Friday, March 06, 2009

The Year of Evangelism

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (of which I am a member) has dubbed 2009 the Year of Evangelism for the North American Division. This means that every church in North America is focusing on bringing people to Christ and enlisting every church member. There will be seminars throughout the year as well as other friendship based activities for sharing. One of the things that churches throughout the country are doing to support the work of evangelism is through prayer in fasting. I've been asked to help spearhead this initiative in my local church. Below is the handout I worked on about fasting. One on prayer will be forthcoming.
A Short Guide to Fasting
Complete fasting traditionally refers to a period of time when someone willingly goes without food and drink—with the exception of water. (The morning meal, breakfast, is to literally “break fasting”.) The basic idea of a religiously motivated fast is to do without something that is a major part of your life for a set amount of time and for the specific purpose of humbling or afflicting our souls (Leviticus 16:29) in communion with God. As a result, fasting is not limited to just denying yourself food. In fact, a complete fast is not something that all people can do. Some individuals have medical conditions which make fasting for several days detrimental to their health.
Another option is a partial fast. One example of a partial fast is intentionally leaving certain foods—such as dairy, meat, highly processed or fast food, etc—out of your diet much like the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Other types of fasting that can be done in conjunction with or in place of a dietary fast could involve abstaining from watching television, surfing the internet , sexual relations, shopping, working, hobbies, or any other activity which may distract you from fully focusing on communing with God.
According to the Bible fasting was done both individually and communally. People are recorded as fasting on many diverse occasions such as to ask for God’s favor (2 Samuel 12:16-23), to ward off crisis and ask for protection (Esther 4:16), to mourn a death (2 Samuel 1:12), to ask for repentance (Jonah 3:5, Psalms 69:10), and to ask for the revelation of God’s will (Acts 13:2-3, 2 Chronicles 20: 3-4).
The Bible also mentions the misuse of fasting. A couple of examples can be seen in Acts 23: 12-14 when a group of Jews made an oath to fast until the death of Paul. Another is mentioned in Jeremiah 14:12 when the nation fasted in mock repentance. A fast is not a hunger strike neither is it a way for us to convince God of our plans, but a way for us to hear to God. Remember, fasting is a humbling of oneself and should not be used to show spiritual superiority as was the case for the Pharisees (Luke 18:12).
For more information about fasting:
Exodus 34:28, 1 Kings 19:8, 1 Kings 21:27, Nehemiah 1:4, Matthew 4:2, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 9:15, Acts 9:9, Acts 14:23, 1 Samuel 31:13, Ezra 8:21-23, Ezra 10:6, Deuteronomy 9:9-18, Job 33:19-20, Psalms 102:2, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 11; 27-28, Joel 2:15, Isaiah 58:2 There are also several books on the topic of Christian fasting.

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