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Dear Friends, (This is updated version of original post dated Feb 2009.)
The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Feb 22, 2012. Although Lent isn’t a requirement of the Bible, it has become a tradition among Christians as a 40-day time of preparation for the celebration of Easter. (What if you don’t learn about Lent until after March 9? It’s ok! The Lord always welcomes those who come before Him with an offering from their heart – regardless of the day!)
Lent is a reflective time that traditionally involves fasting (giving something up for Lent), but can also be about making other offerings from the heart (devoting time for prayer, Bible reading, community service, setting lunch money aside for charity, etc.). Offerings for Lent should be personal, sacred, and prayerfully made. My understanding of the purpose of Lent is to:
- grow in faith and to draw closer to God
- acknowledge the sacrifice Christ made for us
- reflect on God’s love for us – enough to send His beloved Son to live among us and then die for us so that we could be saved from our sins, have a personal relationship with Him and receive the eternal salvation with Christ in heaven. (As told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)
The Season of Lent is the 40-day period, excluding Sundays, prior to Easter Sunday*. In the Bible, the number 40 is associated with transition and change (like when it rained for 40 days and 40 nights). The 40-day Season of Lent represents the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness without food while being tempted and tested by Satan. This occured after Jesus’ baptism, before He began His ministry here on earth.
There are many ways to observe the Season of Lent. Some people fast or abstain from particular foods or beverages. Others give an offering of their time by setting time aside each day of Lent to pray or read the Bible. You can dedicate time to the Lord as a parent by setting aside time each day to spend with your kids and asking God to bless that time. Some people give up fancy coffees or going out to lunch and give the money they save to church or charity. There are many ways to ‘fast’ by offering a meaningful sacrifice to the Lord. * When fasting, some people observe 40 straight days of fasting (including Sundays). Others fast Mon – Sat and break from their fast on Sundays. Lent isn’t about tehnicalities, though. It’s about the offering you make from your heart.
I choose to observe Lent because I want to offer myself in some way to God to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for me and to give back something of myself in return. I begin in prayer, offering my sacrifice to God (which is usually sweets or sugary foods). When I find myself wanting those foods, I’m reminded of the purpose of my fast. My sacrifice is nothing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made.
There have been times when I’ve accidentally eaten something that I’ve vowed to give up. When that happens, I tell God I’m sorry and acknowledge how easy it is to make mistakes – during Lent and in life, so these times are a good reminder to me of how we always have to be mindful of what we’re doing. More importantly, I gain a greater appreciation of the forgiveness we have in Christ.
The Pharisees made a great show of their praying and fasting to impress others with their so-called ‘spirituality’. Their efforts were not genuine acts from their hearts. Jesus commands that we are not to make a ‘show’ of our praying and fasting. They are to be personal acts of worship with God. With that said, please note that I only write this to help others understand Lent, not to ‘make a show’ of my choices or actions.
I pray that you will take part in the Season of Lent by prayerfully offering yourself in some way to God; and in so doing, you will be blessed as you grow in your relationship with the Lord, leading you to the joy of the Lord at Easter and always.
The thoughts expressed here are just my personal thoughts about Lent. For more information or a more theological explanation of the Season of Lent, go to www.gotquestions.org or www.kencollins.com . If you go to Ken Collins’ site, go to About Holy Days, then select Lent. You can also do a Google search of Lent. There are many good sites that explain the Season of Lent. Please come back if you find info you’d like to share!
May God’s blessings be with you in the Easter Season and always.