A Burning in the Heart
Fire is merciless.
When fire burns paper, wood, refuse; nothing is left but ashes. A gray, powder or fragile flake is all we see from whatever disintegrated. The resulting ashes can be used to enhance soil, make lye for soap, or keep bugs away in the garden. But they will never become what they were.
Perhaps that is why Ash Wednesday is our entrance into a season of preparation to review and apply the truths of the cross and resurrection. We need a burning in our hearts that will reduce to ash what does not lead us to Christlikeness.
At best it’s an object lesson. We wear the sign of the burning away of our sin with the mark of the cross in ashes. It humbles us to smear the ashes on our foreheads. How else should we approach the message of the cross and resurrection but with humility?
Humbled, we are ready to listen. More than anything, these forty days to Easter are days of listening. We listen for instruction, warning, counsel, review, direction.
Lent is a set-aside time to take our hearts to God. It is a time when only His evaluation counts. There are four components that help us., but we are not in charge of them. We respond to God’s nudging from idea to participation. Let’s review them:
1. Give up something.
This is not about self-deprivation. This is about soul-cleaning. We ask ourselves, What can we do without so that God has more of us. Fasting is an old practice, rooted deeply in the Old Testament. Today, many spiritual leaders counsel us to go beyond food when we fast. Fast complaining, blaming, impatience, argumentativeness, sarcasm, busyness, entitlement, insecurity, premature perspective, worry, judgment, spiritual spectatorship, and so many other pesky attitudes and persuasions that set us at odds with how God would have us live.
2. Confess and Repent
We all need to send our hearts under God's microscope.. We need to let go of excuses that “we did the best we could” or “we’ll do better next time.” We need to take responsibility for actions, words, perspectives, self-talk that is at odds with God’s standards and desires for us. We own what we did before God. It isn’t about putting ourselves down. True confession is about raising our standards to God's. Confession humbles us. Repentance puts us on our feet again going the right direction.
Engaging in any spiritual activity without prayer is an exercise in futility. Without God’s analysis and correction, we are only perpetuating self-help. Pray more but not at one time. Pray one-word prayers: Come, help, forgive. They are often more powerful than stringing too many words together. Short prayers you can easily repeat through the day: “Lord, have mercy.” ‘Open my eyes.” “Lead me.” They are statements of faith that God is listening and they encourage you to wait for what He says or does.
What happens on the inside must come out somehow. We don’t get to sit back and revel in our spiritual experiences. That’s narcissistic. Instead, God deploys us into places where “the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.” Maybe God wants you to serve your family’s spiritual needs better. Maybe He is directing you to create relationships with neighbors and be ready for something God knows they will need from you. Maybe it’s a good time to connect with a ministry at church or a charity in your community. Remember, “faith without works is dead.” Spiritual growth without investing it where God needs you, is self-serving.
These forty days are critical if we are to learn what the cross and resurrection should mean in our lives. Each week, I’ll supply a reflection on some aspect of Jesus’ life and journey to the cross. There will be a daily scripture, reflection questions, and other suggested ways to engage your heart in this journey.
Below you can download this week's scripture guide.
For this week's scripture list and questions,
and I will send you the copy.
Jesus gave all for us on the cross. Can we do less for him?