“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”
As someone who enjoys the life necessity of eating, I typically have mapped out when I will be eating and what will be on the menu. It is fun to consider new recipes and tweak old ones! Fasting, or abstaining from food for a period of time averts our attention from our human needs and focuses our soul on celebrating God, the author of our lives as well as the giver of the sustenance to keep our life moving. As a “means of grace,” fasting redirects our spiritual journey and deepens our relationship with God. Consider this, when Jesus was baptized, he immediately fasted and in the midst of his fasting he was certainly tempted to veer away from the journey God intended for him to make for all humanity. Food is perhaps the most tempting thing in our lives. We are tempted to overeat, under-eat, eat foods that are not the healthiest for us, and just plain eat out of habit. Fasting is for a few hours taking our devotion to food and instead concentrating attention on our spiritual need to be fed by God’s Holy Spirit. It is not a statement of will to be on display rather it is a gift to God between only you and God. In a sense, fasting is putting our spiritual needs ahead of our human need of food consumption. Some medical conditions make fasting out of the question, but even in those instances, simply giving up for a day something that is consumed for more devotion to the love of God will greatly enhance our relationship with God and offer spiritual nourishment to the soul. Abstaining from food as a Christian is a spiritual discipline which allows God’s grace to be clarified and strengthened. Fasting is a reminder “of our dependence upon God and God’s grace.” May God’s grace strengthen you in your devotion to God and dedication to God’s calling on your life. Thank you, Jesus!
Rev. Tom Joyce, Pastor
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Perhaps the grandest love letter in the history of the world is the Holy Bible. It may seem odd to some that a book that includes war, anguish, and even a pretty gruesome crucifixion could even be considered in the category with the words of Elizabeth Browning, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” Yet contained in this sacred text is the story of humanity and ultimate redemption offered by God who refused and continues to refuse to let us go. There is comfort, healing, presence, spiritual direction, peace, and joy; all the elements that will transform lives. Reading and studying the Bible is a “means of grace” in that understanding God’s Word opens up a whole new understanding of what it means to be a child of God. It is not a book of rules rather it is the affirmation of the amazing love (grace) that God shares with us. Over the course of centuries, the Bible has been used and abused. But the true intent of this precious thing we call the Word of God through Scripture is to be a transformative witness of the pure love of God made real and alive by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So where is the love? How about Jesus’ promise at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Or how about when all seems lost and loneliness creeps into every part of your being; to hear the words, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers…nor anything else in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39) God’s love will never let you go, no matter who you are and no matter what you have done. You are redeemed through this “Word that has become flesh and dwelled among us.” (John 1:14) The Bible is God’s eternal love letter to you and is there for the reading, and the living. The Word of God as witnessed in the Bible is an incredible gift from an amazing God. Thank you Jesus!
“Pray then in this way…”
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement, witnessed that Christians should “pray without ceasing.” Our parents may have prayed with us before bedtime or taught us to pray before a meal. The church prays for the people, nation and world during worship and before each meeting. Some of us have been praying for a long time. Still others believe prayer is only appropriate at certain times and in certain places. Consider this; prayer is our lifeline, our communication and communion with God that opens the door to the amazing grace that God offers. Prayer is a “means of grace.” In other words, through our prayers, we experience God’s grace, mercy, and power. Jesus’ disciples saw the relationship Jesus had with God the Father and wanted the same thing. The only request Jesus answered without explanation was this, “teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) The Disciples saw the fundamental power of prayer and rightfully so; the gift of prayer is our communion with God. When we start talking with God (after-all we talk to our family, friends, neighbors, and others we cross paths with so why not God?), we begin to think not from a human point of view, but from a spiritual dimension; prayer is our “holy link.” Sometimes prayer is conditional as in the case of prayers for our own forgiveness; our forgiveness is conditional on our willingness to forgive others. The key to prayer does not consist of flowery wording or circumstance, rather the key to prayer is trust, trust that hands over control of our own lives and the lives of others to God’s never-failing grace. When we pray, we claim our undying faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The greatest gifts we can offer to someone else, our leaders, nation, and world are our prayers and our faith. Pray with boldness and with the confidence that you are a child of God, loved more than you could ever conceive or know. Because of your prayers, and the prayers of others, you are never alone and the lives you touch through your prayers will be blessed beyond measure. Prayer is all about God’s grace; never miss the privilege of praying for somebody else because your prayers could be the hope they desperately need. Thank you, Jesus. Amen
“And a voice from heaven said, ‘this is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”
Promises are those commitments we make not only to those we love but to society in general. Those who are married promise to love and cherish each other, “until we are parted by death.” Friends promise to “be there” for each other, in good times and in bad. We promise our employers to show up to work on time and to do at least what is expected of us. Employers promise to pay what has been agreed upon. As members of society, we promise to treat others with dignity and respect. We promise not to violate the law, drive on the right side of the road and come to a complete stop at a stop sign or traffic light. Living up to the promises we make, implicitly or explicitly, help define our character and make the world a better place to live and our relationships more fulfilling for everybody. The promises we make to God are profoundly different from any other promises that we make; they do not end with life or a closing of a chapter of friendship or membership in an organization. Eternal promises are those we make at our baptism that celebrate the grace God has given us from our conception and our commitment to live a life and faith as a member of the “Body of Christ.” Baptismal promises are those that commend a person to God’s eternal care and celebrate a transformation of life that lives out God’s call to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. Do you know you are “God’s beloved” and that the gift of baptism is the recognition of just how much you are loved? Sometimes we forget we can live the miracle of salvation now; so we just need to be reminded. Remember who loves you unconditionally whoever you are and whatever you have done. Remember the One who offers you a life of joy and peace if you only turn to God’s never-ending grace and mercy. The eternal promises you make to God are not temporal, they are eternal. And God’s promise to you is, “I am with you even to the end of the age.” That promise of God transcends life itself. Renew your faith and refresh your soul; accept a life of joy and peace and witness to the world God’s eternal promise. Remember your baptism. Let go and just let God take hold of your life. You have been called because you are loved.