Binging on Fasting

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5.15
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Reflection: Binging on Fasting
By John Tillman

Though our culture is turning against public religious displays and actions motivated by religious faith, there is one spiritual practice we love to binge on—fasting. In a world of one-upmanship, you can’t find a better way to prove you are trying harder than a fast.

Fasting is perhaps one of the least understood and most abused spiritual disciplines. As Richard Foster said, “Because of the secularization of modern society, ‘fasting’ is usually motivated either by vanity or by the desire for power.”

Despite the misunderstandings of the spiritual purpose of fasting or the particularities of its function, people universally recognize that it is a marker of spirituality. Even non-believers automatically connect fasting with spirituality.

It’s easy to understand why. In a culture obsessed with consumption, lack of it, even for a short period, stands out. But just because our culture recognizes that fasting is a spiritual practice doesn’t mean we understand it.

We misunderstand fasting to such a level that we have co-opted the concept to create new opportunities for consumption, even within the church. Fasting regimens—rebranded using the quasi-spiritual term, cleanses—are billed and sold as fixes for anything from headaches to cancer.

Asceticism is becoming cool and the best way to be an ascetic in Western culture is to pay a lot of money for expensive new products instead of whatever the “unenlightened” people are eating and drinking. This consumerist approach helps fasting fit into the American spiritual narrative of moralistic self-sufficiency.

Our society gorges on the faux-spirituality of Instagramming our use of the latest cleanse product or success pics of ripped abs or of tranquil meditative states induced by the latest faddish purge/cleanse/fast that has a cool hashtag.

As we continue through Lent—which for many is a partial fast of some kind or another—moving toward the celebration of Easter, may fasting be more to us than a religious stunt.

May we be more thrilled by gaining a better connection to Christ than by losses on a scale. May our lack aid us in leaning into Christ’s sufficiency. May our hunger lead us to read from His holy Word. May our pangs of emptiness lead us to make more room in our hearts and lives for the Holy Spirit and for the community of his Holy Church.

Prayer: The Prayer Appointed for the Week
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant that I, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear my cross, and be changed into his likeness…

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 35 (Listen – 1:33)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 3:02)

Godly Silence

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4.18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Matt is a longtime friend and mentor in ministry and writing. I’m thrilled to be able to include a few of his writings for the benefit of our community. — John

Reflection: Godly Silence
By Matt Tullos

The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is he does not know how to stay quietly in his room. — Blaise Pascal

My wife and kids were away the night a violent thunderstorm hit our town and the electricity went out. At that moment I was watching a football game, scanning twitter, and listening to music.

When darkness arrived in a split second I realized that the battery on my iPhone was almost gone. A brief moment of panic ensued. I realized that in a matter of minutes I would be thrust into the lifestyle millions of people enjoyed in the 1800s!

The silence and lack of media connection was unnerving at first. It was then that I sensed the presence of God speaking to me about my addiction to noise. After 15 minutes I had rediscovered the beauty of silence.

These days, silence is something we must fight to achieve, but it is definitely worth the fight. The National Center of Biotechnology stated in a study that two minutes of silence is more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

However, this is not new knowledge for people of the Book. The Bible urges us to experience silence as a spiritual discipline.

Every day we are faced with the choice of constant communication, noise and blather or intentional, Jesus-focused silence.

Don’t wait for a power outage in order to spend time in silence. God might be trying to tell you something but all the ambient noise and entertainment leaves you deaf to His voice.

I believe we would be astounded by all God wants to say to us and yet He never gets a chance because of our preoccupation with news, messages, conversations and entertainment. Silence isn’t just golden, it is godly.

Ask yourself, “How am I seeking silence in my day?” and “Why is constant communication and auditory stimulation so addictive?”

Take time to spend 15 minutes in silence today. Allow to God speak into your soul.

Editor’s Note: Fasts of many different kinds are common during the Lenten season. In our modern world a fast from certain aspects of technology might be as important as any other type of fasting.

As we cross the mid-point of the 40 days of Lent we will look at fasting and how it has been co-opted by our culture as just another opportunity for consumption and self-fulfillment rather than a process of self-denial, seeking of God, and blessing of others. — John

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. — Psalm 71.8-9

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 34 (Listen – 3:26)
2 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:02)

Prayer of Invocation from Nigeria :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1.10-11
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Reflection: Prayer of Invocation from Nigeria :: Worldwide Prayer

O God, our Father we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ through whom you have incorporated us into your divine life by virtue of which we can call you Abba, Father. How can we thank you enough for the unmerited promise that where two or three are gathered in your name, you will honor them with your presence?

In humility, we have come to you claiming this gracious promise of your presence. Grant us the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to worship you in Spirit and in truth, for our desire is to be acceptable to you.

Our Holy Father, we have come confessing our sins of commission and omission before you because if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. Your promise is that if we confess our sins we will be cleansed by the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. Father, in your grace, touch us now and purge us of all of our sins.

Quicken our spiritual sensitivity so we can be consciously tuned to your spiritual wave length. May our eyes, O God, be opened now by the Holy Spirit to enable us to see the Risen Lord seated on the Throne in all his glory, pleading for us.

Grant that we will be dedicated to the task of being your divine instruments of redemption in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities, to the extent that people around us will be impacted by the empirical demonstration of your transforming power working in us.

O Eternal Father, this is our earnest desire, this is why we have come before you. Grant this our humble desire, O God, not because we merit it but only because we ask for it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ , your Son and our Savior.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. — Psalm 90.14

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 31 (Listen – 4:16)
2 Corinthians 1 (Listen – 3:52)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 32 (Listen – 2:12) 2 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:13)
Job 33 (Listen – 3:00) 2 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 2:25)

The Materialist Cosmos :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16.13-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

Editor’s Note: Materialism today is more commonly used synonymously with Consumerism, but what Chesterton speaks of is a philosophy that denies the existence of anything other than matter

Materialists assert that there is not only no such thing as a soul, but no such thing as a mind or emotions. To a Materialist thoughts and emotions are just an illusion caused by chemical reactions happening in your physical brain.

This type of thinking is still quite popular today and is posited by many popular celebrity scientists who believe that a creator God is a farfetched concept yet have stated that it is probable we all live in a computer simulation.
— John

Reflection: The Materialist Cosmos :: Throwback Thursday
By G.K. Chesterton

If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The thing has shrunk. The deity is less divine than many men; and (according to Haeckel) the whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it. The parts seem greater than the whole.

For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves.

A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist.

But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies.

But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.

Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel.

The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman.

But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.

Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul thirsts for the strong, living God and all that is within me cries out to him.

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 30 (Listen – 3:14)
1 Corinthians 16 (Listen – 2:54)

Be Ye Perfect

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15.10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

We referenced this devotional in Monday’s discussion of the compelling Gospel of Billy Graham. It bears repeating. — John

Reflection: Be Ye Perfect
The Park Forum

“Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas,” warns C.S. Lewis. “Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.” Lewis, after examining how we cling to earthly pursuits, goes on to show how letting them go radically reorients the life of a Christian:

You must realize from the outset that the goal towards which he is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except yourself, can prevent him from taking you to that goal.

Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone. As we say, “I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.” And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.

The discipleship process, then, is not defined by the Christian, but by the Scriptures, Church, and Paraclete. “The question,” Lewis says, “is not what we intend ourselves to be, but what he intended us to be when he made us.”

Likewise, if the Lenten season is reduced to what we want to gain or lose through fasting we miss the point entirely. Fasting is the process of winnowing the clutches of our flesh so that the glory of God might be fully realized in our appetites, attitudes, and actions. Lewis, imagining the words of Christ, writes:

That is why he warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. “Make no mistake,” he says, “If you let me, I will make you perfect. You have free will and, if you chose, you can push me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my father can say without reservation that he is well pleased with you, as he said he was well pleased with me.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle: Who may abide upon your holy hill? Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart… — Psalm 15.1-2

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 29 (Listen – 2:26)
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen – 8:06)

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