Wednesday, February 10, marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of preparation and repentance, which begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to Easter. This is a Christian tradition that helps us celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It gives us 40 days to prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Here is a great Lent devotional guide from Providence Church, which we are adopting for this Lent season: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/files/2013/02/Journey-to-the-Cross.pdf. You can read their thoughts on “What Is Lent” at the bottom of this article to better understand this season.
One more resource for this season is a blog post made by Kennon's wife, Kathryn, on Preparing Little Hearts at Home for Easter.
How to maximize this Guide with your families:
The Lent Guide is a great way to focus in on your family devotion time. Here are some ideas for how you can use this season to teach your children about Jesus and what he has done for us and what he is doing in all of us. They revolve around the three disciplines commonly practiced during the Lenten season: fasting, praying and giving.
The practice most often associated with Lent is fasting. Explain to your children that fasting during Lent is a way for followers of Jesus to identify with him in his suffering. Instead of individually fasting from something, maybe your family could make a commitment to fast from one thing together. This would open up the door for great conversation and establish a level of accountability in your family. For example, maybe you and your children could fast from watching TV or playing a favorite video game. Make a commitment to do this as a family so that each family member can encourage each other in what they’ve given up. We must always remember and remind our children that we are choosing to give these things up to identify with what Jesus gave up – his own life for us.
You can also use the Lent Guide to have an increased emphasis on prayer in your family. It can also help lead your family into a more focused time of Scripture reading. Commit to reading a passage of the Bible together as a family. Praying a Psalm each day is a great way to begin experiencing the Bible together. Read passages from the Children’s StoryBook Bible for clarity with younger children. Some parents hesitate to read the Bible with their kids because they feel they don’t know enough to teach their kids. Remember parents, the point isn’t so much about teaching as it is about experiencing the story together. Pray together about whatever you may have learned from the passage. There is great family value in reading the Bible and praying together.
Giving special gifts to those in need is yet another discipline traditionally associated with the Lenten season. Try having your kids go without buying something they would normally buy during the week and have them save that money in order to give it away. Brainstorm with your kids ways you can give as an expression of the gifts we receive from Jesus. Have a family meeting to talk about some of the needs in the community and how they can contribute. Remind your children that, because of the generosity that God has shown us in Jesus, we can be generous as well.
How to maximize this Guide with your DC:
If you are leading a Discipleship Community and would like to walk through the Lent Guide together, I would encourage you to print off copies or email the Guide to your group a week before Lent begins; after that, talk through how you plan on using it as a group and answer any practical questions about Lent or the Guide specifically. Read the beginning of the Guide about "How to Use This Guide" and the introductory part about Lent itself so that you are prepared to help those in your group see the opportunity that Lent provides to focus on the heart of Christianity found in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If your group is more mature in their walk with the Lord, you may suggest a schedule for participating in different types of fasts together. Fasting is an intensely private practice but it is not always an individualistic practice in the church, and while not putting God in our debt, fasting is a great way to grow in meditation and the experience of God meeting all of our needs. Types of fast include but are not limited to food, entertainment, speaking, eating out, sleep, etc. These are all ways where we can limit ourselves in an area of life to focus on Christ as our Great I Am who meets all of our needs.
How to maximize this Guide with those who do not yet know Christ or may be far from Him:
For those who do not know Christ and are apathetic toward a relationship with God: I would use the Guide to think of interesting questions about Jesus’ role in our lives personally and interact with our lost friends over thought provoking questions. The goal is to understand what our friends think about the deep truths of Christ and share how He is changing our lives, so that we might till the soil of their interest in Christ.
For those who may or may not know Christ but are far from him: this could be a great opportunity to invite them into what you are doing since Lent is a cultural concept that many who have church backgrounds may be familiar with. You could make them a copy of the Guide and tell them you thought they might enjoy it and you will be working through it with your family. If you don't have a deep relationship with them, it could be a great idea to invite them over to your house for dinner and give them the Guide as a take home gift; that way it is in the context of relationship and an invitation to a deeper relationship with you and Christ. You could invite them into your DC or simply use the Guide as a great conversation starter whenever you are interacting with them.
For those who are very interested in knowing Christ or are new believers: these folks would be ideal to invite into your DC and allow them to experience a group of believers seeking to follow Christ and worship Him during the season of Lent.
What is Lent? (Journey to the Cross: Readings & Devotions for Lent © 2013 by Providence Church)
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the very heart of Christianity. The good news of the gospel is that God has acted in history to conquer evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For those who have been united with this Jesus – who have submitted to Him as savior and Lord – have been united with Him in the likeness of His death and will one day be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Lent, therefore, is about living out of our union with, and identity in, Christ. Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.
On the Christian calendar, Lent (from Latin, meaning “fortieth”) is the forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday. Sundays themselves are not counted in these forty days, as they are generally set aside as days of renewal and celebration (“mini-Easters” of sorts). The number forty carries great biblical significance based on: the forty days of rain Noah and his family endured in the flood, the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, the forty days Jesus spent on the earth after his resurrection, and so much more. Forty days has been used by God to represent a period of trial, testing, and preparation.
Likewise, Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate the death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday) of Jesus. It is this very preparation and repentance – aimed at grasping the intense significance of the crucifixion – that gives us a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection, the joy of Easter.
As the title of this devotional suggests, Lent is a journey to the cross: meditating on our sin and weakness, looking to Jesus as our perfect example and substitute, and being heightened in our worship of his victory over Satan, sin, and death. On the cross, Jesus took our place to appease God’s righteous anger toward our sin and rebellion. He was separated from God so that we could experience union with God. He was crushed by God so that we could be adopted by God. He was raised with God so that we too might be raised with God. The drama of how this unfolded is the story of Lent.
The journey of Lent is to immerse ourselves in this grand story so that it might increase our appreciation of Easter and love for Jesus. May we mourn the darkness in our hearts and rejoice in the light of God who came into the world to save us!