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March 2019

FASTING: MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER BEEN TAUGHT HOW OR WHY TO FAST

By Feature Articles

Many Christians practice fasting during Lent.  As Lent is now upon us, some theologians are drawing attention to the fact that the practice of fasting might be waning because many Christians have never been taught why it’s necessary or even how to do it.  But it’s undoubtedly biblical and its importance has not disappeared just because fewer Christians now practice it, they say.  Fasting is completely out of step with the way the West approaches Christianity (and religion as a whole), and, because the world has so penetrated the church, this may well be the primary reason why fasting is so unfamiliar to Western Christians in the 21st century.

Guy M Richard, assistant professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, in a piece published in the November 2018 edition of Tabletalk magazine said “We need to remember that Jesus is not interested in Christians’ simply going through the motions.  He is not looking for mere rote performance of fasting, any more than He would be looking for mere rote performance of giving or praying or anything else,” Richard added. Fasting is a “game-changer,” and that is because it’s a form of unbroken intercession, says author Jennifer Eivaz, in her book Glory Carriers: How to Host His Presence Every Day, which was recently released.

“When Jesus spoke to His disciples and He asked them some questions in connection to the Lord’s prayer, He didn’t just ask them questions, He made some very clear statements.  And He said ‘when’ you pray, and then He said, ‘when’ you fast,” Eivaz explained.  That language is clear, she noted, as it’s understood that prayer and fasting are essential disciplines for followers of Christ. “When you are fasting, and that is in connection with prayer, too many people don’t realize that you are making your own physical body a sacrifice and when you do that you are literally in a continuous prayer.

“Just because you may not be verbalizing something in the moment, that act alone is a continuous prayer,” Eivaz, who pastors at Harvest Christian Centre in California, explained.  Imagine the power of fasting for an entire day, she continued.  That is 24 hours of straight prayer.  Such discipline yields breakthroughs and answered prayer on much higher levels than when people pray ordinarily.  Eivaz believes that many Christians, especially those who do not fast, have simply never had solid teaching on it and leaders have not called people to fast.  Meanwhile, Scripture is replete with examples of prophets, speaking for God, both calling people to and teaching them how to do it.

Pastors and lay leaders should revisit this whole concept and its accompanying spirituality, the author urged, particularly given what Jesus says in Mark 9:29, speaking of a demonically tormented boy.  Mark 9:29 reads: “He told them, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.'” “So if there’s someone with a spiritual oppression and you can’t break it, well, fast and pray and then you will break it,” she said.  “We’ve lost contact with some of the spiritual dimensions of fasting.  We’ve become more flesh-oriented, entertainment-oriented, and we’ve neglected the spiritual realm.”

When dealing with distinctly spiritual forces, both good and evil, how can people not practice it if they care about the advance of God’s Kingdom, Eivaz asked, “because you will deal with things that require fasting.” God honours a Christian who fasts to seek His will and pray for breakthrough and will also do so in communities who fast together.  When people mix their prayers with fasting it brings speed to answered prayer, she said, citing Isaiah 58:8.  When fasting is done as God prescribes, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

While the Bible shows there are different kinds of fasts, the prophet Daniel fasted choice meat and wine, for example, they all centre around going without food, Eivaz said. “In a lot of Christian circles they are having negativity fasts or maybe they’ll turn off their phones for a season.  I think all of that is helpful, but it’s not a biblical fast,” she said. “Me, having the body type that I have where my blood sugar just goes nuts [if I don’t eat], I train my body to fast one hour at a time.  I just added an hour just to stretch myself.  You have to work with what you have and the Lord honours that.”

Donald Whitney, a professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, concurs.  “Fasting appears in the Bible more often than something as important as baptism,” he said, “by my count, fasting is mentioned about 77 times versus 75 times for baptism.”  People are not going to do what they have not been taught to do, he said, echoing Eivaz.  “It’s hard to be an advocate for something from the pulpit you’re not doing,”

Whitney said. “It’s hard to get up to urge people to fast if you’re not fasting.  The same is true for family worship or any other practice.”

He explained there are many purposes to fasting, but the most common one is to strengthen prayer.  For fasting to be done right, there must be a biblical purpose, he emphasized.  If not done with such a purpose, it will only be something to endure.  “It’s not the church’s idea, it’s God’s idea,” he stressed, adding that “we don’t manipulate God by doing it and we don’t gain anything necessarily by doing it.” “If, when you get hungry and your stomach growls and your head aches and you say, ‘Man, I’m hungry,’ and your next thought is ‘Oh, that’s right, I’m fasting today,’ and then your next thought is ‘How long until this is over?’ you’re doing it wrong.”

For it to be done right the thought that should follow the hunger pangs and remembrance that one is fasting is, for example, remembering to pray for one’s spouse or for someone’s conversion. “Your hunger serves your larger purpose,” Whitney reiterated, “and without that it is just something to be endured and we think that we are impressing God by making ourselves suffer and somehow that earns us points.  That’s just a works-based, not Gospel-based view of fasting.  And that’s probably the most common mistake by those who do fast.” He regards the practice as so important that he requires his students to fast twice per semester.

He doesn’t rigidly enforce as he always has pregnant or diabetic students who will endanger their health if they do not eat. “We want to make sure that we always cover our bases in saying that we never want to ask people to do anything that would cause them or an unborn child any kind of harm.” “But I have found that where there is a will there is way,” he said, noting there are ways to give up food in order to still feel the hunger and a sense of lack that inclines them to pray while simultaneously maintaining a nutritional intake that will enable them to function.  Whitney is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which explores the purpose of fasting.

Source: Christian Post

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ARE AUSTRALIAN HOSPITALS HELPING OR HINDERING GENDER DYSPHORIC CHILDREN

By Australian Newsletter

9news.com.au has reported on the dramatic increase in the number of children seeking transgender treatment in Australia.   They say, “according to The Royal Children’s Hospital, 1.2 per cent of the adolescent population identify as transgender with children as young as three expressing concerns about their biological sex.”  The increase is not limited to one hospital.

“Figures exclusively provided to 9news.com.au show that at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, there was 54 new referrals last year compared to one patient in 2013.”  They also say, “The average age of children referred to the hospital is 12.”

There is a great deal of debate about the cause of such a dramatic spike.

This is happening in many western nations.  Some say it is about more awareness and acceptance.  Others say it is the result of a social contagion.

Not enough credible studies have been conducted to be conclusive.

Spokeswoman for Binary, Kirralie Smith, is concerned about the alarming increase in the number of children seeking medical intervention.  The 9news report stated, “Research shows that 96% of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria have continued to identify as gender diverse and no patient who commenced stage 2 treatment has wanted to transition back to their birth sex.”

Smith responded by saying, “that is consistent with many other statistics from around the world.  What they failed to mention is that if children do not undergo any intervention, up to 90% of children will desist.  In other words, if you allow kids to naturally develop, they will grow out of the dysphoria and live their adult lives according to their biological gender.”

Smith also noted, “Medical intervention has proven only to reinforce the dysphoria.  Not enough studies have been conducted on side effects of the medications and surgeries, but one thing we know for sure is infertility or sterilisation is one permanent effect.”

Source: Binery

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QUEENSLAND INTRODUCE GENDER THEORY IN SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY COURSE

By Australian Newsletter

A new ATAR psychology course on offer for Queensland year 11 and 12 students seeks to embed gender theory into school curriculum once more.  “Including gender theory in school curriculum does no good for children,” commented Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director Martyn Iles.  “It harms kids by causing them to question their identity and can sow uncertainty during an already vulnerable stage of life.” “Across the country, we are already seeing a dramatic increase in the number of children struggling with gender identity and wanting to transition, this kind of addition to the QLD curriculum is the last thing kids need.”

“Gender theory often purposely omits the reasons for gender dysphoria which includes the tragedy of sexual abuse.  Teaching gender theory potentially puts kids on a pathway of hormones and irreversible reassignment surgery,”

warned Mr Iles. “The reality is that tens of thousands of people across the globe regret mutilating their bodies.  We know that without medical intervention 80-90% of children revert to their natal sex through puberty, a process which is now being prevented by puberty blockers.   Embedding gender theory into year 11 and 12 school subjects is a retrograde step which is anti-science and pro-ideology.”

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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TOWNSVILLE – GOD IN THE FLOOD

By Australian Newsletter

On the 27th January it started to rain.   A typical summer monsoon bringing much needed rain to the city.  12 months ago the dam was 14 % and the Council was pumping water from the Burdekin at a cost of $150,000 a day.  It continued to rain and by Wednesday 30th January the dam was at 100%.  Bluewater creek had flooded wiping out houses and property.  On Friday (1st February) all schools were closed.  The dam reached 200%. On Sunday (3rd February), most Churches were abandoned.  Evacuation texts came through encouraging people to get out and move to higher ground as the Ross River Dam flood gates were going to be fully opened.

Monday (4th February) we woke to the devastation that had occurred.  100’s of homes and businesses flooded.  1000’s of people had been evacuated by police, SES and the army.  Townville was in crisis and declared a catastrophic situation.  On Friday the 8th February the rain stopped.  Many areas of Townville had over 1,500mls of rain (60 inches for those that remember the old scale).  It was time for the Church to shine and God to reveal himself.  Amazing stories of care and love flooded the airways, the radio, TV, Facebook and the paper.  People caring for people; random acts of kindness; heroic stories; incredible generosity; and at that stage, not a life lost.

The Church leaders of the city were called together and began to strategize how to meet the needs before us.  Each Church began to take on a different role.

  • Rev Bruce Cornish (Townsville City Central Mission) was appointed Liaison person on the relevant committee of the local disaster management board;
  • Willow’s Presbyterian ran a children’s programme because schools were closed and kids were going ‘stir crazy’;
  • North reach Baptist established a Facebook page and mobilized there young adults in the clean-up.  They also took on a role in coordinating accommodation for those who had nowhere to live;
  • Salvation Army provided food at the evacuation centres;
  • Calvary Church provided hot meals for people with no power and no homes;
  • Aitkenvale Uniting ran an information night;
  • Northreach Baptist started collecting donations of clothing etc;
  • Samaritan’s Purse came into the city and provided training and set up teams with local Church folk to help in the clean-up;
  • YWAM with the Combined Churches, Council, SES and other Christian organizations established ‘team Townsville’, whatever it takes.  This was a programme to visit every affected house in every affected suburb and ask “How are you going?”  And then to direct appropriate resources as required; and
  • The intercessors prayed.  What a great opportunity the Church of Townsville has had to love the people of this city.   It truly has been a chance for the Church to shine and the character of God to be revealed.  Please pray for us in the coming weeks and months.  Pastor David Frewin Lord asks us to give thanks that the Church, the community and businesses have really stepped up to be good neighbours!  Please also pray for people:
  • Who have lost everything, many without insurance;
  • Who now have no permanent accommodation;
  • Who have lost their businesses;
  • Who’s businesses are impacted by having either no insurance, or rejected insurance claims;
  • Who have lost their jobs;
  • Who have health problems resulting from the floods; and
  • Whose children have to go to different schools.

Pray for God opportunities:

  • for the combined churches and their relationship with the local government councillors including the mayor;
  • for Samaritans Purse chaplains with local teams who are visiting flood victims and offering care, support and prayer;
  • for the council which has initiated with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) coordinating “Well-being teams” (Team Townsville) to visit houses impacted by floods to make sure physical & mental needs are being met;
  • for the many groups including Church groups who are sending teams to physically help with the clean-up; and
  • for Churches and Christians involved in ongoing care.

Long term prayer is required:

  • for people with Post Traumatic Stress;
  • to pray against a potential rise in domestic violence (common after disasters); and
  • to pray also against suicides (common after losses from disasters).

Pray for Western Queensland as the devastation on properties is unfolding and much prayer is still required.

Source: Article written by Rev Anne Harley – a Townsville Pastor

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SYDNEY CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP SAYS DON’T BE QUICK TO JUDGE GEORGE PELL VERDICT

By Australian Newsletter

Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher has told Catholic worshippers not to be “too quick to judge” in relation to Cardinal George Pell’s conviction over child sexual abuse.  “As the Cardinal’s matter is ongoing in the courts I cannot comment on the substance,” he said at solemn mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.  “Others have done so, and some have raised serious questions for the court to examine.  If we are too quick to judge we can end up joining the demonisers or the apologists, those baying for blood or those in denial.  Our readings remind us that things are not always what they seem; that we must look beneath the surface and allow truth and justice to unfold in God’s time.”

In remarks before his Sunday homily, Archbishop Fisher urged people “not to draw final conclusions until the appeal judges have had their chance to review this matter.  Amidst the heated emotions of the present I also pray for public calm and civility.”  He said many were feeling disheartened and uncertain how to go on believing, worshipping, living the Christian Gospel; indeed, some are not even sure they want to.  We should not be afraid to place our bewilderment and anger before God.  As he awaits the conclusion of his legal process, the Cardinal is offering his time to pray for all innocents who suffer; we faithful can do likewise with the shame and sorrow we are feeling.”

Archbishop Fisher said he prayed for the Catholic church to “emerge from present trials purified, humbled, more compassionate.”  If it was to recover from “this dark chapter” then “only a deep spiritual and moral conversion of hearts, cultures and institutions will suffice”.  He expressed sorrow for the suffering of victims of abuse within the church.  “Let me assure you I feel your shock and pain, and the Catholic community with you” he told the packed congregation.  “We are all shaken by reports about the shameful actions or inactions of church people towards children and the vulnerable’.

The Archbishop’s comments on the Pell case had a mixed response among attendees.  One worshipper said Archbishop Fisher was being “very diplomatic” by asking people not to judge too quickly, but this “could be misconstrued.  People are going to say, well maybe he knows something that we don’t.  But at the same time, what else does he say?”  Another attendee said the focus of the homily should have been more clearly on victims and that it was “probably better if mention of Pell at this point was ignored.  It was not the right time to speak like that.”

However another woman said she felt Archbishop Fisher had struck the right balance.  She had travelled from outer Sydney to hear him speak and was “pleased” to hear it so openly addressed.  Archbishop Fisher’s comments during Sunday mass come after other high profile Australians defended Pell following the revelation of his conviction earlier in the week.  Former Prime Minister John Howard provided a character reference for Pell, while former Prime Minister Tony Abbott rang the disgraced Catholic on Tuesday after the suppression over the cardinal’s guilty verdict was lifted.

Mr Abbott said friends of the cardinal, including himself, were devastated by the result.  “Certainly for the friends of Cardinal Pell, and as you say I am one, devastating for all who believe in the Catholic church, and I’m also one of those,” he told 2GB radio. Pell was found guilty of five charges of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in December 1996, after Sunday mass.  He also attacked one of the boys early in 1997. Pell, who was the Archbishop of Melbourne at the time, maintains he is innocent.

The current Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Conemsoli also addressed the shock of the Pell revelations on Sunday, at St Patrick’s Cathedral.  “The soul of our Church has been grievously wounded from the evil of sexual abuse” he said.  “It feels like we have reached Golgotha, where the smell of death is thick in the air and the sense of panic and confusion is pervasive”.  He said the church had to focus now on “actions that are transfiguring.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports 

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FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE FOR DOCTORS IMPORTANT IN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REFORMS

By Australian Newsletter

New research by Professor Louise Keogh at the University of Melbourne has revealed a small minority of doctors are going against the state abortion legislation by not complying with the requirement to actively refer women seeking abortions to willing practitioners.  It has long been known that there are doctors who conscientiously object to abortion, often on faith grounds.  “The fact that it is illegal for a doctor to protect their conscience in respect of a life and death matter like abortion is a blight on Victorian law,” commented the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) managing director Martyn Iles.

“Nobody should be compelled by the state to violate their conscience.  The mental anguish and long-term guilt caused by violating a person’s conscience constitutes real harm.  That is nothing less than discrimination, especially against people with a faith identity.  What we see under current Victorian legislation is a form of state-sanctioned discrimination against people of faith.  Some simple inclusions by the federal government in the proposed religious discrimination act could end this kind of human rights violation wherever it occurs in Australia,” said Mr Iles.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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