On Lent – The Six-Week Full-Life Challenge – March 1
Lent in the Christian tradition has always been a time to slow down from our typical rhythms of life, to pause and remember who God is and who He is calling us to be. This Lenten season we are going to look at Jesus’ steps toward His death, and resurrection that culminated in His gift of full life for each of us.
During the next six weeks of lent, we would love you to journey with us toward the celebration of that gift on Easter. We would like to set aside time each week to learn a new exercise that helps us to more fully experience life in Christ; simple changes that have a big impact once we have added them to our week. Each week we will present you with an additional challenge to give something up and a new suggestion for ways to connect more deeply with Jesus.
We will start small, with just ten minutes out of a week. We will build together on that each week, asking you to give up an additional 10 minutes of screen time with each new exercise.
The screen time you give up can be ten minutes of TV or video streaming, ten minutes of social media time, gaming, emailing, texting or messaging etc. You can spread it across different platforms and media – the choice will be yours. If screen time is not your issue, think about ways you find to fill your time that you can give up to pursue more time with God.
Remember that each 10 minute exercise can be done on different days. For example you could start with the first week’s exercise of prayer, on Wednesday and then do the next’s weeks added exercise of mediation on Thursday etc. Or if you want you can do it all at once. Create the pattern that works best for you.
By the end of the Lenten series you will have gained 60 minutes during your week of time fully dedicated to thinking, loving and serving more like Jesus.
Week 1 (March 8) – Prayer
Challenge: Give up 10 minutes of screen time
Because it’s our first week taking this Lenten journey together, we want to keep things really simple. We are asking you to give up 10 minutes of screen time this week and replace it with 10 minutes of the new exercise of the week: prayer.
You might pray already, before meals, before bed or even purposely set aside time each day. This week we are asking you to add to that, to spend a few more minutes in focused prayer – with some guidance.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He gave them the Lord’s Prayer. It can be found in two places in the Bible, in Matthew 6:1-5 and Luke 11:2-4. Each section of the prayer focuses on a different reason to pray. The first is to glorify God and acknowledge His power and goodness (hallowed be your name). The second is to ask God to make things on earth better (your kingdom come). The third is remind ourselves that we rely on Him for even basic things (gives each day our daily bread). The fourth is to ask for forgiveness for the things we have done wrong and to ask Him for help in forgiving others (forgive us our sins). Finally, the last part is to ask God to keep us close to Him.
New Exercise (10 Minutes): Prayer
When you take 10 minutes to pray this week – follow this outline. Spend two minutes focused each part: praising God, asking for help, thanking Him for meeting your basic needs and then asking for forgiveness and then for His continued guidance for the rest of your week and as you get ready for next week’s challenge!
Week 2 (March 15) – Repentance
Challenge: Give up 20 minutes of screen time
Previous exercise to continue this week (Total 10 min): Prayer (take 10 minutes to pray using the Lord’s prayer)
We are going to build on last week’s Lenten challenge and add another spiritual exercise. This week we are asking you to give up a total of 20 minutes of screen time and replace it with 10 minutes of prayer (see week one), and 10 minutes of mediation.
Our theme for this week is actually repentance. When the Bible tells us to “repent” the Hebrew word the idea comes from means to “turn from.” And in order to turn from something we have to know which direction we are currently headed. That is why our exercise is for this week is mediation. When you meditate on God’s word, read the Bible and spend time thinking about what you read, you begin to understand more clearly how God is asking you to apply it to your life. It helps you see the things you need to change, the activities and actions you need to “turn from” in order to experience full life in Him.
New Exercise (10 minutes): Meditation
This week take 10 minutes to read Luke 15:1-7. If you can, use an app/search engine like www.Biblegateway.com to read a few different versions of it, pausing between each reading to pray and ask God to help you see how to apply it to your life. If you are more comfortable just re-reading the text from you own Bible that is okay too, but don’t forget to pray in between!
Week 3 (March 22) – Penance
Challenge: Give up 30 minutes of screen time
Previous exercises to continue this week (Total: 20 min) : Prayer 10 min. (take ten minutes to pray using the Lord’s prayer), Meditation 10 min. on a new passage (read Luke 15:8-10 and follow the same pattern you used for meditating on the new passage)
Penance is the “outward expression of repentance.” We talked about the meaning of repentance last week and the idea of “turning from” our prior behavior. Penance means showing others that desire through your actions. And there is no better to show someone that you want to do things differently than by going out of your way to serve them.
So, serving is our exercise for the week. Jesus example for serving was washing the disciples feet. He literally got up as the honor guest at a party, took off his outer robe and got down on his hands and knees and washed twelve sets of dirty, smelly feet. And He told the disciples that His actions are just a glimpse of what He was going to do in the future. That it was a gesture of love, and that no greater love could anyone show than “to lay down their life for a friend.” He would lay His life down on Easter so that they would live – and that we might live as well and have a full life through Him beginning right here and right now.
New Exercise (10 min): Serving
In addition to praying and meditating on a new passage, take 10 minutes this week to serve someone. Help out around the house unasked, offer to do an extra project at work or help a neighbor with a project. Find way to do something for someone that shows her or him that you value them.
Week 4 (March 29) – Giving
Challenge: Give up 40 minutes of screen time this week
Previous exercise to continue (Total 30 minutes): Prayer 10 min., Meditation 10 min. on a new passage (read Luke 15:11-24 and follow the same pattern you used for meditating on the new passage), Serving 10 min. (chose a new person to serve this week)
We are going to build on last week’s Lenten challenge and add another spiritual exercise. This week we are asking you to give up a total of 40 minutes of screen time and replace it with 10 minutes of prayer (see week one), 10 minutes of mediation, 10 minutes of serving and 10 minutes of giving. Remember, this is a challenge for the entire week; you do not have to do it all at once. Spreading it out over a couple of days creates just as big an impact and makes the changes feel easier.
This week’s theme is giving, and we are going to focus on giving monetarily. Caring for the poor, giving money or goods to those in need, is mentioned almost more than any other act of obedience to God in the Bible. Often when you hear about giving discussed within the church it is talked about as a requirement or an obligation. But the passages where it is mentioned never talk about it in that way. It is a gift to God. It is an investment in His kingdom. It is also a statement of faith. God always says, “trust me in this,” give generously and see what I will do through you and for you.
New Exercise: Giving
In addition to praying, reading and meditating on the new Luke passage and serving someone new this week, take ten minutes and figure out how you can more generously invest in what God is doing through Christ Memorial or through another ministry you are passionate about – and then give generously and watch what God will do with it.
Week 5 (April 5) – Atonement
Challenge: Give up 50 minutes of screen time this week
Previous exercise to continue (Total 30 minutes): Prayer 10 min., Meditation 10 min. on a new passage (read Luke 15:25-32 and follow the same pattern you used for meditating on the new passage), Serving 10 min. (chose a new person to serve this week), Giving 10 min. (research an additional new ministry and then donate generously)
We are going to build on last week’s Lenten challenge and add another spiritual exercise. This week we are asking you to give up a total of 50 minutes of screen time and replace it with 10 minutes of prayer (see week one), 10 minutes of mediation, 10 minutes of serving, 10 minutes of giving and we are going to add 10 minutes of solitude.
Atonement is a really big word. The dictionary defines it as “the satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends” (dictionary.com). Theologically speaking it refers to the reconciliation of God and humankind, accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those are a lot of big words that simply mean: Make it right. Jesus’ death on the cross makes us right with God when we believe in Him. It reconnects us to God and makes it possible us to have a real relationship with Him.
This week instead of adding more activity, we want to take some time to simply “be” with God. We are going to practice solitude. Solitude may sound scary, but really its just taking time to be alone and connect with God, without distraction or obligation. Jesus did this often throughout scripture, heading into the hills or to a quiet spot where He could be alone with God.
New Exercise: Solitude.
In addition to praying, reading and meditating on the new Luke passage and serving someone new this week and donating to another new charity, take ten minutes and find a quiet spot of your own, without your phone and without other people around. It can be as simple as closing your bedroom door or stepping outside at work. Use those ten minutes to think about God’s love for you and His sacrifice of His son on the cross. If it helps, read John 3:16 before you start.
Week 6 (April 12) – Self-Denial
Challenge: Give up 60 minutes of screen time this week
Previous exercise to continue (Total 30 minutes): Prayer 10 min., Meditation 10 min. on a new passage (read Luke 15:10-21 and follow the same pattern you used for meditating on the previous passages), Serving 10 min. (chose a new person to serve this week), Giving 10 min. (research an additional new ministry and then donate generously), and Solitude 10 min. (focus this week on Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for your life)
In this final week, we are going to build on last week’s Lenten challenge and add another spiritual exercise. This week we are asking you to give up a total of 60 minutes of screen time and replace it with 10 minutes of prayer (see week one), 10 minutes of mediation, 10 minutes of serving, 10 minutes of giving, 10 minutes of solitude and 10 minutes of celebration. When you have completed it you will have added an entire hour of new practices to your weekly routine.
Celebration may seem like a very strange practice for a week with the theme of self-denial. There are two reasons we chose it. First, this weekend we are celebrating Jesus’ incredible act of self-denial when He died for us on the cross. We are also celebrating the gift of full life He gave us through that act. Second, when you have completed this week’s practice you will also have given up, fasted from, three and a half hours of total screen time and replaced it with life giving practices. That is truly something to celebrate.
But what is the practice of celebration? Luke 15 gives us a great picture of celebration. The shepherd calls his friends together to celebrate finding the missing sheep. The woman invites her neighbors in to celebrate finding her missing coin. The father throws a party, puts on a spread and turns up the music when his son returns home. When his eldest son comes back from the fields, he knows there is a celebration going on before he reaches the house.
These stories are a picture of the way God reacts when we decide to follow Jesus. God celebrates unabashedly when we return to Him.
New Exercise: Celebration.
This week find a way to celebrate Jesus’ gift of life this week. Celebrate the fact that He made is possible for us to be back in relationship with God: to experience full life through Him. In addition to praying, meditating, serving, giving and practicing solitude this week – take 10 minutes this week to celebrate. Plan a dinner with friends or backyard barbeque to celebrate Easter. Buy a cake or other family favorite and enjoy it while sharing the story of Jesus’ resurrection with your kids. Go out of your way to invite someone to CMC’s Easter service. Find a way to share the joy you have found in following Jesus and invite others into your celebration!