“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two eons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'” — Matthew 26:36-39 (NIV)
There is something mysterious about Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was a depth of suffering there that is impossible to imagine. In the gospel of Luke we are told that while he prayed “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 N1V). It is hard to conceive how one we know of as the Son of God could be in such emotional torment. He says to his closest followers: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” There is something incomprehensible about the sorrow of the Savior. Like the disciples, we observe the scene of Gethsemane, as it were, at a distance. There is something here into which we cannot enter. It is beyond us. (more…)
“Bear the Cross cheerfully and it will bear you.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 2, ch. 12.
“Love feels no burden, regards not labors, strives toward more than it attains, argues not of impossibility, since it believes that it may and can do all things. Therefore it avails for all things, and fulfills and accomplishes much where one not a lover falls and lies helpless.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 3, ch. 6.
“It is much safer to obey, than to govern.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 9.
“An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 3.
It seems especially appropriate in the season of Lent to quote from John Wesley’s Sermon (# 48) on Self Denial:
The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after Him and following Him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practice it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; we are not treading in his steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him.
— Sermon #48 “Self Denial.”
It seems to me that Lent can be a training ground for the practice of self-denial throughout the year. (more…)
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. ”
— Revelation 1:4-7 (NRSV)
These scripture passages remind me of the words of an old favorite Gospel chorus:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
And, it is interesting to note that this is the message of the book of Revelation, also. Here, continually, Jesus Christ is held before us as Savior, Lord of history and the center of our hope. A study of the book of Revelation ought to bring to us a clearer vision of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, we have missed the point of it all. It is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1), and he appears in it continually. He is the Son of Pan, the Lamb, the White rider. He is always the central character. If we were to spend a lifetime studying this book (and you easily could) and miss the vision of Jesus Christ that lies at its heart, we would have wasted our time. John wrote this book to encourage people encountering persecution to “turn their eyes upon Jesus.” (more…)
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. This begins the important Church season of Lent. Robin & I will be getting up early tomorrow morning to participate in the 6:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday Service at the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville. They offer Ash Wednesday Services at 6:30 a.m. and at noon. I was asked to assist with the Imposition of the Ashes at the early service. I appreciate being asked.
You see, Ash Wednesday services are important to me — when I can attend. Some years, since my retirement, I’ve had to kind of search around for a nearby church that was holding such a service — this is not generally advertised on the church signs or on the church web sites.
I feel like something is missing if Ash Wednesday isn’t part of my Lent.
But, I haven’t always felt that way about it. (more…)
“Even now,’ declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts and not Your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
— Joel 2:12, 13
The season of Lent begins this week on Wednesday. It is Ash Wednesday that begins the season of the Church Year called Lent. Historically, the season of Lent is one of the most important seasons of the church year. The season of Lent moves toward Holy Week: the time when we remember the crucifixion. Lent looks toward the Cross — and then beyond it to the miracle of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.
Ash Wednesday arrives this week: Wednesday March 5.
The history of the season of Lent is interesting for us today. Though we do not celebrate it as people did in the past, a look at the history of Lent can give meaning to this season of the Church year. (more…)