Hope in the Ashes

A forest fire threatened Fort McMurray and has now heavily impacted the city. What hope can there be in destruction? Where is God when so much has been lost? As spectators from afar, we often wait for God to act – send rain and change the wind direction. But God has equipped all of us to respond.

hope

God’s hope is found when we move into action.

My parents’ home was close to a forest fire three years ago, and anxiety naturally rose to the surface. It’s amazing though, how the things that mattered the most became my main concern. I didn’t think about their house or car, family pictures, or even my childhood items that I never did collect. My immediate concern was the safety of my parents and friends in the area.

As I look towards Fort McMurray, I’m astounded as friends, neighbours and acquaintances run for safety. Highways blocked with vehicles and dark smoke. I’ve watched videos of families leaving their houses behind to make homes in temporary camps and hotels. I can’t even comprehend the overwhelming feeling so many are experiencing right now.

What can I do to help?

I’m sure we all want to do something.  Some are able to volunteer, open their doors for displaced families, and help rebuild in the near future. From a distance, however, there are few things we can do.  But what we can do, can make a huge impact!

There are few things we can do, but what we can do can make a huge impact! #ymm Click To Tweet

Simply stated – we can pray, fast, and give.

We all know we can pray and fast, but sometimes we forget that every dollar makes a huge difference.  If we all helped according to our means, Fort McMurray’s residents would experience hope in the ashes.

But where’s God?

From the beginning, God has been at work.  The very fact that there have been no fatalities is a true testament to God’s mercy and hope.  Part of this hope is realizing that human life is ultimately God’s greatest gift. Possessions can be replaced or lived without, but we can’t replace each other.

Possessions can be replaced or lived without, but we can't replace each other. #ymm Click To Tweet

Moving forward, God is acting through His Church.  God is calling believers everywhere to step up and be the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s called being the body.  In talking about unity, Paul wrote:

25…there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together…1

That means by praying, fasting, and giving to those hurting, we are acting in unity with the body and therefore expressing God on this earth.  We’ll never be able to explain why bad things happen, but we can always choose how we will respond.

When we help those in need; those in need find hope in the ashes.

When we help those in need; those in need find hope in the ashes. #ymm Click To Tweet

Your turn…

Let’s pray and fast together! Prayer helps us speak to God, and fasting helps us hear God’s heart. You can read more about prayer and fasting in my previous posts (“Prayer: The Sincere and Authentic Heart” and “Fasting: 3 Reasons Why We Fast“).

Join with me in a practical way – give towards the crisis response.  The Red Cross has taken an active role and the Alberta government has partnered with them as well:

RED CROSS Emergency Appeal or text REDCROSS to 30333 to make a $5 donation.

The Alberta government is matching donations made to the Red Cross.2

Here are some other groups you can give through:

ERDO Fort McMurray Crisis Response

Samaritan’s Purse Wildfire Response


PHOTO CREDIT: CBC – The majority of homes and some vehicles were destroyed in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Beacon Hill. (Sylvain Bascaron/Radio-Canada)

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Fasting: 3 Reasons Why We Fast

I’ve come to realize, many don’t fully understand what fasting is and why we do it.  Much of our understanding of fasting is based on tradition (namely – we fast to gain some benefit, like an answered prayer).  The selfless biblical understanding of fasting, however, seems to be completely lost.  I don’t know for sure, but perhaps we’re in this position, at least in part, because we seem to ignore this act of piety in our modern culture.  It’s unfortunate because fasting is one of ways we can live out our righteousness and hear God’s heart.

fasting

So what is fasting?

Fasting is “the complete and voluntary choice not to eat (or not eat or drink) for a specific period of time.” Biblically speaking, it is an act of Christian piety that connects us with the life of Christ:

“The Christian is the person who has absorbed the Story of God in Jesus Christ, and that gospel Story teaches us that God’s grace comes to us in a way that redounds to the glory of Jesus Christ – not to ourselves. One might even say that Jesus’ own fasting (4:1-11) perfects any fasting we might do, and our task is simply to participate in his fasting the way we participate in his life, death, and resurrection.”1

But why do we respond with fasting? Here are three reasons:2

1) Self-Denial

Fasting self-denies our basic need of food and water to focus on the situations around us. For example, Nehemiah fasted in response of the past sins of Israel (Nehemiah 9:1).  It was an expression of humility and self-denial before God as they were about to rebuild Jerusalem.  Esther gave us another example.  Before she brought her request to the king, she fasted as an act of self-denial knowing that a good result would be beyond her own ability (Esther 4:16).  We fast today as an act of self-denial and humility as we respond to grievous moments behind us (death, sin, sickness, or pain), or big moments before us (fear, threats, needs, or taking a faith-based stand).

2) Self-Discipline

Fasting aids in our ability to have self-control.  Paul used the metaphor of an athlete. Just like athletes need to discipline their bodies for success, we need to spiritually discipline our bodies (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  We have to remember that our bodies are made in the image of God and are God’s temple.  Fasting, then, actually helps us to guard ourselves against the sin of gluttony.  With that said, we certainly can’t fast to lose weight or try and bring “suffering” upon our bodies – that would be immature.  The goal would simply be self-control and discipline.

3) Self-Awareness

Fasting helps us understand those without food.  The fast is for sharing our “bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house…” (Isaiah 58:7).  In our fast, we hear God’s heart for the broken.  We may not always be able to physically feed someone, but fasting should help us become more aware of the need in our world and cause us to act appropriately. On a day-to-day basis, this could mean setting aside a regular “lunch fast.”  It could even be a time to sacrifice a lunch and offer it to someone else in need.

Biblical Fasting and Prayer

Prayer is simply communicating with God.  So yes, prayer and fasting work together, but fasting is more than giving up food and drink to speak to God.  Prayer is about sharing our heart TO God (“Prayer: The Sincere and Authentic Heart”).  Fasting, on the other hand, is about hearing the heart and will OF God.  The two can work together, but fasting isn’t simply a form or means of prayer.

If #prayer is about sharing our heart TO God, then #fasting is about hearing the heart OF God. Click To Tweet

Biblical fasting is about our selfless response to sacred and/or grievous moments.3  In our journey of faith with Christ, fasting brings about self-denial and humility; self-discipline; and, self-awareness so we can hear the heart of God.

I encourage everyone to make this a regular part of their Christian faith and journey.

Further study:

Fasting: The Ancient Practices by Scot McKnight

References   [ + ]