Give Fasting a Try

It feels like I almost always have plans to meet with someone during mealtimes. I often get together with students over my lunch hour at work, and many evenings my dinners are scheduled to be with my roommates or other close friends. For that reason, I got very excited the other day when I looked at my calendar and saw NO breakfast, lunch, or dinner plans. My giddy response was, “I can fast today!!!”

That might sound strange to many of you reading. Why get so excited about the idea of skipping meals for the day?

Good question! It’s because there is something beautifully spiritually nourishing about biblical fasting that always leaves me feeling closer to my Father. Because using that time to plead and pray to my good God, instead of eating reminds me of my priorities and changes something within me.

Fasting serves as a reminder that I need God’s wisdom and guidance in my life even MORE than I need food.

It reminds me that just as food nourishes my hungry body, so does God’s Word fulfill, nourish, and sustains my hungry soul.

It is a reminder that my body responds to lack of food with a sluggish tiredness, and distracted mind—and so my hungry spirit is distracted and wearied without the nourishment of the Word of God.

It reminds me that without prayer and reading of the Word—I do not function as well as I should. His Word gives me energy to serve, and keeps me more cautious of the many insignificant distractions of this world.

When my stomach growls and I choose to ignore it, I am prompted to think of all the times my spirit growls with hunger pains, and I choose to ignore it.

When I think of taking my first bite of food after the fast, and imagine the foolishness of just chewing it up and spitting it out, I think of the importance of meditating on the word of God, digesting it, and letting it change me—instead of quickly skimming the pages and spitting out its truths.

Fast prayerfully-the point it to commune with God, not just skip meals!

Fast joyfully-this isn’t a punishment or drudgery, but a delightful means of grace!

Fast introspectively- think about what God is doing in your life-seek him fervently!

Last time I fasted, it was just through breakfast and lunch-and it was such a blessing. It doesn’t need to be long or regimented. But I do encourage you to abstain from a few meals, and with all your heart, pursue Christ and pray—you won’t regret it!

For a thorough biblical evaluation of fasting, check out Donald Whitney’s chapter on fasting in his wonderfully helpful book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

DTR: Faith and Reason

Recently, I wrote a paper on defining the relationship between knowledge acquired through the social sciences (reason) and knowledge that comes through the Bible (faith). Here is an excerpt:

“In Greek mythology it is said that human beings were first created with four arms and four legs and were extremely powerful creatures. Zeus, fearing their influence and strength, cut them in half and split the two parts as far away as possible hoping individually they could never accomplish what they could have when united. This is where we derived the idea and terminology of “soul mates”. There is someone who is our “other half” that we must spend our lifetime trying to find in order to be truly whole and most powerful.  Though clearly biblically inaccurate in the human sense, can we apply this unique notion to the relationship between faith and reason? What if faith and reason are actually soul mates? What if truly, they are two parts of one body who originally were designed to labor and flourish in harmony, but have been torn apart because of the fall? What if it is not a matter of who came first or of who holds more value because they are in fact, one?

…If faith and reason are two parts of the same coin; if they are soul mates, what are the repercussions of this for the work of ministry? …During the evening session [of a ministry I served in] there were sermons taught…[and] I am aghast to inform you that during too many of these evening gatherings faith was the only truth present and reason was asked to sit in the back row and not speak. Questions were not encouraged, and neither was deliberation. One evening an alter call was given, sternly telling the teenagers in attendance that he “wasn’t going to wait long”, and that they “only have a minute to make their decision”. What damage this does! What a shame to not encourage thinking. This is truly the most important decision they will ever make in life, and though not all their questions can be answered, let not them go unasked! And to not assure them that salvation by faith is accessible at whatever moment God opens their eyes to his grace is heartbreaking. I fear that has banner of, “Don’t overthink, just believe” did more harm than good.

…Similarly, far too often in the church pulpit on Sunday mornings, faith is preached, but not its other half-reason.  One of the most sneakily detrimental norms of Christianity in America today is the palatable topical preaching being lofted from our stages. When we preach only child-like faith without integrating intellect, reason, and truths found in social sciences we are setting our congregations up for failure. We are at war. The enemy troops have cannons loaded with fact, philosophy, and rhetoric. We are fools to think our dart guns of easy application and slingshots of skirting difficult issues with “love” will win us any battle.

It would be equally foolish to swing the proverbial pendulum the other direction. To speak only of knowledge gained through social sciences with no regard or integration of faith derogatorily displays our faith and our God as a puny one…

Faith and Reason are a breathtaking, perfectly balanced couple. When manifested in a life, culture, or topic well, God’s glory shines in such undeniable brilliance, his name is seen as great. We need joyful, strong believers to be educated, deep thinkers in every facet of civilization. That happens not by chance, but by penetrating intentionality. Though we all share in this mission, the burden should weigh heaviest on the shoulders of parents, pastors, and educators.  They have the hallowed charge to both live and teach the truth that knowledge gained through research in the social sciences and knowledge gained through the study of God’s word are soul mates and should never be torn asunder.  For his name’s sake, may God grant us wisdom, stamina, and winsomeness for such a cumbersome, arduous task.”

Feeling Lost?

 

Imagine you are hiking through the woods trying to get to the nearest town. But you are lost and confused and you feel like you are walking in circles. It’s been weeks, and you are just as deep in the woods today as you were when you thought of your first brilliant game plan to get out of there asap!

Fortunately for you, you meet a guide in the woods. He explains that if you take this trail, it’ll lead you to a crossroads in a clearing where there will be a sign explaining which direction to go next to get to town. He hands you a backpack full of things you need to survive and thrive during this journey. A compass, a canteen with fresh water, a flashlight, bug spray, matches, and even a walkie talkie! He assures you that he knows these woods well, and he’ll always have his walkie talkie on him if you ever have any questions. You are overjoyed at his help!  You are feeling awesome about this journey and confident that you will get to the next clearing soon. Off you go.

The first few days you do pretty well. The trail is as clear as the sky and you barely break a sweat. You gleefully use your compass, and even walkie talkie your guide to see if the berries you’ve stumbled across are safe to eat (you’ve seen Hunger Games-you aren’t taking any chances). A short time passes and you stop using the contents in your backpack-you think you know the drill pretty well by now! But shortly after, the way starts to get more difficult. You are constantly swarmed by six legged pests, trapped in prickly thickets, covered in mud and blood, and oh so weary. Day after day you continue on, wondering if you are lost, confused why the way is so treacherous, and losing hope that you’ll ever get to that clearing. The nearest town feels farther away now than it ever has.

And then, one moment while lapping up muddy stream water for a drink, scratching a bug bite the size of a melon on your leg, and trying to find the best rock flint to start a fire with later tonight, you remember the backpack you’ve been given. You feel like an idiot. You have all these resources to help the journey, and you have been ignoring them! The trail would still have been difficult, but if you would have used what was given to you, much pain, discomfort, and discouragement could have been avoided.

I feel like I am on a pretty difficult journey right now. I look forward with hopeful expectation to one day getting out of the woods, but for now I am just looking for the next clearing-a crossroads that will show me the next step. I have a Guide who is brilliant, and loving, and perfect, and always accessible. He has given me tools while journeying to best survive-His Word-a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, the precious gift of communication with God through prayer, the joy and comfort of worshipping  the giver of the stream of living water that will never run dry, godly counsel– who through knowing and loving the Guide well for years can impart wisdom and comfort that will help protect me from all kinds of harm, and so much more.

Yet I far too often journey with a backpack full of items not being used. I keep the fresh canteen in my bag and drink the dirty water the world offers.

As believers we must use the tools the Lord has given us. They are for our own good, and yet we ignore them? The ramifications of doing so are personal and foolish yes, but also what does it say to our fellow travelers who don’t have a “backpack”? It says that they are pointless and they are worthless, and no wonder they don’t ask where it came from-they don’t see us value what’s inside!

So friend, passionately use the tools God has given you to get through this life. It may still be very difficult, but He has graciously given us exactly what we need to navigate every step, every day. And maybe, as you obediently depend on the graces that God has given you, He will bring other travelers in your life who need the see the blessings that knowing the Guide brings-what a joy that is!

Is Salvation Beautiful to You?

diamond

 

“Just as a jeweler in a store will always use a black velvet background to display the splendor of an exquisite diamond, so the intricate, dazzling beauty of the gospel is only fully seen when we understand what the Bible says about man’s radical condition outside of Christ. It’s a bleak and dark picture to be sure. Yet only when we understand the immensity of the problem can we find the right solution – and see the futility of all other man made remedies. We need far more than a moral pep talk; more than some medical first aid for our gaping wounds; and even more than even an oxygen mask to help us breathe more easily. What we need is a miracle! What we need is a resurrection!” – John Samson

The moments when I am not as impressed by the work and wonder of Christ on the cross, just so happens to be the exact same moments when I am numb to my sin and or mesmerized by my own “virtues” and the fleeting pleasures of this world. Sometimes, I don’t see the beauty of my own salvation, because I’m being entertained and blinded by this life. The happy triune God of the universe and His gift of salvation is ever before me.  Beautiful. Stunning. Entrancing. It is right before my eyes and under my nose, but somehow I miss its brilliance and I’m not seeing it’s beauty.  Are you with me? Has the work that Christ did on our behalf lost it’s luster? Is it not so shiny? Not so sparkly?

Oh gee.

We often need a reality check.

We often need to see ourselves more clearly.

We often need to be reminded of the ephemeral nature of this life.

We often need to be reminded of what life apart from Him would be like.

We often need to be reminded of His gracious, unmerited, magnificent love.

Pray for your affections and understanding of God to be increased. Prayerfully read Scripture-even if you don’t feel like it! Especially if you don’t feel like it! Look at who He is and what He has done. Look at who you are and all that you have done. Each salvation story is a jaw-dropping, praise-evoking,  joy-bringing, undeserved, irrevocable miracle! Whether you were a 4 year old growing up in a solid, christian home, or a thief hanging on a cross-your salvation is a miraculous gift. What blessings come when we see God’s grace, and glory, and goodness against the backdrop of who we are apart from Him! How much more beautiful and treasured is my salvation when I remember where I should and could be without it! Peace and God-centered adoration and delight will flow through our spirit when we intentionally work to put the radiance of the gospel in front of our radical condition outside of Christ.

I’m not showing you a pebble and asking you to be in awe of it. I am showing you the most rare, precious, valuable gem in existence asking you to marvel at its worth. Jesus Christ and his gospel is the only exhilarating, essential, life-giving, fulfilling, captivating truth in the universe! Look at it and be amazed!