Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fasting as Spiritual Warfare: Part 2 - Some Practical Suggestions

The first time I ever fasted was after reading Richard Foster’s book A Celebration of Discipline. Were I to list the top 10 books outside of the Bible that have influenced me, Foster’s book would be on that list. After reading his chapter on “Fasting,” I felt motivated to begin to practice it.

Here are some more practical thoughts I have about fasting.

Accompany a fast where you have no food with water and fruit juices.

If you have not practiced fasting before, then try a one-day fast. Go without food for 24 hours.
Drink only water, and perhaps add fruit juices.

Allow God to lead you in regard to the spiritual focus of your fast. For example, you may choose to fast and pray for a specific person in your life. During your fast, when you feel hungry, let that sensation of hunger be your reminder to pray for that person. In praying for that person, pray the 6 “Prayer Hooks” of the Lord’s Prayer.

For example:

1) “I pray that ______ would hallow Your name, Lord.”
2) “I pray that the Kingdom would come in _____’s life.”
3) “I pray that Your will would be done in _____’s life.”
4) “I pray that ______ would receive daily bread.”
5) “I pray that ______ would understand how Your Cross brings forgiveness for _____’s debts, and that ______ would extend that forgiveness to any who have sinned against _______.”
6) I pray, God, that You would protect _______ from the evil one, and not let _______ fall into the evil one’s traps.”

You may choose to fast for breakthrough and victory in some area of your life that is not pleasing to God. This will likely include prayers of brokenness before God. And prayers of breakthrough by the power of God.

NOTE: If you have a medical condition that does not allow you to fast from food, then read this article by Richard Foster called “Fasting: Twentieth Century Style” to see other areas to fast from.

If you want to study more about fasting, in addition to Foster’s book, I recommend:
- Bill Bright, The Transforming Power of Prayer and Fasting: Personal Account of Spiritual Renewal
- Bill Bright, 7 Basic Steps to Successful Prayer and Fasting
- Bill Bright, The Coming Revival: America's Call to Fast, Pray, and Seek God's Face (I read this several years ago, and was blessed by Bright's own fasting experiences and God-encounters. Bright was the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.)
- Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough (I read this book years ago. A very good resource, describing 10 biblical fasts. Get it used for $1.99 at amazon.com!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dallas Willard on Fasting

Here's some thoughts from Dallas Willard on biblical fasting. I have slightly edited them. For the full essay see here. (For my essay on "Fasting & Spiritual Warfare: Part 1," see below.

Fasting is another long proven way of finding our way into Sabbath, where we live and do our work from the hand of God. In fasting we abstain from our ordinary food to some significant degree and for some significant length of time. Like solitude and silence, it is not done to impress God or merit favor, nor because there is anything wrong with food. Rather, it is done that we may consciously experience the direct sustenance of God to our body and our whole person. We are using the keys to access the kingdom.

This understanding of fasting is clearly indicated by Jesus in Matt. 4:4 (with its back reference to Deut. 8:2-6) and in John 4:32-34. Fasting is, indeed, feasting. When we have learned well to fast, we will not suffer from it. It will bring strength and joy. We will not be miserable, and so Jesus tells us not to look miserable. (Matt 6:16) Was he suggesting that we fake a condition of joy and sufficiency when we fast? Surely not. He knew that we would "have meat to eat" that others "know not of." I and many others can report that we have repeatedly verified this in experience.

Fasting is one way of seeking and finding the actual kingdom of God present and active in our lives. And because we are then more immersed in the reality of the kingdom, practically utilizing the "keys," our lives take on the character and power of Jesus. This will assure us that our work is his work and that he is working. Though we act, and work hard, it is after all not our battle and the outcome is in his hands.

One pastor had this to say about his experience with fasting: "Surprisingly, after the fast is when I began to realize something from the fast. I came back from the fast with a clearer sense of purpose and a renewed sense of power in my ministry. The anger which I unleashed at my wife and children was less frequent and the materialism that was squeezing the life out of my spirituality had loosened its grip."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dan Piippo in Istanbul

Today's Monroe Evening News did a story on my son Dan, who just returned toMichigan after serving two years with Campus Crusade for Christ in Istanbul, Turkey.
And when Dan arrived at Detroit MetroAirport he got down on one knee and asked Allie Miller to marry him. She said yes! Allie returned to Michigan this summer after serving for one year in Istanbul with CCC.
The picture is one I took of Dan and Allie in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul last January.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Now Reading...

I'm now reading George Ladd's excellent The Gospel of the Kingdom. This fall at my church I'll be teaching this on eight Sunday evenings out of this text. I began reading it this week and found I could not put it down. One reason for this is that since last September I have been preaching and teaching the 4 Gospels on Sunday mornings . And I began reading and re-reading through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John last September, and will continue doing this for at least another year. So I am immersed in Jesus-studies. I want to know Jesus, the Real Jesus. Ladd's work is extremely helpful, since Jesus' main message was "Repent, for the Kingdom of heven is near."
I also picked up John Howard Yoder's classic The Politics of Jesus, and will begin reading that very soon.

Now Teaching...

This Fall at Monroe County Community College I will be teaching two philosophy courses instead of one.
I'll teach Introduction to Logic for the sixth straight year, using Hurley's 9th edition.
I'll also teach History of Western Philosophy, using Jerry Gill's Enduring Questions.
And, for the past 5 years every winter I have taught Philosophy of Religion, using Pojman's anthology of readings, which I find to be quite good.
In all these classes my main goal is: learning. The material, especially in the Western Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion classes, is extremely difficult to read since I am using primary texts and not explanations of the texts. My task as teacher, which I love, is to take the students from no understanding of philosophy to a solid basic understanding of philosophical issues.
I rarely have one student who comes to class familiar with this material, even a little bit of it. Philosophical thinking opens up a new world of possibilities to them. It strengthens their analytic abilities. It also makes them think in new ways about God and the meaning of life.

William Wilberforce Movie

I was excited today to find out that a movie on the life of William Wilberforce is coming out. It's called "Amazing Grace: The William Wilberforce Story." It's produced by Michael Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist), and opens publicly in theaters in early 2007 to coincide with the bicentennial of the abolition of the British slave trade.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Charles Colson's Misrepresentation of Greg Boyd

Charles Colson’s recent response to the New York Times article on Greg Boyd is confused in a number of ways.

First, Colson commits the fallacy of ad hominem circumstantial when he writes: “There they go again. The liberal media, it seems, likes nothing better than to play up what they see (or create) as divisions in the evangelical ranks.” Yes, the NYTimes is left-leaning. But in this case God used the NYTimes as a vehicle for a prophetic word to the Church in America. Why not? If God can speak through a donkey, why not through the liberal media? The arguable fact that the NYT is leftist does nothing logically to cause one to therefore reject Greg's biblical, prophetic message to the Church (especially the Evangelical Church) in America. Perhaps God had to speak this way precisely because the American Church has identified the Kingdom of God with the State.

Secondly, the NYTimes piece does not do full justice to Greg’s position. This should surprise no one. For the fuller story read his book The Myth of a Christian Nation. I’ve read it, and am suggesting it to others. It is, I think, a prophetic word from God to the Church in America. Here’s one reason why I think so.

My son Dan returns next week from two years serving as a missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ in Istanbul, Turkey. Linda and Josh and I went to Istanbul for 10 days in January. I’ve been studying the Turkish and Muslim culture, to include regularly reading Turkish news and editorials on the Internet. Turks are very, very suspicious of “Christian missionaries.” So much so that CCC tells its team members not to use the “M” word. Why? Because Turkish Muslims and other Muslims equate “Christianity” with “America.” But Christianity is NOT to be equated with “America," right? (To confirm this please read the original Christian documents, the 4 Gospels.) The Church in America has, sadly, created this image. Greg is absolutely correct in saying that the effect of this is not to advance the Good News of Jesus but to hinder it. I and my son have seen this firsthand.

Colson writes: “Life issues [such as abortion], you see, go to the very heart of the Gospel, which is why the first-century Church cared so passionately. And we can do no less today. The Church does not just have the right to speak about it; it has the duty to do so.” I agree. I know Greg, he spoke at my church last fall, and I’ve spoken at two conferences in the last three years where he has been the keynote speaker. Greg hates abortion. But please… the main, and passionate, message of Jesus and the early, pre-Constantinian Church was precisely: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” With Constantine the message of the Kingdom and the Church got co-opted by the State. This has NEVER been a good thing for the Real Church. The message of the Kingdom of God is subversive of all nations and is not an "arm" of the State. This is one reason that, from Constantine on, the message of the Kingdom got suppressed. (Brian McLaren is absolutely right about this.) As Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The point being: Let the message of the kingdom of God come forth from the Church, not only in America, but all around the world. The Church then will speak with a prophetic voice in its culture. This is much needed today. That was the main message of the early church. Within that main message is included the ethics of the Kingdom (abortion, and many other things). And, by the way, the answer for the world is precisely the Good News of God's Kingdom. The Church, if it aligns itself with any nation no matter how "good" it is, will necessarily diminish the real meaning of the Kingdom.

Colson writes that, in his opinion according to Greg Boyd, “we ought to abandon moral issues and adopt Boyd's position.” I find this statement incredible. It’s a false dichotomy (either agree with Greg and abandon moral issues, or reject this “propaganda” and speak out for moral issues). Sadly, this kind of thinking seriously misrepresents what Greg and others are saying. This is precisely the kind of thinking the Church does not need today.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Metaphor and Science

There’s an interesting article on metaphorical thinking in science in The Toronto Star. My dissertation at Northwestern was on metaphorical thinking and truth-speaking. I included examples of metaphor in science, and how scientific theories are, at root, inextricably metaphorical. One of my resources was Andrew Ortony’s classic Metaphor and Thought. See, e.g., Thomas Kuhn’s essay “Metaphor in Science” and other essays on metaphorical thinking and science in Ortony.

This realization, viz., that scientific theories are inextricably metaphorical, complexifies issues of truth and meaning and debunks positivistic theories of scientific truth that are indebted to non-informed, simplistic notions of such truth as “literal” (the meaning of which always remains unstated).

One problem with the Star article is that it conflates, e.g., “metaphor” with “analogy.” Metaphor is to be distinguished from “analogy,” “model,” and other tropes. “Simile” is closer to “analogy” than metaphor is. Theories of metaphor from Aristotle up to the 1960s viewed “metaphor” as only an “elliptical simile”; viz., a simile minus the word “like.” Metaphorical thinking, from Max Black onward, and especially Paul Ricoeur et. al., are careful to not reduce metaphor to simile. There are psycholinguistic studies that suggest metaphor and simile are even processed differently.

But the Star article moves in the right direction when it states that “metaphor, and its more common cousin analogy, are tools that are just as important to scientists investigating truths of the physical world as they are to poets explaining existential conundrums through verse. A scientist, one might liken, is an empirical poet; and reciprocally, a poet is a scientist of more imaginative and creative hypotheses.”

One thing this suggests is that there is not such an unbridgeable abyss between “science” and “religion,” such that science is “empirical” and religion has to do withnon-empirical “faith.”