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Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:16-18

The first eighteen verses of Matthew 6 speak collectively of our positioning as loyal subjects before our sovereign King. We’ve covered these in smaller bites, but together they make up an important course of the feast we know as the Sermon on the Mount. All that we do as kingdom citizens is to be done before God and – intentionally – not before men.

Importantly, Jesus did not say, “…if you fast”. Fasting is not an optional discipline for the serious Christian; it is assumed. Furthermore, Jesus speaks of fasting in exactly the same way He speaks of doing good works and praying, thus highlighting the importance of fasting in the normal Christian life. Lastly, we discover that the very same consequences are reserved for those who fast to receive worldly benefit: the charge of hypocrisy and loss of heavenly reward.

These are sobering considerations. The discipline of fasting has been lost to much of the church and confused by most of the rest (myself included). Frankly, I think we have made fasting too difficult, causing some to struggle unnecessarily and eventually give up on it altogether. We also have too many man-created prescriptions and plans for fasting. In my humble opinion, we should focus more on motivation than form and procedure, and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the details. Read the rest of this entry »

This article is the third in a series based on the assumption that God is after something, He is doing something to get what He is after, and He is willing to tell us everything that we need to know for our participation. God is using this time of chaos (like so many others) to prepare His children for a season of opportunity that will be exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

Conditions can be viewed in two opposing ways. We can consider them as responsibilities forced upon us for some desired outcome, or as opportunities for reward. Our mindset in this regard has a great deal to do with our relationship and interaction with the one setting the conditions, as well as our response to them.

A classic example is our view of labor for income. Those who appreciate labor as an opportunity to earn income enjoy their work and make better employees. Persons who feel their labor is forced on them are generally disgruntled workers, slaves to their jobs.

In regards to God’s conditions for His promised blessings, this is another battleground with our carnal mind. At enmity with God, the mind of our flesh would have us perceive and relate to God as oppressor. This is a mindset that must be cast down (2Corinthians 10:5).

The Father’s good pleasure is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32). His desire is for a people who will surrender to His reign, welcome His habitation, and enjoy the intimacy of His presence. Recognizing our weak estate, our loving Father has graciously and lavishly provided motivation for pursuing what He is after. Read the rest of this entry »

This and several subsequent articles are based on the assumption that God is after something, He is trying to do something to get what He is after, and He is willing to tell us all that we need to know for our participation. God is using this time of chaos (like so many others) to prepare His children for a season of opportunity that will be exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

The purpose of this specific article is to direct our perspective and meditations beyond the current situation and our spiritual condition, even beyond what He is requiring of us, to what He is after in and through those who will join in His good work. At some point (perhaps next week), we will consider His conditions for our participation but, for now, we strongly encourage you to look ahead.

You might be wondering why we are starting with the future. For so many of us, it is difficult to shift our focus away from our current situation and condition. We become captivated by its comfort or its concern. In our attempt to maintain or manage the status quo, we forget that God desires to transform us from one level of glory to another (2Corinthians 3:18).

Furthermore, our first thoughts about joining God in His transformative work tend to be “what will it cost me?”. Believe me, we all do it. Counting the cost is both normal and encouraged by Jesus. The problem comes when we fail to weigh the cost against the return/reward. And that’s what looking to the promised future will help us to do. We will use Isaiah 58 as an example. Read the rest of this entry »

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