Fasting With a Purpose

This post will sound somewhat like a repetition of my last post. Consider it a revision or an expansion. I’ve been considering this subject matter for about a year. It’s about time to act. In fact, when I first read 2 Corinthians 8:8-15 recently I felt it specifically describes my need to make complete what I have been only dreaming about and pondering up until now. I was originally inspired by realizing how much we have here in America (after reading an email) compared to many vast areas of the world in poverty. Duh, not a novel concept, but one easily overlooked without any cost to self. I finally feel a burden to actually care about this terrible injustice thanks to heightened sensitivity and awareness, fueled by the Holy Spirit working in me. I can’t solve the world’s inequities, but I can significantly help a few people. That’s worth striving for.

Here’s the first section of a summary I wrote for the chapter on “Fasting” from Richard Foster’s book, the Celebration of Discipline. My Ethnos Church family is spending the next year going through this book, one chapter per month. My summary greatly strayed away from Foster’s direction, primarily because of the heavy influence on my heart, the concepts found in Isaiah chapter 58. For more traditional thoughts about fasting or other spiritual disciplines, read Richard Foster’s book.

Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.

John Wesley

Fasting is an act of submission. It is to make subject those parts of us that rule by nature, to disrupt their reign in preference to the superior Lordship, knowledge and desire of God. Through fasting we seek to express our desperate desire to know and hear God and to learn and implement His desires for us: obedience. In some sense, to open the eyes and ears of our hearts we must momentarily silence the contrary and distracting screaming of our flesh.

As we fast we communicate that physical provision and abundance are utter loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord. Food sustains life? Our hands work to provide? No, God sustains all! In times that we sense great need to commune with God out of desperation, joy, sorrow, and repentance, we do well to do so with undivided intentionality. Whether our own devotion demands or the Comforter commands, fasting is an invaluable tool to enhance our ears’ receptivity to God through singularity of mind and spirit.

While fasting is an act that suggests an ambitious cry to God to hear us, in reality it is a cry for an answer, suggesting a submissive act of listening to Him. Fasting should never be a pious act by which we assume our ideas will be made so clear that God will be persuaded to finally agree because of our frailty. As if! Does God enjoy or require our detriment in order to activate His very nature? No, He is the Being (The Great I AM – Who Was, Is and Is to Come) or Fullness of Love, Patience, Kindness, and all other virtues defined in Himself alone as “Good” and “Holy”. God does not require our pain or lack to answer or bless, but because of the weakness of our bounty, we require such acts to break through the noise of self, to hear what He has to say, command, renew and transform. God’s plan and ideas are better than ours. Think of fasting as the opposite of us influencing or changing God. To fast is to silence ourselves and our desires so that God can make visible – by the blinding of our flesh – the answer we need, even if it is not the one we expect or presume. Change God? No, change us, and desire desperately that He do it! In a sense, consider it all forfeit, or we are forfeit! Astounded by the Glorious: even then, with fleshly concerns cast aside for a moment, Jesus lovingly lifts us up from the mire and finds His very dwelling in us. He is our Bread and Tree of Life, our Living Water, the True Drink. Not by bread alone, indeed! but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!

Guess what we should expect to hear when we cry out to God through fasting? It’s already been told. Read the words from the mouth of God, written, preserved and translated conveniently for our babbled ears. The Word of God, the Bible. We already have our Commission, and its message is not ambiguous. The hour is late, and we must continue the ministry of Christ as His Body, His very Life and Power circulating through our collective works.

The Apostle James defines pure and undefiled religion as “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Religion… a word that stirs up imagery of all sorts of acts, piety, and striving toward God(s) – including many historic atrocities. Yet God leaves that part out of His definition, reminding us that serving the “least of these” is serving Him in truth, undefiled. To leave the least in want is to leave Jesus lacking the ones His heart wants. In similar manner, a true fast is also no mere pursuit of God without cost. Expect fully God’s answers for you to include following in the footsteps of His Son, sharing in His Passion.

Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

Isaiah 58:1-10 ESV

A challenge for us all: Seek not merely to petition more from God. We already dwell in a land of unprecedented peace, freedom, safety and bounty. Seek rather to “hold fast” to your plentiful provisions by letting go, using them to bless others who are perishing from constant lack: both lack of food and lack of love. Develop a “lifestyle of fasting” where your consumption and abundance are tamed and claimed for the defamed, maimed and blamed, to restore them as the ones for whom Christ came, your loss their gain. Any less from His Body is a shame.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

2 Corinthians 8:8-15 ESV

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Galatians 5:13-14 ESV

Super Happy!

I am incredibly happy right now. Somehow I sense a sudden clarity in thought. I am aware that I might be in a goofy, passing mood. Regardless, I will revel in it as long as it lasts. My happiness is not the result of mere chemical reactions or self-deception. It is undeniably connected with and sourced in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

These occurrences of heightened emotions and spiritual awareness have become commonplace in the last year as far as frequency, but also shocking and new each and every time. I wish I would have been diligently recording all these experiences. Many of them are recorded on, but I took a pretty lengthy break from writing. What is recorded there and here is a tiny shred of the glory and transformation God has been shining in and through me. I can’t share enough. I hope to never lose this passion until my body gives up its breath. God deserves every inhale and exhale in my lungs, with thousands of words to glorify!

Yesterday evening I was a tad discouraged. The story of my life in the last year and a half is one riddled with amazing breaths of life from the Spirit mingled with sadness, GREAT loneliness, confusion and fatigue. The last two nights I’ve been very blessed by conversations with Mom. I miss profoundly beyond description having an intimate friendship with a woman to share all of me, all of life, love, joy and sorrow. I believe this desire is divinely sourced and see it becoming increasingly pure and good, with eventual healing and fulfillment in God’s good time (no rush, not today). Though it is nothing near like that in depth of intimacy, I take great comfort in talking with Mom. Aside from my guy friends of many years, she has been my most constant spiritual and personal support system in my life, even my friend. Yesterday and the night before were especially a blessing to me. So thanks, Mom. You’ll surely be eternally blessed for all the burdens of others you bear.

After the second good conversation I read December’s chapter in Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Ethnos is reading about the discipline of “Simplicity” in December, aligning with the season of Advent. I have been pretty excited about the concept of simplicity long before I heard about our plans to read the book as a community.

Quite a while ago Mom forwarded an email to me that profoundly affected me, so that I have not thought the same way since. Normally I don’t like email forwards and their predictable annoyance, but this one really impacted me. For a while now I’ve been trying to figure out a way NOT to sell everything I own in a crazy extreme act of response to how I feel on the matter of simplicity (not for piety sake, but because of how my heart feels what is good). While I am trying to balance out my ideals with common sense and wisdom, I have been anxious to DO something. Now is the time.

Immediately after reading the chapter I started going through my entire apartment, setting aside all the things I was already excited to get rid of. In reality there’s not anything I’m unwilling to part with, but I’m trying to weigh with wisdom whether to rid or keep each object. The things I am focusing on losing are 1) things I never use and 2) things that, when utilized, are a waste of time that distract me from doing fruitful things.

I haven’t decided the fate of every single object, but in the “first pass” alone I set aside what appears to be over half the volume or quantity of items in my apartment. I don’t say this with any pride at all, but rather GREAT JOY! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to get rid of stuff. The last time I did this was soon after my wife left, after she was done rummaging through stuff (I made sure to communicate she was free to take whatever at the time). I moved into a smaller apartment, and in the process got rid of vast amounts of stuff collected over the duration of our marriage. Doing so yet again last night was SO liberating! I love it! I hate excess stuff. It’s really not me to hoard things. I haven’t felt free or “myself” in this way for a long time.

I have a plan that I hope to inspire people I’m in community with that I believe God will use to grow us in this valuable discipline of simplicity. I can’t wait to share my excitement with my good friends. I am really enjoying Richard Foster’s book. Practicing the spiritual disciplines as defined in Scripture is truly a door to liberation.

We are so bound and whored out to this world, friends. Let’s wake up together and seek God earnestly! Now is the time, while it is called “today”. Don’t wait for tomorrow to pass. Seek the Spirit with unquenchable thirst and relentless and sustained persistence, and you too will experience this great overflow and clarity. I greatly encourage you to daily spend significant time digging into the Word of God. Seek passionately the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, His will and transformation (listening to and acting upon even the difficult messages). Also, consider reading Celebration of Discipline.

Though I haven’t written in depth on the topic, I’ll probably mention it from time to time: my divorce is final. I won’t go into great depth about that process or “how I’m doing”. In short, I’m doing very well. I have had a year and a half to process all this crazy stuff – surrounded by friends and family, in the midst of a wonderful church community. God has been bountifully blessing me throughout this time from many directions. Thank you for your continual prayers! I realize there might be some sort of in-shock delay or weird feelings that have yet to emerge from this recent finality. Generally speaking I have recovered from guilt, grief, anger, and most negative emotions long ago. I forgave my wife before she even made her decisions, for I saw them coming (I believe it was divined to me in some respects). God empowered me with incredible love and grace through the process. Near the time she was leaving, my love was restored to an even stronger state than when I first met my wife, and that IS VERY profound. My initial love for my wife early in our relationship was pure and very profound. When I look back, I see a relationship full of hope and faith that is not weak or dismissed as foolish immaturity. I have every evidence that this is true and cannot be convinced otherwise. The testimony is this: God empowered me with a renewal of His own grace and love in great portion and supply in my darkest hour. This testimony is a witness to the power of Jesus’ resurrection and gives assurance of eternal life to all who believe. There is no uncertainty of His promises because He has seen them to completion. He is alive in me, and YOU TOO, if you are in Christ. Take heart, “I have overcome the world!”

HAHAHAHAHA! Impossible! I’m listening to John right now, headphones on. As I wrote “Take heart” above, the words were synchronized perfectly in my ears in unison with the words as they appear in John 16:33. As I heard this happen, I wrote the rest of the verse in quotes because of the coolness of this “coincidence”. This happening is true, and I bear witness to it. Though these impossible odds experiences in the Word are nothing new for me. God has been doing this ALL the time! I’d have to be the most foolish skeptic ever to ignore how ridiculous the probability is stacked against such timing and significance. Each time it happens  is a miracle, and I am surprised and thrilled with great joy! Thank You, Lord. You are so good. And guess what comes after John 16? Right! John 17 – the very chapter of the Bible God has been using to speak a powerful message in my ears and on my tongue in recent months. Brothers and sisters, read John 17, Jesus’ prayer for all believers. Consider what He is saying for us (not “you”) and what the implications are. It won’t take much Spirit power in you for you to see how crazy and awesome the things He prays are! Oh man, it’s exciting stuff.

Ope… more… I love it. I just heard John 18:5. This verse is AWESOME! I bet some of you might find it “new”. I think I noticed it for the first time a couple years ago. I get so happy each time I hear it now. Do you remember that when Jesus was being arrested He merely says, “I AM He”, and a huge group of soldiers and enemies go tumbling back by the power and authority of His voice alone?!!!! HAHAHA! Do you think Jesus, the Great I AM, could have not simply destroyed the universe with a breath (in the same way words created it through Him), much less this band of fools? Yet with the power of the Almighty in Him – inseparable from His very nature and being – He allowed Himself to be taken and became obedient even to death on a cross! Why? Because He loves us and wants us to live! Learn the power of that if you haven’t discovered it already. Thank You, Jesus! Good News indeed! And no servant is greater than his Master, so don’t have a Gospel of prosperity.

OK, enough commentary as I listen… I’ll do more of that later… back to my story 🙂

As I was blissfully gathering huge amounts of random objects with reckless abandon to be axed from my possession, I encountered the bin of marriage memories that was previously buried. I kept it in hopes of reconciliation with my wife – at which time we could revisit the authentic goodness of what God did (they are beautiful things, to be sure). This moment of recollection was the beginning of even greater things for me last night.

I somewhat expected I might get a little sad or remorseful after looking through some of the good memories – now often painful. The last time I looked at them I felt a bit of sadness mixed with a tad of bitterness. I do not fear any sort of confrontation these days, however, so I boldly took a look through the stuff. Short story: I was blessed.

My perspective has been healing and transforming A LOT over time. Forgiveness is complete (though not accepted or acknowledged, unfortunately). Spiritual maturity is constantly growing. Intimacy and companionship with Christ are deepening. I did not realize that these memories would empower me with divine perspectives. I rather thought I would feel sadness again.

Instead of weeping, I am full of great joy, friends! I took great joy in the good memories of what I am still convinced was God’s will for my life. He undeniably ordained my marriage and brought us together. His will was that we remained together to glorify Him by the power of unconditional love and reconciliation. This choice was taken away, but I am entirely convinced as much as ever that our marriage was His design and for His good pleasure. It was VERY good. Those who know how our marriage dissolved into “tragedy” probably assume – like Job’s comforters – that we were probably blind, perverted and foolish, and so the failure was a “punishment” or “proof” that God never wanted us to be married. Lies. We had a beautiful friendship and romance that I am humbled by, though no relationship is perfect and without defect.

Each time I read the beautiful things my ex-wife and I wrote to each other and recollect memories of our grand adventures, I see nothing but beauty. I believe an unclouded view from any eyes would see the same, though obviously we were not free from naivety back then. I can speak at least for myself that I felt authentic simplicity, faith, hope, fun, and above all love at the time. This is the truth, and there is rejoicing in it. In the beginning, I believe God saw all He had done in us, and said, “It is good.” This original quality or God-ordained reality cannot be perverted or denied, and this truth brings me joy even to this day.

Not only that, but I see after all the brokenness and finality, love endured in me. I never fell out of love with my wife (not just the agape choice/commitment to continue on, but the passion and longing), and for this, I rejoice greatly. Love never left, but only increased in spite of suffering, sin (mine especially), unfaithfulness, even hate. For this I rejoice again. Does this mean I am faultless or that our marriage was perfect? Not even close (I’m not blind)! I did great and horrible things to contribute to the destruction of my marriage. I will soon openly share these “shameful” things I did with you all – to the glory of God because of His powerful work done in me as if all evil was nil to His will, praise His name! In my greatest darkness and inability to do any good, God Himself did all that was good – flooding with Light. He has never stopped doing greater and greater things for the sake of His name in me. The message of what He has done will return glory to Him, for no one can deny that without Him none of this would be possible. Am I faking all of this? I couldn’t sustain such a facade for 5 minutes, I guarantee you – especially in a state of great sorrow and darkness I found myself immediately after my wife left (and for the following 6 or 8 months). And I don’t like being fake and covering things up anyway… it’s not how I operate. I can’t sustain such things. No, rather, my present happiness and healing are due to the resurrecting power of Jesus!

Something powerful happened when I again reviewed my original marital love. I saw a simple faith at work in me in spite of the deception and cloud I now realize I was in at the time. God never departed His presence from me, and His Spirit was in me then. Granted: I was in some sin of measure that all would condemn me and cast stones. Yet even then I was a man of faith. How is this even possible!? I have no idea. It is a great mystery, for light and darkness should not mix. Of course there were great consequences to my own sin. Whatever God has allowed or Himself done, it has been for His glory. The present outcome doesn’t seem like an ideal one for anyone involved. I believe that somehow it is – by God’s “magical” ability to create light from darkness. It seems crazy to think this, but I know it is Good. I am convinced.

Even deeper, I have experienced something new. I felt attacked a bit earlier yesterday, whether my sense was rightfully founded or not. I know I was overly sensitive and shouldn’t have felt attacked. Regardless, I felt discouraged as the result and didn’t know how to react or think due to seeming mixed messages I was receiving. Talking to my mom through the discouragement helped quite a bit, for she is a comforter at the core. Even better was this experience with memories. I was not sad or remorseful. I was in great joy. God confirmed my own convictions – that He has fearfully and wonderfully made me. I am very special. I have always admired myself as a child. I know for sure that the person I look back on was very special and blessed with an abnormal maturity and intelligence. I don’t say that with pride, for I look back at my childhood with a weird “detachment”, as if I’m talking about “someone else”. I lost my innocence and a measure of wisdom since then and for a long time didn’t really like certain parts of myself.

What happened last night was new. For once, I feel a continuance of the worth that I saw from my youth, as if renewed (or perhaps just my perspective/mind). Because of the power of Jesus, I feel love for myself as I am now and even have been. This is not something I have easily said or felt for a while. There have been periods of self-loathing in me, so this new thought is a profound transformation or revelation – one that can only come from God Himself because of its miraculous nature. I haven’t hated myself for a long time now, but this contrasting love is significant. I suddenly realize that not only do I love myself, but I can love anyone. Not that love is difficult or far from the way I operate, but now I have a glimpse of a new perspective that was once a bit lofty and out of reach.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll suddenly feel like junk or really sad tomorrow or next week (good ole cynicism/realism), but who cares at all! I’ve been up and down so many times and to such heights and depths during my short lifetime, the variation doesn’t even surprise me anymore. For now, I will simply revel in great joy! Thank you for your prayers, friends. Thank You Lord God Almighty, for answering in great power! Take that! Kapow!

OK, now I’m “super tired”. It’s 4:35 am. I initially went to bed after that whole joy/memory experience, but was too overwhelmed with happiness to sleep. I was not only screaming under my breath (“YESSSSS!”), making faces, praising God with fists in the air, but I also knew I had to record this momentous occasion immediately. Quite literally, “you snooze, you lose”.  I drove over to the coffee shop around 1:00 am so I could write. Now I think I’ve done what I set out to do and will go home and try to get a couple hours of sleep before having to get up for work!

Hope. Joy. Love. Peace.

Come join us at Ethnos Church if you want a place to celebrate the Advent season over the next few weeks before Christmas. I’d love to see you. God bless you and your family. If I don’t “see you” again, Merry Christmas!

Filters and Quote Credit: Pesky Blessings

Here I am wanting to write all sorts of short observations and reflections as I read Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”. BUT I CAN’T! Well, at least not with a clear conscience. I want to quote single sentences and base a blog entry on each thought because I find the material very inspiring.

I don’t know much about the legal requirements for quoting published material, and I would like to follow all the pesky copyright laws. Because I have a very strict internet filter on my computer (self-imposed), I can’t even look up simple things like quoting guidelines (pesky). At the same time, I’m very thankful to have a computer at all and to use it in a way that glorifies God my Savior and strengthens me in Him. Imposed limitations can be freedom and light emitting, and I am blessed (far from annoyed). May I never lose this perspective.

Ha… how ironic. Maybe I’ll have to go to the library to get a book on quoting guidelines just so I can write a proper blog entry or 300,000. Here’s to peskiness (the new word of the hour).

zzzz. half asleep.