Seek First The Kingdom of God
Tomorrow, March 5th the season of Lent begins. We once again begin our journey of preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of our savior on Easter Sunday. Jesus is calling us to draw closer to Him. Jesus tells us in Mt. 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
In this 4thdayletter I want to suggest three easy, practical and yet meaningful exercises to consider during these forty days of Lent to assist us in seeking first the Kingdom of God. Some of you may be inclined to try all three exercises, others may want to just try one or two.
As the other men on the presentation team at Broken Door Ministries and I travel around the country putting on half day retreats we continue to encounter people struggling with recurring sin in their life. We continue to hear stories as to how patterns of habitual sin have chained people down and clouded their relationship with God. Too often as we strive to be good followers of Christ we also try to cling to the things of this world as well. Jesus makes it clear we can’t do this.
“Jesus said to his disciples:’No one can serve two masters.He will either hate one and love the other,or be devoted to one and despise the other.You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Many of the weekly emails I have written center on the importance of breaking down silence and shame and telling someone about the areas of sinful struggle in our lives. For most of us ego, pride and embarrassment stand in our way. We are called in the Bible to do this:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
As long as no one else other than you knows you have areas of habitual sin that you struggle with it is easy to keep repeating these habits. As soon as you have the courage to share with another Christian brother or sister those areas of weakness in your life where Satan continues to attack you, the sooner the healing process mentioned in James above can begin. We read below that there is strength in numbers.
“Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil.
If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one.
But woe to the solitary person!
If that one should fall, there is no other to help.
So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm.
How can one alone keep warm?
Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist.
A three-ply cord is not easily broken.”
Can I urge you during these days of Lent to muster the courage and choose one of your trustworthy Christian friend and confide in them your recurring sin? If you do not have a close knit group of Christ centered friends, maybe this Lent you can start to develope such a group. Allow the light of Christ to manifest itself through them. Allow healing to begin. This year during Lent, be resolved to break the chains of recurring habitual sin in your life.
Lest you fall into the trap when doing your examination of conscience and conclude you really don’t have any glaring areas of recurring sinfulness, allow me to remind you of the sins of omission. If you think you are not “doing the bad things” ask yourself what “good things” you are omitting. How are you doing with this list?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me”
I have selected forty of the past 4thdayletters and attempted to arrange them into four broad categories.
During the first ten days the focus is on our human brokenness. The next ten days are focused on our prayer and Lenten preparation. For days thirty to thirty-nine I picked ten topics for contemplation and reflection. Finally, the last ten subjects focus on salvation, joy and resurrection.
We are called to return to God with our whole heart. One great way to do this during Lent is to set aside 10-15 minutes every day to re-read one of these past 4thdayletters and reflect on its meaning in your life. Click HEREto access the attached PDF file that you can save on your computer. You simply need to click the topical link each day of Lent to read that days reflection. By setting this time aside each day we can rend our heartsfor our God. In Joel 2:13we read these words:
“Even now, says the LORD,return to me with your whole heart,with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;Rend your hearts, not your garments,and return to the LORD, your God.For gracious and merciful is he,slow to anger, rich in kindness,and relenting in punishment.”
Exercise two is also great for a group exercise. If you are in a weekly gathering of Christian friends, perhaps your group can set up a “group email” and do a reply all each day to share your thoughts on the meditation you read.
Last year during Lent I passed along a suggestion from my wife to make a list of 40 people that were meaningful in your life and reach out to them either by email or phone to tell them how much you care for them and how important they are or have been in your life. This year I want to expand on last year’s concept. We all know we are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. In other words we are called to evangelize. This is a scary challenge for many of us.
I want to suggest what I believe to be an easy way to share the good news and evangelize without having to be fearful of the process. If you choose to adopt this exercise during Lent, not only will you be helping the 40 people you reach out to but you will be helping Broken Door Ministries and 4thdayletters expand our evangelization efforts as well. On the downloadable printout provided with the daily meditations there is space to write down forty names.
Each day during lent please write an email to the person whose name appears on your list that day. In your email share with that person the impact they have made on your life. Next, make some statement about the importance of your faith in Jesus Christ. After you have shared your personal thoughts towards that person simply copy and add these words to your email.
Cut and paste these words below into your email and edit as needed.
For some time now I haveenjoyed reading a weekly inspirational email. I wanted to share this link with you so that you too can sign up to enjoy reflecting on each week’s Christian message. It is free and it arrives every Tuesday morning. Click here to sign up.
There you have it, three exercises to help you during Lent. May I ask you a favor? If you use any or all of these exercises during Lent would you be so kind as to let me know. Alsoat the end of Lent please let me know how you were blessed by your efforts.
For our closing prayer let’s recite these psalms:
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 guiltand 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.
Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned
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