I have asked Dana to forward this message to you in order to say HAPPY NEW YEAR and SHALOM from ISRAEL!! I miss my family and all of you very much while I am here in the Holy Land with my dad. I hate that I cannot be there with you as we begin our 3 week fast, but please know that I am thinking of you and praying for you. You are all very much on my heart!
My first few days in Israel have been amazing! Since arriving on Friday we have been staying in the city of Tiberius on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. So far we have visited Capernaum, where Jesus lived and taught for much of his ministry; Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene; the hill where it is believed Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount; Mt. Hermon and the Golan Heights; the territory of the Gerasenes where Jesus cast out Legion; and Caesarea Philippi. Tomorrow we leave for Jericho and then Jerusalem.
In addition to saying Happy New Year and updating you on my trip, I have also asked Dana to send out the following study on FASTING! Again, I think it is essential that we understand spiritually why we fast, and that we see it as a chance to exercise faith rather than engage in annual ritual. What matters is your faith and what you are fasting FOR, rather than what you are fasting FROM.
What is Fasting?
FASTING IS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE which we engage in as an act of faith, through which God pours out his grace to save and sanctify us! (EPHESIANS 2:8)
Standard Fast: Abstaining from food and all drink except water.
Partial Fast: Abstain from only certain foods (Daniel 10)
Full Fast: Abstain from all food and drink, even water (only for extreme reasons and never beyond 3 days tops). Esther 4, Acts 9 (Paul)
We see all three types of fasts in the Bible.
What form of fast will you engage in, and for what purpose? I usually do a combination of a standard and partial fast. I choose some things to fast from the entire 3 weeks, combined with a few days within the 3 weeks in which I fast from everything except water. This year I am fasting for the spiritual growth of the church, the unity of the church, and to grow particularly in the area of humility! My trip to Israel has been good in that it is providing me with opportunities to “make myself nothing” and put others before myself, many of whom I don’t know well, if at all.
Who Fasted in the Bible?
Moses, David, Daniel, Ezra, Esther, Anna, Jesus, Paul, Church leaders
Should Disciples Fast?
There is no New Testament command to fast. However, Jesus seems to assume/imply that his disciples will fast. Consider the following:
MATTHEW 6:1, 2a, 5a, 16
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven… when you give… when you pray… When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
Jesus does not say IF you give, pray, or fast, but rather he says WHEN!
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
Jesus says that there will be a time, when he has gone back to heaven, in which it will be appropriate for his disciples to fast.
Why Do People Fast?
•REPENTANCE/ATONEMENT FOR SIN (Lev 23, Jonah 3, Joel 2:12-17)
•PETITION (2 Chron 20:1-4, Ezra 8:21, 2 Sam 12:15-23)
•SEEKING SOMETHING : Psalm 42:1-2, Col 1:17, Phil 3:10 > Seeking God
•Luke 2:37, Acts 13:1-2, Matt 4:4 (Deut 8:3) > Fast to know God’s will
•Zechariah 7:4-10 Fasting without righteousness and right relationship with one another accomplishes nothing
What are Some Fruits of Fasting?
•Spiritual Growth (Gal 5:22-23)
•Discipline (1 Cor 6:12, 9:26-27)
SO WHAT ARE YOU FASTING FOR? Who will you pray with during the next 3 weeks? In what ways other than fasting will you pursue to know and grow in your relationship with and trust of God? MAY GOD BLESS YOU GREATLY AS YOU PARTICIPATE TOGETHER IN THIS INDIVIDUAL AND COMMUNAL ACT OF FAITH!