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It’s hard seeing disaster after disaster come up on my news-feed and being reminded again and again that this world isn’t perfect and that so many people are hurting. I’ve been reading in the major prophets section of the Bible: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And it struck me how much devastation the nation of Israel had to endure. It reminded me of what has been going on in my world: natural disasters, killings, political unrest, fear and just a sadness that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

And inevitably people try to come up with solutions to these problems. Maybe we need more gun control, or a better education system, or we need to take care of our planet better. I don’t know what ideas will or won’t work. But I know the problem is really so much bigger than any of those things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try them out, or attempt to make things better. But there’s only so much we as humans can do to change the world.

And this morning, I felt like what God was telling me was that what we really need is revival. We need to turn back to God. Over and over God told the Israelites that the reason He was letting them go through such hard circumstances was because they had stopped following Him and He was reminding them that He really is God. He is patient and loving but He wants us to turn to Him even if it will cause us some initial pain. Because living without Him is the worst possible thing. I’ve heard some people say that suffering is God’s megaphone. It’s His way to get our attention when nothing else will.

I feel like with all that’s going on in our world, that God is calling us back to Himself and a great revival will start. So that’s what I’m going to start fasting and praying for, because I know that what people really need is Jesus. He is the answer to all of these problems. He is our only hope. So if you follow Him as well, I hope you’ll join me in fasting and praying for revival. And if you don’t, I hope you take some time to think about life and where your hope comes from.

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Ten Things a Christian Should Try

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I’ve seen a lot of blog posts or quizzes where we’re told places we should see, things we should try, or something we have to experience before we die. There’s food, landscapes, movies, books. Just ask and you’ll get hundreds of suggestions of what you should do. But I was thinking about this the other day, and a lot of the suggestions you get of what to do before you die are… empty. You do them and it’s fun, or yummy or pretty. But then it’s over, and that’s it. I started thinking through what things can we do that have eternal significance, that actually make a difference. So I started making a list of suggestions I would make to other Christians of things they should ‘try’ and hopefully continue to do. Anyway, it’s not in any specific order, but if you’re following Jesus maybe you should try some of these things.

1. Give Sacrificially

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Or in more plain terms, give till it hurts. Try giving money or time or possessions not so you feel good about yourself or don’t feel guilty, but actually for someone else. Give in a way that is hard, maybe more than you think you can give. It’s surprising what can happen when you do, and how freeing it is. It can also help remind you that your security comes from God and not what you own.

2. Pray for Everything

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I mean this not in a greedy way but in actually praying for things even when they seem trivial or impossible. Like ask God to help you find your lost car keys or pray and ask Him to restore a broken friendship, or heal someone of cancer. I won’t promise that He will say yes to every request, but He knows best how to answer your prayers and He loves it when you ask Him. You may be surprised with how He answers.

3. Read the Whole Bible

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I know some people struggle with reading their Bible at all, or prefer to read favorite sections over and over. But I can honestly say reading the whole thing has been so good for me. Sometimes reading a passage that isn’t quoted often brings new insight to me, or a little surprise, and spending time in God’s word is so refreshing and good for me. It reminds me what is true and important and often puts my life’s problems in perspective.

4. Serve at Church

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Many people at least in America can view church as a place to get their needs met, to be taught, and encouraged and in some cases, entertained. But the Church is meant to be a body with everyone helping each other. Even if it’s passing out bulletins, or hanging out with children, if you get involved with a church and seek to serve and not just be served, there is so much blessing!

5. Share the Gospel

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Share the Gospel with a friend, a coworker, a neighbor or even a stranger. There’s nothing like telling someone about what has changed your life, made you who you are and given you hope and peace. Not only is it a command but it brings so much joy and purpose into your life when you step out and share the Good News that Jesus saves sinners.

6. Rest on the Sabbath

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I know it’s hard to stop, especially in this culture, but we all need a break and God gave us the command to rest for a reason. Actually taking a break, even from good things like work or serving others, is needed. Otherwise we get burned out. Plus, changing up our routine and taking a break can help us listen to God more easily.

7. Fast

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Or more specifically fast from something that’s hard to let go of. It may be food, but it could be your cell phone, or television, or internet. Take a break from something that controls you, let go of it and don’t let it dictate your life. Often when we let go of something that distracts us constantly, and consciously choose to ignore it, it is much easier for God to speak to us.

8. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

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This could be as simple as talking to a neighbor you hardly know, or driving to that part of town that you don’t like, or even going on a mission trip across seas. But the point is, when you follow God into uncomfortable situations, it forces you to rely on Him and not yourself. And it’s a constant reminder that it’s not about you but about God. And even though it’s uncomfortable, you don’t have to worry, because God’s in control, and you might find that it’s quite fun to see God work in your uncomfortable situation.

9. Care for the Poor

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Jesus constantly told us to care for the poor, but it’s easy to forget. However, what if you actually did it? What if you packed extra water bottles in the car to pass out to the homeless, or spent a day serving at a soup kitchen? There is great blessing in obeying Jesus and caring for what He cares about. Why not try and see what He does?

10. Worship God

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Worship everywhere, not just at church. For me singing is a way to worship God and I can do it by myself in my room, or along with the radio as I’m driving, but it always reminds me of what’s important, who God is and who I am and I need that reminder more than just on Sunday mornings. Maybe you’re not a singer and staring up at a night sky, or at a beautiful sunset inspires you to praise God for His handiwork. But no matter what your preference, take time to worship God, and refocus on Him.

Well there’s my list, I hope you get a chance to try some of these, or do them again if you’ve already done them. But more than that, I hope you grow closer to God through them and become more like Jesus, because that will last through eternity.

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Why Fast?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I used my free time during Spring Break to catch up on some things and get some writing in, but it’s been hard for me to think of a good topic to blog about. But during Spring Break, my church decided to take a day to fast and pray for persecuted Christians around the world. Through the process, I’ve found that several people didn’t know what the point of fasting was, or had never done it before. So I thought I’d share my experience with fasting.

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When I was younger, I didn’t really fast either. Sometimes my parents did, but I didn’t think it was necessary to being a Christian, and sometimes it even felt like only the ‘really good’ Christian’s fasted. It wasn’t for everyone. Anyway, this changed when I went to college. I attended a Lutheran University and fasting was more of a normal thing in that environment. They practiced Lent, the giving up of something specific for 40 days (From Ash Wednesday to Easter) and I decided to join in and give up something too. Once I think I gave up french fries, another time I gave up Hulu. Anyway I got more used to the idea and practice of fasting. We also had something called Thirty Hour Famine, where we would not eat food for about 30 hours. It was supposed to help us be aware of others around the world who were hungry.

So as I got out of the college life and moved on to young adulthood, I still would fast occasionally. Sometimes it was because I was trying to make a big decision and wanted to be focused on God as I made it. Other times it was because I really cared about someone who was struggling, so I would fast and pray for them. I also fasted several times in order to break a bad habit or cycle. I’d notice that some activity or thing (like dessert) I enjoyed was becoming an obsession, so I would fast from it for a day to break the craving.

Well when my church fasted this past week, they gave everyone a good description for why we should fast. “The primary purpose of fasting is to express a deep longing of our soul for the presence of Jesus in a particular aspect of life. Jesus taught this in Matthew 9:15 where he answered a question about why his disciples were not fasting in his presence. Jesus said ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is take away from them, and then they will fast.’ His point was that when he was with them they did not need to fast but when he was gone they would fast as an expression of their longing for his presence.”

I think it’s important to remember why we do something like fasting. It can be easy to do any of the Christian Disciplines with the wrong motive. Fasting is not about proving you’re a good Christian, or better than those who don’t fast. It’s not about giving up something, just for the sake of giving it up. It shouldn’t be done just because it’s a tradition, or because it’s what everyone else is doing. We should fast, because we long for Jesus’s presence. And as we fast, our hunger should point us back to Him.

I’ve found that when I fast, hunger pains can be a good reminder for me to pray. In addition, because I don’t have to cook, clean dishes, or spend time eating, I have a lot more time during the day to do things like pray or read the Bible. Fasting can be very beneficial to our walk with Jesus, and it’s helped me personally.

Even though fasting may seem hard to you, I’d like to encourage you to give it a try. It really isn’t that bad. True you’ll feel hungry, but that goes away eventually. And even if you can’t give up food for health reasons, you could try fasting from something else that takes up your time, like watching TV or playing video games.

But if you do fast from food, take it slow. Maybe try a 12 hour fast or 24 hour fast to start out with and drink plenty of water. But most of all, remember that why you fast is most important. Spend time with Jesus during your fast and let Him fill you up.