When I was a girl and some of my friends came to school with ashes on their foreheads, I was mystified. Even after Christ became the heart of who I am, became my very life, I didn’t observe the season of Lent – that mysterious time between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday. I wondered if it was empty rituals…
I’m sure it is for some. But I also know that there are Christians throughout Christendom who cherish this time for the way it brings growth and intimacy with Christ. Such are some of you, for I was richly blessed by you last year during Lent. It makes me face this Lent with anticipation.
If you are joining us for the first time, go to my homepage at www.deebrestin.com and click on the How To Get Started. Your first comment will need to be approved, and after that your comments will appear automatically. Go at your own pace, or follow the days as I’ve divided them during the week. For example, after you read this opening, you’ll see icebreaker questions for Sunday and Monday…and then it continues through the week. Read what others write as you feel led, and comment if you like. They will welcome you warmly because this is a wonderful group.
Let me tell you why I believe you will be blessed if you commit to this seven week journey, closing with a celebratory Easter week!
We’ve said repeatedly that idols cannot be removed, only replaced. Even though our heart idols cause us and others pain, we are hesitant to let them go. We love them, we cling to them, fearful of letting go. So we cling to our idols in the same way that a few stubborn leaves cling tenaciously to the branches through the winter winds and snows.
What will finally expel those leaves? As the weather warms, the sap will rise, pushing them off. In the same way, as we contemplate the greatness of our God, His holy life will rise in us, expelling those tenacious idols.
When men and women get a glimpse of the holiness of God — from Moses to Martha — it changes them. This week, for example, we’ll consider what began to change Moses from a man who had taken his life into his own hands and made a royal mess of it to a man who led God’s people out of bondage.
He met the God who is A CONSUMING FIRE.
I believe you may see this story in a fresh way that will impact your life, and begin this mysterious and transforming journey — this first week of the holy season of Lent.
In the message we are going to listen to this week, Tim Keller says that “Every inordinate emotion — of anxiety, fear, anger, pride — is all because we are forgetting who God is.”
Our study this Lenten season will be therefore intensely practical, with the power to lessen the grip of idols and grief and usher you into times of sweet intimacy with Jesus.
I’ve watched with wonder has I have seen this truth of seeing God for who He really is transform us. Just last week we saw it in Rebecca’s life.
She met with the leadership at her church to articulate her dream. In the past she would have anxious before and after — but that was gone. She left the meeting with that steady stream of joy from the Lord, instead of being tossed and turned with anxiety.
Ed Welch has written a book that expresses exactly what Rebecca used to experience:
When People are BIG and God is small.
Welch specializes in helping people overcome their fears, and his approach is the approach we are taking during Lent toward fear, grief, sin, and every problem — seeing how big, how good, and how trustworthy our God is.
Watch this three minute clip from Ed Welch:
1. Have you ever observed the season of Lent? If so, share how it has been helpful — or not — to you.
2. What comments do you have on the above?
3. Christians around the world will get ashes on their foreheads, with the same words, though in many different languages. What are they and what truth do they speak to our souls? (You may need to research to find out!) Whether or not your church observes this outward sign, you can take it in your heart.
4. Traditionally Christians have “given something up” for Lent — often a fast from food. The purpose is not just “putting off” but “putting on.” If you fast a meal, your are to feed on the Bread of Life. You might opt to spend an extra half hour a day with the Lord. You might opt to exchange light reading or Facebook time for something more edifying. Try a book by Henry Nouwen, C. S. Lewis, Philip Yancy, or A. W. Tozer.
You may want to spend less time on something you know you spend too much time on, and put something more valuable in its place. Pray about what you might do — it doesn’t have to be the same for all seven weeks. (Lent is 40 days plus Sundays, or about seven weeks.) You may want to take a week at a time. What will you do?
Ash Wednesday: We begin Lent! (Wednesday through Friday)
We know outward idolatry is wrong, but it is important, whenever you read God’s commands to His children about outward idolatry, to think of inward idolatry as well. We don’t make graven images anymore, but we do worship things other than God: our children, our comfort, our control… and God wants to be first.
1. In this light read Deuteronomy 4:23-24.
A. What did God command His people not to do and why?
B. How might this relate to you and your “idols of the heart?”
(Anything or anyone that at anytime might be more important to you than God.)
2. Read the following background verses for Moses and see if you can find evidence for God’s hand on him or for evidence that Moses had messed up his life.
A. Exodus 1:8-17
B. Exodus 2:1-10
C. Exodus 2:11-15
3. For those of you who have journeyed with us through our study of idolatry, what heart idol do you think might have motivated Moses to take things into his own hands and commit a murder?
Moses Encounters The Great I AM
4. Read Exodus 3:1-15
A. Why was this bush unusual and what did God tell Moses? (verses 1-6)
B. CHALLENGE QUESTION: Since our God is a consuming fire, and since Moses had, indeed, an idol of the heart, why was neither the bush nor Moses consumed? (There’s a clue in verse 2! If you can’t figure it out, then Keller’s sermon will tell you.)
5. What similarity do you see between the above and Daniel 3:24-25?
6. We will look at this name of I AM more deeply next week, but for now, what significance do you see in the name that God said He is to be remembered by throughout all generations and forever? (Exodus 3:13-15)
LISTEN TO KELLER’S SERMON (THIS IS NOT A FREE SERMON — AND YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY 2.50. SOME SERMONS THIS LENT WILL BE FREE, BUT SOME WILL NOT. YOU MIGHT WANT TO BUY A TEN DOLLAR CERTIFICATE SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO FILL THINGS OUT EACH TIME. BUT RECORD THE NUMBER IN A SAFE PLACE!)
Link to Sermon: Click Here
7. According to the above message, what did you learn about God’s:
A. Brilliant Delays
B. Fiery Reality
8. How could any of the above help you with whatever you are facing right now?
9. Do you agree or disagree with the above painting that depicts this story by Eugene Pluchart? Explain.
10. What is your take-a-way?