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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"The Good of Giving Up" (Aaron Damiani)

TITLE: The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent
AUTHOR: Aaron Damiani
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (192 pages).

What is Lent? Why are many Christians so passionate about this season? Why should believers observe the occasion? What is the purpose of fasting and praying during this time? Aren't we all supposed to fast and pray not just for the Lenten season? Aaron Damiani, lead pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago helps us with these questions and more. He begins with a confession of how he began years ago as a novice, and grows not just to like the whole ritual itself, but to share the season as a "springtime for the soul." In this book, he writes in a three part format to show us the good of giving up, and more.

In Part One, he covers his own personal journey from the wilderness of perplexity to the sacred path of intentionality. We are urged to enter the wilderness because the gospel is true; because it prepares our hearts for Easter; and because of how it increases our desire for the Promised Land. After tracing the history of Lent all the way back to the Fourth Century, Damiani affirms the season of Lent as a "school that trains people to live as Christians." It is a great opportunity to train us in Christlikeness. He shares some biblical principles and insights about the need for fasting and becoming satisfied in Christ alone. It is a time of confession. It is a time of hope and anticipation. He addresses some common objections like:

  • Why celebrate Lent if it is not in the Bible?
  • Is asceticism still applicable today?
  • Aren't Lenten practices be works-based righteousness?
  • Should we still practice something that is closely associated with Roman Catholicism?
  • Shouldn't the spiritual practices of Lent be lifelong rather than just for a season?
Part Two covers the specifics of Lenten practices. The author begins with the most difficult part: Fasting. He recommends partial fast for a start, and that we ought to expand our range beyond mere food and eating. Incorporate the weekly fasts with a Sunday feast, with each Sunday seen as a mini-Easter. Most importantly, we are taught to fear spiritual numbness rather than physical discomfort. On prayer, we learn about praying in community, in honesty, in weakness, and also the Jesus Prayer. Other spiritual practices include almsgiving, rituals of confession, and inner disciplines. 

Part Three is about sharing the practices of Lent with others. With children, he suggests four ways to help us lead our family through Lent: Reading; Instructions; Practices; and Sacrificial Living. With children, he stresses the importance of pastors leading by example. This is followed by ideas for outreach, for worship, for preaching, and for discipleship.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional start to the Season of Lent. (Those wanting to know Lent 101 can check out one helpful website here.) This book is a perfect primer for individuals wanting to know the background and history behind the practice of Lent. It is also a mini-catechism with regards to instructions and simple answers to the questions about Lent. Using his own story as an example, many readers would be able to identify with Damiani's experiences. I am glad that he has written this book as a primer for educating and informing those of us who wanted a clear and easy explanation of why Christians celebrate or should keep the practices of Lent. It is not merely some works-based righteousness but an intentional season where we learn to be more Christlike. Some Christians often say the right answer that every day is important to practice Christlikeness. Unfortunately, being human, many people may say the right thing but procrastinate about actually living it out. For people who are practicing the spirit of Lent consistently through the year, good for them. They don't need Lent to carve out a time from their own schedules to practice spirituality. For those of us who have neglected spiritual disciplines for the most part of the year, Lent is a welcome ritual to reinforce what we know in our heads into practice. I suspect for many, this is the case, which is why Lent is a wonderful opportunity to finally say: "Lord, I believe. Help me practice what I believe."

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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