A Different Kind of Fast

During Lent it’s very common to undertake a fast. Here’s an interesting suggestion from the devotional I’ve been using, Good Enough by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie.

Do you want to fast this Lent? asked Pope Francis.

Fast from hurting words and say kind words.

Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.

Fast from anger and be filled with patience.

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.

Fast from worries and trust God.

Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.

Fast from pressures and be prayerful.

Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.

Fast from grudges and be reconciled.

Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

For more about fasting see these posts:

Martin Luther on Fasting

Taking A Break

Lenten Discipline

A Prayer for Unity with Christ

O most merciful Jesus, grant to me Thy grace, that it may be with me and labor with me, and persevere with me even to the end.

Grant me always to desire and to will that which is to Thee most acceptable. Let Thy will be mine, and let my will ever follow Thine, and agree perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Thine and let me not be able to will or not to will anything else, but what Thou willest or willest not.

Grant that I may die to all things that are in the world, and for Thy sake love to be condemned and not known in this generation. Grant to me above all things that can be desired to rest in Thee, and in Thee to have my heart at peace. Thou art the true peace of the heart; Thou its only rest; out of Thee all things are hard and restless. In this peace, in this selfsame thing, that is, in Thee, the chiefest eternal good, I will sleep and rest (Psalm 4:8). Amen

From Of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

For more prayers see:

A Prayer to be Taught by the Holy Spirit

A Prayer for Our Friends

Martin Luther’s Prayer about the Word

The Great Passion by James Runcie–Book Review

If you’re a Lutheran, you’ve heard of Johann Sebastian Bach, who spent most of his life composing music for use in Lutheran church services. This novel gives us a glimpse of his life as a cantor and teacher at St. Thomas’s in Leipzig, Germany. Told in the voice and through the eyes of a young student, Stefan Silberman, it is the story of one year, 1727– a year when he learns about music and life.

Arriving at the school after the death of his mother, Stefan is bullied, especially when he is singled out by Bach for his musical abilities. Bach’s family takes him in, and here he learns to know Bach’s children and his second wife Anna Magdalena. He becomes one of the boys who copy Bach’s works in progress and Anna Magdalena gives him singing lessons. During his time with the family a young child dies, and Bach composes his masterpiece, the St. Matthew Passion. The experiences stay with for Stefan for the rest of his life.

After taking part in the first performance of The Passion, Stefan describes it this way:

It was not a theological lecture, or a piece of improving rhetoric, or even an account of an event in the history of Palestine. It had become our story. It was happening now, during this performance, in the present tense, and I could see, on the faces of the congregation below, that they recognized that they could do nothing more important than listen, because they had become part of it all.”

If you read this novel, you’ll learn some things about Bach’s life, but even more, you’ll learn about the creative process, and how music can be used to teach and inspire us.


For more book reviews see:

Making Darkness Light by Joe Moshenska–Book Review

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller–Book Review

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton–Book Review

A New Family

Union with Christ not only creates a change within us, it also brings us into a new world, a new atmosphere. By nature we belong to the family of Adam, but by grace we have been adopted into the family of God. We are reconciled with God, no longer His enemy. Beyond that, we are to become His ambassadors, empowered to call others into that same relationship. In the book of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells the believers in Corinth (and us):

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”2 Corinthians 5:20

What a privilege and at the same time a responsibility!

This new family that we have joined through our unity with Jesus, is the community of believers. Not just the local congregation, but all believers everywhere, past and present. Even believers with whom we have some significant doctrinal disagreements. If they accept the basics of the faith, they are our brothers and sisters, regardless of their opinions about baptism, communion, the end times and so on. If you are a Christian, think about what your life as part of God’s family has meant to you– the gifts you have received. Of course, in Christ we have the great gift of eternal life and forgiveness of our sins; but our Christian family also gives us blessings that help us in our daily life–things like:

  1. Stability
  2. Encouragement
  3. Compassion
  4. Prayer
  5. Comfort
  6. Companionship
  7. Mentoring
  8. A shared purpose

Then think about what your life might be like without that caring community. You might be:

  1. Afraid of death
  2. Lonely
  3. Bitter and angry
  4. Struggling with low self esteem
  5. Lacking a sense of purpose in life

Both lists could go on and on. So, if you are part of God’s family, give thanks every day–and invite someone else to share in those blessings and benefits.

For more about the family of God see:

Thankful for my Church Family

The Church Family

Living as a Family with One Another

What Kind of Christian are You?

Recently in a spiritual direction meeting, my advisor told me that I was a “task” Christian…. somebody who is constantly looking for a project to accomplish or a challenge to overcome. So, I asked him, what is the other kind of Christian, then? His answer, ” someone who is content with the routine they have established”.

In my devotional reading, what I found an even better explanation of this dichotomy: growing and fixed. It explained it this way:

“A fixed mindset assumes that whatever we are — a certain composite of personality, intelligence, abilities–is a given…. A growth mindset, conversely, imagines that we are not static creatures. We can change, and we do. We flex and grow, fall back, or bounce forward.” From Good Enough by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie

The Bible tells us that if we are in Christ, we will grow. In fact, in Christ, we have become a new creation! We may not be able to change on our own, but, as the apostle Paul says,

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

There’s an old adage that says, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” That seems to fit with Christ’s example of the vine and the branches.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. ” John 15:5-7

Things will change, and so will you. So, embrace the changes of life, knowing that in Christ, everything will ultimately work for your good.

For more about change and growth see:

Prayer Changes Me

Inner Change

Changed Men (and women)

Producing Fruit

I recently heard a sermon based on the parable of the fig tree from the gospel of Luke. If you don’t remember the details, here it is:

“…A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'” Luke 13:6-9

It’s meant, of course, to show the patience God has with us. He is willing to wait, and to give us the benefit of time and careful cultivation — but the rest of the story is this — if we are not in union with Christ, we will be like that unfruitful fig, just taking up space.

In the gospel of John, we learn:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. “John 15:5

If we are in Christ, we will bear fruit. Once again, we see how this doctrine lays the foundation for everything is else in our faith life. The fruit that we can expect to see in a true believer is described in Galatians 5:

” … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

We can’t produce this crop on our own. In baptism, we’ve been united to the One who can. The more we lean into that relationship, the more we learn to depend upon Him, the greater our harvest will be. The fields are ripe for harvest today — don’t be an unfruitful fig!

For more about the fruit of the Spirit see:

Fruitful Gifts

Mmm . . . Fruit.

How to Bear Fruit

Sinclair Ferguson and Union with Christ

The material for our Bible study class on union with Christ includes a series of videos. The speaker is Sinclair Feguson (born 21 February 1948), who is a Scottish theologian known in Reformed circles for his teaching, writing, and editorial work. He has been Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary since 2017. Here is one of his quotes:

The knowledge of our union with Christ…gives us confidence in prayer. It was when Jesus had begun to expound the closeness of this union that he also began to introduce the disciples to the true heart of prayer. If Christ abides in us and we abide in him, as his word dwells in us, and we pray in his name, that God hears us (Jn 15:4-7). But all of these expressions are simply extensions of the one fundamental idea: If I am united to Christ, then all that is his is mine. So long as my heart, will and mind are one with Christ’s in his word, I can approach God with the humble confidence that my prayers will be heard and answered.

If you would like to purchase this teaching series, or for more information about it follow this link:


For more posts about prayer see:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Prayer and Charity

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Gerald May on Union with Christ

“A direct experience of union or deep intimacy may be beautiful beyond words, but it also requires a certain sacrifice of our self-image as separate and distinct. We become vulnerable, less in control. We can no longer maintain the illusion that we are the master of our destiny.”

Gerald May

Gerald May(June 12, 1940-April 8, 2005) was an American psychiatrist and theologian. He conducted workshops in contemplation and psychology, and wrote several books on how to combine spiritual direction with psychological treatment.

For more about union with Christ see:

Andrew Murray on Unity in Christ

Martin Luther on Our Union with Christ

Is Union with Christ a Process?

Identity Crisis

These days it seems like many people are suffering from an identity crisis. We are told that we can be anything we want to be — we can even choose our own gender! This simply isn’t realistic. The Bible says:

“For you (God) formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139: 13-16

God created each of us with talents and also with limitations. He also has a plan for us, a plan that involves others. We are not just individuals; we are an integral part of the whole of history. Our identity is wrapped up in our union with the One who created us, who saved us, and who sustains us.

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

As the adopted children of God we are:

“…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:17

Don’t try to make yourself up — that’s bound to end in disappointment. Instead, accept your God given role as His child. His plan for you is will never fail.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

For more about God’s plan see:

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

When God Says go by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

Adam or Christ?

The whole history of human life depends upon two men, two actions and two results. Those men are:

  1. Adam, whose sin brought sin, despair and death into the world
  2. Jesus, whose obedience led to forgiveness, justification and life for mankind

Every one of us is united to one or the other. Both are father figures; however, their actions are completely different. From Adam we inherit our tendency to sin; from Jesus we inherit all the spiritual blessings that belong to the children of God. The brilliance of Christ shines even more brightly when compared with the catastrophe caused by Adam.

In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15 we read:

“... The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. …The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15: 45; 47-48

When we become Christians, we are united with Christ, the second Adam. We no longer need to fear death.

“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality…then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.'” 1 Corinthians 15:54

We are united with Christ. We are part of God’s plan. We have nothing to fear. Thanks be to God!