Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Love Lent

It is a funny thing to love Lent.  Lots of people love Christmas, I know many people whose ancestors called Ireland home will plan St Paddy's Day celebrations a year in advance, and I have neighbors who spend exorbitant amounts of time and money getting ready for Halloween.

"What is there to love about Lent?," you might ask.  For some people, Lent is like 40 burpees at 4:00 am, you feel great when you are done but hated every minute of it.  Other people just don't see the point, "So what if I have to eat an extra serving of fish on Friday. Dr Oz recommends cold water fish twice a week anyway. No biggie."

For me, Lent has turned into 40 days of really trying to hear God.   Seeking His will and the next steps in my relationship with Him become my focus. It probably should be all the time- but it isn't so Lent provides the focus and motivation I need to take things to the next level.    Mardi Gras, which is the day before Lent starts, is typically associated with parties, parades and debauchery.  For me, it is a day to ask God what to give up and what to do.   Usually these are things I should be doing more consistently and intentionally anyway and Lent is a time to put them into practice.

God has used Lent to refine me, lead me into green pastures, restore my soul and show me my absolute need for a Savior.  If I can't not drink soda pop for 40 days- something I don't even like - how in the world could I ever be good enough to merit salvation on my own, and I am reminded how undeserving I am of the gift that God sent His Son to die because of my mistakes.  Lent humbles me and reminds me over and over how much God loves me in spite of my failings.

What I do or don't do for Lent every year varies.  Some years it has been to read the Bible every day, memorize a scripture every day, call a friend to encourage them, write every day or exercise 15 minutes everyday.  Some years, I have given up sweets, reading fiction, biting my nails, drinking soda and this year I have given up reading the Wall Street Journal.

Giving up the Wall Street Journal probably doesn't seem like a big deal but I am a compulsive reader and I LOVE it.  I love the stories and feeling the paper in my hands, I love discovering tidbits of information about other countries, popular icons and new words. Sitting down with the Wall Street Journal sucks me into a vortex of information that I won't come out of for hours.  Bliss.

So I am giving it up.   Just for 40 days, not because it is bad but because God has something better. You see, I have replaced my Journal reading with intentionally praying for healing.   Leading up to Lent, I was reading a book called Authority to Heal by Ken Blue.  It is a fascinating book and has challenged me to expand my views of healing.   The premise of the book is based on verses like Luke 9:2 "Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick." TLB (underlining mine). Basically the author's point is that many Christians feel compelled to share the good news of Jesus Christ but don't feel compelled to pray for healing. However both physical and mental healing were always a part of Jesus' ministry and the ministry of the apostles in the early Church.  This has really challenged me.  I have seen and experienced amazing miracles but I have often prayed for healing and have not seen any evidence of change in my family member's or friend's health.

I have a lot of questions about healing.  I have friends who had kids born with congenital defects. What is healing in that situation? Did God create them needing to be healed or perfect but different?

Is healing in the Bible metaphorical because the Greek word "Sozo" often translated "saved" also means "healed?"  Yet over and over in the Bible, Jesus healed true physical ailments.  I have seen and experienced true physical miracles so I know it isn't just that Jesus saves- he also heals.

I have questions about healing as it relates to death.  Isn't death for a believer the ultimate healing? I have spent over ten years pondering Hezekiah's life and one of the premises of my book is that God healed Hezekiah even though God's will for Hezekiah was for him to die. This was a doozy and I highly recommend my books if you want to know more.

I firmly believe that God numbers our days while we are still in our mother's womb as it is written in Psalm 139:16. I have a friend who gave birth to a baby boy whose life was measured in hours.  My 17 year old friend in High School went to sleep one night and just didn't wake up the next morning. She probably had an undiagnosed heart problem that no one knew about. My neighbor Judy, who I met in seminary classes and had just closed on a property to create a Christian retreat and conference center, died with no warning from an aneurysm.

As much as I have questions, I can't get away from the fact that Jesus sent out his disciples to share the good news of the Kingdom and to heal the sick.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), I believe that just as we should pray for a loved one's salvation we should also pray for their healing.   So that is what I am doing for the next forty days, instead of sitting down with the newspaper, I am setting a five minute timer and consciously praying for friends with chronic health problems.  I am praying for deliverance, break through and healing.  I hope in the next six weeks I will see God's faithfulness to set my friends free and heal them. However, I am absolutely certain in the process of praying for their healing, my love for Him will grow so much greater and my faith will be increased and that is why I love Lent.

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