During the season of Lent, Protestant Christians and Catholics are presented with the opportunity to reflect on the sin in the world, the state of our hearts in relation to God, and the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ.
In the Christian tradition, this forty-day period begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with the Easter holiday. Although there is no specific teaching in the Bible regarding fasting before celebrating the resurrection of Christ, the practice is based on Mark 1:13 where Jesus fasted and prayed in the days following His baptism.
For believers, Lent is a sacred time of prayer, soul-searching, repentance, and sacrifice. Many observe the season by making personal vows of abstinence, such as refraining from meat or chocolate, vowing not to gossip, or practicing greater humility. Others may use this time to do things they normally do not, such as serving food at a homeless shelter, gathering canned goods for the food bank, or being more attentive to the elderly.
As you approach the season of Lent, work to decrease the things that detract from your individual faith journey and increase the things that strengthen it. During this sacred time, remember to reflect on your spiritual state, deepen your relationship with Christ, and thank Him for His tremendous sacrifice on the cross.
Below are twenty ideas of what believers can give up for Lent, and twenty ways to do Lent generously.
-Television, or your favorite show
-Gossip or destructive speech
-Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc)
-Selfishness and greed
-Coffee or alcohol
-Animal products (meat, dairy, etc)
-Sweets and desserts
-Volunteer at a homeless shelter
-Donate clothes, food, or money to a local charity
-Visit the elderly at a nursing home
-Make a meal for a friend in need
-Write a handwritten letter to a loved one
-Buy a stranger's groceries or coffee
-Take extra time before bed for prayer and reflection
-Call your far-away friends and family, instead of texting
-Memorize a Bible verse and repeat throughout the day
-Share the Gospel or your testimony with a stranger
As you prepare to celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ, use the next few weeks to focus more on your spiritual needs and less on your physical needs to better reflect on the cost of grace and the triumph of the empty tomb.
Writes Dr. Judd Birdsall of The Review on Faith and International Affairs, "Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas. Lent gets us in the "Easter spirit," and helps us appreciate that Easter is theologically more significant than Christmas-even if contemporary Western culture gets it backward.
Christians don't worship a baby who stayed in a manger. We worship a Savior who died for us and rose again that we might, through him, have victory over sin and death. He is risen, so we can be shriven. The season of Lent focuses our hearts and minds on this wonderful truth."