February 13 this year marks the beginning of the Lenten season. I must admit that in my early years, we didn't talk much in Baptist circles about the season of Lenten. I am thankful that Baptists, at least some, make the season of Lent important in their spiritual lives. For me the season is a special time in my journey toward Easter. Properly defined, Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and for some even fasting in order to grow closer to God. It’s the forty days before Easter, excluding about one-tenth of a year (like a tithe of time).
In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Biblically, at Jesus’ baptism the sky split open, the Spirit of God, which looked like a dove, descended and landed on Jesus, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, My Beloved, with whom I am pleased.” Afterward, as told in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time there he was tempted by Satan and found clarity and strength to resist temptation. Afterwards, he was ready to begin his ministry.
Maybe Jesus needed some time with God to sort through the major changes happening in his life. Maybe he needed to get away from family, friends and the familiar routine in order to see God (and himself) more clearly. Perhaps he wanted some intentional time with God as he searched for direction and answers like you. Like Jesus, we may need to take some serious time to pray and listen for God.
Lent is a great time to “repent” — to return to God and re-focus our lives to be more in line with Jesus. It’s a 40 day trial run in changing your lifestyle and letting God change your heart. Rev. Penny Ford, a United Methodist minister has suggested some ideas to try during the Lenten Season. I list these to get you thinking about what you might consider:
- Volunteer one hour or more each week.
- Pray for others you see as you walk to and from classes or drive to and from work.
- Be kind to someone each day.
- Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along the way.
- Create a daily quiet time. Spend 30 minutes a day in silence and prayer.
- Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Give the money you save to help folks in Haiti or others in crisis.
- Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it (maybe even yourself).
- Read one chapter in the Bible each day. (Matthew’s a good book to start with. Psalms, too.)
- Start a prayer rhythm. Say a prayer every time you brush your teeth, hear an ambulance, or check your e-mail. Before you text someone, pray for them.
- Try an electronic fast. Give up TV, Facebook, texting, e-mail and all things electronic for one day every week. (or everyday of Lent!) Use the time to read & pray.
Whatever you choose, may it lead to your spiritual growth through these days as we move to Easter. May God bless you spiritually this Lent!
Mike Currin is the pastor of Littleton Baptist Church in Littleton, NC. This article originally appeared in the Littleton Baptist News.