Posts tagged ‘giving’

Fasting: Intimacy with God

Recently my Sunday School class has begun a study on fasting.  It is based on a book, and led by the author on a dvd.  We listen and discuss.  I missed the first 2 sessions, and was finally able to attend the 3rd one last week.  I have to say that I left feeling really uncomfortable with what the man said.  Some of it really rang true of the Doctrine of Prosperity.  If you are unfamiliar with that term, it is the teaching that God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and happy and as soon as you give your life to Him, and give your money to His ministry, you will be healthy, wealthy, and happy.  It is a false doctrine that is not true to what the Bible teaches.  Jesus himself warned that those who followed Him would face trials and persecution.  He also warned that it is very difficult for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God…because with wealth, the temptation is so great to rely on self, rather than God, which is not the way to salvation (Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life).  The apostle Paul stressed that when we are weakest, God’s strength shines through.  How then does it seem right to say that God wants us to be wealthy (and take the risk of being pulled away from Him), and healthy all the time (allowing us to live by our own strength, and not the strength of God).  And happy?  There is a difference between being happy (superficially, based on current circumstances) and filled with the joy of the Lord (the hope that we have in His presence at all times).

Back to fasting.  The author of the series said some things that sounded right.  But he also said some things that made me cringe.  He encouraged fasting as a way to breakthroughs in your prayers.  To sum up, when we fast, God takes extra notice and bam!  Miracles and answered prayers!  The breakthrough in your financing that you have been praying for.  The healing, the deliverance from drugs, or homosexuality, or other sins.  I believe that God stirred His Spirit within me for a reason.  Do you pray that God will give you wisdom and understanding before you enter a place where His Word will be taught?  It is so important to seek His leading, even while we are being led by others.  False teaching abounds, even when that is not the intention, and we must be on guard at all times.  Seek the guidance of the Spirit, our Counselor, so that we won’t be led astray.  1 John 4:1 tells us we are to test the spirits to see if they are from God.

I left Sunday School last week determined to do just that.  I went to the back of my Bible and wrote down every verse that mentioned fast, fasting, fasted, and I began to read those verses and the ones surrounding it.  I spent time praying and studying what the Bible says about fasting.  The following is what I learned.  At the end of this post, I will include the Bible references that I learned from so that you can test the spirits also.

What fasting is:

Fasting is a sacrifice on our part with the intention of drawing near to God.  It comes from a repentant heart that seeks to be in the presence of God with an intimacy that removes all other distractions.  It is an offering of oneself in a way that is pure and complete.  During this time of fasting, we are held up in our weakness by the power of God.  We experience His strength in a way that we can’t when our focus is divided.  In the act of fasting, we bring honor and glory to God.  Fasting is purely relational.  Because it is just between us and God, it is intimate in its very nature.  It is a longing to be near Him, to adore Him, to be completely fulfilled and satisfied by Him.  It is the opportunity to give Him our undivided attention, to pour out our souls to Him.  When we are so closely connected to our Father, then we are so much more able to hear Him speak to us, and see His hand at work around us.  We benefit in this time of nearness by knowing Him more deeply.

Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights after being baptized and before being tempted by Satan.  He didn’t fast for a miraculous breakthrough.  He fasted to draw near to His Father and glean strength from Him.

Prayer in times of fasting are linked in Isaiah 58 and Acts 10 to the obedience of the person praying…obedience specifically related to helping the poor, the needy, the destitute, the oppressed.  God says that He hears and answers the prayers of those who give to those in need.  Then they will experience light in the darkness, healing, God’s guidance and protection, satisfaction of the soul, strengthening of your bones, and God’s provision.

The one time fasting is specifically linked with a miracle/answered prayer is when Jesus said that a particular demon responds only to prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21).  This would be a very specific situation that I believe the Holy Spirit would direct and inspire to the result that the demon would be exorcised and God would be glorified.

Fasting is not to be a method of manipulation, an attempt to get God to answer your prayers in the way that you want Him to.  Before you shoot me down, consider what the Israelites were doing in Isaiah 58.  They fasted and prayed every 5th and 7th month during their 70 years of captivity.  But God did not listen to them.  Why?  They were fasting for themselves.  Mourning what they had lost.  Praying for what they wanted back.  But what they didn’t get was that fasting was about God…repenting, drawing near to Him, seeking His will, and living in obedience to Him by meeting the needs of the poor, and observing the Sabbath…to worship God.  How does our fasting tend to look?  Is it our heart’s desire to be nearer to God and seek His will?  Or do we say, “Hey!  Look at me!  See what I am doing here?  I am fasting!  I am making the supreme sacrifice so that You will hear me.  Now please answer my prayer!  I need a financial breakthrough…I need my relative to give up alcohol…I need my child to turn from immorality or homosexuality…I need so and so to be healed….”  I am not saying we cannot, or should not pray for healing while fasting.  But we must be aware of our motives, the attitude of our heart.  Is it pure?  What is our intention?  Are we praying and fasting for our will?  Or the will of God and for His glory?

Prayer, with faith the size of a mustard seed, can move mountains, can bring healing, when it is the will of God.  Fasting, with the right attitude of the heart, and obedience in giving, will glorify God first and foremost, will deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him, and will seek His will above all.  Fasting is not about getting our way, it is about worship – profound, intimate worship.

Scripture references:  Joel 1:1-15 (vs 14), Zechariah 7:1-14 (vs5), Nehemiah 1:1-11 (vs 4), Daniel 9:1-19 (vs 3-4), Psalm 35:11-14, Psalm 109:1-31 (vs 24), Isaiah 58:1-14, Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 4:1-2, Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 2:37, Luke 18:9-14, Acts 10:24-33 (vs 30).

Oh No You Don’t! It’s My Money!

Don’t you just hate it when the pastor starts talking money?  You just sit there with steely eyes and tight lips.  “You are butting into my business, now Pastor.  Going too far.  What I give to the church is between me and God, not you, me and God.”  You avoid shaking his hand after the service, but if you have to, you certainly don’t tell him it was a good sermon.  Humph.

What is it about money that sets us on edge?  We can thank God for our good health, our home, our families, our food.  We even thank God for the jobs that allow us to provide for ourselves and our families.  Have we ever thanked God for providing money so that we can give it back to Him?  Oops!! Did you see that?  The word back.  Oh snap.  I slipped that in there.

Before I go too far into this, and you think I am preaching at you, let me tell you that this is an area that my husband and I have wrestled with our entire marriage (20 years!).  Before we married, I gave 10%.  But I was a single girl and able to do that without any worries (which would have been conjured up on my own and without merit anyway).  My husband may shoot me for this, so this may be my last post;-)  He wasn’t ready for that.  To be fair, his walk with Christ at that time was not very deep.  He has grown, and changed a lot over the years, and I am so proud of him!!  As the children began to come, and money became tighter, it was easy to not give a full 10%.  And it was easy for me to think that it was probably just as well that we didn’t.  I will say that we did increase our giving each time we received a raise in pay.  And I did insist on giving 10% of any large lump some that we received unexpectedly.  I was really uncomfortable talking about this with my husband, and probably should have been bolder.  I went to prayer.  As the wife, I felt that I could not disobey/dishonor my husband by giving more than he approved of.  So I would talk to God about it.  I just asked Him to work in my husband’s heart and make the changes that were necessary.  Recently he has come to me ready to give that tithe…but it is scary for both of us.  We know our finances.  We know our needs.  How are we going to meet our needs with the finances we have coming in when we give more to God?  We start looking for other places that we can cut back, thinking things are going to be tighter.  And they might be.  But did we ever have a right to hold back the money that we haven’t given over the years in the first place?

Is it a coincidence that I tripped over the following passage in God’s Word this morning while looking for the time periods that a few certain books were written?  Not likely!!

Malachi 2:8-12 (NCV) –
“Should a person rob God?  But you are robbing me. 
“You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’
“You have robbed me in your offerings and the tenth of your crops.  So a curse is on you, because the whole nation has robbed me.  Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn so there will be food in my house.  Test me on this,” says the Lord All-Powerful.  “I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need.  I will stop the insects so they won’t eat your crops.  The grapes won’t fall from your vines before they are ready to pick,” says the Lord All-Powerful.  All the nations will call you blessed, because you will have a pleasant country,” says the Lord All-Powerful.

   Well, there is really no pussy-footin’ around there.  No, “I gave to you, so you give back.”  Certainly no, “Just give as you see fit.  Whatever you are comfortable with.  That is okay with me.”  NO.  It is hard hitting!  God says it like He sees it.  He gives to us, and commands a tenth in return.  When we don’t return that tenth, He considers it robbery!!  It takes either a pretty gutsy, or a pretty stupid, person to rob from God.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely never thought about it this way before.  And I’m feeling pretty stupid right now.  Forgive me, Lord All-Powerful!!

God is a gracious and merciful god, though.  Did you notice that He didn’t leave it with the conviction?  Oh praise Him!!!  He gives us a way to make things right.  Not only that, but He promises to pour out blessings from Heaven!  If someone robs from me, but gives it back.  I am probably likely to let bygones be bygones.  But would I turn around and give them a whole bunch of my good things in return.  Um, I’m thinking…no.  That is what God does.  He even tells us to test Him on it and see if that is not what He will do.  Why do we say we believe what God says is true, and trust that He will do what He promised with everything except money.  No wonder Jesus made a point of warning that we cannot worship both God and money.  He knew it was too great a temptation to not address.

We are going to take God up on that offer.  We are going to test Him…but we are going to step out in faith and know that He will indeed open Heaven’s gates and pour out blessings on us.  Will you join us, and receive His blessings?  I will pray for us, and you, to have the faith to believe that God will be true to His word, and keep His promises.  God be with you all!!!

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