Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Cleaning: Reboot

“Can you please elaborate and explain the purpose for Lent? Is it even necessary? If so, for whom and why? Why do people flaunt what they're giving up or beginning to do for the 40 day period? Shouldn't we practice 'being good' or striving to do our best every day, and not just a 40 day period?

When I converted from Catholicism to Christianity many years ago, lent was no longer discussed. (Although I never understood it to begin with.) However, I have noticed a few Bible based churches mentioning 'lent'.

With so many people around me during lunch discussing how they can't eat meat on Friday, or they're giving up 'whatever' for lent, how am I supposed to respond? I really just wanna hit them over the head with a Bible and knock some sense into them!! Sorry, I'm sure there is a better approach.”

To my readers, I want you to know that I am still answering questions ... and still have a few in line, but we have had some medical difficulties.  My daughter fell and broke both feet, then my son had to have a surgery to repair a hole in his abdominal wall, and then I had to have my appendix removed.  I have one more surgery to get through so we are not out of the water yet.  I am not shutting this down nor am I looking for sympathy (but prayer helps!) however since I do have about 150 people reading the posted questions (and their answers) everyday I feel it is appropriate to let you know that we are not going anywhere.  I do encourage you to send in your questions (follow the links at the bottom).  I will continue as promised to answer them with honesty and from a Biblical perspective.  I appreciate all of you who contribute to this ministry, whether you ask, read, and/or comment ... I am very grateful for you.

To business: this was a great group of questions! I will address the different questions as individual questions in order to provide better answers.

The purpose of Lent:
The New Orleans (Gulf Coast) region is well known for its Mardi Gras parties and parades. Every year millions of tourists come to the area to partake in the debauchery (yes, that’s what it is) … yet so very few contemplate what it’s all about. Mardi Gras is the French phrase for “Fat Tuesday.” Mardi Gras is celebrated the day before Lent begins (Ash Wednesday). The basic reason for the beginnings of Mardi Gras was to get the sin out of the system so the good Christians could fast unhindered by the cravings of their flesh (that doesn’t work at all …)

“The [original] purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him.“ (

Two excellent sources for the origins of Lent are as follows:

The short form of its history and evolution is as follows:
· First mentioned by Father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-200)
* This fast only lasted 2 -3 days
· 325AD – Council of Nicea discusses 40 day season of fasting beginning on Quadragesima (Fortieth Sunday)
* Originally assumed for new converts preparing for baptism, eventually consumed entire church
* Observation both strict and serious – one meal per day (evening) no meat, fish, or animal products.
· C.600 – Gregory the Great (c540 – 604) move beginning to Wednesday (later called Ash Wednesday)
* Ash marked on heads symbolic of repentance (sackcloth and ashes).
· Mid 800’s – Lenten practices relaxed. People allowed to eat after 3.
· 1400’s – Food allowed by noon … fish allowed (seafood).
· 1966 – Fast days restricted to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
· Eastern Catholic Churches are still very strict in keeping to the Lenten season.
· To Date – several Evangelical ministries have begun adhering to Lent as a season to be followed in its traditions of fasting and preparing for Easter.
There is, of course, much more to the story … websites listed give a lot of good information about the Lenten Season.

“Is it even necessary? If so, for whom and why?”
I guess that depends on who is asked. The Bible makes it clear that any fasting that is done is to be only at the will of the person fasting. Indoctrinating fasting is Biblically wrong. There were some examples in the Old Testament of fasts called by the leaders … but they were truly seeking the face of God concerning inescapable disasters…and in every account of these fasts there is never one single instance of someone complaining about having to fast. Some examples of fasts:

2 Chron 20:3 – The deliverance of Jehoshaphat
Ezra 8:21 – Seeking God’s direction and instruction for a new beginning
Esther 4:16 – Seeking God’s deliverance through Mordecai
Isaiah 58 – God’s fasting instructions
Jer 36:9
Joel (Chapters 1 and 2)
Jonah 3:5 – Seeking forgiveness of sins and deliverance from punishment

“Why do people flaunt what they're giving up or beginning to do for the 40 day period?”
Jesus said it like this: "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Mat 6:16 – 18).

“People do what they do because they believe what they believe.” (David Rodriguez) Many people who define themselves as Christian of Catholic simply do not know what they are doing or why. They are simply imitating what they have been told. That is why it is vitally important to search and understand. People who announce their fast do so foolishly.

“Shouldn't we practice 'being good' or striving to do our best every day, and not just a 40 day period?”
Yes and no. There is definitely a need for us to be instant in and out of season … but there is good consideration of keeping to personal traditions of fasting seasons for reasons of spiritual discipline and remembrance. I personally believe that the New Year and Easter seasons are also good seasons to press the spiritual discipline of fasting … a vital part of our walk in this world. However, to think that we can act sinfully then partake of some religious festival (regardless of the spiritual implication) is foolish and only hardens us to our sin condition.

Sin is no game … its devices are not toys to play with.

But I think a person can do good to take these times to set aside for fasting and praying in order to prepare themselves.

“With so many people around me during lunch discussing how they can't eat meat on Friday, or they're giving up 'whatever' for lent, how am I supposed to respond?“
I think Rom 14 sums up what we should all do in this type of situation:

Rom 14:5-6
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.”  

I wouldn't worry about it. While this definitely makes for good historical discussions, it is trivial concerning debate… it would serve no good purpose. I, myself, don’t see the need to wear ash on my head or, for that matter, blow through a ram’s horn (a Pentecostal tradition) to feel close to the Lord. That does not mean that those who partake of those traditions are wrong … tradition is only wrong when we try to either justify ourselves through it or judge each other by it. Jesus had traditions…

That's my take anyways ... awesome question.  So what are your thoughts?

Don't be confused.  LEARN STUFF!!!
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  1. Patrick,

    Great article! Filled w/ some wonderful insight.

    However, as a theology student, evangelical Christian, AND member of the Roman Catholic Church, I did want to comment on the phrase "when I converted from Catholicism to Christianity." As one who has had a conversion to Christ in my 20's, I can surely see where you're coming from. Many Catholics today don't *appear* (I say "appear," because who are we to judge?) to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But many, many, do. I apologize if your experience in the Catholic Church was less than Gospel-based, and I completely understand and commend you for following the Spirit's direction in finding a church you can really grow in. But one does not "convert from Catholicism to Christianity." I believe, through NO merit of my own, and certainly through no merit of the leaders & laity of this particular denomination, that the Catholic Church is the original Christian Church. Hence, everything that different denominations have today, including the Bible, come from, ultimately the Holy Spirit of course, but THROUGH the Catholic Church.

    Just my two pennies. I'm not one of those Catholics trying to bring people into the Church (unless they really express an interest & desire). I'm not one of those Catholics pointing the finger at other Christians in disunity (many of our separated brothers & sisters follow the Gospel much, much better than Catholics - myself included). But I am one of those Catholics who loves my faith and has studied it quite extensively. There are very, very good reasons for the practices found within the Catholic Church. It's just too bad people within the Church don't always pursue them with faith, joy, and understanding.

  2. Hey Jon, I appreciate your comments. FYI, I try to never edit the questions sent in, I try to keep every thing as original in content as possible. I am glad you expanded on the Catholism vs Christianity issue ... it unnecessarily and unfortunately runs deep with so many. I agree that there are many Catholics who have received Jesus ... as there are many protestants who haven't.

    I have heard the position of the catholic church being the original church ... that Peter was the first pope. I'm not sure if history agrees with that though. The Catholic Church came into being in the 4th century ... the original church referred to themselves as "The Way." Both the terms "Christian" and "Atheist" were first used to insult those members of The Way. The early church was more similar to Jewish synagogues than anything else.

    I do say that most of what we see familiar in modern evangelical and liturgical churches root from the Catholic Church ... though some of the traditions are different in large ways ... still the basic flow of what we see occur in most churches today roots from the Catholic Liturgy.

    But though Catholic means "world wide" ... seeming to be the first official organization to form ... I still don't see that as the original church. Maybe the first formal denomination ... and if this is just a difference of symantics please let me know.

    I am always curious to the sources of our history. Please do not see me as argumentative, I thoroughly respect your opinions and comments as I do (most - I wish I could say all but some people refuse to recognize the forest though seeing the trees.)

    I have heard many of the protestant denominations refuse to acknowledge their origins as Catholic ... but what was then protested ... and a simple view of history can see that the Catholic Church of the dark ages and during its most brutal history had long since erred from its own origin .. as we see many of the protestant denoms though they are only a juvenile compared to the catholic church.

    Thanks again for the input and I look forward to your response