Have you ever been burdened for someone you loved so dearly to come to the saving heart knowledge of Jesus? Have you cried out for healing for yourself or someone close to you? Do you have a financial situation that needs a miracle? Are you desperate to find freedom from anger or depression? Does your marriage need a love intervention? And could it be simply that your prayer and spiritual life need an extreme Jesus makeover? What if you could position yourself in Christ that not only were you praying with your words, but your whole life was praying, every minute of everyday … you were praying? That is what fasting is; your life praying!
I don’t flippantly ask the previous questions hoping to hit the bull’s eye of something you might have been through. I’ve stood eye to eye with the mountains and giants I’ve mentioned above. In this blog I’m no more than a storyteller hoping to infuse faith, encourage hope, while exalting Jesus for what He has taught me and done in my life through fasting. I hope that you find that fasting isn’t just a religious act or merely abstaining from food (that’s called a diet) but that it is the surrendering of your whole self before the Lord. You may start out believing God for one thing and find He not only speaks to that thing, but also does so much more as you open yourself to hearing His voice speak to your whole heart (every area). There is a root system that goes down deep and like new life that springs up it produces fruit and continues to bear fruit through the many seasons of your life.
Shortly after fully surrendering my life to the Lord (I was 19), I spent a year at Teen Challenge (A Jesus centered one year program for recovering drug addicts, as well as other addictions including alcoholism and eating disorders.) It was like fasting my life for a year. I left the life I knew, my family, my friends, to start all over. I checked in for a heart transplant and came out a new person. I left my hometown and had cut off pretty much all of my friends. I asked the Lord for two, if I could carry them in my heart until they knew Him. One was my very best friend from high school. A girl I introduced to drugs. I spent almost three years praying for her before she asked Jesus in her heart. She told me about how she asked Him if He was really real to help her through a terrible break-up and help her start a new life. She had never been in the church and we would talk everyday on the phone as she had new questions about Jesus and the Bible. In the meantime I had left Teen Challenge, done some inter-city evangelism, and gone on to Christ for the Nations bible college where I was going to school at the time this story took place. I remember praying for her and hearing the Holy Spirit say that she needed to get baptized. My friend could be a little rough around the edges and I told the Lord I would stand in the gap and fast, but He would have tell her because I was just plain scared. In my zealousness (being pretty new to fasting myself) I chose to go on a liquid fast for 10 days. I drank water, juice and a pot of coffee a day (coffee is a liquid right? ). I would press in everyday praying for God to speak to her, not really knowing how that would play out, but my heart was eager to see God do His business. On the 9th day of the liquid fast during our morning Chapel time at CFNI I had sharp pains on my right side. I immediately thought my appendix had burst. EMT’s rushed me to the hospital in an ambulance. They questioned me about the last time I had eaten, when I told them I had been fasting the young EMT said to me, “It wasn’t Lent or Ramadan last time I checked …” with a smug look on his face while he determined I probably had an eating disorder. After an hour of excruciating pain the doctor was able to determine that I was passing a kidney stone thanks to all the coffee and creamer I had consumed with the lack of food. I wasn’t exactly smart in my fasting but my heart was fervent before the Lord and He honored my heart. Later that afternoon I was lying in my bed on some nice strong pain medication, when I received a call from my friend. She stopped by to pick something up from a store and when she was returning to her car she got distracted by a new store that was recently opened. She went in and the guy that worked there began showing her a new bible program that looked up any scripture or topic you wanted to research. He said for example lets look up baptism. She left with a print out of all scriptures in the bible on baptism and read in Mark 16:16a, “He who believes and is baptized will besaved;” That’s all it took, she had to be baptized. I wished I hadn’t been so out of it on pain medication so I could have reveled in the moment more with her. The next time I went home to San Diedo, CA I was able to be a part of baptizing her in the ocean. It was a pretty big moment in my walk with God … it energized my faith, as I was able to partner with God in His plan for my dear friend.
Fasting doesn’t always have to be food. It could be what ever has your heart and that giving it up for a period of time is a sacrifice of love. You don’t have to be in a conversation with me long to hear about what I love. For surely out of the abundance of the mouth the heart speaks (Matt. 12:34b). And thisheart speaks of the love of yummy latte’s, latest fashion trends, great movies and reality TV shows centered around dance and singing. Several years ago at Gateway Church (which is my home church) a forty-day fast was called. When I felt the Holy Spirit’s hand on my heart I knew this time it was going to be a great challenge. In this particular fast I felt the gift was giving up shopping, TV, and coffee. Which really breaks down to no shopping for myself at Target (aka home away from home ), no going to the mall with my faithful Venti Starbucks cup in hand, and no American Idol for 40 days. We had a rally to kick off the 40 day fast with a celebration of worship as we put the Lord first that year. I was in the middle of worshiping the Lord as He reminded me of all the times I had asked for healing since I had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which I had been struggling with since I was 23 years old. It had caused us to walk through a painfully frustrating season of dealing with infertility while our friends around us easily conceived. It took us two years to find a doctor who helped us have our babies with the help of infertility medicine. If ever the Pastor or minster would say there was an anointing for healing I was front and center. The disorder had caused increased weight gain and hormonal imbalances and the doctors offered no real hope except for treating the symptoms. The voice of the Lord spoke straight to my heart, “ask again”, my heart “what?” “Ask again to be healed,” He responded. So I did. I poured my heart out before Him for physical healing. I can’t say I felt anything in that moment or walked away from that night feeling changed, but what I do know is that a sonogram five weeks later showed that a baby was conceived three days after that prayer meeting. The miracle of our naturally conceived fourth son followed and forever solidified that we are called to raise husbands. My body miraculously fell into alignment after our baby was born. I could ask why the healing came then and not before, and why we had to walk out our battle with infertility. But I have resolved in my heart that He is goodand His timing is perfect. Who would of thought that the fasting of Target, TV, and a good ole’ cup of Joe would result in the blessing we find in raising our littlest Star, Davis.
Which leads me to my last story and one I’m still very emotional about. This October, while reading the book “The Blood and The Glory,” (by Billie Brim) I stopped to mediate on one of the verses in the book and began to pray in the Spirit desiring for the revelation to go deep. I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me to go back to California and visit my Grandma and Grandpa. I hadn’t been there in at least four years and I knew that they were getting up there in years, but the way He spoke to me … my heart knew there was something more. I went to my husband to see if He was in agreement because it would mean him taking off work to watch our four children and hold down the fort. He agreed it was God’s timing. For three days I grieved like one of them had died and all in the natural was fine. I felt the call to a 21-day fast and this particular time I felt called to a strict Daniel’s fast (veggies, fruit, legumes, and the real Ris doozy, no coffee!). Half way through the fast I began to realize that this isn’t just about my Grandma (who had been a great spiritual example to me) … something is going on with my Grandpa. As I began asking God about it He told me it was the last time I would see him alive. It was kind of hard news and hard to swallow when everything looked fine. I knew I was going to have to ask him (my Grandpa) if he had ever asked Jesus in his heart. He had the fruit of a life change but he had never confessed to anyone in our family that he had received Jesus. He was the quiet type, he was a loving guy, but the quietness always intimated me and like in the story above I had simply been too scared to ask before. So on my trip, after pacing in circles and eating a dozen cookies from the kitchen table, I worked myself up to ask him if we were going to end up in the same place together. I told him I needed to know we were … I told him I needed to know if he had asked Jesus in his heart. He said, “Of course, I’m the one that has to get your Grandma to go to church now.” The questioning ended and the answer settled well in my heart. 28 days after returning from that trip I received the phone call that my Grandpa went to be with Jesus. I could just stand there with the phone in my hand in awe of God. Trembling really, my humanness couldn’t absorb it. Fasting had prepared my heart for a truth that was coming that I didn’t understand. This fast started with God speaking and fasting was the physical act of inclining my ear. The story of my Grandpa is just a facet (but a pretty big one) of what God did on this fast, but also He strengthened my marriage, and stirred up dreams and vision in my heart for myself and my family in the coming year.
I want to clarify that when I talk about God speaking, I am talking of the prophetic speaking of the Holy Spirit straight to the heart of the issues of life. Fasting has a way of quieting the flesh so we can hear clearly the voice and prophetic wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As we follow His guidance He allows us to see the truth about ourselves, our situation, and others. This kind of profound partnership in praying has rocked my world and has yielded the sweetest of rewards.
So here we are, the start of a new year! What are you believing for? Fasting is a great way of inclining your ear to hear what He has in store for you this year as you dedicate it to Him. He wants to tell you what He desires to do in your heart, your family, your finances, your health … you name it. He desires to be the Lord of your life and guide you in His prophetic wisdom.
If you feel called to a fast there are many kinds … only the one the Lord calls you to is best for you. I am attaching links to some additional references to learn more about them. There are also some great 21-day devotionals out there that when coupled with prayer serve as a great encouragement while fasting.
It’s my prayer that these stories encouraged your faith to hope again even against great odds in a God that performs miracles. And One who let’s us be a part, not for His sake, but for ours as we see the fruit that comes from a life that prays!
With the Greatest Love!
Links & Resources:
Gateway Church’s 21-day devotional http://letsgo.gatewaypeople.com/
Resources on fasting as well as being able to join in the 2010 Fasting Movement with Jentezen Franklin http://www.jentezenfranklin.org/fasting/
The book FASTING by Jentezen Franklinhttp://www.jentezenfranklin.org/cart/product.php?p=228&c=425
Types of fasts http://www.jentezenfranklin.org/fasting/typesoffasts.php
Scripture References for Fasting:
Relation to Prayer and Reading of the Word:
Remember: The Holy Spirit is the perfect prayer partner “So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will. We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:27-29 AMP. Version
You can also see this post at: Destiny in Bloom
A poem written from God’s heart to yours … what ever your going through … whatever you’ve been through He longs for you to hear : YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!
On the days when nothing goes right and you feel in the deepest of funks … just stop a moment and incline your ear … Jesus has something to say:
When you’ve been up all night with your newborn. Your hormones are raging … you can’t find the truth. Sleep is fleeting but the tears are coming. Your moments and body don’t feel like your own. He is stopping time … He wants you to hear:
Your feet on the scale, the numbers try to define you, but you’re better than that. He died for you to hear this truth …
You gave your best … but he still left. You feel like the world is watching and judging but they can’t perceive your pain. Open your eyes and see what He has to say:
Holding your stomach … it’s the first kick of the life growing inside you. You wish you could be happier but your just seventeen and your future is unsure. Everyone has their opinions … but you must hear His:
It’s a juggle and a struggle raising children on your own. You question your ability … the heavy weight of responsibility. He is holding out His hand while whispering:
Your not so young and your wondering … why the wait is so long … why hasn’t Mister Right come along. You see friend after friend get married and you begin to question your worth … the question of “why” makes your heart grow numb. Lay that down for moment just hear The Prince say:
You’ve waited and waited till you feel like you can’t wait anymore. You’ve peed on stick after stick in hope of new life. The feeling of longing doesn’t always feel pretty … He opens His arms and in embracing He speaks to your heart:
You’ve been hurt by their lies and gossip has attacked you. You stand under scrutiny and yet you hold your head high. Everything inside feels ugly … close your eyes and listen to your Savior say:
Sometimes you just feel destiny stirring round and round inside you. Dreams being dreamt that are bigger than you. Is it possible … could it be true! Fear of people and fear of the unknown try to grab you, but simply believe what He has told you!
Carrying you always in my heart as we find Him together …
and with GREAT Love,
~ Ris Star
It was Christmas day, 1999. Yuri and I had been married a week shy of one year. We lived in alumni housing at Christ For the Nations where we had met and graduated from Bible College. Our first home was a small one-bedroom apartment with a borrowed kitchen table. We had a floral Victorian wood framed hand-me-down love seat which sat in front of a TV stand bought from Walmart and an old turn dial TV that was also given to us. We were sitting on our love seat opening the last present when I glanced over at the clock to see the time. It was then that I realized our first Christmas had lasted all of 15 minutes. I was fighting back tears and really an all out explosion of disappointment. There we sat two newlyweds from dramatically different pasts. It was kind of like city girl raised with birthday months and holiday extravaganzas meets boy raised on hippy commune in Hawaii running around surfing and exploring the island oblivious of his humble holidays. My very own Tarzan except raised by hippies instead of gorillas, thus the name Yuri Lite Star.
Since I was a little girl as far back as I could remember our family would drive out to meet our extended family in the central valley of California. Christmas day consisted of stockings first thing in the morning. We then started the cooking and grazing on appetizers (usually amazing tamales home-made by someone’s Aunt or Grandma we knew) and then there was the grand feast. Usually around noonish we had “presents time.” We watched movies, had dessert, and were lazy together. Christmas lasted ALL day long, not 15 minutes.
As I sat on our love seat I thought for a moment how special it was our first Christmas together, it held the opportunity of starting something new. I could have been grateful for our love, that God had brought the two of us together to create a beautiful new thing even though it meant that we would also have to work at it. BUT NO, I didn’t pass the content wife test. I instead fell apart in all out drama true to my thespian roots. I’ll never forget the look on my husbands face, I saw two things, first I saw what was like a confused “What the heck … I don’t get you” look coupled with his own set of disappointments mixed with a feeling of a failed Christmas. So there I stood in my first married Christmas … remembering moments where I saw the yellow caution tape showing me my boundaries yet I didn’t head my hearts sound advice and instead was left with a memory stamped and filed: DEATH BY EXPECTATIONS.
Being a idealist all my life, I’ve come to learn through great trial that expectations and disappointment walk hand in hand down a isle of misery for myself and all I drag down the isle with me. I’ve learned on more than oneoccasion that the REAL world doesn’t adhere to “Marissa’s perfect little world” rules. And WOW, get this, neither do God’s plans for me. I am so glad that God has come and shattered my fabricated world and blessed me greater than my own highest hopes for it. He raised the roof so to say! He started with truth, the kind that humbles and sets free at the same time. Though it had the initial sting of correction it came wrapped like a present of great love. Jesus has an amazing way with our hearts … He takes pain and disappointment and turns them into joy and blessings. I’ve learned that participating in idealism and setting unrealistic expectations is actually serving an idol that’s not real and is built on subtle lies of the enemy that are 90 percent truth mixed with good intentions and 10 percent deceptive thinking. When we build castles in the sky we set up others for failure because the plain truth is … people can’t fly. Unmet expectations have only led me to feelings of frustration and pain usually fueled by the voice of the enemy. Which is not the voice of love. Its time to train our hearts to be alert of the voices we entertain and choose Jesus; the voice of love.
It started with a self-sabotaged Christmas and went on to countless birthdays that I tried to hint and pre-manipulate out of fear my husband would somehow forget or not make it “special”. I served the fear that he would not meet my expectations, when really I never let him out of the box to rise to the occasion. It took nine years into my marriage before I let God begin to show me what was at work in my heart. I needed to set my husband free of my expectations and live with a grateful heart letting my supplications be known to God. I also needed to trust God that he would teach my husband how to love me the way I needed to be loved. As long as I had a death grip on him, God couldn’t work. I needed to surrender him and the expectations I had placed on him to God.
Philippians 4:6–7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer andsupplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And in true God style … miracles followed.
It was my thirty third birthday. I had no preconceived ideas leading up to my birthday … No “it’s two weeks until my birthday … it’s one week until my birthday” reminders. To my surprise my husband who was left to think for himself planned not one but two birthday parties for me. The first was a princess birthday party with my four boys, a balloon, and a princess cake with a tiara on top. We had pizza, per my boys request (because that is what is served at all great kid parties right?! wink). They went around and told me what they loved most about me, my favorite being the compliment I received from my four year old about my beautiful eyeballs.
Next he planned a romantic dinner for the two of us at a great Sushi restaurant (and, well I have to tell you I love me some sushi) in Dallas. My best friend from high school who lives in Dallas was invited and showed up at the end of dinner and was like the icing on the cake. It was better than anything I could have planned. It showed me that he knew me and knew what mattered to me. I just hadn’t given him the chance to show me.
Dealing with expectations and the disappointments they bring takes on many different faces. Your situations may look differently than mine did, but the frustration and pain you’ve experienced may feel similar. I challenge you to allow the Holy Spirit to shift your perspective and allow you to see the people and situations in your life in a fresh new way.
So as we are going into the Christmas season amidst a ton of fun but unrealistic portrayals of Christmas, let’s take a few moments and let the people in our lives shine or even give them the freedom to not shine. May we take a moment to think how we can bless the ones we love with a gesture of kindness the way it would bless them, not necessarily us. I believe that’s what love looks like; the perfect outfit of unselfishness with accessories of gratitude; the beauty of the Son that becomes us … which is what Christmas is really all about.
As we walk into the next few weeks leading up to Christmas may we find opportunities to celebrate your life by laying ours down for others, like ultimately you came to do for us. May the gifts we give to you be the love we give to others in our lives. May we offer them the grace to be who they are (only changed by you), extending a love that covers a multitude of faults, and hope that believes the best even in those who don’t always believe the best in us. Be the Lord of our hearts, ever changing us to see and be more like you.
Signed a recovering idealist in the Father’s hands,
You can also see this post at: Destiny in Bloom