I'm giving up Charlie Sheen for Lent.
Just kidding, I can't get enough of the guy. What I really plan on doing (with my wife and a few friends) is giving up foods for dinner. We've decided that since the majority of the planet eats rice or beans all the time, we are going to give up everything but rice and beans for dinner. Sure, we are pretty social people so there may be one night a week we eat out with friends - so, six nights a week we will eat rice and/or beans.
I tell you this not to toot my own horn (indeed, I preached about that tonight... my horn, tooting it) but to encourage you to start Lent off right.
Don't just give something up, take something on. http://www.mission2gather.com is a good place to start. Whatever money we don't spend on pricy foods we'll donate to these great causes. You won't know about that though...
Tonight I preached about Secret Sacrifices. (Matt 6:1-16, 16-21) I don't think Ash Wednesday is really about moping around, wallowing in sin, or whipping ourselves into a frenzy.
What it is about is an inward awareness of where we are - developing a contrite and repentant heart - and then using that to both change how we live AND appreciate what Jesus did in Easter all the more.
Christians are unfortunately known for being hypocritical. The fact is that everyone is hypocritical, it's just the Christians who won't admit it. I don't think the solution is to run around the globe doing all kinds of great things so that people will suddenly think Christians are awesome.
What we need is to start living like we want to please God. Giving to God like we care what God thinks. Praying to God, not so others will hear us. Giving to God, not so others will see us. Fasting for God, not so others will think we are so holy.
The standard acts of piety in Jesus' day were prayer, fasting, and giving. They are still standard acts of piety today for a reason - because they work.
Work? Yeah. They work. If you pray, if you fast, if you give, you. will. find. God. And yet, we don't. We contrive amazing excuses to avoid trying to be more like Christ. And when we DO these things we often have the wrong motive, thus depriving ourselves of God's great rewards.
For some, Lent isn't the season leading up to EASTER - it is just a second chance to try again on those new years resolutions. It is going to take more than a few resolutions to become a better person - it is going to have to take a life devoted to God, a death, and then a resurrection. It's coming though.
Don't let your Lenten season pass you by. It is a great 40 days* to draw closer to an amazing God. Pray, fast, and give your way into a godly heart.
Oh, and while you are at it, give up Charlie Sheen. Seriously, tiger blood?
*(Sundays are mini-Easters. You don't have to fast when you are with the bride groom, whoop whoop!)