Monday, July 13, 2009

A Purpose For Fasting

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:6-10

I'm laughing at myself this morning. And I'm probably going to be a bit long-winded because I have multiple things rolling around in my head this morning. The song up above is because I woke up singing it. I woke up this morning singing "greater things have yet to be done" and I thought about a lot of the things our pastor said yesterday, and it just totally fits with where our church is headed. It made me smile as I woke up this morning. And I suspect in the weeks to come, that song may show up here more than once, because it really is very fitting.

It's very fitting for my life as well, because the last few days have been such a roller coaster for us. We finally made the decision to move our family, and decided to do it on our terms and in our timing, and we were informed that our timing wasn't good enough, so for a few days, we've been kind of scrambling, looking for a place to live. At the same time, while we've been past a few places for rent, this voice is in the back of my mind telling me "don't settle". So where my first instinct may have been to look for any place that would fit a minimum of criteria, I'm completely trusting that God has the perfect place for us. We do have our eye on one house, which doesn't fit our criteria of being very close to church, but it meets every single one of our other criteria, with an added bonus for us that we weren't looking for. We'll see. Rumor is that the rent payment is higher than we want, but last night Andy and I both felt such a peace about the situation, and we know if we're meant to live there, God will make it happen. If it's not the place for us, we can take great joy in knowing that God has something better for us- and that's remarkable to think on, because this house is pretty close to perfect- at least from outward appearances.

And that kind of leads me to the verses that I posted above. Which also kind of makes me laugh at myself a bit, because it really wasn't that long ago that I was talking about fasting here on Heart & Soul, and talking about how it just isn't for me, and how I'm not so sure people should be doing it. I had a lot of accurate points and talked about the nutrition aspect, and how people like myself get physically in a very bad way without food. But then God spoke to me in church one morning and our pastor did a whole message on fasting and opened my eyes to the idea that fasting is not just starving oneself. There's the whole aspect of utilizing your fasting time to draw closer to God in meditation and prayer, and then there's the whole idea of fasting not necessarily being about food. I found TV to be an ideal fasting medium, fasted for 30 days and then was delivered of basically a dependence on TV. I seldom watch anymore, and have very few programs that I watch. It's wonderful to not be controlled by watching certain shows on certain nights and keeping up with this or that.

Anyway, the fasting. A few days ago, I was preparing my lunch, and deciding what I wanted to do with lunch. Sometimes I sit by the computer, sometimes I read, and sometimes I read my Bible. I read entirely through my Bible in 100 days by reading just at lunchtime every day. But lately, I have been reading other things. Well, I felt strongly that I should read my Bible on this particular day, and so I set my Bible on the table and went to the kitchen to grab a few other things. When I came back with my lunch in hand, there was a sight word flashcard smack dab in the middle of where I needed to put my plate. It simply said SEE. Truly, it was not there beforehand when I first set my Bible there. In fact, the sight word cards were out and on the table, but they were all in the box, save this one, which I had found being used as a bookmark earlier in the day, so I just set it on the box to put away later. I stared at that word, and I just chuckled, and wondered where in my Bible I should turn to see, because I know that God stirred up the breeze that blew that card into my spot.

I thought about this for a little while, because I felt that wherever I was going to turn, it was going to be important for me, and I had been toying with just turning to one of Paul's letters, but then I thought about what I've really been talking to God about lately. I've really been seeking answers as far as dreaming goes. I know God talks to me in my dreams, and I want to better understand what He's saying. I also know that as I get better at listening to God in my dreams, that I can help other people discern their own dreams- and I actually had an opportunity to do that just the other day! It was exciting, and so I thought about dreams, and I thought that I should open my Bible to the book of Daniel, because Daniel was a dreamer and an interpreter, and where better to discover some of the mystery of dream interpretation than from an expert. So I did that, and began reading right in chapter one, and this is what leaped off the page to me:

"Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." Daniel 1:11-17

And as I read on in Daniel, I found other instances where Daniel was seeking after an interpretation, and seeking after answers, and he spent time in fasting and meditation and prayer. And I just felt a very strong feeling like I needed to seriously consider this fasting thing. It wasn't an accident that that card SEE was in my spot, and it wasn't an accident that I chose to turn to Daniel. God wanted me to see that, to read that, and understand the key to understanding my own dreams. It says right there, that after these four men fasted for ten days in their vegetable fast, that God gave them knowledge and understanding- and Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. And that's so what I want.

For a few days I've been thinking about this idea of fasting- and my first thought was trying to figure out where I had ten days of not much going on that I could maintain a vegetable fast. The actual veggie fast will actually be a piece of cake I think for my veg-head self, especially this time of year. It turns out, it's been no accident that I was lead to this specific idea of fasting at this specific time. See, next week we are going camping for a week, and that is no time to be doing a fast. However, a few weeks after our camping adventure, we have a conference that we're really looking forward to called Breakthrough Revival. I've really, really been looking forward to this conference, because we're after our own breakthrough here, a breakthrough on several different things that we've been talking to God about. And wouldn't you know. We come back from our camping weekend, unpack, and from the following Monday to the first day of the conference is... ta da... ten days exactly. Coincidence? I don't think so. I'm fervently after my own breakthrough, and am going to be going to this conference expecting God to do great things, what better way than to prepare according to His Word?

And as I prepare for fasting, I also can't discard other things the Bible says about fasting. Isaiah 58 is an excellent example, because it isn't just talking about eliminating something or not eating for several days. It's also talking about taking the time to open my eyes to the need around me during my time of fasting. I don't know what that means for me regarding my fasting time, but I do know this, that I will keep my eyes and my heart wide open. I have purpose for fasting, and I can pretty much guarantee that I never thought I'd hear myself say that.

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