What Exactly is Fasting All About?

If you’ve attended church for awhile you’ve probably heard the word “fasting.” But, what exactly is fasting? Why do we do it? How do we do it? And, what are some Biblical examples of fasting?

What is Fasting?
Fasting is essentially giving up food (or something else) for a period of time in order to focus your thoughts on God. While fasting, many people read the Bible, pray, or worship. Fasting is found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, over fifty times!

In her blog, Gospel Taboo, Amanda Edmondson writes, “Biblically, fasting is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament it was often a way of expressing grief or a means of humbling one’s self before the Lord. In Psalm 35:13, David humbled himself with fasting. In the New Testament it was a means to grow closer to God through mediating and focusing on Him. In Matthew 4:1-2, Jesus went to the wilderness to fast for 40 days. In Matthew 6:16-18 we learn that we aren’t to look somber while fasting so that it’s not obvious to others when we are fasting. Throughout the New Testament fasting and prayer are often mentioned together. In Acts 13:3, ‘they had fasted and prayed.’ In Luke 2:37 a widow worshiped day and night fasting and praying.”

Following the example of Jesus and the Early Church believers, we, too can draw near to God while fasting.

What Does Fasting Do For Our Spiritual Life?
In their Crosswalk.com blog on the subject, Suzanne Niles and Wendy Simpson Little give 5 Ways Fasting Can Change Your Life:

1. Fasting and prayer can help us hear from God.

2. Fasting and prayer can reveal our hidden sin.

3. Fasting and prayer can strengthen intimacy with God.

4. Fasting and prayer can teach us to pray with right motives.

5. Fasting and prayer can build our faith.

Not only does fasting and prayer help us focus on God, but through that time, it brings us closer to Him and changes our hearts. Niles and Little write, “When we fast and pray, we are taking time away from a meal or an activity to devote our entire being to focus on God. We find we are more sensitive to the voice of God, more attuned to hearing what He has to reveal to us. Gently, God whispers in our mind what we were really thinking at the time of our sin, what our true intent was and we are shocked…momentarily. Then like a light turned on in a pitch black room, we see it. We did mean harm. We were manipulative. Even though our recognition makes us want to hide our face, our loving Savior lifts our chin to look into his forgiving eyes. As we repent, we no longer want to hide, but to praise and worship the very one who confronted our wrong.”

Source: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-exactly-is-fasting-all-about.html

All Things Subject to the Risen Christ

Philippians 3:20-21

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

These verses assume something stupendous. And we must make that plain before we marvel at what is here. And that is my goal—that you would marvel at what is here. That you would marvel at the One who is spoken of here. And that is not just my aim. It’s God’s aim for you as well. I say that because in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:10) God’s word says concerning Christ’s second coming, “He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” The aim of history is: the people of God marveling at the majesty of Jesus Christ. So that’s my aim this Easter Sunday morning—that you will marvel at what is revealed of Christ in Philippians 3:20-21.

But something is assumed here, and we must make that plain before we can marvel with understanding. And that is the only kind of marveling that matters. Marveling with understanding. If someone tricks you into marveling and makes you think they’ve done something great when they haven’t, your marveling doesn’t make much of them, it makes a fool of you. Only marveling with understanding makes much of the One who is true and beautiful.

So something is assumed here in Philippians 3:20-21. What is assumed is that Jesus was raised from the dead and is now alive and very powerful—to put it mildly. The reason Paul can assume this here is that he said it in chapter two. So we should go back there and make it explicit and clear. Philippians 2:6-11 describes the eternal deity of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the obedient death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the reign of Christ over all the universe. It is an amazing passage. You will never read anything anywhere in any literature more sweeping and important and true than this:

Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So Christ was and is equal with God. He is God. He became also a human being. He obediently suffered and died. Obediently. That means God the Father told him to do it. That means it was a planned death. And the point of the plan was that the Christ be a substitute for the damnation of all human sinners who would trust in Jesus. As it says in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” He bore our damnation as a substitute. This was God’s loving plan for the salvation of sinners like us who deserve hell. That’s why it says in verse 8, “He was obedient to the point of death.” He wasn’t just dying. He was obeying. God had a plan. God gave a command. The Son was fulfilling it, willingly, obediently. The plan was, “Be a substitute for the damnation of all who will believe in you. Bear for them my holy and just curse, and I will make them my children—fellow heirs with you of everything I own.”

The Power of the Resurrection

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10

It’s Holy Week. The week we celebrate our Savior. The week we remember his sacrifice on the cross for our sins. The week we remember his mighty triumph over sin and death.

With Easter upon us, I’ve been contemplating the resurrection.

The resurrection is central to Christianity. It sets us apart from other religions. Most every religion has a central figure, but only in Christianity do we find the power to conquer death, the power to live again.

And that is where we, as Christians, find hope.

We have hope for eternal life with our Savior. We have hope that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones who have passed from this temporal life into eternity. We have hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, there will be no more sadness nor sorrow. We have hope that one day we will be in the presence of the One who loves us enough to die for us.

But what about hope here on this earth? While I long for heaven and to be with my Savior… I long to embrace my grandparents who are in heaven waiting… I long for that place of eternal peace and love… But I don’t believe that my work on earth is finished. Does the resurrection offer hope to us while still here on this earth?

The dictionary definition of resurrect is to restore a dead person to life. Jesus himself declared, ”I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus is the life.

Source: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-power-of-the-resurrection.html

7 Ways to Read the Bible (and Actually Meet God)

Often we simply read scripture for information, to follow a rule, or as an academic pursuit. Reading to meet God sounds like a great idea and the ideal for a Christian, but how do we actually do it? How can we change our mind-sets to view Scripture as a living, rich revelation instead of a religious tome of instructions and history?

Here are seven ways.

1. Read the whole story.
Many of us learned to read God’s Word from children’s Bible storybooks made up of individual stories—Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Jonah and the big fish (of course it was Jonah and the whale back then), the boy’s five loaves and two fish, and so on. We learned to look for stories, snippets of Scripture. And usually these came with a moral lesson about trusting God, making the right decisions, being honest, serving others, or something else.

The other main way we heard the Bible taught was character centric, like a series of mini-bios. We studied the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Saul, Solomon, Esther, Peter, and Paul. We were taught about their shortcomings and their faithfulness. We learned that they were examples for us to follow, just not perfect ones.

We must learn to read the whole story of Scripture from beginning to end. The Bible is God’s story of redemption, the revelation of Himself and His plan for the world. All those stories and all those characters are parts of the whole, characters in the drama, but none of them are the point. They all point to the point: Jesus Christ came, lived a perfect life, died an innocent death to save sinners and kill death and sin, and will one day return to right all the wrongs. Sure, some parts of the Bible are confusing and dry, but they fit in the whole too. And when we understand that there is a whole narrative, even those parts start to make sense in their context.

2. Look for Jesus.
This is the advice I would suggest to any Christian who finds the Bible to be stale and lifeless: look for Jesus. So much of what we miss in Scripture is because we look for characters and themes and lessons other than Jesus. But He is both the primary character and the primary plotline of Scripture. To look for anything else first is to rip out the heart of God’s Word. Because Jesus, as John 1 tells us, is the Word made flesh.

Every page of Scripture points to Jesus. It all fits together to point to Him and to glorify Him and depict Him and reveal Him. When we read the whole story and see Jesus throughout the pages, we see Him afresh, not as whatever preconceived notions we had. We see Him as more than a teacher, more than a healer, more than a model character. We see the breadth of Jesus from the man who sat with children and loved widows to the sword-wielding King of justice and glory.

3. When you see Jesus, get to know Him.
In the Bible we have the means to get to know Jesus. We have the means to move past observation and awareness and fact finding to a real, personal connection with Him. How? Like we do in any relationship.

Make it a regular thing. Go back to those Gospels over and over again. God’s word is inexhaustible and can always deepen your understanding and belief. We don’t limit ourselves in conversation with our loved ones because we “talked to them already” and neither should we limit ourselves in the reading of the Bible because we “read it already.”

Ask questions of Jesus in Scripture. Ask about His character. Ask about His values. Ask about His life. Ask about His priorities. Ask about His weaknesses. And let Scripture respond to you.

Source: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/7-ways-to-read-your-bible-to-meet-god.html

How the Resurrection Changes Your Monday

When Jesus drew alongside two travelers on the road to Emmaus on resurrection day, he addressed their fearful hearts by opening up the Scriptures to them. Mike McKinley helps us see how our own hearts can also be set on fire by our understanding of God’s big plan in the resurrection…

Many people experience a surge of passion and joy when they first become followers of Christ. This “first love” (Revelation 2 v 4) is fueled by a delight in God’s love and the new sensations of freedom from guilt and sin, and certain hope for the future. But let’s face it: as time passes, it is easy to let that fade. What was once mind-blowing and heart-burning becomes, well, just “nice.” What once sent you to your knees in thanks and opened your mouth in praise now just becomes a background fact, taken for granted. The demands of following Christ can feel like a burden and the sacrifices can seem to outweigh the benefits. The ongoing battle with indwelling sin is discouraging and painful at times. Life goes on, with all its difficulties and disappointments. No wonder the flame of our first love feels as if it is flickering sometimes!

And when that flame flickers, lots of lesser things seem to have a greater ability to make my heart burn within me. I am very passionate about my favorite football team, my family, my favorite music, and so on. Those things take up residence in my heart; they fill my daydreams and my spare time. They thrill me. But I am capable of listening to a sermon, reading the Bible, singing a hymn, and praying to God without much passion at all. It shouldn’t be so. I can’t help but think that part of my problem is that when I am unmoved by the things of God, the suffering of Christ for me—the great plan of redemption that God has included me in—is not the reality that controls my heart.

It is interesting to see the way that Jesus responds to a similar problem faced by the two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus: his diagnosis of their problem is instructive for us. He tells them that their problem is that they have been slow to believe the prophets. It’s a strange comment.

It turns out that the specific thing that the prophets spoke about, the one thing that Cleopas and his friend didn’t believe, was that the Messiah would

“have to suffer all these things and then”—only then—“enter his glory” (v 26).

You can see how Jesus has put his finger right on the issue: they failed to understand what God’s King would be like. Not only had they defined what “glory” would look like (fleeing Romans, victorious Jews)—they had not even begun to get to grips with the fact that suffering had to precede glory. Here the disciples are, wondering how it can be possible that the Messiah would be a victim of such violence, and Jesus comes along and tells them that not only was it possible, it was mandatory!

Source: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-the-resurrection-changes-your-monday.html