Lent. Growing up, lent meant I gave up broccoli, onions, and fish. That was my huge sacrifice for the season. Bad, I know!
If I can be honest with you, I actually am not a fan of giving up something during lent, because I feel like it makes lent more about me and how much discipline I have than remembering Jesus. Like I am performing for God, saying “Look at me and what I’m giving up!” Religion has a sneaky way of turning the focus onto self rather than Jesus. I think we need to be careful of exalting our own goodness and self-discipline over the reason for the season.
Instead of giving something up, let’s celebrate in remembrance of the life of Jesus, and all He has done for us. We want all of our doings to draw us closer to Him, closer to His heart. We want to be compelled by love, and not by a compulsion of “I have to do for God to see me as good.” We want to become more like Him in our lives. So what does that mean for us? What does that look like at lent?
Let’s go on a negativity fast.
I have heard Bill Johnson challenge his church to go on a negativity fast, and I saw a friend post (Thanks Hillary!) a similar “challenge.” Tomorrow marks the first of forty days of Jesus fasting in the desert, and many people deny themselves something for the season of lent.
But is that something we give up adding value to our life? Is it pointing us back to Jesus, or is it pointing to something or someone else? Why are we doing what we’re doing?
When I first heard Bill J. say he encourages his people to fast from negativity, it marked my heart, and I wrote it down in my little notebook. So when I saw the post yesterday, I thought, “This is it! I’m in!” This is absolutely something worth giving up. This is something that will compel me to rely on Papa God just like Jesus did in the desert. And just as Jesus came out of the desert filled with the Holy Spirit and power, this will propel us from His love into our individual worlds to influence and give a breath of fresh air. This fast will help us remember how much we truly have for which to be grateful!
Are you in? Will you take a season and fast from negativity? You don’t even have to do lent to benefit from this. This will bless ALL who take part. Maybe it will change inner attitudes and functions to where there will be lasting change! Maybe family and relational dynamics will strengthen and improve, all because you’ve chosen to be the catalyst for a great change. Maybe it will draw people toward you instead of away. I remember growing up, we had this system of having to put a quarter in a jar when we CCC’d. CCC stands for criticize, condemn or complain. At first, I lost a lot of money, but eventually it did change my heart. Negativity must be displaced by beauty, by gratitude, and by the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s what my friend wrote. It is just beautiful. I would cite her, but she said this author is anonymous. With God, this is 100% possible.
FAST from judging others, FEAST on the goodness within them.
FAST from from harsh words, FEAST on words that build up others.
FAST from discontent, FEAST on gratitude.
FAST from anger, FEAST on patience.
FAST from pessimism, FEAST on optimism.
FAST from worry, FEAST on God’s care. (Trust, faith, etc.)
FAST from complaining and criticizing, FEAST on appreciation.
FAST from bitterness, FEAST on forgiveness.
FAST from self-concern and self-focus, FEAST on compassion for others.
FAST from facts that depress, FEAST on facts that uplift.
FAST from suspicion, FEAST on truth.
FAST from thoughts that weaken, FEAST on promises that inspire.
FAST from idle gossip, FEAST on silence with a purpose.
Isn’t that gorgeous?! I absolutely love this set of statements! I don’t know about you, but a couple of those hit me square in the eyes. Are you in?
Proverbs 18:21 says we will eat the fruit of our lips. The power of the tongue brings LIFE! So why not sow delicious seed for our mouth (and for all who hear) to feast upon?
For the next 40 days, let’s practice Ephesians 4:29:
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
When that negative reaction starts to bubble up, or when we get squeezed by a circumstance, pray that God shows you how to respond in love. This is how we remember Jesus. Focus on His life shining through our words. Let His words from our lips wrap people up in love. Let all we do be done in edification. Life can be tough, and we need more of this type of person! If you end up criticizing or falling in some way, just get back up, apologize and try again! It is a journey. And it’s only 40 days. 😉
Love you guys! Be a blessing and bring life wherever you go, and don’t forget to put on your game face, because tomorrow begins the FEAST!