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Why I am participating in Lent

04 Feb

I am preparing for Lent, a 40-day season of prayer and fasting, but not today.

Today is not a fast day. Today is a feast day. All of the Sundays during Lent are feast days.

Today was a feast day, because it was Super Bowl Sunday. I just watched the NY Giants knock of the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14. Great game, the best Super Bowl since the Rams beat the Titans in 1999. I was cheering for the Giants all night. I typically don’t like any sports teams from NY, but I was rooting for the Giants tonight. I wanted to see the Patriots lose. Congratulations to Eli Manning, who certainly stepped out of his brother’s shadow and showed himself to be a real champion tonight.

My hat is off to Eli Manning tonight. They should now call Peyton, Eli’s brother.

Now the big game is over. The feasting is coming to an end. Lent is before me.

Lent is a historic Christian tradition of prayer, fasting, confession, and repentance which begins on Ash Wednesday (February 6th this year) and it ends on the Saturday before Easter, March 22nd. It is a spiritual pathway that has been walked by millions of Christians for nearly two millennia.

To prepare our church for a lent, I have written a guide to Lent and fasting [here]. For some people I understand that it seems odd that I would lead our church into Lent. I mean after all we are non-denominational. We have contemporary music. We let people drink coffee in our sanctuary and I even wear blue jeans on Sunday morning for goodness sake. Why would we ever participate in such a liturgical tradition such as Lent?

My reasons are many. Let me briefly list some of my reasons.

I benefit from walking down a well-trodden path.
Lent is a spiritual pathway that has been walked by untold millions of Christians since the apostolic age (i.e. the third and fourth century AD). Lent grew out of the time of prayer and fasting required by baptism candidates, who were to be baptized on Easter Sunday. It is practiced traditionally by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists. Lent is not merely a matter of “giving up something.” Lent is an ancient pathway that puts people in a position where the Holy Spirit can change them. In walking this ancient path, I am going to spend time reading through the church fathers.

Next on the reading list is this book on the church fathers: Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Bryan Litfin.

I am also going to read the works of ten church fathers using this wonderful (and wonderfully free) devotion guide: Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan

I have given up on Christian fads.
The young, hip, contemporary, relevant-obsessed church is looking for the latest fad. I see Christians looking for the most marketable methods, techniques, programs, and tools to continually redesign the look and feel of the local church. I understand this, because I was once there. I went through a phase where I was trying to keep up with the newest, hottest, Christian fads…I jumped headlong into John Maxwell, The Prayer of Jabez, the “40 Days of Purpose,” etc., thinking that these would push me forward in my spiritual journey. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these authors/books/events. They have each contributed to my spiritual life in a unique way. The problem has not been with them, but we me. I have looked to highly marketable tools and techniques thinking they will excel me in my spiritual journey. They haven’t. They aren’t bad, but they are junk food for the soul. I need to walk an ancient path to be the kind of leaders and men that I see in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Maximus the Confessor, Francis of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis, John Calvin, John Wesley, etc.

I am way too controlled by my passions.
Jenni and I were watching a reality-based TV show the other night. In it, a man was talking about how his daughter was living in a gay relationship. He talked about how the Bible says that is wrong and that he and the family has taken a stand and told her that her lifestyle choice is wrong and sinful. As the show continues, he reveals that he had an affair four years early and divorced his wife of twenty-some-odd years in order to move in with his girlfriend. When asked why he began the affair. He responded that with this new woman he “felt the fire” of romance in his heart. When he said that, I looked at Jenni and said, “This is why I am fasting.” She looked at my puzzled and so I explained that the problem with this guy wasn’t just his blatant hypocrisy, but the fact that he was controlled by his passions. I feel like that guys. No I have no interest in having an affair! I mean besides it being a sin, who has the time. No, I am controlled to much by my passions. I am embarrassed to admit that my prayer life is undisciplined. I want to walk closer with Jesus. I want to be in a place where the Holy Spirit can continue to deeply and powerful transform me into the image of Christ. This process makes God the Father happy.

Fasting is not a regular spiritual discipline for me.
I normally don’t fast. I don’t like to fast. Does anybody really like it? There I go again, listing to my desires and not my heart. In my heart, I want to be the kind of person that loves prayer and fasting. Prayer I am ok with, but I am not much of a fan of fasting. The forty days of Lent gives me a structure that gives me a lot of encouragement to keep up the fast. John Wesley fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. That guy was a stud. I am not there yet. So I am leaning on the great crowd of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) and listening to their encouragement to fast. John 1:17 says that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus. However, both of them came through fasting. Moses fasted for 40 days before the giving of the Law (Deut. 9) and Jesus fasted for 40 days before he began his public ministry. For me, I am fasting one, two, or three days during the six plus weeks of Lent. I will fast this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday and I will fast Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Easter. Traditionally, Christians don’t fast on Sundays during Lent. Every Sunday is a feast day, a day to celebrate the resurrection.

Join us on this 40-day journey of prayer and fasting during Lent this year. Don’t do it to try to impress God or others with your spirituality. Don’t do it to lose weight. Do it to rightly offer your body as a living sacrifice to God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

If you want more information on Lent and a guide for fasting go to www.cornerstoneamericus.com/lent.

I am listening to this song tonight. What a great call to fasting and prayer.

Lay It Down

Jennifer Knapp
Jennifer Knapp Live (2006)

seeing as i found a rock in my pocket
seeing as i found a glitch in my soul
make believe won’t hide the truth
when judgment falls and it falls on you
bend a knee my friend, bend a knee

lay it down
say it’s all my fault, all my fault
say i believe, i believe
lay it down
this the hour of my healing, of my healing, yeah

pride can break a man right down from iron
twist him ’round ’round and tatter up a soul
hand print of God on the small of my back
my second chance, my second chance
i’ll bend a knee my friend,
i’ll bend a knee

lay it down
say it’s all my fault, all my fault
say i believe, i believe
lay it down
this the hour of my healing, of my healing, yeah

my heart, my heart redeemed
if it pleases You Love
if it pleases You Love
if it pleases You Love

lay it down
say it’s all my fault, all my fault
say i believe, i believe
lay it down
this the hour of my healing, of my healing, yeah

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2 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2008 in Ministry, Theology

 

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2 responses to “Why I am participating in Lent

  1. Rodney A. Bradford

    February 4, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Derek,

    Saturday you were helping me to be stretched in my theological thinking…today you are challenging me in my passion and love for God. What a blessing your blog continues to be to me.

    Yesterday, I was preaching on Joseph’s encounter with Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. Your comments about the gentleman that had the affair connected with me. I notice in the passage that Joseph appeals both to his loyalty to Potiphar and to God as to why he avoids the wickedness of an affair. His passion for God (love God with all your heart, soul and mind) translates itself in a right relationship to Potiphar (love your neighbor as yourself) and with his wife (do not commit adultery). His passions were kept in check and transformed by his desire to not do wickedness and sin against God.

    I suppose that history will be the determiner of the longevity of Maxwell, Warren and Wilkinson. Can we imagine Christians reading “The Purpose Driven Life” three hundred years from now? I appreciate the reminder that the legacy of a faithful past can indeed give us light for living in the present.

     
  2. Derek Vreeland

    February 5, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Rodney,

    Yeah passions are not all together bad. I am not becoming a Buddhist. Joseph’s passions had been turned towards God. This kept him from sin.

    I don’t know if anybody will be reading Maxwell, Warren, and Wilkenson in 300 years. Is anybody reading Wilkenson anymore?

    I am not a Warren-hater. I think of the three, he may have the longest tenure of influence. I am not so much reacting to these guys as I am reacting to my own foolishness in putting too much stock in Christian fads.

    I hope to see you Wednesday.

    Derek

     

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