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Week Six | Brothers & Sisters Bound Together in Prayer and Fasting

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The Gospel on the Ground Online Biblical Study
Reading Assignment – Session Six (Pg. 134-159)
Listen to the Audio version | Reading Time: 6 minutes

When I was in high school, my youth group participated in the 30 Hour Famine to raise awareness and funds for World Vision.  I remember our lock-in was at the Christian Church right down the street from my house.  When we arrived, we were each handed a gallon jug of water and told to fill it often.

Throughout the night we played many games of carpet ball, four square, and even did a bit of worship karaoke in the sanctuary.  But we also learned about the number of children who go to bed every night with an empty stomach and the percentage of people worldwide that die of starvation.  

We also spent some time talking about the passage, Micah 6:8,

โ€œNo, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.โ€
Micah 6:8, NLT

Now many years later, every time I hear this verse, I still think of my growling stomach.

Through the years, Iโ€™ve come to learn about the importance of studying Biblical context and am thankful to have taken the time to look into the original language of this verse, and to dig deeper into the context of the full chapter.  I now see there is much more depth to be found; even more than the amount of water that filled my belly that night long ago.

To โ€œdo what is rightโ€ is the transliteration of the word mishpat in Hebrew, which is often translated as justice, in the sense that we are to treat others fairly, and not to manipulate or oppress them in any way.  While the act of โ€œloving mercyโ€ is the transliteration of the word hesed in Hebrew, which is an undeserved loyalty, defining quality of Godโ€™s character, and of which we are called to act in the same manner.  

My NLT Illustrated Study Bible says in the footnotes about this passage that,

โ€œmishpat and hesed are incompatible with human arrogance.  God desires us to be in an ongoing intimate relationship with him (a โ€œwalkโ€: Duet. 28:9; Josh 22:5) that transforms the way we relate to other people.โ€

NLT Illustrated study Bible, Pg. 1581

I cannot find a more fitting statement for what we find in the book of Acts.

Bound Together in Prayer & Fasting

In the book of Matthew, the most Jewish of the four Gospels, in chapter six specifically, he tells of the three pillars of Judaism: giving (6:2-4), prayer (6:5-6), and fasting (6:16-18).

Why does Jesus highlight these three practices of worship in His famous Sermon on the Mount?  For one, to remind us that our acts of worship and service are not to glorify ourselves, but God; to serve Him and others.

Isaiah 58:6-8, NLT says,
โ€œNo, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

โ€œThen your salvation will come like the dawn,
And your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
And the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.โ€โ€œTrue fasting creates an awareness of injustice and oppression and prompts the practitioner to reach out to help the needy in their struggles (see
Isaiah 42:7; Matt 25:35-36; Jas 1:27).  (NLT Illustrated Study Bible, pg. ????)

The book of Acts talks about the birth of the mission of the Church, to go forward in unity, bringing together man, woman, race, and creed, for one purpose, to glorify the Lord through living like Christ, in a kingdom of togetherness.

One of the best ways for us to unite is to empty ourselves of self and fill our tanks with the love, grace, and compassion of Christ.

Jesus even taught His disciples to pray by saying, โ€œOur Fatherโ€ in the Lordโ€™s Prayer.  The opening alone displays unity, as family and as children of God.  There are no qualifiers to pray this prayer, just belief.

The God of Compassion and Comfort

Kristi McLelland shares in session 6 of The Gospel on the Ground,

โ€œWe often think of compassion as an emotion.  We think of it in terms of how we feel toward someone who is hurting, struggling, grappling, or grieving.  Compassion as an emotion is a beautiful thing and much needed in the world.  But biblical compassionโ€“ the compassion of the living Godโ€“ is more of a location than just emotion.  Itโ€™s about where you locate yourself in relation to someone who is hurting.  The word compassion is a fusion of two Greek words: com meaning with and pathos meaning suffering.โ€

kristi mclelland, Pg. 153-154 of “the gospel on the ground”

One thing I have always found so incredible about the New Testament is how the apostle Paul wrote to his audience through letters to various churches. Some of those people he had spent a great deal of time working with, getting to know, and discipling, but others he had only heard about, yet he spoke to all of them with the same tenderness that youโ€™d speak to your best friend. 

Paul, in many ways, was a great helper to the early churches, by reminding them not to lose heart when they faced opposition or hard times. He provided encouragement, guidance, and correction, but he did it all out of great love for God and his brothers and sisters in Christ. I love the way The Message translation shares the second letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

โ€œAll praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!  Father of all mercy!  God of all healing counsel!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.  We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort โ€“ we get the full measure of that, too.โ€ 
2 Corinthians 1:3-5, MSG

What I love most about this passage is that it talks about our intimate relationship with God even in the midst of the most devastating trials. 

God comes alongside us, walking step-by-step beside us, facing each wave of emotion, crying each tear, and screaming at each injustice, just as we do. He walks through the muck with us, knee-deep and miserable, but He never leaves our side. 

And as fantastic as that is, He does something greater. He takes our pain and uses it as a gift for others. 

Your pain serves a greater purpose than tearing you down. When you share your experiences and the lessons youโ€™ve learned with others, it offers them hope, comfort, and strength to keep going. And together youโ€™ll come out stronger.  

โ€œLife comes at us hard and fast at times.  Pain, hurt, and struggle are part of life in this broken yet being redeemed world.  The promise of Godโ€™s compassionate presence with us in this world funds our hope.  There are many things we donโ€™t know, but we know thisโ€“we are not alone.  And we know thisโ€“God comes close, to locate Himself with us in our pain.โ€

kristi mclelland, Pg. 154 of “the gospel on the ground”

In the garden, God said, โ€œLet us make mankind in our image, in our likenessโ€ฆโ€ (Genesis 1:26, NIV).  We were made for community and togetherness, with God and with one another.  It is central to who we are as humans and as believers.

So I set this challenge before you for this week, my friend:

  1. Seek out time in Godโ€™s presence.  And if your calendar looks too full, ask Him to help you find the time necessary to truly show up and be present.
  2. Surrender to Him the broken and hurting places of you, so you can receive the filling of your cup that only He can offer.  
  3. Then take that filled-to-the-brim and overflowing cup of yours and offer the abundance, the overflow of His love and grace to someone in your life that needs it.

As Kristi reminds us,

โ€œYou canโ€™t give what you donโ€™t have.  We need intentional times of being in the presence of the living God to inherit His compassion and comfort.  We emerge from it as ambassadors funded and fueled and ready to share it with others.โ€

kristi mclelland, Pg. 155 of “the gospel on the ground”

1. God desires an intimate relationship with us, that transforms our relationship with others.
2. The types of worship that are central to Judaism and why Jesus included them in His Sermon on the Mount.
3. God does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves during hard times. He walks with us.
4. Compassion is more than an emotion, but is an act of mercy and love that opens doors to healing.

Can you think of a season of your life when you felt the Lordโ€™s compassionโ€“Him being with you in your pain?  How have you been able to take those lessons and share them with others as you extend the gift of compassion and grace?

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The Gospel on the Ground | Kristi McLelland

A 7-week study unpacking the life of the early church in the book of Acts to see that the kingdom of God is always on the move, always looking outward to bring meaning and joy to a world searching for true fulfillment and hope.

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