God freshens creation through the changing of seasons. Here in Central Texas. winter quickly rebirths Spring into landscapes’ colors, enticing hibernating spirits to stretch and see the new thing that God is doing. Our souls, stretched to new breadth and length and height and depth, embrace the presence of the Christ who is with us always and we can find ourselves refreshed, too.
The refreshment does require some effort on our part.
Today begins a season when we Christians are encouraged in our shared effort of living faithfully. The Christian season of Lent starts on this Ash Wednesday. Formalized by the Church in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., Lent has evolved in its observance to engage Christ-followers in spiritual disciplines – intention practices – that help us to nurture our relationship with God. John Wesley, founder of my tribe (The United Methodist Church), called them “means of grace.” I think of these as “holy habits” – good for Lent, and all the time.
Looking up “Lent” in the Bible? You won’t find it (but, remember, there are a lot of things about faith that aren’t in the Bible); however, in Luke’s Gospel (4:1-13), you will find the story of Jesus’ forty-day experience that is the model for this season and highlights some habits that we can develop refresh our spirits:
1 Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. 2 There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. 3 The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
4 Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.”
5 Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. 7 Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
9 The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; 10 for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you 11 and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”
12 Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” 13 After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity. (Luke 4:1-13, CEB)
Here are four holy habits that can help refresh you spirit. For at least the next 40-days:
- Be confident. (vv. 1-2. These references draw you back to the biblical story.)
Enter this season confident that you are being guided by the Holy Spirit. You are not alone in the effort.
[About the devil: Whatever your personal beliefs, let our common ground be an acknowledgment that there is always something in our awareness offering opportunity to exploit what we believe for our own selfishness, and move us away from our consistency in living and loving like Jesus.]
2. Take a time-out from something that fills your life. (vv. 2-4)
Know your cravings; your appetites. Discover in abstaining from something whether or not it feeds your soul (soul = your core identity as a Child of God). If it doesn’t, then why are you choosing to keep it?
3. Keep worship in your schedule and commit to being with the Church. (vv. 5-8)
Don’t rationalize that you can be anywhere else than with other believers for the purpose of glorifying God and it being the same as worship. [Example: “The other 3 in my foursome are Christians, too, and our tee-time is on Sunday morning where we are blessed by the beauty of God’s creation.” You’re not fooling God about golf being more important than God and your soul (soul = your core identity as a Child of God).]
4. Preview, and review, each day’s tasks. (vv. 9-12)
Before your day begins, anticipate where you’ll be tempted to think that God will do something for you that you are fully capable of doing for yourself. At day’s end, review your actions to lean how to distinguish trusting God with what you cannot control, from trying to manipulate God to do for you what you simply don’t want to do.