A few things to help you with your Bible Studies…
Edited for 2023 – This year I grabbed the PDF ‘Victory in Jesus‘ from Well Watered Women. Join me if you can. It's a digital download so no need to wait for the mail!
Lent – what does it mean?
A few weeks ago I began a Bible study called ‘Breathe – 40 Days of Prayer Through the Psalms’. It is a daily study that began on Ash Wednesday (February 26th) and will continue until Good Friday (April 10th). Monday – Saturday: Those 40 days are the season of Lent.
I have never really thought much about Ash Wednesday or Lent before. Have you? I remember, as a kid, going to church before school on Ash Wednesday. Where someone (pastor ?) touched my forehead with their thumb and put ashes on my forehead. And when I got to school lots of kids had that same thumbprint. Did I have any idea what it meant or stood for? Nope! For all I knew it was cigarette ashes. 🙂
About 5 years ago a few people I knew were talking about what they were ‘giving up’ for Lent. So, I decided to give up something too. Because….why not?! I chose social media. I moved my Facebook app to a back page on my phone and unsubscribed from all notifications. Facebook was the sum total of my social media. Thinking back…..that is rather funny. Anyway….
Why did I give up social media? Well, it was Lent season and I was supposed to give up something that was important to me, right? Boy, did I miss the mark!
I was telling my husband about it. He asked me ‘what is the meaning of Lent?’ So, I looked it up:
Dictionary – noun. Lent is defined as a period of 40 days that Christians observe from Ash Wednesday to Easter, often marked by giving something up.
Gotquestions.com – During Lent, participants eat sparingly or give up a particular food or habit. It’s not uncommon for people to give up smoking during Lent, or to swear off watching television or eating candy or telling lies. It’s six weeks of self-discipline.
Catholic Encyclopedia – “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with a purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”
Christianity Today – Christians honor the 40 days and nights following Christ’s baptism when He went into the wilderness without water and food and was tempted by Satan. During that time, Christ did what we do today when we fast: wrestle with temptation.
Hmmm…. 6 weeks of self discipline. For what purpose? Self denial. Again, for what purpose? Wrestling with temptation. Why do we need to do that? Is that the real meaning of Lent? If not..what is?
Lent is a time of repentance. It is a time for us to be reminded that sin separates us from God. The season of Lent is a time for you and I to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. To think about the true meaning of that sacrifice. What it means to us in the here and now, as well as, in our eternity.
We are to examine our lives for any sin that might separate us from a deep and intimate relationship with God. Sin, in a nutshell, is disobedience to God. We are to make a commitment to change in those areas and submit to the Lord. This does NOT mean that we can get into heaven through our own efforts or ‘goodness’. Our ultimate goal is to examine our own lives through the lens of God’s word to see if they line up. If they don’t, then change needs to happen so we are totally submitted to the Lord.
There are 40 days in the Lent season. These 40 days are to be set aside for us to praise and worship God. When Lent is observed correctly we come away with a deeper intimacy with the Lord. That in itself is the blessing that we all need and want.
First – Read your Bible with more focus and with an intent of studying it…not just reading the words. Spend time with your Heavenly Father. Thank Him and give Him all the praise. For everything. Recognize His love for you. He loves you so much that he sent His one and only son to die for you.
Second – Pray more often. Set aside a time to pray every morning and every night before you go to sleep. As you pray incorporate your praise. Praising God for who He is. For what He has done for you.
A good way to start your season of Lent is by reading Psalm 139: 23-24: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’.
‘Dear Lord. You know me and you know my heart. You know all my thoughts. Please help me to figure out what thoughts I have that are preventing me from being close to you. Help me to change those thoughts. Help me to become less offensive to you Lord, and to the others around me. I praise you today and every day. I ask all of this in the matchless name of Jesus. Amen’.
Celebrating the season of Lent is not like a New Year’s Resolution. Giving up chocolate, TV, or social media. Or even fasting. (Fasting, as a means of remembrance is totally different than fasting for the sake of ‘giving something up’).
It is a time of reflection. It is also a time of anticipation. Because Jesus’ resurrection marks the end of the Lent season – which totally changed you and I forever.
Back to my Bible study….this is my prayer from my 1st day:
Lord, I thank you for being the author and perfector of my life. Thank you for choosing me as one of your elect. I am so grateful that I have a set of rules to follow with guide lines and guard rails. I trust that you know what I need, when I need it and will provide. I trust that you know my heart and will help me to process and understand what is around me. I delight in it all. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Now, I don’t know about you – but I am very happy to find out that Lent is more than a resolution. More than ‘I will give up Facebook’.
Are you looking to get closer to your Heavenly Father? Praying praise rather than all the ‘please fix’ that we tend to focus on? It’s not too late. It’s never too late. I am totally enjoying my daily walk – I am sure you will too.
I would like to encourage you to take a few minutes each day and reflect on your own life and all of the goodness that God offers to you. All of that goodness that is there waiting for you – all you have to do is ask.
PS – The ashes represent a human corpse after it decomposes. It turns to dust, or ash. The ashes placed on the forehead are a symbol of that dust. Who knew? Certainly not me.
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