Speaking of Sarah, Mom’s dear friend (and like a special “aunt” to us girls!) Janis Shank, shared a message on “Hoping in God” from the life of Sarah at a ladies meeting at our church this past weekend. Unfortunately I was unable to attend as Jack came down with a stomach virus about an hour before the meeting. But I have already listened to half of Janis’ message online (as much as the kids allowed!) and I thought the girltalk readers would want to hear it as well.
Janis is as winsome, sweet and God-centered in this message as she is in person. And she is well-qualified to speak about hope in God. She has served her husband (Steve, mentioned in yesterday’s post) for twenty seven years, and in doing so, has served the church faithfully and sacrificially.
“To hope means to look forward expectantly for God’s future activity” Janis quotes the New Dictionary of Theology. Listen now, for more hope-filled truth from God’s Word.
Over at CJ’s blog you can now meet his new and talented assistant, Tony Reinke. We want to introduce you to his lovely wife, Karalee. Or, I should say, reintroduce you. Girltalk readers met Karalee once before. But that’s another story.
The part of Karalee’s story we want to tell you today is one marked by trust in God and a humble eagerness to follow her husband on a most unusual path. Several years ago, Tony and Karalee (with two small children) left their home and family in Nebraska to join Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They uprooted and moved because of a conviction about the importance of the local church and a belief that God had called them to serve in this particular church. When Tony’s gifts caught the attention of Pastor Rick Gamache and Sovereign Grace Ministries Leadership Team member, Steve Shank, it led to him being asked to come on as CJ’s assistant. And once again Karalee packed up house and family (including an additional child!) and joyfully followed her husband to Gaithersburg, MD. A long way from Nebraska.
Like Sarah in the Bible, Karalee had no idea when she left her home of the twists and turns her journey would take. But she has displayed the same trust in God as that faith-hall-of-fame inductee. She has willingly laid aside her own desires and utilized her gifts (of which she has many) in order to support God’s plan for her husband’s life. She has proved herself to be what Murray J. Harris calls “Christ’s movable property…totally available for the Master’s use (2 Tim. 2:21).”
Karalee, I am personally grateful to you for making it possible for your husband to so effectively serve mine. You both are a gift to our family, to Sovereign Grace Ministries, and the body of Christ. May you know God’s pleasure and our gratitude!
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Peter 3:3-6
Yesterday we announced a big sale. Today we have another announcement. Only this time it’s not a sale. Actually you do not have to pay any money at all to avail yourself of this resource. It’s absolutely free.
I have been the recipient of CJ’s “view” for over 32 years (we celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary this coming May). And though he may characterize his perspective as “from the cheap seats,” I hold a completely opposing “view.” His leadership, his counsel, and his wisdom have been invaluable in our marriage and in our family life. And I am thrilled that now all of you can benefit from the storehouse of priceless wisdom that I’ve drawn upon these past three decades.
So for fresh insight on cross-centered living, with a good dose of humor and the occasional comment on the sports world, check out my husband’s “View from the Cheap Seats.” It’s a view, in my view, that you won’t view as cheap.
Why take advantage of this sale? I got one good reason, from a guy named Jed. Yesterday he was one of eight people baptized at my church. Here’s an excerpt of his conversion story, which he shared prior to his baptism:
In 2003, I started attending youth meetings at this church. We started going through the book How Can I Change? by C.J. Mahaney and Robin Boisvert. As I read the first chapter of the book, God revealed to me the mystery of the gospel. 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” I’m not sure exactly when, but I believe that within that year, I truly repented of my sins and put my trust in Christ’s atoning blood.
It was God who revealed Himself to Jed. But he used books like How Can I Change? (from the Pursuit of Godliness series) to point this young man to the truths of His Word. So for yourself, and unsaved family members, let me encourage you to take advantage of this February sale.
Today concludes our series of FAM Club posts. But The FAM Club has only just begun. How excited we are that so many of you are eager to join us in fasting at least one meal a week for the purpose of praying for members of your family! We look forward to hearing testimonies of prayers answered, and God’s love and faithfulness on full display.
We leave you with selections from a Valley of Vision prayer that express the heart and desire behind the FAM Club: that our Savior be glorified in our lives and in the lives of our family members.
“O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction of my kindred.
Let those that are united to me in tender ties
be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory….
Let not those of my family who are amiable, moral, attractive,
fall short of heaven at last;
Grant that the promising appearances of a tender conscience,
soft heart, the alarms and delights of thy Word,
be not finally blotted out,
but bring forth judgment unto victory in all whom I love.”
The most famous of all praying mothers is probably Monica, the mother of Augustine. She has encouraged women for centuries to persevere in praying for their children, and her example can inspire us today as we pray for our family members. Jabez Burns (in the book Mom is reading, Mothers of the Wise and Good) quotes Augustine who relates the nature of his mother’s persistent prayers:
"While I was yet walking in sin, often attempting to rise, and sinking still deeper, my dear mother, in vigorous hope, persisted in earnest prayer for me. I remember also, that she entreated a certain bishop to undertake to reason me out of my errors. ‘Your son,’ says he, ‘is too much elated at present, and carried away with the pleasing novelties of his opinion, to regard any argument. Let him alone, only continue praying to the Lord for him; in the course of his study he will discover his error.’ All this satisfied not my anxious parent; with floods of tears she still persisted in her request, till a little out of patience, with her importunity, he said, ‘Be gone, good woman, it is impossible that the child of such tears should perish.’”
Augustine did repent and put his trust in Christ at the age of 32. His conversion was yet another monument to the faithfulness of God in answering a persistent mother’s prayers.
The FAM Club is all about fasting for the purpose of praying for our family.
The state of our family members’ souls before God should drive us to prayer and fasting. We don’t fast and pray so our kids will get better grades or win the big game on Saturday night. We don’t intercede merely so our parents will have a plush retirement or our siblings will succeed in their careers or our cousin will get married.
Our concern is much deeper. Our requests far greater. We beseech God to protect our family members from worldliness, or to rescue them from sin’s entanglement. We ask God to give them an undying love and passion for the Savior. We pray that God would strengthen their faith and uphold them in the midst of trials.
We long—above all else—that our unsaved family members would repent and believe in Jesus Christ; that they would know Him and experience eternal life.
This quote by Charles Bridges aptly expresses both our fervent hopes and the faith with which we ought to pray. Even though it was written to parents, it applies no matter which family member you are praying for:
But do we mourn over the evil of our child, especially when tracing it to its original source? Oh! let it be our stimulus to earnest and persevering prayer, and to the diligent use of the appointed means for that entire change of heart and nature, which we so intensely desire….The answer may be delayed. But "though it tarry, wait for it. For at the end it shall come; it shall not tarry." Meanwhile "live by faith" (Heb. 2: 3, 4); work in faith. Never forget that we serve "the God of Hope." Despair not of his grace. Doubt not his faithfulness. Hold on in active energy and patient hope. The tears of despondency shall be changed into tears of joy, giving a happy glow of warmth to every tender remonstrance, and animating every prudential effort…."The end of the Lord" will put unbelief to shame. (James 5:11.)
Whether or not you’ve been praying for a family member for many years or only just begun, we must “hold on in active energy and patient hope.” We must faithfully and earnestly preach the gospel to unsaved family members. We must encourage and correct those who are wayward. But we must always pray with confidence in the goodness of our God, for “‘The end of the Lord’” will put unbelief to shame.”
This story from a book I am currently reading—Mothers of the Wise and Good by Jabez Burns—is a wonderful complement to the testimonies we heard yesterday. May this story of a woman who lived many years ago encourage us that it is never too late to begin fasting and praying for our children:
In a seaport town of New England lived a pious mother of six daughters. At the age of sixty, she had been for many years subject to disease and infirmity, which confined her to her house, and almost to her room. In an interview one day with a friend, she said—“I had not for many years enjoyed the pleasure of going to the house of God with his people, and taking sweet counsel with them. But I have another source of grief greater than this—one that weighs down my spirits day and night! while disease and pain bear my body toward the grave.” Her friend tenderly inquired the cause of this peculiar grief. She replied, “I have six daughters; two are married and live near me, and four are with me; but not one of them gives any evidence of piety. I am alone. I have no one for a Christian companion. O that even one of them were pious, that I might walk alone no longer.” Such was her language. Yet she seemed submissive to the will of God, whatever it might be, having strong confidence, that in his own good time, he would answer her daily prayers, and in a way which would best advance his glory.
Not long after the above interview, a revival of religion commenced in the town in which she lived. Among the first subjects of this work were four of her daughters. A fifth was soon added to their number, but the other, the eldest, remained unmoved. One day one of the young converts proposed to her mother and her converted sisters to observe a day of fasting and prayer for the sister who remained so insensible. The agreement was made, and a day observed. Of this the subject of their prayers had no knowledge. But on the same day, while engaged in her domestic concerns at home, her mind was solemnly arrested; and she was soon added to the Christian sisterhood.
The praying mother lived a few years to enjoy their Christian society. They surrounded her dying bed, received her last blessing, and unitedly commended her spirit to God.
We’re thrilled that so many of you are eager to join the FAM Club. We can’t wait to hear testimonies of answered prayer and changed hearts as together we practice this grace-filled discipline. Some of the most encouraging emails we’ve received in the past few weeks have been from women who have already been faithful to fast and pray for their families. We hope their testimonies inspire you as well:
“Welcome to the club!” wrote Becky, “I was excited to read your blog today! You are embarking on a wonderful, rewarding new “club”. My husband, Nick, and I have been using our day off together for the past couple of year to fast and pray for our family, close friends and their families as well as other needs that come to mind during our prayer time. We have had numerous answers to those prayers and continue to look for more. How wonderful it will be to know that there are many, many other families involved in seeking our Father in this way and seeing the results of those prayers!”
Leslie emailed to say: “I was so encouraged by your blog about starting a FAM club. I just wanted to share with you what the Lord has taught me about fasting and prayer. Years ago I heard that Shirley Dobson fasted every Thursday for her family. I was inspired by her example but I also love to eat, besides I have been either pregnant or nursing so I didn’t even consider it a possibility. About a year and a half ago I read John Piper’s book entitled Hunger for God. The Lord really used Piper’s teaching to give me a greater vision for fasting. Since then, He has really helped me (and I mean REALLY helped me, because I do struggle with gluttony!) to faithfully fast and pray for my husband, children, and church. I cannot express to you how much I now view fasting as a true grace from God. The Lord has been so incredibly kind to meet my meager sacrifice of food to deepen my relationship with Him. Once again the Lord has given me so much more than I could have ever thought or imagined… greater love and gratitude for Him. So thank you for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and encouraging other ladies into this wonderful practice.”
Finally, Caroline told us of her mother’s inspiring example: “My Mum fasted one lunchtime a week throughout my and my brothers’ childhoods and I know we all benefited from it. We all came to know God at very early ages (around 4 years of age) and none of us wavered from our walk, even in our teens. I know that that is partly the great example my parents were, and the way they brought us up, but I have always said that I would fast in the same way for my family. Sadly, breastfeeding etc. stopped it and as my twins turned 3 last week, I have not started fasting. I am SO grateful for your nudge and will gladly join you all in your weekly fasts. I want my children to have an even greater walk with God than the one He has given me.”
Just wanted to share a funny….now it is….. story about a friend who was fasting. I saw my friend in church. His face was scratched and had brushburns, bruises, scrapes, like when my son fell off his bike. I asked what happened and he said he was fasting and passed out!!
A lot of you moms out there who are pregnant or nursing have written to ask about fasting in this season of motherhood. Of course you shouldn’t fast! We’re not medical doctors here at girltalk, but this much we know: pregnant and nursing women shouldn’t be skipping meals. Growing babies need lots of yummies to stay healthy. That’s why I’ve temporarily resigned from the FAM club for a while.
Some of you may have a particular physical condition that would make it unwise to fast. Please—have a talk with your doc and get whatever info you need to make an informed decision. Sound like a plan? Good.
Even if you are unable to abstain from food because of a baby or a physical condition, this doesn’t mean you can’t fast at all. Listen to what Donald Whitney suggests:
“A biblical definition of fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes….Fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body, it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes….There is a broader view of fasting that is often overlooked. Fasting does not always deal with abstinence from food. Sometimes we may need to fast from involvement with other people, or from the media, from the telephone, from talking, from sleep, etc. in order to become more absorbed in a time of spiritual activity.”
So, if you can’t fast food in this season, maybe you can consider refraining from watching a particular TV show, or checking facebook or talking on the telephone for a set period of time in order to pray for your family members. See, we can all still be a part of the FAM club—fasting for the purpose of praying for our family.
Next week: testimonies from other women and more thoughts on praying for your loved ones. A “fasting” Friday Funny coming your way soon….
“And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” Mark 2:19-20
This is the “day,” the time to fast. While we have the Holy Spirit’s presence with us, we are not yet united with Christ in heaven. We still live in this broken world where we experience hardship and trouble. “At present,” wrote the author of Hebrews, ”we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (2:9). And so we fast.
Iain Duguid once again:
“So we fast at present, since Jesus is no longer with us in his physical presence. Now we experience the pain and fallenness of this world in full measure and cry out to God in the midst of our pain and doubt. But this world is not the ultimate measure of reality. A day is coming when we will no longer fast. When Jesus comes back there will be no more fasting, as well as on more crying, and no more pain. There will be feasting forever in the presence of the King for all of the King’s redeemed people. And then, at last, we shall share in his glory and taste the fullness of his goodness.”
The best thing about fasting is that we won’t always need to fast.
The ultimate reward of fasting is waiting for us in eternity. There, we shall “share in his glory and taste the fullness of his goodness.” Instead of trouble there will be peace. Instead of sadness there will be joy. Instead of fasting there will be feasting.
We’ll be with Jesus. And we will see everything in subjection to him.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18
There are three crucial points about fasting to glean from this verse: 1) The wrong way to fast, 2) The right way to fast, and 3) What to expect when you fast.
Here’s how not to fast:
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward."
“In other words, if the reward you aim at in fasting is the admiration of others, that is what you will get, and that will be all you get.” John Piper
We’re to do it this way instead:
“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
"God sees us fasting. He sees that…we have come to him out of weakness to express our need and our great longing that he would manifest himself more fully in our lives [or in the life of our family member!] And when God sees this, he responds. He acts. He rewards." John Piper
And finally, we should expect a reward:
"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
"God will bless a biblical fast by any of His children. And whether or not you receive the blessing you hope for, one thing is sure: If you knew what God knew, you would give yourself the identical blessing that He does. And none of His rewards is worthless." Donald Whitney
It is not more spiritual or godly to expect nothing when we fast; to view fasting as merely an exercise in self-denial. No, we should eagerly anticipate the reward. God has told us that He will reward our fasting precisely because he wants us to be on the lookout for His blessing. True, it may not come in the way we expected. But it will come. And it will be good. That’s for sure.
“If we find that we are forgetful to pray for a particular need, fasting will remind us to pray over and over through the alarm clock of our hunger pangs! If we find ourselves short of time for prayer, fasting creates space to pray in the time we would otherwise have been eating.”
Several of you asked how to make time for prayer in the midst of busy lives. It’s great if you are able, like my mom, to take advantage of the “space” a mealtime creates to get away and intercede on behalf of your family. But for me, with small children, that’s a little impractical. I barely have time to eat as it is! And I imagine that if you are on the job or in the classroom, extended prayer time might be difficult to come by.
But my hunger pains, and my sense of weakness from a lack of food are like a snooze alarm ringing throughout the day. Each time I think—“I’m so hungry” or “I want food” (which is pretty often!) I take the opportunity to reaffirm that yes, I am weak, I am powerless and that is why I am appealing to the All-Powerful One on behalf of my family members. I need food. But I need God even more. And so do my loved ones.
By the time I break my fast, I find I’ve prayed for my family members many times—certainly more than if I had not fasted. I’m grateful for the reminder.