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Ash Wednesday ~ The First Day of Lent

Welcome to the official first day of Lent.

We all fall short, each day we will fall short of the Glory of God, yet the gift of repentances is given from on High to redeem us.

There is no shame! There is only forgiveness.... if you ask for it!

But the longer we live as Christians in a very post-Christian world, the more we struggle to keep coming back to this humbling place. Today's reading explores staying strong in the faith. It looks at standing firm in the trials and preaching the Good News even from your chains.

- Read Philippians 1

I love this chapter in the New Living Translation, but you can read any translation!

- Devotional Thought

As we saw yesterday with the origin of Shrove Tuesday, the world has a very blurred reaction to traditions inside and outside of the Christian Faith there is a lot we face in the word where we see a blurring of traditions coming into and out of Christian settings. But at the heart of the matter, how does what we do steward our faith? Are we doing the things we do out of trend following (or trend setting), because it sounds or looks nice or because it truly draws us closer to God. ​As Christians, we of course want to be pure in heart. Blameless and full of the fruit of righteousness before the Lord, but ​in search of that, we are oftentimes not received fully by the world and may end up like Paul who was in chains for Christ. In the very effort of sharing the Gospel to share the freedom of the Kingdom, we may find ourselves bound. Maybe not physically like Paul, but restricted in the sense of not literally being behind bars, but sometimes walking out God's Kingdom in a world with very different values, we can often feel the clashing of souls. We are denied being fully true to our commitment to Christ and when we are allowed to preach, we are often turned agaisnt.

​We must lay down our pride as we set fear to the backburner and do our best to live a life of faith. But we will hit bumps in the road, we will get it wrong and other people will get it wrong.

But, boy oh boy! We can be encouraged by Paul's life!

On Ash Wedensday it is tradition to burn the palm crosses from the previous Palm Sunday and make them into the paste which is placed on each persons forehead in the sign of the cross. I grew up in a Catholic Church, so I feel right at home attending a Catholic Chruch for Ash Wednesday Masses. It's a quiet, solomn seeming service, yet it holds so much hope for the day and days to come.

I saw a resenblence here today that I haven't noticed before... The journey of the ashes symoblises the trends of the day. One year you're high flying praise worthy material (Palm crosses), welcoming the King, and the next year you could be being burnt down to smithers (Ash Wednesday). That's how the world places value on things... one moment they're the best thing ever and the next... maybe not so much!

But these verses in Philippians hold the most beautiful reminder that whatever we face, we can stand firm in the faith. Becuase the journey isnt climbing to the top, it's holding fast to Jesus throughout. And in that journey, we are going to face trials, we are going to be sidelined or discriminated, we are going to be brought high and taken low. But the message of Ash Wednesday is the same whether the ashes came from praise worthy palm crosses or plain palm leaves....

When I go to the Catholic Church on Ash Wednesdya, the Priest will typically say something like this when placing the ash cross on your forehead.... "“Repent and believe in the Gospel,” or “You are dust, and to dust you shall return." and it's a humbling reminder that it is not in our own strength that we continue, but in the strength of the Lord. Whatever happens, we conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel. That when the end comes, we know that our bodies will fall to ashes while our spirits will return to the Lord.

These ashes are a good thing! They show life well lived!

- Passage to focus on 

"Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it."

Philippians 1vs27~30 NLT Strive forward, always move towards Jesus. For it is by Him that we are saved and becuase of Him that we return to this place of Lent each year. The sign we have for others that we are in Christ is that we can believe in Him and even when that is difficult, we continue. It is in our struggles and weakness that we can have hope because He has given us the power to overcome them.

- Image for today 

The image for today is a fire, but more like the one of a friendly campfire. We know that the fire will not consume us, to ashes our bodies return but not our souls. And like a campfire with friends, music, food and laughter, the memory of the good tiem remain when you wake up int he morning and see the ashes of the fire.

- Prayer 

Lord our God,

Today we are reminded that we are Heavenly beings and yet we live in a very opposing world. But we do not loose hope because our hope is in You and You alone! We thank you for your kindness in welcoming us into your kingdom and your reign and we thank you that nothing we face in our lives, no fire or chain or opposition can tear us away form you. Because it was you who loved us first and loved us before we were worthy. So as we go out into today and the next day and the next, may we be embedded with the knowledge that you are for us and that just as you pressed on towards the cross with joy, we can press on towards our lives with expectant joy!

We thank you for the cycle of life, that you breathed life into us and our life will never cease so long as it is planted in you. Thank you for extending open the gates of heaven to us.

We love you Lord!

- Active idea

Light a candle today and sit for a while and watch the flame.

Reframe the fire in your head to be that of a candle, or a campfire.

Safe, contained yet beautiful,giving light and warmth. The ashes that remain from this fire show a memory worth keeping. From ashes you were and ashes you will return, but what will be said of your fire?! Did you fan the flame of Faith, hope and love or did you tear others down?

You can colour in today's downloadable image while you do this...

2.2 PDF
Download PDF • 290KB

Thank you for joining me today! Hope to see you again soon!

Have a blessed Lent

~ X ~

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