Lent 2020: A Season for Listening

from the wall of a house church in China
Lent is a period of time (this year, February 26 to April 9), practiced for centuries by followers of Jesus all around the world. It is designed to challenge each person to do two things. The first is to “deny yourself” or “give up” a regular habit or practice in your life for six days each week (Sundays excepted). Some give up a meal, others give up screen time. The second is, to “take up” or focus more intentionally on Jesus Christ: His life, His truth, and His free gift of salvation. The two go together, it’s a discipline, it’s challenging, but it’s always life transforming. 
I’ve interacted through the Lenten period in different ways over the years. Each one has been purposeful. Through each season, God has sifted and shifted my thinking and my life. However, my sense is that too many people approach lent from a “me-first” perspective. They use it to jump start some kind of self improvement or rid themselves of a bad habit. There’s so much more as we learn to empty our own baggage, engage with the people around us (Isa. 58), in preparation of being filled anew through the power of the resurrection of Jesus.  

Here are excerpts from two articles that are helping to inform my Lenten journey this year. One is from a North American perspective, one is from an African perspective: 

“The call to repentance by Jesus, and the real call of Lent, is to take a new look at God, to refresh our image of him. It is to come to a vivid realisation that God loves us now, as we are, and before ever we change. The main thing in Lent is not that we should do things for God but that we should become more aware of how much God is doing for us.”

“The season of Lent works at a different speed– the speed of silence and stillness that brings renewal. It begins on Ash Wednesday with the reminder that we are made from ashes, to ashes we shall return. This emphasis on the fragility of humanity is made clear through the silence of Good Friday, when the movement of Lent seems to have been all for naught. Only in the quiet of Easter morning is the noise of the world overcome, when the silent one who was smothered by those wielding power emerges from the tomb.”

Here’s a guide to help you through your Lenten journey. It’s never too late to start, Jesus said, “when you fast…when you pray…”, not if. He knew there was more for us to discover.  I’d love to hear how God challenges and changes the direction as you learn to listen and respond to Him. 

If you choose to use this, let me know and I’d love to be praying for you as you do. 

Reconciling our relationship with God (February 26 to March 7)

Each day as you read the Bible, ask God to teach you something about His character. 
Maybe you will read from one book, chapter, or section of the Bible, maybe you’ll use a devotional plan. 
In every place you read and reread you’ll discover something about the nature and character of God. 

At the end of these 10 days, make a list of what you’re learning about God. 

Reconciling our relationship with Self (March 8-March 19)

Our own self image is often fairly low, or masked, in part because we fail to see ourselves the way God sees us. One of our struggles in loving others, is that we don’t have a healthy, balanced view of ourselves. As you read the Bible during these 10 days, and as you look first to the character of God, then learn to confess to God your own weaknesses, lack of confidence, excuses and/or sin. Then read and reread, listen and learn how He wants you to think differently about yourself. 

At the end of these 10 days, make a list of what you’re learning about God and yourself.

Reconciling our relationship with Others (March 20-March 29)

During this next group of days, having grown in your understanding of who God is and how he views you, begin to talk to Him about your relationships (home, work, school, neighbours, extended family).  As you read the Bible during these 10 days, be willing to ask God to give you opportunities to extend grace and truth to others. Ask for insight into how others view you, areas of growth that you should be aware of. Listen to learn, not defend. Consider others: What change is God asking you to make in your relationships? Who needs encouragement, help, understanding?  From whom do you need to seek forgiveness? Are there new relationships that you should be fostering, perhaps with people that don’t share the same interests or backgrounds as you? Is there an organization or a person God is asking you to serve?

At the end of these 10 days, make a list of what you’re learning about God and your relationship with others. What is God asking you do to serve others the way Jesus would?

Reconciling our relationship with Creation (March 30 to April 9)

In this phase make a point, if physically able, to get outside. Make your way around your neighbourhood: initiate greetings with people, notice greenspace, listen for sounds. Find somewhere to sit and observe and think back over what God has been teaching you. There are lots of ways to make a positive environmental impact as stewards of the world we live in: Make a plan to plant a garden and give the produce away, use your vehicle less, clean up a neighbourhood park or greenspace, compost more, etc.  More significantly, as the Spring season emerges, there are new things God wants to do in you, things that He has been whispering to you in the silence of the winter of fasting, things that will make you flourish and be of benefit to others. 

At the end of these 10 days, make a list of what you’re learning about God and the world He’s created.  

As we now move toward the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus, what areas of your life are you awaiting God’s power to transform?  Who will you be ready to tell?