Pastor's Blog

Weekly Habit #3 – 24 Hour Fast

“Man does not live on bread alone.”  These were the words Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 while he was fasting for forty days.

Can you imagine fasting from food for forty days? What is the longest amount of time you have gone without food? With forty days in the background of Matthew 4, perhaps twenty-four hours doesn’t seem so difficult.

And yet it is. Perhaps fasting is difficult not just because of the hunger pains you might feel by going without food for an entire day; but more so because of what food often means to us.

Justin Earley writes in The Common Rule, “We eat to try to fill our emptiness. This is why fasting is mentioned so often in the Bible. Fasting is a way to resist the original sin of trying to eat our way to happiness and to force ourselves to look to God for our fullness.”

I like "comfort” food as much as the next person, especially in the cold winter months. But isn’t it interesting that we associate “comfort” with food? It is not to say that food is not to be enjoyed.  It is! And, we do! 

But often we turn to food to “fill us.” And we are not just talking about the filling of our bellies.  Often, we “crave” food as a source of happiness or to medicate ourselves from the troubles of life. 

 

Consequently, fasting reminds us “to look to God for our fullness.” When Satan tempted a hungry Jesus to turn the rocks into bread he said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Or, as Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

So, when you think about fasting, don’t just think of the mechanics of it, going without food for a day. Instead, consider what it is meant to do. It is meant to remind you that only God can satisfy your deepest hunger. Only God can satisfy your desires and longings. God is the source of true comfort. 

Give it a try. Start with a meal…then two…then an entire day. 

The pang of hunger is a good reminder that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. 

The pang of hunger will also remind you that as you suffer the feeling of hunger, there are people all over the world who are suffering. This will help you pray for the needs around you and to reach out to be a source of “food” for the one who “hungers” for relief.

The pang of hunger will teach you how to live with self-control as you learn to say “no” to food and “yes” to God. 

Or as the popular slogan puts it…“no pain, no gain.”

Weekly Habit #2 - Curate Your Media

 

Stories are powerful.

Jesus often used the power of story to make a point.

The story of the Good Samaritan answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” My neighbor is the one in need. The story of the Prodigal Son illustrated why Jesus associated with broken people. The Father’s heart longs to forgive and restore.

Every Sunday, when we gather for worship, it is our goal to rehearse the grand story of Scripture.  It is the story that reminds us of God’s grace extended to us in Jesus. It is a story that empowers us to then go out into the world to be a blessing to others.

The other day, Bonnie and I were watching a PBS special on story telling. Each storyteller would take seven minutes to weave their tale and exercise their craft. A good storyteller can captivate your imagination and shape your heart and mind.

Stories are powerful.

Our world is filled with stories. Because of technology, we don’t always select the stories we want to consume. Instead, stories have a way of selecting us.

Stories select us when we are indiscriminate with how much media we consume. In fact, social media is designed to make us consume more and more. It prompts us to respond. It even knows which stories we gravitate to and so it keeps inviting us back.

The habit this week is to curate your media intake to a limited amount of time. And with that limited time, be selective in what stories you choose to shape your heart. 

For some, this habit will be quite challenging to put into practice. But give it a try.

Be intentional with the stories you choose to shape your heart. Look for stories that cause you to see our broken world for what it is and look for stories that inspire you to be a person of hope.  Look for stories that cause you to see the beauty of God in all that he has made.

Decide on how many hours you will give yourself to consuming media. Then track it. This exercise will help you be selective.

If you are looking for suggestions, I would recommend this article to start. The 15 Best Films About Faith from the 2010s.

Weekly Habit #1 - One Hour Conversation with a Friend

One of the topics I discuss when doing pre-marital counseling is the topic of conversation. It is always interesting to observe the different ways men and women approach conversation.

Men tend to feel that conversation requires a destination. In other words, there must be a purpose or a goal or a desired end to the conversation. Otherwise, why even bother talking?

But here is what women tend to understand about conversation. Conversation does not require a destination.  Instead, it is an essential ingredient to relationship. As Mortimer Adler put it: “Without communication, there can be no community…That is why conversation, discussion, or talk is the most important form of speaking or listening.”

We were made for relationship. We were made for friendship. It is part of what it means to be created in the image of God.  God is Triune. God is three persons and yet one. For all of eternity, God has existed in perfect community – friendship.

The first time we discover that something is “not good” in God’s creation is when Adam was alone. There was no one found who was suitable for him. That is when God made Eve and brought him to Adam. Friendship. Relationship. 

And yet, there are so many things in our isolated culture that values individualism that make it difficult to build the kinds of relationships we desperately need. We are busy. We are distracted.  We have been fooled into thinking that the number of “friends” and “likes” we have on Facebook is equivalent to the number of true friends we have in life. 

And yet, truth be told, we remain unknown, lonely, and isolated. This is to our detriment.  Studies have shown that loneliness reduces life expectancy to the tune of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Without relationship we have no one to bring to the light our struggles and temptations, leaving us vulnerable to the things that easily tempt us. 

The bottom line is this. We need genuine friendship, and this requires conversation. Because this level of relationship is uncommon to us and even counter cultural, we need to be intentional about it. Hence, WEEKLY HABIT #1 – One Hour Conversation with a Friend.

Make this part of your weekly routine. Schedule for it. 

Ask someone to consider meeting with you weekly just to catch up. You can either sit down with someone “eyeball to eyeball.”  Or you can do an activity together, and during the activity you can talk. 

Make it a goal to share something with that person that gets past the surface and into your heart.  Express interest in the other person and what is happening in their life. 

Try it for a month! You will be the better for it.

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