Friday, March 7, 2014

Lent Day Three: FAST

As I mentioned in my two earlier posts, Lent is the period of forty days (plus the Sundays in between) before Easter that is characterized by prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial. Sometimes these things can be done in a manner that is hollow. My goal for us is that we use this time together to be formed and to grow into more spiritually mature people. My goal is for us to learn together new ways of following Jesus and to discover the difference that following Him makes.

I’m excited about this journey and am looking forward to being transformed “from glory to glory’ (as the apostle Paul described it) with you…

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we would be focusing on what Scot McKnight refers to as “The Jesus Creed,” and what Mark Batterson refers to a “Primal Christianity.” I will refer to the verses below as the “Jesus Creed,” the “Primo Credo” (in an attempt to coalesce the thoughts of McKnight and Batterson), and also the SHEMA:

Today’s Verse:

Hear, O Israel:
the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.
~Mark 12:29-31

Lent is often thought of as a time of “giving up”(fasting).

This tradition stretches past the beginnings of Christianity to the Jewish faith itself. But at Lent, there is another (less utilized) practice, known as “taking on” wherein a person begins to something they didn’t do before (it’s the opposite of giving up).

Now before you get any silly ideas about taking on eating chocolate three meals a day or any other such thing- this practice is intended to be utilized in order to discipline ourselves toward doing something good (that we normally would not do) for ourselves, others, and God.

This Lent, I suggest we “take on” the task of reciting the Primo Credo...
 in the morning upon rising and at night upon retiring (at least).
As we take on this task, we will still end up “fasting” something.
We will be fasting spiritual sloppiness.
We will be abstaining from complacency.

Get it?

The righteous Jews of Jesus’ day (and Jesus was a righteous Jew) did this. What they recited was known as the SHEMA (that means “hear” in Hebrew) and it is the same as above, minus the last two lines. You can find the SHEMA in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. The last two lines come from the book of Leviticus (and other places in the Old Testament, too). It is stressed quite often by God that the Hebrew people were to be a hospitable people who loved the “alien and the stranger”. Jesus co-mingled the two thoughts (loving God and loving others) and told those who asked Him what was the "Greatest Commandment" that all the laws that God had given man could be categorized as falling under one of these two thoughts.

Since we are making a point of setting ourselves apart for the next 30-some-odd in order that God might reveal Himself to us and grow us toward Himself, I think it makes sense that we recite these verses and meditate on them in the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

As we begin talking about “taking on” a practice, we must first and foremost be clear in our minds as to our intentions. We do not practice spiritual disciplines with the goal of impressing God, or even with the goal of somehow making ourselves more holy or righteous. The Latin word “disciple” means "student" and it is the word from which we derive both words- “discipline” and “disciple.” Hence, when we practice a discipline such a s fasting, or "taking on," we cause our  bodies, minds, hearts and souls away from the unintentional, and impose upon ourselves a studious attitude. In other words, we choose to focus our actions, thoughts…our very lives on God in order to learn from Him, and to be changed and formed by Him. In the words of a very wise man:

 “Work to become, not to acquire.” ~Confucius.

And so it is with soul work, to…We do it to, by His grace, become like Him, but we don’t do it to acquire salvation or acquire His adulation. So to sum this up: our efforts with regard to spiritual disciplines, at Lent or any other time, to not earn us salvation, they force us to grow. Dallas Willard puts it this way:

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it's opposed to earning.”

The effort of reciting the SHEMA does this for us in many ways-but only if we recite it intentionally and not just in wrote fashion. It is the word of God, and because the Word of God is “living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12)-as we say it, think it, and contemplate it takes on a life of its own and burrows down into the deepest part of us and it begins to “form” us. We become students (disciples) to the lessons that the Word wants to teach us.

And so we listen to and learn our lessons….



Come I this day to the Father,
Come I this day to the Son,
Come I to the Holy Spirit,
Come I to the Three in One.

God, and Spirit, and Jesus,
Come I Every Morning,
Come I Every Night…
Come I with my heart,
Come I with my soul,
Come I with my mind;
Come I with my might.

©Tracy B. Dickerson, 2010

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