The word comes to us from a Latin word meaning lengthening of days. We can find the term in use among many Christian groups to mark the 46 days leading up to Easter weekend. In Christian tradition Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox, which seems fitting since spring’s equinox is the day the darkness of nighttime has receded, and the light of daytime is once again equal to it.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4, 5
The 46 days leading to Easter include 6 Sundays which are not counted, given they are commonly regarded as days of rest. This leaves 40 working days. For observers of the Lenten season the 40 days begin on Ash Wednesday and are dedicated to some form of fasting and prayer. The majority set aside one pleasure, usually a food item or beverage. Many churches hold an Ash Wednesday service to officially kick it off. Typically, at some point during such a service the officiant will dip a finger into common wood ashes and mark a cross on each observant’s forehead or sprinkle some ash on their head, saying, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," and "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."
The number 40 for the length of the observance is derived from the 40-day temptation of Jesus as recorded in the opening chapters of the first three Gospels. During this period, He fasted and prayed, and resisted a variety of temptations. His success represents the perfection of His entire life prepared for a death that would meet the requirements for atonement (I John 2:2). The word atonement refers to the means (propitiation – a satisfactory offering) God has employed to either cover or remove the cause of the rift in our relationship to Him (Isaiah 59:2).
Should believers observe it?
Lent is not a Biblical event, that is, it is not one prescribed in the Bible by the apostles as they laid down their recommendations for believers. That said, it is not a bad thing. With such practices the danger usually lies in two errors. One is the mixing of paganism with Biblical truth and then calling it “holy to the Lord.” The second and more dangerous is legalism. Legalism refers to how we attach guilt for disobedience where there is none. We may create laws and rules and holiday observances, all of which may be helpful in some way, but to weight them with a burden of guilt if they are not kept inviolate is to do harm. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, “You teach as doctrines (in this case meaning divine truth to live by) the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9),” and “lay upon folks a heavy burden you are unwilling to help lift (Matthew 23:4).”
Lent or no, during this ‘lengthening-of-days’ season hopefully all of us will honor our all-sufficient Savior who has finished the necessary work for our atonement by His satisfactory death. Now, having risen He is “seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3),” “God having made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).”
Enjoy His kaleidoscope church and observe with delight the sincere devotion of all His saints, though it be different in ritual and appearance from our own.
Grace today y’all!
Live long and prosper
Live long and prosper
Proverbs 16:31 “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”
Gray hair is an idiom for old age. The author is remarking on the greater likelihood that those that live well live long – or longer. Once again, a Bible proverb as this one is not a promise but an accurate observation of life.
I am drawn to discover the reasons behind suicides as they are reported and deaths that occur early in life. It will be sometime yet before we are blessed with an age that is not plagued by futility. Yet, there is a path often not taken that usually leads to longer life. Here the writer identifies it as one of right living. He has moral righteousness in mind as a rule. By moral righteousness he is as a Jewish man concerned with what is right according to the creator and author of a transcendent law. There are those enriched by a written accessible codex such as the Bible, and there are others with that same law in basic form written on their hearts and signaled by their conscience and passed on by good parenting.
One commandment of the famous ten delivered to the Israelites from the roof of Mount Sinai goes so far as to say that the honor of father and mother will lead to a good long life.
Either way, the person of any stripe that lives the code tends to live longer.
Most of us, due in large part to our foolishness, will suffer close calls, brushes with death, closer in some cases than we realize. How far we allow our foolishness to rule our decisions is up to us.
As one author put it, “When I was a child I did as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Make it so.
Grace today y’all
“Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous; do no violence to his home; for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”
Proverbs 24:15, 16
Solomon does not only address the propensity of even the righteous to fall but also, in an unspoken way, the grace of God to pick us up so often. In this case the righteous spring back and are able to defend themselves against the intentions of the wicked. Sometimes the righteous person or neighbor is attacked for their wealth, and sometimes for differing ideology or out of spite because the righteous life can be convicting to a wicked neighbor. Attacks come in a variety of ways. Some are overt and violent. Others are subtle and luring. Sometimes the wicked draw out the lusts of the righteous that we all share and as a result the righteous fails (I Corinthians 10:1-13)
What the wicked in his or her schemes may not realize is the resiliency of the righteous to get back up. This poses a threat to the wicked because their plan to break the righteous has failed.
Seven can be both thought of literally with a sense that after seven the righteous may have exhausted their measure of grace for rising again. Seven may also indicate a sufficient experience and grace from God. Seven as a number in Hebrew Scriptures often indicates a full or sufficient amount. Solomon’s words lead me to expect a sufficient response of understanding in Heaven toward my weakness and an accompanying favor in response to my prayer - at least up to a point.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
God's grace is inexhaustible but may be measured toward me. To be righteous is either a position of favor as a gift from God, or an acknowledgement of consistent behavior. In Solomon’s proverb it makes sense to think of the righteous as those of consistent good behavior. The righteous are not perfect but their pattern of good behavior and moral choices is such that they receive the benefit of the doubt. They can more easily be trusted with grace, to employ it and build upon it rather than wasting it in bad behavior and life choices that lead to further fails. Good boys and girls get a measure of favor on the basis that it will not be wasted. It is usually unwise to bestow sevenfold grace upon an unrighteous person that is prone toward misbehaving. Such a one will abuse it. It is also risky to give even the righteous person too much slack in their tether because we learn too quickly to overspend. We are too easily spoiled by excessive favors. It is best to think of God's favor toward us as measured both for our own good and for the sake of His righteous reputation.
"He leads me along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake."
Grace today y’all
Previously on Seven fails…
The proposition in summary was that given the righteous are favored they rise from falls and failure seven times, or time and time again. It’s not that the righteous are perfect or sinless, but that they are favored with resilience. The righteous may take many hits but even though they are defeated they can – and often do – rise again. The fact that they do rise again and again is a testament to the abundant grace of God toward them.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Using this idea as a backdrop, is it possible to view the Apostle John's construction of his gospel record using seven signs through seven miracles as an example of a full measure of grace toward Jerusalem and the people of Israel as a whole? The nation comprises His righteous people and the testimony of history shows their propensity to fall over and over even though disproportionately advantaged by His favor (Romans 3:1-3).
In his well-organized gospel John displays a litany of awakening signs that are as such a sufficient expression and measure of grace. Let it never be said that the Lord has shortened His arm of favor toward the righteous. In spite of it all, John’s summation states the Lord’s own, His righteous ones, by-and-large failed to receive Him (John 1:11)
A case for Israel
The raising of Lazarus is the seventh sign miracle performed by Jesus that John uses in his record of the incarnate Word. He has of course done many others (John 20:31}. Some of the others that John never mentions are recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke – some but not all. One might well say that beyond the seven, God has as one hymn writer said, “given, and given, and given again” as “grace upon grace” (John 1:14-16}. The death, burial and resuscitation of Lazarus serves as a good illustration of Israel’s status before God, not as they see themselves but as God Himself sees them. As His righteous ones they have fallen and are falling. How far have they fallen? How rich is God’s grace toward them? Lazarus shows us.
Since Jerusalem was sacked and her temple edifice demolished some twenty years prior to John’s writing it might be thought that the wicked have won, Israel is dead and buried, and God has finished with His righteous nation. They have fallen and failed more than a sufficient number of times to demonstrate they are no longer worth messing with particularly since they crucified the Lord of glory, God’s ultimate grace to them. “By now they stinketh”
That is a mistake wicked minds often make.
By the grace of God and to the surprise of the nations, Israel will rise again as the righteous people of God. They just keep getting up. By now one would think Israel would be but a wisp of dust on history’s stage but here they are today, reconstructed dry bones, fleshed out and standing erect as a people in their ancient gifted land with a prophetic future salvation yet to come. That is if we believe the authors of our Bible.
“All Israel will be saved”
Violent assaults and political attempts to erase them have all failed. They will yet be as a signet of the faithfulness of our God, and He will use them in the outpouring of His justice as He turns the tables upon our wicked world.
Israel, will rise again by the grace of God!
Grace today y’all
Die another day
“The righteous falls seven times and rises again”
Am I righteous?
If I fall but once or twice and fail to get up there may be a problem with my conception of righteousness. The righteous follow an ideal, and from a human point of view, it is the ideal that gives them perseverance to get up after taking a hit - or even seven hits.
Suicide is rampant. Why is that?
It may not be fair to present an answer that paints the crisis level of emotion and despair or chronic unbearable pain that drives the suicidal in brush strokes of black and white. That is not my intent. What is fully my intent is to remind us of the difference our view of who’s in charge makes, what is right and wrong, and where best to get those ideas.
Righteousness is universally the same for all of us, at least that is most likely Solomon’s belief. His worldview drives his notion of righteousness and the worldview of the nation of Israel at that time over which he reigned as king was one of specific law for right behavior as the people of God and general law that is the basis for accountability for all peoples. The righteous are those who not only are well behaved but are also inclined toward Jehovah as creator God before whom every knee eventually bows. Righteousness is the rule of life as revealed by God that saves our lives.
This was the philosophy of Jesus as evident in His words “Man shall…live…by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Righteousness for every human was never to be self-derived. It is not, nor has it ever been, my truth as opposed to yours. Such knowledge greatly reduces the likelihood the choice to take my own life will be made lightly. To be so cavalier as to think I am the master of my own destiny or that what is right is what I feel is right to me is to set myself up for trouble.
It is especially disappointing to hear of fellow Christian believers succumbing to common notions of what is okay and what is not okay as guideline for life. Then to see them die at their own hand is disturbing and frankly frustrating. Why is it we are so stupid?
But I am the same
It would be arrogant of me (or anyone) to say I did it my way, or that up till now success has been entirely attributable to my own great fortitude. Everyone’s cheese threatens to slip off their cracker. If it is not stuck on with deep running currents of belief it just might. The right beliefs make the greater difference, and the believer learns that the grace of God is sufficient to sustain them when adherence to the ideal is weakened in grip.
“My grace ids sufficient for you.”
II Corinthains 12:9
The righteous get up a sufficient number of times though hit hard from any number of directions and by a variety of foes because their commitment to what is right is a greater force within them than the forces that prevail from without.
The righteous live to die another day
Grace today y’all
Let love reign
Let love reign
When one of our chickens dies, Karen buries the feathered friend in her garden to supply rich fertilizing nutrients for plump tomatoes. Trouble is if we fail to bury the bird deeply enough the raccoons will be around to dig it up and our plants too. They can smell the remains even with a foot of dirt over the corpse.
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”
If we don’t effectively cover the sins that separate us, they will surely be dug up and exposed again. In our relationships of any sort - work, friends or marriage – for love to reign offenses must be effectively covered.
Some of us want to be loved and it shows. We are forever doing, doing, doing to win affection and if perchance someone else seems to be getting more attention we just might become competitive so we can feel more loved than the other guy. Perhaps self-love will drive us to cover offenses, but I am inclined to think the author has something else in mind. Here it is not likely the one to cover an offense is seeking love for themselves, rather, the author reasons that for love to reign in a relationship the love blockers must be removed from sight and senses. What is it that is hindering me from loving, or what is hindering my friend from freely loving me? If at all possible, cover it.
“Love one another fervently, for love covers a multitude of sins”
I Peter 4:8
I may find it easy to cover a multitude of my own sins, but love must cover a multitude of someone else’s sins. It is surely easier to cover small ones, and they matter, but better love covers all sorts. Simply covering to get them out of sight may not be enough. Let’s not stop there. To love as the Lord loves we will want to go so far as to cover a debt as one might say to someone that owes money – “it’s covered”.
We have been taught to “do for others as we would have them do for us,” and those of us that have been better informed know Jesus went on to add “love as I have loved you…for there is no greater love than that a person lay down their life for a friend.”
I Corinthians 14:1
So pursue love, take it to the limit and let love reign
Grace today y’all
She was told she should not carry her child to term and against her best sense went with the doctor’s recommendation. She never really got over it. She broke down and suffered for years under the weight of her guilt for killing her baby. She need not have but the sense of innate responsibility may be difficult to manage and often is.
True story, certainly not the only one out there
The back-and-forth debate on government position and ruling on abortion pros and cons for a wonderful kaleidoscope of population in our country has gone on for a long time. The banter will continue I’m sure, so long at least as there is with our plurality of people groups under one flag a difference in preference toward worldview. Part of the question about government’s legislation is whether you can remain a government that represents such diversity, thrive as a democratic republic, and be other than secular (religionless) in the making of laws. On the other hand, where does a government go for moral guidance on issues of moral import?
We could debate that for a while too
My following remarks are decidedly religious and particularly based upon an attempt to remain consistent with a Biblical worldview, that is, one that is guided by the revelation of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures.
Necessary, at some point, to the whole of the debate would be the validity of Scripture to tell us the truth. Let’s for the moment assume they do.
Concluding as the Bible does that God exists, He is the creator of us and we are told He made us as humans in His own image. Whatever that means, by so doing He separated us from the animal and plant kingdoms in our value to Him and to one another.
We are a product of divine design and in a position above the rest
This means humans are sacred, set apart by God for His own purpose. One poet/songwriter said this, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness of it (Psalm 24:1).” We are therefore not our own but His. We do not have rights other than what He ordains, and we answer to Him for our choices. We will all, regardless of race or creed give an account to Him.
“It is appointed (throughout time) for us to die and after this the judgment (an accounting).” Hebrews 9:27
My body is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof
Another fact affecting all of us is that God has purchased us by way of the blood death of Jesus Christ. His death was as a ransom to buy humanity from a form of slavery due to the ploy of an enemy and the choice on our part to allow ourselves to be persuaded into a bondage. The payment to bring us out bought us and we are His both by virtue of creation and now also via a price paid (I Corinthians 6:19, 20). This price was paid apart from any care on our part. It was not paid only for those who wanted to be a part of the plan. It had nothing to do with our desires and wants. It had only to do with His purposes and kindness with no need of us recognizing, believing, or acknowledging any need for it. We are His by purchase regardless.
It must be said that not everyone benefits in the same way from His purchase. We are not by His kindness automatically shoe-in for Heaven, citizens of His kingdom or members of His household. That comes when we receive Christ by faith. It is only to those that once being shown the offer receive Him to become the children of God.
“As many as receive Him to them He gives the right to become a child of God.” John 1:12
Particularly for the person that does hold to a Biblical worldview, this is the ultimate fundamental. It means we do not have rights except as they are ordained – installed – by God. Therefore, with great conviction we say,
“[My body therefore] is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.”
Grace today y’all