Friday, May 31, 2013

Fasting Testimonials

Fasting presents pleasant surprises. Won’t you join us in one of our upcoming fasting opportunities? Share your experience with us like Rebecca and Alissa do below.

“I am 30 minutes from finishing up my fasting here in Texas. I was SO skeptical about doing this, but trusted that God would help me. He did. Every time I felt hunger pains or puny, I prayed. I prayed way more than I ever do and it was a great day! Thank you for presenting me with this challenge. I am so excited for the trip and grateful that I get to be a part of it and that I get to meet so many wonderful people!”
– Rebecca, age 30

“My fasting experience was incredible. My entire life group (small Group) did it with me to support me. We didn’t do the whole 12 hours because some people needed to take medicine and I had a huge math test, so I had some almonds before the test and they ate bread with their medicine. The idea was still intact; every time my belly growled, I prayed for my own heart, the people on the team, and the people of Cambodia. Also, our speaker at church this weekend was speaking on human nature and used what happened in Cambodia as one of his examples. I learned more about what happened and so did most of my prayer support group, and it lit a fire of prayer under us.”
– Alissa, age 16

To Fast, or Not to Fast

One aspect of pre-expedition training that our team members go through in preparing for ministering internationally includes fasting. Frankly, it’s not one of the parts most team members look forward to. Yet, I’m reminded of why our Lord loves children when I think of a nine-year-old girl whose mom told her that team preparation included fasting. Her response must have delighted God: “Can we do it today? I’ve never done that before; it’ll be fun!” Oh, out of the mouths of babes.

As we prepare our teams for one the most important parts of our expedition training – four days of prayer and fasting (no, not in a row), we share with them about this discipline of the faith.

Food, Glorious Food

So, what is biblical fasting?
The basic root meaning of the Greek word for fasting, nesteia, simply means “not to eat.”  Why did people in the Bible “not eat”?  Leviticus 16:29 says that fasting is synonymous with “afflicting one’s soul.”  For the Hebrews, fasting was more than afflicting one’s body, but also one’s soul. 

Biblical fasting is “not eating” with spiritual communication in mind.   In the Bible, fasting always occurs together with prayer. Biblical fasting is deliberately abstaining from food for a spiritual reason: communication and relationship with the Father. It should not be done with the mindset of attaining things, but rather of drawing closer to God Who has shown mercy and grace to us.  We fast to subdue our fallen flesh, so we can commune closely with our Lord.

Not Commanded, but Expected
When Jesus spoke of fasting, he did not say, “if you fast,” but “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16).  Our Lord assumes that Christians will fast. 

God said, “When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).  When you are willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, you are demonstrating that you mean business, that you are seeking God with all your heart.

Fasting puts things in proper focus.  It is a physical way of saying, “Food and the things of this life are not as important to me right now as __________________.”

Getting Right with God First
We cannot fast and pray expecting God to bless when there is known sin in our lives.  Fasting does not impress God with our spirituality to the point that He ignores our disobedience.  Genuine fasting will always cause us to examine our hearts to make sure everything is right with Him. Also, fasting does not serve to change God’s mind, speed up His answer, or manipulate His will.

Fasting Specifics
Our team fasting is a time of connecting with the Lord, not legalism. Therefore, we provide guidelines for the team and encourage them to keep whatever commitment they make to the Lord. This liquid-only fast is from from 7am-7pm, but some team members chose to do a 24-hour fast. Some have health issues or are training athletically, so we suggest protein shakes. Again, the purpose is to seek God; to spend the time praying when you normally would be eating; to pray, and hunger reminds you to pray; to die to our own desires; to rely on God to do whatever it is you committed to do before the Lord.

Because it’s a corporate fast, we send an email to team members with the prayer focus for the fast. We encourage team members to invite their support team to join them in praying and/or fasting on the prayer/fast days. They can forward the prayer focus email to their supporters. 

Preparing for Fasting Success
Because fasting is a new experience for most team members, we provide tips for success. We caution them to be prepared for some dizziness, headaches, or nausea in the early going and encourage them to break their fast gradually with a light and easy meal to digest. They are encouraged to enter fasting with a positive faith that God will reward those who fast with the right motives. Jesus promised that “when you fast, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:18). Of course, we need to avoid the temptation to grumble; when tempted to complain about being hungry, take a “heart check.” Sometime during the fast, it is good mix fasting with prayer, time in Scripture reading, singing, or devotional reading. Remember, fasting is not an end in itself. Seek the Lord, not the experience of fasting. Check your motives concerning your fasting. Hypocrisy and spiritual pride can easily creep in. There is a reward for fasting, but only for fasting done with the right motives: “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).

Will You Join Us?
We have two more prayer and fast days before we depart for Uganda June 20. We would be honored to have you partner with us by fasting and praying. If you would like to do that, send us an email, and we will send you the prayer focus for the day.

Remember, God wants to use this precious prayer and fast time to intensify our desire for Him, reveal His will, and grant understanding and peace.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day – Every Day

Today millions of us in the United States celebrated with picnics, parades and get-togethers. I wonder how many stopped and recalled prayerfully the reason for Memorial Day: those who paid the ultimate price, dying for another – for you and me.

Perhaps the reason it’s easier to focus on food, folks and fun is that we have trouble accepting sacrifice, especially when it involves death that has no obvious reward for the one who died. In our humanness, especially in the United States, we spend much of our efforts attempting to gain, to get ahead. We pursue selfish endeavors. To stop and truly remember and give thanks for all who unselfishly died for us is...uncomfortable.

Fallen Soldier at Normandy

As followers of Christ, we are called to live each day as a Memorial Day. Jesus willingly died and shed His blood – the ultimate sacrifice for each of us.

What if each morning we woke up with this attitude? I will celebrate the memory of what Jesus did for me. I did not earn it, but I am called to live as a thankful child of the One True King.

We do this through prayer, but we also need to do it by the way we live: our actions, words, how we spend our money and time.

We can also do this by sharing our testimonies with those we meet – memorializing what God’s grace saved us from. Commit each week to share your story of how good God is with someone who needs to hear it.

Try ending each day with a thankful heart, remembering all He does for you by praying this Psalm.
Thank God! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he has done! Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into music! Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God. Live a happy life! Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. Remember the world of wonders he has made, his miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered.
 – from Psalm 105:1-6 (The Message)  

Maybe God is tugging at your heart – challenging you to take another step of faith. Prayerfully consider joining an e3 Legacy expedition. You will have opportunities to share Jesus’ love and live out your thankful heart in a way that will not only will change your life, but will deepen your relationship with Him.

Sandy Corbin is co-leading an expedition to plant churches in Costa Rica this summer. The above devotional is adapted from a weekly prayer focus for the team that will join her in July 2013.