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 be saved;” 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 this heart 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 good and 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!
Links & Resources:
Resources on fasting as well as being able to join in the 2013 Fasting Movement with Jentezen Franklin http://www.jentezenfranklin.org/fasting/
The book FASTING by Jentezen Franklin http://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
It was Christmas time 1994, I was wrapping presents alone in the living room of my Uncle and Aunt’s home. My Uncle came in and sat in his big comfy recliner chair. We sat in silence for a couple minutes and then without prelude or transition, he asked the poignant question, “What is God saying to you?”
I felt on the spot.
I felt insecure.
My palms started sweating.
My heart raced and searched and questioned …
My heart knew or felt like it maybe knew what had been stirring on the inside of it.
BUT what if it was just me … my thoughts, not God’s thoughts, how could I be sure that was bouncing around in my mind and heart was actually God?
What if I gave words to it and I seemed foolish …
I was nervous.
I was scared.
In spite of all that jumbled mess inside of me I fumbled out these words,
“I think He is asking me to become accountable to you and Aunt Terri in this certain area of my life. That He wants me to trust Him in this area of my life and He will do something amazing with it …”
I began to cry, because of all the shame associated with what I was putting before him. I was daring to be vulnerable and exposed. I was daring to make purity a priority for the first time ever in my life. I was daring to call it ‘God speaking to me’.
I remember how my Uncle Bob looked at me. His eyes tender and compassionate as he said,
“That is God. You can hear God. That’s something He would say.”
I remember thinking,
“I can hear God.”
I began starting to trust that voice that dared me to believe for greater things for my life when all I had known up until that point was brokenness.
The greatest gift I received early on in my Christian experience is confidence in that God speaks and my ability to hear Him.
His voice has become my compass, my light, my life-line.
God gave me these words for 2013 …
“It’s the year to hear.”
I don’t fully understand it yet. I know He is speaking; we just have to tune in.
I know He has surrounded me with people learning to hear Him. People I KNOW may go on to hear Him even better than myself. Whose destiny when I get a glimpse moves me deeply to push them as far out into God as is my place to do so.
This year I choose to be intentional to incline my life to what God has to say, to dare to hear Him with more abandon and willingness to answer what He is asking of me.
I know that in just writing that, I’m setting myself up. It’s not the first time. I’m NOT afraid, He is always faithful.
So I leave you with this question beginning 2013…
What is God saying to you?
I believe He speaks to you.
I believe YOU are hearing Him.
You believe it, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Having a colorful past before the romance of Jesus, working life out, ‘finding myself in God’ if you will was full of experiencing two steps forward and one step back.
It initially looked like creating emotional havoc in my relationship with my husband before we got married (and let’s be honest after), when things were going well that thing began to stir, that pull toward dysfunctional attachment. That thing in me that in one emotional, angry, pointed, accusational outburst posed the question, … “Will you still love me if, even if, in all my crazy emotionalism I try to destroy this?”
What I was really saying in my self sabotage behavior is, “Everyone I’ve known to love me I have experienced and felt rejection from, so I am going to set you up to see if you will reject me too!”
I would NEVER actually say that.
You would NEVER actually say that.
But our wounded hearts grasp at control when fear is present. When we believe love is to good to be true and ultimately we think we don’t deserve it or really know how to receive it. But golly we know how to receive rejection. So we grasp for the familiar and like that … we self sabotage. Or maybe just I have. In one way or another I’ve done it over and over again. I’m now coming up on 14 years of marriage and I’ve come a long way, really WE have come a long way.
My self sabotage behavior has become more covert in other areas in my life where I have felt loss of control … like, let’s just get crazy honest here, my ability to balance self image, weight and exercise.
I’ve been the pre-adolecent chubby fifth grader who with out thinking dressed up as Miss Piggy for Halloween and never lived it down. I’ve been the rail teenager using drugs as a means to stay thin. I’ve been the girl who ran 5 miles a day when I lived at Teen Challenge not to blow up getting clean. I was the girl in college who was thought to have been thin but had to always work at it. I was the girl who was nearly 200lbs after having her babies and being diagnosed PCOS who struggled and fought and fought to lose it all.
I think I get it.
I’ve known struggle and I’ve struggled to find God and balance in the area of my self image. I’ve held in one hand knowing my body is temple of the Holy Spirit, wanting to be a good steward of myself for the kingdom, my family and myself … while … in the other hand weighing with great heart evaluation that my weight, my workout and physical appearance has little to nothing to do with what beauty looks like or my value or my worth.
God’s scales are NOT our scales for ourselves.
I guard in my heart the place that only belongs to God and who He says I am. He says I am am beautiful. He says I’m an over-comer. He says I am enough … right now just like I am.
Just like I was at 200lbs.
There are many times I am able to anchor peace in my heart from these truths BUT there is something about ‘the holidays’ and ALL the amazing food that rips my anchor from it’s depths. The more I feel that feeling of being out of control the more I begin to self sabotage all the hard work and efforts I’ve put into being healthy.
I give up.
I’ve actually given up a lot of times.
And then I give in to out of control behavior.
This holiday season I decided for the FIRST holidays ever NOT to give up. Which to me translates just keeping up with the days a week I would normally exercise and not let one cupcake or fudge piece or tamale turn into a dozen. Which believe me has been effortless in the past.
I am actually more acquainted with my professional self sabotage skills than NOT giving up.
In making this choice I thought I’d feel free. But instead I was conflicted. What if the way I live out loud my friends would think I was a workout freak or obsessed. What if … what if … I felt rejection and THIS TIME instead of self sabotage-ing, I was just true to myself, and it didn’t matter what anyone else thought (even those who encouraged me), because my approval was from above.
As I asked this question, I felt God smile.
Smile as he traded my professional skills for an extra does of grace not to give up. Permission to be stronger than I thought I was, permission to do things differently than I ever have before.
It’s not all finished this work He has started. I’m still in the oven not fully baked in this area. But today I choose to write honestly from the middle … the very place I sense God in. The only place today I want to be.
Much love to you where ever in the journey you are.