During Lent, we will be focusing on the benefits of our salvation from Psalm 103 during our prayer time on Tuesday morning. We invite you to join us from 6:30-7:30am to pray. Each week we will also have a devotion from someone in our church body to help encourage you along the way.
Why I Participate in Lent: Forrest Shealy
I grew up in a home of good southern evangelicals with a solid, full gospel charismatic twist. I was totally unfamiliar with ecclesiastical calendars or special religious holidays other than Christmas and Easter—one day each. As I grew in faith and age and traveled and contacted believers across the globe and read believers through time, I learned of calendars of holy days and special times of focus. They have been around for a long time and make sense.
My background and disposition was that every day is holy and we need to always be focused, but that is changing. I have come to realize the wisdom of the ancient church traditions of both Advent and preparing for the coming of our Lord and of Lent and the time of preparation for the passion or suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord. These are the bookends of the earthly life of the incarnate Christ—significant along with his ascension as we await his return.
So why prepare for Easter through this time of Lent? There is no Biblical command to “do Lent” but we are advised to always stay ready and sober and faithful. How does Lent help us do this? First, at times we lose focus. Lent helps us refocus. None of us have 360 degrees of perfect vision and focus. We have to decide what to look at and where to pay attention. Focus is in fact partial blindness and in deciding what to look at we also decide what not to look at. Maybe the decision is subconscious or unintentional or progressive, but we may find that we are suddenly in a position that we have ignored something for too long and need to shift or renew focus.
Lent is a time we intentionally focus on preparation for Easter and the historical and present reality of the passion and death of Christ and his resurrection. I have engaged these issues with small groups and often the question is asked, “Did Jesus have to die and did he have to die in such a violent way?” I have come to believe the real question people are asking is a more personal “Do I have to die?” The focus is on Christ and his persevering love for us—the death and suffering is the shadow of his love cast by the imperfect response of man to God. Christ perseveres and loves through this imperfect response (sin) to show that his love prevails and brings life—eternal life and with it joy.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish (dung) so that I may regain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith (trust) in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.
Lent helps me ask God to examine my life through fasting, prayer, and an inquiring and penitential heart asking God to search my heart and show me any harmful way so I that I may submit it to him. I join with him so that He may join with me as I trust him in all things—or at least ask him to move me in that direction more and more.