Today is Ash Wednesday. Which I can say for many years I completely ignored. Lent? Okay, yeah, I gave something up a few times for Lent, though I never gave it much thought.
Many people have questions about Lent. This year I decided to really look into the season leading up to Easter. Easter is the most important holiday to a Christian. It's the day we celebrate Jesus' rise from the grave! The only way we could rise again someday after our death is to have Jesus go first as our sacrifice. He died, went to hell, took MY punishment (all believers' punishment), and then rose again. If you are not a believer, it's, well, uh, pretty unbelievable. But oh so true! I want our family's time this season to be spent in the Word with a purpose.
Noel Piper's blog post was great today. She talks about Lent. You can find it here:
"Lent is a season of waiting. In that sense it is like Advent. But while Advent waits eagerly for the appearance of the Savior, Lent waits, with heavy responsibility, for his death. The light of the Advent candles grows brighter as we approach the Savior’s arrival. In Lent, all grows darker as we draw nearer to the unthinkable—the death of God." (Noel Piper)
Today the children and I read the portion of Scripture where Jesus is Tempted. You can find it in Matthew 4:1-17.
"1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' "11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."
We discussed what fasting means. Not just fasting from food, but fasting from anything that we choose to give up to focus more on Jesus. We discussed how when you feel that urge to do or eat whatever you are fasting from, it should prompt you to pray. We named some of the things we can pray for over the next 40 days.
The time of fasting and temptation is what set off Jesus' ministry.
"12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Alan and I are feeling a pull, a change, a tide of uncertainty. We know we are being led to step up and step out, we just don't know all the details yet. But God does. We are going to use this 40 day period of fasting and prayer to seek God's will.
It's no coincidence that I just finished reading Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker. This book was filled with fasting and prayer. My book review is still to come. Jen calls fasting, "an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinance to summon God's movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing our routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves."
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, calls fasting "Exchanging the needs of the physical body for those of the Spirit."
Our bodies will fast from something these next 40 days in preparation for the celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection.
In case you're wondering, here's what we decided to fast from in our family:
Alan- sweet tea. If you know him, you know he sucks this stuff down all day every day. This will be tough for him.
Me- sugary drinks in any form. No coke. No wine. (If you know me, you know I like my wine while cooking dinner or on a date.) Not to mention the Strawberry Festival's coming up. No coke with french fries? No sweet tea with BBQ? No strawberry lemonade? Oh my.
Jayde - cereal. The girl can go through some cereal, ya'll. The only foods she likes more than cereal are her Grandpa's ribs and ice cream. She loves Publix BOGO with coupons because it means I can fund her cereal habit.
Alana- computer time. All of my children love computer time and this would have been a great choice for any of them.
Easton- sleeping on the couch. This may by far be the largest sacrifice from our family. From the time we moved into this house, my son has never slept in his room. Well, except for the few times he has had a friend spend the night. His room is away from the rest of us and he does not like it. He sleeps on the couch every night. Until today. He says he is going to sleep in his room with Oscar the dog. We shall see. If it takes 21 days to develop a habit, then this could mean the beginning of Easton actually sleeping in his bed.
Hopefully these small actions on our part will be daily reminders to fill our hearts with gratitude for the sacrifice made for us on the cross.
Father, may this season be one of thanksgiving, renewal, and praise for our family. Thank you for giving us the ultimate sacrifice, your Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.