Why Fasting?

Why Fasting?

God uses fasts to increase our hunger to spend time with Jesus, to give us more time to spend in prayer, and to remind us that this world and its desires are passing away. I find at the completion of these fasts I am often more focused on God's kingdom and more filled with God's power simply because I have been spending more time with him!

Many heroes of the faith fasted including Moses, Elijah, Esther, and Jesus.  We follow their example!  Jesus expected his followers to fast knowing how good it would be for them, "They will fast in that day." (Mark 2:20)

Our fasting symbolizes are longing for God's kingdom to come on earth  and for Jesus' return.  It is a prophetic statement, "This world/food is not what satisfies it is you and your kingdom, Jesus." It reminds us we are living in the times between Christ's first appearance and the time he will return to finish the renewal of all things.

In Acts 13, we see the early church praying and fasting.  In fact, it was a key to their success in seeing kingdom expansion.  Paul and Barnabas were called to to church plant across the Roman world in a time of prayer and fasting. As we model their lifestyle, we will see similar breakthroughs.

What Does a Fast Look Like?
First, please remember that if you have certain health issues a change in diet or a fast can be medically dangerous and should be avoided. As always, remember to drink lots of water especially when fasting.

Fasting works best if you replace the meal(s) or activity you are skipping with times of prayer, mediating on scripture, and worship.  Otherwise, it becomes a mere physical ritual instead of life-giving experience in which you are learning to transform your physical hunger into a hunger for God.  The Spirit will help us in our weakness - Romans 8:26!

A Fast
The phrase "fasting" in our context is typically used to mean fasting from all foods for a meal, day, week, etc.

A Water Fast
A water or juice fast involves abstaining from all substances EXCEPT water or juice. This typically should last for no more than 3-10 days.

A Daniel Fast
The idea of a "Daniel fast" is found in Daniel Chapter 1 where Daniel and his friends refuse to eat the king's fine food and instead embrace a diet of vegetables during their time of training in Babylon. A "Daniel fast" for me consists of not eating any meats or sweats or fine foods (define that however you want :). I generally eat fruits, vegetables, some breads, beans, rice, and grains. Some keep a stricter diet than that. I have used a "Daniel Fast" for when I am doing fasts of more than 2-3 days.

A Media Fast
A media fast can involve abstaining from some type of daily entertainment - such as Facebook, tv/movies, internet, video games, etc. - for an extended period of time. I have found these to be very helpful for me when I have done them.

In fasting it is not the diet that matters, it is a heart that wants more of God and less of the world. Prayerfully, consider fasting and praying corporately with other members of our church. It changes us and the world around us.

America Has A Fundamental Problem

When will we realize it?

 

Tragedies like the shooting being relayed to us today in which as of 1:25PM 58 people had been killed and over 500 had been injured are devastating.  For all those who lost loved ones, their lives will never be the same.  My heart goes out to them and all others affected.  It is a time for mourning and grieving.

It is also a time for deep reflection.  The news cycle will move on the, the number of Facebook posts asking us to pray for Las Vegas will decrease, and we will again grow numb due the comfort of modern living to the pain and horror of what happened.

I fear this reality.  Why?  I believe America has a fundamental problem.

 

I believe it lies deep at the heart of America’s origins, and it has reared its ugly head throughout our short history.  It is a problem that has refused to heed the cautionary warnings of a Rabbi many years ago who said, “Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

It is worth stating here before we consider further that I am in no way ascribing (and neither was the Teacher) individual blame to the victims of these types of heinous shootings.

Instead, I am asking us to reflect more deeply on the condition of our own hearts and on the history of our nation.

 

The United States was founded through an armed up rising resulting in a revolutionary war.  It expanded its borders through more wars fought against England, Mexico, and Native Americans.  It eradicated slavery at the cost of a civil war that claimed 620,000 lives. In modern times, it has participated in two world wars and initiated and maintained military conflicts in the Vietnam and Middle East (ongoing).

I would imagine most of these conflicts were seen by the majority of Americans at the time as justified (and surely some may have been to some extent).  America seems to have always been willing to stand up for itself and protect itself against perceived threats both domestically and abroad.  The question is at what cost?

What are the results of a human heart being discipled by an ethos that asserts one’s fundamental rights to bear arms AND pursue one’s own happiness?  Stop. Think about that one more time. The right to possess violent weaponry and the right to pursue your own property. Then consider this reality - homicide rates in the United States are seven times higher when compared to other high income countries across the globe.[i]

Is any human heart capable of being granted both the ability to kill AND the permission to pursue one’s own life, liberty, and happiness?  It is a dangerous cocktail, and one that those who drink from seem to fail to control.

 

Those that study the scriptures should not be surprised.  The ancient texts state the following:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“From within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery…” (Mark 7:21)

Given the condition of the human heart and reality of these tragedies and the weapons used in them, we may be quick to discern gun control is necessary step.  I personally believe that may well indeed be a measure worth implementing, but the reality is that restraint cannot heal the root of the problem.  It will not deal with the fundamental problem America faces – pride.  

 

Pride is the attitude that says, “I will ascend… I will make myself like the Most High.”[ii]  It is the prideful heart that desires the power to choose one’s own destiny and future, to sip from the dangerous cocktail. 

It wishes to be the creator and pursuer of life rather than the recipient of it.  Pride demands the right to follow its own definition of good (think back to the first garden) and the power to take life for one’s self.  Is it possible we live in a nation that was founded with this desire (knowingly or unknowingly) at the core of its DNA?

With this question in mind, I am left to openly wonder if the rights and privileges American’s demand are compatible with the way Jesus offered.  A way that demands we choose humility over pride, poverty over riches, service over comfort, and grace over our rights. 

A way that welcomes those who mourn and offers them an alternative, swordless kingdom.  A way that opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. A way that promises healing for those that humble themselves and pray and discern their own fundamental problem.

 

Of course, it is easy to say that others need to attend to this process of re-orientation and repentance, that our nation would be better if those on the “other side” were more “enlightened.”  However, we’d be ignoring other warnings from the Rabbi if we did so.

Instead may we heed his warnings, take the time to reflect discernibly on our nation’s past and present, and therefore by God’s grace have the ability to see the true condition of our own hearts. It is this personal reflection and action that may awaken the conscience of a nation to realize its own fundamental problem.

 

[i] http://time.com/4206484/america-violent-death-rate-higher/

[ii] Isaiah 14:14