Fasting for All

Scripture: Galatians 6.8
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Reflection: Fasting for All
By John Tillman

We sometimes treat fasting like a spiritual version of Mixed Martial Arts—only the strongest should attempt it. But fasting can and should be experienced in some way by believers of all maturity levels.

How do we expect young believers (or new believers) to mature at all if we deter them from learning and practicing one of the major disciplines of our faith?

No matter our age or maturity level, we may begin in fasting as we would begin any new practice. With small, achievable steps.

As with all the Disciplines, a progression should be observed; it is wise to learn to walk well before we try to run. — Richard Foster

Fasting may be the most important spiritual discipline for the church to focus on in the next decade. In an instant gratification culture, where we often find ourselves angry when a web page doesn’t load instantly or when a streaming video lags for even a few seconds, we need both a reality check and a spirituality check.

We desperately need to pursue spiritual focus amidst notifications and distractions. We desperately need to cultivate longings for God that won’t surface until we strip away the spirit-numbing stimulants of modern life.

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. — Richard Foster

Fasting from food is only the beginning of what, for many of us, may be a spiritual quest for stillness, mindfulness, and disconnection from the noise and haste of digital faux-life so that we can connect to true life in Christ.

May we explore fasting beyond fasting from food. May we explore the call of God to withdraw and abstain for a time from anything in our lives that creates false dependency, false assurances of competency, and false feelings of necessity.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. — Psalm 34.15

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 7 (Listen – 2:21)
Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)

Hope Born on the Cross

Scripture: Galatians 5.5-6
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Scripture: Luke 23.42
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Reflection: Hope Born on the Cross
By Matt Tullos

Hope: When we look toward the constructs of eternity and find our true selves apart from our feeble flesh.

The two thieves represent two choices. One thief demands proof. The other pleads for hope. One looks to escape and the other looks to eternity. These choices stand as constant reminders that the cross of Christ demands a response.

Hope is personal. Very personal. Whether through worship, adversity, desperation or pain, we collide into the reality that our only hope is Jesus.

We can’t hope eternally in friends. Friends will fail us.

We can’t hope in institutions. Institutions over the course of eternity will evaporate like the ephemeral mist of the morning dew.

We can’t hope in hidden treasures. All treasures, short of grace, are water through our fingers.

We can’t hope in flowery platitudes because there will be a day when they will all wilt upon the parched, unforgiving soil of our brokenness.

Our hope is in the One who suffers next to us and says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This glimpse of the cross reflects the absolute power of grace to snatch anyone from the jaws of destruction.

Was there anything the thief could do? Absolutely nothing. He couldn’t start a small group, feed the poor, go to the synagogue or study the scriptures. He found himself at the end of his life and the only thing he could do was to confess his sin and cry out to Jesus.

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.
— Victor Hugo

Hope was born on the cross.
Because hope was born we don’t have to be ashamed because he bore our shame.
Because hope was born we don’t have to constantly obsess about whether we could be good enough because He is our righteousness.
Because hope was born we are free.
Because hope was born we have purpose.
Because hope was born we are going to be okay.
And that’s worth celebrating!

Celebrate this scene of the darkest day! Grace rules even when we have no more time. Grace ruled the day then and now.

Have you ever felt like God has forgotten you?
What do you hope God will restore in your family, your heart, your church or your life?
Where is your hope waning?

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts are available in audio form via Soundcloud. — John

On March 19, churches around the world celebrate the life of Saint Joseph, descendant of King David and earthly father of Christ our Lord. We honor and wish by Christ’s grace to emulate him for his obedience, constancy, and protection of the Holy Family.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing; from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness. For I am persuaded that your love is established forever… — Psalm 89.1-2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 6 (Listen – 3:22)
Galatians 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Surrender

Scripture: Galatians 2.20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Reflection: Surrender
By Matt Tullos

Surrender: The releasing of every solution, tool, and self-saving strategy.

Jesus walked to the cross in total surrender.

He explained it this way: “No one is taking it from me; I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This is what my Father has commanded me.”
John 10:18 (HCSB)

There has always been a controversy around who killed Jesus. But Jesus was clear. He gave up His life as an offering. As we remember the brutal account of Jesus’ death, He invites us to see the cross as an embraced undertaking.

We are His prize and He snatched us away from the enemy through the brutality of an unthinkable surrender. He loved us enough to engage himself in a 33 year passage toward an unspeakable end.

In this act we see how real love works and He is inviting us to enter this story, to live, die, and live again. When we live like Jesus, life is ever before us as an opportunity to surrender everything. What does that look like for you? Only Jesus knows and He will reveal it to you soon enough.

Arise – go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me.
Little – be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike.
Preach the Gospel with your life – without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you…
Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.
Love… love… love, never counting the cost
Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast.
Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbor’s feet. Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you. Pray always.
I will be your rest.
— Catherine Doherty’s Little Mandate

The image of the cross is an image of absolute surrender.

When we enter into the story of Christ we see a point in time when we cannot use our hands to control anything. Our will, determination, ambition, and skill are nailed to the holy cross of Christ. While the world’s system teaches us how to control others and change ourselves, the cross has no such purpose. On the cross, our hands are not busy. They are surrendered.

The cross compels us to die to that old foe that the world calls “a self-made man.” Everything that feeds our own power, pride, ego, and self-determination has to go. It simply must. God is not improved by our efforts. He is glorified by our surrender.

When absolute and complete surrender takes hold of you, you will experience the bliss of satisfaction in Him. Whatever you have or don’t have… it wholly means nothing when you have given it all to Him. You live. You breathe. You worship. You give.
This is enough.

Survey the state of your heart. What things inside stand as barriers between you and God’s complete possession of all that you are?

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts (including today’s) are available in audio form via Soundcloud. — John

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. — Psalm 43.3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 3 (Listen – 3:05)
Galatians 2 (Listen – 3:44)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 4 (Listen – 2:37) Galatians 3 (Listen – 4:39)
Proverbs 5 (Listen – 2:08) Galatians 4 (Listen – 4:13)

What Slavery We Choose :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: Galatians 1.10
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Reflection: What Slavery We Choose :: Throwback Thursday
By Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

Consider what slavery you choose, when you make yourselves the servants of every person, whose censures you fear, and whose approbation you are ambitious of. “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” Do not needlessly enthral yourselves.

What a task have people-pleasers! They have as many masters as beholders! No wonder it takes them from the service of God. For the “friendship of the world is enmity to God” and “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4.4)

They cannot serve two masters, God and the world. You know people will condemn you, if you be true to God. If, therefore, you must have the favor of people, you must take it alone without God’s favor.

A people-pleaser cannot be true to God because he is a servant to the enemies of his service to God. The wind of a person’s mouth will drive him about as the chaff—from any duty, and to any sin.

How servile a person is a people-pleaser! How many masters he has, and how mean ones! It perverts the course of your hearts and lives, and turns all from God to this unprofitable way.

Remember what a pitiful reward you seek. Jesus said, concerning hypocrites and people-pleasers, “they have their reward.” O miserable reward! The thought and breath of mortal people! Instead of God—instead of Heaven—this is their reward!

Their happiness will be to lie in hell, and remember that they were well spoken of on earth—that once they were counted religious, learned, wise, or honorable, and to remember that they preferred this reward before everlasting happiness with Christ!

If this is not gain, your labor is all lost, which you lay out in hunting for applause. If this is enough to spend your time for, and to neglect your God for, and to lose your souls for, rejoice then in the hypocrite’s reward.

*Abridged and language updated from Directions against Idolizing Man.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. — Psalm 43.3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 2 (Listen – 1:53)
Galatians 1 (Listen – 3:05)

Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping

Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Reflection: Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
By Jada Swanson

What is peace? Peace is not the absence of turmoil or conflict. Rather, it’s a sense of awareness and understanding, knowing that God is in control of all. It is maintaining a quiet confidence in the midst of the daily struggles of life, as well as breathing in and embracing tranquility in the middle sheer and utter chaos.

The Bible states that Christians should live peaceful lives, making every effort to live at peace with everyone. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries many who identify as Christ-followers have not followed biblical teachings in regards to peaceful living, misinterpreting peacekeeping for peacemaking.

Peacekeeping comes about through misguided, but well-intended personal efforts. To be honest, it requires a lot of work. Peacekeepers tend to smooth things over, avoiding conflict at all costs in order to keep everyone content and the relationship intact. However, this is nothing more than pseudo-peace, and instead of healing a relationship, it fractures it even more.

The Bible says nothing about peacekeeping, but instead calls us to be peacemakers. Peacemaking approaches conflict redemptively—working through real issues in order to discover a solution or a compromise. It requires having the necessary conversations, no matter how difficult. Sometimes, the best way to build peace is to embrace confrontation as uncomfortable as this may be.

Are you a peace-keeper or a peacemaker?

As Christ-Followers, we should not waste our time or energy with peacekeeping. Instead, we should strive with all that we are to be peacemakers, someone who continuously yields to God’s Spirit in them as a result of their relationship with Jesus. Let’s stop keeping peace and start making peace, not settling for pseudo-peace, but actively pursuing real peace –– God’s peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — (Matthew 5:9)

The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105:4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 1 (Listen – 7:52)
Galatians 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen – 7:45) Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)
1 Kings 3 (Listen – 4:29) Ephesians 1 (Listen – 3:10)

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