I hope you are well. I’m writing today to hopefully encourage you with what has been encouraging me recently. You may or may or not know already but we’re in the season of Lent; I’ve spent the past few weeks and many days listening to sermons and podcast episodes on the topic of Lent so I want to share with you what I’m learning. I’m learning, possibly alongside you, because Lent is not something I’ve ever participated in or even considered. If someone was to ask me what Lent was years ago, my answer would probably include rules, legalism, something that happens before Easter, Catholicism, fasting, and not something that a Christian would participate in ~ if I’m being honest. While some might still treat Lent as another religious activity and hold fast to it, I finally have a deeper understanding of what this season is actually about and am excited to be walking through it this year.
Lent is a time to prepare.
Preparation (noun): The things that you do or the time that you spend preparing for something (Cambridge Dictionary)
“Lent is an intentional season where Christians seek to reorient what they love and how they seek love out. The season is a period to empty ourselves of lesser things so that we might be filled with the greater things of the gospel. Whereas Advent is a season of ever-increasing light awaiting the incarnation of Christ, Lent is a season of ever-decreasing light approaching the cross. Lent is a season of preparation for Easter joy, to die to ourself and sin in order to experience the resurrection life of Jesus Christ in the Spirit! It is meant to stir longings and awaken deep desires for Jesus. This should be done daily, but Lent invites us into a season of unique intentionality and intensity. It also calls us to resist a version of Christian individualism and join a broader corporate body of Christians all pressing into the same reality and goal.” (Pastor Lucas, Associate Pastor, Grace Christian Fellowship)
Lent is not another religious movement whose checkbox you mark off as you complete each year of your Christian life. I’m 32 years old and have never done Lent until now; and Jesus still loves me. Friend, it’s okay if you’ve never walked through Lent with meaning and purpose either. I’m really diving heart first, with every intention to walk through this season closer to the Lord.
After questioning the purpose of Lent, if it was something I should do, what it truly means I quickly knew I needed the right heart posture during this time. I had been feeling the Holy Spirit nudging me a few days leading up to the start of Lent. Long story short, I was idolizing TV during weeknights and weekends . I lost focus of devotional time, quiet hours with the Lord, reading what is good and instead quickly and so easily was sucked into the latest, greatest TV show and binged. I developed a really bad habit and became addicted to binging TV shows over and over again. Ugh not good! I felt it too. By missing that precious time with God, I felt a piece of my heart was fading and had a punch to the gut when I recognized what was happening. Why was l letting this become an idol? Thankfully the Holy Spirit was tugging at my heart reminding me to come back to Jesus. And then I read this:
“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.” St. Augustine.
And everything in the following days that I was listening to and reading was the same, reminding me – repent and return to God; dwell in His presence every day, pray without ceasing, "talk to me" says Jesus!
My heart was yearning for Christ and Lent was perfect timing.
Friend, I hope you also do research and learn for yourself what Lent truly means if you don’t have too much knowledge about it already. I will post at the end of this my resources but I also want to share with you some Scripture truths that further led me to seek the Lord even more during this special season. As I challenge and look at my own heart, I challenge you to see what you may be idolizing in your life. What is causing you to be distant and distracted from being in God’s presence? From your time of worship, praying, talking, and focusing on His heart? What is seemingly more important than taking the time to read and hear what God has to tell you? What stands in the way of myself and the Lord, of spending time with Him intimately rather than the comfort of self? Lent is not about punishment, but is a time where He is calling us back to Him, where He wants us to empty ourselves and sit with Him. A time to focus on Christ and especially His final days leading up to His death and resurrection and what that means for you and me! Lent is a season to reside in, to remember who Christ is, and to bask in His amazing grace and beauty. It’s exciting!
Here are just a few of God’s wonderful truths that I have found to be so encouraging so far this season (in no particular order):
Philippians 4:8 – (learning how to change and have a focused heart on God)
II Corinthians 3:18
Mark 8:34-38 – “Deny the old, comfort-craving self and embrace the superior joy of knowing Jesus” (John Piper, Desiring God)
Jeremiah 24:7 – I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
Joel 2:12-13 – Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning…
Psalm 51 – a prayer for restoration. “The larger the view of my sin, the larger my view of the cross” (She Reads Truth)
Psalm 61:4 – Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 62:1– For God alone, my soul waits in silence
Psalm 73:25-26 – There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you!
Romans 5:2 – We are nothing without Christ’s finished work on the cross
Colossians 3:2 – Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth
Philippians 3:8, 10, 19-20 – We don’t passively wait; we are active
I Thessalonians 5:17, 20-21 - (!) PRAY CONSTANTLY, (!) GIVE THANKS, (!) DON'T STIFLE THE SPIRIT (Galatians 5:25: If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit), (!) TEST ALL THINGS, (!) HOLD ON TO WHAT IS GOOD, (!) STAY AWAY FROM EVERY KIND OF EVIL - idols, living in sin, anything that keeps us from God
I John 5:21 – Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
God clearly says, repeatedly, return to me!
“Evidently, the cleaned up, feel-good part of my heart is not all God is looking for… He wants the whole messy, confused, narcissistic, achy thing. You and I and our whole, unholy selves are called to turn fully, openly and sans-covering to the holy, almighty God of the universe. The cross of Jesus is the path by which we return to our holy and gracious God. We need not fashion our own defense or disguise to shield our brokenness from His eyes… the blood of Jesus is our covering! Our actions don’t give us the right to return, our emotions don’t grant us access to God; we return ONLY BECAUSE Jesus Christ goes before us, His cross as our banner and His grace as our plea. THE CROSS OF JESUS IS OUR ONLY WAY TO THE FATHER – NOT JUST THIS TIME, BUT EVERY TIME.” (She Reads Truth)
Start now friend. Return to Christ today. Lent may have already begun, but He calls us to return to Him any day, there is never a “late” moment. So sit down, put aside that earthly stuff and sit with Him and embrace this season of Lent leading up to Easter.
"We cannot adequately serve Jesus if we do not first take time to sit at His feet. We were called to sit and then to serve." (IG, @dailyshepursues)
Resources: She Reads Truth; She Reads Truth podcast, episodes 14-20; Grace Christian Fellowship (Largo, FL) sermons (found through gracechristian.com and on Facebook @gracechristianlargo); Desiring God - https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/join-the-40-day-feast; https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/deny-yourself-for-more-delight ; "Sinking Deep" song by Hillsong Young & Free