Last week we had a class focused on the Spiritual Disciplines that Jesus taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. Of course there are many spiritual disciplines that we should practice as dedicated Christians, with many books full of great insight and encouragement. But in Matthew 6, Jesus specifically teaches three: giving, praying, and fasting.
(No, he did not include reading the Bible…Think about it. Many people were illiterate, Bibles were not printed in mass quantity, and in Jewish education children memorized the Torah [1st 5 books]. Those are probably just a few reasons why he didn’t include it in his message. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be reading our Bibles…don’t get crazy on me!)
In response to this lesson, and our original weekend plans being cancelled, we had a prayer/fasting/giving retreat as an ABIDE family. We went to a place nearby with beautiful scenery of trees and a river, along with birds pleasantly singing. Instead of eating, we sang praise and worship songs, prayed together following the ACTS acronym (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication) in various sessions throughout the day, and had two hours of solo-time. When I announced two hours, I think everyone wondered how they could possibly spend that long reading their Bibles and praying. Yet, when we came back together, everyone agreed that they felt like they could have used much more time! It was a great day, leaving all of us feeling refreshed in the Spirit, and desiring to spend more time with our God.
Sunday morning we broke the fast together with breakfast (well-named meal that it is), then held our own church service at the house. One of our staff members gave a powerful sermon on a familiar Biblical story: The Good Samaritan. He really helped us to see the element of giving, and challenged us. Then he helped us to see Jesus in the passage. The man was left half dead, but we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). The Samaritan cleaned the man with oil and wine, but Jesus cleansed us with his blood. The Samaritan gave his time, material possessions, and money to a stranger, but Jesus loved us so much as his friends that he gave his life for us (John 15:13)!
After the message, we took an offering, which we had previously decided to give to the family I told you about in a previous post. As we sang, people kept bringing things to the table. I can’t even tell you how many times people went back to their rooms as the Holy Spirit convicted us of other things we could give. This picture was taken before we had finished. We also gave the food that we would have eaten on Saturday if we weren’t fasting. We desired to follow the teaching of Isaiah 58, specifically verse 7.
Is [fasting] not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?