In addition to finishing up our Kingdom DNA series this past Sunday, I took a few minutes to introduce and invite Vista into the next 40 Days. Often referred to as Lent, the 40 Days is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday (this year on Feb. 18) marks the first day of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (or to Holy Week depending on how you choose to count). Referred to as “forty” in many languages, Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.
What I attempted to convey Sunday (to those who braved the 0º temps!), was that to be the truly selflessly sacrificial people that God calls us to be requires a transformative work of the Spirit. Are we willing to allow the Spirit to work? We cooperate with Him through humility, community and spiritual discipline — an attitude or heart posture that invites the Spirit to work in our soul, a trusting group of fellow believers and a plan to practice. James Bryan Smith puts it this way in one of our recommended readings, The Good and Beautiful Life:
The mind, the disciplines and the community are foundational aspects of change, but the real change agent is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to Jesus, reveals the Father, exposes falsehood, offers correction, and gives us the needed encouragement that make growth and transformation possible. The Spirit helps us change our narratives by leading us into truth, enlightens us as we practice the disciplines, and binds us together in community. If not for the work of the Holy Spirit, transformation simply will not take place. But we must participate in this process. By serious reading and reflection, by practicing the spiritual exercises and by entering into community, we create the condition in which the Spirit can transform our character.
Two common errors riddle the arena of Spiritual disciplines:
- We make our plans too complicated or sophisticated. Remembering the Holy Spirit is the change agent, most of our work is attitudinal. If we simply orient our minds toward God and humble our hearts, then we make great progress. So, during Lent, the addition of one basic discipline like a daily reading, a weekly fast (like skipping lunch every Tuesday), or meal time prayers (with the right attitude) will have a substantial impact.
- We focus on the discipline(s) themselves or their accomplishment. Remembering that the purpose is gradual character transformation keeps us from the pride associated with a “40 Day plan well done.”
So to help keep you focused on the purpose, not the plan, I suggest three simple things: Read a Book; Sign up for a daily Scripture reading; Moderate something like food, soda, TV, gaming, web-surfing, work, a bad habit, etc.
To get you started…
- Visit the 40 Days resources page for helpful resources and ideas that may help you as you take steps.
- In addition to Sunday services and our “40 Days of Discipline” series, walk along the 40 Days with me — Subscribe to my blog by clicking on “Get Gospels Edge delivered by email” at the FeedBurner (alternatives to email are also available). I’ll be posting periodically on spiritual disciplines we’ll cover in the 40 Days of Discipline sermon series, on topics like confession, repentance, prayer, etc. You can share what God is teaching you on social media channels using #vista40days.
- If you’re a parent wanting some ideas and tools for family devotions and discipline cultivation, keep an eye on the Vista Parents Blog and emails from your site’s Kids Community leaders.
Instead of going crazy, keep it simple and be consistent. One way to keep yourself accountable is to draw six small boxes to signify each of the six weeks associated with the 40 Days. At the end of each week, check a box and celebrate whatever occurred, accept the mercy of God for your shortfalls, and turn refreshed toward the coming week!
Know that I and others are praying daily for the transformation of your heart to be more and more like His…