Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday the day that many Christians will once again begin the observance of Lent. During Lent we begin a 40 day preparation for Easter. While the Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Of course we all know our Lord Himself spent 40 days in the desert fasting. Growing up I grew accustom tochoosing something simple to “give up” or fast from during Lent. As a child I would usually simply give up things like candy or soda. As an adult I would often choose to fast from something more meaningful and in addition I would also spend the Lenten seasondeeper in prayer. In general, I would use these 40 days to draw closer to God.
Well this year as I have been preparing for Lent, I was struck by a couple of the customary readings for Ash Wednesday. First we read this in Joel 2:15
“Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly!”
Then we have this from Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17:
“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”
These verses sum up for me the essence of the Lenten journey. We begin Lent by first acknowledging we are sinners. We ask God to wash away our guilt. We ask God for His mercy and compassion. Then we ask Him for a clean heart and steadfast spirit. But we conclude by asking God to give us back the full joy we have lost through our sins and to then keep His praises on our lips. I was really struck by those last two lines. I asked myself these questions: “Are the Lord’s praises always on my lips” and “Am I willing to share my love for the Lord with others?”
Two years ago I invited you to join my wife and me by writing “40 Letters in 40 Days” an idea that my wife shared with me. Most of my readers joined us in this challenge and many of you wrote to me to tell me how rewarding this exercise was for you. Please join us again to proclaim God’s praise, to those you care about.
Here is how we can keep God’s praises on our lips. This is an enriching Lenten commitment. In addition to fasting, I am asking you to write 40 letters, one on each day of Lent to 40 different people. In your letters, (or emails) please mention to the person to whom you are writing, that you have made a commitment to God as part of your Lenten preparation this year to write a letter to 40 people that God has blessed you with. Next, let them know they are one of those special people. Let’s tell these people of our faith in Jesus Christ, and tell them that we believe they have been a gift or blessing from God to us. Finally, tell them how they have blessed you.
This will truly give us the opportunity to keep His praises on our lips. It gives us an opportunity to share our love for Christ. It gives us a chance to witness our faith. It gives us a chance to bring joy to another person. It gives us a chance to mention Lenten preparation and maybe that will inspire them to also prepare for Easter. Christ is love, and these letters will allow us to share His love.
Forty letters, to forty people in forty days, this is our Lenten commitment. Will you join my wife and me in doing this? Start on Ash Wednesday with your first letter. Oh, and would you send just one extra letter. Send one to me by CLICKING HERE and let me know if you are going to join us in this letter writing campaign to share the love of Christ. It would be a blessing to know Christians all over the world are joining us in this.
Finally, let this letter serve as my letter to you. Each one of you who read these 4thdayletters is ablessing in my life. I never would have guessed that something that started so small would end up touching people around the world. I am blessed by your many heart felt responses each week, and I am blessed each time you forward these emails on to others to help them on their Christian journey. I pray that God will more deeply reveal Himself to you this Lent. Write down your list of 40 people today, begin your letters tomorrow and allow God’s praises to be always on your lips!
Lord I know I am a sinner. Please be merciful to me and wash away my guilt. Create in me a clean heart this Lenten season. But Lord most importantly I thank you for the joy of salvation which you won for us on the cross. May I never stop praising you Lord, Amen!