In the evangelical churches I attended, fasting was seldom, if ever, mentioned. And all I knew about Lent was that it was somehow connected to Mardi Gras. I had no idea what a powerful pathway to spiritual growth Lenten fasting could be.
Years later, however, I had a friend who was serious about fasting during Lent. She prayed for weeks about what to give up, and her time of sacrifice became an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord. One year she invited me to join her, and the experience changed me. Since then, I've taken fasts on everything from shopping to eating meat.
The year God called me to a different kind of fast was the most life changing. I was studying Isaiah 58 and felt led to do a fast He chose for me. God's fast, Isaiah explains, involves loosening the "bonds of wickedness," undoing "the bands of the yoke," letting the oppressed go free, dividing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked.
"How do I do this fast, Lord?" I prayed. Gently, His still, small voice explained that pride and selfishness were "bonds of wickedness," in my life. It hurt to hear that.
Isaiah 58:8-12 explains the benefit of such a fast. God promises light in the darkness, guidance, contentment and productivity. Best of all, He promises intimacy with Him. "Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I."
Just as He promised, God worked in me during that Lenten season, and I became as intimately close with Him as my next breath. After 40 days, Easter was a glorious celebration of my life in Christ and of the renewal of my spirit.
Next Lenten season, ask God to reveal and remove your bonds of wickedness. Your life, and your faith, will never be the same.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.