Dear Fellow Children of God,
Few people live as close to the wilderness as Alaskans do. Most Alaskans I know enjoy the blessings of living near the wilderness. Alaskans experience wildlife in ways others cannot. We also have outdoor recreational opportunities that include both beauty and adventure. We Alaskans are blessed by the wild land around us. But, if you have traveled into even the edge of the wilderness you know there are dangers as well. The wildlife we enjoy viewing can cause injury and death. There are dangers in the waters, dangers in the isolation, dangers in the weather, and dangers in the terrain. The wilderness brings blessings, but it also brings danger.
Do you know that Scripture is constantly telling us about times in the wilderness, with the point being that our lives are wilderness times? The Children of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness before they were able to enter the Promised Land. These 40 years were a time of trial and waiting. For some Israelites the dangers in that wilderness overcame them. You and I live in a world where we face trials and temptations as we await the Promised Land of heaven. Our life is spent in the wilderness of a sinful world. There are trials and temptations that can lead us away from the Lord and dangers that can lead us away from the promised land of heaven.
Jesus also had time in the wilderness. Before beginning His ministry Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. But, this was a different kind of experience from that of the Israelites. It is like Jesus went to the wilderness to train for the coming challenges of His earthly ministry. Where the Israelites often failed to resist the temptations and dangers of the wilderness, Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations. Jesus spent His time in the wilderness alone with God. He spent His time in prayer, in fasting, and using God’s Word. So, where the Israelites often failed, Jesus was strengthened for His life of ministry and service.
So, how do we face our wilderness time in this world? The Lenten Season has traditionally been a season set aside for training and growth to help Christians resist the temptations in this world, and to help Christians live their lives for the Lord. This time of 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter reminds us that we constantly face trials and temptations and dangers in this world before we reach the Promised Land. This time of 40 days is intended to help us follow the example of Jesus and grow in the spiritual discipline to face these dangers.
However, our greatest weapon in facing the dangers of this world is not our discipline or our strength. We all face times of sin and failure. Our greatest help in life’s dangers is the love and the forgiveness given to us through the grace of God in Jesus.
But, Christians can also use our Lenten season like Jesus used His time in the wilderness, as training for Christian living. Some Christians have traditionally spent Lent in self-denial to develop the strength to say “no” to the temptations and dangers of life. Christians have also used the season of Lenten as an opportunity to develop the tools and disciplines for Christian living. This is a good opportunity to set aside time to be alone with God, to set aside extra time to pray and use God’s Word, and for worship.
When I go to the edge of the wilderness to enjoy ice fishing I make sure I have the clothes to protect me from the cold, and the equipment to do the work of fishing. As you live in the wilderness of this world, are you protected and equipped for the Christian life? Lent is a good time to prepare as a Christian for time in the wilderness of this world.
Seeking to Grow as A Child of God,
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.