Finishing well in your fast

watermelon

Finish well.

I can’t tell you how many times I ended a fast gorging at a barbecue restaurant, only to be miserable a few hours later. And strangely dull in the days to follow as I went back to “life as usual.” So foolish. If you have been fasting, I dare you to consider finishing well.

Start with the physical: come off the fast slowly. As a general rule, raw fruits and vegetables are the way go for the first day or so. Specifically, here’s where I’ll be going in the next couple days:

  • Watermelon or other easily digestible fruit with a high water content (maybe grapes, honeydew, apples – these are easy to digest).
  • Vegetable soup. Not the canned stuff, and not creamed, it’s easy on the stomach and wonderful.
  • Eggs. Time to get some protein back in the system.
  • Sweet potatoes are supposed to be another winner. Not my favorite but I’m considering it.

But then embrace the spiritual parallel. In the same way you can physically digress by breaking a fast with all the wrong foods, you can emotionally and spiritually digress by re-engaging in a “life as usual” lifestyle. Don’t do it!

I believe the days right after a fast are as deeply important as the time you spent on the fast itself. Did you make some gains in the area of Scripture intake? Maintain the gain. Did you make progress in the area of prayer? Maintain the gain. Did you discover a heightened focus by scaling back on entertainment and social media? Maintain the gain. Did lust lose a little grip on you? Maintain the gain. This is not to say that you never watch a movie again, but it is to say you consider the possibility of a life other than “life as usual.”

Imagine a life of self-control. There’s a fun word.

Don’t let your fast end without some serious chewing on this potent concept. Consider this wild passage:

Make every effort to add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge SELF-CONTROL, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. If these things are yours and abound you won’t be unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

I see so many believers come to God by faith and immediately embrace some degree of virtue. I’ve talked to singles who started believing Jesus and immediately made the decision to stop sleeping together. It’s virtuous. Then they begin to get into the Scriptures and learn the ways of God. They add knowledge. But then I’ll talk to the same guy who can’t shake porn. I have no self-control, he says.  Exactly. It’s time for more spiritual math. Add to your knowledge self-control.

Few disciplines work self-control into a soul like fasting.

If.

If you finish well.

So finish well.

Prepare your heart for the day after. The week after. Maybe you won’t be fasting physical nourishment. But you can embrace the fasting lifestyle. You can fast self-reliance, and boasting, and wasting your life. You really can choose to not live by bread alone … but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Make these next couple days as holy as the last few days.

After all, this isn’t about you anyway. Our great breakthroughs are not the result of how hard we fast and pray and work; we have victory because our King spent 40 days in a desert where He did the ultimate fast, that led to the ultimate life, that took Him to the ultimate death where He fasted life itself. And then He said, It is finished.

With your eyes fixed on Him, go finish well.

Fasting … What for?

fasting-empty-bowl

Fasting. Oh this will be fun.

Defined simply, fasting is the discipline of willingly restricting food for a spiritual purpose. The Hebrew word (tsowm) is graphic: it means “to cover the mouth.” Whenever a fast is mentioned in the Bible it has to do with abstaining from food for a spiritual purpose. It’s not a diet. It’s ruined when you go bragging on Facebook about it. It’s pointless if you don’t turn your gaze toward Jesus. But it is powerful because it frees up time we would have spent eating meals and gives us additional time to expose ourselves to the Word of God and the presence of God in prayer, journaling, solitude, meditation, etc.

We could talk for hours about the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting. In response to a load of questions I’ve received, I’ll drop a few of the thoughts as to the WHY? of fasting as we call our tribe to fast this week.

1. Waiting. You wouldn’t know it by talking to most Christians, but fasting used to be part of the normal Christian life. Somehow it fell off the cool scale and lost its appeal. One thing is clear, a lot of us want instant answers and quick fixes to our problems, and we love the idea of an instant gratification spirituality where we get it our way right away. Fast food faith. Pizza in 30 minutes or less. Instant oatmeal. Instant credit. Our culture has trained us to expect things now. You can call it a lot of things, but you can be sure of this: fasting is a discipline of waiting. Painful waiting. But it has a way of recalibrating the soul out of the rhythms of our culture and into the rhythms of grace.

2. Humility. I often hear people praying for God to humble them, but nowhere does the Bible say that we are to pass the buck on this responsibility. “Humble yourselves” is the constant exhortation of Scripture, yet it often seems unclear how exactly we can “humble ourselves.” Fasting is humbling. In Psalm 35:13 David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” In Ezra 8 the great spiritual leader said “I proclaimed a fast that we might humble ourselves before our God…” (8:21) Don’t miss the connection: that we might humble ourselves. And don’t forget the lesson of biblical history: God always opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Grace. The gift of God. The presence of God. The favor of God. The blessing of God.

3. Power. The end result of the Ezra fast is encouraging: “So we fasted and implored God for this, and He listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:23) II Chronicles 7:14 is the classic promise for those willing to humble themselves: “If my people called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” One more episode. It’s Mark 9 and there’s a dad with a mute son who the disciples tried, but could not heal. Jesus does not say, “Well, it must have been God’s will for this boy to remain bound by the devil. God is in control, and let’s get on with life.” No. He expresses frustration with the lack of faith in the situation and proceeds to heal and deliver the boy. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t do it, He gives the timeless invitation: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Apparently fasting is like a catalyst to your faith.

I dare you to do it.

Set aside these days. Don’t eat. Spend extra time feasting on the Scriptures. Chew on it. Pray.

Final thought. Don’t expect to “feel” the results of your fast at first. Fasting has a way of weaning you off the world and all things natural. Children rarely understand the blessing of being weaned while they’re being weaned. But I thank God I do not still run to my mother’s breast when I need a drink of milk. Just as your body detoxes while you fast, there are spiritual toxins coming out while you replace lower providers with the deeper provision of the Word of God and prayer. It will hurt. Your head might ache. Your stomach will revolt. Press on, because God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

…….

Click here for more info on fasting from Bill Bright, the Yoda of fasting.

For anybody interested in the Daniel fast  Click here to check out the Daniel Fast Blog.

Fasting is waiting

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Fasting is waiting.

In a world where we’ve been trained to look for quick and convenient solutions, fasting goes against the grain in every possible way. Fasting is about embracing the call to endure the wait.

Ever read the Bible and ask Why? Why did Jesus rise from the dead in Jerusalem, and then tell the disciples to go to Galilee to see Him, only to tell them to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father? Why all the drama? Why all the walking? We know Jesus  said, It’s better that I leave so I can send the Holy Spirit. But why not just ascend and instantly send the promised Spirit? Why send the disciples back to an upper room where they will have to endure another ten days of praying and wondering and waiting? And speaking of ten days, why does’t God tell them how long they will be waiting? Wouldn’t that be easier?

I like fulfillment. I like receiving. And yet in between the promise and the fulfillment, God schedules the wait. But like an impatient child shaking the gifts under a Christmas tree for days leading up to Christmas morning, it’s the wait that drives me nuts. But as hard as it is to swallow, waiting does what nothing else will do. There is something about a God-lover who has nothing but a promise and a commitment to sit in that upper room until the promise comes to pass.

Fasting is where we put our body, our agendas, and our strength on hold because we recognize the wisdom of this truth: My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness. Few things put you in touch with your weakness like a season of fasting. And waiting.

Listen to truth: Those who wait for Me will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 49:23)  No eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 64:4) Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40:31)

Waiting is worth it.

When you’re in that upper room, all you have is a promise. A word. But you will receive power. You will receive strength. Because man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God. People go into the upper room one way, and they come out another, because it’s in the wait that we let patience have it’s full effect, that we may be complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

I dare you to join us in fasting this week as we seek the heart of God. Eyes on Jesus. Compelled by grace. But confident that this God keeps his promises.

I hope to see you in our prayer meetings next week.

A new year’s prayer

Here is my prayer for our movement on this first day of the year:

Your face O Lord we will seek.

Our deepest desire is not family or ministry or growth or mission or community.  We want You. Whatever we do, may it be the result of this experiment: What happens when communities of Jesus-followers set apart their lives to seeking the face of the living God? The outgrowth of that, then, is to seek the lost, the least, and a true expression of Church. But this is our ultimate dream: to engage in lives and mission defined by their pursuit of You Yourself, so that it is so very clear that you are glorious. This is first. You are our first love. And it is precisely our first love which orders all the others.

So we pray for harvest, innovation, leadership, health, provision, protection, creativity, unity, boldness, resources, gifts of the Spirit, empowered communication, incredible times of worship, amazing Bible studies, divine appointments, expanded vision, physical strength, open doors, great management…

But what we most want is You.

To know You. To be found in You. To do what we do – not out of an achiever need to accomplish, not out of an American need to compete, not because it’s what everybody else is doing – or because nobody else has done it yet … We long for a movement characterized by You. Not just business principles, hard work, ingenuity, and natural talent.  We don’t need another good church.  Or another missional movement.  Or another group of natural Christians. We seek You. This is our life.

Save us from the nonsense of “doing our devotions” or some sort of minimum requirement approach to seeking You.  Jesus, our whole lives are Yours and we set them apart to seek Your heart. Remind us who we are.

The promises are magnificent. Our call gets rediscovered while in pursuit.  Vision becomes  sharp in the secret place.  Mission comes alive when our hearts are set on seeking. Leadership goes deep when the leader brings direction birthed from burning in Your presence. Words have authority when the tongue has been silenced in a time of listening. Hope is rekindled, faith is stirred, peace is obtained, promises are embraced, fears are stilled, opposition is exposed. The evidence is astounding: those who make the sacrifice of seeking You inherit promises. May this be a year when we become “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12)

This is central to our call:  to make people thirsty enough to drink living water and mobilize them once they’ve drunk. For the unregenerate we call this evangelism. But there is another form of evangelism needed for the believer. We get lost too. We fall asleep. We grow dry. We lose our way. We wander from our first love. But this we know: when we seek You we come back to life.

Let there be life.

In the name of Jesus.