This week, we hear from Gary, Neil, Kyle, and John.
Joel and John give a brief overview of the season of Lent, the three Lenten practices we’re inviting you into this year, and the four Lenten events we’ll share together as a church.
Watch or re-watch the 6:30pm Ash Wednesday Service
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17 • 6:30PM
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the season of forty days leading up to Good Friday and Easter. The day reminds us of our sinfulness, our mortality, and the hope that is ours in Jesus.
Adapted from Advent 2019.
“Fasting.” Just hearing the word can make us tighten up. Some of us feel guilt. Others become defensive or even angry. It’s a practice many of us have heard is probably a good thing and yet few of us engage it with any regularity.
Why is this practice so foreign? Why is it so difficult? Why do we run from it and then justify our avoidance of it? Why can’t we see the gift behind this discipline?
Richard Foster, in The Celebration of Discipline, reflects, “Why has the giving of money, for example, been unquestionably recognized as an element in Christian devotion and fasting so disputed? Certainly we have as much, if not more, evidence from the Bible for fasting as we have for giving. Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.”
While there may be no direct command in the New Testament for the Church to fast, the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 appear to imply that all of His disciples will engage in this practice. “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (verse 16). Notice He says, when you fast. His assumption is that his followers will fast.
Following this assumption, Jesus is teaching us that our motives are what’s really important when practicing fasting. If we’re looking for praise or some kind of religious trophy, we might receive that—but it’s all we’ll receive. Jesus offers a better way: “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (verses 17-18). He is not saying we must avoid others’ knowledge of our fasting at all costs. The Bible is full of examples of corporate fasting (Acts 13 and 14, Esther 4, 2 Samuel 1, etc.). He is, however, concerned with why we’re fasting.
He wants our hearts. He wants us to be focused on Him above all else. He wants to give us a reward that can’t fade or be stolen from us.
So, despite our potentially-mixed bag of motives, we go together before God to engage with this practice. We want to put God first. Or, we want to want to put God first. We deny ourselves food to discipline our body, soul, and spirit and say that God is more important to us than food—than anything.
Below are a few ideas for best-practices and questions to consider for individuals, households, and Gospel Communities:
We’re inviting everyone in the church body to practice fasting on Wednesdays during Lent (February 17-March 31). Set a reminder for this upcoming Wednesday (or Tuesday evening) to join us because it’s so easy to forget!.
What exactly is fasting? David Mathis defines fasting as “voluntarily going without food—or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God–for the sake of some spiritual purpose.” Some people, for medical reasons or otherwise*, can’t fast from physical food but that doesn’t mean they’re excluded. Many have found that fasting from social media, Netflix, particular activities or foods has shown itself to be a helpful way of intentionally engaging with God. Fasting ultimately is about refraining from one thing that we might engage more intentionally with another, namely God.
Sam Storms comments: “The ironic thing about fasting is that it really isn’t about not eating food. It’s about feeding on the fullness of every divine blessing secured for us in Christ. Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear his voice and be assured of his love and be filled with the fullness of his joy. Let me say it again: Fasting is not primarily about not eating food. It is primarily about feasting on God.”
Take a moment before Wednesday to prayerfully consider how you might engage well with God through this practice. Many will choose to go without food for breakfast and lunch. Others will skip one meal or go the entire 24-hours only consuming water (or maybe a cup of coffee). There isn’t a hard and fast rule here; the end goal is to increase relationship with God and ask Him to increase our desire for Him.
One healthy practice is to use the time you would’ve spent preparing and eating food to actually stop and pray! We can miss the point if we simply work through the lunch hour to keep our minds distracted from our hunger. Use the questions below to guide your time in prayer.
Many of us will feel some negative emotions and attitudes rise when we go without the food that our bodies are used to. This is normal and can actually be a gift from God. It is often being revealed what is inside us all along – weakness, dependence, anger, greed, etc. We often use good gifts like food to cope and cover up our inadequacies without even realizing it. Take these emotions before God in prayer, and give yourself grace for these feelings that certainly don’t seem very “spiritual.”
A note to those who choose to abstain from something other than food: You may decide that fasting from food is not a good idea because of a medical condition or because you are pregnant or nursing. Others may have an eating disorder or unhealthy relationship with food or body image, and this may not be a practice to try at this time. That’s okay! We’d encourage you to ask yourself before God, “What’s a good gift that I could give up temporarily in order to help train my heart to long for God more than His gifts?” Otherwise, perhaps now is a time to pursue healing and hunger for God in some other way. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Gospel Community Leaders or a staff member if you need help walking through this.
Questions for individuals to consider or journal about:
- What are some things I hunger for or look forward to more than God?
- Why am I hesitant or resistant to fasting?
- How might my relationship to food or other good gifts be an indicator of what I long for?
- What do I long for God to do in my heart through fasting?
- What do I long for God to do in my community and my church through fasting?
- What are some negative emotions, attitudes, and feelings that rise in me while fasting? Bring those before God, asking for forgiveness, healing, and dependence on Him.
- Pray through this week’s confession of sin here.
For families with small children, this practice may not be possible to engage with all together. Depending on the ages of your children, you may be able to choose one thing to give up together on Wednesdays like dessert or screen-time. Read through the “Individuals” category above and decide if you may be able to cast vision for your whole family to practice a form of fasting together. You may phrase it something like, “We wish we wanted God more than dessert, but usually we don’t. Tonight, we’re choosing to pray and ask Him to be happy with His presence instead of eating dessert, and thank Him that many days we do get to enjoy it.” Again, if possible, spend time praying together in the same time-slot you would have been engaging in whatever activity you’re abstaining from. Use the questions below to guide discussion or prayer time together.
For spouses and housemates, read through the “Individuals” category above and decide if you want to practice fasting together in the same manner. You may choose to keep each other accountable to practicing it (regardless of whether you practice it in the same way). Again, if possible, spend time praying together in the same time-slot you would have been preparing and eating food. Use the questions below to guide discussion or prayer time together.
Questions for kids and families to consider:
- What is fasting?
- Why does it sound hard?
- Why could fasting a good thing?
- What is a good thing we could give up for one day (or half-day) to spend time with God and ask Him to help us love Him more than anything else?
- Pray that God would help us want Him more than anything else. He is the best thing for us!
Questions for housemates or spouses to consider:
- What are some things we hunger for or look forward to more than God?
- Why are we hesitant or resistant to fasting?
- How might our relationship to food or other good gifts be an indicator of what we long for?
- How might fasting actually be a good gift for us?
- How can we help each other engage in fasting during Advent?
- What do we want God to do in ourselves, our families, or our households through fasting? Take these answers to God in prayer.
- Pray that God would increase our hunger, dependence, and desire for Him in this season.
This is the first ever weekly update video. These videos will each be around 7–8 minutes long, with a handful of important updates. You’ll be able to watch these short videos here, on Instagram TV, and in an audio-only format via our Podcast.
This week, we hear from Gary, Kaitlin, Miguel, and Ryan.
A panel of Park Church staff and members discuss Park Church Downtown and respond to questions.
This Spring, Grace City Church, which meets at the Asterisk Building downtown, will merge into our church family, and Park Church will become one church with two congregations. Listen to a conversation between Gary McQuinn and Ryan Gannett as they seek to answer some anticipated FAQs, or visit parkchurch.org/downtown to read these questions and others in long-form or to submit your own question.
Jesus came quietly into the world. Though He came humbly, He came as the fulfillment of everything we’ve longed for.
This is part four in a series on our artwork for “Echoes of a Voice,” our series for Advent 2020. If you haven’t read the intro to the series, start there first! You don’t need to read each post in order, but here is post one, post two, and post three if you haven’t seen them.
Creation is filled with beauty. The beauty all around us sings of God’s design. God is beautiful. Jesus is beautiful. Of course we should seek after beauty! But what are we inclined to do with our beauty cravings? Is it easy to satisfy our hearts (prone to wander as they are) with the notion that all beauty is meant to direct our gaze upward toward our maker? Cheap “beauties” surround us, and to make matters worse, our culture tends to tell us things that draw us inward: “You are what’s most beautiful—if people would just stop to appreciate you!”
In this fourth John Forney photograph from his What Remains? series, a flood of cottontails is illuminated. One could easily stop there, enjoying the glow, not fully actualizing the ancient skeleton homes that stalk the background.
While the illuminated cottontails are beautiful and should, by all means, be enjoyed as such, they also give us a good example when it comes to our delight in beauty: the glow comes from light outside of the frame. As David writes in Psalm 16:2, “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, I have no good apart from You’,” anything abstracted from God cannot be enjoyed in full, but only out-of-context. The skeleton home of our world, which perpetually tries to delight in beauty (or anything) apart from God, serves as a stark reminder: there’s nothing to see if not for the light.
But how that light shines! In Advent, we remember that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
When we look upon the Lord, in all His splendor and beauty, it brings us truest joy; an unending joy that cannot be taken away. This comes from following the beauty from the illuminated, earthly thing, to the illuminator. The joy and beauty at the end of that path is not dependent on our emotions, our mood, or what beauty we can “feel” (in ourselves or in the world around us). In addition to this being the beauty we were always meant to enjoy, the beauty of God is also what we ourselves were meant to put on display to others.