I grew up in a church that was non-denominational and didn’t celebrate traditional church holidays such as Epiphany, Lent, Advent, etc….I suppose that comes more from litergical backgrounds. Since moving to Orlando I’ve learned a little more because I live with someone who gives something up each year for Lent and a co-worker who participates in these church traditions.
This year, I decided that I’d participate in Lent and learn more about what it is. So first off, what is it? I found a nice blog on it on YouVersion.com (they sent me an email which prompted me to look into it). Lent starts today, Ash Wednesday, and is the 40 days leading up to Easter, minus Sundays.
“During Lent, traditionally observed for the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, followers of Christ all around the world sacrifice things important to them, intentionally drawing themselves away from desires driven by their five senses. Lent helps us become more focused on the spiritual part of ourselves, preparing our hearts to genuinely experience the passion of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the Cross. Lent draws us closer to God through purposeful prayer, self-denial, repentance, giving, and time in the Bible:” (YouVersion blog)
They suggest five ways that you can participate, all or a combination:
- Prayer. We thank God for reaching out to transform us, and we ask for direction and insight. Consider asking God to help you see people the way He sees them.
- Self-denial. Fasting means food, but we may also give up certain activities we enjoy. What things do you think about most? Food? Coffee? Sweets? Social media? Television and entertainment? Commit to go without at least one between now and Easter.
- Repentance. When our thoughts drift to ourselves, that’s our cue to connect with God, asking Him to show us our weaknesses and sins. We ask Him to forgive us and change our hearts.
- Giving. We freely offer whatever we have to those in need. It could be money contributed to worthy charities, our time, our talents. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Visit the elderly. Write letters of prayer and encouragement to orphans. Give intentionally to people who can’t repay you.
- Scripture Reading. YouVersion has 5 Reading Plans specifically designed to help you center your life on God and His Word during this special time of reflection and purpose:
I suppose I’ll do a combination of all of them. I’m continuing in my Life Journal reading plan, but decided to add a reading plan that has a short devotional and the first day explains more about Lent. Plus, the reading was an awesome start to put my focus right! YouVersion gave these reading plans that they offer through them and I chose the “Devotions for Lent from Holy Bible: Mosaic” one:
- Words of Jesus During Passion Week. In parallel passages from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, read what Jesus said during the week before His crucifixion. From Glo Bible. 12 days
- Lent For Everyone. Each day features a selection from Matthew, followed by reflections from renowned New Testament scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright. From SPCK. 53 days
- 40 Days of Lent. This 47-day plan walks chronologically through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last week of earthly ministry, with each Sunday offering a day of rest. From Journey Church. 47 days
- Devotions for Lent from Holy Bible: Mosaic. Designed to help you focus on Christ, this 46-day devotional includes Scripture and quotes and readings from Christians worldwide. From Holy Bible: Mosaic. 46 days
- The Story of Easter. Relive the last week of Jesus’ life on earth through fulfilled prophecies, intimate prayer, deep discussions, symbolic acts, and world-changing events. From LifeChurch.tv. 7 days
If you have a smart phone, just download the YouVersion app (you can find it here) and sign up. No spamming, but they do send you some emails to let you know when certain versions become available for download or when you are behind in your reading plan. I actually listen to my reading during my 45 minute drive (Thanks, Pastor Greg, for the suggestion!) as certain versions have audio and once you play the first reading it will play through the rest of the day’s readings.
So, want to join me in focusing back on God and leading up to the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection and our Hope?