Ashes, Dust & Repentance

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Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the season of Lent for Christians. There are 40 days (minus Sundays) until Easter, and the season of Lent is a time for Christians everywhere to prepare themselves to celebrate that glorious day. Tonight, I will observe the beginning of the Lent season with my congregation by administering (and receiving) ashes on our foreheads.

Tonight, my congregation will be reminded that the Lent season is all about preparing for Easter through repentance and renewal. We will be reminded of our sin, and we will be called upon to repent. In our service tonight, we will sing together, we will recite Scripture together, we will pray together, and we will receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. The ash will serve as a reminder of the biblical principle from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And because we are dust, and because to dust we shall return, repentance and renewal is essential. We will be reminded again tonight that full and complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essential.

The practice of placing ashes on the forehead has its roots in the Old Testament (book of Ezekiel) when an angel of the Lord was told to “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” Tonight will be a night when we will be reminded of our sin (reminded to sigh and groan over it), and then encouraged to begin a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the work of Christ on the cross when He – once and for all – forgave us of our sins and cleansed us from all of our unrighteousness.

Lent is to be marked by discipline and fasting with the goal of death to sin, but our eyes must not stay down. They must look ahead to Easter, a day when the fasting comes to end…a day of unbridled laughter and celebration. A day when all creation rejoices and marvels at the gift from God: our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.

The Colors of Egypt

One year ago, I journeyed through Egypt, Nairobi, Kenya and London. I posted many pictures along the way, but recently, I processed many of them through Lightroom editing software. The difference is amazing, so I thought I’d post them occasionally throughout the month of February. Click on each one if you’d like to see more detail.

Here are some of the more vibrant and colorful pictures I took in Egypt.

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Snack Time in Nairobi

One year ago, I journeyed through Egypt, Nairobi, Kenya and London. I posted many pictures along the way, but recently, I processed many of them through Lightroom editing software. The difference is amazing, so I thought I’d post them occasionally throughout the month of February. Click on each one if you’d like to see more detail.

These three were taken out my car window (passenger side in Kenya is our driver’s side) as my group made our way to a village on the outskirts of Nairobi.

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Take Me To Church

One of my favorite things about New Mexico is its rich and beautiful history.  The state boasts the oldest public building in the US and the oldest continually inhabited settlement in North America.  New Mexico contains several intact Indian ruins – dating all the way back to the 1100’s, a few Spanish mission ruins from the 1600’s, and building after building still standing and still in use dating back to the 1600s and 1700s.  This incredible history is a dream for this budding amateur photographer!

Yesterday, I took my camera along as we drove my in-laws through the Jemez Mountains to Santa Fe.  Along the way are a few beautiful churches – some old and some new – but each one unique.  Here’s what I captured…

Jemez Valley, NM

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This church is located just north of the Jemez Pueblo and is barely visible from the main road.  There is no sign in front of the church and no name on the building itself.  It’s located on a dirt road and a cemetery with graves dating back to the 1800s sits across the road.

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Jemez Mountain Baptist Church, La Cueva, NM

La Cueva, NM sits at almost 8,000 ft. elevation.  It’s a small settlement that serves as the last stop for food and supplies before heading off onto forests roads or onto Fenton Lake.  The Jemez Mountain Baptist Church was founded there in 1989.  It’s not an historical building by any means, but the setting in which it sits is beautiful, and the building fits perfectly among the surrounding ranches and mountains.

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Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, NM

I saved the best for last.  Those who visit Santa Fe surely make this one of their priority destinations.  The cathedral was completed in 1886 on the site of an older church that was built in 1717.  An even older church was built on the same site in 1626 but was destroyed in 1680.  Talk about history!

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The Christmas decorations were still up inside, making the sanctuary even more beautiful.

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Sunday’s Advent Sermon in 18 Tweets

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Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent, and I preached on 2 Peter 3:8-15. You can listen to the entire sermon here. I saw that a pastor friend of mine condense his Sunday sermon into tweets (140 characters or less), so I thought I’d try. It really boils the message down to the essentials!  Here goes…

Advent is a season of waiting, but waiting is hard. We’re tempted to give up, so Peter gives us perspective.

2 Pet 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact beloved that with the Lord one day is as 1000 years, and 1000 years as one day.

2 Pet 3:9a The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…

2 Pet 3:9b …not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God “delays” because every moment that passes is another moment that a non-believer can repent and believe.

But, the Lord will return. Judgment will come. His patience will end. It will be unexpected for the unprepared.

God’s judgment of sin, the wicked, and the unrepentant will be absolutely, categorically complete.

Therefore, Christians must live lives of holiness and godliness while waiting. And it looks like this:

1. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him without spot or blemish (1 Pet 3:14)

Make haste to continually forsake sin and diligently practice prayer, praise, Scripture intake, worship, communion, fellowship.

By the way, we do all of this on Sundays together!

2. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him at peace (1 Pet 3:14) But how?

Phil 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray and make requests of God with thanksgiving.

Phil 4:7 And when you do, the unexplainable peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

3. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Pet 3:15)

2 Cor 5:20 We are ambassadors for Christ as God makes His appeal through us.

Every day the Lord “delays” His return is another day for us to be ambassadors for Him to unbelievers.

In conclusion, while you await His return, grow in holiness and godliness – and share your faith!

On life, learning, love, and laughter.