April 18, 2020
Exodus 15:22-25 (NIV)
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
We didn’t point it out, but yesterday we saw the Israelites pining for the “good old days” back in the land of slavery and those all you can eat buffets. “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.”
It seems like an appropriate moment to remember one of our favorite wilderness prayers. “Lord you took me out of Egypt. Now take Egypt out of me.” Looks like we are shifting from all you can eat to take what you need one day at a time. Sitting around pots of meat and eating all the food we want sounds like comfort eating doesn’t it.
We see three conversions afoot here. First, from Pharaoh as slave master to God as provider. Second, from bottomless pots of meat to the daily bread from Heaven. Third, from gluttonous indulgence to a fasted lifestyle. The wilderness means a change of diet, a change of consumption patterns but foundational and most importantly a change of identity—from slaves to sons and daughters. This last shift will be the most challenging and while lifestyle change will play a factor, deep identity shift can only come from a change in the nature of the relationship we have with God.
This is where the ancient practice of fasting comes into play. Fasting is the place where a lifestyle intervention can directly intersect our relationship with God. Fasting, like nothing else, creates an opening for the Holy Spirit to liberate us from slavery to our physical appetites while deepening our spiritual attachment to God. This is yet another practical mystery of the wilderness. It is not complicated yet rife with theological misunderstandings and misappropriated practice. We don’t understand it. We try it a couple of times and find marginal benefit. We consider that we aren’t good at it. Hence we don’t do it.
Permit me to say a hard thing to you and me. Fasting is not optional for a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Several years back in my own effort to seek a better understanding and engagement with fasting and a fasted lifestyle I started a Daily Text experiment. We called it The Daily Text Fasting Challenge. It’s a 40 day fast over the period of one year; one day a week for 40 weeks (with a dozen hall passes). The plan involves fasting two consecutive meals a week during a 24 hour period. We recommend beginning after the evening meal on Tuesday and not eating again until Wednesday late afternoon/evening. I send out an email on Tuesday of each week with inspiration, encouragement and practical guidance. It will be the most grace-filled approach you have ever experienced. Thousands of Daily Text readers have taken and completed the challenge and some have walked the road multiple times.
Confession: After starting this challenge, I continued with it for three solid years. And for a lot of good reasons and unsatisfying excuses, fasting slowly slipped out of my lifestyle. Confession: I’m ready to begin again. Who will join me? I would love to begin again with you.
In a sense, we’ve already started with this COVID-19 crisis. Wouldn’t it be great if we could walk out of this type of fasted season with a true fasted lifestyle? So you can always push pause, but why not take a risk and give this a shot. Register here and we will get started next Tuesday.
Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. I confess my own failure when it comes to fasting. I am sorry for considering it optional. I want to be free from my unholy attachments to my appetites so that I might be wholly attached to you, and through you to others. Help me begin again. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
What has been your experience with fasting? Struggle? Success? Some of both? Why do you think fasting is so hard for us? For you?
One of our generous Daily Text readers surprised us this week with an offer to give a copy of the People Who Say Such Things book to persons who wanted one but could not spare the funds at this time. We are calling the offer PEOPLE WHO GIVE SUCH THINGS. It will be first come first served for the first 50 people. We thank this great woman of faith for sowing extravagantly in our midst. Click on the link above and it should be clear from there.
For the Awakening,