Tag Archives: Lent

Why is it called “Good Friday?”

As early as the first century, the Church set aside every Friday as a special day of prayer and fasting. It was not until the fourth century, however, that the Church began observing the Friday before Easter as the day associated with the crucifixion of Christ.

First called Holy or Great Friday by the Greek Church, the name “Good Friday” was adopted by the Roman Church around the sixth or seventh century. Among the possible origins for the term “Good Friday” there are two that are most plausible.

The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name “Gute Freitag” is Germanic in origin and literally means “good” or “holy” Friday. The second possibility is a variation on the name “God’s Friday,” where the word “good” was used to replace the word “God,” which was often viewed as too holy to be spoken aloud.

It was no coincidence that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey (Psalm Sunday) on the very day that Jewish families were to choose a lamb to sacrifice. And Jesus’ death occurs at 3:00 p.m. on Friday which was the very hour that the sacrificial lambs were slain in the temple. John the Baptist said it best when he declared:

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” ~ John 1:29

This song by Ray Boltz is one of my favorites for depicting both the brutality of Jesus’ death and the beauty of God’s love on display some 2000 years ago on what we refer to as Good Friday.

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Good Friday, Jesus, Lent, Love of God, Music Video, Religion and Spirituality

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday… Why Bother?

Maundy Thursday 2Growing up in the Catholic Church I’m sure we attended on some of the days that are special according to the church calendar but I don’t recall. Then in my late teens I surrender my life to Christ Jesus and was part of an independent Christian Church that didn’t observe such days except for Easter and Christmas.

Fast forward three decades and for the last few years I’ve pastored a church that does participate in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services; and I’ve come to appreciate them very much.

Enduring a power outage gives you a new appreciation for electricity and all the comforts that come with it. And not surprisingly, the longer our gap of no power lasts, the greater our appreciation for it grows.

New depths of disappointment tend to be followed by new heights of joy.

In a similar way, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday develop in us a greater appreciation for Easter. They are opportunities for us to experience and contemplate some of what the disciples must have experienced with Jesus during His final hours …

  • Their excitement of gathering together for the Passover Meal, wondering if Jesus was about to take the throne and restore Israel to a state of independence…
  • Their uncertainty when Jesus led them to the garden to pray …
  • Their shock when Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested like a common criminal…
  • Their disbelief and utter horror as their teacher, the one they’d left everything to follow, was being tortured and nailed to a cross…

But then Sunday comes and with it the empty grave! How can we begin to describe the powerful emotions that must have swept over them with all that was going on?

Making time to participate in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services helps to develop in us an even greater appreciation for Easter and the hope that was born again when Jesus conquered death!

Find some services at a church near you or locate some resources online to reflect on what took place so many years ago. And then celebrate Easter like never before!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Good Friday, Jesus, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Why I’m giving up bathroom time for Lent

I know what some of you are thinking.

“Dude! There are several… essential activities that place in the bathroom. How can you afford (why would your wife allow you) to give up bathroom time for Lent?”

Pursuing-God

Not to worry! Let me explain.

Up until a few years ago our family of 8 shared one bathroom! Whew! There was always a line to get in and a common phrase heard frequently was “No camping out in there!”

When our oldest was 17-years-old we were able to add a second bathroom and relieve some of the pressure (pun intended)!

Now that the two oldest have graduated High School and moved on to their next adventure there are only six of us sharing two bathrooms. A much better ratio!

I’ve always had a penchant for reading while on the throne. So when my wife got me a Kindle Fire last year I had multiple books at my fingertips while using the bathroom. (It’s the little things that make life so special!)

But over the last couple of months I’ve gravitated from reading to playing games on my Kindle while sitting on the toilet. With another bathroom available it proved possible for me to get lost back there for significant lengths of time. (According to Susan it can be hours!)

Digital games are not inherently bad or sinful, but my pattern was becoming unhealthy. So one of the things I’m giving up for Lent is playing games on my Kindle when using the bathroom.

I can hear your sigh of relief that I’ve not given up on the essential activities that take place in a bathroom! Glad to relieve your concerns.

And I’ll admit that I did have fun considering alternate titles for this blog such as: “Giving up time on my throne to seek His throne.”

But I’ve challenged my family and our church family to consider that Lent is more than merely giving up something for God. The real core issue is repentance for putting things ahead of God and a renewed pursuit of intimacy with Him.

In Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “…when you fast…” He also says, “…when you give…” and “…when you pray…”

Fasting serves to challenge our dependence on physical passions that can become more important to us than God.

Giving serves to challenge our longing for and pursuit of things we don’t yet have but think we need even more than we need God.

Praying serves to remind us that life is not our story but God’s and encourages us to depend on Him rather than ourselves.

So during this period leading up to Easter I’m continually asking God three questions:

  • Lord, what would You have me give up?
  • Lord, what would You have me to give away?
  • Lord, what or who would You have me to pray for?

Perhaps most important in all of this is the motivation. I’m not doing any of this to secure God’s favor or love. Those have already been lavished on us through Christ Jesus. What God wants, what He created and redeemed us for, is greater intimacy with us.

I’m wrestling with all of this because I’m captivated by His love for me and I want to draw closer to Him.

Will you join me?

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P.S. – I’d enjoy hearing about your plans for the season of Lent or any discoveries you make along the way.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, God, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Lent, Loving God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

I’m sick and tired of the hype about new Easter ideas!

I’m all for new thoughts and ideas. They usually help to stimulate my slow-moving and limited brain cells. So I subscribe to various ministry newsletters.

Most of the articles come from men and women seasoned with plenty of ministry experience. And most usually have some nugget of wisdom or insight to offer.

But I’m sick and tired of the hype of new Easter ideas! 

We are still weeks away from Easter but here is a list of the articles that have already come across my computer screen:

  • 16 Tips for Better Easter Impact
  • 6 Preaching and Teaching Tips for Easter
  • 11 Keys to an Explosive Easter Service
  • Easter Challenge to Pastors
  • 40 Easter Outreach Ideas
  • 4 Ways to Keep Easter Guests Coming Back
  • 12 Ways to Make Sure Easter Guests Don’t Come Back (A creative way to express what we should avoid doing)
  • 8 Vital Elements of an Easter Sermon
  • Church Will Give Away $1000 on Easter

If you add all of these magical numbers together they equal: 1 nauseated pastor!

What do you suppose the disciples of Jesus were doing after His death but before that first Easter morning?

Mourning: They were grief-stricken over the death of Jesus. They felt lost.

Examining: How did this happen? Did we miss something? How did we get here?

Praying: “Dear God, do something!”

What if we approached Easter this same way? What if we used this season of Lent to really get ready for Easter?

Mourning: Are we grief-stricken that our sins and the sins of the world led Jesus to be crucified?

Examining: What am I doing with my life? What are my real priorities? Am I putting God first?

Praying: “Dear God, do something! And let it begin with me!”

The only way for the world to experience the effects of a risen Savior is for me to first experience the effects of a risen Savior!

“Lord, stir my heart and quicken my spirit. Draw me closer to You and awaken me to live in the reality of a risen Savior. Transform my head, my heart and my hands as I give myself to love broken people in a fallen world!”

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Easter, Good Friday, Grief, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, Lent, Loving God, Loving others, Morphing, Prayer, Priorities, Reflection, Revival, Sin

What giving up my wife for Lent has taught me

When people discuss what they gave up for Lent I mention that I gave up my wife… at least for part of it!

Earlier this week Susan flew out to San Diego to be with Valerie and Aaron – our daughter-in-law and grandson; since Sam, our #2 son, is gone for two months of training with the Marines.

So to help break up the long stretch for them, and soak up sunshine and warm weather for herself, Susan is spending three weeks out west. Kyrsten – one of our daughters – is with her for a week but will fly back next Monday.

Three weeks!

We’re also referring to it as The Great Experiment because in nearly 29 years of marriage and family life Susan has never been gone that long.

Will Susan be able to endure all the sunshine and warmth and uninterrupted time with Valerie and Aaron? Probably.

Will those of us back home in Indiana survive three weeks without the mama? More or less. It’s a toss-up as to who is missing Mom more – Brynden, our youngest (12 years old) or Thor – Susan’s Yorkie!

So what have we learned from The Great Experiment so far?

Fewer people in the house makes for:

  • less activity
  • less noise
  • less mess

No big surprise there. But I’ve also learned that it means I have to be more human.

While I care about everyone and usually ask how their day was, Susan is the one who is more emotionally engaged with them on a daily basis.

I can do crisis intervention, mediate conflicts, and general house maintenance. But I don’t really give myself to being engaged in the little, day-to-day things that make up most of life.

Sure I listen and even respond, but I’m not intentionally connecting on a deeper level.

So I’m learning that I need to be more emotionally available, more in tune, more engaged, more human.

I hadn’t realized how easy it is to come home from work and be here without really being here!

That might be status quo or normal for many guys/dads, but I think God has bigger plans for us. We have a more significant role to play in the lives of our family. We are to love as He loves and that begins with our family!

“No amount of success outside the home makes up for failure inside the home.”

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Family, Lent, Loving others, Marriage, Parenting

A DTR moment with God

There comes a time in every serious relationship when you have to pause for a DTR moment.

DTR stands for Define the Relationship. It’s a moment (or moments) in a relationship when specifics get discussed.

  • How often will we date?
  • Are we going to date only each other?
  • Is it time to meet the families?

Obviously, being on the same page is not only desirable but makes for the best possible relationship.

Once God rescued the young Israelite nation from slavery in Egypt He had them make a pit stop at Mt. Sinai for a DTR moment.

God created us to enjoy us so He takes the lead in spelling out what will make for the best possible relationship.

Relationship 101: The Ten Commandments are given as guidelines for relating to God and each other (Exodus 20). Jesus continues this theme when He defines the greatest commandment as loving God and loving others (Matthew 22).

Temple Blueprints: Specifics on how to construct what will be Gods’ temporary dwelling place close to His people (Exodus 25-31). God does not suffer from OCD but is highly detailed because He wants to test their hearts to see if they are serious about their relationship with Him.

Instructions on Living in Holiness: A multitude of details, including animal sacrifices to atone for sin, are given to teach the Israelites how to live holy lives that reflect the glory and holiness of God. (Leviticus)

From a Lower Story perspective it would seem that God is obsessed with details, but from an Upper Story perspective He is simply making sure we know how to maintain fellowship with Him. It’s all about the relationship!

Today is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period leading up to Easter. It’s a time to give up something in order to refocus or deepen our relationship with God. It’s sort of a DTR Season.

Whether you observe Lent or not, let me offer two questions to consider:
1. In what ways am I pursuing greater intimacy with the Lord?
2. What am I consuming (food, drink or activity) that distracts me from pursuing greater intimacy with the Lord?
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If you’re on our journey through The Story then read chapter(s) 5 this week. If you’re not familiar with The Story you can check it out at the tab above or click here.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Commitment, Divine presence, God, intimacy with the Lord, Lent, Loving God, Loving others, The Story

Hump Day Humor! ;-)

 

For those of you participating in Lent!

 

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Filed under Humor, Just for fun, Lent

The big three

After 40 days in the wilderness praying and fasting Satan shows up to temp Jesus with food, safety and possessions (Matthew 4). None of those is inherently evil so what was the temptation?

The test was whether Jesus would take matters into His own hands and grab those three things RIGHT THEN or wait on God the Father to provide them at the appropriate time.

Jesus waited! We often don’t!

We crave and pursue all kinds of things that fall into one of those three areas; often more than we crave or pursue intimacy with our Creator. That’s when food and security and possessions become sinful. That’s why John gives us this warning…

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. ~ 1 John 3:15-17

  • Lust of the flesh… food
  • Lust of the eyes… possessions
  • Pride of life… that feeling of being invincible

All sin finds it’s roots in one of these three areas. And the real danger of sin is not merely the activity itself, but how it interupts our intimacy with God. 

Recognizing the potential danger of the big three is good but it’s not enough. We need to go on the offensive; we need to live intentionally in ways that counteract these three areas. That’s what Jesus taught in Matthew 6.

  • Verse 2 – When you give… giving is the antidote to the lust of the flesh – possessions
  • Verse 5 – When you pray… praying counteracts our pride of life because it requires humility
  • Verse 16 – When you fast… giving up food helps us confront the lust of the flesh

So let’s make it personal.

  • What will we give? Perhaps a prized possession or our time to listen better.
  • Who will we pray for? How about that person you struggle with? Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
  • What will we give up in order to spend more time with God? Food, sweets, social media, TV, shopping, gossip, complaining…?

The big three give us not only the potential problem areas but also the kinds of habits we need to pursue!

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Filed under intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Lent, Money, Morphing, Prayer, Sin, Temptation

That was a first!

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday which signifies the start of the Lenten Season, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Some groups of Christians participate and others don’t.

Having grown up Catholic I vaguely recall Ash Wednesday because going to an extra Mass where oily ashes get rubbed on your forehead sticks with most kids. Other than not eating meat on the six Fridays of Lent it didn’t mean much to me.

Having spent the last 30 years in a brotherhood of churches that don’t formally recognize Ash Wednesday or participate in celebrating it I certainly didn’t gain any insight.

But last night was a first for me!

The small (amazing, wonderful, incredible – really!) church family that I pastor is part of a different brotherhood of churches and are in the habit of celebrating Ash Wednesday with a meal and a special worship service. Since I was responsible to lead the gathering I did some digging to learn about it.

The 40 days of Lent represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying after his baptism. I’d always thought of this as punishment but it was actually a time of preparation. Jesus was drawing closer to the Father and preparing to face Satan’s temptations. I need that!

The ashes serve to remind us that we are formed from dust; that we are finite beings temporarily inhabiting this spinning orb. One day, sooner than any of us realizes, we will stand face-to-face with our Creator. It’s a reminder to pursue all things eternal! I need that!

The ashes also represent repentance just as sack cloth and ashes did in the Old Testament. No matter how hard we try, the stuff of this life creeps into our hearts and minds to compete for our affections. Affections that belong to God alone. This usually happens in small, imperceptible ways. Lent is a call to repent and draw close to God. I need that!

I’ll be honest. I likely never would have investigated Ash Wednesday or Lent had God not put me in a body of believers that celebrate it. But I’m so glad He did! And I’m glad that we never get too old to learn!

Irregardless of your church background or involvement with Lent, I want to invite you to use the next 40 … 39 days to reflect on your relationship with God and prepare for Easter. God’s greatest desire is an intimate relationship with us!

P.S. – Tune in tomorrow for some practical ways to explore where you are with God.

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Filed under intimacy with the Lord, Lent, Loving God, Sin, Temptation