From the Pastor
Pastor Mike Burns
903.567.2072 (Ext. 3002)
Chances are you are among the massive majority of Christians who rarely or never fast. It’s not because we haven’t read our Bibles or sat under faithful preaching or heard about the power of fasting, or even that we don’t genuinely want to do it. We just never actually get around to putting down the fork.
Part of it may be that we live in a society in which food is so pervasive that we eat not only when we don’t need to, but sometimes even when we don’t want to. We eat to share a meal with others, to build or grow relationships (good reasons), or just as a distraction from responsibility.
And of course, there are our own cravings and aches for comfort that keep us from the discomfort of fasting.
Not So Fast
Fasting is voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose. It is markedly counter-cultural in our consumerist society, like abstaining from sex until marriage.
If we are to learn the lost art of fasting and enjoy its fruit, it will not come with our ear to the ground of society, but with Bibles open. Then, the concern will not be whether we fast, but when. Jesus assumes his followers will fast, and even promises it will happen. He doesn’t say “if,” but “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16). And he doesn’t say his followers might fast, but “they will” (Matthew 9:15).
“Fasting is markedly counter-cultural in our consumerist society, like abstaining from sex until marriage.”
We fast in this life because we believe in the life to come. We don’t have to get it all here and now, because we have a promise that we will have it all in the coming age. We fast from what we can see and taste, because we have tasted and seen the goodness of the invisible and infinite God — and are desperately hungry for more of him.
Radical, Temporary Measure
Fasting is for this world, for stretching our hearts to get fresh air beyond the pain and trouble around us. And it is for the battle against the sin and weakness inside us. We express our discontent with our sinful selves and our longing for more of Christ.
When Jesus returns, fasting will be done. It’s a temporary measure, for this life and age, to enrich our joy in Jesus and prepare our hearts for the next — for seeing him face to face. When he returns, he will not call a fast, but throw a feast; then all holy abstinence will have served its glorious purpose and be seen by all for the stunning gift it was. Until then, we will fast.
How to Start Fasting
Fasting is hard. It sounds much easier in concept than it proves to be in practice. It can be surprising how on-edge we feel when we miss a meal. Many an idealistic new "fast-er" has decided to miss a meal and only found our belly drove us to make up for it long before the next mealtime came.
Fasting sounds so simple, and yet the world, our flesh, and the devil conspire to introduce all sorts of complications that keep it from happening. In view of helping you start down the slow path to good fasting, here are six simple pieces of advice. These suggestions might seem pedantic, but the hope is that such basic counsel can serve those who are new at fasting or have never seriously tried it.
1. Start small.
Don’t go from no fasting to attempting a weeklong. Start with one meal; maybe fast one meal a week for several weeks. Then try two meals, and work your way up to a daylong fast. Perhaps eventually try a two-day juice fast.
A juice fast means abstaining from all food and beverage, except for juice and water. Allowing yourself juice provides nutrients and sugar for the body to keep you operating, while also still feeling the effects from going without solid food. It’s not recommended that you abstain from water during a fast of any length.
2. Plan what you’ll do instead of eating.
Fasting isn’t merely an act of self-deprivation, but a spiritual discipline for seeking more of God’s fullness. This means we should have a plan for what positive pursuit to undertake in the time it normally takes to eat. We spend a good portion of our day with food in front of us. One significant part of fasting is the time it creates for prayer and meditation on God’s word or some act of love for others.
Before diving headlong into a fast, craft a simple plan. Connect it to your purpose for the fast. Each fast should have a specific spiritual purpose. Identify what that is and design a focus to replace the time you would have spent eating. Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.
3. Consider how it will affect others.
Fasting is no license to be unloving. It would be sad to lack concern and care for others around us because of this expression of heightened focus on God. Love for God and for neighbor goes together. Good fasting mingles horizontal concern with the vertical. If anything, others should even feel more loved and cared for when we’re fasting.
So as you plan your fast, consider how it will affect others. If you have regular lunches with colleagues or dinners with family or roommates, assess how your abstaining will affect them, and let them know ahead of time, instead of just being a no-show, or springing it on them in the moment that you will not be eating.
Also, consider this backdoor inspiration for fasting: If you make a daily or weekly practice of eating with a particular group of friends or family, and those plans are interrupted by someone’s travel or vacation or atypical circumstances, consider that as an opportunity to fast, rather than eating alone.
4. Try different kinds of fasting.
The typical form of fasting is personal, private, and partial, but we find a variety of forms in the Bible: personal and communal, private and public, congregational and national, regular and occasional, absolute and partial.
In particular, consider fasting together with your family, small group, or church. Do you share together in some special need for God’s wisdom and guidance? Is there an unusual difficulty in the church, or society, for which you need God’s intervention? Do you want to keep the second coming of Christ in view? Plead with special earnestness for God’s help by linking arms with other believers to fast together.
5. Fast from something other than food.
Fasting from food is not necessarily for everyone. Some health conditions keep even the most devout from the traditional course. However, fasting is not limited to abstaining from food. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.”
If the better part of wisdom for you, in your health condition, is not to go without food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Paul even talks about married couples fasting from sex “for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
6. Don’t think of white elephants.
“Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.” When your empty stomach starts to growl and begins sending your brain every “feed me” signal it can, don’t be content to let your mind dwell on the fact that you haven’t eaten. If you make it through with an iron will that says no to your stomach, but doesn’t turn your mind’s eye elsewhere, it says more about your love for food than your love for God.
Christian fasting turns its attention to Jesus or some great cause of his in the world. Christian fasting seeks to take the pains of hunger and transpose them into the key of some eternal anthem, whether it’s fighting against some sin, or pleading for someone’s salvation, or for the cause of the unborn, or longing for a greater taste of Jesus.
Prayer Times at Victory
Prayer and Fasting for Victory Church will be January 7-28. Ask the Lord what He wants you to fast in this time period. Get a purpose and a plan for your fast. Share with someone your reason for fasting and move through the 21 days together. Find a “special” place for you to go pray and spend time in the Word.
Plan to come be part of the prayer meetings. Here are some weekly times for prayer meetings:
Monday – Thursday
6:30 am – 7:30 am at the church
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the church
See you Sunday,
Published on Thursday, January 4, 2018 @ 9:53 AM CDT
The power of prayer is not the result of the person praying. Rather, the power resides in the God who is being prayed to.
1 John 5:14-15 tells us, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him."
No matter the person praying, the passion behind the prayer, or the purpose of the prayer, God answers prayers that are in agreement with His will. His answers are not always yes, but are always in our best interest. When our desires line up with His will, we will come to understand that in time. When we pray passionately and purposefully, according to God's will, God responds powerfully!
We cannot access powerful prayer by using "magic formulas." Our prayers being answered is not based on the eloquence of our prayers. We don't have to use certain words or phrases to get God to answer our prayers.
In fact, Jesus rebukes those who pray using repetitions, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:7-8).
Prayer is communicating with God. All you have to do is ask God for His help. Psalm 107:28-30 reminds us, "Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven."
There is power in prayer!
Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 @ 8:43 AM CDT
An Update from Dr. Caroline Leaf
THE REAL "BALANCED MEAL" eating for the Spirit, Soul, and Body
The relationship between the gut and the brain, and the relationship between your feelings and shopping habits, are just two examples of the multifaceted, interconnected lives we all lead—a concept often at odds with modernity. We live in a world that tends towards intellectual reductionism. Globally, we have become accustomed to a parts rather than whole approach, including the way we approach food. Why else would doctors, as our go-to health figures, have negligible training in nutrition, even at Harvard’s medical school? To say that what you eat affects your health is certainly redundant. Yet how can such a basic, fundamental fact be overlooked when dealing with matters of health and illness? For more on the Gut/Brain connection see Chapter 12 of Think and Eat Yourself Smart.
It is imperative that we shift the way we think about health. Your brain is not input-output machine. Your body is not an input-output machine. You are intrinsically, brilliantly, and intricately designed with a spirit, soul and body (Genesis 1:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). This is known as our triune nature.
Our triune nature is divided into different components. Your spirit is your “true you,” or what I call your PerfectlyYou. The spirit has three parts: intuition, conscience and communion (worship). Your soul, which is your mind, also has three parts: intellect, will and emotions. Lastly, your body has three parts: the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm, from which the brain and the body form.
Your mind, or soul, has one foot in the door of the spirit and one foot in the door of the body. The mind creates coherence between the spirit of man and the body of man, and therefore influences and controls brain/body function and health, and influences spiritual development. Your mind, with its intellectual ability to choose and its emotional authority, controls all physical aspects. See this VIMEO (2.45mins). Thus emotions, as part of the mind, are an intrinsic part of our food choices.
Your brain is designed to respond to your mind, and your mind is designed to respond to your spirit (Roman 8:14; John 16:3; John 14:26; Galatians 5:16). Every thought, feeling and action begins in the internal activity of your mind, which means that we choose with our minds to listen to our spirits; we choose with our minds to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking truth into our spirit; we choose with our minds to act; we choose with our minds to speak; we choose with our minds to eat. And all these mind-based choices impact our physical brain and body, as well as our spiritual development and mental health. The ultimate question is, what have you implanted in your mind? What mindsets will be shaping your choices? Remember, “as he thinks in his heart [mind], so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, italics added for emphasis).
Get the PACKAGE and develop your Spirit, Soul and Body integration.
FASTING FOR THE SPIRIT, SOUL, AND BODY
Fasting, whether skipping one meal or more, or excluding certain foods from the diet, has played an important role in human history—spiritually and physically. In today’s world, however, eating three meals a day is generally understood as healthy, although there is actually no conclusive scientific basis for not skipping breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even all three occasionally.
A growing body of research actually indicates that different types of fasts can improve health and longevity, such as intermittent fasting (eating fewer meals), caloric restriction (eating less per meal), and alternate day fasting. These types of fasting can potentially improve cardiovascular function, increase longevity, increase resistance to age-related diseases, and enhance mental and physical health in general. Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction both affect energy levels and free radical production from oxygen metabolism, as well as cellular stress response systems, in ways that protect neurons against genetic and environmental factors, while enhancing energy production from the mitochondria, which generate chemical energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Likewise, caloric restriction triggers a decrease in inflammatory factors, which contribute to the onset of disease.
Skipping a few meals on a regular basis can even protect against the onset of illness. Fasting has been shown to enhance brain function, and reduce the risk factors for coronary artery disease, stroke, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. For instance, restricting calories can support the induction of sirtuin-1 (SIRT1), an enzyme that regulates gene expression and enhances learning and memory. Fasting actually has a similar effect on the body as exercise. Skipping a meal or eating less and exercise are mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), suggesting they are underpinned by similar mechanisms in the body. And you definitely want BDNF mediating! This neurotrophic factor helps maintain brain health, prevents cell death and build memory
In fact, intermittent fasting and caloric restriction can aid inter-brain communication by supporting interactive pathways and molecular mechanisms that specifically provide benefits to the neurons. These pathways produce protective protein “chaperones”—neurotrophic factors like BDNF and essential antioxidants, which help our tiny cells cope with stress and resist disease. Similarly, fasting may protect neurons against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing amyloid beta and tau pathologies on synaptic function. Overall, research on fasting indicates that skipping a meal or two can promote resistance to stroke and neurodegenerative disease Your food choices literally change the environment around your cells and the environment within your cells—an incredible support system (one of many), which highlights the goodness and mercy of God. By making the right food choices we can change our brains!
For research links get the Think and Eat Yourself Smart book
On a spiritual level, fasting is a common practice. For example, Greek Orthodox Christians fast 180-200 days per year prior to Easter, Christmas and the Assumption. Catholic Christians fast for approximately 40 days before Easter. The Daniel fast is a very common among Christians, and usually lasts between 21-40 days.
Biblically, the call to fast is found throughout both the Old and New Testament. It is a way for Jews and Christians to make their beliefs part of the everyday lives, in a sense of bringing heaven to earth (Matthew 6:9-13). It enables us to put God above our earthly pleasures, in sense that we put God first and appreciate food and drink as a gift from him rather than love food and drink in and of themselves. It enables us to become addicted to God. We do not merely fast to get healthy and loose weight. We fast for the spirit, soul and body: by putting God first, “all these things are added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The growing body of fasting research actually confirms the integrated triune nature of man, since as we discipline our mind and choose to reduce our bodily food intake and focus on God, our spirit, soul, and body is develops (I Thessalonians 5:23).
Published on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 @ 1:58 PM CDT
Published on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 @ 10:44 AM CDT