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The Humbling Element of Fasting

Well, this week our church did something a little bit unusual – something that has never done in this church before. In fact, as far as I can remember, I’ve never been part of a church that did anything like this. But on Wednesday over the lunch hour, together as a church family, we fasted. Instead of eating our normal Wednesday lunch, we instead, spent that time fasting and  praying for our community. Which was really pretty cool, and if you didn’t get a chance to join us this time, I’m sure we’re going to be doing this again… But for those of you are just joining us today, let me give you some quick background to all this.

Over the past couple of months we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines – or the healthy habits of Christians that help us draw near to God and that help us grow deeper in our relationship with Him. They change our understanding of who God is and how He’s working in our world.

We looked first of all, at how we can see glimpses of God in Creation. God’s fingerprints are everywhere around us – in the vastness of the galaxies or the complexity of our DNA or in the wonder of a baby being born or simply in the beauty of a sunset. We see the evidence of God everywhere.

But of course, while the heaven’s do declare the glory of God, His creation doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about what He has done. That’s why God has given us His Word – the Bible. And so we spent several weeks looking at how we know that the Bible really is God’s Word and how reading and understanding it changes us as we learn more about who God really is and what He’s really like.

And while God communicates to us primarily through His Word, He has given us the ability to communicate with Him primarily through prayer. And so we spend a few weeks looking at why would should pray. Why pray to a God who already knows everything we need and who has already promised to provide it? We saw how prayer is an invitation for God to be active and involved and sovereign in our lives. It’s actually an act of worship when we pray.

And then most recently, for the last two Sundays, we’ve been talking about fasting. And fasting isn’t nearly as common-place these days as prayer or Bible reading – although I think it should be because it is an excellent way for us to draw close to God.  Fasting is a way for us to focus on the most important things in life – not just the urgent things in life. When we give up food for a certain amount of time, to instead focus on God and our relationship with Him, our hunger reminds us how desperate we are for Him – and how much we depend on Him every moment of every day. It also reminds us that this life here and now is not all there is! We are looking forward to the day when this life is over and we can see Jesus face-to-face and can spend the rest of eternity with Him – feasting and celebrating and being fully satisfied for the rest of all time! Fasting is such a good reminder of that.

And so that’s why on Wednesday, we decided to fast together as a church. I know that many Christians have never fasted before. It’s a relatively new practice for me as well. And so this was really an experiment in fasting and I hope you’ll continue to experiment with it!

Now today I want us to look at one more aspect of prayer and fasting. And by no means, have we covered it all! The more I learn about fasting, the more I realize how little I know. So far, we’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at how fasting impacts us – how it changes our perspectives and reminds of things that we are usually quick to forget. But today I want to focus on how fasting impacts our prayers.

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King Ahab – A Lesson in Grace

This morning we’re going to take a look at one of Israel’s most notorious kings. Just like King David was known for his goodness – King Ahab was known for his badness. In fact, let me just read for you how the Bible introduces him. This is 1 Kings 16:29-33.

“Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 31 And as though it were not enough to follow the example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. 32 First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. 33 Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him.” 1 Kings 16:29-33

So basically, what the Bible is telling us, is that Ahab was the most evil king Israel had ever seen. He was the Adolf Hitler, the Joseph Stalin, the Osama Bin Laden of his time.

So what lessons could we possible learn from this guy? Well, I think the answer might surprise you. 

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Elijah & the Stand-Off at Mount Carmel

Today we are going to conclude our Great Battles of the Bible series. You might remember that we started this series with the Sunday School Classic – Joshua & the Walls of Jericho. From there we went to the not-so-familiar story of Jonathan & his armor-bearer. Then we talked about our most memorable character of this series – King Snack-of-ribs (that is, King Sennacherib) and his attack on King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Then finally last week, we talked about Elisha and his practical joke on the Arameans. And through all that, we’ve learned (or at least have been reminded of) many different things about the character of God. We’ve learned that God is sovereign and that He is the one who directs all the affairs of man. We’ve learned that God cares about individuals as well as nations and He intervenes on our behalf. We’ve even learned that God has a sense of humor and He does things that are totally unexpected.

Well, today we’ve got one more story to look at and I trust that we can learn one more thing from this Great Battle of the Bible.

Now before we get started this morning, I have to make a clarification.

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