January 9, 2023
For some years now, after Christmas, we have followed up with a New Year tradition of our own. As a family, we have invited one another to make space to engage with God personally and corporately by setting aside a week where we abstain from certain comforts unique to each of us; food, gadgets, entertainment etc. It creates some space, sometimes, where we seek God to help realign, restore, and strengthen our intimacy with Him. When we willingly offer ourselves up to cultivate our awareness of His presence within us, He has access and union with us to continue what He has started in us.
Thinking about fasting?
I am not a fan of abstaining from food, drink, and other comforts, but I am a fan of being transformed by Him. I’m fully aware I am in the process of the work He started, and I desire to participate in whatever helps Him continue it. Many years ago, I knew I wanted to become more like Jesus. Not to mimic Him, but to be able to live and love in the same manner Jesus did. Along the way, I noticed a resistance to this desire. I have come to describe this as a battle against the weapons of mass distraction. Taking time to lay them aside intentionally allows my senses to become more attuned to what I truly desire - to be further transformed. Starting is simple. The question is: “how did Jesus become like Jesus?” Foremost, he sought to discover what Yahweh was like, what He loved, and what He desired. Jesus learned the intimacy and truth of God’s character from a young age. He called Yahweh Father as a young teen, and later, the gospels only record him calling God Yahweh Father.
He was a son to God as he had been to Joseph, growing ever more intimate and wise - a son after God’s own heart. So what shaped Jesus as a boy and later that as an adult? No matter his age, He always referred to himself as a son. Practically, what shaped him for 30 years started as a desire to learn about God. He was intentionally leaning in. He read and meditated on words and experiences from the prophets and David’s Psalms; He prayed and conversed with God throughout his life. He found private times away from the hustle and bustle of the days. He seemed adept at avoiding mass distractions and never got drawn into the world’s narrative of his day. He grew in strength, wisdom and clarity of His actions as the times grew harder. He fasted food and wrestled in prayer and temptations. Point made – Jesus became who He was by the shaping and forming of His ongoing union with his Father God. I believe we all desire to see our hearts grow in maturity that reflects that of our older brother, Jesus.
People fast for many reasons, but Jesus did so in response to the Spirit’s leading. Therefore, I encourage each of us to join this upcoming week of fasting with some current realities in mind.
First, consider the timing - a new year has arrived, but we’ve just come from a period that no one alive today has ever experienced. It has shaken us, scared us and made some of us hesitant, shaking the comfort culture and personal plans we had hoped for the past three years. As a result, we are more aware of life’s fragility and the power fear brings to peace. We see a world narrative crowd out peace and love in the news cycles. We have witnessed many reactions, emotions and fear that have led to a full-on shaking of almost everything humanity has hoped for. It has left its mark on all our hearts and minds. Taking this week to allow God to wash away anything that has lingered in us due to these past few years is what He wants to do for us. No better time for us to be refreshed, realigned and strengthened for the future ahead.
A second encouragement for the upcoming week of fasting is for our community. It’s been a long season of social distancing; our desire, our will, our habit and frankly, our need to come together was disrupted, shaken and sifted by the Spirit. Old ways are being discarded to make way for a new creation that is forming in many hearts.
Listen to Jesus’ words to John about the church while he was on the island of Patmos – Jesus was talking about His body, the family, and the church He is building, and his words reach us in this season.
“The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 3:19-22 MSG
In the church’s infancy that emerged after Jesus went to be at his Father’s side, we find them fasting together in challenging and good times. They sought to discern and confirm everything the Spirit was doing and saying through the brothers and the sisters in the hardest and best of times.
We desire that whatever fog or distractions have settled over our hearts in these past months be gone, where God would heal any loss, grief, and pain we experienced, and the eyes of our hearts would open fully to see the beauty that is ours as His children in His family. We desire to hear and listen to the wind, the words that the Spirit is blowing through many hearts within our community that will take us into new ways of living this incredible life within!
Paul reminds us that we all have received gifts to help one another. So in the upcoming week of fasting and prayer, we can consider the things God has put into our hearts for one another. This is the year to start something, take a risk as his child into new adventures.
As we step into this month and go through our week of fasting, we will be stepping further into God’s heart for our community and His family. I found this quote from Brendan Manning paints a bit of a picture of the substance forming.
“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that he lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind. To make brand new creation, not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women, sons and daughters, who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, that calls us each “my beloved”, Who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent word of God, who would enter into the centre of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the centre of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything a glow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant furious love. This is my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.” Brennan Manning- the furious longing of God.
If you feel like participating, be completely free to use whatever guide or means works for you. Some find God reveals a word or a theme He has for them in the year; some find the fasting guides helpful. For example, this year, our extended family (Every Nation) prepared a guide around the theme of Miracles. “We believe God works miracles today by the power of the Holy Spirit to bless people and advance his kingdom. In 2023, we believe God for miracles that will testify to his power and create new opportunities for the gospel to advance.”
They also created a family guide for families with children between the ages of 4–12. It’s an excellent tool for parents to help introduce children to family time, where you can do some things together each day. Consider integrating what works for your family - make it your own.
Connecting & Together: On Wednesday, January 11, evening, we will have a corporate prayer evening over Zoom with many others from the churches we have helped establish over the years in Canada. (Details to follow)