Is Fasting Important?

I’ve noticed that within my circle of influence there’s been a lot of talk about fasting lately.  Seems to be a good time to talk about hamburgers, pizza, french fries…JUST KIDDING, that would be horrible.

Why is fasting so important though?

I can honestly say that until last year I never had a full grasp on what fasting was, nor did I even realize it meant actually fasting from food.  I grew up in a Catholic home so the most knowledge I had on the subject was that I had to give something up during Lent.  Did I?  Nine times out of ten I didn’t.  Now I’m not blaming this on my family, or even my Church for that matter.  I guess at that point in my life I didn’t want to really “go deeper” in my spirituality, nor did I really even care about God. That’s a WHOLE other blog post though.

Biblically speaking fasting should be abstaining from the intake of food for a set period of time and utilizing that time for interaction with God.

Fasting should be a spiritual staple that we all practice.  I’ll be honest that I was extremely skeptical when people would say “Oh man, I had a major eye opening experience with God when I fasted!” Oh yeah? Sounds to me like you were just starving and delusional!  I WAS WRONG.

Last year when I had my surgery to remove the melanoma on my side I clearly heard God telling me “fast now.”  At first I wanted to say “God, are you serious?  Fasting right after surgery?  That’s not a good idea…”  Yeah that’s right, I questioned Him as I sadly so often do.  Regardless, I trusted what I believed God was telling me and went for it.

In a nutshell after that experience I was no longer skeptical.  I read through Awakening by Stovall Weems my first fast.  This was a book that was used when my old Church highly promoted when they did corporate fasting so I figured I would read along and give it a shot.  I won’t go into specifics but if you read the description you get a day by day breakdown of what your body is going through, why we fast, etc.  Another book I was turned on to (but have yet to read for myself) is Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough.

Fasting isn’t merely “giving up” something.  If anything we are gaining something.  A practical way to look at it is that we’re utilizing the time that we would be worrying about or preparing food and really give that to God.  Studying His word, praying to Him, etc.  Spiritually we are gaining His favor and it’s a great practice in humility.

The subject of humility is referenced multiple times in scripture but we truly believe that by giving up the food of man we are in turn going to be generously given the food of the Holy Spirit, or manna from Heaven, in return.  This is not from a state of greed, but we are humbling ourselves before God and faithfully knowing He will return with love and affection.  We show Him we love Him by saying we need not the things of this Earth but only what He provides, and oh boy does He provide during a fast.

Plus it’s not a bad way to detox your body!  

Biologically your body is going through a lot of changes during this process.  The detoxification alone allows your mind to be clearer and, in turn, allows us to direct our focus to more important things.

There are multiple sites to tell you how to fast but one thing that is highly evident is that the Bible says we’re not supposed to brag about it.  In fact, we really shouldn’t speak about it at all while we are fasting.

It can be used as a great witnessing tool.  But, be sure you’re not openly divulging the fact that you are fasting.  This is something strictly between you and God.  That itself is such an intimate statement:  “Between you and God.”  It’s from Him and for Him we do this so keep it between you two.

We fast because we love Him.   What’s so beautiful about the relationship we have with God is that no matter how much we give Him and sacrifice of ourselves, He multiplies it more than we could ever imagine and has already made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

That being said, I hope some of you can have the opportunity to try it out.  I was skeptical at first until I tried and I can honestly say I have never been closer to God than when I was fasting.  You can be skeptical all you want, but I would highly encourage you to at least attempt a fasting plan that’s over 1 week.  Start small and work your way up and make sure you read up carefully before you do fast.  Prepare your body properly to go into and come out of it!  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Good Luck…

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A few fasting references:

Matthew 6:16-18

Isaiah 58:3-7

Daniel’s Fast:  Daniel 10:3

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Time, Talent, and Treasure

Watch with chain

This week I’d like to take a moment for us focus on where all of our time is going as we start 2013 off on a good foot.  The celebrations of the holidays have all but died down, life is back to the norm (I pray), and work is back in full swing.

I’ll give my personal schedule as an example to kick it off.  I work a full-time job, sometimes up to 80 hours in one week, I’m going to school full-time online which takes up most of my work week evenings (keeping in mind that I’m studying for a degree in Religion so thank God I get a lot of good Bible Study time by just completing courses), I attend one Bible study at the local Church, I try to work out when possible, I fit in life’s duties like grocery shopping, laundry, etc. when I can, and whatever time is left I try to spend as much as I can with my beautiful fiance’.

From an outside point of view without going into the details it seems as if the majority of my week (like most of us) is dedicated to my job, which I do enjoy, and that I’m letting my fiance’ down by giving her the “time scraps”.

Quick side note:  If you personally feel you’re not fulfilling your dream job I would highly suggest reading “Quitter” by Jon Acuff.

I want to take a look at things other than our vocation for this post though.  Why?  Because there are too many variables to be quite honest.  Some of us don’t put as much passion in our work as we should, and some of us are a little over passionate for our jobs which could be detrimental to our relationships and well-being.  In addition there are the cases where what you do for a profession is directly effecting what you feel God’s purpose for your life is and you are truly happy dumping loads of time into that.  I’m currently giving those people an air high-five.

I’m making a point on passion for a reason.  I feel where you put your time, talent, and treasure outside of your vocation (except for the few I mentioned earlier) speaks volumes about who the person, or organization, really is and what they are passionate for.  I’ve been a victim of the “burn-out” when I’ve spread myself too thin.  I’ve been referred to as a hummingbird, honey bee, etc.  I get very excited about doing one fun thing and want to do all these things at once but eventually I burn out and one of those things falls by the wayside, sometimes hurting others in the process.  This past season of my life I had to take a step back and say “Who am I, what’s my purpose, and where do I want this crazy thing called life to head?”

If you are not your job (which I can say most of us are probably not), then what represents you?  What is it that you do with the free time you have out of work.  A great father/mother?  A volunteer?  A person seeking or speaking about God?  A student?  Another intriguing thought would be:  What’s really  stopping you from making that your vocation?  We tend to idolize money, I know I have and sometimes still do.  However, when we set the monetary things aside and realize there’s a bigger purpose for all this is when things start to get a little clearer and life starts to make a wee bit more sense.

They say time is money, right?  Let’s spend that money that we can never get back on the things that really matter.  The best investment with the biggest return is personal relationships!

This week let’s take a step back and see where all that extra time we wish we had is really going.  If it isn’t in line with how you viewed yourself being then it may be time to make a change.  That, my friends, is a New Years resolution worth keeping for a lifetime.

Me, I’m going to give my fiance’ more than just time scraps and give her the appetizer, entrée, and all the side dishes that come with it from now on.  Lord knows she’s worth every bit of my time.

Finish Friday Strong

Earlier this week I had posted about the young man who I ran across in the Emergency Room at the hospital I’m currently working on a project in.  I touched on the fact that he was so happy, despite his current situation of being burned all over his body, which truly amazed me.  Though what he was dealing with was not my main point on that post I want to re-visit that situation and touch on some points to ponder.

This morning as I prayed while driving to work I couldn’t help but selfishly ask God “Please make this day go by quick…” repeatedly.

Don’t worry, eyes were open and hands on the wheel.  Not so sure how “I was praying” would fly with the driver I ran into, or the police that come to the site for that matter.  “Sorry Officer…I was going before the Lord in prayer…have you been saved?”  Not the best way to witness.

I’m sitting here asking myself “Why was it I was asking for a speedy day specifically?  I enjoy what I do.  The drive may be long but it’s peaceful and I get to listen to some audio books.  In addition I really can’t say that I’m currently in a rut”.  I again was only thinking of my current situation of wanting to start the weekend with my fiance’ and get started on this semester’s school work as quickly as possible.

In hindsight, I wish we had a “Prayer delete” button.  I could be mistaken but I’m pretty sure scripture doesn’t touch on that.

I was again reminded of that young man I passed by the other day.  I thought “Thank you God for not giving me that fight.”

Many of us deal with our different struggles.  Some alcohol or drugs, some financial, some sexual, some the irresistible urge to eat Joe’s cupcake out of the communal fridge in the break room (That lumps theft, gluttony, and who knows what else into one), and many other things this world thrusts in front of us without our willingness to accept, no matter how big or small.  However, take heart in the fact that whatever you’ve been given by God is given to you specifically and can be handled and overcome ONLY by you (and in the stealing of Joe’s cupcake situation a little help from your local gym or trainer).

I thank God that I didn’t have to deal with a lot of struggles that could possibly happen to me.  At the same time, however, I am thankful that God has given me my own hurdles to overcome.  That’s right, I am thankful for them.

I may not be convincing you guys lately that I’m not crazy due to some of the stuff I went through, but to back up what I mean by that I’m reminded of the book of James.  Reading through it I didn’t quite grasp at first what he said to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” in James 1:2

It took me a while to take from the scripture that we are being told that the simple fact we have the ability to face our own struggles and then turn it around and use it as our witness and testimony to glorify God.  Your biggest struggle might only be that you said “Fiddlesticks” (or another choice of “colorful” words) last week in the foyer of the Church when you found out they were out of coffee.  If that’s your struggle I want to shake your hand and get some pointers on how to up my game.

What does this have to do with finishing strong on this Friday after, for some of us, a long work week (and some may not end until tomorrow, so just “re read” tomorrow if you would be so kind to do so)?  Be encouraged that whatever you have been given is just as much as you can handle and in due time will be used as a story for witness and testimony.  Take a look at whatever situation your dealing with from an outside point of view.

Go into the weekend with wisdom from your current situation and tell yourself “I’m bringing my own coffee and cupcakes next week”.

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Love you guys

My Friend, the Atheist

Over the duration of my time in the Christian faith I’ve sensed a common theme among the masses (masses of people, not the Catholic service, though I did attend a lot of those as well). That theme being that there is some sort of invisible force keeping us away from “Non-Believers”, “Secular People”, or a whole other host of names we like to call “them“.

What is the reason that a lot of times we’re afraid to go outside of the box?  I do say “we” because at one point I was there too.  I get it though.  Once you step outside of said box you’re asked questions about your well being as if you’d been brutally attacked by a mountain lion, or statements are thrown at you such as “We haven’t seen you in group…is everything alright?”  The concern is always appreciated, believe me.  However, if every single Church event is not attended this doesn’t mean I’m leaving the Church itself.  Sometimes Christians just want to hang with non-Christians.  Sometimes it’s for witnessing and sometimes it’s just because there’s good people that aren’t Christians out there…yeah I know, I couldn’t believe it at first either! (Humor people, humor)

One thing we need to learn as the body of Christ followers is that we need to step away from our lives being involved ONLY with Christian activities and groups.  If we believe the gospel that we say we do then we need to find people that have a) Never heard it, b) Don’t believe in it, c) Need to come back to it, or a whole other host of issues.  Sunday is a time to worship our God, learn a fantastic message from our pastor, and use that knowledge to spread among the peoples of this world.  This could be done in a small group, yes, but I also suggest taking the time to reach at least one person outside of the Christian faith to lead and quite possibly disciple to.  Read Matthew 28, that should sum it up for ya’.

This doesn’t always need to be done by spitting Bible verses or even declaring your Christianity for that matter.  

As James said James 2:14-26 “Faith without Works is Dead”.

St. Francis of Assisi was also quoted saying “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” 

You can declare it all day, up and down, that you’re a Christian but showing people is going to do a lot more.  I don’t mean showing them because you feel you “have to” to that volunteer work, or you “have to” go out of your way to help somebody.  Do it only with a joyful heart.  

Back to “them“…

Take my good friend from home state of KY for example.  I’d have to say he’s hands down my best friend and has been for a while.  Though we don’t get to see each other but on a brief occasion when I go to my hometown in KY, I do enjoy a brief chat from time to time to see how things are going.  I especially love our chats on theology because he is…get ready for it…an atheist.  

OH MY LORD HAVE MERCY!  

That’s right…and he hasn’t been struck down by fire or lightning.  Another shocker, he’s a pretty rad dude!  They’re not all blood sucking vampires like some like to think

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Does his absence of faith effect mine?  I feel comfortable saying it does not.  If anything, it strengthens it.  Does my faith bring him closer to Christ?  I’d like to think so, but realistically speaking I don’t think it’s making a dent.  This is completely OK with me.  

It was said in the book of Matthew, Romans, etc. that Christ sat down with sinners.  He hung out with regular people.  In modern times he would’ve been grabbing a cup of coffee with that guy that cheated on his wife.  He would have taken a walk in the park with that girl that shot up on heroine right before they met up that afternoon.  He would’ve hung out with YOU AND I before we accepted Him.  Remember, we weren’t so different than the people we try so hard to separate ourselves from, and sometimes still aren’t.  

We are neither better nor worse in God’s eyes.   So why is it so difficult for some to hang out with their old crowd?  Some find that they may stumble.  I am not advocating this in any way.  If you physically cannot be around a crowd without falling again into a life of perpetual sin, then by all means do NOT do this.  I myself avoided a lot of locations for a long period of time before I was at a point where I was strong enough to face them again. 

If you have reached that point then I would encourage you to reach out to the people you may have left behind.  You never know…they might need you now more than ever.  

It’s Getting Awkward In Here

Lately work has taken me to a lot of projects inside of hospitals.  This is a fantastic thing for my career.  My sanity (or lack thereof), however, is a different story.  Different systems, different procedures, etc. make for an “interesting day” one might say.

More specifically I want to speak on human interaction today.  How does this relate to my job?  Ever since doing the hospital projects I’ve ran across some people I never thought I’d interact with.  Some alive, some dead (bodies headed towards the morgue…not the live ones…at least I think they check first).

Recently I passed by a burn victim on my way out to my car.  This kid couldn’t have been older than 17 or 18 and his entire body was covered with burn scars.  Not being able to tell if any were fresh, but using deductive reasoning seeing as this was in the ER section of the hospital, I would venture to say he was in some degree of severe pain.  One would’ve thought he was hating life and in a constant state of depression and anger.

Though, there he sat looking happy as can be.

This stirs up jealousy.  Not a conceited evil sort of jealousy but a jealousy because I want that happiness.  Anger immediately follows.  Anger at myself for being so pitiful that I walk around complaining about not having enough money for my wedding or complain about my drive to work, or many other American “first world” problems.  I didn’t have to bare the pain of my own skin melting away.  For that, I am thankful and I need to remind myself of how much I am blessed.  We all need to remember this sometimes.

But I digress…

The point was that I had no idea what to say to him.  Inside I thought “Reach out to him…find out his story…see what happened…show him love…” and all of the other nice typical Christian things I could possibly do or cliche’ Churchy statements I could possibly say.  What do you think I did?  I said “Excuse me” and carried about my merry way on to my car.  WHAT?!  Why would I not say something?

Some of you just lost some mad respect for me.  But before you email me or comment below in a fit of rage, think about how many of us really do stop and talk to people that we think are “different” or “awkward”?  Are you one of those people?  I’m not talking about the high school “they’re not in my clique” type of different (which still happens in adulthood and is pure ridiculousness).  I’m talking about “Wow, that’s not what I’m used to and I don’t even know how to break out of my comfort zone to reach out to that person” sort of feeling.

If you take that opportunity every time to stop and really get a good background on these situations, and I personally know some of you that do, I applaud you.  I don’t say this out of sarcasm.  This is pure honesty.  I applaud you because I want to make that jump to just ask the questions and not continue to stare yet somehow still grapple with getting over that threshold of “the awkward moment“.

I know full well that people that have these outward issues are more often than not more beautiful than I am on the inside.  People with handicaps, deformities, obesity, whatever the case may be.  They’re different, but my God are they beautiful.

I’d like to challenge us to take tomorrow, the next day, or at any given time in the future to take that opportunity.  Any suggestions on how to cross over that “odd” threshold are welcome.  Lord knows I need the help in doing so.  If you do this on a regular basis, pray for me and those who can’t seem to.

Remember…even people like this guy are beautiful in God’s eyes:

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