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Lenten Devotional 2021

Ash Wednesday, the first Wednesday of Lent, marks the beginning of the Lenten season. During this time in the church calendar, a dark purple color enters the altar area, and a season of reflection begins. In some churches, people file into the church building to have ashes placed on their foreheads. “Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return,” says the priest or minister repeatedly. Why does the pastor repeat this phrase, and why is Lent an important time for each of us? Because many of us simply follow traditions rather than understand the significance of what we are doing, these are two very important questions.

“Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return,” is a very simple statement. In today’s society, people want everything. The wants have become needs. I need the stone countertop as seen on television. I need the top-of-the-line car which practically drives itself. I need the new smart phone to stay connected to anyone and everyone, except those who are closest to me. When in reality, those “I needs” are really “I wants.” We are a lot like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy whose desire for the ring of power consumed him until his lust for the ring killed him. Notice the word consumed in the previous sentence? Yes, we are consumers who want and want and want until we are consumed by them.

“Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return,” reminds us that one day each of us will die. Our bodies will be placed in the ground, or our ashes will be scattered to the four winds, and we will be no more a part of life. The stone countertop, the impressive car, and the phone will be left behind for others to use or dispose as they wish. The saying reminds each of us to look deeply into our hearts and reorganize our priorities. Do I really need the very expensive countertop, expensive car, or newest phone when another less expensive model or style is more suited to my lifestyle? How can I use the money I save to help someone else?

This is where the Lenten season comes into play. It is a time to search deep within each of our hearts. It is a time to rearrange our priorities. Where does the reorganization begin? Instead of putting my wants first, I need to put my Creator first in my life. Then, my second priority should be the needs of others.

(Mark 12:29-31)

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Finally, my third priority is me. I come into play, but God already has me covered. If I put God first, He will take care of me. How do I know? Because He promised me, and God never forgets a promise. He will take good care of me; so I do not need to worry about anything.

(Matthew 6:25-34)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a] ?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you— you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Though Lent is an important time to begin to reorganize our priorities, we must take the reorganization through the rest of the year. Each day is another step toward putting God first. Each day has new challenges and new desires. With God’s help, each day we can keep our priorities in order. Each new day, we can find deep within ourselves the joy that God desires each one of us to have. Have you noticed that joy bubbling up within you? Like your pulse throbbing inside you, joy will circulate with each breath you take. Remember, when your priorities are Jesus, Others, and Yourself, they spell JOY.

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