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Quotes and Wisdom on Biblical Fasting

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“Fasting without prayer is starvation.” ~ Anonymous

“Do not limit the benefit of fasting merely to abstinence from food, for a true fast means refraining from evil. Do not let your fasting lead to wrangling and strife. You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother; you abstain from wine, but not from insults. So all the labor of your fast is useless.” ~ Ambrose

“If there is a man among them who is poor and in need, and they have not an abundance of what is needed, they fast for two or three days so that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.” ~ Aristides of Athens

“By eating and drinking we repair the daily decays of our body, until Thou destroyest both belly and meat, when Thou hast slain my emptiness with a wonderful fullness, and clothed this incorruptible with an eternal incorruption. But now the necessity is sweet unto me, against which sweetness I fight, that I be not taken captive; and carry on a daily war by fastings; often bringing my body into subjection and my pains are removed by pleasure. . . . Oft it is uncertain, whether it be the necessary care of the body which is yet asking for sustenance, or whether a voluptuous deceivableness of greediness is proffering its services. In this uncertainty the unhappy soul rejoiceth, and therein prepares an excuse to shield itself, glad that it appeareth not what suffi ceth for the moderation of health, that under the cloak of health, it may disguise the matter of gratification. These temptations I daily endeavor to resist, and I call on Thy right hand, and to Thee do I refer my perplexities; because I have as yet no settled counsel herein.” ~ Augustine (Confessions)

“If I be asked what is my own opinion in this matter, I answer, after carefully pondering the question, that in the Gospels and Epistles, and the entire collection of books for our instruction called the New Testament, I see that fasting is enjoined. But I do not discover any rule definitely laid down by the Lord or by the apostles as to days on which we ought or ought not to fast. And by this I am persuaded that exemption from fasting on the seventh day is more suitable, not indeed to obtain, but to foreshadow, that eternal rest in which the true Sabbath is realized, and which is obtained only by faith, and by that righteousness whereby the daughter of the King is all glorious within.”~ Augustine (Letter XXXVI)

“Christ saith that when the bridegroom was taken from them, his disciples should ‘fast’ (Mark 2:19-20). And even Paul was ‘in fasting often’ (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27), and, ‘I discipline my body and bring it to subjection’ (1 Cor. 9:27). And I am sure that the ancient Christians (Acts 5:30; 14:23; Lk. 2:37), that lived in solitude, and ate many of them nothing, … did not find this cure [fasting] too dear.”  ~ Richard Baxter

“If the appetite alone hath sinned, let it alone fast, and it sufficeth. But if the other members also have sinned, why should they not fast, too? Let the eye fast from strange sights and from every wantonness, so that which roamed in freedom in fault-doing may, abundantly humbled, be checked by penitence. Let the ear, blameably eager to listen, fast from tales and rumors, and from whatsoever is of idle import, and tendeth least to salvation. Let the tongue fast from slanders and murmurings, and from useless, vain, and scurrilous words, and sometimes also, in the seriousness of silence, even from things which may seem of essential import. Let the hand abstain from all toils which are not imperatively necessary. But also let the soul herself abstain from all evils and from acting out her own will. For without such abstinence the other things find no favor with the Lord.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“God will not let me get the blessing without asking. Today I am setting my face to fast and pray for enlightenment and refreshing. Until I can get up to the measure of at least two hours in pure prayer every day, I shall not be contented. Meditation and reading besides.“ ~ Andrew Bonar

“Jesus takes it for granted that his disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian’s life. Such customs have only one purpose—to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 188)

“When the flesh is satisfied it is hard to pray with cheerfulness or to devote oneself to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 189)

“We have to practice strictest daily discipline; only so can the flesh learn the painful lesson that it has no rights of its own.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 189)

“In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them, if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreaking thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again.” ~ Thomas Boston

“It will take nothing short of the supernatural to stem the tides of judgment devastating our land. I believe that nothing else can compare with the supernatural power released when we fast and pray. We know for certain from Hebrews 11:6 and from personal experience that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.” ~ Bill Bright (The Coming Revival, p. 108)

“This, then, is the philosophy of fasting. It expresses repentance, and it uncovers the life to God. “Come down, my pride; stand back my passions; for I am wicked, and I wait for God to bless me.” ~ Phillips Brooks (“Fasting” in The Candle of the Lord and Other Sermons, p. 207)

“Fasting is not approved by God, except for its end; it must be connected with something else, otherwise it is a vain thing. Men by private fastings, prepare themselves for the exercise of prayer, or they mortify their own flesh, or seek a remedy for some hidden vices.” ~ John Calvin

“To sum them up: whenever a controversy over religion arises which ought to be settled by either a synod or an ecclesiastical court, whenever there is a question about choosing a minister, whenever, finally, any difficult matter of great importance is to be discussed, or again when there appear the judgments of the Lord’s anger (as pestilence, war, and famine)—’tis a holy ordinance and one salutary for all ages, that pastors urge the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayers.” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“Holy and lawful fasting has three objectives. We use it either to weaken and subdue the flesh that it may not act wantonly, or that we may be better prepared for prayers and holy meditations, or that it may be a testimony of our self-abasement before God when we wish to confess our guilt before him.” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“[Paul’s word on the sex-fast in 1 Corinthians 7:5 shows that fasting serves prayer and is not an end in itself. After referring to Anna in Luke 2:37 and Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1:4 he says:] For this reason, Paul says that believers act rightly if they abstain for a time from the marriage bed, that they may be left freer for prayer and fasting. There he joins fasting with prayer as an aid to it, and warns that it is of no importance of itself except as it is applied to this end [1 Corinthians 7:5].” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“Throughout its course, the life of the godly indeed ought to be tempered with frugality and sobriety, so that as far as possible it bears some resemblance to a fast. But, in addition, there is another sort of fasting, temporary in character, when we withdraw something from the normal regimen of living, either for one day or for a definite time, and pledge ourselves to a tighter more severe restraint in diet than ordinarily.” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“Almost anything that is supposed to serve as an outward sign of an inward attitude can be cheapened by hypocritical piety. Jesus told those who wanted to fast, ‘But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you’ (Matthew 6:17-18). Jesus is telling his followers that when they fast [he assumes his disciples will fast] that they are to act normally so that no one but God will know it. They are to take off the ashes, wash their faces, use their deodorant or talc or oil or whatever, and act normally. No voluntary act of spiritual discipline is ever to become an occasion for self-promotion. Otherwise, any value to the act is utterly vitiated…Whom am I trying to please by my religious practices? Honest reflection on that question can produce most disquieting results. If it does, then a large part of the solution is to start practicing piety in the secret intimacy of the Lord’s presence. If our ‘acts of righteousness’ are not primarily done in secret before him, then secretly they may be done to please men.” ~ D.A. Carson (The Sermon on The Mount, p. 73)

“What we gain from fasting does not compensate for what we lose in anger.” ~ John Cassian

“Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean, And fat his soul and make his body lean.” ~ Geoffrey Chaucer

“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour brothers? May HE who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.” ~ John Chrysostom

“Be not then henceforth a viper, but as thou hast been formerly a viper’s brood, put off, saith he, the slough of thy former sinful life. For every serpent creeps into a hole and casts its old slough, and having rubbed off the old skin, grows young again in body. In like manner enter thou also through the strait and narrow gate, rub o thy former self by fasting, and drive out that which is destroying thee.” ~ Cyril of Jerusalem

“You and I have no more right to omit fasting because we feel no special emotional prompting than we have a right to omit prayer, Bible reading, or assembling with God’s children for lack of some special emotional prompting. Fasting is just as biblical and normal a part of a spiritual walk of obedience with God as are these others.” ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 184)

“How do you take up your cross? To take up a cross is not to have someone place the cross upon you. Sickness, persecution, and the antagonism of other people are not your real cross. To take up a cross is a deliberate choice. We must purposely humble ourself [sic], stoop down, and pick up the cross for Jesus. Fasting is one of the most biblical ways to do so.” ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 184)

“Fasting can deepen hunger for God to work. Spiritual hunger and fasting have a reciprocal power. Each deepens and strengthens the other. Each makes the other more e ective. When your spiritual hunger becomes very deep, you may even lose the desire for food. All of the most intense forms of prevailing prayer . . . can be deepened, clarified, and greatly empowered by fasting…Fasting is natural when you are burdened su ciently, wrestling with mighty prevailings, and warring in hand-to-hand conflict with Satan and his powers of darkness. Fasting becomes sweet and blessed as your hunger reaches out to God. Your hunger gains tremendous power as you fast and pray—particularly if you set apart time from all else to give yourself to fasting and prayer. It can become a spiritual joy to fast. ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 188)

“Fasting feeds your faith. . . . Your confidence begins to deepen. Your hope begins to rise, for you know you are doing what pleases the Lord. Your willingness to deny self and voluntarily to take up this added cross kindles an inner joy. Your faith begins to lay hold of God’s promise more simply and more firmly.” ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 189)

“I suppose there is scarcely a minister in this land, but from Sabbath to Sabbath used to pray that God would pour out his Spirit, and work a reformation and revival of religion in the country, and turn us from our intemperance, profaneness, uncleanness, worldliness and other sins; and we have kept from year to year days of public fasting and prayer to God, to acknowledge our backslidings, and humble ourselves for our sins, and to seek of God forgiveness and reformation: and now when so great and extensive a reformation is so suddenly and wonderfully accomplished, in those very things that we have sought to God for, shall we not acknowledge it?” ~ Jonathan Edwards (Some Thoughts Concerning Revival)

“The state of the times extremely requires a fullness of the divine Spirit in ministers, and we ought to give ourselves no rest till we have obtained it. And in order to [do] this, I should think ministers, above all persons, ought to be much in secret prayer and fasting, and also much in praying and fasting one with another. It seems to me it would be becoming the circumstances of the present day, if ministers in a neighborhood would often meet together and spend days in fasting and fervent prayer among themselves, earnestly seeking for those extraordinary supplies of divine grace from heaven, that we need at this day.” ~ Jonathan Edwards (Some Thoughts Concerning Revival)

“One thing more I would mention concerning fasting and prayer, wherein I think there has been a neglect in ministers; and that is that although they recommend and much insist on the duty of secret prayer, in their preaching; so little is said about secret fasting. It is a duty recommended by our Savior to his followers, just in like manner as secret prayer is; as may be seen by comparing the 5th and 6th vss. of the 6th chap. of Matt. with vss. 16–18. Though I don’t suppose that secret fasting is to be practiced in a stated manner and steady course as secret prayer, yet it seems to me ’tis a duty that all professing Christians should practice, and frequently practice. There are many occasions of both a spiritual and temporal nature that do properly require it; and there are many particular mercies that we desire for ourselves or friends that it would be proper, in this manner, to seek of God.” ~ Jonathan Edwards (Some Thoughts Concerning Revival)

“Fasting is a voluntary total or partial abstinence from food for a limited time. It is usually undertaken for spiritual benefit.” ~ Millard Erickson

“Almost everywhere at all times fasting has held a great importance since it is closely linked with the intimate sense of religion. Perhaps this is the explanation for the demise of fasting in our day. When the sense of God diminishes, fasting disappears.” ~ Edward Farrell

“An old saint once said that fasting prevents luxuries from becoming necessities. Fasting is a protection of the spirit against the encroachments of the body. When a person fasts, he has his body well in hand, and is able to do the work of the Master.” ~ Jerry Falwell (What the Bible Teaches, pp. 11)

“Fasting is the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” ~ Richard Foster

“It is well to know the process your body goes through in the course of a longer fast. The first three days are usually the most difficult in terms of physical discomfort and hunger pains. The body is beginning to rid itself of the toxic poisons that have built up over years of poor eating habits, and it is not a comfortable process. This is the reason for the coating of the tongue and bad breath. Do not be disturbed by these symptoms; rather be grateful for the increased health and wellbeing that will result. You may experience headaches during this time, especially if you are an avid coffee or tea drinker. Those are mild withdrawal symptoms which will pass, though they may be very unpleasant for a time. By the fourth day the hunger pains are beginning to subside though you will have feelings of weakness and occasional dizziness. The dizziness is only temporary and caused by sudden changes in position. Move more slowly and you will have no difficulty. The weakness can come to the point where the simplest task takes great effort. Rest is the best remedy. Many find this the most diifficult period of the fast. By the sixth or seventh day you will begin to feel stronger and more alert. Hunger pains will continue to diminish until by the ninth or tenth day they are only a minor irritation. The body will have eliminated the bulk of toxic poisons and you will feel good. Your sense of concentration will be sharpened and you will feel as if you could continue fasting indefinitely. Physically this is the most enjoyable part of the fast. Anywhere from twenty-one to forty days or longer, depending upon the individual, hunger pains will return. This is the first stage of starvation and signals that the body has used up all its excess reserves and is beginning to draw on the living tissue. The fast should be broken at this time.” ~ Richard Foster (The Celebration of Discipline, 51-52)

“Fasting is supposed to be the ordinary practice of the godly. Christ does not make light of it, but merely cautions them against its abuses. . . . It is an appendage to prayer, and designed to aid its importunity. It is humbling, and in a manner, chastising ourselves before God. The spirit of it is expressed in the following passages—“So do God to me and more also, if I taste bread, or aught else, till the sun be down.” “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” No mention is made of the time, or how often the duty should be attended to. . . . It is only a means, however; if rested in as an end, it will be an abomination in the sight of God.” ~ Andrew Fuller (The Complete Works, p. 583)

“If the solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him.” ~ Matthew Henry (Commentary)

“Let them all take notice that, whereas they thought they had made God very much their Debtor by these fasts, they were much mistaken, for they were not acceptable to Him, unless they had been observed in a better manner, and to a better purpose…They were not chargeable with omission or neglect of the duty,…but they had not managed it aright…They had not an eye to God in their fasting…When this was wanting, every fast was but a jest. To fast, and not to fast to God, was to mock Him and provoke Him, and could not be pleasing to Him…If solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long, and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him.” ~ Matthew Henry (Commenting on Zechariah 7:5))

“[He made a medication in his ministry to opium-addicted Chinese.] Whenever it was necessary to make a fresh supply, he began with prayer and fasting. It was his habit to go without food the whole twenty-four hours of the day given to that work. Sometimes he was so exhausted towards the evening that he could hardly stand. Then he would go away for a few minutes alone to wait upon God. “Lord, it is Thy work. Give me Thy strength,” was his plea. And he always came back fresh and reinvigorated, as if with food and rest.” ~ Pastor Hsi (Mrs. Howard M. Taylor, Pastor Hsi, p. 131)

“[At the Sialkot Convention in India for missionaries at the end of the nineteenth century John Hyde spent the whole time of the convention in the prayer room.] What about his meals, and his bed? The Convention lasted for ten days in those early days, and his “boy,” a lad about sixteen that he had taken to his home and his heart, had brought Hyde’s bedding and had carefully made his bed, but it was never used during the Convention. I saw him more than once when the prayer room was full, go aside into one of the corners and throw himself on the floor to sleep, but if the room began to get empty and prayer to flag, he somehow seemed to know it and was up immediately and took his place with the other intercessors. Did he go to his meals? I think it was only once or twice that I saw him with us at table. Sometimes his “boy,” or Gulla, the sweeper, or one of his friends would take a plate of curry and rice or something else to him to the prayer room, and if convenient he would go to a corner and eat it. How his “boy” used to cry because he would not eat properly and would not go to bed to sleep.” ~ Praying John Hyde (E.G. Carre, Praying Hyde: A Challenge to Prayer, p. 92)

“Devote thyself to fasting and prayer, but not beyond measure, lest thou destroy thyself thereby. Do not altogether abstain from wine and flesh, for these things are not to be viewed with abhorrence, since [the Scripture] saith, “Ye shall eat the good things of the earth.” And again, “Ye shall eat flesh even as herbs.” And again, “Wine maketh glad the heart of man, and oil exhilarates, and bread strengthens him.” But all are to be used with moderation, as being the gifts of God. “For who shall eat or who shall drink without Him? For if anything be beautiful, it is His; and if anything be good, it is His.” ~ Ignatius (The Epistle to Hero)

“If religion requires us sometimes to fast and deny our natural appetites, it is to lessen that struggle and war that is in our nature; it is to render our bodies fitter instruments of purity, and more obedient to the good motions of divine grace; it is to dry up the springs of our passions that war against the soul, to cool the flame of our blood, and render the mind more capable of divine meditations. So that although these abstinences give some pain to the body, yet they so lessen the power of bodily appetites and passions, and so increase our taste of spiritual joys, that even these severities of religion, when practiced with discretion, add much to the comfortable enjoyment of our lives.” ~ William Law (A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, p. 112)

“It is impossible to accept Christianity for the sake of finding comfort: but the Christian tries to lay himself open to the will of God, to do what God wants him to do. You don’t know in advance whether God is going to set you to do something difficult or painful, or something that you will quite like; and some people of heroic mould are disappointed when the job doled out to them turns out to be something quite nice. But you must be prepared for the unpleasant things and the discomforts. I don’t mean fasting, and things like that. They are a different matter. When you are training soldiers in maneuvers, you practice in blank ammunition because you would like them to have practices before meeting the real enemy. So we must practice in abstaining from pleasures which are not in themselves wicked. If you don’t abstain from pleasure, you won’t be good when the time comes along. It is purely a matter of practice.” ~ C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock, pp. 53-54)

“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme authority and Just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation: 

And whereas, it is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord: 

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishment and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the o ended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness. 

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion. 

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and restoration of our now divided and suffering country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace. 

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.” ~ Abraham Lincoln (Library of Congress, Appendix no. 19, vol. 12 of The United States At Large, quoted in Derek Prince, Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, pp. 138-47)

“Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not . . . be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting.” ~ David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

“[From a sermon on Matthew 4:1ff. in 1524] Of fasting I say this: it is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, for studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God’s Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work.” ~ Martin Luther

“[On the soberness of mind that Peter exhorts in 1 Peter 1:13, Luther comments on the varied needs of different people.] He fixes no definite time, how long we are to fast, as the pope has done, but leaves it to the individual so to fast as always to remain sober and not burden the body with gluttony, that he may remain in possession of reason and reflections and determine how much he must do to keep his body under control. For it is utterly idle to impose one command about this on a whole group and congregation, since we are so unlike one another: one strong, another weak in body, so that one must mortify the body more, another less, if it is to remain sound and fit for good service. . . . It is good to fast. But only that can be called true fasting when we give the body no more food than it needs to retain its health. Let the body work and be wary, lest the old ass become too wanton and going on the ice to dance, break a bone. The body should be curbed and should follow the spirit; it should not act like those who, when they are about to fast, at one sitting fill themselves so full of fish and the best of wine that their bellies are bloated.” ~ Martin Luther

“Scripture places before us two kinds of fasting that are good. The first kind one accepts willingly for the purpose of checking the flesh by the spirit. Concerning this Saint Paul says: “. . . in labors, in watchings, in fastings . . .” (2 Cor. 6:5). The second is the kind one must endure and yet accept willingly. Concerning this St. Paul says: “Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst” (1 Cor. 4:11). And Christ says of it: “When the bridegroom shall be taken from them . . . then they shall fast” (Matt. 9:15).” ~ Martin Luther

“To Judaism, a fast was an outward sign of an inward condition. To Jesus, a fast was an inward sign of an inward condition. The former, if misused, “a peculiarly ugly form of religious dramatic art,” the latter a part of “closet” devotions.” ~ Keith Main (Prayer and Fasting: A Study in the Devotional Life of the Early Church, p. 37)

“Thus far we have suggested that the joy and thanksgiving that marks the prayer life of the New Testament is a sign of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. Fasting is no longer consistent with the joyous and thankful attitude that marks the fellowship. Yet this is only partially so. . . . It is true that the crisis and the tragedy are there as a stark reality. The Kingdom is not fully realized. Granted that the Bridegroom is present and now is not an appropriate time to mourn. Yet this is not entirely so, for we are still in the flesh and weak in faith. . . . Within this “bitter struggle” the believer, in this devotional life, might conceivably find occasion to fast. It would be only one among many of the ingredients that go to make up the life of the man in Christ. One might read through 2 Corinthians 6:3–10 and 11:23–29 for a glimpse into the wide range of such suffering in the “bitter struggle” for the cause of Christ. Against such a background the “hungers” mentioned in 6:5 and 11:27 gain their true perspective.” ~ Keith Main (Prayer and Fasting: A Study in the Devotional Life of the Early Church, p. 83-84)

“Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.” ~ David Mathis

“Only as we voluntarily embrace the pain of an empty stomach do we see how much we’ve allowed our belly to be our god (Philippians 3:19).” ~ David Mathis 

“Fasting, like the gospel, isn’t for the self-sufficient and those who feel they have it all together…It is a desperate measure, for desperate times, among those who know themselves desperate for God.

“Fasting is an exceptional measure, designed to channel and express our desire for God and our holy discontent in a fallen world. It is for those not satisfied with the status quo. For those who want more of God’s grace. For those who feel truly desperate for God.” ~ David Mathis (Habits of Grace, pp. 117-118)

“Fasting isn’t merely an act of self-deprivation, but a spiritual discipline for seeking more of God’s fullness. Which means we should have a plan for what positive pursuit to undertake in the time it normally takes to eat. We spend a good portion of our day with food in front of us. One significant part of fasting is the time it creates for prayer and meditation on God’s word or some act of love for others.” ~ David Mathis

“Before diving headlong into a fast, craft a simple plan. Connect it to your purpose for the fast. Each fast should have a specific spiritual purpose. Identify what that is and design a focus to replace the time you would have spent eating. Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.” ~ David Mathis

“Fasting is no license to be unloving. It would be sad to lack concern and care for others around us because of this expression of heightened focus on God. Love for God and for neighbor go together. Good fasting mingles horizontal concern with the vertical. If anything, others should even feel more loved and cared for when we’re fasting…So as you plan your fast, consider how it will affect others. If you have regular lunches with colleagues or dinners with family or roommates, assess how your abstaining will affect them, and let them know ahead of time, instead of just being a no-show, or springing it on them in the moment that you will not be eating.” ~ David Mathis

“If the better part of wisdom for you, in your health condition, is not to go without food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Paul even talks about married couples fasting from sex “for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5). ~ David Mathis

“When your empty stomach starts to growl and begins sending your brain every “feed me” signal it can, don’t be content to let your mind dwell on the fact that you haven’t eaten. If you make it through with an iron will that says no to your stomach, but doesn’t turn your mind’s eye elsewhere, it says more about your love for food than your love for God.” ~ David Mathis

“Christian fasting turns its attention to Jesus or some great cause of his in the world. Christian fasting seeks to take the pains of hunger and transpose them into the key of some eternal anthem, whether it’s fighting against some sin, or pleading for someone’s salvation, or for the cause of the unborn, or longing for a greater taste of Jesus.” ~ David Mathis  (Habits of Grace, p. 126)

“Prayer needs fasting for its full growth. Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the invisible. Fasting is the other hand, the one with which we let go of the visible. In nothing is man more closely connected with the world of sense than in this need for, and enjoyment of, food. It was the fruit with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise. It was with bread that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. But He triumphed in fasting. . . . The body has been redeemed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. In body as well as spirit, Scripture says, we are to glorify God in eating and drinking. There are many Christians to whom this eating for the glory of God has not yet become a spiritual reality. The first thought suggested by Jesus’ words in regard to fasting and prayer is that only in a life of moderation and self-denial will there be sufficient heart and strength to pray much. . . . Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain the Kingdom of God. And Jesus, Who Himself fasted and sacrificed, knows to value, accept, and reward with spiritual power the soul that is thus ready to give up everything for Him and His Kingdom.” ~ Andrew Murray (With Christ in the School of Prayer, pp. 100-101)

“The birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God.” ~ John Piper

“Fasting is not the forfeit of evil but of good.” ~ John Piper

“When God is the supreme hunger of our hearts, He will be supreme in everything.” ~ John Piper

“The issue [in fasting] is not food perse. The issue is anything and everything that is, or can be, a substitute for God.” ~ John Piper

“Half of Christian fasting is that our physical appetite is lost because our homesickness for God is so intense. The other half is that our homesickness for God is threatened because our physical appetites are so intense.” ~ John Piper

“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.” ~ John Piper 

“Fasting is the hungry handmaiden of prayer, who both reveals and remedies…She reveals the measure of food’s mastery over us—or television or computers or whatever we submit to again to conceal the weakness of our hunger for God. And she remedies by intensifying the earnestness of our prayer and saying with our whole body what prayer says with the heart: I long to be satisfied in God alone! ~ John Piper (When I Don’t Desire God, p. 171)

“The weakness of our hunger for God is not because we keep ourselves stuffed with ‘other things.’ Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God…What is at stake here is not just the good of our souls, but also the glory of God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. The fight of faith on all that God is for us in Christ. What we hunger for most, we worship.” ~ John Piper

“Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God.” ~ Cornelius Plantinga Jr. (Quoted in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney, p. 151)

“Let us learn from our Lord’s instruction about fasting, the great importance of cheerfulness in our religion. Those words, “anoint thy head, and wash thy face,” are full of deep meaning. They should teach us to aim at letting men see that we find Christianity makes us happy. Never let us forget that there is not religion in looking melancholy and gloomy. Are we dissatisfied with Christ’s wages, and Christ’s service? Surely not! Then let us not look as if we were.” ~ J.C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, p. 57)

“Fasting is not a legalistic requirement but a spontaneous reaction under special circumstances. . . . There are . . . godly and prayerful people who have found fasting a hindrance rather than a help. Some are so constituted physically that the lack of a minimum amount of food renders them unable to concentrate in prayer. . . . There is no need for such to be in bondage. Let them do what most helps them to pray.” ~ Oswald J. Sanders (Prayer Power Unlimited, p. 67).

“Is fasting ever a bribe to get God to pay more attention to the petitions? No, a thousand times no. It is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the universe, to choose to put everything else aside and concentrate on worshiping, asking for forgiveness, and making our requests known—considering His help more important than anything we could do ourselves in our own strength and with our own ideas.” ~ Edith Schaeffer (The Life of Prayer, pp. 75-76)

“A selfish person is unable to enjoy the gospel; a Christian is someone who has begun to deny himself, and is in the continuous process of denying himself. Jesus said “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Self-denial is not limited to one particular kind of giving; it embraces all personal disciplines. Fasting is only one discipline; nevertheless, it is self-denial. This does not mean that to fast is to embrace legalism; it is gospel liberty which encourages us to deny ourselves.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, p. 17)

“Any blessing which is bestowed by the Father upon His undeserving children must be considered to be an act of grace. We fail to appreciate the mercy of the Lord if we think that by our doing something we have forced (or even coerced) God to grant that blessing which we have asked for…All of our fasting, therefore, must be on this basis; we should use it as a scriptural means whereby we are melted into a more complete realization of the purposes of the Lord in our life, church, community, and nation.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 44)

“By this we must not conclude that the act of fasting has some virtuous power, and that we have made ourselves more humble; there is no virtue in fallen man by which he can make himself more godly; there is, however, virtue in the divinely appointed means of grace. If we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body (through fasting), we shall grow in grace, but the glory of such change will be God’s alone.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 88)

“Nobody can maintain a desired state of mind whilst his bodily condition is not in accordance with it. If a man is anxious to devote himself to spiritual things, for a time, he is obliged to ensure that his body is in similar environment, or else he may not succeed. He cannot be reverent in the midst of his own physical irreverence. Fasting ensures the correct environment for sorrowful and serious considerations. Asterius wrote, in the 4th Century, that one role of fasting is to ensure that the stomach does not make the body boil like a kettle, to the hindering of the soul.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 38-39)

“Fasting does not create faith, for faith grows in us as we hear, and read, and dwell upon, God’s Word; it is a work of the Holy Spirit to bring faith to God’s people. However, fasting has the capacity to encourage faith in the one who is involved in this discipline. It seems as though the neglect of self feeds the faith which God has implanted in the hearts of born-again believers. This doesn’t mean that those who eat the least have the most faith; such a view is not only untrue, it is extremist. It is simply that regular self-denial has its benefits, and one of these is seen in a personal increase in faith.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 47-48)

“The beneficial results of the fast are felt first in the sexual sphere. I have easily verified the connection established by the Ancients between the first two “principal vices,” gluttony and lust, and consequently between the corresponding disciplines: fasting and chastity. Fasting is the most effective help for a religious who has vowed chastity. Fantasies no longer appear even during the happy hours of physiological freedom of which I have spoken, and the rest of the time they are easily controlled and eliminated.” ~ Adalbert De Vogue (To Love Fasting:The Monastic Experience, p. 10)

“It will surprise no one if I confess that I am subject to anxiety and irritation, sadness and nervousness, to say nothing of vanity, touchiness or envy. . . . The habit of fasting effects a profound appeasement of all these instinctive movements. I think the cause is that a certain mastery of the primordial appetite, eating, permits a greater mastery of the other manifestations of the libido and aggressiveness. It is as if the man who fasts were more himself, in possession of his true identity, and less dependent on exterior objects and the impulses they arouse in him. . . . Among the lesser advantages, let us note only the time saved in sitting down to table once instead of three times. ~ Adalbert De Vogue (To Love Fasting: The Monastic Experience, p. 10)

“To love fasting is not only possible. In the light of the facts, I will go so far as to say that the contrary appears impossible to me, to whatever degree one has truly experienced fasting. Experience fasting, and you will love it. “ ~ Adalbert De Vogue (To Love Fasting:The Monastic Experience, p. 104)

“Fasting is a divine corrective to the pride of the human heart. It is a discipline of body with a tendency to humble the soul.” ~ Arthur Wallis

“Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly in earnest…Not only so, but he is expressing his earnestness in a divinely appointed way. He is using a means that God has chosen to make his voice to be heard on high.” ~ Arthur Wallis (God’s Chosen Fast, p. 42) 

“If humility is the basic ingredient of true holiness, the soil in which graces flourish, is it not needful that from time to time we should, like David, humble our souls with fasting? Beyond many of our besetting sins and personal failures, beyond the many ills that infect our church fellowships and clog the channels of Christian service—the clash of personalities and temperaments, the strife, the division — lies that insidious pride of the human heart.” ~ Arthur Wallis

“Almost all are agreed that a visitation of the spirit upon the Church is desperately needed. Are we to believe the promise to Joel has nothing to say to this situation? . . . Did the events at Pentecost exhaust the Joel prophecy? Obviously not, or there would have been no further outpourings. . . . If however we believe this wonderful promise is for us—is in fact God’s answer to the present need—it is vital that we fulfill the conditions as well as plead the promise. Three times Joel sounds a clarion call, in view of the imminence of the Day of the Lord, to return to God with fasting (Joel 1:14; 2:12, 15). Then he seems to see in vision God’s response: “Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on this people” (v. 18). ~ Arthur Wallis (God’s Chosen Fast, pp. 131-32) 

“First, let fasting be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.” ~ John Wesley

“The man who never fasts is no more in the way to heaven than the man who never prays.” ~ John Wesley (“Causes of Inefficacy of Christianity,” Sermons on Several Occasions, p. 440)

“[Fasting] is an help to prayer; particularly when we set apart larger portions of time for private prayer. Then especially it is that God is often pleased to lift up the souls of his servants above all the things of earth, and sometimes to rap them up, as it were, into the third heaven. And it is chiefly, as it is an help to prayer, that it has so frequently been found a means, in the hand of God, of confirming and increasing, not one virtue, not chastity only, (as some have idly imagined, without any ground either from Scripture, reason, or experience,) but also seriousness of spirit, earnestness, sensibility and tenderness of conscience, deadness to the world, and consequently the love of God, and every holy and heavenly affection.” ~ John Wesley (Sermon XXVII, On Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” Complete Works, p. 441)

“Not that there is any natural or necessary connection between fasting, and the blessings God conveys thereby. But he will have mercy as he will have mercy; he will convey whatsoever seemeth him good by whatsoever means he is pleased to appoint. And he hath, in all ages, appointed this to be a means of averting his wrath, and obtaining whatever blessings we, from time to time, stand in need of.” ~ John Wesley (Sermon XXVII, On Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” Complete Works, p. 441)

“But, if we desire this reward, let us beware . . . of fancying we merit anything of God by our fasting. We cannot be too often warned of this; inasmuch as a desire to “establish our own righteousness,” to procure salvation of debt and not of grace, is so deeply rooted in all our hearts. Fasting is only a way which God hath ordained, wherein we wait for his unmerited mercy; and wherein, without any desert of ours, he hath promised freely to give us his blessing.” ~ John Wesley (Sermon XXVII, On Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” Complete Works, p. 449)

“Fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is Christian, for fasting by a nonChristian obtains no eternal value because the discipline’s motives and purposes are to be God-centrered. It is voluntary in that fasting is not to be coerced. Fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body; it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 160)

“Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 176)

“Fasting must always have a spiritual purpose—a God-centered one—for the Lord to bless our fast. Thoughts of food must prompt thoughts for God. They must not distract us, but instead remind us of our purpose. Rather than focusing the mind on food, we should use the desire to eat as a reminder to pray and to reconsider our purpose.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 176-177)

“God will bless a biblical fast by any of His children. And whether or not you receive the blessing you hope for, one thing is sure: If you knew what God knew, you would give yourself the identical blessing that He does. And none of His rewards is worthless.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 178)

“Fasting is a hard discipline to practice without its consuming all our attention. Yet when we use it as a part of prayer or service, we cannot allow it to do so. When a person chooses fasting as a spiritual discipline, he or she must, then, practice it well enough and often enough to become experienced in it, because only the person who is well habituated to systematic fasting as a discipline can use it effectively as a part of direct service to God, as in special times of prayer or other service.” ~ Dallas Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 168)

“[On Mark 2:18–22 and the bridegroom’s presence and absence:] Their non-fasting was intended to make a point, namely that the eschatological age had come in Jesus. . . . The future return to fasting after his being “taken away” was therefore also related to Jesus, as a sad memorial of what happened on that fateful Friday, mixed with inner confidence and humble trust in his second coming and the final consummation of the parousia. This Christian fast was something new, distinct from that of Judaism, not only as regards the day of fasting, but more importantly, in terms of its inner motivation. Even as a sign of humble worship of the Father it was henceforth related to Jesus, through whom our salvation has come, and in whose presence we will one day rejoice without reservation, in the plenitude of his Kingdom.” ~ Joseph F. Wimmer (Fasting in the New Testament: A Biblical Theology, p. 101)

“The weakness of hunger which leads to death brings forth the goodness and power of God who wills life. Here there is no extortion, no magic attempt to force God’s will. We merely look with confidence upon our heavenly Father and through our fasting say gently in our hearts: “Father, without you I will die; come to my assistance, make haste to help me.” ~ Joseph F. Wimmer (Fasting in the New Testament: A Biblical Theology, p. 119)

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Posted by on August 28, 2018 in John Piper, Jonathan Edwards

 

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Book Review on Bryan A. Follis’ “Truth and Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer.”

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Evangelistic Help for the 21st Century

Book Reviewed by David P. Craig

One wouldn’t think that a person who ministered and died in the mid to late 20th century would be one of the most helpful models for apologetics and evangelism in the 21st century, but in this book Follis makes a compelling case for Francis Schaeffer being an excellent model for us in these key areas of living out the Christian life.

Though Francis Schaeffer has been both lauded and attacked as a Theologian, Philosopher, and Apologist. He never claimed to be a proponent of any of these monikers. Schaeffer did not consider himself an academic or even an intellectual. When Schaeffer was frequently asked what he was he would say repeatedly (according to James Sire and others who knew him well) that he was not in “academic apologetics but his interest was in evangelism.”

When you read the works of Schaeffer, in particular what he classified as his Trilogy:  The God Who Is There; Escape From Reason; and He Us There, And He Is Not Silent” you would think he is actually an outstanding Theologian, Philosopher, and Apologist. However, all of Schaeffer’s writing (beginning at the age of 56) was really from his ministry of listening to, teaching, and counseling of a wide variety of humanity (from disillusioned Viet Nam veterans to hippies, from blue collar workers to white collar intellectuals. Schaeffer was primarily interested in the Lordship of Christ and that he would make a compelling case with others of how a relationship with Jesus was the center of everything.

The center of anyone’s life – if it is not filled with Christ – is ultimately a meaningless or empty center. Therefore, in this book Bryan Follis demonstrates how the writing, speaking, ministry, and lifestyle of Francis and Edith Schaeffer was so impactful because it was full of genuine love for humanity (as made in God’s image – and thus extremely valuable) and wrapped in objective truth in propositions and principles that emanated from the Bible.

In the final analysis what the Schaeffer’s modeled was a ministry that was balanced powerfully with a leaning into the supernatural reality of the Holy Spirit that resulted in genuine love and compelling truth. Christians that emphasize either truth without love, or love without truth will have a hard time in apologetics or evangelism. The Schaeffer’s are a wonderful model for all Christians for all time. They showed tangibly how to love God with all ones mind, heart, soul, and strength and in the process loved many “neighbors” as themselves into the Kingdom of God.

Follis has provided an excellent overview and guide into lessons that we may glean so that we too may be effective evangelists for Christ in the 21st century and beyond.

 

Book Review on Francis Schaeffer’s “True Spirituality”

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Spirituality for The Real World

Reviewed By David P. Craig

In the introduction to this book on sanctification (how to live the Christian life) Francis Schaeffer says that it should have been his first book. In most of his books he is primarily concerned with engaging the mind, but this is a book that is primarily concerned with engaging the heart. He didn’t write this book until 1971, but wrestled with its contents mainly in 1953 and 1954 while on furlough from his ministry in Switzerland. Much of the material in this book came from Schaeffer’s wrestling with the reality of Christianity. He was wrestling with whether or not Christianity was true, and whether or not this truth in application really worked in the real world.

Here’s what Schaeffer discovered as God brought him out of his crises of faith:

(1) He found a solid foundation for how own faith and life. He became convinced again that the Bible answers the most basic questions that all humans can ask. This gave him delight in the biblical message as the source of the only true explanation of our existence.

(2) He developed a confidence in the Scriptures as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God. This confidence in the Scriptures would in God’s providence, be of enormous help to him in the work the Lord was preparing for him to accomplish.

(3) In the same way, he was being prepared to deal with the great barrage of questions, doubts, and hurts that would come at him from Christians who were struggling with their faith, for in the years to come many of these people would come to his home at L’Abri for answers.

(4) Prayer became more real to him and the supernatural realities of God’s working in his life and the lives of those he ministered to became paramount to the success of L’Abri. He would often say, “How many churches and ministries would not even notice and would carry on in exactly the same manner as usual, even though every reference to dependence on the Holy Spirit and to prayer were suddenly to disappear from the pages of the New Testament!”

5) He discovered that the central, unfolding theme of God’s revelation is the love shown by God to us, and the trusting and dependent love that we are called to show Him in return.

Early in the book Schaeffer distinguishes the difference of  justification by faith (the beginning of the Christian’s life) and sanctification by faith (the rest of the Christian’s life). He says, “The important thing after being born spiritually is to live. There is new birth, and then there is the Christian life to be lived. This is the area of sanctification, from the time of the new birth through this present life, until Jesus comes or until we die.”

In thirteen chapters Schaeffer does a masterful job of showing that that Christian life involves the head, heart, and hands and biblically, theologically, and practically develops the following four themes:

(1) The true Christian life, true spirituality, does not just mean that we have been born again. It must begin there, but it means much more than that. It does not mean only that we are going to be in heaven. It does mean that, but it means much more than that. The true Christian life, true spirituality in the present life, means more than being justified and knowing that I am going to heaven.

(2) It is not just a desire to get rid of taboos in order to live an easier and a looser life. Our desire must be for a deeper life. And when I begin to think about this, the Bible presents to me the whole of the Ten Commandments and the whole of the Law of Love.

(3) True spirituality, the true Christian life, is not just outward, but it is inward–it is not to covet against God and mankind.

(4) The Christian life is positive–positive in inward reality, and then positive in outward results. The inward thing is to be positive and not just negative, and then sweeping out of the inward positive reality, there is to be a positive manifestation externally. It is not just that we are dead to certain things, but we are to love God, we are to be alive to Him, we are to be in communion with Him, in this present moment of history. And we are to love men, to be alive to men as men, and to be in communication on a true personal level with men, in this present moment of history.

Schaeffer does a wonderful job of addressing the world, the flesh, and the devil; as well as helping you find freedom from the bondage of sin. He also shows the antithesis of Christian living in comparing the reality of Christianity with the unreality of other religions and world-views.  I highly recommend this book in helping you understand the wonderful and exhilierating doctrine of sanctification.

 

Book Review on L.G. Parkhurst’s “Francis & Edith Schaeffer

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An Outstanding Synthesis of The Thought and Ministry of the Schaeffer’s

Book Review by David P. Craig

It is immediately obvious that the author knew the Schaeffer’s personally and studied their writings with passion in the pursuit of truth. The first part of this book (Chapters 1-11) is a very good summary of the life and ministry of the Schaeffer’s. In Chapters 12-25 Parkhurst gives an excellent summary of the thought and teachings of Francis Schaeffer. My favorite part of this book was how he wraps it up by giving 10 Lessons From Their Lives. He expounds upon the following 10 Lessons gleaned from Francis and Edith:

(1) Teach the truth in love – Ephesians 4:5-16.

(2) There is Only One Reason to be a Christian – because it’s objectively true – 1 John 5:19-20. “There is one and only one reason, and not two reasons, to be a Christian, and that is because Christianity is true.” ~ Edith Schaeffer quoting her husband.

(3) The Bible is True in All that it Affirms – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

(4) Go First to Establish a Bible-belieivng Church and Second a Denominational Church – Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:38-40. The priority of a biblical church is to daily “Serve God and others, let us Know, Love, and Follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit according to the Scriptures.”

(5) A Church Without Discipline or the Ability to Discipline Ceases to be a Church – Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20.

(6) God is Not Mechanical, but Personal. God is the Infinite/Personal God – John 17:1-3.

(7) No One Becomes a Christian Apart From the Work of the Holy Spirit – John 15:26-27; John 16:7-11; 1 John 5:6-12.

(8) Pray for the People of the Lord’s Choice to Come, Pray for Him to Keep Others Away. Pray for the Lord to Meet Your Needs Without Asking for Money – Matthew 9:36-38.

(9) If Your Choice is Between Perfection and Nothing, You Will Always Have Nothing. Do Not Expect a Perfect Church, Pastor, Elder, People, Thing, or Situation in This Fallen World in Which We Live – Matthew 5:48.

(10) “God Calls Some to Leave (In Liberal Denominations), and Some to Stay, and I Am Not The Holy Spirit.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s account of the Schaeffer’s, and his distillation of their teaching and how they modeled their teaching through their ministry in Switzerland, and in the United States. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to better understand the gospel, how to use apologetics in pre-evangelism, and how prayer and life-style evangelism are essentials in reaching people in the 21st Century. The Schaeffer’s are just as relevant today as when they lived in the mid to late 20th century.

 

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George Sweeting’s 7 Steps To Personal Revival

*George Sweeting’s Seven Steps To Revival:

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(1) Develop the desire to know Jesus Christ better. Develop a holy dissatisfaction. The contented Christian is the sterile Christian. Paul said in substance, “Jesus arrested me on the Damascus road. Now I want to lay hold of all that for which I was arrested by God.” Be thoroughly dissatisfied with your spiritual posture.

(2) Pray for a revolutionary change in your life. I think of Jacob wrestling with God. He wanted a blessing. He wouldn’t be denied. Throw your entire life into the will of God. Seek God’s very best.

(3) Do what you know to do. If we pray for revival and neglect prayer, that’s hypocrisy. To pray for growth and neglect the local church is absolute foolishness. To pray that you’ll mature and neglect the Word of God is incongruous. Put yourself in the way of blessing.

(4) Totally repent. “Create in me a clean heart!” David sobbed. For a whole year David was out of fellowship. But he confessed his sin; he turned away from that sin, and then he could sing again; he could write again; he could pray again.

(5) Make the crooked straight. If you owe a debt, pay it. Or have an understanding with the people you owe. Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8). As much as possible, make the crooked straight.

(6) Develop a seriousness of purpose. Keep off the detours. Let nothing deflect that magnetic needle of your calling. If there is anything that is a trojan horse in our day, it is the television set. Beware lest it rob you of your passion and purpose.

(7) Major in majors. The Christian life requires specialists. Jesus said in effect, “Be a one-eyed man” (Luke 11:34-36, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light”). Paul said, “This one thing I do.” Too many of us burn up too much energy without engaging in things that bring us nearer to God.

Refuse to rust out. Start sharing your faith. Make yourself available. Back your decision with your time and talent and dollars. Finally, ask God for great faith in Him. Begin to expect great things.” ~ George Sweeting

*This insight on Revival was gleaned from the book of Quotes and Illustrations called Who Said That? by George Sweeting. Dr. Sweeting was the sixth president (1971–1987) and chancellor of Moody Bible Institute. He received a diploma from Moody Bible Institute (1945), his B.A. from Gordon College and his Doctor of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. Sweeting has served as a pastor in several churches, including Grace Church, Madison Avenue Baptist Church and The Moody Church and also spent nine years traveling the world as an evangelist. Dr. Sweeting has written numerous books, including The Joys of Successful Aging, Too Soon to Quit, Lessons from the Life of Moody and Don’t Doubt in the Dark. He formerly hosted the Moody Radio program Climbing Higher and is a former columnist for Moody Magazine. Dr. Sweeting and his wife, Hilde, reside in the Chicagoland area.

 

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Great Article on Journaling Your Prayers by Bill Hybels

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Note from Dr.David Craig – The book Honest To God? by Bill Hybels is unfortunately out of print. The article below is adapted from Chapter Two of the Book. I include it here with the hope that those who read it will be especially helped with regard to their prayer lives. I can still remember reading this chapter as a young youth pastor trying to develop an authentic and intimate prayer life with God. The example Hybels gives of journaling prayer has been immensely helpful to me over the last 28 years of life and ministry. May God use this article to help you connect intimately and authentically with God. 

*”A New Dimension in Spirituality” by Bill Hybels

I backed the car out of the driveway as I do every morning at 5:45. I switched the radio from a program on ethics to the Tokyo stock closing. While I drove through the neighborhood subdivision, I critiqued architectural designs. I bought coffee at the twenty-four-hour coffee shop and successfully avoided the talkative cashier. As I turned onto the church campus, I formulated a convincing defense for a ministry plan I hoped the staff would adopt. I climbed to my third floor office, wondering about the productivity of the nighttime maintenance crew. I shuffled through the mountain of mail on my desk and wished someone else could answer it.

I spun the my chair around and looked out the window at the church lake, steaming in the crispness of the morning. In that quiet moment I saw the previous quarter hour for what it had been—an hour tainted by purely human perspective. Not once during that hour had I seen the world through godly eyes. I had been more interested in international finances than in the moral demise of out nation. I thought more about houses than the people inside them. I had considered the tasks awaiting me more important than the woman who served my coffee. I had been more intent on logically supporting my plans than sincerely seeking God’s. I’d thought more about staff members’ productivity than their walk with the Lord or their family life. I’d viewed correspondence as a drudgery rather than a way to offer encouragement, counsel, or help.

It was 6:00 A.M. and I needed a renewed heart and mind. Like a compass out of adjustment, my thoughts and feelings were pointing in the wrong direction. They needed to be recalibrated—to be realigned with God’s accurate, perfect perspective.

You see, in the space of a day my relationship with Jesus Christ can fall from the heights to the depths, from vitality to superficiality, from life-changing interaction to meaningless ritual. That’s a humbling admission, but it’s true. In a mere twenty-four hours, I can slide from spiritual authenticity into spiritual inauthenticity.

Some years ago I got tired of this daily descent. I decided then to either do something to stop it, or to get out of the ministry. Christendom didn’t need another inauthentic leader.

I began to pray for guidance and to experience with various disciplines that would help me be more consistent. Eventually I developed a three-phased discipline that I employ every day to keep me truly “connected” to God. It’s not the only path to spiritual authenticity, but for me and many of my friends, coworkers, and church members, it’s proven to be a genuinely life-changing discipline.

YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?

Over the years, as I traveled and spoke at churches and conferences, I occasionally met leaders who somehow seemed to avoid the daily slide into artificial Christianity. Whenever I could, I asked what their secret was. In almost every case, they said “journaling”—the daily process of examining and evaluating their lives in written form.

Now if you think I heard that and ran out to buy a journal, you’re dead wrong. I thought the idea was ridiculous. I envisioned the saints of antiquity, with fragile parchments and ink-dipped quills, waxing eloquent in the flickering light of a candle. People who had time for that were not like me. They didn’t have my schedule or live with my kind of pressure. Besides, blank sheets of paper scared me. I’m not the “deep” type; I haven’t had an original thought in my life. What would I write?

Still I had to admit that too often I repeated the same mistakes again and again. Too often I went to bed with regrets about my actions. Too often I made decisions inconsistent with my professed values. In a rare moment of honesty, I faced the fact that I was living under the tyranny of an unexamined life.

At that time, I was chaplain for the Chicago Bears. Occasionally before the Monday morning Bible study, I’d join them at Halas Hall while they watched films and did postgame analysis! They would go over every play of the previous day’s game so they could learn from their mistakes and not repeat them in the next game.

Finally, I understood. The journal’s were simply telling me to do a postgame analysis! How could I expect to be conformed to the image of Christ without evaluating my mistakes and progress? How could I grow without examining my character, decision-making, ministry, marriage, child-rearing? Maybe journaling was for me.

YESTERDAY

I was still worried about facing a blank sheet of paper, but a well-known author offered a simple suggestion: Buy a spiral notebook and restrict yourself to one page a day. Every day start with the word “Yesterday.” Write a brief description of people you met with, decisions you made, thoughts or feelings you had, high points, low points, frustrations, Bible-reading—anything about the previous day. Then analyze it. Did you make good decisions, or bad? Did you use your time wisely or waste it? Should you have done anything differently?

Evaluating my day would help me avoid repeating my mistakes. But writing for five or ten minutes would also slow down my pace. I knew I needed that. I’m a morning person, and when I get to the office at 6 A.M., I’m ready to roll. The phone starts ringing, the adrenaline starts pumping, and there’s no stopping me. If journaling could slow me down, I would be ready to really connect with God.

I decided to try it. My first journal entry says this: “Yesterday I said I hated the concept of journals, and I still do. But if this is what it takes to rid myself of inauthentic spirituality, I’ll do it. If this is what it takes to reduce my RPM’s enough to talk and walk with Christ, I’ll do it. I’ll journal.

And I have—nearly every day. I’ve never written anything profound, but in simple terms I’ve chronicled the activity of God in my life, relationships, marriage, children, and ministry. I’ve also worked through feelings, confronted fears, and weighed decisions. And I’ve slowed down enough to meet with God.

NOW WHAT?

The only problem with slowing down and meeting with God was that I realized I didn’t have much to say. The second part of my path to spiritual authenticity, my prayer life, was amazingly weak, and had been for years.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to pray. I always had good intentions. I tried to pray. But I would get down on my knees and say, “Dear God…” and in five seconds my mind would be in outer space. I would start thinking of people I hadn’t seen in years, making up problems for solutions that didn’t exist, strategizing for new ministries, or planning family vacations. 

It was so frustrating. I normally have a tremendous ability to concentrate. I pride myself with an ability to stick with a project till it’s done. But prayer did me in every time. I would hear of people speak of praying for four hours, and I would feel terrible knowing I couldn’t pray for four minutes. 

I would probably still be a prayerless man if a friend hadn’t suggested his habit of writing out his prayers. He said God created him with a very active mind, and the only way he had been able to “capture” it and focus on God was to write out his prayers. I thought to myself, “That’s me! That’s what I need to do.” 

Another concern I had about my prayer life was imbalance. I knew how easy it was to fall into the “Please God” syndrome. “Please God give me…help me…comfort me…strengthen me…” I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to pray with balance.  So adopted a simple pattern of prayer that’s not original with me. But it includes the four sturdy legs of balanced prayer.

ADORATION

Each morning after filling out my “yesterday page,” I write a big A on the next page, then spend a few minutes writing a paragraph of praise to the Lord. Sometimes I paraphrase a psalm, or attempt to write a poem. Sometimes I write the words to a praise song, then sing it quietly in the privacy of my office. Often I focus on the attributes of God, sometimes listing them all, sometimes meditating on just one. 

Though I’ve been a Christian for years, I never privately worshiped God on a consistent basis—until I started writing out my prayers. Worship os foreign to us. We were made for it. Yet because of sin, worship doesn’t come naturally. We have to work at it; we have to be disciplined at it. And like any other learned activity, the first few times we try it, we feel awkward. But our sincerity, not our eloquence, is what matters to God.

There are several reasons for beginning prayer with worship. First, worship reminds us that we’re addressing the Holy Majestic God and prevents us from reducing prayer to a wish list—the “Please God…” syndrome again.

Second, worship establishes the identity of God. It reminds us that God has power to intervene in any situation, that He cares about us, and whether we are in a car, an office, or an airplane, He is always available to us.

Adoration also purges. After five or ten minutes in adoration, I find my spirit has been softened. My heart has been purified. My agenda changes. That burning issue I just had to bring to God’s attention suddenly seems less crucial. My sense of desperation subsides. I begin to say, and mean, “It is well with my soul. I am enjoying You, God. I am at peace.”

Finally, adoration is the appropriate introduction to prayer simply because God deserves it.

Begin to worship God when you pray. Be creative. Experiment. Use verses and psalms to get you started. Don’t worry if you feel clumsy at first. God’s heart is thrilled by even our most feeble attempts.

CONFESSION

I used to be an “oops” confessor. I would say an unkind word to someone, then say, “Oops, Lord, I’ll have to confess that to You later.” Then I would exaggerate a story, and say, “Oops, Lord, I’ll catch that one later too.” All day I would add the tally, fully intending to clear the bill later.

But later seldom came. When it did, I would make a blanket confession of “my many sins.” I thought I was wonderfully honest and humble, claiming my sins like that. In reality, it was a colossal cop-out.

You see, blanket confessions are nice, virtually painless. But they do nothing to transform our hearts. It seems confession has to hurt a bit, even embarrass us, before we’ll take it seriously. 

One way to make confession hurt is to write out specific sins. Do you know what it’s like to see your sins in print? Try writing something like this: “Yesterday I chose to wound Lynne with my words. I was cruel, insensitive, and sinful.” Or, “Last night I told Todd I would play ball with him, but I didn’t keep my word. I lied to my son.”

It’s easy to justify our behavior: “I had a rough day. I was busy. Lynne shouldn’t have expected so much from me.” Or, “I intended to play ball. It just didn’t work out.” But we need to see our sins for what they are. Writing them out helps.

In one particular Sunday message, I emphasized the fact that we’re all sinners who need a Savior. After the service, a salesman informed me that he didn’t consider himself a sinner. I asked If he had been faithful to his wife. “Well, I travel a lot you know…” Then I asked about his expense account. “Oh, everybody stretches the truth a little bit…” Finally, I questioned his sales techniques. Did he ever exaggerate or overstate a claim? “That’s standard in the industry…” “Well,” I said, “you just told me you’re an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar.” “How dare you call me those things?!” He was appalled by my “brash insensitivity.”

As hard as it was for him to hear those words, I believe I did him favor. I also believe I do myself a favor when I write in my journal, “I am a liar. I am greedy. I have a problem with lust. I am envious.: Two things happen when we confess our sins honestly.

First, we experience the freedom of forgiveness. For years I tried to run the race of faith with chains of unconfessed sin tangled around my legs. I didn’t know how much they were hindering me until I quit playing games and got honest with God.

Second, gratitude for God’s forgiveness motivates us to forsake our sin. Why hurt Someone who loves us that much? Why disobey Someone who extends so much grace to us?

There doesn’t appear to be much true confession in Christian circles. That’s a shame, because exciting things happen when God’s children get honest about their sin. Five days of having to call oneself a liar, a greedy person, a cheat, or whatever, is enough to drive any spiritually sensitive person to forsake that sin.

A man in my church recently began “confessing” in his journal. He said, “My sins didn’t bother me much before. Now I realize I have to take them seriously, and do my best to forsake them. When it comes to this sin business, I have to fish or cut bait.”

We all need to realize that sin is serious business and enlist the Holy Spirit’s help in forsaking it. Then we can make progress in rooting specific sins out of our lives, and we’ll know what the Scripture means when it says, “the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

THANKSGIVING

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” For years I misunderstood this. I thought having feelings of gratitude toward God was the same as thanksgiving. It isn’t.

Do you remember the ten leapers described in Luke 17? They begged Jesus to heal them, but when He did, only one bothered to thank Him. Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?”

I am confident that the other nine were thankful. They had to be. If you had a debilitating, terminal illness that rotted your limbs and made you a social outcast, and suddenly you were cleansed and healed, wouldn’t you have tremendous feelings of gratitude toward your Healer? Of course you would. But nine lepers didn’t take the time to say it. And that mattered to Jesus.

One summer I took my son Todd for a helicopter ride at a county fair. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. Later, I thought he was asleep in the car until he slid his arm around my shoulder and said, “Dad, I just want to thank you for taking me to that fair.” That expression of gratitude tempted me to turn the car around and go back to the fair for round two.

When I understood that distinction between feeling gratitude and expressing thanksgiving. I decided to become a more “thanks-giving” man. I want to be like the one leper who ran back and showered Jesus with thanks. I want to be like Todd, who warmed my heart with his gratitude.

We’re God’s children. We have the power to offer Him joy through thanksgiving. In my journal, I thank God for answered prayers, and for specific spiritual, relational, and material blessings. Almost everything in my life fits under one of those categories. By the time I finish my list. I’m ready to go back to adoration.

An added benefit of giving thanks is a transformed attitude. I used to be a very covetous man. I struggled hard with wanting more than I had. But a daily look at my blessings has led me from covetousness to contentment to awe at the abundance in my life.

SUPPLICATION

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). After adoring God, confessing our sins, and thanking Him for His goodness, we’re in the right frame of mind to ask God for what we need.

Nothing is too big for God to handle or too small for Him to be interested in. But sometimes I still wonder if my requests are legitimate. So I’m honest with God. I say, “God I have told You how I feel about this situation. You’ve asked me to make my requests known, so I have. I would love to see You do this. But if You have other plans, I don’t want to get in the way. If these requests are wrong, or the timing isn’t right, that’s fine. We’ll go Your way.”

Sometimes I don’t even know how to begin to pray about a certain situation. Then I say, “I don’t know what to say, Lord.” If You’ll tell me how to pray, I’ll pray that way.”

God honors that kind of prayer. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

I break my prayers into four categories: ministry, people, family, and personal. Under ministry I pray for my church. Under people I pray for my staff and elders, and I pray for my friends, both Christian and non-Christian. Under family I pray for Lynne, Todd, and Shauna. I pray that I would be a godly father and husband. I pray about finances, education, vacations, and other areas of my family life.  Under personal I pray about my character. I pray that God would help me be more righteous man. 

Make up your own categories of prayer. Then keep a list of what you’ve prayed about. After a few weeks, look back over it. You’ll be amazed at what God has done.

LISTENING

Journaling and writing out my prayers slow me down enough to hear God’s still, small voice. The third step in my daily discipline is to listen and ask God to speak to me.

Scripture says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It’s these quiet moments after prayer that really matter. They nourish authentic Christianity. Power flows out of stillness, strength out of solitude. Decisions that change the course of our lives come out of these quiet times. 

I begin with these words: “Lord, You talked to Your children all through history, and You said You’re unchangeable God. Talk to me now. I’m listening. I’m open.”

Then I ask four questions. I never hear an audible voice, but often I get impressions that are so strong I write them down.

First, I ask, “What is the next step in my relationship with You?” Sometimes I sense nothing, and interpret that to mean, “We’re all right. Don’t worry. If I wanted to say something I would. Just relax in My presence.”

At other times He tells me I need to learn more about His character. One time I sensed God telling me to loosen up. I was too concerned with how to please Him, and had to learn to enjoy Him more.

Second, I ask, “What’s the next step in the development of my character?” I always get a response from this one. There seems to be plenty of rough edges for God to chip away at! “Honesty,” He’ll say, or “Humility,” or “purity.”

God has taught me that in regard to character, little things matter. At the office, I usually do only ministry-related correspondence; the church pays the postage. Occasionally, however, the distinctions between ministry and personal correspondence blurs. Once during my listening time, I sensed God telling me to be more scrupulous in distinguishing between ministry and personal mail.

That afternoon I taped quarters to two of my outgoing letters. My secretary said, “What’s this?” I said, “Just pay the meter. It’s important.” It’s such a little thing, but not to God.

Third, I ask, “What’s the next step in my family life?” Again, God gets specific. “Be more encouraging Lynne. Take time to serve her.” Or, “You’ve been out of town a lot. Plan a special getaway with the kids.” Being a godly husband and father is a tremendous challenge for me. I need God’s suggestions.

Finally, I ask “What’s the next step in my ministry?” I don’t know how anyone survives ministry without listening to God. Most of my illustrations, messages, and new ministry directions come out of this time of listening. I would have little creativity and insight without it. 

You might ask other questions: What’s the next step in my vocation? In my dating relationship? In my education?

Over time, you’ll become more adept at sensing God’s answers to these questions. You’ll receive Scripture verses, ideas, or insights that are just what you need. Those moments of inspiration will become precious memories you carry with you all day.

The great adventure of listening to God can be scary sometimes. Often God tells me to call or write someone, or apologize for something I’ve done, or give away a possession, or start a new ministry, and I think, “Why? I don’t understand?”

But I’ve learned to walk by faith, not by sight. God’s leadings don’t have to make sense. Some of the wisest direction I’ve received has been ridiculous from a human viewpoint. So If God tells you to write someone, write. if He tells you to serve somewhere, serve. Trust Him, and take the risk.

PURSUE THE DISCIPLINES

Several years ago, I played on a park district football team. During the warm-up before our first game, I learned that I would play middle linebacker on the defensive unit. That was fine with me; my favorite professional athlete is Mike Singletary, All_pro middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

The game started. When it was time for the defense to take the field, I stood in my middle linebacker position, determined to play with the same intensity and effectiveness I’d so often seen in Mike. Scenes of nationally televised Sunday afternoon football games flashed through my mind and psyched me for a major hit.

The opposing offensive unit approached the line to run the first play. Mimicking Mike, I crouched low and stared intently at the quarterback, readying myself to explode into the middle of the action in typical Singletary style. The battle raged…and reality struck with a vengeance. Using a simple head fake, the quarterback sent me in the opposite direction of the play, and the offense gained fifteen yards.

So went the rest of the game. By the fourth quarter I came to a brilliant conclusion: If I wanted to play football like Mike Singletary, I would have to do more than mimic his on-the-filed actions. I would have to get behind the scenes, and practice like he practiced. I would have to lift weights and run laps like he did. I would have to memorize plays and study films as he did. If I wanted his success on the field, I would have to pursue his disciplines off the field. Discipling is no less important on the field of Christian living.

One of the most positive trends in the contemporary church is the recent interest in the spiritual disciplines. Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, has been called “the book of the decade,” and I believe it is. After five years of journaling, writing out my prayers, and listening to God, I am delighted to discover additional disciplines to further enhance my pursuit of a consistent spiritual life.

Willard asserts that the key to being conformed to the image of Christ is to follow Him in the overall style of life He chose for Himself.

If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, ix.).

If we want to be like Christ, we have to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean we focus on the special moments when His character and compassion shone in the public spotlight or try to mimic Him in the way I tried to mimic Mike Sigletary on the football field. It means we imitate His entire life, including the behind-the-scenes disciplines that prepared Him to shine when the pressure was on. It means we “practice the activities he practiced.”

What are these activities? The disciplines include “solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God’s Word and God’s way, and service to others (See Willard, ix).

Every true Christian wants to live like Jesus lived—to love the unlovely, to serve with grace, to resist temptation, to uphold conviction, exhibit power. But we can only live that way if we devote ourselves to the same disciplines He practiced. If Jesus pursued these disciplines to maintain spiritual authenticity, how much more must we.

In his book, Willard suggests disciplines of abstinence and engagement. The former include solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. The latter include study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission (See Willard, 158). 

We have looked at the discipline of prayer. I conclude with a discussion of solitude and fasting.

SOLITUDE

The discipline of solitude isn’t entirely new to me. For years I’ve spent my first hour at the office alone, journaling, praying, and listening. After that, I spend time in quiet message preparation before meeting with other staff members. I’ve also made periodic use of brief getaways for solitary retreats.

Recently, however, I have incorporated even more solitude into my schedule. As I get in better touch with the natural ebb and flow of my life, I see a direct correlation between ministry effectiveness and the amount of time I spend alone. Solitude builds my emotional and spiritual reserves and increases my ability to help others.

I am a relational person. I thrive on the stimulation of being with people. I’m learning, however, that there is a danger in being with people too much. It can drain my spiritual vitality and dilute my effectiveness. I may still enjoy being with people, but I have nothing worthwhile to offer them. Lately, when I’ve noticed my life getting too crowded with people and activity, I’ve scheduled lunchtimes alone. I go to a local restaurant, eat by myself, and let God refresh me.

Because of the demands in my work, I was often tempted to schedule ministry appointments one after the other. If I had an evening meeting at church, I would return to my office immediately after dinner so I could “get some work done” before the meeting. I’ve learned however, than an hour of “disengaging” may be a better use of time. If I sit for an hour in my backyard, and enjoy the evening sun, I can attend the meeting refreshed and offer something worthwhile.

What do I do in these occasional hours of quietness? I step out of the day’s frantic pace, and focus my attention on God. I remind myself that He’s in control. I ask for the infilling power of the Holy Spirit. I dwell on His love. Sometimes I sit and watch my kids play, or just sit quietly with my wife. Sometimes I walk in the country. There are no set rules for making solitude count. Just be quiet. Let God do His work.

FASTING

I hesitate to write about fasting, because I’m such a novice at it. But if this book is to honestly chronicle the work of God in my life right now, I have to mention the tremendous impact that fasting has had on me.

There are numerous benefits to fasting. One is the purely physical benefit of cleansing our bodies; another is the psychological benefit of learning self-control and denial. But what has most benefitted me is the increased alertness to spiritual perspectives. Prayer, Bible study, and meditation on Scripture, worship—all are enhanced when I am fasting. I think I feel an inner abandonment that makes me a more usable vessel.

Once Jesus’ disciples complained because they were unable to cast out a certain demon. Jesus said, “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). I’m beginning to understand why Jesus said that. Spiritually motivated fasting seems to unlock a deeper dimension of spiritual power. Recently, I’ve sensed God working in and though me in ways I hadn’t previously experienced. I attribute the excitement and productivity in my ministry to this simple discipline of fasting.

Are you ready for a spiritual challenge that holds a storehouse of rewards? Try fasting. If you don’t know how to begin, read the fifth chapter of Stormie Omartian’s book, Greater Health God’s Way. She gives careful guidelines and thoroughly explains the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits.

To people who have grown up in food-obsessed America, fasting sounds like a fate worse than death. In reality, it opens the door to freedom and strength.

A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION

I took a giant step on the path to spiritual authenticity when I started journaling, writing out my prayers, and listening to God. The disciplines of solitude and fasting have opened up new dimensions of that journey.

I can’t say what it will take for you to become spiritually authentic. But before I can say this: There are no shortcuts. Wishing for spirituality isn’t enough. Growth that produces power and consistency requires strategy and discipline.

*Adapted from Chapter Two in Honest To God by Bill Hybels, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.

 

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Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s: The Prayer of the LORD

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Great Insights and Principles On Prayer – Reviewed By David P. Craig

There are some great books that hone in on the specificities of what has commonly become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” – particularly it’s exposition from Matthew 6:9-13. This week I will be completing a preaching series on the “Lord’s Prayer” which began in January and will be ending in May of 2018. I read seven books specifically as expositions or sermons based on the Lord’s Prayer of which this was one of those seven. I also consulted various commentaries on the passage as well.

Of all the resources I consulted on the Lord’s Prayer that I enjoyed Sproul’s the most. This book not only breaks down the specific petitions in the prayer but also contains helpful chapters on the following: “How Not to Pray”; “Questions and Answers” on Prayer from various passages of Scripture; and a whole chapter devoted to the question: “If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?”

If I were only going to get only one book specifically on “The Lord’s Prayer” this is the one I would recommend. Sproul is a master communicator and does an excellent job providing insights, principles, and pointed applications that help you to be more God-centered, God-focused, and God-glorifying in your prayer life. As I have been taking in Sproul’s insights I have found myself growing in my intimacy with Christ, and helping others to do the same.

 

 

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