Take a guess: What was the 7th most searched topic on Google by Kiwis last year?
Drum roll please. . . "Lent". Surprising? I thought so too, but in a pleasant way. I find this statistic quite encouraging, because it demonstrates that New Zealanders show a keen interest in spiritual matters, even if it's shrouded by the anonymity of cyberspace. It has been said on many occasions that New Zealand is rated the most secular English-speaking country in the developed world. Though I see some evidence of this in my daily life and ministry, I also see something else: The God who is working through his people to change that reality.
The Lenten season is a 40 day period of time in the Christian calendar, beginning with Ash Wednesday, when Christians prepare their hearts to celebrate Easter and to a small degree, deny themselves and participate in the sufferings of Christ. It is often characterized by repentance, fasting and prayer. As a child growing up, I had always assumed that Lent was only observed by the Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican churches and was merely a ritual that didn't apply to me. That has changed.
Though Lent is not actually a biblical holiday or feast, it does reflect the biblical principles of selflessness, mourning for our sin, prayer and fasting. Within many Protestant churches the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in observing Lent. Many people choose to fast things like candy or coffee, TV or meat, while others take a more creative approach and fast things like facebook or e-mail, etc.
One purpose of the fast is to turn our attention to the Lord and place ourselves in a posture of need and humility before him. Fasting something that you normally rely upon each day can quickly turn your mind to your need for God, especially when it comes to food! He he!
This year I have made the commitment to give back to God something very dear to me and necessary for daily life: sleep! I enjoy mornings and the freshness of life that they bring, but I also enjoy sleep, especially when the air is cold, the bed is warm, and the rest of the world is slumbering away. So, for the next 40 days I have set my alarm clock earlier an extra 30 minutes to allow for additional time in early morning scripture and prayer. I approach this season with an excited dread, if that is even possible:
Dead for the struggle of rising earlier than normal; excitement in knowing that God will someday honour this gift that I give to Him and teach me something special during this time.
What about you? Is 2013 the year that you make the plunge and seek the Lord in a more intentional way and find that He rewards far beyond your wildest dreams?