FASTING IN LENT
Isaiah 58 is quite blunt about God's attitude towards fasting. He says “put your money where your mouth is”. Well, OK, not in so many words but religious observance, however extreme, without a passionate engagement with the way we live, is mere hypocrisy.
So instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol or meat this year. I'm challenging you to redirect something that you have already into more godly channels.
Look in your kitchen cupboard
Look in your wardrobe
Look in your linen cupboard
Look in your purse or wallet
Look in your diary
If you have anything you don't really have a use for at the moment, consider giving it away to relieve the poor, the hungry, the ill clothed, the oppressed. Do it every week of Lent.
Then look in your diary and set aside an extra hour for time with God. Maybe an hour a day, or an hour a week, but make it regular and significant for the next six weeks.
SPIRITUALITY IN LENT
For the six weeks of Lent we will introduce six different types of spirituality.
Some of them will feel “natural” to you. They will involve doing familiar and expected things. This probably comes from your upbringing as a Christian. That's a good thing.
Some of them will come easily to you, even if they are new and different. This probably means that they are in tune with your personality. This is a good discovery.
Some may be difficult to grasp, strange and unrewarding. Don't worry. It's not a bad thing. They may be outside of your experience or unsuited to your personality. Just rejoice that other people will find them helpful. Give them a try – you may be pleasantly surprised what perseverance will do.
Each week we will try one activity which will help us to discover what this sort of spirituality might encompass. You can use this in the week. After six weeks you should have six arrows in your quiver to use to keep your walk with God fresh. Some will be used more often than others. But they can all be ways to inject more passion into our spiritual life. For more ideas get: “40 Creative Worship Ideas” from www.celluk.org.uk
1. Evangelical: This puts God's Word at the centre of life and proclaims the gospel to us and through us. It is always asking “Where is the good news in this?”.
Read: Jesus' journey through the wilderness Luke 4:1-12.
Look Back: What about your own journey with God? Remember:
- an answered prayer
- a time of healing
- comfort & strength in troubled times
- wisdom for a hard decision
- a prompting of the Holy Spirit you followed.
Tell: Psalm 145:4. Look for a chance to tell someone else one of these good news stories this week.
2. Charismatic: This develops our awareness of the immediacy of God's presence among His people. It tries to allow the “spring of living water” that Jesus puts within us to bubble up and flow out from us.
Wait: Sit somewhere comfortable. Set the scene, a lit candle, flowers, bread & wine, instrumental music (whatever helps). Try to become aware of God's presence.
Notice: Complete this phrase: “Father/ Lord/ Jesus, I am aware of your presence in …...................” Maybe a sense of love, order, peace, warmth, well-being, joy, or his finger on something that need to be put right. Do this as many times as you want. Be honest. Be patient.
Read: Psalm 145:18 “The lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth”. Thank him.
3. Holiness: This addresses our need for personal transformation and trains us in godliness. It will include times of self examination, confession and forgiveness as well as seeking amendment of life.
Q. What can stop God loving you?
A. Nothing at all, if you are in Christ Jesus.
Read: Romans 8:38-39.
Imagine: picture each of the potential threats to your security. Then imagine them each dissolving before the power of God's love.
Apply: Picture a current insecurity, fear or worry in your circumstances or relationships. In a time of silence bring these personal details to God and speak God's word from Romans “..nor any other thin in all creation” to the situation.
4. Incarnational: This encourages us to see God active in the ordinary and the everyday. It appreciated that the creator is alive and active in his creation and the the saviour is alive and can be encountered in all God's children.
When Life Hurts
Where is God when things are all going wrong?
Think: Where are things painful for you
- personally, family, community,
- national or international situations?
Tell: Try to express your feelings to God.
“When I see …. I feel......”
Read: Luke 2:33-35. Just because there is pain, it does not mean that God's will is not being done. Think about Mary. Luke 1:38.
Cross: look at or hold onto a cross. Remember that Jesus dies to take all our sin and shame. He knows how you feel. He is with you in this.
Jesus: How might you “be” Jesus, getting along someone else in pain?1
5. Contemplative: This focusses on personal prayer and intimacy with God, our longing for a deep and vital Christian experience. It's more about looking, listening and being aware of God's presence and less about talking.
Read: Colossians 1:15-20 or John 12:1-8. Read it very slowly. Read it several times. Just take it in.
Meditate: Read it again, phrase by phrase, first asking the Holy Spirit to point you to particular words or phrases, note those that stand out.
Pray: Ask God why those words stood out to you. What is he saying to you personally?
Contemplate: Just sit quietly and let it all sink in. Try not to talk
6. Social Justice. This is based upon seeking compassion and justice in our relationships and in the wider society and culture in which we live. It recognises the promise of the coming Kingdom and seeks to discover and encourage its coming.
You can do this as a real or a memory journey about how you get to church or cell group. Read Luke 19:28-40. The disciples had to look out for the colt. This is spirituality with open eyes.
Praise: as you “walk” the route. Note all the good things you see or remember – safe housing, water, drains, transport, power, gardens etc. and thank God for them and for those who maintain them.
Pray: Note the things that are not right – neglected homes, streets, litter, graffiti, social inequality or exclusion, decay. Pray for justice and righteousness to thrive.
Plan: Is there anything God would ask you to do as an individual, cell or church?
1(“Heaven in Ordinary” by Angela Ashwin, McCrimmon Publishing Co Ltd (Mar 1985)