In the last 40 days I’ve hosted an overnighter for 100+ teenagers, took my sons on 2 college visits, met with 5 engaged couples for pre-marital counseling, played volleyball 4 times, preached 5 times, led 2 baccalaureate meetings, attended 6 staff meetings, led 4 summer camp planning meetings, led 2 small groups, taught 4 Bible studies, became CPR and First Aid certified, hosted a simulcast leadership conference and led 12 after school program days. Not factored in are my meals, (which are countless), my hours of sleep, trips to the bathroom (which are increasing in frequency) and my seemingly limitless conversations with friends, co-workers, students and family members.
A lot can happen in 40 days. I want to challenge you to consider an upcoming 40 day block in a new light. The season of Lent is right around the corner. Outside of Catholicism it seems as though Lent has largely been forgotten about. Allow me to do my small part in bringing this important season back to the forefront for those looking to push themselves spiritually.
The Lenten season runs from Ash Wednesday (that’s March 6th this year) to the day before Easter (that’s April 20th this year) and is 40 days in all (minus Sundays). The 40 days of Lent are meant to parallel the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13
& Luke 4:1-13.
Lent provides the spiritually hungry with an opportunity for prayer, repentance and self-denial. Often it’s during Lent that many Christians will commit to fasting (food or some other luxury) in order to replicate this 40 day season of sacrifice that Jesus experienced. With fasting comes “extra” or “recently freed up” time that can be spent in prayer, Scripture reading, listening to God, etc.
Often Lent is painted as a “religious duty” or an “outmoded liturgical practice”. Let’s reframe this Lenten season away from that and towards an opportunity to increase our connection with God. As a Jesus follower we should always be looking for ways to connect at a deeper level. Not participating in Lent and “not giving something up” isn’t wrong but the question is “why”?
Why wouldn’t we actively seek ways to increase our intimacy with God? Why wouldn’t we search for greater ways to connect? A lot can happen in 40 days. What would it look like for you to make the most out of the 40 days of Lent. I invite you to join me and others in the “40 Days Towards Jesus” devotional journey that kicks off on Wednesday March 6th.
Imagine what could change in your life after spending 40 days in prayer, repentance and self-denial. Imagine for a moment what 40 days of exposure to God’s Word and His voice could do for you. Join me.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I love reading, but more than that I love reading non-fiction. Real life stories, history of all sorts, weird true pieces of human history that most people would find pointless and boring. I read a book once about the founder of the "Akron Tire and Rubber Company" and I did it in less than a week. I read the biography of Monty Roberts, a real life "Horse Whisperer". called "The Man Who Talks to Horses". And then there are the bizarre reads, "Queen City Notorious: Cincinnati's Most Sensational Murder Cases" and "Queen City Gothic: Cincinnati's Most Infamous Murder Cases". These were the ones I may have needed to stop reading after dark...super creepy. The weird, the boring, the unknown, these are generally the titles that I gravitate towards at the old bookstore or the library.
Mark Twain said, "Truth is stranger than fiction..." While I don't disagree I would say, "Truth is stranger than fiction but fiction is a much quicker read."
It's rare but every great once in a while I'll swing by the library and find something that is clearly far-fetched and blatantly fiction. Sometimes it feels as though I just need a break from real-life, I need to get lost in something ridiculous. I'm currently in the midst of one of those seasons right now. As I was reading my latest library grab "The 49th Mystic" I was surprised by how quickly I was progressing through the book. Before I knew it, I was almost halfway through and it felt like I had just arrived home from the library. I wondered, "Why is it that I can read fiction at a quicker pace than I can read non-fiction?" As I read my mind lingered around that question and I was reminded of words from the Bible.
Proverbs 18:8 says, "Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart." We love a good story don't we? I've always joked that the best stories start out with the story teller looking over their shoulder to see if anyone else is listening. We love those "dainty morsels" and rumors that get passed around. Unfortunately the truth or appropriateness behind the morsels often becomes irrelevant. There's something about hearing bits of rumors that gets our blood pumping right? Much like my fictional reading these "dainty morsels" can be full of real-life plot twists, back stabbing and gotcha moments. What we often forget in our hunt for those morsels is the end result. The Scripture makes clear that those "dainty morsels" find their way into our hearts and when they do we run the risk of damaging what isn't ours to damage.
As a Christ follower you gave your heart to God and invited His Son Jesus to rule and reign in your heart. There's no room for "dainty morsels" of gossip and inappropriate tidbits of information in there. There's one throne of your heart and Jesus refuses to share it with anyone or anything else. We often attempt to excuse away our "dainty morsel" addiction as simple curiosity or genuine concern over a particular situation and never bother to stop and ask if what we're hearing is even true. Beyond that we never stop to ask if any of these "dainty morsel" are even any of our business. We thrive on those "dainty morsels". It feels good to get "the scoop" on the latest news in the office, the neighborhood or even at the church but let's call it what it is, "GOSSIP". When we partake we damage the hearts of others and ourselves. Steer clear. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.