The Next 40 Days

Tomorrow marks the start of Lent, the 40 day period in which we prepare for Easter.  I grew up in a Protestant church so the concept of fasting during Lent was not ingrained in my upbringing. It's only been in the last few years that I have even had the thought to participate.  My previous attempts have truly just been a novelty.  A bandwagon participation at best.  

I am coming to a better understanding of the meaning and reasons behind the season of Lent and why it is tied to fasting.  The research I have done and read over the past week on the biblical implications of fasting have intrigued me and made me long for more knowledge. In the past, for me, it was simply about "sacrificing" or enduring the period without something.  Facebook one time. Meat another.  But I am finding more and more that "giving up" something for Lent means nothing if it is not replaced with something more holy.  Something that draws you closer to the throne of God.  And that is where I have gone wrong in the past.  Gave up Facebook?  Replaced with hours of Pinterest or some other form of internet surfing or tv watching.  Gave up meat?  Complained regularly.  

So our church is entering into a period of Pray. Fast. Serve.  In this, we have been asked to pray that God would reveal if and  how He would have us participate.  I began that prayer a week ago and a pastor friend recommended John Piper "A Hunger For God" and I have literally "devoured" it (no pun intended) the last few days.   There are so many parts I would love to share with you but truly take the time to read yourself.  It's a free download HERE.   I didn't even make it past the introduction and I read this part over and over.

“Desires for other things”—there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weak- ness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but 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 is a fight to feast on all that God is for us in Christ. What we hunger for most, we worship.

So I seek to understand more about fasting.  

Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us. What are our bottom-line passions? In his chapter on fasting in The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says, “More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other things.”

There have been quite a few ways that God revealed to me during the last couple of weeks what are I should fast from.   I read 7 Basic Steps to Successful Fasting provided by the church.  It details the ways to have a successful food fast.  About a year ago I read Jen Hatmaker's 7: A Mutiny of Excess so God had planted many ideas of "giving up" things in my heart.  

About 2 weeks ago in the transition of Justin's job, we went without internet.  This definitely revealed things about my priorities.  I complained.  I was frustrated.  I said I lived in the "dark ages".  But what I found was that during the 2 weeks, I actually finished 2 books that I started months ago.  It got me thinking.  How much time do I spend on the internet?  On social media?  It's truly what I "fill" my time with.  There have been many days that I have rushed from the time I woke up until the time I fell into bed in exhaustion and thought "God. I never made time for you today." But I scrolled instagram.  I checked my news feed. Probably commented on something.  Shared a picture of my kiddos. Maybe read a blog post.  

And in this I knew was the answer for the next 40 days. And the fact that I was entirely anxious about it revealed even more to me.  But not simply to walk away from or "fast" from these things to empty my days but to commit to filling them with more time with my Maker.  I have a handful of amazing books by authors (bible teachers, evangelist, leaders) that I admire and have been wanting to read for so long.  I recently discovered inductive Bible study and literally feel in some ways I am reading God's word for the first time.  Aren't those the things that I should fill my days with?  

Maybe for you it's food or the act of eating.  I have done many voluntary juice fast, whole 30's, and sugar detoxes in the past for health reasons.  Those things just don't have a hold on me or my emotions.  For some, maybe it's buying things or shopping.  Maybe it's reading celebrity gossip magazines and blogs.  Or filling every night with hours worth of "shows".  God knows where your time is spent and most likely, you do too.  

Tomorrow I will delete the apps from my phone.  Pick up the books I have been meaning to read.  Open my bible and spend more time with the One who loves me the most.  

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.

I will see you back here on Easter! My prayer is that however you choose to honor this season that God would be the focus of your heart, reflected in your time, and remembered for His ultimate sacrifice.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

The Riley's