Matthew 10:7-8

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"....and when you FAST....."

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them....................................."
"And when you pray you shall not be like the hypocrites....................................."
"Moreover, when you fast, you shall not be like the hypocrites, with  a sad countenance................."

The above are three different topics that Jesus addresses in Matthew 6.  Giving.  Praying.  Fasting.

Which of those three is seldom, if ever, talked about today among Christians or in most churches?  Then, I ask the question why?  You hear often about giving.  It's a given that we are supposed to have a prayer life.  But fasting?  Really?  Yet in that chapter Jesus addresses each issue as if it's a given that His followers would participate in all three.

To be honest with you I never fasted all that much.  Occasionally, maybe, but with great distance between and often I would  lose focus during my day or time of fasting.  That has all changed this year.  Too be honest, many of the thoughts I share with you now are out of a book that I've fallen in love with, but they are thoughts and convictions that I now embrace.

Let me explain as to how this came to be.

Immediately after the New Year, I felt compelled to visit a new church in Madison (where I live in Ohio).  I told my wife and friends that I was only going to check it out and see what it was all about.  I've never left.  There were three things that stood out to me when I visited HOPP (House of Prayer and Praise).  First, I experienced an incredible passion for Jesus coming off the pastor and the people there.  It was very real and the people were sincere in their worship.  There didn't seem to be an urgency to create a certain atmosphere or setting, but that was left up to the Holy Spirit.  There was kind of a pursuit of Christ that I could sense inside the building.  Now, it's hard to explain the second, but I felt like you do when you go back home after being away for a very long time.   I also heard the Lord whisper to me, "This is where I want to use you."  Like we often foolishly do when the Lord speaks, I remember thinking that what I "thought" I heard was only my imagination, because I was enjoying the service so much.  Was I ever mistaken on that.  But the third thing that stood out was when  Pastor Steve held up a book and announced that it was the churches book of the year and that everyone should read it.  It  was a book on FASTING.  How different.  We are in an era where there are church movements embracing what I've come to call a "feel good gospel," where sin is rarely addressed because Jesus loves us so much that He covers over any sin; because we are really royalty in God's eye.  Now I agree with that..................100% and I will often preach that myself.  There is another element though, that seldom gets addressed  and that is that while the previous sentence is true, sin is still sin.  Christ will cover it, but we need to stop the sin, and that part of the message often gets a gentle touch at most.  Because of that people either think they can stay in their sin. or have no knowledge as to how to get out of it.  As a result many miss out on God's best for their lives, or think they have security when they really don't.   So often it's all about what Jesus can do for you.  Seldom is it about what you can do for Jesus.

Anyway, I'm chasing the rabbit down the trail and need to stop.  I'm 50 years old and have been trying to become more and more like Christ, especially with more urgency over the last several years.  Over the last few months, however,  my relationship with God has grown much deeper and it's much more personal.  I told someone recently that I can actually feel God's presence everyday.  That is so hard to explain and it may even be harder for some to understand.  You know that feeling you get when you think someone is watching you?  That's exactly it.  I can feel the Lord and know that His presence is with me.  What has happened?  Why the difference?  FASTING!.  Now some religious spirit will say right about now that you should never tell people that you fast.  Not really true.  We talk about praying.  We talk about giving or tithing.  Why not fasting?  Jesus expected His followers to fast.  It was a part of life.  What Jesus said was that when you fast don't make it obvious.  Don't look sad and miserable.  There are only a few close people that know on which day of the week I fast and I guarantee that I will never let people that I am around everyday see a difference in my character on those days.  I recently told my wife that I actually sometimes get excited the night before I start.


Fasting has made me more aware of God's heart.  I want what God wants.  I know that I will experience more of God.  It's unbelievable how I see the Lord's hand in my day to day life.  I have some pretty amazing testimonies from people that I've prayed for since starting to fast on a regular basis.  The peace I have, even in more difficult moments that arise is indescribable.  On days I fast and even in the days that follow I feel stronger spiritually, not weaker.  I don't worry about wondering if I'm in God's will.  Instead, He seems to make things more clear.

Now why am I telling you this?  To boast?  No and God forbid.  If you've read this blog or known me for very long, you know why.  I desire to encourage you.  If you've been struggling, maybe wondering why God doesn't seem to be involved in your life, or maybe everything just seems to be in a confused state around you: may I encourage you to look more into this lost act of worship.  Fasting will help you stop living with one foot in the ways of the world.   It will change everything.  I am so confident that it will.  My only caution would be if you have a medical condition, then you need to seek the Lord on this, or find some other way to fast other than to give up food.

I could go on and on, but I will close by simply encouraging you to get a copy of the book, "FASTING" by Jentezen Franklin.  This book makes fasting make sense.  Every question you could have on the subject is answered in this book.  If you've thought that there is no need to fast in our era, this book will show differently.  You will understand how we've been missing blessings from God because we've misplaced this act of obedience and worship.  One of the things that  kept me drawn to this book is that it is built around scripture, which is very important to me, especially when I try to discern what is and what is not pure to God.

A lot of the faith heroes fasted.  Moses, Daniel, Ezra, Paul and the Apostles are just a few that come to mind. Great results followed them.  Mostly, I think of Jesus fasting.  If the Son of God felt as though fasting needed to be a part of His life, how much more should it be for me?

Jesus said: When you give ........(charitable deeds)
                   When you pray........
                      When you fast.........

Mark S.