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lenten challenge 2021

The idea behind giving up something for Lent is based on Luke 9:23,  
“Then Jesus said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” The 40 days reflect the time that Jesus fasted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2).

Lent begins at dusk on Wednesday, February 17 (known as Ash Wednesday),
and ends at dusk on Saturday, April 3.

Lent is the long-standing tradition of many churches to practice self-denial or self-control for forty days between Ash Wednesday (February 17th this year) leading up to Easter Sunday (excluding Sundays). This year the dates are February 17 through April 3. It’s commemorative of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. Wikipedia notes:
“In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the account of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days; this is known as one's Lenten sacrifice. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God.”

This year, we wanted to help everyone engage this practice with a challenge ... actually a series of challenges. The year 2021 is—after all—a reset year for many of us. During 2020, we gave up many of our freedoms, luxuries, and habits of everyday life. AND most of us picked some not-so-good new ones.

This leads us to the 2021 Lenten Challenge. While two of our challenges cover the entire stretch and may be enough for you, the other seven challenges are one-week challenges rotating through many of the difficult “issues” our culture is dealing with post-2020. While self-denial may not be considered “fun” ... it’s our hope this 2021 challenge will be wholesome and beneficial.

40 for 40 (February 17 - April 3)

We extend a couple of challenges for you that will span the full Lent Season, from Wednesday, February 17 through Tuesday, April 3.  

Ash Wednesday + Devotions

Care Pastor Bill Lawrence will kick off Lent hosting two Ash Wednesday services in the Student Center (12:00 noon and 7:00 pm). Feel free to attend either service. He will also begin a series of daily devotionals that will run through Easter. You can subscribe to his daily devotional list here

Get rid of 40 things for 40 days

One popular challenge is to give up or get rid of something on each day of Lent you don’t need. This is like Spring-cleaning with a spiritual twist. Think of purging yourself of the junk you’ve accumulated. It may need to go in the trash or be given to a charity (or even a neighbor). Enjoy the freedom that comes with minimizing each day.

Week-Specific Challenges

Here are some ideas for you to consider for each week during the season of Lent.

Feb. 17-20

Stop the Binge

Binge-watching, binge-eating, binge-reading, binge-everything has consumed many of us during 2020 as we’ve taken consuming to a whole new level. Some have binged TV shows. Others have consumed the news. A good number of people have binged chocolate. Still others have put on weight binging on consumables. Also of concern are those who have been binge-drinking. Whatever you have been binging on, give it up for four days to kick-off Lent 2021. After the four days, ask yourself this question: Would life be better without the binge? If so, you can develop a new healthy habit of moderation in all things.

Feb. 22-27

No Eating after 8:00 PM

Admittedly, this is just a healthy challenge. Our bodies aren’t designed to eat around the clock. The reason breakfast has it’s name is to indicate we are “breaking our fast.” For this challenge, simply give up any eating after 8:00 p.m. You may discover this simple practice lightens your load, increases the quality of sleep, and helps you wake up with a healthier energy level. As always, if you have medical conditions like diabetes, please consult your doctor or continue the best medical advice. For the rest of us, giving up the late evening snacks will be a very good thing. Let your late-night food this week be food for your soul after 8:00 p.m. Perhaps you could add a short reading before bed, instead of that quick cup of ice-cream.

Mar. 1-6

Creature Comforts

This one is going to take a little self-examination on your part. Creature comforts are very personally determined. Webster Dictionary defines creature comforts this way: “something (such as food, warmth, or special accommodations) that gives bodily comfort”. For one, it might be a daily stop by Starbucks. For another, it might be a special chair. During 2020, many of us added creature-comfort-delivered-to-my-door-favorite-foods. During this week’s challenge, identify one personalized creature-comfort and sacrifice it for the week. In its place, seek spiritual comfort in Christ.

Mar. 8-13

Ditch your Device
after Dinner

Possibly the most straightforward and difficult Lenten Challenge is this one: After dinner, no devices consuming your time. Actually be with the people in the room while you’re in the room with people. Some may have to reschedule dinner to a very late hour because of device withdrawal symptoms (moodiness, convulsions, sporadic conniption fits, etc.). Trust on this one: It’ll be good for all. One exception for this challenge: If you’re using your device to connect meaningfully with people, that's commendable. After all, many of our singles use their devices for connectivity. We want to challenge you, however, to consider “connection” as more than Facebook, Instagram, etc. Use your device for an actual conversation. Use some of your newly found time to invest in a conversation with God. 

Mar. 15-20

Trade Watching for Walking

Watching shows and movies on our devices and televisions has skyrocketed. In 2007, Netflix had 7.5 million subscribers. Today there are more than 203 million and counting. An estimated 34 million new subscribers were added in 2020 (16 million during the first two months of COVID quarantine). Yikes! Viewing went up virtually everywhere. News organizations, network shows, even the first “no fans allowed” golf competition set all time viewing records. So ... we’re watching too much, too often. This week we lose an hour of sleep, but gain an hour of sunlight in the evenings. Our challenge to you is this: Trade watching for walking. Get outside and walk. Wave at your neighbors. Give your dog some exercise.

Mar. 22-27

Sacrifice Self-Inflicted Victimization

Let’s face it, many people come out of 2020 feeling victimized. Everyone has lost in 2020. It may have been a simple freedom, a political hope, a truth that wasn’t so true, a loved one, a celebration, a family gathering...we all experienced loss. As people lost, many came to view themselves as victims. Victims of disease. Victims of regulatory guidelines. Victims of...you fill in the blank. In many ways, we’ve forgotten the power of “counting our blessings” and focusing only on the negatives (and there have been many). For one week, let’s see how it feels to give this self-victimization up (how we view ourselves) and move forward in faith. You might want to concentrate on this one thought from scripture, “...for by Jesus’ wounds, we have been healed.”

Mar. 29 - Apr. 3

No Politics
through Passover

Easter Sunday is coming. Many people will make this their first return to worship services in about a year. This Sunday also marks more than a year of cancelled or limited worship around our nation. During 2020, our nation experienced one of the most politically divided years historically. Many of those wounds are deep. Those wounds ... and those political opinions ... will need to be set aside in order for us to take up valuable relationships we’ve been quarantined from. Some political posts have created deep relational rifts between Christians who’ve loved each other for decades. As we come back together—united in Christ—we need to make sure only Jesus sits on the throne of our hearts and calls us to unity. For this week, bridle your tongue politically as you prepare for Passover, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

Lent can be fun, as well as a challenge.
It is a great time to try to do something to better yourself, your spirit and your heart for 40 days.

You could even invite someone to participate with you.

If you decide to go for it, what will YOU give up for Lent?