Have you ever wondered what people are talking about when they say they’re giving something up for Lent? Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday, which is today, to the Saturday before Easter. Lent is often described as a time of preparation and an opportunity to go deeper with God. This means that it’s a time for personal reflection that prepares people’s hearts and minds for Good Friday and Easter.
This Sunday, we are starting a new sermon series called Journey to the Cross. During this season of Lent we will learn an understanding of our sinfulnes, and our need for God. Our hope is this pathway—from remembrance to repentance to renewal—will help us engage with God in new ways during this season, helping us to prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter.
Each Sunday, we will send out a devotion and encourage you to apply fasting to an area of your life. These weekly fasts give us opportunities to pursue greater communion with Christ. By emptying our lives of commotion, clutter, and noise, we hope to find greater room for Him to speak through His Word. We will send out the first devotion with instructions for our different types of fasting this Sunday morning.
Here is a short video from the Village Church in Texas that gives us a good description of lent and why it is important to us.
Ash Wednesday Devotion
It’s unlikely that you woke up this morning thinking about the broken state of humanity, your rebellious nature, or the weight of sin. You probably didn’t automatically turn your mind to repentance and ashes. Most likely your thoughts were on what you needed to accomplish, where you needed to be and what you had to orchestrate to make it all happen. Our culture rewards independence, success, and self-reliance and frowns on the broken, tired and weak. Admitting that we need anything can be hard when the pressure to be in control, self-sufficient and accomplished comes from every direction. You may also not have realized that today marks the start of a season. It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Today we usher in the season of orienting our lives around Jesus. It’s a time to remember, repent and renew.
Scripture tells us that the first step in reorienting our focus is repentance. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the tradition of believers marking their foreheads in a cross pattern with ashes as a symbol of repentance of sin. In the Old Testament Daniel gives us a glimpse of what repentance looks like.
“So I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek him by prayer and petitions, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I prayed to my God and confessed….” Daniel 9:3-4
Daniel turned his attention to the Lord and sought after God. When his attention was turned to God the first thing Daniel did was repent. When we intentionally turn our attention to God we have no choice but to do exactly what Daniel did, confess. When we seek God our first step is always repentance. Ash Wednesday is a day of turning our attention to the Lord and acknowledging our humanity, feeling the weight of our sin and repenting. It’s a day to remember that we are human and that God is God. We pause and remind ourselves of why we needed a savior. We can’t fully celebrate His resurrection without remembering why we needed Him to come in the first place. We are broken people and without Jesus, we have to stay that way. In Acts, we are called to repent and we are promised that when we do times of refreshing will follow.
“Repent, then, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” Act 3:19
That is where the promise of Easter steps in. God doesn’t leave us to wallow in our repentance and ashes. He pulls us up from the ashes, wipes us off and promises times of refreshing. He gives us the resurrected Jesus as our hope. Take some time today to mark a cross of ashes on your heart and confess to God your need for Him. Turn your attention to God and confess whatever may be standing between you and the times of refreshing God has ahead for you.