A Lesson Learned from Fasting

A Lesson Learned From Fasting

 
First let me start by saying my fasting was not brought on by spiritual motives. So I am not writing this for anyone to think I am doing this and writing this article for people to “know” I am fasting. Jesus is very clear, when you are fasting to continue to live a normal life and not make it a spectacle. My fasting is called intermittent fasting, where I fast for 16 hours and eat my recommended calorie intake in the next 8 hours and the cycle continues.
 
I am writing this article because I woke up this morning and was doing well until I drove into the church parking lot and the hunger pains set in. I get very sick feeling when I am hungry, so this is very difficult for me.
 
The lesson I learned pretty hard this morning is the difference between commitment and follow through. Commitment is normally made during a time when it is easy to make that commitment. You have the passion, the desire to do something, it sounds great in your head, you can visualize your goals and even see yourself reaching those goals. Now follow through, on the other hand, is much different than the initial commitment. This is made during a time when it is difficult and the goals become hard, the pains set in, you wonder about giving up and how easy it would be to just forget about the commitment you made but you continue and persevere through the pain and doubt.
 
With fasting, the difference between these two feelings is pretty substantial; but it is not always so “in your face” or in “your stomach” for that matter. I have my body constantly telling me that I am hungry so I have the constant reminder. With other things it may be more subtable. You start off with a goal of exercise, eating better, or maybe making a greater commitment  to Jesus but the world slowly creeps in and then one slip up after the next, before you realize it, the commitment you made a while back as drifted from your minds and you are back stuck in your rut.
 
This happens to Christians, spiritually speaking, all the time. In a time of crisis or in a time when things are going smoothly, we make a decision to follow after Jesus or to rededicate ourselves and to do “better.” This is normally done on a Sunday after an uplifting or challenging lesson. We have such fierce determination to change in that moment but we wake up on Monday morning or a few days later and that commitment has slowly faded away and we are back living the same way we were the week or month before.
 
How can we change that? Like with fasting, we need constant reminders. We need people in our lives who will hold us accountable, we need to pray and ask God, through His spirit, to strengthen us and give us the will power to continue to be transformed by the message of the gospel to live and be more like Jesus. One of the things that I have realized with any “resolution” or change, is that it has to be a lifestyle change. Not just a few added things here or subtracting some things there, we have to completely reshape our thinking and lifestyle if our commitments are going to be realized in the long term in our lives.
 
since you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.- Colossians 3:10
 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!- 2 Corinthians 5:17
 
Lesson Learned: If commitment id going to be followed by “follow-through” then one’s commitment cannot be to change things in our life, but to change our life completely and be NEW!

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Take off Your Sandals

In a well-known story, Moses approaches a burning bush which is said to be the presence of God. In the presence of the Almighty, Moses is commanded to take off his sandals. You see, when we are in a holy place, we reverently approach our God. I want you to know that I am not God, but I implore you to take off your sandals- but not for the reason Moses did.

Conversations, real–genuine conversations are the only way two different people with different backgrounds can come together and discuss ideas. To take off your sandals, or in our day in age one may say, “take off your coat and stay a while” we are inviting people into our homes and lives, making ourselves vulnerable for the sake of connecting on a deeper level than, “hey, how are you?”

I challenge each Christian to think of evangelism as a personal and warm experience to be cultured and used as the most effective way of communicating the gospel to our neighbors. If you want a masterful teacher’s example of how that works, go read John 4 in the account of Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman. See how he breaks down cultural barriers and reaches into the life of the people he wants to reach. Now you are not Jesus, so this information gathering takes a lot longer and it takes listening to people and their problems. Only then can you “take off your sandals,” sit back, and have a conversation on a personal level that will be far more effective than a mere “hey, how are you?”

Now back to Moses- let’s talk about conversing with God. God has spoken to man through His holy inspired word. To be the best effective communicators to the lost and dying world, we need to be in constant communication to our God through prayer and study. I have heard people make excuses about why they cannot evangelize because they are not good communicators, or an excuse to that effect. You know, Moses made some of those same excuses and God effectively told Him, “I made you, I know what you can and cannot do.” Those same people who say they cannot communicate have no problem talking, in depth about their favorite sports team, TV show, and/or hobby. It is not about being an effective communicator at all really, it is about growing to love God and His word and just talking about what you love. So when you do invite people over to your home and ask them to “take off their sandals” you won’t be trying to “win an argument”, you will just be talking about what you know and what you love.

 

This is how Jesus intended the gospel to be spread, people who love him enough to invite people to “take off their sandals” and listen to a real genuine person who loves God enough to talk about Him and what God has done for them personally in their own lives.


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Changing the World

In a recent discussion I had with a brother in Christ, it really got me thinking about some things. One of those things is how much of what I do as a minister of Christ is actually effective? What is my role in this world. I know God is sovereign but also has given His church a mission. A mission that seems on one end, all about God and on the other extreme, all about man. If it is all on God, then what is my role as a christian? If it is all on man…well then we are doomed.
 
I want to discuss this idea about how much of it is God’s part and how much is man’s part. There is no measuring the two and trying to get them to 100% because the two are not the same. It is going to take 100% God and 100% man for the world to see real change again like in the 1st century.
 
Paul tells the church at Corinth that “I planted and Apollos watered but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). So who caused the growth? Well in reality, BOTH!!! You see there is an important principle that Jesus taught His disciples after He washed their feet. He said:
 
“Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you…If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them
 
– John 13:12-15, 17
 
We as the church are to look to the example of Jesus and do what He did. He preached, fed the poor, spent time with sinners and tax-collectors, and gave up his life so others may live. We as Christians are charged with the same task because God has put the world in the hands of true Christ-followers. We obviously cannot compete with the providence and working of God but we can be a part of God’s working and plan. Paul writes to the church at Philippi this:
 
“So then my beloved brethren, just as you have always obeyed not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” 
-Philippians 2:12-13
 
As we work, God works through us. If we want to change the world, we need to pray as if it all depends on God and work like God is doing His work through us….because He is!
 
My brethren, your work is not in vain, your prayers are being heard, the fruit will come!
 
 
Jesse Nelsen, minister at the Lenoir City Church of Christ

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