A Fast for Slow-Learners

Taking off my Dr. Ruth hat…we’ll switch topics.

I used to fast quite often.  I’ve had both good fasts and not-so-good fasts.

At one point, I decided to quit fasting because it is just too hard on my metabolism.  I know that’s not a very spiritually legitimate reason not to fast, but it is not easy being a woman in your 40’s, and that’s all I have to say about that.

We don’t fast to move God.  Fasting changes us.  It positions us.

It isn’t about our deprivation. It’s about our attention.

In the past, when I’ve fasted, I restricted food and focused my attention on prayer and scripture.  Nothing wrong with that.  It has been good for me.

But as Lent approaches, I am considering a revolutionary-to-me kind of fast.

This is what I put up on my refrigerator the other day.

Is this not the fast that I have chosen?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry?

that you bring to your house those who are cast down?

when you see the naked person that you cover them?

and not hide yourself from you own flesh and blood?

Several times a day I walk by, stop, and squint at this.  What does it mean in my life?  Does it mean changing the things that I do?  Does it mean waking up to things that are already happening around me?

You would think that since I was practically born in a church that my life would be filled with this, right?  Nope.  Just church meetings, none of this.  So here I am, a seasoned christian in the slow-learners class.

I don’t know how to do this.  But I am thinking that if I focused my intention and my attention in this direction for a period of time that maybe my life could change.

Then shall your light break forth as the morning
healing shall spring forth speedily

and your righteousness shall go before you
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer.
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

Yep, I could use some of that. 

In fact, I think the church could use some of that. 
God says this is what we need to do to be a light.


13 thoughts on “A Fast for Slow-Learners

  1. Absolutely! I don’t think you’re a slow-learner, it takes time to separate ourselves from what we’ve been taught for years, and decades…
    An intentional life change redeems what fasting is meant to accomplish.

  2. Great verse. I’m a slow learner too, and have been struggling lately with figuring out God’s will regarding my responsibilities to the poor. That verse didn’t sound like the usual fast so I had to dig further. Here is Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on that passage:

    58:3-12 A fast is a day to afflict the soul; if it does not express true sorrow for sin, and does not promote the putting away of sin, it is not a fast. These professors had shown sorrow on stated or occasioned fasts. But they indulged pride, covetousness, and malignant passions. To be liberal and merciful is more acceptable to God than mere fasting, which, without them, is vain and hypocritical. Many who seem humble in God’s house, are hard at home, and harass their families. But no man’s faith justifies, which does not work by love. Yet persons, families, neighbourhoods, churches, or nations, show repentance and sorrow for sin, by keeping a fast sincerely, and, from right motives, repenting, and doing good works. The heavy yoke of sin and oppression must be removed. As sin and sorrow dry the bones and weaken the strongest human constitution; so the duties of kindness and charity strengthen and refresh both body and mind. Those who do justly and love mercy, shall have the comfort, even in this world. Good works will bring the blessing of God, provided they are done from love to God and man, and wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit.

  3. Those verses in Isaiah compel us forward when we are on outreach. They inspire us so much. And, yes, all followers of Jesus need to be compelled to love the unloveable, including themselves, with the love of Christ.

  4. Grace, I totally understand why you’re confused. If you’ve got the same text posted to your fridge that you’ve got posted in your blog you’ve got a bad case of metathesis. That’s what bible scholars call it when you mix up the word order. You couldn’t have picked a better place to mix it up (“it is not”).

    Sadly enough, I’ve had that mixed up (in a different sense) way too often in my life. Far too often I’ve allowed the display of spiritual disciplines to override the significance of the things that God is really concerned about. The further I am along in this journey, the less I am convinced that spiritual disciplines point us towards the heart of God. Disciplines are a old covenant substitute for the Spirit and a cultural phenomenon, but they are not part of relationship with Father. They faded with the shredding of the veil. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…..” and this kind of fruit manifests itself in practical expressions of care for those who Father loves.

  5. Good catch david, an early morning typo. Thank you.

    I have mixed feelings about disciplines. I often find that the Spirit uses them in my life to teach, center, and remind me – a way of positioning me so that I am more responsive to His direction.

  6. Grace. I don’t have any mixed feelings about the disciplines just some intellectual confusion. Your response was good and provoked more thought. I don’t see the disciplines as a part of life in the Spirit; but others like yourself—who I totally respect—embrace them as a way of life and experience the Spirit working through them. It could be that God works in different ways in each of us.

    I see the things that we call spiritual disciplines (prayer, meditation, reading, worship) as ways in which we connect with Father. These are expressions of our relationship but I fear that in making them disciplines, they become a cause of the relationship. Our connection with God flows out a a passionate response to the relationship that he caused in Christ Jesus.

    A lot of our earthly success flows out of our disciplines. I don’t think I’d go to work every morning if I did not have certain disciplines and structures in place. We function out of discipline more than passion, but its passion that drives the real successes. I think we need discipline because of the great fall, because the fall destroyed passion. In Christ, however, we are (are being?) restored. What if God is calling us to live out our life through the Spirit in passion instead of discipline? What if discipline points us to Father but passion is its fulfillment? Is it possible to do passion without discipline? What if all the passages in the OT on spiritual disciplines have nothing to do with life in the Spirit but life under law? Sorry, too many questions this early in the morning.

  7. Hi, I am enjoying the insights. David, I think that I resonate with what you are saying. In the hopes that I am reading correctly, here’s my contribution. In preparing for our weekly home group we are using a workbook to look at the unique influence of the various denominational streams. After reading the intro and 1st chapter, I was motivated to write this reflection on a blank page:

    ‘These practices of the Church can be informative. The problem that I have is lumping the fact of the Holy Spirit being ‘one’ of many–and being one church tradition that we should, yes, pay attention to, but it is only one of the bunch–as the authors seem to express.

    I feel stronger than ever that the ‘place’ of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and in the life of the believing community is crucial.

    One can have and do all of the rest but without a strong NT theology and practice of the Holy Spirit in the ‘life’ of both the individual and the corporate local Christian community — there is a significant gap and lack in all of the other areas that the authors feel are so important.

    The work of Christ is hindered without a deeper, richer understanding and practice based on the helping and energizing of the Holy Spirit! Are we only treading water or really swimming?’ //

    I will also include some quotes from Fee’s book: ‘Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God’ that are meaningful to me.

    Fee explains that “For Paul, therefore, whatever else happens at Christian conversion, it is the experience of the Spirit that is crucial; and therefore it is the Spirit alone who identifies God’s people in the present eschatological age.”

    Instead of giving Christians in the early churches rules to live by, Paul gives them the Spirit. They were to be finished with rules and move ahead to living the life of those who by the Spirit were being ‘renewed into the likeness of the Creator’ (Col. 3:10). Fee describes Paul’s perception of Christian ethics:
    “Ethics for Paul, therefore, is ultimately a theological issue pure and simple–that is, an issue related to the known character of God. Everything has to do with God, and what God is about in Christ and the Spirit. Thus:
    (1) the purpose (or basis) of Christian ethics is the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31); (2) the pattern for such ethics is the Son of God, Christ himself (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1; Eph. 4:20), into whose likeness we were predestined to be transformed (Rom. 8:29); (3) the principle is love, precisely because love is at the essence of who God is, (4) and the power is the Spirit, the Spirit of God

    Fee reminds the reader that when the mind is renewed by the Spirit Christians understand that love must rule over all–for it is only by a renewed mind that Christians discover how best to love. Fee strengthens the conviction that only by dependence on the Spirit can the people of God know what is pleasing to God. His teaching helps the reader to grasp what the Spirit intends the Church to be.

  8. Barb, I’m glad you mentioned Gordon Fee. Besides all the scholarly stuff going for him, he’s got good common sense and the ability to unpack things in a meaningful way. …and of course he would never say anything of sort but would point to Jesus. Grace, have you read any of Fee’s stuff?

  9. I relate, Grace. Lately, the verse that has been nailing me is out of the gospels: “I desire compassion and not a sacrifice.” Kind of hitting me in a similar way as the verses you posted are hitting you. Slow learning ain’t so bad. Better late than never, I figure!

  10. Thanks David and Barb. No I haven’t read Fee, but it looks like I should.

    Sarah, I wish I had learned more of this at your age.

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