Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lent: Clinging or Giving?



“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
            -2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Giving to those in need has always been a central practice of Lent. Referred to as “giving alms,” it helps to meet the need of the poor, the homeless, and those without work.
Nothing is as “worldly” as money. Materialism of today’s culture is based on a money economy. Yet, ironically, few things are as spiritual as what we do with our money.
Giving—or more precisely, our reluctance to give—exposes the clinging in our hearts. Certainly we must be wise and keep a certain reserve of finances. Yet, under the guise of wisdom, we can easily slip into hoarding. Proverbs 11:24, however, exposes the folly of hording: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want” (esv).
Like fasting and prayer, the Lenten discipline of giving helps us to grow spiritually by shedding light on some hidden, even dark, places within. We are all called to give to that there be greater equity for those who have less. “See that you excel in the grace of giving,” writes Paul. “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:7, 13).
Jesus assumes that all his followers will be giving alms. He just commands us not to do so in order to receive recognition. Again, our inner attitudes are so often exposed by what we do with the resources that have been given us.
“When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” (Matthew 6:2-3, nabre)
If I am to grow deeper in God during Lent, I need to do more than pray and fast. Giving puts legs on my prayer and devotion. It exposes any clinging to material things that resides in my heart. Then—if I give with a joyful heart—it sets me free to experience joy, friendship and fresh spiritual life!
© 2016 Glenn E. Myers
For Lent the church has always emphasized fasting, prayer and giving alms. See Matthew 6: 2,6,17, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets . . . when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen . . . when you fast. . . .”

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lent: Sincere Searching of our Hearts through Fasting



“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” –Colossians 3:5-8

What an opportunity! Lent is time set aside to put our roots down deeper into God. Since the early centuries of the Church, sincere Christians have recognized the importance of having a season reserved for taking an honest look at ourselves—allowing the Holy Spirit to search our hearts—in order to put off anything that hinders us from a genuine relationship with God.
Three practices that Christians focus on in Lent to help us take an honest look at our lives are fasting, giving to the needy, and prayer. These do not earn us any points. Rather, they help us grow spiritually by exposing little idols that we cling to. They uncover some of the things that Colossians 3 (above) tells us we need to “rid ourselves of” and “put to death.”
Fasting
Fasting is pretty straightforward. We give up food and/or drink for a season. Fasting addresses the physical cravings in our lives. Likewise we can fast from media for a season, whether giving up texting or movies or other forms of entertainment for a day.
As soon as I fast from a meal or checking my cellphone, my flesh screams out in protest. This provides the opportunity for me to say “no” to my flesh to make sure it is not ruling me.
That “no” goes counter to my old nature, which wants what it wants when it wants it. In addition, “no” goes counter to the whole culture in which we live, a society that says if it feels good, do it.
For those very reasons, I need to set aside a season to confront the tyranny of that inner “I want!” and bring it into submission to Christ. It is not that food is bad. Indeed it is good and necessary. However, when it—or anything other appetite—controls me by its demands, it becomes an idol. Oh, how easily human nature is ruled by idols!
As I have aged, I cannot do several-day fasts as I did when I was younger. That is okay. I can still fast from deserts (which can easily get a grip on me!) and take a stand against the tyranny of my earthly nature—that inner “I want it now!”
Instead of pampering my immediate appetites, I turn my focus toward the Lord. I stir up my hunger for him. I surrender myself afresh to his rule, and I put down roots in a brand new way during this season of spiritual growth.
© 2016 Glenn E. Myers
For Lent the church has always emphasized fasting, prayer and giving alms. See Matthew 6: 2,6,17, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets . . . when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen . . . when you fast. . . .”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lent’s Message—Wake Up, O Sleeper!


“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
     -Ephesians 5:14 (ESV)
Such are Paul’s words to Christians—his wake-up call to believers like us—to lay aside things that we so easily slip into: impurity, covetousness, filthy language and foolish talk. Instead, he said, we are called to walk in the light (Ephesians 5:3-14).
Even if we do not walk in overt darkness, it is so easy for us as Christians to be lulled to sleep. The day-in and day-out responsibilities tire us. Sometimes life simply drains the life out of us. Our once vivid, vibrant pursuit of Christ starts to fade. The cares of the world exhaust us, and we go into an emotional dullness and spiritual drowsiness.
Therefore, we need some regular wake-up calls in our lives. Lent is just such a time. Forty plus days are set aside for us to be shaken awake—to become spiritually alive—in a brand new way.
In the early sixth century, Saint Benedict called Christians to abandon a life of lukewarm faith. He invited them to pursue of life of prayer, memorizing Scripture, growth in Christ-like character, and manual labor. The opening words of the Rule of Benedict still challenge us today:
Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Romans 13:11).
Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
"Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts" (Psalm 95:8).
Every believer can resonate with these words. While many of us will not join a monastery, we can all respond to God’s wake-up call.
In order for us to walk in the light, as Ephesians 5 exhorts, we must wake up. Let us use the coming six weeks of Lent as a wake-up call to revitalize our walk with the Lord!
© 2016 Glenn E. Myers
For Lent the church has always emphasized fasting, prayer and giving alms. See Matthew 6: 2,6,17, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets . . . when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen . . . when you fast. . . .”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Longing for Lent: Marked by the Cross on Ash Wednesday

 

By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”
            -Genesis 3:19
Ash Wednesday falls on March 1 this year. It marks the beginning of Lent, that forty plus days set aside by the church for nearly two millennia as a time to dedicate ourselves afresh to God.
If you have never been to an Ash Wednesday service, it is a powerful experience. Each person goes forward to receive the sign of the cross in black ashes on his or her forehead. Young and old, men and women, clergy and lay, all receive the ashes. We all stand on level ground before the foot of the cross and the realization of our mortality.
Often the words of Genesis 3:19 are spoken as we receive the ashes. It is quite sobering! I have come from the dust and ashes of the ground, and in due time I will return.
Such a stark reality begs the question: How am I living my days here on earth? Am I telling those around me just how much I love them? Am I pursuing the Lord with my whole heart? How do I need to number my days? What needs to change in my life? Psalm 90:3, 12 states:
You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
. . .
Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Ash Wednesday is a tremendous teaching tool. As we hear those words and have ash smeared on our foreheads, it is humbling, it is instructive. It brings a renewed sobriety that sets the stage for Lent. If you have never participated in Ash Wednesday or Lent, I encourage you to do so. I welcome you to a wonderful encounter with the Almighty.
This year I am longing for Lent more than I can ever remember. I cannot wait for this season of seeking God to begin in earnest. I want the Lord to search me and try me, removing any wrong way—and lukewarm way—in my life. In the depths of my soul, I am aching for Ash Wednesday to usher in this powerful season of Lent. I am yearning for God to bring fresh transformation to my life!

© 2016 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cascading Light, Fountain of Life, River of Delight



How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.
                        -Psalm 36:7-9

God’s light cascades down without ceasing to our physical world. God’s life showers down as a fountain from our Creator’s presence to earth! Without divine light and life, we could see nothing. However, in the Almighty’s light, we see light!

Catching Glimpses of God's Glory
For the past number of years I have practiced catching glimpses of God's glory throughout the day. Perhaps the morning sky displays God's splendor as I drive to work in the morning, or maybe a glint of sunshine on the pond outside my office reflects the Lord's glory. Such glimmerings of light are but a refraction of divine light and resplendence. They offer us a window through which I may see--if I am attentive--a peek of uncreated Light and Glory that cascades down through creation. 

To catch such a glimpse of God's glory can turn our whole day around. 

Not only do we catch a glimpse of divine glory, we must respond. Like a cosmic game of "pitch and catch" with our Heavenly Father, he sends us glory and we send back praise. 

2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Light and the Glory


“God is light, and in him is no darkness.”
   -1 John 1:5 

Light is one of the most powerful images of God. God is light. Light of the Divinity is brilliant, blinding all who try to look directly into it. 

Ultimately God is beyond our comprehension. Standing outside the time-space continuum in which we live, God is above anything our created minds could grasp. The image of physical light gives us but a tiny glimpse, a hint, as to God's brilliance. Who and what God is surpasses human understanding. 

God's light displays God's glory.
The term "glory" has been all but lost in our contemporary culture. About the only place we use the term is in sports, describing the short-lived honor of winning an athletic contest. While such recognition is worthy, it falls far short of genuine glory.

True glory is the splendor of the skies, bursting with color and new life at dawn or blazing across the whole horizon at sunset. Glory is displayed in brilliance of light and breath-taking grandeur. Beyond human accomplishment, true glory lifts our eyes toward the heavens and transports us into the transcendent. 

Such cosmic glory, in turn, points beyond the material world. Glory that we see with our physical eyes is but a window to the uncreated glory of the Divine. God, enthroned in eternity, flashes light and splendor and majesty. Whenever people in Scripture had opportunity to peer into the spiritual realm, the eternities of heaven, they stumbled for words to describe the resplendence of God's glory. (Rev 4)

That glory, then, cascades down into creation. The physical heavens declare God's glory, as Psalm 19 tells us. As we see light and splendor across the skies, we get a taste of the divine glory flowing from God's throne!

2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

God’s Glory All Around Us: Opening our Spiritual Eyes



“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
-Ephesians 1:18-19

Last Sunday morning on the way to church the sun saw shining beautifully in the crisp, cold air. As the rays of light glimmered on the snow, I caught a glimpse of the glory of God.

God’s divine splendor beams down from his throne into our world. The light we see here is a reflection of the Almighty’s uncreated brilliance. Sunlight is a manifestation of God’s resplendence. Indeed the brightness I see is a theophany—a glimpse of God’s self-revelation.

Often we miss God’s glory. Instead of seeing with spiritual eyes, we simply look on with natural sight. In Ephesians 1:18-19, however, Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts would be opened up to see the invisible realities of the spiritual world. In particular, he prays that our eyes would be able to see God’s incomprehensible riches, power and hope poured out toward us. In the same way, the Lord can open our eyes to see God’s glory declared in the heavens (Psalm 19:1).

This year I pray that the eyes of my heart would indeed be opened to see spiritual realities manifest all around me. In particular, I want to behold God’s glory overflowing into the physical world all around me!

2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”