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November 2009

Fasting and Feasting

This post is a bit of personal sharing. Years ago my daughter was going through some rough times. I started fasting and praying for her each Wednesday. It was a very simple fast; just until 4:00 pm each Wed. And it wasn't what you might call a fast that was "full of faith." It was very broken and the prayers included a lot of begging for mercy and intervention. You might even say it had a sense of hopelessness. It was just an honest broken heart.

However, I made Thursdays my day of feasting. I ate my favorite foods and spent the day thanking God for all the mercy and intervention he was providing my daughter. No brokenness and no sense of hopelessness was allowed on Thursdays. Thursdays was a day to just be happy, do fun things, and rejoice in God's hand on my daughter.

And then on Friday I went back to carrying my burdens.

I did this for many months and one Wednesday, as I was fasting and praying, I asked God if this was doing any good (remember this day had a sense of hopelessness). He simply said, "it has not gone unnoticed." And that word gave me hope and strength to continue. God noticed my fasting and was hearing my prayers. John said this:

1 John 5:14-16

14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

So I kept praying and fasting. And on Thursdays I kept feasting.

A few months later I was on the road (I travel a lot in my work) and woke up in my hotel room on a Thursday. I was not feeling like celebrating. You need to understand that it took a lot of work for me to celebrate on Thursdays. My daughter was still going through rough times. I had to discipline myself to celebrate and I didn't feel like doing it that day. What I felt was that sense of hopelessness. I prayed and asked God if this feasting on Thursdays was doing any good. What was the point?

I picked up the Gideon Bible in the room and started looking through the things written in the beginning and then the table of contents. I saw "Nehemiah" in the list and thought I would read some of it. So I opened the Bible and landed on Nehemiah 8. In Nehemiah 8 I found the following:

Nehemiah 8:9-10

 9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

 10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

My Thursdays were sacred to the LORD (all days are, I know, but go with me here). The joy of the LORD mentioned in Nehemiah included actual feasting with favorite foods and drinks and sharing them with those that didn't have them so they could rejoice as well. And doing all of this in the name of the LORD. I realized that my Thursdays and the feasting were doing good, giving me strength, and were in fact sacred unto the LORD.

I have been doing this for almost a decade now and it has worked a lot of changes in me. Rejoicing on Thursdays is still the hardest. It has become a very easy thing to fast on Wednesdays and pray. It still takes more work to feast on Thursdays and rejoice, giving God praise for his sovereignty, mercy, and grace when things are rough. But all of this has worked amazing things in me. And my daughter is blessed and covered by my God.

I just want to encourage you. If you are going through rough times set aside a time for fasting and a time for feasting. Pour your heart out to God for your needs when you are fasting. And rejoice in his provision when you are feasting. Let this become a part of your life.

It will change you.

Righteousness and Friendship

I mentioned in a previous post that salvation is personal with God. Righteousness is also personal. We tend to think of righteousness as a set of rules. If we do the “right” things and don’t do the “wrong” things then we are righteous. But righteousness for God is different. To him righteousness is something he credits us with as a result of our coming into a relationship of faith with him.

This relationship is like a friendship. In the book of James, James writes about faith and works. He uses Abraham as an example of someone who had faith and you could see the faith in Abraham’s actions. So, for example, if we look at Abraham’s life we see that he left his home because he believed God; he had a son because he believed God; and he was willing to offer his son as a sacrifice because he believed God would raise him up. James writes it this way:

James 2:22-23
22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.

Jesus expressed the relationship between righteousness and friendship this way.

John 15:14-15
14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

So just as an exercise to help understand the importance of this friendship I have adapted some scriptures from Psalms; replacing words like righteousness with things like friendship.

Psalm 5:12
 12 For surely, O LORD, you bless your friends;
       you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 7:17
 17 I will give thanks to the LORD because of his friendship
       and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 18:35
 35 You give your friends your shield of victory,
       and your right hand sustains me;
       you stoop down to make me great.

Psalm 9:8
 8 He will judge the world according to their friendship with him;
       he will govern the peoples with justice.

Psalm 18:20
 20 The LORD has dealt with me according to our friendship;
       according to my being a faithful friend he has rewarded me.

Psalm 24:3-6
 3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
       Who may stand in his holy place?

 4 He who is a friend of God,
       who does not lift up his soul to an idol
       or swear by what is false.

 5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
       and vindication from God his Friend.

 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
       who are your friends, O God of Jacob.