Wednesday, February 5, 2014

40 Day Challenge Week Three

I hope that by now you have begun to assimilate the idea that fasting is an important discipline in the life of a believer. To assimilate a concept, or to make it part of who we are, we must do two things. First, we must fully embrace it in thought, "I agree with the idea." Second, we must fully act on it, "I change the way I live." Fasting is relevant to the life and faith of a believer. It is important to God. It is important that you do it and it is perhaps more important how you do it for the right reasons.

Matthew records a time when Jesus taught about fasting, among other things important for his followers to know. In Matthew 6:16-17 we read "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

In Luke 18:9-14 we read, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: "God I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.'"

Avoid these potential negatives of fasting: spiritual pride and boasting. In the coming weeks we will look at some of the reasons believers fasted and prayed, seeking God's mercy. In no case is the purpose of fasting meant to gain God's approval for our own good behavior or to make ourselves superior to those around us. After all, we are justified by Christ! How often do you drive around hoping a cop will pull you over and thank you for using your turn signal properly?

Fast and pray, remembering those who have yet to receive God's mercy. Pray for revival in ourselves and our communities.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

40 Day Challenge Week Two

How is your fasting going? Last week we issues a challenge, a call to the congregation, to begin a time of fasting and prayer. We reviewed the basics of fasting. We suggested that it is more than just an important thing to do and that, in fact, it is something we all ought to do as believers in Christ and as worshipers of the one true God. Let us dig into that a bit more!

Scripture reveals that there are a number of reasons for fasting. But aside from what can be accomplished through this discipline, the simple case for fasting is that it was modeled for us. Jesus fasted! At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was baptized. "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." (Luke 4:1-2) Luke later tells us in verse 14, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit..." We could spend time exploring way he fasted and what his goals were, but the simple fact is that at a critical time in his life Jesus fasted, and he was empowered by God as a result.

The disciples of Jesus also fasted! Acts 13:1-3 reveals to us that the Holy Spirit revealed himself to the believers at the church in Antioch. "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" This passage does not lay out a doctrine on fasting along with all the necessary rules to follow. It simply notes that this is what the believers were doing... because that is what believers did! We should do as well.

Earlier we used the term "discipline." This term is used to describe an ordinary pattern of behavior. Fasting is a discipline. If it is to be a "pattern of behavior" then it needs to happen regularly. As we make our attempt at fasting, celebrate each successful fast, no matter how small, as your best effort to honor the Lord. As with every discipline, practice is required to strengthen your ability and your resolve. Remember to pray for those on our prayer list and in your own circle of influence who do not know the Lord. Pray, pray, pray!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

40 Day Challenge Week One

Fasting is the deliberate act of abstaining from food, and perhaps drink, for spiritual purposes. It is clear from Scripture that fasting was a spiritual discipline that God's followers were supposed to engage in. There are a number of reasons we should fast, but one thing is clear about fasting. Fasting is powerful. Humbling ourselves before God through fasting and prayer moves the heart of God. It moves God's heart for the benefit of the believer, for the benefit of God's people, and for the benefit of the world. We should be highly motivated to make fasting, with prayer, a regular part of our spiritual lives.

How do you fast? It's simple. Stop eating. Okay, there is a little more to it than that. But that is the basic idea. The practice of 'not eating' can be difficult physically, if not mentally, so drink water or other fluids to stem your hunger pangs. Skipping a meal because you are so busy you forgot to eat is NOT fasting. Skip one or more meals but do it with purpose. There are several purposes in fasting but the underlying goal is to honor God. So, here are some things you should keep in mind as you enter your period of fasting, no matter how short it will be. Fast in faith, trusting that it is important to God. Fast with the conviction that it is what you are supposed to do as a God-follower. Add a time of prayer in addition to your normal prayer life.

Lastly, if you are under the care of a doctor please consult him/her about whether fasting will affect your health. Hopefully you will find that skipping one meal once a week, will not be detrimental to your care. Even that is a reasonable fast if your intent is to honor God in doing so!

In the coming weeks, we will learn more about fasting and the power of fasting in a believer's life. As we continue together as a body of believers in the next 40 Days of Fasting, the elders encourage you to begin the discipline of fasting if it is not already part of your spiritual life. Remember that our focus at this time is to pray for those who do not know the Lord. Pray for those you know, those whose names have been submitted bo our brothers and sisters here, and pray for revival in our nation.