Giving Up to Take It In (Fasting to Feast)

DoveAll around the world Christians and non-Christians are talking or hearing talk about this season of change that many churches have named ‘Lent.’  Traditionally it is taught about as a season of fasting.  As a child it was all about giving up meat on Wednesday and Fridays, especially Friday.  Friday Fish Fries got started this way – the fishermen must have started it, I thought, when I was a child.  I thought it was the disciples who were fisherman who started eating fish on Friday – the day Jesus died, maybe fish helped them remember him.   That was my childlike faith and since I wanted to be like the disciples I, like my family ate the fish on Fridays.

Then I grew up a little, and I heard the story about the disciples and Jesus after the resurrection and the fish fry they had and then I thought it interesting that the first disciples Jesus called were fishermen and how he said he would teach them how to fish for people and now he was asking them to feed him fish for breakfast.

Then I grew up even more and learned some of the purpose behind the season of lent and about purposeful fasting.  I learned it didn’t matter so much that you gave up meat, you could give up candy or soda or any kind of food and that the money and time you spent purchasing and devouring could be given to the Lord’s purpose . . . to the church or a family or person or organization in need or perhaps some of the money and time could be well spent on items that would help mature your own faith life, devotional books, calendars, prayer and thought journals.

Several years ago when I went on a silent retreat I was inspired to consider giving up my own attitudes and will to take IT in – IT being the Spirit of God.  Some people talk about having the will of God like it is so easy and natural – but it isn’t, and Jesus never taught that having a holy spirIT filled life would be easy or comfortable.

40 days of fasting in the wilderness is what happened to Jesus after the Spirit of the Lord descended and rested upon him.  I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like you are in the wilderness, but this world has a lot of wilderness places where we can find ourselves alone . . . having the Word of God resting in our hearts can help us resist all the things that Jesus resisted.

So, if you’ve never fasted for your own benefit – I’m giving you permission to do that.  Not that you need my permission, but more that you need to give yourself permission to give up whatever you want to – an attitude, television, shopping, desserts, coffee, cream, anything and take the time to care for yourself,  if you need to do that – and you do – fill yourself with the loving words of God, “Come to me all of you  who are tired and weary, afraid, busy, overwhelmed, lost . . . Come to the Lord and allow the Lord to help you care for yourself during this season so that you can care for others feeling a little less pressured, forced or rushed. God loves cheerful giving . . . because God loves you he want you to remember that caring for yourself is a loving thing to do and Jesus wants you to love yourself as well as the Lord and your neighbor – you are in the middle of that equation:  Love of God + self + neighbor = the 2nd greatest commandment.    The first is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength . . . maybe give up doubt, fear, or anger toward him . . . toward yourself . . . toward other people . . .   let this be a season of letting the Spirit of the Lord Rest Upon You . . . .


Fear of Asking for Forgiveness

I had a conversation with an elderly man once who told me he was afraid to go and offer forgiveness to someone for something that had occurred.  He was afraid because he wasn’t sure if the other person remembered and he didn’t want to rile them up ‘at this stage of the game.’   I asked him what he meant by ‘at this stage of the game’ and he said, “Oh you know . . . the end of . . .” he paused for along time;  “Speaking about the ‘end of my life’ is not always easy.” I found it eased people’s minds for me to ask if they believed in ‘eternal life’ and would then ask if they might consider using the term ‘the end of life as I know it now’  because the Bible tells us we will be changed.

But back to the title of this note – fear of asking someone for forgiveness – It’s understandable that you don’t want to rile up other people if they’ve forgotten about something – but on the other hand, it’s not good for a person to be riled up because they have a need to be forgiven or to forgive.   I had been in a similar situation once even though I wasn’t at the end of my physical life, I was at the end of life as I once knew it.  After receiving the Holy Spirit and asking the Lord for a more forgiving heart I began a process of preparing in my heart to forgive people who had hurt me in the past and as I was doing that I thought about times that I had perhaps hurt someone and not sought forgiveness thinking they and I would ‘just get over it.’   That’s not a very biblical answer on how to handle our relationships.

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he included the words ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’  And in another place in Scripture Jesus teaches that we must forgive others if we want to be forgiven and in another place he states if you know have sinned against someone you should go and ask forgiveness from them before bringing your gift to the altar.  (It was common in ancient days to offer gifts to the High Priest) That custom has been changed as we believe the gift we give is the gift of ourselves – that we are to become living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.  Forgiveness is a gift of peace that we receive and give.

There are ways to approach people if you have a need to ask for forgiveness. You can first pray about how to approach them, you can pray for them to be prepared for your request, you can approach softly, not for your own need, but because the Lord might already be working in their life because he desires reconciliation.

Sometimes people are missing from family Christmas celebrations due to a lack of reconciliation.  The birth of Jesus is sometimes spoken about as a sign of God’s desire for the world to be reconciled to himself.   John 3:16 tells us God loved the whole world so much he gave us Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry, his prophetic teaching. healing and preaching was all about reconciliation, helping people to realize that God loves them.  To fully experience the peace we sing and talk about during the Christmas and Holiday seasons might take losing a fear of giving or asking someone for forgiveness – it might be the best gift you give each other this year. Continue reading