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Ash Wednesday and Lenten Devotions

Happy Mardi Gras! I hope you've had a joyous and playful season celebrating the good gifts of God.

Tomorrow begins Lent, the time of prayer and fasting in the lead up to Easter (April 9th). We call it "Ash Wednesday" because it's a reminder that we are but dust and ashes. That is, we are finite human beings who are dependent upon all sorts of things for our lives. But especially God. That's one of the reasons why people choose to fast from something during Lent. It's a reminder that we are utterly dependent upon God for our lives. We may need food, air, water, etc. But, as Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the living God." Fasting helps to bring that into focus.

While it's traditional to fast from meat during Lent, you can choose whatever you might like. Perhaps you want to skip your morning coffee or your evening drink. Maybe you want to give up social media or watching television. Any of these types of things are excellent choices for fasting.

But whatever you might choose, it's important to remember that fasting is not actually about abstaining from something. What I mean is, we don't go without merely to go without or to improve our lives or make ourselves healthier or anything like that. Instead, fasting is about going without in order to focus on God. If you go without but don't attend to God, then you've missed the point. We fast in order to acknowledge our dependence upon God alone and to draw near to him in prayer.

Of course, there are a lot of people who don't think of fasting because they don't think of God at all. Plenty of people don't bother about Lent because they don't bother about Easter. In other words, there are a lot of unbelieving people out there. I'm sure you know more than a few of them. They, too, are dependent upon God even if they don't know it or acknowledge it. That's why at Woodland Church, we're encouraging not only drawing nearer to God through prayer and fasting in general, but to also use this opportunity to pray for the unbelievers in our lives.

Over the next forty days, we want to challenge all of our members to pray each and every day for one unbeliever in their lives. You can do this in a couple of ways. You could pick someone new to pray for each day, throughout the day. So, every time you want that cup of coffee, take two minutes and pray to the Lord for your unbelieving friend, neighbor, or family. Or, you can choose one, two, or three unbelievers in your life to pray for throughout the forty days of Lent. Whatever the case, the challenge is to spend this time of fasting and prayer focused on God and praying for those who don't know him. After all, salvation is dependent upon God as well, is it not?

I'll be encouraging you every step of the way, too, with daily devotionals right here. You can encourage this movement of prayer by sending the link to sign up for these posts to one of the people that you've been praying for, or someone else you may want to recruit to pray for the same people. You could also share them on your social media page (if you're not fasting from social media!).

One more thing. There are six Sundays between here and Easter. I want to challenge you to invite one friend, relative, or neighbor to church for each of those Sundays. And specifically, invite your unbelieving friends—the very ones you've been praying for. This may feel daunting to some of you, but remember that God goes with us in the mission he calls us to carry out. So take heart, be brave, and reach out to invite those who don't know Him to know Him Who Saves.

I'll be praying for you.

Pastor Joseph

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