Sunday Illustrations from the Daily Athenaeum

Isaiah 58 talks about fasting..sort of. Isaiah has strong words for what we *do* for God. Our assemblies, sacrifices, and what we do for God can make Him sick. God and Jesus seem to share those sentiments with religious leaders fairly often, check out the "Woe to you" verses in Luke 11 directed at religious leaders (who fasted twice a week). Hmmm, that has my attention.....

Isaiah 1:

Stop bringing me meaningless offerings 
Your incense is detestable to me
Your Sabbaths and convocations - I can not bear your evil assemblies
Your festivals and feasts my soul hates
Your actions towards me have become a burden
God is weary of bearing them
God is not listening to their prayers

Isaiah 58 declares that they can't expect to be heard because of their fasting.

This might cause some of us to furrow brows and wonder. It may cause an uneasy feeling. Others might find this very refreshing and have some encouragement in the face of past hurtful experiences associated with church or Christians. Or something in between.

Have you ever felt like God didn't hear? He's not available?  He's checked out? You've wondered? You've questioned?  Been confused?

It's not about eating or not eating. It's not about tradition or sacrifice. Isaiah 58 brings home a much deeper and more important message. It's really very simple. An urgent awareness of God and people. I like those words because the word "love", while really neat, also has some very ambiguous and meaningless attritubes to it in English. "I love McDonald's french fries" doesn't convey a very meaningful and deep connection, as hard as that is for me to say because I really do like them. Okay, that tangent aside, let us explore the DA.  We talked on Sunday about fasting and the first fast being in the Garden of Eden where they were instructed to not eat from a particular tree.  Well the very next day, on Monday, Renee Hogmire brought to my attention the crossword puzzle in the Daily Athenaeum.  Cool stuff, thank you Renee for picking up on that, God is indeed around us all the time!!




That's awesome!!!  What are the chances of that?

You don't even need to focus on fasting....because it's not about that. Fasting is about the physical - which is so tangible and real to us - pointing to something that we don't always see so clearly. God.  People.  Love.  Urgency.  Awareness.  How do you know, feel, and get passioante about those things? Have you grown in those areas of life? Heart, soul, do you reach, challenge, and grow that? It can be hard to define, but fasting puts it into prospective by bringing home a very physical, real, and tangible thing that points to these other less tangible things. It helps us connect less tangible needs to more tangible ones. In different ways for all of us it's a pointer that uses some of the most basic, daily, necessary things in life to point to other areas we forget or loose touch of.

Insert into the Isaiah message any other word like prayer, fasting, fellowship, meditating, retreats, church, scripture...all of these things should create an urgent awareness of God.

Everything we do for God should be causing us to grow in our urgency and grow in our awareness of God. Grow in our urgency and awareness of the people and needs around us. This isn't about looking for "chains" and "yokes", of course you're not going to find that. It's about being engaged and caring enough about people to know what's going on in their lives and making a difference about it. Caring enough to invest, engage, follow urgent awareness of God and people. Can you do that? Have you done that? How do you view the folks around you? Do you care?  Have you grown in your ability to care? Love God, love others, thank you Jesus for keeping us focused! 

Fasting, praying, and communicating with God....can be bad..what?

This semester I'm meeting with Life Group facilitators to encourage, pray, challenge....I'm excited.  We have an amazing group of folks. When I sit in front of them I am challenged. We have the makings of like the perfect church (don't read too much into that, it's a communicating device – a metaphor if you will). Dedication and consistency, always follows through for God and contributes and serves like crazy.  An attitude and energy for people.  Inclusive video, cooking, and helping. A love of scripture and sharing that with others.  An unbelievable, make me feel guilty, CSF couldn't function without them servant attitude, it's not even an attitude, it's just what they do. A dedication to what we're doing amongst a grueling full time school and work schedule. Up and coming spunk, desire, and appreciation for what it means to be urgent about God and urgent about people. It is awesome meeting with people like this. Serious. Laughter.  Praying.  Thinking.  Sharing.  Awesome.

All of these folks are committed to investing in Christ and others. They are not just involved, "core" people, or members, but they're out there making a difference, praying, and investing in others every week. They are the church, the "ekklesia" of the New Testament - the "gathering" if you will. “Church” doesn’t just happen once or twice a week – but it happens all week long. They aren't leaders, they're friends.  I trust them.  I love them. I hope for them. I can't wait to see God work through all that they're doing. I hope they see truth that points to Christ in all that they're doing.

That's our prayer. That God would speak to, affirm, challenge, and lead us. That the truth of scripture would become clear and plain as we follow God's lead in having an urgency for Him and an urgency for others (in other words living out the "two greatest commandments").

Go read Isaiah 58, seriously right now. Life can wait. That thing that just popped in your head telling you that you don't have time...that can hold off for one minute. You'll make it!
You see God, through Isaiah, being harsh about fasting and praying and being eager to know His ways. What?  God can be upset about that?  Who would be upset about that?  True fasting...and healing...and joy....and the Lord answering us - is intimately connected to how we view God which is related to how we view people around us. Every day - how you view the people you see and talk to, is intimately connected to all of those other things.  Think about that at work.  At school.  At home. 

But when you think about it you're not that surprised. Because you care. You care about someone.  You care about atrocity because it involves people. This actually speaks to the truth you know to be true deep down inside - it's not about different values and things - it's all the same thing. That's what Isaiah 58 says, it's all connected.

How you view the creation says a lot about how you view the creator, doesn't it?

Now that you didn't read Isaiah 58 - go read it!

So yeah - all that is made possible by folks that care about WVU, that care about the college environment and what we do at CSF. Go pray, thank God.  Thank you.  That's what it's all about.  An urgency for God, an urgency for others. That's our deal here and that's what you're a part of if you support and encourage this place!