Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Before You Begin Fasting, Read These Tips

What Should I Expect Before My Fast?
Before you begin a fast:
            1. Ask your doctor for advice before going on an extended fast. This advice is particularly important for those who fight diseases like diabetes or who take prescription medicine. Women who are pregnant or nursing should consult their physician. Some should not fast without professional guidance.
            2. Do not hasten into your fast. You can prepare your body by eating lighter meals without foods that are high in fat or sugar. Eating fruits and vegetable for several days before the fast will make the fast easier on your body.
            3. Set a goal for your fast. Why are you going on a fast? Do you need spiritual guidance or renewal? Are you looking for a solution to a problem? Do you need healing? Are you praying for a revival? What is the specific purpose of your fast? By prayerfully setting a definite goal for your fast, you will be able to focus on a particular spiritual outcome.
            4. Make a commitment before God. I know my physical body will desperately tell me it needs food, so before my fast begins, I made a promise to God by praying, “God, by your grace, and with your help, I will not allow food to enter my mouth until my fast is over.” Then, I write my commitment down on a 3x5 card and sign it. I carry this card with me and when I become hungry, I pull it out of my pocket and pray the prayer again. This written contract with God is what gives me the mental strength to complete my fast, even when food is tantalizing my sense of smell.
            5. Decide how long you will fast and what type of fast you will go on.  Will you fast for one meal, one day, several days, one week, or forty days? Will you drink water, fruit juices, or go on a vegetable fast?  Use wisdom in deciding what kind of fast to go on. During one forty day fast, I drank nothing but water for the first twenty-one days, then I began to drink juices and soups. The reason I did this was to maintain my strength because directly after the fast, I was scheduled to minister for two months on the mission field. I believe it is important to respect your body and not to push the limits of your strength.
            6. Start with a shorter fast and then go on longer fasts. Start with a one-day fast, then do a three-day fast, then as the Lord leads you, go on seven to ten to twenty-one to forty-day fasts. 
            7. Do not get discouraged if you are unable to complete your first fast. Keep trying until you are successful. God will honor your efforts. After you know what to expect it will be easier to make it through a second or third fast.

What Should I Expect During My Fast?
            1. From a physical standpoint, doctors believe short-term fasts are beneficial for the body. By fasting food for one meal or one day, the body is given a well-deserved rest from digesting food. A longer period of fasting (3-7 days), gives the digestive system a chance to clean itself out. During this time, the colon, kidneys, and intestines are able to expel poisons that have accumulated. After your bowels eliminate toxins you be more regular.  The cleansing process is aided by drinking lots of distilled water during the fast.
            2. Limit your physical activity during the fast. You can exercise moderately by going on walks.
            3. Be prepared to rest more than normal. You may be physically uncomfortable with symptoms like fatigue, hunger pains, weakness, or sleeplessness. Withdrawing from foods that contain sugar and caffeine may cause headaches.
            4. Rest as much as your schedule allows.
            5. You will lose weight. Generally, you will lose an average of one pound for every day you fast, perhaps a little more during a shorter fast.
            6. During the cleansing process, the tongue releases toxins. This often causes bad breath. Because of this, I allow myself to use breath mints. Just because I am suffering does not mean the people around me need to suffer.
            7. Fasting can help you defeat bad habits like smoking and drinking and will help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level. Fasting gives the body time to heal itself. Skin diseases like pimples and complexion problems will be lessened. Your heart, circulation, and blood vessels are all given a rest. You will feel less stress. PMS and hot flashes will decrease. Your joints and muscles will function better. Allergies will not bother you as much.
            8. Your brain will function better. Fasting will improve your memory and concentration. Have you ever wondered why everyone takes a nap on Thanksgiving afternoon after the big meal? The stomach needs lots of blood to help it digest food, so after eating, the brain does not have the blood it needs to function at full-speed. This is why we get sleepy after eating a heavy meal. During a fast, the brain can actually function better than normal because blood flows freely to the head. 
            9. Fasting will save you time. Taking time to eat food can be a mental distraction. If you really want to focus your energy, skipping meal times can help you concentrate. It really is amazing how much time is wasted preparing, eating, and cleaning up meals.
            10. Fasting will save you money. “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty...” (Proverbs 23:21).
            11. Paul gives instructions concerning abstaining from sexual activity while fasting to married couples in 1 Corinthians 7:3‑5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self‑control.” 

What Should I Expect During an Extended Fast?
            The Psalmist said, “My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt” (Psalm 109:24). For any fast over ten days, the body begins to compensate for the lack of food by using the fat that is stored in the body. Eventually, the body begins to feel weak and tired. This is why it is important to approach a fast wisely.
            Every person will react differently to a fast, but here is a general guideline of what to expect from a fast. 

Days 1-3: The first three days of the fast are the hardest. At your normal meal times, you will feel hungry. This is just your stomach complaining about what you are trying to do. Ignore it. As you feel hunger pains in your stomach, increase your fluid intake.

Days 4-10: You may feel weak for a time, but eventually your body will hit a plateau. Your stomach will shrink and you will stop feeling hungry.

Days 11-30: You will feel great during this period of your fast. It is not wise to engage in any strenuous physical activity, but you will feel good as long as you get plenty of sleep and water.

Days 30-40: The first ten days and the last ten days are the most challenging part of the fast. This is when your body runs out of fat to consume and you may begin to feel deep hunger pains of starvation. You will really need to rely on God for strength during this period. Some optional fruit juice during this period will give you strength to continue.

What Should I Expect After My Fast?
            1. You will be hungry after the fast. After Jesus completed his forty day fast, the Bible says, “...he was hungry” (Matthew 4:2). No duh! This wins an award for the understatement of the Bible.  But, despite your hunger, it is best to break a fast carefully.
            2. Immediately after the fast, drink a fruit juice that has been diluted with water.  Apple juice helps slowly reawaken your food absorption cells. But, do not drink milk products, or citrus fruit juices, because both diary and citrus are hard on your stomach.  
            3. Break the fast gradually. Never try to eat a huge meal directly after a fast. Your stomach shrinks during long periods of fasting. One of my friends broke his three-day fast by eating a twenty-four ounce steak dinner. Needless to say, he experienced a lot of discomfort and spent the night running back and forth to the toilet.
            4. Good foods to eat as you finish the fast include: yogurt, fresh fruit like apple slices, vegetables, tomato juice, salads, coleslaw, and soup broths.
            5. Slowly, work your way back to eating normally. A general guideline to remember is that it will take you as many days to recover as the amount of time you fasted. If you fast for one day, within a day you will be eating the same as before your fast, but after a ten day fast, give yourself ten days to fully recoup your strength. 
            6. After your fast, maintain your spiritual breakthroughs by continuing to seek the presence of God. Spiritual maturity is not dependent upon a one-time event (like a fast) but on a continuous relationship with God.
            7. After your fast, do not look down on others who have not fasted. This attitude is spiritual pride. The whole point of fasting is to humble yourself before God, not to puff yourself up in comparison to others.       

This is an excerpt from Daniel's book: "The Power of Fasting." To order your copy, click HERE.

Monday, August 29, 2016

How Long Should I Fast?

         You should fast as long as God tells you to fast but use wisdom to not fast beyond your strength. Here are some options for different lengths of fasting.

One Meal Fast
            Fasting for one meal is easy. Instead of eating at a regularly scheduled mealtime, use the time to pray and read your Bible. During a designated mealtime, sit down at your dining room table and open up your Bible rather than piling your plate with food. 
            Fasting for one meal is easy enough that even children can do it. Since kids have growing bodies, they should never go on an extended fast, but if they want to spend a special time with God, a one meal fast is a feasible option.
            Some missions experts recommend setting aside one meal every week to pray for an unreached people group, or a particular country. One of my friends has committed to fasting every Monday during lunchtime in order to pray for the country of Afghanistan.

One-Day Fast
            A twenty-four hour fast is the good length for your first experiment with fasting. If you have never fasted before, please do not stop eating for forty days for your first fast. It is best to start small and build up toward a longer fast.
            My father used to fast from midnight to midnight, but he found himself staying up until after midnight in order to break the fast, so now he fasts from noon to noon. This is easier and perhaps a healthier way to fast.

Examples of one-day fasts in the Bible:
            1. During the times of the Judges, the Israelites were fighting and they declared a one-day fast in order to seek God’s wisdom. “The Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD” (Judges 20:26). Subsequently, God gave them complete victory.
            2. The Israelites needed relief from the oppression of the Philistines so the prophet Samuel urged them to forsake their false gods and to dedicate their lives to the Lord. When they had all assembled together at Mizpah, Samuel began to intercede on their behalf. “On that day they fasted and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the LORD" (1 Samuel 7:6). When the Philistines attacked, God used thunder to vanquish Israel’s enemies. This victory was the beginning of a period of Israelite supremacy that lasted during the rest of Samuel’s life. 
            3. Saul commanded his soldiers not to eat one day while fighting the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:24).
            4. David proclaimed a one day fast of mourning when Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle (2 Samuel 1:12).
            5. Later David declared another fast when Abner was killed (2 Samuel 3:35).

Three-Day Fast
            The first three days of a fast are often the most difficult. A three-day fast is a real sacrifice that allows you to have time to develop a deeper relationship with God.           
            1. When the Jews were in danger of being exterminated by Haman’s evil decree, Queen Esther asked all her people to fast for three days. “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16). The purpose of this fast was to gain favor with the king in order to save the Jewish people.
            2. Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians when a bright light from heaven blinded him. He fell to the ground and heard the voice of God. For three days after this encounter with the presence of God, Saul fasted (Acts 9:9, 17-19). The humbleness he demonstrated through his fasting was a key element in the restoration of his sight.

Seven-Day Fast
            If you are seeking God’s will in a particular matter or if you want extra time to study God’s word intensely, this is the type of fast I recommend.
            1. After King Saul was buried, his men declared a seven-day fast as they mourned for him (1 Samuel 31:13).
            2. King David fasted for seven days when his child was sick (2 Samuel 12:16-23). 

Fourteen-Day Fast
            The men on the Apostle Paul’s boat fasted for fourteen days in the middle of a storm (Acts 27:33-34). Even though this fast was more because they were seasick then because they were spiritual, it is instructive to read about how Paul broke the fast. “He took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat” (Acts 27:35).
Twenty-one Day Fast
            Daniel fasted in order to gain understanding and to humble himself. He wrote, “I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over” (Daniel 10:2-3). At the end of the twenty-one day period, an angel appeared to Daniel. The angel was sent from God at the beginning of Daniel’s fast but because of spiritual opposition, it took him three weeks to deliver God’s message. 

Forty-Day Fast 
            This length of fast was observed by Moses twice (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25-29; 10:10), Elijah (1 King 19:8), and Jesus (Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). I would not recommend this type of fast unless you are serious about seeking God’s face.  Expect to be weak and tired after finishing.  Because of spiritual pride or natural folly, some have made the mistake of trying to fast for longer than is physically wise. They have suffered health problems and in some cases have even died. It is best to begin by fasting for shorter amounts of time and work your way up to longer fasts.

This is an excerpt from Daniel's book: "The Power of Fasting." To order your copy, click HERE.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

6 Different Types of Fasting You Should Try

           There are no specific rules about fasting. There are as many different ways of fasting as there are people. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you decide what type of fast to embark on.  Here are some different types of fasts:

The Complete Fast
            In a complete fast, you do not eat any food or drink any water. However, you should never do a complete fast for longer than seventy-two hours or you will face serious health risks. This type of fast should be extremely rare. It is found in Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, Ezra 8:21; 10:6, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9, Acts 27:33.

The Normal Fast
            In a normal food fast, you stop eating food for a period of time and drink nothing but water. This type of fast is mentioned many times in the Bible. In a variation of the food fast, you continue to drink liquids like fruit juices, but eat no solid foods.

The Partial Fast
            In a partial fast, you limit the type of food you eat for a period of time. The prophet Daniel went on this type of fast when he only ate vegetables and drank water, abstaining from all  “pleasant meat.” Daniel refused to eat meat because it had been sacrificed to false idols. At first, his Babylonian guard did not want to change Daniel’s diet, but Daniel asked the guard to test him for ten days by feeding him only vegetables to eat and water to drink. Daniel said, “Then compare our appearance with that of the other young men who eat the royal food.” At the end of the ten days Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than everyone who ate the royal food. “...So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead” (Daniel 1:16). This type of fast is typically called the “Daniel Fast.” 
            God honors a “Daniel Fast” just as much as he honors a total fast. This fast is a good for those who fight a physical condition like anemia, hypoglycemia, or diabetes. It is also realistic for those who engage in lots of physical labor in their jobs. Other partial fasts include Elijah’s partial fast of meal and oil cakes in 1 Kings 17, and John the Baptist’s fast of nothing but locusts and honey (Matthew 3:4).  

The Media Fast
            In a Media Fast, you fast from things other than food that distract you from God. In today’s sight and sound generation, everything happens at the speed of light. Often television, music, and e-mail can become overwhelming. A break from these distractions can strengthen our relationship with heaven.
            You can tailor a Media Fast to specifically fit your needs. For example, when I was a teenager my family was spending too much time in front of the television so my Dad decreed we were going to fast from TV for one month. The plug was pulled and the TV was turned to face the wall. For one month, we did not fellowship with that ol’ one-eyed-devil, the boob tube. Perhaps you could fast from listening to secular music, or from surfing the Internet, or from reading romance novels, or from watching the news, or stop doing other activities which have the tendency to inadvertently replace God in your life.

The Specialized Fast
            In a specialized fast, you take something you enjoy and sacrifice it on the altar to God. You can fast from chocolate, meat, sweets, coffee, soda pop, or other non-essentials.  By omitting a few items from your normal diet, you are reminded of your fast each time you crave those items. This will prompt you to pray instead of eating. Use your belly as a spiritual alarm clock.
            Many Christians do this every year as they celebrate Lent which is a reenactment of Christ’s forty day fast. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter. During this time it is customary to give up meat, milk products, or other luxury foods. The tradition goes back to the early church who used the fast as a time to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning. Lent is a time for repentance, reflection, and rededication.   My sister, Esther, has been fasting from soda pop for over three years. She decided to go on this specialized fast because she read that the sugar in soda can harm the body in the long run. In the middle of the second year of her fast, I tricked her into breaking her fast by replacing the water in her glass with lime soda when she was not looking. Mad as a hornet, she spit all the soda out of her mouth. She did not think my joke was funny. Now, she watches me closely to make sure I stay away from her cup.
The Fasted Lifestyle
            In a fasted lifestyle, you maintain disciplined eating habits over a long period of time. If you do not rule your appetite, your appetite will rule you. Eating a few hundred calories less each day will result in long-term weight loss over the course of a year. Since your body is God’s temple, you should keep it in as good of shape as possible.
            The Nazarites lived a fasted lifestyle. They dedicated their lives to God by committing to a restricted diet and made a vow to never drink wine or eat anything made of grapes (Numbers 6:4). You can maintain a fasted lifestyle through self-discipline by taking smaller portions, not finishing everything on your plate, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and avoiding unhealthy, fat-filled, high cholesterol foods.
            I think they should call fasting “Christian Anorexia.” When I fasted for forty days, I lost thirty-five pounds! What a wonderful diet! Do you want to lose weight? Stop eating! Guaranteed to work or your money back! Fasting is not actually a good way to maintain weight loss. It is possible to lose large amounts of weight quickly when you fast, but your metabolism goes into starvation mode and when you start eating again your body stores fat in order to prepare for another period of famine. This is similar to the yo-yo effect many experience when going on diets. They lose lots of weight and quickly regain it when the diet is over. The answer to this problem is a fasted lifestyle.

The Corporate Fast
            In a corporate fast, an entire congregation or group of people or even an entire nation fast at the same time. There are many examples of corporate fasting in the Bible: Samuel declared a corporate fast of repentance for worshiping false idols (1 Samuel 7:5-6), King Jehoshophat called all of Judea to a fast when enemies were approaching (2 Chronicles 20:3-4), Esther asked her uncle Mordecai to have all the Jews in Suza fast (Esther 4:15‑16), Ezra asked the people to fast for protection before going on a long journey (Ezra 8:21-23), the returned exiles fasted and repented after hearing the word of God read (Nehemiah 9:1-3), Joel encourages the nation to declare a corporate fast of repentance  (Joel 1:14, 2:15-15), Nineveh went on a corporate fast after Jonah prophesied to them (Jonah 3:7), all the prisoners, sailors, and soldiers on Paul’s ship fasted for deliverance from the storm (Acts 27:33-37).
            Recently, my friend, Pastor Billy Allen asked his entire church to fast and pray for one week. No one was forced to fast and each person made private commitments to God concerning which days he or she fasted. The pastor reported that almost the entire congregation participated and that the church received tremendous spiritual blessing in the weeks that followed the fast.
            Another friend, Pastor Dominic Russo asked his church to fast for a period of forty days. Each member of the church was asked to give up something during that time. One church member called Pastor Dominic and reported, “Pastor, this fast has been really good for me. I decided to stop drinking alcohol during the forty days.” Surprised that one of his congregation had a drinking problem, Pastor Dominic could just say, “Well, good for you.”
            There are many benefits of a corporate fast. First, corporate fasting helps unify a church for a common purpose. Those who pray together, stay together. Second, corporate fasting facilitates corporate repentance for corporate sins. Third, a corporate fast releases a corporate anointing. Fourth, there is an element of positive peer pressure during a corporate fast. Fifth, everyone who fasts in a corporate fast shares the blessing of the whole. In Matthew 10, Jesus told the story of the laborers in the fields. The ones who worked all day received the same payment as those who only worked one hour. In a corporate fast, some may fast many days and others may fast only a few meals but they will all share alike in the benefits of fasting together. 

This is an excerpt from Daniel's book: "The Power of Fasting." To order your copy, click HERE.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why Fast? Reason #10: To Petition for Help

             Are you facing a crisis in your life? Is there a problem in your family? In your country? Is there a crisis in your financial situation or in your physical body? Do you desperately need wisdom?
            Years ago, my father faced a physical crisis. His body began to show symptoms of diabetes, which is a hereditary disease in his family. He decided to petition God for healing by fasting for three days. At the end of the fast, he threw up a foul substance; it was a symbol of the demonic power that was attacking him. After the fast, he was completely healed and never struggled with diabetes again.
            Fasting during a time of crisis show God you are serious about getting your prayers answered. Here are some examples of people who fasted during times of crisis in the Bible.
            1. Hanna was barren. She could not have children. She fasted and prayed for a child (1 Samuel 1:7) and God answered her prayer. To say thanks, she dedicated her son to the Lord. Her son grew up to be Samuel, one of the most significant prophets of the Old Testament.
            2. When Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, Israel fasted in mourning (1 Samuel 31:15; 2 Samuel 1:12; 1 Chronicles 10:12).
            3. When David’s baby son was sick, he fasted and prayed for God to heal the boy (2 Samuel 12:16).
            4. King Jehoshaphat was faced with three armies coming to attack him, in response; he declared a fast (2 Chronicles 20:1‑4). God heard the prayers of the people and all three of the invading armies were miraculously destroyed.  
            5. The Holocaust was not the first time Satan tried to wipe out the Jews. Five centuries before Christ, evil Haman tried to kill every Jew. He tricked the king into signing a death warrant for all of God’s chosen people. When Queen Esther, a Jew, heard about the plot, she asked all the Jews to fast and pray for three days. She sent a message to her uncle Mordecai, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:15‑16). Queen Esther risked her life by approaching the king to ask for clemency for the Jews, but because of the fasting and prayer, she had favor with the king and God saved the lives of her people. 

This is an excerpt from Daniel's book: "The Power of Fasting." To order your copy, click HERE.