How Lent Can Make a Difference in Your Relationship with God

How Lent Can Make a Difference in Your Relationship with God

 

by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

 

Copyright © 2011 Mark D. Roberts and Patheos.com

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Introduction to Lent

Growing up as an evangelical Christian, I experienced Lent as little more than a joke. “What are you giving up for Lent?” my friends would ask. “Homework,” I’d say with a smirk, or “Obeying my parents.” Lent was one of those peculiar practices demanded of Roman Catholics – another great reason to be Protestant, I figured. It never even occurred to me that Lent was something I might actually be interested in, or benefit from, or decide to keep, or come to value as a way of getting to know God better. In the last fifteen years I’ve discovered that Lent is in fact recognized by millions of Protestant Christians, in addition to Catholic and Orthodox believers. (The Eastern Orthodox Lent is longer than the Catholic or Protestant Lent, and it begins before Ash Wednesday.) Lent (the word comes from the Middle English word for “spring”) is a six-week season in the Christian year prior to Easter. (Technically, Lent comprises the 40 days before Easter, not counting the Sundays, or 46 days in total.)

cross-lent-purple-drape-5.jpg

In the ancient church, Lent was a time for new converts to be instructed for baptism and for believers caught in sin to focus on repentance. In time, all Christians came to see Lent as a season to be reminded of their need for penitence and to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Easter. Part of this preparation involved the Lenten “fast,” giving up something special during the six weeks of Lent (but not on Sundays, in some traditions.) Historically, many Protestants rejected the practice of Lent, pointing out, truly, that it was nowhere required in Scripture. Some of these Protestants were also the ones who refused to celebrate Christmas, by the way. They wanted to avoid some of the excessive aspects of Catholic penitence that tended to obscure the gospel of grace. These Protestants saw Lent, at best, as something completely optional for believers, and, at worst, as a superfluous Catholic practice that true believers should avoid altogether.

A Pastoral Word: Let me note, at this point, that if you think of Lent as a season to earn God’s favor by your good intentions or good works, then you’ve got a theological problem. God’s grace has been fully given to us in Christ. We can’t earn it by doing extra things or by giving up certain other things in fasting. If you see Lent as a time to make yourself more worthy for celebrating Good Friday and Easter, then perhaps you shouldn’t keep the season until you’ve grown in your understanding of grace. If, on the contrary, you see Lent as a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace, then you’re approaching Lent from a proper perspective.

Some segments of Protestantism did continue to recognize a season of preparation for Easter, however. Their emphasis was not so much on penitence and fasting as on intentional devotion to God. Protestant churches sometimes added special Lenten Bible studies or prayer meetings so that their members would be primed for a deeper experience of Good Friday and Easter. Lent was a season to do something extra for God, not to give something up. After ignoring Lent for the majority of my life, I’ve paid more attention to it during the last two decades. Sometimes I’ve given up something, like watching television or eating sweets, in order to devote more time to Bible study and prayer. (The television fast was especially tough because I love watching March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament, on TV.) Sometimes I’ve added extra devotional reading to my regular spiritual disciplines. I can’t claim to have had any mystical experiences during Lent, but I have found that fasting from something has helped me focus on God. It has also helped me to look ahead to Good Friday and Easter, thus appreciating more deeply the meaning of the cross and the victory of the resurrection. Before I began honoring Lent, Good Friday and Easter always seemed to rush by before I could give them the attention they deserved. Now I find myself much more ready to meditate upon the depth of Christ’s sacrifice and to celebrate his victory over sin and death on Easter. Let me be very clear: Lent is not a requirement for Christians. Dallas Willard has said that if a certain spiritual discipline helps you grow in God’s grace, then by all means do it. But if it doesn’t, don’t feel like you must do it. I’d say the same about Lent. If it helps you prepare for a deeper celebration of Good Friday and Easter, if it allows you to grow in God’s grace, then by all means keep it. If Lent isn’t your cup of tea, then don’t feel obligated to keep it. You should realize, however, that millions of Christians – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Independent – have found that recognizing the season of Lent enriches our worship and deepens our faith in God. In my next post in this series I’ll consider some of the symbolism of Lent, and suggest some possible Lenten practices to help you keep the season.

Do You Have to Give Up Something for Lent?

I grew up hearing about Catholics who had to fast during the season of Lent. No meat on Fridays, only fish. This, you must understand, was a costly sacrifice in the cafeteria of Glenoaks Elementary School! The fact that my Catholic friends had to give up decent food in Lent always seemed to me to be one more good reason to be a Protestant. (Photo: I expect that the Lent Promo at the Luby’s in Kerrville is much better than my elementary school’s cafeteria rations.) But, in the past fifteen years or so, I’ve sometimes decided to join my Catholic sisters and brothers in giving up something during Lent. This means, depending on how you count the days of Lent, fasting from something for about six weeks. (Officially in the Western world, Lent comprises the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. But many traditions do not count the Sundays during this period as belonging to Lent. Thus Lent covers 46 days, but only 40 days belong to the Lenten fast.) People in my theological tradition (the Reformed tradition, pioneered by John Calvin) tend not to emphasize Lenten fasting. Partly this had to do with the conscious rejection of Roman Catholic practices that were not clearly based on Scripture. Lent is not prohibited in Scripture. But it isn’t taught there either. One can be a faithful, biblical Christian and never recognize Lent. So, in days gone by, many Reformed folk and other Protestants who wanted to make the season before Easter special in some way, chose instead to add a spiritual discipline to their lives as a way of preparing for Easter. It’s quite common today for churches that don’t have midweek Bible studies, for example, to offer a Lenten Wednesday Evening Study or something like this. Special Lenten spiritual retreats are also increasingly common in Protestant in addition to Roman Catholic circles. But fasting still plays a prominent role in Lenten practices of many Christians across the denominational and theological spectrum. Throughout church history there have been different kinds of Lenten fasts. Nobody, to my knowledge, expected anyone to give up all food for the whole season. In the Middle Ages it was common for Christians to give up certain sorts of food, like meat and/or dairy products, for example. This explains why, in my youth, Catholics abstained from meat on the Fridays of Lent. Many Catholics still observe this discipline. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lenten fast is taken even more seriously than in the Roman Catholic church, with many Orthodox folk eating vegetarian meals during the season. In recent years I have sometimes given up something in Lent, perhaps chocolate or watching television. The latter was particularly hard because I enjoy college basketball, and March Madness (the NCAA bastketball tournament) always falls in the middle of Lent. This year I have decided to give up something I enjoy. I’ve also adopted an additional daily spiritual discipline. It don’t think it would be appropriate for me to speak in detail about what I’m doing at this time. But I would like to share some reflections on what I’ve been learning through my version of a Lenten fast.

What I’ve Learned by Fasting During Lent

First, giving up something allows me to make a tangible sacrifice to the Lord. Although certain sacrifices are already present in my life, they’re sort of “built in” at this point. I don’t often experience giving up something for God on a daily basis. The act of sacrifice reminds me of my commitment to God and my desire to make him first in my life. Second, by giving up something I usually enjoy on a daily basis, I have sometimes found myself yearning for that thing. Frankly, I’ve been tempted to give up my Lenten fast at times. I could easily argue that it’s unnecessary (it is optional, after all) and certainly not taught in Scripture. But, though I don’t think my effort at fasting makes God love or bless me more, I do think it raises my awareness of how much I depend on other things in life rather than the Lord. I see how easy it is for me to set up all sorts of little idols in my life. Fasting, in some way, helps me surrender my idols to God. Third, when I give up something I like and then feel an unquenched desire for it, I’m reminded of my neediness as a person. And neediness, I believe, is at the heart of true spirituality. Jesus said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”                                                                                      Matthew 5:3, 6

Of course feeling hungry for one of life’s pleasures isn’t quite the same as hungering and thirsting for righteousness. But when I feel my hunger, when I sense my neediness for some other thing, I can use this to get in touch with my hunger and need for God. Fourth, as I continue with my Lenten fast, I find myself less eager for the thing I’ve given up. Ironically, this makes my fast easier. It’s almost something I can take for granted, thus dulling the spiritual impact of the fast. But I’m also gratified to know that one of my little “idols” is being set aside in my heart, as I learn to depend more upon God. I’m experiencing a bit of freedom that makes me gladly thankful for God’s grace at work in me.

Adding a Lenten Discipline

Instead of or in addition to fasting during Lent, you might add a spiritual exercise or discipline to your life. If your church sponsors a Lenten Bible study, you might choose to join this study. Or you may want to participate in some act of kindness, such as feeding people at a homeless shelter. I like to add something that I can do every day. It needs to be realistic, given my nature and patterns of life. So, for example, it would be a bad idea if I decided to get up at 5:00 a.m. to pray for an hour each day of Lent. This would stretch me so far that I’d surely fail. But I could take on additional Bible reading. Some years I’ve read one chapter of a gospel each day of Lent, taking it in slowly and meditating upon it. Other years I’ve used a Lenten devotional to focus my thought. If you have no idea what to do during Lent, let me suggest the following. Set aside some time of quiet to as the Lord what he wants you to do. See if the Spirit of God guides you to something. If nothing comes to mind, I’d recommend that you read a chapter of a gospel each day. If you start with Mark, you’ll have time to read all of Mark plus all of one other gospel during Lent. Perhaps some of my readers would like to suggest Lenten disciplines that they have tried in the past, and how they have experienced God’s grace through these exercises. So, as we enter the season of Lent, I am grateful for the saints who have gone before me, some of whom discovered the blessings of giving up something in Lent, while others grew in their faith by adding a Lenten discipline. No matter what you do during this Lenten season, I pray that God will draw us closer to him, and prepare us for a fresh experience of Good Friday and Easter. May God’s peace be with You!

  • Fred

    Why do you think you need to make a tangible sacrifice to the Lord?  Why is the work of Christ not enough?  At a time when Protestants are flocking to the Catholic church in near mass numbers I think it’s time to be clear that the work of Christ is sufficient and there is nothing that you add to that work.  Ever.  Period. 

  • Anonymous

    Fred: Thanks for adding your comment. The sacrifice of Christ is fully sufficient for salvation. Absolutely. But, remember, Christ himself called his followers to imitate his sacrifice, not in order to earn salvation, but as a way of giving their lives in his service. Tangible sacrifice for the Lord is a way of offering thanks. It’s a way of responding to his once-for-all sacrifice for our salvation.

  • Luke S.

    I think all Mark is just echoing Scripture here:

    “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…”. (Rom. 12:1)

    The Point: You’re right Fred. The work of Christ is enough. It was a once for all sacrifice for our sins [like an atonement sacrifice/offering in the Old Testament] and no sacrifice can “add to it” because it itself is sufficient and enough. No other atonement sacrifice is needed or necessary to remove our sin. 

    So whats our response to this great sacrifice for sin (or, “the work of Christ” as we are saying in this convo)? How should we respond? 

    (SIDE NOTE:  I’m a Bible Church pastor… I always grew up hearing “sacrifice” and thinking blood, atonement, slaughtered Lamb, cross. And thats very true. But if I’m going to be biblical, If I’m going to back it up with Scripture, then I also need to look to how the word “sacrifice” or “offering” is used…. Psalms talks about our duty to offer to God  “a sacrifice of praise”, etc.)

    I think Scripture tells us that ONE of the ways that we respond to the sacrifice of Christ (or, “work of Christ”) is through sacrifice/offering. NO NO NO, i don’t mean a sin sacrifice. I don’t mean atonement. Remember, Christ already did that. You can’t add to it. I mean THESE types of sacrifice (Just to name a few): 

    “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

    “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

    “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Eph 5:23)

    ” Then  he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily,  and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

    Aren’t these examples of how we offer ourselves to God, since He has offered Himself [once for all!] to us? 

    In other words, to sum it all up in a sentence: Jesus’ ONCE-FOR-ALL WORK was His sacrifice for my sin. My DAILY LIFETIME RESPONSE to His sacrifice for me is offering all of myself (my actions, my thoughts, my habits) to Him…. not because my heart wants to IMPROVE or ADD to what He did (I can’t!), but because my heart wants to worshipfully respond to what He did. 

    I hope that helps…

  • Steven

    Mark, You are using practical scripture application that Paul taught of a TRUE born again experience.  You are using those scriptures out of context to support your view. If you want “respond to what He did” then you should pay close attention to Colossians 2;10.  

    Luke 9:23-24 is reffering to resting in him and looking to THE only CROSS daily as the source of righteousness.  Not to some type of asceticism that you are really reffering too. 

    No greater sacrifice can YOU make as a child of God for God other than RESTING in what Jesus did at Calvary.  Out of resting in Him you will then produce the practical living applications that Paul refferred too.  What you are participating in is Will Worhsip. 

  • Anonymous

    Do you think it’s every appropriate for a Christian to give up something pleasant in order to devote more of oneself to God? Or is this always a sin?

  • steven

    Mark, do you have scripture for that type of christian practice?  Nothing wrong at all with a believer consecrating themselves more to the word or prayer but God does not recognize “giving something pleasant up in order to get closer to him(that is asceticism)”.  (1)Just forget about the fleshly religious activity of lent, (2)ask the lord to give you revelation as you read his word and then by the output of the Holy Spirit you will spend more time in the word and prayer,(3)rest in the fact that Jesus has already fulfilled the law for you, paid your SIN debt and broke the bondage of the Sin Nature in your life.   That is walking out the abundant Life!

  • Jeff

    Steven,
    Paul wasn’t an ascetic, yet he says in 1 Cor 9:27 “But I *discipline* (hupōpiázō, lit. “to beat”) my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” This is in the context of self control (v25). Forget about the particular time of year under discussion, Lent. Are you opposed about ALL bodily self denial for spiritual reasons? What if I choose to deny myself eating a piece of chocolate cake because my fleshly desire is to WANT that cake? Is that somehow failing to work out the abundant life because I want to live in a self-controlled way and deny myself things that I have a perfect right to?

  • steven

     Jeff,
    Paul in that scripture is simple referring that as a minister of gospel he had to make sure he followed God’s prescribed order for a victorious life which he outlines in Roman 6,7,8 SO he himself is not looked at a hypocrite(“disapproved”) by others. Paul plainly states his testimony of how he keeps his body under control in Romans 6,7 and then states how the Holy Spirit works off his faith in the Cross in Romans 8.  Think about it…If it were possible for Paul to keep his body in subjection with his own strength himself then why did Jesus die on the Cross?  That would mean that sinless perfection could be attained by someone through their own flesh(ability,strength, intellect, etc).  Which is not not biblical.  Your body self control has NO bearing on your spiritual growth…… It’s all FAITH in the finished work of Christ.  You as a believer ONLY can experience a “self-controlled” life by applying what Paul taught in Romans 6,7,8(which was faith in the Cross). 

  • Jeff

    Steven,
     
    Thanks for your thoughts here, but it seems to me that you are confusing justification with sanctification with your post:
     
    Clearly, anyone who believes that they can attain sinless perfection in this life by anything they do is deluded. I graciously and hopefully think that few believe that.
     
    You write about our spiritual growth:  “…body self control has NO bearing on your spiritual growth?… It’s all FAITH in the finished work of Christ”. True, it is the finished work of Christ alone that justifies any believer, as you say. But how can you possibly say that bodily self control has NO bearing? Faith is for Justification.
     
    After Justification, there are a truckload of verses in the NT regarding the extreme effort God calls us to in order to make progress in this life, i.e, our Santification.  Thus, we are called to work and grow in grace, to work hard, pummeling our bodies if that is what it takes to subdue them. This is precisely what the Bible teaches as it calls us to “Fight the good fight of faith” (1Ti.6:12), “Pursue righteousness” (2Ti.2:22) and “Put to death therefore whatever is earthly in you” (Col.3:5).
     
    My fleshly appetites can rule my life if I let them. My flesh wants to stay in bed and NOT get up early to read the scriptures. I need to force myself to get up. My flesh wants to overeat (gluttony), but I need to reign it in. My flesh wants to be lazy and not help my neighbor. I could go on and on. That is why I can exercise self-control and benefit from NOT eating that piece of chocolate cake. Self control, a fruit of the Spirit, is really the issue that I am addressing. Giving up something for Lent can be an exercise in self control. Not to make one more righteous before God, never! But to exercise dominion over our fleshly desires, yes! THAT is part of spiritual growth, in my opinion.
     
    Blessings to you this day…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Jeff, for your wise comments.

  • Tera

     Yes, I think Jeff has hit it on the mark with his last comment. I would like to add that baptism and communion are also symbolic things we do to help us in our path in Christ. A wedding is something we do to symbolize our coming together with our spouse in the sight of God.

    Lent is a celebration of renewal through Christ’s work on the cross. It is a seasonal, concentrated  focusing on how Jesus may have felt knowing what lay before him to do as a human and as God’s son. It is a way for us to spend extra intentional time to deepen our understanding of the purpose and learn better how to rest in the knowledge of what was done for us. And, yes, I do believe it is tied up with self discipline and self control. At the same time, we are free to choose to live recklessly and without control knowing that God will always love us and that his sacrifice is sufficient. We do pay a consequence however when we live in ways that are undisciplined and unaware of how God made us to live in abundance yet with self control in all we do.

    Being human as we are, we may lose sight of the significance of the cross and what Jesus experienced and taught while he was on earth. This was the idea behind the last supper Jesus spent together telling them to remember him and the time together and the knowledge Jesus shared with them by the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine; this is to remember that it is not only the physical bread that sustains our lives but the spiritual bread. And nothing we do gives us the abundance of life we seek more than the spirit of God.

  • Steven

    Mark, The sacrifice of Christ is not only fully sufficient for salvation but for our daily sanctification walk as well(Colossians 2;6).  Where did Christ call us to imitate his sacrifice?  He told us to pick op our Cross daily which means to look to the ONLY Cross and sacrifice which was what he did on Calvary.   By maintaining complete faith in his Cross then we are picking up the Cross daily.   Practicing Lent is a SIN as outlined in Romans 7;1-4.  It is spiritual adultery for believers.  

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your follow up comment. Are you actually suggesting that if a person decides to spend extra time in Bible reading and prayer for a period of time, this is a sin? Do you really believe this? I’ve never known any Christian who believes this way. Are you the first?

  • Steven

    Mark, As a child of God it is great to spend time in the word, to fast and pray in within themselves.  I am asssuming that you don’t do these things throughout the rest of the year since you REALLY focus on it during “Lent”.    But that is not what Lent is all about. What Lent is all about is man’s self-righteouness.  See Cain and Abel.  What do you really think you get for doing this?  Prove it in scripture.    Do you honestly think God looks at the next 40 days of your life ANY different than the moment you were Born Again? 

  • Luke S.

    Steven: 

    Out of love, dear brother, go back and re-read his words carefully and slowly. Its unfair for us to “assume” things upon each other when he has already made things clear in an effort to keep a reader from assuming the worst. (Example from his post: “A Pastoral Word: Let me note, at this point, that if you think of Lent as a season to earn God’s favor by your good intentions or good works, then you’ve got a theological problem. God’s grace has been fully given to us in Christ. We can’t earn it by doing extra things or by giving up certain other things in fasting. If you see Lent as a time to make yourself more worthy for celebrating Good Friday and Easter, then perhaps you shouldn’t keep the season until you’ve grown in your understanding of grace. If, on the contrary, you see Lent as a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace, then you’re approaching Lent from a proper perspective.”)

    So again, reread his words, and be fair to your brother in Christ. 

  • Steven

    Luke, I understood his position in what he wrote.  You are wrong if you think that you can “grow more deeply in God’s Grace” by practicing Lent.  Do you have scripture for that?  How does a believer become closer to God by participating in Lent?   That is the question that you cannot answer with scripture.

  • Luke S.

    Hey Steven, 

    I see what you are saying. And I think we’re saying the same things, but just not understanding each others terminology (The word common “hot” means something very different to my youth group teenagers than how the weather man uses it on the nightly news… Same word, different meaning!)

    Maybe it would be helpful if we got on the same page with our terms:

    When you hear Mark say “grow more deeply in God’s grace”, what are you hearing? If you could, rephrase that statement based on how you are understanding it. How are you interpreting it?

  • Steven

    Luke, What passage of scripture are you reffering too?  Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Steven: Of course I do those things throughout the rest of the year. I’m afraid you really have no understanding of what Lent is about. I would encourage you to learn more before you start saying that what millions of Christians do to grow in God’s grace is sin. Lent is simply a time to devote even more of yourself to God, either by giving something up or by taking on an additional spiritual discipline. Nobody has to do this. And if you are already fully growing in grace, then you don’t have to do anything else. But I would warn you not to label as sin that which people do in order to grow in grace.

  • steven

    Mark, I am not hear to argue or belittle you my brother.  But you are wrong and it is a SIN.  See Galatians 2;21.  Lent is a Law.  You are trying to earn your relationship with God regardless of how you look at it.   You don’t grow in God’s grace by “giving something up”.  You grow in God’s grace by looking solely to the finished work of Christ for both Salvation and a daily Sanctification walk. Basically, You have a set time period throughout the year that you are mandating God to give you grace by a type of fleshly work/consecration you are doing.  God’s grace does not work in that framework.  You will have more grace in your life if you rest in the Cross solely.

  • Anonymous

    Steven: I’m not quite sure how you know that Lent is a Law, given that I’ve said quite clearly in what I’ve written that Lent is not a Law. But if it is a Law for you, in your understanding, then you shouldn’t keep it. But I do wish you’d answer the question I asked because it is crucial I’ll ask it again: Do you think it’s ever appropriate for a Christian to give up something pleasant in order to devote more of oneself to God? Or is this always a sin?

  • Steven

    Mark,  Of course every born again believer spends more time in the word or prayer(of course it is not a sin).  But is not because they should feel they “should give something pleasant up for God”.  It is because they have been regenerated into the Divine nature which produces more time in the word, prayer, etc.  You think because what you are giving up is “pleasant” that God has to now honor you for it by giving you more grace in relationship with him….  That is Law.    Mark, what is you expected result of Lent?

  • Anonymous

    Steven: Thanks for your response. You said, “It is because they have been regenerated into the Divine nature which produces more time in the word, prayer, etc.” Yes, indeed. And that’s what Lent is all about. Sure, I expect there are some who think of it legalistically. Christians can be wrong about all sorts of things. But a right understanding of Lent is based on a right understanding of God’s grace through Christ. It is very similar to Paul’s teaching 1 Cor 7:5, when he says that it’s okay for a husband and wife to give up sexual intimacy for a season in order to devote themselves to prayer. It’s not law. It’s not about earning anything from God. It’s simply a way to focus more of oneself on God, to put aside distractions. As I’ve said before, if you don’t need to do this, then you are completely free not to do it. And if you think of Lent as law, then absolutely you should not observe it. But I would urge you not to judge your brothers and sisters who truly experience Lent as a time to grow in God’s grace and offer more of themselves to God in response to his grace. I would strongly encourage you to read Romans 14 and consider how this is relevant to the things you have written about your brothers and sisters who find Lent to be helpful in their relationship with God.

  • Steven

    Mark, You are twisting scripture.  Paul had not intentions of “supporting a form of lent” in that scripture.  He was dealing with a form of asceticism that the Corinthians were partaking in.  They were withholding from sexual relations with their spouse thinking that they would “earn” something from God by doing it.  Paul would refute and say “only do this with consent from both husband and wife”  and “give yourself to pray and fasting”.  This has no relation all to “Lent”.  Romans 14 has no reference to warning beleivers of false doctrine. What I am doing is not judging a person’s soul…I am judging the false doctrine.  Lent is a form of paganism.  It’s not of God and you will not find ANY scripture that supports such.  Mark, I pray and plead you turn from this because you are going to stand before God and give an account for taking away from the work of the Cross.

  • Anonymous

    Steven, if you cannot see the obvious connections between 1 Corinthians 7, Romans 14, and Lent, then I don’t think there is any value in a continuing conversation. Your mind is made up and no evidence from Scripture will make a difference. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.

  • Steven

    Mark, I can plainly see you love the lord.  Hope that we can see that each has a love of and for Christ. 

  • Truedivajm

    This is very well put.  Jesus paid it all.  All to him I owe.  Easter is ALWAYS much more meaningful when I observe a spiritual discipline during lent.  A book, a blble study, my prayer life, or a fast during the weeks before Easter has made the celebration stunning.  On Easter morning I am often brought to tears at the depth of Christ’s sacrifice and my gratefulness to Him for that sacrifice as I have been focusing on it for weeks.  I have grown to love the lenten season and always look forward to the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. 

  • Connie Sylvester

    As a Christian, active in a Baptist church, I have NEVER felt the “call” to practice Lent. However, THIS year, for the first time, I honestly have felt the strong urge to refrain from a daily “indulgence”. . .and certainly NOT for the sake of wishing to please Christ or putting myself on a higher plane with Him but to remind me of MY dependence of “things” that are of no eternal value. Your reflections on Lent have been very helpful for this gal who really knows nothing of the system except to hear best friend, Catholic, state over the years what she’s giving up!To quote you, Mark: “But, though I don’t think my effort at fasting makes God love or bless me more, I do think it raises my awareness of how much I depend on other things in life rather than the Lord.”

  • Jeneafer_angel

    Dr. Mark I decided to sincerely observe the Lenten fast with a sole purpose in my mind – to strengthen myself in the Spirit so that I could do the Ministry of the Lord. I decided to give up reading books online and watching videos on Youtube because that seems to be my ‘idol’. But I’ve failed right on the first day!!!
    I have had this strong urge view Lent seriously this time…I DO NOT want to fail.

  • Anonymous

    Jeneafer: Failure is ironically one way of experiencing what Lent is all about . . . how much we need Jesus to save us. We cannot do it on our own, but only by God’s grace in Christ and through his Spirit. When we fail, we turn to God in confession and ask for his help. Sometimes, God helps us through the support of a sister or brother in Christ. You might find someone to pray with you and help hold you accountable.

  • sylvia

    Mark, I am so glad God helped me to discover you. The thoughts regarding Lent and the freedom of observing it or not are exactly what we are discussing in our writing class. Of course Lent is not sinful, To me Lent is apathly applied as a renewal of our love and appreciation of God for sharing his son, Christ. Like others I came to Lent late in life and believe it or not came to understand how meaningful it came to be as a member of the Bapist church. Granted, it was a very unusual Baptist  church. John Claypool was our minister.  To be totally honest I was concerned about Steven’s understanding of the season. My roots are in the United Methodist Church but for a while we went to the Baptist church.
     
    We have been to Laity Lodge so I am sure of the theology.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks very much.

  • sylvia

    THIS is the second place I have commented on your Presbyterian Church blog, the one that says revisited. I am horrified to read your blog about Gay Rights in your church. Your lack of compassion and recognizing that God created all people regardless os sexual persuaion  and he loves them just the same. I was so happy I discovered you and e-mailed every Christian I know to find you. Then I had to e-mail them all over and apologize for telling them about you. We are members of a Reconcilling United Methodist Church. We have loads of gay persons, Barundi children. We sponsor a free medical clinic, a free law clinic, a free day school, and a house where teenage mothers come to learn about being parents. We have a gay lay leader, and a wonderful woman pastor. Frankly I believe this is being the Lord’s servent. To add to this we don’t have but about 300 active members.

    I do hope you take the time to go my other two posts on your Presbyterian Revisited Blog and read my posts. God has worked so many miracles in my life and I truly believe that God  doesn’t care, in the least, about one’s sexuality and whether there is a woman or a man speaking God’s  word from the pulpit.   I went to the United Methodist Church Pastors School. I am not ordained. I am sure our donomination has similar problems but, at least, the Reconcilling Church alternative is a huge beginning.

    I will pray for you and your church and ask God to forgive you.  

  • Anonymous

    Yes, God does love all people regardless of their sexuality. But Scripture is pretty clear that God does care about our sexuality. We don’t agree about this, I’m afraid. Peace to you.

  • Betty

    Giving up a pleasure is an act of discipline & I think discipline is important in a Christian life. Lent is also a time for repentance, reflection, spending more time with God, doing some extra things in his name, such as visiting shut-in, giving time to charities, etc. A small (or large) sacrifice during Lent shows that you are thinking of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
    Are you in or from Glendale, CA? There is a Glenoaks Elementary School there.

  • Tyson Surls

    Mark,
    I grew up in a Baptist church and never considered practicig Lent. I attended a Christian university and one of my professors would deny himself sweets during Lent every year and would let us know about it. I don’t remember him ever touching too deeply on the spiritual significance of the practice, although he was a math teacher and the discussion never fit into our class time. He did mention that his church encouraged its members to take part in the practice.

    Anyway, a few years later I have made the decision to take part in Lent. I have eliminated sweets from my diet and have had a lot of cravings for chocolate, refined sugar, and other terrible sweets. Even tonight, I find myself doubting the importance of maintaining Lent. Your writings here helped remind me that my dependence on my body’s “need” for sweets distracts me from my need for Christ’s daily sustenance. Thank you for your encouraging words and thoughtful explanation of your personal experiences with Lent.

  • SUSAN B STRODTBECK,M.D.

    Hello Pastor Mark, my old friend, and my old faithful Pastor.

    Since there are “no coincidences”, I thank our Father through His Spirit,for guiding me this AM, as I journey through this Lenten season, back to your web site. I got a virus so had to change my e-mail address about a year ago. Well here I am again. As I read this blog, I know why He brought me to this exact place , at this exact moment in time.  To encourage you, Mark. So many trials and for some of us, who are created with a deeply intuitive intelligence, are created because we tend to innately explore all ideas. It is certainly NOT “wrong” of us to explore ideas that :come to us” ,that is how God created us!  But OH  how we can come to some very innacurate conclusions, if left to our own devises!!!

    So here is a person who is not understanding the genuine  debth and breadth of the deeply soulful, spiritual journey of Lent.

    When I read the comments, I felt the enemy attacking .THE SLY ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN  HAS SLITHERED INTO THIS CONVERSATION,USING HIS TRIED AND TRUE METHOD OF TAKING THE TRUTH AND TWISTING IT JUST A TINY(to most, almost imperceptable) BIT,TO CREATE DOUBT AND DISCORD AMONG BELIEVERS, THUS UNLEASHING ENTROPY INTO IN THE SACRED ORDER OF THE PEACEFUL QUIET ORDER,  OF YOUR LENTIN REFLECTIONS.

    I rebuke the enemy, in the Mighy and ALL POWERFUL Name above of all names, Jesus Christ , and command him to FLEE NOW from your this blog immediatelt.

    HE HAS USED A BELIEVER’S STRONG EMOTIONS TO THROW HIS FIERY DARTS AT YOU YOUR TENDER SPIRITUAL HEART.
    That sly devil, who has had a couple of thousands of years now,to study human nature,(so,OK, we concede he is an expert at it..) not to mention the fact that he’s been intently studying both you and your blogger ALL OF YOUR LIVES, just scheming and plotting, knowing EXACTLY which intellectual and emotion buttons to push in BOTH of you, ALL FOR ONE SINGLE PURPOSE:  to cause discord, and to deter you both from the truth.
    I  know Jesus, because He lives. You know my story. The spiritual discipline of ANY purposeful reflection is what helps us maintain our Ephesians 2:10-20 hope.
    Put on your full armor this day, Mark , and press forward towards the prize. YOU ARE SO RIGHT ON THE MARK on this issues, remember this .

    We take time during Lent to fast and pray, as He has told us to do.
    But from the outside looking in , it can appear that we “frozen chosen”(smile) are merely performing a “ritual.”

    It is an easy trap to fall into, to take one scripture and (mis) apply it to another, and thus to conclude  that fasting and prayerful reflection  are :mere” ritual and not true worship of the Living God.
    Our enemy sets this trap specifically to create not just  division among believers , but more importantly, for the  much more sinister purpose of  DISTRACTING believers from their focus , and thus diverting them from their “military posts” as strong , faithful prayerful spiritual warriors! 

    Fasting is one  weapon the enemy definately does NOT want to be unleashed on him.   BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE POWER OF FASTING AND PRAYER!!  

     
    HOLD FIRM TO YOUR FAITH, MARK. STAND FAST AND BE STRONG IN WHAT YOU KNOW IS TRUTH.and keep teaching us! We NEED you!!!! 

    Keep fighting the good fight, as you have so faithfully done so, all these years !

    And at the end of our fasting and prayerful jouney of reflection, we then can
    say with great joy,”HE IS RISEN!!!”

    Keeping you ,Linda, Nathan & Kara in my heart and in my prayers!!

    In Christ’s Love,
    Susan Strodtbeck

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Susan, for your kind and encouraging and strong words! You are a dear friend and sister in Christ.