Here are questions for self-examination. Craig Higgins says Lent can be a time to ask yourself some hard questions about your spiritual life, your spiritual maturity. Honestly, as I looked through these the first time I said to myself, “Yikes, Lisbeth! You’re one hot mess.” However, as we self-examine, let’s not lose our focus on Christ, beloveds. To quote Jack Miller: “All of us are more sinful and helpless than we would’ve ever dared admit, yet in Christ we are more accepted and forgiven that we would’ve ever dared hope.”
- Have I been fervent in prayer? Was there warmth? access?
- Have I prayed at my stated time? with my family?
- Have I practiced God’s presence, at least every hour?
- Have I, before every deliberate action or conversation, considered how it might be turned into God’s glory?
- Have I sought to center conversations on the other person’s interests and needs and ultimately toward God, or did I turn them toward my own interests?
- Have I given thanks to God after every pleasant occurrence or time?
- Have I thought or spoken unkindly of anyone?
- Have I been careful to avoid proud thoughts or comparing myself to others? Have I done things just for appearance? Have I mused on my own fame or acclaim?
- Have I been sensitive, warm, and cheerful toward everyone?
- Have I been impure in my thoughts or glances?
- Have I confessed sins toward God and others swiftly?
- Have I over- or under-eaten, -slept, -worked?
- Have I twisted the truth to look good?
- Have I been pursuing in my home, or only reacting to situations?
More direct questions from Jack Miller:
- Is God working in your life?
- Have you been repenting of your sin lately?
- Are you building your life on Christ’s free justification or are you insecure and guilt-ridden?
- Have you done anything simply because you love Jesus?
- Have you stopped anything simply because you love Jesus?
Again, I’m enthralled by Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross. I’m eagerly anticipating the start of Lent–2 more days until Ash Wednesday. After experiencing 4.25 billion storms this cold winter, I am desperate for Spring and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection. Here are some excerpts from Gross’ introduction on “Lent” that help instruct my mind and heart as to what defines this blessed season, and ways in which I can watch and fast and pray.
Themes of Lent:
-Light to Shadows: “…We continue to walk with Jesus [as we did in Epiphany], but our attention shifts from light to shadows: his increasingly hostile opponents, his growing heaviness of spirit, and his ominous talk of betrayal and death. With the disciples, we grow uneasy, almost appalled. Human sin, corrupt powers, even raw evil comes into view.”
-Dust and Ashes: “These symbolize…our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability. Finite beings and sinful persons, we are destined to die. And so we humble ourselves before the eternal God who created us and the holy God who must, if we are to live, redeem us. The dust speaks of our bodily dependence and the ashes signify our spiritual penitence. Ash Wednesday sets the tone for the season: humility, simplicity, sobriety, and even sorrow.”
“We start Lent by joining Jesus in the place of solitude, we continue by walking with him toward Jerusalem and we end by kneeling beside him in dark Gethsemane. All along the way–the desert, the road, the garden–Jesus is tempted to go a different way, one that avoids anything like the cross. Repeatedly he says no” (132).
A phrase to describe Lent: “A bright sadness.”
“We are like prisoners whose release draws near or refugees on our way back home or patients for whom the cure is working” (128).
“These six weeks…are like walking in a still-darkened valley even as the morning sun lights the tops of the mountains around us. Bright sadness, indeed” (129).
Gross then goes on in detail to describe three helpful disciplines to practice during Lent: fasting and prayer, fasting and repentance, fasting and meditation. In what ways will you fast during this Lenten season, beloveds? Ponder it in your heart, and feel free to share it with me or someone near to you.
City Church introduced me to the sweet worship music of Bifrost Arts. These three songs tend to remain with me. Play them on repeat this Sunday, let the words wash over you, and affirm that “because of his great love, we are not overcome!”
1. Psalm 46 (featuring Chelsey Scott)
2. We Are Not Overcome (featuring Robert Heiskell)
3. Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me (featuring Laura Gibson)
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“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences…This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” -W. Zinsser, On Writing Well: The classic guide to writing non-fiction