Bible Study, The Book of John, and Lent

A few weeks back I joined a ladies Bible study that meets weekly at an area church. Having been raised in church first as a preacher’s kid and now as a pastor’s wife (going on twelve years!) I freely admit that I was hesitant at best and skeptical at worst. Mainly because through the years I have seen how ladies “Bible studies” can quickly descend into a complaint session about husbands, children and life in general or be an exercise in emotionally manipulative me and Jesus naval gazing.

This BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) has been pleasantly refreshing. Our small group leader is really good at keeping us on track and has shown that albeit gently, she will question positions or thoughts that get shared that may not be very clear. What I have also really enjoyed is the lecture time. The woman who leads that aspect of our weekly time does so in a very non preachy manner and I don’t feel like she is trying to elicit a particular response from me.

All in all it has been really good for me and I am enjoying studying Scripture in a way that I haven’t before. It’s on the book of John (which was the final push for me to join since Rob was beginning a new sermon series on that same book.) The group had already been meeting for a while so I picked up in chapter twelve and I am pleased with how the time line is flowing naturally with the church calendar.

Today we begin a new season on the Church calendar, that of Lent. We’re basically toddlers interacting with this particular time frame. We’re still coming to an understanding of what it is and how we participate in it. As today has drawn closer (Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season) I’ve been spending time considering this time of preparation for Easter. It’s a time that we remember the darkness that the Light came to dispel and how much we needed that Light.

John chapter 13 has been coming to my mind again and again. Two parts in particular. The first is the beautiful imagery we see when Jesus washed the disciples feet.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments…

Up to this point Christ, who has existed in perfect union of fellowship with The Father and the Spirit, would empty Himself and take on the full weight of mankind’s sin and feel the full wrath of God

and taking a towel, tied it around His waist…

He who was perfect and eternal took on flesh.

Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him…

How can one read that and not immediately be reminded of the blood and water pouring from his side as He hung on the cross? How can we not be reminded that we are washed in the water of the Word and then remember that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us?

The other thing that really stands out to me is a conversation Jesus has after telling the disciples that one of them would betray Him.

The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke…So that disciple, leaning back on Jesus, said to Him, Lord, who is it?

They simply had no idea who among them was the betrayer. And this astounds me because Jesus did. He knew what Judas was going to do but He treated Judas just like the other disciples to the point that they had no clue who was going to turn away. They were utterly clueless.

And I realize how quick I am to let my annoyance show over even the slightest offense, real or imagined. How easy it must be for everybody to know when I am upset and why I am upset and who I am upset with.

As the Lenten season begins it is clear just how much I need Good Friday. And how incredibly humbled I am by Resurrection Sunday.

Premeditated Generosity

Several years ago our family, following the leading of our church, began to orient our lives and seasons by the Church calendar. We began to recognize and mark time according to seasons and life of Christ.  It has been a wonderful way to very purposefully create opportunities to reflect and engage in various parts of our faith and the things we confess as believers.

Today, we move into a new season of our liturgical year. For many in our evangelical circles, Lent is mostly viewed as a very high churchy, old fashioned thing done by catholics. It comes on the heels of Fat Tuesday and is a time of some kind of penitence.

But really Lent is a time of preparation for Easter as Advent is for Christmas.  This journey of darkness, this time of reflecting upon our staggering need for grace, for salvation makes our celebration of Easter fuller and more robust. We confront our own lack, our own need, for something more than we can do for ourselves. We cry out knowing that we need a generosity of grace that comes from somewhere else, somewhere outside of ourselves.

For many it becomes a time of giving something up, a time of sacrifice and while this is not necessarily bad the danger is that it can become a morbid introspection with the focus on self. As a church, and within our family, we have never observed Lent as a time to fast. Rob has taught neither against it or for it.

But this year he has issued a challenge of sorts to us all. Basically, over the next forty days we are encouraged to do at least one act of generosity towards someone. Writing a note, preparing a meal, some act of kindness given to someone else, friend or stranger. It’s in doing some thing that requires something from us for the benefit of someone else that we, in a very small inadequate way, are mindful that we needed Someone to do for us something we were and are unable to do for ourselves.

Self denial, whether the giving up of something one enjoys or giving of something for the good of another, is not meant to be an end to itself. It is meant to drive us closer to Christ, to know our own need deeper. It is recognize how big the separation was between God and man, and what He did to bring us into fellowship with His Son.

Pastor Steve Wilkins puts the purpose of Lent this way,

Lent is the “winter-time” of preparation before the “spring-time” of the resurrection. Just as death leads to life, so the cross leads to glory. Lent helps us learn this lesson. It deepens our joy and love for the Savior who has given us eternal life by His willingness to die in our place. And reminds us that when we follow Him, losing our lives for His sake, we will end in joy and blessedness with Him. So here’s the goal of Lent: to see afresh the deep, deep love of Jesus, and by the Spirit to be transformed into His image so that we can follow Him and live to the glory of the Father.