Making Lent Matter

My first 34 years  of life have been filled with fads. It ain’t no lie that NSYNC (besides Justin Timberlake) has gone bye, bye, bye, but so have other things, such as Oregon Trail, The Real World, Pumps, and Starter Jackets have all been Trumped (is that a fad?). Even things my kids have enjoyed such as High School Musical and Justin Bieber have either gone out or are on their way out. Hopefully skinny jeans will follow suit. (This paragraph might sum up why I watched so much of The Real World on Friday nights instead of being out and about growing up.)

In all of these fads some things have remained. Justin Timberlake is doing well, as is Zack Efron and I’m still a Philadelphia Eagles fan simply because I bought an Eagles Starter Jacket in fifth grade. But what ever happened to John Brennan (TRUE STORY) and my supposed ability to be good at basketball with just a few pumps?

Sadly Lent can be a fad as well. Originally it was designed to be a time of self-discipline and sacrifice as we try to become more like the one that paid the ultimate sacrifice for us. Instead we have turned it into ‘what can I give up that might give me a leg up’?  Chocolate, alcohol, fast food, Facebook, too much phone time and other vises are things we can all limit in our lives, but does this sacrifice draw us closer to God? Does it help us truly take up our cross DAILY and follow after Christ?

Here are some tips to help make this Lent matter and last:

Give Something Up That is TRULY a Stumbling Block

Lent Blog River City United Methodist Church Louisiville KYYes, I know Lent has started, but it isn’t too late to rethink or even add to your discipline. The Apostle Paul in the book of Corinthians challenges us to give up anything that could make our brother or sister stumble. But what about giving up stuff that truly makes us stumble? If I take the time to do a self-inventory, there are things that truly hold me back personally and spiritually. Things that when God points them out I start to squirm in my seat. These are things that I place as more important than Christ and I constantly fall to their temptation. 

Throwing off things that so easily entangle me and keep me from running the race God has for me might be the exact thing I need to give up this Lent. It also may be the hardest thing and usually doing the hardest thing leads to the greatest thing that God has in store for us. The thing that lasts.

Don’t Plan to Return

Sundays of Lent crack me up because we get a break from our discipline. The week after Easter is usually where lives fall apart because people have been so good for those forty days and to reward themselves they go and do whatever the heck they want. The Apostle Paul had some words for this, “Forget what is behind…strain towards what is ahead…Press on towards the goal for which God has called you.” Not just for forty-days but every day!

Does this mean we have to be totally chocolate free for the rest of our lives?  No, but if I run to the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral (TRUE STORY) and stick my head under the flow then I’m more likely to revert back to an unhealthy relationship with chocolate than to continue on the path I’ve started.

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days he didn’t come out and then decide to take a break and fall to temptation. When the Israelites were in the wilderness they didn’t come out with an immediate plan to rebel against what they had learned. Make Lent last by giving up something that makes you stumble and create a plan to stick with it. 

Replace It With Something That Is a Launch Pad

I have to be honest. I hate giving things up for Lent. I’d rather pick up a discipline that I can stick with. Working out, reading my Bible, praying, Sabbath, fasting. You can name it, but the goal is to pick up something that can lead to greater success in your life. Something that if you do for 40 days will bring you God honoring habits that lead to greater success. 

That is why I’ve challenged my church to pick up scripture reading for Lent. (Click here for the reading plan). Diving into God’s Word brings new things to life. Caring for yourself in a better way gives you more energy and allows you to accomplish new things. Replacing our negative activities with one’s that bring new hope and new opportunities launches us into the Easter season.

Place God at the Center of Your Discipline

Lent Blog River City United Methodist Church Louisiville KY“Now to God who is able to do more than we could ask or imagine…”  We serve a God that can take giving up chocolate and turn it into healthy living. We serve a God who can take giving up alcohol and turn it into sobriety. We serve a God who can take picking up scripture reading and turn it into an eternal relationship of closeness and purpose. 

Is God at the center of your Lenten discipline? If not, could you put God there?  Replace whatever hole we have, whatever need we have with the only thing that can truly lead to lasting fulfillment. That is what Lent is about. That is what Good Friday is about. That is what Easter is about and its no FAD…it lasts way beyond forty days.