I am a Christian and I will correct people who call me religious. I don't follow man, I follow Christ... I am Christian.
I make that distinction because it is Ash Wednesday. I love Ash Wednesday but not for the religious aspect. I love Ash Wednesday for the Jesus aspect. When I am part of a church which has a service and places ashes on the forehead... I will gladly step forward and do so.
Not for religion... but for God.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
- Luke 4:1
Jesus stepped forward into the wilderness for 40 days. He prayed, he fasted, he was tempted, and most importantly, he prepared for his ministry. A ministry that would alter the course of humanity and give hope to the world.
Yes, I love Ash Wednesday. I love how at the end of 40 days a hope, HIS ministry culminated, is played out over Easter weekend. Our lives are nothing without Easter weekend.
But back to Ash and religion vs. Christianity.
When I was a child I had a friend who took part in Ash Wednesday services and shared with our circle of friends what she was "giving up" for lent. No chocolate, no red meat, no this, not that... all items of a material nature and, while they are commendable, I look back on those vows made by many (even myself at times) and realize how God is calling us to do so much more.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
- Joel 2:12
We may not need to "weep" or "mourn" for our savior has come. But we can deeply and truly seek Him "with all our heart". Jesus didn't just lay aside a craving or indulgence... no, he set himself apart for 40 days from anything and everything so he might focus more on His Father and his mission ahead. He offered up himself for purification and testing of that purification.
Shouldn't we attempt to do the same? On KOG today I wrote about a fasting of our Spirit, a step away from the things of this World for the things of His Kingdom. This is the fast I choose in a world of religious hum-drum; to take a stand reflecting a life of radical Christian living.
Churches are great, but we should never get into a religious hum-drum, forgetting the heart of our faith and Who is living in us and through us and our responsibility to respond first to God and then to man.
I do respect everyone's own way of honoring our King and this time of year... However you enter this Lenten season, I pray your heart grows closer to Christ in all you do.
May, to you, many blessings pour out,
Linking up today with Mom's Mustard Seeds, Women Living Well, Seeds of Faith, Internet Cafe and A Holy Experience.