A time for prayer and fasting

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What do these imagines invoke inside of you? Anger? Hatred? Fear? Worry? Sorrow? We have a systemic problem. No it is not racism and no it is not just a problem in America. We have a sin problem. From this problem stems all of these issues. Our disobedience to God distorts and destroys the amazing way we were created. Now we need to still address the current issue that is facing Americans but we must do so from a point of view that also seeks to address the underlying cause. No we cannot just declare that we must address the issue of sin and ignore the symptoms, but we cannot only treat the symptoms either.

Jesus sets the example for us (as always) with this idea of addressing both sin and the symptoms. Matthew 9:2-8 tells us the story of the paralytic man brought to Jesus by his friends.

2 And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” 7 And he stood up and went to his home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

Matthew 9:2-8 NRSV

Did you catch what Jesus did for the man? First he forgives the man of his sins. That is important and was the primary reason Christ came in human flesh. Jesus was working to restore a right (shalom) relationship with creation. BUT!!! That is is not all. Jesus then says, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”… then he immediately heals the man of the symptoms caused by sin.*

*A brief side note on this statement. I am not saying that the man sinned in such a way that caused him to be a paralytic. It is entirely possible but we do not have the information to make such a claim. No what I am pointing towards is that sin caused God’s creation (aka us) to have brokenness and that brokenness takes many forms, including physical problems with our bodies. It does not mean when someone has an issue, they somehow sinned (remember the story of Job?) but rather that they are suffering from the brokenness that sin has caused in the world.*

So as we face turmoil across our country surrounding police brutality and racism, we must take a duel approach to the issue. Yes we must address the symptoms of these horrible acts that mistreat and degrade and hurt people. Yet we cannot forget or deny that the sin is the ultimate reason we are facing these issues and only by submitting to the Lordship of Christ can it be dealt with.

So what do we do?

Well did you read the title? We enter into a time of prayer and fasting. Something really cool has come about because of this problem. I have never before been apart of a church that has had the call from the global heads to call for a day of prayer and fasting. Sure there has been times of prayer but for an entire denomination to call for all of their churches to have a day of prayer and fasting is amazing. So this is what we do.

We pray and we fast. Sunday June 7th is a global day of prayer and fasting for the Church of the Nazarene and I encourage others to join us as well. May we seek God and his guidance in this time of trouble. May we be open to the Lord’s will and push aside all of our prejudices and emotions because we are a people who submit to God and His word above all else. People are hurting and the answer is the Kingship of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that this day of prayer and fasting helps unite us across the world to help end injustices and spread the Gospel of Christ.

Until then, listen to this song by For King and Country.

Tension

The first definition: “the state of being stretched tight” and the second: “mental or emotional strain”.

Last week during the sermon, we discussed this idea of tension. I talked about the idea that we must live with this tension of God as our Father and God as our Judge. Today, I want to go a bit deeper into why tension is such a good thing. To begin, we must abandon the idea that tension is a bad thing. In many ways, tension is a necessary part of life for every functioning thing in this world.

There was a science experiment that build a giant biodome in order to see how plants would grow when the weather could be controlled completely. What they found was that many of plants, though given proper light, food, and rain grew up to be weak. Even more so, trees would only grow so tall before they would fall over. The scientists could not figure out why this was taking place.

The trees were lacking one critical component for growth; tension.

Everything was perfect within the biodome, including the fact that they didn’t have any excess wind. The scientists soon discovered that strain that wind placed on trees caused them to grow roots that went wider and deeper, thus preventing them from falling over. Tension is necessary!

We also need tension within our lives. Before Amy and I began dating (but were interested in each other) we attended a couples training small group hosted by our college. We figured that it would provide some healthy insight if/when we decided to start dating. During that time, one of the key points that we learned was that healthy relationships require disagreement. Yet usually people see disagreement and arguing as a strain on a relationship that should be avoided. In reality, a relationship that never has issues (or one that has too much) is not healthy.

Relationships, like trees, need tension to grow deeper.

After seven years of marriage, I can attest to the fact that the tension from disagreements has certainly helped Amy and I grow deeper and become a more loving and caring husband and wife. Tension extends beyond just intimate relationships though.

We must have tension within our lives spiritually. If we go throughout our lives and never feel stressed or at odds with the Bible and the lessons from Jesus, then we do not have a healthy relationship.

We cannot always be at odds with God’s word either.

There is a tension that we must find within our Christian journey. There is a certain reality that we will not always have the answers to life’s questions. I had a person call me just this week and tell me they were dying from cancer and they asked me why. There is no answer to that! Even as a pastor, THERE IS NO ANSWER TO THAT! But I am okay with that tension because it forces me to dig deeper. It causes me to question things I just assume. It makes me look for God even more.

Do not fear tension; embrace it.

So what is causing tension within your life right now? A certain pandemic causing issues? Money, relationships, children, laundry, work, God? Embrace the tension that you are feeling and allow it to help you grow deeper. One of the best things about God is that he desires to use our problems to help us grow. We have no reason to fear the tension that happens within this life. It is there so that we might become strong in Christ.

Finding Rest

We have all been there. It might be a project at work, conflicting family schedules, or the inability to say “No”. Regardless, there are moments within our lives that we find ourselves constantly moving, constantly going, constantly…constantly…constantly. In reality, our culture has moved us from having mostly restful days to mostly busy days. Yet as Christians, we find ourselves in a very dangerous position when we allow ourselves to be consumed with kind of thought process.

As a pastor, it is important for me to lead the way for Gods people to rest.

I am guilty of it just as much as anyone else. I am constantly busy. My mind is always thinking about something that I need to do or something that could help improve what I am already doing. It does not seem to ever stop. This particular Lent season was difficult. With the Covid-19 pandemic, my work life was completely flipped around. Usually, pastors work really hard up to Easter and then rest. Easter is, after all, the most important day of the year for Christians. I found myself thinking, “just get through all of this and then you can rest.”

During my family’s morning prayer time, we read from Exodus 34:18-35. This is in the middle of God giving the law to his people through Moses. It is within that section he commands them to observe the Sabbath. They are only supposed to work for Six days and then they are supposed to rest on the seventh. Now I have read through this section many times and have studied the Sabbath principal in college. Yet this morning, I was struck to the core.

Even in plowing time and in harvest time…

I love the idea of the Sabbath. I love the idea of resting. Yet I have also found many reasons to circumvent that rule. I make excuses like, “Well this is just a busy time of the year.” or “I know I should rest but I just ran out of time this week.” Each excuse causing me to rationalize not caring for my body and mind by observing the Sabbath. What struck me so hard today was the realization that God demanded the Sabbath to be kept even during the plowing and harvest seasons. For those who are not farmers out there, the plowing and harvest seasons are the most important for growing food. If you don’t get the seeds into the ground, they will not grow. If you don’t get the harvest in, the food can go bad. AND YET!!! And yet God tells them to still observe the Sabbath.

This complete and utter command will probably make us ask why? Why does god care so much about me keeping the Sabbath? Didn’t Jesus say that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath? Yes! but we must understand the purpose of the Sabbath. First of all, it helps distinguish you from everyone else. In this rat-race world, to take a break makes you stand out. In the case of the Christian, that is a good thing. We want people to ask why we take breaks. The Sabbath also functions as a way for our minds and bodies to rest and reset. By taking a break, we can actually become more productive.

So my challenge for you today is to actually rest. Don’t make excuses as to why you cannot stop. If the Israelites could hold off one day to not plant their seeds or reap their harvest, we can stop as well. Do not over work yourself. Do not think that you must constantly do. I am finding that as the Lent season ran right into Covid-19 season that my life was not going to get the “natural break” and I have to stop. For the sake of my health, for the sake of my mind, and for the sake of my family and church, I must keep the Sabbath.