My wife and I belong to a Lifegroup - a sort of small-group Bible study that does life together - and this year, we are observing Lent. For some of us (myself included), this is a first.
What does that mean, "does life together"? So for us, it is more than just the study of Scripture. It is also the fellowship of the body of believers, and the breaking of bread together. It is the worshipping together of our Lord and Savior, even outside of church, in our small group. It is the bearing of one another's burdens and the sharing of one another's victories. It is prayer - not just for the sort of general things that most believers pray for, but also for the specific needs of our brothers and sisters in the group. It is the commitment to lift one another up when we struggle with something, and to hold one another accountable when we stumble and fail.
Neither my wife nor I have ever been particularly "catholic" in our faith. By that, I mean more than just the denominational meaning. We are what is commonly described as "evangelical protestants"....... "Jesus Freaks" (or whatever) for those of you belonging to the religion of atheism and who might be inclined to mock anyone of a faith other than your own. What I mean by the use of the word "catholic" is that we have never been much attached to things like high church liturgy, or the official observances of the Catholic Church, such as Lent. We are members of a non-denominational church, with roots in some of the Southern Baptist traditions. Our church is called "1:21 Community Church", not after the nearby TX-121 freeway, but after the Bible verse Philippians 1:21 — "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (ESV). We hew to a fairly conservative understanding of Scripture as the inerrant and perfect Word of God, and though we are only able to do so imperfectly, we try to adhere to its authority over our lives. My friends who are denominationally Catholic may disagree with some of what follows, but that is fine. There are many doctrinal differences between the various denominations. It is my opinion that what counts is the simple message of the Gospel of Christ, and him crucified. It's that simple. If you believe that organ music is holier than electric guitar music, or that your pastor must wear robes instead of regular clothes, or that your priesthood may not marry (or conversely, must marry), those are all just the seasonings. The food is salvation through Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
The thing is, nowhere is there a commandment in the Bible to observe Lent as a necessary condition of our salvation. Consequently, it is one of those Christian observances that isn't followed by all Christians. In that regard, it is similar to the rite of baptism. Here is what Billy Graham has to say about the role of baptism in our faith. Baptism is something we are encouraged to observe as an act of obedience, intended as a declaration to the world of our faith, but in and of itself, it has no saving power.
So it is with Lent. What exactly is Lent, then? The BibleGateway Blog has this to say about it it (an excellent resource, by the way):
"Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion.
"Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is commonly observed by many Christian denominations—Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others—although not every Christian church or denomination does so. Because Lent is not officially instituted in Scripture, observing it isn’t in any way a “requirement” of Christianity. However, Christians from many different theological persuasions choose to observe it as a way of focusing their thoughts on Jesus Christ during the Easter season."
So that then is what we are up to. It is traditional to fast — meaning to give something up as a sort of sacrifice — from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Why is this? The short answer is, "because Easter is the most important date in the Christian calendar". Many - particularly the nominally (but not really practicing) Christians - believe that Christmas is the big day. It IS a big day. Why? Because without the birth of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the rugged cross does not happen. It wasn't that Jesus's birth saves us, although Scripture emphatically states that:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The gospel message is NOT that the birth of Christ saves us, although His birth is part of the message. The entire gospel of Christ is this: that he was born of a woman; that he lived a perfect sin-free life; that he died on the cross for our sins, paying our price; that he rose again into life on the 3rd day after his crucifixion; and that today he sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding on the behalf of believers in the judgement that we ALL face before the Father; so that those of us who have earned the right to call Him Abba Father through faith in His son, may have life everlasting, beyond the grave, with the One who has loved us most, more than anyone else is capable of loving us.
For those of you who actually know me, or who have followed those pages, the next part is going to be hilarious as you enjoy my discomfort. How much discomfort, you might ask? For Lent, I am giving up even looking at Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media website (discussion forums not inclusive.....you can't shut me up that easily), and all news media websites. Like probably most American households, we are TV watchers, but we won't be watching any TV news broadcasts - emergency weather reports excepted (we DO live in Tornado Alley, and "tornado season" is about to be upon us). I will continue to interact with my "gun community" at TexasCHLForum.com, where I have and maintain many friendships - both on the web and in person. I will also continue to use Facebook Messenger for those of my friends who prefer using it to using their other texting apps for communication; but the Facebook website itself is verboten to me for the next 40 days or so, as will Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, et al. Of course I will continue to write for this website, and I will use the Internet in other ways - doing research, reading some of other blogs that I follow, and maintaining the email correspondences I have with friends. No particular subject is off the table. I'm just not going to spend time letting social media or the DNC Media Dept (AKA, the mainstream news networks) get me all riled up and distracted from the source of all that is good in my life — namely, my God, King, and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ........and him crucified. Like Joseph of the Old Testament, I have already stored up plenty of food and "other" supplies (😏) if the balloon goes up and the world should go to hell in a hand basket while I am focused elsewhere. Whatever I have not thought of is in God's hands, and that is not only not a bad place to be, it is the best place to be; so I am not worried by what I might miss in the daily news reports that is of any real importance during my sabatical.
What comes after? I don't know. This may be where I walk completely away from Facebook and the Drudge Report. Or, it may be that I come back to them, but with a better sense of perspective, and not nearly so wrapped up in, or in bondage to, what goes on in this wicked world. I don't know yet. But, one thing I do know is that, during this 40-some days of fasting from the distractions of those things, God will reveal to me his purpose for me following Easter Sunday.
However, if you are so inclined, please pray for me and my wife — even if you (like me, frankly) find it amusing that I of all people am about to embark on this fasting adventure. I know that I will have the support of my Lifegroup and my church. I'll probably even have the support of those of my friends who are not particularly believing people. So enjoy my discomfort..... I actually find it amusing myself in a kind of gallows humor sort of way..... but either pray for me, or sincerely wish me success, as is your want. I haven't started to bite my fingernails yet, and I'm probably not going to start smoking again (gave that up back in 1981), but I am certain that there will be moments as I withdraw from this addiction of mine where I will be climbing the walls. My prayer right now is that I'll have the sense to turn to Scripture instead when I am tempted.
God be with us.
I too observe Lent, last year I gave up beer for forty days, not THATi was lost to alcoholism, but it was An indulgence that I felt I could sacrifice. It did me some good in that whenever I thought about having a beer I focused instead on God, and his sacrifice of giving his only son.
I also lost about 15 pounds lol.
This year I am giving money to our church's mission trip to Panama, I am using money I would use to buy coffee every morning, and making coffee at home.