Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week Three

The Discipline of Fasting

This week I experienced something a little more painful than the past few weeks. I truly felt God going to deeper more hidden places in my soul sheddin
g light in such a way that again allowed me to see more bits of my human nature that cause me to fall short of His glory. But honestly, without those... we'd never recognize our GREAT need for Him, His love, forgiveness, grace, salvation and powe
r (to sum it up- the cross). Now I realize that I don't want these dusty places in my heart revealed just so He can patch me up and I can be more clean and perfect.... but rather so I can be in a constant state of desperate need, discover humility in the awareness of my own humanity, and have the grand opportunity for God to then remove those hinderances so I can receive more of the ever flowing love rushing in mad pursuit from His heart to ours.

I had first decided that I would fast everything but veggie and fruit juice this week. So... I borrowed my friends juicer, bought the supplies and off we went. By the end of the first day I slowly eased my way into the daniel fast :) (whic
h is pretty much the same thing except you can eat nuts and grains as well) So... from monday to friday that's what I did. Although, as I was reading the fasting chapter in Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" I quickly began to see the value in Christ's "recommendation" to do so. And that, instead of me thinking that I was fasting from certain things... I was actually FEASTING on the word of God. As we now know fasting is a discipline, and according to Foster discipline brings freedom. So being disciplined in an area that Jesus clearly supported through is own actions is something that anyone who follows His ways should seek to strive for. What may begin as a "difficult sacrifice" will only end
in complete and utter blessing if He remains the center and THE reason in which you participate.

There are countless things that we DO here on earth that Christ never did... or would probably never do if He were physically present right now. Going off biblical principles alone and considering the fact Jesus would be a pretty fantastic steward of His temple.. I doubt He would ever use a credit card, eat fast food, watch tv, live in
a gated community, waste hours on facebook, or be too religious. I'm not knocking anyone who does that necessarily... i'm just sayin I bet Jesus might have more eternal issues on his plate, that's all :) And perhaps we should too? I've been questioning myself on that subject for a little while now reevaluating everything I do... asking myself if it's beneficial for the kingdom or simply toxic.

On the flip side there are plenty of things Jesus did do that we don't give much thought about today. It's not because they are completely irrele
vant... but maybe we assume God doesn't expect us to carry out some of those things in the crazy busy world that we live in. Then again, is that lifestyle something we ourselves have created?? And/or is it possible to live and breath a still, peaceful, joyful life despite all the madness swirling around us? As a bit of encouragement for all of you, I'm finding that is becoming greater possibility every single day I discover more of God's treasures wrapped up in practicing these amazing spiritual disciplines that are so difficult to initially slow down for... but simplistic to perform, revolutionary to soak in, and life- altering.

In Matthew 6:16 Jesus says, "And WHEN you fast..." almost assuming that we will, following it with proper instruction on how. "Jesus did not command fasting. But it is obvious that he proceeded on the principle that the children of the kingdom of God would fast. For the person longing for a more intimate walk with God, these statements of Jesus are drawing words," said Foster. Wow! So instead of us, his children, saying "ah dad... really? fasting? do you realize how hard that is? ugh... not again." We GET to react with pure joy knowing it's actually an act of honor and praise to the King, our dad, who loves us
so incredibly much and desires for us to draw near. The absolute safest place we could ever be is in His presence. Sure, you don't always know what's gonna happen... but you CAN be fearless, full of peace, and live in utter excitement for sittin
g at His feet and learning more about His great and awesome mysterious power.

Now there are many "benefits" to fasting like physical body, success in prayer, spiritual insights, etc... but like Foster so wisely put it- "these must NEVER replace God as the center of our fasting... if our fasting is not unto God, we hav
e failed...this is the only way we will be saved from loving the blessing more than the Blesser."

There are a few different ways of fasting mentioned in the bible. One would be the "partial fast" which is basically a restriction of diet but not total removal of food. Daniel lived this one pretty consistently. There is also the "absolute fast" which is abstaining from both food and water. (Esther 4:16 and Acts 9:9). This of course would be something you would need to make CERTAIN God was telling you to do, and even then pay close attention to listening to your body and make sure a few others close to you know what
you are doing. (I'm seriously getting cotton-mouth as I type). And then of course there was the time Jesus fasted from food (and "noise") in the desert for 40 days. (Luke 4:2)

This book even suggests easing into a fasting type of discipline where you might cut out one or two meals a day a week to start, then maybe eventually fast for a whole day. Many people have made this a normal part of their lifestyle dedicating the day to really feast on the word of God expressing their hunger for more of Him! I actually h
ave a friend of mine younger than me who
has been doing this for over 10 years now. He would probably tell you that He's never regretted one missed meal... and honestly, he's one of the most authentic guys I've ever met. I hope to get to the place where I can do this very soon...

Like all of those stories above and many hundreds of thousands since then, when we set aside things of earthly importance in honor of Christ... when we make room.... He WILL move. In those moments when the pain hungers seem unbearable on this physical planet we are actually speaking volumes in the spiritual tearing down walls and breaking weapons of the enemy by silently representing our ultimate hunger
for more of Christ himself. How close can we get to the cross? Well... how close do you really wanna be? If there really is no greater love than His now or forever more... then i want to know, hear, see, feel, receive, and freely give as MUCH of it as possible while I'm still alive! Is there really anything more pressing than that?

"Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other
way. It is a means of God's grace and blessing that should not be neglected any longer...." declares Foster.

(This picture is taken from the place of transfiguration (if i remember correctly) looking out over the Sea of Galilee. I'm sure a lot of the "fasting" we've talked about took place around this body of water, and somewhere along the shore most of the Apostles were called. Every time I visit this place I'm moved in an incredible way... if it weren't for those men saying yes, and others who have truly followed Jesus- would we even know? What about the rest of the world?? Will we follow His call that began by this beautiful sea?)

The Life of James (son of Zebedee)

It seems as though this James, including his brother John and the other Apostle Peter, were 3 of Jesus' closest friends... or inner circle, if you will. He even dubbed the brothers the "sons of thunder" at one point in Mark 3. Soon after Jesus called Simon and Andrew to follow Him after finding them casting their nets into the water... He finds James and John with their dad mending their nets. Then in vs. 22 of Matthew 4 it says, "Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him." Often now I wonder what in the world that conversation must have sounded like??? I'll let you use your own imagination on that one... but what would it take for you drop your only source of income, way of life and loved ones to follow Him that day? And what does it really look like to follow Him now?

Some interesting facts about James' life is that, along with Peter and John, he was included in a few more significant historical moments than the rest of the disciples. The three boys were there for the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37), present at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1), and the agony in the garden of Gethsemani (Matt 26:37). It's also possible James and his brother got the nickname "the sons of thunder" because of their evangelical zeal and temper as well (Luke 9:54).

Also along with their mother, the brothers had an earthly ambition to sit on either side of Christ on his thrown... not yet fully understanding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. Even in their ignorance Jesus says, "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) I can only imagine they felt quickly put in their place.

About 15 years after these words, according to most biblical scholars, James was put to martyred by the grandson of Herod the Great in order to please the Jews and make a spectacle of the Christian church and an example of evangelicals like James. Interestingly enough, some say that the guy that actually led James to judgement was convicted by his testimony, accepted Christ and they were beheaded together.

Wow, who would've thought... another normal fisherman dude on the Sea of Galilee whose life was changed forever on that day a guy named Jesus passed by and asked them to follow. I'm sure James had no earthly idea the temporary suffering that awaited him... nor did he realize the LIFE of adventure, mystery, excitement, miracles, salvations, testimonies, and pure joy that he was to experience before stepping into another eternal realm filled with even more awesome goodness! The funny thing is we are all in our own little boat today with our own little lives and our cute little nets... Jesus is passing by calling out for you to follow and trade in your ordinary lives for extraordinary ones. Following Him is ANYTHING but boring and there is absolutely nothing to fear, all you gotta do is step out of the stinkin boat, follow the shepherd's voice, and step into his footprints.

Training for half-marathon

This was probably one of the most difficult weeks so far in training as well. I think I might have run about 2 or 3 days this week? And on one of those days I chose to run at the park and about half way through began fighting a battle with myself I had never expected. As was jogging my body felt as though it was saying, "you know... i don't really want to run today, so i'm gonna make this as hard as possible for you." Right then and there we had it out. Yes, ok!! I was that crazy lady you passed the other day practically screaming at her body commanding it to do as it was told!!! Haha. Then I began to see this pride, stubbornness, anger, and forcefulness come to the surface which felt and looked sooooooooo ugly. Blaaaaaa. I hated those things for being in me somewhere and just wanted them OUT! Needless to say most of my run that day was a frustrating walk, but I prayed and fought in the spiritual realm for freedom for the majority of 3 miles I'd say. It reminded me of this paragraph in the book, which was probably yet another reason I was experiencing some of this:

"Once the primary purpose of fasting is firmly fixed on our hearts, we are at liberty to understand that there are also secondary purposes in fasting. More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately." Also David writes is Psalm 69:19, "I humbled my soul with fasting". Oh man, is that ever true.

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