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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lenten Disciples - Feb 2015

As you may or may not know, Lent is starting up (Ash Wednesday is February 18th) and you know what that means... fasting! Yes! Who doesn't love fasting? OK, so fasting isn't exactly one of those things we get all geared up to do. Some of us avoid it altogether. Fasting is actually a great practice, one that is even encouraged by our Lord (Matthew 6:16-17). Of course it doesn't earn you any sort of grace from God or points on your sanctification score card, but it does help you focus your attention on Christ. And that is really the point, not just of fasting, but of all our practices and disciplines in the Church: to fix our eyes on Jesus. We don't fast during Lent as an excuse to start a diet and lose weight. Rather, we do it to focus our hearts on Christ and His sacrifice.

So, taking up some sort of fast during Lent is wonderful. But, there is no Law that says we must do it, nor is there one that says it is the only way to focus on Christ during Lent. What I thought I would do for this Top Five is offer up five suggestions of other Lenten disciplines to help you fix your eyes on Jesus this Lent.

1) Attend Midweek Services - There is no better practice for the Christian than attending to the Word of God. Period. Gathering around God's Word and sacraments is the very lifeline of the Christian. Midweek Lenten services will tend to be more subdued and melancholy. And beautiful. They serve as a stark reminder of Luther's last words, "We are all beggars." But, as we come to God, begging and repenting, He comes in His Word to journey with us to the cross, where beggar's hands are filled! You really have nothing better to do that night. American Idol is no excuse from hearing God's Word. At best it is a bad excuse. Instead, be sure you join us here at church at 7:30 PM on Wednesday nights The circuit pastors and I will be preaching on "The Parables of Lent" and discussing what we receive from Christ during this season.

2) Technology Fast - OK, I know you can't remove all technology from your life. However, there are some things you can stop doing. For example, I go on a social media fast every year. No Facebook, no Twitter, nuthin'. You could also have phone free days where you don't pick up your cell for a whole day and just focus on being with friends and family. Or, if you are really bold, you can just give up TV for forty days. "But," you say, "what will I do with my left over time?" Try #3...

3) Read a Theology Book - Since you will have fewer screens in your face, you can replace them with a book. Not just any book, but one that will enrich your faith and knowledge of Christ. If you don't read very often, I wouldn't recommend picking up Chemnitz's four volume Examination of the Council of Trent. However, challenge yourself. Read something that will stretch you intellectually and spiritually. I recommend reading the Large Catechism, or anything from/all of the Book of Concord. Last year I read Luther's Great Galatians Commentary. If you want other recommendations, shoot me an email and we'll figure something out: .

4) Pray a Psalm Daily - Every morning when you wake up or at night before you go to bed, read a psalm and make it your prayer. You can do forty of them for each day in Lent or you could do one Psalm for the whole season. For example, try spending time every day in Psalm 119. It is long, so don't try to swallow the whole cow at once. Instead, chew on small bites each day. No matter which Psalm you pick, spend five to ten minutes just meditating on the text, and then pray for the Lord to guide you through your day with His Word in your heart. Hopefully, this becomes a practice you can carry with yourself after Lent has ended.

5) Pray the Litany - This is an idea I took from LCMS President Matt Harrison. The Litany is a beautiful prayer that focuses our hearts, minds, and words on Jesus. So often when we pray we can focus on our own pressing issues. It is a great thing to present all of our pressing issues to God (and His promise to listen is an overwhelming blessing), however, the Litany enables us to pray for many things that might not immediately come to mind. It turns our focus beyond ourselves and bends God's ear over all kinds of issues facing our world. It is in the Lutheran Service Book on page 288-289.

Pastor Bob

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