An invitation to dialogue here

One of the challenges for Lent this year is “giving up” social media. I need to break myself of this addiction in my life.

However, I will still be blogging. And I tie my blog to my Twitter and Facebook accounts so more people have an opportunity to see what I post.

I also realize it’s way easier to post a comment or “like” (or dislike) something on Facebook, so I want to invite those are interested into a conversation HERE instead. It will take a lot of effort on my part to not check Facebook and Twitter during this fast, but that is my goal. So, if you may happen to comment on something you see, it will hopefully be either from this blog or a verse I tweeted from Biblegateway. I will do my best to NOT see it there…

If you would like to comment on something I post, please visit the blog here and feel free to comment.

Ash Wednesday is coming up and I will be taking my break then.

This is a season of incredible opportunity to hear from God and I need the distractions minimized. But I want to keep sharing the journey with any who happen by this blog. God is up to something GOOD in these days. Let’s take this journey together!

The WHY of Fasting

There are a lot of reasons to fast and pray. What is needed most is to remember to add in “AND PRAY.” We don’t fast to “diet.”

Sometimes it is necessary to fast to specifically ask something of God. Those are not always successful. We have expectations of what should “come out” of the process, and when it doesn’t we are disappointed.

We fast to obey. We fast to hear better. We fast to know God and his voice more clearly. We understand what controls us after fasting.

A friend many years ago said fasting was like the rudder on a ship. Fasting turns our direction, but we don’t always notice. But a few weeks later we notice we’re heading in a different direction. Rudders turn ships but the turn isn’t always perceptible. We can fast and think, “Nothing happened.” But weeks later we discover God has us in a new place.

I think fasting should be entered into deliberately. We don’t jump into a 40 day fast. We test our bodies for 24 hours, then 36 hours, then 48 hours. Regularly. Get the body used to missing food. Get the body used to understanding IT is no longer in control.

Extended fasts come at the leading of the Spirit. The more physical knowledge I have about an extended fast, the more I am freed to know what is happening spiritually. Forty day fasts are rare, but they are joyous. There are joyous moments in those longer fasts.

Richard Foster has a chapter in his classic Celebration of Discipline that gives details of the “how to.” There are a few more recently that give physical details. I’ve heard they’re good as well.

Fasting is needed to clear out the noise of this world. It is a joyous discipline I have let slip farther back into my spiritual toolbox. This year is a challenge to use it more.

The engine for 2015

As I looked ahead this past week to 2015 and went through some good questions that help set up the next part of my journey, the one thing that kept showing up was the deep need for fasting and prayer. The engine to drive all that lies before me in 2015 is fasting and prayer. The engine. The fuel. All that God has for me in this year is propelled by a deeper journey in fasting and prayer.

This next year needs to see a re-establishment of the discipline of fasting in my life. Regular fasting. Extended fasting. The huge shifts that are summed up in the two words God gave me (TRANSFORMATION and MULTIPLICATION) are going to be driven by fasting and prayer. There is no other way.

Fasting teaches us dependence on God alone. We fast because God calls us to it.

It is not a matter of IF you fast… but WHEN you fast (Matt. 6:16).

Teach me anew, O Lord!

Fasting and Loosing Chains

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isa. 58:6-7, NIV)

When are you doing well? When are you really “spiritual?”

When you are looking out for the needs of others. My call isn’t necessarily to get someone else to look after the needs of others. That’s part of it. The Church truly needs to be the Church when it comes to looking out for others. Yet, if all I am doing is calling out on others to do their part, and I myself am just looking “holy” by having some sense of righteous indignation at the refusal of others to be kind… I’m still not getting it as a Christian.

I am challenged when I think about what it means to loose the chains of injustice. A few years of studying Walter Brueggemann and others has led me to understand that bringing justice isn’t just about bringing judgment into a situation, like a cop pulling over a driver for speeding. Bringing justice is bringing rightness into a situation. It is teaching righteousness. 

When I am teaching kingdom rightness and living out kingdom rightness, I am helping to loose the chains of injustice.

When I am living truly in the power of the Spirit the oppressed are set free.

Yet, what am I doing to make sure the hungry have food? What am I doing to make sure the poor have shelter? (Besides yelling at the government.)

Christ has come to set the captives free. As I fast and pray, I am to keep ever mindful of the situations right around me and ask the Spirit, “What is my part today?”

Beans and Rice… and Prayer… and Saving Money

I continue to be challenged in prayer. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to pray more, and I found out God seems to be always talking. (I may need to look into that correlation.)

One of the challenges for me is to fast regularly. My wife and I have decided to fast once a week.

This weekend we also discussed moving one step further along the path of prayer and identifying with others around the world. And, quite possibly, save a bit of money along the way.

We are exploring the idea of having a “beans and rice” week every so often. In that way, we save some money (which we need to do), but along the way we open up our lives to pray every day that week for needs around the world.

Fasting is a discipline that opens our ears to the Lord.

Eating simply may be a way to open up our hearts to the needs of others around the world.

The Freedom of Form

27Then he said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath. 28 This is why the Human One[b] is Lord even over the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28, CEB)

As western Christians who happen to be evangelical… Pentecostal… Charismatic… cutting edge… emergent… umm… I know I’m forgetting some label…

(We struggle with forms. It’s interesting that we struggle with forms and have no trouble with labels.)

In Mark 2 Jesus swings away at how the religious leaders were using forms. Yet, Jesus doesn’t throw out the forms. The goal is to understand what religious leaders were doing to the forms that were intended to set people free.

He swings away at fasting in 2:18-22. The religious leaders had turned fasting into a dreary obligation that had to be done at certain times in certain ways. Jesus didn’t get rid of fasting. He simply points out there are seasons for feasting and seasons for fasting.

There is a scene in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance where Bagger is caddying for Rannulph Junuh and Junuh is feeling pretty good about his game. The ball is in a tough spot and Vance has an idea of which club to use. Junuh asks for another club, to which Bagger replies, “There’s a time to leave that club in the bag and there’s a time to take it out.”

That is the point of spiritual formation. There are disciplines to be used in our lives and what the Kingdom of God tries to teach us is when to use those tools for the greatest effectiveness in the Kingdom.

It’s the same with the Sabbath. The religious leaders had reduced the Sabbath to set rules of what to do. Yet, the Sabbath is important. We NEED Sabbath in our lives. If we try to push our bodies 24/7, we will break down and at some point our bodies will take a Sabbath for us!

The forms given to us are freedom. It is how we use those forms that determine whether we walk in freedom or bondage.

Don’t throw out fasting. Remember that you need Sabbath. Do so in the freedom and power of the Spirit.

The Spirit, Forms, Ritual, and New Things

I was in Mark 2 for my preaching text this past Sunday. The subject was new wine and new wineskins. When the Kingdom of God is bursting on the scene, we need to be able to move with what the Kingdom is doing. I was able to walk through vv. 1-17, but didn’t get to 2:18-3:6.

Often when I hear talk about or sermons on wineskins and new wine it has to do with throwing out everything that has been done before. That is not what Jesus is doing in this passage at all. He does not toss out fasting or the Sabbath. He teaches how to use those forms in the context of the Kingdom.

There is no question we can get stuck in a rut. It may not be a bad idea to change up the routine from time to time. However, there are forms that have been in the practice of God’s people all through the journey of Israel and the Church that aren’t necessarily “dead.” It may be US who need the jolt!

Fasting is one of those forms many of us would probably like to see go away. When I was in Bible college there was a professor who used Mark 2 to show that we didn’t need to fast anymore. Jesus was the Bridegroom and because of the Spirit being with us, the Bridegroom was still with us and we didn’t need to fast.

In Matthew 6, Jesus would disagree. He says when you give… when you pray… when you fast.

There isn’t a preacher anywhere who would say we need to give up giving and praying… Yet, fasting… well that’s just for monks and ascetics. We don’t need that legalistic practice any more.

But Jesus doesn’t toss it out. He reforms the use. Too often we let a practice become a rut or a ritual for us and we need renewal in our own lives. We need the new wine of the Kingdom flowing through us, but we need new wineskins to retain what the Spirit is telling us.

But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Mark 2:20, CEB)

Learn how to utilize fasting in your own life. Listen to the leading of the Spirit. Don’t make it so rigid you miss what the Spirit may be saying or doing.