About 500 years ago Martin Luther said "We are all mere beggars telling other beggars where to find bread." What a great word picture. Christians are just beggars who have found bread and now, by the mercy of God, we have the opportunity to share with others where that bread is...who that Bread is. This Bread is the Bread of Life. Jesus Himself. I want my heart to feast on that Bread and I want the world to feast on that Bread too.
It seems to me that if we are going to do this (tell others who/where The Bread is) we are going to need to do it intentionally and prayerfully.
Intentionally: We need to pool our resources and our giftings. We need to be creative and stir the creativity of others. We need to ask questions about how, when and where as we remind ourselves of the why (for the glory of God and the good of all people) and the what (the good news of Jesus). Jesus has promised to bring shalom to our world. He has promised to put everything right...life as it should be! And He will. In the meantime, we get to be a part of God's "putting it right project" right now! We want to be part of God "putting things right" spiritually, culturally, economically and socially. In order to do that, we need a strategy that is robust enough to facilitate our mission. At the Members Meeting on Sunday night we invited you all into the conversation regarding disciple-making at Sojourn (more internal) and the conversation regarding our dreams for the flourishing of Traverse City (more external). We need to get more intentional. These ideas are still largely in seed form so...
Prayerfully: We want to pray. Scratch that, we need to pray. If I am honest, I often don't think to pray. If I am being even more honest, I often don't want to pray. And yet it is in our praying that we actually find out whether we really believe we need God. Prayer is our greatest statement of dependency. So as we move forward, we want to pray before we plan, pray while we plan and pray after the plan is in place. And along the way we must remember that prayer is not a technique for getting God to do what we want. Prayer is communion with God. It involves getting honest with God and then fighting to surrender to him. Jesus taught us to pray "not my will but thy will be done". That is easy to say but very hard to believe. Maybe you, like me, need to repent of your prayerlessness. Maybe we need to repent of our willfulness too. If Jesus, the Son of God, prayed then don't you think we need to? Let's start praying (talking to God) about our prayerlessness (lack of talking to God) and maybe we will begin to find a similar posture to that of CS Lewis who wrote "I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me."
Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 15, we have invited the Sojourn family to fast. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that involves abstaining from something in order to feast on God. (If you do not know what fasting is or how to fast, there is some additional information below.) I want to encourage you to give it a try. As you do, here are somethings I would encourage you to pray about:
- strategic and creative ways for us to be part of God's "putting it right project" spiritually, culturally, economically and socially.
- humility, generosity, gentleness, wisdom, self-control, peace, patience, hope, love and joy
- the flourishing of your own soul (rejoice, repent, request...God is listening!)
- the flourishing of the Sojourn family (all five identities: family, missionary, servant, learner, worshiper)
- the flourishing of Traverse City (our mayor, our schools, our businesses, etc.)
- the flourishing of the world (missions, oppressed people groups, unreached people groups, war-torn countries, etc.)
- celebrate the beauty and truth of the gospel of Jesus (sonship, Galatians 4:4-7)
- own and repent of your sinful patterns (God already knows..hate your sin but don't be surprised you sin)
- your Community Group
- your family and/or close friends
- those in your life who have not yet seen and believed the good news of the gospel
- wisdom for how to most benefit from the Lenten season, which begins on March 1 (grab Aaron Damiani's book The Good of Giving Up off our book wall!
In Matthew 6:16 Jesus says “when you fast”. There is much that could be said about this short phrase but here is what we can know for sure: Jesus assumed that His people would fast. We want to invite you to learn about this spiritual discipline & we want to encourage you to practice it. It is a discipline that can be intimidating, but it does improve with practice. In light of that, here at Sojourn, we set aside a few days each year to fast as a church family. Our prayer is that it assists you in learning & applying this often neglected spiritual discipline.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is the voluntary denial of something* for a specific period for a spiritual purpose. Simply put, fasting is to abstain from something in order to feast on God. This means that fasting is far more than just going without food. It means that instead of eating food & talking with friends, we eat the Scriptures & talk with God. Reading the Scriptures & praying are the two best things you can do. Read the Bible & then talk to God about what you read. Share the burdens of your heart & repent of your sin. Pray for our church & pray for your neighbor.
*Although you can certainly fast from something other than food, we invite you to join us in fasting from food on February 15. You can go for 24 hours (i.e. 6 PM to 6 PM); you can go for one calendar day (i.e. all day Wednesday) or you can just skip one or two meals.
Here are a few reasons:
- Fasting was practiced in both the Old & New Testaments.
- Fasting is a way to humble yourself before God
- Fasting helps us listen to God
- Fasting strengthens our prayers (both the faith in asking & our discernment in listening)
- Fasting opens the door for confession & repentance as we see ourselves & our Savior more clearly
As you prepare, remember what King David said:
“Come & hear, all of you who reverence the Lord, & I will tell you what he did for me: For I cried to him for help, with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it! Blessed be God who didn't turn away when I was praying, & didn't refuse me his kindness & love.” - Psalm 66:16-20 (TLB)