Friday, January 22, 2016

starve sin today

The Word for today:
Isaiah 58

mark this: Isaiah 58:6-7 --
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it 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?
A couple days ago, we heard the LORD proclaim, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways (1)." But then the LORD tells us that it doesn't have to stay that way. If we "Stand in the Rain" day by day, if we let the Word of God saturate our souls, then we will put on the mind of Christ and begin to know Him better. (2)
Refer once again to Pastor Joe's article from January 20 on Isaiah 55. God isn't hiding his ways from us. He sent the Word from heaven--the Bible and then Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh--so we don't have to be clueless about God's ways.
Today's reading--if read without our cultural preconceptions and all the accumulated biases we have about God--will startle you. Because today we are going to learn what fasting means to God. It's a whole lot different than the way we generally think.
Did Jesus fast? If fasting means abstaining from food, Jesus fasted once (that we know of). (3)
But if you mean the fast described in Isaiah 58, Jesus fasted every day.
Isaiah 58 turns "abstaining" on its head!
Let's say that you've noticed a kid in the neighborhood who loves baseball but can't afford a proper glove. God's fast is when you go buy him a real leather Rawlings glove. You've just fasted from self-centeredness. You've set out to make today somebody else's day. You've made the kid glad and you've made God smile.
Or maybe someone's heart is aching over a death or an infidelity or a betrayal. You've been there. So you let him know that's happened to you, too. Perhaps you relate how God turned your loss into something positive. You've just fasted from apathy. You made a person smile and you made God smile.
Maybe the lady who teaches the 3rd grade Sunday School class is swamped with kids. So you ask how you might help. You've just fasted from Sabbaths that were a little too restful! God appreciates the irony of your fast.
Two weeks into your new assignment, you find out how challenging elementary Sunday School can be. Without even thinking about it, you find you have stopped criticizing the ministries of others in the church. You've just fasted from a critical spirit. One fast has led to another; God smiles twice!
Out in the parking lot on your way home, Sally sidles up next to you with her weekly morsel of gossip. You stop her in mid-sentence. "I'm not your audience for that crap any more, Sally. Go tell your tales to that bird over there!" You've just fasted from condoning gossip!
And you've authoritatively rebuked sin. You are learning God's ways! And right in the church parking lot, no less! You've shown sin the bird! And you've fasted from feeding gossip! Gossip starves without an audience.
God loves this. The fast of God is to starve sin. You remind God of Jesus now, which always puts him in a good mood.
Now the boy next door has a proper mitt. The discouraged have taken courage. A Sunday School teaching ministry has been born. The blunt eloquence of American English has been efficaciously applied, and Sally has shut up for once. You are fasting like Jesus now.
Go and starve sin today! Point out the bird he can fly away with.
(1) Isaiah 55:8; (2) see Isaiah 55:10-11; 1 Corinthians 2:16; (3) Matthew 4:2

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