Summary: The truth is always the same: The only hope we have in this life stems from what God did for us. He came for you. He suffered for you. He Died for you. He rose for you. He moved heaven and earth for you.

“Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. Like all Christian holy days and holidays, it has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same:


and penitence,

demonstrated by self-denial,

in preparation for Easter.

Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today.

In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it's unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church. It was then the idea was connected to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry right after his baptism and his 40 days in the desert where he was tempted. Matt 4:1-2 says:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was famished.

How exactly the churches counted those 40 days varied depending on location. In the East, one only fasted on weekdays. The western church's Lent was one week shorter, but included Saturdays. But in both places, the observance was both strict and serious. Only one meal was taken a day, near the evening. There was to be no meat, fish, or animal products eaten.

The goal of which was to reorient our lives by focusing our lives on the disciplines of the Christians are urged to refrain from business as usual in order to attend to the body, spirit, mind, soul, and heart. It is a time set aside for worshipers to connect their faith walk with the ways in which they live, move, and have their being throughout daily life. Thus, the Lenten journey is a renewed spirit and a genuine desire to become an incarnational presence in the world.

We have come to the end of our renewal journey - 40 days of fasting, self examination, prayer, scripture reading, confession - all to grow closer to God through more time with Jesus. So as you celebrate His love for you this morning, what has changed? Is your life any different today because of your Lenten experience.

I am a reflective personality. Some say I think too much, feel too deeply and act with too much intensity - especially when it comes to items related to faith. I guess it's because I have sat and wondered…

“What if”?

What if Jesus never came? Never suffered? Never rose from the grave?

Never spoke to the disciples?

Never discipled 12 guys for 3 years?

Never did one miracle.

Never said “come and see and go and tell”.

Never proclaimed love as the cornerstone of faith?

What would life be like for the 2.3 billion people who claim Jesus today?

How about the 6 billion in the world?

Education would certainly be different. The Christian religion has been significant in establishing education as a cornerstone to better lives. The Christian focus on the dignity of human life would surely be different. The orphanages in war torn countries and improved rights for all, especially women, might be non-existent. Women's rights have dramatically changed the landscape for the better. Did you know, everywhere women have been lifted from property to equality, the culture changes for the better? Care for one’s neighbors and the poor all come from the establishment of Christian values. The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Compassion International, Feed my Starving Children all have their roots in Christianity.

Robert Woodberry, a professor at Baylor, in his published thesis: “The work of missionaries turns out to be the single largest factor in ensuring the health of nations.” He goes on to summarize his findings that “Areas where conversionist Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are, on average, more economically developed today with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment — especially for women —and more robust membership in non-governmental associations.”

The truth is the world would be a much darker place. People can claim humanity has good in it. However, history, experience, reason and even Scripture will not support the idea. It is only when humanity is shown and empowered through the presence of a greater idea and understanding of God who loves so completely He would come and die for us, that humanity moves towards real progress and hope.

Did you know that Christians give 2.5 times more than non Christians to charitable organizations? An did you know Americans gave twice as much as the next closest nation in terms of individual GDP 1.45 vs .74. And America gave 410 billion dollars to Charity last year with over 80% given by individuals not corporations?

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