Friday, January 8, 2016

A Call to Fast (...and how YOU CAN do it!)

Fasting has been a part of spiritual disciplines dating back to the times of the Bible. It is a discipline that emphasizes the importance of dependence and reliance upon God. Fasting involves the giving up of something you have grown to rely upon, for a time, and using the pangs of not having "it" to press in, dig deeper, and to hear what God is wanting to speak and to teach.

There are Biblical examples throughout Scripture, including the 3 day fast that Esther and her servants began when preparing to make a decision that would have epic impact upon her & her people. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before calling those who would become disciples and carriers of the MESSAGE that would change the world. Daniel led his peers in a fast, now commonly called the "Daniel Fast," of not eating meats and other foods, showing that they had become stronger and were seen better in the eyes of their leaders as opposed to those who had eaten all that had been prepared and presented.

As a church, we have begun a NEW YEAR and have declared steps of faith that we are taking as a church. I know that many of you are doing the same in your own lives, whether it be marriage, family, jobs, personal economy, or the like. As the year begins, we will be honoring a 4 day period we are calling "ReFOCUS 2016" that will also serve as a CALL TO FASTING. I am encouraging all of us, as a church, and as believers in Jesus, to press in, dig deeper, and hear what God is desiring to speak to us and teach us.

THEREFORE, I wanted to equip you with Scriptures and with ideas on how to fast. Don't let the fear or the intimidation of 4 days, no food, or anything else block you from being involved.

Common Types of Fasting.
Water-only. This fast would call you to abstain from all food for a period of time between the January 10-13. Start on Sunday or wait until Monday, but the idea is that you withhold from your body something that it has survived on. The first day of water only might seem pretty fierce. Drink up. You will need it. You will NOT DIE, though you might feel it in moments. The idea is to keep your mind and heart on Jesus. Turn off the TV. Spend time in prayer. Read the Bible. Be a part of the "ReFOCUS 2016" services that week. By the way, how you prepare for ANY fast will help you to enjoy and to endure.

Modified Daniel Fast. The "Daniel Fast" is often referred to as a vegan-diet, which simply excludes meats and animal product foods. This can be a great challenge to those who are dependent upon eating certain things. Take a look online for recipes that will help you to follow this for the days of the fast.

Juice Fast. Just as it states, drink only juices for the period of the fast. Preferably, choose juices that are not full of chemicals and processed sugars that will cause more of a hunger or not be as beneficial for the  health of your body. Alternate between juice and water. You will receive some calories and taste from the juice, but you will still benefit from the denying your body the fulfillment of food.

Media Fast. Some of you, for health reasons or other concerns, will not be able to, or are not ready to engage in a "food-less" type diet. Choose to "fast" turning on the television, not getting on the internet for reasons other than work-related. Take a break from Facebook, YouTube, other other social media outlets. Let the video game system gather some dust for a few days.

Other Fast. Pray & ask God what it is that you have grown to depend on, other than Him, that He would call you to put down, even for this period, if not indefinitely. Are you a smoker? Put them down during the fast. Are you coffee-caffeine-aholic? Lay it down for the fast. Do you like your beer or glass of wine? Set it aside. Set aside SOMETHING that is like "second nature" to you and use that "loss" as a means to be reconnected and ReFOCUSED on HIM who will be your greater gain!

Scriptures on Fasting.
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV) 16  "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18  so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Isaiah 58:3-7 (NIV) 3  'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6  "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

2 Samuel 12:15-17 (NIV) 15  After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16  David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. 17  The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

Psalm 35:13-14 (NIV) 13  Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, 14  I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.
 Acts 14:23 (NIV) 23  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.