Welcome to a new year, and to a new season of seeking after God. During the first twenty-one days of this year, we’re inviting you to join us in an all-church quest to hear from God through prayer and fasting.
We don’t always like to hear it, but self-denial is a basic expectation for followers of Jesus. Let’s not misunderstand this, though. Jesus did not say that his disciples must live on diets of bread and water, or go days without sleep, or treat their bodies harshly as if doing so was a sign of spiritual superiority. Paul called this kind of thinking “self-made religion” that was of no real spiritual value or power whatsoever (see Colossians 2:20-23). But Jesus did call his disciples to exercise spiritual discipline and self-control so that we are not controlled by our appetites or our lusts and desires instead of being led by the Spirit of God.
Fasting is one of those disciplines. It’s a discipline that God uses to build up our spiritual strength and discernment. And Jesus expressly indicated to his disciples that he expected them to fast as a regular aspect of their discipleship. In Matthew 6:16-18 he tells them how they are to go about their fasting. Notice that he says, “Whenever you fast . . .”, not “If you fast . . . .” Jesus’ tacit assumption is that fasting will be normal for his disciples.
So here are some basic principles for understanding what fasting looks like in the life of a disciple of Jesus.
1. Fasting refers to going without food. Abstaining from television, or forms of social media, or other kinds of entertainment may certainly be valuable. God might lead you to do something like this, particularly during a season when you are fasting. But they are not a substitute for actual fasting.
2. Fasting may take a number of different forms. There are many ways to fast, and all of them can be valuable, meaningful, and powerful.
An absolute, or total fast would be going without food and any liquids, including water. This should never be done for more than a day or two, and only if you are in excellent health. (Paul apparently fasted in this way for three days after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus; Acts 9:9.) A normal fast would be going without food (but not water) for some period of time–for a portion of a day, or for one or more days. We see examples of this in the Bible, including the following: John the Baptist (unknown duration, but apparently frequently); Esther and Mordecai (3 days); David (7 days); Jesus in the wilderness (40 days).
A partial fast would be going without certain foods, such as meat or sweets, for a prescribed number of days. (Daniel fasted in this way for three weeks during a time of spiritual warfare and intercession; Daniel 9:1-3; 10:2-3.)
So what could fasting look like for us today? During our twenty-one days of prayer and fasting, for instance, you might fast for one meal, or for one meal for several days, or for one meal every day. You might fast
during the daylight hours and have one meal after sundown for one day, or for several days, or for all twenty-one days. You might choose to fast by abstaining from certain foods that you would normally enjoy for one day, or for one week, or for the entire three weeks. Or you might take the opposite tack, and only eat certain foods during the three
weeks. Perhaps you would fast for an entire day, or one day per week. Perhaps you would fast for three days in a row, or one day every fourth day, or every other day. Or you could fast the entire three weeks. There isn’t a wrong way to do it.
3. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, wisdom from trusted counselors (including your physician), and common sense when fasting.
• If you’ve never fasted before, start with something simple, like fasting a single meal, or a single day, or doing a partial fast from certain foods. Going without meat and sweets, for instance, can be both manageable and healthful.
• If you have medical issues (such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, anorexia, or low weight), consult your physician before attempting to fast, and follow his/her directions carefully if you are cleared to fast.
• If you choose to undertake a normal fast (abstaining from all foods), be sure to drink plenty of water during your fast to avoid dehydration. You might also consider including juices and/or bouillon as something to drink in addition to water, especially if you are fasting for more than three days. I recommend, however, that you avoid carbonated or caffeinated drinks and alcohol when fasting.
• If you fast from all foods for more than a week, be very careful about how you break your fast. This is especially important for lengthy fasts (over ten days). Avoid meats, desserts, breads, and oily or greasy foods for several days (3-5 days minimum) to avoid severe digestive problems such as constipation, cramps, and intestinal blockages.
• If hunger is a problem, drink more water (or liquids). Also, you can use the hunger as a trigger to remind you to read your Bible or pray. The feelings will usually pass quickly.
• Recognize that it is winter–fasting will often leave you more sensitive to the cold. You may need to dress more warmly than usual.
• Fasting may also leave you more tired. Take whatever steps you need to get more rest.
4. To be spiritually effective, fasting needs to be joined with prayer and time in the Word of God. Otherwise it’s just another way to diet. (And you know how that goes!)
May this year be a year of great personal discovery as you seek for God. He promises to reward all those who diligently and sincerely seek to know him and to follow him. Onward and upward, together!
From the Trustees
As the end of 2019 draws near, the trustee board is grateful to report that ministries of FCC have been blessed through the financial support of the congregation. The November 30, 2019 financial report shows that year to date income had exceeded expenses by $17,663. We are thankful to our Lord!
At our December meeting we heard reports that a contract has been signed with Midwest roofing to begin roof repairs as soon as weather permits. Also, an agreement for a loan from Central Bank of the Midwest has been finalized for financing the roof repairs and for masonry repairs and painting.
We are looking forward to working with Angela Puckett, who will be doing the bookkeeping for FCC beginning January 1, 2020. Angela has many years of experience doing bookkeeping for churches and nonprofit organizations.
The Trustees approved the 2020 budget for the church and the Giving Tree. Projected expenses for the church total $301,054; projected expenses for the Giving Tree total $106,415, for a grand total of $407,469. Please contact a trustee if you have questions about the budget.
Trustees for 2020 are Jim Congrove, Christine Winters, Paul Studebaker, Tom Puckett, Mike Bowman and Lisa Hoag.
Jim Congrove, Trustee Chairman
Happy New Year, church family!
Welcome 2020 with all its hope and promise! Your Elder board met on Tuesday December 10th. We gave thanks to God for the provisions and direction He has taken us so far as well as renewed and strengthened faith going forward. Topics of discussion included planning and consideration for upcoming events such as the 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting, the next 40-65-year old’s event gathering on January 25th, and Family Promise. We will start our new year when we meet again on Tuesday January 7th. We will be electing a Chair and Vice Chair at that time. As a board of leaders, we have committed ourselves to personal growth by studying the book “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” by Peter Scazzero, led by Pastor Barry. We encourage everyone to start the new year with a commitment to spiritual growth through prayer and study.
When I first sat down to write, a certain line from the old carol “I Heard the Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came to mind:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
The poem was written as a reflection of the Civil War. Our country is currently in political turmoil. Some people might find the holidays particularly stressful, depressing, or are besieged with loneliness. There is indeed much to despair, but as Mary pondered many things in her heart, so I remember Jesus’ own words to us in John 14: 27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” What an excellent verse to meditate on! What hope it brings to a dark and frightened world!
Longfellow’s words continue on in that very hope:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Looking forward to becoming more like Jesus in 2020,
Hyacinth Self, Elder Chair
A resolution from my childhood…we used to sing it in church and I was reminded of the lyrics as I considered this month’s newsletter. Happy New Years, everyone! God’s richest blessings to you in the year 2020.
“I Am Resolved” by Palmer Hartsough
1. I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him,
Hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest,
I will come to Thee.
2. I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
3. I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.
4. I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
5. I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay;
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.
Greg Boyle, Worship Leader
Theology vs. Fun?
This is a deep, yet worthy, conversation for most children’s ministries today. Some choose entertainment and shallow platitudes over the truths of Scripture. As for our kids here at First Christian, we hope to intermingle the best of both; solid theology with fun and thought provoking activities. When a child realizes they are created by a loving God, this is pure joy! The best of both worlds.
So, as we head into a brand new year of possibilities, our goal is to glorify God as we teach about His goodness and His kindness to us. We ask that you lift up those involved in this ministry in prayer. Pray for our hearts to be drawn to Jesus, our minds filled with creative ways to share Jesus, our bodies with energy and wisdom to find a healthy, Christ-centered balance of theology and fun.
Jennifer Boyle, Children’s Ministry
The Giving Tree Preschool
Happy New Year! I hope 2020 brings many blessings to you and your family. The Giving Tree finished out our first semester with our annual Christmas Program. We were blessed with a perfect evening. We had good weather, amazing children singing about Jesus, the sanctuary and balcony were over- flowing with families, followed with fellowship along with cookies and punch. This was truly an evening of celebration for our most precious gift, Jesus. Thank you to the invaluable teachers, FCC staff and volunteers for helping to make this a memorable evening.
January brings much excitement as we return back to school. The children are eager to see teachers and friends as well as get back into the school routine. We are looking forward to a great second semester. The month will begin with learning about winter and the weather that often accompanies this season. A special part of each day is sharing a Bible story with our classes. Throughout the second semester, we will focus on stories from the New Testament.
Looking ahead, The Giving Tree will begin enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year in February. Enrollment for returning and alumni families will begin on February 1st and will be open to the community beginning February 17th. If you have family, friends or neighbors with children 3 years old-kindergarten age interested in attending preschool, please have them contact The Giving Tree for more information.
Julie Hafenstine, The Giving Tree Preschool Director