Saturday, January 3, 2015

Some Thoughts on Fasting...

Dear Antioch Church Family,
As we walk together through these 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, here are three very important things to keep in mind,
  • Fasting is made for mankind, not mankind for fastingJesus declared this to be true about the Sabbath in Mark 2:27[i] and it is also true about fasting. In other words, fasting is something God created for our sake, not His sake. It is a way for us to draw closer to Him and to express our need of Him; our hunger for an encounter with Him; or our repentance before Him. Fasting is meant to help us, not hurt us; bless us, not burden us; for under the New Covenant fasting is an expression of grace, not something required by Law. What this means on practical level is that God understands our circumstances and our limitations, such as physical disabilities like diabetes, that may limit our ability to go without food. He is also well-aware of the responsibilities we carry in our daily lives that require a certain measure of physical strength. I have discovered in my own life, for instance, that when I set myself to fast and seek God I must take into account the needs of my family and my responsibilities to our church. If I fast to such a degree and in such a way that I do not have the strength to serve them, then I am approaching fasting mistakenly, perhaps more as a matter of what the Apostle Paul labeled "rules of self-imposed worship” that are devoid of spiritual worth instead of as an expression of genuine spirituality.[ii] When we make a sincere, heart-felt effort to fast in whatever way God leads us to, He receives it as an “offering” and as an act of worship unto Him that brings Him pleasure and moves His heart on our behalf.[iii] While fasting is not a “hunger strike” that has the power to force God to do something He does not want to do, as we fast we turn the ears of our heart away from the voice of our flesh and we more clearly hear the voice of His Spirit. As a result, through fasting we come into a greater revelation of both God’s purposes and His promises. This enables us pray with greater faith and effectiveness.
  • Comparing your fast with someone else’s fast is not wise. In this and many other areas of life, we should apply the biblical principles set forth in 2 Corinthians 10:12 and Philippians 2:12-13.[iv] What gives your fast meaning is not how it compares to that of others. The fact that it is the sincere expression of your own personal desire to draw closer to God through humility, repentance, and prayer makes it powerful. If you have not received specific guidance from the Lord to fast in a particular way, then don't try to take your cues from what others are doing. Instead, think about what would be most meaningful to you, then do that as unto the Lord, with all your heart.
  • As you fast, take specific steps to reach out to God in a fresh way. The single most important thing about fasting does not primarily have to do with food, although that is the most common and biblical way to fast. Fasting from food benefits our physical health, but what gives even that kind of fasting its greatest value is not that our bodies have temporarily gone without nourishment. The personal discipline we gain over our own flesh usually spills over into other areas of our lives, but the greatest benefits of this and every other form of fasting are the spiritual blessings which come to us when we simultaneously set aside time to seek God’s face through prayer, worship, and the reading of His Word. One great way you can do this is to join together with your brothers and sisters in Christ at Antioch Church every Wednesday night from 6:00-7:30 for our Midweek Prayer Service. These meetings are always precious times in God’s presence, but as we come together while fasting and seek God’s face for a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit, we can expect Him to move in a special way. If you cannot be present physically, I encourage you to set aside as much of that time as you possibly can, wherever you are. Seek God with us, joining your heart with ours through the power of the Holy Spirit!
As you fast, I encourage you to wrap your heart and your mind around the very specific Scripture promise I felt God drop into my spirit for our congregation regarding these 21 Days,
James 4:8 (NIV) — 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. 
If your schedule does not allow you to attend our Midweek Prayer Services, I encourage you to email us your prayer requests via: Your church family wants to stand in faith with you for those needs you are carrying in your heart. We will believe with you for supernatural breakthrough!
Teresa and I love you very, very much and we thank God for the privilege of serving you. As we all seek Him together, the very, very best is yet to come for every one of us and for Antioch Church!
Pastor Mark

[i] Mark 2:23–28 (NIV) — 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” 
[ii] Colossians 2:16–23 (NIV) — 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. 
[iii] Isaiah 58:3–9 (NIV) — 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 “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 them, 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…
[iv] 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV) — 12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
Philippians 2:12–13 (NIV) — 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 

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