The Joy of Lent

It will be the third Sunday in Lent soon.  These have been some hard readings.  Have you felt warned to turn away from sin?  I have. I have tried, and I have failed.  Every day I fail, and I feel it.  The devil prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour, says Peter. Some days it seems like that evil lion has me between his teeth.

I am powerless against him.  I try to resist, and I fail.  I think that I am being smart, that I am avoiding sin and temptation because I had a good day.  But I must not fool myself.  Peter says to be sober-minded and watchful.  Something that feels good one minute soon feels terrible the next. Watch out.  He has me between his teeth.

Lent reminds me that I have been broken, utterly broken, by sin. My God might weep over what I do every day when I turn away from Him. I want my own way, not His. I want what feels good, not what He says is right. I despair of my sin, sin that has hurt me and the ones I love.

IMG_1272Yet Peter says, And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I am reminded that it is not up to me.  I cannot save myself from this body of death.

Paul understood the struggle: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  He understood the only one to save me is not myself, but Jesus. Every day I must try to submit to His will for me, every day I must listen to Him, pray to Him for strength, and look to Him, and Him only, for mercy.  “God, be merciful to me, THE sinner.” He is the only one who can give it to me. And as Pastor said yesterday, in truth, He is the only one who REALLY wants it for me.  He wants it more than I want it myself. And so He did it for me, by dying on the Cross, taking my sins upon Himself, loving me more than He loved His own life. 

“Do you want to get to Heaven? Yes you do. How badly do you want it? Can you put it in words? I tell you the truth: God wants you there even more than you want to be there. And He has done everything necessary to make it so by the blood of Jesus’ death and His glorious resurrection. So pray it joyfully: ‘Thy kingdom come.’ And when you say ‘Amen,’ understand–that God has made it happen.”  –Pastor Horn

The joy of Lent is not an easy joy. It’s a joy that comes from going through sorrow and coming out on the other side, saved, not because we get better but because we have a God who wanted more for us than we ever wanted for ourselves.  Thanks be to God.

Psalm 30

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
    you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
    I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

 

 

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Three Ways Politics Doesn’t Matter

Politics does seem like everything these days, with the primary season now in full swing, with a Supreme Court justice to be nominated, with so much at stake in our country with the next election. I know people are very anxious about the way the country is going and what will happen.  It is important to keep a good perspective about politics, though, if only for our own mental health, and so here are three ways I’ve found that politics doesn’t matter:

1. Politics doesn’t matter in our interpersonal relationships. Facebook is a terrible medium for speaking politically.  It’s easy to put things out there, to want to “teach” people why they’re wrong, and it’s difficult to see how differently these things affect each person who sees our posts. In truth, most people at some point just tune out the stuff they don’t agree with. After all, how many times have you personally witnessed someone change their mind because of a political discussion on Facebook? I have engaged in several political discussions over the years, and I don’t think I’ve seen it once. But I have seen political discussions tear family relationships and friendships apart. I personally have “un-friended” people who are family or close friends because I couldn’t stand their political leanings. Shamefully, I am even guilty of doing this more than once. It was a terrible thing to do, because I hurt our relationships by letting politics rise above our connections to each other.

12698651_10153269728912484_351464560090726258_o“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” -Thomas Merton

People matter, not politics. Yeah, but how can we make them see our point of view? Well, maybe we can’t. They may never see our point of view, because they’ve developed their own, through their own life experiences, and they may not want to consider a new one. And we need to be okay with that. How can we influence people in a good way? Only by loving them, respecting where they’re at, and listening to them. Maybe if we listen to them first, then they’ll listen to us. But this is not accomplished in Facebook discussions. It’s best accomplished face-to-face. People matter, ideas matter. But politics shouldn’t matter in relationships.

2. Politics doesn’t matter because it doesn’t make me happy or fulfilled.  It never will.  I used to keep up fairly regularly with the news of the day. I did like to listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show and other political talk radio. I became increasingly frustrated, though, as I grew older, because it seemed like nothing ever changed. The Republicans are always wimps, the Democrats were always….well, Democrats.

A year or two ago, I realized that listening to talk radio and news was making me upset, angry, and frustrated. I couldn’t do anything about it all anyway, so I stopped listening. I almost exclusively listen to music now in the car.  Yes, that means I don’t know the ins and outs of every bill in front of Congress, I don’t know where all the natural disasters are going on, I don’t know what exactly is going on in Syria at the moment…and I am 100% happier for that ignorance. No, it doesn’t mean that I won’t know who to vote for in the next election. I let my husband do the legwork on that and tell me who to vote for. I trust him, he’s smart, and there’s no reason for us both to do the same research when we agree anyway. If I am unhappy thinking about politics, but my husband is not, I let him take care of it. I vote by mail and let him tell me who to fill in, and that makes us both happy, because I am still somewhat blissfully ignorant, he is still informed, and he is taking care of me.

3. Politics doesn’t matter because God is in control. No matter what is going on in the world, God is here with us now.  He knows our suffering, our pain, our temptations, because as Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When Jesus was on this earth, He was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness with every sin that the Ten Commandments covers, and He overcame those temptations. Our second Adam fulfilled what the first Adam could not: perfect obedience. And then He won our salvation for us by sacrificing Himself in that perfect obedience on the cross.

Though our salvation has been won for us, Jesus knows this life will not be easy. He tells us in John 16 that “in this world, you will have trouble.” But He reassures us by His cross: “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” We are pointed to the cross again and again and again. We must not take our eyes off the cross, lest we think it all depends on us.

It is good to help make the world a better place, it is good to help people and to love them. It is good to work in our communities to make sure that people live free, healthy, peaceful lives. But the world will never be perfect, as long as Jesus has not yet come. There will be sin in the world, and politics will always be nasty.  So we know that it’s ok to take a break from it sometimes. It’s good to go to church and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, hear His Word, and be reassured, comforted, strengthened. We are promised in Hebrews that when we “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,…we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He will always be with us, He will never leave us.  For those who believe and draw near, the battle is already won by our Lord. We can rest peacefully in that knowledge.

Learning these three things about politics has helped restore my peace.  I know it’s not something that everyone can or wants to do, but it’s what has helped me. People matter. Love people, love the Lord. It will be ok.