The medicinal value of fasting has long been touted. Giving the body a "rest" under certain medical guidelines has, apparently, some impressive benefits.
In the realm of Christian faith, there is a tradition of fasting for spiritual purposes from its Old Testament roots in the Day of Atonement, to its inclusion as a concomitant to prayer, especially in times of repentance before God and appealing for mercy, all the way to its mention in the New Testament as a part of Jesus' experience in the desert when He was tempted by Satan. He later addresses the attitude in fasting and encourages its observation as a private thing, judged only by God.
I have fasted several times and discovered its benefit for me to be a purposeful focusing of my attention on God. When the physical needs of hunger are being set aside to cultivate a spiritual appetite for God it can be a valuable experience. I have found it helpful when doing a spiritual inventory of my life or when addressing a specific unmet need.
We are calling our church family next week to a time of prayer and fasting together. I am excited to think about what happens when we corporately pray together and seek Him to meet our needs. The phrase in Matthew 17:21, "some things come only by prayer and fasting", missing from the earliest manuscripts, nonetheless motivates me to earnestly come to God in prayer, and to puruse the most intimate kind of communication with Him, emptied of my physical urges.
I hope others will be joining me.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
We are probably like many churches that are experiencing the pressures of an unstable financial economy. In our county construction-related businesses impact a lot of our workers, as well as people associated with the real estate business. They have all been hit hard by the current housing market and building crisis.
Our church has a budget that grew about 10% this year, even with anticipated budget cutbacks and "tightening our belt" in every responsible way that we could. The bottom line is we are still not meeting our budget projections, and are being forced to cut our ministry expenditures accordingly. And this is painful, because our church continues to grow.
Church attendance grows at a faster rate usually than giving; at least that is our experience here. It takes time for people to get assimilated into the body and to say, "This is our church home; let's help take care of it." Giving is a matter of the heart and increased giving is the result of people saying "yes" to God when He tugs at their wallets. Because it is a spiritual matter, it cannot be produced
from "guilting" people to give or "brow-beating" them from the pulpit.
So what do we do while we wait for people to get into the life of the body, or, as we wait for them to mature in Christ and begin to understand what stewardship of their resources is all about?
We dig deeper.
We do all we can--and the sacrifical "more" God may direct--and we don't worry about what others are/are not doing. We simply obey God and do what He asks of us.
"Digging deeper" helps us discover we have more than we thought, that we have resources to be developed, that we can uncover more of our own time, talent and treasure if we just keep digging.
We'll get through this time because God's work continues and God continues to bless us at Grace Fellowship. We are digging deeper so we can celebrate the growth that we are experiencing together as God gives the increase.
I think I will grab my shovel and do some more digging...
Friday, May 02, 2008
I am an observer of pain and suffering, and a recent participant, as well.
What I see in the lives of those with whom I sit in hospital rooms, counsel in my office, comfort at the rest home, encourage over the phone or via e-mail--whatever the venue--is a deepening need for the community of faith.
During my recent bout with kidney stones I was encouraged by cards, phone calls, e-mails, and the assurance of prayers. People offered their "sure-fire" antidotes as well, but the real blessing was that of my church family's connectedness to me during the three week ordeal.
The patient facing surgery, or battling cancer; the couple trying to hold their marriage together; the wife of an alzheimer's patient struggling with his disesse; the family weathering the storm of a son's addiciton; a new convert seeking to live out his new-found faith; a seasoned worker without a job. What do these all have in common? A need for the community of faith to come alongside them--not necessarily with words of theological reason and a formula for immediate resolution...but with simple love and concern.
I can do that...and so can you.