"So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty" (Ezra 8:23, ESV)
Why Do You Do The Good That You Do?
Monday Feb 10, 2020
Good morning, and thank you for your interest in fasting. What a blessing to have godly brothers and sisters in Christ earnestly approaching the throne of grace together all through this week. Enjoy the emotional exuberance of the morning of the first day, but recognize that the hunger pangs of lunch and dinner might affect those emotions. Be realistic with your goals here. If you've never fasted before, consider starting small. Pray what that might mean to you. Perhaps carving out an additional 15 minutes per day in prayer would be helpful? Maybe substituting prayer for one of your meals each day? If you're cutting out food, be sure to drink a lot of water and don't be surprised if you have a headache for a couple of days. You likely have a lot of toxins built up from your normal diet that your body will begin to purge out during this time. Remember that you should consult a doctor about this. Be wise with your body. Faith does not rule out prudence.
In Matthew 6, Jesus warns us to beware of practicing our righteousness to be seen by men. This is true of giving (1-4), praying (5-15), and fasting (16-18). How might that look for you over this next week? Does everyone know just how hungry you are? Do you have a new and improved excuse to be moody with someone? Or, is this period of giving/praying/fasting a time of humbling yourself before God?
God sees you. The good news is that your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Consider reading and praying through Matthew 5-7 today. What do you learn about the heart of God?
May God bless you as you seek Him.
Request or Requirement?
Tuesday Feb 11, 2020
The way we say something is so important, and often we may be off in our communication. This can happen with other people, and it can happen with our God.
Congratulations on making it to the second day of your fast. Sometimes things get harder before they get easier. Many people see the second and third day of their fast as being some of the most challenging as their body adapts to the difference. Thank you for your zeal in pursuing God (Ps 42).
Fasting is NOT a way to manipulate God. You can't. My God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3). Consider how Saul tried to do this repeatedly with his religious activity, even including a military fast of sorts (1 Sam 14, 15, etc). The people of Israel also tried to coerce God to act in their favor through their religious motions, such as fasting (Is 58). Jesus' "tale of two sons" highlights an older brother whose good deeds were designed to solicit the father's favor (Lk 15). What folly. This has less in common with Christianity that it does with pagan magic, wherein the magician seeks to achieve his (selfish) goal through various rites and incantations. We all know what God thinks of that (1 Sam 28).
Compare this to the humble, zealous requests of those who see their hope in God. Jesus loves when we come to Him persistently (Lk 11:5-13), even about basic daily needs (Lk 11:1-4), and He knows how to give us exactly what we need.
As an example, look at the leper in Matthew 8:1-4. He had great courage in coming to Christ despite the large crowd and all the social taboos against it (v1). He showed great humility in bowing down before King Jesus (v2, Lord). He showed great deference in his address to his Lord (v2, If you will). He showed great confidence in Christ to affect the situation, but NOT arrogance in his own ability to dictate what Jesus should do (v2, you can make me clean). And look what Jesus did! Jesus showed him love regardless of the social taboos (v3, touched him). Jesus did according to His will and changed him from his unclean condition (v3, be clean). Jesus restored his dignity (v4, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift).
May we learn from the leper how to better come to Christ.
Enjoy your Lord today,
Can I Catch A Break?
Wednesday Feb 12, 2020
Thank you for your desire to draw close to your God. We come to a fast because we recognize our dependence upon God, because we love Him and long to be near Him, because we see so much in this world that seems so wrong, so off. So, we enter into a period of prayer and fasting. In the back of our minds, perhaps we expect a little break, a small respite from some of the temptations and trials of life. Sometimes, kind as He is, He gives us just that.
Other times, in the kindness and wisdom of God, He allows the trial to continue, or even intensify. Our Lord exemplifies this for us.
In Matthew 3 we see Jesus being baptized in perfect submission to the Father's will, having the Holy Spirit rest upon Him, and hearing such warm commendation, "this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (3:13-17). And, in obedience to the strong leading of the Spirit, He fasted 40 days in the wilderness (4:1-11). Who would have thought that Jesus would have experienced such temptation during such a demonstration of dependence on the Father?
Don't be surprised if you encounter great temptation this week. You may be tempted to be less loving, and feel entitled to your sin (you are hungry after all). You may be tempted to be short sighted towards provisions you think God should give (you are praying after all, and shouldn't God provide for His own who are in need [exactly in the way we think He should]). Your temptation may be towards depression or anger or many other things.
Jesus turned to the words from Deuteronomy in His time of temptation. You don't live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3). Do you love Jesus more than even the basic needs of life (Ps 63:3)? He will humble you and test you. What is in your heart (Dt 8:2)? In the midst of this testing, He will provide for you (Dt 8:4ff).
Do you trust Him to do good, even when that good looks different than you think it should?
Consider meditating on Deuteronomy 6-8 this morning. What is God communicating in His Word?
What Is God Calling You To Do?
Thursday Feb 13, 2020
Were I to ask you what the greatest commandment was, my guess is you’d tell me to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Upon some reflection you’d likely move on to the second greatest commandment, to love my neighbor as myself. Well done. Have you paused to consider fasting through the lense of the great commandments?
Take a moment to read Isaiah 58.
In this passage we see a group of very religious people. God takes note of their formal commitment by way of their daily devotions (v2) wherein they delighted to read the Word and make petitions of their God. They even fasted (v3ff). However, God did not honor their fast. As you read how would you describe God’s emotion towards them?
It seems they neglected the second commandment and so twisted the first. They fasted just to get what they wanted (v3) even while they remained at odds with their fellow man (v4). God characterized their relationships with others in terms of quarreling (v4), willful blindness toward those in need (v6-7), unwillingness to be poured out for others (10). They avoided people (v7). He summed up their relationship with Him as a neglect of the Sabbath (v13).
Would you wrestle through a few questions this morning? First, are you too busy for God? Second, how can you learn about those in need and take action on their behalf (prioritize the church, and spill over into the world, Gal 6:10). Finally, is there someone with whom you are at odds, a breached relationship (v12)? Will you forgive and pursue reconciliation?
May God bless you as you live for Him,
How Do You Love The Unlovely?
Yesterday we meditated on Isaiah 58. We need to look upon those who are so often overlooked. Don't ignore the plight of those in need. Most times that help is greatly appreciated. We receive smiles and hugs for our kindness. There's a sense in which (am I allowed to say this?) it's easy. No, the cost isn't easy. The time commitment isn't easy. There are other things that make it difficult. What's easy is the relational aspect. They likely will return your love.
But what if they don't return your love?
What if your kindness or wisdom or expressions of love are rebuffed? What if you struggle to love the person in the first place? This is hard in the world at large, but it gets incrementally harder the closer the relationship is to you. Co-workers? Close friends? Family? How do you love that unlovely person? I'd humbly submit that with the world's love, you can't.
We are reminded yet again of our utter dependence upon Jesus.
Take heart, though. Know that you are not the only person nor the first commanded by God to love the unlovely. David had to love a father-in-law who tried to kill him (Saul). Paul loved the church at Corinth though they despised his leadership (2 Cor 12:15). Surely, examples from the life of Christ come to mind. Can you think of examples in your own life?
You cannot give what you have not received.
Where are you in need of Jesus' mercy? God's love always precedes our love (1 Jn 4:10). Recall that God chose to love you in your state of unlovely sinfulness (Rom 5:8) and continues to love you in the midst of your shortcomings (1 Jn 3:1; Rom 8).
Accordingly, we can even press the point one step further: people are not the problem, evil is. I'm speaking of your evil first. Your unwillingness to love or forgive is evil (Mt 5:21-26, 38-48; 6:14-15). Would you repent of that sin? You won't be able to do this until you see sin from the eyes of your Father in Heaven. Your highest status as a saint is NOT "sinned against." The one who is forgiven much, loves much (Lk 7:36-50). I am the worst sinner I know (1 Tim 1:12-17). Were you to be honest, you are the worst sinner you know too.
One final point. Who is the judge? If you take judgment into your hands, you will get your results. If you leave it in God's hands, you'll get God's results. He will repay (Rom 12:17-19), and He will do a far better job than you or I could ever do. Would you rest in Him (Ps 46)?
There is much to be said in terms of the unlovely person's sin too, the one whom you struggle to love. There are strategies and prayers and ways to speak to them. But today, I want to speak to you.
Will you love the unlovely? Now, that's a beautiful fast.
Are You Tired?
Saturday Feb 15, 2020
Congratulations on making it to day 6 of your fast. This will be my last post. We will enjoy rich fellowship as we meet together tomorrow in the house of the Lord for God's glory. As you return to eating on Monday, ease into it. A small breakfast and modest lunch will help your body adjust. As one of my friends recently reminded me, "are you gratifying your body's craving, or nourishing your need?"
How long is the list of reasons for weariness! Is you sleep off? How many stressors act upon you? Which relationships keep you up at night or make your blood boil? Where have your efforts at godliness been frustrated? Do you feel misunderstood? Beyond all this our bodily maladies give ready witness that we are not yet in glory. From a certain perspective, this appears to be a powerful incentive to quit.
Galatians 6:6-10 reminds us that we are all farmers of a sort. It doesn't take much imagination to think of the weariness and setbacks a farmer might suffer (here
is one of many examples), let alone if that farmer plants the wrong crops! What have you been sowing in the garden of your life? Pause to consider what fruits the seeds of anger, resentment, bitterness, or worry might produce. How different might your garden be if cultivated with the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22ff).
Be not weary in well doing.
Why? Because you have a different perspective. You know how the story will end. You know what the results will be eternally, though there is great mystery temporally. The harvest is coming. It will arrive in due season, so learn to move Godspeed. However, the season of harvest is inseparably linked to the planting season and the interval of care between the two. Now is your time to plant and care for the tender shoots beginning to emerge. Now is the time to fast and pray and give enjoying the goodness of the Lord of the Harvest. Now is the time to take advantage of God-given opportunities to do good. Don't be deceived.
What kind of farmer are you?
Thank you for your labor and love for our Lord,