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Archive for March, 2011

The joy of fasting

Posted on Monday, March 28th, 2011 by Sanctuary staff

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians around the world shared a common experience. We were marked with ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross and reminded,

“You are but dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Doesn’t that sound morbid and depressing? Why does the church lead us in this practice? How is this good news?

“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

In truth, this is wonderful news and brings us much comfort. The deadness, emptiness, and horror of this world is not for you! This world is not what you are about! Somewhere in our hearts, we already know this. Think about your response to the terrible suffering of the people of Japan right now. It’s too much to absorb, isn’t it? Too much pain, too much sorrow. Something in you knows you’re not built to bear the weight of death and destruction. Or think about the nagging emptiness you’re left with when you’ve tried the things our culture tells you will bring happiness. After a day at the mall or night at a party, something in you knows that this isn’t really what you’re all about – these things can’t give you a place where your soul is at peace.

When we pay attention to the season of Lent, this truth is affirmed in us – the dust of this life is not our home and is not what we’re here for. As this truth sinks deeper into our souls, it brings psychological healing. The things in this life that have historically had so much power to trouble us begin to fade, and the goodness of our life in God becomes more and more real to our souls.

Some of our churches encourage us to practice the spiritual discipline of fasting during Lent. When we fast, we make a daily choice in our will to participate in the death and suffering of Christ. We select something, through God’s leading, that we will voluntarily go without. In our simple, human way, we imitate Christ by volunteering to deny the appetite of our bodily self, just as He laid aside the basic human impulse to stay alive and allowed himself to die on the cross.

Imposition of ashes

Fasting, like all the spiritual disciplines, affects every aspect of our being and blesses us in many ways. This year during Lent I’m noticing how fasting brings home this truth that our life is hidden in Christ. When we choose to go without something we’d ordinarily give ourselves without even thinking about it, we’re powerfully reminded that the stuff of this world is not what we’re really about. Each time we refrain from this ordinary action of our every-day human life, whether it’s something we usually eat or drink or an activity we usually participate in, we’re reminding ourselves that our life is with Christ in God. The objects and experiences of our day-to-day existence are not what truly feeds us, what gives us meaning, what comforts or protects us.

I am grateful for the discipline of fasting which puts this reality in the center of our awareness, which loosens our investment in this mortal life and turns us away from idolizing anything this world may offer. When we fast, it affirms our true residency in eternal life. We already live in Christ, hidden away, safe, complete, and incorruptible. This is truly good news that we need every day.

Does the truth that we are not about the stuff of this world mean that it’s bad to enjoy this life? Not at all! All good things come from God and are His gifts to us. When we fast, we remind ourselves of the difference between the gift and the giver. It’s the giver who sustains us, and life with Him is the only thing we truly need. This re-ordering of our loves is another source of psychological healing as we’re delivered from unbalanced dependence on any particular behavior or pleasure. And then on Easter day our fast ends and we return with gratitude to full enjoyment of all His good gifts.

Does the truth that my life is now hidden in Christ mean that I check out from this life? Does this give me permission to hide out in my room, waiting for Jesus to come evacuate me? Of course not! This world is full of precious people who are inestimably valuable to God. Even as our lives are hidden in Christ, He sends us right back into this world to seek, care for, and save all who need Him. Alleluia!

I’m curious if you are fasting from anything this Lent. If you care to share about it, it may be an encouragement to others. What are you fasting from? What is the fast making you mindful of? What’s difficult about your fast? Are you finding any joy in it? I’d welcome you to post your questions about fasting as well!

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An Invitation for Healing

Posted on Monday, March 7th, 2011 by Sanctuary staff

warmly extend an invitation to you to attend the Ministries of Pastoral Care School. If you have a sense that there is yet greater wholeness for you in Christ, or a longing to know more about how to pass God’s grace on to others, we can’t recommend the MPCS highly enough. As the MPC website states, “The Ministries of Pastoral Care School is for Christian ministers and lay leaders from all denominations, and for those in the healing professions (counseling, medicine, etc.) who desire God’s healing presence in their service to others. Those seeking spiritual and emotional wholeness for themselves are also welcome.”

We’ll be near Chicago, IL on the beautiful campus of Wheaton College (including their award-winning meals) from July 17-23. The five-day school begins with a Sunday evening Compline service that ushers us together into a peaceful awareness of Gods’ presence, and continues in daily sessions until we close with a communion service on Friday morning. As the MPC website describes, “Each day provides a balance between spiritual refreshment and intellectual stimulation through worship, lectures and healing prayer. Throughout the course of the week, participants learn how to bring people into wholeness of spirit, soul and body through healing prayer.”

If you’re looking for some help in discerning whether this is the time for you to attend the MPC, we have a couple of suggestions to stimulate your thinking. First, get a copy of The Healing Presence by Leanne Payne and give it a read. This book is a beautiful introduction to the truths and experiences this conference will open up to you. Second, go to http://www.leannepayne.org/tapes/index.php and order yourself one or more of the “best of PCM” audio recordings. Listening to one of the lecture sessions will give both your mind and imagination a taste of what you might experience in Wheaton this summer.

Details about the Ministries of Pastoral Care, and this summer’s school can be found at http://ministriesofpastoralcare.com/ and online registration is available at http://ministriesofpastoralcare.com/store/.

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