So, it came as a surprise when the Holy Spirit began moving my heart to find out more about Lent, especially given the fact that, by that time, I had "become" a Southern Baptist (at least for the time being...though deep in my heart I still think of myself as a Pentecostal. To this day, when people ask me what I "am," I jokingly respond, "I'm a PresbyBaptiCostal.")...Since discovering this beautiful, often painfully revealing 40-day journey of Lent, the Holy Spirit has brought more resources into my path than I could ever read (much less apply).
And, just so you know, I've given up trying to "predict" what the Holy Spirit wants to teach me during these 40 days. He ALWAYS surprises me...shows me more of my selfish self than I want to see...asks me to obey Him in ways my pride kicks against...but He ALWAYS shows me more of HIMSELF, HIS Kingdom, HIS Love.
Here are some questions you may be asking:
Q. Do I have to fast?
A. Only if the Holy Spirit moves your heart to do so. And...He's shown me that "fasting" does not necessarily involve food. One of the most difficult "fastings" He called me to was to "fast" wrong attitudes. (That year, I lost count of the times I "broke my fast". Let's just say, it was a humbling 40 days.)...Bottom line...talk to Him about it--He WILL let you know.
Q. Do I have to buy anything?
A. No. I'll be posting Scripture, readings and a few questions each day on the blog for us to read, comment on, pray about, etc. Of course, I'll reference any books I use, in case you want to buy them. And...please let me know of any books or studies you've used that have helped you.
Q. What's required of me?
A. I like to leave most requirements up to the Holy Spirit. With that said, I do ask that you pray for the old and new friends you might meet on our Lenten journey--that the Holy Spirit would do a new work of redemption, renewal, restoration, revival and resurrection in our lives and the lives of their families.
Q. How can I share with others participating in this study/journey?
Feel free to post comments, questions, etc., in the "Comments" section below each post. However, for the sake of privacy, please refrain from using whole names when making prayer requests. And, if you read something you don't understand or agree with, pray about it first...and remember that God always wants our responses to come from a heart filled with the fruit of His kindness and gentleness living in us.
You might also want to begin a journal for these next 40 days, where you can write down your thoughts on our Scriptures and other readings, your prayers, questions, how God is working in your life, etc. (This doesn't have to be fancy...you can use a plain old notebook...or even typing paper stapled together.)
So, if you feel led, come along. It begins with some words from the prophet Isaiah and a few questions that follow. And, today's study ends with a prayer from the broken heart of King David.
1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people
— law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?'
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'
3-5"Well, here's why:
"The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?
6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed, cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'
9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God's holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,'
making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
Yes! God says so! (Isaiah 58, The Message)
1. Has there ever been a time in your life when the externals of worship took precedence over the real heart and reason for worship?
2. If so, what was the result?
3. What reasons does God give for "not looking our way"?
4. What kind of fast does God long for?
5. What does He say will be the harvest from this type of fast?
6. How have we gotten away from God's plan for the Sabbath?
7. What simple steps might God be calling us to take to restore His purpose for fasting and Sabbath in our lives?
These words from Isaiah cut me to the quick--not much has changed since he wrote them thousands of years ago--at least in my heart. I say I long to fast according to God's desires, but some things He asks take me WAY out of my selfish comfort zone.
It seems a good time to pray these words written by King David (which many commentators believe he wrote after he was confronted by God's prophet, Nathan, about his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah, who had been one of Israel's faithful soldiers). Let's turn David's words into our own prayer as we end the first day of this Lenten journey:
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalm 51:1-17 ESV)