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Bible Study Awesome Ash Wednesday challenge

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I'm Southern Baptist. We don't have Ash Wednesday services. Until today, in my church, at any rate. It was well worth it. Our pastor spoke on the general purpose of Lent as it is understood in the liturgical churches, stating that it is a time of reflection, repentance and cleansing. And what, you might ask, did he recommend we examine in ourselves that needs reflection, repentance and cleansing?

Our attitude toward the lost.

He chastised us, his own church, for our Facebook postings and Twitter tweets, in which we -- meaning individually on our personal profile pages -- have made derogatory remarks, talked badly about the more visible among the lost, made disparaging remarks about those politicians in whom we have no respect, nor agreement. Then he turned to the passage for consideration in his message.
Matthew 9 NASB
36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
38 "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
Four things, our pastor said, Jesus highlights here.
1. What He sees -- the lost, "distressed and dispirited." "Distressed" is the Greek skullo and it literally means to skin, to flay. "Dispirited" is rhipto, literally, to throw to the ground, to flatten, as though discarded. Jesus saw the lost as in being in great anguish and pain, cast aside. They are desperate for relief and hope.

2. What He feels -- compassion. Splagnchiziomai ("compassion") carries the meaning of a great constriction of the heart or bowels. Picture the anguish the parents of the Sandy Hook students felt when told their child was never coming home again. Remember the pain we saw expressed in those videos last December. That is how Jesus felt every single day as He walked among the lost.

3. What He knows -- of the harvest (good). Those who hear the gospel and receive it with joy will be blessed to serve the Lord and receive heaven as their reward. In v. 38, this is the first harvest referenced.

4. What He knows -- of the harvest (bad). The context of the second mention of the harvest at the end of the same verse indicates a sad metaphor. It translates to the reality that everyone we lock eyes with daily will spend eternity somewhere. Do we have the compassion of Christ to see them as He does, and if so, how can we leave them in that state without attempting to help them understand?

Our challenge is simple, but may have life transforming consequences. We wrote the first name of someone whom (it is hoped) came to mind in us during the message, whom we related to that skinned, flayed hopelessness of the lost. The staff will pray for our strength to establish a context with that person in which we can find a way to present the gospel to them and invite them to our Resurrection Sunday (Easter) services. If we wanted, we wrote our first name below theirs, so the pastors can pray specifically for us to have the strength to do so. Incidentally, the staff did not leave themselves out, as our pastor stated that they had found, in discussing the content of the service, they knew people themselves they had neglected in reaching with the gospel. They, too, placed slips of paper on the altar.

It is not a new idea. I've seen similar things done for revivals, and for Resurrection Sunday or Christmas, too. But the message tonight was powerful. It was personal. And it was convicting.

We had 800 people there -- over twice the number typically there on a Wednesday night. The draw of a "Southern Baptist Ash Wednesday Service" was too much for many to resist.

Nearly all of us laid a card with two names on it on the communion table. I don't expect all of us will manage to have that conversation, or make that invitation. But if God is in it, wonderful things are about to happen. I would ask you to pray for us in this Lenten journey.
 
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Obadiah

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What a great post and a great sermon. Thanks for sharing this! (Yep, convicted me too. I'm guilty.)
 

AirDancer

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You & your fellow church members, as well as the individuals whose names written on those pieces of papers, are in my prayers.

Ash Wednesday is a fine day to renew our individual commitments to do further work towards the commission we as Christians are given to do by our Lord God. I know there are those who attempt to denigrate Ash Wednesday, but it is an important day of reminder that we need to atone for our short-comings and to strive for a closer walk with our Lord.

Thank you for sharing your post with us!
 

Deborah13

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Thank you for sharing. Your pastor sounds like a man who inspires his congregation to embrace the grace of the Father. You are very fortunate. Will pray for the opportunity for all of you to share the Gospel.
 
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