling or whining (which differ from genuine lament or grief), can I imagine a “continual sacrifice of praise?” Not really. Even in the midst of writing this, I inwardly complain that I am short on time.
And yet, Scripture encourages me:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15
Through Christ, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
So then, imagine a world of no complaining. Seriously, can you imagine our country without words of self-centered complaint? Now that would be something.
Envision the beauty of complaint-free homes. Relationships. Hearts. Minds.
Complaining is a symptom of a heart issue:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6: 45
It’s pretty simple: The heart equates to attitude. Bad attitude evokes bad words. A good attitude brings forth good words. Oh God! Change my heart! Make me more like Christ, who when tempted, evoked Your Word.
So my Lenten goal is: to learn to continually offer God a sacrifice of praise.
To kick a grumbling habit and move towards a heart of continual praise is not easy. Can you relate? Want to try?
Presently, a group of friends and I are attempting this new habit. Together we’re learning to praise God through daily, personal worship. I’m grateful to this beautiful group of women who hold me accountable. But I thought it could be fun to try this online as well. Could we continually offer up sacrifices of praise via the internet?
The beauty of Ash Wednesday is this reminder: Christ endured the cross and scorned it’s shame to rescue us from “dust,” from the shame of sin and death. He is worthy of all praise and honor and glory. He is worthy of grateful hearts.
Please consider joining me!
Together we have 40+ days to praise. Add your praise to the comments below and pass it on. May Christ be glorified.
Pray with me?
Lord Jesus, I admire You. I admire how You withstood temptation. I admire how You denied Yourself. You endured the cross scorning it’s shame and now sit at the right hand of the throne of God interceding on our behalf. What love is this! Lord, I confess my grumbling and complaining. Please forgive me. As I prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday in the weeks ahead, change my heart. God, I surrender it to You. Renew me that I might learn to continually offer You a sacrifice of praise. You are worthy. All praise, honor and glory be unto You who saves us from mere “dust.”
~Simply add a word, a short phrase or sentence.
God, I praise You for You are Worthy.
You are mighty.
~Praise in another language.
~Use a hymn.