Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Family Forte: The Strength of Waiting

by: Topher Wiles

In September 1992, Alabama expressed well the sad sentiment of our culture when they sang the song, "I'm in a Hurry (and I Don't Know Why)".  It seems like much of the world is enslaved to the impatient mantra of our times. On top of our work calendars, sports schedules, and community services, we are so busy in life that it puts us into an “I can’t wait” type of mindset that affects our families in deep ways.   

The impatience has grown during the Covid-19 pandemic that even Jimmy Fallon has created a hashtag of things people can’t wait to do when lockdowns are over: #FirstThingImGoingToDoWhenThisIsOver.  Here are a few reponses of things people can’t wait to do as listed on Chron.com "I can’t wait to change out of my pajamas." "Teepee my own house just because I have an unnecessary abundance of toilet paper." "I'm going to give a bear hug to all of my close friends!” I don’t know about TPing my own house, but that bear hug sounds fun.  Radio Station 106.5 of Buffalo, NY shares more realist things people can’t wait to do as: travel, see live music, hug, eat at a restaurant, go to a bar, get a haircut, go camping, play sports with people, go to the gym, and get married.  https://wyrk.com/11-things-we-cant-wait-to-do-once-the-quarantine-is-over/

That last one really got my attention as I consider things that our culture is in a hurry for and things worth waiting for.  Marriage.  I did a little research into how the pandemic has affected marriage and I saw that nearly every major news outlet predicts a baby boom in the coming year as happens after every major catastrophe. Additionally, I learned there are many, especially women, who feel pressured during the pandemic into sex before marriage as attested to by Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive health.  She encourages ladies especially in this time, don’t let yourself be pressured into what you’re not ready for.  The marriage blog for Focus on the Family agrees with waiting as it says, “In addition to the risk of contracting STDs and AIDS or getting pregnant, premarital sex leads to emotional distress, distrust, regret and emptiness.  In his podcasts about Financial Peace, Dave Ramsey frequently mentions the benefits of waiting till marriage for sex, having kids, and house buying for couples stating that waiting for marriage brings about much more financial freedom. 

While our world may say the words “I can’t wait,” especially during the pandemic, we simply want to say, “Yes you can wait, and marriage is certainly worth waiting for. 

Ashley and I have been taught a few things about waiting from those who are wiser than us. We even took the challenge and agreed to NOT kiss on the lips till the day we said, "I do."  I can attest, that was an amazing and memorable first kiss!  We believe there are blessings that come from waiting; not knowing everything immediately, not having sex before marriage, not peeking at Christmas presents, not purchasing a car until you can pay for it in cash, not knowing if your baby is a boy or a girl, not indulging in many other instant gratifications.  From my perspective, things are more enjoyable when you let the anticipation build for that big surprise, waiting till you can buy the car outright and have no loan, and when you wait to start a family until you are married.  You may call us old fashioned,  and maybe we are out of touch with the times about car loans and kisses, but at least on some family topics we aren’t alone as we affirm that with many things in life, it is better to wait.

Patience is such an integral part of the Christian life.  Maybe God purposefully chose to make us wait for Heaven and has only given us a limited description so that the surprise isn’t ruined.  Yeah, people will play with our impatience and write many fake stories about heaven like Alex Malarkey's book, "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven." (He admitted years later it was all a farce.)  Yet David says that waiting is a must to enjoy that blessed land of the living.

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" - Psalm 27:13-14

So we urge you, if you really want to wait, you can!  Don't rush into everything.  Don't be anxious to know everything.  Don't believe you have to peek.  You have a choice.  Good things really do come to those who wait, especially when waiting on the Lord!

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

Monday, June 8, 2020

Topher's Fasting Resources

Thank you to those who have requested more information on the spiritual topic of fasting.  I can share my experience, my commitment, and my research. 
In the last twenty years, I've participated in several organized 24 hour fasts, a couple of 3 day fasts, and one 5 day fast.  For about a 3 year period I also fasted every Friday as well.  Ashley also participated in regular fasting with me.  When I use the word fast, I'm referring to a time period where one goes without food, only taking in water.  Of course, the word fast in today's religious culture has a much broader definition and you're welcome to use it in that way. 
I'm committing to 40 Days Fasting in 2020 between now and the end of the year.  It will begin with a 5 day period on 6/7 and then also  every Thursday in 2020 (that is my personal preference at this time.)
My five days this week that I've committed to fasting are focusing on:
  • Sunday - praying for mercy for the families of George Floyd & Derrick Chauvin.
  • Monday - prayer for safety of peaceful protestors and stoppage of violence & looting
  • Tuesday - prayer for police officers working in Minneapolis and all over the country with the protests.
  • Wednesday - Prayer for our minority groups in White County, especially Oakwood St. and Roberts St. Church of Christ.
  • Thursday - Prayer for our local city and county police as they too get affected by the backlash of national displays of unrest.
Email me, call me, message me, if you're fasting and what you're praying for.  I'll keep it confidential.  
If you would like to see the dates that I've committed to fasting, you may view it here or even subscribe to my calendar: https://calendar.google.com/calendar?cid=bTEza2d2MWY0cnR1bHNobGJldXV1YTU0NmtAZ3JvdXAuY2FsZW5kYXIuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbQ

The best resource I can give you on fasting is one chapter from Richard J. Foster's "Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth"  This book was a required reading in my college Spiritual Formations class and the 15 page chapter on fasting is marvelously concise and easy to understand. You are welcome to borrow my copy from my office.  Here's a quote from Foster "In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times... in my research I could not find a single book published on the subject of Christian fasting from 1861-1952.  More recently a renewed interest in fasting has developed, but we have fart o go to recover a biblical balance."  Here also is an Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CRKXMB7

Here is a link to 71 different scripture relating to fasting in the Bible. It's the best list I've found so far. 

Here is a great outline on the Biblical Purposes of Fasting found on Bible.Org

1.       As a Sign of Sorrow

a.       For tragic events (Judg 20:261 Sam 31:13/1 Chr 10:122 Sam 1:12, 3:35; Esth 4:3Jer 14:1-12Joel 1:14, 2:12-15).

b.       For personal sorrow (1 Sam 1:7-8, 20:34; Job 3:24Pss 42:3, 102:4, 107:17-18).

2.       As a Sign of Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness

a.       National or corporate sins (Exod 34:28/Deut 9:9, 18, 10:10; 1 Sam 7:6Ezra 9:1- 10:17; Neh 1:4-7, 9:1; Dan 9:3-14Jonah 3:5-9Zech 8:16-19).

b.       Personal sins (2 Sam 12:16-231 Kgs 21:27-29Ps 69:10Acts 9:9?).

c.       As an opportunity for public exposure of sin (1 Kgs 21:9-12Isa 58:1-5Jer 36:6-9).

3.       As an Aid in Prayer to God

a.       For others (2 Sam 12:16-23; Neh 1:8-10; Ps 35:13Dan 6:18, 9:15-19).

b.       For self (1 Sam 1:7-11; Neh 1:11; Ps 109:21-24Dan 9:3, 10:1-3).

c.       For success in battle (Judg 20:261 Sam 7:62 Chr 20:3) and in other endeavors (Ezra 8:21-23Esth 4:16).

d.       For relief from famine (Jer 14:1-12Joel 1:14, 2:12-15).

e.       As a means of personal or group devotion (Matt 6:16-18Luke 2:37Acts 10:30, 13:2-3; 1 Cor 7:5).

4.       As a Part of Experiencing God’s Presence

a.       Supernatural sustaining by God (Exod 34:28/Deut 9:9, 18, 10:10; 1 Kgs 19:8).

b.       Reliance on God in times of temptation or spiritual warfare (Matt 4:2/Luke 4:2Matt 17:21/Mark 9:29).

c.       Reflecting the reality of the absence of Christ’s immediate presence with his followers (Matt 9:14-15/Mark 2:18-20/Luke 5:33-35).

d.       Going without food to remain longer under Jesus’ teaching (Matt 15:32/Mark 8:3).

5.       As an Act of Ceremonial Public Worship (Neh 9:1; Esth 9:31Isa 58:3Jer 36:6-9Zech 7:3-5, 8:19; Acts 27:9).

6.       As Related to Ministry

a.       Preparation for significant ministry (Matt 4:2/Luke 4:2Acts 9:9, 13:2-3, 14:23).

b.       Specific command of God while prophesying (1 Kgs 13:1-22).

c.       Suffering for the sake of the gospel (2 Cor 6:5/11:27).

After of the New Testament, we also find early church leaders writing about fasting
  • Clement of Rome shared these thoughts to the Corinthian Church in about 96AD " Almsgiving is therefore good even as penitence for sin; fasting is better than prayer, but the giving of alms is better than both; and love “covers a multitude of sins,” but prayer from a good conscience rescues from death. Blessed is every man who is found full of these things; for almsgiving lightens sin. "
  • Polycarp of Smyrna wrote the folliwng words to the Philippian Church in about 108AD "… let us turn back to the word which was delivered to us in the beginning, “watching unto prayer” and persevering in fasting, beseeching the all-seeing God in our supplications “to lead us not into temptation,” even as the Lord said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
  • The Didache (Writing of the Twelve) that originated in the first centrury while John was still alive references fasting three times: for enemies, before baptism, and on different days than the Jews.  Here is one reference: Now, the teaching of these words is this: “Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the heathen do the same?” But, for your part, “love those that hate you,” and you will have no enemy.
  • https://bible.org/seriespage/chapter-3-fasting-through-patristic-era  

Thank you for reading so far.  I hope you are blessed by the "Thank You" and the sharing on fasting here.  If you'd like to chat about it, please, give me a call.  In the end, I hope God blesses you and I with a more peaceful 2020 from here on out.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Family Forte: Teach Family the Importance of “DO”

by: Topher Wiles

Gary shocked me and complimented my Tennessee roots; here’s the story about how he did it.  Recently when I was out of state, my vehicle picked up an unfamiliar passenger, a middle aged man with that common name of Gary.  When Ashley spotted him, good ole Gary was stumbling and staggering around worse than a teenager waking up for school the morning after summer break.  While Ashley has never graced a bar with her presence or ever been drunk herself, the signs of inebriation were so obvious to her she knew the man to be in great need of getting off the roadway.

Gary was skeptical as he quickly interrogated me as to the purpose of my stop.  I tried explaining that we just wanted to help and when he found out I served as a minister in a church he proudly declared, “I’m a religious man!  I have crosses and Bibles all over my house.  I’m a religious man!”  His declaration caused me to wonder, “I have crosses and Bibles too.  Does carrying a cross or possessing a Bible on the shelf declare one as religious?”

Gary unknowingly answered the question himself after my family taxied him the final mile to his home. My new middle aged passenger made the rather astute evaluation when he said, “You’re not from here are you?”  I confessed my middle Tennessee boy origins which prompted his reply, “I thought so, nobody from here would DO what you just did.” 

While I disagree with Gary’s evaluation of his local populace around him, he did draw a very distinct difference between us and the cross and Bible owners he’s used to.  The difference is in what we DO. 

Right now, my social media feeds are still filled with people promoting lots of opinions and agendas.  Right now, many of them sound right and righteous in nature.  How do you and I determine who is worthwhile to listen to, to model our lives after, to go to for guidance when the world around us seems to crumble?  I submit that you and your family should follow people who are DOers.  I have learned this truth in life that I also teach my family.  It’s not what you say in life that changes people, it is what you do that makes a difference.  As a guy that invests inordinate amounts of time crafting what to say, these words about focusing on DOing are extremely important.  I’m not the only one that believes this way. 

Fred Rogers is often attributed with pointing others toward the DOers, or the helpers in life.   He said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” 

Jesus said much the same thing.  My morning Bible reading chauffeured my mental travels across Luke 10 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Remember, this parable was given as a response to when the expert of the law asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  After the expert summed up the law with “Love the Lord your God… and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied with “DO this and you will live.”  Then Jesus gave this parable about a priest, Levite, and Samaritan who walked by a broken man, with the hated Samaritan being the only one who did something to help.  At the conclusion of the parable the expert declared the one who had mercy was the neighbor to the hurt man.  Jesus taught him to be more than just an “expert in the law.” Jesus instructed him to “Go and DO the same.” 

What separates us from the rest of the “experts” of the world, whether religious, political, or social?  What makes us and our families different from those who claim to know scripture, claim to know the police force, and claim to know how to respond to racial tensions?  What sets you apart is not what you believe or what you say, but what you do.  Jesus, police forces, minority groups, and even my passenger Gary would all agree.  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Do something to show you care.

What have you DOne?  What are you DOing?  What are you and your family planning to DO to love God and your neighbors?  Really, spend time thinking about those questions for you and your family.  Formulate a reply to them.  After answering those questions, go and DO in the name of Christ.  You’ll be glad you did. 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:22-25
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.