Tag Archives: spirituality

Modified Juice Fast

Today is day nine of my fast. That’s farther than I’ve ever gone before on a fast. I’ve lost about eight pounds. I don’t know that my scale is accurate in determinig body fat, because it would seem from what it calculated previously I should be lower, but according to this scale, I’ve cracked into the 15% range.

Yesterday I met my weight goal for this week, and I converted to a traditional no food fast, drinking only water. This part of the fast is for God, not me. I dropped coffee three days ago and all caffeine yesterday. This is something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I don’t want to be addicted to anything. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Caffeine has a way of getting a hold that is not easily shaken. I detox on it periodically, usually for Lent. Normally, it takes two weeks before I can completely drop all caffeinated substances, reducing the amount gradually. If I go cold turkey, I get terrible migranes that no pain reliever will stop. When I stopped drinking coffee two days ago, I expected to drink green tea (less caffeine) in its place until the caffeine addiction ended. I drank two cups that day, and it was that night that I prayed and determined to do a full fast with no juice. I told God that if he was behind this he could show me by keeping  the headaches away. He did! I haven’t had any side effects from eliminating the caffeine altogether. This is a big deal for me.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of praying, and I’ve been reading the book God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis. There are many reasons for fasting, and many benefits as well. I’ve written about it, and have observed six. The first I’ll mention is the last in importantance, but the reason I began this one, Diet. I’ve benefitted by losing weight, ending caffeine addiction, increasing my water and micronutrient intake (the latter applies only to juice fasting), and there are many other benefits.

Here are five more reasons to fast.

Fast as an Act of Dedication–  Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted after his baptism and prior to entering into his ministry. Perhaps he did this to gain confirmation and clarity by intensely focusing on God.  By denying the body what it needs most I am saying that something else–in this case Someone–is more important than me.

Fast as an Exercise of Discipline–  Learn to say no to “me.” All of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness were for him to act expediently and egotistically. If the Lord had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but the wildly alternating swings between self-doubt and presumption. My body cries out for food, but I say no. This teaches me to say no in other areas where my earthly nature (or “flesh”) cries out. It teaches me to resist temptation.

Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence– Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34). I am dependent upon food for survival. I transfer my fundamental dependence from a substance to the Sustainer of life.

Fast to Establish Determination–  Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). I fast for a breakthrough, as Daniel did when he needed God to answer his prayer for this people (Daniel 9:3). I fast to prove I am serious, both to myself and to God. This has been the main purpose of converting my juice fast to water only at the end.

Fast as an Act of Desperation–  Cry out to God in repentance (Joel & Israel, Jonah & Ninevah). I have the need to hear from God at all costs (Daniel10:2-3 & 21 days of prayer). Repentance may be part of fasting. Joel called a fast for the people when disaster loomed (Joel 2:12, 15). This includes mourning for sin, and prayer for transformation. I have been doing some of this too.

Well, tomorrow will be the end of my fast. I’ll likely end the water portion earlier. As of this writing, that has lasted about 35 hours and has been a physical challenge. I’m praying and monitoring my body and the Lord’s response. Either way, I’ll end the juice fast sometime tomorrow. I’m praying for a big breakthrough in my life and in the life of my church. I am praying for both of our Christmas services to be filled with people who are seeking God and willing to respond to him. I’m praying that we will have Spirit filled worship. I am praying that our church will grow in the new year. Fasting and praying, and praying. Seeing that the Lord has responded obviously by ending my caffeine addiciton, I have encouragement that he will respond to these more significant requests.

Amen.

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Spiritual Apnea

“Pray without ceasing”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17).

John Wesley said:
God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.

Sleep Deprivation is killing us.
“So today one-third of us have insomnia while another third are dangerously sleep deprived. Experts claim that sleepiness is “the smoking gun of the modern age” and unless we radically shift our attitude towards sleep we are heading for a medical meltdown. The American Sleep Foundation reports that sleep deprivation, not cancer or coronary illness, now constitutes the number one killer in the Western World.” -The American Sleep Foundation

You are too tired, my friends. You may scoff at sleep. You may be proud of how little you get, of how busy you are, but God designed sleep. God designed rest.

God instituted the Sabbath as a way of teaching us to rest. Yet many of us simply do not believe this is still in effect. Although we are not under the Law, the New Testament book of Hebrews teaches, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (4:9). This is a rest from striving to please God first and foremost. All of you wonderful servants with over active consciences need to hear that. Additionally, I believe you need to take one day in seven literally and rest. Make it Sunday as the church has traditionally, or make it Saturday as the Jews and Adventists do today, but take one day in seven off. You don’t have to be legalistic about it, since that takes all the rest out of the day.

Sleep is important. You need an average of eight hours per night. Teenagers need 9. Adults may do well with as little as seven. As your Pastor I am asking you to rest and to sleep. You’ll feel better. You’ll be more effective and alert.

One of the major causes of sleep deprivation is a condition known as Sleep Apnea.

“The Greek word apnea literally means ‘without breath.’”
“….people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer.
Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated.”

I think many of us have what I will call Spiritual Apnea. We fail to let our spirit breath. I mean we don’t pray. Prayer is air for the spirit. The airway is clogged up with our flesh and the spirit is cut off from God. The reason. We choose to set our mind on the flesh. We are incredibly distracted by our world of gadgets and entertainment. We strive to control our unpredictable circumstances, to keep ourselves and our kids safe. We seek financial wealth in lieu of spiritual wealth. We let doubt creep in and overcome our faith in a good Father who is working everything out for our good. We are suffocating ourselves, my friends.

I’d like to offer the prescription for Spiritual Apnea. First, do a little test to discover if you have it.

  1. On an average day do you go for extended periods of time where you forget about God?
  2. Do you lose consciousness of the presence of the Holy Spirit?
  3. Do you pray constantly throughout the day?

If your answer was “yes” to the first two questions, or no to the last, then I would diagnose you with Spiritual Apnea. Now for the cure. Ready?

Breath. Breath deep. Keep doing that. Here’s what I mean. Turn your attention toward God; set your mind on him. Start talking to him as you’d speak to a close friend.

You might say, “But I don’t know how to pray. I wouldn’t know what to say.”

Open your thoughts to the God who is now here and let them flow toward him. You talk to yourself throughout the day. We all do. It’s called subvocalization. Turn that self talk into God talk.

A pastor at our church has given testimony about his relationship with his wife before they got married. He says they often talked on the phone late into the night. In fact, he remembers falling asleep without hanging up the phone. That is what you and I need to do with our Father. Don’t hang up the phone!

Doubt, or downright unbelief, will keep you from following my prescription. However, if you don’t believe, your spirit is dead anyway. You don’t need a cure; you need a resurrection!

No one has a relationship with God naturally. Something supernatural must happen. Only the resurrected Christ can bring you up from the dead. Call out to him. Ask him to save you. Trust him as your Leader and your God. Let him breath on you, which means receive the Holy Spirit (see John 20:22).

But you might say, “ It’s like he’s not listening to me. I feel like God isn’t even there.” Sin is a blockage keeping many of you from breathing prayer to God.

“Your sins have separated you from your God; your iniquities have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

“If I had regarded iniquity in my heart the LORD would not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

So, confess your sin and get the blockage cleared.
“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all righteousness” (1st John 1:9).

Unforgiveness is a major sin many of us hold onto. Forgive and be forgiven. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, ESV).

In addition to opening your thoughts to God, it is important to spend time alone with God in prayer. There are different kinds of prayer. Here are three:

  1. Petition- this is the most common type; it means asking God for your needs (Philippians 4:6-7, John 16:24).
  2. Intercession- means praying for other people (Ephesians 6:18-20).
  3. Warfare- means praying against the schemes of Satan (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Now, you might think you don’t have time to get alone with God and pray. However, the founder of the Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther, a very busy man indeed. Here’s what he said,

“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”

You and I will never be successful at the life we’ve chosen to live for Christ until we learn to pray without ceasing and get into the closet with God daily (Matthew 6:6).

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” A.J. Gordon

“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” John Wesley

Let’s conclude with the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples in response to their request that he teach them how to pray.

“Our Father in heaven…  God is above and beyond me, I am not He.
hallowed be your name… God is utterly otherly, I revere Him, fear Him, bow to Him
Your kingdom come…  I want God’s government to come to earth.
your will be done…  I am not pushing for my agenda or desire, but desire His will
on earth as it is in heaven... God’s perfect will is done in heaven. I want it on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread… I have needs, but I only need them met today.
and forgive us our debts... I’m sinful and need forgiveness constantly throughout the day.
as we also have forgiven our debtors... I forgive as I am forgiven.
And lead us not into temptation… I am not strong enough to overcome every temptation
but deliver us from evil…  Only the Father can keep me from being overrun by the devil.
(Matthew 6:9-13, ESV).

So, why not take some time and breath right now. Talk to the Father. Offer up the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 50:14, 116:17, Hebrews 13:15). Praise Him for who He is. Thank Him for what He has done. Open a dialog and don’t stop.

Are You Poor Enough to Become Rich?

The Spirit of the Lord  God  is upon me, because the  Lord  has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the  Lord ’s favor,  and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—  to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,  the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;  that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the  Lord , that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations”  (Isaiah 61:1-5, ESV).

Who are the poor? Where do we find the poor in spirit?

Who is brokenhearted?

Who is captive, and to what are they enslaved, who is their master?

Who is in bondage, and what imprisons them?

Who is mourning, and for what?

These are the people Jesus came for, and if you and I are honest, we are those people: poor, brokenhearted, captive, in bondage, in mourning. Too many of us are lying to ourselves, though, or at least lying to others. We act satisfied with what we have and who we are. Perhaps this is because we lack hope, we lack a vision of something higher, something eternal. Perhaps too many of us are like the Laodiceans.

Laodicea was the seventh church the risen Jesus Christ addressed in Revelation chapter three. The church was established in a wealthy city filled with proud self-sufficient and self-satisfied and citizens. Here is what the Lord said to them, and what I believe would say to many of us:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV).

So long as you believe that you have all you need, that you are well and life is good, you will never receive blessing from God or be the person he desires. Your vision is clouded. You’ve become nearsighted by constantly looking only at what is placed in front of your face. You are a consumer and you buy, buy, buy whatever is easy, convenient, whatever feels good, or what everyone else has. Your imagination, the mind’s eye, is ruined with countless images of violence and pornography, which have been paraded before you and from which you have refused to look away. Yet there is still hope, if you sense conviction that something is wrong with you.

Here is what the risen Christ counseled the Laodiceans to do.

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent”  (Revelation 3:18-19, NIV).

Perhaps you keep it together on the outside. Your friends and family think you’re normal, just like them. Yet being just like them is not the standard to determine whether you are right on the inside. Jesus Christ is the standard. More important for us, he is the Savior. He will save and heal and provide for those who come to him and give up their lives. You have nothing to offer him but your life, your wounded, wrecked, worthless life. That is what he wants, though. Confess your need to Christ right now and invite him inside, even if you’ve done it a hundred or a thousand times. Perhaps you’ve finally reached the end of your self-centered, lonely little life. He is standing at the door.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20, NIV).