Jesus meets us even behind locked doors - here are some resources to help connect with Him, which we will keep adding to as times goes on.
We are delighted to have connected with the wonderful work done by the group, "Helping Hereford Through COVID-19", who are cooking meals for those who are isolated and lonely, and giving encouraging gifts of cakes and food to key workers.
Find out more how to get connected on their Facebook group:
The Discipline of Fasting:
What is fasting?
Throughout scripture fasting is referred to as abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. It is important to remember that, it is for Spiritual Purposes! No other purpose, only for a spiritual purpose. If you go on a diet or a fitness regime, that’s not fasting. It is only when done specifically for spiritual reasons and often it is a very private thing between just yourself and God.
Fasting is not always an individual thing though, in the Jewish Calendar there is an obligatory day of fasting, the day of atonement. This was the holiest day of the year for a Jew, and they spent it praying and fasting, focusing on repentance, often spending a large part of the day in the synagogue. This was by no means the only fasting that Jews did though, and there are many examples throughout the Bible.
Esther calls on the Jews to refrain from eating or drinking anything for three days and nights. David in 2 Samuel fasts when mourning for Saul and Jonathan. In Jonah chapter 3, the King of Ninevah calls on the people to fast and repent so that they may be spared. Paul after the road to Damascus spent three days fasting and perhaps the most famous Jesus Himself spent 40 days and nights fasting in the wilderness.
In 1756 even the King of England, George II, called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by the French. John Wesley noted in his journal for this day that every church in London was more than full and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. The invasion never happened.
It’s worth noting that John Wesley took fasting as so important that he urged early Methodists to fast twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays. He felt so strongly about it that he actually refused to ordain anyone to the Methodist ministry who did not fast twice a week!
Thankfully though fasting isn’t about a set of rules or a law that we have to follow, because we have been set free. In Galatians 5 Paul calls us to use that freedom not to indulge in the sinful nature but rather to live by the spirit. And so you could say we are free in order that we can fast.
Fasting reminds us that we are sustained ‘by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. It is not food that sustains us, God sustains us. Fasting must forever centre on God, helping us to develop our relationship with God.
Why should we fast?
Fasting is not something we hear much about in church and yet in Matthew’s Gospel it is right there in Jesus’ teaching with the same level of importance as giving and praying! (Matthew 6:1-18) Jesus didn’t say if you fast, or you don’t need to worry about fasting anymore because those Pharisees are just hypocrites when they do it anyway. No, Jesus said ‘When you fast…’
Fasting can express a sorrowfulness of heart in a way that makes it vivid and real to us. Fasting shows God and ourselves that we mean business, that we are serious, it lessens the power of habit and it enables us to seek God without distraction. We can use fasting to express concern for an issue or to seek the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Whilst seeking God in the issue we discover that fasting has a big impact on us. It can lead to increase effectiveness in intercessory prayer, guidance in decisions, increased concentration, deliverance for those in bondage, physical well-being and revelations. We can expect God to reward those who diligently seek him.
How do we fast?
Well there are essentially three types of fasting that we find in the Bible. A partial, normal and absolute fast. They are as you would expect from their name. A partial fast allows some food though a limited range, think of Daniel who ate only vegetables and drank only water and refused the fatty foods the King commanded them to eat.
An absolute fast is ‘nil by mouth’, no food or drink, Paul after Damascus did an absolute fast for three days and nights. I’m not a doctor but I understand three days is the longest the human body can go without any food and drink. Then there is the normal fast. This allows liquid (which can be only water) but no food (solid or liquid food, so no protein shakes!). This is what Jesus did in the wilderness as it tells us he was hungry but not thirsty. A normal fast will be for a defined time, i.e. 24 hour period. In starting to learn a new discipline remember that we always need to walk before we can run and so don’t start with a fast that your body cannot handle. But do build up the discipline by doing it regularly.
Maybe start like me from a lunchtime to a lunchtime. Fresh fruit juice is excellent to drink during your initial first fasts. Your stomach will tell you it is hungry but that is partly because your stomach has become used to eating certain amounts of food at certain times, don’t worry you won’t starve by missing a meal. You might get bad breath but don’t worry that can be normal as your body gets rid of some of the toxins from your body. You realise during fasting how much your stomach controls you! In fact more than any other discipline fasting reveals the things that control us.
This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus. We often cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. Pride, anger, bitterness, jealousy, or fear. If they are within us, they will rise to the surface during fasting. We can rejoice in this because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other way. It is a means of God’s grace and blessing that should not be neglected. But it is not just in today’s consumerist culture fasting from food, we need to fast from all things that try to control us: the car, the telephone, the television, the internet. We become slaves to them if we are not careful, so try fasting from them as well as food.
Following Jesus means putting him first – before money, before power, before self. It means being different from the world, fasting can help us to express that difference. It is a case of ‘Who is in control here? Is it God, or is it a worldly desire?’ Fasting strengthens self-discipline and lessens the hold of material things upon us.
So start small and build it up, not boasting about it to others, but remembering it is centred on God.
Fasting: What and How?
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