How to Enrich Your Faith Before Easter

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Early in my life in the UK, as a transplanted American, I remarked to a visiting friend why I hadn’t given up anything for Lent, saying, “All of life feels like Lent.” I was finding the massive changes in my life daunting and was feeling the loss of my family, friends, work, and the American way of life. I didn’t think I could give anything else up.

The season of Lent, however, doesn’t have to be a time only of fasting; as we prepare for the observance of Jesus’ death and resurrection we could take on a spiritual practice instead of giving up chocolate or social media. What’s most important is how we sense God leading us in our preparation, which will be as different as we all are. For me the season is (well, as long as I’m not moving country) a yearly reminder of my sins, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and God’s amazing grace in the gift of forgiveness and new life.

But I know that not all Christians love Lent. Some may be concerned about empty ritual, or believers engaging in unnecessary penance when Jesus has paid the price on the cross once and for all. Yet the benefits of a time set apart to examine myself before God have outweighed the potential pitfalls, and so I’d like to offer up some ideas for Lent to be a way to deepen our love for and commitment to God. And as I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, these suggestions are based on words – and the Word. Following are some practices you can enact during Lent.

1. Focus on one book of the Bible

Lent is made up of 40 days (excluding Sundays), so it’s a wonderful time to hone in on one of the books of the Bible. Why not choose an Old Testament prophet, such as Isaiah, which is rich in foreshadowing our Saviour? With Isaiah’s 66 chapters, you could read one chapter on Mondays to Fridays, and then two-three chapters on each day of the weekend. Or a gospel makes prime reading in Lent as it helps us focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Many Christians also add praying through one of the Psalms daily.

2. Add a practice of giving or forgiving

Many people see Lent as a time of fasting or taking away, but we’ve seen through the 40acts movement how we can add a practice to prepare for Easter. Through committing to 40 acts of generosity – things such as giving away chocolate or supporting the Fairtrade movement – Christians embrace the joy of giving as rooted in God’s gift of his son, Jesus. You can find out more at 40acts.org.uk

Along with giving, we can embrace more forgiving. I was reminded of this recently when a long-time disciple of Christ, a woman who has seen heartache and pain but whose heart remains tender, said, ‘We can always forgive a little bit more.’ She and I were talking about my new book, The Living Cross: Exploring God’s Gift of Forgiveness and New Life (BRF, 2016), which engages with readings from the Old Testament and the New on the theme of forgiveness (more on it below). Her words struck me as so wise, for in this fallen world where we experience disappointment, betrayal and pain, we need a regular practice of forgiveness to keep us from becoming bitter and lacking hope.

Why not commit to daily forgiveness? I’m not suggesting we go digging for unconfessed sins, or for people to forgive whom we haven’t considered for decades, but we can trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us in a sort of spring cleaning of the soul. Forgiveness is freeing – we’ll approach the resurrection of Jesus with a new sense of joy if we’ve been able to release the pain that may weigh us down.

3. Read a book

Why not read a book specially prepared for Lent? I mentioned mine above, and there are many others out new this year or for previous years. If you’d like to engage with six characters who experienced the crucifixion, see Abby Guinness’ At the Cross (CWR, 2016), an interactive guide. Another way of encountering Jesus is through Cathy Madavan’s Approaching Jesus (CWR, 2017). Or Bible teacher Paula Gooder has a new Lenten book out, Let Me Go There: The Spirit of Lent (Canterbury Press, 2016), which looks at the seasonal nature of Lent, exploring such themes as wilderness, taking up one’s cross and discipleship.

My favourite Lenten book is Reliving the Passion by Walter Wangerin (Zondervan, 1992). He’s a master storyteller, and writes here as a participant in the passion events. He transports us to a vivid world of sights and smells that bring the story alive, engaging our heads and our hearts. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Whether you manage to engage in a new practice each day in Lent, or not quite as regularly, I trust the Lord will help you to draw closer to him in your journey. As we approach the celebration of the resurrection, I pray that you will feel the joy of know that Christ is risen – indeed, he is risen!

Amy Boucher Pye is the author of Finding Myself in Britain (Authentic, 2015) and The Living Cross (BRF, 2016). She loves speaking to groups, running the Woman Alive book club and writing devotional thoughts. Connect with her at amyboucherpye.com.

22nd February

February 22nd, 2017 - Posted & Written by The Editor

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