40 for 40

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent.  Lent is a season of the church year during which we are reminded to give extra focus to repentance and faith.  Lent gives us the opportunity to clear out things that are hindering our life of faith and to add things that would be helpful.

Since the season of Lent is 40 days (Sundays don't count as part of the 40 days, FYI) I wanted to give you 40 different ideas that you could use during this season.  The idea isn't for you to do all 40, but to pick one (or a few).  Of course you don't have to do any of these and you are free to do something else if you would like.  My purpose is to spur on your thinking about such things so that all of us can benefit from the season of lent.

Many of the things listed are not unique to Lent and several should be things we do on a regular basis anyway!

  1. Read Exodus.  It's 40 chapters long, so if you read one chapter per day you'll have read the entire book.  Exodus is a great book for lent too, as the entire account points forward to Jesus!
  2. Study a few of (or all of) the books of the Minor Prophets
  3. Study one of the major prophets
    I suspect that if Christians were asked, "with which part of the Bible are you least familiar?" the answer would be the prophets and it wouldn't be close. The prophets can be challenging, so if you choose to do this, I suggest that you use a good study Bible (The Lutheran Study Bible is what I'd recommend) or a good commentary.  A commentary that is both free and trustworthy is Kretzman's Popular Commentary.
  4. Read Through the New Testament
    If you devote about 30 minutes per day, you can read through the whole New Testament in just 40 days.  Here is a plan that you might follow.
  5. Read Through the Gospels
    You can read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John if you read two chapters per day each of the 40 days plus the 6 Sundays during Lent.
  6. Pray the PsalmsPraying the Psalms is an ancient practice, but something I hadn't heard of until I attended seminary. So if you're not quite sure what it means to pray the Psalms, well you're not alone!
    If you want to learn more, here is a good place to start.
  7. Fast
    Fasting is intentionally choosing not to eat.  This can be helpful in several ways.  I'll name a few here.  First, when you feel hunger pangs it can remind you to pray.  Second, instead of spending time preparing and eating food, you can spend that time reading God's Word or praying.  Third, it reminds us of the truth that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

    If you've never fasted before, start small.  Skip lunch.  Maybe try fasting for one or two days. Also make sure to drink a lot of water!
  8. Pray
    Use Lent as an opportunity to deepen your prayer life!  You might consider using a prayer book, as that helps you to pray for and about things that you might otherwise forget about.  Pray regularly and often so that it becomes a habit that continues after the season of Lent is over!
  9. Visit Shut-in Members of Your Church
    Make some time to visit, pray with, and encourage those members of your church who can't make it to church.  They would love to see you!
  10. Send a Card to a Shut-In Member of Your Church
    If you can't visit, send them a card to encourage them!
  11. Call a Shut-in Member of Your Church
  12. Invite Someone Over for Lunch/Dinner
    Reach out to someone you don't know that well at church and invite them into your home for a meal.  Or do the same with someone in your neighborhood or workplace. This is a way to love your neighbors, get to know them, and build towards opportunities to talk about things of eternal importance.
  13. Pray for Your Pastor
  14. Pray for Your Pastor's Family
  15. Encourage Your Pastor
  16. Encourage Your Pastor's Family
    Lent is a long, busy season for pastors and their families.  Encouragement and prayer are a HUGE help!
  17. Pray for Your Church's Musicians
  18. Encourage Your Church's Musicians
  19. Pray for Your Church's Secretary
  20. Encourage Your Church's Secretary
    Often forgotten is the extra time put in by the church's musicians and secretary.  They will be putting in a lot of extra time and energy during this season and your prayers and encouragement would be a great blessing to them.
  21. Thank those who serve at your church
    Thank those who serve as Elders, ushers, officers, in the kitchen, etc.. Let them know how much you appreciate what they do.
      
  22. Look in the Mirror or the Ten Commandments 
    Consider how you have failed to keep the Ten Commandments, confess to God, and ask Him to help you to do better!
  23. Sing Lenten Hymns
  24. Memorize one (or more) Lenten Hymns
  25. Listen to Lenten Hymns
    The hymns of Lent are powerful, filled with Biblical truth, and wonderful for devotional use.  If you're looking for a playlist of hymns, try this.
  26. Turn off the TV
    Maybe you fast from TV entirely, maybe you limit your consumption, but turning off the television gives you the chance to have more time in prayer, in God's Word, and with your family.
  27. Meditate on God's Word
    Meditation in Christianity is NOT about clearing your mind, but about thinking on God's Word.  Meditation happens when we have heard or read God's Word and then we spend time thinking on it, considering it, asking how it applies to our lives, and praying about it.
  28. Make Sunday Worship a Priority
  29. Make midweek Worship a Priority
    Regularly attending services is a very basic place to start.  If you've been irregular in coming to hear God's Word and receive His gifts, now is the time to change that!
  30. Invite a Friend or Neighbor to Church
    Start praying now for the person or people you'd like to invite, then make it a point at to invite them to a service.  Easter is especially a good time to invite someone to join you!
  31. Give Alms
    We don't talk much about alms these days, but giving specifically to and for those who are in need is a Biblical practice that has always existed in the church.  If you're fasting, or even cutting back on your spending elsewhere, use some or all of the money to help those who are in need.
  32. Take Up Love for Your Neighbor
    Dr. Jeff Gibbs has encouraged Christians not to merely think of Lent as a time of giving something up, but a time of taking up what God would have us do.  He writes, What would it look like if Christians around the world took up during Lent the command to love our neighbors--even our enemies--as ourselves? Two things would happen, at least. First, people would get loved. Second, Christians would see themselves falter, and turn once again to Jesus Christ, the goal of Lent . . . and even more, the goal of Easter.
  33. Have Family Devotions
    Parents have a bigger spiritual impact on their children than anyone else.  If parents spend even a few minutes each day having devotions and praying with their children, they are making a HUGE impact.  If you're not sure where to start, try this.
  34. Memorize Scripture 
    Here are some good verses, that you might not yet know, but are very much worth memorizing.
    Colossians 2:13-14   
    Romans 6:3-5 
    Revelation 1:17-18
    John 20:21-23
  35. Ask Your Neighbors How You Can Pray for Them
  36. Watch "The Prince of Egypt" with Your Children or GrandchildrenThis movie does a pretty good job of showing the account of the Exodus and will help children better understand the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.
  37. Watch "The Gospel of John."
    This is a very well done movie that uses only the words of the Gospel of John.  It is quite long, but you can easily watch it little by little.
  38. Give Thanks to God 
    Take some time each day to name specific things and give thanks to God for them.
  39. Review the Catechism
  40. Remember, "It is Finished!"
    During this season, don't fall into the trap of thinking that doing any of the things on this list are what will give you salvation.  Remember that Jesus has paid the price for sin in full and that anything you do during Lent (or any other time) should be done with the purpose of helping you to trust more and more in Him, not so that you become self-sufficient apart from Christ.   Jesus has already done everything for our salvation!  We remember that and give thanks to God for it, especially during Lent. 

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