How many of you have given up something for Lent? It is my custom to give up something that is not so good for me and add something that is good for me. This year I have given up sweets and added reading only spiritual books. The idea of ridding ourselves of what might be a stumbling block in our relationship with God is a good one if done for the right reasons. If we do it with love and joy in our hearts then it brings us closer to God.  If we resent it, or make those rules the predominant issue in our lives we miss the point. The whole point of giving up something for Lent, or of fasting in general for that matter appears primarily to be a means of personal spiritual revival. As the prophet Joel declares, it’s a way of re-aligning our hearts with the Lord, 'Return to me with all your heart, with fasting’  Joel 2:12-13.  

We must be careful not to let ourselves get carried away with our own efforts to carry on tradition and miss the love God has for us. Jesus warns the Church in Ephesus, and us as well, to look out for that. Jesus says the church has been good at keeping doctrine and has been long suffering as well. What Jesus has against that church is that it had lost its passion of its first love.  Revelation 2:1-7  

We can get so busy serving God and being painstaking in correct doctrine, all the while suffering for our Lord, and still lose sight of why we do what we do. When that happens we make our faith more about religion than we make it about relationship. Religion focuses on a system of beliefs, a pattern of rules.  The Pharisees were good examples of how religion can block relationship. They tried so hard to live under the law they lost their relationship with their God who gave them the law.    

 It can happen to us as well. God desires more than anything to have a relationship with you.  We can block out that love when we try to justify ourselves through observing the law and fighting among ourselves for the "perfect doctrine."  Relax!  Let God have His way with you.  We are directed to no longer be conformed to the patterns of the world, but rather be transformed inwardly by the renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:2, emphasis mine). That is what giving up something for Lent can be for us. No longer conforming to the worlds pattern.  The crucial part of that text though is to allow the renewing process to work in us. God's love is so powerful He can transform us into the man or woman He intended us to be when He created us. 

As we move through Lent and into Easter I pray blessings on your journey. Do not conform yourself to the pattern of this world. Let the love of God transform you into the new creation you are meant to be. We do have struggles. We do suffer. We do face sorrows. God acknowledges that. But as dark as Good Friday and the cross was, Easter made it all worthwhile! Share the resurrection love.  

The more you love, the more love you have to give. “It's the only feeling we have which is infinite...”  (Christina Westover) 

Blessings on your Lenten journey; it leads us to the empty tomb!

Pastor Dave