Sermon Notes and Video: “My Soul Longs for God, and My Heart Aches to See Him: On Secret Fasting”

Sermon Notes

Sermon Title: “My Soul Longs for God, and My Heart Aches to See Him: On Secret Fasting”

Date:Sunday, February 17, 2019

Speaker: Dr. Joseph

Text: Matthew 6:16-18

“16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Godliness is a distinctive mark of Christian discipleship and pertains to one’s commitment to passionately pursue and love God. When was the last time you sensed an intense desire for God and you pursued him with all of your emotions, intellectual imagination, and your might?

Do you really love God? How much is your love for Christ? What does it mean to love God? Can one love God, a supernatural Being, the same way one can love an individual, a natural Being? Does God want us to love Him?

This morning, I would like to speak with you on the Christian discipline of fasting connected with intense longing for and pursue of God through a purposeful and disciplined prayer life. Christian fasting is feasting with God and delighting in Christ’s incomparable worth and irresistible gracious presence.

What is fasting?

  • It is simply voluntary abstinence from food to focus on intense prayer before the Lord for a specific purpose.
  • Richard Foster: Fasting as “The voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity”
  • Usually, there are four to five general principles associating with fasting: to teachus about humility, discipline, self-knowledge (meditation), and dependence on God (Allison, Sermon on the Mount, p. 135).

Fasting as a Biblical Tradition, but not commanded by Jesus

  • In some ancient religions, it was believed that demons could enter the human body through food; therefore, one way to prevent demonic possession is to abstain from food while fasting so to remove oneself from the physical possession of the external force or to prevent further evil spirits accessing one’s body.
  • It was also believed that through fasting, one can heighten his or spiritual experience with God, attain spiritual insights and mystical visions from God.

 

Fasting in the Old Testament and as a Jewish Tradition

  • The law required a national day of fasting and the Jewish people would fast once a year, on the Day of Atonement (why the day of the atonement). During the exilic period, Jewish religious teachers added additional fast-days, for example, to commemorate the memory of Jerusalem (Zech. 7:3-5; 8:19). It is in the New Testament, we learn about regular fasting as the Pharisees and others were fierce observants (9:14; 18:14)
  • Penitent fasting included “afflicting one’s self” (Lev. 23:32).
  • In the Jewish religious culture, fasting was often associated with three major external signs: sackcloth, ashes, and the rending of clothing (Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:5)
  • In Jesus’ days, many Pharisees fasted twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays to showcase their piety (Luke 18:12). When they did, they refrained from food, not from drink. “They claimed those days were chosen because they were the days Moses made the two separate trips to receive the tables of law from God on Mount Sinai. But those days also happened to be the major Jewish market days, when cities and towns were crowed with farmers, merchants, and shoppers. They were, therefore, the two days where public fasting would have the largest audience” (MacArthur, Gospel of Matthew, pp. 401).
  • “Under normal circumstances people trimmed beards or changes clothes before appearing in public, as well as anointing themselves. Palestinian Jews used oil to clean and anoint their skin, especially on their heads” (Keener, Gospel of Matthew, p. 147).
  • “Because penitent fasting included afflicting oneself (Lev/. 23:32), for most Jewish people the most extreme fasts meant not only abstaining from food but also practicing other forms of self-abasement like not shaving, washing one’s clothes, anointing or having intercourse. Jesus is concerned with keeping one’s righteousness private that he prohibits customary features of what his contemporaries considered a strict fast” (Keener, Gospel of Matthew, p. 146-7).
  • Plummer writes, “The light of a Christian character will shine before men and win glory for God without the artificial aid of public advertisement. Ostentatious religion may have its reward here, but it receives none from God” (Qtd in Blomberg, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 122)

Human behavior or attitude associating with Jewish Fasting

  1. To abstain from food (Lev. 16:29-34; 23:26-32)
  2. To humble oneself through fervent and honest prayers
  3. To mourn or grief before the Lord
  4. To wear sackcloth

People who fasted in the Bible

  • Moses fasted on Mount Sinai after God and his people renewed the (Sinaic) covenant.
  • Queen Esther urged Mordechai to mobilize the Jewish people to  “hold a fast” on her behalf and Jewish people to prevent her death and the extermination of the Jewish people.
  • Ezra called the people of God in exile to fast when they were about to leave Babylon and return to their homeland, Jerusalem (8:21-23)
  • When God allows David’s first child with Bathsheba to be ill, David mourned before the Lord so the child could be relieved from the sickness (2 Sam. 12:16).
  • Sometimes, David sought the face of God for his enemies through fasting (Ps. 35:13) when they were sick.
  • After the people of Nineveh heard the preaching of Jonah toward national repentance, they believed and were convicted. The king called for a day of fasting and mourning before the Lord (Jonah 3:1-7).
  • Daniel sought God “by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” He prayed to God tp forgive his people of their sins and pleaded for God’s gracious lovingkindness to be extended toward his people.
  • Saul, after his conversion to Christ, spent three days neither ate nor drank.
  • Jesus our Lord fasted for forty days and nights in the wilderness. He fasted before he began his public ministry
  • The early Christians in the Church of Antioch, before they send Paul and Barnaba to the first missionary journey fasted for successful evangelistic outreach. Paul and Barnabas themselves fasted for God to be glorified through missionary endeavors.

 

Six Truths about Biblical Fasting

  • Fasting as a Christian tradition.
  • In both Old and New Testaments, we encountered many godly men and women who have fasted before the Lord. Fasting in fact should be understood as a biblical tradition. During the Old Testament times, one observes many people who sought the face of the Lord through fasting such as Moses, David, Samuel, Samson, Elijah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel (men) and the women included Hannah and Esther. In the New Testament times, individuals such as Anna, John the Baptist and his disciples, Paul, the early church, etc. also devoted time in fasting. Fasting was also a practice among the early church fathers and the Reformers such as Calvin, Luther, and others like Wesley, and Whitefield (See John MacArthur).
  • Christians should avoid false fasting: Matthew 6:16-18; Luke 18:12
  • Fasting to relieve yourself from spiritual depression and sins: Ps. 42:5; Joel 2:2-13; Jonah 3:5-9

Martin Lloyd Jones writes, “It is only when we truly trust Christ that true happiness and joy are possible for us.  Deliverance is not found in making resolutions to live a better life, fasting, grieving or praying.  No “action” on your part.  Repeatedly tell yourself, “I rest my faith on Christ alone, who died for my transgressions to atone.”  Remember, a man is justified by “faith” – not by the “deeds” of the Law – your works and behavior have nothing to do with your being saved.  Furthermore, since we are “eternally saved by faith,” our salvation is not maintained by “good works.”  As long as you see your “sins” as a detriment with regard to your acceptance before God, you will negate the work of the cross in your life – because you will live as though “your sins” really have not been fully dealt with.  This is a “critical issue” for many Christians – they have been “set free” from the prison of sin… their prison cell has been unlocked… yet they continue to live in it!  Jesus is the Savior of sinners, among whom I am foremost of all! (1 Tim 1:15).  (9-35). What is the cure?  What saved the “blind man” in the above illustration was his absolute honesty – he fully submitted himself to Christ and did not object to further treatment.  Conversely, our response must be similar: “I want the truth whatever it costs me.”  The blind man listened to Jesus and his sight was fully restored – “he saw every man clearly.”  If you are unhappy about yourself – go to Christ, go to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, and ask Him in the words of the hymn –

              Holy Spirit, Truth Divine, Dawn upon this soul of mine; 

                         Word of God, and inward Light, wake my spirit, clear my sight.

Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel.  Some think that it is merely a message of “forgiveness;” others conceive of it as only “moral” in nature; still others see it as “something good and beautiful.”  The truth of the matter is, the gospel is a “whole view of life” – it is not partial or piecemeal – consequently the “whole man” must be involved in it – the mind, the heart and the will.  There is a danger in having a purely “intellectual” experience, just as there is a danger in having a purely “emotional” experience – many Christians are content to simply live on their “feelings” (their head isn’t engaged at all).  By the way, we must put things in the right order – mind, heart, and will.  “Truth” must be first – once we know the truth, it will move the heart, and once the heart is engaged, your greatest desire will be to live it.  The heart is always to be influenced through the understanding, which in turn will work upon the will. (36-63)”

  • Fasting as an act of Christian piety and for spiritual empowerment: Luke 2:37; Luke 4:2-5; Mathew 9:14 (reasons: to long for God through prayer, for God to reveal the dark parts in our hearts, for spiritual cleansing; fasting should accompany an inter compulsion and inner turning from the self to God. God our saving Savior should be pursued with all that we are.
  • Fasting to pursue God’s intervention: Neh. 1:4; Ps. 25:13-14; Daniel 9:3-5; 2 Sam. 12:15-17; Ezra 8:21-23
  • Fasting to receive spiritual insights and direction from the Lord: Ex. 34:28; Acts 13:3-4

 

 Characteristics of the true Biblical Fast

  • According to Isaiah, the fast that God honors is the one that accompanies acts of justice (Is. 58:6-10)
  • Biblical fast always accompanies by prayer and a spirit of humility

Exposition on Matthew 6:16-18

  1. 16, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

“they disfigure their faces”

  • The phrase means to “go unwashed” or “cover with ashes” or “make pale” in the attempt to proclaim to onlookers that they are fasting” (Allison, Sermon on the Mount, p. 135). Jesus condemns this practice for his disciple because as an act of piety, the pharisees turn it into religious showcase/display.
  • Nonetheless, there is a kind of fasting that does not please God (Luke 18:11-12; Isaiah 58:3-7): True vs false fasting.
  • John Wesley (connected fasting with divine healing and God’s intervention): The natural incentive for fasting… [is for those] who are under affliction, overwhelmed with sorrow for sin, and filled with a strong anxiety about the wrath of God” (Qtd in McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 194).

 

  1. 17, “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face”: Fasting is about seeking God’s glory, seeking his face. It is a matter of one’s true disposition toward God.
  • According to Jesus, like Christian giving and praying, fasting is a matter of the heart, one’s internal disposition toward God.
  • John Calvin (connected fasting with a purpose): “[Fasting] pleases Him up to a point, as long as it is directed to an end beyond itself, namely, to prompt us to abstinence, to subject the lasciviousness of the flesh, to incense us to a desire for prayer, to testify to our repentance, whenever we are moved by the judgment of God” (Harmony of the Gospel, 1:215; Qtd in McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 193).
  • According to the book of Jonah (Jonah 3:8), fasting is connected with a sense of human urgency, that is, it is an emergency call to God; it is also associating with humility. Christians fast in order for 1) God to relent (9a), 2) to act toward us with compassion, pity, and grace (9b), and to prevent divine judgment (9b)
  1. 18, “that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
  • Bonhoeffer (connected fasting with the works of discipleship): “The only purpose of such practices [as fasting] is to make disciples more willing and more joyous in following the designated path and doing the works required of them” (Qtd in McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 199). A Rabbi in the Mishnah pronounces that “Be not like servants who serve the master on condition of receiving a gift but be like servants who serve the master not on condition of receiving” (Antigonos of Soho in Mishnah ‘Abot 1:3). Similarly, Rabai’al al-Basri, an 8th century Sufi mystic woman prays in this manner:

“O my Lord,

if I worship you

from fear of hell, burn me in hell.

If I worship you

from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship you

for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.”

Source: Rabi’a, “[O my Lord]” translated by Jane Hirshfield, from Women in Praise of the Sacred (New York: Harper Collins, 1994). https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55267/o-my-lord-56d236a947ec8

***” A Muslim saint and Sufi mystic, Rabi’a al-Basri was born around 717 CE in Basra, in present-day Iraq. Enslaved as a young girl, she was eventually freed and pursued a life of prayer. Through her teachings and a number of miracles, she became an important figure in mystical Islam. Rabi’a did not leave any written work behind, so many of the poems attributed to her are of unknown origin. She is believed to have died in her early to mid-80s, around the year 801.”

  • “Be not like servants who serve the master on condition of receiving a gift, but be like servants who serve the master not on condition of receiving” (Antigonos of Soho in Mishnah ‘Abot 1:3)

Application

  1. “The general principle is clear: the inner state should not be advertised by artificial signs, for humility demands secrecy, and the goal of fasting is not enhanced reputation” (Allison, Sermon on the Mount, p. 135).
  2. : Craig Blomberg remarks, “Christians who judge successful ministries by external statistics such as attendance figures, membership, baptisms, and offerings should seriously rethink their criteria in light of Jesus’ words here. God judges the greatness of his servants by searching their hearts, examining their inner attitudes, and seeing deeds done in secret. Doubtless, his evaluations of who most honors him will invert a substantial majority of his people’s evaluations” (Qtd in Blomberg, The Gospel of Matthew, 122)

Conclusion: Ten Major Purposes or Categories

*** Fasting is expected, but not required.

  1. “To strengthen prayer
  2. To seek God’s guidance
  3. To express grief
  4. To seek deliverance or protection
  5. To express repentance and the return to God
  6. To humble oneself before God
  7. To express concern for the work of God
  8. To minister to the needs of others
  9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
  10. To express love and worship to God”

(Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 157-170).

 

Amen!


Watch the sermon online:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix: Scriptural Passages Relating to Fasting

 

  • Zechariah 7:3-5

saying to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”

Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?

·         Zechariah 8:19

19 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.

 

·         Leviticus 23:32

32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

 

·         Daniel 9:1-5

Daniel’s Prayer for His People

9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

 

·         Leviticus 16:29-34

29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves[a] and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron[b] did as the Lord commanded Moses.

·         Ezra 8:20-25

Fasting and Prayer for Protection

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

 

 

·         2 Samuel 12:13-18

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,[a] the child who is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house.

David’s Child Dies

And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.”

·         Psalm 35:11-15

11 Malicious[a] witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.[b]
13 But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed[c] on my chest.
14     I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.

·         Jonah 3

Jonah Goes to Nineveh

3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city,[a] three days’ journey in breadth.[b] Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

The People of Nineveh Repent

The word reached[c] the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

·         Psalm 42

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil[a] of the Sons of Korah.

42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

·         Joel 2:1-13

The Day of the Lord

2 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.

Fire devours before them,
and behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them,
but behind them a desolate wilderness,
and nothing escapes them.

Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,
and like war horses they run.
As with the rumbling of chariots,
they leap on the tops of the mountains,
like the crackling of a flame of fire
devouring the stubble,
like a powerful army
drawn up for battle.

Before them peoples are in anguish;
all faces grow pale.
Like warriors they charge;
like soldiers they scale the wall.
They march each on his way;
they do not swerve from their paths.
They do not jostle one another;
each marches in his path;
they burst through the weapons
and are not halted.
They leap upon the city,
they run upon the walls,
they climb up into the houses,
they enter through the windows like a thief.

·         Luke 2:35-37

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

·         Luke 4:2-5

for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,

·         Matthew 9:14-17

A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast,[a] but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

·         Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah’s Prayer

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

·         Daniel 9:3-5

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

·         Exodus 34:25-30

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.[a]

·         Exodus 34:25-30

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.[a]

·         Acts 13:1-5

Barnabas and Saul Sent Off

13 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,[a] Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping 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 after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.

·         Isaiah 58:1-10

True and False Fasting

58 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,[a]
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[b] go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

 

 

World Issues to Pray For and Fast About

 

June 16, 2016

By Lindsay Brown

https://urbana.org/blog/top-10-global-issues-missions

Top 10 Global Issues in Missions

The Lausanne Congress which met in Cape Town in 2010 was a remarkable event in that it brought together evangelical leaders representing ministry in 198 countries around the globe. It was probably the broadest cultural and international representative event of evangelical leaders in history.

During the course of the Congress, those present were asked what they thought were the key missiological issues which faced the global evangelical church at that time. Many of their responses are summarized in the actual document which came out of the Congress, the Cape Town Commitment. I would encourage you to read this to find out what evangelical leaders from around the world (65% of whom work in the majority world) believe to be the key missiological issues of the day. Amongst the thirty-two areas of need listed, these 10 were perhaps the most important.

Unreached People Groups

Putting aside the concern about the term itself, the issue here is with those at the margins of our missionary endeavors. At the time of the Cape Town Congress, there were 300 people groups (i.e. groups of 100,000 people speaking the same language) who did not have the Scriptures, missionary presence, or a church in their culture. Today that number has been reduced to a little over 100. Many of these peoples are oral learners; valuing the spoken or sung word well over the written word.

University Students

At this Congress, more than 65% of the speakers had benefitted from a university education. This was also the case in the 1974 Congress. This highlights the importance if not the uniqueness of investing university ministry.

Reaching People from other World Religions

Especially the challenge to reach the world of Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism. Since 2010 there have been many Muslims from different cultures professing faith, but we are still waiting for a breakthrough. The same goes for the Buddhist, Shinto, and Hindu worlds.

Witness in Public Life

The growth of the evangelical church worldwide (up from 6 million in 1910 to over 300 million in 2010) often reveals a lack of depth and a separation of personal godliness and engagement in public life. This needs to be reversed.

Reaching Displaced Peoples

This has become more urgent in recent days.

Megacities

There are an increasing number of urban centers of at least 1 million people. Today there are 500 cities in the world with a population over 1 million. By 2050, 75% of the world will be living in urban centers.

Ethnicity and Identity

Ethnic tensions have hindered the richness of the global church. We need to see that our identity lies primarily as being in Christ, rather than being Welsh, Persian, or American. At the same time, the New Testament church is revealed as being multi-ethnic rather than mono-ethnic. Mono-ethnicity can actually hide some of the wonder of the impact of the gospel.

The Question of what it means to be Human

Increasing scientific and technological advances as well as factors like social manipulation etc. will bring pressure on the beginning and end of life questions. This is going to be a major issue in days to come. It seems the public perception of the person has never been more plastic.

Prosperity Theology

This theology has decimated the global church and led to an inadequate theology of suffering and an over-realized eschatology.

Scientific Materialism and Secularism

Respectively, the beliefs that only that which is knowable through the natural sciences truly exists, and the belief that religion should have no place in the affairs of the state. Both beliefs have already damaged the confidence of young evangelicals, especially in the Western world. This will have implications for years to come.”

 

 

National and (City) Issues to Pray For and Fast About

 

Appendix 2

 

May 22, 2018

What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities

  1. Views of problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities

 

By Kim Parker, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Anna Brown, Richard Fry, D’Vera Cohn and Ruth Igielnik

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/views-of-problems-facing-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/

1.      Drug addiction is seen as a pressing problem in urban and rural communities

·         Half of self-described lower-class adults say drug addiction is a major problem in their community

·         In urban and rural communities alike, about half see drug addiction as a top-tier problem: 50% and 46%, respectively, say this is a major problem in their local community. A smaller but substantial share of adults living in suburban areas (35%) say drug addiction is a major problem where they live.

2.      Sharp socio-economic divide on concerns about drug addiction

·         In fact, fully 50% of lower-class adults say drug addiction is a major problem where they live. These gaps hold up – for the most part – across community types, although the

3.      Rural residents more likely to say availability of jobs is a major problem where they live

·         Urban residents more optimistic about future jobs in their community.

·         Overall, 31% of Americans say the availability of jobs is a major problem in their local community and 45% say this is a minor problem. Roughly one-in-four (23%) say this is not a problem in their community. Perceptions about local job conditions differ not only by community type but also by key demographic characteristics. There is a significant racial divide in views about the availability of jobs, with nonwhites much more likely than whites to say this is a major problem where they live (40% vs. 26%).

4.      Wide racial gaps on a range of community problems

  • Whites and nownwhites have different perceptions abou severity of problems their communities face”
  • There’s a racial divide in suburban and rural communities when it comes to housing, the quality of K-12 public schools, access to grocery stores, and traffic. Whites and nonwhites in urban areas express similar levels of concern about these issues.
  • There are also socio-economic divides on several of these problems. When it comes to poverty, crime and infrastructure, as well as access to quality medical care, high-speed internet, and grocery stores, adults with less than a four-year college degree are significantly more likely than college graduates to express high levels of concern. For example, 32% of adults without a bachelor’s degree say poverty is a major problem where they live, compared with 24% of those who have a four-year college degree or more. Similarly, while about one-in-five adults without a four-year college degree (17%) say access to high-speed internet is a major problem in their community, only 8% of college graduates say the same.
  • The educational divides in views about these local problems are less consistent than the racial divides across community types. On views about crime and access to doctors, less educated adults express higher levels of concern than those with a bachelor’s or higher degree in urban, suburban and rural areas.”

 

 

June 16, 2016

By Lindsay Brown

https://urbana.org/blog/top-10-global-issues-missions

Top 10 Global Issues in Missions

The Lausanne Congress which met in Cape Town in 2010 was a remarkable event in that it brought together evangelical leaders representing ministry in 198 countries around the globe. It was probably the broadest cultural and international representative event of evangelical leaders in history.

During the course of the Congress, those present were asked what they thought were the key missiological issues which faced the global evangelical church at that time. Many of their responses are summarized in the actual document which came out of the Congress, the Cape Town Commitment. I would encourage you to read this to find out what evangelical leaders from around the world (65% of whom work in the majority world) believe to be the key missiological issues of the day. Amongst the thirty-two areas of need listed, these 10 were perhaps the most important.

Unreached People Groups

Putting aside the concern about the term itself, the issue here is with those at the margins of our missionary endeavors. At the time of the Cape Town Congress, there were 300 people groups (i.e. groups of 100,000 people speaking the same language) who did not have the Scriptures, missionary presence, or a church in their culture. Today that number has been reduced to a little over 100. Many of these peoples are oral learners; valuing the spoken or sung word well over the written word.

University Students

At this Congress, more than 65% of the speakers had benefitted from a university education. This was also the case in the 1974 Congress. This highlights the importance if not the uniqueness of investing university ministry.

Reaching People from other World Religions

Especially the challenge to reach the world of Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism. Since 2010 there have been many Muslims from different cultures professing faith, but we are still waiting for a breakthrough. The same goes for the Buddhist, Shinto, and Hindu worlds.

Witness in Public Life

The growth of the evangelical church worldwide (up from 6 million in 1910 to over 300 million in 2010) often reveals a lack of depth and a separation of personal godliness and engagement in public life. This needs to be reversed.

Reaching Displaced Peoples

This has become more urgent in recent days.

Megacities

There are an increasing number of urban centers of at least 1 million people. Today there are 500 cities in the world with a population over 1 million. By 2050, 75% of the world will be living in urban centers.

Ethnicity and Identity

Ethnic tensions have hindered the richness of the global church. We need to see that our identity lies primarily as being in Christ, rather than being Welsh, Persian, or American. At the same time, the New Testament church is revealed as being multi-ethnic rather than mono-ethnic. Mono-ethnicity can actually hide some of the wonder of the impact of the gospel.

The Question of what it means to be Human

Increasing scientific and technological advances as well as factors like social manipulation etc. will bring pressure on the beginning and end of life questions. This is going to be a major issue in days to come. It seems the public perception of the person has never been more plastic.

Prosperity Theology

This theology has decimated the global church and led to an inadequate theology of suffering and an over-realized eschatology.

Scientific Materialism and Secularism

Respectively, the beliefs that only that which is knowable through the natural sciences truly exists, and the belief that religion should have no place in the affairs of the state. Both beliefs have already damaged the confidence of young evangelicals, especially in the Western world. This will have implications for years to come.