Welcome to Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. It is common tradition in some churches to host services this day and for leaders to draw a cross on believers’ foreheads with ashes, saying to each, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This tradition began in the 11th century, but since the 1970s has become an increasingly popular way to find a multi-sensory experience to connect the body and spirit in worship.
Throughout the Old Testament, in sorrow, people commonly tear their clothes, put on sack cloth and sit in ashes. These symbols are a physical display of sorrow over our fallenness and separation from God’s holy perfection.
We begin this Lenten journey in ashes, but by the end of our time together, the Lord will have redeemed these ashes for abundant life.
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts for what you have for us in this next six and a half weeks of focusing on your life, death, and resurrection. Mold us to be like you. Let that which is simply dust blow away and your indestructible life fill us with more and more of you.
For today, read and soak in Psalm 51:1-12.
Then, re-write your favorite sections from this passage, turning them into your own prayer of confession, or a response of your choosing in a journal.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
This post was an excerpt from my new book Along with Jesus: An Easter Devotional. Grab your copy here to journey along with Jesus in the book of Luke this Lenten season as we anticipate Easter Sunday!
Today we find Jesus sitting in Simon's fishing boat, teaching a crowd. His voice carries over the water to the masses along the shore. After he finishes, he asks Simon Peter to take him fishing. Peter reluctantly does so…letting Jesus know that they had not caught a SINGLE fish ALL night. Moments later, they pull in such a load they have to call James and John to help. They just won the fishing lottery! Cha-ching! Cha-ching! If it were me, I would be tabulating exactly how much this haul was worth! Instead, Simon Peter falls down at Jesus's feet, confessing his sin, acknowledging who provided the fish. In that moment, Jesus calls this crew to be fishers of men and they leave everything and follow him. These fishermen just left those fish. They left a fortune behind without blinking an eye to follow Jesus.
Jesus returns from the desert and heads to the region of his youth, teaching from town to town, being praised by everyone. One Sabbath, we meet up with him in Nazareth. This is his hometown synagogue. His childhood playmates are probably here in the crowd. His parents' friends and family walk in and sit down, curious to hear what Jesus, the carpenter's boy, has to say. Jesus reads a prophecy about the Messiah from the scroll of Isaiah. He declares it fulfilled and sits down. At this point, the people are struck dumb, amazed, but as soon as he makes a reference to non-Jews who God reached out to in the Old Testament, a mob mentality overtakes them. Dust starts flying as his very own playmates and family friends drive him outside of town and nearly throw him off a cliff. (It's like a scene from Lord of the Flies). Then Jesus turns around and walks straight through the raging crowd, as if God parted the sea of angry men.
On this second day of Lent, let's follow Jesus out into the wilderness. He has been fasting for forty days in this lonely place. After more than a month without food, Jesus is famished. Satan descends in an attempt to thwart God’s plans for Jesus. He strikes where the human heart is vulnerable: identity. Each of the temptations lead with, “If you are the Son of God…” Satan questions Jesus’s identity (anyone relating here?). Forty days earlier, the Father bestowed on him his clear identity at his baptism: “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus knows who he is: God’s son, royalty. God said so…out loud. With this foundation, Jesus crushes Satan’s temptations. He knows who he is, and Satan cannot knock him off that solid ground.