Day 43: “Is This Not the Fast I Will Choose?”

Center Down

Our breath prayer for today:  As you inhale, whisper, “Jesus, You satisfy…” As you exhale, whisper, “…our hungry hearts.” 

Slowly read aloud the following Scripture passage

Watch this scripture come alive on video:  http://b.link/Isaiah58Fasting

“Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell My people what’s wrong with their lives,     face My family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask Me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having Me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and You don’t look our way?

Why do we humble ourselves and You don’t even notice?’

“Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘ fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:     a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace,  free the oppressed, cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on,  and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

(Isaiah 58:1-9, MSG)

For further exploration:

Videos:  http://religions.church/FastingIntroChuck   http://b.link/FeastingFasting (scholarly, 50 min)

Article: http://b.link/WesleyanFasting

Kingdom Prayer

Glorious Father, we thank You for giving us Your peace and joy. Thank Y o u for providing a life of hope, abundance, and destiny.  Thank You for being our strength in times of weakness. You are great and most worthy of praise. You are to be feared above all gods. The earth is Yo urs and everything in it; the world and all its people belong to You. You laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean’s depths.  You are the King of glory; the Lord strong and mighty.  You are the Lord, invincible in battle.  O Lord, You have performed many wonders for us.  Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal.  We are grateful that when we, Your people, call to You for help, You hear and rescue us out of our troubles.

Omniscient Father, You said that You would give rest to all who are weary and heavy burdened. Your yoke is easy and Your burdens are light.  We are supposed to trust in You with all of our hearts and not depend on our own understanding.  We are to seek Your will in all that we do and You will show us which path to take.  You are the God who will bring rest to our souls.  We trust in Your Word and believe that Your Word will be operative in the hearts and souls of those with mental illnesses.  We confess that when they walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive them and stretch forth Your hand and save them. Lord, You have left Your gift of peace of mind with them so their hearts will not be afraid.  Although they may be pressed on every side by troubles, they will not be crushed and broken.  They may feel perplexed, but they will not give up and quit.  They may be hunted down, but You will never abandon them.  They may be knocked down, but they will get up and keep going.  Father, we confess that they will lie down without fear and enjoy pleasant dreams.  They will not be afraid of the threat of disaster or destruction for You are their security.

Loving Father, we ask You to replace their sadness with joy, defeat with victory, and fatigue with praise.  Help those who feel depressed or sad to not focus on their circumstances, but rather focus on Your blessings in their lives.  Remind them to praise You at all times.  Holy Spirit, bring all things to their memory that concern the Father’s plans for their lives. Give them power as they meditate on the Word.  Help them to keep God’s commandments and embrace them in their hearts.  Father, help them not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds through the Word. Holy Spirit, we ask that You strengthen and renew their innermost being.  Prevent the fiery darts of the enemy from consuming them.  Help them to hear Your voice and obey Your will.  Help them to find and surround themselves with Believers who are strong in the Word and in faith who will keep them accountable as they walk through this season.

Find God’s promises concerning peace and begin to declare them over those people who you know are stressed and overburdened by life:

Merciful Father, forgive those in need of mental healing for their sins.  Forgive them for worry and fear.  Forgive them for being anxious.  Forgive them for not being diligent in fasting and praying.  Forgive them for not trusting You at all times.  Lord, forgive me for (list any sins that you have committed). 

Holy Spirit, remind us all of those we need to forgive and help us to be quick to forgive.  As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those I need to forgive.  (Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal names or faces of people that you may need to forgive.  As He reveals them say, “I forgive name of person(s).”  Now, trust the Lord to heal any wounds in your soul caused by unforgiveness.)

Holy Spirit, help us all not to yield to temptation but deliver us from the evil one.

You are the Lord God Almighty!  Let the whole world glorify You, Lord; let it sing Your praises!  You will march forth like a mighty hero.  You will come out like a warrior, full of fury. You will shout Your battle cry and crush all of Your enemies. You alone are worthy to receive glory and honor and power.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Concepts to Consider

Within the Windsor Village Church Family we are not strangers to fasting. We regularly enter into times of reflection, repentance, fasting and prayer in preparation for the celebration of the Biblical feasts, in particular, around Passover and The Day of Atonement.

This week, we are exploring the Christian “best practice” of fasting as a means of spiritual awakening and awareness both personally and corporately. We will seek to answer the question, “How and why should we make fasting a normal part of our Jesus-following way of life for the sake of proclaiming the Kingdom of God?”

So to get started, let’s first define fasting as best we can, and then investigate why it seems to be so important in the Bible.

The English word “fasting” is derived from old Germanic roots that mean “to guard,” “hold firmly” or “to have control over oneself” (see: http://b.link/EtymologyFast).  In the Hebrew Scriptures the word “tzoom” ( צוּם) occurs 20+ times, and the Greek word “nace-TYOO-oh” (νηστεύω) is found in the New Testament  also about 20 times.

If you look at all of these occurrences of “fasting” in the Bible we begin to see that it generally means to “abstain from food (and sometimes drink [Esther 4:16] and sex [1 Corinthians 7:5]) for the purposes of worship (1 Kings 19:8; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2), protection (Ezra 8:21-23), repentance (Jonah 3:5), earnestness in prayer (2 Samuel 12:16), preparation (Matthew 4), spiritual warfare

(Matthew 17:21), and/or mourning (2 Samuel 1:12).” Indeed, if you’ve read the Bible even casually you’ve probably noticed that Jesus and other Biblical figures fasted for some of the reasons listed above. And if we boil all of that down what we realize is that fasting is at its core a response to the profound presence and purposes of God. Like worship and prayer, fasting is about whole-being alignment and re-alignment with God’s heart and character (covenant love, justice, mercy–Micah 6:8).

Fasting is never about trying to convince or manipulate God (see: Romans 1:25; Matthew 6:33).

Over the next few days we will be working to get ourselves realigned through the practical study and practice of  Biblical fasting. But for today ask the Holy Spirit to help you “clear the underbrush” and lay the groundwork for the journey ahead by meditating on letting our “ love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’” (Romans 12:9-20, ESV)

Reflection Questions
  1. Personal Reflection: What are your honest thoughts about fasting? If you’ve fasted before, think back on your experience. What was lifegiving?  What was challenging?  If you’ve never fasted, why not?
  2. Kingdom Reflection: Around the world, the church of Jesus Christ has fasted regularly over its 2000 year history. When we fast we join with believers around the world and across time who seek alignment with the heart of God for the sake of bringing  His Kingdom to earth as it already is in His immediate presence (heaven).  How does knowing fasting continues to  be a part of normal Christian expression around the world change or affirm your thinking about fasting and its importance to God and His people?

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