Day 31 – Fasting Brings Protection

Matthew 4:1-2 — “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”

You thought I forgot about fasting didn’t you? I know the last time we talked about it was day 4, and I’m sure that many of you were probably hoping that it was the last time we would! When we think of athletes facing incredible challenges, they go into training for big matches or tournaments. When they face these challenges they go into strict training, exercising, strength training, studying their opponents — their bodies are machines and what is the fuel for those machines? FOOD!!!

So Jesus, led by the Spirit into the wilderness for his greatest challenge to date — being tempted by, going toe-to-toe with the devil himself! His first move to prepare for this huge encounter…deprive His body of food. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, we know that Jesus is quite literally on the brink of starvation. Physically He is as low as you can get before death occurs. Why would Jesus put Himself in such a “weak” position?

Because our physical bodies cannot help us overcome a spiritual struggle.

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you–they are full of the Spirit and life.” John 6:63

“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Colossians 2:23

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Romans 8:6-7

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:17, 24

Jesus knew that to face Satan and his temptations with His body full of fleshly, worldly strength would be disaster. When our bodies are weakened through the denial of food, or comfort of any kind really (TV, wealth, sex or pornography — yes these can be used to comfort, gossip, entertainment, etc.), then our Spirit begins to have greater power and strength than our flesh. Jesus knew that fasting was a pathway to protection. When he stepped into the arena with Satan, He was physically at His weakest…but Spiritually at His strongest! When we pray, we are engaging in Spiritual warfare, not physical warfare (Ephesians 6:12). If you want greater protection, weaken your flesh that wars against you by fasting. Fasting brings protection.

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that I cannot win a spiritual battle through physical means. Help me to strategically and consistently weaken my flesh in order to obtain protection and power. Lord, I admit that this scares me. I fear that my body will react strongly, I may get sick, or it may hurt me. Help me to seek the aid of physicians who can help me do this correctly and safely. But please don’t let me talk myself out of this important discipline. Maybe forsaking food is too much for me, help me forsake other fleshly appetites that keep me from spiritual success. God I trust You. And I believe that You will help me to apply this appropriately and successfully in my spiritual walk. Thank You for hearing me and helping me. I love You. Amen.

Day 21 – What Do I Want for You? (You Mean There’s More?)

Ephesians 3:17-19 — “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

God also wants us to be filled. Not just filled but filled to “all the fullness of God!” Just as it takes power for Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith, so too it takes power for us to be filled to fullness. But what are we filled with? These verses suggest that we are filled with something that we “grasp” that “surpasses knowledge.”

Have you ever been consumed by a thought? Sure you have…perhaps it is being consumed with sadness or grief, maybe it is being consumed with vengeance or lust, possibly been consumed by fear or doubt, insecurity, greed, desire, joy, happiness…you name it, we can be consumed by our thoughts, by what we “grasp,” understand or know (or think we know). God wants us to be filled with an overriding thought that overwhelms or drowns out all others. What is the thought? — Just how amazing the love of Jesus is. We are “rooted and established” in this love. It is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the greatest chasm, longer than the longest river, and deeper than the lowest depth. There is no where in heaven, in hell, on earth, in the entire universe that Christ’s love does not fill to the fullest! This love surpasses the knowledge of the smartest human being on the planet, it is greater than all of our intellectual ability to perceive…an yet, God’s desire is that a knowledge of this love fills us to all the fullness of God — so there is no other competing thought — only the love of Jesus.

But He doesn’t want us to know this privately. He wants us to know this “together with all the Lord’s holy people.” When we know this by ourselves, this thought is powerful. But when we all know it…it becomes more powerful than any other force in the universe! It can light up communities with a holy glow as love overwhelms hatred, discord and strife. It can work together to accomplish the purposes of love with a power that the natural world cannot fathom. It can change lives, heal wounds, raise the dead to life and renew the world with God’s power and peace. What if we truly knew this thought alone? What if it consumed our minds so that no other emotion or idea could compete in the slightest? What if we were filled to all the fullness of God by the love of Jesus? God wants this for you too.

God I want what You want. I pray what You prayed, that today I would be overwhelmed, consumed, filled to all the fullness that You have for me. May the love of Jesus be my only thought this day and every day as I learn to walk in this amazing power. Father, please don’t let me miss an opportunity to fill others with this thought, not just by my words but also by my actions and in truth. Thank You for this incredible gift of love and thank You for Your desire for me to know it even more and more every day. Help me breathe it, walk it, speak it and remember it even when the storms of life crash against me. Lord I am overwhelmed! Flood my soul with this knowledge and overflow to others with this beautiful peace and love!! How great You are God, how mighty and awesome are Your deeds in all the earth! There is none like You, Lord!! Holy, holy, holy are You God…I praise You and worship You! Hallelujah!! Amen.

Day 4 – The How of Fasting?

Zechariah 7:5,11-13 — “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?…But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

The danger of fasting, and really any mode of physical denial or fleshly restraint, is that it may become the end in and of itself, rather than the means to an end that it was meant to be. The people in Zechariah’s day had engaged in the discipline of fasting for seventy years! But God asks them a cutting question, “Was it really for me?” Sometimes our service to God, our pious activities, or our religious observance can be self-serving more than God honoring and God seeking. In the end, God always knows our hearts, and if we are not listening…neither will He.

The specifics of fasting (as far as the how-to) in the Bible are sparse. While almost every example in the Bible refers to a fast from food (all foods, certain foods, etc.), it would not be out of line to call Sabbath observance a fast from work/activity. The purpose remains the same — mourning, weeping, confession, drawing closer to God.

Therefore, the how of fasting is very open. You can fast from one meal, devoting the time you would have spent eating on reading God’s Word or in prayer. You can fast from certain foods, maybe foods you ordinarily enjoy often (sweets, soda, sweet tea, pizza, burgers, bbq, etc.) You can fast for an entire day or several days in a row (please be sure to consult a physician to ensure you are able to do this). You may fast from certain activities, especially ones that consume much of your time (TV, golf, movies, cell phone, internet, hobbies, etc.)

Only be sure that you do not dilute yourself into thinking that because you forgot to eat, or didn’t have time for a certain activity that you are fasting. Fasting is purposeful and intentional, and therefore focusing your time on God during this denial of food or activity is crucial. Be sure that you are doing it for God.

God please forgive me when I have not engaged in fasting or prayer for the right reasons. I confess that my motives have often been selfish, and my intentions have not always been pure. Please help me engage in the discipline of disciplining my body. Help me to pull down the flesh so that I might be built up in the Spirit. Ultimately God, I want to know You more. Help me remove any distractions, inhibitions, or sin that stands in the way of that. Thank You for Jesus Christ who has paid my sin debt and given me the access to You through His blood. May I never take that lightly. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Day 3 – The How of Prayer?

Luke 11:1-4 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Basically, “Master, how do we pray?” Now that we know the why, the how is the natural next step. Jesus gives them a prayer — we often refer to it as The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is a rudimentary model of how to pray. If Jesus had given this to us in our day, He might have called it a sort of “Idiot’s Guide to Prayer,” or “Prayer for Dummies.” (Jesus may have even done a YouTube how-to video!) This was never meant to be the only way to pray, but simply a guide, a how-to, for children or amateurs. We teach our children, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Not because we wish for them to pray this exact prayer every night for the rest of their lives, but so that they learn to communicate to God in a simple way — they learn to see God as their Father in heaven who wants to hear from them. It is a starting point to communion with God. So, what is the how of prayer? Jesus says:

Remember Who you are talking to. “Our Father in heaven…” God is Holy. He dwells on High, in heaven. But He is also our Father, and a Good Father at that. We can converse with Him. We can ask of Him, we can talk with Him and He loves us.

Remind God that you want what He wants. “Your will be done…” If you really desire for God’s will to be done, then be a part of what He is doing. Before you tell Him what you want, ask Him what He wants. But be prepared for His wants to some times (or many times) be in conflict with your own desires…are you willing to let Him have His way?

Request what you need. “Give us each day…” Some people will tell you at this point to just ask for your needs not your wants. But the Bible teaches us that if we “Take delight in the LORD, then he will give us the desires of our heart.” (Psalm 37:4) If you want what He wants, then ask Him for anything you want! Let God distinguish between your wants and needs and be content with what He provides. God will bring our desires into conformity with His — in His time.

Reveal your sin and Release others from theirs. “Forgive us our sins…” This may seem hard on the surface, to expose our sins to God. However, upon closer inspection, it is really quite simple — God already sees and knows about our sin! We are really just agreeing with Him that our sin is wrong and promising to turn away from wrong doing. But, because God does not hold our sin against us, then neither can we hold others’ sins against them. We model God’s forgiveness, and in so doing, we become a true testimony of His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Repeat your requests until God says otherwise. “Ask…Seek…Knock…” (vv. 9-10) Ever meet someone for the first time and find it hard to converse? Conversation didn’t come easy or natural, it seemed forced and a little stiff. Then with time you became friends, because of persistence and deeper communication. Don’t give up just because you don’t get the answer you wanted…persist in prayer. Keep praying until it becomes like breathing…second nature, you don’t even think about it, it just happens naturally. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Revel in your status. “Suppose you have a friend…” (v.8) As God’s beloved, a friend of God and a child of the King the Jesus says we can come to the Father with “shameless audacity.” (Luke 11:8) When a child bursts into his father’s business meeting disrupting everyone else in the meeting (and everything on the agenda) simply because he can’t wait to tell his dad what he did at school that day…that’s shameless audacity! Your intimate relationship with God should make others blush! “The gall of that child!” “What impertinence!” “Doesn’t he know there are more important matters at hand?” We don’t know and we don’t care! We have to speak to daddy!…and He loves it.

Lastly, don’t forget to be thankful. Thankfulness has its own ability to transform our thoughts off of our circumstances and needs and reminding us of how good God always is. Jesus is still willing to teach us how to pray.

Oh Father! You are God alone, and there is no other like You. I want nothing more than Your will to be done in this world and in my life. Do whatever it takes to conform me to Your will and surrender my own. Forgive me when I fail in this. I confess that I am full of sin and my desires often take place over Yours. I’m sorry when that happens, please help me to allow Your desires to override my own. I have held others responsible for the hurts they have given me. I have kept them in debtors prison for their transgressions..forgive me. Today I will release them with Your help, and help me also to forget the pain and not bring it back to remembrance. Thank You for listening, for hearing, and for answering. But most of all, thank You for being my Daddy and for loving me so well. I love You, Dad. Amen.