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In the late 18th century many European countries were engaged in violent revolution. England was not one of them. Some historians credit a religious movement in that country with creating a climate that prevented such upheaval.

The Methodist Movement, spearheaded by John Wesley and his brother Charles, had its origins in the academic environment of Oxford. They were joined by a small group of other students in rigid religious rituals. Because of their methodical approach in their devotional and charitable activities they began to be called the “Methodists,” a derisive term.

This small group of people became known as the Holy Club. They rigorously practiced the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and accountability but their religious fervor was not limited to such acts of piety. They regularly visited the prisons and hospitals. They established schools for poor children, offered basic medical care for those who could not afford it, provided housing for poor and elderly widows and their children, and much more.

The long term effect of this movement was due largely to the well-disciplined organizer, John Wesley. To what did he owe his strong faith, persistence, and tolerance?

Much is known about the impact of John’s mother, Susanna Wesley. She has been called the Mother of Methodism. “Her example of faith and religious reverence she set for her children inspired them to become powerful spiritual leaders and to launch the Methodist Movement.” Her constant devotion and strict discipline to the education and spiritual formation of her children certainly impacted John, the 15th of her 19 children.

Adam Hamilton* says, “If John learned about his faith from his mother, he learned how to deal with disagreements from his father and grandfathers.” His grandparents on both sides of his family were dissenters from the established Anglican Church but his parents were committed Anglicans. John “adopted a posture that is often called the via media- a middle way- that found truth on both sides of the theological divide.”

In one sermon that is among John Wesley’s most famous he said, “Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart? Though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”

Hamilton suggests that this spirit of Wesley leads us to “give them the benefit of the doubt. We assume the best in others, not the worst. We speak well of others, not poorly. We treat them as we hope to be treated. We listen more and talk less. We walk in other people’s shoes and try to understand what they believe and why. This does not mean we give up our convictions, but it does mean we test them.” The focus is intended learn what we have in common and to build bridges not walls.

It was this humble, listening, catholic spirit supported by a strong resolve to follow Christ wherever He would lead that transformed the religious practices and daily routines of people across England in the late 18th century. This helped to create a climate where social changes could be accomplished without widespread violence. One does not have to be a Methodist to see the value and to follow the precepts of Wesley but in doing so we just might make a better world.

Jamie Jenkins

*Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It, Adam Hamilton, Abingdon Press 2014

 

I am practicing my breathing these days. Conscious of the need to take deep breaths and then slowly exhale. In. Out. Taking in fresh air and breathing out the carbon dioxide. It is good for my body, mind, and spirit.

We are now several days into the Lenten Season. This forty day period, not counting Sundays, leading up to Easter is a time for reflection and introspection. A time to slow down and focus on things that are important and eternal. A time to breathe.

It is a common practice during Lent to intentionally practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Focusing on one’s personal and spiritual self leads to a closer relationship with God and a fuller realization of the purpose of one’s existence.

In addition to reading from my church’s devotional book, I have also followed my pastor’s suggestion and have been reading two chapters of the Gospels each day. There are 89 chapters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so one can easily read through those four books during Lent.

The Origins of Jesus Christ Matthew 1:1-25 Doing the whole series Lord Willing! Please Read, Like, Follow and Share! Thank you http://whatshotn.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/the-origins-of-jesus-christ-matthew-11-25/:

The first chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. The first sixteen verses list 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus. “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac was the father of Jacob,” and so on down to “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

I was tempted to skip those opening verses with all the names but I decided to trudge through them. Those verses trace the lineage of Jesus through 42 fathers with the mention of only one woman by name, Mary, in verse 16. In reading that long list I discovered something interesting in verse 6: “David was the father of Solomon whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.”

The Holy Family, the Holy Trinity, and You! | Get Fed | Catholic ...:

Mary is the only woman named in the genealogy. However one other woman is mentioned but not named. Bathsheba’s name is missing. Instead it says Solomon’s mother “had been Uriah’s wife.”

The biblical story of David is certainly one of success. This young shepherd becomes king. He defeats giants, lions, and bears. He is the envy of every man. Then he reaches a low point in his life.

The story is told in the 2 Samuel 11-12 in the Old Testament. David slept with another man’s wife while her husband was away at war. When he discovered that she was pregnant David devised a scheme to hide the truth. After this effort failed, David had Uriah killed and took Bathsheba to be his wife.

Nathan the prophet came to David and told him a story (II Samuel 12:1-7) that enabled David to see himself and his sin. From that encounter with Nathan, David penned the words of the 51st Psalm. The verses of this poem demonstrate David’s awareness that knowing God’s favor is far more important than everything else.

This Psalm takes on a very personal tone if we believe the Apostle Paul, that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We don’t have to wait for an “emergency session” with God to learn and apply the principles of David’s experience.

When David was confronted with his sinfulness, he:

  • responded by calling on God for mercy and forgiveness (1-2)
  • acknowledged his wrong doing, confessed his “bent to sinning,” and trusted God’s forgiveness (4-9)
  • looked to the future and sought God’s help to be a different person. (10-12)

 

As a result of David’s extra-marital affair with Bathsheba, a child was born but died a week after his birth. Then David and Bathsheba were blessed with the birth of another son, Solomon. He would become one of Israel’s wisest kings. This story clearly illustrates that mistakes can have painful consequences. But it also shows how God can transform a mistake, even a serious one, into something good. All errors are not fatal IF we acknowledge our wrong doing, ask for forgiveness, and change our behavior.

O Lord, help us to know where we have sinned and give us the grace to follow David’s example so that we can be right with You and do right by others.

Jamie Jenkins

What are you giving up for Lent? Whether you are a religious person or not, the practice of fasting can help you to become a healthier and happier you.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that may be practiced at any time and generally means abstaining from food or drink. It is especially associated with special religious observances.  Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and Taoism all advocate some form of fasting—from short periods to days, and even an entire month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (June 17-July 17, 2015), is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse. In some interpretations, Muslims also refrain from other behavior that could be perceived as sinful, such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, backbiting, and procrastination.

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Christians observe Lent, forty days before Easter (February 18-April 4, 2015), and it is intended to assist in growing closer to God. The Upper Room says, “Some Christians use the whole forty days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes, or meat as a way to purify their bodies and their lives.” It is suggested that one might give up one meal a day and use that time to pray instead.

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In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

Researchers from the University of Florida did a three-year study that concluded that fasting caused the gene related to anti-aging in our cells to increase, which can lead to longevity. The study also indicated that fasting could strengthen the body’s natural preventive processes that protect against future diseases. (read a full report on the study at http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/09/fasting-diet-study-lent).

Fasting can, however, refer more broadly to “giving up” anything at any time. Ideas include giving up “some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation.” The idea is to “fast” in order to focus on God.

FASTING 2 There are a lot of things that a person might “give up.” Things that clutter the calendar and complicate life. Resentment, anger, and bitterness are destructive emotions that are like cancer that eat away at a person from the inside. Why not give them up?

Pessimism and cynicism prevents one from seeing the bright and beautiful in every day life. Finding fault with others leads one to de-value the worth of persons and gets in the way of seeing the good that God has invested in every individual. Give them up.

Although you might have made mistakes, beating yourself up constantly does no good for you or anyone else. An adversarial posture as one’s usual attitude only works against you. Gossip and criticism may seem harmless but they can do serious damage. These attitudes and actions diminish yourself and others. Give them up.

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We are in the middle of the season of Lent but whether you “fast” from negative behaviors such as those mentioned above- and there are many others- for religious purposes or not, you will become a healthier and happier person when you give them up. After all that is God’s intentions for you (John 10:10).

 

Jamie Jenkins