“Lent” means “Spring.” The Lenten Season is a time of faith. By faith we wait in great expectation for spring to arrive soon. By faith we prepare our minds and hearts to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. By faith we grow in our relationship with Christ and with our brothers and sisters in Christ and get ready for Christ’s glorious Second Coming. The Lenten Season is all about FAITH:
“Now FAITH is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…And without FAITH it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6).
The Lenten Season is set aside and marked on the Christian Liturgical Calendar as a time to “earnestly seek Him” and make every effort to grow in our faith in God, grow more in love with Christ and deepen our love for one another and love “as [Jesus has] loved [us]” (John 13:34). As my church bulletin stated, Lent is a time of “self-examination, self-discipline, a season of soul-searching and repentance, and a time to strengthen our love and FAITH in the Lord Jesus Christ. The following are Spiritual Disciplines used to engage our minds, bodies and souls in our journey through Lent:
THINK: God invites us to use our minds and dialogue with Him and do some Spring Cleaning: “’Come now, let us reason together’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). God wants us to look at our sins and be honest with ourselves and with Him and He will wipe away all our sins just as He promises. God wants us to renew our minds. The Apostle Paul explains it this way: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2). God wants to help us to be all that we can be by choosing His way over the sinful ways of the world. When we agree with God and “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
THINK FAST (Think About Fasting): Some people cannot participate in a complete fast (not eating anything for a day or days) because of health concerns (diabetes, medications that have to be taken with food, etc.), but everyone can fast from a favorite food, sweets, a favorite drink, etc. Just don’t replace what you are fasting from with something better or equal in deliciousness (Lobster or mac and cheese instead of steak or burgers). The purpose of fasting is to do something else during mealtime, such as pray and read the Bible or listen to Christian music or teachings. Those who are eating less expensive food can give the money saved to a worthy charity or to their church. If they are able to spend less time eating, they can also use the time sending encouraging emails or sending uplifting notes by “snail-mail“. Some can fast from TV or computer time for the same reasons. Whatever you choose to give up in a fast, Jesus teaches us how to fast:
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Heavenly Father, Who is unseen; and your Father, Who sees all will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).
A very wise brother in Christ, who worships in an Eastern Orthodox church, recently sent me an email concerning fasting. With his permission I will share his email with all of you:
“Fasting from foods is intended as a spiritual preparation for an experience of deeper communion with God. Each person is a unity of body and soul. A right spiritual diet and a discipline of fasting go together and strengthen each other. Just as prayer benefits not only the soul but also the body so also fasting from foods benefits not only the body but also the soul. Fasting and prayer make us more sensitive to God’s personal presence. At important times of their lives the Prophets fasted and prayed. So did Jesus, the Apostles, Saints and Church Fathers.
Fasting must be undertaken willingly and not by compulsion. God doesn’t need our fasting. We don’t fast as a kind of personal punishment for our sins. We cannot pay God back for sins but we can only confess them to Him to receive forgiveness. Fasting with a willing spirit and not with just an attitude of fulfilling a religious obligation means that we keep the purposes of fasting always before us which is to develop self control and to remember God and His Kingdom. That way we fast not only in what we eat but also in how much we eat. Fasting is simplicity of eating. We leave the table not with loaded stomachs. Being a little hungry during the day becomes a constant reminder of God, of our dependence on Him, and of the fact that the Lord alone can give us ‘food that lasts for eternal life’ (Jn 6:27). In fasting and prayer, He reveals Himself to us as our true food and drink.”
In the same way fasting and “being a little hungry becomes a constant reminder of God, of our dependence on Him, and the fact that the Lord alone can give us ‘food for eternal life’ (John 6:27); I wonder if we who are disabled can use our disability, and all the pain and discomfort and grief (belittling and denial of our dignity) that comes with being disabled and all that is taken away from us, can be used as a reminder of Jesus; of our complete dependence on Him, and how Jesus willingly endured the cross for us, with all the pain and suffering and agony and shame; a reminder of the fact that Jesus alone has made it possible for us to exchange our ailing, failing, imperfect bodies for imperishable, immortal, perfect ones!
“My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty Rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge…One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done” (Psalm 62:7-8, 11-12).
“…in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear bothers [and sisters], stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:52-58)
My prayer during this Lenten Season is to have a deeper understanding of what Jesus did on the cross for me and what is awaiting me on “the other side.“ This will help me to realize that everything I am going through on this side of Heaven will be all worth it! What about you? What is your prayer for this Holy Season of Lent?
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18)
“O God, you are my God, Earnestly I Seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your Power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your Name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied with The richest of foods; With singing lips my mouth will praise You. On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your Wings.” (Psalm 63:1-6).
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our FAITH, Who for the joy before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”
“The Joy of the Lord is My Strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)