My heart rejoiced when I learned how many families at Stonebriar chose to purposefully celebrate Advent last year. Many of you resurrected it from your own childhood traditions, and many others chose to incorporate it into their lives and homes for the very first time. Just as the darkness of Advent sets the stage and reminds us of our deep need for Light, there is another incredible time we have the opportunity to intentionally focus on what Christ did for us—this time not at His birth, but at His death. Lent, for those who follow a liturgical calendar, is an opportunity to draw near to Christ with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. During this time, parents are yet again presented with ample resources to physically teach our children what sacrifice looks like so on some level they begin to grasp the ultimate sacrifice God made on our behalf.
Things to Note:
*Lent is typically a period of 40 days beginning on Ash Wednesday and culminates on Good Friday. Why 40 days? Jesus spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting before He began His public ministry, and Lent is modeled after this time in the wilderness.
The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And He was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:12-15
*Lent, while often expressed otherwise, should not be about giving up a personal vice in order to attain some sort of heavenly gain. That’s crazy and utterly unbiblical. The gain, sweet friends, is already given. The Gain gave His life because there is nothing we, as sinners, could ever do to be righteous before God. Always, always, always look to God’s Word to remind you of the truth.
We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
*Lent is about recognizing (beyond the surface level) how our sins keep us separated from God. Acknowledging our attraction and draw to the trivial things humbles us to see potential idols that are taking our focus off the Holy things. We can do nothing apart from Christ. Whether it is breaking that cell phone habit or addiction to the gym (yes, that is a real thing!), there are good and bad things that are not God’s desires for us.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
*Lent is about giving God every part of you. It is a time to reflect, to repent, to seek renewal, and to ultimately find restoration and healing in your relationship with the Lord.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Joel 2:12-14
It is so easy to get distracted and treat these upcoming weeks just as all the others on the calendar. Decide to not get distracted. Ask God to help you in your weakness, and He will. It is not about giving something up for the sake of giving something up. It is about physically focusing on the very real torment of our Savior and the very real agony He suffered. Nothing we ever do nor any struggle we ever face will be even a sliver of what our Maker went through on our behalf. But since He desires all of us, let us make it our grandest goal to give Him the best of us! It makes that empty cross on Sunday all the more powerful when we remember the one to which He clung on Good Friday. It was indeed good for us, but it cost a fortune.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-17
I find myself weeping with genuine remorse for how Jesus suffered for my sins and the sins of the world—when I deeply and purposefully acknowledge my sins and ask Him to make me aware of those I may not even recognize. And then, guess what? I celebrate with exceeding and abundant joy that He did not stay on that cross and that His body is not in that tomb. I celebrate that I get to spend eternity pouring out praise to my Maker! Without acknowledging that the cross was not always empty, however, we can very easily skip the weeping that lasts for the night and very easily make the heinous and horrific death of our Savior, Jesus, just another event that happened along the way to His ascension. I ask that you scratch any poor associations you may have with Lent and replace them with the reality that we who are to walk in the Spirit can only do so when we recognize those areas we have not surrendered to God and allowed Him to make new. We have a responsibility to teach our children the full Gospel. There is death, and there is life. You cannot have one without the other. We are made alive in Christ Jesus, but we must die to our flesh daily. What a phenomenal time to focus—as a family—on surrendering, with sincere hearts, to our Creator God. And then, as a family, celebrating that it is indeed finished.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He yielded up His spirit. John 19:30
For links to resources and further materials on Lent and walking through this season as a family, please join our closed Facebook page by clicking HERE.
In Christ Alone,
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.