“…this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. (Isaiah 58:6-10 NLT)
Did you resolve to make some changes in your life as the New Year began? Perhaps you took an ‘official’ step and made the time honored ‘New Year’s Resolution.’ Perhaps you even put it in ‘writing’ (which actually increases the odds you’ll keep your self-commitments) or perhaps you just made a mental note. Either way, we’ve reached that point in the year (approximately two months) when the majority of folks give up and/or fall back into those bad habits (overeating, smoking, binge watching Netflix, etc.) and/or neglect to keep those good habits (regular exercise, daily quiet time, getting more rest, etc.).
Well, don’t give up! Even if you’ve had a few setbacks, “There’s always next season.” (As a Washington Redskins fan, I’ve become accustom to saying that) Actually, in all seriousness, there is a next season, and the Good News (literally) is the next season is ‘now!’
The Season of Lent
On March 1, Christians around the world will celebrate Ash Wednesday which begins the season of Lent. Lent’s origin is based on the ancient Jewish tradition of penance (i.e. repenting of our sins) and fasting (going without food for a designated period of time). Now, Baptists, for the most part, don’t strictly observe Lent, and when we say fast, most of us think that means how ‘fast’ can we get to Wednesday night’s pot luck dinner, however, many Christians (including Baptists) practice the discipline of ‘giving up something for Lent.’ The idea is that each time you have a craving for the thing you’ve ‘given up,’ it serves as a reminder to pray and ask for God’s forgiveness (which is stressed by Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 6). Over the years my family has ‘given up’ everything from soda and sweets, chocolate and cheese, and other dairy and desserts, along with random non-food sacrifices such as Facebook and (non-essential) shopping. I even gave up March Madness during one Lenten season and I’ve got to tell you, those 40 days without watching college basketball was tough.
This ‘season,’ I’d like to challenge you to include the giving up of self. In Isaiah, chapter 58, the prophet admonishes God’s people to go beyond legalism and to discover the power of true penance and fasting. He tells them this should be a time to “Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” In addition he says, “Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors,” and to “help those in trouble.”
Whether in our personal family, church family or community, we don’t need to look very far to see a great deal of need and a number of folks who are on the verge of ‘giving up.’ Perhaps our ‘Giving Up’ first will make a positive difference in their lives, and ours – all to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God bless.
In Him alone,
Cambridge Baptist Church
(Photo credit: Bill Bangham)