Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

What About Lent?

Growing up in the Roman Catholic church, the observance of Lent was a given.  Lent is the 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), and is generally observed by “giving up” something.  At least that’s how I remember it from childhood.  I generally gave up candy, but I can remember trying to convince myself that licorice wasn’t actually candy, but medicine. And, of course, there was the no meat on Friday thing.

I had been gone from the Catholic church for several years and had become an Evangelical Protestant, when I was visiting with some Catholic friends from my home town on Good Friday and made the mistake of ordering pepperoni on my pizza. Their surprise didn’t escape my notice. I hadn’t even thought about it being a Friday in Lent, much less Good Friday. But as I enjoyed my meal, I remember feeling a sense of freedom.

So the question comes up every year: should Protestant Christians observe Lent?  For the last several years, my home church (not Catholic) has observed Ash Wednesday with the distribution of ashes, and has encouraged members to practice some form of self-denial.  But this year, I particularly appreciated my pastor’s insight on Lenten observance.  His comment was that we shouldn’t be giving up something just for self-denial’s sake, but that by giving up something we could be using that time or energy to do something else for God’s kingdom.  Pastor Brett shared that he was giving up an hour of sleep each day so that he could spend that time praying for us, his parishioners.

This is the example Jesus gave us.  The Creator of the Universe came and walked among His creation, in humility and servanthood.  He denied all that He was to show us the depth and height and breadth of the Father’s love for us. He used the time to teach and heal and touch and restore, and ultimately, to pay the price for our sins.  Then He conquered death and the grave so we could know the promise of new life.

As we prepare to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, why shouldn’t we share in His denial and sacrifice, as well as His servanthood?

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 NIV

Can I Get a Witness?

On July 23, 1999, my family witnessed the take-off of the Space Shuttle Columbia from its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.  Up to that point I had watched shuttle launches on television, and even seen the exhaust trail through the Florida sky from over 100 miles away, but nothing could compare to witnessing it first-hand from the visitor’s area, just 6 miles away.  The rockets illuminated the midnight sky, and the sound, which took a few seconds to reach us, pounded against my chest like the grand finale of a giant firework display.  We cheered with the crowd. Some folks were friends of the pilot, others had come from around the world. It was a truly spectacular and unforgettable experience.

Court systems around the world value the testimony of a person who has been at the scene and witnessed an event in person.  The followers of Jesus understood this fact when, after the death of Judas, they decided to elect a replacement to complete the twelve disciples.  Their reasoning?  “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of the resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 (NIV – emphasis mine)

This last phrase has stuck with me since I read it.  Why?

First, the word must.  This was strong language, a command, something iron-clad, not an option.  The disciples meant business.  It had to happen.  What was so important?  This chosen individual must become a witness to the resurrection.

Notice that they weren’t looking for someone who heard Jesus teach, or who saw him feed the multitudes.  It wasn’t the healings he performed, or miracles or even his death on the cross that they needed to validate.  They were standing in witness of the resurrection.  This was an event the Roman soldiers had been paid to lie about.   Jewish religious leaders dismissed it as a rumor or exaggeration.  But the early disciples understood that without the resurrection, the other events of Jesus’ life did not hold the same meaning.

The lives of these men would be changed forever by standing in witness of the resurrection. This was not just an invitation to ‘like’ Jesus on Facebook. They remind me of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred trust. Remember Saul before he became Paul?  He was basically the bounty hunter for the Jewish religious leaders who were trying to snuff out the resurrection conspiracy. These folks meant business. This new Christianity could change the world as the religious leaders knew it, and they didn’t like it a bit. And according to history, these witnesses faced torture and death for their testimony, which stood unchanged to the end.

So when I read these words I had to ask myself,  what have I witnessed that could change my world? I wonder if I would be ready to take a stand for truth, a stand that could actually endanger my life. While I did not witness the bodily resurrection of Christ, I know the change he has made it my life — about my own resurrection, if you will.  I’ve seen Him at work in the lives of those who were dead in sin and corruption and raised to life and restored by his miraculous healing power.

I can’t stand by and let the resurrection truth and the authority of God’s Word get watered down by a society that wants to choose its own truth like a Sunday buffet.  If I do, Jesus becomes just a good teacher, and is, along with all the other religions, one of the many so-called paths to God.

The disciples thought it was important enough to keep this critical truth intact.  They paid for that commitment with their lives.  How can I do anything less?

Copyright 2011 by Mary Egidio  – permission is granted to copy this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

P.S.  Lest you think my pen, er, keyboard has been silent, please check out http://mapstories.wordpress.com to see what God has allowed me to write lately.  Each story made me step back and say, “Wow!”  I hope they do the same for you.

The Best Gift

My friends George, Sally and I had jumped into George’s truck to drive over to the next town to look at the Christmas lights.  Anticipating the holiday, we were in a jovial mood.  When we pulled up to an intersection beside another car, I noticed that the other driver was eating a frozen ice cream treat, so I caught her attention and mouthed the words, “That looks good!”

At that point, the light changed, and we all proceeded to the next intersection, where we found ourselves beside each other again.  This time, she reached out her window, offering me a wrapped frozen treat.

“Sorry, I only have one.” she explained, smiling.  “You’ll have to share.”

As the light changed and she made her turn, we laughed in amazement.  “Only at Christmas!” George commented.

Indeed, Christmas is the time of year when people seem to be more willing to perform acts of kindness and generosity with no thought of reward.  Compassionate ministry organizations all testify that donations and volunteers increase during the Christmas season.  Churches conduct distributions of food and gifts to families that need extra assistance. Many families include in their Christmas traditions an anonymous gift to a specific individual or family in financial need.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the sheer joy of giving my time and resources to someone who has no possible way of returning the favor.  After all, isn’t that what God gave the world through the gift of His Son?  In Jesus, He poured out His Gift to the hopeless and lost — those who have no possible way to return the favor — just because of His great love for us!  The only thing we can give Him in return is ourselves.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David…because of the tender mercy of our God”  (Luke 1:68-69, 78)

Copyright 2010 — Mary E. Egidio   Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.