Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fasting Focus :: Second Week of Lent

Fasting Focus

Each week you will be provided with a fasting focus for that week. They are meant to be supplementary to any other form of fasting you have sensed God’s leading in thus far.

Second Week of Lent :: Intimacy


This week we’ll be focusing on growing in intimacy with Christ. As such, we will be fasting from distractions. As we saw last week, often we are most uncomfortable in silence and solitude when we are left to ourselves.

This week spend a minimum of 15 consecutive minutes a day in prayer and meditation.

Talk to God about more than just the things you want. Share your dreams with Him; your fears; your questions. What does it feel like to really and truly bare yourself before God?

What does it feel like to offer Him the time to speak to and restore you?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 10 of Lent :: The Sound of Silence

“Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.”
1 Kings 19:11

Action: Read 1 Kings 19:11-13

What are the “loud” things around you that grasp for your attention yet are void of His voice?

We must never underestimate just how spiritually dull we can become if we neglect times of solitude and silence before God.

What are some areas you are prone to become dull in?

In silence we become aware of how much noise is always buzzing around us. Even more, we realize our dependence upon such things to pacify us. We become conscious of how often needless words and chatter rule our conversations, mostly out of fear and a need to control. Solitude and silence strips us of these opiates, forcing us to encounter ourselves and the world as they really are.

Monitor your surroundings and conversations today. See how many of these “opiates” you can recognize. How much is your daily life surrounded by noise that fosters superficiality rather than depth of spirituality?

“We live, in fact, in a world
starved for solitude, silence, and privacy:
and therefore starved for
meditation and true friendship.”
C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 9 of Lent :: of Mice and Men

“And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When
they found Him, they said to Him,
‘Everyone is looking for You.’”
Mark 1:36-37

Researchers have found that it takes twenty times more the amount of amphetamine to kill a mouse living in solitude. But a group of mice will start hopping around and hyping each other up so much that a dosage twenty times smaller becomes lethal – so great is the effect of “the world” on mice. Also a mouse given no amphetamine at all will be dead within ten minutes of being placed in the midst of a group on the drug. In groups they go off like popcorn or fire crackers (The Life You've Always Wanted, 91).

Solitude is not merely a therapeutic place. “Solitude is the furnace of transformation,” wrote Henri Nouwen in The Way of the Heart. “Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. It is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs.

“In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding:
no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me - naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken – nothing. ”

When was the last time you intentionally spent four or more hours alone in solitude and silence for the purpose of detaching from the “amphetamines” of the world and “ridding yourself of your scaffolding”?

What are the challenges for you carving out such a time periodically for solitude & silence?

Take a few moments in prayer and begin to ask God to show you if and how busyness has numbed you to His presence in your daily life. Spend some time journaling about what you and God talk about.

Look at your calendar over the next several months. Look for a half day that you could set aside to engage in Solitude and Silence. If it is not intentionally scheduled, it will likely never happen.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 8 of Lent :: Too Busy

“Come with me by yourselves
to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31

In the West, we equate business to success.

The more busy we are, the more productive we believe we are being. In fact, it becomes the standard greeting everywhere: “I am so busy.” Author Wayne Muller in his book Sabbath writes, “We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single, mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.”

A causal reading of the Gospels clearly depicts how many people were constantly trying to get to Jesus. Several passages paint the picture of He and the disciples were so busy they didn’t even have time to eat (perhaps for days). Needless to say, Jesus was BUSY!

Think about how busy Jesus was, how many people were seeking an audience with Him, and yet the resilience He maintained to be alone with God.

If Jesus was the Son of God, why did He need time alone in solitude and prayer?

Further, if Jesus, as the Son of God needed such times, how much more do we?

“I’m too busy. I can’t afford to get alone.”
This is what we often say. The Son of God was busier than we could imagine, with the greatest mission ever known to man, yet He seemed to say, “Because I’m so busy, I can’t afford NOT to get alone.” How much more us? What excuse will we now use?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 7 of Lent :: Jesus' Secret

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight,
went out and departed to a solitary place;
and there He prayed.”

(Mark 1:35)

Jesus, of course, was well aware his presence and words were in demand. That is precisely why He traded an hour or two of sleep for time alone. For Jesus, solitude and quiet, reflection and prayer, were lifeblood. This was not an isolated incident. It was the rule.

As Dallas Willard observed, these times of chosen solitude, deprived of noise and activity and friendly interaction, were not enfeebling, dull, or even lonely for Jesus. They were “the primary place of strength…” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 162). In those quiet hours, He cultivated the insight and wisdom that could disrobe convention and strip false assumptions naked. Piercing insight. Rock-solid wisdom. Real vision. No wonder everyone was looking for him.

Why did Jesus place such a high priority on these times of solitude and silence?

Does solitude and silence have an expressed place in your rhythm of life?

If possible, pack your lunch and during your break drive to a secluded place. Eat lunch alone.

The goal isn’t necessarily to say anything to God, but simply to be with Him. (If the above example isn’t relative to your current season of life, you may want to think of some creative alternatives).

This can often be a challenging exercise, especially if we are used to being surrounded by constant stimuli and noise. Nonetheless, this was one of the secrets to Jesus’ strength – time alone with God in silence.

“Think often on God, by day, by night, in your business and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone.”
Brother Lawrance
The Practice of the Presence of God,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 6 of Lent :: Unplugging

“We do not live more fully merely by doing more,
seeing more, tast
ing more,
and experiencing more than we ever have before.
On the
contrary, some of us need to discover that
we will not begin to live
more fully
until we have the courage to do and

see and taste and experience much less than usual.”
Thomas Merton

It almost seems that modern life is designed to prevent meaningful time alone in quietness, reflection, and prayer. On some level, it actually is.

Providers of goods and services make their profits when you are interacting with their products, not off in quiet reflection. Movie makers do all they can to get you to watch, restaurateurs urge you to dine; store owners push you to shop.

Amid these wearying patterns of activity, even our moments of escape often involve little more than passive consumption of media. And so, images and sound pervade almost every leisure hour. As Italian film director Ferico Fellini described, all of this, particularly television, “has mutilated our capacity for solitude. It has violated our most intimate, private, and secret dimension.” (Revolutionary Communicator, 119)


How do you feel about Italian film director Fellini’s statement stating that television, “has mutilated our capacity for solitude. It has violated our most intimate, private, and secret dimension”?

On average, American adults watch television 4–4.5 hours daily. That’s a total of 1,460 hours or 60 days out of each year (this does not include other media such as DVDs, Internet, etc - Nielsen Media Research).

On average, how many hours of television do you watch each day/week?


Perhaps one of the things you could fast during this season is the quantity of time you spend watching television. This could be a daily viewing time limit, designated no-TV days, or perhaps choosing to unplug the television for a extended period of time.

Remember, the message isn’t that television is inherently evil, rather we are looking for ways in which we can create space to meet with God and others.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Skinny on Fasting

Can skipping that burrito at lunch really show God how much you love Him? What's the real purpose of giving up sweats over Lent anyway...?

Fasting can be a big question mark in the Christian life, here's a new video by The Skit Guys’ on The Skinny on Fasting.

Day 5 of Lent :: Withdrawing

“Jesus often withdrew
to the wilderness and prayed.”
(Luke 5:16 NKJ)

On a number of occasions, the Gospels record Jesus withdrawing to the wilderness. The purpose of these excursions weren’t the result of some introverted tendencies or the like. Jesus wasn’t merely drawing away from people or circumstances, rather He was drawing near to the true Source of life – God Himself. He was intentionally creating time and space to be with God. Such time and space doesn’t emerge automatically; it requires discipline.

When is there time during your day that you can “withdraw” from everything and everyone else simply to be with God?

What activity could you withdraw from to create such space?

This isn’t merely a few moments to tell God what we need and how we want it. This is not a time for speaking, but listening. Just as listening precedes speaking in the development of a child’s language skills, so listening is to be the first expression of our communication with God in prayer. Find time each day to withdraw from everything and spend time with God.

“God dwells wherever humans let Him in.”
Martin Buber

“God is closer to your soul than you are yourself.”
Augustine of Hippo

The ancient Jews believed that prayer began with an intentional awareness of God’s presence: know “before whom you are standing.”

Today practice listening
with all your heart and mind.
Listen to others.
Listen to God.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fasting Focus :: First Week of Lent

Fasting Focus
Each week you will be provided with a fasting focus for that week. They are meant to be supplementary to any other form of fasting you have sensed God’s leading in thus far.

Historically, fasts begin Monday and end Saturday. Many break their fasting on Sundays. Sundays are set aside as “Feast” days in celebration of the goodness Jesus brings. You may do each fast for the week and only for that week, or consider letting them build on each other, so that by the end of Lent, you are doing all five weekly fasts at the same time.

First Week of Lent
Invitation to Journey

Television, Music & Media
This week we will be fasting television, music and media. As such, forego the usual television shows that you would watch. In fact, turn off the TV altogether. Drive without the radio. Leave the iPod at home.

Pay attention to the following: What is it like to increase the silence by decreasing the media inputs into your life? Do you miss it? Does it make you anxious? Relaxed? Something else?

What does your reaction to this fast tell you about your connectedness to media?
Keep journal entries of what silence does for you, what missing certain shows/events means.

This week’s devotional entries will guide us through activities and practices we can do to fill the place of noise. In all of them, the goal is to help us in developing an ear to listen for and become attune to the still small voice of God.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 4 of Lent :: Learning to Give

“But when you give to the needy…”
Matthew 6:3

In Love in a Fearful Land, Henri Nouwen writes, “Prayer is the way to both the heart of God and the heart of the world – precisely because they have been joined through the suffering of Jesus Christ… Praying is letting one’s own heart become the place where the tears of God’s children merge and become the tears of hope.”

For Jesus, fasting, praying and giving weren’t isolated disciplines, rather they were, in many ways interconnected. Fasting frees up our time to pray. Praying heightens our awareness of God’s present activity not only within us, but in those around us in the world. Fasting loosens our hold on things, even frees up resources so that we’re more willing to give to those in need. Thus, the cyclical interconnectedness of fasting, praying and giving continues.

Giving, Jesus teaches, means making the needs of others our own, especially the needy of our world. They are all around us: the young and the old, the sick and the suffering, families and individuals, next-door neighbors, and people in distant lands.

It’s easy to forget them. What if, rather than just looking out for ourselves over the next several weeks, we asked God for eyes to see those in need and a heart to generously respond?

What shall we give? Some time, some of our talent, material resources, perhaps. Giving is not just for the rich. Poor or rich, we all have something to give. Whatever we give, though, should be something of ourselves, something that costs us. Paradoxically, Jesus also teaches, when we give, we receive some blessing from God in return.


God I want to worship you through giving to others. I long to have a generous heart. Break the power of greed and selfishness in my life. Give me eyes to see those in need. Make me aware of the opportunities around me that you want me to respond to with what You have given to me.

List the gifts that have been given to you that you have overlooked or minimized. Write a prayer of thanksgiving for all these blessings. Nurture your sincere appreciation. Sincere gratitude is often the front porch for generous giving.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 3 of Lent :: Learning to Pray

“When you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”
Matthew 6:6

The Lenten season calls us to pray.
But prayer, Jesus teaches, is much more than saying words. He said, “go into your room, and close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.”

Before you pray, enter the inner room of your heart. Shut the door to the noise, the trivialities, the countless cares grabbing for your attention. Put them aside. In the quiet place of your heart, with faith as your guide, speak to God. A gracious Father listens, and he knows what you need.

Disciplines of prayer provide patterns for attending to God throughout the day. Such prayer isn’t so much sustained by a sense of duty, but by a desire to connect and grow in intimacy and communion with God.

God helps us pray. For those who have stopped praying, or pray with little fervor, God gives graces for praying again. Now is a great time to establish a personal rhythm of prayer. Set aside a few moments each day for prayer. Perhaps commit to praying with family members (or a friend) once a week or even everyday for the remainder of Lent.

: What does your present rhythm of praying look like? Has it become marginalized to exterior arenas of your life? What would it look like to bring it back to a more central place? How can you practically take steps toward this becoming a reality over the next several weeks?

Action: Establish a “prayer place” in your home. Decorate it with images, books, music that foster prayer and contemplation. Use this spot today and as often as possible in the future.

“Prayer is not a substitute for action;
it is an action for which there is no substitute.”
Jane Edwards

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 2 of Lent :: Learning to Fast

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces…so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16, 18

“Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to His guidance. Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God – a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to” (Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, 60).

Throughout church history, Lent has been the traditional season of prayer and fasting, as followers of Christ have entered into preparation for the great “Feast of feasts.” Easter. These Christians understood that the joy and delight of the feast of Easter was some how intricately connected to and proportional to the deprivation of the fasting during Lent. Many today it seems, have “lost the art of true feasting (celebration) through the rejection of the fast.”

“For the early church,” Marjorie Thompson reminds us, Lent was not some “dreary season of restriction and self-torture. It was understood as an opportunity to return to normal human life – the life of natural communion with God that was lost to us in the Fall” (Soul Feast, 78).

Take some time and ask God how He would like you to fast this Lent. It may include a fast from particular types of foods as mentioned in the introduction to this devotional. Fasting is a discipline that engages the whole person. It communicates that we are hungry enough for God and His leading that we want to say it with the hunger of their bodies and not just the hunger of our hearts.

How is God leading you to fast this Lent?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

forty words of lent in motion

We developed a devotional journal to go along with our Lent series (forty), that starts tonight (Ash Wednesday). I'm looking forward to what transpires in my own heart (as well as within my family and church community) as a result of journeying through the devotional together.

Our graphic designer Joe Cavazos took forty key words that we'll be using during this series and created the graphic for the series and the cover design for the devotional.

Here's what three fascinating hours of his day looked like as he pulled this together:

Ash Wednesday :: Letting Go

“Rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God.”

Joel 2:13

There was nothing Jesus was more attached to than his Father. Jesus himself said, “the Father and I are one.” What a beautiful picture. This is God’s vision for each of our lives, a deep internal reality that there is nothing that stands between God and us. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. We can easily become blind to the things that we have subtly attached meaning and significance to outside of Christ. There are times when we simply fail to see how our children or our goals for them and ourselves have somehow become the most important thing in our lives, receiving the bulk of our time, money and resources. Lent is a season of letting go. It’s about growing in spiritual awareness. An awareness that exposes the existence of our temporal attachments and draws us closer to the passionate love of Christ.

God I am here today to meet with you.
It is my desire, that over the next forty days,
I will grow closer to you than ever before.
I want to know the depths of Your heart.
I want to become fashioned into
the image of Your Beloved Son.

God, I confess, I often allow myself to
become occupied with so many things that
distract me from you: busyness, relationships,
inner struggles and insecurities, etc.
God, I want to want You more then everything else in this world.
So, I set aside the next forty days
to grow closer to You…to be more like You.

Help me to remove anything in my life
that is displeasing to You…
everything that
remains as a barrier prevents me
from following You more fully.

Reflection: Ask God to reveal to you any thing (possession), mindset, attitude, or behavior that has become a barrier between you and Him. Take an attachment inventory. Walk through your home or office, and in your mind give all you have to God. Tell Him you could live without the things you see. What is this time of prayer like for you?

Forty Day Lent Devotional

This year, we developed a forty day devotional-journal to serve as a community guide through Lent. We had these published in booklet format and made available. Each day, I'll be posting the daily entries.

What is the devotional-journal for?
This devotional has been written to serve as a community guide during this Lenten season. There is a daily entry for the next forty days, excluding Sundays. Each day will contain a reading from Scripture, a short reflection, along with a prayer focus and practical ways to engage God throughout the day.

Consider now, setting aside time each day to read, reflect, pray and engage God. Often there will be space for you to write out your thoughts, observations, feelings and prayers. Writing out such things can be a powerful spiritual practice. “Thoughts disentangle themselves,” said Dawson Trotman, “when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions about Fasting

What is the purpose of the fast?

There are a number of ways to fast. One great way is to fast as Daniel did in the Old Testament. He made a decision not to eat “the king’s food” as an outward symbol of an inward commitment he had made to God. In other words, he only ate fruits and vegetables. Let your choices over the next 40-days reflect the hunger you have for God’s presence in your life.

Why should I participate in the fast?
There are several reasons people fasted in Scripture and throughout church history. As Andrew Murray, a prominent Reformed minister in Cape Town, South Aftrica, said, “Fasting helps us to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain the Kingdom of God.” So it is with us, first and foremost, before we ask God to do anything on our behalf, we want to simply set aside time and space to be with Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

At the same time, you may choose to bring a particular struggle or addiction before God during this season. Surrender your affections to Christ, and as you fast and pray, ask God to deliver and heal you. God may direct you to spend significant time praying for someone or something; however, it’s important to remember that we do not fast to solicit God as an accomplice to our desires. Fasting doesn’t convince God you love Him or indebt Him to move on our behalf. Fasting, primarily, expresses our dependence, hunger and trust in Him as the true Source of life. It may be helpful to track your experience and prayers in a journal.

How strict should I be with what I eat on the fast?
The list of foods provided below is merely a first step to get you thinking about making better food choices. Remember, this fast is about growing your relationship with God. And He’s not as concerned about what is in your stomach as He is about what is in your heart.

Can I eat foods that are not specifically listed?
If you are not sure about a certain food, ask God to reveal to you whether it should be part of your diet over the next few weeks. Since there is no definitive list of foods for the Daniel Diet, it is truly the spirit of Daniel’s decision that we are imitating throughout this season.

What about children?
We would love to see whole family units engaged in fasting during the season of Lent, including children. Be encouraged to talk to your children about the meaning of Lent and what this season is all about. Dialogue with your children about what they could “give up” during Lent. It’s important for them, as with adults, to not merely give something up, but take that time and use it to engage the Story of Scripture, the Person of Christ, and a world in need. Perhaps children can give up some (or all) of their television and/or video gaming time. During that time, you could read to/with them from Scripture or explore various prayer practices, etc. Try to get creative with engaging your children in their spiritual journey.

As for food, it’s not typically recommended that children abstain from food. We are recommending eliminating particular types of foods such as, sugar, certain breads and some forms of dairy. Whole wheat pasta and soy milk may be a great alternative. Mostly, children can eat what we eat, but we would include chicken for them in some meals. Some children are more open to new foods when we fast together. However, more important than you “ruining” the spirit of the season by forcing them to each their broccoli, our prayer is that they will understand more deeply the meaning of denying ourselves, and growing in appreciation of Who Christ is and what He did on the cross. It may be more exciting to allow children to help plan meals and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, some of which they have never tried before.

What if I have concerns about participating because of my health?
If you have any condition that would prohibit you from being a part of the Daniel Fast, you can participate in a different way. Choose something from your daily routine (i.e. specific foods or beverages, television, other technology, etc.) and fast in that manner for Lent. Remember, the details are not as important as the spirit in which you participate. If you have any known medical conditions or suspect such conditions, consult your doctor before beginning the fast.

Foods to Eat
WHOLE GRAINS: Brown Rice, Oats, Barley
LEGUMES: Dried Beans, Pinto Beans, Split Peas, Lentils, Black Eyed Peas
FRUITS: Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Canta-
loupe, Cherries, Cranberries, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Guava, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi,
Lemons, Limes, Mangoes, Nectarines, Papayas, Peaches, Pears, Pineapples, Plums,
Prunes, Raisins, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tangelos, Tangerines, Watermelon
VEGETABLES: Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage,
Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chili Peppers, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Ginger
Root, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions, Parsley,
Potatoes, Radishes, Rutabagas, Scallions, Spinach, Sprouts, Squashes, Sweet Potatoes,
Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, Yams, Zucchini
Seeds, Nuts, Sprouts
LIQUIDS: Water (as much as possible), Unsweetened Soy Milk, Herbal (caffeine free)
Tea, Natural Fruit Juice (no added sugar)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (small quantities), Honey
Foods to Avoid
• Meat, Poultry, Fish
• White Rice
• Fried Foods
• Caffeine, Coffee, Tea (including decaf)
• Carbonated Beverages
• Foods Containing Preservatives or Additives
• Refined Sugar or Sugar Substitutes
• White Flour
• Margarine, Shortening, High Fat Products
• All Breads
• Dairy (milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.)

Lent :: A Season of Fasting

Why do we Fast during Lent?

Historically, people have chosen to fast during this season. There are two aspects to the Lenten fast: giving something up and picking something up. Fasting is a spiritual discipline designed to help us better focus on and connect with God. “Fasting is not a magical way to manipulate God into doing our will,” writes Adele Calhoun. “It’s not a way to get God to be an accomplice to our plans. Neither is fasting a spiritual way to lose weight or control others.”2 Simply put, fasting helps create space for us to intentionally seek God in ways that go beyond the normal routine of worship and prayer.

When we fast, we are one-on-one with God, offering Him not only our time, but the attentiveness that we otherwise might be giving to eating, shopping, surfing the web, or watching television. Fasting aligns our lives (hearts, minds and bodies) with God and what He really wants to do. As a church, one of the ways we are going to move closer to God is through the practice and discipline of fasting.

How Should I Fast?
There are a number of ways in which people fasted throughout Scripture. There was a normal fast, where one eats no food but drinks water. Others engaged in an absolute fast, in which they eat no food and drink no water. Queen Esther was on an absolute fast for three days in Esther chapter 4. Additionally, there was a partial fast, where one does not eat a certain category of food. Daniel was on a partial fast in Daniel chapter 1 when he ate only vegetables and water, but refrained from the royal food and wine.

Another means is to fast not only from food, but things as well. As such, it is a refraining from things like media, television, internet, cell phones, etc. Regardless of the means, the goal is the same, to create space to be with God and serve others. Thus, it is imperative to keep in mind, that when fasting, it is more important to be realistic, than legalistic. Focus more on the details of connecting with God than the details of the menu.

You may want to spend some time seeking God’s direction for how you (and your family) should fast during this season. Some may want to commit to a partial fast, eating only fruits and vegetables like Daniel. You may do this for a week, 21-days, or perhaps the whole forty-days. Others may want to select one day each week and engage in a normal fast, choosing to eat nothing, drinking only juices and water. Perhaps you’ll do a media fast from your cell phone on the weekends (or longer). There are endless options.

A simple starting point is to look at how you utilize your free time. How could you transform this time during this season to seeking God, engaging Scripture, praying, giving, etc? There will be more fasting options provided throughout the devotional in the days ahead.

Fasting Focus
Each week you will be provided with a fasting focus for that week. They are meant to be supplementary to any other form of fasting you have sensed God’s leading in thus far.
Historically, fasts begin Monday and end Saturday. Many break their fasting on Sundays. Sundays are set aside as “Feast” days in celebration of the goodness Jesus brings. You may do each fast for the week and only for that week, or consider letting them build on each other, so that by the end of Lent, you are doing all five weekly fasts at the same time.

Over the next several weeks, as a way of being accountable, share your intentions for Lent with your family, housemates, friends, or small group.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Forty Days of Lent

Forty days. Forty nights. Forty years.

Throughout the Scriptures God uses moments of forty to work in the lives of His people. To test. To renew. To grow. To direct. Forty designated a time when God engaged humanity in exceptional, memorable and life-transforming ways. Our desire is for God to do something extraordinary in our lives during this moment of forty spent in devotion to Him.

The season of Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal – when Christians are invited to prepare themselves spiritually for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Lent is often portrayed as a journey. It is a journey from one point in time (typically Ash Wednesday) to another point in time (Easter). Its purpose is to create space in our lives to experience God. “The Lenten journey,” writes Judy Bauer “is also a process of spiritual growth and, as such, presumes movement from one state of being to another state.”

As a Christ-community, we are setting aside the next 40 days to be intentional about pursuing God in our daily lives. Our prayer is that we experience a greater sense of the Presence of Christ in our lives as we become further formed into the image of Christ.

forty :: engaging the movements of Lent from Jerrell Jobe on Vimeo.

Friday, February 12, 2010

forty :: engaging the movements of Lent

Forty days. Forty nights. Forty years.

Throughout the Scriptures God uses moments of forty to work in the lives of His people. To test. To renew. To grow. To direct. Forty designated a time when God engaged humanity in exceptional, memorable and life-transforming ways. Our desire is for God to do something extraordinary in our lives during this moment of forty spent in devotion to Him.


The season of Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal – when Christians are invited to prepare themselves spiritually for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Lent is often portrayed as a journey. It is a journey from one point in time (typically Ash Wednesday) to another point in time (Easter). Its purpose is to create space in our lives to experience God. “The Lenten journey,” writes Judy Bauer “is also a process of spiritual growth and, as such, presumes movement from one state of being to another state.”

As a Christ-community, we are setting aside 40 days (starting Ash Wednesday) to be intentional about pursuing God in our daily lives. May we experience a greater sense of the Presence of Christ in our lives as we become further formed into the image of Christ.

To serve as a Lenten Guide, we have written a 40-day devotional. I'm looking forward to the next 40 days to see what God has in store for me, my family and our church...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Faith & Doubt :: The Problem of Pain :: intro

This week, we wrap up our Faith & Doubt Series. Our final talk will deal with the problem of evil and suffering in the world.

Where is God in the midst of pain? Why doesn't He stop it, intervene, or at least, make Himself more visible? These are all tough questions... Questions, that almost everyone has asked at one time or another.

Faith & Doubt :: The Problem of Pain :: intro from Jerrell Jobe on Vimeo.

Friday, February 05, 2010

How Christianity Transformed Civilization :: part 5

Civilization Transformed

“"These who have turned
the world upside down
have come here too.”

(Acts 17:6)

Everything that Jesus Christ touched,” writes Dr. Kennedy, “He utterly transformed. He touched time when He was born into this world; He had a birthday and that birthday utterly altered the way we measure time.[i][ii] Kennedy continues,

“Someone has said He has turned aside the river of ages out of its course and lifted the centuries off their hinges. Now, the whole world counts time as Before Christ (B.C.) and A.D. Unfortunately, in most cases, our generation today doesn’t even know that A.D. means Anno Domini, ‘In the year of the Lord.’”

Jesus utterly transformed everything He touched. “Not only countless individual lives,” writes Paul Maier, professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University “but civilization itself was transformed by Jesus Christ.”[iii] Professor Maier continues,

In the ancient world, his teachings elevated brutish standards of morality, halted infanticide, enhanced human life, emancipated women, abolished slavery, inspired charities and relief organizations, created hospitals, established orphanages, and founded schools.

In medieval times, Christianity almost single-handedly kept classical culture alive through recopying manuscripts, building libraries, moderating warfare through truce days, and providing dispute arbitration. It was Christians who invented colleges and universities, dignified labor as a divine vocation, and extended the light of civilization to barbarians on the frontiers.

In the modern era, Christian teaching, properly expressed, advanced science, instilled concepts of political and social and economic freedom, fostered justice, and provided the greatest single source of inspiration for magnificent achievements in art, architecture, music, and literature that we treasure to the present day.

Jesus says in Revelations 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” “Behold!” This is the Greek word idou, which means to “note well,” “look closely,” and “examine carefully.” As we do so, it isn’t long before we see that it was the cause of Christ and the mission that He sent His first disciples on that has truly turned the world upside down and made things new. Some of His last words were, “Go into all the world…” And as we look at the world almost 2,000 years later, we see time and time again the imprint of Christ and His followers around the globe.

Take a few moments and brainstorm how we as individuals and as the Church can make a mark in the midst of the world we live and practically fulfill the call of Christ to “go into all the world” whether that “world” be another country or in your back yard.


God help us to not focus on how big the world is and become overwhelmed
but to focus on the one in front of us. Whether that person be our spouse,
a parent, teacher, or a stranger; help us to be led by your spirit
to ‘See a need, Fill a need’.

[i] Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, created “the Christian era” in A.D. 525. He began time with the birth of Christ at A.D. 1. He was later proven to be off by 4 years, which means that Christ was born four years Before Christ! No matter, for the coming of the Son of God into our world demarcates the history of our world. It has never been the same since.

[ii] Kennedy, What if Jesus had Never Been Born?, 1-2.

[iii] Schmidt, Under the Influence, 8.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

How Christianity Transformed Civilization :: part 4

Heal the Sick

“And great multitudes followed Him,
and He healed them all.”
(Matthew 12:15)

Christ was concerned not only with humanity’s spiritual condition,” writes Schmidt “but also with its physical state. The healing acts of Jesus were never divorced from his concern for people’s souls, their spiritual well-being.”[i] “For him no healing was complete which did not affect the soul.”[ii] Christ was a holistic healer! He told his disciples, “I was sick and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36). Schmidt continues,

“These words did not go unheeded. History shows that early Christians not only opposed abortion, infanticide, and abandoning infants, but they also nurtured and cared for the sick, regardless of who they were. Christian or pagan, it made no difference to them.”

The world the Christians entered during the Greco-Roman era had a colossal void with respect to caring for the sick and dying. Dionysius, a Christian bishop of the third century, described the existing behavior of the pagans toward their fellow sick human beings in an Alexandrian plague in about A.D. 250. The pagans, he said, “thrust aside anyone who began to be sick, and kept aloof even from their dearest friends, and cast the sufferers out upon the public roads half dead, and left them unburied, and treated them with utter contempt when they died.”[iii]

And we thought the after effects and response to Hurricane Katrina was under par!

The response of the early Christians was something different all together. They did not run out of fear or thrust aside the sick and dying. Rather they risked their very lives by tending to the contagiously sick and dying. Many of these faithful followers of Christ not only risked their lives, but lost them in helping others. One name that is known is,

Benignus of Kijon, a second-century Christian who was martyred in Epagny because he “nursed, supported, and protected a number of deformed and crippled children that had been saved from death after failed abortions and exposures.”[iv]

In the first century, there were no hospitals as we know them today. As already stated, those that were sick or diseased were often left to die by themselves. The only exception was those who were a part of the military. It was the Christians who would frequently take into their homes the sick and dying and care for them. It was the Christian church who began to develop centers for people to be taken care of.

The first ecumenical council of the Christian church at Nicaea in 325 directed bishops to establish a hospice in every city that had a cathedral.[v] Although, these early Christian hospitals or hospices were not what people understand by hospitals today. Their most important function was to nurse and heal the sick, they also provided shelter for the poor and lodging for Christian pilgrims.

The first hospital was built by St. Basil in Caesarea in Cappadocia about A.D. 369. It was one of “a large number of buildings, with houses for physicians and nurses, workshops, and industrial schools.”[vi] Some historians believe that this hospital focused exclusively on those with sickness and disease.[vii] The rehabilitation unit and workshops gave those with no occupational skills opportunity to learn a trade while recuperating.[viii]

It is important to note – and the evidence is quite decisive – that these Christian hospitals were the world’s first voluntary charitable institutions. There is “no certain evidence,” says one scholar, “of any medial institution supported by voluntary contributions… till we come to Christian days.”[ix] And it is these Christian hospitals that revolutionized the treatment of the poor, the sick, and the dying.

By the mid-1500s there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries alone that cared for the sick.[x] Nearly four hundred years after the Christians began erecting hospitals, the practice drew the attention of the Arabs in the eight century. Impressed with the humanitarian work of Christian hospitals, the Arab Muslims began constructing hospitals in Arab countries. Thus, Christ’s influence which moved his followers to build and operate hospitals, spilled over into the Arab-Islamic world, demonstrating once more that Christianity was a major catalyst in changing the world, even beyond the boundaries of the West. In this instance, it changed a world in which the sick were once largely left to fend for themselves, to one in which they were now given humanitarian medial care, a practice not known previously. Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan had become more than merely an interesting story.

In the early church it was the bishops and monks who “took charge of lunatics at a very early period, and gathered them together in houses specially assigned for that purpose.”[xi] During the early Middle Ages, the mentally disturbed were primarily cared for in the monasteries. It was the Association of Friends (Quakers), who in 1709, erected a general hospital in Philadelphia that housed “lunatics.”[xii]

The physician and medial historian Fielding Farrison once remarked, “The chief glory of medieval medicine was undoubtedly in the organization of hospitals and sick nursing, which had its organization in the teachings of Christ.”[xiii] Thus, whether it was establishing hospitals, creating mental institutions, professionalizing medical nursing, or founding the Red Cross, the teachings of Christ lay behind all of these humanitarian achievements.

In the nineteenth century hospitals in the United States became more common, especially after the Civil War. As the growth of hospitals spread across the nation, it was predominantly local churches and Christian denominations that build them. This was evidenced by many of the hospital’s names. Most reflected their affiliation with a given Christian denomination or honored a Christian Saint. The Christian identity and background of many American hospitals is now being erased, however. In recent years, as health maintenance organizations (HMOs) have been purchasing more and more private Christian hospitals, their Christian names are being replaced. Thus, people, at least in America, will soon have no more symbolic reminders that the hospital(s) in their town or city had Christian origins.

The American church historian Philip Schaff summed it up well when he said, “The old Roman world was a world without charity.”[xiv] It was the teachings of Christ that inspired Christians to demonstrate selfless charity and love, even to the point of risking their own lives, and utilizing their own resources to care for them.

  • What places in our community (hospitals, collages etc.) were Christian founded establishments?

Read and meditate on Acts 3:1-6.

“Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.

And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, "Look at us. "So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.

Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Acts 3:1-6

  • What are some ways you can “give what you have” to those in our community who are in need?

[i] Schmidt, Under the Influence, 151.

[ii] V. G. Dawe, The Attitude of Ancient Church Toward Sickness and Healing,” (Th.D. theosis, Boston University School of Theology, 1955), 3. Quoted in Under the Influence, 153.

[iii] Works of Dionysius, Epistle 12.5

[iv] George Grant, Third Time Around, 27. Quoted in Under the Influence, 153.

[v] Howard W. Haggard, The Doctor in History, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), 108. Quoted in Under the Influence, 154.

[vi] Fielding H. Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine, (Philiadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1914), 118. Quoted in Under the Influence, 156.

[vii] Grant, Third Time Around, 19. Quoted in Under the Influence, 156

[viii] George E. Gask and John Todd, “The Origin of Hospitals,” in Science, Medicine, and History, ed. E. Ashworth Underwood, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883), 323. Quoted in Under the Influence, 156

[ix] Garrison, Introduction to the History of Medicine, 118, Quoted in Under the Influence, 157.

[x] C. F. V. Smout, The Story of the Progress of Medicine, (Bristol: John Wright and Sons, 1964), 36. Quoted in Under the Influence, 157.

[xi] Burdett, Hospitals and Asylums, 1:16. Quoted in Under the Influence, 160.

[xii] Thomas G. Morton, The History of the Pennsylvania Hospital, (New York: Arno Press, 1973), 4-5. Quoted in Under the Influence, 161.

[xiii] Garrison, Introduction to the History of Medicine, 118. Quoted in Under the Influence, 166.

[xiv] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896), 2:373. Quoted in Under the Influence, 167.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

How Christianity Transformed Civilization :: part 3

Imprints of Education

“These commandments that I give you
today are to be upon your hearts.

Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”
(Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV)

“The fear of the LORD
is the beginning of knowledge.”
(Proverbs 1:7 NIV)

Every school you see – public or private, religious or secular – is a visible reminder of the religion of Jesus Christ. So is every college and university,”[i] writes Dr. James Kennedy in his book What if Jesus had Never Been Born?. He continues,

“This is not to say that every school is Christian. Often the exact opposite is true. But the fact is that the phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in Christianity. Nor is this to say that there wasn’t education before Christianity, but it was for the elite only. Christianity gave rise to the concept of education for everyone.

From the beginning of Christianity, there has been an emphasis on the Word of God. This grows out of its strong Jewish roots, since Christianity is derived from Judaism. Christians have often been called the “people of the Book,” which implies a literate people. Dr. J. D. Douglas, general editor of The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, writes: “From its beginning the religion of the Bible has gone hand in hand with teaching. . . Christianity is par excellence a teaching religion, and the story of it’s growth is largely an education one. . . as Christianity spread, patterns of more formal education developed.[ii]

Many of the world’s languages were first set to writing by Christian missionaries in order for people to read the Bible for themselves. Similarly, a monumental development in the field of human learning was the printing press. Johann Gutenberg (1398-1468), was the first to develop a movable type printing press that made it possible to mass produce books. Gutenberg is reported to have said, “I know what I want to do: I wish to manifold [print] the Bible.” To achieve this, he “converted a wine press, so it pressed pages onto the type blocks.”[iii]

“While Christians were not the first to engage in formal teaching activities in school-like settings,” writes historian Alvin Schmidt in Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, “they appear to have been first to teach both sexes in the same setting.”[iv] Schmidt continues,

“Given that Christianity from its beginning accepted both men and women into its fold and required that both learn the rudiments of the Christian faith, both men and women were catechized before being baptized and received into church membership. Furthermore, catechetical instruction commonly continued after baptism.”

Instructing both men and women, as the early Christians did, was rather revolutionary. Although there is no unanimity among historians, many indicate that the Romans before the birth of Christ did not formally educate girls in literary skills. Their schools, says one educational historian, apparently only taught boys – and then only boys from the privileged class – in their gymnasia, while the girls were excluded.[v] In light of this ancient practice, Tatian, once a student in one of Justin Martyr’s catechetical schools, proclaimed that Christians taught everybody, including girls and women.[vi]

Formally educating both sexes was also largely a Christian innovation. W. M. Ramsay states that Christianity’s aim was “universal education, not education confined to the rich, as among the Greeks and Romans…and it [made] not distinction of sex.”[vii]

Christians taught individuals from all social classes and ethnic backgrounds, especially in preparation for church membership. There was no ethnic bias.

The most significant move in the direction of universal education occurred with the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Martin Luther and John Calvin both advocated for universal education. Calvin’s Geneva plan included “a system of elementary education in the vernacular for all, including reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, and religion, and the establishment of secondary school for the purpose of training citizens for civil and ecclesiastical leadership.”[viii] Martin Luther, along with co-worker Philipp Melanchthon successfully persuaded the civic authorities to implement the first public school system in Germany, which was tax-supported.[ix]

Thus, the desire to have public tax-supported schools, whether wise or not, even in a society where Christian values predominate, has its roots in the thinking of prominent Christian reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Comenius. Although public schools have by now become totally secularized, especially in the United States, they originated with individuals who were motivated by the love of Jesus Christ, whom they wanted taught for people’s spiritual and material benefit.

In addition, it was Christian ministers who were responsible for bringing Sign Language to America and developing educational schools for the Deaf. It was also a Christian man by the name of Louis Braille, who by 1834, gave to the world of the blind six embossed dots, three high and two wide, for each letter of the alphabet. So that Braille’s accomplishments don’t seem divorced from any influence of Christianity, listen to what he said as he lay on his deathbed, “I am convinced that my mission is finished on earth; I tasted yesterday the supreme delight; God condescended to brighten my eyes with the splendor of eternal hope.”[x]

Finally, let’s look at universities.

The best evidence indicates that universities grew out of the Christian monasteries. However, given the powerful influence that secularism now has on most Americans, they are probably not aware that “every collegiate institution founded in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War – except the University of Pennsylvania – was established by some branch of the Christian church.”[xi] Nor are most Americans aware that in 1932, when Donald Tewksbury published The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War, 92 percent of the 182 colleges and universities were founded by Christian denominations.

Catechetical schools, cathedral schools, Episcopal schools, monasteries, and medieval universities, schools for the blind and deaf, Sunday schools, modern grade schools, secondary schools, modern colleges, universities, and universal education all have one thing in common: they are the products of Christianity. Individuals in Western societies spend many years in schools, colleges, or universities, but they have learned very little about the contributions Christianity has made to education, so highly treasured today. In the absence of this knowledge, it is not only Christianity that has been slighted, but Jesus Christ as well. Were it not for him and his teachings, who knows what stage of development education would be today?

Consider the following excerpt written by Dr. James Kennedy[xii]:

While more than 200 years of Christian education in this country produced a .04 percent illiteracy rate, what has public and increasingly secularized education succeeded in doing? In spite of the fact that more than a trillion dollars have been poured into the educational system, what has happened? The illiteracy rate has increased 32 times. Today, we have 40 million illiterates! In addition there are an estimated 30 million more functional illiterates in this country.

A report entitled A Nation at Risk, released by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1980’s, sums it up well: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. . . we have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.”[xiii]

Pray: Take a few moments and pray for our local school

[i] Kennedy, What if Jesus had Never Been Born?, 40.

[ii] Douglas, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, 330-331. Quoted by James Kennedy, What if Jesus had Never Been Born?, 41.

[iii] Hyatt Moore, ed., The Alphabet Makers: A Presentation from the Museum of the alphabet, Waxhaw, North Carolina, (Huntington Beach, CA: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1990), 13. Quoted by James Kennedy, What if Jesus had Never Been Born?, 43.

[iv] Schmidt, Under the Influence, 172.

[v] Kenneth J. Freeman, Schools of Hellas, (London: Macmillan, 1922), 46. Quoted in Under the Influence, 172.

[vi] Titian, “Address of Tatian to the Greeks,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 2:78. Quoted in Under the Influence, 172.

[vii] W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1893), 345. Quoted in Under the Influence, 172.

[viii] Lars P. Qualben, A History of the Christian Church, (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1958), 270. Quoted in Under the Influence, 176.

[ix] Douglas H. Shantz, “Philipp Melanchthon: The Church’s Teacher, Luther’s Colleague,” Christian Info News, (February 1997). Quoted in Under the Influence, 179.

[x] Etta DeGering, Seeing Fingers: The Story of Louis Braille, (New York: Julian Messner, 1951), 11. Quoted in Under the Influence, 183.

[xi] Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times, (Rockville, Md.: Assurance Publishers, 1984), 157. Quoted in Under the Influence, 190.

[xii] Kennedy, What if Jesus had Never Been Born?, 55.

[xiii] A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education, United States Department of Education by The National Commission on Excellence in Education, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Eduation, 1983), 5