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Showing posts with label Fasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fasting. Show all posts

Thursday, February 11, 2021

6 Tips For A Safe Spiritual Fast

Introduction

Fasting is a spiritual discipline where people abstain from eating food for a period of time in order to help them focus on spiritual growth.  Fasting is an ancient practice found throughout the Bible.  Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah all fasted in the Old Testament (among many others).  In the New Testament, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness to prepare for his public ministry (see Matthew 4:2).  

In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said, "And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get."  Jesus assumed his followers would fast and wanted them to do it the right way.  Proper fasting is neither a test of our nor a way for us to prove our spiritual fortitude.  Fasting should be a private matter between you and God.  And rather than being a reason to boast about your deep devotion, fasting should reveal your deep spiritual need.

When done properly and with the right attitude, fasting can help you grow closer to God.  It can teach you to endure suffering with joy.  It reminds you to be thankful for blessing you take for granted.  It helps you rely more on God's providence.  It can provide spiritual clarity.  Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.

For centuries, fasting was a common practice among Christians throughout the world.  Unfortunately, few Christians in 21st century America fast as a spiritual discipline.  Many people today have forgotten how to fast safely as a means of spiritual growth.  Here’s are 6 tips for a safe spiritually fast.

6 Tips For A Safe Spiritual Fast

1.   If you are sick or have a health condition like diabetes, it may be unsafe to fast from food.  Talk to your physician.  It may be better for you to choose something else for your fast, like abstaining from TV or the use of social media or from drinking coffee.  There are many are great alternatives that can be just as effective as fasting from food.

2.   If you fast from food, please drink plenty of water.  It is dangerous to go without drinking water for more than a few hours.  You could choose to drink juice while you fast. (called a “juice fast”).  A juice fast is milder than going completely without food.  You still feel hungry, but it’s not as overwhelming and you may have more energy. 

3.   Don’t fast for too long.  If you are new to fasting from food, you could start out by just skipping one meal you usually eat or fast from sunrise to sunset.  Don’t overdo it with your fast if you are new to fasting.

4.   Pray as much as you can while you fast.  Fasting reminds us how weak we are and how much we need God’s help.  Our weakness and desires while we fast remind us to pray and seek God’s help.

5.   Fasting is something between you and God.  Jesus makes it clear we should never use fasting to impress people with how spiritual we are.  The whole point of fasting is to recognize our helplessness without God.  So, don’t brag about it.  Just do it and keep your focus on God.

6.   End your fast gently.  If you’ve gone without food, you will be hungry and may be tempted to gorge yourself.  Don’t.  Your stomach may be sensitive and eating too much can make you sick.  It is better to eat a small amount of light food for your first meal after your fast.  A modest bowl of mild soup is a good choice.

Never abstain from drinking water or other fluids for long periods, unless instructed by a medical doctor.  It is crucial that you continue to drink plenty of water.  For especially long fasts, I recommend you also drink fruit juice.  You will still feel hungry, but your body will stay hydrated and receive enough calories from the juice to sustain your energy.

Take care when you stand up while fasting.  Do not stand up too quickly as you may experience dizziness.  This is only temporary.  If you feel light-headed, simply sit down and wait for it to pass, which usually happens in just a few moments.  Move more slowly next time.  Understand that you may have less energy while fasting.  The more experience you have, the more you will understand how your body reacts to fasting.  If your fast makes you truly ill or becomes unbearable, go ahead and end it with a light meal.  Don’t gorge yourself; it may make you sick.

Do not make your fast into a survival contest. If you want to see how far you can push your body before it gives out, you have lost the spiritual focus that needs to be first and foremost on your mind when you practice spiritual fasting.

Make sure you spend a lot of time in prayer while you fast.  It is also helpful to read your Bible and devotions, and to meditate on God’s Word.

When you are ready to end your fast, do it slowly and carefully.  It may be tempting to gorge yourself, but don’t because it could make you sick.  Start with something light like broth or a soup.  Then, slowly work yourself back up to regular food.  You may be surprised to find you are full after eating only a small amount of food.  Thank God that He has filled you and you needed less food.

Do not fast again until your body has a chance to rest and recover.

 Ash Wednesday Fast

I invite you to pray and fast with me on Ash Wednesday, February 17.

What do I do?

Sign up to pray for 30 minutes during our 24-hour prayer vigil and pray at your chosen time.  To fast, eat dinner on Tuesday night, February 16th.  Then, skip breakfast and lunch on Wednesday, February 17th.  Also refrain from any other solid foods during your fast, but please do drink plenty of water.  (You may also drink coffee or fruit juices during the fast if you choose.)  Then, eat dinner after the sun goes down.

Alternatives

If you are not sure if you can go that long without food (or if it is not healthy for you), consider an alternative.  You could only skip one meal you normally eat.  Another idea is to give up coffee (or something else), or to fast from a non-food item like social media, using your cell phone, or watching TV. 

Is Fasting Safe?

Fasting for short periods is safe for healthy individuals when done properly.  It is not recommended for those who are ill or have certain conditions like diabetes.  Please ask your medical doctor if you are unsure whether fasting is safe for you.  Please be sure to drink plenty of water (or juice) while fasting. 

But Won’t I Be Hungry?

Yes.  You will probably be hungry while you fast.  This is normal.  Let your discomfort remind you to pray.  Every time you feel hungry, focus on God and pray.  Ask God to reveal anything you need to change about your attitude and character.  Ask God to fulfill you in ways that food never can. 

What If It Makes Me Sick?

It is normal to feel hungry and uncomfortable and have less energy while you fast.  However, if you feel ill or unable to continue for any reason, please be safe and end your fast.  God will still honor your spiritual work.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Best Cup of Coffee I Ever Had...

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Philippians 4:12 - I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
            If you know me very well, you would know I don’t really like the taste of coffee that much.  I usually try to cover it up with way too much sugar and creamer or, even better, I put in about a ¼ cup of flavored coffemate.  True coffee connoisseurs are often appalled by my coffee habits and snark, “Hey, would like some coffee with that sugar?”
Keeping all this in mind, you will be surprised to learn about the best coffee I ever enjoyed.  You might guess it was some expensive gourmet blend from Starbucks or a hand roast blend out of the mountains of El Salvador made with a French press.  You would be wrong.  In fact, the best cup of coffee I ever had was a cheap Kirkland brand “Breakfast Blend” from Costco made on my Keurig at home.  Even more surprising, it was completely black with no sugar or cream added!
What made this cup of coffee so unique, you ask?  It came at the end of a special week-long diet where I hadn’t had anything to drink except water—no milk, no coffee, no coke or tea, nothing but water.  So by the end of the week, my taste buds were thrilled to encounter anything besides H2O.  All the flavors and nuances of the coffee sprang to life in my mouth and danced on my tongue as I marveled at the simple wonder of coffee like never before.  I experience true joy in something I normally take for granted.
We humans are so prone to take things for granted.  It’s part of our fallen nature.  We lose gratitude and when we do, we are actually less fulfilled.  The trick to being satisfied in life is not having more and more.  In a counterintuitive way, more stuff tends to make us less fulfilled.  No.  The secret to being more fulfilled is learning to be satisfied and grateful with what we have already.
Fasting is a spiritual exercise that can strengthen our gratitude and contentment.  Fasting has traditionally meant going without food.  However, fasting could also be going without coffee or drinking only water or giving up something else like TV or Facebook or watching the news for a set time.  Such self-denial can accomplish some very helpful traits.  It could help you stop taking simple blessings for granted and be more grateful.  On the other hand, you might find you do not miss what you gave up at all; in which case, you might be better off without it. 
True joy and contentment in life is not about having more and more, better and better.  Joy and contentment most often come when you simplify and learn to truly appreciate the blessings you have already.  With intentional spiritual practice, you could learn what the Apostle Paul discovered:  “…the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

Remember, God loves you and so do I!



Monday, March 16, 2015

2. Get Rid of Selfish Motives


Copyright March 10, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Mark 8:31-38

Introduction
            The Season of Lent, which is the 40 day period leading up to Easter, is a great time to take stock of your life.  We derive this 40-day period from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting as he prepared to begin his public ministry.  Fasting is depriving your physical body of food to help induce a more spiritual experience.  Some people give up food or other things during Lent to help them focus more on their relationship with God.  But the whole point is to get rid of anything in your life that distracts you from what’s most important—a pure relationship with Christ.
stock of your life.
            Last Sunday, we started a message series to help you purify your life and draw closer to Christ.  Just as we cleaned up our church building last week, we seek to clean up our lives so we can better focus on the Lord.  Last week, I encouraged you to spend more time reading the Bible.  I challenged you to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter every day—and so read the entire Book of Matthew by Easter.  Today, I want to challenge you to get rid of selfish motives.  Let’s read together what Jesus had to say about selfish motives.

Mark 8:31-38
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.
  • Jesus begins by explaining God’s master plan to save humanity from sin and its consequences.  Sin leads to pain and death and eternal separation from God.  When I was a kid, my church explained all this in simple terms that I could easily understand.  They said, “Everyone sins and falls short of God’s glorious standards.  And the consequences of sin are death.  When you die, you will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.  Because we all sin, we all deserve Hell—which is an eternal punishment you can’t even imagine.  But because God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to save us.  And if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and follow him, we will spend eternity in Heaven—where there will be no more sin or suffering or sickness or tears or death.  This salvation is made possible because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  And here in this passage before it ever happens, Jesus explains the Master’s plan.
32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
  • Peter did not want Jesus to die.  In general, we don’t want anyone to die—especially people we love.  But let’s not pass over this too quickly or we will miss something important about Peter’s motive.  Why doesn’t Peter want Jesus to die?
    • First of all, it didn’t make sense to Peter.  His vision was too small.  People tend to have very limited perspective.  We think in terms of what’s going on in our lives, right now.  Not many of us have a greater vision to think about what will be happening ten years from now or even one year from now.  And we rarely think very much about what’s going on in other people’s lives or what will be going on in their lives in the years ahead.  We are pretty focused on ourselves in the here and now.  But God thinks in broader terms.  He sees the here and now, but also one year from now, ten years from now, and ten thousand years from now.  Consider this:  as Jesus explained his plan to his disciples in this passage 2,000 years ago, he was thinking how you would be sitting here in this church right now contemplating it.  He saw how his actions would directly affect you, your children, grandchildren and your descendants another 1,000 years from today.  But Peter’s vision was small.  And Peter didn’t want Jesus to die because Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t want harm to come to him.  
    • Peter didn’t want to lose Jesus.  This is one type of love (from the Greek word for love: phileo—which we studied a few weeks ago).  It is a somewhat selfish kind of love.  It is more about our desires than the actual wants and needs of the one we “love.”  This is a common form of love we see throughout the world.  You see, Peter did not want to be apart from Jesus.  Maybe he even felt he couldn’t bear to be without Jesus if he died.  This kind of love is motivated more by what Peter wants than what Jesus wants or even what is best for Jesus or the world.  But the highest form of love is another Greek word often used in the Bible: Agape.  Agape is the love that abandons its own selfish desires and works for the good of others, with no conditions and without any expectation of receiving something in return.  This is the love that motivated Jesus to die on the cross for our sin.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
  • It might seem strange that Jesus would rebuke Peter so sternly—even calling him Satan.  Yet, Peter’s motives were selfish.  There was a type of love in him, but it was mixed with impurity too.  In fact, what Peter was doing was not much different from what Satan once did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  When Jesus went into the wilderness fasting for 40 days in Matthew chapter 4, Satan tempted him to eat something.  “Tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)  And Satan offered to give Jesus “All the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (verses 8-9), if only Jesus would bow down and worship Satan.  Peter wasn’t asking Jesus to bow down and worship him, but he was asking Jesus to bend away from God’s perfect salvation plan in favor of Peter’s lesser, worldly desires.  In Peter’s eyes, Jesus was on the verge of a gaining the popular support of the people; couple that with Jesus’ amazing power and Peter thought they could set up an earthly Kingdom of unequaled justice and righteousness.  But this was not God’s plan.  So Jesus said to Peter almost the same thing he said to Satan in the wilderness.  “Get away from me, Satan!”  And then Jesus explains the pure motives that must guide our thoughts and actions if we are his followers.

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Jesus taught being his follower means getting rid of our selfish motives and letting Agape love motivate everything we do.  Just as Jesus was willing to lay down his own life for the sake of others, we should do what’s best for others—even if they don’t deserve it or plan to do anything for us.  What a difference it makes when you finally decide to get rid of your selfish motives and let Love guide all your actions! 

What Motivates You?
            Why do you come to church?  Why do you go to work? Why do you support your wife and kids?  Why do you do the things you do?  There are many different motives for the things we do.  And sometimes our motives are not too pure.  I suppose we would be here all day if we tried to list them all.  So I’ll just list the first four that come to mind.
The first is pseudo-love.  We already talked about how Peter “loved” Jesus and didn’t want to lose him.  I call this “pseudo-love” because it is “like” love, but it is not Agape Love (the selfless, unconditional love God wants us to practice).  It is the love of a mother who “smothers” her children—who loves them so much, she can’t give them the space they need to grow into individuals, but must hover over them at all times.  The truth is, helicopter parents practice a selfish kind of love.  Really, they are using their kids to satisfy a deep longing in their own lives.  And this is not true love.  It is not the motive God wants us to have.  And if this is the kind of love that motivates you—whether you be a helicopter parent, a jealous boyfriend (or girlfriend or just friend), or anyone who is motivated by your own intense desires for the companionship of someone else, you need to get rid of your false motive.
Another false motive is greed.  Are you motivated by your intense longing for more wealth, possessions, or power?  Do you always want to have the latest gadget, the biggest house, the fanciest car?  Do you always feel like no matter how good the stuff you already have is you always need something a little better?  These are all forms of greed, which is a powerful motivation in our society.  But God doesn’t want us to be motivated by greed.  Perhaps you need to get rid of this false motive.
Pride.  Are you overly concerned about preserving your own dignity?  Do you have an excessively high opinion of your importance?  Or conversely, are you always concerned with what others think about you?  These are all forms of pride, arrogance, vanity…  The Bible does not speak highly of pride.  Rather, Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”  Jesus listed pride as one of the vile things that comes from an evil heart—alongside adultery, greed, and wickedness (Mark 7:22).  If Pride, vanity, self-importance, or arrogance motivates your actions, it’s time to get rid of your false motives.
Control.  Do you always need to be in control?  Does everything have to be done a certain way—your way?  Do you have to be intimately involved in every decision your kids or your spouse makes?  Is it almost impossible for you to delegate responsibilities to someone else because you’re afraid they won’t do it the way you would?  Do you find it incredibly annoying to work with others as a team because you’d rather just do it your own way?  If you find it unnerving to let go of control, then it’s probably time to get rid of your false motive of control.  Let me let you in on little secret.  You are not in control anyway.  And all your annoying efforts to keep things “under control” are not pleasing to God.  It’s time to stop trying to run the world around you and learn to trust God (and other people too).
One more—pleasure.  We live in a world that says, “If it makes you happy, do it.”  “Follow your own heart.”  “Have it your way.”  It sounds harmless, but if the desire for pleasure motivates you, you need to get rid of this false motive.  God calls us to be motivated by love.  And quite often real love motivates us to do things that are not pleasurable—sometimes things that are very hard.  That’s why when we get married, we promise to love our spouse “In good times and bad times, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, until death …” I’m so Glad Jesus wasn’t motivated by the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  For it was not pleasurable to hang on the cross for our sins.  And yet, because he loved us, this is exactly what he did.  What about you?  Perhaps it’s time to get rid of your false motives. 

Challenge
            Last week, I challenged you to read your Bible more—to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter a day.  I hope you have accepted my challenge and have been reading.  If not, it’s not too late to start today.
This week, I want to give you a new challenge to add to the one from last week.  This week, I want you to make a list of what motivates you to do the things you do.  Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper.  Prayerfully list out all the things you typically do each day.  Be specific.  Get up and take a shower, take the kids to school, go to work, talk to a friend on the phone, go to the grocery store, cook dinner, etc.  Now think deeply about why you do these various things.  What is your motive for each one?  Why do you do it?  Right down your motives for each thing.  Ask yourself:  are my motives pure?  Would Jesus be happy about my motive for doing this?  How much is this motivated by pure love (Agape)?  What motives do I need to get rid of?  How might I let my actions be guided more by love?  I challenge you to make a list this week and pray that God would help you be motivated more by love.