Category: Occasonal Blogs (page 1 of 9)

On Fasting

In Matthew 6:16-18, we read: 16When you go without eating, don’t try to look gloomy as those show-offs do when they go without eating. I can assure you that they already have their reward. 17Instead, comb your hair and wash your face.18Then others won’t know that you are going without eating. But your Father sees what is done in private, and he will reward you. (CEV)

I have not fasted very often, but I believe that it can be an important act for any Christian, in particular those who are serious with God and who wish to remember a particular person or item in prayer.

It is not easy for us: most Americans have bodies that get used to the routine of three meals a day, supplemented with snacks. We adjust to the body and mind’s call for nourishment—even when we don’t really need it.

Of course, there are many areas of the world, including our own, where people do not get three meals a day and who live with starvation and malnutrition all around them. Such people are looking for something to eat and cannot practice food-fasting: they are like the beggar Lazarus who sat near the gate of the rich man’s house, happy for scraps of food to eat. For such people, prayer is for food, and not in the absence for food.

However, for many of us, giving up food to pray should not be burdensome. I think my problem is that I don’t want to pray that intensely.

Recently, I had to think about it again. A friend of mine was in pain and needed (or so I thought) my prayers. I had a concern and a burden for him and I wanted to express this to God with an intensity that confirmed my anxiety. I wanted God to know how worried I was about my friend and his condition and I wanted to appeal to God to help him.

I did fast and I did pray, but not with the continued concentration that mirrored my feelings. My mind wandered, I got sleepy, the telephone rang, and it was hardly the picture of prayer I had envisioned.

Did it do any good? That is completely up to God—as C.S. Lewis put it, “all prayers are conditional.” Of course, I was hopeful that it helped and I am confident that God heard my prayers. I know that “Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God’s promise is assured by his great kindness“ (Romans 4:16a) and that I don’t know how God answers my prayers. Sometimes I can look back and see what he has done, but I can’t look forward and see what he will do.

James 1:2-4 lays it out like this: 2My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. 3You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. 4But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything.

Certainly, we can have trouble: sickness, disease, misfortune, people who annoy or hurt us, and so on. There seems to be no shortage of trouble, even for the most optimistic person. And in such instances, Christians (and others) generally acknowledge their need for help.

The more desperate we are, the more sensitive we are to people or things that might help us: a new drug, a doctor’s advice, even praying. Most people would not keep on playing for the orchestra like some supposedly did in the sinking of the Titanic. They would be crying to God for help.

The atheist claims that he (or she) would not resort to such a temptation. They would resolutely face sickness and death, “knowing” that there is nothing else for them. The Christian who fasts is not like that: she (or he)cries out to God unashamedly in their trouble, knowing that there is no one else who can assist them.

I may not have done a very good job at fasting, but I am certain at such times that God knows my heart and sees the need of my prayers. It is a holy relationship and one for which I strive.

February, 2019

An Analogy: Am I a Linguist or a Missionary?

 

I want remind anyone reading this that all analogies break down at some point because I am comparing two things that are not completely alike. This analogy also breaks down at a number of points.

Let us start with a certain sport, say American baseball, which is recognized as a professional sport. Upon what basis is this judgment made? First of all, the players are paid to play baseball, so it is professional in that sense. Someone or some agency or company supports them. We also note that one of the major considerations is the level of performance of the team, as determined by playing against other professional teams.

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Throwing Crumbs to the Dogs

There is a story in Matthew and Mark about a Canaanite woman who went to the Lord asking for help for her “demon-possessed” daughter. Jesus didn’t answer her immediately and his disciples wanted him to send her away because she kept bothering them.

In a disconcerting exchange between Jesus and the woman, Jesus said that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26-28 and Mark 7:27-29)

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The Sparrows

Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows! (Luke 12:2)

There is a “joke” that, as we grow older, there is not as many hairs on our head to count. This misses the point, of course. The metaphor of the hairs on my head refers to the countless ways that God is watching over me.

Likewise, the metaphor of the sparrows refers to the way God can oversee and supervise the smallest detail in my life. If he is conscious of little birds like sparrows, he is surely aware of me.

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Sunday, April 22nd, at DaySpring

 

To sum up the sermon emphasis, it was “sheep and shepherds.” The Gospel reading was from John 10:11-18, about the Good Shepherd, Jesus, as a metaphor (actually a metonymy—a figure of speech such that the name of one thing stand for that of another) of the shepherd being equated with himself. In a direct quote, Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd knows his sheep (10:16) and will lay down his life for the sheep” (10:11). And in Psalm 23:1 we read “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing….”

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