Lent 2014: Looking Out, Looking Within

During this season of preparation and anticipation of Easter, we want to have times as a community where we collectively pray and fast. Our purpose is to draw closer to God, open our hearts and minds, and listen for the Holy Spirit leading us. Each week, we will share a prayer focus for the week and a fast for Friday that we may all participate in as a community.

The fast is a spiritual discipline designed to better connect us with God. As a church, we are fasting in order to deepen our relationship with God and to walk in step with His plan and purpose. This is accomplished through substituting something physical, typically food, and replacing it with a spiritual activity, like Bible reading, praying, or journaling. The overall goal is to experience a genuine hunger for spending time with God.

“Irvington Neighborhood Street” by Sarah Kercheval

From the devotional “Ashes to Fire:”

The word “repentance” is the English translation of the Greek word metanoia. Metanoia is often understood to mean a “change of mind” or a “change of heart.” But a close look reveals that metanoia may be understood as a military term, a command that clearly means to do an about-face—to turn away from the old way of living and thinking and face a new direction. And apparently this change of mind and heart, away from the things of this world and to the things of God, is required. It is a command. It is not an option. In fact, Luke reports Jesus saying that we have but two options—repent or perish (see 13:3).

The confession of one’s sins is a great start: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But confession must be followed by repentance. “Unless you repent, you will all perish,” said Jesus (Luke 13:5). There is no ambiguity here. Kingdom people repent. One cannot become a true Christ follower without repentance, and one cannot remain in close fellowship with the company of the committed without continued repentance. Repentance is, after all, Jesus’ first doctrinal statement: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17). To illustrate the importance of repentance, Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that bore no fruit (Luke 13:6-9). No fruit? Then cut it down. The point? The truly repentant person is a fruit-bearing tree. Without the fruit of repentance dangling from the branches of one’s life, conversion—life change—has not taken effect.

Turning away and turning to are all part of our walk with Christ. The season of Lent offers us an opportunity to look closely at, and make the necessary corrections in, our relationship with Christ.

Let’s look inside and outside this week.

Week 3 Prayer Focus:

Let us look outside. Pray for the people in your neighborhood. Maybe you know them by name, or have just seen them from a distance; maybe you are on friendly terms or things are a little strained. It does not matter. Pray for them.

Pray for :

  • Health
  • Peace in relationships
  • Protection from harm
  • Openness to God

Think about taking a walk around your neighborhood and praying this prayer for each house. Let’s look outside of ourselves.

Week 3 Fast Focus:

Let’s also look within this week – by fasting from technology. Let us set aside TV, computers, phones, etc. from 5pm until bed. Replace this time with reflecting on your life and relationship with God. Where are you? Where do you want to be? Open yourself up to the people in your life. Let them in and listen to them, really listen. Let this sacrifice open you up to God and the people around you!

I love my church,
-Jeff

(Neilson, Merritt (2014-01-01). Ashes to Fire Year C: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 842-847). Beacon Hill Press. Kindle Edition.)

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