Over the season of Lent, I have been fasting. It has not always gone according to plan, I hasten to add, but it has been an enriching experience in many ways.
This Sunday, why not give it a try yourself? Be sure to do it sensibly and wisely if you have never done it before. For instance, if you have any medical conditions which may be affected by it, then give it more thought and seek some advice if you need to.
There are different ways to fast, and it does not necessarily mean giving up all food altogether. You may choose to limit what food you eat, or to only eat certain foods. You may decide to miss a particular meal, or you may decide not to eat anything at all for a period. Pray about it before you begin, and follow the Lord’s lead. Start off slowly, and build yourself up.
Most importantly, fast with a purpose. Do not do it merely to appear spiritual to others. Instead, use the time you would have spent eating or preparing food to talk to the Lord or read your Bible. When you feel that sense of hunger, use it as a prompt to thank God for all the good He is doing in your life. Let this disciplining of your body remind you that we are not merely physical, but rather spiritual beings, and the spiritual needs to be primary, not the physical.
Remember, Jesus said:
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
Jesus wants us to fast for our spiritual good and to draw nearer to God, not to look good in front of others. If we talk about our fasting, or worse fish for compliments, then we have already received any reward we may get from the exercise.
Use the experience to strengthen your relationship to God, and praise Him for the plenty you have.
Are you preaching to the choir? Is that wasteful, or does the choir need your encouragement as well?
It was a great pleasure yesterday evening to meet (on video) a couple of fellow Christian bloggers, and lovely to share some of our stories, questions and experiences of ministering through this medium. It was humbling to see God at work through our words and videos, and (at points) amusing to hear of some of the mistakes we had made along the way… for instance, the time I accidentally shared a post inviting people to a psychic evening!
Alan at Devotional Treasures writes frequently inspiring posts, giving us Scripture to ponder on and encouragement and challenge to take away. Andy, at Berry Bunch Family, put outs a huge amount of video content for all the family, and has recently published his first book – Broken Dreams and Hope – which I highly recommend. Do check out both feeds if you get a chance.
We reflected that often we feel a little like we are preaching to the choir. We produce our materials and they seem to primarily reach a Christian audience, and we wondered whether we were reaching those who are yet to believe in Jesus.
This inspired me to share a few thoughts with you today on this subject.
Firstly, it is no bad thing to encourage the family of believers (not that we ever thought it was!). The church is a body, and we all have a part to play. There will be days when each one of us needs a boost or bit of encouragement, and blogging is a great opportunity to do this. There have been countless times when I have read a post or watched a video from either of the two men of God mentioned above, and God has used it to uplift and strengthen me.
It is things like this that keep us going. Being a Christian in this hostile world is no easy thing. At times, we feel like aliens on a dangerous planet, completely at odds with the views and people around us. The Christian family needs to come together to support one another, and keep on keeping on!
Secondly, being consistent and producing material regularly means that a huge library of materials is slowly built up. As I write, I think my blog now houses over 400 posts, and someone like Alan’s is probably far higher. This means that there is likely a post out there for you today. The Holy Spirit can direct people to the very thing they need, and that may be years down the road. On days when I post and get only a few views, I take comfort in knowing that the words will remain available for anyone to find in the future when they perhaps need it most.
Finally, we cannot reach everyone. There will be people who I will never meet or interact with, and so have little hope of sharing the Gospel with them. Yet, the same is true for me in that there will be people I meet that you will not. Only together can we all fulfil God’s purpose and reach all those who need to hear. Whether you see yourself as a big or small cog in the giant machine that is God’s Kingdom, know that you are an important cog. There may be many “small” parts in my computer, but if I start removing them, it won’t be long before the machine fails altogether!
I remember someone saying once that it is our job to give God glory in our little corner of the world. We all have our own corner, and our own opportunity to share our faith. We can encourage our brothers and sisters, and we can share our faith with those yet to hear. Let each of us just help everyone move one step closer to God today.
Some evenings I sit down after a hard day’s work and reflect on the day. I often ask myself how well I have represented God’s kingdom, and marking myself coming up short most of the time. Did I share my faith at any point? How much did I pray? Is God’s Kingdom any stronger because of my actions today?
These are good and important questions, and I was asking myself them only today. My answers were not so good if I am being honest. I didn’t share my faith outside of the blog. I did not pray nearly enough. I saw no impact on God’s Kingdom through any of my actions. Unsurprisingly this left me a little discouraged.
Thank the Lord that He is so kind to us though, and the very bearer of the gift of encouragement!
He reminded me that I had done a full day’s work, earning my pay which I would later receive. He then reminded me of this verse from Ephesians.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.
Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)
I am blessed to be able to say that I enjoy my work. That has not always been the case, but my present employment is fulfilling and although not Christian ministry, it does serve the wider society.
At the end of the day, even if I fail in a number of ways, I can know that the day’s work will result in a payslip, and that I can use that money to give to those in need. For the most part, that may be giving to the church or ministry in order to enable others to share the Good News. If I am not in the position to share it widely myself, I can at least support others who can.
Perhaps you are in secular employment, and like me wonder how your life contributes to God’s Kingdom. Let me suggest you do not work merely for yourself and to pay your bills, but also so that you might have something to give. I have met people whose ministry it was to be successful in business and to offer their entire profit margin to the Lord. That is no small thing.
Jesus taught of the Shrewd Servant in Luke 16, who misused his master’s money on himself and came under threat of losing his job. Instead of using that money to help himself, he then began to use it to win friends of the master’s debtors. Both ways were misusing the master’s money, but Jesus praised him in the second way because at least he used the funds for a future purpose.
Jesus pointed out the lesson in verse 9:
Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
Luke 16:9 (NLT)
The lesson is clear. Use your earthly resources to benefit others and win friends. Notice that final phrase though, “to welcome you to an eternal home.” This suggests not only that we use our money to meet people’s physical needs, but their spiritual ones too. We can use our earthly money – which we cannot take with us – to fund the preaching of the Gospel, and that one day when we reach our eternal home, there will be people there to welcome us.
If you work a physical job, a secular role or something that seems disconnected to the Gospel, use the money you earn to spread God’s message throughout the world. It is not a waste of money, and rather an eternal investment. One day, someone will swing past your heavenly mansion and thank you for what you gave.
Work hard, as if working for the Lord Himself, because you are!
I knew that I had a teaching gift long before I knew anything (really) about the Bible. I accidentally volunteered to lead a Bible study group once, when I very much considered myself to be a baby Christian! That is a story for another day perhaps…
I had been praying about how I might get an opportunity to teach a Bible message. And the Lord answered in a clear way.
While I was at university (during this time), I attended the Christian Union meetings. I often arrived early to help set up chairs and whatever else needed doing. On this one occasion, the man scheduled to come and speak to the group had unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute.
I remember vividly the look on the organiser’s face as she said, “What are we going to do! We’ve got X number of people coming!” I say “X” because I really do not remember how many were coming!
In a small voice, I said, “I can speak, if you want me to…” About what, I had little idea! “Would you!” She asked excitedly. “Sure,” I said, excitement growing inside of me. In that moment, I knew that this had been my answer to prayer and that this was the opportunity God had blessed me with.
Grabbing a Bible, reviewing the passage, and praying as much as I could with what time I had, I “prepared”.
The crowd gathered and I stood up to speak. This is when the miracle happened… words came out! And they were not wholly nonsensical, as I recall!
I often think of this verse, when I remember that night:
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say.”
Luke 12:12 (WEB)
He certainly did that evening!
I’m pleased to report it was the first of many times God would give me the privilege of speaking to a group of Christians about His amazing Word. Mostly, I am slightly more prepared than that first time!
I praise and thank God He was in charge that night, and indeed – every night!
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say – Luke12:12 #Bible #Jesus #Christianity
Last week I wrote a post called – Precious Faith – which looked at the opening words of Peter’s second letter. Having reminded his readers of his slavery and apostleship, and the like precious faith they share, Peter continues.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)
Living A Godly Life
In his opening, Peter tells us that we share a faith given to us by God. Likewise here, we see another example of what God has given to us. Namely, everything!
Well, not strictly true… although I once heard a preacher say that this verse does mean just that. That God has given us everything we might want, need or desire. If we were not fallen, sinful creatures, then that might not be so bad.
Peter, however, does not mean literally everything but rather qualifies his words. God, by His power, has given us everything we need for “living a godly life.” God has indeed blessed us richly, and gives us what we need that we might live godly lives. He does not empower us to commit sin, nor to swallow up all we want in selfish greed.
It can be very difficult to be a Christian in today’s world. Some days it feels like we live on a different planet to the rest of the population. We are criticised, laughed at and persecuted, and at times it can feel almost impossible to live in a godly way.
Yet, Peter would encourage us by reminding us of what we have been given – everything! We can do it, because we have what we need. This is not to depend on ourselves to live righteously, but instead to draw on that “divine power” that the Holy Spirit brings. We live godly because we follow Christ, and want to be like Him. We have courage to stand out from the world even if it costs us something.
Verse 3 continues by saying we have received all of thins by coming to know Him – that is, the One who has called us by His marvellous glory and excellence. So, this means that we receive this as we come to know Jesus Christ. It is not received in church attendance, daily devotionals, doing good works (as profitable as those things are), but it is also about knowing Christ.
I am reminded of Paul’s words from Philippians:
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ
Philippians 3:8 (NLT)
I have been challenged lately by asking myself how Christlike I am. I often do not feel a whole lot like Him, and as I examine what it means to be like Him, I have to first truly know Him. I challenge you in the same way today; are you Christlike? How well do you know Jesus?
Last time, we thought about the precious faith we share, and now Peter points to precious promises.
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)
Because of His glory, because of how excellent Christ is, He has bestowed upon us promises as precious as our faith.
These promises allow us to share in Christ’s nature, and that is also what allows us to become Christlike. I hasten to point out that these promises are not given to us because we are good, have earned them or are superior to anyone else; no, they are given to us simply because we know the Lord.
The corruption of the world is what I touched on earlier. We are surrounded by sinfulness, and temptation seems to appear from every direction. How can we Christians escape such wickedness and not be overwhelmed by it? By receiving these very valuable promises, by drawing on Christ and all His strength and abiding in Him (as a branch linked to a vine) we can deny human (sinful) desire and seek the Spirit’s lead.
Practically, what does this all mean?
Put simply, I believe these verses point us back to God’s Word. We find these precious promises in the Bible. We come to know Christ fully as we see Him revealed in Scripture. As we study the Word, it changes us from the inside out and, over time, we become more like the Lord we serve.
Seek out those promises today. Read the Gospels and learn about who Jesus is. As you do so, you will be eternally blessed.
I love it when the Bible catches you off guard. And especially so when it is a passage you think you know well. That very thing happened to me this morning. I was looking over the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5. I cannot say I was actually reading it, but was more just…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/04/17/the-challenging-word-of-god/