Lent, Spiritual Disciplines


If asked to make a list of my chief sins, dishonesty is not among them. Indeed, I tend to pride myself on my truthfulness. I don’t fudge numbers at work, cheat on my taxes, or tell “white lies” to my friends (even if those lies might make them feel better about themselves or their circumstances). I don’t look to blame other people for my own mistakes and I would certainly never tell an outright lie, whatever the cost. I have plenty of sin problems, but lying is not one of them.

I had been considering my near-Christlike level of honesty as I headed for my congregation’s Ash Wednesday service and was a touch surprised when I opened the bulletin and discovered that the topic of dishonesty found a prominent place within one of the evening’s responsive readings. I quickly scanned the page, then tucking my bulletin into my Bible, determined that I would simply remain silent during that particular portion of the service. It would, after all, be dishonest to confess to dishonesty when one hadn’t been dishonest.

We were well into the service and, noting that we were coming up on the reading, I began to set my bulletin aside when the Spirit prompted me with the rather significant question, “You don’t lie to others, but do you lie to yourself?”
At first, I wanted to brush off the question. Of course I didn’t lie to myself. In fact, if I had any fault at all, it was that I was too honest with myself. The closer I got to Christ, the more aware of my sins I became… to the point where at times, the knowledge of the sacrifice He had made to atone for those sins seemed an incredible weight to bear. Had I never sinned, He never would have had to die. And it was with this admission that I began to understand.
In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul declares that, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Christ did not die for us grudgingly or because He was compelled to do so, but like the cheerful giver of 2 Corinthians 9:7 He offered His sacrifice as He had determined in His heart. Yes, it cost Him. But what He did, He did because of His love for me.

Romans 5:6-10 reminds us that, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

I had not asked God for the gift, but He had given it anyway. Wiping away the past, He granted me the gift of a glorious future. Yet I continued to focus upon what I had done to make the gift necessary in the first place. In doing so, I was lying to myself about the forgiveness which had been purchased through that gift, acting as though God still held something against me just as I continued to hold things against myself. In telling myself that lie, I was missing the true wonder, the enjoyment of all that Christ had purchased through His blood.

Sitting in the pew, I spoke the words, “God forgive us for the times when we lie” and then quietly added, “especially when we lie to ourselves.”

Lent, Spiritual Disciplines

Confessions of a Hoarder

I tossed another heavily loaded black trash bag onto the pile and frowned. The stacks on both sides had been steadily mounting every since I’d begun packing for my move and I was beginning to feel convicted about both the things that I was donating and those that I was tossing into the garbage. Perhaps it wasn’t so much the things in themselves as the quantity. I was only half way through and a good 50% of what I affectionately referred to as “my junk” was no longer mine.

Some of the stuff was good (I wouldn’t have donated it otherwise), like the size 14 pants that no longer fit. I had justified hanging onto them as an act of “frugality” – after all, I’d never have to buy a pair in that size again. Never mind that I’d never need a pair in that size again.

Some of the stuff was useless, like the 25 pair of 3D glasses. If I had to pay extra to get into a 3D movie, I was certainly going to keep all of the accessories. Besides, these were an “investment” – someday, they’d be worth something.

Some of the stuff was downright awful, like the broken bits of toys that had long ago been discarded, deformed paper clips, and nails that could become useful if I took the time to bend them back into shape.

As I envisioned charity shops and landfills steadily filling up with my “collections”, I was absolutely certain of one thing: it was all too much. My intention in forming the stash had not been a bad or unbiblical one. I wasn’t “storing up treasures” in the sense in which Jesus spoke. (Matthew 6:19-21) My goal wasn’t to have “stuff” simply for “stuff’s” sake. But unbiblical intent or not, the result was a negative one. Over the years, I had collected so much that I now had to dispose of much of it in order to make the move to the mission field.

I found myself reminded of the words of Scripture: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

The Apostle knew that sin wasn’t the only thing with the power to hinder God’s people and that is why, for nearly 2,000 years now, the Church has observed the season of Lent. It isn’t simply about giving up sin (though that is a good thing), but about taking the time to carefully examine our lives. It’s about looking at our schedules and our priorities and determining whether they contribute to our spiritual health or prevent us from running the race as we should. Like me with my closets, drawers, and shelves, we often find that what we’ve been “collecting” isn’t as much use as we thought it would be.

This week, take the time to consider you routine. Examine your habits. Take a look at the things with which you fill your hours. Then make the commitment to discard everything that stands between you and your ability to effectively follow God’s call!