16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which sees in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Feasting after Fasting
From: Our Daily Journey
“How can they observe the season of Lent and then miss out on the feasting afterwards?” a friend asked, mulling over the seemingly lost practice of celebrating the season of Easter—the fifty days following Resurrection Sunday. Christians who follow a more liturgical tradition dedicate the forty days before Easter as a season of prayer and fasting (while celebrating the resurrection each Sunday), but they sometimes neglect to embrace the discipline of celebration during the Easter season. Fasting without the subsequent feasting loses the experience of joy that God longs for His people to know and embrace.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples before His death and resurrection, He promised them joy. He said He would remain close to them and that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:3,16-17). Instructing them to obey the Father and remain in His love, He said they would receive joy overflowing (John 15:10-11). Indeed, after His resurrection, the first words Jesus spoke to His friends assembled behind locked doors were, “Peace be with you.” And the disciples “were filled with joy” (John 20:19-20).
The risen Christ appeared to His disciples back then, but He also lives today. As we obey Him and join in His work, we rejoice knowing that He’s alive and that we’ll see Him again (John 16:22). He willingly fills us with the gift of joy.
Have you ever considered celebrating the weeks after Easter as a season of jubilee and feasting? We may not host extravagant parties, but we can foster an attitude of joy as we embrace Jesus’ final words on Earth before He died, rose again, and returned to dwell among us. May our joy be complete and overflowing in Him.
Stepping Stones to the Throne
From: Missey Butler, Author
Have you ever felt as if you’ve lost your way? I mean, you can’t really put into words what has happened to you. All you know is that things aren’t the same. It’s as if you are slowly drying up on the inside and you don’t know when or how it all started. Life seems to have kept moving but you decided not to. I remember reading that when it comes to our spiritual walk, we are doing one of two things. We are either moving forward or falling back. There is no neutral ground.
Boy, that really did bother me because honestly, I wanted a little breather. You know what I mean? And then, I kept hearing this catchy little jingle – “You deserve a break today” – so, needless to say, I did. I took a break from working on my spiritual life. Unnoticeably to me, the moments turned into an hour, an hour turned into a day, a day into a week, and before I realized it six months had passed by. I finally realized I had fallen into what felt like a serious backslidden condition.
My mind had turned into a raging battlefield of guilt, resentments, anger, justifications, and one of my personal favorites – indifference. The things I once cared about, even had convictions over, no longer bothered me. My heart used to be so sensitive. Now it was very calloused, so much that it was almost unrecognizable to me.
Immediately, God’s Word, ever faithful and always on time, began to minister to me. I heard Him say, “Break up the fallow ground of your heart and allow me to redeem back the time the enemy has stolen.” His voice was so gentle, but yet firm. He was not at all the condemning, finger-shaking, personality my imagination had conjured up. Instead, I saw my Lord and myself suspended above a shallow pond. I watched him as He slowly bent down and placed before my feet a stepping stone that had writing on it. I leaned over and saw these words:
Romans 2:4b, the goodness of the Lord leads men to repentance.
I felt my eyes swell with tears as I looked up at Him. He very lovingly smiled at me and said, “Step here my beloved.” As I lowered my foot onto the stone, He bent forward with another stone upon which read:
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I heard His tender voice speak to me again, “Step here my beloved.” As I stepped onto the warm sandstone, I sensed such a cleansing and lifting of a heavy weight off of my soul. I felt so clean and free. The last stone the Lord put before me had inscribed upon it a verse that was very familiar to me, but I had lost sight of it. It was one of those commands that was simple, yet filled with such meaning:
Matthew 3:8, Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
I hesitated for a moment before stepping out. I closed my eyes and whispered, “Oh Lord, you know how I have failed you in this area. How will it be any different this time?” Then I heard the Lord say, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. My strength is made perfect in your weakness. Now, take another step.”
Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us— astounded at how “un-simple” we are. It is our own opinions that make us dense and slow to understand, but when we are simple we are never dense; we have discernment all the time. Philip expected the future revelation of a tremendous mystery, but not in Jesus, the Person he thought he already knew. The mystery of God is not in what is going to be— it is now, though we look for it to be revealed in the future in some overwhelming, momentous event. We have no reluctance to obey Jesus, but it is highly probable that we are hurting Him by what we ask— “Lord, show us the Father…” (John 14:8). His response immediately comes back to us as He says, “Can’t you see Him? He is always right here or He is nowhere to be found.” We look for God to exhibit Himself to His children, but God only exhibits Himself inHis children. And while others see the evidence, the child of God does not. We want to be fully aware of what God is doing in us, but we cannot have complete awareness and expect to remain reasonable or balanced in our expectations of Him. If all we are asking God to give us is experiences, and the awareness of those experiences is blocking our way, we hurt the Lord. The very questions we ask hurt Jesus, because they are not the questions of a child.
“Let not your heart be troubled…” (14:1, 27). Am I then hurting Jesus by allowing my heart to be troubled? If I believe in Jesus and His attributes, am I living up to my belief? Am I allowing anything to disturb my heart, or am I allowing any questions to come in which are unsound or unbalanced? I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him. God never guides us at some time in the future, but always here and now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.