Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
“So-o-o,” my friend asked, “What did you give up for Lent this year? I gave up coffee.” “Well,” I answered. “I had thought about giving coffee up, but after the folks at my last church passed a resolution forbidding me to ever do that again, I decided to give up working… No, just kidding!”
Lent is the forty day period prior to Easter. The word comes from the Middle English and means “springtime” – it literally refers to the lengthening days of spring. Lent is a time when we ask God, “How can I love you better?” It is a time for repentance, when we look at our lives and admit that we are sinners. It is “housekeeping for the soul” where we clear out the sin in our lives to receive God’s gift. Traditionally, Christians “give up” (fast from) something during the season of Lent. The act serves as both a discipline of self-denial and a reminder of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.
Unfortunately, the Lenten discipline has lost much of its meaning in the contemporary church. “Giving up” something for Lent has become the equivalent of Spring-time New Year’s Resolutions that we never mean to keep. Giving up chocolate, soft drinks, cussing, smoking, television, the Internet and – gasp – Facebook, to often sounds like self-improvement projects rather than spiritual disciplines.
While there’s nothing wrong with these resolutions, and I believe they can help draw us closer to God, they often serve as pale imitations to the deeper disciplines of Christian discipleship. What Christ is really concerned about is what is in your heart. I would invite you to consider a twofold question about Lenten Disciplines: “What will you give up this Lent?” And the companion question is: “What will you take up?” Pairing the disciplines of “giving up” and “taking up” can transform our Lenten journey. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
Give Up Take Up
Chocolate/Sweets Kindness to others
Facebook Face time with God in prayer
Fast food Donate the money to a shelter
Gossip Building others up
Surfing the Internet Reading the Bible
TV Time with family
(“Give Up/Take Up” in part courtesy of Dr. Bill Burch)
Prayer: Dear Lord, as we draw closer to the cross of Good Friday, give to us an awareness of our sin. By fasting from certain things, we practice denying ourselves and put our focus on Jesus. May all we do help us grow into the people you desire us to be. In Jesus name. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee