Did You Know?

Three men and zero women have been

executed in the United States in 2019.

3 Killed in Utrecht, Netherlands
Three individuals have been killed, and five others injured, after a shooting on a tram in the city of Utrecht, Netherlands. Police are calling the incident a terrorist attack and are have arrested a suspect. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for healing for the injured.
180 Killed in Africa
At least 180 individuals have been killed across southern Africa, including 84 in Mozambique, from Cyclone Idai. The official death toll is expected to rise drastically, with President Filipe Nyusi speculating that over 1,000 have been killed. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for those who are missing. Please pray for all affected.
5 Killed in Mumbai, India
At least five individuals have been killed, and over 30 others injured, when a footbridge to Mumbai’s main train station collapsed. The reason for the collapse is under investigation. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for healing for the injured.
8 Killed in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Eight individuals were killed at a school in Sao Paulo, Brazil after two former students opened fire inside the school. Five of those killed were students. The two gunman killed themselves as police arrived. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for the community.
73 Killed in Papua
At least 73 individuals have died from a surprise flood in Papua, a province of Indonesia. The flash flooding was caused by torrential rain, which also caused mudslides and landslides. Over 60 others are missing. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for the safety of the missing. Please pray for all those affected.
24 Killed in Democratic Republic of Congo
At least 24 individuals were killed, and over 30 others injured, when a train overturned in Kasai province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of those killed were children. The cause of the accident is believed to be unmaintained tracks. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for healing for the injured.
Protests Turn Violent in Paris, France
For the past four months, “yellow vests” protests have occurred in France, initially as an protest against the increase of fuel taxes. For the most part, the protests have been peaceful, however, they have now turned violent, with protestors smashing shops on the famed Champs-Élysées in Paris. Please pray for those affected. Please pray for peace.
2 Israelis Killed in West Bank
An Israeli soldier and a rabbi were killed by an unknown Palestinian attacker in the West Bank. The soldier was stabbed to death and then his rifle was used to kill the rabbi. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for peace.
3 Killed in Midwestern Flooding
At least three individuals have been killed due to severe flooding in the midwestern part of the United States. Rain, along with melting of snow has caused the flooding. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for the safety of all affected.
49 Killed in Mosque Shootings
At least 49 individuals have been killed, and 20 others injured, in two shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the shootings. Police also discovered explosive devices nearby. Officials has designated this incident as a terrorist attack. Please pray for the families of the deceased. Please pray for healing for the injured. Please pray for peace.

There was the hint of spring in the air while walking around the college campus one Wednesday.  The warmer weather, and bright sun, was the reason my head was up instead of bowed against the cold and wind.  If it had not been for the warmth I might never have noticed that every other person appeared to have a black smudge on their foreheads.  Even some professors had the smudge!  Well, it was a Catholic college, it must be one of those things Catholics did?  Then I heard talk of giving up Facebook, chocolate, and video games for Lent.  Lent, I vaguely knew what that was.  Yep.  It was definitely a Catholic thing.  Wait!  I did a double take.  Was that my Lutheran friend with a black smudge?  So maybe not just a Catholic thing?  Although...they are both liturgical churches; maybe it is a liturgical church thing?  It was a few more years before I understood that those "liturgical church things" are a way of growing and deepening my relationship with Christ.

 

The black smudge, as later learned, did not start as a smudge.  It was given by a priest to those who attended Mass that morning.  The priest dipped his thumb in ash and drew the sign of the cross on each person's forehead, as a reminder of what God said to Adam and Eve after they succumbed to sin and ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: "for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19b, ESV)  The ash mark symbolizes inner repentance.  The Old Testament is littered with examples of people covering themselves with ash - 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1,3, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 6:26, Ezekiel 27:30, Daniel 9:3, and Job 42:6 - just to name a few!  Jesus even alluded to the practice in Matthew 11:21!  Many people leave the ashes on their foreheads all day as a witness that all are sinners and in need of Christ's forgiveness.

 

Ash Wednesday, this year on March 1, is the first day of the season of Lent.  Although popularized by the Catholic Church, neither Ash Wednesday, nor Lent, are just another "Catholic thing."  Lent, and by extension, Ash Wednesday, date back to, at least, the legalization of Christianity in AD 313.  Legalization of Christianity helped formalize the practice of Lent.  Following the Council of Nicea in AD 325, Lent became even more widely practiced.  

  

Lent is the practice of fasting for the 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Resurrection Sunday.  What is the first thing you think of when fasting?  Food, right?  In the Bible, fasting is associated with, but it is not limited to, food.  Love to play video games or computer games?  You can fast from them.  Spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr?  You can fast from them.  Love all things sweet?  You can fast from them.  It is up to you, but remember, it is suppose to be hard!  If it is easy, it would not strengthen your relationship with Christ.  Lent is to remind us the sacrifice Jesus Christ made, so that we may spend eternity with Him.  Through a sacrifice of our own, and our reliance on Him during our struggle, we can deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him.

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Only through a relationship with Jesus Christ can anyone hope to separate themselves from the power of sin in this world. Through Him, all things are made new. For a complete listing of readings, please download our Bible Study.

 

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