Category Archives: Fasting

Ashes, Dust & Repentance

AshWed2015

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the season of Lent for Christians. There are 40 days (minus Sundays) until Easter, and the season of Lent is a time for Christians everywhere to prepare themselves to celebrate that glorious day. Tonight, I will observe the beginning of the Lent season with my congregation by administering (and receiving) ashes on our foreheads.

Tonight, my congregation will be reminded that the Lent season is all about preparing for Easter through repentance and renewal. We will be reminded of our sin, and we will be called upon to repent. In our service tonight, we will sing together, we will recite Scripture together, we will pray together, and we will receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. The ash will serve as a reminder of the biblical principle from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And because we are dust, and because to dust we shall return, repentance and renewal is essential. We will be reminded again tonight that full and complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essential.

The practice of placing ashes on the forehead has its roots in the Old Testament (book of Ezekiel) when an angel of the Lord was told to “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” Tonight will be a night when we will be reminded of our sin (reminded to sigh and groan over it), and then encouraged to begin a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the work of Christ on the cross when He – once and for all – forgave us of our sins and cleansed us from all of our unrighteousness.

Lent is to be marked by discipline and fasting with the goal of death to sin, but our eyes must not stay down. They must look ahead to Easter, a day when the fasting comes to end…a day of unbridled laughter and celebration. A day when all creation rejoices and marvels at the gift from God: our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.

Lent Has Begun!

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the season of Lent for Christians.  There are 40 days (minus Sundays) until Easter, and the season of Lent is a time for Christians everywhere to prepare themselves to celebrate that glorious day.  Tonight, I will observe the beginning of the Lent season with my congregation by administering (and receiving) ashes on our foreheads.

Tonight, my congregation will be reminded that the Lent season is all about preparing for Easter through repentance and renewal.  We will be reminded of our sin, and we will be called upon to repent.  In our service tonight, we will sing together, we will recite Scripture together, we will pray together, and we will receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads.  The ash will serve as a reminder of the biblical principle from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  And because we are dust, and because to dust we shall return, repentance and renewal is essential. We will be reminded again tonight that  full and complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essential.

The  practice of placing ashes on the forehead has its roots in the Old Testament (book of Ezekiel) when an angel of the Lord was told to “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”  Tonight will be a night when we will be reminded of our sin (reminded to sigh and groan over it), and then encouraged to begin a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the work of Christ on the cross when He – once and for all – forgave us of our sins and cleansed us from all of our unrighteousness.

Lent is to be marked by discipline and fasting with the goal of death to sin, but our eyes must not stay down.  They must look ahead to Easter, a day when the fasting comes to end…a day of unbridled laughter and celebration.  A day when all creation rejoices and marvels at the gift from God: our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.

Ashes to Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the season of Lent for Christians.  There are 40 days (minus Sundays) until Easter, and the season of Lent is a time for Christians everywhere to prepare themselves to celebrate that glorious day.  Tonight, I will observe the beginning of the Lent season with my congregation by administering (and receiving) ashes on our foreheads.

Tonight, my congregation will be reminded that the Lent season is all about preparing for Easter through repentance and renewal.  We will be reminded of our sin, and we will be called upon to repent.  In our service tonight, we will sing together, we will recite Scripture together, we will pray together, and we will receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads.  The ash will serve as a reminder of the biblical principle from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  And because we are dust, and because to dust we shall return, repentance and renewal is essential. We will be reminded again tonight that  full and complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essential.

The  practice of placing ashes on the forehead has its roots in the Old Testament (book of Ezekiel) when an angel of the Lord was told to “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”  Tonight will be a night when we will be reminded of our sin (reminded to sigh and groan over it), and then encouraged to begin a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the work of Christ on the cross when He – once and for all – forgave us of our sins and cleansed us from all of our unrighteousness.

Lent is to be marked by discipline and fasting with the goal of death to sin, but our eyes must not stay down.  They must look ahead to Easter, a day when the fasting comes to end…a day of unbridled laughter and celebration.  A day when all creation rejoices and marvels at the gift from God: our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.

Inspired by John Piper

I’ve admired John Piper for some time now.  I was introduced to him back in college in the form of his book, Desiring God.  It was required reading for a class I was taking, and I devoured it.  In it, Piper gave me permission to enjoy God and enjoy my faith-journey with Him.  This was a breath of fresh air for someone like me who had been raised in a very legalistic church where enjoyment of anything was suspect at best.

I am now in my 15th year of full-time church ministry, and John Piper has been one of my closest ministry companions over the years.  His constant outpouring of books, sermons, articles, and blog entries have been a part of my ministry diet since the beginning.  When I hear him preach, I’m inspired to be a better preacher, and when I read his writings, I’m inspired to be a deeper thinker.  His passion for the glory of God is contagious…but its taken its toll on him.

According to The Christian Post, Piper announced last Sunday to his congregation at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis that he will be taking his first-ever break from ministry to “reexamine his soul”.  He apologized to his congregation for not a specific deed but for the “sins of my own soul,” “ongoing character flaws” and stresses that they have caused to others.

He admitted to several species of pride that “may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, but I grieve over them.”

This will be the first time in his 30 years of preaching that he will take an extended leave of absence.  For the next eight months, Piper’s public life of preaching, writing, and speaking nationally will go silent.  “I’m letting go of all of it,” he said.  This means no preaching, no book writing, no blogging, no tweeting, no articles, no papers and no speaking engagements.

I have to admit that when I read about this, I was immediately stunned.  Not for him, but for me.  I think its safe to say that John Piper is a rock – not perfect but a serious and passionate follower of Christ.  If he needs to reexamine his soul, what does this mean for me?

Once again, John Piper has inspired me.  He’s inspired me to look deep inside of myself – to reexamine my soul – to see in what ways the sins of my soul, my ongoing character flaws, and the stresses I have caused others need to be brought under the Lord’s submission and repented of.  Seems highly likely that my Lenten period of reflection and examination needs to extend beyond Easter Sunday.

May the Lord minister deeply to my ministry companion during his time of fasting from ministry, and may the Lord minister deeply to me – and to all men and women who minister in His name – in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

My Rookie Year of Observing Lent

Lent.  The only thing I knew this word to mean for much of my life was the stuff tucked away safely in my belly button.  I had no idea that Lent was something that many Christians around the world observe every year around Easter.  When I got married, I lived in Milwaukee – a city with a large Catholic population.  I remember enjoying several of the Friday night “fish fries” around the city each spring, but I  never really made the connection.  I thought that Lent was just for Catholics.

As I continued to move through my early adult life, I knew that something was missing as I would crash into Easter each year, but I didn’t know what it was.  The annual “Good Friday” service was always meaningful, but I just never seemed very prepared to grasp, observe and feel the depth and meaning of the Easter season.

Then, last year, I discovered that several of my parishioners had gone to other churches to observe Ash Wednesday (of which I knew very little about), so I decided to do some research.  I was still under the impression that Lent was something only Catholics – and other closely related denominations – observed.  But when I learned that several of my “baptist” congregants were taking part in the observation, my interest was peaked.

My research led me to discover the “something” that I had been missing all of these years related to Easter.  Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter marked by repentance and more deliberate fasting, prayer, and acts of service was the piece I was the missing in my yearly Easter observance.  And this year, I have jumped in with both feet!

On Ash Wednesday, I – along with my staff – led what turned out to be one of the most meaningful services we’ve experienced at our church in a long time.  To stand up front and administer the ashes to my congregants was incredibly humbling and meaningful.  Many who received the ashes said the same.  That service began the 40 days of Lent, and many in my congregation are participating by fasting, praying, serving, and celebrating (Sundays during Lent are to be days of celebration and the fast can be broken on those days).  A baptist church observing Lent…it’s crazy, I know!

Now – more than ever before – I’m waiting anxiously for Resurrection Sunday to come.  Lent is providing for me 40 days of build-up and anticipation, and I can’t wait to experience the celebration of Easter.  I know…it’s only my rookie year, and I’ve got a lot to learn about this, but I’m enjoying the process.

What about you?  There are still 25 days until Easter, so it’s not too late to prepare yourself for it.  If you’ve missed the first few weeks of Lent, why not jump in today?  If you need more information about Lent, click the link below.  And then join me – a fellow rookie – in preparing for Easter in a whole new way.

My Thoughts on Ash Wednesday and Lent

The Launching Pad of Fasting

fastingAs Foothills wraps up our four-week church-wide fast, let me encourage you with these words from Acts 13:1-4:

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

This fasting changed the course of history.

John Piper notes that it is almost impossible to overstate the historical importance of this moment in Antioch in the history of the world. Before this word from the Holy Spirit there seems to have been no organized mission of the church beyond the eastern seacoast of the Mediterranean. Before this, Paul had made no missionary journeys westward to Asian Minor, Greece, or Rome, or Spain. Before this Paul had not written any of his letters which were all the result of his missionary travels beginning here.

This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would make Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two and a half centuries and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world. And 13 out of the 29 books of the New Testament were the result of the ministry that was launched in this moment of prayer and fasting.

So I think is it fair to say that God was pleased to make worship and prayer and fasting the launching pad for a mission that would change the course of world history.

What do the Foothills elders hope that God will “launch” through our prayer and fasting?  We hope and pray that God will launch us into our 36th year together in such a way that He uses us to usher in His Kingdom here on earth (in Albuquerque, Africa, Japan, South Asia, Iraq) as it is in heaven.  Thank you, Foothills, for joining us in this act of discipline, sacrifice, and worship.

The Slow Hours of Fasting

fastingMy church – Foothills Fellowship – is currently involved in a four-week fast.  No, we’re not going without food for 28 straight days; that might be considered borderline cultish…and really hard to do.  What we’re doing is asking as many people in the church who are able to go without food for 24-hours once a week for the next four weeks, and to be honest, I’m not really looking forward to it….because I love food.

Eating is one of the highlights of my day.  I wake up…and eat.  Around noon…I eat.  After work…I eat.  Before bed…I snack (which is probably why I’m not as skinny as I used to be).  I follow this routine every single day, and quite frankly, I dig it!  Interrupting this routine is not enjoyable – unless it’s adding to the routine (as in an afternoon snack) – and it seems like when I fast, the passing of time does not live up to the name of the exercise in which I’m participating.

As much as it pains me to break my beloved routine, I know that it’s spiritually good for me, and it’s good for us as a church to do this together as we embark on the implementation of our amended constitution and as we select a new batch of elders to lead us.  John Piper, a pastor and well-respected author wrote an entire book on the topic of fasting called, A Hunger for God.  In it, he says this…

Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us. What are our bottom-line passions? 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.

Psychologically, that sort of thing is spoken of a lot today, especially in regard to people who have much pain in their lives. We would say they ‘medicate’ their pain with food. They anesthetize themselves to the hurt inside by eating. But this is not some rare, technical syndrome. All of us do it. Everybody. No exceptions. We all ease our discomfort using food and cover our unhappiness by setting our eyes on dinnertime. Which is why fasting exposes all of us – our pain, our pride, our anger.

One of the reasons for fasting is to know what is in us. In fasting it will come out. You will see it. And you will have to deal with it or quickly smother it again. When mid-morning comes and you want food so badly that the thought of lunch becomes as sweet as a summer vacation, then suddenly you realize, “Oh, I forgot, I made a commitment. I can’t have that pleasure. I’m fasting for lunch too.” Then what are you going to do with all the unhappiness inside? Formerly, you blocked it out with the hope of a tasty lunch. The hope of food gave you the good feelings to balance out the bad feelings. But now the balance is off. You must find another way to deal with it.

Throughout the day that I’m fasting, the way that I deal with the hunger pangs, the headache, the sometimes overwhelming desire for food, and a mushrooming bad attitude is to pray.  Whenever I feel hunger and am consumed with thoughts of eating, I pray. I ask God to help me to hunger for Him like I hunger for food.  Whenever I feel my head throbbing and entertain the desire to bite off someone else’s head for no reason, I pray.  I ask God to forgive me for my sin, and I thank Him for the suffering of Jesus on my behalf.

And when the 24-hour period is over, I feast…and pray, thanking God for providing daily for me and for allowing me to grow a bit closer to Him through the slow hours of fasting.